The role of the Monarchy

the role of the monarchy

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The formal way of describing the British gov't is to say that the UK has a parliamentary gov't under a
constitutional monarchy. Norton (1992) points out that this has resulted in the development of a whole
series of institutions whose relationships are governed by convention rather than statue.
The monarchy and political power
The monarch does have an important political role to play, in practice, power has been substantially
removed from the personal control of the monarch. A formal link remains and is reflected in official
titles such as 'Her Majesty's government', but executive power has come to be employed by ministers
or their agents. As Norton puts it:
'Ministers remain legally responsible to the Queen for their actions, but, by convention, are responsible to
In addition, membership of the EU has had an impact. Since EU law takes precedence over UK law, it is,
therefore, no longer the case that all laws effective in the UK receive Royal Assent.
There are, however, two areas where there is at least the potential for the monarch personally to
exercise power. (Two areas that the monarch might exercise power are - the power to appoint the PM
and the power to dissolve Parliament).
Is the monarchy under threat?
There is evidence to suggest that attitudes towards the monarchy have been changing. Today, it would
be difficult to claim, for example, that members of the royal family are just as popular or as
well-respected as they were in the 1950s. In the 1950s, the monarchy appeared to be above criticism.
When the broadcaster and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote an article which asked whether
Britain really needed a Queen, he was sacked by a Sunday newspaper and by the BBC. Not only does
this indicate the strength of support for the monarchy at this time, it also suggest how deferential people
were towards the royal family. Even in the 1980s over 85% of people told opinion pollsters that they
supported the monarchy.
By the mid 1990s, however, opinion had shifted significantly. A survey carried out in 1994, for example,
found that 66% of those questioned thought that the monarchy should continue indefinitely and 26%
wanted the monarchy to be abolished at some point. The same poll showed that support for the
monarchy varied according to age. Among the over 55's 74% were in favour but among the under 35s
only 48% were. In a poll taken a few days before the death of Diana in '97, only 48% of all respondents
agreed that the country would be worse off without a royal family. Following Diana's death however,
attitudes towards the monarchy became more ambiguous. Polls indicated that although support for the
institution had increased, a large majority wanted the monarchy to be modernised. This trend has
continued. In a poll taken in 2000, for example, although 70% of people were in favour of retaining the
monarchy in the short term, only a minority of people felt sure that us would exist in 50 or 100 years.
There are two main reasons for the longer-term decline in the monarchy's popularity, at least in its
present form. First, the behaviour of individual members of the royal family has failed to meet the
standards expected of prominent public figures. The well published break-up of a number of marriages,
including that of the heir to the throne, and other personal scandals and rumours have given the
impression that the royal family is in crisis. Second, the cost of supporting the monarchy, and of
maintaining a royal family has been criticised.
Arguments for and against the monarchy

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Britain (helping by the extended royal family emphasise to
to integrate society) and to the outside world ordinary people just how great a divide there is
from top to bottom in British society
through its maintenance of British traditions, the the popularity of the monarchy has declined and
monarchy provides continuity in an otherwise no longer commands universal respect or support
rapidly changing society
the cost of sustaining the monarchy is less than because of the behaviour of individual members
the income from tourism and…read more


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