Long live the constitutional monarchy

Although many deem a monarchy as an outdated frivolity, the important sociopolitical role that constitutional monarchy plays is critical for the peaceful governance of many modern nations.


*Cartoon by Oisin Carolan*

The practicality of monarchy in modern society has been increasingly disputed. This dispute has been heightened by attention brought to the Monarchy of the United Kingdom with the death of Prince Philip and Oprah’s interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
However, constitutional monarchy plays a critical role on both intranational and international levels. The monarch provides a societal figurehead, allowing the political figurehead to operate with greater personal anonymity.
Both the monarch and the political figurehead are able to specialize in their role. The monarch, as the societal figurehead, works to perfect the royal family image and strengthen national identity. The monarch will engage in public and charitable service.
Conversely, the political figurehead can specialize in policy. The political figurehead operates in a sphere of politics, separate from the scrutiny delegated to the societal figurehead.
At present, the prime minister of the United Kingdom is Boris Johnson. It is unlikely that someone, when asked, would be able to recite that Boris Johnson has been divorced twice before and is presently engaged. However, when members of the royal family go on television for an interview, it becomes international news and internationally scrutinized.
In many other countries, without such constitutional monarchies, the political figurehead becomes the societal figurehead, as well. This has interrupted the political process, and placed an emphasis on the wrong ideals in the election process. Instead of having the best person for the job, with the best credentials, nations have devolved into flurries of background checks and sensationalized resulting media.
The monarchy, for many nations, is the “brand” of national identity. International views of a monarchy can influence the politics of that nation, as global popular sentiment does have an influence on international relations.
The monarch also provides continuity and stability when the nation is faced with the transfer of power across political figureheads. This past January, we witnessed a less than peaceful transfer of power in the United States of America.
With monarchy, to a degree, the monarch supersedes squabbling political figures and so can help ensure for a peaceful transfer of power. With a long reigning monarch, there is also a sense of continuity.
Respect for a societal figurehead can span across generations, especially when the monarch reigns over a long period of time. Even when that monarch is no longer ruling, the title is passed along to the next in line.
The royal family works to establish a comfortable continuity, and establish a level of trust between the royal family itself and the subjects they rule over.
Some believe that monarchies hallmark the racism and elitism of past times. Although this is quite valid when looking throughout history, there have been progressions forward as societies have moved forward. But monarchies are the hallmark of society, and so a racist, elitist society may have a similar hallmark. However, monarchies can and should play a role in changing this narrative as the societal figurehead.
As these families are the families looked upon for establishing best societal practices, monarchies establishing anti-racist and anti-elitist stances would help the continuation of a society’s forward progression.