Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Monarchy

I got the chance to view "The Queen" this afternoon. It got me to thinking about the monarchy. Since I know that I have a few readers in Britain, who also happen to be atheists,...what do you think of the monarchy?

I mean, as I understand it, the whole premise behind a monarch is that they are chosen, by GOD, to rule the country. Correct? As an atheist, how do you feel about the monarchy?
I don't live in England, or any of the commonwealth territories, but... I guess, an atheist, I can see how you'd keep the Royals around, to preserve some of the country's history. I just wonder how seriously the Queen's role as "sovereign" is taken, in today's society? Is she respected because the monarchy is a historical institution or do people really believe she was chosen by God? Since atheism is more prominent in Britain... do you think the monarchy, as a ruling body, will survive? Or, are we seeing the last vestiges of a dying tradition?

If you take God out of the equation, as atheists would, then what is left? The Windsors have built their money and power on the back of theism. If theism starts to decline, will the monarchy follow? Thoughts?

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually Monarchy and Religion is not as intertwined as you make it out to be. There are doubtless lots of examples where the monarch also used religious justification, but tht's not a necessary part of a monarchy, and there are also enough examples of that.

Monarchy - as a concept - is only dependent on the hereditary property and the "one-man" ruler.

But you still raise an interesting question: why monarchs that have lost all actual (political) power still often keep many of the formal/societal/... benefits or attributes. And in a way I think it's because it's never questioned, because people just go along with it, because that's the way they're used to things being - much in the same way, that many people go along with whatever religion they happened to be raised with.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Please comment again with a name... I don't want to delete your comment.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Actually Monarchy and Religion is not as intertwined as you make it out to be.
Interesting... in the case of the British monarchy...isn't it held that they were chosen by God? Divine right?

If you get rid of that divine right, what is the point of the monarchy beyond tradition? Especially in England where you have a constitutional monarchy that is approaching democratic. Why would you need a sovereign?

why monarchs that have lost all actual (political) power still often keep many of the formal/societal/... benefits or attributes.
In the case of England, I thought the Queen did have some political sway, but that that power was based on the belief that she was chosen by divine right to be "defender of the faith" and sovereign ruler. Is she merely just a ceremonial figure head, with regard to the inner-workings of the government?


And in a way I think it's because it's never questioned, because people just go along with it, because that's the way they're used to things being - much in the same way, that many people go along with whatever religion they happened to be raised with.

*nod* Do you think that, as society -in this case Britain- trends towards atheism or agnosticism that the role of the Royals will dissolve?

Caro said...

To be honest I think most people in Britain are agnostic about the monarchy.

As to how much power the queen actually has I'm not sure. She does have regular (weekly I think) meetings with the Prime Minister and access to lots of governmental papers. I think she acts in an advisory and ceremonial capacity though.

RdV said...

I live in England, I'm atheist, and I see barely any connection with this "divine right" thing you mention and the monarchy. To be honest, for many people in the UK, religion is something that doesn't even get a mention for weeks or months. It's just not the same here as in the US. Sure, there are the extremists and the fundamentalists, but for the average UK person religion is just this funny little thing that either other people do or it's something you do on a Sunday morning in a cold-but-old building.

As for the monarchy (which I drifted from there, sorry)... it's tradition for most people, nothing more. No association with "God" appointing the queen or whatever. Yes, some people will know that the monarch here is also the stated head of the Church of England, but that's usually as far as it goes. Most of us look to the monarchy and think "Tradition, we've always had a queen/king, so why not keep them if it brings the tourists in and gives us a connection to over a thousand years of our history."

It is really is a different culture over here, as regards opinions towards religion. Yes, there is some drifting towards the more evangelical nonsense that (for the moment) we tend to assign as being typically a US thing, but it's nowhere near as big or as influential.

floridamom said...

...there is some drifting towards the more evangelical nonsense that (for the moment) we tend to assign as being typically a US thing, but it's nowhere near as big or as influential.

Ah, be careful rdv. There was a time here in the U.S. when it wasn't big or influential. They quietly worked their way into the government when most of us weren't looking.

Danois said...

Here in Denmark we have a constitutional monarchy much like the UK (we've even got a Queen too). In my opinion the monarchy complements our democracy in a great way. The Queen has no political power at all (parliament has the power to dethrone her), however she takes care of the ceremonial stuff. This draws the celebrity status away from the prime minister and levels the political landscape by removing the presidential effect, which seems to give the sitting US president extra votes at elections.

As an atheist I can only recommend getting a Queen (or King). And lets see, perhaps you'll get "Bush the First" throned in the states real soon anyway ;-)

Hippernicus said...

The Queen is head of the church of England, but it's primarily as figurehead rather than wielding any power. Which is much the same as her head of state role. *Theoretically* she does have a right to intervene in some matters, but this is never used.

She does have meetings with the PM and church leaders but she mostly fulfills a function as a sort of good will ambassador for the UK. She simply follows the government/church line in speeches. Her own views can only be speculated about.

The monarchy is a bit of an anachronism but I would say there is little chance of getting rid of it at the moment. I don't think it will dissolve, certainly not while the Queen lives, since most people are comfortable with it. If/when Charles takes the throne, there may be less support for the monarchy as he's inherited his father's talent for gaffes - but I guess as King he wouldn't get the opportunity to go unscripted. There is some talk that he wants to be more inclusive of other religions potentially, but I don't know how that could work or whether it can be considered seriously.

I'm OK with the status quo as a British atheist, as to a greater extent the UK is secular and talking about religion is viewed as rather uncouth, a private matter really. I see no particular advantage to the country in getting rid of the monarchy as it stands. It is a bit odd, I grant you, but there are other issues I feel more strongly about. #shrug#

Being an atheist here has pretty much no implications for day-to-day living.

Sean the Blogonaut said...

In Australia the Queen is head of state through her representative the Governor General. Even in this apacity the majority of Australian's would probably not indentify with her as being our Queen, technically she is but we only roll her out for special occassions. We don't even pledge allegience to her anymore. Ipersonally don't regard her as my Queen(but then I am an uncouth Repulican). In the celebrity stakes she might be given a run for her money by Princess Mary of Denmark as the monarch of choice.

As to religion I think the largest Christian denonmination was/is Catholicism and not Anglicanism. So she has even less influence in that regard.

Australians are probably even more laid back than the British when it comes to religion.

Xzanron said...

Living in the UK my own view of the Monarchy is very much as an institution that provides us with a ceremonial head of state (and masses of tourist revenue, and not a little glamour)

There are lots of reasons why I think the monarchy is a good thing.

1) No expensive and time consuming and ultimately ugly elections every so often for a president.

2) The monarch is for life and as such has the opportunity to train and educate their kids in matters of state from an early age, whereas those that chose to enter politics later on don't have that benefit. Additionally being a monarch for a long time brings a wisdom and experience that is hard to get any other way.

3) A monarch is a known quantity and provides continuity. Prince Charles has been evaluated and watched by the British public as the next monarch since his birth. We know him and even if we don't agree or even like him, we know who he is, what he stands and how he'll act. Do you know who will be president in 10 years time? Prince William is already receiving the same attention.

4) It provides a public face for the country. A president could be just as good, but I;m half German and I have no idea who the German head of state is at the moment. I know who rules the country (the chancellor) but I have no idea who the president is. Of all the European heads of state I can name, all of them are Monarchs. They are around longer and you know they won't just get replaced next year, so it's worth remembering them.

5) Long term view. This is probably the most important aspect of a monarchy and also the reason I strongly oppose an elected upper house for the UK. Politicians care only about getting elected again, if they aren't elected, they don't get a pay cheque, so what they do is naturally geared towards that and hence being popular is extremely important for them. If like a monarch or an appointed member of the House of Lords you know you can't just lose your job, you can take a much longer view and its much easier to make those hard decisions that are unpopular but in the best interest of the country nonetheless.

6) Sentimentality and History. The UK (the islands, not the country) has over 2000 years of recorded history (not as much as others, but still not something to sniff at). The monarchy represents a tangible part of that history, a connection with out past and reminder of where we came from and what we did (good and bad) to get here. I won't deny that I'm actually rather attached to the monarchy just for sentimental reasons.

Girdag said...

What they said, really, can't add much more to that. I had religion shoved at me more than most here, I went to a Christian public school. Ergo, chapel every day, and frequent Christian activities, etc. I still came out of it more convinced than ever in my athiesm. You get the odd nut, but...I mean, if there was someone in the UK who claimed not to believe in evolution, they'd be laughed out of the room, really. It amazed (and slightly frightened) me when I found out that some Americans believed in creationism.

Spike said...

As another British Atheist, can I second the point about the desirability of having a long-viewpoint oversight of government, by people who are not just trying to get reelected. Additionally, what could be fairer than the lottery of birth? So long as the oversight is limited to powers of veto, I fail to see the problem, but I am digressing from the point to politics.

As for the Queen being head of the church, the Church of England is almost entirely based around tea, and a sort of additional layer of reassurance for those who want it. The actual god part is mostly ignored, in favour of the ceremony and music.

As for the "divine right of kings" the last monarch who tried to fully espouse that idea got his head cut off, and quite right too. However, the replacement was worse than the disease, so we had the restoration. A monarch adds stability to life, see Thailand for examples, where the king has prevented bloody military coups at least 3 times in the last 50 years.

Girdag said...

As for the Queen being head of the church, the Church of England is almost entirely based around tea

All too true.

CAKE OR DEATH?

Jen said...

"It amazed (and slightly frightened) me when I found out that some Americans believed in creationism."

(shudder) Oh, trust me, it's even scarier over here. ;)

I'm 27 and would like to have kids, but I am given pause when I think what our school systems could be like in 10 years or so, if the ID advocates have their way.

(Not that that's the only thing which gives me pause about having kids). ;)

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Not much to add to the topic, but a little funny. When I was a kid and I heard the word "Monarch" in relation to people, I got very confused thinking that the people were being called butterflies.

Alex said...

I've always found it slightly ironic that the country with the established church has far less religion on the political stage.

The monarchy is unlikely to go away any time soon, it's just too harmless to bother with. For the church the integration is mostly unnoticeable(though by no means non-existent) so not enough people care to disestablish it. As an atheist, the established church is far more of a problem to me than the monarch. I suspect establishment will go far before the monarchy.

And in reply to some other comments on here, I understand the advantage of a long term view on government in the house of lords, but really the 'lottery of birth' is anything but fair. An independent appointment commission would be a far better way to handle the second house, giving an independent and experienced feedback on laws from a variety of backgrounds but without the ability to directly pass laws. As long as the Lords can't actually stop the commons, I have no trouble with it being unelected.

Paul said...

Got to echo what Girdag said.

I moved to the US from England a few years ago. When I was at school, we had to say prayers and sing hymns during morning assemblies, say grace before lunch, and there were the compulsory religious studies classes. By the end of it, I only knew of a few people who regularly went to church. For the rest of us, it was weddings, christenings and funerals, out of tradition more than anything else.

I've often wondered if the heavy doses of religion during school actually helps foster a more agnostic viewpoint. School is where you're supposed to learn, understand, analyse and ask questions, whereas in a church you just get preached at.

In the US - and I'm in Texas, so my generalization may be a bit skewed - I see all this pressure to get religion into schools. I keep wondering if it'll produce the army of Jesus-loving foot soldiers they're hoping for, or a generation for whom religion means as little as it did to me and my peers when we left school. Maybe they should be careful what they pray for!

Riker said...

Girdag said...

CAKE OR DEATH?



I'd just like to publicly apologize to my keyboard for spitting Pepsi all over it after reading your comment.

If anyone wants a poignant and insightful rundown of what the English monarchy is all about, do yourself a favor:

Reserve an hour or two, secure a copy of 'Eddie Izzard - Dress to Kill'. Watch and enjoy. Repeat as needed.

Mr. Izzard is one of the smartest and funniest people of our time, at least in the matters of culture, transvestitism, and henges.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

You guys have provided some wonderful commentary. I had to laugh at the "tea" comment. :)

I need to find some current books on the duty of the British Monarchy. Possum1 got into reading about Russian emperialism (a few months ago) and I have read a great deal about pre-Victorian monarchy (in England)... but, I don't have as much information on the modern monarchy. I surfed around on the Windsor site, last night, and it seems very official and formal (so, maybe that's where I got the sovereign vibe from?). There was some mention of being chosen by God. But, clearly, the public view is much different than the way the family views itself. So....yeah, thanks for the feedback!! It's great!

As for this uninformed, American perspective on the future of the monarchy:
1. I agree that having a long term "ruler"/"politician"-type that you can watch grow-up and then count on to reign, would be a boon. However, I think the fact that it's ONE family... chosen by God (so to speak), would be a hard thing for me to accept. However, if I had grown-up with the monarchy...or understood it better, I'd probably feel much different. :)
2. I think William is the key to the future of the monarchy. Prince Charles is probably a great guy,... but, I just don't see him being a good King. Again, though, I'm not British.
3. It *is* a nice idea that you have this historical, ceremonial head-of-state. That would sure save the United States a great deal of money on buying new china every four years. ;) KIDDING FOLKS! In fact, the Boy King Bush, and Laura, haven't picked a china set for their administration... they use Chinette. ;)

Erp said...

Note the divine right of kings is more than God put the king there but that God put the king there and it is sacrilegious to oppose the king.

The British monarchy has learned not to meddle and they've learned that effectively the voice of the people (at least those people in power) is the voice of God. Their job is to be there whether it is opening new hospitals, being present at memorial services, handing out honors, or meeting foreign dignitaries. Parliament has gotten rid of monarchs it doesn't like: Charles I by beheading (the last king who claimed the divine right of kings), James II (who was sent packing and his daughter and son-in-law put on the throne), and Edward VIII by abdication.

JC said...

I am generally in favour of the monarchy, simply because it would be too much effort to change it.

I am worried about the future though. Bes has had the good sense to keep her mouth shut on almost every political issue. This is the most valuable quality in a constitutional monarch. Charles on the on the other hand has ideas but is really too stupid to handle them. Unless he can learn to clam up he could end up becoming a national embarrassment.

Another thing to note is the presence of CofE bishops in the House of Lords (and other religious leaders appointed as life peers). At present they are aren't really an issue, they tend not do do anything much, but as the Lords are reformed I for one will be keeping a beady eye on them.

Eamon Knight said...

2. I think William is the key to the future of the monarchy. Prince Charles is probably a great guy,... but, I just don't see him being a good King. Again, though, I'm not British.

His Royal Wooness Prince Chuckles is definitely making me reconsider my lukewarm support for Canadian retention of the monarchy. The only thing making the prospect of Charles III tolerable is that the monarch has no real power here (even less than in England). This is immensely preferable to the American situation, where the current Head of State is an air-head with power (and lots of it, and grabbing more).

Basically: in the Western political tradition, you need a head of state -- someone whose signature makes laws become official. If the office is essentially ceremonial, then it hardly matters how you choose them -- hereditary monarch, president appointed by the legislature, or picked out of a hat from senior public servants and other prominent citizens. Anyone with a bit of dignity will do. But give that office some real muscle, and you'd better be damn careful who gets the job.

I don't know enough history to comment on how far the Divine Right theory plays into the monarchy, but I'd point out that there are lots of things that used to be justified by religion (or some other metaphysics that modern materialists would reject -- like the concept of "natural rights") that we keep around anyways, because they are in fact useful in themselves, or at least benign and traditional.

aiabx said...

Canadian atheist here, and I'm against the notion of monarchy, but in a lukewarmish kind of way. Nothing to do with religion, I just resent the idea that there are citizens with more and less rights, and that I am on the wrong end of the social scale. That having been said, the Queen is hardly ever in Canada, so it's hard to get worked up about the inequality. Balancing the scale is the notion that it is nice to be different from the US. That is a much bigger deal here in Canada.

Zipi said...

Spanish atheist here; we have a monarchy, too! Our king is pretty laid back. He has no effective power (and our Parliament could get rid of him if they did not like him). His job is diplomatic. He goes on trips, shows the city around to other countries' kings, attends cultural events..., that sort of thing. It is true that he costs money (and it would be very good to reduce the size of the royal family that is mantained with taxes), but so do equivalent roles in other countries which are elected (for instance, France).

In addition, a majority of the population loves the current king and his family (he had an important role in our transition from a fascist dictatorship to our current democracy back in the seventies) so he is not going anywhere.

As for being chosen by God, nobody says or believes that around here.

Joe said...

I guess I'm more blunt than the rest of you nice people. Monarchy is a scam. And, the British Monarchy has Germanic roots. It seems to me King George (who let the Colonies get away) spoke only German, perahps one of you posting Brits can correct me on this.
Still, its all a scam. I"m glad we threw that BS off when we left the Empire.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

The shield is supported by the English lion and Scottish unicorn and is surmounted by the Royal crown. Below it appears the motto of the Sovereign, Dieu et mon droit ('God and my right').


That was taken from the UK's Official page for the Royal Family. Just in case anyone was wondering if Queen Elizabeth still operated under the assumption that she had Divine Right. She does.

On money in Canada and other commonwealths, you might see the phrase: D.G. Regina, which means "Queen by the Grace of God" (the long hand is "deo gratia regina").

Kind of interesting.

Emma said...

Hi, I'm an Aussie atheist, have been reading this blog for a couple of months now, and love it.

I'm definitely anti-monarchy, and I was very dissappointed when Australia's last attepmt to become a republic collapsed in a heap. Hopefully sometime in the next few years we'll be able to have another go.

Personally I can't see any need for a "monarch" who has no official role in government. Originally the job of a monarch was to rule the country, go off to fight wars, and eventually get assassinated by illegitimate siblings/children. But in many countries the ruling part of the job has been completely taken over by the elected government.

The Queen certainly has no role in Australia's (or even England's) government beyond the purely ceremonial. All we get is the occaisional hand-waving and ribbon-cutting visit that costs our taxpayers millions of dollars.

I can't see the justification for someone being in charge of us just because they happen to have ancestors who were better at deposing their enemies than everybody else. Being chosen by God has nothing to do with it.

Besides, due to the quirks of succession, the rightful King of England actually lives in the Australian outback.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Besides, due to the quirks of succession, the rightful King of England actually lives in the Australian outback.

Ok!! I'll bite!! LOL Please explain. :) This sounds intriguing.

Xzanron said...

The hereditary aspect of Monarchy is the one part that sits least well with me (I'd not want hereditary peers, nor religious peers simply because they are religious).

All people tend to see when they look at hereditary monarchs is the free ticket they seem to get to power, without the need to earn it. What they don't see is what those people have to give up.

Unlike the rest of us, the heir to a monarchy cannot do what he wants, he can't take the job he wants, he can't live a quiet life out of the spotlight. Charles and William have a lot less freedom than I do. Many things (mostly freedoms and independence) I take for granted are denied them. I'm not sure I'd trade with them.

As to hereditary rule... I've always wondered if Bush Jr hadn't been the son of one of America's "ruling families" if he'd be in the White House now. Political power it seems always tends to run in families, bit like a genetic defect.

Emma said...

Here's a link to a newspaper article that explains it:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/aussie-mike-the-true-king-of-england/2005/09/10/1125772732666.html

But in case that doesn't work, heres the gist of it. A couple of years ago the BBC made a program called Britain's Real Monarch. I think it started as a general history program on the monarchy, but they found strong evidence that King Edward IV was illegitimate, making all the monarchs that came after him invalid.

The legitimate line of descent is through George, Duke of Clarence, Edward's brother, which leads to a man who is now a farmer in Australia, but was born in England and has the title of the 14th Earl of Loudoun. The program tracked him down and told him about his claim to the throne. He knew he was descended from the Duke of Clarence, but had no idea that he is technically the rightful King of England. But in true Aussie fashion he's happy to stay on his farm, and even cheers for the Aussie cricket team during the Ashes series.

Girdag said...

And, the British Monarchy has Germanic roots. It seems to me King George (who let the Colonies get away) spoke only German, perahps one of you posting Brits can correct me on this.

Yeah, the first 2 Georges spoke only German, they were an offshoot of the family that suddenly ended up becoming heirs to the throne. I don't see what the fuss is, all in all. The royals do no harm (barring Prince Philip's odd gaffe), bring in more money through tourism than they cost to support, and it's kinda...nice, really, to have them.

The whole Diana fiasco was bloody ridiculous, though. It was about a YEAR before you could buy a paper without her face on the front of it.

But, yes, Eddie Izzard is a very good way to understand the British monarchy. And you may nearly die of laughter.

Girdag said...

Sorry for the double post, but I just looked up George I on Wikipedia, and it's pretty interesting. Didn't know half the stuff on there. He wasn't actually first in line to the throne, but was chosen as the monarchy at the time, and parliament didn't want a Catholic monarch, so ensured that the nearest Protestant relations were designated as heirs to the throne.

Y'see, we got all our religious infighting out of us back in the time of the Tudors, Stuarts and Hanoverians, and most of those that were too 'devout' to accept the compromises that inevitably ensued ended up going off and founding America's colonies. In retrospect, that might not have been such a great idea.

Xzanron said...

Strangely the Monarchy has actually done quite a bit to marginalise religion in the UK.

Michael Portillo (a politician I usually disagree with) remarked:

"At one time religion was the greatest threat to the integrity and safety of the realm. Under the brief reign of Bloody Mary 300 Protestants, including bishops, were burnt at the stake for refusing to accept Catholicism.

Mary’s Protestant successor, her half-sister Elizabeth I, was determined that religious struggles would not wreck her kingdom. She dismissed most religious controversy as “disputes over trifles” and forbade clergymen from straying from their biblical texts into questions of rite or politics. She crafted a Protestantism that created as few problems as possible for Catholics — for example, one that tolerated candles and crucifixes.

If today the Church of England is wishy-washy and middle-of-the-road, that is no accident. It is the long-term result of Elizabeth’s design. Britain has benefited enormously from a weak clergy that has mainly remained aloft from politics. Britain’s established church, headed by the monarch, has made few demands of our leaders or people. "

Maybe the US needs it's own Elisabeth I; which presidential candidate might fill that role?

You can see the full article here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/michael_portillo/article1434471.ece

Xzanron said...

Sorry that link didn't seems to have been mutilated... so try this http://tinyurl.com/2pn7r8

Panj said...

We have an established church, bishops in our second house, church run, publicly funded sectarian schools and many other ties between churches and the state. The outgoing Prime Minister, the next one and the leader of the opposition are very pro church. Check our National Secular Societies site at

http://www.secularism.org.uk/

to get an idea of all the other religious privileges you can enjoy in our so called "democracy".

But never, and I mean never criticise the Queen who is lovely and can do no wrong.

panj

robd said...

Generally, royal families got their status from a violent power grab of some distant ancester; god is just being used to justify afterwards.

In the Netherlands we have an interesting exeption of a country starting as a republic and later choosing to become a monarchy;
with the royal family chosen for its role in our history.

Here, it is clear that the "mandate" of royal power, whatever there is left, is given by the citizens of thenation, not by any god.

JS said...

A Dane here...

As a secularist, I couldn't care less about monarchy. On paper I suppose you could say that the Crown governs by the consent of God, but in practice, since the Reformation, it's been the church preaching by the consent of the Crown, not the other way around.

As a socialist, I find the notion of monarchy archaic and ridiculous, and think that the Crown should be officially relegated to a ceremonial position. (If you read the Danish constitution very litterally, the Crown has considerable power. I'm not sure the High Court would buy it, though, if the queen were to actually try to exercise it - the last time the Crown tried to bully parliament, it lost so badly that the consitution was revised to reflect the nerfing of its power.)

As a practical and pragmatic citizen, I think that maintaining a state-sponsored Crown is probably a good idea. Imagine if the (fairly popular) queen started playing the political game - joining a party and running for parliament.

I like to think that my fellow citizens are sufficiently level-headed not to fall for that, but I wouldn't care to bet money on it - much less the integrity of our public debate. In the current situation, if the Crown does any such thing, parliament would yank its considerable stipend faster than you can say 'constitutional crisis.'

- JS

fred said...

The current British monarchy can trace its ancestral lineage back to the Anglo-Saxon period, ultimately back to the kings of the Angles, and also back to the early Scottish kings. The powers of the monarchy, known as the Royal Prerogative, are still very extensive. Most prerogative powers are exercised not by the monarch personally, but by ministers acting on his or her behalf; examples such as the power to regulate the civil service and the power to issue passports. Some major powers are exercised nominally by the monarch himself, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and according to constitutional convention. An example is the power to dissolve Parliament.
It has long been established in the uncodified Constitution of the United Kingdom that political power is ultimately exercised by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, of which the Sovereign is a non-partisan component, along with the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and by the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Thus, as the modern British monarchy is a constitutional one, the Sovereign's role is in practice limited to non-partisan functions (such as being the fount of honour). This role has been recognised since the 19th century; Walter Bagehot identified the monarchy as the "dignified part" rather than the "efficient part" of government in The English Constitution (1867). In practice, political power is exercised today through Parliament and by the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The sovereign also holds the title of Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, although in practice the spiritual leadership of the Church is the responsibility of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Athiest in a van - I wonder why you keep insisting that the Monarch is/was chosen by God? Where did you get this information? It just ain't the case!

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I'm not "insisting" that she was - I don't think God's exists...

However, the British monarchy believes they were chosen by God to rule. Just wondered how people felt about it. :)

Graeme Aussieatheist said...

Sean the blogonaut is right on the money with his comments about Australia. We don't really mind the queen, we just mind her being our ruler. The G-G signs off on all parliamentary legislation but has no real veto powers. The only reason we don't have a republic yet is scare mongering buy the incumbent government that we'll all vote Mel Gibson is as our president. Religion has a very low profile here thankfully and is fading fast.

fred said...

Please don't take offence at this, but your statement that the British Monarchy believes they were chosen by God to rule, is centuries out of date. It's just not a relevant argument any more.
A coronation ceremony is generally religious in character, because in ancient times it was believed that monarchs were chosen by God, in accordance with the Divine Right of Kings; hence, the crown was bestowed by God himself. While this belief is now not generally held, many sovereigns are still proclaimed as Monarch "By Grace of God" as a matter of tradition, even though legally nearly all are subject to the constitution, some even subject to parliamentary sanction.
A monarch succeeding by right (e.g. hereditarily) does not have to undergo the ceremony of coronation to ascend the throne and execute the duties of the office. King Edward VIII, for example, did not reign long enough for a coronation ceremony to occur before he abdicated, yet he was unquestionably the King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of India during his brief reign. This is because in Great Britain, the law stipulates that the moment one monarch dies, the new monarch assumes the throne.
These are historical FACTS and cannot be disputed. You can't invite argument and discussion on a topic when the basic facts are incorrect. Again, hope you don't take offence - none intended.
Have a nice day!

Atheist in a mini van. said...

No offense taken. Thank you for explaining it. :) Like I said,... I was just curious about how that worked.

So. Queen Elizabeth had a coronation, even though she inherited the throne from her father, but... it wasn't necessary? And, if Charles or William became Kings, they don't have to have coronations? If they do it would be purely...ceremonial? Like I said,... I need a good book on how monarchies work. Thanks.

fred said...

You're welcome.
Although, as I said, it is not necessary for hereditary accession, it would be unthinkable for a coronation not to take place. Various oaths are required to be made etc. in accordance with the Constitution. It's a very complicated, although very interesting subject. And despite any rumours you may have heard to the contrary, Charles WILL succeed his mother, and William is then next in line. William will absolutely NOT precede his father, however much some might like that to be the case.
And by the way - you could do your bit to save the Rainforest - don't buy a book, there's MASSES of info on the web.
It's 1.14am in the UK & WAY past my bedtime, so I'm going to get some shuteye... keep up the good work!! Regards.

Hippernicus said...

Yes, the only if about Charles succeeding is whether the Queen outlives him! :D

The Divine right thing was of moment back when we chopped the head off Charles I. ;)

Sharon said...

Xzanron - I liked your points, esp #5. When all you can think about is staying popular so you'll get re-elected then I think that's where some of the rot starts.

Spike - I was scrolling down to see if anyone had already mentioned Charles 1st and there you were.

Religion does enter into the monarchy question as they're not allowed to be Catholic (head of Church of England you see). That dates back to Tudor times and fear of the Inquisition etc (I think) and that's why we ended up with German-born royalty. James 2nd wouldn't renounce his Catholicism and ran away, his daughters reigned after him but had no children. So our George 1st was brought over from Hanover as he was the nearest Protestant relation. There's a short history lesson for you.

Possummomma - as many have stated, the UK isn't as hyped up as USA seems to be over religion (esp Christianity) and although our Queen is the Head of the Church of England we see her more as an institution that is part of our heritage. There's talk every now and again about getting rid of the monarchy but the alternatives are worse. Besides which, we're a pretty apathetic people over stuff like this so it'd never happen (I hope) :-)

Zipi said...

By the way, P-momma, your President invokes God as part of the reason why he is President far more than any of our monarchs (whom I have never heard saying anything of that type).

Atheist in a mini van. said...

You don't think I know that, Zip?!? :) LOL

Great Mighty Spaghetti Monster, if I could get a government even HALF as secular as Britain's, I'd be a happy possummomma. Shoot- forget having a secular president....I'd settle for a secular majority...or even just some people who know how to seperate their faith from their job. America has issues and they're much more dangerous than a monarchy. ;)

Lifewish said...

Speaking as a Brit, mostly it's just a quaint tradition. The Royal Family have managed to reinvent themselves as celebrities effectively enough that the average joes rather like having them around.

The other element is an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach to the British legal system. For example, in the city of York it's still legal to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow if he's in the city after dark. These odd rules just don't get thrown away unless they start to cause trouble.