I understand congratulations are in order.
A young couple, William and Kate, have, I’ve been told by wall to wall media coverage throughout the day and night, given birth to a son.
This child, is, however, special, apparently. Around 2000 babies are born on an average day, usually most of these births go unnoticed by the wider world, marked only by family and close friends. A birth is a joyous occasion for a couple, especially a couple experiencing it for the first time and on a human level I’m happy for this particular couple, if somewhat uncaring about it, the same sort of passive happiness one has generally for news about people you have never met. But, apparently, this particular birth is special because the new-born child is third in line to the throne.
I’m told that hospitals across the country have been given silver coins to give to the other approximately 1999 other babies who had the random fortune to be born on this day. Perhaps as some small compensation for the fact that, of those 2000 children, only one can hope to ever be head of state.
No doubt this child’s parents will be proud, as any young couple might be of their newfound parentage, and I’m sure the fanfare, media gaze, colouring in of fountains and general intrusion isn’t their real wish. I’m sure they would sooner have seclusion to allow contemplation for their families’ future, and that of their child but, alas, the future is ordained and they have subjects to appease.
Whatever happens, this child, birthed by a commoner, as if that should matter, will make history, as the first child born into the line of succession to be granted their place no matter their gender, a small step towards equality in a tradition meandering back a thousand years.
Of course, this does not make up for the gross inequality that in Britain, because of the circumstances of this one child’s birth and parentage he and he alone can hold dominion over the land and call others subject.
This child will receive unwavering adulation from his first comprehended word. He will be told he is special, it will be drilled into him. Whereas around one sixth of his peers born today will be brought up in abject poverty, his future is bought and paid for by the state, the finest food, education and housing will be provided free of charge. He has been born into a family which owns few assets but by virtue convention and of their feudal hold over the office of Head of State are granted land and status not afforded to their subjects – the Duchy of Cornwall and the Crown Estates are not owned by the Windsor Family, they are assets of the British Government given over to the head of Government for their upkeep.
People will seek to justify this lavish upbringing, at state expense, by telling him that his family bring in tourism revenue and pay for themselves, as if the huge crowds and great revenue The Louvre Palace in Paris, or the Palace in Versailles bring for the French state are dependent on French Royals who do not exist, or as if the assets given by the State could go to no better use than the upkeep of a dozen palaces and the lavish expenses of a single family, who, by virtue of a numbing obsequiousness, are the only people in the country able to opt in to paying tax and have only done so since 1993.
Tradition and religion are the paper thin excuses to paint over the concept that in Britain, where we claim to be proud to host the mother of all parliamentary democracies, power, influence, the leader of or nation, status, is inherited, not earned, not consented to, but given by a random act of genealogical dice throwing.
Of course, in the name of this tradition we have discriminated in the Act of Settlement on gender and religious grounds, we have had monarchs burn ‘heretics’ at the stake and wage war on their people because of their belief in their divine mandate – derived from a religion set up to allow an earlier King to divorce and execute his wives.
The establishment have a strange mix of feudal entitlement and sycophantic deference toward a family which has no real role other than to fill gossip columns and have an unseen and unaccountable lobbying effect on our democratically elected representatives, and all the while believe themselves above any of their ‘subjects’
When tradition is used to excuse discrimination, religion trumps reason and a sense of Patriotism is dependent on a few privileged at birth individuals, not the rights and freedoms which made the British People British enshrined in the Bill of rights and primacy of the Commons, not the Throne, then there is something deeply uneasy about the constitutional fudge and malaise at the centre of British Life which places the wellbeing of the landed few ahead of the rights and needs of the many.
We maintain this circus, in short, because it was deemed too much change after a civil war which tore the very fabric of British Life apart – some of the reassurance of the past was required but never left. The settlement where we have a Monarch constrained by informal constitution and a Sovereign Parliament acting as a Crowned Republic is not just archaic, but deeply contradictory. It goes against the contract that all are equal under the law and the hope that anyone with the luck to be born British has the ability to aspire to be all they can be.
Instead, someone who married a Prince and has given Birth to a Prince in a fulfilment of her own personal fairy tale has given birth to someone who will be head of state in a few decades to come. That’s all the say, and consent, the British people will have in the matter.
This child will live from the toil of others, will believe itself entitled to its position through the fortune of his Birth and a religion which itself long became peripheral to the British way of life, will inherit vast wealth and influence over our affairs, and the only say the subjects will have on their status will be the comments section of BBC news and to pay the taxes he himself will consider optional.
I am happy for William and Kate, I am sure they will make fine parents, but I don’t see what is so special about this child or his forbearers to make them automatically the most powerful men in the Country, nor do I consent to it myself.
Power should be earned and to govern should be to be chosen.