THE REPUBLIC OF BRITAIN; SATURDAY ESSAY: As an Ex-Palace Aide Warns That the UK Could Soon Be a Republic, a Top Royal Writer Says That Retiring the Monarchy Would Renew the Nation's Vigour and Democracy. While the Mail Disagrees with Him, His Views Deserve to Be Heard

Daily Mail (London), October 25, 2003 | Go to article overview

THE REPUBLIC OF BRITAIN; SATURDAY ESSAY: As an Ex-Palace Aide Warns That the UK Could Soon Be a Republic, a Top Royal Writer Says That Retiring the Monarchy Would Renew the Nation's Vigour and Democracy. While the Mail Disagrees with Him, His Views Deserve to Be Heard


Byline: ANTHONY HOLDEN

AT THE end of yet another grim week for the Windsors, even committed royalists are wondering how much more negative publicity they can survive.

This week's watershed came not in the red-tops, with their stream of lurid revelations from Diana's butler Paul Burrell, but here in the Mail - where Mark Bolland, until recently the Prince of Wales's Deputy Private Secretary, foresaw Britain becoming a republic unless Buckingham Palace got its act together. And quickly.

It was fascinating to hear an insider like Bolland conceding that the royals have only themselves to blame for their woes, and wanting them to honour Diana's memory by embracing her as a role-model for a 21st-century monarchy - but despairing that they seem incapable of learning the lesson.

For me, his unexpected outburst was doubly fascinating, because I have been saying as much for years, only to be rewarded with official denials, abuse and smears. As a royal commentator for more than three decades, whose disillusion with the monarchy has grown in direct proportion to his dealings with the House of Windsor, I felt vindicated but not surprised.

Burrell is just another example of a loyal servant so hurt by his shabby treatment that now he's telling us what Charles is really like - hurling books at Burrell, for instance, when he failed to lie to Diana about Charles's bedhopping with Camilla Parker Bowles.

Jennie Bond, the veteran BBC royal reporter, has also recently confessed that she never much liked the lofty Windsors - thus, reportedly, dishing her chances of becoming the Prince of Wales's new press secretary.

Who can blame her? The job is about as attractive as becoming Iain Duncan Smith's campaign manager. Both men look equally doomed.

WHAT hope can there be for the monarchy when the future King, by the admission of his closest aides, is so out of touch with reality? Apart from presiding in pampered style over a court with a gayromp, gift-flogging culture, does Charles really expect our new Archbishop of Canterbury, however eccentric, to administer the Coronation Oath to a selfconfessed adulterer who has broken at least two of the Ten Commandments? And with a divorced, ex-Roman Catholic non-wife at his side?

I could go on. But British republicans, among whom I have long numbered myself, have no wish to see the monarchy fall because of the human failings of its transient, fallible occupants. We have loftier ideals, built upon basic democratic principles.

If the Windsors choose to self destruct, republicans aren't going to complain. But we are more concerned to see Britain become a true democracy by electing its head of state, rather than settling for the random outcome of a hereditary lottery.

Besides, few among us would regard ourselves as unblemished enough to cast the first stone. There is layer upon layer of hypocrisy at work in a system where people leading imperfect lives expect their leaders to be flawless paragons of moral virtue.

There is, of course, no guarantee that an elected head of state would prove any more blameless than a hereditary one. There are plenty of modern republics lumbered with heads of state who are, at best, ineffectual, and, at worst, downright corrupt.

But at least he or she would be accountable to an electorate. If we, too, had an elected president, we could throw them out after (or even during) a fixed term in office. And we would have only ourselves to blame, as with our MPs, for choosing a wrong 'un.

I speak not from class envy, or any chip-on-shoulder politics, or any wish to deprive Britain of its heritage. Quite the reverse.

I would like to be able to take pride in my country. I find the notion that republicans are in some way unpatriotic deeply offensive. I want to celebrate our nation's great writers, its artists, thinkers, scientists and explorers from throughout the ages - and those still with us.

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THE REPUBLIC OF BRITAIN; SATURDAY ESSAY: As an Ex-Palace Aide Warns That the UK Could Soon Be a Republic, a Top Royal Writer Says That Retiring the Monarchy Would Renew the Nation's Vigour and Democracy. While the Mail Disagrees with Him, His Views Deserve to Be Heard
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