Maintain the Monarchy

Rory Quealy, Assistant Web Editor

Along with millions of people worldwide, I tuned in to Oprah Winfrey’s highly anticipated interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on March 7. Like many others, I was stunned and upset to hear them detail the racism and lack of support they received from both the British royal family and the institution, especially in regards to Meghan’s mental health. The interview confirmed that Harry and Meghan ending their roles as working members of the royal family was justified. 

The interview also triggered debates about the relevance of the royal family in a modern society and whether or not it should be abolished. While significant reform of the institution is needed, abolishing the royal family is not the solution. The benefits of having a monarchy, particularly as an apolitical head of state, are tremendous for Great Britain, though they are currently clouded by implications of Meghan and Harry’s experiences. 

During politically divisive times, Queen Elizabeth II, as an apolitical head of state, provides a unifying force to the country. For example, in 2019 she sent a message about Brexit to British politicians urging them to respect different viewpoints and to find a common ground. She used the influence she has to create unity, which had a positive effect. The UK is in similarly divisive times now with the pandemic, Brexit, and with Boris Johnson–arguably one of the most divisive British politicians in modern history–as prime minister. The UK needs the Queen’s influence now to help with these issues. 

Similarly to the UK, the United States also had one of the most politically divisive leaders in the form of former President Donald Trump. However, unlike the UK, there was no apolitical head of state to mediate the division. For instance, when the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won the world cup in 2019, they didn’t celebrate like they did when they won in 2015with an honor from former President Barack Obama at the White House. They refused to go to the capitol because they strongly disagreed with Trump’s politics. A situation that could have resulted in celebration and more pride in the U.S. was lost to division. If England had won, however, this would not have been a worry because there is no politics to strongly oppose when being honored by the Queen. 

Additionally, having the monarchy is not deteriorating the democracy of the British government; in the 2020 State of the World Freedom Index, the UK was ranked as freer than the U.S., with the UK at 14 and the US at 15. I’m not saying that the monarchy enhances the UK’s freedom, but it certainly does not hinder it. 

Despite these benefits, there are faults to the royal family, which is where reform is necessary. One place where this should happen is in the Privy Purse and Treasurer’s office, a department within the Royal Household. This department allows the household to operate as a business as it encompasses finance, property services, IT and human resources. This office and the HR department in particular are supposed to protect the staff and the family and ensure everything is done ethically. Clearly, this isn’t necessarily the case. This HR department was potentially one of the places Meghan sought help and did not receive it. To ensure a repeat of Harry and Meghan’s experience doesn’t occur, the HR department needs to have and effectively implement a true zero tolerance policy for racism of any kind. 

Mental health experts should also be hired and the staff in general should be diversified in regards to race and ethnicity to truly represent the British population. The institution and the family should use Meghan and Harry’s interview as an opportunity to reflect on their offenses and bring about a positive change. 

We know reform is possible for the royal family. They have previously made changes to adapt to a more modern society. Prince Charles was allowed to marry a divorced woman, and more notably, Queen Elizabeth has paid income taxeson a voluntary basissince 1993. 

Meghan Markle said in the now-famous interview that, as Americans, it’s easy to view the royals as famous people, but in reality it’s a completely different ballgame. Though she was referring to the job associated with being a royal, the sentiment still applies here. It is not simply a group of celebrities, but an institution integral to Britain as a nation.