Queen and not heard: why Liz is great for Great Britain
As Bristol warms up for the Queen’s impending visit, Connor Morrison explains why the Royals are still relevant.
Ask anyone outside Britain what it is that defines us as a nation and you’ll be confronted with a selection of unshakable stereotypes, institutions and practices for which the rest of the world both loves and loathes us.
Pomp and pageantry, old-school British reserve, the annual invasion of the Mediterranean by legions of binge drinking, vomit-covered, scantily-clad teens and, of course, the Royal Family.
On Thursday, Bristol will receive its first visit from the Monarch in over seven years, an event sure to attract as much cynicism as it does manic, flag-waving pensioners practically foaming at the mouth at the mere thought of glimpsing the world’s most famous woman in the flesh.
For many, the idea of the city centre virtually coming to a standstill so that an elderly lady can shake a few hands, force a few smiles and feign interest in the lives of a few shopkeepers is merely an inconvenience.
To others, however, the resentment runs much deeper. After a year of almost constant Royal exposure and celebration, one cannot escape the murmurs of dissent amongst the ranks of the British public: be it the tweets, the internet memes or the looks of disdain cast at the Union Jack paper plates in Wilkinson’s.
It’s clear that while many still view the Monarchy enthusiastically, there exists a segment of society who see an historical anachronism, with no place in a modern democracy.
As for myself, I love Liz. Perhaps it’s my working class upbringing in a small Northern town, perhaps it’s the colourful hats and demure wave that only a sadist could fail to find endearing, or perhaps I just think she looks a bit like my Grandma, whom I also like.
Don’t get me wrong, I by no means consider myself a royalist (my mantelpiece is adorned with half empty Stella cans, as opposed to porcelain corgis and China plates commemorating HRH’s 2002 visit to South Shields) but if there’s one thing the Monarchy does appeal to, it’s my sense of patriotism
As Brits, we pride ourselves on our rich history. Visit any city in the UK and you see the result of hundreds of year’s worth of cultural development.
It’s heritage that makes Britain what it is and, perhaps more importantly, keeps millions of tourists flocking to our shores every year.
American tourists, in particular, seem especially drawn to our historical offerings and, with their own major cities characterised by skyscrapers and grid systems, who can blame them?
The continuity of the Monarchy, along with all the pomp and ceremony, the palaces, the weddings and even our own little provincial visit, helps to provide modern Britain not only with a discernible link to the past, but also with a sense of distinct national identity. And surely this can only be a good thing in times of austerity.
Of course, those behind the calls for an all-out republic may counter this by alluding to conflicts with fundamental principles of democracy or the financial cost of the throne.
In reality, however, most Britons are aware of the Queen’s exclusively ceremonial and constitutional significance. Politically, she poses no threat whatsoever, and famously refrains from displaying even a semblance of political allegiance to any given party or politician.
Financially, current estimates state that the Monarchy as a whole costs us around £1.33 per tax-payer. I, for one, am happy to part with what is essentially the value of half a pint of urine-like cider if it prevents us from succumbing to the cultural dominance of countries such as the USA.
Their companies and public figures already hold the monopoly with regard to our inner-city billboards, our TV screens and our 21st century obsession with all things celebrity.
Aside from the many positive aspects of the British Royal Family (the charity patronages, the boost to national morale and Pippa Middleton’s bum) it is this provision of a unique sense of Britishness that truly endears them to me as an institution.
Whilst I may not spend Thursday waiting for hours in the driving rain, clutching a wilted bouquet of flowers with crudely painted Union Jacks slowly running down my cheeks, I will by no means be questioning the need for something as seemingly trivial as a royal visit.
Like Corrie, Baked Beans, Harry Potter and The Daily Mail online, Our Liz is a national treasure and one of the truly British things we’ve got left.
For that, she can happily have my half pint of pissy cider’s worth any day.