UK Republicans put on alert as Elizabeth II reigns twilight

Although very minority, the republican movement in the United Kingdom has been put on alert to take action in the twilight of the reign of Elizabeth II , who this Sunday becomes the longest-serving British monarch with 70 years on the throne.

With the slogan " Not another 70. It's time for the republic ", the Republic organization, representative of this group, is preparing a campaign for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, with the goal of "demystifying the monarchy and promoting debate on an alternative constitutional model”, the director, Graham Smith, explains to Efe .

Although today is the anniversary of the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth II on February 6, 1952 , the commemorative events will take place from June 2 to 5, when the Republic will organize a conference on the possibility of "electing as head of state a politically political president." neutral, in the style of Ireland or Germany”.

Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an audience at Buckingham Palace. Photo: EFE

In Smith's opinion, "the closeness of the succession" of the monarch, who is already 95 years old, by her eldest son, Prince Charles, "who is not liked by everyone" , offers "the opportunity to debate what is desired for the future".

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"Unlike the sovereign, who does not usually speak publicly -so that people project what they think they think-, both Carlos and his son Guillermo express their opinions , which do not always go down well" and break the presumed impartiality of the monarchy constitutional, declares.

According to Smith, far from the "respect and admiration" that Elizabeth II arouses, which for many "embodies a past golden age", her successors will be more exposed to criticism and the effect of social networks.

Myths about the monarchy

Founded in 1983, although more active for about 15 years, Republic has some 120,000 members and, according to its leader, represents some 10 or 12 million people who, based on polls, would be willing to do without royalty. .

Smith argues that citizen support for the monarchical institution is "superficial" and "based on false beliefs" , and currently "mainly sustained by attachment to the Queen, a figure who has been present in the lives of most British".

Republic denounces some of the "unfounded myths" about the monarchy, such as that it "attracts tourism" -which the economic data does not corroborate- or that it is "neutral" and "represents" the people, when by law it actually does what the Government dictates to him, he has legislative prerogatives that allow him to defend his interests and heads the Armed Forces and the Church of England.

According to calculations by the pressure group, maintaining the institution costs the taxpayer about 345 million pounds (407 million euros) a year, if the cost of its security or the loss of income for the treasury are computed, in addition to public subsidies. as certain dukedoms and royal estates are not taxed.

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King Felipe VI of Spain (r), in the presence of Duke Felipe of Edinburgh (l), greets Queen Elizabeth II of England during the welcome reception offered by the British sovereign to the king and queen of Spain, in London, United Kingdom ,on July 12, 2017. Photo: EFE

The absence of republicanism

Although between 2016 and 2021 the polls register a decline in support for the monarchy – it was from 50 to 63% last year (with many undecided), the reality is that republicanism is practically absent from the political and even intellectual debate in the United Kingdom. United.

No major party, with the exception of Northern Ireland's Sinn Féin -which longs for the reunification of the island of Ireland-, contemplates a republic in its electoral program, although some deputies individually confess themselves supporters, and it is difficult to find academics who address the issue.

Ted Vallance, from the London University of Roehampton, one of the few interested historians, tells Efe that the lack of attention towards republicanism could be due to the fact that at present “ the monarchy and British identity are intertwined ”.

On a historical level, “it was associated with the French revolutionaries and the execution of monarchs”, which means that even today defending a republic in the United Kingdom is associated “with advocating foreign values, such as those of the French Revolution (1789), and with the violent overthrow of kings”, he explains.

Interestingly, England and Wales, and later also Scotland and Ireland, preceded France and other countries in briefly experiencing a period of republic known as the Commonwealth between 1649 and 1660, following the execution of King Charles I during a civil war , although the The motivations of the movement led by Oliver Cromwell were complex and had religious overtones, Vallance notes.

In his opinion, it is difficult for the debate on republicanism to take off in England, the most populous and influential region, but it could gain strength in Scotland if it finally achieved independence or even if in a hypothetical future Northern Ireland became part of the Republic of Ireland. (I)

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