Richard III

Some time ago I did briefly consider a change of career. I looked into becoming an archaeologist: in the end I decided that I could not take the cut in salary. However, I have an abiding fondness for the past, and when not reading on things political, I will often tackle something with a historical bent.

I am fascinated by today’s news confirming that the remains of King Richard III have been discovered. I hope that we will see a facial reconstruction at some point.

Richard III two-year reign was terminated by his death in battle, and his nemesis took the throne. My wandering mind does wonder what this does to the argument for a hereditary monarchy, because Queen Elizabeth II is not the closest direct descendent of King Richard III. In fact, the line of descent twists and turns throughout the centuries to suit the convenience of vested interests.

The most extreme example I can think of is George I, who had 56th people in front of him in terms of succeeding to Queen Anne’s throne, all disqualified because of their Catholicism.


3 Responses to Richard III

  1. God moves in mysterious ways … divine right and all that!

  2. Timothy (likes zebras) says:

    I am in principle a Republican, but… I had a chat with an Australian friend of mine who had voted to keep the Monarchy in the referendum, on the basis that he did not like the proposed replacement. It was an interesting conversation, because it depends on what you want the head of state to do.

    Anyway, this is by way of introducing my criticism of your point about the hereditary monarchy, because the point of the glorious revolution is that we do not have a hereditary monarchy, but we have a monarchy appointed by an Act of Parliament. Parliament is sovereign. Parliament decides who succeeds to the throne. And they’ve basically decided to assign the monarchy to the descendants of George I’s mother, [provided they aren’t Catholic] so that they could stop worrying about it. This was a big step forward at the time, because religious wars had been causing untold damage across Europe for centuries.

    The current political consensus is that the present arrangements work because they result in a head of state who is not political, and therefore one hopes can be relied upon to be independent if required to be so because of a political crisis. I can appreciate that this would not necessarily be the case were the President to be elected, either directly or indirectly, and it is an argument that has some merit.

    And so this more nuanced view of the present constitution then poses difficult questions for Republicans (such as myself). Do we really want to replace the monarchy with an elected, overtly political, head of state? If there is some virtue in having an apolitical head of state, can we think of a better way that doesn’t entrench class privilege as the present situation – where the Queen sits at the apex of a large land-holding aristocracy – does?

    I’ve long been in favour of replacing the House of Lords with a second chamber populated by members of the public chosen at random, to ensure that there is a voice free of party patronage at the centre of political power. It appeals to me to have different selection procedures for the different parts of government: election for the Commons, randomness for the Lords, inheritance for Head of State? Or perhaps the Head of State could be appointed in some way, perhaps by a selection panel formed of all the Commonwealth citizens who possess a Nobel Prize?

    When I am in a supermarket and I am faced with a giant shelf of dozens of different types of coffee I often find myself thinking that there is too much choice. This can be the same with politics. There is such a thing as too many elections – because it can be hard to make a choice if you don’t have enough information to discriminate between the options presented. This is why I think we could do with looking at more inventive ways to improve existing institutions then simply to call for them to be elected.

  3. You can’t beat democracy. There is a reasonable argument for the PM to be Head of State, although by having a separately elected role one could theoretically get a non-politocal appointment. However, since I think that politics of some sort or another infects almost all endeavours then I see no problem with a political president – it works for the U.S.A.

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