When a child is born

A new baby is a moment of joy. However you view how we got here, it is a miraculous event. I can recall the wonder at holding something I had been instrumental in creating. A real sense of responsibility coursed through me, as well as a sense of bewilderment.

The birth of a child to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will bring much pleasure to them and their families. I congratulate and celebrate in much the same way as I would for every birth, for all children matter, everywhere.

This new Windsor already enjoys fame, and one day could become Head of State. By my reckoning this new life is already third in line; they could be Head of Sate tomorrow if disaster were to befall the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Cambridge.

I am a Republican. This means that I wish for a democratically elected Head of State for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. No-one knows how this child will turn out, but its suitability for the job is a mixture of fluke of birth and its indoctrination to come. My wish for an end to this medieval practise will fall on deaf ears, and to be honest it is very low on my list of priorities – I am not about to foment revolution. I wish the Royal Family no harm at all, and am as fascinated by anyone by the pomp and history. I signed the Queen Mother’s Memorial Book in the run-up to her funeral, and as I was working in London even saw a bit of the funeral procession. (By accident I saw her coffin come to London from Windsor whilst on one of lunchtime walks – I was working in South Kensington at the time.) I expect change will come slowly and gradually.

This child is born into a Britain where a third of children live in poverty. Its wealthy surroundings are at odds with the reality facing four million children. So, while we celebrate with the Cambridges let’s also ponder how a 21st Century Britain can address the issue of child poverty (and perhaps think about creating a more democratic country as well).


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.

Labour republic

Apparently some within the Labour Party are looking to set up republican grouping. I am a Republic member, although I take no part in their campaigning. I shan’t be going to the inaugural meeting – campaigning and football have more pressing requirements on my time – but I shall be monitoring this group to see what becomes of it. Besides, my republicanism is pretty laidback – I realise that a British Republic is some way off and there are more important battles to fought in the meantime.

Those thus inclined can visit the Facebook page.


The good news for me about next year’s wedding between the future King William V and Kate Middleton is that it gives me an extra day off, April 29th being declared a national holiday. Although I wish the young couple well and hope they have a happy marriage, I will not be watching the event.

I am a soft republican. This means that if given a choice I would opt for an elected head of state, but I do not actively campaign for this. It seems obvious to me that Elizabeth II is enormously popular and any campaign to have her replaced is doomed to fail. I suspect that the advent of King Charles III will change the prospects for a republic. At the moment I am content for reform. This means allowing royals the vote and to stand for Parliament, reducing the size of the Civil List, and disestablishing the Church of England.

I have Middletons in my family tree. I have no idea whether Kate and I are distantly related, but my great grandfather, Vane Ireton Shaftesbury St.John (1838 – 1911) married Eliza Catherine Middleton (1855 – 1874) in April 1857. Eliza was the daughter of Saffory Middleton (1801 – 1867) and Barbara Sharp (1806 – ?). I am descended through Vane’s second marriage, so have no Middleton genes myself.

Vane’s sister, Helen Cornelia St.John (1831 – ?), married Eliza’s brother Charles Sharp Middleton (1826 – ?), so there is much interconnection between the two families. More can be read on this at http://middleton-stjohns.com/wiki/Main_Page

My other Middleton link is that one of my teachers at Chalkwell Hall Junior School was a Miss Middleton, who, if memory serves me right, became a Mrs Wilson at some point. She was my teacher when I was nine years old, the second year of junior school in old money.

I want to know why the Royals want an increase in the Civil list

I think there should be transparency over the negotiations for changes to the Civil List. (I also wonder why, at a time of economic woe, anyone is considering increasing the allocation – but that is another matter.)

There is an interesting, albeit brief, post on Royal neutrality here.

Needless to say, Republic want the Civil List lobbying exposed to the full scrutiny of the public eye, and are less than happy that the Prime Minister is vetoing this.

Since we, the tax payers, are paying for this I can only see sense in the idea that we are privy to the lobbying.

I can understand that there will be some issues concerning the Royal Family that will warrant embargoing, but requesting a hike in payments has no security implications and I fail to see what reason it would have for being a special case. Surely we should know why they want their state funding to increase

Scrap plans to grant the royals exemption from scrutiny

I am a believer in democracy, and I often state that this takes precedence over my socialism. My view is that whilst we live in a democracy, it is far from perfect. I am a member of the Electoral Reform Society and am an advocate for a change in the way we vote.

I also think the set-up of our democracy is long overdue an overhaul. Our unelected second chamber strikes me as medieval in its make-up and certainly has little, if any, mandate.

Our head of state is a trickier subject. They are not voted in, and so by definition are anti-democratic. Yet, certainly The Queen is hugely popular and any referendum on her fate would undoubtedly endorse her. However, the Queen and her family should be made accountable, and I do not see much objection to this. Thus, the Times article (Republic group urges transparency over Prince Charles’s lobbying) is apposite; I agree with Republic’s stance that the Prince of Wales’ lobbying is something that should be exposed to scrutiny by those whose taxes support him (i.e. all of us ‘subjects’).

I do support an end to secret royal lobbying.