Most modern scholars recognize the ambivalence in terms of the attitudes towards the British monarchy. According to Glencross (2017, p.327), the love-hate attitude could be springing from the lack of clarity on the role of the monarch in the modern British society. Whereas it is clear that the political and military influence that the position enjoyed has been withdrawn, the tradition persists and enjoys considerable support. Part of the reason is the fact that it is constitutionally recognized, which makes it almost indispensible. However, there are a few other roles it plays which are not common to all, but are important for Britain as a nation. Most commonly among scholars, the British monarch is a visual symbol of the nation.
National Visual Symbol
Glencross (2017, p.327) reiterates the most common observation by scholars as being the symbolic role played by the British monarch. Being constitutionally recognized as the Head of State, the monarch carries the national identity. Consequently, they serve as the representatives of state. Such a view may bring out the concomitant role of the prime minister as the ‘Head of Government’ which in essence suffices to explain the separation of state and government that characterizes modern day Britain.
Symbol of National Heritage
One of the most profound manifestations of over a thousand years of British history is the monarchy. The royal family, the traditions they embody, and all that defines them beyond the ordinary citizenship and leadership class is a depiction of continuity of important cultural aspects of the British society. According to Hunt (2010, p.167), the British society is currently more secular and liberal more than before; yet the monarchy’s and the royal family’s appear to persist in spite of their historical embodiment of privilege and religious conservatism. Hunt’s argument serves to emphasize the role of the monarchy in preserving British cultural heritage.
Unity, Order, and Continuity
The persistence of the royal heritage is arguably important for modern day Britain. The monarchy with its manifestation of the queen as the ‘Head of State’ psychologically maintains in the nation a sense of consistency and stability in the state leadership (Jones 2012, p.19). If the monarchy was ignored and the modern system of government emphasized, the British society could fail to observe a consistency that links present stability to the quality of the political leadership that Britain has had for centuries. Therefore, recognizing the queen brings out first, an element of recognition of the sanctity of the constitution and second, high regard for the gains of the past and their contribution to present national stability. This role is emphasized by the other two roles in which the queen currently occupies a special place in British politics as the head of state and in the British culture as an epitope of its rich history. For instance, the lifestyle, behavior, and relationships of the royal family depict candor, humility, and recognition of ideals especially when the queen confers knighthood on eminent citizens. The monarch therefore serves as a recognizer of nobility in modern day Britain, which is seen more as a ceremonial than an executive role.
The British monarchy remains an important part of modern day Britain. The queen today epitomizes values that are important for the construction of a national identity. These values are further emphasized in the conduct of the royal family and the ceremonial activities conducted by the queen. The fact that the constitution confers headship of state on the British monarch is also important in modern day Britain because the recognition of the queen by the nation brings out the respect and sanctity of the constitution. Therefore, besides being a historical relic, the monarchy is a constant reminder of the British political journey that is the source of the current achievements.
- Glencross, M. (2017) ‘What does the monarchy do in modern Britain?’, Political Quarterly, 88(2), pp. 327–328. doi: 10.1111/1467-923X.12355.
- Hunt, T. (2010) ‘Monarchy in the UK’, Public Policy Research, 17(4), pp. 167–174. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-540X.2011.00626.x.
- Jones, D. (2012) ‘More Ancient than Modern’, History Today, 62(6), pp. 18–20. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com