The Null Device

Queen Camilla's tin crown

The upcoming Royal Wedding Mk. II isn't exactly looking like the finest hour in the history of the house of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha; first it got rescheduled to a town hall or somesuch because they couldn't legally have it at the cathedral, then the Queen decided not to attend (whilst strenuously denying that her action was in any way a snub), and now it turns out that the only way that Prince Charles is going to get to marry Camilla is by invoking a European human-rights law guaranteeing the right to marriage. Which is not the most dignified state of affairs. That and the danger that the IRA may bomb the wedding to protest not being allowed to get away with the robbery they didn't commit.

Not surprisingly, the prospect of having what is becoming the World's Most Expensive Reality TV Show at the helm of state has stoked the embers of the Australian republican debate, as Graham has pointed out.

I'm not one of the year-zero republicans who believes that Australia's British colonial heritage is evil and must be repudiated like an abusive parent (after all, we did get a lot of good things from Britain; the rule of law, Westminster-style democracy, an appreciation of good tea and a sense of irony, to name four). However, an Australian head of state would be good, especially given that the present monarchy is starting to look somewhat ridiculous.

Having said that, one good thing about the monarchy is that the head of state (which, in reality, is the governor-general) is above the ebb and flow of politics, and can keep a cooler head. Replacing them with a party-political President elected every four years would lose that. Graham's idea of a purely ceremonial president is good; I have always liked the idea of making the Moomba monarch (usually a footballer, soap star or other celebrity) the purely ceremonial head of state for a year, during which they would cut ribbons and attend state occasions. However, a one-year term may be a bit too short. Recently, I have been thinking that, to get the advantage of the monarchy that it is above the cycle of politics, the head of state's term should be longer than four years. Perhaps 10- or 12-year terms would be best. This would also encourage the election of figures with more staying power than, say, some footballer or Australian Idol finalist.

As for the title of the head of state, "president" sounds too political (not to mention too reminiscent of France, the US, Italy or other horrible examples). "King" or "queen" sounds a bit silly, and "monarch" would, technically, be inaccurate as the figure would not actually rule. "Taoiseach" may appeal to the Fenian wing of the republican movement (i.e., the ones who wanted to give Australia a green flag), though most Australians would probably not be able to pronounce it. One idea would be to find a word in an Aboriginal language meaning "chieftain" or "wise person" and use that; however, now that reconciliation has been binned, that would seem somewhat patronising.

And if all else fails, we could do what Murgatroyd suggested and establish a cadet monarchy, with a lesser member of the British royal family emigrating to Australia and becoming the resident monarch.

There are 2 comments on "Queen Camilla's tin crown":

Posted by: Jim Mon Feb 28 10:26:46 2005

Matthijs van Boxsel, in the Encyclopaedia of Stupidity, argues that constitutional monarchy is a good idea because it fills the focus of power with someone "stupid" who has no real power at all, and therefore cannot be corrupted. If there was (as in a republic) no single seat of supreme power, someone would be tempted to create one. Alternatively, if the seat of power had any actual power, as in a dictatorship, misuse inevitably results. Clever idea.

Posted by: acb Mon Feb 28 11:10:21 2005

Brilliant. I'll keep that in mind.