Sean Rego ’26
I wouldn’t be surprised if Elizabeth II was the most well known figure of our time. By the year of my birth, her reign had become near-mythical. She still went on to live another two decades after that. The “Queen of England” was just one of those people we accepted as integral to the 21st Century. In America, we couldn’t get enough about the Queen and the Royal Family; every marriage, birth and scandal was sensationalized. But the Second Elizabethan Age has ended and Charles III is King. After 70 years, the coronation is mere days away. This Saturday, I hope everyone has the opportunity to watch.
But why, you may ask, should we Americans care about the once-resented Crown? Why should we pay attention to this thousand year lineage? What is the point of the monarchy? To that, I can only say: because America simply doesn’t have anything like it. It seems that America, for all her magnificence, has lost her ability to rise above partylines, to forge a national symbol, and ultimately to rally and unite the nation. The British monarchy is special in our Anglosphere, and I hope we can all see that in the days to come.
There’s a reason that democracy has prevailed this long in England. The Magna Carta was a pivotal document that rejected absolutism in medieval times. Even before our own fight for independence, England (by then Great Britain) had established a parliamentary legislature that would create laws and send them to the sovereign for royal assent. For all intents and purposes, Britain was the first to abolish the slave trade and slavery. Britain continually expanded the voter base and the authority of elected representatives. Britain stood alone against the unholy Third Reich in 1940, and later rallied the free world to defeat Fascism and liberate Europe. For the most part, Britain willingly dismantled her empire and left democratic systems in newly formed countries, unlike many fellow European nations. Britain ushered in cultural movements like British Invasion and Cool Britannia, and remains the second most powerful nation in terms of soft power. More often than not, the story of this island-nation is one of progress and liberty, punching far above her weight class.
And if there is any one person throughout this story that has guaranteed stability and endurance, I think it is the monarch. The kings and queens have stood the test of time, led and guided their people, and most importantly, have rarely (if ever) stood in the way of liberty and the welfare of the nation. I think of Elizabeth the First, who united a religiously fractured kingdom to defeat the world-conquering Spanish Armada. I think of George VI, who overcame his speech impediment to stir Britons to stand against the Nazis (after his cowardly brother abdicated). I think of Elizabeth II, who ascended unexpectedly to the throne, but dedicated her whole life to the Commonwealth and ensured an era of peace. The monarchy has stood with Britain through thick and thin. While other countries have been conquered, collapsed, or have turned to authoritarianism, Great Britain can always find assurance and stability in her royal family, which has undoubtedly kept her a leader of the free world.
As Americans, I feel like we don’t have a comparable institution. Every branch has become politicized. You can’t go more than a few minutes without someone being dismissed as a radical conservative or crazy liberal. While ideological discourse is important, the bloodlust of politics has hijacked our government’s functions.
While the president is not the only decision maker in Washington, he plays the paramount role. The president is both the head of state and of government, concentrating symbolic and political power into one person. The President lives in an intimidating fortress, and commands the executive branch as well as the military. For all my life, the very personification of America has been divisive men who often win by how well they can spew rhetoric or how many untenable promises they can make. These same men also despise each other for the most part, which doesn’t help.
The British system, while heated at times, is different. When you think of Britain personified, you probably don’t think of Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer or any other mainstream politician. You more likely think of the Queen, or now perhaps King Charles. This is because the Prime Minister is the head of government, while the King is the head of state. The PM does the politicking and comes and goes depending on the political mood. The King however, is the steady hand that balances the nation, and is above politics. The PM lives in the humble 10 Downing Street, while the King resides in indomitable palaces. The PM bows to the King– an incredibly powerful reminder that the PM (and their party) isn’t all powerful.
This separation of executive power allows symbolism and politics to do their own jobs without entangling one another. The King is not subject to political tides, that’s why most Britons look towards the monarchy for guidance. The PM is more obscure and can get work done without choking on pomp and circumstance. This allows the UK to have an undisputed leader and national symbol, while also facilitating the preservation of democratic governance. This is why Britain is the oldest continuous regime in the world.
Britain is not the only nation that benefits though. Canada, Australia and 12 other countries recognize the King as head of state. 56 nations (and counting) have joined the Commonwealth, which Charles III also heads. To differing degrees, these nations can coalesce around a common leader, and take pride in their shared monarch.
I’m not saying that America should (or needs to) have a monarchy. I simply hope we can find our own values and institutions to rally around, without the stain of political divide. Something that can rise above the chaos, and give a steady hand to our nation. Perhaps Britain can inspire us.
I highly recommend watching the Coronation this Saturday. Not only can we appreciate the majesty of Great Britain, but we can celebrate our connection with our Anglo family across the pond. The nations of the Anglosphere can take comfort in knowing that greater are the forces that can unite us than those that can divide us. From this, I only hope the special relationship will strengthen in our new Carolean Era. It’s why I’ll say as an American: God save the King!
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