The anachronism of royalty


I am forever surprised with loyalty demonstrated by British citizens (not all of them of course), Canadian Citizens (a far less proportion) and Australian Citizens (a far far less proportion) towards the British Queen. There are many other nations under the British Commonwealth who also revere the British royalty. The same situation is prevalent in Japan towards the Japanese Emperor, and in several other nations which have maintained royalty in conjunction with democracy.

India has had a long tradition of Kings and Princes (rarely Queens, however). The “subjects” – meaning the citizens – were loyal to their respective Kings and the King’s word was considered sacred. The King (or Kings as India had numerous states) was considered the next best thing to God’s presence on earth. People who violated the mandate of the King were punished. Of course, that was the system of governance in the past in most countries around the world. The society, the culture, the arts were all built around the King’s Court.

However, I have not been exposed at all to the royalty of any country, and do not have much knowledge except for information that has to be crunched before passing History exam in the school. I have forgotten most of it, like most others, because History was never considered a “serious” subject, and was one essential component to passing from one grade to the next. That’s all was to it. I missed the political learning that could have been derived from History lessons and happenings of the past, which laid the foundation for political science.

Recently, I became interested in the Netflix serial “The Tudors”, and read up about the Tudor dynasty. It was very fascinating to see the machinations of King Henry VIII in the 16th Century England. I saw that he was charming (as portrayed in the serial and Wikipedia !!!), calculating, vindictive, lustful, and politically minded. There were numerous incidents in the serial which demonstrate his depth of knowledge on the political happenings in England, his acute sense of his limitations, and his ability to reward and punish folks who were involved in his Court.

While history can surely deliver serious learning to political scientists, its place in modern thinking is to be re-examined. Royalty is an anachronism in today’s world of social media. Respect for elders and royalty should be maintained as such, similar to what one would do to elders in one’s own family. There is no doubt that royalty should be treated on par with government in a country which has subscribed to both. However, the thought comes up often in discussions with British people – that if royalty is to be funded by the common man’s tax monies.

Taxation has always been a major issue with royalty. Kings imposed new taxes to fund their palaces and to fund wars. The common man complained, often quietly, as the alternative to paying taxes was going to prison. The situation with modern governments is not much different however. We all have to pay taxes to satisfy the demands of the government of the day in our respective countries, and we do not entirely determine how the monies are used as our elected representatives determine that.

In the case of Kings, it was different. They can choose whatever area they wish to spend the money on. They carried that sacred line to God which empowered them as “men above mortals”, as King Henry says on several key occasions in the Tudors serial. He was absolutely clear that the royal bloodline was even above the mandate of the Pope of Rome. He fought with the Pope and declared himself to be the Head of the Church of England, and decimated abbeys and monasteries, and seized their wealth.

Can you imagine such happenings in today’s world?

Well, the real principle today is that all men are equal. There is no one above another man. There is no man who is closer to God than any other man. There is mortal equality, and of course, God sees all of us on an equal footing. The middlemen who profess closeness to God have a “profession” of faith, which may not be possible for us to adhere to. We should focus on what we do best in our daily lives, and leave the rest to a force greater than nature itself.

If Kings have provided the image of God on earth in yesteryears, so be it. That is not the case today.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th July 2016

Singapore

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