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Happy Jubilee

The Campaign, of course, has no view on the Monarchy, so this is a personal one. Monarchy and land are, however, intimately connected so there is every justification for discussing the subject here.

From our perspective in the Campaign, it is advantageous that the Queen is still the nominal owner of all the land in England. It is a feudal relic, and in turn derives from an earlier tradition that the sovereign holds all the land on behalf of the people. It is a position that we could be perfectly happy with, as long as all the rent was then collected and used for the expenses of government and for the benefit of the people. We would be happy even if Her Majesty were to collect all the rent of what is still “Her land”. In this connection it is worth remembering that the land owned by the Duke of Westminster was originally part of the Crown Estate and alienated from it by a fraud in 1623. Had it remained in the Crown Estate, it would, like the rest of the Crown Estate, yield substantial revenue which would go directly to the Exchequer.

The past sixty years are a story of lost opportunity. They are not glorious. Britain today appears to have succumbed to corporate interests. The evidence is all around in the streets. Even the language has become infected with corporate managementspeak.

The Britain of 1952 was the Britain of the Beveridge settlement. Unfortunately, Beveridge never dealt with the underlying problem which stems from the land enclosures, in particular, the final round from 1760 to 1840. All that Beveridge gave the country was compulsory state charity, for that is what welfare socialism really is. The real problems and the associated divides, were bound to re-surface, including the those due to the geographical disadvantages suffered by Scotland and the peripheral areas of the country.

Getting rid of the monarchy would itself address none of the country’s underlying problems, which arise at the political level beneath the monarch. Arguably, Britain would be in an even worse state as a republic. It may not be insignificant that most of the countries where democracy is flourishing best in the world are constitutional monarchies. Of course monarchy does not guarantee this state of affairs, nor that it will continue, but the history of republics is, in the longer term, not encouraging. They show a tendency to turn into tyrannies, a point made long ago by Plato.

Magna Carta, from this perspective, was not progress but the grasping of power by the next layer down in the feudal hierarchy. A revolution such as that in France would have transferred the power one layer further down, and that is all. Contemporary republicanism has, and can have, nothing useful to say about fundamental issues like the initial distribution of wealth.

The Queen herself, in a stuffy kind of old-fashioned way, has stood against the trends. It can never be said that she has not done, to the best of her considerable ability, the duty that was thrust upon her.