The following article appeared in inews on 13th January 2023.
It’s been a strange week to be a British republican. Militant monarchists have achieved something I would barely have thought possible. They have made me feel some sense of solidarity with members of the royal family – by attacking them.
From the way some people talk, you would think Harry and Meghan were left-wing radicals. But they have not called for any substantial change in society. They are wealthy people at the heart of the establishment. They have triggered the irrational wrath of royalists for daring to show something other than unquestioning and silent loyalty to the institution.
As the media exploded with extracts from Harry’s book, I was distracted by my own run-ins with monarchical power. I was arrested in Oxford last September when I objected to a proclamation declaring Charles Windsor to be our “rightful liege lord”.
After three months of faffing about, the police told me just before Christmas that I was being charged under the Public Order Act with using “threatening or abusive words or behaviour”. In the same week, police decided not to investigate Jeremy Clarkson over a column in which he celebrated the idea of pelting Meghan Markle with excrement.
But a week ago, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges against me on grounds of insufficient evidence (or to put it another way, I had not committed a crime).
I have been moved and humbled by the hundreds of supportive messages I have received. Abusive messages ranged from single-word expletives to calls for me to be hanged for treason. Andrew Schraeder, a Conservative councillor in Basildon, tweeted that I should be sent to the Tower of London (well, it is a nice day out).
It’s a reminder of just how much hatred and vitriol can be spewed by people whose identity is bound up with subservience to supposed superiors. The thinly veiled racism and misogyny that further fuel the assaults on Meghan Markle say a great deal about the attitudes of people who want us to bow down to a hereditary head of state.
I have very little in common with Meghan and Harry. At first I was inclined to dismiss the gossip and rumours of the book as a distraction from real issues. But over the past week, I have realised that the controversy reveals a lot about the Windsor family’s remoteness from reality – and why to me the monarchy is so dangerous.
The statement that keeps coming back to me is Harry’s claim that when he used the P-word at the age of 21, he did not realise that it was racist because he had “heard many people use the word” as a child.
How can anyone reach the age of 21 in the UK without knowing that the P-word is deeply racist and insulting? I knew this when I was eight or nine, despite going to a primary school at which nearly everyone was white. Yet someone brought up surrounded by advisers and press secretaries was apparently unaware of it. What do they teach people at Eton?
It should be no surprise that the Windsor family seem to be unfamiliar with basic notions of equality and respect. Monarchy promotes inequality. To me, an inclusive or egalitarian monarchy is no more possible than warm ice cream or vegetarian lions.
You and I are expected to address someone as “your majesty” – someone human like us, fallible like us, with good and bad points like us – because his ancestor William the Conqueror invaded England. This assault on human dignity is not only demeaning, it is bafflingly nonsensical.
That’s why we need to move the debate beyond Harry’s book and onto the nature of monarchy. In a week that has seen news of the life-threatening underfunding of ambulance services, headlines have focused on people who are unlikely ever to need an NHS ambulance or to struggle to pay the heating bills. Monarchy distorts society, with the squabbles of the super-rich treated as more important than the crises facing the rest of us.
We can build a better society only on the basis of the equal value of all people. We cannot do that while tugging our forelocks to millionaires or accepting arbitrary arrests resulting from police power and prejudice. We need to trust ourselves, respect each other as equals, and get off our knees
Hi Symon, I am becoming more and more a republican because of your recent experience and the case you present against this privileged clique. I read recently that you have been charged and will appear in court on 31st January. Is this true? If so it is outrageous for several reasons. Please know that we in Goring unanimously support you so please let us know if there’s anything we can do.
Our very best wishes