• Reading Level 5
History | Citizenship | PSHE

Meghan fallout fuels calls for a republic

Is it time to abolish the monarchy? As the Royal Family is rocked by allegations of racism and emotional neglect, some are asking if it is time to tear it down and start all over again. Yesterday, in the wake of Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, one question was on everyone’s lips: which royal asked a racist question about the skin colour of Meghan’s unborn baby? Whoever the culprit is, experts say, the suspicion that the whole Royal Family is tolerant of racism could hang over the monarchy for a long time. Some warn that people of colour, seeing how Markle has been treated, might feel the monarchy does not represent them. This could be a disaster for a Royal Family that claims to embody an increasingly diverse nation – and that leads the Commonwealth, most of whose countries are majority non-White. That is why some think this might be the death knell for the British monarchy as we know it. The Royal Family seems to understand the threat. Yesterday afternoon, in the hope of cooling tensions, the palace issued a statement promising to take allegations of racism seriously, and stressing love for Meghan and Harry. But by then, calls for the abolition of the monarchy were already mounting. So what other models could Britain adopt? Slimmed-down monarchy: in the Netherlands, there is a hereditary royal family like the one in the UK, but with fewer working members. Only the monarch and the heir apparent receive a government income and are required to carry out official duties. This means that, unlike in Britain, the personal behaviour of minor royals comes under little scrutiny. Prince Charles wants the British monarchy to follow this model. Elected monarchy: in some countries, there is a royal family, but no fixed line of succession. In Malaysia, a group of nine local rulers elect one Supreme Head of State from among their number every five years. In Saudi Arabia, the king’s heir is selected by a council of senior princes within the royal family. Elected president: most countries have gotten rid of monarchies altogether. In some cases, this has meant replacing them with an elected president. However, there is no one model determining what a president’s powers should be. In the USA, the president is the head of government as well as the head of state, meaning that they wield executive powers. In France, there is a semi-presidential system, in which the president shares executive powers with a prime minister who leads the ruling party in parliament. Ceremonial president: having a head of state who belongs to a particular political party can be divisive. That is why some countries, like Ireland, prefer to have an apolitical head of state with very few or no powers. In Israel, the president has no formal powers except the right to issue pardons to criminals. Elected by priests: in some countries, like Vatican City, the head of state is chosen by senior priests. In Iran, the head of government is a secular president who is elected by the people, and the head of state is a supreme leader elected by religious experts. Is it time to abolish the monarchy? Uneasy lies the head Yes, say some. They think that the British monarchy has proved that it is unable to represent people of colour, in the UK and in the Commonwealth. Harry and Meghan’s marriage was a chance, they argued, for the monarchy to present a new, more diverse face; by mistreating her, they have proved that they cannot adapt to represent multiethnic Britain. The only choice now is to abolish them. Not at all, say others. They argue that in spite of the Meghan controversy, polls suggest that the monarchy still enjoys higher popularity ratings than any elected president in the western world. The British monarchy has navigated no end of crises in its thousand-year history: while other monarchies have collapsed around it, it has always adapted to the times, and it will do so again. KeywordsCommonwealth - Officially called the Commonwealth of Nations, it was set up in 1926. There are 54 members in all.

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