When someone becomes a member of the Parliament, he has to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown, instead of swearing loyalty to the people who elected him. If he rejects to do so, that politician will not be able to take his seat and can also be fined. Same happens with judges and other public servants in the United Kingdom, who are, even if symbolically, servants of the Crown. This, however, is just a small visible end of the real power that the British –constitutional- monarchy holds over public employees.
Since the limitation of powers of the Crown in the XVII century the royals have been using their forceful influence in an unofficial way for their own benefit (Adams, 2010; Booth 2010 and 2011; Wilson, 1989). Taking into account that the United Kingdom has a democratic and constitutional political system, some serious questions arise from this: how the monarchy has been using –and abusing of- its powers? Until what extent they have deliberately interfered with the democratic public life? How politicians have reacted to its demands and why?
This essay reflects about these questions and explores the reasons of this hidden royal influence over the British politicians. Due to the length of the essay, it focuses on the last decades of Elizabeth II’s reign, though other royal personalities have also been considered.
In the first place, this essay briefly defines the slippery concept of constitutional monarchy. It introduces the topic with some notions about the historical background and the scope of powers the Crown enjoys. Secondly, it shows some recent cases where the Royal House has used its influence in an obscure way. The third section reflects about the reasons why the British monarchy has such a great influence in public life, engaging with some of the most relevant theories about the topic.
Unfortunately, there is little critical bibliography about the hidden influence of the British monarchy on politics. As a result of that this essay also uses other sources such as newspapers, academic magazines and online media.
What does constitutional monarchy means?
Until the XVII century British monarchs had absolute power, which meant they had the right to do anything he wanted as they had been appointed by God. However, after a century of bloody civil wars, unrest and political tensions -including the execution of Charles I, the Revolution of 1688, the rise and fall of a Republic and the restoration of the monarchy- the Parliament passed the Bill of Rights in 1689 (Stoyle, 2011). This document established the first foundations of constitutional monarchy, that is, a monarchy whose powers are bound by some written and unwritten legal documents in favour of a more democratic society and ensuring their political impartiality (Wilkinson, 2006). Thanks to the Bill of Rights the Parliament were able to legislate, rule and elect members of the Parliament without the Royal interference needed until that moment.
Since then, the British...