Yesterday was the last Queen’s Day in The Netherlands, for that was when Queen Beatrix abdicated and her son Willem-Alexander became king. Although the minority opposing monarchy seems to be more vocal than before, still a solid three quarters of the Dutch population stands in favor of the crown. I continue to be amazed at this unwavering support, since the concept of monarchy goes against the most fundamental principles on which the west is built: liberty and equality.
The fact that monarchy costs vast amounts of tax payer money is valid, but far from the biggest problem with it. Yes, a president might cost a similar amount (although in most cases – even in far bigger countries – they are significantly cheaper), but the big difference there of course is that a president is elected into office by the people, and he can be held accountable for his actions. If he does a bad job, he will not be re-elected and certainly his children would not be automatically entitled to the presidency, solely for being born into the right family. The Dutch queen was able to elect for herself when the time had come for her to step down (much like the Queen Elizabeth II of England elects to retain her title even now at age 87 and 60 years into her reign). More than the financial aspect, the problem with monarchy is the unfounded, non-mandated and unchallenged status and influence that is awarded to the royal family.
Most – if not all – monarchies know a history full of scandal, political intrigue and strategic marriages. From Prince Harry’s exploits in Las Vegas (which would be career suicide for any elected official, but only seems to have endeared him to people) to Princess Cristina of Spain who is suspected to be involved in a large-scale fraud case – the scandals continue to this very day. But royals are virtually untouchable, since the concept of monarchy is rooted in the idea that one person and his descendants are chosen by god to rule a country and its inhabitants. Church and royal family are mutually dependant on each other, because their powers are based on the same intangible and irrational arguments which apparently elevate them above reason and questioning. Even in these times of economic crisis, the royal family proves to be the last real taboo when it comes to budget cuts, in spite of the billions they already own.
It is insisted that the king’s title is mostly ceremonial in nature, but even though he is never seriously held accountable to the public, royals are in committees, task forces, focus groups and other influential organizations. To say they have no power is absurd – and that is not even mentioning the secretive groups they are in, like the Bilderberg Group and the Order of Malta which are gatherings of political and corporate elites, while nobody seems to know what goes on exactly. And even so: the ceremonial component of monarchy is itself in poor taste: one person who is considered to be a “Majesty” as opposed to his millions of “subjects” who have no real choice but to accept their lower status.
Would these people achieve the same status and acquire the same level of influence if they had not been drilled and prepared for it all their lives, and if they did not have the status of their family? How can any state decide to favor one family in these ways, for centuries on end, and at the tax payers’ cost? There are simply no rational arguments for this glorification of one specific family – but the tradition is so deeply rooted in our society that there is no serious discourse about it, and most people have no inclination to reconsider the institute of the crown.
What monarchy is, if you break it down, is state-sponsored and institutionalized discrimination. The group of people favored may be tiny (i.e. one family), while the disadvantaged are the entire rest of the population, but there are no valid, rational reasons for the described differences in treatment – but there are publically funded privileges bestowed upon a group of people on the basis only of their descent. It would be unthinkable to do the same on the basis of skin color or nationality, but apparently because one person centuries ago decided that this makes sense, we are still supposed to accept it (King Willem I of The Netherlands appointed himself King of The Netherlands and instated the line of succession within his family himself).
What is most historic about this day is that we are witness to a puppet-show of medieval proportions, and the vast majority of people celebrate it as if it were the very affirmation of their being, rather than the shackling of their existence in hollow traditions and self-perpetuating power structures that have no place in a rational, modern world. Princes and princesses belong in fairytales, not in a civilized society.