Descendants of a gang of pirates.
Published Postimees 5 August 2013
Monarchy is in the news in Belgium, in Britain it's always in the news. Let's tell it how it is in the Estonian republic.
A few hundred years ago, a gang of vicious pirates, led by a power-crazed psychopath, invaded my country.
Like the knights of Teutonic Order in this part of the World, they spread destruction before them. They pillaged and raped and slaughtered vast numbers of people leaving much of the country as wasteland and enslaved the survivors. Like the Soviets they killed off anybody who had money or drove them into exile.
For hundreds of years the British Isles, like Estonia was oppressed by the descendants of this band of thugs, who spoke a different language and had different customs. The pirates were known as the Normans. Their leader was known as William the Conqueror.
In Estonia you finally got rid of the Baltic Germans, in England we never got rid of the Normans.
Like every other ethnic group that has settled Britain before and since, the Normans assimilated and became English. They assimilated so completely that everybody has forgotten how the aristocracy, and the monarchy, got started.
Thus when the most recent direct descendant of the power hungry psychopath, the next person to rule us all in about 50 years time, was born, we all stand around cheering for the little prince.
But cheer we should.
As a Briton living in Estonia I am aware the monarchy, comes in for criticism. Some in Estonia seem to believe it is antiquated institution. I will explain why we still need the monarchy and why this system works.
In Britain's constitutional monarchy, the Queen doesn't have any legislative or judicial power she only has executive power. She does not make laws, she only signs them. Her powers are similar to President Ilves.
The Queen does has a veto but since no monarch has used it in two centuries, it has become constitutional precedence that no monarch can use it. It could be argued what is wrong with the monarchy is that it has too little power, the Queen can't stand as a last resort against some outrageous law, as presidents in other countries can do.
In Britain; parliament rules. This issue was settled over three centuries ago. Charles I paid for it with his head. The question was finally settled when James II was thrown out of power and out of the country in 1689.
The Queen's position is almost like she hired by the parliament to do a job, just like any other head of state. The difference is the monarch is picked from one family, Parliament could fire her if she was making a mess of things. This has happened in the last century, as I will talk about latter.
If we didn't have a queen, we would have to have a president, a respected elder statesperson, somebody to serve as focal point for national identity, someone who sign bills into law, attends functions, opens schools and hospitals, entertain foreign dignitaries.
The Queen does her job superbly. She is the best diplomat on the planet, in 61 years she has never been criticised for anything she has said or any decision she has made, ever.
It been that way for so long people don't even notice it. Cynics will say there is media conspiracy not to criticise her. It just isn't true. The Queen is just that good. Other members of the royal family have been criticised and even vilified. Previous monarchs had a really bad time. George IV was so unpopular he had to wear a disguise when he went about because people would throw rotten food at him.
The monarch plays a key political role especially times of crisis. When we were losing the Second World in 1940 it became clear that the prime minister Neville Chamberlain had to go.
The King, George VI, decided to ask for Churchill to become Prime Minister after he took advice from Chamberlain. Many in Churchill's own party were afraid of Churchill, they thought he was a loose canon.
Think about that for a second, One of the most famous statesman of the last century had no mandate to run a country, or fight a war of any kind other than King's endorsement.
The Queen is good PR for the country. Even if you go to a country that has a queen and you say the word “Queen” people know immediately who you mean. Monarchs in other countries are also well known but the president of Germany anybody?
Our monarch, our Queen, is also good value of money, She is the biggest landowner in the country, but under a system worked out centuries ago she gets no income from her land. Instead the government pays her a salary and pockets the income from the land. Since the income from the royal land is vastly more than her salary, it's a bargain.
You could say the Queen's power hungry ancestor stole the land in the first place, but for the government to steal it back is just communism, and we all know where that leads.
We all have bosses. Human societies are hierarchical but with a monarchy, you have at least some chance of being ruled by somebody who is not an ****hole.
Some people go into politics because of their strong beliefs, some people go into politics because they are approached, this is the way America's founding father thought the system should work, but some people go in politics for power, money or fame. Politics like show business attracts narcissistic personalities, even psychopaths. And since politicians are actors it is always difficult for voters to tell who is genuine
Our monarchy doesn't work like that, George VI, the king who appointed Churchill, was a shy man, afraid of public speaking. If you have seen “the king's speech” you will know he had a stammer. He didn't want to be king, it was his duty to his people. Somebody has to do that job. At a time when the rest of Europe was being ruled by bad men, some of whom were elected, at a time when in democracy had collapsed across the continent, Britain, the last hold out, was ruled by a hereditary head of state, and by an ordinary decent man.
I believe George VI was one of our best kings, because he did a difficult job which was against his nature. He wife believed the stress of being King shortened his life.
Prince William is by all accounts a modest man. That's the best thing about him and his wife. Apart from the fact that they are richer and better looking than most of us, they are just ordinary people.
What if we have a bad monarchy, parliament will replace them.
George VI became king when his brother was forced to abdicate. The official story at the time was he could not marry a divorcee as head of the Church of England and stay king. Prince Charles has married a divorcee and is divorced himself, no-one is saying he shouldn't be king.
The real reason why Edward VIII had to go, as has transpired from declassified US secret service files, was because he was a Nazi sympathiser whose wife allegedly had an affair with Von Ribbentrop. Yes that's right that Von Ribbentrop!
Parliament acted and Edward VIII abdicated. There are checks and balances in place to make sure that the right person is in the job. It is a difficult job but somebody has to do it.
They may have started out as brutal conquerors but they are all right now, the monarchy is in pretty good shape.
I for one will continue to celebrate descendants of the gang of pirates.