The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, celebrated, this Sunday, February 6, her 70 years of reign, her “platinum jubilee”.
©Victoria Jones / POOL / AFP
“God Save the Queen”
The Queen of England Elizabeth II celebrated, this Sunday, February 6, her “platinum jubilee”, her 70 years of reign, at the peak of her popularity.
Queen Elizabeth II celebrated, this Sunday, February 6, her 70 years of reign, her “platinum jubilee”. Would France be better off with Elizabeth II? What would be the benefits for France of having a monarch like Elizabeth II? What could Elizabeth II have brought to our country?
Mark Roche: You should know that Elizabeth II has little power. In fact, it only reigns over swans, whales and sturgeons in territorial waters. Elizabeth II is a very little interventionist head of state. We don’t know what she really thinks. It’s an enigma. She is reserved. She is shy. She never surrenders. She does not reveal her ideas and her positions on major issues such as Brexit, the pandemic, Boris Johnson and all the scandals…
The British system has a “eunuch” Head of State who is endowed with a certain influence, notably moral, whereas the French system has a Head of State who is political. Unless you go back to the Fourth Republic, have a non-political president and a president of the Political Council, the French system does not adapt to the exercise of power by Elizabeth II.
Would the political and social climate be more peaceful in France with Elizabeth II?
Not necessarily. The Queen does not really influence the political and social climate. During her reign, there were strikes, there was Thatcherism, Blairism, Iraq, an antagonism with Brexit that had never been seen, social and generational divisions appeared… Elizabeth He surfed on these difficulties and these crises. She didn’t influence that in any way. The only thing attributed to her is that Elizabeth II favors consensus rather than divisions.
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During Brexit, the Queen said for example that it might be good for us to listen to the point of view of the other, of the opposing camp. And during the pandemic, we realized that she had moral power when she wanted to bring people together by saying “We will win”, “we will win”. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the British felt comforted by his words and his speech which touched his subjects to the heart. A politician would never have achieved this.
It should not be forgotten that Elizabeth II has a personality that is well suited to the function. She has a personality which is not decided, rather passive, non-interventionist by character, and hating conflicts.
The Fifth Republic and France in particular is based on the multiple conflicts that the Head of State, who is a politician, must arbitrate. Elizabeth II does not have this problem.
The exemplarity and the role of Elizabeth II towards the subjects, the fact that she resisted, like a rock, many storms and tragedies throughout her reign (including the recent disappearance of Prince Philip) would be conditions more enviable than the current situation in France where political figures arouse mistrust and rejection?
In the United Kingdom, this mistrust has focused on the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, or other political figures like Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. There were British political figures who aroused both hatred and admiration.
But where Elizabeth II is exemplary is that she is considered a fixed point in the turmoil. The British today have known only her. Very few knew of his father’s reign. For them, she has a reassuring presence that no politician has.
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The policies are the same on both sides of the Channel, divisive personalities pursuing a divisive agenda. This is not the case for Elizabeth II. The Queen is a fixed point. She is at the zenith of her popularity.
With Elizabeth II, could the French Parliament regain its letters of nobility, a real decision-making power, rather than the current situation in France where many political observers deplore the fact that the National Assembly is only a chamber record of the policy of the head of state while the British Parliament seems livelier and livelier?
The British system is a parliamentary monarchy. Parliament is the center of political life and plays an essential role. All government projects must first be announced in Parliament before being debated to become law and before being explained in the press. The British Parliament has sometimes been a bit of a clumsy chamber because of the clear majorities. It’s the first-past-the-post system that demands it. If we see Boris Johnson for example, he has a parliamentary revolt on his hands but he still has a majority of 80, one of the largest majorities since Thatcher.
The Queen plays a role of symbol of Parliament since there is the Speech from the Throne and the opening of Parliament. His presence at this moment, reading the program of the government, has a rather favorable effect on the importance of Parliament. This speech is broadcast on television. This is a great moment in the life of the country. We see Elizabeth II arriving in a carriage with the crown and the ermine and the train drawn by pages. It is very impressive. This shows the primacy of Parliament and is part of this exercise.
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What lessons do you learn and how do you view the 70-year reign of Elizabeth II for the British monarchy?
The assessment of Elizabeth II is globally positive. Great Britain has changed profoundly. She succeeded in cementing both national unity at a time when there are centrifugal forces in Scotland and Wales. She also succeeded in “soft power”, the power of international influence via the Common Wealth that she really built, maintained and supported for the “Global Britain” dear to Boris Johnson.
Elizabeth II symbolizes the country abroad and the golds of royalty, the pomp, the glamour, the magic. Only this monarchy, the British monarchy, projects this image. If you look at the Scandinavian, Belgian or Dutch monarchies, you realize that the British monarchy is something else. This is very much due to Elizabeth II.
During her reign, she also relied on pillars which, thanks to her, have both survived and prospered. These are the army, the aristocracy, the Anglican religion and, what is always forgotten in France, the associative framework. The associations are always sponsored by members of the royal family in the United Kingdom. This generates a lot of support for the monarchy within these associations.
On the negative side, Elizabeth II is still associated with England before, Protestant, imperial and aristocratic. It is more popular with older generations than younger ones. She has a popularity deficit among ethnic minorities. Prince Charles and Prince William are ardent defenders of diversity, of the fight against racism and will undoubtedly make up for this deficit.
Marc Roche is a royal columnist at the London-based “Point”, author of “She Didn’t Want to Be Queen!” published in 2020 by Albin Michel.