Bill Carmichael: Confessions of a reluctant monarchist as Queen wins me over

EVEN though I love this country, I sometimes feel a bit of a stranger in my own land.

The Queen attended last weekend's wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The Queen attended last weekend's wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Take last weekend, for example, when people broke out the bunting and the Union Flags to celebrate the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Don’t get me wrong – they seem a perfectly lovely couple and I wish them all the very best, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone celebrating a joyous occasion in splendid sunshine.

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But I’ve never been much of a flag-waver myself – it seems somehow at odds with the restrained sort of English patriotism that I prefer. It might be less showy, but it is just as heartfelt.

And the idea of donning a Union Flag suit and sleeping on the pavement for a week to bag a prime view of the Royal procession has me shaking my head in bewilderment.

I am a New Elizabethan – our current Queen was crowned a few years before I was born and I have lived my entire life as one of her loyal subjects. But my instincts are entirely republican – purely because the hereditary principle seems so completely at odds with all that is fair and meritocratic.

Why should someone be handed an important job, with all the money and privileges that entails, simply because of who their parents are, and regardless of any talent, skill or suitability?

Wouldn’t it be better to simply pick the best person for the job, regardless of background, parentage and the colour of their blood?

But over the years I have changed my mind somewhat – I suppose you could call this column ‘the confessions of a reluctant monarchist’.

One reason is the character of Queen Elizabeth herself. Considering she got the job as the result of an accident of birth, we can consider ourselves incredibly lucky, not to say blessed, to have her at the helm of our country for so many years.

In 1947 the then 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth delivered a remarkable speech in South Africa. Addressing the people of the Commonwealth and Empire “wherever they live, whatever race they come from, and whatever language they speak” she made a solemn pledge: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

I don’t suppose there are many 21-year-olds now, or even then, with such a seriousness of purpose or such a clear idea what their mission in life will be.

And the Queen has kept that promise. Since that day, and including 65 years on the throne, Elizabeth has been selfless in her devotion to her subjects both in the UK and around the world.

Despite many occasions of political turmoil, and more than her fair share of family troubles, the Queen has hardly put a foot wrong and has been not only a unifying force within the UK, but also the finest ambassador this country could wish for.

My personal favourite of her overseas visits was a potentially very tricky one to Dublin in 2011, when she charmed the socks off everyone she met, including 
die-hard republicans.

But there is another reason I have warmed to the monarchy, and that is worries over what the alternative 
would be

If we had abolished the monarchy years back who would have become our elected head of state?

The most likely candidates are the sort of failed politicians that we have shipped off to the European Commission – so step forward perhaps President Kinnock or President Patten or President Mandelson.

Or maybe we could have had a President Blair or President Heseltine 
or – heavens forfend – a President Prescott.

The far-left Corbynista MP Chris Williamson had his own suggestion last weekend. It was – and I kid you not – President Arthur Scargill.

Incidentally, my support for the monarchy does not extend to the House of Lords, which, unlike the Queen, wields its power in a thoroughly irresponsible manner.

Personally I would abolish that bunch of expenses fiddlers, influence peddlers and dodgy party donors in a heartbeat.

As it happens next week – June 2 – marks the 65th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

A perfect time then to show our appreciation – thank you very, very much ma’am.