Post details: The QUEEN RULES ALL! (Sorta...)

06/16/07

Permalink 12:00:00 am, by Email , 1348 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Kings And Queens, European History, British History

The QUEEN RULES ALL! (Sorta...)

The concept of the British (Canadian) Monarchy still baffles people a bit in today's age... and perhaps I should tell ya kinda how it works... and why...

Most people assume "Kings" and "Queens" of England (and the British Commonwealth of which Canada is a part,) had effectively omnipotent powers of a sort... total control and dictorial "rights"...

Well, they pretty much did... until 1215... and I don't mean quarter-past noon...

King John was pretty much acting the tyrant... high taxes and some bad decisions with geo-political things in France... so his Barons rebelled.

They did so very well and took London by force and then there was an agreement... The King's Will MUST be governed by the laws of the land. It also gave a lot of powers to the people... or so it's believed. To be honest, it gave a lot of power and privilege to the nobles... and neglected the lower classes... but hey, it was a start.

So, as of then, if a Royal wanted something, he had to get Parliament (the elected government) to say it was okay.

In exchange, Parliament would get Royal "Assent" on any bills they could pass... granted, if the Royals refused, they knew it could be bad...

...and things went on from there... until one Parliament fiercely loyal to the King and wanting to make him happy kept passing things for him... and raised taxes because the King was spending a LOT of money.

The King was Charles the First and it didn't take too long for people to get grumpy... what with his spending ways and worse yet, a Catholic for a wife! Soon, a bunch of folks led by this fellow, Oliver Cromwell, decided that it was time for a regime change.

...and in 1642 they started... with most of the general population FIRMLY behind these Parliamentarians.

...and in 1652, there was no more King... but Britain had a "Lord Protector" in Ollie Cromwell...

...and King Charles? Well, in the end, he didn't have to worry about headaches or head colds since Cromwell and his supporters felt his head just really didn't belong on his shoulders anymore and "choppy-choppy", no more king.

Granted, the good news was that Charles' son, oddly enough named "Charles", managed to get out of England and over to France to live in exile... his head stayed put.

So Cromwell ruled... and the general populace really didn't like it. Taxes didn't change all that much and Cromwell, a staunch puritan, really wasn't all that much fun... and ensured that misery got company. (He banned gaming and theatre for one thing... this, in the land of Shakespeare didn't go over too well...)

When Cromwell finally shuffled off this mortal coil, the Brits basically let it be known that Charles Jr. was welcome back whenever he'd like... and we had a "Restoration of the Monarchy"... but the lessons had been learned and Chuck the Twoth stayed out of running the country. In fact, he REALLY stayed out of it... Oh sure, he didn't like SOME of the things that Parliament did... especially when it reduced his spending... but the guy who was supposed to take over for him (James the Second) was so bad for the people (and still kinda too Catholic,) that they welcomed a pair of Protestant distant relations in William and Mary... who jointly "ruled"... but they were the start of what we have as a current monarchy.

Pretty much, with their powers reduced, the Kings and Queens of England are, by birthright, pretty much "figure heads"... they acted as "officials", but with no sweeping powers.

In fact, King George the Third of England was a STAUNCH constitutionalist... his parliament, however, not-so-much.

"The pride, the glory of Britain and the direct end of it's constitution is political liberty."

Those words were uttered by the "well known tyrant", King George III of England.

Anyway, in these here modern times in the British Commonwealth, the "Commonwealth Nations" all have "Responsible Government" (A Canadian Idea!) where the Royals are TRULY just a figure-head and not much else... We have a person appointed to be kind of a "British Royal Family Ambassador" to officiate things but little else referred to as a Governor General...

Heck, the "Speech from the Throne" delivered by the Governor General is written by the leader of the ruling, elected Government (the Prime Minister in Canada) and not by the Governor General or Her Majesty...

We have a lot of "Crown" things too... "Crown Land", "Crown Attorneys", and "Crown Companies"... this is fancy-talk for "Owned by the Government".

Trust me, the Queen doesn't even get royalties from her picture being on our stamps!

So, what are the modern Royals?

Just like I said... "Figure heads"... a "Family to look up to" who by dint of an ancient heritage, have titles within "public affairs" that mean little.

Since John, Charles, and James... the royals role in "running a country" have been limited to simply having a rubber stamp.

In fact, when Prince Charles once made what was considered a "legitimate political statement", there was hell to pay in parliament for his words! He's NOT ALLOWED to make comments, after all...


Now, why we bring this up is because of our little quiz a while back... where we mentioned that blaming King George III for the taxes on the American colonists that led to the revolution was a little like blaming the dog on the front of a Mack Truck for a road accident... and this was called into question.

Well, the American Founding Fathers kinda fibbed.

They knew it... and they fibbed to the people of their soon-to-be country.

You see, what sounds better...

DOWN WITH THE TERRIBLE ELECTED BODY OF PARLIAMENT THAT IS REALLY THE SOURCE OF ALL OUR NEW TAXES!!!

...or...

DOWN WITH THE CROWN'S NEW TAXES!!!

...and to the common folk, "crown" = "King".

This isn't the case now... and wasn't the case back then either... but jingoism beats facts in the "vox populi".

Ergo: Easier to paint George as a tyrant than try to hand-pick which parliamentarians you didn't like...

...also, would that kind of REAL logic get people to pick up arms if you told them that it was a select few they should blame... or might they simply write to friends and family and try to turn an election? If they did that, you don't get your own glorious nation!

...and remember, the founding fathers knew that 1/3 of their population was patriotic to their cause... 1/3 was indifferent... and 1/3 loyal to that evil and tyrannical crown... so they villified the easy target and the one who's name WAS on everything (but mattered little to what was actually going on!)

Yup, sorry to say, "The Tyrant King George" is an accepted historical myth born or political gamesmanship... for better or worse.

I know this may be difficult to hear for some down South of us, but ask a University or College historian... they'll tell you...

Granted, be thankful I didn't tell you about Ben Franklin only wanting to give the vote to the elite and learned and withhold it from the lower classes as they were too dumb to know who to vote for!

Oops. Sorry about spilling those beans too. :D


Sue wanted me to tack on a little note here as a "For Instance..."

England and Britain is in the "Coalition of the Willing" and has troops in Iraq.

Have you ever heard Queen Elizabeth giving a "Ra! Ra!" war speech?

She can't.

She is duty-bound to England first... and must abide by the decisions of "her" parliament. (Heck, she don't even get to vote!)

Whether the Queen is pro or anti Iraq war we will probably never truly know... because she is a constitutional monarch.

...and in all honesty, a very good one in my personal estimation who's been through a lot!

I wish I had the time to tell you that she's a qualified auto-mechanic as during the last parts of WWII, she "volunteered" and fixing jeeps was her gig... but I've gone on a little too much already.

Enditall

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Welcome to the blog of amateur historians Matthew James Didier and Sue Darroch. Partners in life and in crime, we endeavor to entertain you with snippets from our combined historical research. Past time with good company indeed, as we shall introduce you to Kings and Knaves, Queens and Mistresses, Cons and Heroes, from our collective past......from events well known to those perhaps all but forgotten, we will do our best to bring you interesting historical factoids from around the globe. It is our belief that through understanding our past we will all gain a better perspective on our future.

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