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God save the Queen!

Features | By Auberon Waugh

Oldie co-founder Auberon Waugh would have been 80 this year. To commemorate his birthday, we will be releasing articles by the great man, once a week. Here, in a 1992 piece, he defends the monarchy

Rack my brains as I might, I cannot think of any benefit I have ever received as a result of the existence of the monarchy, nor can I think of any benefit or favour I am ever likely to receive, or any of my friends or relations is likely to receive, from the existence of the royal family.

Having said all that, I must also admit that neither the monarchy nor any member of the royal family has ever done me any harm. They may have constructed a high wall around themselves to keep me out, but I am quite happy to be excluded, and have no desire to hobnob with those on the other side of the wall.

There are people who can whip up a sense of grievance at being excluded from what may seem to be a charmed circle, dedicated to celebrating its own unearned privileges, but these people should be required to submit to counselling, rather than encouraged.

Practically everybody in Britain is at the receiving end of some 200 years’ accumulated rights and privileges which they have done nothing to deserve. As the Reverend J C Flannel might point out, we are not starving to death as they are in Somalia, but on top of these negative advantages we have inherited a whole battery of privileges which put the British, through no virtue or effort of their own, but only through the efforts of their ancestors, among the ten luckiest nations of the world.

Our whole existence is a celebration of unearned privilege. We are on a very weak wicket if we devote ourselves to envying each other, but if ever envious hatreds are allowed to prevail, and to become a dominant force in society, the entire basis of our comfort and prosperity will collapse.

Perhaps one cannot expect those journalists who cry for the monarchy to be abolished to have read Simon Schama’s brilliant account of the subsequent history of the French Revolution, Citizens, let alone to have studied the history of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, but we already have the same sequence laid out before our gaze in the British press.

In the van we have the delicate twitterings of fun-republicans; in the middle of the column we have angrier ad hominem (or, more accurately, ad mulierem) attacks. Many are intelligent and witty writers, whose hearts are generally in the right place. The shame is that they do not pause to look over their shoulders to see what is bringing up the rear of their brave little forays into enemy territory: the great grumbling, groaning ranks of professional malcontents, psychopaths eaten up by hatred of anyone who is successful or lucky or attractive or carefree; woman-haters, haters of children and old people and Pekingeses, anti-hunting, anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-driving, anti-Europe, anti-eating, expecting out of life nothing more than to sit watching rotten American films supplied by satellite or cable television: classless, sexless, odourless – in a phrase, the Murdoch New Brit. If ever the Murdoch New Brit takes over this country, we might as well all go and live in Afghanistan.

Even without the spectre of Murdoch and his cringing thugs, there are good reasons why we should distance ourselves from the move to get rid of the monarchy. If I pinch myself, I can think of good reasons for retaining the whole circus; it causes great pleasure to an enormous number of people as the Queen goes round patting dim, meritorious people on the back, and does no harm to anybody; it amuses and stimulates the whole country, and gives us something to talk about which is more interesting than the weather, less unpleasant than sport. Anybody who has visited Vienna since the Habsburgs were kicked out will see how much dimmer and dingier London will become if its royal palaces are turned into museums, and its royal elevations and avenues and enfilades serve no further purpose.

The chief reason for getting rid of the monarchy might be for the rancour and cruelty it excites, which sometimes give the impression that we are not a nation of human beings at all. Even those of us who smiled at the exposure of the Duchess of York as a selfish, empty-headed vulgarian might have been alarmed at the hounding of the Princess of Wales (who may or may not have set the pack on her husband first – none of us knows for sure). But the public debate on whether or not she had ever had carnal relations with James Gilbey, or Major Hewitt, or anyone else, is so vilely insulting to everybody concerned that it diminishes us all.

Or so I would maintain. But even if I am right, the same pack will set upon someone else with the same degree of sadism as soon as it has destroyed the monarchy. The chief reason for keeping up what is old and decrepit and falling to pieces, resisting what is new and unfamiliar. It is only through a sense of historical continuity that we can keep sane in the post-religious age.

Out with Murdoch and God save the Queen.

This story was from April 2019 issue. Subscribe Now