The Courier-Mail

LET’S TAKE

Admired though the Queen is, the monarchy is an anachronis­m, writes

- Dennis Atkins

THEY probably won’t light bonfires on hilltops from one end of England to the other, as they did on September 23, 1896, but there will be lots of flag waving and British men and women will gush that the Queen is the greatest.

Later today, Queen Elizabeth the Second becomes the longest reigning English monarch, gently pushing aside her great-great-grandmothe­r, Victoria, after an impressive 23,227 days on the throne.

For those without a calculator app handy – something no one had dreamt of 119 years ago – that’s 63 years and seven months.

Even for someone working for News Corporatio­n – where Rupert Murdoch has ruled the roost for as many years – this is an impressive stint, regardless of what you think of the monarchy.

In Australia, the monarchy is at once a foreign concept and part of our heritage. Just two generation­s ago we stood at the beginning of sessions at the cinema while God Save the Queen was played, complete with its prophetic line “long to reign over us”.

The monarchy’s attraction in Australia these days focuses on the aftermath of a decade of scandal, royal weddings and babies, the idiosyncra­sies of princes Philip and Charles and our prime minister’s fuddyduddy love for all things royal.

Luckily we can call for the abolition of the monarchy, unlike the loyal subjects in Great Britain, where the Treason Felony Act of 1848 is still on the books, with its threat of life imprisonme­nt for anyone who might utter a call to sack the Queen and the royal household.

In Britain, citizens are legally described as subjects of the monarchy and almost all public servants must swear an oath of loyalty to the Crown.

The Queen’s website says Elizabeth is the “focus of national unity” and she retains what’s known as the “royal prerogativ­e” – which is something that’s now exercised by the government of the day.

Elizabeth might be able to “advise and warn” her government but it is in Downing Street and not Buckingham Palace where the power to enact laws, sign treaties, advise on awarding honours and declare war resides.

It’s not cheap having a monarchy. She cost her subjects – who call themselves taxpayers – £35 million ($A77 million) last year and pocketed an “income” of £40 million ($A88 million).

The royal estate – which includes the entire British seabed – is worth a cool £9.5 billion ($A21 billion).

Having worked out this cost each of the 64 million people in Great Britain just 56 pence a year, the always obedient Daily Express declared the Queen was “a bargain”.

The fact is though, the Queen is an anachronis­m.

There are 27 reigning monarchs in the world – lists usually include the Pope as head of the Vatican but it’s hard to regard Francis as a monarch – and they last got together in May, 2012 at Windsor castle for Elizabeth’s golden jubilee.

This is about 14 per cent of the 195 sovereign states listed by the US State Department – a minority status underscore­d by the fact almost half have extraordin­ary powers.

Britain is a democracy where regular free elections are held to elect a government. While voting is not compulsory, the community divides along party lines with about a third or so backing one of the major groups – Labour and the Conservati­ves – and the rest scattering their

IN AUSTRALIA, THE MONARCHY IS AT ONCE A FOREIGN CONCEPT AND PART OF OUR HERITAGE

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