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Let's Hope the New Royal Baby Lives to See a Republic

23/07/2013 12:08 BST | Updated 22/09/2013 10:12 BST
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While the sentiments of the French Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot - '"Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest" - are no doubt unpalatable for most when considering the British monarchy, he does have a point.

To witness the outpouring of national gushing over the arrival of the latest addition to the royal family is to bear witness to a nation which - in its thrall to a privileged, unelected, unaccountable, hereditary head of state - remains stuck in a feudal time warp, unable to comprehend the incompatibility of monarchy with liberty and progress.

Enlightenment values of liberty, fraternity and egality never penetrated these shores, largely due to their association with a French Revolution that not only did away with its monarchy but also each other in an orgy of blood-letting which only served to affirm the truism proffered by Danton that 'The revolution devours its own children'.

In contrast to the chaos taking place in France, the British monarchy stood as a symbol and cornerstone of stability, order, and peace. Unlike their French counterparts, the denizens of the poverty-stricken and disease-ridden slums of London, Manchester, and Glasgow knew their place and were content to suffer their misery and despair in relative silence.

In the preceding century - 1649 to be exact - Oliver Cromwell had taken the head of King Charles I to usher in a Commonwealth of England. His mistake, if you can call it that, was not his hostility to monarchy, but his dismissal of parliament and attachment to dictatorship. He wasn't overly fond of Catholics either, especially in Ireland, a country he reduced to submission with a military campaign that many historians have labelled genocidal.

The restoration of monarchy to Britain came in 1660 with Charles II and the institution has remained unbroken and uninterrupted ever since.

So, then, what is it about the British psyche that still embraces this institution in the 21st century? Less the benign and quaint relic of Britishness it is cleverly presented and packaged as, this is a pernicious and insidious institution that legitimates inequality, unearned privilege, and obscene wealth. In fact it positively reeks of it. And at a time when the children of the poor are seeing their lives and future prospects blighted by a vicious government of Eton millionaires, the media's focus on the birth of this particular baby to this particular couple comes as a particularly grievous insult.

The deep roots planted by the principle of hereditary monarchy in the collective mind of the nation is most emphatically reflected in the SNP's policy of retaining it should the Scottish people vote Yes in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. The cognitive dissonance involved in equating independence with the retention of the British monarchy would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

The sheer waste of taxpayers' money that goes into the coffers of this dysfunctional family of glorified benefit claimants is surely a crime. We have just seen the tax shenanigans of Prince Charles laid bare, while an intelligent and reasoned explanation of both Prince Andrew and Prince Edward remains at large.

No, there's no getting away from it, the abolition of this wretched institution is long overdue. In this regard who could possibly argue with the great English radical Thomas Paine, when he opined:

"...the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise."