Am I Republican -- and what would Tacitus have thought?
The truth is that I have spent the last four days finishing my paper for Paris, and writing about the Olympic Games (for a couple of forthcoming gigs); but thanks to new technology, I have kept half an eye on the Jubilee romps -- in a small window on my laptop.
I started the weekend as a passive Republican, but really quite happy with the monarch we have (no doubt a good sort). And. I guess, that's the way I have ended it. I can't begin to justify an hereditary monarchy, but when I think of a (horribly spun) electoral system electing a head of state, I want to run a mile. So I'll go with what we've got, for the time being.
On the other hand, just as I am settling down to enjoy a (pro tem) monarchical moment, I find myself watching the BBC broadcasts on all this junketing. It's not just the inanity of the BBC 1 commentary that has unseated me (I never thought I would say this quite so loud and clear, but THANK GOD for Simon Schama and David Cannadine this morning.. apart from the excellent Clare Balding, at last some we've had someone who knows something.) The real problem for me has been the appalling sycophancy on display, among the crowds.
"I have come here from Durham (or wherever), with all my family .. " said someone "just as we came to the GoldenJubilee .. because we want to see the queen as close as we can.. she went right past, and I feel so happy.." And that was repeated time and again on the BBC. (Indeed anytime anyone suggested they were anything less than happy, the sound quickly turned off!)
At this point I want to shout out, "what better could you have done with the money..?" But then I see the self-contradictoriness of my own position. If I prefer a monarchy to a politicised presidency, then it's only sycophancy that will keep it going.That's what hereditary power is all about; there's nothing other to it than imagined, fictional charisma.
But then again I came to think, what would a real Roman royal watcher make of today's events. The Romans were very astute about how the royal family presented itself, and how the succession was marked out and demonstrated -- usually in sculptural groups not on the (don't look down) balcony-- but it's more or less the same thing.
Tacitus would have have remarked about the diagram of hereditary power we were being offered today. No longer the extended family on the balcony or in the posh carriages, just elder son and prime grandsons. A purge.