Where are the young British Republicans?

With Prince Andrew being dragged into the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and The Crown detailing historic challenges to the royal family, we wonder who’s fighting the monarchy now?

Back in 1997, when Diana died in Paris, the monarchy was in genuine crisis. The Queen failed to read the room, ignoring the People’s Princess love-in and allowing for debate to rage around whether modern Britain really needed HRH and her crew. In 2000, The Guardian even launched a campaign calling for a referendum on what sort of head of state we should have after the Queen’s death. 

Since then, we’ve had more important things to worry about: we fought an illegal war in Iraq; the global recession was followed up by austerity; Brexit created a brand new divide in the country that we never even knew we needed. Faced with all of this, the campy chintz of the Royals has often felt a lot like a swift posh hug. Who wants to debate the merits of a family draped in jewels and velvet offering up a rare chance for national unity with their weddings and jubilees, babies and gin in tea cups? Open your anti-monarchist mouth at your peril: Jeremy Corbyn getting the time of the Queen’s Speech wrong elicited more public uproar than our PM’s refusal to tell us how many children he has.

So perhaps it’s been easier to turn a blind eye to the fact that the estimated total annual cost of the monarchy – much of which involves the bankrolling of minor royals – is £345 million; that council taxpayers foot the bill for royal visits; that the monarchy actually have a lot more power than they’d like us to believe and seem to enjoy using it.

So what does Republicanism look like in 2019? Republic are a pressure group dedicated to campaigning for a Democratic alternative to the monarchy”. They have 76,000 members, but when I asked them for help tracking down under-30s activist Republicans, the return rate was zero. A Twitter request unearthed lots of strong opinions and a plethora of gammon warriors chomping at the bit to take down every anti-establishment opinion voiced (“Oh shut up, you pathetic entitled middle class twat”, Go back to wherever you come from you long-haired fuck”).

These are times of Momentum and Extinction Rebellion. We’re angry and mobilised, but somehow not about the Royal family. In the wake of the Prince Andrew’s car crash Newsnight interview and with austerity making us hyper-aware of every taxpayer pound spent, could change be afoot? We spoke to a range of self-proclaimed young Republicans to find out what drives their beliefs and whether they think this could be a pivotal moment for the endless reign. 

  • You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.”  You rarely ever see anything against the royal family.” 

Ros, 21, student and nanny, Roehampton

My parents are very big Republicans. My Dad has all the merch. He’s got an umbrella that says Stop the Reign’. So it’s so bizarre that all of the lefties I know who are my age love the queen. They’re like she’s a lovely old lady’. And I’m like, What? How?’ It’s weird seeing people sharing things about Boris Johnson and all his privilege and then loving the royal family. That’s a double standard.

The whole harmless’ attitude is why we’ve got Boris Johnson as our PM at the moment. The whole he’s our friend, he’s just a silly old fool’. It’s so dangerous — the queen might be a frail old lady but she possesses so much power and so do her children. 

The Crown on Netflix is doing a massive PR job for the family. I really hate this whole feeling sorry for them thing. They’ve got everything that none of us have.

Social media is a huge platform for every single major political issue but the royals. You rarely ever see anything against the royal family. It’s almost like this is an issue for a small group of geeky old white guys. I have these opinions because of my father. If I was raised with very Conservative parents I think that I could have come to the Labour choice myself, whereas with this one, I think that there just isn’t the information out there. 

I spent my whole childhood going around National Trust places owned by old fancy people who don’t live there now. Their history is still there but we don’t need the landed gentry still living there. The same thing could happen to the monarchy.

I’d love to get more involved with Republican activism, but I really can’t imagine any big uprising at the moment because there’s so little action surrounding it. I’m a student, so pretty much everyone I know is an activist, but none of them are interested in Republicanism. It seems like such a weird double standard to me.”

  • People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.”  People are scared to say they’re a Republican.” 

Hugo, 29, PR marketing consultant, Istanbul

I’m a Democrat before I’m anything else. I ran in the 2017 general election as an Independent in Hackney south and Shoreditch. I got 50 votes. Next time I’ll run with a party. I’m quite an avid supporter of the Conservatives at the moment.

People always say the royals have no political powers’. Yes they do! Look at Prince Charles’ black spider memos. The Queen and Charles have a legal right to see every single parliamentary bill drafted before it reaches the House of Commons, and if it’s in conflict with one of their interests they have a right to veto that bill before it even reaches the house. And they have used that a considerable amount of times in the last 30 years.

I get really disheartened when you speak to people and they say our NHS is crumbling, we need more houses, we need better schools’, and then in the next breath they’re like but I love the Royal family’. If we didn’t have a monarchy and we had an elected head of state it would mean millions of pounds for the public services that you are screaming that you want. That doesn’t sit right with me.

One institution is holding back another set of institutions. If you have an emotional affinity with both, you need to make a decision. Do I want better public services? Or do I believe in a monarchy?

People are slightly scared to say they’re a Republican. I think there’s a misconception with the Republican movement that we want to kill off the royal family — off with their heads! All we want is an elected head of state who has Democratic legitimacy and is seen as a power broker when it comes to political issues. Like the Speaker of the House of Commons. They would be our public face. 

If it’s taking us this long to sort out Brexit, how long is it going to take to change something that’s been in place for hundreds of years? A lot of people just don’t want the turmoil. They don’t want more chaos, they want less.

But it’s definitely a worrying time for the monarchy. I follow a lot of the commentary around the Prince Andrew thing. Buckingham Palace are being very defiant. As a PR person that shows a real panic. They’ve really struggled since Diana’s death. After then the narrative in the country changed forever.”

  • Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.”  Their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral.” 

Izzy, 20, tudent, London

I’m a university student and am looking to begin a Republican group here. I’ve written about anti-monarchism in some of my academic work and am very vocal about my position. I do spend a lot of time talking to people about it and changing their minds and I often post about it on social media. I’m very interested in getting more involved in an activist movement — especially once I leave university.

I think that their use of taxpayers’ money is immoral — we are struggling to support the poorest members of our society and the queen spends around £2 million on food and drink a year. Imagine if that money went towards the NHS or our schools. Also the funding of the minor royals is a joke. They’re this vision of private school perfection that puts our country to shame — they’re nothing like your average British person and they don’t represent us.”

Petit, 26, charity worker, London

I’m from France. Thousands of immigrants can tell you why the monarchy is a ridiculous waste of money. We’re all baffled that you haven’t gotten rid of it yet, but it’s virtually impossible for immigrants to get involved in this debate without getting abuse. Aren’t we allowed to be critical of this country’s political system?

Not being British means that — aside from getting xenophobic remarks when taking part in political debates — I do feel less legitimate in promoting a Republican regime, as it is a profound change of British institutions, and I can’t vote in general elections. It also means that it’s much easier for me to see the monarchy as an obsolete, cumbersome, and inegalitarian institution. I did not grow up in this culture that portrays the royal family as the loving guardians of the country. Obviously there are people in France and in other countries who are quite smitten with the British royals, but more in an endearing ridiculous way.

My arguments as a French person get dismissed easily because of our history and the guillotine, and it’s true that the French republican narrative relies heavily on the idea that the people had to remove and behead the king for equality, liberty and fraternity to really emerge. If I may be cheeky, British people were beheading royals long before the French!”

  • “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.”  “[The royal family] don’t represent us.” 

Alex, 25, novelist, Canning Town

I kind of had a sense growing up that people felt that to be British you had to have a certain reverence to the royals, but it never really resonated with me.

Then when I got older and I learnt more about the British crown system and the history of [the] Empire, I realised that this institution is problematic in terms of colonialism. As the son of Ugandan immigrants who come from a country that were once part of the Commonwealth it doesn’t sit well with me that people still defer to them when they have this history that hasn’t been reconciled yet.

I got most of my information about Britain’s colonial history online because they’re not really teaching that stuff in school. They just teach about WWII and stuff like that. You don’t really learn about how they colonised lots of Africa and Asia. At one point in the British Empire’s history there wasn’t one place where the sun didn’t set. Basically Britain was a superpower before there were superpowers. 

I don’t think there’s much energy for Republicanism as an issue at the moment. The last few years have been dominated by Brexit. It’s something that’s not at the forefront of people’s minds. But, eventually when the Queen does pass away, I think that the conversation will come into the public light. She’s been the head of state since the early 50s. The world was completely different back then. So when it does come to Charles taking over, I think that there’ll be a renewed debate around if we still need the monarchy. Is it still fit for purpose?

I voted for Labour. I know that Corbyn’s a Republican, but it was never going to be part of his main agenda. He was focused on more pressing issues and I don’t mind that. But I do think that it’s a conversation that we need to have and I hope that we have it in my lifetime.”


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