21 April 2006

Happy Birthday Queenie

BerlinBear avatarIt's New Zealand's Head of State's birthday today. She turns 80. How nice.

So, happy birthday to
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith
or, as we say in New Zealand, where she has a different title
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
Much catchier, I'm sure you'll agree. Eighty, eh? Jolly good show.

Personally, I quite like the Queen. I don't think much of the rest of her family, with the exception of Prince William who seems a solid young man, but I do like the Queen. She has grace and style and she speaks a delightfully antiquiated and faintly ridiculous English. And she has stamina, and she doesn't meddle in politics or fancy herself a "political activist" like her son.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a royalist, by any stretch of the imagination. But then nor am I a staunch republican (in the "let's become a republic" sense of the word, not in the make-me-and-my-cronies-rich-and-screw-everyone-else- especially-the-French sense of the word). Basically, when it comes down to it, I don't really give a stuff.

Sure, having the Queen of England as New Zealand's head of state is anachronistic and a hangover from an imperialist and colonial past. Sure, it's hard to explain to non-Commonwealth people that our head of state is not a New Zealander, has never lived in New Zealand, and only visits once in a blue moon. Sure, it's pretty crazy that, if she fancied it, an 80 year-old woman in a palace in London could dissolve our parliament just because she felt like it. And sure, it's hard to make German university students grasp that a country can be a consitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy at the same time. But on the other hand, it's very cheap to have a head of state whose upkeep you only have to pay for for about a week every seven or eight years, when she and her ridiculous husband come to visit. Also, as the last 150-odd years have shown, the current system works just fine. And, to boot, it's handy not to have to bother writing a proper constitution.

In other words, I'm not in a huge hurry for New Zealand to become a republic. It'll happen in due course, sure, and when it does I'll think it's a Good Thing. But I'd just as soon watch and wait for the Australians to ditch the monarchy and become a republic first, observe carefully for a few years, watching for the things they get right and the things they get wrong, learn from their mistakes and then do it better.

In other other words, if it's only a little bit broke, wait for the Australians to show you how to fix it. They seem to be in much more of a hurry anyway.

In case you're interested, in true BBC style, the BBC website has an entire feature section devoted to the Queen's birthday today.

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