Sounding Board

The greatest cancellation

Warriors against cancel culture have been loudest in calling for a republic

This article is taken from the December/January 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground

And tell sad stories of the death of kings;

How some have been deposed; some slain in war,

Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;

Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d

And some were cancelled.

No. That last clause did not come from Shakespeare. Richard II did not sit upon the ground and tell sad tales of the cancellation of kings. But if certain people  have their way, his heir and successor, according to law, Elizabeth II, may.

I imagine you have in your head some likely candidates who might call for the overthrow of the Crown: an immediate past Leader of the Opposition, or a Guardian columnist; a student with a taste for cancellation would certainly be in that crowd, as might a Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Tsar horrified at the prospect of hereditary succession.

But no. The howls for the greatest cancellation of them all is coming from some of the doughtiest warriors against cancel culture. Laurence Fox, that king among culture warriors who cancelled himself for saying something I can’t now remember was the first out of the traps to declare on 31 October, “The Queen should be our final monarch … let’s turn the UK into a constitutional republic.” Peter Hitchens, that voice of High Tory pessimism calling to our desiccated age like an Old Testament prophet, has given up the most basic tenet of High Toryism: “I have just stopped supporting the monarchy.” 

Calvin Robinson, the young prince of the anti-woke brigade — aware that he will soon be swearing an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen and her heirs and successors — didn’t go quite so far, merely reflecting on GB News that “I don’t think public opinion supports Prince Charles, so I don’t want to see him as our next monarch.” (He might also want to revisit his hope that Charles’s reign “is short” on the off-chance that someone thinks he is compassing or imagining the death of the heir to the throne.)

To Cancel the Crown. What grievous outrage has the Monarch and her son committed to merit that curious marriage of convenience between the Corbynista and the Populist Right?  

Has she assumed the right of suspending and dispensing with laws without recourse to Parliament, as our last cancelled monarch, James II, was wont to do? Has she prosecuted bishops for dissenting from those actions? Has she levied money without Parliamentary approval? Has anything even close to the situation which existed before the Glorious Revolution been created?

No. Of course not. So what has she done? She sent a message to COP26, the UN conference on climate change which dominated the news cycle last month. She highlighted the concerns for the environment that the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, and Prince William have consistently expressed and called on world leaders to “rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true

Prince Charles said much the same, in much the same vein as he has been talking about the environment for decades. In this, of course, they were acting hand in glove with both Government and Opposition and no constitutional expert would consider this an impropriety.

But not our gallant fighters of cancel culture. This was too much: the Queen had expressed an opinion with which they disagreed and the only conceivable option is cancellation. Full constitutional cancellation. Of her, of her son, of the monarchy itself. Cancelled, for climate change. And it is absurd.

Absurd to think this issue is of such importance that it merits overthrowing the constitution; they, of all people, should know that the purveyors of cancel culture always think that their issue is so important that the norms of civilized society should be set aside.

They only want to hear voices they agree with

Absurd to think that monarchs and royals pass no comment on any issue that might ever be controversial. Rewind to 1972 and hear what the Queen said, in French, at Versailles, where she praised “the beginning of a new Europe, a turning point in its history”. Rewind further to 1938 and hear her father praise Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

Monarchs may not always be right. In a constitutional monarchy, that does not matter. Messrs Fox, Hitchens, and Robinson are perfectly free to disagree with any position our government or our Sovereign might hold. They are perfectly free, of course, to call for her cancellation.

What they can’t do any more, though, is claim to be fighting cancel culture. They have proved that they only want to hear the voices of those they agree with, and that puts them in the same place as all their foes. 

They show themselves not to oppose the concept, just the cause, of cancellation and in the very real fight for our ancient liberties that is no protection whatsoever. For actual protection of our liberties, I think we all know who is going to continue providing them, just as their family has done for generations.

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