John Oliver entered the British monarchy last week tonight as the royal family is ‘in transition’ following the death of Queen Elizabeth II aged 96 in September. “In the UK, the argument was that following the death of the Queen, now was just not the time to criticize her or the monarchy in general. That would be rude,” Oliver explained. “But it’s been two months since, and Charles is king now.”
And while for many the Queen’s charm lay in her longevity and ‘her tendency to keep quiet – you never quite knew what she thought of anything’, neither of those things isn’t true about his son, Oliver explained.
Charles ascended the throne at the age of 73 after a life in the spotlight, a messy divorce and numerous public gaffes. “He doesn’t have his mother’s inscrutability, nor her level of public affection, and his ascension to the throne comes as the UK faces a cost of living crisis,” Oliver explained.
Which made him wonder what the interest of the monarchy is, both for the United Kingdom and for countries around the world for which the monarch remains a figurehead.
The monarch’s job, he explained, is to be head of state, a symbolic post responsible for receiving incoming and outgoing ambassadors and heads of state, and making state visits to the stranger. “Think of the royal family like Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland – they don’t run the rides, but they’re a mascot of the whole operation, and people kinda like having their picture taken with them,” Oliver said.
Royal defenders would say the ceremonial aspect is the point; The royal family’s website describes the sovereign as a ‘centre of national identity, unity and pride’ which ‘provides a sense of stability and continuity’.
“But it comes at a price,” Oliver said, pointing to the £100 million ($117 million) paid annually by British taxpayers as part of the Sovereign Grant for the Maintenance of the Royal Family. Oliver pointed to the ‘asterisks’ on the Sovereign Grant as the Royal Family have other sources of income: private wealth the details of which are a closely guarded secret, and the Duchy of Lancaster, a massive property portfolio containing seized land by the monarchy in the 13th century. (The portfolio paid the Queen $27 million the year before her death.) There’s also the Duchy of Cornwall, another billion-dollar property portfolio now in the hands of Prince William, who reported $26 million last year.
“The wealth of the royal family, unlike their genetic heritage, is enormous,” Oliver said. Both duchies are exempt from corporation tax and Charles pays no inheritance tax, “and when you take all that into account you start to feel like they cost a lot more than a pound a person. “. says Oliver.
Oliver was candid in his feelings about the royal family: “They are like a human appendage. We haven’t needed them for a long time and there is a compelling case for their surgical removal. But he acknowledged he was in the minority for Britons, as 67% believe the monarchy should stay.
Their role overseas, however, is a more open question. Oliver briefly summarized the role of the royal family in the transatlantic slave trade, established under the royal charter. “I understand that people shouldn’t be held personally responsible for what their ancestors did,” he said, “but to try to talk about the British role in the slave trade without talking about the monarchy, it’s is a bit like trying to talk about Jeffrey Epstein without talking about the monarchy.They are inextricably linked, however uncomfortable they may find that fact.
He also reminded viewers of “one of the most brutal atrocities perpetrated by the British”: the crushing of the Mau Mau rebellion by the Kikuyu people of Kenya, which occurred in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign. . The Kenya Human Rights Commission estimates that the British executed, tortured or maimed 90,000 people during the crackdown and detained 160,000 in barbed wire camps.
“We don’t know what the Queen knew – what she is told is kept secret, very conveniently – but we do know what was done in her name, by her government,” Oliver said. “If you are the symbol of a country, you represent what it does.
“You cannot say that you are only a symbol and that you are not responsible for the behavior of the institutions of which you are the head”, he added, pointing out, among many examples, the role of the Church of England in forced assimilation residential schools in Canada. for aboriginal people.
The Royal Family, he continued, “refused to consider” why many Commonwealth countries left (Barbados) or are considering leaving (Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize). “Instead, they continued to work hard to be seen as a mere symbol without ever taking responsibility for what that symbol excused, while ignoring calls for genuine apologies and reparations to those who have suffered immensely because of it. of what has been done in their name.”
“You don’t have to hate the Royal Family personally,” he continued. “I mean, Google ‘Prince Philip racism’ or ‘Prince Andrew everything’ and see where you land, but you don’t have to hate them. You don’t even have to think that the institution shouldn’t exist.
“But if it’s going to continue, it’s fair to expect a lot more from them,” he concluded. “Because too often they hide behind the convenient shield of politeness and manners that often demand silence from anyone who might criticize them or what they stand for.”
Oliver wondered if his segment would even air on Sky TV in the UK, which had previously cut Oliver’s jokes about the Queen in the week after her death. “But if they cut it for disrespect, they should seriously think about why,” he said. “Why do they, and everyone else, work so hard not to offend a family whose name was carved into people’s skin ‘during the slave trade’ and who sit atop a pile of stolen wealth bearing crowns adorned with the treasures of other countries”.
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