Monarchy in the democratic age: the head of state debate in Britain: a constitutional and comparative analysis

Cross, Bernard W. (2006) Monarchy in the democratic age: the head of state debate in Britain: a constitutional and comparative analysis. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The thesis has two interdependent objectives: to determine whether Britain could transform its monarchical constitution into a republican one in normal times; and to discuss what form that new dispensation might take.
Public opinion remains overwhelmingly in favour of monarchy, but dissenting opinion, once a fringe view, has become a feature of mainstream discourse; and disquiet is increasingly expressed at the ability of the executive to by-pass parliamentary control through resort to prerogative powers exercised in the name of the monarchy. Debate is, therefore, opportune. The thesis acknowledges the strength of the view that the political and legal difficulties in replacing the monarchy are immense, illustrating the magnitude of the task with a case study analysing the 1999 Australian republican project's failure despite apparently favourable circumstances. The difficulties begin to look less formidable, however, when the transformation is viewed as a step-by-step process and not as a one-off operation. In developing this contention the thesis examines the political roles and symbolic functions that remain with the monarchy, traces how these have emerged from the historical legacy and discusses their interrelation with other elements of the political process. Agreement to end the monarchy would not bring the debate to an end.
Republicanism, for which there is no universally accepted definition, is a label applicable to a broad range of political philosophies and regimes, including even hereditary monarchies provided certain conditions are met. An important sector of republican sentiment is motivated less by distaste for the hereditary principle than by a positive aspiration for transparent, pluralist governance which, it considers, is not compatible with Britain's existing monarchical constitution. The thesis enquires into a selection of models, illustrating their characteristics by reference to the constitutional texts of the states that operate them and extends the typography to include some theoretical models proposed by contemporary thinkers. In advancing tentative proposals for a reformed dispensation, it is argued that a British republic emerging from the gradualist process would be of the 'ceremonial' (or formal) variety. Proposals are advanced in relation to the method of election, and the powers that might be held by a British president.

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