CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Englandrnby Michael StentonrnThoroughly Modem MonarchyrnThe pace of cultural redefinition inrnBritain is steady and strong. Since thernday in 1991 when Prime Minister JohnrnMajor refused to veto the Maastrichtrntreaty, a new picture has emerged. Tornput it crudely, the Tories and the monarchyrnare looking unprecedentedly vulnerable.rnThe only good argument for theirrncontinued survival is that they have beenrnso strong for so long that a diflFicult periodrnshould be seen as normal, not terminal.rnPerhaps so, but there is a new mood.rnThe general election landslide for thernLabour Party was an explosion of distastern—a grand alliance of resentments—rnmuch broader than the narrow issue ofrnwho governs. The anti-Tory fury has notrnrelented yet, but the monarchy and thernAct of Union stand not much higher inrnpublic affection. There is little doctrinairernopposition to the monarchy, butrnthe public mood is highly susceptible.rnWe are still going through a momentrnwhen the country looks round to be toldrnhow to modernize itself Mr. Blair andrnthe Queen can do what they want withrnthe constitution.rnMr. Blair is not proving very strong onrnideas. Whether he is professionally hyper-rncautious or just conventionally empty-rnheaded, the effect is the same. He is arnsecond-order personality who expects tornbe told what is going on. But once hernsenses an instruction, there is the chancernhe will do something. The Queen is arnconservative but not a reactionary, andrnher advisors were badly shaken by thernmalice of the mob at the time of Diana’srnfuneral. The Palace, too, wants to berntold what to do. The royal family isrnputting its very sound finances on a morernprivate footing—just in case.rnA redefined monarchy is contemplatedrnby both the church and the state. Therncurrent ideas are that the monarchrnshould cease to be supreme governor ofrnthe Church of England, that the hereditaryrnprinciple of succession should bern”preserved” by ending its sexist form, andrnthat the monarch should be pushed evenrnfurther back from political life by surrenderingrnher remaining functions to thernspeaker of the House of Commons.rnIt has already been decided that thernaristocracy should be removed from thernHouse of Lords. We could also lose thernstate opening of Parliament and thernwhole symbolism of the victor in a generalrnelection having to go to the Palace tornkiss hands. In the Church of England,rndisestablishment would suit more consciencesrnand strain fewer loyalties thanrnever before. North of the border, thernScottish National Party sits high in thernopinion polls and takes an avuncular interestrnin the vexed question of England’srnpost-British identity. Reform of the electoralrnsystem is imminent. There will bernreferenda: The People will consent.rnThe end of the incredible Tory administrationrnof 1979-97; the final, finalrnend of the empire, televised from HongrnKong; and the death of Diana: Thesernthree events made the long summer ofrn1997 unforgettable. The most cynical ofrnus could not escape the mood, which hasrnnot dispersed. If Northern Ireland canrnchange, so can mainland Britain.rnBut constitutional innovations pick uprnquickly on the fashions of the age.rnWould a monarchy redesigned by NewrnLabour be worth having? Would it symbolizernthe sovereignty of a nation, or thernerosion of a state tradition to fit the newrnEuropean context? This observer is nornfriend to the pseudo-imperial monarchyrnfor toffs and bureaucrats that we havernhad since “Ind Imp” {Indiae Imperator)rnwent off the coins. But the New Monarchyrncould be worse. Should a patriot resistrnreform or try to rescue the imminentrnconstitutional shift from its worst advocates?rnThe sense of the British constitutionrnwas once the balance of King, Lords, andrnCommons. Then the government—therncabinet—captured all three. Throughoutrnthis century, “the Crown” has meantrnthe government, not the monarch.rnThere once was a sort of thrill in concedingrnthat Britain was, in strict form, anrnelectoral tyranny in which absolute powerrnwas conferred on one government afterrnanother. This meant that our libertiesrnhave been preserved—or not—by culturalrnconsensus, not by constitutionalrnchecks. This is the sense of the constitutionrnwhich is about to be replaced . . . byrnsomething or other.rnThe monarchy once gave glamour tornparliamentary sovereignty and impliedrnthe unswerving support of a loyal and attendantrnruling class. But if national-parliamentaryrnsovereignty is not wanted, thernmonarchy must be re-tuned; and if therngreat and powerftil in the realm are disloyal,rnabsent, or foreign, a “democratized”rnmonarchy can be introduced lessrnas a pledge of renewed citizenship thanrnas an expression of the tiuth that Parliamentrnis no longer where the power is.rnThe tide runs toward new constitutionalrntexts; that is, toward lawyers; and towardrnlawyers who sit in foreign courts. Thernlawyers will surely find new language tornmake this sound more appropriate.rnThe difficulty for the Euro-skeptic isrnthat there is so little solid to cling to. Thernprice of not embracing a more democraticrnsymbolism in the late Victorian periodrn—when the imperial hullabaloo wasrnat its worst—is that today’s “Europeans”rnhave a cheap, even costless, way ofrnsounding fresh and modern. The languagernof citizenship, which was neverrngrafted onto monarchy in Britain exceptrnin World War II, can now be used to coverrnthe loss of sovereignty. Queen Elizabethrnmay not embrace a new Euro-statiisrnwith the painful vulgarity of Queen Victoria’srnpassion for being “Empress of India;”rnbut the monarch has long been anrninert tool of the politicians constitiitingrn”the Crown.” The Queen is supposed tornhave the right to “admonish”—but onlyrnher ministers, and only in private. Sherndid not presume to call on Parliament tornprotect her grandchildren from the pressrnpersecution which killed Diana.rnOliver Cromwell was not a docfrinairernrepublican, but he did have a non-aristocraticrnidea of the public good. His refrisalrnto be king was a decisive moment inrnEnglish history, because he did notrndoubt that there should be a monarch,rnand he knew that what the English expectedrnwas King, Lords, and Commons.rnRefusing to be king, he made thernRestoration inevitable and so allowedrnEnglish monarchy to relapse into an intenselyrnaristocratic context.rnBritain’s post-aristocratic elite nowrncontemplates another trick with crownrnand scepter. An alteration has begun.rnThe division of Britain—the disunitingrn36/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn