Beware the guillotine as anti-monarchists prepare for the royal wedding | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.04.2011
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Beware the guillotine as anti-monarchists prepare for the royal wedding

As Britain makes last-minute preparations for Friday's royal wedding, anti-monarchists from across Europe plan to use the occasion to call for the abolition of Europe's royal families.

Union flag buntings hang across Regent Street in London

Not everyone will be spruced up to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton

Anti-monarchists from across Europe are jumping on the royal wedding bandwagon in Britain as an ideal opportunity to boost their republican campaign.

Resentful of their position as subjects of unelected heads of state and angry at the cost to taxpayers of financing royal families' upkeep, anti-monarchists regard the nuptials as a perfect chance to push their vision of a monarchy-free Europe.

Led by Britain's main anti-monarchist group Republic, campaigners from the Alliance of European Republican Movements - Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain - plan to stage a protest in London on Friday at Westminster Abbey as hundreds of thousands of well-wishers are expected to throng the streets for the event.

Republic, which has seen its membership jump by around 50 percent to more than 14,000 supporters since William and Kate announced their engagement, feels incensed that Britain is represented by a hereditary head of state.

An anachronism

golden crown on pillow

A hereditary monarchy is incompatible with democracy, opponents say

"In a democracy we're supposed to be equal citizens, politically equal," campaign manager Graham Smith said. "And that is clearly at odds with the hereditary principle."

Another member of Republic, Joan Smith, says that as a white, upper-class family, Britain’s royals are unrepresentative of modern Britain.

"I live in a country where no black person is going to be head of state, no Jewish person, certainly no openly gay person," she said. "And that's absurd."

Meanwhile, London police have been demonstrating the airborne technology they will use to monitor the crowds lining the wedding route. Assistant Police Commissioner Lynne Owens said people who wanted to come to London to peacefully protest could do so, but they should remember it's a day of national celebration.

"If we see anybody engaging in criminal behavior we will act quickly and decisively to deal with it," Owens said.

Playful protest

But on Friday, anti-monarchy behavior may include peaceful protesting. The police have banned all demonstrations within a one mile wide zone around the wedding route. The police say they will crack down on any protests elsewhere in London that are deemed unduly insulting.

Chris Knight, who plans to cart around a life-size, wooden, working model of a guillotine, says it is clear the police have to do their job, but he hopes they will allow his anti-monarchical protest.

Screenshot of Queen Elisabeth's Facebook page.

The overwhelming majority of Britons support the monarchy

"They will do their job. We will do our job. The police aren't stupid. They know the difference between street theatre – a large scale Punch and Judy show – and genuine, violent intentions," Knight said.

Uphill struggle

The Swedish Republican Association said the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling in June last year eroded support for the Nordic country's royals.

However, the British anti-monarchists' real enemy is public opinion. According to the latest poll, only 13 percent of Brits want to do away with the Royal Family, down from 19 percent six years ago.

Even a dyed-in-the-wool republican like Labour Party grandee Lord Hattersley acknowledges that his dream of a republic is a long way off.

"I don't think I shall see a republic. I think it will happen one day. Because it's such an extraordinary anachronism," he said. "We only have to watch the wedding to realize that this is Ruritania."

Ruritania is a fictional kingdom in central Europe, the setting for three books by 19th century English novelist Anthony Hope. And Ruritania still seems popular both in Britain and abroad. Any protests are will be drowned out by some half a million enthusiastic spectators in London, while two billion television viewers around the world are expected to watch the wedding.

Author: Stephen Beard, London / db
Editor: Rob Turner

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