- Opulence of the coronation, and other similar events, their costs
- Contrast against the cost of living crisis in Britain
- Value of the monarchy and growing apathy of the Brits
- Perspective of ex-colonies
How GP students will benefit from our post:
- Greater understanding of monarchs and their existence, deep rootedness/history vs democratic states
- Learn about benefits of monarchs with recent statistics
- Learn about public perceptions of the monarchy and how this has shifted
- What the monarchy represents (negative), perception of them in the eyes of ex-colonies
- Learn about other monarchies as well
- Evaluating monarchs with similar roles in SG like the president
The coronation of King Charles III was an extravagant spectacle that would have left even the most seasoned partygoer gobsmacked. The lavish ceremony was a delightful medley of royal pomp and circumstance. The noble guests arrived bedecked in gowns and suits so glittery that one couldn’t help but suspect an army of disco balls had exploded in their wardrobes. As the procession of regal hats and titles paraded past, the collective weight of the jewels and gold threatened to sink the entire island. And who could forget the moment when the Archbishop of Canterbury, with a flourish of his golden staff, placed the 5-pound crown atop King Charles’ head, causing him to wobble ever so slightly before regaining his composure? The entire affair was a jolly good knees-up, overflowing with enough pomp to make even a peacock green with envy.
20 million Brits watched this great affair unfold on their TVs at home, and were invited to recite a new “homage of the people”, swearing allegiance to the crown from the comfort of their couches. Despite such a novel invitation to the masses to “participate”, Britons were quick to voice their indifference, highlighting the decline of support for the institution. Would you let out a great cry of loyalty for dear old Charles and his controversial wife Camilla – both of whom rolled up in air-conditioned gold carriages – whilst the rest of the nation is swept up in a cost-of-living crisis?
Just in 2 years, The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, her funeral and now King Charles’ coronation cost a whopping total of 160.5 million pounds. With the internet and caricature artists quick to poke fun at King Charles’ sausage fingers, gossips pertaining to his declining health take the stage, who knows, the next coronation could happen in just a matter of months. Meanwhile, the price of consumer goods and services in the UK rose at the fastest rate in four decades in the year to October 2022. Nearly a quarter (23%) of adults in Great Britain reported borrowing more money or using more credit in April 2023 compared with a year ago. In response to the rising cost of living, around 6 in every 10 adults reported that they are spending less on non-essentials. Millions of public-sector workers are currently striking for better pay and child poverty is terrifyingly high.
As the UK cost-of-living crisis deepened, a growing number of Britons started to question why they were paying for royal tea parties and castle renovations when their own pantries were barer than Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. The monarchy, once beloved for its elaborate displays of opulence, was now seen as a drain on the nation’s wallet. Critics accused the royals of being out of touch with commoners, arguing that they wouldn’t know the difference between a crumpet and a toaster strudel. As the public scrutinised every penny spent on the royal family, it became increasingly clear that their extravagance might be better suited to a reality show than to taxpayer-funded splendour. Many could think of just about a million ways to better use the 86.3 million pounds in taxpayer money funding the Royal Family’s extravagance.
Halimah Yaacob – Our Royal President?
So here we are, debating the relevance of the monarchy. Surely such “ruling” by birthright is archaic and a matter of indifference to the masses. Look at Singapore, largely democratic without such an issue. Currently, all the gossip is surrounding the next Presidential Election this year! Our future president could be a civil servant from any of the 50 public-service positions out there, or a chief executive from one of the 1200 private companies in Singapore with an average shareholders’ equity at or exceeding $500 million. So if you move past the fact that the President’s role is not something one is born into, what makes it so different from a monarch?
For starters, our future President would get to live in the stunning Istana – which means “palace” in Malay! (Bet you didn’t know that!)
They would also not be from any political party, serving as a symbol of national unity, transcending political divisions and representing the entire nation. So they hold limited political power, in which they will not directly influence the day-to-day running of the government.
Then, they are paid handsomely with an annual salary of S$1,540,000… Starting to sound awfully familiar isn’t it?
Furthermore, do we really get to choose? Our current president Halimah Yacob was uncontested in the 2017 elections as she was the only candidate that was granted an eligibility certificate, which was reserved for candidates from the Malay community, who had not held the presidency since 1970. Though she might not be born into the role of President, we certainly did not choose her. Thus, critics argue that it is as undemocratic as it gets! The reserved Presidential election was seen by some as an elaborate plan to block the candidacy of Tan Cheng Bock, who had lost by a thin margin of 0.35% in the 2011 Presidential elections to Tony Tan Keng Yam, a former deputy prime minister. This gave rise to the 2017 Presidential Election being mockingly referred to as the “Tan Cheng Block,” disguised under the imperative of preserving racial peace. Of course, such allegations have been denied by the Singaporean government, and the topic remains a heated debate.
Of course we must factor in the fact that Halimah Yacob and her successors don’t get to assume office forever – which is what Queen Elizabeth II’s reign felt like. Presidents have a limited tenure of six years. Meanwhile, monarchs can rule for a lifetime. Additionally, the 2017 Constitutional Amendments provide for a presidential election to be reserved for a community in Singapore if no one from that community has been President for any of the five most recent terms – essentially a rotation of races. We can then say that our Presidential elections, though largely meritocratic, account for multiculturalism and actually view it as a priority. You can’t really say the same for the monarchy right? I’m sure Meghan Markle has a lot to say about respecting race. Her startling claim about a member of the royal family approaching her during her pregnancy, expressing concerns about their son potentially having a dark complexion, left the world in disbelief. So while our Presidency bears some surprising similarities to a monarchy, there are definitely a few key differences that make it all the more democratic.
SG Elected President, akin to a monarch?
|Ceremonial role: Both the Singaporean President and a monarch primarily perform ceremonial duties, representing their respective countries at home and abroad and presiding over state functions.||Method of appointment: Halimah Yacob was elected to the presidency, whereas a monarch typically inherits their position through birthright and lineage.|
|Residence: Halimah Yacob resides in the Istana, which is the official residence of the President of Singapore, similar to how a monarch resides in a royal palace or official residence.||Tenure: The Singaporean President serves a fixed term (currently six years) and can be re-elected for another term, while monarchs usually serve for life or until they abdicate.|
|Limited political power: Both the Singaporean President and a constitutional monarch have limited political power and do not directly influence the day-to-day running of the government, which is primarily managed by elected officials.||Specific powers: The Singaporean President has some powers enshrined in the constitution, such as safeguarding the national reserves and overseeing public service appointments. These powers may differ from those of a constitutional monarch, which can vary depending on the constitutional arrangements of their country.|
|Symbol of unity: Both the President and a monarch can serve as a symbol of national unity, transcending political divisions and representing the entire nation.|
In essence, before being so quick to dismiss the Windsors as unnecessary and a symbol of a bygone era, let the upcoming Singapore Presidential Election be a stark reminder that perhaps the desire for a symbolic figurehead is more universal than we thought. So, as we sip our tea and watch the spectacle unfold, let us take a moment to laugh at the absurdity of it all. For in the end, whether it’s a king on his throne or a president in the Istana, the age-old tale of power and prestige continues to captivate us all. And as we witness the theatricality of the Royal Rumble, we can’t help but be amused by the striking similarities between King Charles’ lavish coronation and Singapore’s elected presidency – perhaps a truly remarkable tale of two crowns.
And at least in Singapore, I still have a
very long shot on becoming our future Royal President.
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