Why I’m respectfully declining the invitation to ‘pledge my allegiance’ to the King

While she lived, the late Queen commanded a degree of respect, even among ardent republicans. But she is gone, her long reign over – and it is time for change

Antonia Honeywell
Monday 01 May 2023 14:29 BST
GMB guest disapproves idea of pledging allegiance to King

I was a Brownie Guide, back in 1981. Charles and Diana were engaged and the royal wedding was huge. I liked the ring and I liked the dress – and at school, we designed stamps and souvenir plates and laid plans to marry the first-born son so we could be princesses too (although, apparently, a 12-year age gap didn’t work that way round).

The Brownies and Guides in our area were herded up in the school playground for royal wedding games (“create the wedding dress out of crepe paper!”) before watching the wedding on a wheeled-in television in the school hall.

It was fun. And, years later, I liked the Queen jumping into the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony from a helicopter with James Bond. I loved Platinum Jubilee Paddington and the secret contents of the royal handbag.

But the power of a charming marmalade sandwich has its limits. While she lived, the late Queen commanded a degree of respect, even among ardent republicans. But she is gone, her long reign over – and it is time for change.

And that is why it feels so strange and so outdated that we are all being invited to swear an oath of allegiance to the king at the coronation by saying the following words: “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to your majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law.”

After a fanfare, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will say: “God Save The King”, to which we are all invited to respond, if we wish: “God Save King Charles. Long Live King Charles. May The King live forever.”

It ends, “So help me God”. Ironically, this is exactly how I feel about the state of Great Britain right now.

It is, to put it simply, an odd move to invite people to “pledge allegiance”, when that is not the relationship most of us have with the royals. It’s probably true that most people quite like them and want to keep them. But translating that into a more formal “pledge” smacks of subservience – which seems a little tone-deaf, to say the least.

After all, King Charles III comes to the throne of a nation in which food banks have gone from a rare presence to an essential mainstay of far too many lives. Children go hungry to school, to learn in buildings that are not properly maintained, from teachers struggling to afford secure housing.

Charles is king of a country that can’t find the money to pay its nurses properly, but can find more than £100 million for a coronation. It is a country still bearing the aftermath of a devastating pandemic; a country in which the prime minister partied, while our loved ones died alone.

It is a country in which the refugees who were once welcomed, supported and enabled to thrive – indeed, one of whom went on to create the very music to which Queen Elizabeth II tapped her teaspoon – are now left to drown in dangerous Channel crossings, while plans persist to fly those who make it to Britain unscathed to Rwanda for processing. There are even plans to deport Afghan war heroes. “Great” Britain is in trouble.

Not even the clinking of the royal teaspoon in time with the introductory bars of “We Will Rock You” at the Platinum Party at the palace could outweigh our collective awareness of the vast expense of the royal family to the taxpayer, especially in conjunction with their staggering private wealth; or neutralise the memory of Prince Andrew talking about loyalty, sweat and the Woking branch of Pizza Express on Newsnight.

Yet, all the while, chrism oil has been pressed from olives from the Mount of Olives and consecrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Priceless jewels and ornaments are being buffed up.

To me, this feels completely out of step with what the country actually wants – and needs. I want that £100 million – and the £100 million the taxpayer annually pays for the monarchy’s upkeep – to go towards our nurses, our schools, our public services and towards decent affordable housing.

Many people in Britain today, I would dare to hazard, feel as I do. So, suggesting this pledge – in an attempt to redraw the basic relationship between the public and the monarchy – doesn’t really work.

I don’t think most people think the royals are any “better” than regular citizens. The wording of, “May The King live forever” feels like something from a bygone age. It’s out of place with the present day. And that’s putting it politely.

If we are to have a monarchy at all, then it needs to start real work. It is quite right that Charles should swear an oath of allegiance to the public he serves – not the other way around.

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