I’m a republican (with a very definite small r) and, as I didn’t get handed a nice little earner as a senior civil servant on my father’s retirement, I see no reason why Charles Windsor should get his Mum’s job—or anyone get it, for that matter. I’m quite happy to take down the monarchy, and as I’ve written elsewhere, jokes and satire are a very good way to undermine the presumption of the right to power upon which institutions such as the monarchy depend.
But then there’s this, retweeted by the Republic official account. And Frankie Boyle asking whether we should “be forced to sing songs about a German.” And Russell Brand’s Facebook idiocy. And many other dull variations on the same theme.
Can we stop this, please? The last monarch to be born outside of Great Britain was George II, in 1683. Mrs Windsor’s real name, Russell, is not Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, because it was changed to Windsor, and if we are republicans then surely we consider Elizabeth Windsor and her ancestors to be no different from us, and not due the special considerations they currently get. As such, they are just as entitled to nativization as anyone else and they are just as entitled to change their names as anyone else.
This is not simply a matter of being pedantic about a cheap, inaccurate, and lazy joke. In the poisonous atmosphere of anti-immigrant rhetoric that currently pervades our political culture, calling the Queen a German is not just a silly throw-away line, it is endorsing an almost BNPish refusal to accept that three hundred fucking years, for God’s sake, is enough to grant one the entitlement to be considered a citizen of a country. A narrative about immigration with which most progressive leftists would be unhappy is suddenly embraced when it comes to knocking the monarchy.
Please, stop. It’s an embarrassingly lazy and unoriginal joke, anyway, but in its dogmatic and far-right refusal to accept the fact that descendants of migrants have the right to be considered natives of the country in which they are born it is doing far more damage to ordinary people struggling against the xenophobia currently gripping the UK than it will ever do to Mrs Windsor.