What is a constitutional monarchy and how does England’s government differ from ours? Brittany and Ronni also discuss the passing of Queen Elizabeth and what this means for the English monarchy.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi, Ronni.

Ronni: Hi, Brittany.

Brittany: So, I planned this episode months ago, actually, and it kept getting pushed back cause we just had more time-sensitive things and now it feels super appropriate given current events. But for starters, remember listeners, you’re listening to this after like, much after we recorded it, sometimes a couple of months. But for those listening right now, the Queen of England just died and she was very old. She was like 96 years old. But I wanted to talk about what a monarchy is, and this is a really good time, I think, to talk about that because as a queen, she was part of the monarchy. So a monarchy is kind of an ism except it doesn’t end in ism. So it might be confusing, but it’s, it’s of that, like how it’s like an ideology or a type of government. So if you live under a monarchy, you live in a society that’s ruled by royalty. So think like a king or a queen. And at the time, you know, we’re recording this again mid-September, the Queen has just, yeah. Died. So, that’s crazy. I don’t know, have you ever, did you ever follow the Royal family? Ronni? Is this something you ever did?

Ronni: Oh, I think briefly when, you know, I’m always interested when they’re having their babies. So, you know, like when Princess Kate was having her kids, I was interested, oh wait, you know what? I also think I stayed up, or no, I woke up super early in the morning to watch, Kate and Williams’ wedding.

Brittany: You do.

Ronni: It’s four o’clock in the morning or something.

Brittany: That Is so funny.

Ronni: Outta curiosity.

Brittany: Well, and I think, so there was a lady, so Prince Charles is now the king now that the queen has died. And he used to be married to Princess Diana, who was huge in the news. Everybody liked her and she tragically died in a car accident. And I was about 11 and I remember my mom crying and I remember thinking to myself, you didn’t know her. Why are you crying? But it was such a symbol, which actually, this brings me to a good point. It’s such a symbol to people that they make such like a big deal out of it. So let’s talk about the queen. So she was 96, as I said, and some of you might be thinking like, wait a second, we still have kings and queens. Isn’t that just something out of fantasy books? But, the answer is yes, but they don’t have quite as much power as they did before. So let’s kind of go back for a second. So back in olden times, you know, nations were ruled by kings and queens. though it was mostly kings, not queens, there was a, it ran through the male line. In fact, sometimes they would go so far as like if a woman was next in line to have the throne, they’d be like, oh, okay, well let’s go through the nephew or the brother or the cousin. Like, let’s find another boy. So they didn’t really love letting women be queens.

Ronni: Yeah. That, there’s a whole history of that. There’s a whole history there.

Brittany: But monarchs are actually the oldest form of government, at least in the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom is basically another word for England and territories. It gets really confusing. I don’t know if this has ever confused you, Ronni, but we have like Britain, England, the UK, and even now like I use them interchangeably. Like, I don’t know if I’m doing that right, but I feel like, okay, it’s pretty much everything England rules and something people may not know is Canada is actually still under the UK.

Ronni: Oh yeah, that’s right.

Brittany: So, Isn’t that crazy? And I always forget that. And you’re probably thinking like, oh, don’t they have a prime minister? And yes, and we’ll get to that in just a minute. But, so these, the old school monarchies, they let royalty rule like absolutely meaning they had ultimate authority. So, you know, if the king wanted a war, he got one. If the king wanted his own people killed, he got that too. And if he wanted to pass high taxes, he got that as well. And I don’t know, you guys might remember a little, ragtag group of revolutionaries who rebelled against a king who tried to pass taxes without them, consenting, no taxation without representation. So that’s something I think for us Americans we’re all very aware of. But I wanna talk about this thing, that helped the kings justify ruling ultimately without any checks and balances. And that is something called the divine right of kings. And this was always really fascinating to me. ’cause when I took my constitutional law classes in college, this was pretty much the opposite of the rule of law that we have in America. So the divine right of kings was basically the kings would justify their power by saying, as the king, you know, as this royal bloodline, I have been, you know, anointed by God pretty much. So everything I say is pretty much everything God wants, therefore divine, divine meaning like divinity, meaning God. I can do it, you know, I have the power to rule because God gave me this authority.

Ronni: Do you know when that started? Like, do you know when the first, you know, they first determined the divine right of kings, someone just took over and then said, Hey, I have a divine right.

Brittany: That’s really good, I don’t question it. Yeah, I don’t know either. That’s good, okay, we love, I know a lot of times Connor and I will say, Hey listeners, here’s a homework assignment for you. And that would be an interesting one for you guys because I’m not sure my gut tells me that this is specific to Britain, that it was like, that was a British, royalty monarch thing. But again, I could be wrong. That’s a really good question. So challenging for you guys. So yeah, so with that, it was really easy for monarchs to abuse their power, right? Because nobody was there to keep them in line. Nobody was there to say like, Hey, you know, this might be weird, but I don’t really think God gave you all this power. And at the time too, like peasants or the people they ruled over, they weren’t educated. They didn’t have a lot of, you know, they didn’t have the internet to research things to see if they were aware of other, of other ways that could exist. So that’s really crazy to think about the time that they lived in. So we live in a constitutional republic, right? A constitutional republic are where our leaders are elected and that there are small pockets that, represent us. So like you have Congress, right? You have the Senate, you have the House of Representatives, now in Monarchs, the power is passed down through your bloodline. So again, it’s the luck, of the family, right? So if your family was royalty, then you were gonna grow up in a pretty, pretty rich, pretty well-to-do home. And that also meant that the passing down, like who was gonna be king next also had to run in the family. And that’s why Kings always wanted to have sons. When you look through history, there’s always like, that’s caused a lot of problems actually, is that Kings wanted to have sons.

Ronni: Henry VIII, isn’t he the famous one for, you know, never getting the air he wanted and then going through many different wives too, for his air.

Brittany: I can’t remember how many he had, but he had a lot of wives. Yeah. For exactly that reason.

Ronni: He’s the eight or something I think, right?

Brittany: He’s he the one that got divorced? He’s the big.

Ronni: He’s the, yeah. To Ann Bolin. And, because he only had like two daughters at first and then he kept marrying other wives and that they were, he, you know, sentenced them to death the whole track story.

Brittany: Isn’t that crazy? And I believe if I’m thinking of the right one, which I think I am, that’s how you got a difference between what became the Anglican Church, Church of England, and the Catholic church, because yes, Catholics said no divorce. And he’s like, I want a male heir, I’m gonna get a divorce. Yeah. That it’s a fascinating story. I’m so glad you brought that up. That didn’t even come to my mind when I thought about this episode. We might have to do a whole thing on that story. It’s really interesting. So yeah, I mean, they went through crazy links to try to get a son, and I don’t think he, he never got his son did he?

Ronni: He did finally, one of the last wives, but then, he died when he was a, I think he maybe made it to like young childhood, or even young teenagehood, and he died somewhere there. So then it passed on to his daughters.

Brittany: That’s so funny. I mean, it’s not funny. Death is terrible. But, you know, that’s funny that he did all these bad things and didn’t forget. I know. Oh dear. All right, so Ronni, I’m gonna put you on the spot here for a second. Do you know what part of our constitution stops the executive, our president, or even Congress from getting too powerful?

Ronni: Well, isn’t it just the, you know, that there’s the different powers, the checks and balances that they can, you know, each vote and balance each other out?

Brittany: Yep, that’s exactly right. So we have the separation of powers, and then that’s kept in line by checks and balances. So separation of powers says, you know, only the legislative branch, only Congress can make laws. the executive branch has to, can execute the laws or enforce the laws. And then, the judicial branch, you know, has the that’s the courts. So that was created the checks belt, so nobody could get too powerful. Now they didn’t have that in England until 1215, which we’ll get to in a minute. But, so there, it started before the Revolutionary War, but that was a big part of when you saw the monarchy in England, stop, start to lose their power. But we didn’t come up with this idea on our own, you know, we got a lot of ideas from British, scholars, actually, British philosophers who had been critical of the king. So, one of my favorite stories in all of history is the signing of the Magna Carta, which happened in 1215. So the Magna Carta, There’s Prince John, I believe his name was, and he’s the one in Robinhood, if you’ve ever seen the cartoon. I grew up in the cartoon. That’s the king in question.

Ronni: Robin Robinhood and Little John Martin through the Forest.

Brittany: It’s one of the classics. It’s so good. So that king who’s portrayed in that movie, he’s the one that the landowners that the nobles rebelled against. So back in the day, you had the king, and then you had like the wealthy land ovals that the nobles as they were called, and then they would let people live in their land. No, they weren’t great either. There’s a lot to be said there. But they helped bring power back to the people as much as you could back then. So they were sick of the king, just giving them, you know, passing taxes without asking them and using their property. Sometimes the king would just come and take their property when they felt like it. So they held him at Sword Point. And you have to remember, like, as I said, the king could put anyone to death he wanted to, so this was a bold move. So they basically kidnapped him, held him at Sword Point, and said, you are going to sign the Magna Carta, which is going to say that like you are a limited monarchy, meaning like, we’re now kind of this word wasn’t, but a constitutional monarchy, meaning you don’t have the divine right of kings anymore. We’re gonna go in a checks and balance system, you know, we’re gonna have a say in what you do. And that was huge for the history of the world. Like that had never been done huge before. Right. It’s huge. So then in 18 or 1689, that is when the official monarchy became a constitutional monarchy. And that meant that you had these different parts of the British government, right? So the king was still sovereign. He still could rule into, or like, you know, he was like the head ruler, but then you had, what are they called? It wasn’t Congress. Why can’t I think of what it’s called? Parliament? Oh my goodness. Oh yeah, parliament, yeah. , who was able to make the laws and have input in that. So 1688, 1689, that’s way before the Americans declared independence, right? Yeah. That’s like a full hundred years before. So you see that the groundwork was laid, which is really interesting to me. So flash forward, we have, you know, our American history, we fought against this. We wanted to not have a monarchy, or most of us didn’t, but there was a few people even after the war that did want a monarchy. So Alexander Hamilton was very passionate. He wanted America to have a king, not the king we had, but he wanted a king, which I just think is crazy. and he wanted him to rule for a lifetime like kings. John Adams wasn’t as extreme, but he was a little bit in favor of the monarchy too. And he wanted us to call the president Your Majesty. And people were so mad at that ’cause they’re like, Hey, we just fought a war to get rid of this and you guys wanna come back and do that. So, that’s pretty funny. And in my opinion, alright.

Ronni: Actually interesting. So we should talk about that maybe another time. But I’m curious why they would want a king. What were they thinking? But who knows?

Brittany: No, that’s a really, good idea for an episode. We’ll have to do that. I like that. so let’s talk about England today. So there is still royalty, but they pretty much have no power. But in England, tradition is really important. That’s why, you know, even, you know, Ronni said she got up and she watched the wedding when, Prince Boy, the son of the now king got married. And it’s why they’re in the tabloids and these magazines of gossip about celebrities that people like to read. So people love watching this royal family because of what it represents of England’s history. Now the problem with this is they do all these extravagant things, right? Host all these parties, but Ronni, who’s paying for these parties?

Ronni: Well the people, right?

Brittany: That’s where they’re getting their money.

Ronni: They don’t have storehouses of it anymore.

Brittany: Exactly. So it’s just the taxpayers of England just like funding these royals to live their rich fancy lives. So it’s, at the end of the day, it’s, theft, just like our government is funded by. So, to sum it all up before we wind down this episode. So a monarchy is a form of government where a king rules over. And for the most part, he rules unlimitedly, you know, indefinitely. And that’s passed down to his children if they wanna really get in a constitutional monarch. ’cause we’re the king rules, but they’re not really responsible for making laws. They have some limitations on what they can do. So that’s better. I think technically what Britain has now is still a constitutional monarchy. But again, the royal family really has no say in politics. In fact, here’s an interesting thing. They’re not even allowed to vocalize their political views. That’s not something that they’re supposed to even chime in on. Yeah. So that’s really interesting as well. So we will leave it there. So thank you so much for listening, and please like and subscribe to our podcast and tell all your friends about it. And Ronni, until next time, we’ll talk to you later.

Ronni: All right, see you soon.