British Monarchy in 2022 – a Polish perspective

It was June 2012. It seems like yesterday, however it has been 10 years since I had the opportunity to meet the Queen. I just left the hospital where I was treated for kidney stones. Although I felt weak and under the weather, I wanted to be ready for the big occasion.

June 2012 was also a busy month at work. In actual fact, it was a busy year for the UK as we were hosting the Olympic Games whereas Poland and Ukraine were organising the European Championship in football.

The Queen came to Hatfield House to visit her cousin. I was selected to be one of only 30 people from Hertfordshire, who had the opportunity to meet her. Our conversation lasted maybe 60-90 seconds. The Queen asked about my origins and whether I liked living in the UK. I must admit that I was surprised that despite her age, she looked “sharp”, focused and in good health.

The dust has settled after the Bank Holiday Weekend and the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. It might be a good moment to think about the role and relevance of the monarchy in the UK in 2022.

I will never forget a “corridor conversation” with a good friend of mine, who comes originally from Trinidad and Tobago. She said that as a child, instead of learning about the history of her beautiful country, she was taught the history of Great Britain. Quite a recent visit to the Caribbean islands by Prince William and Duchess Kate demonstrates how strongly, in some cases, the resentment towards monarchy is embedded in the mind-set of some of the former British colonies. Painful history of British dominance, which often resulted in the suffering of indigenous population, is amplified by the huge drive of many countries across the globe for independence and self-government.

This is not only a “British problem”. France, Belgium or Portugal, particularly in Africa, also shows how hard it is to maintain the importance of any monarchy in the XXI century. The most recent royal scandals in the UK and Spain also show how difficult it might be to change that perception in the future. I must admit that as a Pole, who has been living in the UK for the last 17 years, the “public hierarchy” is still deeply enrooted in our society. Is it right to inherit your status or position only because you were born into a particular social fabric?

Poland lost its last King in 1795. This is when Poland disappeared from the map of Europe. We only re-gained our independence in 1918. Until the XVIII century, Poland also had a long history of monarchy, however due to our recent history, it is almost a forgotten subject.

I am neither for nor against the monarchy. It is sometimes easier to sit on the fence. However, there is one other aspect of last weeks’ celebrations, which is worth highlighting. One of our national newspapers reported that 17 million people took part in various Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. After two years of the pandemic, an upcoming struggle with the cost of living crisis, I was so pleased to see thousands of people up and down the country coming together and showing phenomenal community spirit. Re-building, re-galvanising our neighbourhoods, enhancing residents’ relationships has never been more important. I was delighted to get an invite to one of these events; it was so nice to have a simple conversation, away from politics, about tennis, weather, traveling or learning languages.

The monarchy will not “evaporate”. It will most certainly stay with us for a feasible future, most probably in a different form or shape. I am certain the many of us will continue to elaborate on the role of the monarchy in today’s society. I predict that the number of people opposing it will grow. However, I am pleased that last week’s events and celebration played a huge part in strengthening our cultural identity and enhancing our communities. Any opportunity to bring people together will have my full support.

 

 

* Michal Siewniak is a Lib Dem activist and councillor for Handside ward, Welwyn Hatfield.

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4 Comments

  • I’m not sure the Polish monarchy is a forgotten subject, either in Poland or elsewhere. Certainly not those of us in Scotland who are aware of the Polish connection with “Bonnie Prince Charlie” (not least the fact that he was teh great-grandson of the great Jan Sobieski).

    One observation that Michał does not make is that Polish monarchs – at least from Henryk Walezy (1573) onwards – were elected. There was no hereditary basis for inheriting the throne. Perhaps the Polish model is a relevant starting point for considering the future of Britain’s monarchy?

  • George Thomas 9th Jun '22 - 9:40am

    “After two years of the pandemic, an upcoming struggle with the cost of living crisis, I was so pleased to see thousands of people up and down the country coming together and showing phenomenal community spirit.”

    I wonder if there was any analysis done of where the gathering were happening? If, for example, gatherings were in wealthy councils/streets but not poorer ones with invites not shared around, then this isn’t a coming together at all. Can one argue that we saw a four day party for older, wealthier people and their offspring while rest of us were told not to talk about cost-of-living (or other politics) because it would be disrespectful to the Queen? I honestly don’t know.

  • I would challenge the estimate of 17 million people taking part in various Jubilee celebrations. Certainly, looking around the neighbourhoods I passed through during those four days, I saw nowhere near a quarter of local people doing anything. So maybe that figure includes people who watched at least one jubilee program on TV in the privacy of their own homes – nothing to do with bringing people together there.

    I would point to the preamble in our party’s Federal constitution. It says we “oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality”. It is as explicit as can be. There’s no wriggle room there! While I understand that the party is not about to go out and campaign for a republic any day soon, I find it hard to see how we can add any rosy tint to the monarchy in this day and age.

  • I suggest you read Queen Elizabeth’s letter written during the second world war in “Counting One’s Blessings” before you make such vacuous comments about the role and use of the monarchy. I suggest you start blaming the politicians and the uninformed voter before endorsing any imagined qualifications on them to rule.

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