Top Five Hilarious Monarchy Facts

It’s Jubilee weekend soon, celebrating 60 years of Elizabeth II’s reign (the second longest next to Victoria). To celebrate, I thought I’d give you my top five facts on the British Monarchy. Add your own in the comments!

Prince Charles is an interfering wizard

Like Dumbledore but on the wrong side, Prince Charles likes nothing better than to stick his nose where it isn’t wanted, particularly on his pet subject alternative medicine. He’s been exposed secretly writing to British government officials pushing for his wacky ideas to become policy, and enjoys endorsing companies like Ainsworths of London which in 2011 was caught selling homeopathic polio and typhoid vaccines. Accio yellow fever!

Gender equality only just arrived

And only then because of the embarrassment it would have caused if Kate and William had been silly enough to have a baby girl followed by a baby boy. You see, up until, well, now, the male heir of a royal family took precedence for the throne. We only have a Queen now because she had no younger brother. That’s right. For hundreds of years older sisters have been denied rule if they had a younger brother. Men being more qualified and less obsessed with tiaras or something.

Freedom of religion still hasn’t arrived

A future British monarch may now marry a Catholic, but may not become a Catholic, because they’re all evil backstabbing bastards with funny customs. In 1701 there was a little panic that the selfishly childless William III would die and leave these shores wide open for the Catholics to come back and steal our jobs and women, and probably fiddle with our altar boys, so a law was passed banning them from being monarch. The marriage ban was addressed in 2011 at the same time as the gender problem, but the monarch still can’t convert if he/she wanted to because you can’t be head of the Church of England and be a Catholic. It’s a totally different God. Imagine a Rabbi being Chairman of the Pork Sandwich Tasting Society. Ridiculous.

The Queen owns the swans

All the unmarked mute swans in Britain, they’re all the Queen’s. She can’t do anything with them, it’s illegal to kill one, although she gives them as gifts now and again. In 2007 Prime Minister Gordon Brown tried to remove her ownership and title, Seigneur of the Swans, but presumably nothing came of that because in 2009 she attended the annual Swan Upping ceremony (where the birds are counted and checked) for the first time ever. I can’t find any update so perhaps some sort of use-them-or-lose-them deal was struck. Apparently she also owns all the dolphins and whales around British waters. I would definitely want to keep the swans. I just like saying the word. Swan.

The Queen was a hologram before Tupac made it cool.

Okay, okay, the Tupac thing wasn’t a hologram. But it was still cooler than the weirdly unsatisfying holoqueen portrait from 2003 (pic at top of post). Read the PDF for a full description of nearly a decade-old technology or just look at the other portrait of Liam Gallagher in the document and laugh with me.

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  1. Just fyi…this post doesn’t have a title, so it appears on Facebook, etc, as

  2. The real important question here is… how can I apply for the pork sandwich tasting society and do you accept Americans?

  3. Did you mean she’s only queen because she doesn’t have a *younger* brother? An older brother would have precedent regardless of Elizabeth’s gender, right? So really, Elizabeth is only queen because she has NO brothers.

    1. That’s absolutely right. Elizabeth only had a younger sister, the late princess Margaret. And the issue of gender didn’t arise for Elizabeth’s children, since Charles is the eldest.

      (Now, I’m also the eldest of my siblings, so I’m all for primogeniture. Never mind trying to see who’s most qualified… Ahem.)

      1. I totally forgot Margaret was dead :S Not sure where I thought she was, though…

        1. In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the character Madge attempts to get a discount to join some club by claiming to be Princess Margaret and is politely informed that Margaret has been dead for 9 years.

  4. I just learned that Elizabeth’s mother’s name was also Elizabeth. Is that more common in the UK?

    1. Nope, not common at all. Royals are a law unto themselves though. Naming your child after yourself always strikes me as a bit proud.

      1. I wonder if it’s common even among the nobility. Obviously men do it all the time, but on the TV show “Gilmore Girls,” a big deal was made of the fact that Lorelei named her daughter after herself (and her grandmother).

    2. It’s not that uncommon in the US.

      Spend any time at all in the black community and you’ll meet multiple dudes with Roman Numerals at the end of their names. One of my buddies in High School was Ozie III. That’s not a typo he is the third Ozie in his family. In Middle School at least one kid went by his middle name to distinguish him from his father, which confused the hell out of subs because there was no Dwight on the official attendance list.

      Basically any family that thinks their family identity will be very important to their kids will do this. It doesn’t tend to happen in the white community as much, because whites are much more likely to worry that their kids creativity will be stifled by his need to live up to his name. It also happens less with girls, because in a patrilineal society there’s no real tradition of using your daughters to continue your family name.

      But all Royal Families are strongly in the “Family Tradition will be important to this kid” faction, and the Queen herself has three family names – she’s Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.

  5. In 1936 King Edward VIII was forced to abdicate since, as the head of the Church of England, he could not marry a divorced woman (Wallis Simpson in his case) whose former husband was still alive. It will be interesting to see if this precedent is applied to Prince Charles.

    1. Because Camilla is divorced and Andrew Parker-Bowles is still alive, the marriage was determined to be semi-morganatic, which is why Camilla is the Duchess of Cornwall and not Princess of Wales.

      If APB dies before the Queen, then Camilla will become Queen alongside Charles as King; otherwise she will become Duchess of Lancaster (the senior non-royal title of the monarch).

    2. “Could not” is an exaggeration. There was no real law saying the King can’t marry a divorcee.

      The problem is there’s a strong custom saying the King can’t take himself off the marriage-alliance market without permission from his elected Prime Minister. And the elected PM was not in the mood to grant permission for him to marry this divorcee.

      Which Prime Minister Baldwin was not willing to grant, because when the King asked Wallis Simpson was both a divorcee and a married woman. She’d married a US Navy officer, left him for a financier. When the financier ran out of money she had an Emperor literally begging his PM for her hand. But she didn’t get the actual divorce from the financier until October when the Crisis was full-blown.

      It’s not just the royalty stuff.

      The entire British system is based entirely on custom, which is not written down anywhere. Even places that borrow the British model tend to leave important bits un-written, so the words “Prime Minister” do not appear in the Canadian Constitution. The PM is implied by the preamble (IIRC the exact phrase is “establish a government in the British style”), and talked about as Chair of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, but if you read the document without knowing how important those phrases were you’d believe the Queen basically rules by decree.

      It’s really hard for Americans to even begin to understand this stuff, because it’s not like anybody can quote a single document where it’s all written down in one place. You just have to know the shit everybody knows, and things get intricate and nobody bothers learning those intricacies.

  6. “They’re all evil back stabbing bastards with funny customs” god damn I have missed you here Tracy.

    1. Frankly, I can’t see anything wrong with keeping the Catholic Church out of anything. I’d prefer a secular monarchy (whatever that would mean — unless it would be like Simon Cowell being in charge of everything), but if you’re going to have a state church, the CofE isn’t the worst one you could pick.

  7. soooo…none of the royals even have a magic sword from a lady of the lake or something? What. A. Crime.

  8. I remember the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting agreed that the monarchy should have gender equality and be allowed to marry a Catholic, but I hadn’t heard that the actual laws had been passed. Did I miss that, or is it the CHOGM resolution you are referring to? (Does each country of which the queen is monarch have to pass their own law? I would presume so.)

    If the queen can actually control all those swans, it is no wonder she’s in charge. No way would I oppose someone with an army of swans. They are vicious and pure evil. I got mugged by swans on Boston Common once. They were so big, they could look me in the eye when I was standing, and I’m 1.85m tall. At least in my part of the world the swans wear black, so they aren’t pretending not to be evil.

    1. Each country has to pass its own law, and none of them come into effect until they are all passed. But when they do, they’re all backdated to the CHOGM resolution, so it will have been true today.

    2. Each country has to pass its own law, and none of them come into effect until they are all passed. But when they do, they’re all backdated to the CHOGM resolution, so it will have been true today.

  9. Queen Liz has met 1000s of foreign dignitaries whilst stood next to Prince Phillip. Not one war has broken out because of this.

    She’s probably the world’s greatest living diplomat…

  10. My wife is British and she thinks the Monarchy is tolerable and good for UK tourism. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it usually puts an end to any denigrating statements that I might make about the inbred accidents of western Europe’s ancient gangster families. The royals really are histories detritus pathetically and desperately trying to look busy and relevant in a vain attempt to grasp faux importance.

    1. “Pathetic” is of course a value judgement you’re welcome to, although you’d only find a minority of actual “subjects” agreeing with you, but “desperately” and “faux importance” seems to me to be demonstrably wrong.
      I can only write about Norwegian conditions, but they appear to apply to all the European monarchies I know about. There’s barely any political or public desire in Norway for a republic. If we didn’t have the royals we would almost certainly replace them with a nearly powerless head-of-state president who’d do the same ribbon cutting, foreign dignitary dining and official international travel as the royal family does.
      Where’s the desperation? How are they less important than barely even heard of President of Germany Joachim Gauck? Have you even heard of him, or his three predecessors this century, Christian Wulff, Horst Köhler and Johannes Rau?
      The only reason I recognise Christian Wulff’s name is because it was a quiz question a couple of months back. But even then I’d have been unable to remember it if someone had asked me 20 minutes ago.

    2. Johann Hari, pointed out in an artical “This royal frenzy should embarrass us all” ( ) :

      “The claims then drift even further from reality. We are told that the Windsor family is great for tourism. In fact, of the top 20 tourist attractions in Britain, only one is related to the monarchy – Windsor Castle, at number 17. Ten places ahead is Windsor Legoland. So using that logic, we should make a Lego man our head of state.”

      1. In the UK it’s common to find intellectuals who hate the Monarchy. And when intellectuals hate things there’s never a shortage of well-reasoned arguments debunking them.

        However I have never seen a poll showing that less then 70% of Brits oppose the Monarchy. The Scottish Nationalists make a point of saying seceding from Britain does not mean firing the Queen.

        As for that gentleman’s argument I have to point out he’s missing the point of his opponents. As an American when I go to Europe I don’t go to theme parks, Legoland, etc. for the simple reason that I don’t need to have a passport to see those things. I can do that in Cali, or Florida, and have better weather. OTOH I can’t see the field where a warrior-King made his name, or Buckingham Palace, which houses an institution that existed for half a millenium before my ancestors knew there was a Florida.

        I’m not saying US History isn’t fascinating. But I am saying that it is different from Europe, and when I go to Europe I am not paying thousand$ to see President of Box 23b on the map. I could do that in Costa Rica.

    3. Here’s the appeal of Monarchy.

      A few years back (2008, IIRC) there was Constitutional crisis in Canada. The government almost won a majority in an October election. They decided to pretend they had a majority and cut public funding of political parties, which would totally screw everyone but them.

      The opposition united and informed the world at large that they intended to fire the Prime Minister. They had no plausible replacement (the obvious candidate, the head of the Liberal Party, had resigned after losing the election and hadn’t been replaced). Due to the immutable Constitutional principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty PM Harper was supposed to be fired.

      Unfortunately for them he was still PM until they could get Parliament to convene, so he abruptly announced Parliament had done everything it was supposed to do (even tho it hadn’t actually voted on anything since being elected), and it was Prorogued. Due to the Immutable Constitutional Principle of Responsible Government PM Harper was supposed to get away with this and not be fired.

      The legal solution to this complex question is not obvious. But fortuneately Canada is a monarchy. The person responsible for making this decision (the Governor-General, Michelle Jean IIRC) could call someone with 50 years of experience in a system with the exact same Constitutional principles.

      The Queen pointed out that Parliamentary Constitutional Principles exist solely to a) make the government run smooth and b) protect everyone’s freedom. Going with the opposition and firing Harper would make things not run smooth because it would guarantee a new election, and the opposition didn’t even know who to make PM. Going with the prorogation would make things go smooth, and if the Opposition could gets it’s act together and agree on a new PM they’d only have lost a few months of Harper being fired. In other words caving to Harper have been legally the wrong thing to do, but it was also the least stupid thing to do.

  11. Sweden dropped absolute male primogeniture for the throne in 1980, moving firstborn princess Victoria into crown-princess place and bumping younger brother Carl Philip (a year old at the time) to runner-up position.

    Norway dropped absolute male primogeniture in 1990, but didn’t make it retroactive, so younger brother Haakon Magnus stayed the heir to the throne. I don’t know if her family already knew she’d turn into a loony at the time, but it was a lucky escape. It’s possible thought that she would claim telepathic communication with animals, and she definitely wouldn’t have started a “school” teaching how to get in touch with their angels, if she had been made heir at 19. She’s moving to London now. Enjoy.

    In the weak step towards separation of church and state just passed into law, our current king demanded the paragraph restricting the king to the national lutheran church remain.

    But at least we don’t have prince Charles.

  12. As crazy as the monarchy can be, I sometimes feel that Queen Elizabeth is much more tolerable and much more sensible than all of Parliament put together.

  13. The monarchy seems to be equally good for tourism in a republic. In fact, it’s much easier to enjoy the monarchy in France since they’re not there anymore. See, as a tourist, you don’t generally don’t get to meet the monarchs anyway, so it’s actually better if they’re gone so you can get a better look at all the trappings of monarchy (castles and whatnot) as no actual monarchs are occupying them.

    We’ve a monarchy here in Denmark too and it’s pointless, wasteful and a spit in the eye of democratic principle.

    So I say, let’s give the French a call and hear if they can give us a good offer on a used guillotine! ;-)

  14. Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you. If I went ’round sayin’ I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away.

  15. You’re taking the press releases issued at the Head of Government Conference too seriously.

    The changes you are talking about will not happen until all 16 Commonwealth governments change their Constitutions to make them happen. This, in turn, cannot happen because the Canadian Constitution requires all 10 provinces to agree to any amendment to the Act of Settlement. Which means that Quebec has to agree.

    Quebec was not at this conference. They have not signed this press release.

    They have a long history of taking perfectly reasonable demands from the federal government for Constitutional change, and refusing said demands until their demands for further autonomy are met. The Canadian equivalent of the US Bill of Rights, their Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for example was not passed under normal Constitutional rules.

    It was passed by the British Parliament, as an amendment to the British North America Act of 1867. In every other case where the Crown has granted a colony independence by an Act they haven’t retained the right to actually change the act, but they needed some BS to get the Quebecois to agree that freedom was good idea; so Trudeau and Thatcher mad up some BS and imposed it on everyone.

    And that’s just Canada. The Caribbean is dominated by Evangelical Christians who think the Pope is the Anti-Christ and don’t like Feminist ideas about female equality. They are gonna put this off as long as possible. And Quebec gives the excuse.

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