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THE FUTURE OF MONARCHIES - Monkey AND Human (they both have issues)

Japan’s monkey queen, Yakei, is having some problems, according to an article in the New York Times (Japan’s Monkey Queen Faces Challenge to Her Reign: Mating Season). Last year, she overthrew the alpha male to become the first female leader in 70 years, presiding over some 677 monkeys. But this leadership appears tenuous as Yakei is caught in the middle of a love triangle which might be her downfall. Whatever occurs, the scientists are watching closely to see how a female monkey leads the group. Scientist Yu Kaigaishi is quoted: ”Japanese macaque society is so dramatic and unpredictable, which is why many people, both researchers and non-researchers, love to observe them.” Oh, and Yakei is a very old monkey, at 31 years of age.

I wonder why this got me thinking about the future of monarchies, especially the British royalty?

With our mother being British and never losing her connection to her homeland, we were most aware of, and never questioned, the existence of the royal family. This view was perpetuated by mom’s love for tabloids – and the British definitely know how to write a tabloid – as well as the coffee cups and cookie tins emblazoned with pictures of the royals that were normal décor in our household a million miles away on the flat prairies of western Canada. I could not wait to see Buckingham Palace and the pomp and circumstance of the changing of the guards, which I was fortunate to see in high school on a supposedly educational trip (that seemed to have a lot of parties involved) and then several times in later adult life. It really is a spectacle! (Some might say that ‘spectacle’ is the right word for the royal family.) And who can forget the introduction of Princess Diana into the mix. We maybe all had a bit of enthrallment with the idea of queens and princesses at that point. (In hindsight, for my generation, the Princess Diana debacle may have been the first suggestion that royal life might not be all that rosy.)

With time and age, you start to question the validity of some of those institutions you once thought were essential.

It turns out that this is a complicated issue. Not surprisingly, there are two clearly opposing sides and much to think about. And, yes, as Canadians, we do have a vested interest here, as removing the monarchy from the Constitution would require unanimous consent from all of the provinces, the House of Commons, and the Senate, as well as consultation with First Nations (global; Saba Aziz; 'Majority of Canadians want to ditch the British monarchy. How feasible is it?').

In the Guardian (, in an article by Andrew Anthony entitled 'The monarchy: so what are they for', it is pointed out that one question is how a hereditary monarchy can, with so much wealth and privilege, relate to the common folk. He describes the monarchy as a “kind of fiction”, the belief that one family can represent all the differences of a populace. One of his insightful quotes, relating to the next in line to the throne, Prince Charles: “ . . . it’s not clear how a man who is said to have his shoelaces ironed and his toothpaste squeezed by his valet, someone who travels with his own toilet seat and is a stickler for protocol, can hope to modernise an institution whose fustiness he in many ways embodies.” Further, there is the financial cost to consider. (The Growing Cost of the Royal Family to UK Taxpayers) points out that the monarchy cost 69.4. million pounds (or approximately $96 million in US dollars) in 2020 to the taxpayer.

In Future of Working (, in the article '22 Advantages and Disadvantages of Monarchy', Keith Miller identifies the negatives of a monarchy (generally speaking, not specific to the British royalty): minors sometimes become leaders, monarchies have a lot of power, there is “no guarantee of competency”, a monarchy could over-rule government and influence the public, it is a class-based society, some monarchies are rogue, the leader has the final say, the monarchy can replace elected officials if they choose, there is less diversity due to ‘from-birth’ training, one person tends to stay in power, and the sovereign is the "definition" of the country.

The ‘keep the royalty’ side, however, has their argument. First of all, as Andrew Anthony points out, with information from royal biographer Robert Lacey, the British royalty, although highly expensive to maintain, is also better “value for money” than some other royalties, promoting British charities and philanthropy. He further points out that one of the key roles of the monarchy is the involvement in a “host of functions, from the mundanely ceremonial to the arcanely constitutional”. (Just think of the crowds who gather for a ribbon-cutting or the excitement of receiving an invite to the royal garden party or the adoration of the hoards of worshippers who line up for hours for a glimpse of their favourite royal!) But he also adds that one of the most attractive aspects of the monarchy is the role of a “live-action soap opera”. (In my lifetime, off the top of my head, I can think of Princess Diana and her defiance of protocol, Charles’ love affair, “Fergie” and her fun escapades, Harry and Meghan’s ‘tell all’, and Andrew’s alleged extra-curricular sexual pursuits). Made for real life drama, indeed.

Keith Miller, further, lays out the pro’s of maintaining a monarchy (again, in general terms, not specific to the British royalty): stability, a “centrist” approach, less political divide, less corruption, new viewpoints from different members of the monarchy, training from birth, quicker decisions, longevity and consistency, support for a nation’s cultural identity, financial input into the economy/charities, and the elected government being able to operate separately but with oversight and guidance from the monarchy.

So, it is complicated. Andrew Anthony points out that the monarchy might simply need restructuring or downsizing such as the “Scandinavian model”, but then, again, there are those positives in the monarchy as it stands now. With Britain facing a new King, probably sooner than later, who knows what the monarchy will look like? Will it be revitalized or will it die off with the death of the “favourite royal”? A article 'Poll Reveals how Public Feels About the Royals . . . ' reports that Queen Elizabeth (who is now 95 years old) has an 85% approval rating, above any other royal. (Picture from CTV news, credited to AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool File)

Tradition runs deep, especially when some institutions have been in place for, literally, hundreds of years. Read up on for the full royal lineage. Remember, it even took the Japanese monkey monarchy 70 years to break their male-dominated leadership tradition! I cannot imagine the shake-up to British society, where royal lineage runs deep in the collective veins, if they did away with the House of Windsor.

So, regardless if you are human royalty or monkey royalty, there are issues, some surprisingly similar (it must be the very nature of a monarchy!). Even if we are not 100% ‘for’ the royal camp, we can’t deny that they provide a certain level of entertainment. And maybe the royal family, through all the scandals of the past 30 years, is relatable to the commoner. Beneath all that money and status, they are just like us with their weaknesses and failures and scandals.

We will watch both Britain's human royals and Japan’s monkey royals as history unfolds.


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