God Save the Regime
The British royal family are beyond the law. They operate in a secret world within a world and pay no heed to the societal obligations and responsibilities that regulate their subjects. In truth their exact wealth is unknown but, as the wheels come off the British state, also being revealed are the legal and financial mysteries of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, or The Windsor’s, as they became in 1917.
My antipathetic relationship with the royals is a long one. In the 1960’s all twenty or so of us bairns would be marched out of the Dunnet primary school, just before the Summer holidays, given Union Jacks on bamboo sticks and instructed to wave them enthusiastically at a set of highly polished Landover’s and Rolls Royce’s which sped past our native submission with a high speed indifference. I do not remember a gloved royal hand raised in acknowledgement. To the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the various Princesses and Princes, on their way to visit the Queen Mother in the Castle of Mey, we were no different from the barley swaying green in the Caithness fields. The royal yacht Britannia sat out in Dunnet Bay, off Scrabster, like some space ship. Certainly the expensive and elite human cargo that had been transferred by royal launch from the royal yacht to the old St Ola pier was beyond our parochial orbit. The primary school pupils of Dunnet were the white picanninies of history – not so much watermelon, more pidgin cheese smilers, but none the less as ignorant of the occupiers of the royal motorised convoy speeding past us as they were of us. They were visitors from another time, another place, another universe.
My mother was the district nurse and midwife for the parish of Dunnet throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. She came from the fishing community of Pulteneytown in Wick. Her father was a cooper and her mother was a herring gutter. Two of her elder brothers, prior to World War Two, were awarded bursaries from the Herring Industry Board (set up in 1935) and went to Edinburgh University. At the end of every academic year, in the early Summer, they would walk from Edinburgh back to Wick and work as clerks in “the Herring Office” to earn money for the next term. So my mother put great stock in advancement through merit and sheer hard work. To her the Queen Mother in the Castle of Mey was just another patient, and she was often called upon to treat her “Royal Highness”. I think it would be fair to say that my mother did not approve of the Queen Mother, or any of her family for that matter. Her native and instinctive egalitarianism baulked at privilege and class. She never made a fuss of her sentiments, because for my mother politics was about doing, not talking. My mother never expressed “opinions”. Her motivation was compassion and care, no matter who the person was or their circumstances. None the less, my brother and I were left in no doubt as to what she felt about the whole aristocratic circus.
It is an open secret that members of the royal family refer to themselves as “The Firm”: I would suggest that they more resemble a regime because despite what the popular assumption is, the existence of the royal family does exercise influence on how our society is organised and, by extension, how we live our lives. No-one has ever voted for them so that inimitably makes them a regime and as time passes they resemble nothing more than oligarchs. Why? Because the Queen and other members of the royal regime can easily fit any three of the four characteristics which define an oligarch: participation in political life, significant influence on the media, owner of a monopoly, or owner of assets worth more than 1million times the living wage. No-one can sensibly argue that the royal regime does not fit that oligarch profile.
The relationship between the current Queen and her progeny with Scotland is a complicated affair and one that is defined by the significance of the Crown, as a feudal entity, and the nature of land and wealth. The origins of landownership in Scotland, as we currently understand it, lie in the beginnings of feudalism as a system of government initiated by King David I (1084 – 1135). This system was based on the contractual relationship between the Crown and the nobility whereby powerful and loyal nobles were granted feudal charters over great tracts of land, which over time became estates, in return for political, military and cash support for the Crown, i.e. the Monarch. Yet the idea of ownership and power is slightly more complicated and mystical than that. According to a document issued by the Scottish Law Commission in 1999,
“Landownership is a property system embracing the whole of Scotland from the centre of the country out to the territorial waters, from the earth below our feet to the heavens above. Any landowner, no matter how small or large, has a right of exclusive possession of land ‘a caelo usque ad centrum’ (from the sky to the centre of the earth). But this possession is not absolute, it is conditional. Under feudalism the rights enjoyed by the owner are determined by the nature of his or her title which in turn is derived from his or her ‘superior’. Ultimately all the land of Scotland is held by God, the divine authority invoked by the Crown (the Paramount Superior) in Scotland to claim the territory of Scotland.”
So the feudal pyramid has God at the top, beneath that is the Crown (the Paramount Superior), beneath the Crown are the Superiors (Dukes, Lords etc), beneath them are Vassals who are landowners who are in feu to their Superiors, and beneath all of them are the Tenants, usually farmers or small holders of some kind or other. At the very bottom are the rest of us – the landless commoners. As you might imagine this archaic system is open to abuse and as you also might also imagine this abuse usually originates from the top down and feeds the historical corruption. Just as the Stewart monarchs proclaimed “the Divine Right of Kings” to rule over us, under Scottish feudal law God is the ultimate owner of the land and, according to the theologian Alastair McIntosh, when he was defending an evicted “Carbeth hutter” in the late 1980’s, “all other (landowners) are vassals unto the Lord”. So it is that through God the Crown owns us all. God does save the regime.
The Crown in Scotland is one thing. The current Queen, Elizabeth II, “by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”, in case you had forgotten her full title, is another thing all together. The “faith” she “defends”, in case you wondered, is that of Protestantism. Whether “God” is a Protestant so far cannot as yet be proved. What can be proved is that Elizabeth Windsor, in her capacity as a private landowner and employer of staff, as opposed to Elizabeth II the monarch, is a step away from God and it is one which requires direct engagement with the laws of Scotland and the UK, even though the responsibilities of Elizabeth Windsor are remarkably different from any other landowner or employer – or anybody else under law.
According to The Guardian (14/7/22) “Personalised exemptions for the Queen in her private capacity have been written into more than 160 laws since 1967, granting her sweeping immunity from swathes of British law – ranging from animal welfare to workers’ rights. Dozens extend further immunity to her private property portfolio, granting her unique protections as the owner of large landed estates. More than 30 different laws stipulate that police are barred from entering the private Balmoral and Sandringham estates without the Queen’s permission to investigate suspected crimes, including wildlife offences and environmental pollution – a legal immunity accorded to no other private landowner in the country.”
In Scotland the police are also required to obtain the personal agreement of the Queen before they can investigate suspected offences at her privately owned salmon and trout fishing business on the River Dee at Balmoral, where anglers are charged up to £630 a day to fish. Good money for the royal coffers.
Of the thirty-one laws which contain clauses guaranteeing the Queen’s immunity and which ban police or environmental inspectors from accessing the Windsor family’s private properties unless they obtain her permission first, sixteen relate to here in Scotland. The 24,800-hectare (61,500-acre) Balmoral estate, which is held on her behalf by a private trust, is just the most public. The private salmon fishing beats the Windsor family estate rents out on the River Dee to the wealthy are advertised “as some of the finest fishing in Scotland”. They should be advertised as the most corrupt in Scotland. “Royal Deeside” is nothing more than a protection racket.
Of these many laws of exemption three contain clauses immunising Elizabeth Windsor’s private property holdings against compulsory purchase. In a case first reported last year, the Queen’s lawyers secretly lobbied for her to be immune from parts of a major Scottish law cutting carbon emissions.
Dr Craig Prescott, a lecturer in constitutional law at Bangor University and former director of the Centre for Parliament and Public Law at the University of Winchester, said some of the exemptions risked opening the monarchy to charges of hypocrisy. Well, who would have thought it?
But it is true. For example Prince Charles has advocated protecting the natural environment for decades, while the Wills and Kate as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge champion the Earthshot prize for “solutions to the world’s most urgent environmental challenges”. God bless, but as Dr Prescott told the press,
“If you’re campaigning about the environment or conservation, and it turns out that certain laws relating to the environment or conservation – animal welfare at the very least – don’t apply to your private residences, then that doesn’t look good, particularly if you’re the only private residence in the country to which the law doesn’t apply.”
There are also two major changes under way in how the concepts of sovereign immunity and crown application are being applied to the Queen as a private citizen. The first is that while previously sovereign immunity assumed that the Queen could not be prosecuted or sued, without this needing to be stated in statute (in the UK’s non-existent constitution), the principle is now being written into law and clearly extended to include her private interests as well as her conduct as the monarch. This means that the Queen cannot be prosecuted for criminal behaviour, i.e. behaviour that if carried by you or me would be illegal, but if carried out Elizabeth II would be legal. The second is that the concept of immunity is also being applied to the assets and investments of the Queen as a private citizen. Which brings us back to Balmoral.
It may also amuse you to know that the Queen’s immunity clauses exempt her from paying taxes or providing information to the UK bodies that collect them. She fares just as well tax-wise in Scotland as Scottish ministers have habitually included “Queen’s immunity” clauses in laws passed between 2013 and 2017, exempting “Her Majesty” from a variety of minor taxes levied upon other citizens. She pays no duty on purchases of land, no fees for making landfill disposals, and is partly exempt from duties on air travel.
The charge sheet goes on: the Queen’s employees are banned from pursuing sexual and racial discrimination complaints. Even the most modern piece of anti-discrimination law, the Equality Act 2010, is designed not to protect those employed by the Queen. On workers’ rights, health and safety, or pensions laws, you guessed it – Elizabeth II is exempt and is not required to comply with even the basic principles of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Even after death “The Firm” enter eternity on a different financial footing than the rest of us as generations of the royal family have concealed details of assets worth more than £187 million through a series of legal applications that have been granted in total secrecy. According to The Guardian (18/7/22),
“The assets are outlined in 33 wills that were drawn up by members of the Windsor family over more than a century. The family have been able to keep secret the contents of the wills by securing a special carve-out from a law that normally requires British wills to be published. The sealing of the wills has enabled the Windsor’s to avoid the public seeing what kinds of assets – such as property, jewels and cash – have been accumulated by members of the royal family and how these were then distributed to, for example, relatives, friends or staff.”
And then there is the Prince of Wales, the perennial King in waiting, one Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor, probably the dodgiest of all of “The Firm”. The Sunday Times had reported that donations to the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim of Qatar were, allegedly, personally accepted by Prince Charles during three meetings between 2011 and 2015. One contribution of £1 million was handed over, allegedly, in bags from the upmarket retailer Fortnum and Mason. Needles to say the Charity Commission is to take no further action over these cash donations totalling €3 million, accepted by Prince Charles’s for his various “charities”. So that, allegedly, is alright then.
Of course the biggest “charity” of all is the royal family, “The Firm”, itself. With God and the Law on their side they rule over us with ease, unquestioned, unchallenged and enriched. The history of the Crown in Scotland and the emergence of the present royals is daily re-written in rosewater by the popular press. Their inherited and barely concealed paranoia and fear about going the way of their cousins the Kaiser in Germany and the Romanov’s in Russia after World War One is never mentioned or discussed. Similarly brushed under the carpet is the overt fascist sympathies of Edward VIII and his brother the Duke of Kent, both of whom could easily have been tried for treason during World War Two if the former had not abdicated and been exiled to the Bahamas and the latter not been killed in an unexplained and subsequently covered-up air crash in Caithness in 1942.
Since its formation in 1999 the Scottish Parliament has drafted and passed many laws in regard to the issue of land ownership, community buy out and other initiatives but nothing fundamentally has changed. The fact remains that land is power and if there is to be any meaningful democracy in a future independent Scotland the great estates have to be broken up and ownership distributed to as many citizens as is possible and the royal regime we presently tolerate has to be rejected. A republic has to be proclaimed for as Tom Johnstone, the Secretary of State for Scotland from 1941 to 1945, wrote in his searing book, “Our Scots Noble Families” of 1909,
“Show the people that our Old Nobility is not noble, that its lands are stolen lands – stolen either by force or fraud; show the people that the title-deeds are rapine, murder, massacre, cheating, or Court harlotry; dissolve the halo of divinity that surrounds hereditary title; let the people clearly understand that the present House of Lords is composed largely of descendants of successful pirates and rogues; do these things and you shatter the Romance that keeps the nation numb and spellbound while privilege picks its pocket.”
History will prove, I suspect, that it will take more than God to save the present royal regime. Of all the charges against royalty cited above my mother could have communicated with just one look. In her was the true wealth of our nation. If we desire a decent society for our children to inherit, so that they can enjoy their freedom “from the sky to the centre of the earth”, then we better start discussing, pre-referendum, how we can best be rid of the parasites of our past so that they do not corrupt our future.
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