Tomorrow is the royal wedding – so some wag at Great Western Railway has done this to Windsor & Eton Central station:
Windsor & Eton renamed #royalwedding pic.twitter.com/hdRdBqWBId
— Tom Edwards (@BBCTomEdwards) May 18, 2018
Which inspired reactions such as this:
I long for death. https://t.co/3lJhLKJqdr
— Matt Drinkwater (@matt_h2o) May 18, 2018
I’m with Matt. I’m sure Harry and Meghan are perfectly lovely people, and I wish them every happiness, but the assumption that this entire country is going to start frantically tugging its forelock every time a member of the royal family so much as blinks gets right on my wick.
More than that, there’s a widespread national assumption that naming large bits of the public realm after specific members of a hereditary ruling dynasty is in some way a neutral act. Here is a partial list, garnered from roughly seven minutes on the internet.
- The Victoria line (known before completion as the Viking line)
- The Jubilee line (known before completion as the Fleet line)
- The Elizabeth line (known before completion as Crossrail)
(London, you will note, has not been able to build a new underground railway line without naming it after the royals in nearly a century.)
- London Victoria station
- The Queen Elizabeth Bridge, which carries the A332 Windsor by-pass across the Thames in Berkshire
- The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which carries the London orbital motorway across the Thames Estuary between London and Essex
- The Queen Alexandra Bridge, across the River Wear in Sunderland (this one’s named after the wife of King Edward VII)
- Princess of Wales Bridge, Stockton-on-Tees
- King George VI Bridge, Aberdeen
- King George V Bridge, Lincolnshire
- King George V dock
- King George V DLR station, which is named after it
- The Royal Victoria Dock
- Royal Victoria DLR station, which is named after it
- The Royal Albert Dock
- Royal Albert DLR station, which, oh, you guessed
- Prince Regent DLR station – that one’s named after Prince Regent Lane, which connects to
- Victoria Dock Road
- Victoria Park, London
- Victoria Park, Aberdeen
- Victoria Park, Belfast
- Victoria Park, Bournemouth
- Victoria Park, Cardiff
- Victoria Park, Hartlepool
- At least 15 other Victoria Parks in Britain (I got tired of copying them all out)
- Just to mix it up a bit, there’s a Royal Victoria Park, in Bath
- King George Hospital, Ilford
- Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow
- Princess of Wales Hospital, Ely
- Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough
- Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn
- Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Welwyn Garden City
- Queen’s Hospital, Romford
- Another Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich. That one’s quite near
- Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup
I’m bored now so I’m going to stop. I don’t know how many schools there are named after dead members of the royal family, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess “quite a lot”. There are probably a few named after non-dead members of the royal family, too, but I’m guessing.
I assume the reason for all this is that the royal family are seen as neutral national symbols. Only a tiny share of Britons consider themselves republicans, and the career of Donald Trump is a reminder that elected heads of state are not always all they’re cracked up to be. For all its obvious theoretical flaws, in practice constitutional monarchy seems to work, so there really seems little reason to change it.
But the royal family are not neutral: they represent a particular political and social model, a class system based on hereditary privilege.
And even if they were neutral… My god, Britain – do we really have to be quite so crawling about all this? It’s making us look ridiculous.
Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.
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