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British republican movement

From Academic Kids

The British republican movement is a movement in the United Kingdom which seeks to remove the British monarchy and replace it with a republic with an elected head of state.

The countries which became the United Kingdom were briefly ruled as a republic in the seventeenth century under Oliver Cromwell. First England (including Wales) was declared to be the Commonwealth of England and then Scotland and Ireland were brought under the British republic. One reason for a return to monarchism after Cromwell's protectorate was that a system for deciding the succession to the next leader had not been put in place. Cromwell's son, Richard, succeeded him for a period of eight months, but was unpopular, and Charles, the prince in exile, was called back to be declared Charles II.

Although the United Kingdom has since become a constitutional monarchy, there have been movements throughout the last few centuries whose aims were to remove the monarchy and establish a republican system.

Most, but not all republicans support a fully elected second chamber, and a written constitution, and favour removing the remaining hereditary peers in the House of Lords and all forms of hereditary privilege.

Objections to the monarchy are often based on what republicans believe is the anachronistic system of choosing a head of state by birth, rather than merit or election, which republicans view as being in conflict with democracy.

The most recent movement is led by Republic, the Campaign for an Elected Head of State.

Contents

Support

The monarchy is still largely popular, but a sizeable minority of the British public are opposed to it, opinion polls in recent years putting support for an elected head of state consistently around 15-30%. However, scandals involving the Queen's children, and a decline in respect for traditional institutions, have led to a gradual shift in attitudes over the years. Websites are emerging such as British Republic and The Centre for Citizenship. After reaching a low point following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, support for the monarchy rebounded during the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. This effect of the jubilee celebrations was however all but wiped out following the collapse of the Burrell case and allegations surrounding the household of the Prince of Wales.

Support for republicanism was similarly high during the later years of Queen Victoria's reign, when she withdrew from public life following the death of her husband, Prince Albert, only to drop away after her Diamond Jubilee.

The Fabian Society published a report in July 2003 giving a number of recommendations for reform of the monarchy, but they fell short of arguing for its abolition.

High profile republicans

Well-known contemporary republicans include Tony Benn, who in 1991 introduced a Commonwealth of Britain Bill in Parliament; Roy Hattersley; journalist and author Claire Rayner; Benjamin Zephaniah; Tony Banks MP; Norman Baker MP; and Michael Mansfield, QC. It is also believed a number of prominent politicians and journalists support the abolition of monarchy.

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