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Heil Harry, the Monarchy and UK Attitudes


by Brian Risman, Publisher and Founder, The Law Journal UK and Consultant in International Law


A major Royal is seen in a Nazi uniform. This abomination, and the tepid response from the Monarchy, suggest the need for constitutional reform. But did UK attitudes contribute to the Royals thinking their actions were acceptable?


A firestorm has engulfed the United Kingdom, and indeed the world over the past few days – namely, the picture of Prince Harry, the third in line to the Throne, in a Nazi Afrika Corps uniform.


The Monarchy has promoted the defiant image of the late Queen Mother – then Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King George VI – against Adolf Hitler. Hitler, seeing her rally Londoners during the Blitz, even called her “the most dangerous woman in Europe”.


Now, they must deal with a more current image – that of a major Royal in the uniform of those that bombed the United Kingdom, and indeed the Palace.


Now they must deal with the image of a major Royal in the uniform of those who perpetrated the most heinous crime – the Holocaust.


Yet the Monarchy flirting with the Nazis is not unusual. King Edward VIII was forced to abdicate the Throne – and become the Duke of Windsor – not because of ‘the woman he loved’, but rather because of his Nazi sympathies. When the Duke of Windsor subsequently visited Germany, British censors had to cut scenes from newsreels of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the former Wallis Simpson) enthusiastically giving the Nazi salute. Indeed, the Duke of Windsor committed treason by telling the Germans to attack the British and French forces at Sedan – the weak spot in the Ardennes defences – precipitating the fall of France in World War II.


To his credit, Prince Charles has angrily dressed down – yes, I deliberately used that phrase – his sons. However – not to his credit – Charles sees no need for more public apologies. Buckingham Palace has added an insensitive remark to the maelstrom – namely that apologising would result in the Monarchy having to constantly issue apologies for different events.  Accordingly, there has been no response from the Queen. Yet the Palace should realise that there are times when comment and apology is necessary – and why imply that righting one wrong has something to do with future transgressions?


The insensitivity of the initial transgression, and the subsequent muted responses to the transgressions, raises a constitutional issue. When senior members of the Monarchy insult the memory of Holocaust victims – two weeks before the UK Holocaust Remembrance Day – as well as the memory of those who served in the British and other Allied services  – what recourse exists? When there is no responsibility to the public, why should they care about public feelings?


Is the only way that this family responds to public rage is if their funding is cut from the Civil List, the salary paid by all of us for the Royals?


Note that this insensitivity is not new. Not one member of the Royals went to the funeral after the Lockerbie terrorist airplane bombing. Prince Charles, for example, was too busy skiing in Switzerland.


The current situation and public outrage calls for an examination of the constitutional role of the monarchy, and in particular the need for public accountability and responsibility.


What are the alternatives?


The U.S. model of a Republic has turned into a form of religious monarchy. On my recent trip to the United States, I was struck by the view of the majority of the country that the Lord has anointed George W. Bush as President, and hence Mr. Bush – who says God speaks to him – acts with religious authority. More about my trip to America – and my impressions -- in a subsequent article. This is not the model we need. We don’t need less accountability to the people.


What we need is constitutional change to replace an insensitive, irresponsible, unresponsive monarchy with a figurehead President, elected by the Parliament, who would act as the ceremonial head of state. This person should be deserving, and respected by the public.


We have had enough of overindulged animals wearing the uniform of the most heinous enemies these Isles – and the world – has seen. The United Kingdom stood up to the Nazis long before the United States entered the War. This is a pride that we should wear proudly – not the disgusting exhibition we have seen by the Royals.


Yet another question should be asked. Is there an atmosphere existing that led Harry – and his older brother William, who was there when he picked out the uniform – to think his choice was acceptable?


Conservative MPs agreed with one of their own, Mr. Townsend, when he commented on the “mongrel races diluting the purity” of the United Kingdom. Now, it must be noted that the subsequent Conservative leader, Mr. Michael Howard, who is Jewish, has condemned the wearing of the Nazi uniform.


The Conservatives are not the only ones contributing to this atmosphere. Growing anti-Semitism, disguised as anti-Israel stances politically, is rampant throughout the left. Suicide bombings of Israeli mothers and children in Pizza shops are applauded.


Not to forget the BBC. Mr. Abbas, the new Palestinian leader, promised peace – and yet this week there was an attack on Israelis, killing as well two Israeli Arab truck drivers. Mr. Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, acted in the manner of any country – he took diplomatic and political action. Yet there was the BBC condemning Sharon, and not the terrorists. Is it any wonder that the BBC is the only international press organisation to have been banned from Israel?


So it is obvious that Prince Harry – and Prince William – would sense an atmosphere supportive of Harry’s choice of uniform.


Along with Constitutional reform, perhaps the United Kingdom should look at itself and its own attitudes.


Brian Risman, Publisher and Founder, The Law Journal UK and Consultant in International Law


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