A frequently-asked question, given events in recent weeks, is whether the British monarchy would be retained in an independent Wales. It is a question that has been put to YesCymru for years. Republican campaigners are keen to pressure YesCymru to take an official line which commits to abolishing the monarchy. “YesCymru takes no view on the monarchy,” is the response people are probably familiar with, and it’s true.
YesCymru does not exist to advocate for republicanism or monarchism. It is written into our constitution that our organisation is to remain neutral on the topic. While this may not sit well with some, it is a clause that is absolutely necessary. YesCymru is a big tent under which both views must be respected; I’ll try and explain why.
Cards on the table, as the saying goes. I am a committed Welsh Republican. I want to see an independent Wales and I want it to be a republic. That said, my role is to do my best to represent North Wales members on the National Governing Body of YesCymru. Our membership contains republicans, monarchists, and a segment who don’t have a firm view either way. YesCymru reflects this by being committed to entrusting the electorate of a future independent Welsh state with the question.
“But what will an independent Wales look like!?” I can hear people yell whilst writing this. It will be the politicians of an independent Wales who will decide this. It is for them to make their case and win you over with their visions, and it is YesCymru’s role to platform that.
In recent weeks, YesCymru has been accused of being both anti-monarchy and pro-monarchy: Schrödinger’s YesCymru. Sharing articles that link independence, or make wider points of national significance, from either side of the monarchy debate is not YesCymru taking an official view. Nor does questioning the cost of the recent coronation; how can you not question that cost during a cost of living crisis?
For those with a view on the monarchy’s relationship with an independent Wales, there appear to be three main standpoints. Those who want a republic, those who are content for the British monarchy to stay in situ, and those who wish to see a Welsh person or dynasty installed as a replacement for the Windsors. Two competing strategies are holding a referendum to simultaneously declare indy and ditch the British monarchy, or holding a successful independence vote followed at a later date by a vote on the head of state model. I hold to the latter.
My personal view is that the most likely scenario post-independence is the retention of the British monarchy, at least for an interim period. This would give Wales a similar status to that of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, for example. My belief is founded upon two pillars.
The House of …
Firstly, none of the major political parties in Wales are republican. Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, and even Plaid Cymru do not officially advocate for a republic. Indeed, three of the four are opposed to independence altogether. So I would argue it is unlikely that any would advocate for a successful independence referendum vote resulting in Wales immediately cutting its ties with the House of Windsor.
Secondly, we must acknowledge pragmatism within the independence movement. Myself and others argue that the route to independence does not go hand in hand with debate on the monarchy. Until the last couple of years, the notion of independence had been a fringe issue in Welsh politics for a very long time. Particularly for older demographics, the thought of independence is radical enough. To add an additional change which many will see as controversial on top of that would likely shave off support and make independence less likely.
Therefore, it makes sense to me that the debate on a head of state model should be held during the first term of government in an independent Wales. This can be followed by a referendum which should be put to the electorate during the second term. On the day following independence, all law would continue as is until such time as the elected government of an independent Wales retained or changed it, including the head of state model.
Many in Wales are content for the British monarchy to remain in post following independence. This should not be a controversial view to hold. Indeed, it is the current reality of the likes of Australia and Canada. Ireland too started off along this path. The established form of the elected head of government in Wales is and would remain the Prif Weinidog/First Minister. A constitutional monarchy has also been the norm in the lives of the vast majority of us. So it is reasonable to conclude that many will advocate for its continuation post-independence.
However, the argument of instead installing a descendant of one of the former royal dynasties of Wales has been put to me more than once over the years. I feel confident in saying this line of thinking is currently on the far fringes of the debate. Personally, I think it is a complete non-starter. If we’re looking that far back, it is important to note that the Kingdom of England went to great lengths to stamp out those royal lines. Therefore, any living descendants are likely to be from junior branches of the various family trees, for those who care about such things.
The reality is that, even if you could identify a candidate, they’d very likely be an ordinary member of the public without the skills required to be a head of state, and possibly lacking the desire to even take up the mantle. Just look at the current royals. It is their sole life purpose to ‘rule’, but are they the best candidates our society has produced? I think it’s safe to say that they aren’t. This option is born of the ‘what ifs’ of history, nostalgia, and romanticism, and is probably best left there.
The big tent of YesCymru
There are strong arguments from both sides of this debate, and perhaps a lot of eye-rolling from those in the middle who aren’t overly vexed. I think that is why YesCymru’s neutral stance on the monarchy is important. It is vital that the independence movement has a big tent, umbrella organisation, where people may have passionate opposing views but can put those aside to work towards the shared ultimate goal of independence.
Over the years there have been several attempts to turn YesCymru into an advocate of very specific versions of independence. If that ever happens, there is no big tent organisation to step into the breach; the movement as a whole needs that organisation.
That is why the parties, organisations, and individuals who campaign for their versions of an independent Wales, and aren’t shy about their views on the monarchy or a future republic, need to exist and thrive. My message to them is: put your views out there, make statements, write articles, and if they’re sensible and linked to independence then YesCymru may well platform them.
Independence is a shared goal for many from all sorts of different political persuasions. We need to be pragmatic when it comes to things like the monarchy. Independence is the key that unlocks every door for Wales. It gives our elected government the full levers of power to enact what it was elected to do. It means not being trampled over, not having to seek the permission of another country, not being ruled by politics we have not consented to.
Whether republican, monarchist, or something in between, we will march together for independence in Swansea this coming Saturday, 20th May. Be there, join us.
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