In the spring of 2000 the European Parliament was asked to consider a resolution which should have passed easily. The resolution would have asked the government of Italy to lift its ban on members of the former royal family, the House of Savoy, entering the country. The ban, enacted shortly after the establishment of the republic in 1946, has prevented the head of the house, Prince Vittorio Emanuele, from seeing his homeland since he was nine years old; his son, Prince Emanuele Filiberto, has never even set foot in the country. The Savoys are Italian citizens; previous EU agreements on human rights prohibit the exclusion of citizens who have committed no crimes from their own country. The government of Italy offers the feeble excuse that the Prince’s grandfather, King Vittorio Emanuele III, reluctantly appointed Mussolini prime minister in 1922, 15 years before the present head of the family was born! As the resolution’s supporters pointed out, such a harsh and unjustified policy has no place in a democratic Europe. But left-wing MEPs, fanatically hostile toward anyone bearing a title, hijacked the debate and on March 16 the resolution was defeated, 256 to 173. Eurosceptics such as myself have no desire for any country’s national sovereignty to be undermined. But the proposed resolution was not in any way threatening or binding; Italy was not ordered to do anything. So the same organization whose spokespeople have routinely dismissed the importance of national sovereignty in other matters was unwilling to make a simple polite request when it was on behalf of a royal family. Can such a body possibly be trusted by royalists? A group of lawmakers who find nothing unjust in exiling Europeans from their own country for long-ago events they had nothing to do with obviously has no respect or sympathy for royalty. The shameful Savoy vote, which exposes the emptiness and hypocrisy of the supposed benefits for human rights of European unity, should be regarded as a warning sign to all who feel that crowned heads still have something to offer.
As disturbing as it was, the Italian royalty vote is a side issue which by itself would not be cause to categorically reject the euro. But there is much more at stake. The adoption of the euro would create a single economy; Britain would not have pounds, Germany would not have marks, France would not have francs. Perhaps the Germans and the French, deprived by their own ancestors’ foolishness of the benefits of constitutional monarchy, are unsentimental about their currencies. But the pound is closely tied to the queen whose picture it bears, and the same is true with the currencies of other European monarchies. If the euro were adopted and the economies integrated, some loss of national individuality would be inevitable, even if the process of European integration stopped there. The more people are encouraged to think of themselves as European rather than British, Danish, or Swedish, the less need they are likely to feel for symbolic national leaders such as Queen Elizabeth, Queen Margrethe or King Carl Gustaf. The people of Denmark were assured by the pro-euro side that Danish euro coins would continue to bear their immensely popular queen’s picture. But would it really make sense for this state of affairs to continue indefinitely? If the euro were to really be used throughout the continent, its creators might at some point be inclined to push for a uniform style of currency; that would mean no more monarchs on coins. That prospect alone is upsetting enough, but the cosmetic change would not be all. As eurosceptics in Denmark convincingly demonstrated, joining the euro would mean that more and more aspects of economic policy would be controlled from Brussels or Strasbourg, not Copenhagen. Her Majesty’s government would inevitably lose some power. If this had been allowed to happen, how could the prestige and significance of the queen in whose name the government operates be unaffected? In a modern constitutional monarchy, the parliament exercises the powers that theoretically belong to the crown; an affront to the prerogatives of the legislature is therefore an affront to the monarchy.
The arrogance of EU proponents seems to be just as unlimited as their Orwellian dreams of consolidation. Shortly before the Danish vote, German finance minister Hans Eichel said that European integration was a “historic” and “irreversible” process, effectively telling the Danes that they had better learn to deal with it because it was going ahead whether they liked it or not, an ironic claim in the light of recent evidence that a growing minority of Germans are uneasy about the abolition of the mark. This patronizing attitude was set years ago by EU architect Helmut Kohl, who vowed to make European integration an “irreversible” process. The idea that any controversial political scheme must be regarded as irreversible is itself chilling. Scarier still is the fact that there appears to be no limit to how much unification the pro-euro forces have in mind. They never say exactly what their ultimate plans are, knowing that right now most Europeans have no intention of abandoning their individual countries altogether in favor of a United States of Europe. But they come pretty close. German foreign minister Joschka Fischer has openly suggested the creation of a federal European government with authority surpassing that of the present European Parliament. Guy Verhofstadt, Prime Minister of Belgium, has called for “a truly common foreign policy, in other words a policy speaking with one voice at all international fora, an autonomous European defence policy, an integrated justice and migration policy and a joint socio-economic platform” as the next stages of integration, and referred to “forging European integration by joining and sometimes also by abolishing national sovereignty into a joint approach.” If national sovereignty can be abolished, what will stand in the way of the single European state envisioned by George Orwell in 1984? If foreign policies must be unified, if the concept of sovereignty is to be abandoned, what role can there possibly be for the monarchs who, much more than their republican equivalents, represent traditional concepts of national sovereignty? If economic integration is allowed to proceed to completion, is it not likely that pressures for political integration will follow? The French and German governments have never promised to be satisfied with adoption of the single currency. A European Parliament dominated by the French and Germans, so sympathetic to the Italian government’s hostility to royalty, may very well conclude that constitutional monarchy does not have a place in the futuristic, egalitarian New Europe it has in mind. Even if abolition is not on the agenda, it is unlikely that some of the uniquely traditional aspects of the British monarchy could survive continental demands for constitutional reform.
Perhaps the one principle on which royalists and republicans agree is that monarchies and republics are not just two different ways of fulfilling the same governmental functions; they are fundamentally different constitutional structures, and the principles behind one are not compatible with the other. Therefore, the two systems cannot logically be combined into a meaningful single entity without one giving way. Of course, I would love for France, Germany, and Italy to restore their monarchies, but I must face the reality that this is unlikely to happen and view the European Union accordingly. Monarchism is hardly the only reason to oppose the euro. Eurosceptic groups have assembled thorough and persuasive arguments against it which have nothing to do with monarchy. But royalists who do not believe that European unification poses a threat to their own beloved monarchies might want to rethink their indifference. There have been plenty of signs that the ultimate goal of euro proponents is the creation of a single European state. This state would be primarily the creation of republican representatives whose countries dispensed with royalty long ago. It is difficult to believe that a European state designed by France and Germany would include a role for constitutional monarchs, especially considering France's deplorable sanctification of revolutionary republicanism and the German government’s non-recognition of titles and hostility toward monarchist movements. Indeed, those MEPs who voted to keep the Savoys out of Italy may very well be eager to see the abolition of all European monarchies, as the current kingdoms are absorbed into a new republic. To a dedicated royalist like myself, this prospect is terrifying and must be resisted at all costs. Whether they realize it or not, the brave activists who struggle against the euro are our allies. We must help them to achieve their noble goal of preserving the individuality of European countries, on which the survival of monarchy depends.