The Queen’s diamonds: Why has the monarchy survived?

In Elizabeth’s crown and scepter are shards of ‘The Great Star of Africa’ diamond. The 530-carat stone was stolen from South Africa in 1905 and is worth $400 million.

“The Queen is dead. Long live the King.” On September 8, Buckingham Palace announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the succession of the Prince of Wales, now King Charles  III.

During the official coronation ceremony, Charles, currently titled prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, will gain a new title by proclaiming himself the King and the Head of the British Commonwealth.

The English rebellions

The first successful British revolt against feudal relations and the monarchy occurred in a civil war from 1642 to 1660. King Charles I was executed by the authority of Parliament in 1649. 

Although the monarchy was restored under Charles II in 1660, the gains made by the revolutionary movement were solidified under parliamentary law.

In 1668, a constitutional monarchy was established in a parliamentary reform process. New laws broke down the old power relations of the monarchy. The English feudal state was overthrown and became supplanted by the rule of an emerging capitalist class.

According to Marxist historian Christopher Hill: “The Civil War was a class war in which the despotism of Charles I was defended by the reactionary forces of the established Church and conservative landlords, and on the other side stood the trading and industrial classes in town and countryside … the yeomen and progressive gentry, and … wider masses of the population whenever they were able by free discussion to understand what the struggle was really about.”

The guild democracy movement of the period won its greatest successes among London’s transport workers, most notably the Thames Watermen, who democratized their company in 1641–43.

And with the outbreak of the civil war in 1642, rural communities began to seize timber and other resources on the estates of royalists, Catholics, the Royal Family, and the church hierarchy. As a result, some communities improved their conditions of tenure on such estates.

In 1852 Karl Marx wrote: “The Tories in England had long imagined that they were enthusiastic about the monarchy, the church, and beauties of the old English Constitution until the day of danger wrung from them the confession that they are enthusiastic only about ground rent.”

The 17th-century English revolution preceded the French revolution and later struggles that overturned feudal relations across Europe.

In most instances, the old ruling class managed to hold on to its large land holdings and privileges of wealth while adapting to the new system of capitalist state power.

Property relations among this class over generations have obliged them to intermarry. The British monarchy is intimately related to all the monarchies across Europe.

The House of Windsor began in 1917 when the family changed its name from the German “Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.” Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother Queen Mary was born a royal princess of the German Duchy of Teck.

Former British PM Boris Johnson said, “I would have been terribly proud just to have been related to the German King, but I can’t hide it from you that even in our common European home, I am particularly thrilled to have some British Royal ancestry as well.” Johnson is a descendant of Prince Paul Von Wurttemberg.

In 1947, Queen Elizabeth became engaged to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. Philip and his family were exiled from Greece during his childhood, so he studied in France and Germany before serving in the British Royal Navy.

Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was Queen Victoria’s great-granddaughter. She gave him a diamond tiara that could be dismantled and used to create an engagement ring fit for a queen.

The diamonds come from the Romanov dynasty. His mother had been given the tiara on her wedding day by Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia, the last rulers of the Russian Empire, to whom she was distantly related.

Prince Charles’s private estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, has vast land holdings, including Poundbury, a newly-built village on the outskirts of Dorchester, 125 miles southwest of London.

Vast land holdings

The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 9, 2021, that each one of the royal couple held control over a billion dollars in real estate, and that is just the property that can be valued. The Journal’s headline reads: “The Billion-Dollar Property Portfolios of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.”

Here is the extensive real estate that they list.

The property holdings include castles, palaces, country houses, townhouses, city apartments, cottages, and farmhouses.

  • Clarence House, London;
  • Buckingham Palace, London;
  • Windsor Castle, Berkshire;
  • Sandringham Estate, Norfolk;
  • Highgrove House, Gloucestershire;
  • Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland;
  • Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland;
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland;
  • Highgrove Estate, Cornwall.

The title of Duke of Cornwall was first established by King Edward III in 1337 to ensure his dominion over Cornwall. The duchy and the title have been passed down to the heir to the throne ever since. Prince William is next in line to become Duke of Cornwall.

The property holdings in Cornwall are vast. They include 130,125 acres of farmland, forests, coastline, and residential and commercial properties. In addition to Highgrove, the estate includes a large section of the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago of 200 islands off the coast of the English county of Cornwall, where Prince Charles has a portfolio of holiday cottages.

Other palaces, castles, and properties include:

  • Llwynywermod, Carmarthenshire, Wales;
  • Viscri property in Romania;
  • and Zalánpatak property in Romania.

The Royal blind trust

Stu Allen, a former diplomat at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, reported that: The Queen owns land privately in the United States and Canada, though not in her capacity as Sovereign. She owns a horse farm in Kentucky and is believed to own a prime Park Avenue estate in New York City. Details of ownership and much of her personal wealth are held in what is known as a blind trust.”

This blind trust protects the queen’s private property should the British monarchy be abolished, and the property of the Crown Estates revert to public ownership.

Defending private property and class relations is intrinsic to capitalist rule. Despite revelations of the corrupt character of the Royal Family, they have been allowed to maintain the illusion of a religious-like institution with all the accompanying pageantry and pomp. 

The Queen has been presented as a mother-like figurehead with no real power. That is far from the truth. She has had special consultation allowances regarding Freedom of Information requests to protect the reputation of the Royal household.

Despite this, scandals still manage to leak out. For example, in 2015, the British Guardian newspaper released the “Black Spider Papers,” 27 memos issued by Prince Charles in 2004 and 2005 and released only after the Guardian won its long freedom of information fight with the government. Prince Charles’ memos revealed extensive efforts to influence government policy, including action to expand armaments for British troops fighting in Iraq.

The Queen had numerous powers which could be used against the working class. The Queen was the head of the British state. All bills require the monarch’s signature before they can become law. She is responsible for dissolving parliament; she can call early elections; she swears in the Prime Minister. Private meetings are held weekly between the Queen and the Prime Minister.

The pro-monarchy Telegraph reported that senior royals had used their powers to impede the passage of at least 39 Bills Awaiting Royal Assent over the last 30 years. There is also significant evidence, supported by a BBC documentary “The Plot Against Harold Wilson” and other media reports, of a threat to use the monarch’s powers to overthrow left-leaning Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the 1960s.

David Cameron asked the Queen to intervene publicly to help prevent the success of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. The Guardian reported that the Queen made a statement asking voters to “think very carefully” before voting, aiming to suggest the decision was “full of foreboding.”

Can the Queen’s descendants hold on to centuries of looted wealth and retain ownership of prime real estate all around the world, allowing them untold power?

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