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Episode
51

The Royal Family

May 5, 2020
Arts & Culture
-
24
minutes
London
The Royal Family
The Queen
Kings & Queens

It is Britain's best known family, and its head has one of the most recognisable faces in the world.

But how much do we really know about Britain's Royal Family?

In this episode we ask ourselves what Brits really think of The Queen and The Royal Family, and what the future might hold for them.

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[00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can learn fascinating things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:19] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about the British Royal family. 

[00:00:27] I'm sure you probably know a bit about them.

[00:00:30] You'd recognise the queen and you probably know what I mean by Buckingham Palace. 

[00:00:36] Well, today we are going to go a little bit deeper. 

[00:00:41] We are going to ask ourselves how the UK has managed to keep its monarchy while several other European countries decided to get rid of theirs, some in spectacular fashion

[00:00:54] And we'll ask ourselves what they actually do and what the future might hold for one of the world's most famous families.

[00:01:04] So it is quite an exciting one. 

[00:01:08] Before we get right into that though, just in case you hadn't listened to the last episode, I just wanted to remind you that we have made some small changes to the way the podcast works.

[00:01:21] Firstly, we've split the membership into two different groups. 

[00:01:25] Listener, if you just want to listen to all of the podcasts and Learner, if you also want the transcripts and key vocabulary. 

[00:01:33] But more excitingly, there are two new developments that I would love for you to use. 

[00:01:40] Firstly, anyone who is a member of Leonardo English, and if you're listening to this episode, then that's you, anyone who is a member of Leonardo English can now suggest topics for episodes. 

[00:01:54] The team has a big list of exciting subjects that we want to cover, but I also want to include you in this, so if you want to hear more about a particular subject, then assuming that they are things that we think will be interesting to other listeners, then we will actually make a podcast about them. 

[00:02:16] So try that out. 

[00:02:17] Head into your dashboard at leonardoenglish.com and start making those requests. 

[00:02:24] And secondly, this is something that I'm super excited about. 

[00:02:28] We are going to start doing monthly live Q&A, question and answer, sessions. 

[00:02:35] The idea for this is that they will be small, intimate groups, no more than 12 people to start with. 

[00:02:42] We'll choose a topic to discuss, likely related to the podcast topics from that month, and it'll be an opportunity to talk, ask questions, and of course, practice your English.

[00:02:57] So keep your eyes peeled, keep a lookout, for an invite for the first one of those later on this month. 

[00:03:06] Okay then let's talk about The Royal Family. 

[00:03:10] The focus of today's episode is going to be on the current Royal family, the current queen and her extended family. 

[00:03:21] But to do this it is of course useful to have a bit of background and to understand a bit about the history of the British monarchy, the kings and queens that had ruled Great Britain, or at least parts of what we now call Great Britain over the years.

[00:03:42] There have been kings and queens in Britain for over a thousand years now. 

[00:03:48] While some people claim that the monarchy only really started with the arrival of William the Conqueror in 1066 there were some kings and queens before then, even as early as the ninth century. 

[00:04:06] And although you might have thought that Britain had never got rid of its monarchy, that we were so passionate about our kings and queens that we had never thought of revolution and chopping off their heads, that isn't quite right. 

[00:04:23] In fact, England did get rid of its monarchy even before our friends across the Channel, the French, even before they did. 

[00:04:34] There was a brief period called the Commonwealth of England, which started after King Charles the First was executed in 1649, but it only lasted 11 years when the monarchy was restored.

[00:04:52] So the brief flirtation with republicanism only lasted 11 years and England and then Great Britain has had a king or queen ever since.

[00:05:08] And today's monarch is, as you will know, Queen Elizabeth. 

[00:05:14] She has been queen since 1952, 58 years ago, making her one of the longest serving monarchs in British history. 

[00:05:24] She only needs to keep going for another five years, and she will beat Queen Victoria who reigned for a massive 65 years.

[00:05:36] But something you might not know is that Queen Elizabeth was never meant to be queen. 

[00:05:43] She was never directly in line to the throne

[00:05:48] Her uncle Edward the Eighth, her father's oldest brother, he was destined to be King, but after he couldn't marry the woman he wanted to marry, he abdicated, he gave away the throne and it passed to his younger brother George the Sixth, Queen Elizabeth's father.

[00:06:11] And when he died, the throne went to Elizabeth. 

[00:06:17] So this queen was never meant to be queen, but she has done the job for 58 years, much longer than most people do any normal job. 

[00:06:30] And I do use the term 'job' here because even though some people might think that being queen just means sitting around all day drinking tea and not doing very much at all, the queen does actually have quite lot to do, as do the members of her family, The Royal Family. 

[00:06:54] The Royal Family have between them about 2000 engagements that they carry out every year.

[00:07:04] These engagements might be opening hospitals, schools, sporting events, meeting world leaders, charity work, of course, typically ceremonial things, but they do do a large amount of it. 

[00:07:23] The queen who recently celebrated her 94th birthday had 292 engagements in 2019 - that's almost six a week. 

[00:07:36] That's a lot of meeting and greeting, a lot of small talk and shaking hands and certainly a lot of work for someone who, if they were doing a normal job, would probably have retired 30 years ago. 

[00:07:53] And she isn't even the hardest working Royal in terms of duties

[00:07:58] Her son, Prince Charles, did 550 official engagements in 2019 and her daughter, Anne, did just under 500. 

[00:08:12] And they also are, as we say, no spring chicken, they aren't that young themselves. 

[00:08:19] Charles is 71 and Anne is 69. 

[00:08:24] So The Royal Family actually does quite a lot, a lot more than most people think that they do. 

[00:08:34] And in terms of popular opinion of The Royal Family, of what people think of them, overall the British public approves of the monarchy

[00:08:45] And the older you are, the more likely you are to approve of the monarchy

[00:08:51] From a survey in 2018, 57% of people in the 18 to 24 age group said that they approved of the monarchy, but 77% of those in the 55 plus age group approved.

[00:09:11] And while, even in the age group with the lowest approval rating, the 18 to 24 age group, only 25% of them said that they disapproved, the rest said that they didn't feel strongly either way.

[00:09:27] So only a small percentage of the UK population actually disapproves of the monarchy

[00:09:35] And it's worth spending a bit of time talking about why this actually is, why it might be lower than some people in more republican countries might think it would be.

[00:09:48] Firstly, the current Royal family knows that it has a certain role to play in public life, a certain place in British society. 

[00:10:01] And that is to be rolled out, to be brought out for ceremonial occasions and to provide a sense of collective spirit for the people, to provide a sense of nationalistic unity, and to provide a sense of continuity and united history of the country. 

[00:10:24] But in almost every other respect, to be completely neutral, to not express an opinion on anything.

[00:10:33] The queen, despite being technically the head of state and having the power to appoint and dismiss a prime minister, she never expresses any public opinion about anything really, political or otherwise. 

[00:10:50] Indeed, after the Brexit vote in 2016, there was a lot of speculation that she actually disagreed with the way that the vote had gone because of some of the clothes that she wore. 

[00:11:07] She never said anything, but she once wore a blue hat with yellow stars that did look quite a lot like the flag of the European Union. 

[00:11:19] And it was thought that she was wearing this as a mini protest against the Brexit vote.

[00:11:27] And then when the queen met Donald and Melania Trump in 2018 she wore a brooch, a piece of jewelry, given to her by Michelle Obama, which was interpreted by the British press as being the Queen's secret way of saying that she didn't approve of Donald Trump. 

[00:11:53] But this is all suspicion, the British public really doesn't know very much about the real queen, about what she actually thinks about anything.

[00:12:06] And this is on one level, a pretty strange situation. 

[00:12:12] There is this lady who has been in the public eye since she was born and has been queen for almost 60 years. 

[00:12:22] She is one of the most recognisable brands in the world and has one of the most recognisable faces in the world. 

[00:12:30] Of course her face is on every British banknote and every coin.

[00:12:36] I'm sure now that if you've closed your eyes and pictured the queen, you would have a pretty good idea of what she looks like. 

[00:12:44] Yet she has remained unknowable, silent on almost every issue, and she rarely has any kind of real dialogue with the public. 

[00:12:58] There is something called the Queen's speech, where on Christmas day, just after lunch, the queen will address the people in a televised message, normally just wishing everyone well and talking about some of the main events of the past year, but not really saying very much at all, and certainly not expressing much of an opinion.

[00:13:27] So this is a pretty strange situation, certainly one that friends and family from republican countries, places like France and Italy, something that they really struggle to understand. 

[00:13:42] For countries that have got rid of their own monarchies, got rid of their own kings and queens, it can be quite strange to think that one of the largest countries in Europe and certainly still an important power in global politics, has this royal family that the public overall approves of but doesn't really seem to know anything about.

[00:14:10] And they say, why do you keep them? 

[00:14:13] Why aren't people rising up in the streets saying, get rid of them? 

[00:14:18] There is of course, a proportion of the UK public that does want to abolish the monarchy, to get rid of the British Royal family.

[00:14:29] And there are a few reasons why they want to do it, some more valid than others. 

[00:14:37] Let's first take one that is often quoted, and that is from a cost point of view. 

[00:14:45] In a country where there are people who are homeless, where hospitals are overcrowded and schools need investment, why does the British taxpayer tolerate spending money on the maintenance of The Royal Family. 

[00:15:04] It is a sensible question, but even from a cost point of view, the cost of the monarchy is still slightly debated. 

[00:15:16] A recent study by The Daily Telegraph, which I should point out, is very much a pro-monarchy newspaper, suggested that The Royal Family costs each adult in Britain only 62p per year, so under a dollar per year.

[00:15:36] But republicans dispute this figure saying that when you factor in, when you consider, things like security, it's about three or four times more. 

[00:15:49] Still not a huge amount of money, in the grand scheme of things

[00:15:55] However, the cost isn't really the main issue. 

[00:16:00] It is the idea that having a monarchy is contradictory to what a modern state should stand for.

[00:16:09] By default, a monarchic system isn't fair. 

[00:16:12] Not everyone can be king or queen. 

[00:16:15] You have to be born in a particular family at a particular time, and only then you might just become the next King or queen. 

[00:16:26] So it's not based on merit

[00:16:28] The oldest child of the last monarch becomes the next monarch, whether that person is a potential Nobel prize winner or well, not. 

[00:16:39] They become king or queen and so be it.

[00:16:43] So there are, of course, some quite persuasive arguments for republicanism in the UK, but it is still an idea that is supported by a relatively small proportion of the population. 

[00:17:01] But for how long republicanism will remain a minority view is uncertain. 

[00:17:09] The Queen is almost a hundred years old now, and she can't rule forever. 

[00:17:15] When she dies the next in line to the throne is Charles, and he is not nearly as popular as his mother, nor as his son, Prince William. 

[00:17:28] And while Prince William is relatively popular now, as he is viewed as quite normal, at least by the standards of The Royal Family, if he has to wait to be king for as long as his father, well, he'll be waiting for quite some time. 

[00:17:46] And tastes and fashions change, just because he might be popular now that is certainly no guarantee that he will still be popular if he becomes king in 30 years' time. 

[00:18:01] What The Royal Family are very good at though, or at least they are now good at, is changing and knowing when they need to change. 

[00:18:13] This particular Royal family, The Windsors, has had to be good at adapting, at changing. 

[00:18:21] Starting from 1917 when they had to change the name of the Royal house from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the British sounding Windsor, they have realised that they will only survive if they have the support of the British public, that the goodwill of the public is the most important thing.

[00:18:47] And as soon as they lose this, the monarchy will be gone forever. 

[00:18:54] So it is understandably a concern for the British Royal family and that they are doing everything they can to remain viewed positively. 

[00:19:05] But interestingly enough, the main strategy for remaining popular is basically by being completely bland, by not reallyputting a foot out of line or showing any kind of personality.

[00:19:22] The strategy for remaining popular is by being present, by continuing the same traditions of things like opening buildings, charity work, that Christmas day speech and other ceremonial things. 

[00:19:39] The role that The Royal Family plays is, on one level, just to exist, to be constantly there and to provide a sense of stability for the country.

[00:19:55] The queen, of course, has a pretty impressive track record at doing this. 

[00:20:01] She has had 14 British prime ministers and has met 12 US presidents. 

[00:20:09] And of course the country has changed hugely during her time on the throne while she as an individual, hasn't really changed very much at all, or at least it's hard to know because the British public doesn't know the real queen.

[00:20:29] She and her family exist in the background performing this strange ceremonial role. 

[00:20:39] Always there, but quite unknowable. 

[00:20:44] British history, and also the history of other European monarchies has taught this royal family that the further it goes from this position, the further it sticks its neck out and shows any sort of real character or individuality, the more dangerous things become for it.

[00:21:07] They only need to look at Marie Antoinette or the Russian tsars to see what happens when a Royal family is too out of touch with the people and expresses too much of a personality. 

[00:21:22] That's one of the theories about why The Royal Family has been particularly difficult with any new members that have brought any kind of personality, different views, or come from different backgrounds.

[00:21:38] Whether that's Princess Diana or Meghan Markle, any new views or differences, anything that draws too much attention is not seen as a good thing. 

[00:21:52] The survival tactic seems to be to blend into the background, to do the official duties, to open schools, be patrons of charities, give Christmas messages, and just generally be there, exist while not doing anything that might offend anyone at all.

[00:22:14] So what this means is that, while everyone in Britain knows of The Royal Family, no one in Britain really knows The Royal Family. 

[00:22:27] Okay, that is it for this little look at the British Royal family. 

[00:22:33] As a Brit myself, it is on one level completely mad that we have a head of state who is an unelected woman in her nineties. 

[00:22:44] But on another level it makes complete sense and it would be unthinkable to imagine Britain any other way.

[00:22:52] It certainly seems that The Royal Family isn't going anywhere anytime soon. 

[00:23:00] They are quite adaptable, understand what is required of them, and it would take a big scandal and a big change in public opinion for any major disruption to happen here. 

[00:23:13] So if you are waiting for the day that you turn on the news in the morning to find that Brits have risen up and are marching on Buckingham Palace to turf out The Royal Family, I think you will have to wait quite some time for that. 

[00:23:30] As always, I hope that you have enjoyed the show. If you have any questions, thoughts, feedback, or more than I would love to know, you can email hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:23:41] And as I said, I now want you, the members of Leonardo English to have a direct input into what we do next. 

[00:23:49] So head to Leonardoenglish.com, login and hit request an episode. 

[00:23:56] I can't wait to see what you have to say. 

[00:23:59] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:24:04] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]


Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can learn fascinating things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:19] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about the British Royal family. 

[00:00:27] I'm sure you probably know a bit about them.

[00:00:30] You'd recognise the queen and you probably know what I mean by Buckingham Palace. 

[00:00:36] Well, today we are going to go a little bit deeper. 

[00:00:41] We are going to ask ourselves how the UK has managed to keep its monarchy while several other European countries decided to get rid of theirs, some in spectacular fashion

[00:00:54] And we'll ask ourselves what they actually do and what the future might hold for one of the world's most famous families.

[00:01:04] So it is quite an exciting one. 

[00:01:08] Before we get right into that though, just in case you hadn't listened to the last episode, I just wanted to remind you that we have made some small changes to the way the podcast works.

[00:01:21] Firstly, we've split the membership into two different groups. 

[00:01:25] Listener, if you just want to listen to all of the podcasts and Learner, if you also want the transcripts and key vocabulary. 

[00:01:33] But more excitingly, there are two new developments that I would love for you to use. 

[00:01:40] Firstly, anyone who is a member of Leonardo English, and if you're listening to this episode, then that's you, anyone who is a member of Leonardo English can now suggest topics for episodes. 

[00:01:54] The team has a big list of exciting subjects that we want to cover, but I also want to include you in this, so if you want to hear more about a particular subject, then assuming that they are things that we think will be interesting to other listeners, then we will actually make a podcast about them. 

[00:02:16] So try that out. 

[00:02:17] Head into your dashboard at leonardoenglish.com and start making those requests. 

[00:02:24] And secondly, this is something that I'm super excited about. 

[00:02:28] We are going to start doing monthly live Q&A, question and answer, sessions. 

[00:02:35] The idea for this is that they will be small, intimate groups, no more than 12 people to start with. 

[00:02:42] We'll choose a topic to discuss, likely related to the podcast topics from that month, and it'll be an opportunity to talk, ask questions, and of course, practice your English.

[00:02:57] So keep your eyes peeled, keep a lookout, for an invite for the first one of those later on this month. 

[00:03:06] Okay then let's talk about The Royal Family. 

[00:03:10] The focus of today's episode is going to be on the current Royal family, the current queen and her extended family. 

[00:03:21] But to do this it is of course useful to have a bit of background and to understand a bit about the history of the British monarchy, the kings and queens that had ruled Great Britain, or at least parts of what we now call Great Britain over the years.

[00:03:42] There have been kings and queens in Britain for over a thousand years now. 

[00:03:48] While some people claim that the monarchy only really started with the arrival of William the Conqueror in 1066 there were some kings and queens before then, even as early as the ninth century. 

[00:04:06] And although you might have thought that Britain had never got rid of its monarchy, that we were so passionate about our kings and queens that we had never thought of revolution and chopping off their heads, that isn't quite right. 

[00:04:23] In fact, England did get rid of its monarchy even before our friends across the Channel, the French, even before they did. 

[00:04:34] There was a brief period called the Commonwealth of England, which started after King Charles the First was executed in 1649, but it only lasted 11 years when the monarchy was restored.

[00:04:52] So the brief flirtation with republicanism only lasted 11 years and England and then Great Britain has had a king or queen ever since.

[00:05:08] And today's monarch is, as you will know, Queen Elizabeth. 

[00:05:14] She has been queen since 1952, 58 years ago, making her one of the longest serving monarchs in British history. 

[00:05:24] She only needs to keep going for another five years, and she will beat Queen Victoria who reigned for a massive 65 years.

[00:05:36] But something you might not know is that Queen Elizabeth was never meant to be queen. 

[00:05:43] She was never directly in line to the throne

[00:05:48] Her uncle Edward the Eighth, her father's oldest brother, he was destined to be King, but after he couldn't marry the woman he wanted to marry, he abdicated, he gave away the throne and it passed to his younger brother George the Sixth, Queen Elizabeth's father.

[00:06:11] And when he died, the throne went to Elizabeth. 

[00:06:17] So this queen was never meant to be queen, but she has done the job for 58 years, much longer than most people do any normal job. 

[00:06:30] And I do use the term 'job' here because even though some people might think that being queen just means sitting around all day drinking tea and not doing very much at all, the queen does actually have quite lot to do, as do the members of her family, The Royal Family. 

[00:06:54] The Royal Family have between them about 2000 engagements that they carry out every year.

[00:07:04] These engagements might be opening hospitals, schools, sporting events, meeting world leaders, charity work, of course, typically ceremonial things, but they do do a large amount of it. 

[00:07:23] The queen who recently celebrated her 94th birthday had 292 engagements in 2019 - that's almost six a week. 

[00:07:36] That's a lot of meeting and greeting, a lot of small talk and shaking hands and certainly a lot of work for someone who, if they were doing a normal job, would probably have retired 30 years ago. 

[00:07:53] And she isn't even the hardest working Royal in terms of duties

[00:07:58] Her son, Prince Charles, did 550 official engagements in 2019 and her daughter, Anne, did just under 500. 

[00:08:12] And they also are, as we say, no spring chicken, they aren't that young themselves. 

[00:08:19] Charles is 71 and Anne is 69. 

[00:08:24] So The Royal Family actually does quite a lot, a lot more than most people think that they do. 

[00:08:34] And in terms of popular opinion of The Royal Family, of what people think of them, overall the British public approves of the monarchy

[00:08:45] And the older you are, the more likely you are to approve of the monarchy

[00:08:51] From a survey in 2018, 57% of people in the 18 to 24 age group said that they approved of the monarchy, but 77% of those in the 55 plus age group approved.

[00:09:11] And while, even in the age group with the lowest approval rating, the 18 to 24 age group, only 25% of them said that they disapproved, the rest said that they didn't feel strongly either way.

[00:09:27] So only a small percentage of the UK population actually disapproves of the monarchy

[00:09:35] And it's worth spending a bit of time talking about why this actually is, why it might be lower than some people in more republican countries might think it would be.

[00:09:48] Firstly, the current Royal family knows that it has a certain role to play in public life, a certain place in British society. 

[00:10:01] And that is to be rolled out, to be brought out for ceremonial occasions and to provide a sense of collective spirit for the people, to provide a sense of nationalistic unity, and to provide a sense of continuity and united history of the country. 

[00:10:24] But in almost every other respect, to be completely neutral, to not express an opinion on anything.

[00:10:33] The queen, despite being technically the head of state and having the power to appoint and dismiss a prime minister, she never expresses any public opinion about anything really, political or otherwise. 

[00:10:50] Indeed, after the Brexit vote in 2016, there was a lot of speculation that she actually disagreed with the way that the vote had gone because of some of the clothes that she wore. 

[00:11:07] She never said anything, but she once wore a blue hat with yellow stars that did look quite a lot like the flag of the European Union. 

[00:11:19] And it was thought that she was wearing this as a mini protest against the Brexit vote.

[00:11:27] And then when the queen met Donald and Melania Trump in 2018 she wore a brooch, a piece of jewelry, given to her by Michelle Obama, which was interpreted by the British press as being the Queen's secret way of saying that she didn't approve of Donald Trump. 

[00:11:53] But this is all suspicion, the British public really doesn't know very much about the real queen, about what she actually thinks about anything.

[00:12:06] And this is on one level, a pretty strange situation. 

[00:12:12] There is this lady who has been in the public eye since she was born and has been queen for almost 60 years. 

[00:12:22] She is one of the most recognisable brands in the world and has one of the most recognisable faces in the world. 

[00:12:30] Of course her face is on every British banknote and every coin.

[00:12:36] I'm sure now that if you've closed your eyes and pictured the queen, you would have a pretty good idea of what she looks like. 

[00:12:44] Yet she has remained unknowable, silent on almost every issue, and she rarely has any kind of real dialogue with the public. 

[00:12:58] There is something called the Queen's speech, where on Christmas day, just after lunch, the queen will address the people in a televised message, normally just wishing everyone well and talking about some of the main events of the past year, but not really saying very much at all, and certainly not expressing much of an opinion.

[00:13:27] So this is a pretty strange situation, certainly one that friends and family from republican countries, places like France and Italy, something that they really struggle to understand. 

[00:13:42] For countries that have got rid of their own monarchies, got rid of their own kings and queens, it can be quite strange to think that one of the largest countries in Europe and certainly still an important power in global politics, has this royal family that the public overall approves of but doesn't really seem to know anything about.

[00:14:10] And they say, why do you keep them? 

[00:14:13] Why aren't people rising up in the streets saying, get rid of them? 

[00:14:18] There is of course, a proportion of the UK public that does want to abolish the monarchy, to get rid of the British Royal family.

[00:14:29] And there are a few reasons why they want to do it, some more valid than others. 

[00:14:37] Let's first take one that is often quoted, and that is from a cost point of view. 

[00:14:45] In a country where there are people who are homeless, where hospitals are overcrowded and schools need investment, why does the British taxpayer tolerate spending money on the maintenance of The Royal Family. 

[00:15:04] It is a sensible question, but even from a cost point of view, the cost of the monarchy is still slightly debated. 

[00:15:16] A recent study by The Daily Telegraph, which I should point out, is very much a pro-monarchy newspaper, suggested that The Royal Family costs each adult in Britain only 62p per year, so under a dollar per year.

[00:15:36] But republicans dispute this figure saying that when you factor in, when you consider, things like security, it's about three or four times more. 

[00:15:49] Still not a huge amount of money, in the grand scheme of things

[00:15:55] However, the cost isn't really the main issue. 

[00:16:00] It is the idea that having a monarchy is contradictory to what a modern state should stand for.

[00:16:09] By default, a monarchic system isn't fair. 

[00:16:12] Not everyone can be king or queen. 

[00:16:15] You have to be born in a particular family at a particular time, and only then you might just become the next King or queen. 

[00:16:26] So it's not based on merit

[00:16:28] The oldest child of the last monarch becomes the next monarch, whether that person is a potential Nobel prize winner or well, not. 

[00:16:39] They become king or queen and so be it.

[00:16:43] So there are, of course, some quite persuasive arguments for republicanism in the UK, but it is still an idea that is supported by a relatively small proportion of the population. 

[00:17:01] But for how long republicanism will remain a minority view is uncertain. 

[00:17:09] The Queen is almost a hundred years old now, and she can't rule forever. 

[00:17:15] When she dies the next in line to the throne is Charles, and he is not nearly as popular as his mother, nor as his son, Prince William. 

[00:17:28] And while Prince William is relatively popular now, as he is viewed as quite normal, at least by the standards of The Royal Family, if he has to wait to be king for as long as his father, well, he'll be waiting for quite some time. 

[00:17:46] And tastes and fashions change, just because he might be popular now that is certainly no guarantee that he will still be popular if he becomes king in 30 years' time. 

[00:18:01] What The Royal Family are very good at though, or at least they are now good at, is changing and knowing when they need to change. 

[00:18:13] This particular Royal family, The Windsors, has had to be good at adapting, at changing. 

[00:18:21] Starting from 1917 when they had to change the name of the Royal house from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the British sounding Windsor, they have realised that they will only survive if they have the support of the British public, that the goodwill of the public is the most important thing.

[00:18:47] And as soon as they lose this, the monarchy will be gone forever. 

[00:18:54] So it is understandably a concern for the British Royal family and that they are doing everything they can to remain viewed positively. 

[00:19:05] But interestingly enough, the main strategy for remaining popular is basically by being completely bland, by not reallyputting a foot out of line or showing any kind of personality.

[00:19:22] The strategy for remaining popular is by being present, by continuing the same traditions of things like opening buildings, charity work, that Christmas day speech and other ceremonial things. 

[00:19:39] The role that The Royal Family plays is, on one level, just to exist, to be constantly there and to provide a sense of stability for the country.

[00:19:55] The queen, of course, has a pretty impressive track record at doing this. 

[00:20:01] She has had 14 British prime ministers and has met 12 US presidents. 

[00:20:09] And of course the country has changed hugely during her time on the throne while she as an individual, hasn't really changed very much at all, or at least it's hard to know because the British public doesn't know the real queen.

[00:20:29] She and her family exist in the background performing this strange ceremonial role. 

[00:20:39] Always there, but quite unknowable. 

[00:20:44] British history, and also the history of other European monarchies has taught this royal family that the further it goes from this position, the further it sticks its neck out and shows any sort of real character or individuality, the more dangerous things become for it.

[00:21:07] They only need to look at Marie Antoinette or the Russian tsars to see what happens when a Royal family is too out of touch with the people and expresses too much of a personality. 

[00:21:22] That's one of the theories about why The Royal Family has been particularly difficult with any new members that have brought any kind of personality, different views, or come from different backgrounds.

[00:21:38] Whether that's Princess Diana or Meghan Markle, any new views or differences, anything that draws too much attention is not seen as a good thing. 

[00:21:52] The survival tactic seems to be to blend into the background, to do the official duties, to open schools, be patrons of charities, give Christmas messages, and just generally be there, exist while not doing anything that might offend anyone at all.

[00:22:14] So what this means is that, while everyone in Britain knows of The Royal Family, no one in Britain really knows The Royal Family. 

[00:22:27] Okay, that is it for this little look at the British Royal family. 

[00:22:33] As a Brit myself, it is on one level completely mad that we have a head of state who is an unelected woman in her nineties. 

[00:22:44] But on another level it makes complete sense and it would be unthinkable to imagine Britain any other way.

[00:22:52] It certainly seems that The Royal Family isn't going anywhere anytime soon. 

[00:23:00] They are quite adaptable, understand what is required of them, and it would take a big scandal and a big change in public opinion for any major disruption to happen here. 

[00:23:13] So if you are waiting for the day that you turn on the news in the morning to find that Brits have risen up and are marching on Buckingham Palace to turf out The Royal Family, I think you will have to wait quite some time for that. 

[00:23:30] As always, I hope that you have enjoyed the show. If you have any questions, thoughts, feedback, or more than I would love to know, you can email hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:23:41] And as I said, I now want you, the members of Leonardo English to have a direct input into what we do next. 

[00:23:49] So head to Leonardoenglish.com, login and hit request an episode. 

[00:23:56] I can't wait to see what you have to say. 

[00:23:59] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:24:04] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]


[00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can learn fascinating things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:19] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about the British Royal family. 

[00:00:27] I'm sure you probably know a bit about them.

[00:00:30] You'd recognise the queen and you probably know what I mean by Buckingham Palace. 

[00:00:36] Well, today we are going to go a little bit deeper. 

[00:00:41] We are going to ask ourselves how the UK has managed to keep its monarchy while several other European countries decided to get rid of theirs, some in spectacular fashion

[00:00:54] And we'll ask ourselves what they actually do and what the future might hold for one of the world's most famous families.

[00:01:04] So it is quite an exciting one. 

[00:01:08] Before we get right into that though, just in case you hadn't listened to the last episode, I just wanted to remind you that we have made some small changes to the way the podcast works.

[00:01:21] Firstly, we've split the membership into two different groups. 

[00:01:25] Listener, if you just want to listen to all of the podcasts and Learner, if you also want the transcripts and key vocabulary. 

[00:01:33] But more excitingly, there are two new developments that I would love for you to use. 

[00:01:40] Firstly, anyone who is a member of Leonardo English, and if you're listening to this episode, then that's you, anyone who is a member of Leonardo English can now suggest topics for episodes. 

[00:01:54] The team has a big list of exciting subjects that we want to cover, but I also want to include you in this, so if you want to hear more about a particular subject, then assuming that they are things that we think will be interesting to other listeners, then we will actually make a podcast about them. 

[00:02:16] So try that out. 

[00:02:17] Head into your dashboard at leonardoenglish.com and start making those requests. 

[00:02:24] And secondly, this is something that I'm super excited about. 

[00:02:28] We are going to start doing monthly live Q&A, question and answer, sessions. 

[00:02:35] The idea for this is that they will be small, intimate groups, no more than 12 people to start with. 

[00:02:42] We'll choose a topic to discuss, likely related to the podcast topics from that month, and it'll be an opportunity to talk, ask questions, and of course, practice your English.

[00:02:57] So keep your eyes peeled, keep a lookout, for an invite for the first one of those later on this month. 

[00:03:06] Okay then let's talk about The Royal Family. 

[00:03:10] The focus of today's episode is going to be on the current Royal family, the current queen and her extended family. 

[00:03:21] But to do this it is of course useful to have a bit of background and to understand a bit about the history of the British monarchy, the kings and queens that had ruled Great Britain, or at least parts of what we now call Great Britain over the years.

[00:03:42] There have been kings and queens in Britain for over a thousand years now. 

[00:03:48] While some people claim that the monarchy only really started with the arrival of William the Conqueror in 1066 there were some kings and queens before then, even as early as the ninth century. 

[00:04:06] And although you might have thought that Britain had never got rid of its monarchy, that we were so passionate about our kings and queens that we had never thought of revolution and chopping off their heads, that isn't quite right. 

[00:04:23] In fact, England did get rid of its monarchy even before our friends across the Channel, the French, even before they did. 

[00:04:34] There was a brief period called the Commonwealth of England, which started after King Charles the First was executed in 1649, but it only lasted 11 years when the monarchy was restored.

[00:04:52] So the brief flirtation with republicanism only lasted 11 years and England and then Great Britain has had a king or queen ever since.

[00:05:08] And today's monarch is, as you will know, Queen Elizabeth. 

[00:05:14] She has been queen since 1952, 58 years ago, making her one of the longest serving monarchs in British history. 

[00:05:24] She only needs to keep going for another five years, and she will beat Queen Victoria who reigned for a massive 65 years.

[00:05:36] But something you might not know is that Queen Elizabeth was never meant to be queen. 

[00:05:43] She was never directly in line to the throne

[00:05:48] Her uncle Edward the Eighth, her father's oldest brother, he was destined to be King, but after he couldn't marry the woman he wanted to marry, he abdicated, he gave away the throne and it passed to his younger brother George the Sixth, Queen Elizabeth's father.

[00:06:11] And when he died, the throne went to Elizabeth. 

[00:06:17] So this queen was never meant to be queen, but she has done the job for 58 years, much longer than most people do any normal job. 

[00:06:30] And I do use the term 'job' here because even though some people might think that being queen just means sitting around all day drinking tea and not doing very much at all, the queen does actually have quite lot to do, as do the members of her family, The Royal Family. 

[00:06:54] The Royal Family have between them about 2000 engagements that they carry out every year.

[00:07:04] These engagements might be opening hospitals, schools, sporting events, meeting world leaders, charity work, of course, typically ceremonial things, but they do do a large amount of it. 

[00:07:23] The queen who recently celebrated her 94th birthday had 292 engagements in 2019 - that's almost six a week. 

[00:07:36] That's a lot of meeting and greeting, a lot of small talk and shaking hands and certainly a lot of work for someone who, if they were doing a normal job, would probably have retired 30 years ago. 

[00:07:53] And she isn't even the hardest working Royal in terms of duties

[00:07:58] Her son, Prince Charles, did 550 official engagements in 2019 and her daughter, Anne, did just under 500. 

[00:08:12] And they also are, as we say, no spring chicken, they aren't that young themselves. 

[00:08:19] Charles is 71 and Anne is 69. 

[00:08:24] So The Royal Family actually does quite a lot, a lot more than most people think that they do. 

[00:08:34] And in terms of popular opinion of The Royal Family, of what people think of them, overall the British public approves of the monarchy

[00:08:45] And the older you are, the more likely you are to approve of the monarchy

[00:08:51] From a survey in 2018, 57% of people in the 18 to 24 age group said that they approved of the monarchy, but 77% of those in the 55 plus age group approved.

[00:09:11] And while, even in the age group with the lowest approval rating, the 18 to 24 age group, only 25% of them said that they disapproved, the rest said that they didn't feel strongly either way.

[00:09:27] So only a small percentage of the UK population actually disapproves of the monarchy

[00:09:35] And it's worth spending a bit of time talking about why this actually is, why it might be lower than some people in more republican countries might think it would be.

[00:09:48] Firstly, the current Royal family knows that it has a certain role to play in public life, a certain place in British society. 

[00:10:01] And that is to be rolled out, to be brought out for ceremonial occasions and to provide a sense of collective spirit for the people, to provide a sense of nationalistic unity, and to provide a sense of continuity and united history of the country. 

[00:10:24] But in almost every other respect, to be completely neutral, to not express an opinion on anything.

[00:10:33] The queen, despite being technically the head of state and having the power to appoint and dismiss a prime minister, she never expresses any public opinion about anything really, political or otherwise. 

[00:10:50] Indeed, after the Brexit vote in 2016, there was a lot of speculation that she actually disagreed with the way that the vote had gone because of some of the clothes that she wore. 

[00:11:07] She never said anything, but she once wore a blue hat with yellow stars that did look quite a lot like the flag of the European Union. 

[00:11:19] And it was thought that she was wearing this as a mini protest against the Brexit vote.

[00:11:27] And then when the queen met Donald and Melania Trump in 2018 she wore a brooch, a piece of jewelry, given to her by Michelle Obama, which was interpreted by the British press as being the Queen's secret way of saying that she didn't approve of Donald Trump. 

[00:11:53] But this is all suspicion, the British public really doesn't know very much about the real queen, about what she actually thinks about anything.

[00:12:06] And this is on one level, a pretty strange situation. 

[00:12:12] There is this lady who has been in the public eye since she was born and has been queen for almost 60 years. 

[00:12:22] She is one of the most recognisable brands in the world and has one of the most recognisable faces in the world. 

[00:12:30] Of course her face is on every British banknote and every coin.

[00:12:36] I'm sure now that if you've closed your eyes and pictured the queen, you would have a pretty good idea of what she looks like. 

[00:12:44] Yet she has remained unknowable, silent on almost every issue, and she rarely has any kind of real dialogue with the public. 

[00:12:58] There is something called the Queen's speech, where on Christmas day, just after lunch, the queen will address the people in a televised message, normally just wishing everyone well and talking about some of the main events of the past year, but not really saying very much at all, and certainly not expressing much of an opinion.

[00:13:27] So this is a pretty strange situation, certainly one that friends and family from republican countries, places like France and Italy, something that they really struggle to understand. 

[00:13:42] For countries that have got rid of their own monarchies, got rid of their own kings and queens, it can be quite strange to think that one of the largest countries in Europe and certainly still an important power in global politics, has this royal family that the public overall approves of but doesn't really seem to know anything about.

[00:14:10] And they say, why do you keep them? 

[00:14:13] Why aren't people rising up in the streets saying, get rid of them? 

[00:14:18] There is of course, a proportion of the UK public that does want to abolish the monarchy, to get rid of the British Royal family.

[00:14:29] And there are a few reasons why they want to do it, some more valid than others. 

[00:14:37] Let's first take one that is often quoted, and that is from a cost point of view. 

[00:14:45] In a country where there are people who are homeless, where hospitals are overcrowded and schools need investment, why does the British taxpayer tolerate spending money on the maintenance of The Royal Family. 

[00:15:04] It is a sensible question, but even from a cost point of view, the cost of the monarchy is still slightly debated. 

[00:15:16] A recent study by The Daily Telegraph, which I should point out, is very much a pro-monarchy newspaper, suggested that The Royal Family costs each adult in Britain only 62p per year, so under a dollar per year.

[00:15:36] But republicans dispute this figure saying that when you factor in, when you consider, things like security, it's about three or four times more. 

[00:15:49] Still not a huge amount of money, in the grand scheme of things

[00:15:55] However, the cost isn't really the main issue. 

[00:16:00] It is the idea that having a monarchy is contradictory to what a modern state should stand for.

[00:16:09] By default, a monarchic system isn't fair. 

[00:16:12] Not everyone can be king or queen. 

[00:16:15] You have to be born in a particular family at a particular time, and only then you might just become the next King or queen. 

[00:16:26] So it's not based on merit

[00:16:28] The oldest child of the last monarch becomes the next monarch, whether that person is a potential Nobel prize winner or well, not. 

[00:16:39] They become king or queen and so be it.

[00:16:43] So there are, of course, some quite persuasive arguments for republicanism in the UK, but it is still an idea that is supported by a relatively small proportion of the population. 

[00:17:01] But for how long republicanism will remain a minority view is uncertain. 

[00:17:09] The Queen is almost a hundred years old now, and she can't rule forever. 

[00:17:15] When she dies the next in line to the throne is Charles, and he is not nearly as popular as his mother, nor as his son, Prince William. 

[00:17:28] And while Prince William is relatively popular now, as he is viewed as quite normal, at least by the standards of The Royal Family, if he has to wait to be king for as long as his father, well, he'll be waiting for quite some time. 

[00:17:46] And tastes and fashions change, just because he might be popular now that is certainly no guarantee that he will still be popular if he becomes king in 30 years' time. 

[00:18:01] What The Royal Family are very good at though, or at least they are now good at, is changing and knowing when they need to change. 

[00:18:13] This particular Royal family, The Windsors, has had to be good at adapting, at changing. 

[00:18:21] Starting from 1917 when they had to change the name of the Royal house from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the British sounding Windsor, they have realised that they will only survive if they have the support of the British public, that the goodwill of the public is the most important thing.

[00:18:47] And as soon as they lose this, the monarchy will be gone forever. 

[00:18:54] So it is understandably a concern for the British Royal family and that they are doing everything they can to remain viewed positively. 

[00:19:05] But interestingly enough, the main strategy for remaining popular is basically by being completely bland, by not reallyputting a foot out of line or showing any kind of personality.

[00:19:22] The strategy for remaining popular is by being present, by continuing the same traditions of things like opening buildings, charity work, that Christmas day speech and other ceremonial things. 

[00:19:39] The role that The Royal Family plays is, on one level, just to exist, to be constantly there and to provide a sense of stability for the country.

[00:19:55] The queen, of course, has a pretty impressive track record at doing this. 

[00:20:01] She has had 14 British prime ministers and has met 12 US presidents. 

[00:20:09] And of course the country has changed hugely during her time on the throne while she as an individual, hasn't really changed very much at all, or at least it's hard to know because the British public doesn't know the real queen.

[00:20:29] She and her family exist in the background performing this strange ceremonial role. 

[00:20:39] Always there, but quite unknowable. 

[00:20:44] British history, and also the history of other European monarchies has taught this royal family that the further it goes from this position, the further it sticks its neck out and shows any sort of real character or individuality, the more dangerous things become for it.

[00:21:07] They only need to look at Marie Antoinette or the Russian tsars to see what happens when a Royal family is too out of touch with the people and expresses too much of a personality. 

[00:21:22] That's one of the theories about why The Royal Family has been particularly difficult with any new members that have brought any kind of personality, different views, or come from different backgrounds.

[00:21:38] Whether that's Princess Diana or Meghan Markle, any new views or differences, anything that draws too much attention is not seen as a good thing. 

[00:21:52] The survival tactic seems to be to blend into the background, to do the official duties, to open schools, be patrons of charities, give Christmas messages, and just generally be there, exist while not doing anything that might offend anyone at all.

[00:22:14] So what this means is that, while everyone in Britain knows of The Royal Family, no one in Britain really knows The Royal Family. 

[00:22:27] Okay, that is it for this little look at the British Royal family. 

[00:22:33] As a Brit myself, it is on one level completely mad that we have a head of state who is an unelected woman in her nineties. 

[00:22:44] But on another level it makes complete sense and it would be unthinkable to imagine Britain any other way.

[00:22:52] It certainly seems that The Royal Family isn't going anywhere anytime soon. 

[00:23:00] They are quite adaptable, understand what is required of them, and it would take a big scandal and a big change in public opinion for any major disruption to happen here. 

[00:23:13] So if you are waiting for the day that you turn on the news in the morning to find that Brits have risen up and are marching on Buckingham Palace to turf out The Royal Family, I think you will have to wait quite some time for that. 

[00:23:30] As always, I hope that you have enjoyed the show. If you have any questions, thoughts, feedback, or more than I would love to know, you can email hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:23:41] And as I said, I now want you, the members of Leonardo English to have a direct input into what we do next. 

[00:23:49] So head to Leonardoenglish.com, login and hit request an episode. 

[00:23:56] I can't wait to see what you have to say. 

[00:23:59] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:24:04] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]