Social media’s corrosive effect on UK Monarchy’s legitimacy

Map of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and...

Map of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in comparison to the European Union and Continental Europe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since 2008, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) has opened up a number of public inquiries into long running scandals that have been a cause of public anger. For decades, HMG resisted such calls. The official story had closed these events and rendered a verdict. Yet, the public were not satisfied. Then, starting around 2010 the government started to address these long simmering issues.

Each of these issues involves state bodies or its agents. They point directly to failures by the government or its agents. They point to abuse of power. Most importantly, they point to grave injustices.

Is the regime founded in consent or coercion?

All regimes are based on a mix of consent and coercion. No regime is based solely on consent and no regime is based solely on coercion. If they have existed, they have existed briefly for they disintegrated under the extreme ethos. The UK monarchy, is not based on consent. The Queen, who is the source of all laws, is not on the throne by consent. The public did not elect her. They will not elect her successor. In this role, she has no mandate save that which force of arms and tradition supply. So long as she acts with justice, keeps the people safe, and respects the laws she will continue to rule.

The Coronation Oath sets out her responsibilities.

Archbishop. Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws[1] and customs? [emphasis added]

Queen. I solemnly promise so to do.

Archbishop. Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?

Queen. I Will.[2]

As such, the legitimacy of her reign, her ability to stay in power, rests on the ability to deliver justice.

The official story once unassailable is now openly challenged and changed

In the past, the official verdicts by HMG or Her Majesty’s Police were the final verdict. There was no appeal beyond it. Social media has changed that completely and irretrievably. No longer can she or her agents rely on their authority or their control of the public or official memory. Social media has allowed the public to share information, develop networks, and investigate official records to create a counter narrative. The public now can create and access a rival public memory to challenge any statement, fact, or claim proposed by the government. For example, the victims of the abuse of power by the undercover police investigated and unmasked the perpetrators. They were able to do this only with the help of social media. Without that platform, the task would have been impossible for an individual even one with extensive resources. The survivors of institutional child sex abuse were able to challenge the government because they could create a rival memory to the one created to defend Jimmy Savile, Cyril Smith, and even Lord Janner. Today, the balance has shifted. Individuals who work together can created a rival or alternative narrative to the official story. They have forced HMG and the Monarchy to respond when before, they would have been met with silence or denials.

The UK media patrol the public domain protecting the Crown from challenge

The government’s denials and their official history succeeded because the media helped to defend it. On occasion it did challenge that narrative. However, it was usually a local issue or one that was within the proprietor’s interest. The media rarely challenge the official narrative. They rarely created or sustained a rival memory to challenge the official memory. Although there are rare examples where a journalist or even a group of journalists did challenge the system, they were an exception. With the advent of social media, the media have been challenged directly because they no longer have a publishing monopoly. They may have the largest share but they now have to accept the rival voices across Twitter, blogs, and Facebook that challenge them even as they try to co-opt it to their ends. The old establishment relationships are fracturing. However, the issue is more than the media losing money, instead it is that the Crown is losing its legitimacy.

Social media challenges the Crown’s legitimacy by broadcasting its injustice

Social media is now challenging the Crown’s legitimacy. Social media reveals that Crown has been complicit. In these scandals it has been shown to lack justice, to abuse power, and to flout the law. The Crown has ruled by law but it has not accepted the rule of law. Social media has shown that the Crown has usurped the people’s power, popular sovereignty. The Crown’s title to rule is no longer valid. To shore up of its legitimacy, to burnish its valid title to rule, the Crown has sought to address the long running, deep seated, injustices within its system. In particular, the following investigations which challenge the Crown’s legitimacy and the legitimacy of its bodies would not have happened without social media.

  • The Hillsborough Inquiry.
  • The Goddard Inquiry into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
  • The Daniel Morgan Murder Independent Panel
  • The Pitchford Inquiry in to Undercover Policing (SpyCops)

Instead of lancing the boil of popular discontent, the inquiries have shown the full scale, scope and depth of the Crown’s corruption. Instead of shoring up the Crown’s legitimacy, the inquiries, panels, and inquests have eroded it further. The outcomes have shown the Crown, its institutions, and its agents have had scant regard for the public good, the rule of law, or justice. They have shown the British public that the Monarchy is an outdated institution. Why should someone in the 21st century obey an unelected person whose claim to rule is based on a 13th century standard?

When authority is questioned can it justify itself?

Social media challenges the legitimacy of all rulers and governments. Those that can answer the public coherently and convincingly will retain their legitimacy. To answer, the rulers show that they rely on the public’s consent. Those that cannot answer show they lack the public’s consent. What social media has shown the public is that Crown does not exist by their consent. The Crown cannot explain why the UK requires an unelected monarch. The Crown cannot explain why the Parliament rules by law but will not accept the rule of law[3] The Crown cannot explain why it should be considered legitimate when it is not based on consent.

The Crown is unable to justify an unelected ruler in an age of hyper-democracy

In time, the Crown will have to reform or be replaced, yet to do either would repudiate its legitimacy. One thing is clear. The Monarchy has survived for over 1000 years because of its ability to change in response to challenge or assimilate the challengers. In doing so, it has always ensured that it ruled. Yet, social media demands an equality that invalidates the Crown’s prerogative. The question is whether the Crown can manage that change. So far, it has responded with increased surveillance, laws to punish extremist speech, and a system of institutional informers. All of these are done within the law, but none increase the Crown’s legitimacy but only go to show its increased fragility for the reflect the need for public safety without delivering justice. Despite the political reforms to lance the boils of public discontent, the Crown has been unable to justify why it is legitimate. The Crown cannot answer the question of what justify its continued existence as a regime without consent. No matter the answers its provides, the Crown cannot stop the social media revolution or divert it from the demand for equality. We have begun to see the beginning of its end.



[1] That a monarch agrees to rule according to the laws separates them from a tyranny. A king has been able to transform their usurpation of power, the public’s power or what is known as popular sovereignty, and transform it into a valid title to rule. The validity of that rule is enhanced by the Monarchy’s willingness to rule according to the community’s laws.  As Leo Strauss explains in On Tyranny, a tyrant is differentiated from a king on the basis of ruling over willing or unwilling subjects and whether it is according to the community’s laws or the ruler’s will.

“Tyranny is defined in contradistinction to kingship: kingship is such rule as is exercised over willing subjects and is in accordance with the laws of the cities; tyranny is such rule as is exercised over unwilling subjects and accords, not with laws but with the will of the ruler.” OT p. 68


[3] Lord Neuberger recognized this point when he quoted Lord Justice Laws,

“It may be that my perceptive and far-thinking colleague, Lord Justice Laws, will one day turn out to be right when he argued that, through judicial development of the common law, ‘a gradual reordering of our constitutional priorities [may] bring alive the nascent idea that a democratic legislature cannot be above the law.61 ’ But we are not there yet.” (the footnote is from: Laws, Illegality and the Problem of Jurisdiction, in Supperstone & Goudie (eds), Judicial Review, (Butterworths) (1997) 4.17 cited in Goldworthy, The Myth of the Common Law Constitution in Edlin (ed), Common Law Theory (CUP) (2007) at 204)

About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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3 Responses to Social media’s corrosive effect on UK Monarchy’s legitimacy

  1. ‘Hyper-democracy’: BRAVO!
    “Regime without consent”: EXCELLENT!
    The beginning of a number of ends, methinks…

  2. truth1 says:

    Superbly written with good sense and intent. I would, however, question whether any sort of so called democracy is really democracy. We in the USA have voting rights and many participate in that. I do not waste my time with it. I know the people are too stupid to see where their best interests reside. One needs a thorough accurate understanding of the entirety of the problem and scope. There are very few anywhere, outside of the lite maybe 10% of the worlds’ populations. the UK Monarchy is not different from the USA “system” of government. Neither the Queen nor our President have any options to rule. They are puppets doing as they are told. They are willing puppets so they are accountable, but it is others that make the decisions and have been doing so for at least 1000 years, it not 2000 or 2500 years.

    Because too much of the population depends on being followers rather than a collection of individuals who one and all know the real solution to the problems. So you’ll have to forgive me, but I would say that we need a force far stronger than those who run the world currently. If there is no such force, then we are screwed, pure and simple. Fortunately, I believe there is such a force. Unfortunately, most do not like that option because that option is our creator, God, and He requires that we do things His way, not our way. Again, we do not have enough brains to be able to get ourselves out of our own mess and we do not have enough power. But I believe it would be wise and beneficial for all to given the concept of the Biblical God far more consideration than they all have to date. God created life. He can preserve life and He can even restore life lost.

    To give evidence of my conviction of the above paragraphs, I have spent my adult life pursuing a better understanding of God than what any religious authority ever dared to offer. I offer a vast array of thoughts on nearly anything imaginable. but only curious minds need bother at all. Few will ever attempt it, but here ya go, if you dare:

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