Introduction: The Throne of Britain

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The Throne of Britain

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The year 2002 marks the 50th year in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II—her Golden Jubilee—a milestone reached by only five previous British monarchs. Sadly, a pall was cast over the festivities by the death of the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, followed shortly afterward by the death of the Queen's mother, who was also named Elizabeth.

The royal family has certainly experienced its share of tragedy over the past several years. Adultery, divorce, scandal, serious health problems. And, of course, who can forget the farewell to "England's rose," Princess Diana? Besides these, the House of Windsor has also had to face questions regarding the role and legitimacy of the monarchy itself.

As the United Kingdom wrestles with issues of national sovereignty and the preservation of its culture and national traditions in the face of calls for greater participation in the European Union, the throne of Britain has been the subject of ongoing debate.

One of country's premier magazines, The Economist, has even called for abolishing the monarchy, calling it an institution of "baseless deference" (Oct. 22, 1994, p. 15; see Appendix 1: "Scrapping the Monarchy?") Yet is it truly baseless? We will learn the answer to that question as we examine the matter—and from a rather surprising source.