The Oath of Allegiance: Worth More Than a Shilling

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I support an independent Scottish Republic. That’s a Scotland with no hereditary monarch for those who become apoplectic at the sight of word republic. To me, the Queen is naturally no better than anyone else, has no divine right to lord it over others and is there not by effort, by hard work or achievement, but by an accident of birth. Recently we have been ‘treated’ to coverage of her grandson, another in a long line born and bred to rule. Sickening with sycophancy, the media feed and thrive on their very existence, reinforcing their divine right to rule over us. I have a problem with this whole system. A video posted some time ago on Youtube demonstrated the hypocrisy of the monarchy, dubbing a sneering BBC commentary of a North Korean Dictator visiting his adoring citizens over footage of the Queen on a visit to her adoring subjects. Mindless, unthinking worship of foreign dictators is bad, cultish, evil and unhealthy. Mindless, unthinking worship of the Queen is patriotic, inspiring, joyful. Or is it?

In the late 1970’s I joined the Cub Scouts and it was there that I first required to give an oath of allegiance to the Queen:

I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to God and to the Queen
To help other people
And to keep the Cub Scout Law.

Unfortunately it’s not enough to encourage kids to do their best and to help others. To join, to take part meant an oath to God and to the Queen. Don’t get me wrong, the Scout Association does fantastic work but even at a young age I questioned why I had to take an oath to the Queen. God I didn’t mind so much. “It’s only words” I was told. To participate, to take part I would have to cross my fingers and say the words. So I did just that. Kids with more morals than me have over the years stood up to this and in fact it’s only recently that the requirement to mention God has been removed, with various other deities being allowed, or indeed none at all. But while the requirement to make a promise to God was removed, the Queen remains:

Chris Foster, spokesman for The Scout Association, said the guidelines were strict when it came to the section regarding the Queen.

He said: “For people of other nationalities resident in the UK making the Cub Scout Promise, the phrase may be replaced by ‘duty to the country in which I am now living’.

“However, British subjects must promise to do their duty to the Queen. It is simply UK Scout Association policy that all British subjects must promise that.”

Growing older and moving on to the Scouts and the situation remained the same with a promise to God and Queen. The indoctrination continued.

Anyone taking up British citizenship must take an oath to the Queen, something that any born and bred British subject doesn’t have to do. In fact in 2008 the Home Secretary of the day, Charles Clarke actually proposed a citizenship ceremony for those people reaching the age of 18. Thankfully that failed to come about, such overt government enforced patriotism being perhaps seen as a step too far, or maybe just too obvious. Which leaves those who come to this country and who wish to gain citizenship required to study hard, learn a variety of odd topics and sit a test which they must pass if they want to become a British citizen. One of the topics is British values, of which the cynic in me assumes involve questions about tax evasion, the hounding of the poorer in society, a dislike of immigrants and loyalty to the Queen. Well, that’s what happens when you read the Daily Mail I suppose. The oath itself is as follows:

I, [name], [swear by Almighty God] / [do solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare] that, on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs, and successors, according to law.

Having sworn an oath to the Queen and her brood, the hopeful citizen must also make a pledge:

I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.

In summary, leave your own values at the door, oh, and vote Tory…

In 1987 I joined the Territorial Army. I was interested in soldiering and was asked by a workmate if I’d go along with him to find out about joining, which I did. To join, yes, you’ve guessed it, another oath to the Queen. Such little attention did I pay to this insignificant joining ritual that I have absolutely no memory of taking it. But I joined, so I doubt I must have, and I’m regularly chastised by former colleagues for openly criticising the Queen, reminded on more than one occasion that I “took the Queen’s shilling.” No, I did a job, for pay. To say that you took the Queens shilling perhaps shows an ignorance of the term and its history, having its origins in naval lore of press gangs getting unwilling ‘volunteers’ drunk, and who would wake up in possession of a shiny shilling, a symbol of their having accepted a job offer whilst inebriated. As an aside, to get paid in the Territorial Army you had to sign an attendance sheet. Failure to sign the aforementioned document meant you would not be paid, known as “to do one for the Queen”. If I recall correctly NO-ONE did one for the Queen. Nobody ever said “No, you’re alright Sir, I’ll do this for the Queen. No Charge…”

But back to the oath of allegiance; in the British Army new recruits are required to recite the following statement:

I (your name), swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, her heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me.

The phrase “Almighty God” can be replaced by the words “solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm”

The observant among you will no doubt have noticed a pattern in all these oaths. In every single case God can be dispensed with. He can be changed for the god of your choice, or dispensed with entirely. But the Fidei Defensor, the Defender of the Faith remains. You can dispense with God, but not the Queen.

So, by all means argue your case. Tell me how many tourists visit because of her and I’ll tell you how many visit New York or Paris or Berlin. The UK is ranked 8th as a tourist destination, with only one monarchy above that: Spain. People don’t come to see the Queen, they come to see pretty castles and big houses and it makes not a jot of difference whether there’s a monarch or not, they’ll still come. Tell me that you would rather have a Queen than a President and I’ll ask what part does she play in the legislative process? She opens parliament, she makes a speech where she reads out her governments policies for the coming parliament. No matter how hideous, how rotten, how utterly indefensible, she’ll read it. And when it makes it through parliament she’ll give it the nod and royal assent is conveyed upon it. It’s law, HER law. Poll Tax? She’s good with that. Cuts to disability benefits? Not a problem. You name it, she’ll sign it. In 63 years she has NEVER refused to grant royal assent. In fact you would have to go back as far as 1707 to find the last time it was refused. In that case a bill authorising the arming a Scottish militia was refused assent, fearing disloyalty from the Scots in the Auld Alliance with France. Let’s face it; the Queen is but a figurehead, nothing more. The Prime Minister is the real head of state. Call the role Prime Minister or President, the role is the same. At least they can be gotten rid of if they step out of line. 63 years later and Auld Liz is still hanging on.

What we are left with is the state subsidising the richest woman in the country to remain the richest woman in the country. While people starve or go homeless or live on the breadline, one woman and her family want for nothing. They occasionally take on pretend jobs, wearing pretend medals, smiling pretend smiles. If she acted out of compassion and gave away even some of her personal fortune estimated at £550 MILLION to good causes she could still be rolling in it for another lifetime. But she won’t. The motto Service, Not Self is not applicable in her case. The round of foreign visits, sumptuous banquets and waving is the price she pays for her position. Well boo-hoo.

Saltire

While I was in the TA I mainly maintained a respectful silence where the Queen and her ilk were concerned. I bit my tongue when they played the national anthem, as it too has never been my anthem. It’s never been my country. I’m a Scot, first and foremost. In a small act of rebellion I sewed a Saltire on my Norwegian shirt, and oddly was never told to take it off. I left the armed forces in 2004. I am no longer bound to obey the orders of generals and officers. I’m back to being a civilian again, my oath is dead and I have no requirement to bow to the Queen, her heirs or successors, and I’ll quite happily say state my opinions. If that upsets some people, then so be it. In my view friendship is bound by shared experiences and comradeship, not conditional on a never ending vow to a figurehead monarch and her family. If that’s your view then feel free, count me out.

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