The institution of monarchy is nothing more than an archaic hangover of days that have long since passed. It is an institution that is fundamentally undemocratic and epitomises the absolute worst of economic inequality and elitist snobbery. Whilst it is now ubiquitous to mock the ‘divine right of kings’ as being a ludicrous concept, many in society still seem to be under the illusion that some are of ‘noble birth’. Of course, the key factor which apparently determines if someone is of noble birth is whether or not they are descended from a long line of individuals who accumulated generational wealth from conquest, theft and exploitation. The concept is obscene enough in isolation, yet we presently have an unwritten constitutional arrangement in which this premise forms the basis from which all executive and legislative power in the country is derived and from which the head of state is determined.
Whilst the institution of monarchy in a British context is bad enough, in a Welsh context it is downright offensive. Wales’ entrance into the ‘union’ with England was the direct result of an unprovoked invasion and annexation by none other than Charles Windsor’s predecessors. Not only did they invade and occupy Wales, but they even saw fit to brutally murder Wales’ final native princes so as to cement their rule over the nation. Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was ambushed and killed in Cilmeri in 1282, whilst his brother Dafydd was the first prominent figure in recorded history to be subjected to being hung, drawn and quartered the following year. As a final humiliating gesture of dominance over Wales, Edward Longshanks invested his son as Prince of Wales in 1301. Since then, it has been customary for the ruling monarch of England (now the United Kingdom, although that difference is tentative at best) to invest their heir apparent as the Prince of Wales.
In the centuries following the conquest to the present day, there has been a longstanding radical tradition of opposition to the monarchy in Wales. Whilst Owain Glyndŵr may have proclaimed himself as Prince of Wales following his rebellion against the English monarchy in 1404, he did so in the presence of a parliament he had called in Machynlleth. In the following year, a second parliament would be held in Harlech, in which it is believed that up to four representatives from every commote in Wales was in attendance. Although the exact nature of Glyndŵr’s parliaments remain shadowed by history, their existence is evidence of an early democratic tendency existing in Wales. This would continue well into the Industrial Revolution, throughout which Wales became a hotbed for radical republicanism, culminating in the Merthyr and Casnewydd risings. Indeed, even the investiture of Charles Windsor as Prince of Wales in Caernarfon as recently as 1969 was met with protests nationwide and militant action from the likes of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru and the Free Wales Army. So intense was the pushback against Charles’ investiture, that upon his ascension to the throne last year, Charles personally opted to avoid a formal investiture ceremony for William so as to avoid a repeat of events.
Focusing less on the history of the issue, the present and future prospects for the monarchy are bleak, particularly here in Wales. Polling on the issue conducted by Beaufort Research and BBC Wales in 1999 suggested that up to 62% of the Welsh-speaking population supported the monarchy, whereas polling in recent years has consistently indicated that support amongst the wider population hovers at around 50%, suggesting a large drop in support. In regards to the Prince of Wales title, there is a very similar downward trend over the past two decades, with support dropping from 73% in 1999 to as low as 51% in 2023 according to Lord Ashcroft polling. When polling is broken down by age, however, the future of the monarchy becomes even more uncertain. Polling conducted by YouGov and WalesOnline this year revealed that whilst up to 69% of those in Wales aged over 65 support the monarchy, only a mere 28% of those aged 16 to 24 do. A similar trend is observed amongst those in the 24 to 49 age category, where support sits at 43%. It therefore seems fairly apparent that support for the monarchy in Wales is on borrowed time and that a future independent Wales should strive to become a republic so as to reflect that. After all, if we are to become an independent nation, then surely we should also have the freedom to elect our own head of state?
When the matter of republicanism is discussed in a British context, it is often presented as a binary selection between the status quo or a presidential republic akin to the United States or France. The reality of the matter is actually far more exciting, particularly in the context of Wales alone. As an independent nation, we could opt to establish a radically new form of governance predicated on participatory democracy and subsidiarity. Taking inspiration from the Swiss canton model, governance could be decentralised down to the scale of ‘cantrefi’, small areas in which communities would be empowered to directly govern their own affairs. Welsh citizens would become active participants in their local communities and would wield genuine power and influence over their surroundings, as governance would be brought down to the human scale. In such a system, citizenry would be involved in frequent local and national referenda, debates and general decision making. Power wouldn’t be vested solely in the Senedd in Caerdydd, but also with the citizens and communities themselves. It wouldn’t even be necessary for there to exist a president in the conventional understanding of the role, as we could instead opt to have an executive federal council as Switzerland also does. This would dispel a lot of the criticisms of republicanism that are often raised concerning the cost and impartiality of a president as head of state.
If Wales is to become an independent nation, then it should do so with self-confidence and pride. It should not confine itself to ‘safe’, tried and tested methods of governance and embrace the potential to create a genuinely new society that places the power of communities at its forefront. Most importantly of all, however, it should under no circumstance keep itself shackled to a decrepit monarchy in London that has never done anything except steal, loot and plunder. Wales can choose to either have the courage to be free, or it will not be free at all.