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Photo by Steven Lilley (sk8geek; Flickr CC)
Fish and chips
Fish and chips
Sometimes British people in Germany get this idea in their heads that Germans like, or even envy, them for having the Royal Family. They read endless Bild stories about "Die Qveen" or "Prinz Herry" and think that Germans are fascinated with monarchies and secretly miss having a Kaiser.
And they're a little bit right. Reading comments on some of the German press coverage of the Queen's jubilee, I found at least one thing like this:
"Seeing pictures like this, as a German you can only burst with envy. A proud nation, at peace with itself, a people that has not lost its positive connection to its own centuries of history through the institution of an independent monarchy. [What do we have?] A crusty republic ruled by a political and media elite hostile to its people, eaten up by self-doubt and self-hate, who sees its ultimate goal in the destruction of the sovereign nation in a federal EU empire." (Die Zeit),
for everything like this :
"E II is the richest woman in the world. With jewellery (some of which was plundered by Francis Drake), to the diamonds from India. Why does she still exist? Isn't she as useless as a wart???"(Der Spiegel).
More often than not, though, you get the more strictly utilitarian opinion – "it's still cheaper than forever paying for all those federal presidents who are still alive. Keeping a monarchy is probably cheaper than a presidential system." (Die Welt.) (This isn't true, in case you're interested: discounting additional costs like security and lost tax revenue – the Royal Family officially costs the British taxpayer £32.1 million a year, while the German president costs €4.6 million a year, plus the annual pension per former president – all four of those still alive – of €199,000).
And then there's my theory, that Germans, and in fact Europeans in general, have a sub-conscious belief in the racial superiority of aristocrats – cf. the enduring popularity of ex-minister zu Guttenberg – and there's still a lingering belief that anything other than letting posh people do what they want is mob rule.
But if you ever actually pin a German down and ask them would they really, really, honestly like the monarchy back, they usually say no. That's still true even after a lot of them point out, fairly enough, that things didn't exactly go well in this country after they got rid of the Kaiser in 1918.
Because in fact Germans think of the monarchy the same way they think of soggy English chips, and English cakes, and English weather – charming and funny from a distance, but actually kind of sickening when you get close.
This is because most Germans, even the masochistic ones who fantasize about demeaning themselves in front of Guttenberg, recognize that they're better off in the Bundesrepublik. The problem with the British monarchy isn't so much the monarchy itself, anyway, it's more that the British prime minister has most of the powers that the monarch used to have, and which many a dictator would envy – things like taking the country to war without parliamentary approval, deciding who is in the upper house of parliament, and bestowing national honours.
So while Germany lacks the patriotism-stirring founding myths of other big republics, like France and the US – and so may vaguely hanker to do more British flag-waving – they still wouldn't actually choose to bottle up the genie of democratic control.