Divine Right of Elizabeth II <br>Is the Unused Argument <br>Amid Panic on Scotland

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The panic in Britain over next week’s referendum on Scottish independence reminds me of a fantastic scene in the movie “The Queen.” The prime minister, Tony Blair, has just failed to convince Elizabeth II to come down to London from Scotland to mark Princess Diana’s death – a step Blair believes is crucial to salvaging public opinion in support of the monarchy itself. No sooner does Her Majesty ring off than Blair gets a call from her private secretary, Robin

“Try and see it from her perspective,” the baron begs. “She’s been brought up to believe it’s God’s will that she is who she is.”

“I think we should leave God out of it,” Blair barks. “It’s just not helpful.”


Today, Britain might yet want to give Him a try. The latest poll shows the Scottish question on a knife edge, with the Scots favoring independence by a hair, with more than a fifth of voters still undecided. So the union between England and Scotland, which has obtained since 1707, could shortly be sundered. Prime Minister David Cameron has just warned Scotland there would be no going back.

An independent Scotland might remain part of the queen’s realm, like, say, Canada or Australia. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland and leader of the independence movement, met with the queen last month at Balmoral Castle. “I want the queen as head of state, as queen of Scots of an independent Scotland, as her ancestors were,” he told the BBC. Others reckon a vote for independence would prove to be a first step toward a republic.

The queen herself has insisted the vote be left to the Scots. But as the polls have moved toward independence, she is reported to be “privately horrified.” The Tories are in such a swivet that they’ve hoisted the blue-and-white Saltire of Scotland over 10 Downing Street and dispatched a former Labor prime minister, Gordon Brown, to Scotland. He is promising subsidies and a freer hand in how to spend the lucre.


By my lights, the question of Scotland is tangled up with the question of Europe. Cameron may well be forced to hold a referendum on whether Britain itself will stay in the European Union, perhaps as early as next spring. Technically, Europe and Scotland are separate and unrelated questions, but they both involve the question of whether England really wants European-style socialism.

The Scots are more inclined to it. So it could turn out that the Scots will vote to quit the United Kingdom, while England will vote to leave the European Union. The man to watch is Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party. He wants Britain to pull out of Europe, lock, stock and crumpets. He is not, however, in favor of Scottish Independence. The other day, the Daily Mail reported that he is planning to show up in Glasgow, five days before the Scottish referendum, and plump for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom.

For political drama, it doesn’t get much better.


The American interest, I’ve long argued, lies with a breakup of the United Kingdom. The Scots could go their left-wing ways and join Europe. Then England could follow its natural instincts, which are for limited government and individual liberty. The Conservatives, freed from the Scottish albatross, would likely have the votes to govern England for a generation or more.

An adroit American president — or a less provincial Republican leadership — would be reaching out to Britain. We could offer to codify the British-American special relationship in a treaty, possibly including Canada and Australia. There are those who say that America in the Age of Obama isn’t all that attractive a partner. But everything is relative, and Europe is in worse shape than the United States.

Which comes back to the question of God. “Dieu et mon droit” is the motto of the British monarchy. That’s old French for “God is my right.” It’s a reference to the divine right to reign, just like the movie version of Robin Janvrin remarked about Elizabeth II. Yet no one in the current crisis wants to assert that God is the source of Elizabeth’s sovereignty. Not even the queen seems to have faith in it. She’s unprepared to take a stand in Scotland, other than to let her subjects decide. No wonder her government is in a panic.

This column originally appeared in the New York Post.

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