Chris Hedges: Monarchs Belong in the Dustbin of History

No other institution helps obscure the crimes of empire and buttress class rule and white supremacy so effectively.

“Off With Her Head,” iIllustration by Mr. Fish.

By Chris Hedges

The fawning adulation of Queen Elizabeth in the United States, which fought a revolution to get rid of the monarchy, and in Great Britain, is in direct proportion to the fear gripping a discredited, incompetent and corrupt global ruling elite.

The global oligarchs are not sure the next generation of royal sock puppets — mediocrities that include a pedophile prince and his brother, a cranky and eccentric king who accepted suitcases and bags stuffed with $3.2 million in cash from the former prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and who has millions stashed in offshore accounts — are up to the job. Let’s hope they are right.

“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories,” Patrick Freyne wrote last year in The Irish Times. “More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.”

Monarchy obscures the crimes of empire and wraps them in nostalgia. It exalts white supremacy and racial hierarchy. It justifies class rule. It buttresses an economic and social system that callously discards and often consigns to death those considered the lesser breeds, most of whom are people of color.

The queen’s husband, Prince Phillip, who died in 2021, was notorious for making racist and sexist remarks, politely explained away in the British press as “gaffes.” He described Beijing, for example, as “ghastly” during a 1986 visit and told British students: “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed.

The cries of the millions of victims of empire; the thousands killedtortured, raped and imprisoned during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya; the 13 Irish civilians gunned down in “Bloody Sunday;” the more than 4,100 First Nations children who died or went missing in Canada’s residential schools, government-sponsored institutions established to “assimilate” indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture and the hundreds of thousands killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan are drowned out by cheers for royal processions and the sacral aura an obsequious press weaves around the aristocracy.

[Related Cruelties of the Queen’s Reign]

The coverage of the queen’s death is so mind-numbingly vapid — the BBC sent out a news alert on Saturday when Prince Harry and Prince William, accompanied by their wives, surveyed the floral tributes to their grandmother displayed outside Windsor Castle — that the press might as well turn over the coverage to the myth-makers and publicists employed by the royal family.


Crowds at Buckingham Palace on Sept. 9 following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. (Garry Knight, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The royals are oligarchs. They are guardians of their class. The world’s largest landowners include King Mohammed VI of Morocco with 176 million acres, the Holy Roman Catholic Church with 177 million acres, the heirs of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with 531 million acres and now, King Charles III with 6.6 billion acres of land. British monarchs are worth almost $28 billion.

The British public will provide a $33 million subsidy to the Royal Family over the next two years, although the average household in the U.K. saw its income fall for the longest period since records began in 1955 and 227,000 households experience homelessness in Britain. 

[Related: British Land for the Rich as Crisis Grows]

Royals, to the ruling class, are worth the expense. They are effective tools of subjugation. British postal and rail workers canceled planned strikes over pay and working conditions after the queen’s death. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) postponed its congress. Labour Party members poured out heartfelt tributes. Even Extinction Rebellion, which should know better, indefinitely canceled its planned “Festival of Resistance.”

The BBC’s Clive Myrie dismissed Britain’s energy crisis — caused by the war in Ukraine — that has thrown millions of people into severe financial distress as “insignificant” compared with concerns over the queen’s health. The climate emergency, pandemic, the deadly folly of the U.S. and NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, soaring inflation, the rise of neo-fascist movements and deepening social inequality will be ignored as the press spews florid encomiums to class rule. There will be 10 days of official mourning.

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In 1953, Her Majesty’s Government sent three warships, along with 700 troops, to its colony British Guiana, suspended the constitution and overthrew the democratically elected government of Cheddi Jagan.

Her Majesty’s Government helped to build and long supported the apartheid government in South Africa.

London, 1989. (R. Barraez D´Lucca, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons) 

A Bloody Record

Her Majesty’s Government savagely crushed the Mau Mau independence movement in Kenya from 1952 to 1960, herding 1.5 million Kenyans into concentration camps where many were tortured. British soldiers castrated suspected rebels and sympathizers, often with pliers, and raped girls and women.

By the time India won independence in 1947 after two centuries of British colonialism, Her Majesty’s Government had looted $45 trillion from the country and violently crushed a series of uprisings, including the First War of Independence in 1857.

Her Majesty’s Government carried out a dirty war to break the Greek Cypriot War of Independence from 1955 to 1959 and later in Yemen from 1962 to 1969.

Torture, extrajudicial assassinations, public hangings and mass executions by the British were routine. Following a protracted lawsuit, the British government agreed to pay nearly £20 million in damages to over 5,000 victims of British abuse during war in Kenya, and in 2019 another payout was made to survivors of torture from the conflict in Cyprus.

The British state attempts to obstruct lawsuits stemming from its colonial history. Its settlements are a tiny fraction of the compensation paid to British slave owners in 1835, once it — at least formally — abolished slavery. 

During her 70-year reign, the queen never offered an apology or called for reparations.

Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, 2012. (Andrew Dunsmore, Commonwealth Secretariat, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The point of social hierarchy and aristocracy is to sustain a class system that makes the rest of us feel inferior. Those at the top of the social hierarchy hand out tokens for loyal service, including the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

The monarchy is the bedrock of hereditary rule and inherited wealth. This caste system filters down from the Nazi-loving House of Windsor to the organs of state security and the military. It regiments society and keeps people, especially the poor and the working class, in their “proper” place.

[Related: Craig Murray: That’s Enough Monarchy for Now, Thank You]

The British ruling class clings to the mystique of royalty and fading cultural icons as James Bond, the Beatles and the BBC, along with television shows such as Downton Abbey — where in one episode the aristocrats and servants are convulsed in fevered anticipation when King George V and Queen Mary schedule a visit — to project a global presence. Winston Churchill’s bust remains on loan to the White House.

These myth machines sustain Great Britain’s “special” relationship with the United States. Watch the satirical film In the Loop to get a sense of what this “special” relationship looks like on the inside. 

It was not until the 1960s that “coloured immigrants or foreigners” were permitted to work in clerical roles in the royal household, although they had been hired as domestic servants. The royal household and its heads are legally exempt from laws that prevent race and sex discrimination, what Jonathan Cook calls “an apartheid system benefitting the Royal Family alone.” Meghan Markle, who is of mixed race and who contemplated suicide during her time as a working royal, said that an unnamed royal expressed concern about the skin color of her unborn son.

I got a taste of this suffocating snobbery in 2014 when I participated in an Oxford Union debate asking whether Edward Snowden was a hero or a traitor. I went a day early to be prepped for the debate by Julian Assange, then seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy and currently in His Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh.

At a lugubrious black-tie dinner preceding the event, I sat next to a former MP who asked me two questions I had never been asked before in succession. “When did your family come to America?” he said, followed by “What schools did you attend?” My ancestors, on both sides of my family, arrived from England in the 1630s. My graduate degree is from Harvard. If I had failed to meet his litmus test, he would have acted as if I did not exist. 

Those who took part in the debate — my side arguing that Snowden was a hero narrowly won — signed a leather-bound guest book. Taking the pen, I scrawled in large letters that filled an entire page: “Never Forget that your greatest political philosopher, Thomas Paine, never went to Oxford or Cambridge.”

Thomas Paine statue in Thetford, Norfolk, England. 2004. (Ziko-C, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Paine, the author of the most widely read political essays of the 18th century, Rights of ManThe Age of Reason and Common Sense, blasted the monarchy as a con.

“A French bastard landing with an armed banditti and establishing himself as King of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original. … The plain truth is that the antiquity of the English monarchy will not bear looking into,” he wrote of William the Conqueror.

He ridiculed hereditary rule. “Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.” He went on: “One of the strangest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings is that nature disproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving  mankind an ass for a lion.” He called the monarch “the royal brute of England.”

When the British ruling class tried to arrest Paine, he fled to France where he was one of two foreigners elected to serve as a delegate in the National Convention set up after the French Revolution. He denounced the calls to execute Louis XVI. “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression,” Paine said. “For if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

Unchecked legislatures, he warned, could be as despotic as unchecked monarchs. When he returned to America from France, he condemned slavery and the wealth and privilege accumulated by the new ruling class, including George Washington, who had become the richest man in the country. Even though Paine had done more than any single figure to rouse the country to overthrow the British monarchy, he was turned into a pariah, especially by the press, and forgotten. He had served his usefulness. Six mourners attended his funeral, two of whom were Black.

[You can watch my talk with Cornel West and Richard Wolff on Thomas Paine here.]

A Vicarious Yearning

There is a pathetic yearning among many in the U.S. and Britain to be linked in some tangential way to royalty. White British friends often have stories about ancestors that tie them to some obscure aristocrat. Donald Trump, who fashioned his own heraldic coat of arms, was obsessed with obtaining a state visit with the queen.

This desire to be part of the club, or validated by the club, is a potent force the ruling class has no intention of giving up, even if hapless King Charles III, who along with his family treated his first wife Diana with contempt, makes a mess of it.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR.  He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”

Author’s Note to Readers: There is now no way left for me to continue to write a weekly column for ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show without your help. The walls are closing in, with startling rapidity, on independent journalism, with the elites, including the Democratic Party elites, clamoring for more and more censorship. Bob Scheer, who runs ScheerPost on a shoestring budget, and I will not waiver in our commitment to independent and honest journalism, and we will never put ScheerPost behind a paywall, charge a subscription for it, sell your data or accept advertising. Please, if you can, sign up at so I can continue to post my Monday column on ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show, “The Chris Hedges Report.”

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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21 comments for “Chris Hedges: Monarchs Belong in the Dustbin of History

  1. Common Sense
    September 15, 2022 at 10:59

    The “royals” and the loyals.

    No matter what-

    Apparently there is a cue of 7 km now, people waiting to have a last look at her coffin. Up to ~ 2 Million are expected.

    That makes one doubt about the spirit of those loyals.

  2. Mike
    September 14, 2022 at 14:57

    The British press used to ‘report’ that Americans had no history – or a mere 400 years – which was all down to ‘us’ anyway. Around that time British upperclass males could walk into honorary roles in top corporations – a bit like Hunter in Ukraine.
    If Chris Hedges had only monetised his ancestry, he could have been ‘successful’ too. While he reports from an honest and truthful position, there is hope for all, including the indigenous peoples deliberately left behind.

  3. September 14, 2022 at 14:28

    Once upon a time, about 370 years ago, there was a tiny glimmer of hope for anti-monarchy in the UK durimg the English civil war. Few today know that Charles I was beheaded but his son Charles II won the civil war and restored the monarchy. Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Parliamentarians, wanted to become king but Major General John Lambert prevented it. See the book John Lambert Parlimentary Soldier, Cromwellian Major General 1619 – 1684. John died March 1, 1684 in prison and with him died the dream of a UK without monarchy.

  4. RR
    September 13, 2022 at 23:07

    Two centuries have passed since Percy Bysshe Shelley’s untimely demise….

    Let us hasten that glorious day

    When man on man no more shall prey

    When prophets priests and kings

    Are numbered with forgotten things

  5. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    September 13, 2022 at 13:44

    Wow, that was one damning run down of the monarchy in general. Not all monarchs in history and currently are snobbish and/or cruel. The British are quite infamous for their atrocities though I just came to know through this write up that British soldiers even castrated rebels with pliers. No wonder the secuity services that they left behind in many of their ex-colonies too inherited similar perversions.

  6. onno37
    September 13, 2022 at 10:44

    Monarchies belong in FAIRY TALE books, they’re totally outdated in Modern times. However, CORRUPTION & incompetent politicians are the alternative as we see clearly in today’s REPUBLICS & especially in FEDERATIONS of STATES like EU/USA!!

  7. Vera Gottlieb
    September 13, 2022 at 10:18

    And not only British monarchs…monarchs from all over the globe. And not just monarchs…

  8. David Russell
    September 13, 2022 at 08:22

    While I substantially agree with the tone of the article, I would like to point out a few facts, While it lasted, Mau Mau behaved in an abominable way. They were guilty of the most horrible crimes imaginable such as murdering whole families of white farmers in the outbacks in the most ruthless ways, burning down farmhouses and murdering other foreigners whenever it fancied them. Farms that were overrun were usually left fallow because the Mau Mau had no idea how to operate them efficiently, if at all and the economy suffered dreadfully to everybody’s disadvantage. In such circumstances, it not surprising that some colonial forces tried to give like for like – and I am not condoling that. The same thing was happening in Ireland. The war with the Mau Mau was dreadful and mostly unavoidable but there are always two sides to a story.

    The same thing has been happening in all of the wars perpetrated by the USA since WW2, just look at the Wikileaks files to see the extent of the atrocities that have taken place in America’s wars of financial colonialism, How about an apology here? I would like to hear just how America would have dealt with the Mau Mau independence movement had it taken place in an American domain -or in anybody’s else’s domain if it comes to that. Man is a very horrid animal indeed.

    • Tom Partridge
      September 14, 2022 at 09:19

      You might be surprised to realise that only 32 European and 26 Asian civilians were killed during the Mau Mau revolt but such incidents were propagandised by the the British to justify their own brutality.
      David Maughan-Brown, attesting to the causes of the Mau Mau revolt, writes in an extensively documented study of Mau Mau, were “socio-economic and political and amounted, to put it crudely, to the economic exploitation and administrative repression of the Kikuyu by the white settlers and the colonial state”. Mau Mau demands were for the return of the stolen land and self government.
      30,000 white settlers owned more arable land than one million kikuyu.
      Even a British government sponsored report admitted that the Mau Mau uprising was the result of “a long period of political unrest among the Kikuyu people of Kenya”.
      Winston Churchill, a noted racist, declared in 1908, as Britain engaged in mass slaughter to subjugate Kenya, “surely it cannot be necessary to go on killing these defenceless people on such an enormous scale.”
      You might also be surprised to note that the Kikuyu were also sophisticated farmers. They cultivated Millet, beans, peas, sorghum, yams, ndulu, maize and sweet potatoes and their farming methods included the use of irrigation and terracing, animal husbandry was very much secondary.
      The Kikuyu devised agroforestry practices, which involved protection of woodland and intercropping.
      It is unwise to judge the actions of the oppressors on equal terms with those of the oppressed, more especially when British government oppressors acted with far greater brutality and tried to hide their egregious crimes by dumping and burning incriminating documents that “might embarrass Her Majesty’s Government”.

  9. J Anthony
    September 13, 2022 at 06:24

    Kudos to Hedges for consistently pointing out in detail the brutality and hypocrisy of elitist, class-based societies….this is a big part of our problems in the 21st century- all of our systems, institutions and ideologies are out-dated, by a couple of centuries, which is why we are failing as a species to solve any one of them in this modern world!

  10. Jeff Harrison
    September 13, 2022 at 02:02

    Well said, Chris, but I disagree with your underlying assumptions. I certainly agree that a hereditary ruling class is a one way trip to disaster. Sadly, democracy isn’t much better and our willful refusal to recognize that we are no longer a democracy but rather an oligarchy isn’t helping matters any. I have become convinced that voting. will. not. change. that. There are several things I think important:

    1. Democracy is not, in and of itself, a panacea. The US only has the illusion of democracy. Look at the last couple of elections: 2020 Who in their right mind would vote for either of these bozos? On one side you have a doddering old fool who has been the tool of the corporate class his entire life. On the other side you have a megalomaniac with all the managerial skills of that idiot that almost sank H-P (only Trump sank it three times) and the attention span of a mayfly. The 2016 election wasn’t any better. Who would vote for either of these bozos? The megalomaniac made his first appearance. His opponent, Three Names, was well known. Not necessarily known for great successes or effective leadership. But well known, like Lizzy Borden. Really, all you need to know about her is that she’s three names. If I hear all my names – Jeffrey Peter Harrison – I duck and look behind me. My father is sure as hell pissed and looking for me. I may be 72 but that don’t make no difference. These are not choices. Vote third party. I may not vote for the winner but at least I vote for the one I want to be the winner.

    We need a new philosopher. For political systems we have democracy, theocracy, dictatorship, monarchy, and anarchy. What a drag. Except for democracy, they all have an unaccountable jerkwad running the show (anarchy has chaos theory). I propose that we have the candidates vetted, not by some pol, but by some ordinary people who were trained to test for characteristics such as honesty, courage, faithfulness, and so on. and their judgement is final. After all, this is a job, not a beauty contest.

    I dunno the answer but I damn sure know that the systems we’re using aren’t working.

  11. September 12, 2022 at 22:38

    Now, now, there’s more to the story. Beyond a response about our history being parallel to Britain’s, where humanity hasn’t been enlightened enough to get things right and calling their kettle black isn’t our holier than thou entitlement, there’s a whole other envelope of reality that their people are wrapped in. There’s something in their system that they overwhelmingly feel comfort from and warm about. It goes beyond the particulars. And they don’t need our American two cents about a tradition that’s meaningful to them.

    • J Anthony
      September 13, 2022 at 06:21

      What’s so meaningful about it? I love to learn.

  12. Ed Williams
    September 12, 2022 at 18:22

    Born to Rule is the motto of the British Establishment and the Monarch is its leader.The subjugation of people across the world was its history and its legacy is still being felt to this very day.
    lt seems the establishment groups of many Countries pay homage to this ancient order.Seems ridiculous but such is the way of many Societies.
    Queen of Australia is a good example.This is a Country that was conquered by the British through Royal assent who subsequently decreed that the most ancient human society on Earth did not exist and declared Terra Nullis. A EMPTY CONTINENT ! That story of arrogance, in one form or another ,went round the world.

  13. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    September 12, 2022 at 17:34

    Les politiciens chinois se soumettent à une règle de l’étiquette de la diplomatie: la politesse.

    Je ne suis pas un professionnel engagé dans la diplomatie, je peux me permettre d’énoncer une réalité:

    Les Québécois n’aiment pas la monarchie canadian.

    Fuck the Queen! Fuck the King!
    Fuck the canadian Balrog!

    Il y a des êtres encore plus anciens et plus répugnants que les Nazguls, les Uru Kaïs, les Orques et les Trolls, dans les profondeurs infernales du monde occidental, ce sont les Balrogs

  14. Irwin
    September 12, 2022 at 17:15

    There can be little doubt that the enemy is the international banking cartel headquartered in the City of London and on Wall Street, together with their agencies like the Bank of International Settlements, the IMF, World Bank, the global systemically important banks and institutions like the World Economic Forum, big pharma corporations, World Health Organization, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI and numerous others.

    Enjoy “poli-ticalfella-tio”


  15. Caroline
    September 12, 2022 at 16:42

    Brilliant article Chris, thank you.
    Humans are given to hierarchy and, while this is natural law (hierarchy is what nature, including humans, is, giving order and beauty), we need to radically change our values and principles that govern who is worthy of being at the top – as a leader, social influencer, CEO or household head.
    This, in my view, means spending our life to help change perspective on how we value (our own and collective) human life, human purpose and the bigger picture of why we are here.
    This will change the way we view hierarchy as a means to achieve order and beauty through harmony for all.
    Writers and influencers like Chris play a valuable role in this.

  16. Em
    September 12, 2022 at 16:29

    Where “the devil is in the hidden details” of monarchical elitism, there surely lies the reason Julian Assange is seen as a devil, and why the new King, Charles, will dare not set him free to continue to blaspheme, by bringing the truth about the clandestine nature of oligarchic, hegemonic global governance to one and all.
    Here’s the South African politician, Julius Malema, speaking irreverently, this past Saturday, from southern Africa itself, about the whites God and other sacred things:


    Quite apt for the occasion!

    • Henry Smith
      September 13, 2022 at 07:47

      Charles has absolutely NO power to set Assange free, even if he wanted to.
      Assange is held by the UK Government who only answer to Washington – as does Canada, Australia and New Zealand – and the EU, NATO and the UN.
      Recall Priti Patel the ex UK home security asked Mike Pompeo to ‘big up’ her decision to extradite Assange. That’s your evil, right there.
      Ref: hxxps://

    • Valerie
      September 13, 2022 at 09:45

      Thankyou for that link. Great speech indeed. What an orator: calm, controlled truth telling.

  17. Bubbles
    September 12, 2022 at 16:21

    There used to be a scam in ‘classless’ America. This was back before the days of the Internet where you can now send your DNA to the government and get a report on your ancestry. This scam was run from adverts in magazines and papers. Send your name and what you knew about your history to a PO Box, and they’d produce a report for you … provided you included a money order.

    The scammers had artists who drew up fake, aristocratic signals and crests. And the report would tell anyone who had included the required money order that they were the descendants of aristocrats … and to seal the deal with the sucker, they’d send a fake family crest of their supposed illustrious family.

    Of course, anyone with a knowledge of history knows that Europe was a class society where the lower class provided forced labor to the upper class. And, it seems obvious that the current ratio of 99% to 1% may not have been far wrong then. There were always a lot more serfs collapsing in the heat of the fields from too much work than there were ladies and lords doing embroidery or raising falcons in the big castle on the hill. Thus, a real firm doing such ‘ancestry reports’ would have to tell most customers that they were descended from a long line of people who had spent their lives doing forced labor to make the rich even richer.

    But, of course, even back then, the money was in telling Americans that there were descended from really special and exceptional people, and they even had a family crest.

    Reparations for Serfdom!

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