To mark the coronation of King Charles III in Westminster Abbey last weekend, an array of celebrations took place across the United Kingdom. A peak of 20 million viewers tuned in to watch elements of the ceremony and surrounding festivities, from King Charles being anointed and crowned alongside Queen Camilla to Katy Perry belting out ‘Firework’. In Oxford, some colleges marked the occasion with commemorative evensongs, the ringing of bells, and assorted drinks receptions. 

A poll undertaken on the Instagram of The Oxford Blue showed that Oxford students (or, alternatively, around 200 of our followers who opted in to voting on the matter) are broadly opposed to monarchy. When asked whether they were in support of the institution, 78% voted “no” – and they were not the only ones in the city for whom the coronation left a bad taste. 

The Blue spoke with No More Royals, which describes itself as a “queer and youth led direction group”, ahead of their planned coronation-day street-party x protest hybrid on Broad Street. A representative of the organisation told us that the event would deliver food, music, and activities, “a street party but without the royalist propaganda”, though still with “speeches from local activists” and a clear political agenda. NMR hoped to provide “a positive and enjoyable event for the community that will at the same time raise money for a local anti-homelessness charity”. The gathering raised money for The Gatehouse and Homeless Oxford. 

In our conversation, NMR’s representative linked the economic struggles of Millennials and Gen Z to growing youth disaffection with the monarchy. They argued that “young people generally are more opposed to the system – they can see that it’s not working, they can see just how hard life is now. Living standards for young people now are far lower than they were for their parents – which, outside of wartime, is quite a new development”. 

More explicitly, the representative hypothesised that without the “rose-tinted glasses” with which older generations look back on the welfare state of the 1960s and 70s, we are more aware of “the negative sides of the monarchy”. They stressed that the monarchy “wasn’t responsible” for earlier iterations of the welfare state. Though it may be true that support for republicanism was lower in the 1970s than in recent years, it is important to remember that the economic outlook for young people was not always better then. 

Since the onset of the pandemic and the subsequent cost of living crisis, living standards as measured by disposable income have fallen dramatically. For NMR’s representative, the cost to the government of the coronation, estimated at around £100 million, is “utterly ridiculous…while people are starving, have nowhere to live, can’t afford to heat their homes.” The expense is also linked to a government “focused on taking money from ordinary people and giving it to the most privileged within the country, within the planet”.

For some, the idea of monarchy is a deeply rational one; Hegel called the institution “the achievement of the modern world”. One core argument often advanced by royalists is that the sovereign embodies unity, a figure set apart from the inherent divisiveness of partisan politics, but who can nonetheless represent the nation both domestically and internationally, symbolically and practically. 

When questioned along these lines, NMR’s representative responded, “I’m not sure, personally, that there ever was a need for an individual figure to be responsible, to represent this country – it’s a big burden to put upon a person”. They also emphasised that this individual is unelected, which they found fundamentally oppositional to the UK’s status as a democratic state. 

NMR’s representative then cited Barbados’s 2021 decision to remove Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state, and a potential 2025 referendum on republicanism in Jamaica (though such a vote has not yet been confirmed or scheduled) as proof that “Britain’s former colonies are waking up to the fact that they don’t have to have an emblematic monarch”. It should be noted that the Barbadian President, Sandra Mason, performs a ceremonial and representative function. 

In later discussion of the monarch’s constitutional role, NMR’s representative contended that the coronation was “a demonstration across the world that Britain is still an undemocratic state…ruled by an undemocratic king.” Though the King remains head of state, according to the Democracy Index, compiled on the basis of 60 indicators, the UK is nonetheless a “full democracy”, scoring higher than France or the United States. 

Monarchists may also recognise that the highest ranking country on the Democracy Index, Norway, is a constitutional monarchy. Following pushback from the Blue’s reporter, NMR’s representative maintained that the King does have political power due to their stewardship of the Crown’s estates – the revenues of which are paid to the Treasury. Furthermore, they cited the exemption of the Crown from certain laws as being “fundamentally problematic” due to “having an unelected person above the law”. 

As an organisation which centres its queer leadership, NMR further opposes the monarchy for its leadership for the Church of England, a church within which same-sex couples are still forbidden from marrying. NMR’s representative also accused the King of being head of a state “increasingly headed in a transphobic direction”. The precise responsibility of the King for an uptick in transphobia was left unstated.

A final controversial element of the celebrations is what Republicans view as the inextricable linkage of the Crown and of Colonialism. NMR’s representative pointed to the contents of the crown jewels, the suppression of the Mau Mau Uprising during the 1950s, and the Bloody Sunday Massacre, the latter two of which were perpetrated by British soldiers, as instances of the monarchy upholding imperialism. 

The representative referred to the Queen as “head of the British…Armed Forces”, voicing the opinion held by many that the Crown remains both a reminder and continuation of imperialism. However, monarchist opposition might regard the Queen’s title and lack of operational control as having been blurred here. 

On Coronation day, The Oxford Blue sent reporters to the Broad Street event. Attendants told us that they were present to “show and provide Oxford with an alternative to the monarchy”, and to provide evidence of “opposition”. One called monarchy a “violent continuation” of Empire. The gathering also evinced indignation at the Metropolitan Police’s decision to “deal robustly” with protestors “undermining” the coronation. An attendee described the proclamation and accompanying arrests as “yet another demonstration of the undemocratic state we live in”. Some NMR Oxford attendees wrote lawyers’ numbers on their arms. 

NMR’s activities met with some opposition from the Oxford community. A group of young people, ostensibly students, coming out of Trinity College, ripped down a banner reading “Turn the Palace into Social Housing” from college railings. A man from the group also spat at protestors, one of whom swore in response. 

When this protestor was questioned she said that NMR had a “right to peaceful protest” and that their event was not harming anyone. The incident is said to have been reported to a Porter at Trinity College, and is now being progressed to the Domestic Bursar. Protestors also had the chant “God save the King” shouted at them consistently throughout the day, but as one protester affirmed, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.