The Royal Treatment

If you’re upset about the tripling of university tuition in Britain, why destroy Prince Charles’s car?  He didn’t raise tuition, can’t lower it, and will be able to find other ways to get to work–or whatever he does.

But activists found an opportune moment last night, when they caught the Prince and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, on their way to the theater.  According to the New York Times:

The confrontation occurred when a group of about 50 protesters, some in full-face balaclavas, broke through a cordon of motorcycle police flanking the car as it approached London’s theater district in slow-speed traffic. Some of the demonstrators shouted “off with their heads!” and others “Tory scum!”

A photograph of the couple, in formal evening dress, showed them registering shock as protesters beat on the side of their armored, chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce with sticks and bottles, smashing a side window, denting a rear panel and splashing the car with white paint. A Jaguar tailing the car and carrying a palace security detail was so battered that the police ended up using its doors as shields.

Shocked, indeed.

Prime Minister David Cameron called the attack on the royal couple’s car “shocking and regrettable.”

Shocking indeed!

The British royal family has, for more than 200 years, more often been subject to snarky comments than political protest.  With the establishment of parliamentary supremacy in the United Kingdom, a struggle that stretched over several hundred years after signing of the Magna Carta, but was pretty well established by the start of the 19th century, people who wanted something from the British government knew to target Parliament rather than the King.  Putting Parliament in charge of running the state surely saved the life of at least one king somewhere down the line, and created a vestigial role for a royal family that seems to exist pretty much to unify and entertain the British people–and others.

If the monarchy can’t deliver anything, then it makes sense to target protest at those who can.

But if you’re protesting in the streets after Parliament has just passed the tuition hike and a limousine holding the heir to the throne happens to come by…..

About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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