A Guest Post
We all know that the UK’s Royal Family occupies a special place in our collective unconscious. Their decisions and actions are followed by millions of people around the world. They are careful to lead by example and promote worthy causes.
One area where we can all learn from the Royal Family’s influence is on the positive benefits of immigration. We know that the current Royal House has a connection to German nobility. Does that mean the family are actually German-British? What does this mean for British identity?
Let’s explore the topic in some further detail, starting with how the Royal Family makes an impact abroad.
The Royal Family’s image in the UK and abroad
When we compare the British Royal Family to other royal families, like the Spanish, Norwegian, or Swedish monarchies, it’s clear that not all these families have the global reach of the British royals.
There is even a way of quantifying the impact of the Royal Family in the UK and abroad – a measure called ‘soft power,’ which impacts on how a country is perceived.
This ‘soft power’ has some real implications for countries who rely on attracting foreign investment, innovative entrepreneurs, tourism, and international students. In 2019, the UK was ranked second behind France, partly due to the power of royals like Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Similarly, an incredible 2 billion people tuned in for the royal marriage between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. That means almost 30% of the entire population of the world is interested in the global brand of the Royal Family.
Clearly, there is a huge international interest in the UK’s monarchy, and they are important for the country as a whole.
The impact of immigration on the British Royal Family
Prior to the current family, the reigning UK monarchy was the House of Hanover, a family of German nobles. The first appointed royal in this line was King George I of Hanover. Queen Anne (the last member of the House of Stuart) had died without an heir. The Act of Succession meant that only a Protestant could take the throne following her death.
King George I was actually 52nd in line to the throne, spoke only German, and was not popular among his subjects. It wasn’t until King George III that the British monarch was born in England and spoke English.
The next family to take over was the house of the current Royal Family (the House of Windsor) which was established in 1837. Queen Victoria, the longest serving monarch up to that point in history, married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha from Germany.
It wasn’t until 1917 that King George V changed the name from its original German name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Part of the reason for changing the name was because of attacks from Germany during the First World War.
Even today, the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, is of Greek and Danish origin. He was born into the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, which was connected to the House of Oldenburg (one of the most influential European dynasties).
Before the marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle (an American citizen) in 2018, the Queen’s grandson Peter Phillips married a Canadian citizen, Autumn Kelly in 2008. As well as this, in 1937, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, also an American citizen.
Attitudes to immigration in the UK
It is fair to say that immigration is a topic that generally provokes differences of opinion in today’s society. Research shows that in 2019, only 44% of survey respondents were in favour of reducing the number of immigrants coming to the UK (compared to 56% who believe it should be increased or who would like it to remain at the same levels).
In fact, the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory found that in comparison with other EU countries, the UK expresses one of the least anti-immigration attitudes. It’s been found in numerous studies that immigration has improved British society as a whole, making it more productive and increasing wealth.
When we consider how the topic of immigration has changed over the years, it is often portrayed in a negative way by tabloid newspapers. People have always migrated to new countries, bringing changes and new ways of doing things. The Royal Family are the perfect example of the benefits that can come from this.
While it may seem impossible today that the next in line to the British throne would be a German citizen who spoke no English, it wasn’t unthinkable in the past. If the Queen – surely the most ‘British’ person of all – can claim a proud immigrant background, why shouldn’t we celebrate all the members of our society who come from diverse places around the globe?
In order to reap the benefits of immigration and truly care about all members of our society, we could learn a lot from the example of the Royal Family.
Aileen Bowe is a writer and correspondent for the Immigration Advice Service, an organisation of immigration solicitors that provides legal aid to forcibly displaced persons.
A Guest Post