“Monarchy and the Dangers of Hereditary Power?” by Dr Margaret Casely-Hayford CBE

Gaby Hinsliff’s important perspective on Prince Harry’s and Prince William’s much analysed sibling rivalry “Harry’s allegations are not just about a royal fistfight – but the very real dangers of hereditary power” is significant in many ways. 

She says:”If there’s a lesson to be drawn from all this misery, beyond the bleeding obvious one that there’s something deeply unhealthy about hereditary power, it’s arguably one for parents. For sadly, it’s not only children born into immense privilege who can be left feeling like spares.”

This family affair is also an analogy for society in general. The rules of primogeniture are rather like the conservative way in which we have protected the rights of some parts of society over others for an unconscionably long time, requiring us to absorb the consequent adverse impact on society, community and the workplace environment.

Consider the way in which until we began to look at gender pay discrepancies more closely it was accepted that women just deserved to earn less than men for the same work.

 Similarly, ethnic minorities have been expected to ‘suck it up’, that their lot in life was for too long, that they were always to be secondary. (Don’t come to work with unprofessional (ie natural) hair, expect to earn less, expect to train others and see them promoted above you etc etc.) 

People with disabilities were expected to stay at home or navigate idiotically difficult entrances to buildings and transportation infrastructure that has kept them from opportunity of contributing to the work place much or at all. 

Thank heaven that we are at last becoming aware of the fact that if you treat people fairly you give them opportunity to participate better as part of society and thus the economy, you benefit their self esteem and personal well-being and frankly just get better from them by virtue of treating them better.

It would seem from history that there is at the very least an emotional adverse impact from, in effect, telling one sibling that they they are the best and must inherit the kingdom (in some instances literally!) whilst leaving the other(s) to feel as though they are more or less in the wilderness. However, whether or not one agrees with primogeniture (the rules of which perversely excluded women completely!) it’s clear not everyone can be the boss. That’s just not efficient. It’s also sensible to groom successors. But the way in which we treat, train and support those who themselves operate within and thereby grow to support the rest of the structure is of critical importance to the continuing strength of the super-structure. 

Margaret Casely-Hayford has been a non-executive member of the Board of the Co-op Group since 2016, and was appointed Chair of Shakespeare’s Globe in January 2018, the same year in which she was appointed Chancellor of Coventry University.

She was Director of Legal Services and Company Secretary for the John Lewis Partnership for nine years and us a trustee of the Radcliffe Trust, which supports the development of skills in classical music and traditional arts and crafts.


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