Republic (political organisation)

Republic is a British republican pressure group advocating the replacement of the United Kingdom's monarchy with a republic. It is a member organisation of Common Cause (the alliance of republican movements in The Commonwealth)[1] and the Alliance of European Republican Movements and is currently the only organisation solely campaigning for a republican constitution for Britain. Republic states that its mission is: "To achieve the abolition of the British monarchy in favour of a democratic republic".[2] As of 2021, Peter Cafferkey is the current Chair, and Graham Smith is the Chief Executive Officer of Republic.[3]

Legal statusLimited company
PurposePolitical advocacy
Region served
United Kingdom
Peter Cafferkey
Graham Smith
Main organ
Board of directors
AffiliationsAlliance of European Republican Movements


Originally created by a small group of republicans in London in 1983,[4] Republic was reinvented as a campaigning pressure group in 2006, when it became formally set up as a limited company (Republic Campaign Ltd) with a board of directors and Executive Office.[5] During the period between the announcement of the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2010 and the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012 the group's supporters increased from around 9,000 to around 30,000,[6] with around 500 new members being gained at the time of the 2011 Royal Wedding. By 2015 the group had two full-time members of staff and an income of £140,000. In 2016 it had over 5,000 paying members and about 35,000 online supporters.[7][5]

Campaigns and issues

A 2016 Republic protest banner. In wishing her a happy 90th birthday, the group addresses Elizabeth II as an ordinary, equal citizen, "Mrs Windsor", and goes on to argue her long life does not justify being head of state for so long, and that the monarchy should be abolished.

CEO Graham Smith has criticised hereditary power as being "absurd", and monarchy as an outdated political institution that "abuses its position, abuses public money and which gives politicians too much power."[8] Republic has stated that after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, it intends to mount a campaign for a referendum on the future of the monarchy. The group plans to do this during the period between the Queen's funeral and the coronation of Prince Charles.[9]

Royal finances

Republic asserts that there is a lack of transparency and accountability with respect to the funding of the monarchy. The group believes the royal finances should be independently audited by the National Audit Office, like all other central government departments, and that the monarchy's exemption from the Freedom of Information Act should be removed.

Republic's response to the annual royal finance reports is reported in the media.[10] In 2009, while Buckingham Palace claimed the total cost of the monarchy to be £41.5m, Republic estimated the figure at £334 million,[11] once additional costs such as royal security had been taken into account.[12]

Republic's calculations do not factor in the profits of the Crown Estate, which are transferred to national funds in return for the civil list (a payment superseded by the Sovereign Grant in 2012); they assert that the Crown Estate is the property of the monarch only in their capacity as Head of State, and therefore state property.

Prince Charles and the Duchy of Cornwall

In May 2007, Republic persuaded Brian Iddon MP to table an early day motion about the lack of transparency in the Duchy of Cornwall's accounts.[6] Following a legal ruling in 2011 that the Duchy of Cornwall was separate from Prince Charles for the purposes of regulation, Republic asked HM Revenue and Customs to investigate if the Duchy should still be exempt from tax. The tax exemption is based on the assumption that the Duchy estate is inseparable from the tax exempt person of Prince Charles, which is now open to question.[13] In 2013, lobbying by Republic resulted in William Nye, Prince Charles's private secretary, appearing before the Public Accounts Committee to explain the Duchy's tax arrangements.[6]

Republic regularly criticises Prince Charles for expressing forthright views and lobbying on political issues, which the group says is unconstitutional.[14] It has also called on the British Government to stop subsidising Charles' £16.3m annual income through grants[15] and tax breaks.[16] During 2015, Republic launched a campaign and petition, Take Back the Duchy, to abolish the Duchy of Cornwall and transfer its land and assets to the Crown Estate.[17][18] In December 2015 a freedom of information request by Republic revealed that Prince Charles had routine access to confidential government papers.[7]

Oaths of allegiance

In 2008, Republic launched a campaign to give republicans an alternative oath of allegiance.[19] The campaign began with an Early Day Motion and was taken up by human rights lawyer Louise Christian.[20]

Royal wedding in 2011

In advance of the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the tourist organisation VisitBritain said that the event would be good for tourism. In response, Republic made a freedom of information request for VisitBritain documents which indicated that royal weddings had in the past had a negative effect on tourism.[6] Republic held an alternative street party in London at the Royal Wedding, "celebrating democracy and people power rather than inherited privilege", along with other events across the UK's major cities. Republic's London event had initially been blocked by Camden Council.[21]

BBC coverage of the monarchy

Republic has claimed that the BBC displays bias in relation to its reporting of royal matters.[22] The documentary The Diamond Queen was criticised for this: in a letter to the chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, Graham Smith, the organisation's Chief Executive, argued that the programme breached BBC guidelines on impartiality. In his letter, Smith claimed the series was subject to "distortions, half-truths and fabrications".[23][24][25]

Legal context

Advocacy of the replacement of the monarchy with a republic has been an imprisonable offence in law. The Treason Felony Act 1848 prohibits the advocacy of a republic in print. The penalty for such advocacy, even if the republic is to be set up by peaceful means, is lifetime imprisonment. This Act remains in force in the United Kingdom.[26] However, under the Human Rights Act 1998, the Law Lords have held that although the Treason Felony Act remains on the statute books it must be interpreted so as to be compatible with the Human Rights Act, and therefore no longer prohibits peaceful republican activity.[27]

See also


  1. "Common Cause: An Alliance of Commonwealth Republican Movements". Citizens for a Canadian Republic. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  2. "The organisation". Republic. 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2014.
  3. "Meet the team". Republic. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  4. "imagine: a democratic alternative to the monarchy" (PDF). Republic. Autumn 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 August 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  5. "About Republic". Republic. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  6. Aida Edemariam (19 July 2013). "'There is now a republican movement': anti-royal campaigners get organised". Guardian.
  7. Simon Usborne (22 January 2016). "Meet Britain's republicans: Is the UK ready for change in the year the Queen turns 90?". Independent.
  8. Alex Wellman (4 May 2015). "Royal baby: Anti-monarchy group slams "absurd" birth as membership numbers swell by hundreds".
  9. Matthew Weaver (20 April 2016). "Republicans to call for monarchy referendum when Queen dies". Guardian.
  10. Cost of Royal Family rises £1.5m. BBC, dated 29 June 2009.
  11. "Royal finances". Republic. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  12. Head of State Expenditure, 29 June 2009. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  13. Robert Booth (14 December 2012). "Prince Charles's 700m estate accused of tax avoidance". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  14. Don't be a meddling monarch, Charles. The Guardian, published 17 November 2008.
  15. Public funds for Charles top £3m. BBC, dated 23 June 2009.
  16. Thompson, Lauren (24 April 2009). "Prince Charles gets new tax break amid furore of Budget". The Times. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  17. Goodwin, Phil (30 June 2015). "Scrap the Duchy and share out the spoils, republicans to be told". Western Morning News. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  18. "Take back the Duchy". Republic. Retrieved 31 August 2015. Republic is campaigning against the Duchy of Cornwall, calling for it to be taken off Prince Charles and effectively 're-nationalised'.
  19. "Challenge the Oath". Republic. 2011. Archived from the original on 9 September 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  20. MPs' Queen oath faces legal fight. BBC, dated 15 August 2008.
  21. "Making a stand against the royal wedding". BBC News. 28 April 2011.
  22. Alex Wellman (4 May 2015). "Royal baby: Anti-monarchy group slams "absurd" birth as membership numbers swell by hundreds". with over 2000 children born every day in this country, when 3.5m children in the UK grow up in poverty, it's not right we treat this one baby as more special, more deserving than all the rest.
  23. BBC royal series The Diamond Queen biased, Republic says, BBC News
  24. BBC's jubilee documentary 'one-sided', says republican pressure group, Ben Dowell, The Guardian, 24 February 2012
  25. "Letter from Graham Smith to Chris Patten" (PDF). Republic. 21 February 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  26. Clare Dyer (June 27, 2003). "Guardian vindicated in treason case". The Guardian. London.
  27. R. (Rusbridger) v. Attorney General [2003] UKHL 38; [2004] AC 357; [2003] 3 All ER 784.