[FOUNTAIN]England visit a high honor for state head“It is every head of state’s dream to visit Great Britain. I am not familiar with the formalities, so I was not aware how grand it would be.”
During his state visit to Great Britain, President Roh Moo-hyun talked about his impressions at a meeting with local Koreans. Escorted by the British Royal Guards, President Roh rode a golden carriage and entered Buckingham Palace. Flanked by assistants, he attended a banquet and slept at the palace.
Such an opportunity doesn’t come often. Great Britain invites only two heads of state yearly. Woodrow Wilson was the first U.S. President invited in 1918 after World War I. President George W. Bush was the second U.S. president to make a state visit in 2003, 85 years after Mr. Wilson.
Great Britain is the model case of a constitutional monarchy. Since the Glorious Revolution in 1688, it has been an unwritten law that the monarch would follow the recommendation of the cabinet. The Queen’s speech to Parliament every November is strictly what the Office of Prime Minister writes for her. Legislation passed by Parliament is automatically approved. When the Queen bestows noble titles, she graces the people on a list provided by the cabinet. Critics of the British royal family often ridicule the court as a show business and the job of the royal family as mere “tape cutting.” The royal family is in charge of the ceremonial side and commercially it helps tourism. Domestically it provides ample gossip for the country’s tabloids.
The royal house of Elizabeth II is the Windsor family. With their German roots, the House of Windsor was previously called the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. When the British grew increasingly hostile to Germany during World War I, the royal house changed its name to Windsor, which sounded more British. Since she was crowned in 1953, the 78-year-old Queen has been on the throne for half a century. She is a master of ceremonies, and other royal family members, including her husband the Duke of Edinburgh and son, 56-year-old Prince Charles, are also skilled diplomats. They are the high-class international lobbyists working for various charities and the interests of British companies. Despite scandals in the tabloids, the royal family remains highly popular among the British, consistently garnering about 70 percent support.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s London correspondent.