King and Peasants discuss the British Monarchy

The following clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) is still one of the best contributions in the debate about (not only British) monarchy:

I found the following transcript of the dialogue:

[ARTHUR and PATSY riding. They stop and look. We see a castle in the distance, and before it a PEASANT is working away on his knees trying to dig up the earth with his bare hands and a twig. ARTHUR and PATSY ride up, and stop before the PEASANT]

ARTHUR: Old woman!

DENNIS: Man!

ARTHUR: Man. I’m sorry. Old man, What knight live in that castle over there?

DENNIS: I’m thirty-seven.

ARTHUR: What?

DENNIS: I’m thirty-seven … I’m not old.

ARTHUR: Well – I can’t just say: ‘Hey, Man!’

DENNIS: Well you could say: ‘Dennis’

ARTHUR: I didn’t know you were called Dennis.

DENNIS: You didn’t bother to find out, did you?

ARTHUR: I’ve said I’m sorry about the old woman, but from the behind you looked …

DENNIS: What I object to is that you automatically treat me like an inferior …

ARTHUR: Well … I AM king.

DENNIS: Oh, very nice. King, eh! And how d’you get that? By exploiting the workers! By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the social and economic differences in our society! If there’s EVER going to be any progress …

[An OLD WOMAN appears.]

OLD WOMAN: Dennis! There’s some lovely filth down here … Oh! how d’you do?

ARTHUR: How d’you do, good lady … I am Arthur, King of the Britons … Whose castle is that?

OLD WOMAN: King of the WHO?

ARTHUR: The Britons.

OLD WOMAN: Who are the Britons?

ARTHUR: All of us are … we are all Britons. [DENNIS winks at the OLD WOMAN.] … and I am your king ….

OLD WOMAN: Ooooh! I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective …

DENNIS: You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship, A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes …

OLD WOMAN: There you are, bringing class into it again …

DENNIS: That’s what it’s all about … If only -

ARTHUR: Please, please good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?

OLD WOMAN: No one lives there.

ARTHUR: Well, who is your lord?

OLD WOMAN: We don’t have a lord.

ARTHUR: What?

DENNIS: I told you, We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune, we take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.

ARTHUR: Yes.

DENNIS: … But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly …

ARTHUR: Yes, I see.

DENNIS: … meeting by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs.

ARTHUR: Be quiet!

DENNIS: … but a two-thirds majority in the case of …

ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet.

OLD WOMAN: Order, eh — who does he think he is?

ARTHUR: I am your king!

OLD WOMAN: Well, I didn’t vote for you.

ARTHUR: You don’t vote for kings.

OLD WOMAN: Well, how did you become king, then?

ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held Excalibur aloft from the bosom of the water to signify by Divine Providence … that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur … That is why I am your king!

DENNIS: Listen, strange women lying on their backs in ponds handing out swords … that’s no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

ARTHUR: Be quiet!

DENNIS: You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

ARTHUR: Shut up!

DENNIS: I mean, if I went around saying I was an Emperor because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, people would put me away!

ARTHUR: (Grabbing him by the collar) Shut up, will you. Shut up!

DENNIS: Ah! NOW … we see the violence inherent in the system.

ARTHUR: Shut up!

[PEOPLE (i.e. other PEASANTS) are appearing and watching.]

DENNIS: (calling) Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help, help, I’m being repressed!

ARTHUR: (aware that people are now coming out and watching) Bloody peasant! (pushes DENNIS over into mud and prepares to ride off)

DENNIS: Oh, Did you hear that! What a give-away.

ARTHUR: Come on, patsy.

[They ride off.]

DENNIS: (in the background as we PULL OUT) did you see him repressing me, then? That’s what I’ve been on about …

After living in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as this country officially calls itself, for two years, I am still surprised about the absence of a significant movement to abolish the monarchy. – If Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans can get rid of their dictators, we should also be able to overthrow a monarchy.

About Andreas Moser

You will most likely find me in the forest, next to the lake, reading a book. Just follow the cigar smoke!
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11 Responses to King and Peasants discuss the British Monarchy

  1. John Erickson says:

    As a Yank, I think it’s a combination of the monarchy’s powerlessness combined with the outstanding show provided, not to mention tradition and tourism. And, I think there’s an underlying fear that if the Brits DO chuck their monarchy, they’ll be seen as America’s smaller, much poorer sibling in the world. This way, they can still cling onto the ancient history of giving birth to America! :D
    Besides, with all the Monarchy-lovers in this country, if Britain chucks ‘em, we’ll get really mad at them! Remember the last countries to make us mad – Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya? ;)
    And you REALLY don’t want the exiles going into exile, especially in Australia! :D

  2. Steve says:

    Our democratically elected leaders are a lot more expensive, and a lot more repressive, than the Monarchy ever was.

  3. Stefan MD says:

    I have to disagree with you here Andreas, the British monarchy is probably the monarchy which shouldn’t be removed.

    1) It serves the function of the figurehead powerless state head representing the country for chit-chat and charities when meeting foreign dignitaries and local institutions, and serves it well especially because it is so loved by its “subjects”. From local experience in elections for our President (which is our equivalent of the powerless figurehead protecting the constitution) it is always a pain to choose someone who can be seen as neutral and representative for the country because of all the partisanship here, and we have to repeat that process every 5 years!!

    2) They are technically the equivalent of celebrities, and their public life and gossip surrounding it keeps the peasants appeased whilst the elected government does its work (or bungles it :) I wouldn’t want their job to see the truth – because it IS a job.

    3) Apparently the King/Queen is also the Head of the Church of England – at least they are not chosen by priests/bishops like the Roman Catholic pope is!

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  7. Sam says:

    Well I kind of have to agree with both Stephan and Steve but I would like to bring some figures to your attention. At the last count the monarchy had a bill of £40 million, but what this money was spent on was mainly wages for those working with the royal family, maintenance on the palaces and grounds which yes I agree are the Royal Family’s homes but are also in the end are public property as they are sites of national heritage. This money was also spent on increasing the number of good will trips to foreign countries to increase diplomatic relations with said foreign countries.

    I would also like to point out the many and variuos charitee’s the the Monarchy help, sponsor or even have set up and let us not forget to mention the Duk of Edinborough scheme which teachs young people the value of actually participating in the community within which they live. The Princes Trust as well support young people in setting up new businesses and also helps them get on to training for courses in to trades and other fields.

    Though there are a couple of things that I have to say. The main one is that you will not notice the ELECTED government of the UK going off to war or join this countries Armed Forces however the Queen, The Duke of Edinborough and thier Family have all been in the Forces at one point or another. The other is that the members of the Royal Family are just in effect working as you or I would the only difference is that they have a better paid job than the rest of us.

    So as a summary, we as the British people need the Monarchy not just as the head of state but for all of the good that they do to help better the lives of people within the UK and the world.

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