Anti-monarchy group Republic are launching a crowdfunding campaign in the hope they can lobby MPs to allow for greater access to the Royal Archives, full of historic and personal documents relating to the Royal Family.
The group want to find loopholes that could provide the legal basis upon which to open the archives, which they describe as our ‘most secretive institution’.
The Royal Archives, kept in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle, are exempt from freedom of information requests. Researchers and academics can apply for access to look at documents of Monarch from the past 250 years, but they are not open to scrutiny as other governmental archives are.
Some of the Royal Archives – such as Queen Victoria’s diaries, and George III’s private papers – have previously been made public, and have offered much insight into the mind of a Sovereign or a political situation. However, it seems Republic simply want access for the sake of access, because it is related to the Royal Family; no doubt they hope to uncover some unflattering information about a long-dead King.
Republic CEO Graham Smith said: “These are documents relating to the history and the job of our head of state, there’s going to be all sorts of minutes and documentation and reports and discussions between civil servants, world leaders, those sort of things, that are completely hidden away.
“The British people have a right to know their past, they have a right to properly judge this institution and the people that serve in it and you can only really do that with full access to all the official records.”
Republic is of the opinion that all of the records should be transferred to the National Archives at Kew. Here, papers are released after 30 years and it is the archivists who decide what is considered private or personal.
Author Ben Macintyre, who has written has books about spies and the SAS, said: “This is one of the ironies, the fact that MI5 is considerably more accessible historically than the Royal Family.
“Every year MI5 releases archives that do not have a security implication, do not embarrass living individuals, that do not invade privacy. It seems to me that those are the principles that you could very easily apply to the royal archive and say everything else needs to be released.”
However, royal author Hugo Vickers believes privacy is a tradition worth protecting.
He told Sky News: “It’s much better that these papers should be kept for eventual use, and if they were subjected to rules whereby things had to be opened, quite frankly they wouldn’t be put into the royal archives and they’d probably disappear.
“Nobody in public life likes to write even an email these days because it can be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.”
Republic are to launch their crowdfunding campaign at its annual general meeting this weekend.
What are your thoughts on this?