The remaining monarchies in other parts of the world have similar laws, such as in the Middle East, Malaysia and Brunei and they are more uniformly enforced whereas in Europe, even where they remain on the books, they seldom are. Some monarchies, however, have no such laws but societal norms tend to make them less necessary. Japan, for example, no longer has lèse-majesté laws on the books but saying anything derogatory about the Emperor or Imperial Family would not be tolerated in polite society so most of the insults hurled at members of the Imperial Family are confined to the internet. The situation is somewhat similar in Cambodia where insulting the monarchy in print or in person could get you into some trouble but it can be done on the internet with the authorities being able to do little about it. However, the idea that only monarchies have such laws is absolutely false. Republics cannot have lèse-majesté laws in the same way monarchies can by their very nature but many, many republics have laws that come to the same thing, however, once again, how evenly they are enforced is another matter. Not long ago the republican government in Turkey, for example, made it illegal to say anything insulting about the country of Turkey, the government or anything Turkish really.
When it comes to monarchies and comparing their lèse-majesté laws to republics, however, I consider it more indicative to look at laws pertaining to the desecration of flags. Such laws are also quite widespread all around the world and often include laws protecting the desecration of foreign flags and not just the national flag. In fact, in some countries, such as the Kingdom of Denmark, it is perfectly legal to burn the Danish flag but illegal to burn the flag of a foreign country. Why do I say this is indicative? Because a monarch, like a flag, represents a whole country, a whole people as no politician, no matter how he or she is chosen, ever could. Put in those terms, even some republicans may be able to understand why some people might actually support lèse-majesté laws. In Mexico, for instance, no one would think twice about insulting the King of Spain and most would see no reason why a Spaniard should be punished for insulting the King of Spain. Yet, when it comes to the Mexican national flag, there are quite strict laws preventing it from being treated in any way that could be construed as disrespectful and this is regarded as entirely appropriate.
As most could probably guess, I have no problem with lèse-majesté laws nor do I have any problem with laws against the desecration of national flags (even though my country doesn’t have them). On one level, I look at it like this; whether you are tearing up a picture of Queen Elizabeth II in England or burning the American flag in the United States you are attacking the symbol of a country and if you feel that way about the country you should pack your bags and get the hell out -no one is forcing you to live there. If, on the other hand, you want to tear up a picture of “Call Me Dave” Cameron or Gordon “IS ALIVE!” Brown, I would have no problem with that. Similarly, if an American feels he can only express himself by burning the flag of the Democrat or Republican parties I would have no problem with that. Doing something like that is showing contempt for a government, a political faction or ideology and that is a totally different thing, to my mind, from an act with disrespects an entire country as a whole and a symbol that represents everyone in it.
Obviously, I don’t think so, even though no country has absolute freedom of speech no matter where you go. I have no problem with reasonable debate and discussion in the ‘public square’ a country. One can do that without resorting to insults. For example, one can point out why they do not accept the Islamic religion or state why they think Mohammed was not what he claimed to be without drawing lewd cartoons of him involving bestiality. One can also say why and on what points they disagree with tenets of Catholicism without resorting to vandalism against sacred images or pictures of the Pope just as one can explain in great detail what disagreements they have with the policies of a certain government without resorting to the childish antics of burning a flag. On the subject of persons I would also say that I do not find it all unjustified to have different standards for monarchs than for politicians. For instance, an American who insults an American President will not offend me. If reasons are given I may agree or disagree with such points (though not much as painfully few have even been moderately good in my opinion) but no more than that. For a real precise example, let us say that someone insulted President Ronald Reagan to me, the only American chief executive of my lifetime that I consider fairly decent. I would not agree with such behavior, but I would not be “offended” by it. However, if someone were to insult the Queen of Denmark or the Emperor of Japan, I would be offended (to put it lightly). The reason is that there is a clear difference to me between a person who had a position of leadership thrust upon them and one who sought a position of leadership of their own free will. I feel the same about privacy laws for famous people. I do not feel at all the same when a celebrity, who chose to enter a profession which depends on media attention and popular support, complains of their privacy being violated as when the privacy of, for example, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is violated. They are two entirely different things to me.
I would also draw a distinction, even if it made little difference to my ultimate position, between those countries which became republics because of the violent overthrow of a monarch and those which did so by coming to an agreement with their monarch. Most of the republics in the world today, after all, did not spring into being by overthrowing a monarch but by separating themselves from one, in most cases the Spanish or British monarch. If, for example, some man in India who longed for the days when the British monarch was still Emperor of India decided to burn the Indian national flag, I might not be as offended as I would be by the desecration of a monarchist flag or a picture of the Queen but I would still not be best pleased. The British monarch agreed to the independence of India quite freely and such a demonstration would only hurt the image of those in India who have a friendly attitude toward the United Kingdom. It would simply inflame Anglophobic sentiments in the subcontinent rather than encouraging greater Anglo-Indian friendship. If such an individual were known to be a monarchist, it would simply make monarchists look bad and so boost the prestige of the republic in comparison. I think most people could understand that such a demonstration would also be seen rather differently in a country like India or Burma or Kenya than in a republic which arose not because of a country gaining independence from another but from the overthrow of a legitimate native monarch.
Speak not ill of the king, not even in your thoughts and do not
curse the rich even in your bedchamber for a bird of the air
will carry your voice and that with wings will relate the matter.