Once upon a time…
Long—but, not that long—ago, on a certain campus, lived a disenchanted student body. Political demonstrations brought classes to a halt at the University of Maryland, College Park, as tensions within the institution grew. At the height of the unrest, students and faculty activists found themselves confronted by a hoard of National Guardsmen on McKeldin Mall. A courageous group of students pledged henceforth to vanquish institutional corruption and partiality in response to the widespread mistrust and animosity of student politics. They solemnly vowed to seek a wise and fair King to lead all Terps on a path to valor. With this solemn oath, the Monarchy Party was born!
In conjunction with our ongoing Diamondback digitization project, today we weave you a yarn of the University of Maryland of yore. Join us as we tell the tale of the Monarchy Party’s rise to power during the mid-1980s. Among many brave heroes, we specifically recount the exploits of the valiant leader, King Tom II, who fearlessly combated the banality of student government in a series of farcical adventures.
Of noble birth: the origins of Maryland’s Monarchy Party
Frustrated students founded the Monarchy Party in an endeavor to protest the perceived preference given to fraternity and sorority interests within the student government of the late 1960s. Mocking the petty jockeying of previous officials, the collective dubbed themselves Monarchists in reference to the tendency of internal cliques—especially Greek life lobbyists—to treat the student government as a school-funded “fiefdom.” The party’s founders felt that this internalized attitude led to nepotism and a grave mis-allocation of SGA funds. While its precise origins remain uncertain, reports in The Diamondback and The Washington Post date the Monarchy party’s inception between 1969 and 1972, which seems to coincide with the establishment of the Maryland Medieval Mercenary Militia.
As Washington Post correspondent Barbra Vobejda reported in 1985, ironic campus campaigns became a national phenomenon in the early 1970s after college administrations attempted to “whittle away” students’ rights. Pointing to the contemporary election of a cartoon character at the University of Texas in Austin and the Pail and Shovel party at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she suggests that satirical student groups, like the Monarchy Party, propelled significant conversations about the politics of higher education. An unaffiliated Monarchist regime was even established at Florida State University in, Tallahassee, Florida, in 1989.
Anticipating these anti-establishment collegiate trends, however, Maryland Monarchists blazed a trail for alternative student politics in the wake of early protests for equal rights and against the Vietnam War on our campus. Gaining traction over a period of approximately fourteen years, the party touted the record as the longest existing student-run political party of their day.