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Why I Didn’t Celebrate The Diamond Jubilee. ( June, 2012.)

8 Jun

It’s been a long weekend of avoidance tactics — avoiding the TV news, ignoring the newspapers, boycotting Jubilee street parties and barbeques, shunning the empty patriotism and meaningless pageantry. Luckily there has been some good Grand Slam tennis from Paris to distract me.  Federer, Del Potro, Djokovic and Tsonga have distracted me from the humiliation of being a citizen of a country that adulates an unelected, undistinguished monarch. Apparently, according to the opinion polls, I am one of just 13% who wishes the United Kingdom was a republic, with an elected, representative Head of State who has gained that lofty position through the merit of his/her achievements. A whopping 80% prefer to be the subjects of a Queen who has no special qualifications except to be the eldest child of the previous monarch, King George VI. Just by chance of birth she has led a life of great wealth and privilege and is worshipped by the bedazzled masses as if she is a goddess. In a country that is proud to be a democracy and has laws to try to ensure equality of opportunity and equality of treatment for all, this elevation of one family to semi-divine status, is extremely strange and irrational.

  It’s wierd that our country goes to war to spread democracy and apparently supports Arab counties whose people have overthrown their undemocratic rulers, and yet  maintains, at great expense, a Head of State who has no democratic credentials whatsoever. The vast majority of countries around the world are republics and seem to be quite happy, so why has Britain persisted with this unfair, anachronistic system of Government? ( and I’m not even mentioning the unelected House of Lords.) The most difficult thing for me to grasp is why my country not only tolerates these unrepresentative “Royals”, but actually celebrates their longevity.

  When I announce that I am against some Royal event I am often accused of being unpatriotic. Afterall, what is wrong with flying the Union Jack and being proud to be British? Well, that flag symbolises to me, all the evil things that the British have done over the centuries in the name of their Empire — war, conquest, murder, massacres, subjugation, enslavement, theft of other countries’ resources, prejudice, discrimination and abuse. All this was supervised or agreed to by our Royal Family which took more than its fair share of the loot. It’s difficult to imagine how Queen Victoria had the nerve to accept the extra title of Empress of India after all the atrocities and abominations of The Indian Mutiny gave ample and graphic evidence that the British presence was not welcome there.

 Even the Union Jack itself represents the brutal subjugation of the rest of the British Isles by the English. It certainly wasn’t an amicable or peaceful union. But that’s all in the past you might say, and it could be argued that it has nothing to do with our present, peaceful Royal family. This ignores the fact that the Royal males love parading up and down in military uniforms and is it  Prince William or Harry, or both of them, who have actually joined our military forces?  Well apart from all that, surely the Queen is a really nice, peace-loving old lady?  Well, I do concede that apart from supporting wars in: Korea ( early 1950’s), Egypt ( 1956), Malaysia ( 1960’s), the Falkland Islands ( 1983), the Gulf ( late 1980’s and early 90’s), Iraq again ( in the early 21st century), and Afghanistan ( ongoing), not to mention being involved in civil strife in Kenya, Ulster and other places I cannot think of, Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 year reign has been very peaceful!

  A big justification for the Royal- inspired national celebration is that it unites the nation and allows us to be proud to be British. What’s wrong with being patriotic? The Queen, as our Head of State, is the living embodiment of Britishness. Surely this is what all those foreign tourists flock to see — a person ( the Queen) and an institution ( the Monarchy), who/which is British through and through. Even her family name — the House of Windsor –is the very essence of Englishness. Unfortunately, all is not as it seems. Elizabeth’s actual name should be Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, as she is closely descended from Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German consort. The name Windsor, so quintessentially English, is actually a fake, invented by King George V in 1917, to disguise the embarrassing fact that our royal family was half German at a time when we were at war with Germany. In fact, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II was George V’s cousin, as was Czar Nicholas II of Russia, another not so British connection. At the time, Kaiser Bill saw the funny side of this deceit when he joked that he was looking forward to seeing a performance of William Shekespeare’s play: ” The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.”

  Then there is the case of the present Queen’s consort ( ie husband) Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the father of the heir to the throne. Surely there’s nothing unpatriotic about Elizabeth marrying someone from the capital of Scotland, an integral part of the United Kingdom? Well actually this particular Prince is Greek. His full title when our queen met him was Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, of the House of Schleswig- Holstein-Sonderburg- Glucksburg. All of this makes one very proud of our thoroughly British Royal family. Maybe, instead of the Union Jack, we should be flying little plastic EU flags from our cars and houses, to celebrate being loyal subjects of this English/German/Greek/Danish monarchy. Further back into history our Royal masters have come from France ( William I etc), Spain ( Philip II, husband of Mary I), the Netherlands ( William III) and Germany ( George II and George II.) In fact for many years French was the official language at court and some of our monarchs could not even speak the English language.   This family with the fake English name really represents internationalism rather than the more insular patriotism that we have witnessed across the UK this week. This should be a cause for celebration except that they now reside in  Britain, in a string of palaces, castles and grand houses given to them by the British people and they receive enormous, mostly tax free wealth provided by the country they are leeching off. I wonder how many British people realize that the Royals are excused inheritance tax plus a whole slew of other taxes that the rest of us have to pay. If they do, why are they celebrating 60 years of being ripped off? It’s all very strange.

  The biggest objection to the British Royal family though, is that it is totally undemocratic in a country that is supposed to be a shining beacon of democracy. They are hereditary monarchs. They are born into their positions of power, wealth and privilage — they have not earned any of these things. The hereditary system is also sexist of course as the males jump ahead of the females in the line of succession. The ancesters of the present Royal family grapped power, often through war, intrigue and murder and now we meekly let them keep it. Our queen is the descendent of a foreign conquerer ( William I), someone who had his own teenage nephews murdered ( Richard III), someone who defeated his predecessor on the battle field and had him killed ( Henry VII), a wife- murderer, twice over ( Henry VIII), someone who had protestants burnt at the stake ( Mary I), someone who had her own cousin executed ( Elizabeth ), someone whose abuse of power caused a terrible civil war ( Charles I), plus countless others who presided over invasions and devastating wars. Does all this make the monarchy fit and proper to continue to rule over us? I don’t think so.

  However, blinded by their wealth and “majesty”, fooled by a false version of history, and obsessed by the tacky “celebrity” status the popular press has bestowed upon them, the majority of the population continues to be obsessed by the Royal family. They are not democratic. They are not purely British. They have no moral validity to “rule”. They do not do anything that is useful to the country — unless one counts opening buildings, launching ships, waving at people, accepting gifts and bouquets, and reading other peoples’ speeches. Our Queen never expresses any opinion, or exercises any real power. She  has kept her mouth shut and sat on the political fence for 60 years. That’s quite an achievement. It would drive me nuts doing nothing useful or saying nothing of interest for my entire life. Elizabeth II has devoted her whole reign to doing her “duty” to the nation. I have never been able to work out what that “duty” is. I would have respected her a lot more if she and Philip had gone to live in a council house and got a job that was useful to the rest of us. Wouldn’t it have been great if she’d been a nurse and he had gone into teaching and they had paid all their taxes. ( like my wife and I have done.) Maybe Prince Charles could have been a long distance lorry driver or worked down the pit instead of pontificating about modern architecture, raking in the profits of the Duchy of Cornwall and expecting a servant to squeeze his toothpaste. But that would have made the Windsors ( or the Saxe- Coburg-Gotha’s) just an ordinary family like the rest of us, and they would not have been able to provide the glitz, glamour and pseudo- escapism that 80% of us seem to crave. Maybe that’s their real function — as real-life soap opera stars who “entertain” us and enable us to lead vicarious lives by providing  the magic and enchantment that our own distinctly ordinary lives lack. We pay all that money to subsidise a temporary escape from reality. ( even in the middle of a recession in which we are told that we are all in it together.)

  I feel a lot better now that I’ve got all that lot off my chest! I think I’ll get back to the tennis.