Well, it’s been a long year. Deep in October summer still clings on, frightened, possibly, of a season still to come; but the days are shorter now, and The Ukraine remains defiant of Russia’s threats of nuclear winter. Cold winds are beginning to puff their cheeks, while not for the first time this little island of ours prepares to suffer the consequences of a foreign war.
As Russia proves that power lost may never be regained, so the seeds of a Commonwealth which identified so much with Britain’s departed Queen are winnowed by change.
Sitting here, I am a provincial Englishman and a relic of a time when it meant something to be English, but I might just as well be a citizen of ancient Greece or Rome in the decline and fall, or a soldier who once served with Alexander, or an Egyptian watching the fractionalisation of the New Kingdom. So I’m a little frightened, too, of the coming season.
I’m a republican – not as in a ‘member of the Republican Party’ – not in that sense. I’m a small ‘r’ republican, so you know what to expect of me when it comes to all the succession stuff surrounding the Monarchy, all the paraphernalia and tradition, the uniforms with the gold string and the jingling rows of chest-metal that the silver spoon boys wear. I resent being a ‘Loyal Subject’ getting in line for the food bank while my Sovereign Liege dines on swan in marbled halls. It isn’t an angry resentment, it’s more a bemused distaste; and it doesn’t wash to remind me that a President might be equally dissolute, because if he was I would have voted for him and that would be my fault, and if I didn’t like him (or her) I would be able to redress the balance at the next election.
Anyway, back to that fractionalisation: I always respected Queen Elizabeth’s public image, and the solemn pomp of her interment was not lost on me, but behind all that strident martial music, tootling along in the background were the gentle strains of the late Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke’s regretful lament:
Now is the time to say goodbye,
Now is the time to yield a sigh,
Now is the time to wend our wayee,
‘Til we meet again some sunny day…
Most who came from foreign climes to say farewell to Elizabeth II had the word ‘goodbye’ very much on their minds –goodbye to the anachronism of Monarchy, and fealty to her motley crew of potential successors. Most of the nations that make up the membership of the ‘Commonwealth’ are flung far about the globe: their heads of state too strictured or too threatened to indulge in annual junkets beneath the beneficent eye of a British ‘royal’, or fund the expensive security entailed in ceremonial ‘tours’. Jaded reassertions of historic pomp and power just don’t cut it anymore. The European Union has finally exploded the myth of international cohesion: as a sovereign state you survive far better on your own.
I will withhold my natural loathing of the institution of Monarchy; I will not use phrases like ‘from good Queen to bad King’ or mention suitcases full of Arabian ‘readies’ exchanged confidentially behind palace walls; not because I risk ending my protests in a Paris underpass – the great asset of being insignificant is escape from such attentions – no, I will wait until the honeymoon is over and the £350 million bequeathed to Charles III in Elizabeth’s will has been forgotten: I, humble and loyal subject, will forbear from criticising my irascible liege as he hops by helicopter from event to event in the cause of climate change. I won’t even send a confidential letter to the FBI reminding them that a certain Duke can be teased from his lair by exploiting his weakness for pizza.
Only when the dust has settled and all but the essential crowns have been melted down for scrap – only when the last open moorland has been fenced off to protect the grouse, and the Fergusons have been fenced off for the protection of the general public – only then can I make my personal decision whether Charles III comes even close to his mother’s high standards. All I can say is, viewed from my lowly status of serfdom; he seems to have a long climb ahead of him.
The prognosis isn’t good.
Next May 6th Charles’s regal status will be celebrated by coronation: yet another pointless extravagance, really, because he already has the royal title in his grasp, but out will come the bearskins and the braid once again, and the money of taxpayers hard pressed by the barons of oil and gas will be further fleeced to pay for it all. Heads of Commonwealth states will be offered invitations, no doubt.
I wonder how many will come?
NB: The Eurovision Song Contest is planned to be in Liverpool on 13th May; one week later. If you could find a hotel reservation that is not already taken by illegal immigrants, I would personally give Liverpool preference.