Contributed from Victoria
The great distraction will soon be over. I’m talking about the coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s and the parade of ceremonies following it. Any death is solemn, and people usually react in a respectful way. And it has been with the death of the British monarch. At least she made it to 96. This is a good innings.
Contention is not the death but the use being made out of it to build the royal myth. The history of the British throne is that it has been occupied over the centuries by those who were the most powerful warlords of their time. Their claims were that they happened to own the most land and could afford the biggest armies. The population never voted them in as their sovereign.
Barons forced Plantagenet King John to sign the Magna Carter in 1215 to share power with them
History is re-written to pretend a fairy tale line of descent and rightful place on the throne. The reality is that the British Monarch has represented a series of families, many of them getting to the throne by violent means. The family holding the title for the longest were the Plantagenets. They were form Normandy, which is now part of France. The Tudors, who also came from what became France. They were followed the Scottish Stuarts, who occupied the throne for the second longest time. There were others who had their brief time in the sun. All in all, more than 30 families have held the job of the king or queen of England or Great Britain. Many of them their significant others were foreigners.
The family of the just departed queen, the Windsors, are the most recent addition to the list. Elizabeth only got the guernsey by a succession of accidents. Queen Victoria’s son George died early. Another abdicated. Then there was another early death. Without these mishaps, Elizabeth would not have become Queen.
Not that any of this is really important. But it does throw some cold water on the fairy tale.
Far more important is the role that the crown has played in promoting colonialism and horrendous theft and exploitation abroad. The Crown jewels are an epitaph to the plunder. Repression was used at home to keep the subjects in their place. This is why the institution has never been particularly popular through the ages and the British rose up in revolutions in 1640 and 1660. They executed Charles I by having his head chopped off.
Charles I lost his head because of revolution
The longer lasting consequence is that the monarchy had its wings clipped and greater power was transferred to the parliament. The tussle between the two powers continued and continues today, even if it is less pronounced.
Britain’s monarchy has never been an institution for democracy. It is part of a system of privileges for a few and an arm of their ongoing political power. The claim that it is a check on the abuse of power is nonsense. It is a check on the voice of the people.
The re-writing of history seeks to cover this by pretending the opposite. The pomp and ceremony, and the countless patronised charities have been invented to land substance to where there is little. They are also a means to buy an army of sycophants, eager to dip their snouts into the cream and feel superior. The monarchy represents an out-of-date feudal class system.
Manufacturing the fairy tale is a means to turn the public attention away from the realities of life. British living standards are declining, the planet is warming, and the economy is in a real mess. The capacity to form a stable government is problematic. Brexit and Boris Johnson have proved disasters. The Scots want their independence, and the population across the island is unhappy.
The death of the queen is being milked for all its worth. The upper crust is frightened. They want to hang on to their privileges. Distract through the use of circuses, and under cover, usher in censorship and repression.
Any criticism of the monarchy has been blocked out of the media. Even criticism of the way the media is handling it is out. Recent laws prohibiting public expression of unofficial views is being policed. This is why a woman holding a sign saying ‘not my king” was arrested. She is only one of a growing list of those detained. Arrests like these began before the death. They will continue after the ceremonies are over.
It is disturbing that there are echoes of this in Australia.
We should remember our own history. The land was taken from the original inhabitants in the name of the Crown. The emerging new nation rose at Bakery Hill in 1854, and the call for a democratic republic was made. The British monarchy stood on the other side over the years. When nationhood was finally won, Britain imposed a level of continuing dependency. The British monarch is still the head of state, and this power was used to overthrow the elected Whitlam government in 1975.
The monarchy is a harmful relic of the past getting in the way of Australia moving forwards and completing the journey to nationhood. The sooner we get rid of it the better.
This is what I wrote about it a couple of days ago:
So, my thoughts on a little news story that’s had a bit of attention these past couple of days …
First up. People are welcome to grieve about whatever & whomever they please … but I for one am not buying into the current weepfest over the great granddaughter of a minor German duke, aka one Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg & Gotha.
Many are praising her decades of “service” to … us?/various people?/Britain?/the Commonwealth?/The British Empire? (which can easily be argued, only ended in 1997)/civilisation itself?
I would posit, it’s easy to be of “service” when you’re the head of an organisation with a collective value of 26 billion pounds (the Monarchy as an entire apparatus; some might counter her personal assets “only” amount to 500 million pounds — give or take, there’s a great deal of secrecy concerning these matters).
Either way, I think I’d be willing to give it a crack for such a treasure trove. It could (& probably would) be argued by those who’ve encountered me that I might not have the personality to match hers; my rebuttal is who knows how lovely I might/could/would be if my every whim was catered for & I had someone to do everything up to & including wiping my arse for me.
Instead my grief will be reserved for the death of another currently 96 year old Brit … & one which I truly dread hearing has occurred. One born only 19 days after ER. One whose career also started in 1952 when they were also only 25, although I’m happy to concede it began with somewhat less of a bang than Liz’s.
I’m speaking of course of the magnificent, truly inspiring … David Attenborough.
Several months ago after finishing a re-read of “Living Planet: the Web of Life on Earth” I began what I thought might make an interesting fb post on communal grief on social media. However, me being i) slightly slack & ii) more than moderately indifferent to posting on SM (ie, I only made 4 posts on my timeline in August) it never quite got completed.
Attenborough is someone who has fuelled my (& no doubt countless millions of others) love of the natural world & the wonderfully intricate world of wild life on our precious planet since I was very young. I’ve watched every documentary series he’s ever made and read at least a dozen of his books, some many times over.
Hearing of his death will hit me harder. Harder than some descendent of William the Conqueror via a series of very twisted & dog-legged twists & turns which somehow signifies a “divine right to rule”. But let’s be clear: this is not about an individual. It’s the system she represented. The monarchy, despite her death, is very much still in place. I struggle with the worth (or otherwise) of Kings & Queens. The only Kings I am prepared to tolerate are Elvis (because it was only ever a term of praise not symbolic of a repressive political & societal structure designed to exploit & extract wealth & power; plus, those sexy hips) & Strider when he became King Elessar (& even this one makes me wobble a little).
I understand that “celebrity deaths” form a kind of a communal catharsis for society as a whole today given much of our firsthand experience with death and many of our death rituals have been sanitised or taken from us entirely. The death of any human deserves compassion … for the family, for the loss of a loved one. This I am willing to grant.
I’m definitely not “celebrating” that QEII has died … but neither will I indulge the apologists and forelock tuggers who praise the virtues of billionaires; their service, their giving back to the community, the alleged positive influence they bring to the world.
It’s a simple fact which I believe 100%:
It is immoral to be a billionaire when other humans die of hunger.
It is immoral to be a billionaire when other humans die because they cannot get basic medical support.
It is immoral to be a billionaire when other humans are in slavery & servitude.
It is immoral to be a billionaire.