A king, or just a very rich man?

Published: Sat, 09/17/22

On Sunday September the 11th Sky News broadcast footage of a large group of people marching in London. The so called ‘News’ organisation reported this group of people as mourners demonstrating their grief at the passing of their beloved monarch on Thursday last week. Except the late queen wasn’t the only person who died that week. On Monday the 5th of September a 24 year old man by the name of Chris Kaba was fatally shot by an armed policeman in South London. Mr Kaba was driving a car which had been flagged up as possibly involved in a previous incident. However, the police admit that he was unarmed and any justification for the killing is unclear to say the least. The crowd which Sky News had observed and reported as ‘royal mourners’ were actually protesting the death of Mr Kaba at the hands of the Metropolitan Police Force. Sky News have since issued a correction to their previous report. Well, maybe it was an understandable
mistake to imagine that there could be no possible reason for grief at this time other than the death of Elizabeth Windsor at the age of 96?
On Monday the 19th we have the state funeral, and then what? There will be a build up to the coronation of Charles the 3rd and then everything carries on just as before except with a king instead of the queen? I am not sure it is quite that simple. No one in the UK of working age has known anything other than the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The other day I had a conversation with a lady in her mid Seventies who remembered the June 1953 coronation as a small girl, for anyone younger the queen seemed to be as permanent a feature of Britain as Stonehenge, Ben Nevis, or the white cliffs of Dover. However. monarchs are mortals just like the rest of us, beginning their journey of life with the messy and traumatic experience of birth and then living until that final breath. I make no judgment on the individuals who have been or may be monarchs, we are all on the same ultimate journey. However, the institution of monarchy is certainly open
to discussion, criticism, and hard choices. Maybe I was lucky to be born 5 years into the reign of Elizabeth the 2nd. Who can say what national life might have been like with a different person on the throne, or none at all if Britain had become a republic as so many other nations have done in the past century or so? I do wonder what my 2 year old daughter will experience of monarchy in her life time. Now, is a good time for the nation to have a hard look at the institution of monarchy and seriously consider what we want from it in the future.
My mother was born the same year as the late queen and she never forgave the queen’s uncle, Edward the 8th for choosing ‘that awful woman’ Wallis Simpson over his royal duty to be King. Having read Edward the 8th’s memoir, published in the early 1950s, I really can’t get away from the idea that the British Monarchy actually ended in 1938 with the abdication. The unsuitability of Edward’s choice of a divorced American woman as his wife is the ‘official’ reason which is always given for his renunciation of the crown. Indeed, the memoir, which must have been approved before publication, keeps to this line. However, Edward had served in the Great War. As heir to the throne he was kept away from the front line, but he was close enough to understand the reality of modern large scale warfare. The future king did not want to see his country experience such a trauma again. He was also aware that the three great monarchies of Europe, the
Russian Tsar, the German Kaiser, and his own father George the 5th had all failed to prevent the conflict and only the British monarchy had survived. Winston Churchill was determined to engage in a second war with Germany. Would Edward the 8th have been a reliable figurehead while the British Empire engaged in total war for a second time in a generation? Those committed to war didn’t think so and Edward was replaced with his younger brother Albert who became the compliant George the 6th. It is accepted that the strain of being a wartime king shortened the life of Elizabeth’s father and he died in 1952 aged just 56.
In the commentary since the Queen’s death I have seen numerous suggestions that the experience of living through the war and seeing how her parents coped with being a focus for the nation in a time of crisis greatly influenced her own approach to the role of monarch. Does this also explain why our national psyche is largely stuck in 1945 with Britain as the brave little country which stood up to the Nazis. Perhaps it is time to figure out its actual place in the world as it is now?
On Monday we will bury the late Queen with full honours. I am sure the occasion will be a fitting end to the second Elizabethan age. For better or worse Elizabeth played a large role in making the past 70 years what they were. So, lets be grateful for her service and there has been no shortage of tributes. Then, on Tuesday, we need to start thinking about where we go from here.
The ‘system’ is telling us that the coronation of Charles the 3rd is inevitable. Does this have to be the case? The king or Konge principle is the figurehead which pulls community together and provides leadership through self-sacrifice. Traditionally the king would be chosen based on their martial prowess and capacity to lead in battle. Harold Godwinson was crowned king of Anglo-Saxon England on the 6th of January 1066. In the September Harold marched his army to Yorkshire and defeated the invading army of Hardrada at the battle of Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile, William of Normandy landed on the South Coast and Harold marched South again to engage the Norman forces. Sadly, Harold was defeated and killed at the battle of Hastings (although the popular story about the arrow in they eye is probably not true). Harold was a true king, (and our last one before those pesky Normans took over.)
In the early 1990s the queen persuaded the government to exempt the royal family from paying death duties. The Royals have become fabulously wealthy during the late queen’s reign, but none of it is coming in the taxes which the rest of us would have to pay.
Stav Camp 2023, 30th June to 2nd July in North Lincolnshire. The website has the basic information so far and I will be adding to it over the next couple of weeks. If you might be interested put the date in your diary anyway and check out http://stavcamp.org/

Graham Butcher
21 Beaver Road
Beverley East Yorkshire HU17 0QN

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