Monday, June 4, 2012 at 6:41 AM
Today’s flotilla of 1,000 vessels along the River Thames highlights day two of ”Four Days of Glorious Celebration” in the UK marking Queen Elizabeth’s 60th anniversary as reigning monarch (1952-present).
Of course, die-hard colonialists (many of whom remain wistfully settled throughout my Caribbean) can be forgiven their indignation at the heaping of so much glory upon this monarch whose reign has seen the sun set on almost all of the British Empire. (And nothing demonstrates this quite like today’s Royal Navy flotilla consisiting of what looked like just 1 battle ship and 999 rowing boats….)
To be fair though the sun was already setting inexorably for over a decade before Elizabeth ascended the throne. Specifically, decolonization was the price Britain had to pay for being rescued from the clutches of Nazi Germany during World War II. And that price was being forced to bow out as, one by one, its former colonies around the world became newly independent states that were obliged to pledge allegiance, not to Britain, but to either the United States or the Soviet Union - the two superpowers that emerged atop a new world order after WWII.
Which is why, even to this day, not only is Britain precluded from doing anything to prevent any of its remaining “Overseas Territories” from kicking it out, the Atlantic Charter (1941) and the UN Charter (1945) require Britain to do everything necessary to prepare these Territories for, and assist them during, their transition to independence.
Nevertheless, there’s no denying the laudable length of her reign, which I suppose is reason enough to celebrate. At 60 years, it’s the second longest in British history. Queen Victoria’s was the longest at 64 years (1837-1901). But nobody doubts the still vibrant 86-year-old Elizabeth will surpass Victoria … at least in this respect; especially given the longevity of her mother who lived to a still-active age of 101. Sorry Charlie….
All the same, it smacks of royal worship run amok that British politicians of every rank and stripe are falling all over themselves in a rush to rename the venerable Big Ben “Elizabeth Tower.” For surely there are other bridges crossing the River Thames where a tower could be built and named in her honor. The reason proffered for this cause celebre is a myopic, superficial framing of the Thames by Victoria and Elizabeth Towers because they both had diamond jubilees. What then of a George Tower in honor of King George III who also had a diamond jubilee (1760-1820)? (And please don’t confuse this George with St George – that patron saint of right-wing British nationalists in whose honor a residential “Tower” is being built in Vauxhall.) Or are we to simply overlook this blithe form of (reverse) sexism on this glorious occasion…?
In any event, I’m afraid I’m going to have to join Mother Nature in raining of this royal parade. But out of respect for Elizabeth, for whom I have great personal affection, I shall limit mine to a drizzle by merely reprising excerpts from just a few of the commentaries I’ve written over the years – not on her but on the institution she personifies.
From A Royal Marriage Worthy of King Henry VIII, The iPINIONS Journal, February 17, 2005:
So this British fairytale continues with Charles now lauded as a doting Daddy betrothed to a more suitable woman. The sad reality, of course, is that where the Royal pronouncement of such a marriage once warranted summary abdication, today it heralds the respectable union of the future king and his indefatigable mistress.
A republic, a republic – my life for a republic!
From Royals Courting America…, The iPINIONS Journal, October 31, 2005:
No matter how public-spirited the Prince or legally sanctioned his entitlements, the monarchy remains as much an eyesore on the landscape of modern societies as the modern buildings he once described as ‘a jostling scrum … so mediocre that the only way you ever remember them is by the frustration they induce – like a basketball team standing shoulder-to-shoulder between you and the Mona Lisa.’
From Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth, The iPINIONS Journal, April 26, 2006:
This will seem almost traitorous to many of my fellow Caribbean natives, but I am not a monarchist. In fact, nothing offends my sense of nationalism more than seeing so many of my people maintain a level of fealty to British Royalty that would shame even the most obsequious servant in the royal household. After all, I have been quite unabashed in agitating for our regional governments to not only abolish allegiance to the Queen but also rid our societies of all the colonial vestiges that flow from her ‘sovereign’ fountain of honors (like knighthoods and Orders)…
Looking as fit as she does, she is destined to live longer than her mother (who died at 101). And, alas, this virtually guarantees that Charles and Camilla will never, never become king and queen. Indeed, as if to admonish the boy who would be king to perish the thought, the Queen dispatched one of her most trusted ladies-in-waiting this week to inform the BBC that she considers her role as monarch ‘ a job for life [and that] she wouldn’t consider not continuing to fulfill those vows until she dies.’
From More Interest in ‘The Queen’ than in the Queen, The iPINIONS Journal, May 4, 2007:
Now, lest you think I hate the Queen, let me hasten to disabuse you of that notion. Because it’s not Elizabeth I abhor; it’s the absurdly anachronistic and inherently undemocratic prerogatives of monarchy which she personifies.
From Prince William to Kate: Enough of the Wait [or was that weight – given how thin she’s become], The iPINIONS Journal, November 17, 2010:
You’d think, though, that it was the announcement of the second coming of Jesus Christ the way the media are covering the announcement of this royal engagement. Never mind that William and Kate’s very public eight-year relationship rendered it wholly anticlimactic.
All the same, the media will no doubt do their best to manufacture as much interest in this royal wedding as was genuinely shown in the wedding of William’s parents in 1981.
Which is why I am compelled to wonder if he and Kate will fare any better living happily ever after than Charles and Diana (Anne and Mark or Andrew and Fergie for that matter). After all, given the record of divorces within this royal family, it does not bode well for them….
From The Problem in Not Kate’s Weight, it’s William’s Title, The iPINIONS Journal, February 16, 2011:
What concerns me is that people around the world seem even more vested in this anachronistic institution (namely, the British monarchy) today than they were when William’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, got married 30 years ago (on July 29, 1981).
I have long maintained that royalty makes a mockery of the universal principle that all people are created equal. Moreover, that a democracy that perpetuates royalty in the 21st Century is almost as cancerous (and oxymoronic) as one that perpetuated slavery in the 19th.
This is why I find it somewhat hypocritical that Western media are praising the Egyptians for overthrowing their dictatorship, while celebrating the British for perpetuating their monarchy (with all of its state-supported perks, privileges, and regal indulgences).
And it’s no consolation to argue in mitigation that Western monarchs are now constitutionally prohibited from oppressing their subjects the way Mideast dictators still do.
That said, I heartily congratulate Her Majesty and wish all those reveling in this jubilee lots of good, safe fun … despite the pouring rain.
* Ths commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 11:41 am est