KING CHARLES III. WHOSE KING ANYWAY: AN EMPIRE ON RETREAT
In today’s increasingly scientific and meritocratic world, we now know that kings and queens are not chosen by God, don’t have blue blood or two umbilical cords. The differential mood is also producing angry people in bigger numbers and widespread, the age of satire and internet are making global transfer of knowledge much easier.
The world is mourning Queen Elizabeth II, whose great, great grandparents and parents created a political and economic order that strangulated Africa, Asia, Arab, and American dominions. But on her feet, the empire has beaten a retreat, if not crumbled. Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor 96 years ago, she came into the line of succession in 1936 because her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry a twice divorced American woman Willis Simpson regarded unsuitable by royal tradition. Then, her father, King George VI, succeeded but died on 6 February 1952 when Elizabeth was 26.
Keeping with tradition, her eldest son, hitherto Prince of Wales, having waited on the wings for this moment for the last seventy years is now King Charles III. Queen Elizabeth assumed the throne when Great Britain had discarded the name England after the thrashing in two world wars, rise of United States, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and Peoples Republic of China.
Within Western Europe, France and Nazi Germany remained potent rivals with larger territories, population and economic potentials to-date. And so, former Great Britain recoiled to being referred to only as Britain, today titled United Kingdom (UK) although not all that united in much of a sense considering the Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly, and Northern Ireland.
Elizabeth II inherited swathes of colonies and dominions which all, except a few soon demanded and obtained independence often through waging wars because the empire could no longer hold. Earlier in 1922 Egypt unilaterally declared independence. Then went India and Pakistan 1947, Burma 1948, Sudan 1956, Malaysia and Ghana 1957, Nigeria 1960, Somalia 1961 and Uganda 1962. Kenya, Tanzania and others followed.
The world has since changed from black and white to coloured television, telegram and radio to the internet, facebook, email, twitter, instagram, and zoom among other communication platforms. Even the British Royal family was forced to start paying income tax, and Yacht Britannia decommissioned.
Sensing becoming irrelevant, like former Roman, Greek and Belgian empires, the British Empire created the Commonwealth, a club with its former colonies and Queen Elizabeth II as its Head. But in reality, it is these countries’ resources that are ‘common’ to service Britain’s economic, political, military and diplomatic high ground to continue punching above its weight.
Almost all members of the so-called Commonwealth except Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and India recently are categorized as Developing or derisively called Third World countries whose main features are extreme poverty, social want, dependency and political instability often instigated by British meddling.
Now after the demise of Elizabeth II, King Charles III much scorned, inherits a far diminished throne amidst big global changes where nowhere else is a monarchy revered let alone much recognised as serving any useful purpose except for tourism and nostalgic commemoration. In decades passed, the British Crown suffered setbacks and it’s hard to see how Charles rebuilds its reputation. After the realization that his supposed love-match had been a sham, as the marriage fell apart in public and long-drawn-out acrimony, with Princess Diana Spencer who eventually died dejected in a motor accident while in the romantic arms of Dodi Fayed, an Egyptian businessman in Paris in 1997, Charles went full throttle with lover Camilla Parker Bowles, now his wife.
Prince Andrew recently stripped of all royal duties and honours because of his maladroit friendship with the convicted American pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and abuse allegations concerning the prince himself is a long nail in a coffin. He and his estranged wife Sarah Ferguson had parted ways in 1994. Early this year, Andrew rather than endure a humiliating court trial reached a financial settlement with Virginia Giuffre, the woman who claimed he sexually abused her while underage.
The repudiation of royalty by Charles’ son, Prince Harry now a media celebrity in the US must be head-ace too. And on recently it emerged that in 2013 Prince Charles accepted one million pound donation from Osama Bin Laden’s family members. While it’s a great inheritance on he who wears the Crown, some doubt that it will be as secure even in the love of many who acknowledge allegiance to it as has been in history. These changes are accompanied by a reassessment of UK’s place in the world in light of its reduced economic, and political circumstances, Brexit, and retreat of empire with Elizabeth as a spectator.
But as the 42nd of kings and queens of England, then Britain, and now United Kingdom, since William the Conqueror, and from 1952 as Queen and Head of 54 Commonwealth countries of 2.1Bn people, Elizabeth II never acknowledged atrocities and brutal exploitation by the colonial system. So Charles III, whose king anyway. Adieu the Matriarch.