Written on: 14. 9. 2022 in the category: Uncategorized


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It takes the Royal Family to bring out the worst, the least generous and the most small-minded in the Irish. Over the course of just three days, The Irish Times felt obliged to remind its readers precisely who it was talking about when it referred no less than seven times to “Britain’s Prince Charles.” Without that absolutely vital possessive noun, we might otherwise have presumed it was talking about that legendary voluptuary, Prince Charles of Algeria or that other Prince Charles, the Bolivian transvestite

Moreover, just to remind its readers that WE ARE NOT BRITISH, Ed Power of that newspaper was meanwhile sneering that the “Great British Bake Off” was “television’s metaphor for Britain’s bereaved and battered psyche.”

The one term that did not apply to the British over the past few days was “battered”: proud, confident, patriotic and grateful for a life well-and-scruplously lived would have been more accurate descriptions, which is possibly why someone in the newspaper took down that B & B description and instead inserted “anguished”.

Still not right. Anguished? Hardly.

Just to remind the querulously insecure and chronically inaccurate journalists of The Irish Times – King Charles is not King of Britain. There is no such title. He is King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which makes him king of part of Ireland: and just as Munster is an Irish province, so too by that same adjectival principle is Charles an Irish king.

In all of the tumult over the brief illness and death of the Queen, you may possibly have overlooked the news that the aircraft carrier bearing her son’s title had days beforehand set sail for the US, there to collect the latest batch of the F-35B fighters. But the vessel had barely entered the English Channel before the engines emitted warnings of an imminent fracture. Twenty-five years almost to the day that the Princess of Wales had been killed in a car crash in Paris, HMS Prince of Wales limped back to port, and her place on the American mission was taken by the aircraft carrier named HMS Queen Elizabeth.

It was always a bad idea to name a warship, The Prince of Wales. The last one to bear that title was sunk in 1942, during a vain attempt to protect the island fortress of Singapore. The military humiliation of the British by the Japanese that year convinced the brilliant young Chinese student, and the founder of the state of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew that the days of the Empire were over. Nonetheless, with the sea-war having been won in Asia by the USA, Lee took ship to London.  The vessel that he sailed in, MV Britannic, though he probably did not know it, had played a vital role in enabling the UK to survive in 1940. In June of that year, she was one of two vessels bearing the vital weaponry from the USA to the UK that made a successful German invasion impossible, consisting of some 50 million rounds of ammunition, 20,000 machine guns, 50,000 rifles and 150 75mm field guns. The USA had just saved the Empire, as well as furthering the much-cherished myth of Britain-alone (which is further demolished by the formidable presence in southern England in 1940 of one and a half Canadian divisions and a New Zealand brigade). Moreover, within five years, the US imperium would replace that of the British while continuing (anxiously) to assist the latter of their place in the world. Meanwhile, the future Queen had done her bit for freedom in the uniform of the Auxiliary Transport Service.

What struck the young Lee most forcibly when he arrived in battered, impoverished, ration-strapped post-war London, was the sight of newspapers being sold from unmanned kiosks, each with a little bowl containing cash for people to take their change. That was the level of public honesty that convinced Lee never to break completely with the imperial power, for that was the norm in the England that was.

In the England that is, hotels in London that had prior bookings for this coming Monday are now cancelling them to make way for the latest ATS, Affluent Travelling Spectators, who are being charged £2,000 a night in rooms that had been £200 so they can say they were there on the day that Elizabeth the Great was buried.

That “Great” is not hyperbole. She guided her country through that vast processes of decolonisation and cultural reinvention which only a person of her flexibility and enormous personal honour could have managed. Being human, she nonetheless made errors, the most egregious being the arranging of a marriage between her son and the last remaining society virgin in London, who, as it happened, turned out to be a manipulative monster. Diana did an enormous amount of damage to the Royal family (and her own) with her inexhaustible scheming, but before she managed to bring about its downfall – surely her long-term ambition – she was killed a quarter of a century before one Queen Elizabeth metaphorically took the place of The Prince of Wales on a voyage to New York, while another yielded her throne to Diana’s widower.

In death, Elizabeth really did become majestic: and on her deathbed, she secretly anointed Charles with the chrism of her gravitas, as a new man was visibly born. However, it is unlikely that he will have either time or the skills to merit the title “Great”, and it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise. But it was not the seven decades on the throne that earned her the title so much as what she was. Her greatness came from her almost preternatural ability to walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch, as Kipling put it; whether addressing lords or charladies, Queen Elizabeth managed to combine sincerity, friendliness, charm and regal seriousness in inimitable measure. In her company, one was reminded of what Samuel Johnson had said of Edmond Burke: even if one sheltered from the rain with him for a few moments in a shop doorway, one was in no doubt of his greatness.

Likewise, Elizabeth of Windsor.

Why did people love her? Amongst other things, because she was good and decent like her father. I’m about the youngest person alive who remembers the rule of King George, and the seismic wave of grief that his death caused to the entire British nation, as attested by the floods of tears wept by Mrs Ball, the headmistress in my junior school in Leicester. He who had helped steer the United Kingdom – not Britain – through the most terrible war in history was loved because he was a good man who took the place of his selfish egotistical brother, thereby assuming a position for which he was neither trained nor equipped. But his goodness and decency enabled his subjects to ignore his many disabilities, not least his stutter. Throughout the war, no alcohol was consumed by the Royal household, which endured the common rations, air raids and the sleepless nights of the dutiful and helpless as they heard their subjects being slain in their homes. “I’m glad we were bombed,” the Queen Mother is said to have remarked, surveying the ruins of a wing of Buckingham Palace. “It means we can look the Easter Enders in the eye.”

It was a symbolic equality, not a real one, as both sides of the equation understood. Britain was a society defined by class, as were all societies everywhere. Cursing history is the coconut shy of fools, while trying to understand why things the way they were (and are) is the duty of any sentient observer. When American troops finally entered the fray in 1942, their affluence astonished the British: a US private soldier, sporting a smart uniform with a tie, earned four times the pay of his tieless British counterpart. Class was written within the pay differentials of the two armies: an American lieutenant colonel earned 4.5 times the dollars of a GI, whereas his British equivalent earned 14.25 times the £sd of a Tommy.

There were other differences. “I like the American soldiers,” one Englishwoman reported to the observers keeping tracking of British morale, “but not the white ones.”

The British generally disliked the noisy, disdainful brashness of the white Americans, and were incredulous at the legal separation of the races with the US forces.  The chrysalis of Liz Truss’s cabinet today lay in the aircrew of RAF Bomber Command, 440 of whom were West Indian “coloured” (meaning of African or Indian origin), 70 of whom were commissioned and 103 were decorated for bravery. This is not to deny the racial problems that were to emerge in later years as emigration changed Britain, but simply to record the realities of the country to which the young Elizabeth had dedicated a life of service.

Her coronation in 1953 was the great unifying public occasion of British life, when the newly created television created a singular mythic adhesive unprecedented in any country in the world, not merely then, but probably unrepeated ever since. That the UK was sustained throughout this period by American loans was of course the unseen intravenous drip that made the illusion of independence possible. The fiction had another three years to live, before President Eisenhower, in response to the criminal invasion of Egypt by Anglo-French forces, threatened to cripple the UK. By the standards of the Nuremberg war trials of 1946, the London government had behaved as war-criminals, and young Queen Elizabeth, just turned thirty and innocent of all complicity in this atrocity, had to deal with the aftermath.

Its primary architect, Anthony Eden (but goaded into this murderous folly by Churchill) retired untried. Soon afterwards, with the arrival of rock and roll, the United Kingdom began to behave like an offshoot of American civilisation, as British pop-singers started singing in (what they imagined) were American accents. From then onwards, British independence during the Elizabethan Age mutated into something strangely unBritish yet nonetheless deeply British, for Britishness has always depended on the assimilation of foreign influences into national habits. The basic script of English law is Norman French. Britain’s national dish is no longer fish and chips but curry. Chutney, HP sauce, ketchup, tea and pale ale owe their existence to the empire. So post-Suez, Britain began sedulously to imitate the US, the great exception being the conduct of the Royal Family, which in itself was and remains an argument for the retention of the Crown.

Moreover, unbridled by the curbs of royalty, how would British prime ministers behave? Even with those restraints, consider what the worst of them, Tony Blair, got up to, with the knighting of the foremost architect of the Americanisation of British popular culture, Mick Jagger in 2003. This was the same year that Blair, under no compulsion to do so, joined in the US invasion of Iraq, a folly that exceeded even that of Suez in 1956 9and which, God forgive me, I supported because I believed the lies of Bush and Blair. It was well beyond the Queen’s powers to offer a public opinion on this homicidal adventurism with the armed forces of which she was commander in chief, but it is not difficult to imagine how appalled she must have been. She already had a foretaste of Blair’s priorities, his inaugural policy-departure having been the rescue of the IRA from imminent defeat and its elevation to being the centrepiece of the so-called ‘peace process’.

Later Downing Street administrations coerced the Queen into consorting with the psychopathic republican McGuinness, he who had authorised the murder of her twice-over kinsman Lord Louis Mountbatten –  the latter being both her husband’s uncle and her father’s cousin. McGuiness had concluded his terrorist career with one of the foulest acts of the IRA’s war, that of turning poor Patsy Gillespie into a human bomb. Just as Sinn Fein had not signed the Belfast Agreement in 1998, it similarly boycotted the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 2011. Instead of leaving Sinn Fein to stew in the juices of its own bigotries, Downing Street arranged to have her publicly shake hands with McGuinness the following year, and essentially on his terms. If there ever was a more ignoble demand of a monarch than that she should participate in this grisly charade, I do not know of it, but being a constitutional Queen, she obliged. We know the price that would have been paid is she had dissented. Downing Street would have leaked that she had “jeopardised the peace process”, this being the threat that consistently underlies the endless propitiation of the army council of the IRA.

That she should have been recruited to aid this strange association of immiscible opposites, the exceedingly virtuous versus the utterly vile, says something about the role of monarchy in a state that in many of its outer forms – though not in its soul – was and is quite republican. It is only in bereavement that the real nature of a kingdom is revealed, for what is happening in the UK now, whether in Hillsborough County Down or Hillsborough in Yorkshire, is the authentic display of unfeigned emotions. The truth is that monarchs often have a strange place within the life of kingdom they govern, which no republican can understand. It is like that of a barely detectable guardian angel, or a secret presence at the dying embers of the fireside of which its subjects – not citizens – only become fully aware in times of national crisis.

For the heads of constitutional monarchies must embody endurance, calmness, fortitude and moderation, which they might not feel, but they know they must enact. That is the script.  It is no coincidence that genocidal massacres are the preserve of republics. As with the monarchs, so too their consorts, and there has never been a finer royal spouse than Philip, who sacrificed so much for the house of Windsor. After all, he had been an outstanding war-fighting sailor of his generation of very great sailors, they who had managed the Dunkirk evacuation and had won the Battle of the Atlantic, the Battle of the Mediterranean and executed the invasion that was Operation Neptune, which saw the allies return to France. In other words, this was the greatest generation of fighting sailors that the world has ever known, and he was generally reckoned to have been in their forefront.

But he abandoned a future that would most probably have taken him the office of the First Sea Lord at the Admiralty and chose instead the domestic and professional servitude of a Duke-consort. I met him at a Royal Reception at Buckingham Place a decade ago, a glaring and awesome presence entering his ninth decade, guns still blazing out of those sea lord’s eyes. But he still did his duty to the woman he loved, and who loved him in return. This we all saw in those heart-scalding moments after his death during Covid, while the jackanapes Harry smirked, skulked and slithered and her masked and bowed figure sat alone in her mourning-weeds, as if she were a widow dutifully bound for the suttee which the British had abolished from their empire.

In the past two and half years, the achievements of the British Empire have been abolished from public memory as malevolent and politically correct fictions have been installed in their place. Firstly, let us remember that the British enslaved nobody: slavery had been African chieftains’ major source of wealth long before the European colonists arrived. The British contribution to this evil trade was to purchase existing slaves, admittedly increasing the market-demand for them, but in a world that was unimaginably cruel for most of the populations, free or unfree. For example, of the five thousand British sailors engaged in the slave trade in 1786, over one thousand one hundred died of shipborne diseases or were killed in that year alone.  Moreover, the British involvement in the trade lasted about a century before the mood changed radically, causing successive British governments to take huge steps to end it, deploying the might of the West Africa Squadron and costing the lives of 1,500 sailors. On land, Gordon of Khartoum was a Victorian hero precisely because he perished in his war to end slavery in the Sudan, a truth which is now forgotten as the untruth that he was a glory-hunting imperialist lunatic is triumphant.

Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, the UK government compelled every country with which it signed a treaty to abolish slavery – over a hundred in all. This included, on either end of the alphabet the kingdom of the Ashanti and the sultanate of Zanzibar, and on the opposing scales of modernism, the USA and Saudi Arabia. The slave trade was a dark and terrible chapter in human history, but largely African in origin, which the Queen’s great great grandmother was determined to end, and her husband’s naval predecessors managed to achieve. And at least those slaves had descendants, unlike the victims of the far greater trans-Saharan slave trade, whose throats were cut when they were of no further economic or (for women) sexual use (the latter’s children having been killed at birth.)

Did you ever wonder why much of Muslim North Africa is strangely free of black faces? Now you know why. Yet, incredibly, the academic Uju Anaya, who as Her Majesty was breathing her last, publicly accused her of genocide and hoped that that she might die in agony. Even by the debased standards of public discourse that has followed the triumph of Black Lives Matters, this was a wanton descent into rhetorical barbarism as well as gross historical inaccuracy. If she was referring to the Biafran war – and I presume she was – responsibility for both its duration and its appalling death-toll lay – like African enslavement – firmly with Africans.  Had any white male academic spoken so gloatingly about the imminent death of any woman, his status as professor at Carnegie-Mellon University would have been terminated, because no academy would allow its good name ruined by the promulgation of such foul falsehoods. However, Anya was saved by her skin colour and her sex, with Carnegie-Mellon merely distancing itself from her remarks, which were matched in their ignorance and their bile by the woke-heathens of The New York Times.

But since we’re here, if the British Empire was so very bad, why do so many countries that experienced it still retain its parliamentary and legal systems – even Pakistan, albeit in an Islamicised form – its language, its sporting culture and many of its civilities, and none more than Ireland? Why do the countries that abandoned all of the British ways of restraint, of attentiveness and of patience, such as Burma and Zimbabwe, now wallow in orgies of corruption, state-brutality and quasi-genocide? Moreover, the British did not invent empires, a concept which predated the very notion of England and even of Greece and Rome, the roots of which lay in the agricultural revolution of Assyria and the ability to raise and feed a standing army solely for purposes of conquest.

What one saw in the Queen throughout her long life was what was so long a characteristic of English society, though perhaps no longer amongst London hotel managers: a common and quiet decency along with the urge to do the right thing. Doing the right thing was at bottom the reason why the British went to war in 1914: there was no legal reason for Britain to defend Belgium’s neutrality, because its co-guarantor, Germany, was also the aggressor, thereby extinguishing whatever treaty-compulsion might have remained for the British. But it would not have seemed right to have done nothing, and much of the Empire agreed. Likewise in 1939, Britain gave wholly undeserved guarantees of protection to Poland, a state that was nearly as anti-Semitic as Germany and which had assisted Hitler in the destruction of Czechoslovakia.  But putting a stop to Hitler once and for all seemed the right thing to do, and Britain did so, again followed by the Empire and Commonwealth, and, as her teens came to an end, by the young Princess Elizabeth also.

That sense of doing the right thing lay behind the words that the semi-Irishman Dermot Morrah wrote for her in 1947 (my emphases).

On my twenty-first birthday I welcome the opportunity to speak to all the peoples of the British Commonwealth and Empire, wherever they live, whatever race they come from, and whatever language they speak…I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

She lived up to her promise, and those who little know Britain are gloating that with her death will soon follow the monarchy itself. But people said something similar in Cromwell’s time, and King George III’s, and in the early days of Victoria. The monarchies of Scotland and England will survive because their peoples know no better system nor want any different, though differences there will and must be. To stay the same, one must change, and King Charles will probably change a great deal. Personally, I hope that any member of the Royal Family who hereafter chooses to betray it even once will in that very second find that he no longer has a family to betray.

God Save The King.

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