At the age of thirteen, I was asked by a friend’s grandmother, “Roundhead or Cavalier?”– descriptors for the different camps in the English Civil War. It was the first time I’d ever been asked about my feelings towards a monarchy.
It wasn’t necessary in any way. In short, we monarchists.
My grandfather worked for the Indian Civil Service towards the tail end of the British Empire, and my grandmother was presented to the queen as a debutante. I remember as a youngster eating a sandwich while waiting for the wedding procession for Princess Anne to pass on the Mall. We all gathered around the TV as teenagers to see Charles and Di get married, and it was a fairy tale with a really horrible conclusion.
We got up early on that eerie Saturday, September 6, 1997, to go stand in Hyde Park. On the sandy bridle track formerly known as Path du RoiRoad of the King, the clip-clop of hooves and clouds of dust churned up by the horses signalled the direction of the weapon carriage containing Princess Diana’s coffin. Our most favoured monarch has been stolen from us.
We still had our monarch, complete with corgis and matched Launer handbags (a brand currently favoured by Camilla, the new royal companion). Our culture today includes the queen, who is as famous as a cup of tea but also as ordinary.
At the Silver Jubilee celebration in 1977, commemorating 25 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s rule, the Sex Pistols debuted their antimonarchy hymn, “God conserve the queen/ The fascist programme… God conserve the queen/ She ain’t no person.” Despite being banned by the BBC, it reached No. 2 on the charts, behind only Rod Stewart.
Vivienne Westwood, who collaborated with Pistols producer Malcolm McLaren on the design of the band’s “God Save the Queen” T-shirt (now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), became an icon of the fashion industry, earning the moniker “Queen Viv.” More queens are always a good thing.
What changed on June 24, 2016, when 17.4 million Britons (out of a population of more than 65 million) decided to take us out of the European Union, is beyond our comprehension. When the results came in at 3:30 a.m., former Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly said, “It’s bad, is it?” to a minister in his Cabinet office.
We were turning back the clock after being in the EU for the past 43 years. Instantaneously, we became allies not with Europe but with our former colonial possessions. A few months later, Netflix released the premiere season of “The Crown.” The Commonwealth countries, mostly former territories of the Empire, were utilised as distinctive locations for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to visit in the lavish reconstruction of Britain’s regal history.
If you have the Commonwealth, you don’t need the European Union. It was one of the quotes used to bolster the anti-European sentiment that was gaining traction in some quarters of the media. Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke was not happy.
As the Brexit vote nears a conclusion in the British parliament, Kevin Rudd wrote in the Guardian, “I’m struck by the number of times Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and India have actually been advanced by the Brexiteers in the general dispute as wonderful alternatives to Britain’s present trade and financial investment relationship with the European Union.” The “remainers” in both Labour and the Conservative Party “should… support legislation for a second referendum.”
There was not a second vote on Britain staying in the European Union. Instead, the worst four years of governance in British history have just concluded, with the Conservative Party’s hard-liners at the helm.
Instructors, nurses, doctors, railway conductors, university lecturers, and government workers are all out of the office today in Britain. What we’re witnessing is a standard strike by any other name. British citizens can’t afford to keep living on earnings that haven’t kept pace with inflation. It is estimated that leaving the European Union has cost the British economy 5.5% of its value. The state of anxiety is universal.
A London psychologist with a small private practise told me, “I’ve had record varieties of individuals telephoning, asking if they can make a reservation to see me over current months,” while conceding that those able to handle such treatment are more better off than many. There is no way to safeguard such aid through the National Health Service.
The upcoming coronation is intended to serve as a diversion for the public. Do you genuinely expect me to be the first Prince of Wales in history not to have a girlfriend?, our next monarch was once infamously quoted asking Diana. His ex-girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles, is now the future monarch.
Crownings are of no significance in terms of the Constitution. Instead, they serve as a public event minute. The shopkeepers tell us to “Get Coronation-Ready.” Items such as “Bring your King Charles III Coronation Mug to the street celebration!” are on sale to commemorate the occasion.
Is there a desire for a nationwide shutdown so that we may see a procession of gilded chariots and diamond crowns on television as part of a royal pageant? A recent study by the project group Republic found that just roughly 15% of British people are enthusiastic about the crowning. Clive Lewis, a member of Parliament for the Labour Party, has called for a “reformed monarchy,” one that is “reduced in size and expense, less nontransparent, more open and suitable for function.”
I did a quick survey over WhatsApp with my mom’s friends and family. “Are your children overjoyed to see you crowned?” I sent a text.
“In a word, no,” was the brief response. Although we are all looking forward to the next bank holiday, the little boys are not happy about it.
Jemima Hunt is a reporter and literary agent located in Oxford.