As we have been detained, reluctantly, at the late Queen’s bereavement party in the United Kingdom, the Heir Apparent has been staking out his own territory.
If you feel there has been an indecent rush to proclaim the new king, you are right. There are no pretenders to the throne; the lesser heirs have maintained an orderly procession, there are no ‘smokies’ hiding in the wings, neither in Scotland nor in France.
The various announcements and proclamations have continued apace since the Queen died. The scene setting and the execution of the ceremonies have gone without a hitch.
Considering it has been seventy years since any of these events were last performed, it becomes clear there had been significant planning, and almost certainly rehearsals. That is why it is probable that the Queen was party to the preparations, even as she soldiered on.
So why the haste? At first glance the Queen was always a constitutional monarch. As such her powers were strictly limited, and if we are to be brutally honest, she was always restrained by those limits. Part of her impeccable reputation rests on her willingness to act within those limits.
She was tasked with receiving advice from her prime minister(s). This in itself would be crushingly difficult, considering the quality of advisors. Listening to David Cameron, or Boris Johnson, sounds like slow torture. Her greatest victories seem to have been in the area of protecting her own vast wealth from tax.
Her will is forever unavailable to be seen by the public, so the wash-up is that what was hers becomes the new king’s; what was his, in his role as Prince of Wales, now becomes the property of his son and heir, Prince William.
Continue, until you run out of heirs. Be assured that the family will continue to advocate on behalf of minimal taxes for them, and an ongoing lack of accountability to the state, which nurtures them.
Building on the legacy
So the inescapable conclusion is that Queen Elizabeth the Second was a ruler without practical political power, who was nevertheless able, through a lifetime of ‘service’ and exemplary behaviour, to develop a huge, and deeply personal following amongst her subjects.
She has no legislative triumphs, because she has no power to legislate. She has, through dint of many years of dedication, developed a network of people whose lives have been enriched, sometimes by virtue of something as transitory as their having attended a street walk fifty years ago, or by the purchase of a commemorative item, which serves as a marker of time passed.
She has been invaluable at opening anything, from a bridge in Scotland, to the London Olympics, but if you study her achievements they are precisely those of an enabler, one who graces political decisions, no matter how damaging they might be, because that is her role.
We are surprised at the depth of feeling that her death has released, and the intense feelings of attachment to the Queen, are being translated into renewed support, perhaps even fervour, for the institution of the British Monarchy.
The grab for power and legitimacy seems to have been hatched long ago. Both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles must have been acutely aware that the very notion of a hereditary monarchy is completely incompatible with a modern democratic state, and so the moment to declare the continuation of the royal line would naturally be when the nation is consumed with emotion.
That would explain the unseemly haste with which Charles has had himself proclaimed King. The use of ceremony, of gorgeous costumes, the seamless call-up of notables and rarely seen archaic practices, including the use of the ancient language appropriate to mediaeval successions has us all shocked and awed by the mysterious power of the crown.
The new King will, no matter how powerful the assembled courtiers and the nominal military decorations worn so devilishly, equate to virtually no power. The Queen mastered the skill of quieting her own inner voice, and King Charles has already promised to follow her lead.
So forget about the time for reflection, the possibility of making the monarchy more democrat friendly. You have been awe-bombed by a family which relies 100% on our ability to quiet our inner voices, which naturally know the absurdity of a ruling family placed above the populace.
If we ask why do they continue to ‘serve’ we note their lack of political weight, their potential capture by those lucky enough, or devious enough to hold prime ministerial power.
The only ‘sweetener’ in this for a British sovereign seems to lie in the need to satisfy the personal mission of service, and the vast wealth and prestige attached to the office. In a month or so, as the novelty of a new king wears off, he will probably tail off in his relentless efforts to legitimise the existence of a hereditary monarchy, and simply continue the family tradition of opening things.