Britain remains shackled in the ancient past

Though Britons, like many other westerners, claim to be the champions of liberalism, democratic values and intellectual developments, they are yet to break the shackles of age-old institution of monarchy, opines Soroor Ahmed

Though Britons, like many other westerners, claim to be the champions of liberalism, democratic values and intellectual developments, they are yet to break the shackles of age-old institution of monarchy. It is true there is no dearth of those rooting for republicanism in the United Kingdom, yet the day in and day out running commentary on almost all the television channels between September 8 and 19 of the death of Queen Elizabeth-II only confirms as to how outdated they still are.

The irony is that it is not only the national channels of the United Kingdom but of almost all the international telecasters, broadcasters and even the newspapers of the West – even where there is no monarchy – were engaged in this business. They remained engrossed in the news of the demise of the 96-year-old Crown as if the war in Ukraine is over, Europe has overcome the energy and economic crises and the drought and heat wave have never occurred. What has the global audience to do with this excessive coverage of the Queen of a small nation of over six crores.

But the Britons still want to bask in the glory of the ‘Sun Never sets in the British Empire’ age by boasting that the Queen or King of UK is the head of the state of many other countries of the Commonwealth.

How can a society facing such grim challenges have nothing in the name of the news but the same old story? Do not forget the international media remained busy for four days between June 2 and 5, 2022 while celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of the coronation of the late Queen. And also last year when her 99-year-old husband passed away.

The immediate coronation of Charles-III dashed all the possibilities of the early end of this idea of kingship. In fact, it has consolidated this concept further.

No doubt, British monarchs are constitutional head, unlike in several other countries of the Middle East, yet in many ways it is more conservative than others, the possible exception may be Japan where they are almost worshipped.

Till 2015, the concept of primogeniture was in practice. According to this ancient system, only the eldest son of the family can become king. Now it has become gender neutral. Elizabeth could become queen in 1952 only because she had no brother.

Till the succession rules were amended in 2015, a Prince or Princess marrying Roman Catholic used to forfeit the right to become monarch. Now he or she can.

Another orthodox practice in the British royalty is related to religion. The Queen or King automatically becomes the head of the Church of England, even if he or she is not religious, agnostic or has a history of sexual misconduct. Such blind veneration of the royal family defies reason.

Elizabeth was the benefactor of the weird rules of succession. She could become queen only after her uncle Edward VIII had to abdicate the throne, in 1936, after 326 days of brief rule as he had decided to marry twice divorced American woman Wallis Simpson. Edward, otherwise a Nazi sympathiser, had to leave the palace for his brother George-VI, that is Elizabeth’s father. So, when George died in 1952, Elizabeth became the monarch.

Though it is said that democracy and republicanism is gaining ground in a large part of the world yet it needs to be recalled that Spain returned to kingship as late as 1975 after the death of the ruthless dictator General Franco. Though Juan Carlos introduced democracy after taking over in 1975, he ended up becoming a king. Today he is living in exile after he had to abdicate his throne in 2014 in favour of his son following serious charges of corruption levelled against him.

Like Spain, the other western most country of Europe, Portugal, too had to face 48 years of dictatorship between 1926 and 1974.The army once again tried to intervene in 1981.

It is another thing that in the same period many other west European countries and the United States were busy waging a war for the restoration of democracy elsewhere in the world.

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