Posted by News Express | 18 September 2022 | 373 times
Even Charles III, the regnal name adopted by England’s new King Charles, is portentous, for it reeks of brutality down the ages.
In 1649, Charles I was beheaded, after being tried and found guilty of tyranny and treason, by the victorious army of Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell. Charles I was a man of steel. He believed in the “divine rights of Kings” (a euphemism for absolute monarchy). The Parliament counter-insisted on a constitutional monarchy.
That sparked the English Civil War, in which the king’s army was defeated in 1645. Even after defeat and capture, Charles I wouldn’t budge on constitutional monarchy. Hence, the charge of “tyranny and treason” for which he was beheaded.
Charles II (Charles I’s eldest surviving son) became king in 1660. Cromwell, lord of the manor during the English interregnum, had died in 1658, leaving a vacuum and societal crisis. The exiled Charles II cut a deal with Parliament over constitutional monarchy.
But even the Restoration had its own cruel strain. Some of the so-called “regicides” — that tried and beheaded Charles I — were put to the sword. Even the body of Cromwell was exhumed (with two of his close collaborators: Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw) and given posthumous decapitations — the so-called ceremonial mutilation: horror of horrors! — just to prove even dead regicides would not rest in peace!
It’s this image of historic brutality that the title, Charles III, evokes. But much more than Britain’s home monarchy and politics, it is stark but not unfair reference to British imperialism and colonialism, perhaps the most rapacious domination tool the earth has ever witnessed and endured.
After the benign Elizabeth II, Charles III is left to grapple with these old wounds, inflicted on peoples and cultures, spread across almost all of the continents: the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. All over, there are still deliberate and grand pretences that British imperialism was nothing but untrammelled good for humanity.
That is not true, with unvarnished facts and sorry fates of the dominated peoples: their humongous material losses at the point of gun and stealth; their disorienting cultural collapse, not to talk of blind heists of their prized sculptures, treasured art and allied crafts.
Still, Queen Elizabeth II would claim historical credit for her stoic grace and essential humanity and decency, even when fated with the near-total collapse, during her reign, of empire spoils, accumulated over the past two centuries.
Aside from the British Raj (over present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) that went under in 1947 (under King George VI, Elizabeth’s father), the rest of the British colonies and sundry overseas dominions melted away during Elizabeth II’s reign (6 February 1952-8 September 2022) — a long period of 70 years and five months. Besides, to use the philosophical words of the Greek Heraclitus, the British Isles were not the same “river” the Queen stepped into in 1952, that she exited in 2022.
Yet, all through that period of rapid and bewitching changes, the Queen was a regal and gracious anchor of stability and permanence. Abroad, the Queen with Her Majesty’s government under her 15 prime ministers (the last, Liz Truss, spent only two days before the Queen’s passage), rallied the hitherto dominated peoples under a new Commonwealth of Nations, touted as a new international, multi-racial, multi-cultural organization of peoples, freely united in trade, mutual respect and sports. The Queen was both emblem and mascot for the new sentiments.
At home, a British Isles that was the exclusive preserve of White tribes(wo)men: English, Scot, Welsh and Irish (if you add unionist Northern Ireland), had become the most racially diversified, at least in all of Europe, with scions and scionesses of the hitherto repressed in India and Africa, getting assimilated into not only the British society (warts and all) but also holding high positions in the British state and establishment. Ms Truss is said to have named the most diversified cabinet in history, with the five high seats of state going to traditional non-Brits from India and Africa.
On the religious front, England under Charles II rejected overtures of faith liberalism towards British Catholics and Protestant dissenters (Royal Declaration of Indulgence — declared: 1672; downed: 1679). That charter was rudely shut down by Parliament, which members were unfazed partisans of the Church of England, the head of the global Anglican Communion.
Yet, Britain under Elizabeth II was so liberalized in faith that a section of London was wryly dubbed “Londonistan” from which thriving mosques were notorious for grooming looming Islamists and radicalizing innocent and starry-eyed youths! Again, the Queen, though the head of the Church of England, was very active in nurturing faith tolerance and harmony, by drawing all shades of religious leaders, including Sheiks, Sikhs and Rabbis, operating in the UK, to her royal presence; not to talk of her admirable rapport with the Pope.
Indeed, the grace and majesty of Elizabeth II greatly helped to nuance the epochal crimes of Britain. Still, all that can’t wash away that imperialistic stain off the British Crown, any more than all the waters of the Atlantic could wash the blood of Scottish King Macbeth, from the regicidal hands of evil Lady Macbeth, in that Shakespeare tragedy, Macbeth.
That is the stark challenge before King Charles III, even if he had chosen a name less evocative of British ancestral cruelty. After the kindly Elizabeth II, her son faces a stark historical burden. How he charts this momentous path is in the belly of time.
An earlier epoch ensured that the beheading of Charles I did not stop the restoration of Charles II. Unlike the French monarchy that was guillotined with Louis XVI in 1793, after more than 1, 000 years, the British monarchy has survived.
By that same token of British durability and perennial renewal, King Charles III entering epoch appears where the racial integration at home is going well. Among minority ethnic Brits named to high offices of state are Kwasi Kwarteng (Chancellor of the Exchequer), James Cleverly (Foreign secretary) and Suella Braverman (Home Secretary); not to discount Kemi Badenoch, of Nigerian ancestry (International Trade secretary and president, Board of Trade).
But what happens to the ancestral wealth and culture and essence of these neo-British denizens, whose forebears in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania were sacked and crushed, their wealth stolen, their culture and languages irreparably damaged by blind British greed, from the age of slavery till now?
These stark, ugly and smelly facts won’t go away as Charles III mounts the throne. Those epochal hurts crave epochal healing. An unfettered apology by the King, followed by grand repatriation for the raped races, by His Majesty’s government, could be an excellent start.
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