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Britain's last Monarch
Royal Mail first class stamp with Queen's head.
Taken from a stamp collection website (I forget which), but I think this is actually Crown Copyright.
It is a little peculiar how much news I've heard recently talking about the in-depth preparations for what will happen in the event of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
It's almost as if there is something actually wrong with the Queen, and the Palace has instructed the media to start talking about this now in order to "soften the blow".
Not that, I think, such a thing would be much good. Expect a lot of British people to completely freak out when this happens. Being coronated in 1953 at the age of 25, she became the longest reigning monarch in 2015 when she outdid the record set by Queen Victoria. This will likely make her the only monarch anybody under the age of about 75 actually remembers.
Plus, while she can certainly be faulted for her parenting (look how they turned out!), she absolutely nailed the whole "Queen" thing, and has been the head of the British Royal Family, not to mention numerous Commonwealth countries who retain Queen Elizabeth II as their titular head out of respect (some of whom intend, after her passing, to become Republics).
That's the thing, isn't it? Respect. One can have respect for the Queen.
King Charles? Oh, please.
Queen Camilla? I'd rather die than ever call that entity "Queen". It's bad enough she's Princess Consort, or something. At least, give her credit, she is smart enough not to use the title "Princess of Wales", even though she technically is.
At any rate, neither of them impress me as being fit to be a monarch.
Pretty much the only person that I feel is fit to reign is Princess Anne, and she's something like 16th in line.
The rest? They seem to me to be rather hapless celebrities who would be better placed inside the pages of Hello! and... let's just not talk about the Duke of York, m'kay?
I rather imagine that once the Queen has died, and everybody gets over the shock (really, expect at least a week of national mourning and floral tributes that will make Diana's look like something the Girl Guides put together over a weekend), people will start asking serious questions about the role of the royals in society. We, as British people, can be proud to have the Queen on our stamps. Even me, and you know what I feel about Britain (well, mostly England).
Will a stamp with Charles' face on it instil the same sort of national pride? You know what, I really doubt it.
What this means in practicality is that Queen Elizabeth II is effectively the last monarch of the United Kingdom (and the Commonwealth). While we will no doubt have a King Charles soon, let me rephrase and clarify that to be: Queen Elizabeth II is effectively the last worthy monarch of the United Kingdom (and the Commonwealth).
The rise and fall of an Empire
Time for some history. Britain had a massive boom in the days of Queen Victoria. It's a shame Vic was such an oddball, as the things that happened during her reign were quite astonishing.
Elizabeth II, on the other hand, was handed an Empire in severe decline, as Britain pretty much spent her reign losing control of, well, everything.
The reign of Queen Victoria was that of the Industrial Revolution, of huge social change, massive interconnectivity by railway and later by telegraph, then telephone. Already, the monarch was to reign, not rule. The government did the ruling, the monarch was a figurehead. The British Empire became a massive global force, the Empire upon which the sun never set (also referred to as "the pink bits" due to the colour used on maps of the time).
Isambard Kingdom Brunel (how's that for a name? in 2001 he was voted the 2nd greatest Briton, behind Churchill) was one of the most ingenious people in engineering history. He designed ships, docklands, railways, and bridges that took transportation to new heights (the maiden voyage of the Great Western Steam Ship went from Bristol to New York in under 15 days, becoming the fastest crossing).
Rowland Hill introduced the "Penny Post" (where the sender paid a penny to send a letter anywhere in the UK). This revolutionised the delivery of written and/or printed messages, and The Penny Black was the world's first postage stamp.
Charles Darwin published his book "On the Origin of Species" which set the case for the evolutionary theory of development. Whilst it seems that this is a perfectly reasonable proposition, people are still arguing about it today. But, then, some people argue that the world is flat...
The London Underground, the world's first underground railway, opened in 1863, running a route of about five miles from Paddington Station and Farringdom Street. It wasn't electrified until 1890. Until then, it used steam locomotives.
In 1880 the Elementary Education Act made schooling mandatory for children between the ages of five and ten, which dramatically reduced the time they would have been expected to work twenty seven hours a day up t'mill or down t'mine (and if dad was too tired to whip them when they came home, they would whip themselves, and they were perfectly happy that way, none of this newfangled rubbish).
Oh, and Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1897. A hundred years later, our 33k6 modems would burble to each other as the fledging "internet" would become a thing known to the public and not just university geeks...and twenty years on from that, we'd be pushing megabits (like 30-150 times faster) down those same pieces of copper wire.
Generally speaking, Britain went from strength to strength in Victoria's reign.
Following Victoria was Edward VII. He oversaw important military and naval reforms and set up an important Entente Cordiale with France in 1904, but his reign was a short one. Crowned in 1902, died in 1910. But his military reformations were instrumental in preparing the country for the coming war.
Following him was King George V (not the mad one, that was III, 1760-1801-1820), who helped to pass the Parliament Act of 1911 that removed the power of veto from the House of Lords. Things were starting to fall apart, however, with the issues of Home Rule in Ireland, and of course, the Great War, the so-called War To End All Wars (if only they knew...). Given who the enemy was, George oversaw renaming the House of "Saxe-Coburg-Gotha" to "Windsor".
There was a lot of rubble and dead people come 1920. Well-to-do women over the age of 30 gained the ability to vote. Ireland was partitioned. Britain had it's first Labour Prime Minister, which was followed by a debilitating General Strike. And that was just the Roaring Twenties. The '30s saw a huge depression (financial crisis) and the evolution of Empire Dominions into sovereign states.
George was, rightly, wary of an upcoming politician over in Europe...called Adolf Hitler.
Edward VIII who followed was supposed to become King. He wanted to marry Wallis Simpson, but this didn't go down well with the public for she had previously divorced. His response was basically "sod this", and he abdicted to marry her, rather than become King.
You would have thought the British public wouldn't have a big problem with a divorcee, given that Henry VIII divorced twice (and beheaded two others of his six wives), and in order to do so pretty much stamped out Catholicism in England and created his own "Church of England" religion. Or, maybe, some sexist crap like it's okay for a guy to be divorced, but god help a woman who is.
This led to the coronation of King George (VI, yup, another George) who inherited an Empire in decline. Ireland had largely broken away (at least, the Ireland part of Ireland), George was the final Emperor of India as the Raj was dissolved in 1947. Historians argue to this day about whether it was an inevitability, or if the failure of the Empire in India was down to losses sustained during the Second World War. British India was cleaved in two - which became separate countries - India and Pakistan.
At this same time, the Empire was fizzling out, as the states (previously dominions) formed a voluntary association known as the Commonwealth. India itself then went on to become a Republic. Burma, Palestine (which was divided into Israel and various bits of Arab states), and the Republic of Ireland all left the Commonwealth circa 1948-1949.
Note, incidentally, how much Britain meddled in various things which are a problem in this day and age.
His death in 1952, led to his daughter Elizabeth flying back from Kenya to be crowned Queen. And she still is today.
And this leads us to "modern times". England rocked the whole Beatles thing, and was quite the cool place in the sixties. Also in the 60s, and 70s, was the final decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean. Some 20-odd nations declared independence from Britain, and The Great Empire was finally consigned to the history books. In 1973, Britain joined the EEC, which would later evolve into the EU. Prime Minister Edward Heath stated that joining the EEC would permit the UK to be "more efficient and competitive in gaining more markets, not only in Europe but in the rest of the world". Which sounds a lot like what people said about leaving the EU.
Which came to pass, as we all know.
Now, none of these failures are Queen Elizabeth's fault. Don't think I'm blaming her for the Empire ending and for Brexit. These will have been largely democratic processes (unlike, say, the creation of said Empire!). The choice to leave the EU was also supposedly democratic.
As will be the choice of the peoples of Scotland and Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom. As much as Westminster might like to bluff, the writing is already on the wall. It's just a matter of time.
Which means, should Elizabeth live long enough, she will be witness not only to the dissolution of the Empire, but also to her very country. The United Kingdom is not very united right now, and these are problems that are best described as irreconcilable differences.
Britain had it's time of glory, mostly during the Victorian Era. These days? These days it needs friends and allies, and seems to have difficulty in choosing who it ought to align itself with. America? Sure, the leading global superpower. But also a highly protectionist country that wouldn't be willing to give Britain anything unless it got a lot more in return (and they have the negotiating power to demand exactly that). Also, clearly, a superpower in decline, just as Britain is.
Maybe, just maybe, it would have been better to have remained a member of the EU.
Britain, actually, had a bloody good arrangement there. In the EU enough that things were harmonised and simple, but distant enough that they didn't need to concern themselves with the Euro (or Eurozone) or Schengen. Plus a nice rebate that made Boris' £350M figure a flat out lie.
A group of politicians, more interested in making money for themselves than actually leading a country, helped bring an end to all of this. Forty years of cooperation and... now people are getting upset that nobody is picking produce. Nobody is driving lorries. There's hundreds of pages of customs paperwork to fill out. Marks and Spencer is even in discussion as to whether or not to close their French (mostly Paris) shops, because getting fresh food from the UK to France is a complete nightmare.
Yeah, it is. But this is not the EU "being difficult" or "intransigent" as some newspapers would like you to believe, this is just how it is for countries on the outside.
The EU is, itself, protectionist. It requires a lot of red tape from non-EU countries in order for things to gain access to the internal market. That's part of why Canada and Japan have both made specific trade arrangements with the EU.
All of this would have benefitted the UK as an EU member. But now the UK is not an EU member, it's a completely different story.
Oh, and as to why the EU is being so strict while the UK is not, it's because the UK is basically waving stuff through customs because they know that if they apply the same level of examinations, everything will grind to a halt. All of those imports that the UK didn't really need? Yet another Brexit lie. Those imports are needed. That's why they're being waved through.
The EU, on the other hand, can check. Because they know how. Because they do this with everybody else. You, Britain, sadly, are now just another "everybody else".
Of course, back in 2015 and 2016 when us "remoaners" pointed out what sort of things were likely to happen, it was dismissed with the vapid mantra of "Project Fear".
After the referendum, about a third was wiped off the value of the pound, to which the government proudly proclaimed that Britain was "open for business".
Not a lot else changed as, well, not a lot else actually changed. So the Brexiteers were busy jumping up and down and calling remainers liars, saying that it was all just scare mongering, and some crap about sunlit uplands. Not to mention a wealth of new (and dumber) mantras to gloss over the fact that the government had been given the mandate to "leave the EU" but nobody had the slightest clue what that actually meant. All sorts of phrases were coined "soft Brexit", "hard Brexit", "crash out"... and all sorts of mystical properties were assigned to each as "the democratic will of the people" despite the actual referendum slip (not to mention all Leave campaigning) utterly failing to make any form of definition other than a simple "in" or "out", not to mention the democratic will of two sections of the UK actually being the complete opposite.
In 2021, the Irish Border is still a problem, and no amount of Johnsonian Bluster is going to make it go away. Now stocking shelves is a problem. As is producing stuff to sell to Europe. Getting things moving around is a problem. Job losses are happening. Companies are closing, or relocating. Try as they might to pin a lot of it on Covid (which, fair enough, is making its own impact), a lot of the blame for the current situation lies squarely on Brexit.
I was reading an article in The Daily Mail (that's what was in my news app) about M&S's possible store closure. I went to the comments section to see how many people were insulting the French and/or the EU and... the sheep didn't disappoint.
But, at the same time, there was an awful lot of anti-Brexit commentary and people calling the Brexit mob out on the things they were saying. I had to flick up to the top of the page to check I was still reading the Mail.
So, yes, I think people are starting to wake up. Five years too late, mind you, as what's been done has been done.
All that Project Fear crap? It's this, it's here, and it's only going to get worse.
If you happen to know somebody who voted Brexit, just remember, they are responsible for this mess.
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|Gavin Wraith, 14th September 2021, 10:47
My impression is that the hooha over Mrs Simpson's marital status was purely a smokescreen to deflect attention from the fact that Edward VIII was a fascist sympathizer - a traitor in fact.
|Gavin Wraith, 14th September 2021, 10:59
Deference to Royalty is unpleasant but excusable among the simple-minded. Peddling the cult of celebrity, though, is a vicious (and lucrative) crime, quite as evil as peddling drugs.
|David Pilling, 16th September 2021, 12:26
President Boris would be better (?)
|Gavin Wraith, 16th September 2021, 13:28
Not at all. My beef is not so much with the institution of monarchy as with the uses to which we currently put it.
|Rick, 16th September 2021, 14:11
Oh, I have no problem with President Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
He can toddle off to his country of birth and run for office there. Leave Britain in peace, rather than pieces.
|J.G.Harston, 17th September 2021, 23:45
About 18 months ago our parish council reviewed it's "London Bridge" protocol. Just in time, as Philip died, and we had the wheels already greased ready to set in motion. That was fairly straightforward, when QE2 goes it will national shutdown unseen before.
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