The news is still full of the life and times of Queen Elizabeth – and now the beginning of the reign of Charles III. I can’t help but feel that he comes across as surprised and delighted at the public response to him and his wife. I imagine he might have been worried about that. He wouldn’t have been immune to the slightly mocking media commentary about his talking to plants and so on, and his very public, very messy divorce.
He and his wife, Camilla, have been amazing. The last week would have been gruelling for anybody, let alone a couple in their seventies. Indeed, Camilla has been ‘soldiering on’ with a broken toe. Charles has been up and down between Scotland and London several times, been over to Northern Ireland, endured formal ceremonies, marched behind his mother’s coffin, stood unmoving at the vigil for 20 minutes or so, did ‘meet and greets’ several times – and all while he’s grieving the loss of his mother. And of course the media didn’t miss him when he expressed his annoyance about a fountain pen that leaked all over his hand. I thought he was quite restrained under the circumstances.
Then there’s the Harry and Meghan show. Judging by the comments in the British papers, the sooner they bugger off back to the US the better. He’s a bit old to be learning that behaviour leads to consequences. And then there’s the endless discussion over whether he and Prince Andrew should wear a uniform at the formal events. Was the meet and greet at Windsor castle delayed for 45 minutes because Meghan insisted she needed her hair and makeup done (or was it a much more prosaic request to have time to change for the event?)
It was interesting to hear the short interviews with people who had come to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth. Several mentioned that the Queen’s death brought back memories of the deaths of their own mothers or partners. As it did for me. I found myself reflecting on my mother’s last months, things I hadn’t thought about for years. It would have been nice for Mum if she’d died the way the Queen did – quickly, without hanging on in a bed, filled with painkillers.
Then there are the more esoteric thoughts. Is there ice or something in the coffin? Maybe it’s lead-lined – it seems to be very heavy. Did she have dentures? That was a very bright, white smile for an old lady. (I wish my teeth were like that.) We’ve heard the souvenir shops are selling out of Queen Elizabeth items and the King Charles stock hasn’t arrived yet. At least this period should lead to a boost for the British economy. (I do hope it’s not all ‘made in China’.) Then there are the coins and the stamps and the letterheads and anything that says EIIR will have to be changed to CIIIR. Those things will happen in Australia, too.
Although millions of people were saddened by the Queen’s death, that’s not true of everybody. Adam Bandt, leader of the ‘Greens’ party in our federal parliament, couldn’t wait to raise the issue of an Australian Republic. (Greens is in inverted commas because I think they should fess up and call themselves the Communists.) Everybody howled him down as the insensitive dork he is. And one female rugby player who describes herself as indigenous affronted 99% of the Twitterverse with a disgusting tweet celebrating the Queen’s death. (Colonial oppressor, you see)
Back in 1999 we had a referendum to allow the Australian people to decide if they wanted our country to become a republic. At the time, I voted ‘YES’. I thought it was time we had an Australian head of state. But these days I’m not so sure. Having the parliament decide on the head of state is fraught with danger and the real possibility of a revolving door. The prospect of going through the ridiculously expensive circus that happens in America every four years is even worse. Okay, a monarchy is an anachronism but it’s a stable, distant anachronism. The King is a constitutional monarch, limited in what he can and cannot do. In Australia, his representatives are the six state governors and the federal governor general. These days they are invariably Australian, selected in Australia, and their power is even more limited than the king’s. Sometimes the status quo is just fine. As they say, (often to the boffins at Microsoft and Apple) if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Besides, I see value in these dangerous times to be part of the Commonwealth of Nations. We all owe our systems of government and our legal systems to the British system, so we have that in common, whatever the colour of our skin.
I do think, though, that like Canada, we need our own flag that is uniquely Australian. I rather like the Aboriginal flag. The sun and the red earth are so evocative of Australia. What do you think?