Americans have an enviably healthy attitude to Britain royalty
They regard it as somewhere between curio and twee celebrity
Is it the distance that comes with time – after all, America kicked the British out some 200 years before India and other colonised countries – but the American media appears to be a great deal more clear-eyed about the May 6 coronation than some of its decolonised/decolonising counterparts elsewhere.
Ahead of the coronation, one American journalist correctly described it as a ritual in modern British history that was so rare “it last occurred 70 years ago, roughly the wait between sightings of Halley’s comet”.
Nice one. It deftly situates the monarchy where it should be – somewhere between curio and a familiar, if rather twee celebrity.
Soon after the Halley’s comet comment, another American journalist suggested that it may be King Charles III’s lot to be “Britain’s first post-colonial monarch”. This was a smart observation but not Smart Aleck-y, a propensity that is sometimes observed in the outpourings from decolonised/decolonising outposts of the former British Raj.
Instead, the American journalist (who, incidentally, is of Indian ethnicity) saw the trajectory of recent events as significant. He noted Charles’ presence – and public remarks – in the Caribbean nation of Barbados as it became a republic and dropped Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. At the time Charles said: “From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our histories, the people of this island [Barbados] forged their path with extraordinary fortitude. Emancipation, self-government and independence were your waypoints. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides.”
It’s a moot point how many more such speeches will he have to deliver in his lifetime. Jamaica and Belize have already said they plan to start down the path of de-royalising their identity and processes of governance. Even Canada, Australia and New Zealand — the white Commonwealth – are treading carefully. King Charles won’t feature on Australia’s new five-dollar note, for instance.
The implications, as the American journalist identified, are profound. “If Elizabeth represented a post-imperial monarch — the Windsor who stoically watched the British Empire shrink decade-by-decade — Charles could be Britain’s first post-colonial royal — the king who sloughs off the faded trappings of empire and directly acknowledges (if not necessarily apologizes for) a deep legacy of injustice.”
He may be on to something there. That said, no need to get over-excited about the whole world dumping the British monarch as head of state. King Charles, remember, remains head of state of a 14 former colonies – eight in the Caribbean, three Pacific islands, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.)