Wednesday, 11 January 2017
Regina Quondam, Rex Futurusque
A grateful nation today gives thanks for the recovery of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth from a nasty virus. However, as the outpouring of national joy subsides to a steady, contented hum we are left facing an unpalatable truth: that the Queen, David Icke notwithstanding, is mortal. At some point the thorny issue of succession to the throne will have to be faced. A while ago palace insiders were bruiting it about that the succession might skip both a generation and the obvious candidate, and instead devolve upon Prince William Arthur Phillip Louis. This seems to have come to naught, and it is likely that we will see King Charles III invested at Westminster Abbey in the relatively near future.
I am a firm believer in the concept of monarchy, and I would never deny that the Royal Family brings in vast sums of money from tourism. It is beyond dispute that Elizabeth and Phillip's scheduled daily renditions of 'Bring Me Sunshine' from a balcony window in Buckingham Palace are as much of a tourist attraction as the NHS, that other great engine for generating revenue from the lavishly spending traveler. But yet, in our modern vibrant Britain, doesn't the tacit assumption that the title will stay with the House of Windsor strike a dissonant note? Does not a rigid conformity to the principles of Absolute Cognatic Primogeniture smack of clinging to outmoded shibboleths, and a refusal to adapt to a dynamic and fast-changing global environment? Scions of many noble houses have sat upon the throne of England. Godwinssons, de Normandies, Angevins, Plantagenets, Twdyrs, Starks, Lannisters and Stewarts have all had their day in the sun and now are all, as Thomas Hardy says in 'The Dynasts', at one with Nineveh and Tyre.
Having accepted the principle that continuity of inheritance is not an inevitability, we are free to examine the issue in a more progressive and less straitjacketed fashion. In the age of the global village, should we not cast our net a little wider than the nearest wingnut-eared blue blood who languidly rises from his chaise longue? There is an international pool of talent which we would be selling ourselves short if we did not consider. And, in these days of austerity and PFI, ought we not to keep a canny eye on any possible savings? I would suggest, therefore, that before we rush into anything we put the whole business out to global competitive tender. If the Windsor candidate submits the most attractive bid then fair enough, but at least we will have seen all the options.
Of course not any old hobbledehoy can become a monarch. Like artists and wind turbine farmers, a king is born and not made. Centuries of selective breeding are required, Royal Blood is one step closer to the divine. We do not want to cheapen the concept, so only proposals from your actual genuine royals will be considered. But monarchy is also an internationalist institution; we have had rulers who have been monoglot francophones or who have spoken only German. The last English king we had died at the Battle of Hastings. And if the case of Polish Gangmasters v. Orchid Orthopedics (Settled out of court) has taught us anything, it is that an inability to speak the language is no bar to participation in the modern English workforce. There are still a few Bourbons and Hohenstaufens knocking around the continent who would be glad of the gig, and who would likely submit very reasonable proposals. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a descendant of King Zog is at this moment in a UK Refugee Reception Centre, dressed in the Albanian national costume of mint-green Adidas shell suit and Tony Curtis quiff. He could be relied upon to undercut the competition, but he'd probably strip Buck house of all the copper and vanish halfway through the contract. Circa regna tonat.
My preferred candidate, however, is a reigning monarch: the current King of Swaziland, Mswati III. I know that the idea of a pluralist ruler may strike some as controversial, but in the context of the Union of England, Scotland and Wales, isn't tacking Swaziland on at the end of the list just a broadening of the portfolio? He is of impeccable bloodline, tracing his ancestry back to the semi-mythical Matalatala, and has an English public school education (Sherbourne but long after my time, since you ask). He's experienced, and is a steady hand on the tiller, plus he would bring some much needed diversity to the whole shebang. And as for tourism, Mswati is just the feller. On any given day you might find him riding his ceremonial ostrich and wielding an assegai on The Mall, disporting himself with his fifteen wives (sable beauties all!) by Admiralty Arch, or boiling a missionary in a big pot in a leafy corner of Regents Park. Picturesque doesn't enter into it. Furthermore, under his capable stewardship Swaziland has developed a fibre-optic network that is the envy of all Sub-Saharan Africa so, with a view to further potential cost efficiencies, the old rogue could Skype a lot of his pastoral duties in. Imagine his broad, beaming face projected onto one hundred foot high screens on New Year's Eve in Trafalgar Square, laughing uproariously as he surveys his new demesne. It's enough to make any patriotic Briton's heart swell with pride.