Two things struck me about the death of Queen Lizzie while she was resident in Scotland, three if one includes a well planned and plotted end game to jab the conscience of the natives and kindle a love of a distant monarchy enough to accept the awful Union as inevitable. The police in London cleared the streets of pavement dossers and vagrants huddling under cardboard and bin bags to allow people queueing overnight to sleep on the pavements in their duck-filled duvets and warm Parkas, flask of hot soup handy. And the most over-repeated phrase, repeated endlessly to induce narcolepsy, ‘Gosh, she worked seventy years’ a phrase proof positive that in a neoliberal Tory Britain you are expected to keep working past pension age.
The plan, to have her coffin chauffeured, as she had been almost all her life, driven to St Giles Cathedral for a respectful stop-over to allow the last of the capital’s tourists and the curious to witness the pageant and file past her coffin, was genius. It showed the ‘separatists’ that their days are numbered. The coffin was meant to ‘avoid the strain and take the train’ to London, stopping at the main East Coast stations, again to allow English loyalists to pay their respects. But scheduling uncertainties meant the coffin was taken instead to Edinburgh airport and flown to London, arterial roads in the city crammed with tailbacks for hours, to allow the funeral courtege freedom to drive on empty main roads, a treat denied the rest of us unless in the wee sma’ hours. And finally, lifted into Westminster Abbey, the final theatrical display of pomp and ceremony.
Bowed heads suggested the Queen had been the miracle worker in our lives, the leader who had led us to freedom and equality. ‘God Save the Queen’ had been our refrain for seven decades but now no more. It did not work at the last hurrah. God was busy elsewhere. We are all mortal.
Unscrupulous bedfart opinionists and overweight politicians missing their lunch session with their S&M madame, looking forward to their evening dinner at Brown’s restaurant or the Ritz, flecks of spittle at the edges of their ugly mouths, exploited her demise to suggest Scotland’s wish to see better governance was all but extinguished. Rejoice! Who would have known it, the Queen committed the ultimate sacrifice. According to their warped logic, she died to save the Union. The BBC lost its mind as it would led by a group of far-right Tories in charge, and fed the proletarians “sycophantic, smarming bullshit” as one friend wrote to me in anger.
Meanwhile the new king doddled off to see the locals in Edinburgh, Cardiff and that bastion of tolerance Northern Ireland. He shook a few hands, and got booed a lot in the last of England’s English speaking regions or ‘territories,’ if one doesn’t count Gibraltar. It was an impressive organised ten days of unremitting royalhogwash. Planning had to have taken place a year or more for the kind of military precision delivered, televised end-to-end on our goggle placards on the wall.
No one really knew the Queen. If she had a personality it was kept hidden. What we got was well rehearsed graciousness and speeches full of platitudes. It was clear from an early age she loved horses more than people. Unless you were invited to lunch with her, you would not see how, when she finished her plate, you were finished too, even if you were a slow eater. How quickly we forget the crimes of the monarchy; money invested in tax free havens, protecting a son from criminal investigation; securing great wealth and properties; mentally ill relatives hidden from view; a wayward sister kept at arm’s length; having the elected premier of Australia, Gough Whitlam, removed because he was a little too left-wing and wanted a republic. Oh how she could walk among the poor and be loved without dispensing loaves and fishes. And then we have her hold over Commonwealth countries assuming they were terribly, terribly happy with the monarchy. What era of slavery? Not on ‘our’ watch. Repartions? Do talk to that Truss woman who is in charge.
And finally, the unforgiveable, telling Scots we should think carefully about acquiring full civil and constitutional rights. “Wherever I go, there seems to be violence and death”, said the great war photohrapher Don McCullin. He sought out that life, he didn’t complain. What did Elizabeth II seek out? She took the throne not long after the Second World War when rationing was being phased out, and died when rationing and foodbanks are the norm and we are sucked into another proxy war.
By all accounts she had a temper and exercised it, if and when necessary. I doubt she needed to raise her voice. A cold monotone was all that was required. It showed when she had to be cajoled by advisers to lower the Union Jack over Buckingham Palace on Diana’s death. She resisted the rising clamour from the grieving public a tad too long to be an oversight. But I also know she was alarmed at the prospect of an autonomous Scotland. Why else would she ‘purr’, as David Cameron said, on learning we were not brave enough to think of the common good?
The Queen stood as the constant symbol of the English class system and the Empire. She was appointed by God. She sits at the top of the class system. Only God is above her. God is an Englishman, don’tcha know? The one person of colour who managed to attract a prince, the wife of one of her grandsons, soon decided there was no place for her in a disfunctional family obsessed with their image. She skedaddled with her man to America. I hope they find happiness.
This last week has been a deliberate test by the power elite of our loyalty, our patriotism and the people who gravitate to sub-standard flats that we won’t live in, people with Good Immigrant status. Those people who feared to question the monarchy toed the line and remained silent, and those who knew they lived in the 21st century and not the 18th rebelled and got beaten up and arrested. Free speech is not a choice in King Charles’ Disunited Kingdom.
Once again it was social media who told of the realities. Social communication sites have been saturated by the harrowing memories of a legacy the British establishment has refused to acknowledge. The hog tying of Scotland’s economy and political rights. The removal of Scotland’s natural resources without recompence. It was also gratifying to read of those informed about the plunder of land and diamonds in South Africa, crimes that adorned the Queen’s very crown. As I mentioned in a few tweets and an introduction to an essay, trying hard to be diplomatic but failing, the suffering that continues from violence inflicted by her government in Kenya, even as her reign was picked out for assessment.
One can add to that many others instances of a monarch with a chronic blind side. The scars of genocide in Nigeria, events that took place a decade into her rule. The Tories sending motorised billboards around black areas in the UK exhorting Windrush families to go back to the country of their forefathers, and here’s some money for the journey. This was exactly the same campaign offered to Scots a hundred years ago and into the 1950s and 1960s.
Listen to the crap broadcast by the BBC, the past-master at erasing truth. During her reign, the BBC tells us, colonies “gained independence”. There’s no mention of those who were imprisoned, tortured, shot in the struggles, driven from their homes, or children who died of malnutrition, and that includes the Highlands of Scotland. Lord Mountbatten, last Viceroy of India, dividing Indians in two to create Pakistan and running a pen up and over mountains, sent a million Muslims to their death. Uniting the Republic of Ireland gets no mention at all, just as the BBC meteorogical staff think weather never reaches that old rebellious British colony. And the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, hush-hush, that was all in the past. Where were the voices of the crushed?
Like Scots down the generations, we were brainwashed into believing that to be ersatz English was a betterment, an advancement of our lives. Cultural continuity must be seen in Union terms. This is what they told the Barbadians, the Jamaicans, the poor in Ghana. In fact, it is taboo for us or anybody to mention Scotland’s colonialism in the same breath as India’s independence. You have reactionaries such as lapsed socialist and anti-democrat George Galloway ridiculing comparisons. Our English masters are here to teach us civility and while we chant dutifully what is written on the blackboard by them they plunder our resources and squander our taxes.
In our freedom to mourn we are not free. We are expected to be grateful for having been colonised. Days ago you could read in the Economist’s obituary that the Queen “came from good Hanoverian blood”. Oh dear, that sounds terribly like white supremacy. The cleverness of the British Crown lies in convincing the ambitious that to kneel before the monarch bestows purpose and success upon them. They are the Chosen Ones. And Scots who should have thrown off the monarchy three hundred years ago see their descendants accept knighthoods and £300 pounds a day for attending an old buffer’s tea party in the House of Lords, a bunch of decrepit shills who tell Scots if we leave England’s club we ‘won’t be allowed back’. Absconding is the greatest of sins, England the greatest of nations.
Already the press are portraying King Charless III as a reformer. We shall see. Does he have the will power? He is so weak a character he married a woman he did not love because daddy – and one presumes mummy too, she who ruled the household – said the unfortunate ingénue would give them the heir to the throne they so desperately needed. Back then, Charles’ clandestine squeeze was persona non grata, the pair not to be seen together in public.
There are many things to mourn, not the least are the many who have died and not seen a free Scotland, nor have I time to mourn for what time I have left. I mourn each passing day we have not secured our liberty. I feel compassion for the people of my country who still are not able to govern their own land. There is so much to do to make Scotland the nation it can be. Scotland has made no call for isolationism or for the monarchy; England is the isolationist state dumping the culture and protection of Europe. Our liberation is the basis of internationalism, a struggle for equality, justice, peace and progress.
Scotland will be a nation again. I live for that.
NOTE: Further reading ESSAYS 2: ‘Death of a Monarchy’, published by Amazon Books.