0 Comments

“The Queen is dead.”

The news was as a shot out of the dark. Word of her illness, with intimations of its deathly seriousness, were couched in euphemistic, English, monarchical language. Her doctors were “concerned” about her health, but no forceful declaration of the imminent approach of death was ever made. And yet, medical concerns were belied by an urgent request for family to rush to her side.

Then, quietly and calmly, in the tradition and aura of “keep calm and carry on” and maintaining a “stiff upper lip”, two finely dressed servants of Buckingham Palace affixed a typed and framed notice, facing outwards to the public, announcing the death of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who died “peacefully”. And so, the grieving ong the British populace and the world began.

“The Queen is dead.”

After seven decades of public life, she went quietly, surrendering into the custody of death, who had waited patiently for that moment for 96 years. I felt the loss — I did, I really did. She appeared to be a nice old lady. I remember seeing her when I was a boy, when she was in the prime of life, in Kingston, Jamaica, back in March, 1966. I was aware of her for all of my years until she was recalled by mortality.

But why should I — one whose people were oppressed for centuries by the very empire that she symbolized and enshrined — join the rest of the world in mourning her? Why entertain pity for a system she championed which showed my people none, and whose lords and ladies looked down at them with scorn, condescension, derision and prejudice? And, was it genuine grief that I felt — visceral sorrow which came from the fat and marrow of my emotions — or was it the result of mental conditioning, as with Pavlov’s dog, or as one akin to a sort of clinical hypnosis in a mental asylum?

“The Queen is dead.”

By grieving was I, in fact, on a far deeper level, grieving for my own pathetic state, for what her people had done to my people and for what she made of them? For a time I was only a subject — her subject — but I was never a citizen of the empire, no, not in the truest sense of the word. I was never fully human — nothing more than a “native.”

Rudyard Kipling believed that her forebears had brought civilization to us, but I think that we only got as far as being as negatives discarded on a photographer’s darkroom floor and never as full and glorious portraits perched upon easels in light. When we sang, prayerfully, for her safety and for her continued victory, little did we know that we were affirming our own defeat. Or, did we? We sang a very strange song in a very strange place — in a geographic locale in which we were grafted by the whim of might.

“Long live The King!”

Her successor The King, in his first speech to the world, the very next day, pledged to serve his subjects with “love”. With “love” he said. Not many world leaders use that word to describe their style of leadership. Hate and bullying of the weak by the strong seem, increasingly, to be in vogue. And so it seemed strangely refreshing to hear him use the word. I must admit that I was deeply moved by the tenderness with which it was uttered. But, it did not take very long for me to ask, “What did he mean, by ‘love’?”

“How did it translate to his younger son who is estranged from him, and who chose to exile himself from the newly minted monarch and from the rest of the royal family?”

“Why did his bi-racial daughter-in-law feel unloved?”

“Why did his late ex-wife feel the same way?”

“Love”, he said, “love”, but what did he mean? And, curiously, did The King actually believe what he was saying?

“Long live The King!”“Love”, said he, “love”. But who responds to love — born of the so called “divine right of kings” — by clamouring for independence and by going a step further by proclaiming themselves a republic? And, such are not being made only by those whose ancestors felt the lash of the whip against their dark skins and who bore the heavy shackles of oppression, but by those who share the same complexion of skin, texture of hair, colour of eyes, who enjoy the same genotype and culture of white privilege as do those in the imperial metropole.

Is that love, yes, love? Did the empire ever envision, ever embody, ever exude, ever exemplify and ever encourage love? Since when did exploitation become transfigured into compassion? Can true devotion be instilled from the intimidating muzzles of guns and the swishing of swords?

Can warm sentiments, even in paternalistic and apologetic tones, cover a multitude of sins and erase centuries of colonial unpleasantness? Does The King truly feel for our sufferings as we feel for his at the loss of one who was so near and who was so dear to him?

“Love”, he said, “love.” But, what did he mean? What did His Royal Majesty, King Charles III mean?

“Long live The King!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.