The following article about the British establishment’s attempt to use the royal funeral and proclamation of Charles as king of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to prop up the Union was written by Mike Small and first posted by bella caledonia.
GAME OF THRONES
The desperation to over-project onto today’s events in Edinburgh are a sign of the fear in the British establishment. The repressive police management and the attempt to ascribe political meaning to the crowds lining the streets of the Old Town are signs of a real anxiety at the process we’re in the middle of.
The historian Robert Lacey – talking after the service in St Giles’ on BBC Scotland – explained carefully that;
“the Union obliterated Scottish identity … it came back in the 1990s – many people saw it and it was a symbol of Scotland becoming more independent – breaking away from the Union but here tonight we’re seeing this ‘independent body’ turning to the old certainties … it’s plugging back into the United Kingdom’s system and there are political repercussions that are not for us to speculate on …”
Huw Edwards nodded along to this weird political propaganda.
The efforts to curate a sense of ‘national unity’ are painfully obvious and painful to witness. Whether its the hegemonic bromides of endless tributes and trivia – sterling work from Kirsty Wark and Sarah Smith speculating (and just inventing) what people think and experience emotionally – are just deeply embarrassing. The BBC Radio Scotland producer who commissioned the dog experts to come onto national radio to discuss the grief of the Corgis – who they named individually (I shit you not) – needs to have a word with themselves. This is deeply embarrassing behaviour.
The service at St Giles’ was dignified, restrained and human-scaled. Even if it was surrounded by couthy exceptionalist commentary from the Scottish commentators (all that ‘Queen of Scots’ guff) and wildly ignorant confused commentary from the non-Scottish ones, it did have some decorum, some decency about it. The crowds were here for a number of reasons but this wasn’t a display of Unionism and to describe it as such is more than hopeful.
As I wrote the other day: “the Britain that Charles the Third reigns over is one in deep social crisis more bitterly divided than anyone can remember. This doesn’t just go away as we parade endlessly in forced mourning and mandatory deference. It will still be there when the bunting goes away.”
The British State are probably delighted that the Queen died at Balmoral. This way we can have a ‘Scottish moment’ and continue the facade of national unity as all the relics and remnants of the northern bit of feudal Britain parade around us.
But they are mis-stepping at every turn and not just in the weird and endless media coverage.
It’s been announced that the Stone of Destiny will be returned for the coronation, and of course that William will become the Prince of Wales, immediately inspiring a petition created after the Queen’s death calling for the Royals to “end Prince of Wales title out of respect for Wales” which surged to 10,000 signatures over just 24 hours.
The petition says that since the days of the Welsh Princes the title has been “held exclusively by Englishmen as a symbol of dominance over Wales”.
“The title remains an insult to Wales and is a symbol of historical oppression and also implies that Wales is still a principality, undermining Wales’ status as a nation and a country,” the petition’s author, Trystan Gruffydd, said.
The Royal title was originally given to Edward II of Caernarfon, son of Edward I who conquered Wales, as a means of confirming that the ‘Tywysog Cymru’ title previously held by native princes of Wales was subservient to that of the King of England.
A cannier more confident monarchy, or a more innovative British state would have used this moment to genuinely use the accession as moment to upgrade and re-define Britain and strengthen the union. Genuinely modernising the monarchy – or what Britain means would have been a defence of it. Instead it resorts to default settings.
The coronation chair was literally designed to hold the Stone of Destiny. It is a crude symbol of subjugation. When the Stone was returned to Scotland on St Andrew’s Day 1996 it was by design of Michael Forsyth, then Scottish Secretary. It was widely seen as a crude stunt, but if Forsyth thought it would stem the flow towards devolution or the Tories unpopularity he was wrong. The Conservatives would go on to lose all their Scottish seats the following May.
Britain’s impulse for centralisation and the asymmetrical nature of the power dynamics of the Union are on full display here, as are the brutalist nature of the new police powers now used to repress even the most modest dissent. This will be their death-knell. Just as we are awash with sentimentalism, Paddington Bears and a suffocating cocktail of propaganda and authoritarianism, the Union is quietly falling apart. That no-one among the executives, the spin doctors the columnists and TV producers can see this is all part of the fun.
The crowds on the High Street were quiet and dignified. They knew they were at a funeral.