The following article by George Gunn was first posted by bella caledonia. It is  another  in George’s series ‘From the Province of the Cat’, which use humour, rooted in local common sense to challenge key features of Ukania, the UK state, in this case the role and reality behind the British  monarchy.


The King is in the Counting House,
counting out his money,
the Queen is in the parlour,
eating bread and honey.

“Sing a song of sixpence” dates back to the time of Henry VIII of England. Shakespeare used a bit of it in Twelfth Night. It’s a nursery rhyme that never goes away. It came back to me as I watched King Charles III of Ukania give his first Christmas Day TV chat to the minions, the majority of whom are struggling with the cost of living crisis and in Scotland we have the added tension of our democracy being attacked by a Ukania government we did not vote for. This is the very same King who last month in “His” King’s Speech in the House of Lords mouthed off a series of pre-election ploys, the most prominent being the Tories plan to introduce legislation which will allow oil and gas companies to bid for new licences to drill for fossil fuels every year. The current round of licensing laws are already predicted by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to send a “wrecking ball” through the UK’s already wobbly climate commitments. This is a King who proclaims to be concerned about climate change, give or take the odd jaunt by helicopter and private jet. Despite all this I sat through the royal ten minutes of deep TV joy with an open mind.

The piece began with the band of the Coldstream Guards perched up on a balcony of Buckingham Palace belching out a version of God Save The King. Then we saw a nervous, awkward, elderly man in a ruffled blue-grey suit holding onto the back of a chair beside a very large and glittering Christmas Tree. “A living tree,” according to the BBC. I was not so sure about the gentleman who began to speak. He talked somewhat nebulously and in a distracted manner as though he was translating from another language and would rather be somewhere else. Mostly what he said referenced the Bible and was about the benefits of volunteering and of service in general but most specifically it was about his own coronation. He only really seemed to come to life when he talked about his coronation.

In Scotland this Toom Tabard affair was not a box office hit. On July 5th at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh King Charles III was presented with the Honours of Scotland. He did not touch them because if he did he then would have had to take the Scottish Coronation Oath which he would not have liked, incorporating as it does The Claim of Right which is an invitation to the sovereign people to challenge any legislation they thought impinged on their rights. Not the monarch, but the people have the last say. This is what it means to be a ‘Sovereign Scot’.

The highest power in Scotland is the people. It is in direct opposition to the English Crown, where the people are subjects. If King Charles III took the Scottish Coronation Oath he would have to swear to protect ‘the rights, rents and privileges’ of the people of Scotland or the law, land and offices of state in modern parlance. This is the Scots claiming sovereignty over these things and making it very clear to the monarch that the people are in charge.

These are the same people who failed to turn up at St Giles and mostly what modest cheering crowds had assembled were chanting “Not My King!” According to Tristan Gray of Our Republic,

“There were railings all the way down the Royal Mile and then when the day happened, there was no one there. We thought we’d have to fight our way up the street and there was no one.” (National 24/12/23)

In his TV address to Ukania the man we were told was the monarch exuded this decided atmosphere of disappointment, as though between the lines he was saying this was not how it was meant to be. The rather lachrymose tone of his voice gave out the impression that he thought all of what had happened to him in his life so far was a dream from which he would, hopefully, awaken from one day soon.

Then there were cutaways to the next in line and his wife and children holding electrical drills and seen to be doing something meaningful to a block of wood. Service. It was the theme of his chat. Then there were shots of his royal self taking control of climate change by planting a tree somewhere faraway from Ukania where everyone had dark skin and the Sun was shining. Then the wandering narrative brought us back to the Bible and doing unto neighbours as one would do unto one’s self. This is indeed a Schrodinger’s Cat of a King as he can hold two entirely different positions simultaneously. When he became King of Ukania last year after the death of Queen Elizabeth Charles III inherited the Duchy of Lancaster and the first payout from that for him was a canny £26 million. That would keep him in his Counting House for a time.

However in November it emerged that the King had directly profited from the deaths of thousands of people whose money, undeclared millions, was being used to upgrade the royal property empire. This is the feudal practise of “bona vacantia” used to appropriate the assets and estates of the people within the geographical bounds of the Duchy who did not leave a will or who had no next of kin when they died. It was not a good look for the new monarch and no matter the amount of public harrumphing and gritted teeth contrition – the Duchy announced it would transfer more than £100 million into “ethical investment funds” – it did not smell any better.

King Charles III obviously thinks he is an exception to the rule. Any rules. In his Christmas message you got the impression that in being the monarch he was, somehow, doing us all a big favour. It is all about “service”, you see. The “service” he is doing us by being King. And we, of course, are expected to serve. The whole surreal and necrotic ten minutes was rounded off by Bexley Music Primary School trilling their way charmingly through some carols inter-scut with shots of the King and Queen cutting a crown shaped cake and watching a sheep being sheared.

By this time my will to live had weakened a little so I switched off the platitudes and adventures of the King and his courtiers and went to the window and looked at the hurricane which was blowing across Caithness. It seemed an apt metaphor for what the future holds for King Charles III, the spaniel of history. How pointless, self-obsessed and outlandish it all appeared to me and unsettling – as if you were being addressed by a lost member of a necro-clerisy come to play the court jester or the holy fool, or it was like listening to a revenant speaking to the rain, seeking either exorcism or dust.

Despite his professed concern for ecology, animal welfare, homelessness and poverty, the Counting House is where King Charles has his focus. His estates are exempt from animal protection legislation, his multiple palaces for most of the time remain empty and the monarch has a very opaque relationship with the concept of tax. On this issue Freedom of Information does not apply. His constant campaign through his famous black spider letters to have The Civil List altered and something better (for him) put in its place was eventually successful in 2011 when just before Christmas, so that no-one would notice, the then Chancellor George Osborne abolished The Civil List under the Sovereign Grant Act 2011. The new Sovereign Grant is worth £86.3m annually. Plus as we have seen there is the Duchy of Lancaster – worth £260 million – and the on-going ten year re-furbishment plan for Buckingham Palace worth £369 million. There are other perks and cash sources but, unlike the King, I gave up counting.

Ukania is a very powerful and heavily centralised state with sovereignty resting with the Crown in Parliament. In this it is alien to Scotland and the issue of sovereignty sits at the heart of the independence cause. In Westminster sovereignty may rest at the centre of power but it is in no way a popular sovereignty, as it would be if the Claim of Right were enacted in an independent Scotland. In Ukania “the people” are “represented” at “the Seat of Majesty”, but there is never any chance that they will ever occupy that seat. The existence of the monarchy makes this very clear. In Ukania there is no constitution and no meaningful democracy. The King will always be in his Counting House.

There are those of a conservative nature who would say that this is a good thing. That Ukania is unique and that is something we should be proud of. More sober observers think this is hogwash. As Brexit has proven this illusion of Ukanian uniqueness only exacerbates the crisis of identity in Ukania because with the constitution being an illusion no-one can honestly or actually believe in anything. This crisis is evident when yet another Tory talks about “our values and way of life”. It is also evident in the Tory pre-occupation, bordering on madness, with immigration. None of it bears close examination and none of it makes any sense.

When you watch and listen to what King Charles III says and does you realise that he is the embodiment of the permanent immaturity that keeps the monarchy at arms-length from the modern world. The media perpetrated myth is that the monarch is “above” everything, especially politics, and encompasses the four corners of the realm – i.e. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. In reality the Ukanian monarchy is quintessentially political. It is also the talisman of English nationalism. As Ukania is falling apart this English identity crisis increases. The adoption of the monarchy as a definition of identity makes for an structurally awkward manifestation of nationalism, because it is a nationalism which is constructed from the top down. This, ironically, renders it headless, inarticulate and incoherent. The elderly gentleman in the crumpled blue-grey suit, holding onto the side of a chair while standing beside a Christmas tree and talking about “service” is never going to make it articulate or coherent. No matter how many cans of lager you throw at it. One of the saving graces of Scottish nationalism is that it is created from below – those at the top are hostile to it in the extreme – so it is resilient and no matter how many times the BBC tells us it is dead it continues to live. The exact opposite of the King, having watched him sympathetically deliver his message on Christmas Day, fresh out of The Counting House.

The reality is that Ukania is being torn apart by a very English deference and a persistent Scottish challenge. This is far from the Hobbesian extreme nightmare of the perpetual “civil war of every man against every other man” which is embraced by the ever anguine Michael Gove and his Orwellian “Levelling Up Department”, which has proposed a new definition of extremism which is “the promotion or advancement of any ideology which aims to overturn or undermine the UK’s system of parliamentary democracy, its institutions and values.”

In other words – stop thinking. Do you share Michael Grove’ values? Was that someone walking over your grave? A poll this year found that as a result of what the government of Ukania does, only 6% of voters in Ukania trust the Ukanian political system in any shape of form. This raises a definition problem as it means, under Gove’s proclamation, that 94% of us are now extremists. Merry Christmas. We are all bound for the Leviathan of Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) where everyone is a prisoner.

On the other hand imagine if we lived a country where the people were treated with respect and not as the social and political equivalent of “bona vacantia”, a country where the people have the right to decide when we can and can’t have a referendum or plebiscite? When watching King Charles III shuffling through his Christmas script like a moustache in search of a lip I realised more than ever that we are living in a fiction, in a feudal construct created by Westminster. It’s called Ukania and it is one big Counting House.

Believe it or not, despite Michael Gove, we do have rights but people can’t assert their rights if they don’t know what they are. We need to be educated as to what they are and encouraged to use them. Otherwise the King will always be in The Counting House and an increasing majority of us will be in The Poor Hoose.




also see:

Silent singing and John Maclean

Love and magical thinking from the ‘Province of the Cat’

The real honours of Scotland

What happens when it stops raining