King Charles Faces Crisis Of Relevance

The pomp and ceremony of King Charles III’s coronation is over, but the spectacle has reignited debates about slavery, colonial legacies and republicanism.
10 May 2023 08:34
King Charles Faces Crisis Of Relevance
As the Royal Family shows off its wealth during the coronation, some are calling for greater acknowledgement of the origins of that wealth. Photo: Buckingham Palace/Handout

The pomp and ceremony of King Charles III’s coronation is over, but the spectacle has reignited debates about slavery, colonial legacies and republicanism.

Just as the monarch’s reign is beginning, a number of Commonwealth realms are considering independence and re-examining the legacy of British colonialism.

Some Caribbean and African leaders are also pushing for reparations from governments and institutions for the suffering and damage caused by the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“The answer has always been, ‘No, that’s in the past. It’s time to move on’,” said Sinai Fleary, an educator and journalist from the Afro-Caribbean newspaper The Voice.

“But the wealth that was extracted from slavery, colonialism, that’s not in the past, that’s on display for us all to look at.

“We have to sit and watch, while they have a party with it.

“I think a lot of people will be dissecting the gold, the carriages, everything else put on display.”

A senior Jamaican government minister told Sky News UK last week the coronation has accelerated the country’s plan to become a republic — which could take place as early as 2024.

“The time has come. Jamaica in Jamaican hands,” Jamaica’s minister for legal and constitutional affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, said.

“We have to get it done, especially with the transition in the monarchy.

“My government is saying we have to do it now … time to say goodbye.”

Bangor University’s school of history, law and social science’s Craig Prescott said King Charles faced a challenge in “playing to two different constituencies”.

“He has his role of head of state in some of the Caribbean countries, but also be mindful of the fact that he’s the King of the UK,” Dr Prescott said.

Last month, King Charles announced he would confront his own family’s history and examine the monarchy’s links to slavery, issuing a statement, saying he took the issue “profoundly seriously”.

Buckingham Palace says it will allow independent researchers access to the royal archives to examine records from the 17th and 18th centuries.

While attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda last year, the King came close to an apology.

“I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact,” he said.

When Barbados removed Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state and become a republic in November 2022, as then-Prince of Wales he attended the transition ceremony.

He told crowds that the nation endured the “appalling atrocity of slavery” which he said would “forever stain our history.”

“I think the Black Lives Matter movement has given the whole issue of slavery a wholly new context,” Dr Prescott said.

“There is, fundamentally, just a lot more interest or inquiry into this question, and the monarchy, like all British institutions, have to respond.”

Some royal watchers say allegations of racism within the palace have added further fuel to the fire.

“We’ve had this whole issue over the last couple of years with his own daughter-in-law, Meghan Markle … and others like Ngozi Fulani have had a horrible experience,” Ms Fleary said.

In an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021 Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle, said members of the royal family questioned how dark her son’s skin would be.

The Duchess of Sussex reportedly wrote a personal letter to King Charles expressing her concerns about “unconscious bias” within the palace.

Charity boss Ngozi Fulani accused a royal aid of racism while attending an event at Buckingham Palace in 2022.

“I would like to think they’re moving forward, but there’s things that you can’t really ignore,” Ms Fleary said.

King risks growing ‘irrelevance’

Peckham, in south-east London, was once labelled “Little Lagos”, due to the Nigerian diaspora that call it home.

In the neighbourhood today, there are mixed views on the monarchy and the coronation’s spectacle.

“I think, since we have accepted that he should become as a king, then we should be able to celebrate with him,” said 64-year-old Rose, who didn’t want her last name published.

Rose moved to Peckham from Nigeria more than three decades ago and said that, often, she finds herself at odds with her friends when they discuss their feelings about the King.

Nigeria was once part of the British empire and remains a member state of the Commonwealth.

“But my views, are very different to the views of some others. Not everyone likes him, or what the family stands for.”

Another local Peckham resident, 21-year-old Amorie, said she feels detached from the royal family.

“The royals are a waste of space, [a] waste of money. They are just there for the sake of being there,” said Aromie, who also didn’t want her last name published.

“It’s British culture, fair enough. We all watch it, but really I just don’t care about it.”

Younger Britons who consume news through digital and social media platforms may not build the same sort of connection with the royals as past generations, Dr Prescott said.

“They aren’t reading newspapers or going to traditional news outlets, which is the way the monarchy traditionally communicated … they do have some presence on social media,” he said.

“It might be a case of irrelevance, the royals just aren’t part of their lives in a way that [they were] for older generations.”

Peckham rapper Yokie Lollypop, 38, says more in his community would embrace the royals if there was an apology or acknowledgement of the painful legacies of the British empire.

“The things that took place, they were wrong. I mean, an apology should happen,” he said.

“I think the Queen was a good lady, and I think the King is a good man, too, but we should be talking about an apology for slavery and all that.”

Charles’s challenges for his future reign

The British royal family is the biggest in Europe, and the only one to still hold a large-scale coronation.

“The King has these constitutional functions but, overall, they are sort of exercised in a ceremonial way,” Dr Prescott said.

“He appoints the new prime minister, but we know who it’s going to be … it’s dictated to by the results of the general election.”

The British royal family have tried to remain above politics and act as a neutral head of state, Dr Prescott said.

“It’s really at events like a coronation that the monarchy gets its power today rather than in exercising constitutional functions.

“Having these ceremonial events, or the jubilees, that bring the country together is just outside of politics, that’s really the role of the monarchy today.”

The challenge for King Charles III will not just be to engage in emerging social issues, but also winning over the younger generations, Dr Prescott added.

“The British government may have a view [on these social issues], which limits his room for manoeuvre, because the King will not want to get involved in matters of party controversy.

“It will be interesting to see whether younger people today become tomorrow’s monarchists, because that’s tended to be what’s happened.

“Politically, young people are in a difficult situation here in the UK, with the housing crisis, not really experiencing real wage growth since 2008.

“It’s harder to achieve those life goals that perhaps make you ‘small-c’ conservative, and that might lead into support for the monarchy.”

Source:  ABC


Got A News Tip

Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.

For All Fiji Sun Advertising
Fijisun E-edition