The Daily Telegraph
King gets nod of approval from the great gathering
IT was a steady file of the great and the good – a state reception at Buckingham Palace on a scale not seen this century. As more than a thousand world leaders, foreign royals and other dignitaries descended on the State Apartments for drinks and canapes, politics was off the menu.
Much has been made of whether Charles III can fulfil his late mother’s legacy as the world’s most accomplished diplomat.
As the King and the Queen Consort last night hosted the array of bigwigs – including US President Joe Biden and Japanese Emperor Naruhito – the signs of a smooth transition appeared positive. Indeed, as President Biden put it, the late Queen “would be with the King every step of the way, every minute, every moment, and that’s a reassuring notion”.
Even avowed republican Anthony Albanese, the recently elected prime minister of Australia, insisted that now is not the time for constitutional questions, while his counterpart in New Zealand made clear she had no intention of steering away from a monarchical system.
Jacinda Ardern said her country would “become a republic in my lifetime” but that it wouldn’t be “quick or soon”. She added that the move from Queen to King will not be “jarring” for New Zealand as Charles is “well known” in the country.
Mr Albanese even suggested he would be “very comfortable” with the monarch, 73, expressing views on the “importance of climate change”.
The King was clear in his first address to Commonwealth leaders in June: members that wished to become republics should be free to do so “calmly and without rancour”.
Having been unanimously elected to succeed Queen Elizabeth, his speech at the helm of his first Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda was designed to offer magnanimity after the debates of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) era.
Keeping the monarch as head of state was “a matter for each member country to decide”, the then Prince of Wales said, acknowledging a growing movement, especially in the Caribbean, to drop the Crown.
There have long been suggestions, particularly emanating from the US, that without the late Queen acting as the glue that holds the Commonwealth together, the association of 56 nations may be in peril.
As Caroline Elkins, professor of history and of African and American studies at Harvard and author of Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire, has argued: “Charles does not have the same moral authority as his mother. Once the appropriate mourning is over there is going to be a lot of uncertainty.”
But as historian Dr Andrew Roberts explains: “My sense is that most Americans don’t know the difference between the Commonwealth and the Crown Commonwealth.”
Referencing Barbados’s decision last November to remove the late Queen as head of state – without even putting it to a public vote – but still remain a member of the Commonwealth, he adds: “For Americans to keep digging that up when they themselves would sooner have a revolution than have a head of state elected in that manner is hypocritical beyond belief.”
The Commonwealth was first founded by the King’s grandfather George VI in 1949 to maintain Britain’s links with the former colonies. Despite the increase in republican sentiment its membership has been growing.
Rwanda, Togo, Gabon and Mozambique have all recently joined while others such as South Sudan are on the waiting list. Zimbabwe has also been lobbying to get back in. Fourteen countries retain the King as head of state although Jamaica has declared its intention to be a republic by the end of 2025.
According to Dr Roberts: “It will be the Carribean countries that go, not Canada, New Zealand or Australia and not places like Tuvalu or Gibraltar.
“Even a country like Jamaica sees the benefit of remaining in the Commonwealth because of the extra bulwark it gives it against corruption.
“When the world should be worried about the influence of China, being in the Commonwealth is a positive.”
Following the Windrush scandal and George Floyd’s death, those seeking anti-slavery reparations appear increasingly keen to use the monarchy as the fall guy for colonialism.
Yet the suggestion that the lure of state banquets at Buckingham Palace will diminish following Queen Elizabeth II’S death doesn’t seem to be borne out, as evidenced by last night’s extraordinary turnout.
Having spent most of his life as heir apparent supporting diverse
‘Jamaica sees the benefit of the Commonwealth because of the extra bulwark it gives it against corruption’
communities and pushing to be the defender of “faiths”, rather than “the faith”, the King doesn’t make for an ideal BLM scapegoat. It was the monarch, for instance, who voiced his concern about the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
As Kristina Kyriacou, his former adviser and communications secretary, points out: “What people forget is during his 70 years as king-in-waiting he’s taken on the bulk of the governmental tours. In David Cameron’s era, as Prince of Wales, he went into the Middle East for three years in succession when negotiations had broken down and no one else could be an impartial figure who culturally understood what they were dealing with. It was unprecedented.
“On the “defender of faiths” moment, it shows he understood the way our cultural landscape was heading. He founded the Prince’s Trust in the aftermath of the Brixton riots because he saw race relations were at an all-time low.
“He set up the British Asian Trust because he understood other diasporas were being excluded from the conversation. This is a man with a deep understanding of other communities and their cultures.”
Dr Roberts agrees: “You only have to look at the queue to see Queen Elizabeth lying in state – it could not be more diverse. The monarchy has been at the forefront of racial diversity in Britain.”