8 Oct

There’s one thing about our human consciousness that is certain: the old maxim of what we learn in our first few years can quite easily inform the person we eventually become.
When I was born, and until I was nine, there was a King on the throne of England and we were taught to reverently sing “God Save the King” at every opportunity. It was out national anthem and we were told to be proud of it and what it stood for. So by the time that particular king died when I was nine it was part of me. Part of my mind. Part of the shape of me. But there was discipline back then and a lot of “woe-betide you if you don’t” about.
And there was a queen instead of a king and a subtle alteration was made to out national anthem. It was now “God Save the Queen” and it’s been that ever since.
The only qualification that revered queen needed was the genes of her father, the late king. I dared say that some jiggery pokery in high places would have changed the way things were had she been an actual lunatic, but she wasn’t. But what hardly every crossed my mind was the absurdity of her very place in the nation.
She was its head. Her face appeared on currency and stamps. All of us are in a way identified by that image as one of her subjects. She owns us all, and it hasn’t been a particularly unpleasant donation by me of my own identity until I get to think about it.
After all, Queen Elizabeth ll has generally been a credit to our nation and there’s no doubt that even in her relative old age she works damned hard at a time in life when most don’t do what they’d call work at all. Generally speaking she’s liked and admired and few are moved to aim criticism at her.
But what if she’d been a different woman? After all, there have been some loonies in the British royal family and she might have turned out to be one of them. She’s there because her dad was and after her, if things go according to plan, her son, an already ageing Charles, will take her place. It’s the order of things: it’s the way things are. There’s this one family that provides, through an inherited genetic strain that contains imperfections (like all do), the figurehead of a nation.
And with it comes privileges and wealth.
Amongst her subjects are some who will die today or this week as consequence of poverty. They are where they are on the ladder of power because of their heritage, following as we all do in one way or another in the footsteps of our fathers. And it’s no comfort to them to know that in order to balance their lowly place there are others who are better placed.
True, there are fewer living extravagant lives as a consequence of inherited wealth (though the Queen and her kin do) but there are still too many people who have found the Cowell route to glory, having limited talent themselves but having an eye for what qualities in others might enrich them if exploited properly. Then there are those with the Beckam tendency – and I don’t want to scorn his undoubted abilities but is kicking a football about as skilled and vital as the lesser-rewarded efforts of a brain surgeon or a midwife? Yet the footballer gets the wealth and the midwife the worries about paying next month’s mortgage. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either Cowell or Beckam, but I do question a society that places their skills above the talents of those who contribute to our health and possibly even our lifespan.
The man on the bottom rung of our ladder might well shake his head when he contemplates the wealthy so far above him. It might not seem to be quite fair.
Yet at the top is the monarch. The queen (or king) and with a CV that contains only one quality: a non-loony who is genetic offspring of the last monarch.
Much as my life (and those first few vital years when I absorbed so much) has bent my mind in the direction of cap-doffing to Her Majesty, I can’t help wondering if that CV offers a sufficiently broad example of leadership qualities for the twenty-first century. Maybe it might have been enough in the distant past when the order “off with his head” was sufficient an instruction to ensure national discipline, but now, in the time of iphones and Windows10?
And should the laws of inheritance even play a part in the affairs of a nation? They probably will whilst the whole world mutters “ah” at the latest royal birth, but is that right? Shouldn’t someone great with a proven track-record and a proper, personally-developed morality be our boss? Someone like, say, the lollipop lady down our road?
© Peter Rogerson 08.10.15


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