Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Queen’s Birthday – time to talk succession planning

The British Royal family appears to be preparing for the end of the Queen’s reign by undertaking succession planning. Prince Charles is well-known as the heir to the British throne, however it may be less known that the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward has been tapped on the shoulder to be the next Duke of Edinburgh.

Queen Elizabeth II turns 92 today. I’ve asked before, when will she be allowed to put up her feet? Most 92 years olds are long retired, but not that trouper the Queen. My grandmother will be 93 later this year. She's a hardy soul but there's no way she would be up to the frantic pace needed to be a world leader! Even though retirement plans for many people keep going further and further beyond 60, Queen Elizabeth II has still well and truly exceeded this.

There will be lots of world leaders in London to help her celebrate her birthday at the Royal Albert Hall as it will be the day after the week long Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting will have finished. CHOGM 2018 summit was held this time in London from 16-20 April 2018 to allow the Queen to attend. This was the first time the UK has hosted the CHOGM summit since 1997 and many suggest this may be the Queen’s last time she attends. It is of course also an opportunity for lots of other royals to have photo opportunities at a world forum.

Queen Elizabeth II has been the Head of CHOGM since 1953. The question of whether her successor as CHOGM leader should be another Commonwealth leader or the next British monarch — who will be head of state in 15 of the 53 Commonwealth nations — has long been described as the elephant in the room at high-level meetings of its officials.

Queen Elizabeth II’s position as head of the Commonwealth isn't hereditary and not everyone is particularly excited about the prospect of Prince Charles taking over with some thinking her replacement should be directly elected and preferably someone from a small nation.

At the opening of CHOGM on Thursday, 20 April 2018 the Queen said that it is her “sincere wish” that her son, Prince Charles, carries on her work as leader of the Commonwealth. These comments are the first by the monarch to tacitly address the issue of succession at what is widely regarded to be her last Heads of Government meeting as she no longer travels long distances.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared he will back Prince Charles as the next head of the Commonwealth. However, a poll of the British by the Australian Republic Movement in August 2017 found almost two in three do not want Prince Charles to replace the Queen on the throne. Only 39% of those Britons polled said they trusted the man who is set to be their next king – and 80% of respondents agreed that a country’s head of state ‘should only be a citizen of that country’.

This critical decision on who shall serve as head of the Commonwealth will occur at a leader’s retreat at Windsor Castle on Friday, 20 April 2018 – the day before her birthday. A vote happening in the monarch’s castle on whether they will continue as the head of an organisation of states that they at one stage owned, reminds me of Monty Python’s Dennis the Peasant’s query on why ‘You don’t vote for kings’.
The CHOGM 2018 leadership succession issue highlights the British royal family preparations for the end of the Queen’s reign. All businesses have succession planning. The British Royal family is no different. However, there has been a family succession plan process in place for a number of years now for her husband, Prince Philip.

Prince Philip officially retired in August 2017 at 96 after his dramatic announcement of his intention to retire from active royal duties in May 2018. Since his birth, Prince Charles has known he will take over the top job eventually, however it is more recent that his youngest brother Prince Edward has been tapped on the shoulder to be the next Duke of Edinburgh.

In an effort to secure his promotion to his father’s job, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, quietly came into Australia in early April on the slip-stream of his older brother Prince Charles. Throughout April 2018 he has been criss-crossing Australia attending the Commonwealth Games, and, as the Chair of The Board of Trustees of  The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, attending 32 engagements across Melbourne, Ballarat, Hobart, Brisbane, and Adelaide, from formal receptions, Award presentations, meetings with government officials and the community sector, to meeting Award Participants and their families at community centres.

The major focus of his visit is to promote the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, named after his father, more than 60 years ago.

Prince Edward was appointed Earl of Wessex upon marriage on 19 June 1999. The Kingdom of Wessex played the leading role in the unification of Anglo-Saxon England in the ninth century. The last person to hold the earldom was Harold Godwinson, prior to his accession to the English throne in 1066. If this title has not been used in over 1000 years is it at all relevant in the world today? Perhaps he should be called the Earl of Westeros (rather than Wessex).

I don’t think Prince Edward would hope for his family to be as dysfunctional as the Lannister’s from G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Many Lannister’s appear to come to gruesome ends. Although it is what happened to the last holder of the title, Earl of Wessex. Westeroes or Wessex. Does either place really exist? Perhaps it’s our fascination with modern fictional royalty that helps bolster off-line royalty these days.

It would seem based upon the amount of illegal downloads by Australians of each Game of Thrones episode they would have a better understanding of the family trees of the Household of Westeroes than the Windsor dynasty.

In keeping in keeping with the tradition of a monarch's son receiving a title upon marriage, but preserving the rank of duke for the future, Prince Edward is the first British prince in centuries to be specifically created an earl, rather than a duke. However, he will eventually succeed to the title Duke of Edinburgh, currently held by his father. It is for this branding reason that he has taken on many roles from his father, Prince Philip including attending Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme ceremonies around the world.

On 1 September 1956, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II helped to found the Duke of Edinburgh's Award (commonly abbreviated DofE),  in order to give young people "a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities".

In 2014, in an effort to maintain relevance with the youth of Australia, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in Australia removed Prince Philip’s royal monogram from all their logos and replaced it with the strongest symbol of popular sovereignty – the shape of the Australian continent.

The removal of Prince Philip’s monogram followed on the heels of the removal in 2012 of the 40-year-old pledge to Queen and God by Girl Guides Australia. This decision was based on a survey of all 28,000 guides and leaders on changing their promise. After 18 months of intensive consultation of Australia's largest volunteer girls group, most of them girls between the ages of 10 and 14, it was agreed that from 6 July 2012 Guides Australia would drop the pledge of allegiance.

The refreshed Girl Guides' promise has its 28,000-strong group now promising to do their best
' be true to myself and develop my beliefs" rather than to "do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country.'
The modernisation of the Girl Guide pledge reflects Girl Guides desire to move with the times in the understanding that Australia is changing; it speaks of this nation seeking its own identity as part of being Australian.

This was something Scouts Australia had done over ten years ago. In 2012, Richard Miller, then national chief executive of Scouts Australia, explained that in 2001 the Scout Promise was also changed so that an individual had the option to omit reference to the Queen. It appears the youth movements of Australia understand that, to increase membership, they have to appeal to multicultural Australia rather than a by-gone British Australia. Overt symbols of royalty have no place in twenty-first century Australia and perhaps nor do any references to the British crown.

It is likely the DofE people looked at the same membership rate projections as the Girl Guides and realised that, to remain relevant and viable in an Australian setting, they must become multicultural with a focus on service to this country. However, by 2015 the personal monogram of the oldest living descendant of Queen Victoria had been returned to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Australia logo.

I’ve argued previously there is no place for Princes in modern Australia. The public repudiation of previous Prime Minister Abbott’s knights and dames decision showed that Australia has moved on from the old colonial way of thinking. 

The 53 Commonwealth nations - including 32 Commonwealth republics - are about to make a democratic decision about their next head.  That is a good thing, and their democratic decision should be respected.  The position for Australians is the opposite.

It is a disgraceful fact that without constitutional change the citizens of Australia will not even be consulted on our next head of state. One morning we will simply wake up to hear news from England that will change our country for decades to come. This cannot stand.
If CHOGM 2018 is discussing succession - and if the British royal family itself is prepared to make arrangements for after the Queen's reign - Australia should certainly do the same.  

We should decide. 

Australia should have a national vote on whether we have an Australian as our head of state, and whether our head of state should be elected by the people or by the Parliament, in 2020.  A referendum should follow to put this in place by 2022.

But even for those who think Australia should be a republic after the Queen's reign ends, that means starting preparation today.

Thompson Twins – King For A Day

Thursday, April 05, 2018

GC2018 Commonwealth Games: 150 years of British princes vising Australia

When Prince Charles opened the 2018 Commonwealth Games last night, he bookended 150 years since the first British prince – Prince Alfred in 1867-68 – visited Australia.

THE 2018 COMMONWEALTH GAMES will be held from 4-15 April 2018 on the Gold Coast, in Queensland and will involve 70 nations, 11 days of competition and 18 sports — including the debut of beach volleyball and the para-triathlon.

On Wednesday, 4 April 2018, Prince Charles and his wife, Duchess Camilla was welcomed at a reception at Old Government House, Brisbane before heading to the Gold Coast for the opening of the Commonwealth Games. Prince Charles will be deputising for his mother, Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of the Commonwealth Games.

On the eve of the royal visit, former Prime Minister Paul Keating said in the UK Sunday Times that Prince Charles has no desire to be the next King of Australia, and believes Australia should sever its ties with the monarchy of Great Britain and become a republic, charting its own independent course as a nation.

The public repudiation of former Prime Minister Abbott’s knights and dames decision showed that Australia has moved on from the old colonial way of thinking — and yet princes keeping coming to Australia. It used to be only once a generation thing. Now they seem to be coming all the time. It used to be as rare as a bunyip sighting. There’s no place for princes in Australia.

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is an opportunity to emphasise that an Australian republic and having our own head of state does not require a change to Commonwealth membership. There are 53 nations in the Commonwealth and 32 are republics. Not all of the member states (Mozambique and Rwanda) were former British colonies. Other than Britain, five Commonwealth nations have their own hereditary Head of State — Brunei Darussalam, Lesotho, Malaysia, Swaziland and Tonga. Although Queen Elizabeth is the Head of the Commonwealth it doesn't mean she is the head of state of every nation in it. The "Head of Commonwealth" role is not hereditary and may simply disappear when she passes on.

In February 2018, it was reported by the BBC that a “high-level group” of Commonwealth leaders met in London to review the governance of member nations and to examine who should take over as head of the Commonwealth when the Queen dies. The group is not sure they want Charles – who would then be King – as the Head of the Commonwealth — and because it’s not actually a hereditary position, the members of the Commonwealth will have a say.

The Commonwealth leaders want to have a say in who will be their next leader. This is in contrast to Australians who have no say in choosing our next head of state. Perhaps Australians should decide whether we want an Australian as our head of state and how an Australian head of state should be chosen.

The Australian Republic Movement recently invited Prince Charles to address an Australian audience about why he’d like to be Australia’s head of state, rather than an Australian.  Despite the fact that during his five-day stay, Prince Charles is likely to be attending events and making a few speeches, he recently declined the invitation to discuss the future of the Australian monarchy.

The first prince to visit the shores of Australia arrived in November 1867. The latest British royal visit is a bookend to the first royal visit, which occurred over five hot months from 1867 to 1868. This was undertaken by Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred — a Royal Navy captain on a round-the-world voyage on board the HMS Galatea. Stops were made at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. He first landed at Glenelg, in South Australia, on 31 October 1867. As the first member of the British royal family to visit the Australian colonies, he was received with much enthusiasm. During his stay of nearly five months, Alfred visited Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania.

At a meeting on 20 January 1868 to elect three trustees from the subscribers to the fund for the erection of the first Grammar School in Brisbane, there was a discussion on the probability of Prince Alfred – who was about to visit the colony – to lay the foundation stone.
The Brisbane Courier on 21 January 1868 stated:
... as almost a necessary consequence, the school would be in some way connected with his Royal Highness by name. As, however, the number of institutions which either now did or promised to bear the name of Prince Alfred, or Duke of Edinburgh, in the other colonies, had become almost beyond all count, he would suggest that they had better confine themselves out here to some such name as the "Prince’s School", or "Queen’s School" … [another] said he believed according to the 'Grammar Schools Act' they were bound to call the school the "Brisbane Grammar School".
During his visit to Brisbane, Prince Alfred laid the Brisbane Grammar School Foundation Stone on 29 February 1868. However, the people of Brisbane refused to yield to the pressure around all the colonies to name all institutions after the visiting royal. Instead of naming the school after him, the event was commemorated in the school with his coat-of-arms included in the northern stained glass window of the "Great Hall". The fact that he wasn’t liked much helped the burghers of Brisbane maintain their "republican" stance.

On 12 March 1868, during his second visit to Sydney, Prince Alfred was shot in the back with a revolver by Henry James O'Farrell in an attempted assassination while picnicking on the beach in the Sydney suburb of Clontarf.

This created a wave of sectarian hatred and fanatical declarations of loyalty. In this climate, republicanism became associated with Fenianism, violence and anarchy. One result of the Irish would-be assassin O’Farrell’s shot was that Henry Parkes passed the Treason Felony Act, which made disloyal talk of any sort a crime, punishable by six month’s prison. Prince Alfred was wounded just to the right of his spine but was saved from serious injury by the rubber suspenders he was wearing to hold up his trousers. He recovered fully and continued on his world tour. O’Farrell was found guilty of attempted murder and was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 21 April 1868 — the birthday of the current British monarch.

The first royal tour included a school rejecting the use of a royal title, as well as being shot at while attending a beach barbeque. The first event has an echo in the current abolishing of knighthoods. Hopefully, though, there won’t be any incident at a Gold Coast beach birthday like at Clontarf Beach in 1868.

The British royal hatching and matching have been in all the celebrity magazines for nearly nine months. The Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton is reportedly due with her third child on 23 April. This will be followed on 19 May with the Royal Wedding between actor Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, set for St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle. However, Australians appear to be unswayed by the royal engagement and support for the British monarchy hitting a record low, with 52 per cent support for a republic and only 22 per cent for a monarchy.

Perhaps it’s our fascination with modern fictional royalty that helps bolster off-line royalty these days. For us in Australia, royalty only ever visits us from somewhere else, from across the seas. It’s not something that lives with us, is part of us, except in our imaginations and creative fantasies. We feel this when we are binge-watching The Crown, or watching trilogies with Australia’s own fictional High Elven Royalty, Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and the Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett – who ironically has been a strong supporter of the Australian Republic Movement in the past) who voluntarily agreed to diminish and go into the West.

Maybe the closest we come to Australia's own home-grown king is in July each year when the Australian Crown along with his nobles and courtiers takes to the Field of St Michael's, during the Abbey Medieval Festival, at Caboolture, north of Brisbane — the largest authentic medieval re-enactment event in Australia.

Royalty comes and royalty goes, but it is never a part of us. Most Australians would have a better understanding of the family trees of the Households of Westeros than the Windsor dynasty. I’ve heard it said that the moment when King Joffrey chopped off the head of Ned Stark many Australians became republican.