Friday, January 27, 2012
Mad Rant: Racism and Monarchy
Wherever one sides on the divisive racial issues of the era that encompassed the period of the dissolution of the British Empire, the fact remains, though it is seldom spoken, that in numerous countries across Africa, especially the major regional powers of Rhodesia and South Africa, republicanism was embraced because the Queen refused to abide the continued rule of White minorities over Black majorities. The monarchy refused to allow that state of affairs to continue, the White governments in power saw the monarchy as taking the side of the Black majority and so they broke away from the monarchy and became republics. This was no surprise, plenty of people at the time could see that this was going to happen and yet the monarchy basically looked at the people who were in charge in these countries, considered them racist and effectively said, ‘if you’re going on that way, we don’t want you anyway’. If the monarchy was such a racist institution they certainly would have taken the side of the local governments and so kept the reign of the Crown over those countries for decades into the future. But, that did not happen, the monarchy firmly stood against racism and lost more than one Commonwealth realm because of it. Yet, today, where is the appreciation for this?
In 1999, when the divisiveness of Australian government recognition of the aboriginal population was still a very hot-button issue, Queen Elizabeth II invited a delegation of aborigine leaders to a meeting at Buckingham Palace to come to a better understanding of their situation and their goals. It undoubtedly upset some people and a great many people said it would never happen, that the Queen would never receive such a delegation and yet she did, not only receiving them but taking the initiative of inviting them in the first place. And the important thing to realize is that this is nothing new, nothing out of the ordinary and is simply the continuation of a long history of respect for native peoples on the part of the British monarchy. When Pocahontas came to England she was invited to Whitehall where she was given the full royal treatment with King James I treating her with such warmth and informality she had to be told after the fact that the man she had been talking to was the King of England, Scotland and Ireland. Mohawk chief Joseph Brant was very cordially received by King George III in 1775.
This was the same King George III who boycotted sugar in all his royal residences when he was told about the conditions of the slaves on the sugar plantations and it was this same King George III who granted freedom to all slaves who managed to flee their masters in the American colonies and enlist in the service of the Crown. He was also the King who signed into law the final abolition of the slave trade in 1807. Slavery was abolished completely in the British Empire under Queen Victoria and the Queen left no doubt as to her own opinions on the subject. She met with escaped slaves, anti-slavery activists and expressed her support for abolition. There was, at the time, absolutely no doubt about this even though they were many powerful people in the country who strongly supported the institution. That did not matter to the very high-minded Queen Victoria who viewed slavery as a wicked and uncivilized practice and was extremely pleased to put her name to the law banning it forever. When slavery was becoming an ever more controversial issue in the United States, Queen Victoria made it clear that it would not be tolerated on British soil and that any escaped slave who reached Canada would never have to fear being returned south. Many anti-slavery activists were effusive in their praise of the Queen for the great support she showed their cause.