Saturday, August 1, 2015

How Australia Could Have Changed Royal History

Today, monarchists in the United Kingdom generally rest easy that the institution which is the foundation of the British government is secure. Republican traitors are annoying but remain, so far, a vocal and over-publicized minority while most people either support the monarchy or at least do not feel that doing away with it would result in any change significant enough to be worth the effort. Hardly an ideal situation in my view but still an improvement over that which exists in numerous Commonwealth Realms. Monarchists in these countries must be ever vigilant against the constant struggle with the republican, anti-British xenophobes who are ceaseless in their efforts to tear down the existing system of constitutional monarchy. Dealing with this problem has caused some differences of opinion among monarchists, primarily between those who wish to defend the ties which the monarchy provides with Great Britain and the rest of the Anglo-sphere, the British heritage of the country and for a brave few even the legacy of the late, great British Empire; and then there are those who wish to emphasize the separate nature of “their” monarchy from that of Britain, playing up the fact that legally these are all separate monarchies which just happen to share one monarch who just happens to reside in London the vast majority of the time.

Personally, I prefer to defend it all in total but am not averse to any strategy that would work. In no Commonwealth Realm has the struggle been more intense and critical than in Australia, mostly due to the level of anti-all-things-British bigotry that has become fashionable there. However, after seeing how ecstatic Australians went for all things Danish after a lovely Australian girl captured the heart of Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark, with all the excitement of their being an Australian Queen in the oldest monarchy in Europe, it made me see a potential solution, albeit one unlikely to ever be taken up as serious. It helped to form my opinion that if the sons of the Prince of Wales would marry girls from the Commonwealth Realms, it would bring about the utter ruination of republicanism in those countries. Prince William, of course, chose an English girl and for all the girls Prince Harry has had his eye on, none have hailed from Canada or Australia. So much for that idea. Secondarily, however, I have also long been of the opinion that it would be a good idea to have junior members of the House of Windsor appointed to the position of Governor-General in the Commonwealth Realms.

This would, as I see it, serve a dual purpose. It would, hopefully, help to strengthen ties between the realms and Great Britain as well as with the monarchy by having an actual member of the Royal Family as the monarch’s representative in the country. Further, it would serve as a good form of preparation for those royals who are high up in the line of succession. Serving as the monarch’s representative would seem to me to be an ideal way of learning the trade of being the actual monarch for that country and the others some day in the future. Again, however, I realize most would roll their eyes at the very notion of having a royal Governor-General. It would mean having a Governor-General who was British and many people seem to think, for some reason my damaged mind cannot fathom, that this would be an unspeakable humiliation and a sign of degrading subservience to the old mother country. Personally, I have never seen any Commonwealth Realm treat their Governor-General in anything close to a subservient fashion but, I suppose, expecting these sorts of people to make sense is asking too much.

However, I was rather surprised when a British friend of mine (now residing in a Commonwealth Realm) mentioned that, while certainly unlikely, such a thing had very nearly happened before. Most reading this may be well aware but for those who were, like I was once, ignorant of this bit of history, I will relate: the Prince of Wales, starting in the 1970’s, made it known that he would very much liked to have been appointed Governor-General for Australia. In my view, this would have been a brilliant idea. The Prince of Wales had attended school in Australia for about a year in his youth, has always been very fond of the country and it would have solved the ever-present problem for almost all Princes of Wales in royal history of giving him something tangible and important to do. It was a job that needed to be done, a job that he was well suited to doing and one that would have provided good training for his future as monarch. But, obviously, though it was talked about seriously for some time, it never happened. The Australian government effectively said, “no” to the idea (if any objections came from the British side, I have not heard of it) and this was quite a blow to the Prince of Wales who said, “What are you supposed to think when you are prepared to do something to help and you are told you are not wanted?”

The problem is due to one of things that I find most frustrating about government in general in the English-speaking world outside of the United States which is that there is a difference between what the law says can be done and what “convention” says can be done. Legally, of course, the Queen appoints the Governor-General and, as far as I know, can appoint whomsoever she chooses. The convention, however, is that the Queen must appoint the candidate chosen by the Prime Minister of the country in question. Further, while, again, as far as I know, there is no law that says the Governor-General must be a native or resident of the country in question, the convention has been established that only an Australian can be appointed Governor-General of Australia and only a Canadian can be appointed Governor-General of Canada and so on. So, there were objections that having the Prince of Wales as Governor-General of Australia would be quite impossible. He is not “Australian” and was not put forward as a candidate by the Australian government. The dismissal of the Australian government by Governor-General Sir John Kerr on the Queen’s authority in 1975 has also been cited as a reason why the Prince of Wales was refused for the position. This, incidentally, was also a case of people objecting to a Governor-General doing something which he had the right, according to the law, to do but which, by convention, was something he was not expected to do.

Sir Ninian Stephen, Governor-General of Australia from 1982 to 1989, reportedly planned to name the Prince of Wales as his choice to succeed him in the office but that the idea was thwarted by Prime Minister Bob Hawke who, in explaining much later why he had opposed it, revealed that the precedent did not matter so much in his decision as did the fact that he is a traitor. He said in an interview long after the fact that, “It came up at some stage. I made it quite clear it wasn’t on. We’re in favor of a republic. The idea of doubling the dose…held no appeal.” By “we”, I assume he meant the Labor Party of which he was leader, a party which describes itself as democratic-socialist and which has made treason against the Australian sovereign, by pushing for a republic regardless of the will of the Australian public, a part of their official party platform. Had the Prince of Wales been appointed Governor-General, it might have killed that movement in its infancy and strengthened the bonds between the Crown and Australia.

I cannot help but think of the possible changes to royal history that might have occurred had the Australians welcomed the Prince of Wales with open arms. Being admittedly in favor of the idea, openly biased and completely partial, naturally they are all positive changes in my mind. Imagine a newly wed Prince Charles and Princess Diana moving to Australia. Prince William would have been a toddler there and the presence of two future heirs would certainly have given a boost to monarchism in Australia. The Prince and Princess of Wales, together in a distant country far from their usual circle of friends (and with no Camilla close at hand) might have been just the thing to draw them closer together and save their marriage. Had there been no divorce and thus no subsequent fling with the Egyptian playboy Dodi Fayed, Diana might still be alive today, the Princess of Wales and future Queen. It seems an idyllic family scene to my mind.

Of course, there is always the possibility that things might have gone differently. The level of anti-British sentiment in Australia has never been something I have been able to comprehend. I cannot imagine looking back on the British Empire with anything but a surge of pride at being part of the greatest human endeavor in the history of the world, I cannot imagine the mentality of the people of a country wishing to change their national flag and I cannot imagine viewing people who look the same as you and speak the same language as you, who even share the same religion, customs and ancestry as you as a “foreign” people. To me, it all seems completely irrational but it exists nonetheless and so there might well have been problems. Still, I think it laudable that the Prince of Wales desired the position, I think he should have been appointed to it and, far-fetched or not, I still think it would be beneficial for all if younger members of the Royal Family did spend time serving in a viceregal capacity. It was considered once, and it almost changed the course of royal history. Why not consider it again and, this time, give it a try? In 2007 it was reported that Prince William was interested in becoming Governor-General of Australia but that Prime Minister John Howard vetoed the idea, saying it could only go to someone who was “in every way Australian”. How exactly Prince William differs so radically from someone born and raised in Australia, he did not explain.

9 comments:

  1. I have thought for a long time that QEII has been punishing the Prince of Wales for something or other for a very long time. In some ways I believe that he would have wanted to continue at university, besides marrying the love of his life, Camilla, at a much earlier date. There is so much frustration in that man; however, he has to smile through it all. I do think that she could have pushed those recalcitrant politicos on the Australia post. Oh, well....

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  2. I support a union of the UK, Australia, NZ and Canada. It would easily be the third largest largest economy and largest land area.

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  3. Hail Britannia! Britannia rule the waves! Britons shall never be slaves!

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  4. We could do Harry. In a few years.

    That said, every teenager wants to escape the clutches of their parents, no matter who they are or how much they appreciate them. Australia is still a young country, and needs to be confident in their own identity before allowing Mum to appoint a representative.

    As to the Governor General being Australian, this hasn't always been the case. My recollection is that it wasn't the case until the 1920's, although it is also my understanding that it has been the case since then.

    I'd suggest they have another go nowunder a conservative government, but the new GG has a long time to run, and with the OA fisaco, it may need sometime to settle

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  5. "I cannot imagine the mentality of the people of a country wishing to change their national flag and I cannot imagine viewing people who look the same as you and speak the same language as you, who even share the same religion, customs and ancestry as you as a “foreign” people."

    If you don't mind I would like to share my experience with identity.
    To me, identity is a really malleable thing. Just because two groups of people are descended from the same ancestors, speak the same language and practice the same customs, doesn't mean that they necessarily see themselves as the same people.
    If that were the case, shouldn't Americans see themselves as British?
    I am a Singaporean of Chinese descent. This is a country with three-quarters ethnic Chinese. In 50 years of nation building my government has educated us to see ourselves as Singaporeans first, Chinese second. In fact, (to borrow a phrase from you) it is quite fashionable to be xenophobic to mainlanders today, when just 70 years ago, Chinese here paraded the streets with the flag of the ROC and banners that read "Long Live the Motherland" to celebrate Japan's surrender.

    Sorry if this is a repost, wasn't sure if my last one got through.

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    1. In the U.S. a few years ago there were mass protests of/for illegal aliens, mostly from Mexico and it caused quite a backlash to see huge crowds of people waving the Mexican flag in the USA. The organizers got the word out and soon after all were waving the U.S. flag with their leaders telling them to 'keep the American flag in your hand but the Mexican flag in your heart'.

      It is not a matter of who you most identify with but you don't have to identify predominately with one group to still view them as more familiar than others. I wouldn't expect most Americans to see themselves as British but, as I said, for a great many Americans I find it hard to understand how the British, Canadians or Australians could be seen as foreign, as something totally alien. French-Canadians do not see themselves as French but it would be hard for me to understand them not seeing the French as part of their extended family. I'm not saying they do or they don't only that it is hard for me to understand the mentality of viewing people with the same ancestry, the same values, language, legal system and government as totally alien.

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    2. The largest ethnic groups in the US are German and Irish. I don't expect any of them to have some connection to their ancestral homeland. I am also from Singapore by the way. But Australian and Canadian culture is just so based on Britishness. If it hasn't been for British, Canada would have been part of the USA. Canadian identity is based on being the part of British America which remained loyal to King and Empire. For Australia, I cannot get it either. In my opinion the anti British sentiment is mainly thanks the USA and also the way we bash colonialism and see it as negative. Britain ruled this country for 140 years. I don't hate Britain at all, in fact it is my favourite country on the planet. Just saying.

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    3. Bravo, Teo Wei Pin, in total agreement, I am,

      Observer Jules

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