On Coronation Day, and on the day of a repubican rally on Calton Hill, Reuben Duffy explains why a Scotland with Charles Mountbatten-Windsor as its sovereign cannot be a full democracy and an equal society that can properly reckon with its colonial past.
We are living through the likes of something precious few on this island have ever seen.
Today, the 6th of May 2023, Charles Mountbatten-Windsor is being anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury as Charles III, King of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, the Bahamas and his other Realms and Territories. He will pledge to uphold their laws and customs while swearing by holy rite, to uphold the teaching of the Church of England as Defender of the Faith.
If that paragraph reads like a particular grandiose section of Game of Thrones, it’s because it is.
Charles was present for his mother’s coronation in 1953, when Britain still ruled over swathes of the world and even though the Empire was beginning to creak under pressure from resistance movements, the young Queen was said to usher in a new Elizabethan age of modernity and triumph for the British Empire and Commonwealth.
There are no such claims for Charles. He will ascend to fewer thrones than his mother, preside over the scattered remains of a global empire and reign over an island beset by crises in living standards, wage levels and the cost of living. Of the four home nations in the UK, two have serious secessionist movements that may succeed in their goals within ten years.
Yet despite that disparity, we will be treated to a media storm. Every royal correspondent has been training for this day since they first blackened their tongues. Union Jacks will block out the sun and ‘God Save the King’ will be played on repeat like it was a Taylor Swift song.
But away from the pomp and circumstance of the establishment circles, everyday life will be unaffected. Polls show the vast majority of the UK will be unbothered by the coronation. More than that, with the fawning coverage to come in Scotland you would be forgiven for not realising the Monarchy does not command the same level of support as elsewhere in the UK. The average of the last three polls shows a minority of only 48% of Scots support the Monarchy, where 35% support a republic. Scotland boasts parliamentary representation by an overtly republican party and a republican First Minister. But still our media seems to shy away from opening the debate and questioning if this anachronistic charade is actually what people in Scotland want.
Given this peculiar situation we’ve taken matters into our own hands to make our voices echo throughout Scotland. Our Republic is hosting a rally on Calton Hill, where we will be hearing from politicians, activists and trade unionists from across Scotland and their own vision for a republic. Whilst Charles is anointed and given divine right to reign over millions, people from across Scotland will journey to Edinburgh and support a call for a democratic future. Many will join thousands already signatories to the new Declaration of Calton Hill, a vision of a more radical independence that puts republicanism at its centre.
To some, this may seem like a distraction. Republicanism often has been accused of being a side issue, pulling attention away from the real issues facing Scotland.
We couldn’t disagree more.
Until Scotland abolishes the monarchy, either as an independent country or as part of a wider British Union, it cannot be a full democracy. Until we rid ourselves of a system that gives an aristocratic family the divine right to reign over millions, we cannot claim to be an equal society. And until we remove from our political system the system that encouraged, aided and abetted the imperial conquest of vast swathes of the world, we cannot claim to be a modern society that has reckoned with its colonial past.