The British Empire

Today was the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.  It was about 10 days ago that she died.

The British Empire from Wikimedia Commons.  (You can access a larger version of the map at the Wiki article on the British Empire.  Pink shading is the maximum extent of the empire.)

My initial post “The Queen” was September 9.  I’ve had no reason to change anything.  It is totally speculative what the future holds for what remains of the Empire which began in the 1700s (on the heels of Spain and Portugal’s adventures) and probably peaked out about the time of WWI.   France and the Netherlands were part of the colonizing frenzy as well.

It was not kind and gentle times. It doesn’t take much study of history to know that.  The American colonies rained on England’s parade, but after losing the War of 1812, the English figured out how to cash in anyway….

My beat is mid-United States, Minnesota and North Dakota.  Before the English defeated the French at Quebec City (1759, treaty of 1763), what is now Minnesota was part of the French empire; thence English and Spanish, thence after 1818, the United States.


Last night we watched the replay of the Queen’s funeral.  It wasn’t the first choice – it co-opted a more important PBS program on the U.S. and the Holocaust – but it was very interesting.

I noted that Charles III had a difficult time keeping “a stiff upper lip” at the final committal of his mother.  It was clearly an emotional time for him, far afield from what’s ahead.

She was a good Mum, I’ve gathered.  What more can one ask?

What’s ahead?  I have not a clue.  But it is extremely important, it seems to me, who the presumed leader of a country is, however that person is selected.

So…the Germans mostly elected Hitler; Mussolini was exciting to enough Italians; Putin can more or less honestly claim that the Russians elected him; and on and on.

And it is we Americans who in our infinite stupidity actually elected #45, and almost reelected him; and millions still believe he is the Messiah, most especially colleague ‘Christians”.

“The Gods Must be Crazy” is the title of a movie I once saw, where a light plane was flying over pygmy land in Africa and someone tossed out an empty Coke bottle, which a pygmy found – a gift from the gods?

The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth will survive, I predict, but not without bushels of rhetoric.  So will we, if we vote for community more than for tribal allegiance.

QEII is at peace, and I think Charles III is equal to the task ahead.

COMMENTS: more below

from Fred:  QE2 seemed like a decent, hard-working person whose believed preserving the monarchy was actually important. No one could shake her belief.

Charles III will be forced to make some major roll backs. The bloated royal family’s “responsibilities” and visibility will be significantly reduced. Relevancy is on the line.  Royalists will give way to reality.

from Peter: Thanks for your question (I think that’s what it was). I had not quite put it all together. I think this is because the part that does that is in a different compartment from the part that understands everything. Something to do with brain hemispheres (see Dr. McGilchrist)…
Having spent my 17th year of life in Nigeria, four years after “independence,” would have been enough for me to understand a small part of the damage the colonial worldview has done to humanity and life itself. But on the way back to the states we landed in London, and were whisked off to luncheon at the House of Lords, with The Right Honourable The Viscount Gavin Simonds, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain (1881-1971).
He was a cousin on my mother’s side. He is remembered as one of the great jurists of his time. He was a compassionate and generous human being.
I remember the narrow corridors with low arched ceilings and ancient wood and glass bookshelves lining the walls. Everyone coming the other way had to flatten themselves against the bookcases so Gavin and the rest of us could squeeze by. His office was grand, a corner of the palatial builidng, I think next to Big Ben. There was a fishing pole by the window, the long bamboo kind, and an original copy of the Magna Charta in a glass case across the room. His Lordship was famous for saying: “There’s nothing so important it can’t be put off to go fishing.” He said he didn’t use bait, what with the Thames below the window. He was actually famous in fly-fishing circles for tying his own flies, and spending days fishing streams in the wilderness.
His family had owned most of the hops farms, the cooper shops, the breweries, and the pubs, for a couple of centuries, and rose to such prominence that they were known as “the Beerage.” Gavin was appointed Lord Chancellor by Winston Churchill in 1951, and served until retired by the young Queen. He was in office when King George VI died, and personally conveyed the tragic news to Queen Mary and later presided over the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey. He is depicted in the Coronation Window of the Becket chapel at Canterbury Cathedral, in stained glass.
Years later, at a family reunion in the UK, we toured Windsor Castle. The Queen was at home, her banner flying, but we did not run into her. But I walked about 26 miles of the place, gazing up at walls festooned with swords and armor that had been used in the plunder of the world’s material and cultural riches, an enormous hoard still on display.
In Nigeria I had attended a school run by the Sudan Interior Mission, St. Paul’s College, a small secondary boarding school for Nigerians. The other boys were from all over the country. Read the works of Ngugi wa Thiong’o (“Decolonizing the Mind”) for a deeper understanding of what that life was like. I understand that Sani Abacha went there years later, and went on to lead a corrupt dictatorship. It (the school, but also I think, Abacha’s government) was patterned on the British “public” school system, a hierarchy enforced by genteel physical violence.
The top judge of the highest court in the British Empire, and a small, shy, Yoruba boy at St. Paul’s who took a great risk on my behalf out of pure generosity, were both wise and generous human beings, who loved and were loved in their communities. I knew them both very well in 1964. That, and the fact that both were subjects of Queen Elizabeth II, was all they would ever have in common.
I have a personal view of the Empire from inside the very heart of it, from a family that fought for it and in some cases ran it, for generations. Most of my family bacame Americans, but were just as colonial-minded; they didn’t like the monarchy because they weren’t highly ranked in the feudal establishment.
Hoarding is locking stuff away so nobody else can have it. Hoarding education. Hoarding information. Hoarding pleasant environments. Hoarding stuff is bad, but hoarding other people’s opportunities is an addictive disease that will kill our species if we don’t outgrow it damn quick.
Our collective behavior is a function of our collective worldview, which is deeply traumatized. Humanity is out of time now. We’ve changed everything but ourselves. Time to start. Healing oneself makes a great difference.