Friday, March 24, 2006

The Light of Other Days

Commentary by Martin Kelly
February 18, 2005

The 20th Century produced only one real prophet. His name is Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

A country boy from Somerset whose first memories include going to school in a horse and cart, and who seems to have lived his adult life in abject terror of nuclear war, Sir Arthur, now 87, has predicted the advent of the communications satellite, the Internet and the mobile phone. In 1960, he wrote a story about the dangers of multi-channel satellite, and by extension cable, television being used for the purposes of propaganda, a salutary warning to all viewers of Fox. In 1998, he and Stephen Baxter wrote a story that predicted the current Iraqi insurgency.

If only the neocon dittoheads of the American Enterprise Institute had read Sir Arthur C. Clarke instead of Leo Strauss.

However, February 10 saw another of Sir Arthur’s predictions take a step towards becoming reality – the rejection by the British people of their monarchy. It’s contained at the very beginning of a novel he co-authored with Baxter in 2000, called ‘The Light Of Other Days’.

By the end of the decade, they said, the Royals will have packed up shop and moved to Australia, leaving England free to become the 51st State of the Union.

If the behaviour of Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor, the heir to the throne, is any guide, it can’t come quick enough.

On February 10 Prince Charles announced his intention to marry his mistress Camilla Parker-Bowles in a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle on April 8. She will not be known as ‘Princess of Wales’, but will instead hold the secondary title, ‘Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall’. Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will later officiate at a prayer service to mark the marriage.

When he succeeds to the throne, she will not take the title ‘queen’, but will instead be known as Princess Consort.

Having wasted seven years of my life as a divorce lawyer, there is nothing in the world I find more boring than other peoples’ domestic arrangements. However, this case has profound implications for the very essence of what it means to be British.

This wedding is a direct insult to the history and, by extension, the patriotism of the British people, a cooked-up sham and perversion of the law of the land to enable one man to get what he wants and that has the sticky paw-prints of Tony Blair written all over it.

By his own admission, Prince Charles, who will one day inherit the leadership of the established church, committed serial adultery with Parker-Bowles throughout the course of his marriage to the late neurotic Diana, while P-B was still married to her first husband, who is still alive. His excuse for this behaviour is that it only happened after his own marriage had irretrievably broken down, or some other pap like that. That’s not just good enough when one day other people who lead good, honest and moral lives will pray for you as the Leader of their Church.

Consider this – the Church of England teaches that adultery is sinful. Its future leader commits adultery. He is able to escape the consequences of his actions by going through a civil wedding to a woman whose ex-husband is still alive. The principal cleric of his Church then legitimates this deft zigzag through that Church’s laws by performing a service for the happy couple afterwards!

Up and down the land, Anglicans will gather in their pews on Sunday and sing the great old hymns like, ‘Jerusalem’, and ‘I Vow To Thee, My Country’, and wonder just what on Earth their Church, the entity they look to for spiritual guidance, has come to when its next leader is riding a coach and horses through everything they have been taught to believe is the Church’s teaching, with the tacit consent of its highest cleric.

But this farrago of a marriage, effectively the heir to the throne spitting in the eye of his people, is no more than illustrative of the maxim that Royalty, like politicians, reflect the sort of society they lead. We get the royals, like the politicians, we deserve. Charles’ younger son, Prince Harry, is a lout who binges on vodka and beats up photographers; his behaviour just reflects what happens every Friday and Saturday night in every town in the country. Charles is a ruthlessly self-centred radical egotist – so is the Prime Minister. They both have a self-interest to serve here; Charles wants to save face by regularising domestic arrangements that might be bothering him, to save himself from the smell of what the late Robert Bolt called the ‘fresh stinking flowers’ of his conscience; Blair will think he can get political mileage out of it in the coming election by saying he’s helped the heir to the throne find ‘happiness’, while the local taxation rate is going up at an average rate of one-third above the rate of inflation.

At this angle we can see these events bathed in the light of other days, the days of Henry VIII, upon whom the Pope bestowed the title ‘Defender of the Faith’- before he decided he wanted to contract a second marriage. The upheaval that decision caused could be managed in those days when the word of Kings was absolute – today, they may find the British public less willing to be so accommodating of the regal libido.

As James V of Scotland remarked on his deathbed, after the birth of his daughter, Mary Queen of Scots,

“It came wi’ a lass, and will gang (go) wi’ a lass”.