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Ek Tha Raja

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By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

Some days ago we sat glued to our TV to watch the most extravagant, meticulously planned PR exercise we have ever seen. The fact that it was riddled with contradictions made it so much more appealing. Blue cheese also increases in value and flavour when it is riddled with holes caused by a limestone fungus!

To start with King Charles 111 was the 40th person to be crowned in the historic Westminster Abbey in London. The first was William who was crowned King of England at the Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. But he was neither British nor even English: he was from Normandy in France and his army had conquered the Misty Isles which lay on the other side of the Channel. The armed Normans who guarded his coronation were a necessity to deter the conquered natives. This probably set the precedent of involving the military in all future coronations.

If Charles 1 had the good sense to keep his army on guard duty when he was king he might have prevented  Oliver Cromwell from getting Parliament to condemn him to death. He lost his head, quite literally, on 30th January 1649.  Oliver Cromwell succeeded him as both Head of State as well as the Head of the Church of England calling himself The Lord Protector of the British Isles of England, Scotland and Ireland until his death in 1658. For all those years Britain was a Republic and not a kingdom. But, clearly, the Brits did not like so much power concentrated in one person. It took a while to trim the wings of the newly established Monarchy. Then in 1721, Robert Walpole moved into 10 Downing Street as the First Lord of the Treasury.  The head of the Church of England was no longer in control of the finances of Britain.

Today, the separation of Church and State was a significant part of The Coronation Ceremony of Charles. When he was still the Prince of Wales he had promised to change the Royal title of Defender of the Faith to Defender of Faiths. He did so and emphasised the Plurality of the British People by accepting token gifts from the leaders of the diverse religions of modern Britain. He distinguished between his personal adherence to the Church of England and his role as the King of Great Britain and it rich diversity of beliefs.

This distinction is very important, and one that many of our netas fail to make. US President Joe Biden’s Catholic faith frowns on abortion but he, as President, does not. In Britain, too, there is a clear distinction between the private acts and views of the Royal Family and their official attitudes. The late Prince Philip emphasised this distinction by coining the term The Firm for those of the Royals who undertook duties on behalf of the monarch. It is significant that it was during Elizabeth’s rule the empire began to crumble. Britain’s finances declined and the idle Royals had to become the Working Royals.  When that happened they had every right to keep their private lives confidential as was recently confirmed by a court in England when they awarded substantial damages to Prince Harry against a private publication. As just another working person he had every right to the protection of his private life.

So was the great expenditure on the Coronation justified? Yes it was if it can bring in a profit. The Royals must be assessed as high-paid stars in a brilliantly staged theatrical performance.  By that yardstick it was, as our Mumbai film crew would have said a Suuuuper Hit. The fact that it was also a Civil and Defence Services exercise co-ordinated to the split second was an additional delight to our veteran eyes.

Finally, the British Royal family has shown a remarkable ability to survive because it evolves, changes and adapts, It has learnt that it cannot look into the rear view mirror when driving Fast Forward. Or to put it in other words, the nation that once claimed to Rule the Waves also knows when To Waive the Rules!

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)