Numbers 291/84: Commonwealth Day .... and before that Empire Day
Empire Day May 24th 1902/ 1958 It was held on Queen Victoria's Birthday and renamed thus after her death in 1901. As an Ordinary Member [MBE] of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire since 2013 I must perforce begin this blog here. But Empire Day fizzled out with the last such in Australia in 1958. Notwithstanding, Queen Victoria's Birthday per se has been a national holiday across Canada since 1845, and continues. Avril vaguely remembers a primary school parade …
It looked like a good excuse for a street party which, even if there was no pandemic today it's hardly likely we would see such on contemporary Commonwealth Days. Those Empire flags for George V tell a story with Straits Settlements, Newfoundland, India, South Africa and old Canada. Can't understand why Tassie has its flag as well since by then it will have joined the Commonwealth of Australia. Today the richest of the 54 nations in The Commonwealth which HM The Queen heads is independent India, ahead of the UK by a whisker. Per capita income in Bermuda is over one hundred times higher than the poorest four being Malawi/ Mozambique/ Sierra Leone and Uganda. Bermuda's per capita wealth is closely followed by the Cayman Islands and Singapore with both Australia and Canada also clearly ahead of the UK in 2020.
What's the purpose of such a Commonwealth today? That's hard to pin down because it means different things to different nations. Mozambique for instance is a former Portuguese colony that joined in 1995 and Rwanda is a former German/ post WWI Belgian colony that joined in 2009 - they saw it as membership of an organisation that was strong in their part of Africa and providing potential for support both politically and economically. Others have been temporarily excluded such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Pakistan, The Gambia and Maldives but all later re-joined except for Zimbabwe which has an application pending on the table. Former Portuguese Angola has also tabled an application which is pending. Truth to tell the Commonwealth offers a prestigious and ceremonial link with the former Empire's cultural and political traditions and a club for constructive partnerships in myriad ways. HRH Prince Charles has been recognised as 'Head Elect' in succession to HM The Queen. It's a much more comfortable and complementary club to belong to than for example the UN with its 193 all comers or even within its inner circle at the Security Council.
Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth 1649/1653 …. and others. After the execution of King Charles I Cromwell established a Republic known as The Commonwealth [flagged]. In 1653 he dispensed with Parliament and the period became better known as The Protectorate of which he and later his son Richard became Lords Protector, de facto military dictators. James Harrington, our blue badged republican former resident at The Manor House, had published The Commonwealth of Oceania dedicated to Cromwell in 1656.
It all came to an end with the acquiescence of Richard Cromwell before Parliament and when General Monck then marched south from Scotland, where he had been since victory with Cromwell at Dunbar 1650, to restore King Charles II in 1660. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991 the Commonwealth of Independent States [also flagged] was established by 15 former Soviet Republics led by Russia; 5 have subsequently left viz. the three Baltic states, Ukraine and Georgia. It collaborates on economic and military matters.
There are today three members of the 'British' Commonwealth who use the term - Australia, The Bahamas and Dominica. Commonwealth is also shared with the US States of Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia; and since 2016 Washington DC is formally/ locally known as Douglass Commonwealth - in honour of African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass who lived there 1877 to 1895. That designation is linked to a campaign for statehood for DC per se.
Hollywood Royals tell 'their' truth. It's against this backdrop that Meghan Markel and Harry Windsor shared details on CBS last night of how they were victims of the Court and had to flee the responsibilities Harry had been born to respect and make lives of their own as US media phenomena leveraging visibility through their royal connections. Harry tells that he has no regrets which is surely psychologically reassuring; yet millions in the UK and across the Commonwealth certainly do have such regrets. So many of us had grown to relish the frequently off piste contributions he had already made and what they'd hoped was the promise of more to come from him and his family. But now he's not just off piste, he's beyond the pale. Here's hoping just the same that he shows up back in the UK for his grandfather's 100th Birthday, his mother's statue in Kensington Palace Gardens and his grandmother's 95th ….
Elliot comes home in the Lotus! That was impressive … 16.40 hrs and not the sound of the saxophone but Jules and Elliot arriving home from his first full day really back at Wellingborough in the Lotus. Amazingly the engine started! Here's believing it's going to happen and the vaccines really are going to make it all possible … ______________________________________________________________
For something Commonwealth that is totally off piste we can wistfully look back to the 2nd Viscount Stansgate, Tony Wedgewood Benn MP.
COMMONWEALTH OF BRITAIN. Bill. House of Commons Deb 20 May 1991 vol 191 cc 665-7.
Mr. Tony Benn presented a Bill to establish a democratic, federal and secular Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Wales dedicated to the welfare of all its citizens; to establish fundamental human rights within that Commonwealth; to lower the voting age to 16 years and to make other provision with respect to elections, including equal representation for women; to prescribe a constitutional oath; to establish a Commonwealth Parliament consisting of the House of Commons and the House of the People and to make provision for the term of a Parliament and for legislative and other procedure; to establish the office of President, and a Council of State, and to prescribe the powers of each; to provide for the formation of governments; to amend the law relating to official information, the armed forces and the security services; to make fresh provision for the participation of Britain in the United Nations Organisation and the European Communities; to make the basing of foreign forces in Britain dependent upon the approval of the House of Commons; to make new provision with respect to the judicial system and to establish a National Legal Service; to set up national Parliaments for England, Scotland and Wales; to amend the law relating to local government, the district auditor and the accountability of police forces; to end the constitutional status of the Crown and to make certain consequential provision; to abolish the House of Lords and the Privy Council, to end the recognition in law of personal titles, and to provide for the acknowledgement of service to the community; to disestablish the Church of England, abolish the offence of blasphemy, and to provide for equality under the law for all religions and beliefs; to end British jurisdiction in Northern Ireland; to provide for a Constitution and for constitutional amendment; and to make transitional and related provision: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 28 June and to be printed. [Bill 161.]
Published Date: March 8th 2021