Saturday, 2 September 2017

** FATHER FRANK’S RANTS Rant Number 739 31 August 17 KING CHARLES III


Will Prince Charles be King? On this day, as the British people continue to mourn Princess Diana’s death twenty years ago, it is no idle question. Diana news and memories are everywhere, Charles nowhere. Even his own boys, William and Harry, shut him out of the picture. Is his conscience trying to tell him something? Is it whispering to him: ‘Because of how you treated Diana, you aren’t worthy to be King’?

Charles’ own name is not auspicious. The first King Charles’ head was chopped off by Cromwell. The second King was a philandering hedonist, who sired 14 bastards and became a Roman Catholic on his deathbed. Third time lucky? Or unlucky, maybe? The scenario of Mike Bartlett’s gripping play, King Charles III, shows him ascending to the throne after his mother’s death, only for disasters to befall him, until William takes over. A veritable crown of sorrows. Best missed?

All irrelevant. Charles must be King. Because the line of royal succession is fixed by constitutional law, i.e. Parliament. The Queen could not get up one day and say: ‘I want my useless Charles to step aside and William to be crowned instead.’ Nor would Parliament vote to bypass him. (Barring hitherto undisclosed, catastrophic revelations.) Further, Charles wants, craves the crown. All his longish life he has played second fiddle, waiting for his mum to peg out and make space for him. Unthinkable he should abdicate, like Edward VIII. Above all, he wishes his beloved Camilla to be Queen. Enough said.

Does it matter? In Britain the monarch reigns but does not govern. The Prime Minister does, by the will of a democratic House of Commons. Isn’t a King just like a crowned President? With much more pomp and pageantry than his Scandinavian counterparts, yes, but similarly castrated of any effective powers? All right, the monarch can still dissolve Parliament and call a general election – as the imaginary Charles III dramatically does in the play – but in reality he only does it when the PM asks him to. King Log or King Charles III – same thing. Hence the matter is unimportant. Well, maybe.

What about religion? One of the monarch’s ancient titles is supreme governor of the Church of England. And ‘Defender of the Faith’. The Christian faith. Alan Watts, former mentor of mine, claimed it was a link with Heaven. The doctrine of the divine right of Kings may be as dead as a dodo but the next coronation will display many sacred, supernatural paraphernalia. Like the anointing, the donning of the stole, the handling of the Bible, all that jolly, medieval stuff. Outdated? Sure, like the Anglican Church, but still symbolically powerful.

Could the Archbishop of Canterbury object to a King Charles? Refuse to crown him? Former ABC Rowan Williams implied such criticism at Windsor by not performing the marriage service between Charles and Camilla in St George’s Chapel. Instead, he offered a mere second best, the service of blessing. (Some royal pundits dare suggest that, owing to that lack of proper matrimony, Charles and Camilla are not lawfully married but actually concubines!) A future ABC, however, is unlikely to stick his neck out. Pandering to the throne: Anglican prelates love doing that.

Really, how could a Church founded by a serially adulterous, wife-murdering monster like Henry VIII seriously turns down a King Charles III on grounds of adultery? Not to mention many other maritally dodgy crowned heads, from German George I (he who cruelly imprisoned his Queen in a castle until her death) to whore-mongering Edward VIII? The Anglican Church crowned them all without batting an eyelid. Why now pick on poor Prince Charles? Not fair, is it?

No. Charles both wants and must be King. So he will be. But will he be happy? George VI, his stammering granddad, worried himself to death in the role and indeed dropped dead aged only 57. Historian A.J.P. Taylor thought George a sad, doomed figure, like the ancient ‘King of the Wood’ of the savage Roman myth described in James Frazer’s Golden Bough and magically depicted by Turner. That sylvan, grim King was a pampered, fugitive slave who could only occupy his post by murdering his predecessor. He spent his days and nights dreading the many would-be assassins who, irrationally, wanted his job. But why should Charles III be like that? William wouldn’t desire to bump off his dad, would he?

In Bartlett’s play, Charles’ downfall is engineered by Kate. William’s wife. A sort of scheming Lady Macbeth. Theatrically superb. But, in real life? Doubtful. Unless Kate made a mystical, dark compact with Diana’s soul. Two beautiful royal women, one on earth and the other…somewhere else, but together in league to destroy poor Charles. Credible? Come off it! Sheer nonsense, surely?

Prince Charles’ most likely obstacle on his royal road, the priest feels, is not outer but inner. Again, I mean his conscience. That interior forum in which God’s voice speaks to man: ‘Do you deserve the British crown? Are you really worthy? Are you?’

Only God and Charles know the answer to that.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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