The last few weeks has been pretty awful for me as an English monarchist. I’d love to get involved in celebrating the Queen’s diamond jubilee but the politicians have made it all about Britain and Britishness and big business has happily gone along with it seeing pound signs in front of their eyes. As a result, instead of seeing pictures of the Queen everywhere, we’ve got British flags. I just can’t stand seeing the British flag everywhere, it irritates me immensely and it’s effectively precluded me from joining in the festivities.
Whilst the Queen is, of course, the Queen of the UK she is also the Queen of 16 other countries worldwide without counting the member states of the UK. This weekend’s celebrations are supposed to be for the Queen’s 60 years on the throne, not a celebration of the British state or even her reign as the Queen of the UK. Her diamond jubilee has been celebrated in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries she’s Queen of although of course none of them put in quite so much effort as England.
The BBC have naturally been banging the drum for Britishness. At one point during their coverage of the jubilee I did wonder if presenters had been set a target for the number of things they should declare to be “British” or if perhaps they’d adopted a new version of the game Bullshit Bingo using only the word “British”. The weather was “British”, the people were “British”, queuing up all night was “British”, the pageantry was “British”, the whole event was apparently quintessentially “British” according to the BBC who were at their most Britishly British on this most Britishly British of Britishly British occasions.
Over the last few years the British flag has declined into virtual obscurity, only really making an appearance on government buildings and hotels whilst the English flag – the Cross of St George – is commonly found hanging from bedroom windows, fluttering on cars and flying from flag poles everywhere else. This pleases me immensely because it means that English people are finally recognising the difference between England and Britain, between the British imperial government and the English colony. Up until now that is because it seems that all it takes is for the shops to start selling red, white and blue tat and for politicians and the media to tell us how great it is to be British and English people start flying the butchers apron instead.
Maybe I’m being a little unfair on my fellow countrymen and women and they’ve simply been taken in by the British Flag = Queen rubbish. Maybe they’ll take down the British flag and get the English flag up in its place in time for the football and I won’t have to see quite so many of them again. I already know England is the last colony of the British Empire, I don’t need (or want) constant reminders from people who don’t seem to know any better.
Of course, most of this overt Britishness is far from spontaneous. I know British flags have been handed out at lots of places to ensure it outnumbers any of our national flags (this is par for the course at the Proms, for instance). Children (my own included) have been made to make their own little flags to wave for the Olympics and the jubilee and the Sun newspaper have been giving away free union flags for this weekend. The fact that so many companies have had to start mass producing British tat, school kids have had to make their own British flags and a newspaper has had to give them away free speaks volumes. You can buy a Cross of St George easily any time of the year and nobody needs to give them away for you to see them everywhere. Perhaps there’s hope yet for this nation of sheep?