2007 - 2021

This is Not a Wedding

What a wondrous and blessed occasion is the approaching Royal Wedding, with its celebration of young love and a nation in shared joy. Truly, it is an event which can unite us all, young and old, rich and poor. And no-one could possibly object – even those of a republican bent can surely find no reason not to be glad. We can, as one, express our happiness and our Britishness.

Well not me. This is not an occasion built on young love, it is just more political myth making. Once more I feel the oxygen to my brain being cut off by a Union Jack being forcefully applied to my mouth.

There are many kinds of flags. The ‘hurray flag’ held aloft by a medal winner, the ‘oh hell flag’ tied round the waste of a slumped Scottish sports fan after the final whistle, the ‘don’t even think about it’ flag flying over an army barracks, the ‘because we’re better than you flag’ fluttering in the front garden of a mid-West US family. But from nowhere, in Britain we suddenly find ourselves surrounded on all sides by the ‘take one of these flag’. Take one of these, forget about your worries, it’ll be OK.

It’s hard to remember when it started. Certainly the most risible attempt to muffle the sound of discontent in red-white-and-blue fabric was Gordon Brown’s ‘Britain Day’ or whatever it was to be called (though Blair was at it ages before with his ‘Cool Britannia’ rebrand). But it was the military rebrand that really kicked this off. Suddenly everyone was supposed to have nothing but the very deepest admiration for the British Soldier, wrapped in ‘our’ flag. Especially if dead or mutilated. The formulation was simple but clever – ‘you may despise our wars but you have to admire our brave soldiers’. Then there was that stick-in-the-craw Team GB stuff at the Olympics. Again, it’s all of us together, one nation united under the flag. And now we have William and Catherine. How could anyone possibly object to any of this?

Because they are not a new generation of royals, they are just royals like any other royals. Privileged, protected, remote and impervious cyphers for the British State. This is not a cheap dig, this is a cold-headed analysis. Britain is a deeply divided nation. There used to be the Aristocracy and The Commoners. Then there were the Owners and the Working Class. By the 1990s it was even more straightforward – there were the Filthy Rich and the Indebted. Now we might as well be honest, there is the Laughing Class and there is the Supplicants. It’s all economic and we’re not all in it together. There is a distant and hidden class in Britain which only knows there is a economic crisis because it read about it in the Telegraph once.

Let’s just say out loud what is happening. A tiny proportion of society has been doing the most awful, vile and venal things and the vast majority of us (and many around the world) are simply victims of this. The fact that we don’t have a word for them shows how nefarious they are. They are arms manufacturers and dealers, the owners of media empires, the elite bankers, massively corrupt foreigners given a sort of cultural asylum, oil companies, ‘the markets’, the remnants of the old aristocracy and a whole host of people who are simply rich through association with them. They have bombed, maimed, murdered, stolen, impoverished, destroyed, lied, corrupted, tortured. They have propped up dictator after dictator. They have broken entire countries (and not poor, distant countries – Ireland, Iceland, Portugal and Greece). They have taken our security. They have destroyed our environment. They have withheld their taxes. They have plunged us into massive personal and public debt. They have controlled the flow of information to the public. They have bought up our government and twisted our politicians round their fingers. They are in the process of dismantling the welfare state for their personal profit and they have progressively degraded our seats of learning.

They are ‘the establishment’. And their figurehead is the Royal Family. Most crudely there is ‘Prince’ Andrew whose dealings and behaviours are so odious as to be breathtaking. But they are all there to serve the same purpose and that purpose alone – to try and tie together a nation fractured from above. Anyone who thinks the Royal Family is benign isn’t paying attention. Watch what they do. As soon as they have hair on their privates they get a medal pinned on them to legitimise the British Army. If they really must have a fake job, why can’t it be one that does some good in the world – teacher or nurse, say. They are wheeled out as window dressing at arms sales conventions. They persuade us all that some how its great to be British. They are a political institution, not a family. And we are the subjects, not the citizens.

So no, this isn’t benign. And I want to know where is the political balance. Where can those be heard who think this wedding (at the very least in its timing) is a sham? How can I say ‘no, don’t you dare subvert our national anger by throwing a big, gotesque party – which you will let us watch through the window’? Like Team GB or another young corpse in a body bag, it is seen as improper to speak out. But it isn’t. Get these cyphers of greed, corruption and violence off my television. Make them formally declare their class war and let’s get in some UN mediators. Stop telling me it is wrong for me to object, to think for myself or to feel this is wrong. Take your hands off my neck and take back your flag. I will not take one of these and I will not forget what has been done to us all.

We are not all in this together. The British State, the British Establishment, the Elite – call them what you will, they are an ever-present grotesque, insulated but watching. That grotesque with its many hands clutching guns and bombs, its pockets stuffed with money, the stained soles of its feet washed clean of its doings and its sneering, laughing eyes assuming we will fall for it all once again must be stopped. If you really want to bring the country together, let’s have a proper trial for the illegal wars, the illegal arms sales, the corruption of our public life, the financial scandals of the banking system and the market, the permanent distortion of all of the means of communication. Let’s put the grotesque behind the bars where it belongs.

By all means let these young people marry. And by all means be happy for them. Just don’t tell me there is no reason to object. In fact, just stop telling me how to think and feel altogether. This is not harmless. In fact, it isn’t even really a wedding.

Robin McAlpine is Editor of the Scottish Left Review

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  1. Peter Curran says:

    The British Monarchy is the rotten fount from which the unelected power of the aristocracy and the Establisment flows. Nominally the head of this undemocratic structure, they are in fact its pawns, necessary to its continued survival.

    There are, of course, arguments for an against the aristocracy in the United Kingdom, but one thing is certain beyond a doubt – the aristocracy is profoundly opposed to the independence of Scotland, especially the Scottish aristocracy, including that odd manifestation of it known as life peers.

    Consider this fact: in the 21st century, there is available a heavyweight, two-volume reference work called Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, now in its 106th edition, describing itself as “This notable guide to the aristocracy, noble families and titles in Scotland, England and Wales”.

    Its 1999 edition contained listing for 108,000 living persons, many of whom will have ascended – or descended – to realms other than the United Kingdom, but who will have been speedily replaced, either by inheritance of the titles or created by political patronage or other means, none of them democratic.

    This ‘extraordinarily cohesive group’ numbers around 1.5% of British society – the rest of us – apologies to any aristocratic readers –that is the remaining 98.5% or so, are out in the cold. But then, so was John Prescott, doughty champion of the working classes, inhabitant of Tony Blair’s sofa during the Iraq War lead-up. He is now Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull.

    The aristocracy has not survived all this time by not knowing who to let into the tent – as Lyndon Johnson said of J. Edgar Hoover “Better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in …”

    Of course, this pyramid of precedence flows down from Numero Uno – Her Royal Majesty, The Queen. The Archbishop of Canterbury was once number 93 – maybe he still is. Mrs. G.H. Shakerley-Ackers (I kid you not!) was number 160,628 in 1953, and maybe still is. After all, I was an adult in 1953, and I’m still around, but without a number …

    What we face next week is a piece of elaborate flummery designed feed the people’s appetite for this nonsense, using the Royal Breeding machine to hype up interest in the heir-but-one to the throne. Even now, there are voices saying that William and his consort should leapfrog the increasingly embarrassing Charles and Camilla – no ones idea of a King and Queen – in the succession stakes. And don’t think that a little matter like ancient rules and traditions will stop this happening if it is necessary to survival – the British aristocracy and the Establishment have always managed to square such circles when push comes to shove.

    All this wouldn’t matter quite as much if the whole sordid apparatus was just a branch of the tourist industry, as it is increasingly touted, lying as Johann Hari has pointed out somewhere well below Legoland in the popularity stakes between it and Windsor Castle. But the Monarchy, the aristocracy and the Establishment exact a more lethal price – they must maintain the operating principle of the State as perpetual war against a shifting, often invisible enemy. The link between the military, established religion and the monarchy is vital to its survival, in its appeal to paranoia and the most primitive emotional and anti-democratic instincts of the people, who must be induced to make a continuing blood sacrifice to these ancient Gods.

    And the Union is the central crucial link in that poisoned imperialism, one that Scotland must break as soon as its people will it.

  2. John Ferguson says:

    I wish I had written this. many thanks.

  3. Paco el escocés says:

    Excellent stuff (I have taken the liberty to forward the link to several of my English friends of a Left and republican persuasion).

    I too get the dry boak from the presupposition that I should “rejoice” at the sight of these arrogant aristos and their simpering sycophants and the immoral waste that their circus tricks will entail.

    Waste from any objective point of view, that is. From THEIR vantage point, the funds spent on the official sanctioning of the nuptials of these two young privileged persons is a solid investment. A reinforcement of brand UK, and of the particular interests of the Windsor clan.

    Its coincidence in time with vital elections to the Scottish Parliament is most certainly intentional and a free propagandistic fillip for the Unionists (paid for, naturally, by all tax payers at present under the dominance of the Westminster government).

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Great, thanks

  4. hamish says:

    Rememebr our radical traitions. This is more than 150 years old but must still be our clarion call !
    Frae Kenmore tae Ben More
    The land is a’ the Marquis’s;
    The mossy howes, the heathery knowes
    An’ ilka bonnie park is his;
    The bearded goats, the towsie stots,
    An’ a’ the braxie carcases;
    Ilk crofter’s rent, ilk tinkler’s tent,
    An ilka collie’s bark is his;
    The muir-cock’s craw, the piper’s blaw,
    The ghillie’s hard day’s wark is his;
    Frae Kenmore tae Ben More
    The warld is a’ the Marquis’s.

    The fish that swim, the birds that skim,
    The fir, the ash, the birk is his;
    The Castle ha’ sae big and braw,
    Yon diamond-crusted dirk is his;
    The roofless hame, a burning shame,
    The factor’s dirty wark is his;
    The poor folk vexed, the lawyer’s text,
    Yon smirking legal shark is his;
    Frae Kenmore tae Ben More
    The warld is a’ the Marquis’s.

    But near, mair near, God’s voice we hear –
    The dawn as weel’s the dark is His;
    The poet’s dream, the patriot’s theme,
    The fire that lights the mirk is His.
    They clearly show God’s mills are slow
    But sure the handiwork is His;
    And in His grace our hope we place;
    Fair Freedom’s sheltering ark is His.
    The men that toil should own the soil –
    A note as clear’s the lark is this –
    Breadalbane’s land – the fair, the grand –
    Will no’ be aye the Marquis’s.

  5. Give me a vote, and I’ll vote for a republic. Give me a petition and I’ll sign it, a protest, and I’ll march at it. We have no need for this pantomime anymore.
    On a related note, I wrote a blog called “No more heroes any more”. http://ayeright.com/2010/11/no-more-heroes-anymore/

  6. drew grozier says:

    As one who becomes incoherent when trying to answer to my Australian friends and neighbours enquiries as to the reasons I will be flying the Union Flag from my front porch for the forthcoming royal nuptials I so welcomed the above article and associated comments. I’ll stick the article under their noses. The British establishments’ efforts to create a fog of confusion around the forthcoming elections is a disgrace in any so called democratic society. It should be illegal for any royal event to be held within 6 months of any election for any assembly or parliament in Britain.

  7. Michael Gardiner says:

    >Once more I feel the oxygen to my brain being cut off by a Union Jack being forcefully applied to my mouth.

    Great line. Great article. I like the way you can still write persuasively at those stratospheric anger levels.

    Here’s the Torygraph admitting that the Windsor soap opera helps drive the UK-as-speculative-asset/debt-bubble:


  8. Mohamed Abouhou says:

    Lovely and very persuasive
    I`m from Morocco, we study British culture in the university using the book The life in Modern Britain, I have a presentation next week and will read this article in it as well as mentioning Scottish nationalists

  9. I take it all back. I was at the wedding, and quite enjoyed it.

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