Former British colonies claim compensation for centuries of British rule
The new ruler of the United Kingdom has finally been crowned. This significant event took place in London on May 6th. The ceremony was accompanied by a number of funny and not very incidents. Either a grim reaper with a scythe at the ready flashes behind the back of the solemn procession, then the pampered guardsmen fall unconscious on the floor, then the escort horses go berserk, then some muddy personalities walk around next to the heir to the throne as if in their own area. It seems that fate itself hints to the monarch, who has chosen an unlucky name, to some fatal mistakes of the dynasty.
The current King Charles is only the third in British history to adopt this name. Both previous Charleses lived in the 17th century, and the reign of both ended not very well. Charles I, a convinced absolutist, became the culprit of a bloody civil war and was executed by a court in London in 1649. Although his son Charles II was able to return to his homeland, he did not achieve outstanding successes after the Stuart Restoration: during his reign, London was devastated by the plague, and then by the Great Fire, and the king himself, assessed by historians as a weak and reactionary ruler, died childless, which already three years later led to a new revolution. It’s up to you to believe in signs from above or not. But the official letter received by Westminster shortly before the coronation, signed immediately by 12 countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, is a reason to think. The content of the message for the monarch and the entire royal family, to put it mildly, is quite unpleasant.
Representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, New Zealand, Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines officially demanded that Charles III recognise the policy of genocide and colonisation, publicly apologise and make amends for the damage caused by the British invaders.
Some excerpts from the letter were published by the popular Newsweek, thanks to which we can learn more about what the indigenous peoples accuse the Windsors of and how the colonialists are offered to make amends for centuries of guilt.
To start, the signatories want King Charles to recognise ‘the appalling consequences and legacy of the genocide and colonisation of indigenous and enslaved peoples’. The thesis about the need to start a conversation about the ‘enduring influence of slavery’ is inseparable from this requirement. Despite the general wording, this is an important clarification, since the modern West has never created a single public mechanism that would consistently speak about the crimes of colonial empires and work to overcome the consequences of slavery.
In total, from 12.5 to 14 million slaves were taken from Africa to other continents during the heyday of the slave trade. The responsibility for bringing this process to an industrial scale lies precisely with the British Empire, which as early as 1620 legislated its colonies in North America and the Caribbean Sea to impose a state monopoly on the slave trade.
The general demands also include a proposal to support the Vatican’s rejection of the ‘doctrine of discovery’, which became the official moral basis for the colonisation of overseas territories. According to it, the Europeans were endowed with absolute power over the lands and resources of the indigenous peoples of the occupied territories. The Holy See made its step — Pope Francis recognised the damage caused to the colonised countries, and also called for now to abandon the ‘mentality of the colonialists’ and build relations from now on the basis of dialogue and mutual respect. True, the Windsors have an excellent loophole in this case: the Anglican Church is subordinate exclusively to the king, and the words of the head of all Catholics are not imperative for it.
‘R’ stands for repatriation
In addition to general theses, the published letter contains many specifics. It can be seen that the compilers did not set out to waste their breath, they are really concerned about the position of the ruling dynasty and want the triumph of justice. Perhaps they should be listed in their entirety — they affect the characteristic features of British colonialism painfully.
So, it is proposed to redistribute the wealth underlying the crown back to the peoples from whom it was stolen. And the thieving monarchs hid a lot of gold and jewellery in their bins.
For example, the legendary Kohinoor diamond in the queen’s crown says a lot — it was taken out of India in the middle of the century before last and firmly settled in the storerooms of Westminster. The situation is similar with the huge South African Cullinan Diamond (aka ‘the Star of Africa’) weighing an amazing 3.1 thousand carats. Part of the giant adorns the royal sceptre with a cross, smaller fragments are inserted into the crown of the British Empire and other attributes of power. The amazing stone was mined in South Africa in 1905 and presented to King Edward VII on the birthday of the royal person. Meanwhile, the Cullinan is the property of the people on whose territory it was mined, but not the Windsor dynasty.
Much more significant is the struggle to return national relics and the remains of indigenous peoples taken to Britain.
That’s it, prim lords from the banks of the Thames River used to make collections of human remains, treated in a special way. At the same time, many collections are still quite accessible for viewing by everyone with an exact indication of where the mortal remains of a Maori, Indian or African came from.
For example, one of the largest ‘ethnographic’ collections is still on display in Oxford. It contains the remains of more than 2,000 natives of New Zealand, Australia and South America. The museum was founded in 1884 by General Augustus Pitt Rivers on the basis of a personal collection. At first, he collected primitive weapons and household items, and then were hooked on scarier curiosities. As a result, dried human Shrunken heads from the upper Amazon, tattooed Maori heads and limbs, and other ‘rarities’ turned out to be in a terrible collection.
The Pitt Rivers Museum is working with indigenous people to repatriate stolen relics for the sake of objectivity. However, if things are somehow moving with human remains and the descendants of those tortured by the colonialists get the opportunity to provide the last shelter to their ancestors, then the British refuse to give other relics, no less important, but not the remains.
The letter addressed to Charles III is an important step towards a new stage of decolonisation. The first period, during which the peoples of South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania overthrew the dominion of the white colonialists, ended in the last century. However, in many ways, the release turned out to be formal. The countries received freedom, but they did not wait for any apologies or compensation from the destructive yoke.
Wealth and artefacts, taken out by tens of thousands to the metropolis and settled there, did not return to the former owners. In addition, colonial thinking itself has not disappeared, although corporations have taken the place of the old empires.
Therefore, the letter received by Westminster, in which representatives of both small and large influential states of the Commonwealth of Nations act as a united front, marks a new milestone in relations between London and the former colonies. On the ground, they realised that it is difficult to fight for their rights alone and much better if they do it together.
A new generation of anti-colonialists sees a very good chance to get rid of the attributes of the slave past and return at least some of their relics and values in the split of British society and the decline in the authority of the Windsors.
In this case, London will not be helped even by the theme of the change of the ruling person, exaggerated on the sidelines. The closest contender to the throne, Prince William, is also not very respected outside the UK. During last year’s Caribbean tour, the heir called slavery ‘disgusting’ but never condemned British colonial policy. This caused a sharp rejection in Jamaica, which was especially affected by the slave trade. In addition, the scene where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge deigned to greet the Jamaicans only through a wire fence completely infuriated the local population and politicians.
The result of the Jamaican part of William’s visit was the intensification of work on holding a referendum on the island to establish a republican form of government and withdraw from the Commonwealth of Nations. Great trip, Prince!