LONDON PART 2! "THE ROYALS"

June 22, 2017

 

English royalty is like most other royalty. If you have heard the tales of rajput Kings who had 400 wives and the tzars of Russia who were in their own world and even the pharoahs who thought themselves Gods and our poor dear Rahul gandhi who refuses to grow up, you are on the right track. The only difference is that while rest of the world has this breed in short episodes and have cleverly buried the exploits of others as much as possible, the English have a 1000 years worth chronicled documents and monuments out there for the world to gape at. Not much is available about the original celtic tribes that lived on this island before the Romans popped in and most of the first fabled English king and man of Justice king Arthur​ is stories with little truth to it. But we surely have better Intel on  the Romans who got here around 50 ad. They set their foothold to North of Westminster Abbey, the ground was sure there, and they built a city in  a walled in area where tower of London stands today. Not much life existed outside of these walls. And London bridge was the only bridge (that too wooden) for any traffic in and out of City. They pulled it down once to stop the Viking attack and not much noteworthy happened till a french man William the conqueror ( who the English call William the bastard; because they feel he never really conquered anything at all just came in began ruling a country which had no staunch leadership because the Romans had lost interest) began his rule. He however found life inside the city walls claustrophobic and shifted royal residence to Westminster​ Abbey which is to the left of old London. That makes Westminster Abbey some 1000 years old. Most of Kings after that (a series of Henrys and Richards) are chronicled in drama by Shakespeare and you can see the appeal because their lives were indeed dramatic. Some beheaded, some assassinated, some were themselves assassins of children who might challenge their right to throne (read Richard III who killed his young nephews and threw their bodies in Thames after he had killed their father.) He was also known to be a lunatic. We then find a rare man called Henry the sixth who was so spiritual that he is also called Henry the saint and is considered a holy but irresponsible king by the English because in his obsession with God he never produced children and so the throne passes to Richard III's father then to Henry 7 who was killed then back to Richard then back to Henry 8th and then the back and forth comes to a stop.
Because in Henry the 8th they found the craziest man on planet. He marries his brother's wife then divorces her. Because the church doesn't sanction divorce he changes the church and forms church of England of which he is the head. Till date the church of England is headed by the Tudor dynast (now queen
Elizabeth II) and it's spiritual head is the archbishop of Canterbury but he is just spiritual not real. Henry then married 6 other women. And assassinated 2 of them. And finally to national relief he died. But he was followed to throne by his 9 years old son who died at 15. And then came Mary, his 1 st daughter to the throne. She was Catholic and killed anyone who refused to convert and hence she is called bloody Mary. She was bloody enough to get the famous cocktail named after her. And she rivalled gandhari in claiming a pregnancy that went on for 2 years and could  have gone on more if the queen herself hadn't died. Then elizabeth the 1st. A dragon of a woman who challenged every idea of established trends of monarchy and she is probably the woman who gave a typical character and staunch pride of being english to England. She left no stone unturned to establish her supremacy not just in England but to send as a message to rest of Europe that England was now an independent entity. She is then followed by her heir (not by womb but by association) James the first. Then Charles the first who was publicly assassinated, the Republican era follows led by Oliver cromwell. Cromwell was such a staunch Puritan that among the many things that he banned were theatre and surprisingly the festival of chirstmas. He died 11 years later and Charles the 2 nd came to throne. He had grown up in France and was notorious for being a ladies man. But he was soooooo upset with cromwell that he had cromwell's dead body dug up and hanged again in public.
Many small and mild in craziness entities follow till we have lady Victoria not just queen of England but also the first empress of colonized India. She had a long life and long rule and many children and a drunkard of a husband after whom London's most famous and oldest pub is named, the Albert. The next most notable after her was possibly the current queen lady Elizabeth the second, who for a change has been a permanent fixture to English side right from days of world war 2. (With the exception of George the fifth who got a crown with 6 thousand diamonds encrusted made just for his visit to India. Wore it once and never again).
The bloody history of many takeovers and deaths and assassinations and the steady rise of democracy made the English throne's journey from that of absolute terrorizing power to that of a decorative title and seat. But the English love their decorations and probably found a sound footing in the royalist rituals. The kings may change and so may the queens, the seat might dictate authority or be an ornament but the only constant in the ever changing scenario is the sure tradition of several beliefs and acts that bring a stability every commoner craves. And hence even in the age of gadgets and devices, the queen still opens the parliament wearing her jeweled crown, the change of gaurds​ still takes place and 5 tea parties are still hosted that invites some 8000 thousand people to participate each time. What might seem redundant in a first world economic capital makes perfect sense in it's social realm and the idea itself of having a monarch active or otherwise helps England keep her connect to the past in body and in spirit. The public memory is a short lived thing they say but England is a proof that emotional memory does go on forever and that too en-mass and that's possibly what has helped the English keep up the illusions they have themselves made a very small but decorated part of their lives.
P.S. if you reach your 100th bday then the queen herself sends you a birthday card wishing you a few more years. And how strange but cute is that.
P.P.S- the English love their traditions so much, this tale is a proof of that, after Richard the III killed henry, (the assassin was inexperienced and hence had to take 5 to 6 swishes with the axe to finally kill the king) he realised that the dead King's portrait wasn't made. So they got the body out, called a surgeon, sowed the neck back on, told the painter to do his job in 24 hrs and then re assassinated the assassinated king but thankfully we at least have his portrait! Don't let it turn your stomach that's normal for England..

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