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There is nothing romantic or aspirational about the royals and their ill-gotten gains

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Zukiswa Pikoli is a journalist and columnist at Daily Maverick and is part of the founding team of Maverick Citizen. Prior to Daily Maverick she worked as a communications and advocacy officer at Public Interest Law Centre SECTION27.

Theirs is a shameful legacy of brutal conquest and no public relations or media spin can blind us to it.

The crowning last weekend of Britain’s King Charles III was a moment many thought might never come, as his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, clung to the royal crown for a monumental 70 years and 214 days.

This event, which seemed to have the world spellbound, aroused little interest in me – not only because I think the concept of monarchies is outdated, but also because of our brutal colonial history with the British Empire. To me, the excessive opulence and olde-worlde traditionalism of the ceremony only served as a reminder of how the British crown pillaged, maimed and killed to attain its wealth by controlling a quarter of the world’s countries, while claiming to be a liberal democracy.

In fact, did you know that Charles’s coronation now makes him the head of state of not just the UK but also of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, as well as Belize?

This, of course, is made possible by British imperialism that still clings to the spoils of colonial conquest. Had South Africa not fought for its independence against British colonial rule, we might still be on that list.

Bringing the coronation to focus specifically on South Africa, much attention and analysis was about the First Star of Africa, a diamond weighing 530 carats. It was ­discovered in Cullinan, a town near Pretoria, and sits in the centre of Charles’s sceptre. The sceptre, which is part of the royal family’s crown jewels, is said to represent “the crown’s power and governance”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: King Charles’s 21st century coronation: Repatriating the Crown Jewels is long overdue

This, to me and many others whose ancestors were indentured by the crown and whose history and cultural heritage were nearly erased, can only serve as a reminder of the legacy of violence without reparations over which Charles now presides.

Interestingly, it seems even UK citizens now want to distance themselves from the unsavoury institution that is the royal family, whose real significance is more ceremonial than actually leading and acting in the political interests of its citizens.

A recent poll by BBC News revealed that 70% of people aged between 18 and 35 were not interested in the royals. The royals still found resonance in the age group 65 years and older, with people stating they should continue to exist.

Read more in Daily Maverick: I will not shed a tear for the Queen, a beneficiary and furtherer of colonial conquest

This shows a shift towards thinking that it is only a matter of time before their time is up – and rightfully so.

There is nothing romantic or aspirational about the royals and their ill-gotten gains. If anything, they owe a debt to the world for their role in displacing millions of people, extracting their natural resources for profit and politically destabilising countries, the effects of which can still be felt today. It is a shameful legacy and no public relations or media spin can blind us to it.

One can only hope that Charles at least tries to do the right thing. He can begin the process of reparations by relinquishing his position as head of state of the countries mentioned and, in doing so, firmly close the chapter on British imperialism. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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  • Johan Buys says:

    Agree 1000%. We want all hundreds of the Cullinan diamond back NOW!

    The concept of royalty and born to power is primitive. We should set an example for the world and strip our own traditional leaders and chiefs of their tens of millions of hectares of tribal lands and billions a year of COGTA money. It is insane that the Zulu king sits on land bigger than Kruger Park where he can decide who builds a house or operates a farm. Give his (and the other chiefs) 20 million “subjects” title to their land and we unleash an economic miracle.

    • Paul Hough says:

      Hear hear.

      Ms Pikoli, how should we go about first freeing ourselves from ‘outdated … monarchies’ in our own back yard. I await with interest your analysis of how they should relinquish their positions. “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”, “Vive la République !”

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Shew – I just find it amazing how everyone must have something to dislike, regardless of how irrelevant it is to their daily lives – and how these dislikes are rarely close to home.

    As an example, surely it occurs to you that your own government is far far more deserving of your ire at this moment than the royals in Britain are.

    Sure – the British have a history rich and complex, with much good and much bad, just like pretty much everywhere. Britain has also certainly caused much suffering around the world, but it has also provided South Africa with most of the key tools that our country absolutely requires to function in the modern world. I can also say that to blame the royals for colonialism is to let pretty much the whole British population off the hook.

    So, when your power comes back on and you return to your keyboard – please please please use your skills for good by focusing on something that will help all of us here at home.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    You seem to have very strong views for someone who has no interest in monarchies. If you were British, you would know that Queen Elizabeth did not ‘cling’ to power. The millions who turned out for her funeral were testimony to that.
    There were aspects of Victorian colonialism that would not be tolerated today but every colonised country benefited in some way from colonisation e.g. the Roman invasion of England.

  • chulleyrsa says:

    I assume you speak of all “Royals”. Swazi, Zulu, Japanese, English, etc.

  • Steven D says:

    Ms Pikoli, do you think the Zulu Kingdom, as a monarchy, is also “outdated” and that there is “nothing romantic or aspirational” about it?

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