Thursday, 30 Nov 2023

For Australia the question is not Charles or the coronation but whether we at last become a republic | Thomas Keneally

For Australia the question is not Charles or the coronation but whether we at last become a republic | Thomas Keneally


For Australia the question is not Charles or the coronation  but whether we at last become a republic | Thomas Keneally

What a miserable old mongrel I would be if I failed to congratulate loyal folk in the UK and in my own Australia on this august event. Charles III is after all monarch and head of state not only of Britain but also of Australia. The latter may be a polity he has no authority to speak for, since he must speak for the British government, whose interests do not coincide with Australia's. But that's not his fault, it's the fault of our own constitution devised in 1900 when our interests seemed to coincide, when we even hoped they coincided, with Westminster's.

I'm going to watch it, the event, if I can, on telly. The presence of Prince Harry will render a layer of Succession-style possibility to The Crown, and we know that even if Harry does nothing, the shock-jock we carry in our brains will lead us to interpret every brow-knotting and frown and questioning look as dynastically significant.

Let me say what is so easily missed at a period republicans are expected to behave like grouches, and that is that Australia has no quarrel with the man who arises from his kneeling cushion, crowned in the abbey. If our arguments are of any worth, his popularity, the popular enthusiasm for the event, do not negate them. As well as that the monarch himself has frequently and amiably declared that the question of a republic is up to us. Unlike many other monarchists, he does not froth at the mouth when the republican proposition is raised. He has frequently pointed out that we had the constitutional power to bring into being, by whatever mechanism, our own Australian head of state. He is very exact and correct in all this.

And so the question today for Australia is not to do with his coronation but with ourselves, that we should in the end and at last decide on the republic and not talk ourselves out of voting yes for it. So that's the question still. Not the coronation today and the mystique of monarchy. Our own intent is the point. Australian republicans can say God save the king! Because Charles is not the problem, and in any case is still our constitutional head of state until we do something about that. The lies of politicians who pretend that Mandarin will become Australia's chief language, that there will be tanks in the street, that the milk will turn to blood if we give up elitist monarchy for fraternal republic - they are the problem with this process. They are rustling up equivalent misrepresentations to hinder the voice vote.

I think the very model of a constitutional republican is my friend Kathy Lette, the novelist and punster. She has the most amiable relations with the monarchical couple and once introduced me to the new queen when she was Duchess of Cornwall. What an urbane conversationalist was the said duchess, to the point where some of Kathy's friends crowded in to ask wasn't I impressed, and didn't I now feel she should be our queen. I was impressed, I said, but there were many impressive Englishwomen who did not seek - nor did Camilla herself seek - to represent sovereignty over Australia and its people.

I have a very personal reason to watch the coronation. My favourite walking spot is the North Head of Sydney Harbour, where amid the bush there is an abandoned artillery camp. A good monarchist friend of mine, Jim Frecklington, an amiable man born in Forbes who worked in the queen's equipage at the palace for some time, has built in garages and hangers on the headland a succession of coaches. He started with the Australian state coach, and went on to the Jubilee coach, and recently a third. I have seen the suspension of his coaches in raw form, have caressed the unvarnished wood with my republican hand, and admired the skill that went into the building of coach suspensions with their subtle leaves of wood and steel.

The coach was a wonder to behold, in terms of joinery and exactness of panelling, that included a sliver from Isaac Newton's tree and from Scott's hut in Antarctica. So this is the Coronation coach! Made in a shed on North Head by a prodigiously skilful man from Forbes. Onya Jim!

you may also like

Oscar Pistorius Fast Facts
  • by cnn
  • 28 Nov 2023
Oscar Pistorius Fast Facts
Oscar Pistorius Fast Facts
Resort Casinos Likely Scuttled Under Amended Bermuda Legislation
  • by travelpulse
  • descember 09, 2016
Resort Casinos Likely Scuttled Under Amended Bermuda Legislation

Premier announces changes to long-delayed project

read more