Those of us who have struggled, sometimes shuddering, to imagine Prince Charles as Australia's king, had best gird up our imagination's loins and renew those struggles.
His mother is 95 now and her recent health problems remind us that she must ere long go to her Great Reward. Her ascension to Heaven will collaterally rocket Charles to the throne. Then, Charles is much on thinking minds now not only because of his imminent enthroning but also and especially because of the limelight he has had at the Glasgow climate talks.
In a Glasgow-predicated new piece about Charles, Prince Charles has finally won: All it took was the end of the world, UnHerd magazine finds that Charles, for all his life so far a mockery-magnet, is suddenly, belatedly, at last enjoying enormous respect as a champion of green and planet-nurturing causes.
"Until this week, until the world's leaders saluted him at COP26," Will Lloyd has just opined for UnHerd, "hardly a day would pass without the Prince of Wales being bullied.
"The heir apparent was brutally insulted and mockingly sketched."
Lloyd goes into some detail of the mockery Charles has suffered. Clunkingly, Lloyd brings up Charles' famous habit of talking to his gardens' plants and, his, Charles's, famously leaked ultra-intimate love message to Camilla (unrepeatable in a family column) that the Italian gutter press called the "Il Tampaccino" correspondence. I had hoped never to hear these hoary old things brought up again in discussion of poor, bruised Charles. All truly passionate and nature-attuned gardeners and lovers (including your columnist) confide love-crazed things to their plants and lovers. Charles's embrace of these human weaknesses has always seemed to me humanisingly, endearingly to his credit, a proof of a Homo sapien pulse indistinguishable from a commoner's.
Lloyd diagnoses that after his lifetime of being bullied and mocked "the dissident Prince is accepted at last", with Charles's sometimes hippie-sounding ideas "about hedges and bees" now "vindicated" by climate-anxious science.
"[But] typically," Lloyd smart-arsedly chortles, "his [Charles's] victory is Pyrrhic. All it has taken for Charles to be vindicated is the prospect of the near-term extinction of the human race."
Whether or not one agrees with Lloyd's quite Shakespearean portrait of Charles life's journey, it behoves us to read all we can about today's Charles, to do our Charles III homework as his reign looms.
And, triggered by all this current Charlieness I have for the first time in some years been revisiting my feelings about the monarchy and an Australian republic.
Australians' arch conservatism in these things must surely have something to do with the sheer familiarity of the Queen's presence. She has always been there. She has been the monarchical wallpaper in the room of our Commonwealth lives.
Here I suppress the unkind additional thought that she has always shown only about as much personality as a wallpapered wall. For there is something almost supernaturally strange about her having never, in a reign of almost 70 years, been publicly impassioned. How is it there has never been an injustice so shocking to her that she has felt compelled to speak up about it in her uniquely influential voice? For example, has it ever occurred to her, in the audiences she has given her loyal and simpering prime minister of Australia, to raise the plight of Julian Assange? If not, why not? It would be the Christian thing to do and she is after all The Defender of the Faith.
But how enduringly epochal her reign! What changes have been wrought in her long, long time of reigning over us. Now I find that Her Majesty's timeless reign (this Elizabethocene) has even outlasted the hottest heat of my 30-year passion for republican change. Once upon a time the absurdity of Australia having a pommy foreigner for a monarch used to knot my hot, political-patriotic knickers but now I find that with age and wisdom, absurdity increasingly appeals. The more that Australian Life and Government resemble the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan (and G&S had their most inspired fun at the expense of the absurdities of royalty and rank), the more bearable life and government seem.
Republicans and republicanism are all about sterile correctness and efficiency in governing systems but perhaps those systems have a bigger obligation to soothingly amuse and entertain.
The G&S-esque, pantomimic absurdity of Charles as our king (an absurdity deepened by his pantomimic union with upper-crust Camilla) offers promise of some comic-opera gaiety in our otherwise drab lives in this otherwise grimly sensible Dominion.
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
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