Jawaharlal Nehru attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1952. The Commonwealth was than a small organisation. The Queen became Head of Commonwealth the same year. Till 1947 it was a white man’s club: United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. India and Pakistan became members on becoming independent. Ceylon followed in 1948. In 1957, Ghana became the eighth member.
Government has taken the correct decision for President Droupadi Murmu to represent India at the funeral of the Queen. She will get to know many of her counterparts. Several hundred Heads of State and Government have been invited. Most will be in London by the 18 September. Will President Xi of China and President Putin attend? The funeral is on the 19th.
No country can outdo the United Kingdom in planning and organising ceremonial events. The late Queen’s journey from Buckingham Place to Westminster Hall on 14 September was as memorable as it was spectacular.
The world is running out of monarchies. UK, Japan, followed by Cambodia, Thailand, Brunei, the Malay Kingdoms, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Kingdoms. The last eight are not democracies.
Has the British monarchy a future? The Queen was widely admired, popular and respected. King Charles III is not endowed with these indispensable qualities. I have met him three or four times. The first time in February 1975 in New Delhi. He was accompanied by Lord Mountbatten. They stayed in New Delhi for two days.
I was then Deputy High Commissioner in London. I came to New Delhi a couple of days before the arrival of Prince Charles and Uncle Dickie. They left Delhi for Kathmandu after two days to attend the coronation of the King of Nepal. By then, Charles was somewhat irritated with Mountbatten.
At Palam airport, Prince Charles took me aside and said, “I would very much like to come again in October for a longer stay. If that is convenient to you, but without Uncle Dickie.”
“Your Royal Highness, you are most welcome.”
King Charles III is 73 years of age. Will he attain the age of his mother? That will certainly prolong the life of Britain’s monarchy.