Succession planning for the next phase makes sense. It is time to move on from the link with the British crown
In the years since the British Commonwealth dropped the “British” bit in 1949, two people have held the title of Head of the Commonwealth: George VI until 1952 and Elizabeth II until now. The world has changed out of recognition in that time, and the Commonwealth with it. The Queen, though, has been a constant. She has carried out her role assiduously. But the title is not hereditary.
So, what should happen next? The question is being asked, discreetly and decorously, in London this week as part of a review by a seven person “high-level group” of Commonwealth officials and former ministers. The review is a sensible exercise in succession planning. It is particularly important for an organisation that has been embodied for so long by one person, but which has itself undergone transformative evolution during those years.
An Oxford don wants Britons to stop feeling guilty about colonialism. But evidence suggests it already inspires more pride than shame
What did we learn about the British empire at school? In my case, which is the case for a generation born just before the empire’s long collapse, nothing very much. My parents and elder brother knew from their schooling about the battles of Arcot and Plassey and the lives of Robert Clive and General Gordon of Khartoum; but though I was aware of these people and events, from family conversations and old books that lay around the house, I was never formally taught about them.
At school in Scotland, we got the Tudors and the Stuarts, Turnip Townshend and the spinning jenny, and endless weeks of the Franco-Prussian war. Though the empire lived among us in the form of tea chests, “IND. IMP.” (Indiae Imperator, or emperor of India) on coins bearing the late king’s head, and steam locomotive names (Union of South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago), these never found their linking narrative in the classroom.