Joining Queen Elisabeth II in mourning the late Prince Phillip

12Apr 2021
The Guardian
Joining Queen Elisabeth II in mourning the late Prince Phillip

​​​​​​​GRIEF is spread all over the United Kingdom and many parts of the Commonwealth of Nations following the death of Prince Phillip de Mountbatten, husband of Queen Elisabeth II at the age of 99 years. Those glued to global cable television will remember he was hospitalized briefly at-

- the start of the year, but disease caught up with him in a few months. At 99 years of age, well wishers thank divinity for the gift of his life, chiefly as a stabilising factor in the British monarchy, in decades-long ups and downs.

As husband to the monarch, the late Prince Phillip did not have many outward interactive duties but more within Buckingham Palace, the principal residence of the monarch. We in Tanzania will do well to take note of the fact that he represented the Queen in ceremonies to hand over the instruments of Tanganyika’s independence to Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere at Uhuru Stadium on December 9, 1961. The Queen had occasion to visit Tanzania before Mwalimu ended his long tenure at the State House, and before handing over the reins of office late 1985, Nyerere visited the UK where he talked at length in a banquet organised by the Lord Mayor of London, on behalf of the monarch, which goes without saying.

Talking about the British monarchy evokes critical reactions on the faces of countless militants not only in Europe and North America but around the world as well, and here it evokes the image of landowners and filthy rich individuals who don’t have to work. They hand over to their sons across generations and centuries vastly accumulated wealth, some of which has to do with UK colonial exploits – and the slave trade – in centuries gone yonder. Many don’t realise that it is time to profoundly rethink those attitudes.

Only a few students attending universities each passing year learn that the foundation of the UK system of state, and at the same time the reference model of democracy in the history of civilization, is the UK Magna Carta (Grand Charter). It is a document drawn up in the 14th century to lay a truce of sorts between insurgent landowners and burghers (traders) on the one hand, and the monarch along with the church on the other hand. That was the classical image of class struggles in Europe even up to the late 19th century when colonialism was spreading, and countries lacking the self-limitation of institutions break into chaos.

In a sense it is auspicious that we reflect on the role the British monarchy has played to help anchor the key attitudes of democracy around the world in the modernization of Western countries, lessons that are being learned with difficulty in countries raised up in a culture of resistance to the West. Up to the start of the fifth phase government, political parties were openly favouring chaos and even bloodletting, thinking it was a minor issue even in being mouthed publicly. As we struggle to find our feet in free speech and democratic space, it is arguably unavoidable to look at the humility of the monarchy in UK politics and in fostering a spirit of Commonwealth shared values of the rule of law as a cardinal element in facilitating a culture shift to democratic stability. Mourning with Elisabeth II and respecting the monarchy helps out.

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