I arrived back in Scotland just after Bermuda Day, to resume my studies. The ‘Queen’s Jubilee’ has had an almost oppressive presence in my life since. It is not so much prevalent in Scotland itself, although there have been some related events, from beacons, to cannon salutes and the odd street party. I myself came across one such party as I cut through the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh (home of Sean Connery and the terminus of the Union Canal) on my way to Haymarket Station. I understand it’s physical presence was far more prevalent in England.
But it’s presence was felt nonetheless, particularly in the stores, with their bunting and jingoism, but perhaps nowhere was it more ‘in your face’ than in the media. The newspapers, the radios, the television channels, and even the cinemas, were saturated with references to the Jubilee.
I’ve written before that, in the British sense, I am a republican. That is to say I am opposed to the concept of a monarchy, of an inherited head of state, be they absolute or constitutional. To that end, as much as Ms. Windsor may indeed be ‘officially’ my ‘head of state’, I do not recognise her as legitimate, and I look with some mix of disgust, curiousity and sadness when I see my fellows fall all over themselves to celebrate what I see as the forfeiture of their human rights and a rejection of the proud legacy of the republican movement, which perhaps saw it’s first clear articulation in the Putney Debate between the Levellers and plutocrats following the defeat of the monarchy in the first English Civil War (the anti-monarchy forces, led by Cromwell, were composed of a ‘radical’ and a reformist wing; the reformists, under Cromwell, won, leading to reaction against the radical Levellers and, in time, the Restoration of the monarchy).
However, while I think it’s important to keep carrying the banner of republicanism (which has it’s history in Bermuda too, from the very beginning of our society), what strikes me more is the co-optation of the idea of ‘jubilee’ by which this current spectacle is being known by. The original notion of ‘jubilee’ actually has a quite radical meaning, and was a central idea of the radical republicans and associated radical groups of the 17th century, and much earlier. Indeed, the idea of ‘jubilee’ has been a radical thread running through the entire history of the Judeo-Christian civilisation, and has had particular importance in both our own, Bermudian history, and that of the wider trans-Atlantic histories, in as much as it has animated such phenomena as the slave rebellions, piracy, the American and Haitian revolutions and emancipation.
I hope to be able to expand on this ‘other’ meaning – and importance – of the term jubilee in a later post.
For now however, I would recommend the website of the main British republican group, Republic, as well as these two excellent commentaries by similar minded (on republican issues) writers on the issue of the ‘Queen’s Jubilee’.