Queen Elizabeth II, the Head of the Commonwealth declared on 19th April 2018 to the Heads of 53 Commonwealth countries that the 69 year-old Prince Charles would head the next CHOGM summit. Prince Charles represented the Queen at the 22nd Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka in 1993, at the Nelum Pokuna, Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, where 49 out of 53 countries (including Sri Lanka) represented.
Queen Elizabeth was born on 21 April 1926. She celebrated her 92nd birthday on 21 April during this year’s Commonwealth summit in London. At the age of 21, she pledged to serve the Commonwealth for life, and ever since she has been the Commonwealth’s symbolic figure-head ,since her father, King George VI’s demise in 1952.
Charles Philip Arthur George was born to Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh in 1949. Officially known as Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay since 1952, Prince Charles is the oldest and longest-serving heir, apparent in British history.
He is also the longest-serving Prince of Wales, having held that title since 1958. British society would have expected Prince Charles to be the King at a young age rather than in his seventies or eighties, but the Queen has not made it possible even after celebrating her 92nd birthday!
Many speculate ,reasons for such a hold back is due to Prince Charles, in her mother’s mind as a ‘playboy’. From his youth, he has always demonstrated as an action man engaging potentially in dangerous pastimes. He enjoyed parachuting, playing polo, wind surfing and skiing. In 1981 he escaped miraculously when his horse collapsed and died minutes after a training gallop. Nevertheless, Prince Charles was quoted as saying once: “If there was a choice about which I would put first, my mother and country or my wife and my family, I would have to sacrifice the latter”.
At Cambridge he read History and Anthropology. Ever since, he has grown with an overwhelming sense of duty that has resulted in turning him to a deeply caring human being, who frets and worries about other people. He has been arguing for the individual over institutions, the natural over the homogenised, and the spiritual over the material. The British populaces deem to think that he has been sidelined all these years by the Queen, while Prince Charles has been patiently marking time to step into his mother’s shoes and become a modern king.
Queen Elizabeth II has been an exceptional woman of strength and stamina. As a monarch, she has chosen to reign and shine by living a simple life for many heads of states around the world to emulate. She is the most travelled individual in the world, having toured thousands of miles in England and around the world, shaking millions of hands without devising any special grip to protect her fingers.
During her first forty-year reign, she had not experienced many a nightmare unlike during 1993 when the Queen was seen visibly shaken and aged rapidly, at a reasonably young age of 67. Her hair turned grey overnight, and smiles turned into a frown. The British press coined a phrase to describe her situation as ‘Annus Horribilis’ (horrible year) of royal scandals and disasters that were packed and delivered to her, in a large bitter dose, over a period of just twelve months.
This was due to the fact that young royal members were unable to keep her happy on her 40th year on the throne. First, it was the breaking up of marriage between Duke of York (her second son) and Sera Ferguson, the Duchess of York; It was followed by Prince Edward joining the millions of unemployed and deliberated on Harley Davidson motor cycle rides in leather gear; her husband Prince Philip hitting the newspaper headlines, when in Canada, asking a pretty young fashion reporter whether she ‘wore mink knickers’; neither Charles and Diana’s marriage narrative was of any consolation to her piling up worries during 1993, but indubitably it seemed to have reacted on her health, as an enzyme, to turn her hair grey and to lose her weight and to look frail.
In such a royal calamity the general perception of the British public was that ‘ if Henry VIII could have had six wives, there was nothing wrong if Charles had an affair with Camela Parker Bowles’ ! But the basic difference was that while Henry VIII was King, Prince Charles was still heir to the Throne and the scandal over Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Squidgy tapes, which was described as Camillagate that exposed the secrets of bedtime chat between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. The very fact that Prince Charles’ love affair with a married woman at that time appeared to have played havoc with the aura of the royal household.
Concealing such worries and along with thousands of other royal responsibilities, the Queen Elizabeth II, nonetheless maintained her diplomacy and affability. As much as receiving official visitors to Buckingham Palace for royal banquets and particularly during the annual Buckingham Palace Garden Parties in summer, she made a distinctive effort to receive thousands of invitees which included the High Commission staff and their chosen invitees from all the Commonwealth countries in what is considered as the greatest royal social intercourse.
The writer recollects a sidesplitting incident when he was at one of the ‘Buck- house’ Garden parties with a prominent Sri Lankan dentist, the late Dr. Nalaka Fernando, an old Anandian and was a scholar, not only in dentistry alone, but in English literature and Mathematics, and well versed in Buddhism too. He qualified in Australia. The former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke and his wife Hazel, were his close friends, so much so, that Bob Hawke in his autobiography never forgot to mention Nalaka’s name and their experiences in Australia. Bob Hawke once visited Nalaka’s ancestral home in Moratuwa, and was deeply touched by the Sri Lankan hospitality. Later he described in his book, thus: “Nalaka’s home is a heaven of peace producing an atmosphere so serene and whose inmates were ardent devotees of Buddhism.” Dr. Nalaka Fernando’s erudition sat lightly on him in that it was not in his nature to impress upon people in order to boost his ego.
Nalaka’s wittiness had no bounds. When we were at the Sri Lanka High Commission marquee, during the Buckingham Palace Garden Party, the High Commissioner formally introduced Nalaka to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, stating:
“Your Majesty, meet one of our eminent Sri Lankan dentists in London, Dr. Nalaka Fernando”.
While shaking hands with Nalaka, the Queen politely said to him:
“Mr. Fernando, how reassuring it would be….., if we all didn’t have to visit the Dentist and the Hair Dresser from the time we are born.
”Nalaka’s quick joviality emerged instantly, thus making use of the rare opportunity and quipped:
“Yes, your Majesty! It’s absolutely true…. But, Ma’am have you heard of an adage, which is slightly different to your Majesty’s version”.
“What would that be Mr. Fernando”? The Queen smilingly asked.
“Ma’am, Pain is generally both physical and mental, but one that is both physical and mental is dental”!
“Very good. Very good. Can you repeat it again, Mr. Fernando for me to remember”, was the Queen’s response. An infectious laughter spread throughout the Sri Lankan marquee.
All in all, the reason why the Queen may have not allowed for her eldest son, heir apparent, Prince Charles to take over the crown and be the King of England could be due to the fact that Royals have a deep sense of tradition, coming down for generations. They are more or less conservative in their sensible thinking and behaviour. Any member of the royal family found to be going out of rails or has overstepped the mark, has to pay the price for doing so. This was more so prominent when King-Emperor Edward VIII proposed to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who had divorced her first husband and, was about to divorce her second husband. The UK government and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, Religious, legal, political and moral obligations were raised at the time, which led towards King Edward to abdicate the throne.
pic.credit: PA Press Association