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Bury St Edmunds columnist Nicola Miller is at the end of her tether . . .




I sometimes wonder what would happen should someone dam the source of the Mississippi River. From a Minnesotan wellspring, its waters flow more than 2,000 miles towards the Gulf of Mexico and in the process, it drains some 40 per cent of the continental United States landmass. The river is a point of convergence for the American nation; a wellspring that has birthed wealth and deprivation, fertility, the forced and voluntary movement of people, and centuries of art and literature and music. What would the USA be without the Mississippi?

Here in the UK, we have our own wellspring in the form of divine right. Royalty has divine sanction to rule so long as it stays within certain bounds.

Divine right is a tool that codifies politics and ethics post-Reformation in a way that allows the state to justify its existence after it moved away from Catholic theology.

Nicola Miller (45041089)
Nicola Miller (45041089)

Where would we be without this? It has sculpted our history and landmass, our behaviour overseas and domestically, and our prosperity. The institutions we hold dear – or rail against – are made in its historically white image.

If government comes from God and that sacred authority is conferred upon the anointing of the monarch, what happens when that authority breaches the word of God (via our laws) by its actions?

Currently, we have a monarch who sent a strong message to her subjects about her support of a son who has been accused of heinous sex crimes by having him escort her to church in full view of the cameras who were no doubt alerted by the Palace comms team. This is her priority. Andrew has yet to meet with the FBI to give a full account of himself, but he has kept his income, his military titles, and his security. We would be expected to show deference if we met him. Why are we not up in arms over this? What message does this lack of action send to victims of sex crimes?

Going back to the idea of ‘staying within certain bounds’, I wonder what these might be and what it might take for the British public to effectively question the moral authority of our Royal Family? I need to be clear: I have always been a republican and reached the limits of my tolerance a long time ago, but recent events have made me wonder how on earth we as a nation can continue to defend the continuance of divine right. Do you honestly look at the Queen or Charles and think “Yep? Absolutely born to rule over us. They’re definitely God’s chosen ones.”

I’m thinking about all of this in the light of two other events: Meghan and Harry’s interview last week where they alleged that a member of the Royal Family had expressed concerns about the ‘darkness’ of their son’s skin and what it might mean, and a letter to this paper protesting about Greene King’s decision to change the name of the town’s ‘Black Boy’ pub.

The Black Boy pub in Bury St Edmunds has been renamed (45041086)
The Black Boy pub in Bury St Edmunds has been renamed (45041086)

The letter writer perceives ‘Black Boy’ to be a compliment to King Charles II whose appearance has been described as ‘anything but English’ with his ‘sensuous dark complexion, black hair, and dark brown eyes’.

I find it hard to believe that ‘Black Boy’ was meant solely as a compliment by dint of the fact that it prevailed as a descriptor of a man who was only a boy for the first 18 years of his life. Referring to a Black man as a boy is a common, modern-day racist trope but it also has its roots in a past where both before and after the rule of King Charles the Second the portrayal of Black people by white Europeans through the arts, religion, and legend was not neutral.

The ‘Adoration of the Magi’ is a good example: its depiction of an African king is steeped in white European cultural supremacy; he is presented as the youngest monarch from a neophyte culture and his presence is used to emphasise the supremacy of Christianity. There are uncomfortable parallels with the Royal Family’s apparent preoccupation with the colour of Archie’s skin. Would you approve of a pub sign called ‘The Black Prince’ which singled him out? (And yes, I know he is not a prince yet, but he may become one upon the death of the monarch.)

The important thing is that many of us no longer think ‘Black Boy’ is an appropriate name, set as it is against a backdrop of white exceptionalism which has its wellspring in the perpetuation of the archaic belief that someone is born to rule over us and it is preferable that this person be white. Our nation’s wellspring is poisoned by divine right and it is time it was decontaminated.

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