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Carroll County Times Opinion

Dean Minnich: Imperfect Great Britain says goodbye to its queen | COMMENTARY

I’ve been watching our British cousins bid farewell to a queen and install their first king in 70 years. More pomp and tradition than we have in America.

It has me thinking: If we had not declared independence and fought for our own identity, how different would we be, culturally, from the Canadians, or the Australians?

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Would there have been an America capable of wading in – reluctantly but decisively – to the assistance of Britain and European allies in two world wars? What about France? France took a page from the Americans and rebelled against their king and queen and raised the ante by taking a few heads in their own revolution after giving the new America essential aid to defeat the British monarchy.

Toppling kings and beheading queens was just the thing to do in Europe in the old days. We Americans wanted none of that; our forefathers just wanted to be free of the tyranny of taxation without representation.

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We didn’t hang King George, mostly because he wasn’t handy. If he’d been in town, some of our early patriots likely would have stormed the palace or the assembly and beat the royal representatives with flagpoles, sticks and pitchforks.

The British have their own history of bloodletting and palace intrigue. The Romans landed in 43 AD and found a savage form of life. They gave the savages Christianity but gave up trying to keep their holdings 400 years later, and not long after that, the Viking raiders came to show their love for Christian silver and gold in the churches. They terrorized the populations for a while, but many decided to marry locals and farm the rich land. Think of American settlers moving west in search of manifest destiny, taking native brides and claiming whatever land they coveted.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  King Charles III, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Harry, Duke of York and Prince Andrew, Duke of York follow the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, adorned with a Royal Standard and the Imperial State Crown, arrives at the Palace of Westminster, following a procession from Buckingham Palace on September 14, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. Queen Elizabeth II's coffin is taken in procession on a Gun Carriage of The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall where she will lay in state until the early morning of her funeral. Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on September 8, 2022, and is succeeded by her eldest son, King Charles III. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images) ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, CM - OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD **

In England’s early years, there was no England with one king, but many. It would be like our states having a king in each country, and they fought each other, made love and made peace, marrying off daughters and sons to rival kingdoms, a fine way to improve one’s status, wealth, and power. Think political parties.

Yet of all the evolutions of diverse cultures, Great Britain managed to become a world power, mostly because of its mastery of the seas, and at one time ran things around the globe.

Rule the seas and you control trade. Control trade and you control not only your own destiny, but that of any competitors – think American mergers and hedge funds – and you gain access to the power reserved for a ruling class.

If you create the classes and the rules by which each citizen is assigned their place, there is control over the laws and politics and social order.

For a while. Britain used slavery to build its empire but ended the practice before the Americans. The British didn’t invent slavery but built their wealth on it. What was not slavery was a class system that kept laboring people in a state of ignorance and servitude. Think the abandonment of Reconstruction after the American Civil War.

The British emerged among the first nations in the world to consider the idea of what we know today as modern elected government, which was an inspiration to American patriots.

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We Americans have our royalty, too, in celebrity and privileged wealth. Good and evil happens as humans create nations. As the world says farewell to Queen Elizabeth, it is part of a way of showing appreciation for the best intentions of a symbol of power and leadership.

Britain’s history is one of luck: Being an island nation helped in defense and security and establishing traditions. Its history is also one of educating the privileged, which led to discovery, medical advances, innovation in manufacturing and world trade. It was England that led the world from cottage economies in scattered communities into an industrial revolution based on mass production and economy of scale.

Other nations were advancing at the same time, and as tribes once formed alliances with marriages, so did nations. And so history evolves, imperfectly.

Dean Minnich writes from Westminster.


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