Keep Calm and Do Not Carry On: The Crown in the Time of Coronavirus.
By: Matthew Groves, BMS Blogger in Residence
We are living in strange times. Times that see us frustrated, anxious and in a perpetual state of confusions. With a near lock-down and a massive expansion in the powers of the state, greater than at any time during peace, we fear for our loved ones and we fear for ourselves as the Covid-19 virus rages across the globe. Many small and medium-sized businesses, which are the backbone of the British economy, face a very uncertain time, even with the swift action the government has taken to provide loans and support. In this churning chaos of uncertainty, one constant remains that we look to in times of national strife. Party politics, day-to-day life, shopping, the pub – none of these are the same, however The Crown remains the same with its ethos of public duty, reserved dignity, and continuity.
Though The Crown remains stoic through perseverance, the monarchy fulfils its duties somewhat differently with our current Royal family. The now-popular putative wartime slogan that was never used in wartime – “keep calm and carry on” no longer seems to fit a modern scenario. Despite appeals to the Blitz spirit and Wartime courage, the patriotic way to live through the age of Covid-19 is now emphatically not to carry on, but to hide away. It seems all wrong that prioritising one’s own health in that way is actually the selfless thing to do; but it is, because in keeping ourselves safe we keep each other safe. That is why, while her parents stayed in Buckingham Palace during WWII, now the right thing is for Her Majesty the Queen to retire temporarily to Windsor Castle. It is exactly why Prince Charles has had to self-isolate rather than battle on in his duties. It is also why Prince William is examining how he can best take an active role in the crisis as well by returning as an Air Ambulance pilot, but overall, our duty is more passive than it has ever been. In these uncertain and very unfamiliar times, Th Prince of Wales’ message to the nation contained words of comfort from our future king that have deeply resonated with the nation.
The media, it is not unfair to say, tends to be made up of the more brash and hard-nosed of our fellow subjects, and for that reason alone they have not always given the heir to the throne, with his thoughtful and sensitive comments, the sort of recognition and headlines that he deserves. It has taken a world pandemic and the contraction of this virus to outline The Prince’s perpetual care and concern for our country, for which his reflective tone has finally
been recognised. His Royal Highness reminded us of what we should have always noticed, his deep affection for this country and its people. We have all saw his commitment to us as a people, along with his thoughtful character. In times like this, His Royal Highness’ great talents shine through as he has kept calm and has been thinking of all of us rather than himself. Within his message, he rightly mentioned and praised the NHS staff, and those on an invisible front battling the virus and holding the line. More importantly he also remembered those others on the frontline – our shopworkers. Unlike the politician who makes a point to notice and continues to focus on the most noticeable for their own agenda, our future king has remembered all those doing their bit at risk to themselves for the betterment of our nation. His message was for us, not himself.
It is at times like these that we recognise how blessed we are to have a monarchy, rather than to be ruled by partisan politicians. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, won a massive majority in Parliament in December of last year and remains very popular, but he is still a party politician with an agenda. As much as he will try to rise above party politics during this time of national tragedy, by definition he is partisan, and this pandemic will of course play
out on the floor of the Commons. When we are faced with such a crisis as this, we need to be able to turn to those people and institutions that take us above political divisions and bring with them the continuity and longevity of tradition, and the feeling of comfort found within.
The immature streak in our nation, fostered and encouraged since the 1960s, is to distrust this as a sort of paternalism. Nonetheless, when we are thrust into action at the hands of a national crisis such as this, we recognise that our nation needs more than an efficient political bureaucracy. We as human beings need a national family that has a special paternal and/or maternal care for us that sets an example of duty, emotes feelings of calmness, and provides an enduring and formidable backbone at such a troubling time.
Her Majesty, The Queen, Charles, The Prince of Wales, and William, Duke of Cambridge, are all doing their duty as expected by and for our nation. It is this family and the people within it that are providing comfort, strength, hope, and continuity. They are providing for us a reminder of what it is the have great British resolve, and that fighting spirit we have been known for. Her Majesty’s speech provided us with a likening to the wartime spirit, a common
enemy, and a familiar phrase that we will all “meet again” when this world epidemic comes to an end. The Prince of Wales spoke of what it was like to be a victim of the virus and what it is like to be one of the many whom have been infected. This virus does not choose its host based on wealth or position. We are all equal in the eyes of Covid-19.
When times are less extreme, and we return to looking at the Royal family not so much for their leadership, but as for their celebrity and superstar status, we will seem to shrug off the most trivial comments about the Royals instead of defending them for their worth and experience in providing a beacon of light and hope during the dark days we have experienced. How quickly most of us will forget what such historic messages mean and mean
to our nation, the Realms and our greater global family. It is only during a time of crisis that we remember what exactly monarchy means. It is about duty, patriotism, and most importantly about service to others. It is the institution of exemplarity, to which we all look up to and are guided by as to how best to be “British” in times of extreme danger and concern.