Today’s Barbados Advocate editorial makes for interesting reading in light of Prince Harry’s visit next week
– Barbados Underground
We might be justly accused of being churlish hosts were we not to extend a warm Barbadian greeting to His Royal Highness, Prince Henry of Wales, familiarly known as Harry, on his visit to the island to represent Her Majesty in the celebrations for our fiftieth anniversary of Independence. Accordingly, we sincerely extend to the Prince a hearty welcome and a pleasant stay in these parts.
At the same time, however, his presence here reminds us of once more of our incongruent constitutional status; whereby even though we claim to be a sovereign nation and have indeed been so for the past fifty years, we continue to perpetuate the anomaly of retaining a foreign monarchy as the Head of State in the bloodline of the Royal Family of the United Kingdom. It is as if the declaration of Independence were merely a matter of acquiring a flag, a coat of arms and a national anthem and a Governor General [to replace the Governor] while we were content to abide by the former regime of governance.
This is Barbados after all. And it is not in our nature easily to accommodate change. So for the past half-century, apart from the objections of a relatively few, we have been content to permit the pre-Independence arrangements to subsist and to accord the highest constitutional office in our land not to a native but in tail to a foreign family.
It has not helped that the debate on this issue has been generally perceived in partisan political terms. Of course, we concede that such a reality is one of the incidents of our democracy, but it appears to us that whenever a governing administration proposes to alter the status quo, there arises a chorus of voices in partisan opposition, reminding the public of such quaint matters as the importance of UK tourism for the health of our economy, the exemplary graciousness of Her Majesty and our vulnerability to external aggression. To us, these smack rather as the cries of a mewling infant for its mother’s arms, rather than of the language of a mature individual ready to fend its way in the world.
We deduce from this reluctance to embrace a state of affairs whereby a native Barbadian might become Head of State, among other things, a certain Barbadian distaste for the elevation above him- or herself of anyone similarly placed as they are. Our attitude is reflected in the anecdote attributed to former Prime Minister and now national Hero, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow, that an individual could not have possibly written a book or achieved any similar distinction “because he used to live in we gap”.
So while we welcome the young Prince, we regret for more reasons than one that his visit had to be “official” rather than the “playing holiday” as referred to by his ancestor and namesake, Prince Hal, the future Henry V, in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I. Hal nevertheless counseled-
“If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work…”
Indeed, we regret too that his visit as the representative of the British Monarch, his grandmother, should still be necessary at this time. Our socio-constitutional ethos does not admit of the notion that a mere accident of birth should attribute a superior status to any one individual or family.
It is time for a governing administration to “bell the cat” and to ensure that we do not arrive at our Independence centennial under the existing anomalous governance arrangement.