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Mike Redwood reflects on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the long history of tradition in the UK and the need for careful consideration before change change.
Last Thursday morning (September 8), I was learning about attacks being made by an animal rights group on a nearby milk distributor (part of a national campaign). The activists believe that we should stop eating meat and cheese and drinking milk, instead using all grazing land for rewilding. I was reminded that, as a child at primary school, the government gave free school milk to every young schoolchild every day, to keep them healthy.
That same day, I was lunching with a friend from the glove industry. After lunch, followed by a long discussion about trade and world affairs, I climbed into my car to head home. Instead of hearing news of government decisions on the energy crisis, the car radio was totally dominated by news of Queen Elizabeth II being critically ill. Shortly after came the formal announcement that she had died at her home in Scotland.
After 70 years as an outstanding Queen, her death is a sad loss but I cannot help thinking that having reached the age of 96 in pretty good health, despatching her 14th Prime Minister and appointing her 15th only two days before she died peacefully in her own bed is not a bad way for a good life to come to an end.
Her successor, King Charles III, had the longest apprenticeship ever for his new task and the historic mechanics of the British government and constitution made for a smooth transfer of power in both the monarchy and the government.
There is a message in all this that the institutions and regulations of power are important and, while they have to stay up to date, changes should only be made after careful consideration and general assent. The dangers that come from leaders, even the UK’s Boris Johnson, who think they can ignore the rules and regulations, even changing them retrospectively, have become all too apparent recently as we look around the world.
One modernisation we have seen has been the presence of cameras and the general public at events related to both mourning the Queen and the accession of King Charles. The special meeting of the Privy Council always held quickly after a Monarch’s death to name and proclaim the successor was typical.
This ancient body has its origins going back over 1,000 years when senior nobles would meet to choose their monarch and occasionally, as in the time of the Magna Carta, lay down some constraints on the monarch’s power. The Prime Minister’s Cabinet is essentially a subcommittee of the Privy Council.
Royal leather connections
Their proclamation, handwritten on parchment, was read out to the public in the courtyard as it was necessary before newspapers or mobile phones. By the next day, the same text was being read out to large crowds in towns all around the country, and I assume in the overseas dependencies and other countries where Charles III is now King.
Hopefully, the new King will reduce the number of privy counsellors from its current 718 back to the 200 or so at the start of his mother’s reign. They are a group including the Prime Minister, cabinet members, shadow cabinet members, Archbishops, representatives of the Commonwealth realms and other senior public figures.
In the leather industry, both Charles Booth, who used his profits from his leather business, Booth & Co., to study poverty in London and successfully push for a universal state old age pension, and his son George, also CEO of Booth, who worked unpaid to manage the supply situation for British Forces during the Great War of 1914-1918 and was a long-standing Director of the Bank of England, became privy councillors.
Her late Majesty was crowned Queen while I was at primary school getting my free school milk every day. My parents bought our first ever television for the coronation and I remember many neighbours crowding in.
The British Royal Family, including the late Queen, have always been supporters of agriculture and the leather industry. They understand the value of leather and its by-product status fully – just think of King Charles’ strong supportive statements about leather last Autumn – and have a record of turning up to open leather events, new buildings and other developments throughout the last 70 years. Many Royal Warrants are held by companies making leather items for members of the Royal Household.
They also like mixed farming including livestock. Her Majesty enjoyed her roast lamb at the weekend, and she had a world-leading herd of Highland Cattle at the Balmoral Estate. King Charles is renowned for his environmental vision and belief in the importance of organic and regenerative farming, along with the rural communities they support.
Some people may not consume milk because of personal or medical reasons but they should not be trying to force a ban on all of us and hinder the right of access for the majority to a superb source of vitamins, calcium and good health. The excellent reasons school milk was free 70 years ago still remain valid today.
Follow Dr Mike Redwood on Twitter: @michaelredwood
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