Debating our head of state

King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort following the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at...
King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort following the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on September 19 in London, England. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
New Zealanders face the question of why Charles III should automatically become our nation’s head of state, writes Hayden Williams.

Charles I was beheaded by regicidal anti-monarchists.

Charles II was precariously perched between reasserting his restored "divine right" to rule, and placating a populace slowly wising-up to more enlightened ideas.

And here’s Charles III.

Inheriting the throne at a time when the Royal Family’s "brand" has been hemorrhaging mana, and his so-called "united" kingdom is now in obvious fragmentation.

The Crown’s legitimacy within the UK hasn’t been this shaky since the English Civil Wars, so surely the days of the British monarchy wielding power in foreign lands are numbered.

And after the nostalgic eulogising surrounding the Queen’s death, New Zealanders face the question of why Charles III should automatically become our nation’s head of state.

This question is vital for me, as a Welshman who’s lived, worked, and paid taxes in my new home of New Zealand for the past 24 years, but felt unable to become a citizen.

Like many Irish New Zealanders I’ve met, and more than a few Scottish immigrants, the idea of swearing allegiance to the monarchy is for me so unpalatable as to make remaining a permanent resident more preferable.

And that’s because — despite being a long-haired lefty universalist — I’ve held Welsh nationalist sentiments since childhood.

I also hold to the quaint idea that a sworn oath should still be genuine, and I’m not content to just mumble a begrudged unintelligible something under my breath, as several people have suggested.

If, as others have suggested, the whole citizenship ceremony’s just a meaningless formality, then why can’t we change it?

And if you think it’s merely sentimental of me to hold on to my Welsh identity after being a New Zealander for almost a quarter century, well, in that case, why are so many New Zealanders still resisting letting go of the past?

Don’t worry, I’ve already been told plenty of times that if I don’t like the structure of governance here, I might clear off back where I came from.

And yes, I’ve contacted the Department of Internal Affairs several times over the years, asking for alternative options for gaining citizenship, to no avail.

And, truckloads of people have also already pointed out the apparent illogic of my argument: if I’m from Wales, then I’ve always been subject to the Crown anyway.

Well, despite all Britons having symbolically been ruled by the Crown for centuries, thankfully we’ve been free to have our own treasonous opinions since the time when dismembering dissenters began to be viewed as somewhat too harsh a response.

Also, though Wales is still sometimes referred to as a "principality" of England, this is no longer correct — Wales is now designated a country within the UK, and it has officially been so since 2007.

One problem for Charles III at home is that his kingdom has never in reality been a unified amalgam of four countries.

Rather, it’s always been a legally enforced fantasy, brought about through conquest and held in place by fear, greed, and prevailing Anglo-centric assumptions.

If you doubt that, have a look at Shakespeare’s Henry plays, written over 400 years ago, but with the fragility of a "united kingdom" arguably as one of its central themes.

Post Brexit, the centre no longer holds together; and if it doesn’t work in the UK, how’s it supposed to go on functioning further afield?

Like many throughout the commonwealth, I’ve never seen the monarchy as anything but an anachronism, despite my own grandmother having been a passionate cheerleader for the Queen.

The idea that New Zealand’s system of governance should have an additional "checking" level of authority beyond its elected leaders makes sense, but this authority doesn’t have to be off-shore.

In the New Zealand of 2022, too many Kiwis (and potential Kiwis) see the monarchy as the spectre of an often ruthless, homogenising imperialism belonging to the past.

Charles III was commendably ahead of his time as an environmentalist; I sometimes like him as a man, but as a king, one’s rather afraid he’s outdated.

— Hayden Williams is a Dunedin-based writer