What makes a monarch terrible

Heathcote Williams, The Windsors - A terribly nice family

"If you belong to the royal family, England is practically your private estate / from which, after you have rushed majestically through magnificent houses, / step out to wave to the general population / and then hand out titles and tin medals to the farm workers." (P. 56)

The playwright and lyric poet Heathcote Williams reveals in his poetic criticism, written in the spirit of the Enlightenment and in the form of a poem, the dark sides of the English royal family, whose positive image he denounces as an expression of the ignorance and self-deception of the public.

Williams doesn’t leave the Windsors happy, denouncing them as “a wealthy conspiratorial gang with coats of arms as a symbol of their privileges” (p. 11), who are held responsible for allowing wars as well as for lucrative arms deals with dictatorial states for oppression the own population or warfare, which bring considerable profits to the royal family.

While they demand of their subjects to fight and die for their homeland, the royal patriotism is very limited. In the winter of 1915, for example, the English king stayed tobogganing in St. Moritz, while English soldiers died in Flanders. And the resigned English King Edward VIII bitterly advised the German ambassador in 1940 to bomb England and thus make it ripe for peace.

But the Windsors' passion for hunting is also mercilessly targeted by Williams and substantiated with countless facts.

By 1993 the Duke of Edinburgh, the proud owner of / of 56 hunting rifles, had shot 30,000 birds from the sky, / killed two crocodiles, as well as countless wild boars, / several hundred Scottish deer and a Bengal tiger. (P. 22)

The focus of the criticism, however, is the close connection between the royal family and arms and armaments companies, in which they would earn a fortune through shares, as well as their immense wealth, which is in stark contrast to the austerity measures in the social area.

For Williams, the English monarchy turns out to be a theatrical play in which the royal family offers people a bizarre spectacle whose power extends far beyond a symbolic character. The Queen has signed death sentences for nationals of former colonies and protected areas up to the present day. The reverence of the monarchy is, however, an expression of submissive reverence by the authorities.

The world's sheepish subjects wave repetitively / At the privileged in their golden boxes, / "Look, the Queen!" They'll gasp, again and again, / Without seeing the elephant in the room. (P. 157)

Heathcote Williams' criticism of the English monarchy is comprehensive and radical, and reveals the contradiction between the detached public image of the monarchy and the less beautiful appearances of the lowlands of reality. The original English text shows the poetic dimension of the humiliating poem on the monarchy, which, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, uses appearance and reality as a weapon of criticism, particularly impressively. An extremely sharp weapon of criticism, which should not only find the necessary material in England.

Heathcote Williams, The Windsors - a terribly nice family / Royal Babylon (German / English)
Frankfurt a. Main: Westend Verlag 2015, 176 pages, € 15.50, ISBN 978-3-86489-101-4

Related Links:
Westend Publisher: Heathcote Williams, The Windsors - A Terribly Nice Family
Wikipedia: Heathcote Williams

Andreas Markt-Huter, 21-08-2019