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Rule Out Britannia
by Clint Wayne
2008-02-03 09:36:35
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It was with deep sadness and disgust that I learned this week of the demise of our historic symbol ‘Britannia’ as the Royal Mint announced that Gordon Brown’s last act before he left the Treasury, last year, was to personally approve a new set of coins from which she has completely been removed. Even though we have eight denominations of coins from the penny to the £2 coin it seems not one of them has a place for her in Gordon’s New Britain.

It is once again typical of this New Labour government to surreptitiously change part of our heritage without any debate and it is certainly rich coming from the man who wants to introduce a new ‘Britain Day’ trying to wrap himself in the Union Flag with proclamations of Britishness and then quietly ditches the very symbol that has represented Britain for over 300 years.

By what right has Gordon Brown, who hasn’t even been elected by the British people, to expunge this splendid lady from our everyday lives, yet was quite happy to take advantage of her when New Labour’s spin doctors denoted their government as ‘Cool Britannia’, as Tony Blair entertained dozens of rock and sports stars in Downing Street.

We are told that in the most significant change to our coinage since the 1971 decimalisation ‘Britannia’ is to be replaced by a representation of modern Britain which will probably be a Polish immigrant worker!

‘Britannia’ has been used constantly on our coinage since the first farthing was minted in 1672 and has personified the proud history of our country since long before the invention of the Union Flag with which her shield is emblazoned.

She actually goes back over 2,000 years to the days when the Romans named these islands ‘Britannia’ after a beautiful goddess with a shrine erected in York during the reign of Emperor Hadrian who visited Britain in 121AD.

The Royal Yacht ‘Britannia’ carried our Queen to every corner of the world welcoming guests and world leaders providing a relaxed atmosphere in which to discuss problematic areas of the globe before it was decommissioned and never replaced.

This great lady who sits elegantly on a rock holding a Laurel leaf, Trident and the Union Shield with a Lion by her side has flirted romantically with Royalty appearing on many gallantry medals through history. She was given Poseidon’s Trident at the height of the British Empire to represent its dominant naval power and is celebrated in the stirring 1740 unofficial national anthem ‘Rule Britannia’ which is sung proudly at many events including the colourful ‘Last Night at the Proms’. We all realise that ‘Britannia’ no longer rules the waves. How can we do it with a couple of pedalos!

Foreigners though have nothing to fear from the great lady even with the lion positioned by her feet yet she reminds us of the best of Britain: being gentle and generous but with a strong tradition of pride and sometimes through history much needed military strength.

After splitting up the nation through devolution, and not giving us a promised referendum on the new EU Constitution one might have thought that while we still have our own currency we might have been permitted to retain our oldest icon which is part of our nation’s heritage. Maybe ‘Britannia’ is wrong, one day we will be slaves!

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Emanuel Paparella2008-02-03 20:53:30
Nothing wrong with cherishing the symbols of one’s historical heritage, but the danger is that, like John Wayne disclaiming of responsibility for the crimes against native Americans, one ends with nostalgia for the glory of empire, nationalism and militarism and being selective: parading the good things and all but ignoring the faults of one’s country. During World War I the Englishman Chesterton wrote a book titled The Crimes of England where he decries the responsibility of England in helping Prussia come to power which in turn started the war, and how it dealt with the French Revolution and Napoleon and the treatment of the Irish fighting for their independence. Needless to say he was promptly charged with lack of patriotism by the ultra nationalistic super patriots, to which Chesterton replied that “my country right or wrong is like saying my mother drunk or sober” and that if one loves one’s country one does what is best for it and not simply chauvinistically affirm that it is the best. Sometimes what is best for it is to tell it that it has made mistakes, so that they be not repeated. Toward the end of that book Chesterton says that "I have passed the great part of my life in criticizing and condemning the existing rulers and institutions of my country: I think it is infinitely the most patriotic thing that a man can do." He then went on to write an essay entitled A Defense of Patriotism where he writes that "love is not blind...love is vigilant." (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-02-03 20:55:26
Mussolini on the other hand of the spectrum, misguidedly thought that he was being patriotic in resurrecting the myth of the Roman heritage and the glory days of goddess Rome and the Empire, strangely reminiscent of goddess Britannia. He would have been by far more patriotic had he imitated Chesterton and decried the crimes of Italy in its African colonies and advocated the abandonment of the hubris of the so called white man’s burden and civilizing mission. It occurs to me that Gandhi too, whom we just commemorated in the Ovi pages, pointed that out to the British who with that kind of rationalization had more than overstayed their welcome in his country and quite a few other countries.

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