Australia’s deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan, has launched a new push for a republic, saying the 80-year-old Bodyline cricket scandal had shown that the British could be ruthless, self-serving and mean-spirited.
The Australian newspaper reported that an article written to coincide with Australia Day, which celebrates the arrival of the British settlers at Sydney in 1788, Mr Swan lamented that the move towards a republic has “fallen from the national agenda over the past decade”.
Mr Swan said the English cricket team’s “life-threatening” bowling tactics during the Bodyline series caused Australians to “wake up” and reject Britain’s self-serving “gentlemanly values” in favour of an egalitarian democracy. Recalling the Bodyline series today, he said, will “hasten the approach of an Australian republic”.
“What the Bodyline series showed was that while we refuse to put on airs and graces, Aussies are not a ruthless, ‘whatever it takes’ people,” he wrote. “Rather, we are a plain-speaking lot, who play hard but fair, and expect no less. Ours is not a gentleman’s code; it is a democratic code.”
Mr Swan’s views were slammed by a former Republican movement leader and Opposition frontbencher, Malcolm Turnbull, who said “Pom-bashing” was not the way to persuade Australians to abandon the monarchy.
Mr. Turnbull, who led the failed push for a republic in the lead-up to a 1999 national referendum, said Australians were unlikely to make the change until the Queen’s reign ends. “While I am a committed republican, my heart sinks at the thought of Wayne Swan bringing his advocacy skills to such an important national cause,” he said.
“The one thing that is not a good argument certainly not an effective argument for being a republic, is to turn it into a Pom-bashing, anti-British, anti-English, let alone anti-Royal family type of argument. “It has to be a thoroughly pro-Australian argument. I remain of the [view] that a referendum will not be successful prior to the end of the Queen’s reign.”
Support for a republic has dampened in recent years, though polls show more Australians support a republic than oppose it. Prime Minister Julia Gillard describes herself as a republican but has insisted that pushing for the constitutional change is not a priority for the government. Like Mr Turnbull, she has said she does not think it is “appropriate” to move to become a republic until the Queen’s reign ends.
The House of Windsor: The German Connection
In March 1917, during the third year of the First World War, anti-German feeling in Britain was at a fever pitch. People with German names were assaulted; mobs attacked and looted stores with German-sounding names: even the name of the German Shepherd breed of dog was changed to “Alsatian”.
Anti-German sentiment intensified after Germany started bombing civilian parts of London with the newly –developed heavy bomber known as “The Gotha”, which became a reviled household name among the British. Their monarch, George V, was of the Royal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a German duchy and a branch of the Saxon House of Wettin.
With Britain locked in a bloody war with Germany, ruled by their King’s first cousin, Kaiser William II, the German connection did not sit well with many of George’s subjects and it was feared that the Teutonic title would further alienate them at a time of political upheaval in Europe. The Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, who was also George’s first cousin (hence the term “the cousins’ war”) abdicated in mid-March, 1917, and there was a distinct possibility that other European monarchies — the British monarchy among them – would fall.
George V decided to scrap all titles held under the German Crown and to change German titles and house names to anglicised versions. On 17 July, 1917, he issued a royal proclamation declaring that henceforth “Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor.” The name Windsor had a long association with British royalty, through the town of Windsor, Berkshire and Windsor Castle and it has been the name of all British monarchs ever since.
The Royal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha title came by way of the 1837 marriage of George’s grandmother, Queen Victoria, whose father was German, to her first cousin Prince Albert, son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Victoria was of the royal House of Hanover but under the continental Salic Law she was barred as a woman from succession to Hanover.
The Hanoverian connection had meant special ties to German ruling families since 1714 when the Elector of Hanover succeeded to the English throne as George I. His five Hanoverian successors to the English throne were all of German descent. King William IV, the last of the Hanoverian monarchs who fathered a number of illegitimate children through a 20-year liaison with an actress, eventually married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. They had four children, but they all died in infancy.
So Victoria inherited the throne and reigned until her death in 1901, when her son Edward VII, and in turn his son George V, (both born into the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) inherited the Crown. When George died in 1936, his son ascended to the throne and reigned as King Edward VIII. It was to be a short and uneasy reign.
Edward’s intention to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite, caused a constitutional crisis and there was widespread opposition to the marriage. When it was clear he could not marry Simpson and keep the throne, Edward abdicated in December 1936, less than a year after he was crowned king. Soon after, he left for France where the couple were married.
On Edward’s abdication, his brother Albert Frederick Arthur George Saxe-Coburg-Saxe, who never expected, or wished, to succeed to the throne, was crowned King George V1. On his death, his daughter was crowned Elizabeth II.
Elizabeth married Philip, a descendant of the Danish-German house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg who was born Prince of Greece and Denmark on Corfu, Greece, the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg.
His parents were driven out of Greece when Philip was a child and he was educated in German, English and Scottish schools He later served with the British Royal Navy and fought with distinction for the Allies in the Second World War but did not become a British subject until his marriage to Elizabeth in 1947, when he converted to Anglicanism and took the name Mountbatten, the Anglicised version of his mother’s family name, Battenberg.
With Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1953 it seemed probable that the royal house would bear her husband’s name, becoming the House of Mountbatten in line the with custom of a wife taking a husband’s surname.
Her grandmother and British PM Winston Churchill favoured retaining the House of Windsor, and Windsor it remained, leading. Philip to complain that he was the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children.