Next week, British citizens are being asked to individually and collectively swear an oath of allegiance to King Charles III, and that sticks in my craw. Today I have been wondering why.
First, I have been wondering why people are asked to pledge national allegiances at all. Second, I have been wondering why British citizens need to swear allegiance to Charles. Third, I wonder what the oath means to the people who swear it. And fourth, why is it bugging me?
These thoughts are complicated by the fact that I have dual British and Canadian citizenship. In addition, I once applied for a U.S. green card, but I think that application is still sitting on a bureaucrat’s desk somewhere. It has been ten years now, but I hear it’s a long process.
When I became a Canadian, I pledged allegiance to the throne, the royalty, the monarchy? It was kind of vague, actually. I wasn’t really sure what I was promising to be allied to, but according to the Government of Canada’s website:
“In Canada, we profess our loyalty to a person who represents all Canadians and not to a document such as a constitution, a banner such as a flag, or a geopolitical entity such as a country. In our constitutional monarchy, these elements are encompassed by the Sovereign (Queen or King). “
I agreed to it because I wanted to become a Canadian and the fine details didn’t really matter much at the time. It occurs to me now that when I lived in England I was never once asked to pledge allegiance to anyone or anything, and so this thing with Charles is new.
Nonetheless, I’m still not clear on what that loyalty entails. Do I have to fight for the king, or keep his secrets, or always use postage stamps with his image, or help him bury bodies? What kind of loyalty are we talking about?
Perhaps, simply by having dual citizenship, I have already failed in my allegiance. The fact that the British monarch rules over both Britain and Canada seems to resolve that dilemma. But what if I had been given that U.S. green card? Would I have become instantly disloyal? If so, what is the penalty for that? I have so many questions.
Next week, when Charles is crowned king, I imagine that lots of loyal Brits will stand in front of their televisions and pledge allegiance to him. They may even wave flags and put their hands on their hearts. In some ways, that is honourable and admirable. At the same time, though, I wonder if they all have the same understanding of the commitment they are making.
It is a very vague concept, this allegiance. If it means being an ally in the same way that we are allied with old school pals or co-workers, then fine. But if it means being allied like countries in a world war, I’m not sure I’m up for that.
The only time I was asked to pledge allegiance to the Queen was when a had a temporary job with the feds, investigating wages paid to agricultural workers in the Niagara Peninsula. This was probably in the 70’s. It felt very strange – there was a photo of her on the wall. I don’t think Canadians should be required to pledge allegiance to a British King or Queen. It doesn’t make sense at this time. Pledging allegiance to your country makes sense, I think.
I suspect most Canadians would agree with you. Our relationship to the British monarchy is a very distant one.
If pledging allegiance means not giving away state secrets, then I agree that we owe our countries that, at least.
Hi Anne, I love your blog. Today’s made me laugh. It is all quite curious to me that people would stand in front of a TV and swear allegiance to a King??? Quite mindless really and still they do it? See you later. Cheers Donna
Monty Python would have had a field day with this! 🙂
Oh my, I just realized that we Americans “pledge allegiance” to our flag each time we recite the words. When I was in elementary school eons ago, that was a daily occurrence and I am sure I never considered what I was saying. Food for thought for me as we prepare to watch basketball play-off game today and there is no Pledge involved!
I used to think it was peculiar that American children pledged allegiance to the flag, but really it is no more peculiar than pledging allegiance to a king. Neither makes much sense to me.
I also wonder if American children, and now the British public, know what it is they are committing themselves to in that oath.
I think I’ll need a sword when I stand in front of the telly…it would be fitting don’t you think 🙂
By the way, I also hold duel citizenship, my father was a Londoner.
I don’t know what you plan to do with that sword but try not to put it through the TV!
I was born and raised in West London, so your dad and I have something in common.