Monday, June 05, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 15, 1444 H
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Reflections: Passing the Queen’s Baton

To be in the presence of greatness reduces one’s ability to be critical, but it does enhance every emotion and sensation in a very much considered demonstration of respect that is, was, tangible

Tomorrow sees the State Funeral of Elizabeth II, the Queen of Great Britain, who has been a particular friend of the Sultanate of Oman for so many decades. It is a passing Oman will mourn, and her last visit here, in 2010, was an occasion of as much pomp and ceremony as any global Head of State or monarch.

The royal visit continued a tradition of royal ‘patronage’ of Oman with Her Majesty having previously visited in 1979. King Charles III, formerly Charles, the Prince of Wales, has also visited Oman, in 1986, and 2013, with his now Queen Consort Camilla, and who could forget the visit of a boisterous and charming Prince Harry in 2014 to celebrate National Day, the 18th of November.

However, returning to Elizabeth II, for all that pomp, all the ceremony, and all the diplomacy that engendered the royal visit, my wife Yelena and I were just a couple of the hundreds of ‘ordinary’ folk, invited to share a day at the races with royalty, to share a picnic lunch, mere yards away from Her Majesty, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband and constant companion, and Sultan Qaboos, and their respective retinues.

A diverse crowd of Omanis and expatriates hung on every move, every gesture, of Their Majesties, with ripples of ooohs and aaahs, spontaneous ripples of applause and admiration when their delight or approval was clear. It was a wonderful occasion in the sunshine at the Royal Cavalry Racecourse in Barka, where there was just enough of that cooling sea breeze to make what could have been a challenging afternoon, both a pleasure and a privilege.

Certainly, to be in the presence of greatness reduces one’s ability to be critical, but it does enhance every emotion and sensation in a very much considered demonstration of respect that is, was, tangible. It is telling that today, in a world riven with such uncertainty, that the very few who have sought to belittle the late Queen have been either seeking political notoriety, or their ’15 minutes of fame,’ and could only aspire to such levels of global affection.

So, what does the future herald for the relationship between Oman and the British succession? While death and taxes are the only certainties, the protective cloak the United Kingdom has steadfastly maintained over the jewel of the Gulf states, it is difficult to see any change in the closeness of the relationship established across five decades at either the royal level, or in diplomatic circles.

Though Charles III has been the longest serving heir to the throne in history, and the eldest crowned monarch of the British Isles, he has shown himself to be very much in his mother’s mold, yet his own man, who has proven year after year to have been willing to speak out on controversial and contentious issues, and almost without fail to be proven correct subsequently.

He supported conservation and the environment before they became political bandwagons. He recognised the need to both protect and challenge the youthful generations, and who could doubt now, his astuteness on that subject. Neither was he afraid to be critical of those who have little or no social responsibility while having the power, and the means to do so. Some would have undoubtedly shifted uncomfortably in their seats as he chastised their indolence, saying...

“To move forward we must acknowledge that sustainability and profitability are no longer mutually exclusive,” that “It is time to align sustainable solutions with funding in a way that can transform the marketplace,” and asking, “How quickly can we get there and who are the leaders who will drive us forward?” These are not the utterances of one who will stand... and watch...

The mutual respect held for each other by these two illustrious royal dynasties forged in the crucible of ceremony, or perhaps despite it, signposts the tolerance of each other’s religions, lifestyles, histories, cultures, and values, and long may it last. The Queen is dead, the heralds cry is “Long live the King: Long live King Charles III.”

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