McKenna, Mark: Friday essay: King, Queen and country – will Anzac thwart republicanism?

Mark McKenna

Friday essay: King, Queen and country – will Anzac thwart republicanism?The Conversation, 21 April 2017 updated

Update 31 July 2017: Benjamin T. Jones in Guardian Australia wonders what is holding Prime Minister Turnbull back from a referendum on the republic. This followed a promise by Opposition Leader Shorten to hold an early referendum.

Slightly edited version of Mark McKenna’s chapter from The Honest History Book. The chapter considers

the dramatic change that has occurred in the meaning and significance of Anzac Day in recent years, one that has seen 25 April transformed from the highest expression of loyalty to the British Empire to a more inward-looking, nation-defining myth that reveals the country’s “sense of self” and occupies an “eternal place in the Australian soul”.

McKenna shows how the Queen and other Royals saw the Australia-Britain relationship ‘through the prism of the country’s shared sacrifice in two world wars’. Australians reciprocated. However, as the Imperial connection has weakened Anzac has taken on a new perspective.

As Australians once found mystery and spiritual communion through their allegiance to the British monarch – a depth of attachment that was almost beyond human expression – they find similar virtues in Anzac today: something sacred, immaterial and gloriously irrational that binds them as a people and transports them beyond the everyday like no other national myth can …

While members of the British royal family still troop through the Australian War Memorial, their visits captured in framed photographs – Prince Harry in uniform submitting cheerfully to “selfies” with teenage girls – and on Facebook, Flickr and Instagram, they are treated as celebrities rather than royalty.


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