Charles and Camilla on the Way to the Guillotine

Driving smoothly along Regent Street on the way to the Palladium in a Rolls Royce, a gift from the Car Association to the Queen in her Silver Jubilee year of 1977, they must have seen some of the rioting students. Probably they were a little tense. But they can’t have expected an actual assault. It is not impossible that they heard one or more students shouting “Off with their heads!”

In any case, during the split second of the assault, they probably thought of nothing. Of course, they knew that between 1840, when Victoria was just twenty-one and newly pregnant, and 1882 when she was twenty years widowed and still in mourning, seven attempts were made on her life. They had of course also heard of Archduke Ferdinand and his lady in Sarajevo in 1914. It is doubtful that they considered the Dr. Johnson’s quote relevant: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Between Charles the First, whose head was cut off, and this Charles there was only one other namesake, Charles the Second, who died in his bed after saying, “You must pardon me, gentlemen, for being a most unconscionable time a-dying.” If our Charles was asked which of his two predecessors’ fate he would prefer, he would probably, but not certainly, choose Charles the Second.

That question was unlikely to have occurred to him during that split second.

But if any images flashed through his and Camilla’s minds at all it’s likely to be that of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on their separate ways to the guillotine on the Place de la Concorde.

In fact, surely there is no crowned head, or future crowned head, anywhere, in whose dreams that scene does not occur in one form or another.
One question remains: did any of the students shouting “Off with their heads!” think of himself as the Lord High Executioner?

The Internment series has been extended to six videos. Number five is posted at YouTube.


2 responses to “Charles and Camilla on the Way to the Guillotine

  1. David Schatzky

    While at the Cumberland this weekend, enjoying the terrific new film “Made In Dagenham” about the Ford employee who fought for equal pay for women, I couldn’t help thinking about the students who attacked the royal limo. Many of those students come from working class families and all are facing a huge increase in tuition (anything from 100% to 200%). To see Charles and Camilla riding in style at public expense while they were protesting the increases must have been infuriating!

  2. They were probably thinking of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. And speaking of red, many of those “students” were just rent a thugs from central casting. If the British want to get rid of the monarchy they can vote for it. Boo-hoo if they’re jealous of people in a Rolls.