When Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, the British Empire was in a totally different world, a world where nothing acquired, conquered or annexed was considered politically incorrect.
Queen Victoria’s heir Prince Edward had to keep himself occupied during his long wait to succeed her mother as Edward Vll, but only for a short reign of nine years.
King Charles lll succeeded his much-loved mother the late Queen Elizabeth ll, Sovereign Head of the Order of St. John, at the most trying, challenging and turbulent period in recorded history.
Extreme climate change, near-recession global economy, and Man’s inability to contain Covid-19.
Personally, I was most impressed by the enormous interest of the British Royal Family in charities and voluntary work.
As Founder of St. John Ambulance Sarawak, being the most senior District Commissioner (A Superior Officer made directly by the late Queen’s uncle and deputy, the Grand Prior in 1971), Founding Chairman and Commander of St. John in the Commonwealth today, so having 52 years to observe at close range the core activities of the British Royal Family.
When entertained by the late Queen and the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, meeting other members of the Royal Family, I could see how informal they could be even talking to me, a young fellow, fresh from college, on subjects of mutual interest, charities and environment, long before they were in vogue!
The charming late Queen Elizabeth ll, her late Prince Consort and other members of the Royal Family were very relaxed and spoke to the guests. No strict protocol at all.
We have been in touch ever since, and we met again a few times.
It was most touching to discover two absolutely insignificant gifts I personally presented to the late Queen, a St. John Medallion with the Founder’s name, and a carved wooden hornbill which I commissioned a patient at RCBM Hospital to carve it, as I was the Chairman of the Leprosy Relief Association (SB) until leprosy was totally eradicated in Sarawak.
Both gifts are in The Royal Collection. They were chosen for display during the Commonwealth Games at the Palace of Holyrood in Scotland, and featured in national newspapers. Both are displayed in Buckingham Palace as well.
I deem this gesture as an honor and a tribute to all volunteers of all charities and environmental campaigns I am associated with, and an honor to our country as well.
King Charles lll, an extraordinarily eco-friendly person who advocates sustainability, Sovereign of the United Kingdom, the 56 Realms and Head of the Commonwealth with a third of the world’s population, can have enormous influence in the war against climate change.
Adding to that is the desire of the new monarch to continue the late Queen’s reforms to make the monarchy more relevant in this age and century, and the new king is making all possible to keep all the four-nation United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth together.
It is a monumental task for anyone in his shoes.
I am confident that the new British King for all his people and his chosen role as Defender of All Faiths, not the traditional “The Faith” will help bring hope, peace and harmony to not only a third of the world’s population but beyond. “All Faiths” is a radical reform from “The Faith” since the Reformation in the reign of King Henry Vlll.
A preeminent environmentalist, like his father the late Prince Philip who was Duke of Edinburgh, he puts into practice his highly organized organic farms and gardens at Highgrove.
On the occasion of his Coronation, I send my heartiest congratulations and very best wishes to the green King, and pray that there is hope of bringing climate change under control.
May the King and Queen be blessed with a happy, peaceful and glorious reign.
(Datuk Seri Ang Lai Soon is Sarawak social activist, philanthropist, founder of St John’s Ambulance Sarawak.)