British royal jubilee, Heathcote Wiliams poem

This video from Britain is called Royal Babylon by Heathcote Williams (rough cut).

Here is Heathcote Williams’s poem – The Queen of Diamonds:

Friday 21 December 2012

“Do not heap praise upon your queen, steal her jewellery instead.”
Radical proverb

Gandhi said poverty
Is the worst form of violence.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
Cost her taxpayers one billion pounds.
While it was being celebrated

Twenty nine percent
Of her subjects were in poverty –
“Deep and entrenched poverty”1
And their condition is unchanged.

This is to treat them with violence.
Small wonder the Queen is protected
By armed guards, 24/7.
It may be thought by some
That royal guards wearing silly hats
Are only there for the tourists
But they carry automatic weapons,
And they’re instructed to use them
In case any of the twenty-nine percent
Of the Queen’s subjects get above themselves
And wish to disturb the status quo
By threatening social unrest –
Due to their feeling provoked
By the unjust difference between
The Queen of Diamonds
And twenty-nine percent
Of unhappy Hearts.

In 2012 Downing Street was told
By those handling the Queen’s PR
That the Queen had apparently expressed
A schoolgirl enthusiasm for her ceremony
And wished to have even more Jubilees,
“One for every year of her reign”.
But some twenty-nine percent
Of her subjects, and perhaps more,

May wish to have a revolution instead.
Not every year, just one would do:
A permanent revolution
Sparked off by the insensitivity
Of a hoarding billionairess
To life on her own doorstep.

“You can make a boulder move
Before you can make a rich man
Feel compassion”, runs a radical proverb,
And “A hungry man”, runs another,
“Who refuses to revolt
Will eventually starve to death.”


By contrast to the Queen of Diamonds,
The President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica,
Has been dubbed by the international media
To which he responds: “I’m not a poor president.
Poor people are those who want more and more.
Those who never have enough of anything –
They are the poor because they live in a never ending cycle.”
Jose Mujica’s most valuable asset is a 1987 VW Beetle.
He lives in a small farmhouse with his wife and a dog.
He donates 90% of his salary to charity
And is richer than the Queen of England.

1 The Joseph Rowntree Foundation Survey Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion, 2011

Heathcote Williams is a poet, playwright and actor. He is best known for his extended poems on environmental subjects: Whale Nation, Falling for a Dolphin, Sacred Elephant and Autogeddon. His plays have also won acclaim, notably AC/DC produced at London’s Royal Court, and Hancock’s Last Half Hour. As an actor he has taken memorable roles in Orlando, Wish You Were Here, and Derek Jarman’s The Tempest, in which he played Prospero.

14 thoughts on “British royal jubilee, Heathcote Wiliams poem

  1. Jubilee Lines, edited by Carol Ann Duffy, is free of adulation of the queen and remembers her 60 years on the throne with 60 skilful new poems, each written by a contemporary poet. They are all personal and poetical but also reflect public events of a particular year, such as the advent of rock’n’roll, Suez and Hungary, the Kennedy assassination, CND, feminism, the Miners’ Strike and Greenham Common.

    The swift passing of time is a bit melancholic for poet Ruth Fainligh, as for all of us. She muses on her friends of 1963 and the arrival of credit cards, Valium, cassette tapes and remote controls for TV, and ends with the line: “Now each protagonist of this sad tale, bar me, is dead.”


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