Symon Hill was strolling again from church on a sunny autumn Sunday when he realised his route was blocked; the roads round Carfax Tower in Oxford have been closed off. It was 11 September, the day after Charles Windsor had been formally proclaimed King Charles III in London, and native occasions have been being held nationwide. This ceremony, organised by the council, typified the pomp and pageantry. Hill is a quiet, considerate man of 46, however it doesn’t take a lot to rile him on the subject of the monarchy. He was wanting ahead to spending the afternoon stress-free along with his housemates of their backyard, and now he was caught in a celebration he considered archaic and irrelevant.
Hill is a Christian, historian, pacifist, trainer, author, activist and republican. At the beginning of the ceremony, which centered on the queen’s demise, he was silent: “I wouldn’t interrupt anyone’s grief.” However when “they declared Charles rightful liege lord, and acknowledged our obedience to him as our solely king”, Hill had heard sufficient. “I discover this language very demeaning, and I known as out ‘Who elected him?’” To his astonishment, he discovered himself surrounded by safety, arrested and ultimately charged beneath the Public Order Act 1986.
Hill’s arrest made the newspapers. Not as a result of his had been an excessive or dramatic protest, however as a result of it had been so delicate. How might it have resulted in a legal cost? On the identical day, a 22-year-old lady who allegedly held a placard studying “Fuck imperialism, abolish monarchy” was arrested in Edinburgh for breach of the peace. Extra overt types of protest additionally made headlines. One younger man chucked 5 eggs on the new king and, regardless of his failure to hit his goal, he was additionally charged with a public order offence.
Maybe probably the most alarming story to emerge was that of a barrister threatened with arrest after holding up a clean piece of paper outdoors parliament. It felt like one thing we would examine in China or Russia. (Certainly, a few months later Chinese language protesters used clean items of paper to protest towards the nation’s zero-tolerance Covid coverage in what folks known as the A4 revolution.) What was occurring to Britain and its a lot vaunted democracy? Within the days after the queen’s demise, as TV stations cancelled common programming and sombre music was performed on the radio, solely supine monarchism appeared acceptable.
Hunwell and I meet in a Wetherspoon pub in Oxford the place he orders a non-alcoholic beer. He bears a resemblance to Mole in The Wind within the Willows – small, bespectacled, flat-capped, scrupulously well mannered and type. Hill tells me it was his childhood that radicalised him. He was born right into a working-class household within the Midlands. When he was six, his mom grew to become housekeeper to a rich, aristocratic couple: “We lived in what would have been known as a servants’ cottage again within the day.” He admits his recollections are partial, however some are nonetheless so clear – being allowed to play with the employer’s canine as if it have been a deal with; the benign patrician taking down a glass of wine to his mom within the kitchen and telling her to not point out it to his spouse, who would disapprove. “It made me conscious of inequality. As a toddler, you don’t perceive why one lady ought to be a housekeeper and one other ought to have a housekeeper. I nonetheless don’t.”
Hill’s activism has all the time been sure up along with his Christianity, a lot of his objection to monarchy derived from his religion: “I don’t perceive how a Christian can comply with a proclamation declaring anyone apart from Jesus to be our solely king. I attempt to dwell by my religion on a regular basis,” he provides, and reddens barely. “Clearly I usually don’t handle that. However issues like making an attempt to like your neighbour is a type of activism for me.” He’s the writer of The No-Nonsense Information to Faith and The Upside-Down Bible.