I must have been one of the very few kids in Glasgow to be lullabied to sleep with old Republican songs… and because of that and my own journey I’m an avowed internationalist republican which is why today I say Vive La Republic of Barbados.
And Bim, as it is affectionately known (hence me being known on the island as Bim Jim) is the talk of the Scottish and British Travel scene with the Bridgetown route rolling out from Edinburgh next month.
Now to celebrate Barbados becoming the latest country to throw off the shackles of monarchy and go out on their own, here’s to all those nations who have taken their destiny in their own hands.
And decided to be governed by one of their own.
Now a true republic, just like a true democracy or a true anything these days in double speak, is a moveable object.
But you’ve got to start somewhere which is why we’re going with 160 (now Barbados have signed up).
All republics lead from Rome
And if you know you’re Classic History, and my Latin is better than my Ancient Greek then you’ll know that republic derives from the two Latin words res and publica (public thing).
So that’s one of the famous things that ‘the Romans did for us’ although, of course, if you’re British then it’s an experiment from which we’ve run far away.
Apart, of course, from a brief period from 1649-1660 when these islands of Britain and Ireland entered into a Commonwealth which was really a theocracy.
But while Westminster claims to be the mother of all parliaments (doubtful, and Europe’s oldest in Iceland might have something to say about that).
It’s Rome which is the mothership of all republics, and we have the good fortune that the Forum, the hub of Roman public life is still there.
No fools those Ancient Romans though with their togas as I found out when I almost fainted in the Eternal City heat in my modern clothes.
An Italian fixture
Now where Rome led the rest of Italy followed.
And chief among them was the 1100-year Venetian Republic which still styles itself thus and is hewn into every gondola and the very bricks of the Campanile.
Florence, Siena, Amalfi, Pisa and Genoa all saw what the Doges were doing and how fetching their hats were and followed suit.
But the republicaniest of all the republics and the longest-standing is San Marino.
And so what they lack in football skills (0-10 v England) they more than make up for in their political skills.
La Republique, mais oui
Ah, yes, the French. like so much, would have us believe that they are the shining light of Republics.
So much so that they have had five of them ever since Corsican Napoleon got le ball rolling.
Notre ami soon decided though that L’empereur sounded so much better…
And he did that with one arm behind his back (or affectedly tucked in his jacket then).
It must be a poncey royal thing because the UK’s Prince Charles who very graciously decided to attend the signing-over papers to the Bajans (and bag himself some sun at the time) does pretty much the same thing.
And on a tangent we’ll not say anything about the carbon footprint, Prince Save The World.
None of us are perfect, of course, it’s just the rest of us don’t bleat on about it and preach to the rest of us who do hop on planes.
Middle Ages and Middle Europe
The breeding ground for republics in the Middle Ages was what we now know as Germany.
And a quick count chronicles 62 in the northern European powerhouse.
All of which would be a good exercise and excuse to traverse modern-day Germany with a Michael Portillo type notebook.
I’d have to start in my favourite German city Hamburg first of course.
There are some who have gone the opposite way to the Bajans and jumped from republic to monarchy like the Dutch.
Others who have had a brief dalliance with republicanism, Catalonia, and still have hopes of a return to those halcyon days.
Battle hymn of the Republic
Yes, their eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
And while the North eulogised its Republic, the South too held its close to its bosom, albeit for just five years.
That said the Confederate States of America still exist in the hearts and minds of many in the Deep South.
And you don’t need me to tell you that that was the first battle of the US Civil War.
There were, of course, a rash of republics in the post-colonial world which is where Barbados join us now.
While in Africa and Asia the cry went up for the ‘public thing’ which alas all too quickly became the ‘dictator thing.’
And because of these precedents it ratchets up our hope that the South African Rainbow Nation experiment proves successful despite its challenges.
And the USSR and its satellites
Dogmatic ideologists, of course, think nothing of hijacking the word republic for something that looks nothing like it.
And hovering up previously self-governing nations, which is where Russia came in and formed the bloated Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic.
Unless I find me a time machine a trip back to those days will inevitably elude me, although that’s where museums and heritage come in.
And you can still immerse yourself into the spirit of those days on any trip out there.
Which is exactly what you get when you visit the old DDR.
Now we all know of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie but more of us should visit the mural to communism which stands as a reminder of Russian misrule and occupation in Dresden.
And so good luck to the incumbent President of Barbados. Sandra Mason, incidentally also the last governor-general.
Vive La Republic of Barbados.
I’ll raise a glass of rum punch to you on the official date of handover tomorrow.
Which is a shared holiday, Barbados’s National Day, and Scotland’s too.
And until my own native land becomes a republic (I’m not holding my breath) I’ll. mark yours, and America’s and France’s.
And the whole lot of you, 160 or so, who have taken the revolutionary step of deciding that you wanted to be ruled by someone of the people.