Historian Simon Schama’s phrase, “top nation elation”  came to mind as I mulled over the pomp of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state visit to London and the vestigial tokens of the long, part rewarding, part tortuous relationship between Britain and the world. Schama’s cocky summation referred specifically to Victorian Britain’s sense of self at the 1897 Diamond Jubilee — the first for a British monarch.

The imperial reach, then, was reflected in the attendance of no fewer than 11 colonial prime ministers (two from Southern Africa, from the Cape and Natal), no less than in the words of Victoria herself. With what seems now almost breathtaking presumption — though who’s to say she didn’t mean it? — the Queen telegraphed a message to all nations in the Empire: “From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them.”..

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