Daily Archives: February 25, 2008

Gideon Rachman

I am just back from watching a citizenship ceremony at the Tower of London.  The new Britons swear an oath of loyalty to the crown, in which they are referred to as subjects rather than citizens. Then they go and get a certficate and their photo taken with a man in a fancy uniform, in front of a Union Jack and a portrait of the Queen. Then everybody sings the national anthem: just the first two verses, so that the new citizens do not have to engage with that confusing passage about “crushing rebellious Scots”.

The citizenship ceremony is a new thing in Britain. One of my neighbours at the FT recalls that when he became a citizen many years ago, all that happened was that he got a letter from the Home Secretary saying that he was “minded” to grant him citizenship. He then had to go a local solicitor’s office and swear an oath of loyalty to the monarch. The solicitor said merrily – “I’ll give her a call and tell her.”

I always found this British casualness about citizenship quite re-assuring. It seems self-confident and under-stated – which are two of the better national characteristics. But 9/11 and an increasing awareness of the impact of immigration on Britain has changed things. The government brought in a citizenship ceremony – loosely modelled on the US. The first one took place in Britain in January, 2004. Read more >>