It’s official: I’m a British citizen. This morning I put on a dress and brought my husband and mother-in-law to Hendon Town Hall for the obligatory citizenship ceremony, where I had to declare “solemnly, sincerely and truly” to be “faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second…”
I was one of about forty people from 29 different countries to receive a citizenship certificate from the Mayor of my local borough, and more than half of us were EU citizens. If it weren’t for Brexit, I doubt all of us would have bothered to apply for citizenship. Other new citizens included people from Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, China, Ukraine and Malaysia and we all cheered each other on as our names were called.
When I phoned to register for the ceremony, I was advised to dress ‘appropriately’ and while I was sorely tempted to channel my inner Geri Halliwell, aka Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls, I demurred and chose a more conservative outfit.
The ceremony was held in large wood-panelled room adorned with the union jack and a portrait of the queen. The new citizens were seated in rows, facing the Mayor while guests sat in the galleries, cut off from the rest of us by a glass panel. The layout reminded me a little too much of that of a courtroom, a feeling that was accentuated by the occasional wailing of an infant.
Not only were we required to affirm our allegiance to the Queen, but we also had to pledge to uphold the democratic values of the United Kingdom and to observe its laws faithfully, an obligation that seemingly doesn’t extend to the current prime minister.
In an effort to inspire a sense of civic duty amongst her borough’s most recent citizens, the Mayor quoted John F Kennedy:
“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
Lady Mayor, I know exactly what I can do for my new country; help dethrone Boris Johnson at the next election.
I know the whole process is very arduous, maybe even more difficult than a driving test. I doubt if most people born here could answer the questions without hard study.
So well done, of course you shouldn’t have had to do it, but I hope the experience was also positive in many ways.
We certainly live in interesting times and you definitely have a story to tell