Forty-five years ago, when Queen Elizabeth II was celebrating her Silver Jubilee, The Sex Pistols, a punk rock band with which some alert readers (ARs) may be familiar, saluted Her Majesty with their own version of “God Save the Queen.” The song, which was originally titled “No Future,” includes the line “She ain’t no human being.” While repeatedly saying the queen had “no future,” The Sex Pistols proclaimed, “We’re the future, we’re the future.” That was in 1977. In January of 1978 founding member Johnny Rotten announced the break-up of the band. The following year Johnny’s bandmate Sid Vicious died of a drug overdose in February of 1979. Forty-three years later, in 2022, Elizabeth is still on the throne, celebrating her platinum jubilee.
The official version of “God Save the Queen” would first have been sung in 1837, when Queen Victoria assumed the throne. She ruled nearly 64 years, until her death in 1901. As of this writing, her successor Elizabeth has reigned over 70 years. In other words, in the past 185 years “God Save the Queen” has been sung for two queens, whose reigns have totaled 134 years. In the intervening 51 years from Victoria’s death until Elizabeth’s accession to the throne the counterpart anthem “God Save the King” was sung for four kings, whose average reign was less than 13 years… less than one fifth as long as that of the average queen. Comparing these statistics, ARs might be tempted to conclude that Britons’ entreaties to save their queens are five times as effective as those to save their kings.
As Elizabeth was preparing for her coronation on June 2, 1953 one of her attendants said, “You must be feeling very nervous, ma’am.” Her Majesty famously replied, “Of course I am, but I really do think Aureole will win,” referring to her horse who was scheduled to race in the Epsom Derby four days later. The fact that Elizabeth was apparently more concerned about a horse race than her own coronation should not surprise ARs who are familiar with the royal family’s long interest in what is commonly called the Sport of Kings. Forty years before Elizabeth’s coronation her grandfather King George V (the grandson of Queen Victoria) owned a horse named Anmer running in the Epsom Derby on June 4, 1913. In the middle of the race a woman named Emily Wilding Davison ran onto the track and attempted to attach a scarf to the bridle of the galloping horse. The ensuing collision caused the jockey Herbert Jones to be thrown and ended up killing Ms. Davison. Emily Davison was later identified as a “suffragette” who was protesting on behalf of women’s emancipation and their right to vote.
As ARs will recall from my column last month, it was three years later that “suffragettes” demonstrated in front of what is now The Schlafly Tap Room on behalf of American women’s right to vote. The so-called “Golden Lane” of women wearing yellow sashes during the 1916 Democratic Convention is now recognized as one of the pivotal moments in the campaign for the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. It’s appropriate to be celebrating this important constitutional right at an establishment whose existence would not be a possible without the Twenty-First Amendment, which restored the right of all Americans, both men and women, to drink beer.
Back in 1916 both the women comprising The Golden Lane and their political opponents were probably in agreement as to the definition of “woman.” In 2022, however, there is no such consensus. When Ketanji Brown Jackson was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was considering her nomination to The Supreme Court, Senator Marsha Blackburn asked her to define the word “woman.” Judge Jackson replied , “I’m not a biologist.”
If at some point The Supreme Court is called upon to provide a judicial definition of “woman,” it would not be the first time the courts have ruled on matters of biology (or, more precisely, botany and zoology). In 1893, in the case of Nix v. Hedden The United States Supreme Court held that a tomato was a vegetable under the law, despite its botanical classification as a fruit. More recently, in the case of Happy v. Breheny The New York State Court of Appeals ruled that Happy, an elephant at the Bronx Zoo, was not a “person” under New York law. The decision was 5-2. Across the country, in the case of Almond Alliance of California v. Fish and Game Commission The California Court of Appeals recently held that bumblebees, like snails and other “terrestrial invertebrates”, were considered fish under state law.
One creature that is indisputably a fish is the mantis shrimp, a crustacean that is significant for at least two reasons. First, it can swing its front appendage, or club, at the speed of a .22 caliber bullet. (As some ARs may recall, that’s almost as fast as Superman could fly.) Second, it has the best eyes in the animal kingdom. While human eyes have three photoreceptors (allowing us to see red, green and blue), the mantis shrimp’s eyes have up to 16 photoreceptors, which allow them to see ultraviolet, visible and polarized light. They can also perceive depth with one eye and can move each eye independently.
It’s probably safe to say the mantis shrimp can see colors and shapes never imagined by any of the Sex Pistols, no matter what psychotropic drugs they might have been taking.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery