Thursday, 28 April 2011
Born to reign over us
On the eve of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton I want to register my unqualified support for our monarchy and for the traditions behind the monarchy as it stands. It seems to me particularly important now, perhaps more than at any other time, not because the institution is in danger from republicans, a laughably small band of oddballs and Guardian columnists, but from those in office, like the even more laughable Nick Clegg, our benighted Deputy Prime Minister, a man about as savvy, as hapless and as hopeless as Mister Bean.
I was motivated to write this, not just because of tomorrow’s wedding, an occasion for celebration, but because of an excellent article by Simon Heffer published yesterday in the Telegraph (Politicians, not republicans, are a threat to the monarchy). The article ranges beyond politicians to touch on the attitude of certain sections of the national press. When it comes to royalty some newspapers switch rapidly from the fawningly obsequious to the savagely ill-informed, evidenced by their outrageous behaviour following the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
As a general principle let me make it quite clear that I am in favour of the equality of the sexes and against any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion, always, yes, always setting the monarchy to one side. There inequality and discrimination are an essential part of the constitution. So, there, I’ve said it; now let me justify my position.
Poor Corporal Clegg; he reminds me so much of Henry’s Cat, a cartoon character from my childhood, who “knows quite a lot about nothing and not too much about that,” so the theme tune went. Yes, that’s Clegg, who knows even less about our constitution than Henry’s Cat, seeing the monarchy as just another institution which needs to be ‘modernised’. Modernisation, by the lights of Clegg, would mean allowing the reigning monarch to marry a Catholic, contrary to the 1701 Act of Settlement, whose terms subsequently passed into the constitutions of other realms in the Commonwealth.
Oh, my, how terrible, how can we possibly discriminate against Catholics in the modern age, the age of Clegg? Let me be kind and say as little as I can about James II, the last Catholic king of England, apart from the fact that he was a total disaster as a ruler and as a man! But that’s not the point. The point is that a Catholic monarch, even one with more charm and political finesse than James, would be in an invidious position: Supreme Governor of one church, the Church of England, while professing loyalty to another, the Church of Rome. I find it difficult to believe that Clegg overlooked this obvious contradiction. Cue the Henry’s Cat theme.
Into the mix of ‘reform’ the sexism of male succession has been thrown. Instead, the argument goes, the law should be altered to allow older princesses to take precedence over younger princes. Andrew Roberts, writing in the Spectator, makes the point that if this kind of sex equality had been in place at the time of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 then Kaiser Bill –“perhaps the most psychologically damaged monarch of the twentieth century” – would have succeeded as king of England!
Look, leave things as they are, the inequality, the sexism and the perceived discrimination. Let everything else change, not the monarchy. It remains the last sacred part of our constitution, wonderfully out of place, irrational, full of mystique and majesty. Wretched asses like Clegg interfere with it at its peril and ours, beginning a process that will lead to goodness knows what end. Well, I could suggest an end: it could lead to an Obama or a Sarkozy; it could have led to – wait for it - President Tony Blair, in other words, to the nadir of this nation.
Let’s have no more babble, promoted often by the press, about succession skipping a generation, no more gibberish about the Queen retiring and Charles standing aside in favour of William. William will be king but only in proper succession to his grandmother and his father.
Let all the sour nay-sayers, deniers and ‘modernisers’ have a rotten Friday. God bless William and Catherine, God bless this marriage and God bless the future of the monarchy, an institution imperfectly perfect, irrationally rational. The others can have their presidents, a traduced and compromised form of monarchy; not us, not ever.