Thursday, 6 December 2012

In Praise of William and Kate; in Praise of Monarchy



There was a post on Blog Catalogue congratulating William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, on the forthcoming birth of their first child, good news for them in particular and for the British monarchy in general, the succession now secured far into the future.  I added my own congratulations but the post also attracted ignorant comment from people who should know better but don’t. 

One American described our monarchy as a ‘travesty’ and an Australian pompously went on about what an anachronism it was in the modern world to have an inherited head of state.  This was supported by arrant nonsense about philosophers and political thinkers in the seventeenth century being “more modern and more rational.”  It demanded a response and response I gave, highlighting the importance of monarchy in history.  This is my broadside on ignorance.  It’s been slightly adapted and expanded. 

I’m not sure who the ‘more modern and more rational’ seventeenth century political thinkers were alluded to here. It just so happens that the seventeenth century is my speciality, a period of intense political upheaval in the history of England. It was the one time that we got rid of our monarchy, albeit for a brief period.

It was a period when the gentle authoritarianism of King Charles I was replaced by the military dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell and the dire Puritanism of the Major Generals. In the end the people had enough of Protectors, Republics and Confusion, calling Charles II home from exile. Since then the institution has gone from strength to strength, gently devolving its former prerogatives and powers to Parliament and People.

There is an acute historical irony here.  The monarchy, it might be said, is an institution in evolution.  It evolves now just as it has in the past.  In the eighteenth century the Americans rebelled against the perceived ‘tyranny’ of George III, eventually creating a monarchical republic.  As George and his descendents continued to devolve power to Parliament, an imperial presidency arose in the States.  Presidents as varied as Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt exercised forms of prerogative power that even Charles I would have found shocking.

Looking further afield, consider the history of France, where a monarchy was replaced by ‘rational’ forms of terror, mass murder and dictatorship. Look at the history of the last century, conceivably the most terrible in human history, where in place of traditional monarchies in Russia and Germany we had murderous tyranny; instead of Nicholas II we had Stalin; instead of Wilhelm II we had Hitler.

Bringing the story up to date, the most politically advanced, stable and culturally tolerant countries in Europe are all monarchies. Apart from my own country there is the NetherlandsBelgiumLuxembourgDenmarkNorway and Sweden. It was the monarchy in Spain that acted as the midwife to a modern democracy after years of dictatorship.

I do wish people would think a little more deeply before they use words like travesty or before they waffle on about anachronism and rationality.

Anyway, well done William and Kate, two more charming people I find difficult to imagine.  They will make splendid parents just as one day they will make a splendid King and Queen.  

16 comments:

  1. Ana the problem is people do not think anymore, they open their mouths while eating and spew undigested facts gleaned from the toilet paper tabloids. Oh how wonderful a world comprised of instant dictatorships based on radical left wing thinking and an eschewal of standards, and no stopping them, Australia is really a land of the vaguely socialised criminal, oh bless you with your sports stars, your fake Monarchy, after all I am only using your humour in the style you most admire, that of your place of socially accepted unassailability,all you Republic builders, such a demotic string of cliches you spew after all.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There was a time before hierarchies, empires, borders. There will be such a time again. In the meantime, we find ourselves trying all the wrong solutions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Calvin, I get so angry at the stupidity.

      Delete
  3. Ana, I have nothing but respect for the royals. I think Prince William and Kate are charming, too. They are excellent role models, not just in England but worldwide, and they’ll be wonderful, doting parents. I didn’t see that comment on Blog Catalog until you mentioned it, then I looked for it and left a congrats to the royal couple comment (as well as “liking” your comments). Frankly, I was surprised at the very negative comments there (and as an American, I’d like to apologize for any rude Americans). Yes, people should think more deeply before tossing out words like travesty, and I think you very aptly answered that with historical facts. Excellent post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JL, you are a wonderful person, a real credit to America and all that I love about America.

      Delete
  4. I have always been an ardent monarchist but did not truly know why other than vague thoughts that it worked and that it brought stability. Now after reading your excellent article I am much better informed and am surprised at how much more important maintaining the monarchy is. However having followed political, social and economic policies and practices for many decades now that have been mostly left inspired that have brought the UK and many Western nations to their knees I foresee the same influences one day abolishing the monarchy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the EU goes as it goes it will abolish not just our monarchy but all that makes England England.

      Delete
  5. Best wishes to the young Royals; By all that is right and just Charles and his rancid consort should gracefully step aside. The royal houses of Europe still yield great political and financial clout and the power base is in Thule Sweden.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree with you, travesty and anachronism are definitely not words I'd use to describe the British monarchy.

    The one thing I will say though, is that it's a shame how much personal information the public knows about political and/or famous people. Actually, it sucks that they feel they must tell the public before the news breaks or leaks. I hope for their sake, they are able to have some quiet and private moments throughout this pregnancy and in their lives in general.
    Americans, Isn't there a fiscal cliff that needs our attention?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Can't disagree, Ana - have just said as much myself.

    ReplyDelete