Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Englishman and the King

In our age of hyper-democracy, it is good to meditate on why the English have not jettisoned their king and queen completely.  The conclusions will apply also to us in the several States, being much the same in blood, history, and customs as the Brits and Celts of the Isles.  Dr Vladimir Moss's thoughts on the matter follow (Autocracy, Despotism and Democracy, Part 2: The Age of Reason (1453 to 1789), 2012: pgs. 60-1):

It is worth pondering why the monarchy continued to exert such a mystical attraction in a nation that was well on the way to ejecting all mysticism from its political and ecclesiastical life. Part of the answer must lie in the upsurge of patriotism that accompanied the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, whose focus became the virgin Queen Elizabeth. Another part must lie in the continuing nostalgia for the past that was being destroyed, a past in which the figure of the anointed king played such an important role.

Even today, when democratism appears to have finally triumphed, the monarchy remains popular in England. And at the heart of the democracy, Westminster Abbey, there still lies the body of the most holy of the Orthodox kings of England, Edward the Confessor, like a rose among thorns. It is as if the English people, even while leading the way into the new democratic age, subconsciously feel that they have lost something vitally important, and cling to the holy corpse with despairing tenacity, refusing to believe that the soul has finally departed. Thus even such a convinced democrat as C.S. Lewis could write of the monarchy as “the channel through which all the vital elements of citizenship - loyalty, the consecration of secular life, the hierarchical principle, splendour, ceremony, continuity - still trickle down to irrigate the dustbowl of modern economic Statecraft". And even today, hysteria can seize a whole nation on the death of a princess, for little other reason than that she was a princess. Thus monarchism is something deeply rooted with the human psyche which we attempt to uproot at our peril…

Roger Scruton has spoken of the English monarchy as “the light above politics, which shines down on the human bustle from a calmer and more exalted sphere. Not being elected by popular vote, the monarch cannot be understood as representing the views only of the present generation. He or she is born into the position, and also passes it on to a legally defined successor. The monarch is in a real sense the voice of history, and the very accidental [sic] way in which the office is acquired emphasises the grounds of the monarch’s legitimacy, in the history of a place and a culture. This is not to say that kings and queens cannot be mad, irrational, self-interested or unwise. It is to say, rather, that they owe their authority and their influence precisely to the fact that they speak for something other than the present desires of present voters, something vital to the continuity and community which the act of voting assumes. Hence, if they are heard at all, they are head as limiting the democratic process, in just the way that it must be limited if it is to issue in reasonable legislation. It was in such a way that the English conceived their Queen, in the sunset days of Queen Victoria. The sovereign was an ordinary person, transfigured by a peculiar enchantment which represented not political power but the mysterious authority of an ancient ‘law of the land’. When the monarch betrays that law – as, in the opinion of many, the Stuarts betrayed it – a great social and spiritual unrest seizes the common conscience, unrest of a kind that could never attend the misdemeanours of an elected president, or even the betrayal of trust by a political party.”
Chadwick writes: “Something about an English king distinguished him from the godly prince of Germany or Sweden. While everyone agreed that a lawful ruler was called of God, and that obedience was a Christian duty, it would not have been so natural for a Lutheran to write that a divinity doth hedge a king. Offspring of an ancient line, crowned with the anointing of medieval ritual, he retained an aura of mystique which neither Renaissance nor Reformation at once dispelled. It is curious to find the Catholic king of France touching the scrofulous to heal them until a few years before the French Revolution. It is much more curious to find the Protestant sovereigns of England, from Elizabeth to James II, continuing to perform the same ritual cures, and to note that the last reigning sovereign to touch was Queen Anne in 1714… The supernatural aura of the anointed head was long in dying, and must be reckoned with when judging the unusual English forms of the divine right.”

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