16 June, 2006


Monarchy -- A Quaint Anachronism?

Viewing the very well-done series "Queen and Country" on BBCAmerica, broadcast to coincide with Elizabeth II's 80th birthday celebrations, solidified my affinity for constitutional monarchy and also for the particular qualities of the present occupant of the throne of the United Kingdom.

Here are some interesting quotes from the Constitutional Monarchy Association in the UK, the first from MP Ann Widdecombe (a Roman Catholic, incidentally) being interesting in light of the recent movie V for Vendetta and its premise of totalitarianism in the UK but no reference to what happened to the monarchy:

Britain’s constitutional monarchy is one of its greatest strengths as well as one of its greatest attractions. The monarch is detached from party politics in a way no president could be. For years, the existence of a monarchy was the guarantee that no would-be dictator could stage a coup by deploying troops, as the monarch controls the armed services. No latter-day Cromwell could win power by force. We have had no civil war since Cromwell’s and much of that is due to having had a constitutional monarchy as a focus of loyalty.Ann Widdecombe MP, BBC History Magazine, September 2000.

If constitutional monarchy were to come to an end in Britain, parliamentary democracy would probably not survive it. It is, after all, through the monarchy that parliamentary control over the armed forces is mediated and maintained.Conor Cruise O’Brien, The Independent, 25th June 1993.

The Queen’s only power, in short, is to deny power to anyone else. Any attempt to tamper with the royal prerogative must be firmly resisted.
D G O Hughes, letter to The Daily Telegraph, 1st September 1998.

Above the ebb and flow of party strife, the rise and fall of ministries, and individuals, the changes of public opinion or public fortune, the British Monarchy presides, ancient, calm and supreme within its function, over all the treasures that have been saved from the past and all the glories we write in the annals of our country.Sir Winston Churchill.

If the Allies at the peace table at Versailles had allowed a Hohenzollern, a Wittelsbach and a Habsburg to return to their thrones, there would have been no Hitler. A democratic basis of society might have been preserved by a crowned Weimar in contact with the victorious Allies.” Winston Churchill, 26th April 1946.

Those who imagine that a politician would make a better figurehead than a hereditary monarch might perhaps make the acquaintance of more politicians.Baroness Thatcher, November 1995.

The Queen’s appearances abroad do more in a day to gain goodwill for Britain than all the politicians and diplomats lumped together could achieve in years.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Prime Minister 1963-64).

I have always been vaguely comforted by the sense that the Crown, and therefore the nation, endures like weathered granite through whatever turpitude and buffoonery may pass in Parliament. There is also something re-assuring in the knowledge that every Prime Minister, every week, has a confidential and not necessarily comfortable conversation with a monarch: that is to say with someone who is not their dependant, not their sycophant, who has no political affiliation beyond patriotism and who has seen governments rise and fall over decades. This sense of continuity, of a nation mature enough to be able to make electoral mistakes and later recant without risk of losing its identity, is profoundly useful.Libby Purves, The Times, 8th September 1998.

Politicians debating the future of our monarchy resemble a poachers’ convention deliberating on the future role of the gamekeeper.Malcolm Winram, The Times, 9th March 1996.

Being a nation of hypocrites, we have for years looked to the Royal Family to embody the values we’re not prepared to embody ourselves.Serena Mackesy, The Independent, 10th December 1996.

Monarchy can easily be debunked, but watch the faces, mark well the debunkers. These are the men whose taproot in Eden has been cut: whom no rumour of the polyphony, the dance, can reach - men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.C S Lewis.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Jiminy said...

I liked all those quotes, but they still just make me content that Britain has a Queen. I'm glad we're a republic.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Lord Falconer said...

Republicanism is pretty integral to American identity. And I'll concede that there is a certain nobility evoked by all the adopted Greco-Roman iconography, and seen in the peaceful transfers of authority at presidential inaugurations. So maybe in this regard I'm like Churchill, who could call America "The Great Republic", despite the greater resonance of royal inconography in his own spirit.

4:15 AM  

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