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Sixty years with St. Edward's Crown

By J.K. Baltzersen
web posted January 6, 2014

Queen Elizabeth IIThe past year marked the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and 15 other realms. The year before was the Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years since Her Majesty's accession.

The main point of monarchy should be as it was eloquently stated in a response by Emperor-King Franz Joseph to President Theodore Roosevelt upon the latter's visit in Vienna in 1910: To protect my peoples from their governments.

A secondary point is for the members of the royal family not to be like the commoners, but this is not the core. As the late Archduke Otto put it, crowns are to kings, as top hats are to presidents. However, it does serve the main point given above. As the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn told us, a monarch should not marry a member of the classes under his rule in order to stay impartial.

Dr. Sean Gabb noted on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee, back in 2002, in his defense of the monarchy:

Another claim is that the Monarchy is a visible symbol of inequality—a barrier to an ideal society in which everyone will be equal in status, and in which everyone will have the right, if not the ability, to rise to the highest position. It is a knife pointing at the heart of democracy. This may sound a persuasive claim. Historically, though, attempts to create such societies have usually gone far beyond abolishing a Monarchy — they have ended with attacks on anyone with a nice house and money in the bank, or on anyone with a good coat on his back. Those who hate the Queen for her jewels and palaces generally have no time either for the middle classes.

However, although Sean Gabb still supports a hereditary monarchy over an elected head of state, the tune is considerably different this time around. First, he comments on the tackiness of the jubilee. He also takes Her Majesty head on:

[S]o far from being the last vestige of an old order, dominated by hereditary landlords and legitimised by ideologies of duty and governmental restraint, the Monarchy is an ideal fig leaf for the coalition of corporate interests and cultural leftists and unaccountable bureaucracies that is our present ruling class. The motto for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee was "Sixty Years a Queen." The motto now might as well be "Sixty Years a Rubber Stamp." If, during the six decades of her reign, England has been transformed from a great and powerful nation and the classic home of civil liberty into a sinister laughing stock, the ultimate responsibility for all that has gone wrong lies with Elizabeth II.

One might indeed question the point of having a monarchy if the monarch never stands up to the politicos. One might indeed question the point in having advisors if one always must do as the advisors say. Emperor-King Charles of Austria-Hungary refused in 1919 to remain in Austria as a private citizen and keep all his worldly estates. His duty as Emperor was more important. During the reign of Elizabeth II there have been monarchs who have stood up to the democratist zeitgeist, and successfully so. These are the monarchs of Monaco and Liechtenstein. Prince Rainer III of Monaco saw his powers decrease through the 1962 revision of the Monaco Constitution, but his powers were largely retained, and until this day the Cabinet of Monaco answers to the Prince, not to the legislature. The Prince of Liechtenstein asserted his powers successfully both in 2003 and 2012. One could indeed have wished for a Britannic monarch of the same courage to stand up to democratism. Given the constitutional history of the United Kingdom, one could grant Sean Gabb a point, but it is unreasonable to put all the blame on the monarch personally.

The last hurrah for the Old European Order is often said to be the gathering monarchs at the funeral of King Edward VII in May of 1910. No such gathering ever took place again before the fatal shots of Sarajevo in June of 1914. The change of the House of Lords into an institution with only a suspensive veto was done in 1911, by the present Britannic monarch's grandfather. The current monarch's reign began four decades later. One could wish for a rollback, but it is not to be expected.

The British monarchy has undergone some changes recently. The Britannic throne has been occupied by a female for more than 60 percent of the past two centuries. For some odd reason politicos of the day have seen the need to ensure the accession of another Queen even if she should have younger brothers. Let us remind ourselves that there is a reason why the bulk of CEOs are men, and no, it is not because there is a conspiracy against women.

I had the pleasure to be in London during the main Jubilee weekend in early June of 2012. I spent the day by the Thames watching as all the boats came down the river. A couple of guys with bowler hats came up to some folks nearby and did a show for them. The show ended with the phrase "jolly good show," a phrase that indeed says it all. The empire is gone. British society has experienced decline. The monarchy has lost its real power. So have the Lords. But the show is still there, and it is a good show, but it is a show that represents a core that is basically rotten – unfortunately. The Brits still do that well, though, that is, put on a good show.

Just after the main Jubilee weekend a conference was held at Kensington Palace. At that conference a Prof. Sir David Cannadine gave a talk on the making of a monarchy for the modern world, in which the question on when Britain became a "constitutional monarchy" was central. The talk so well illustrates a problem with terms. A constitutional monarchy simply means a monarchy bound by a constitution, and that constitution may very well grant the monarch even vast powers. However, it has come to be assumed to mean a monarchy with a monarch with no real powers at all. Such is the corruption of language.

H.L. Mencken apparently uses the term in this sense in Notes on Democracy (but the quote is still a good one):

The precise form of government he suffers under is of small importance. Whether it be called a constitutional monarchy, as in England, or a representative republic, as in France, or a pure democracy, as in some of the cantons of Switzerland, it is always essentially the same. There is, first, the mob, theoretically and in fact the ultimate judge of all ideas and the source of all power.

Mencken makes a good point. The difference isn't that much.

There are several members of the British Royal Family who appear not to be agreeable to all. We have the heir apparent, Prince Charles, who voices his opinion from time to time. At times he seems quite progressive. At other times he seems somewhat of a traditionalist. Above all, what creates controversy is that he is active. A more active monarch is more preferable from what one could call a Hoppean monarchy perspective. However, it is also quite likely that his present role will not be accepted, and that he will operate quite differently after the demise of his mother.

We have Prince Harry, who has gone to Afghanistan and apparently without regret told of his killings, noted at LewRockwell.com, something which suggests that Sean Gabb is onto something when he says that the members of this family are part and parcel of the establishment. Let us hope that Prince Harry with time can learn something of the wisdom that Emperor-King Charles of Austria-Hungary, who tried to put World War I to an end from the start of his reign, had on war.

The Queen's consort, the Duke of Edinburgh, is in the spotlight from time to time, when he utters some of his notorious gaffes. One could at times wish for more tact, especially considering the standard of living of the sender compared to that of the recipient. However, it is also refreshing with blunt, politically incorrect statements from the consort of Her Britannic Majesty.

Americans have an instinct against monarchy. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn put some of the blame for this on Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. I am not sure how much of the blame belongs there. Certainly the American story generally told of her founding does not contribute to put monarchy in a good light. W.E.H. Lecky, a great Irish statesman of the 19th century who warned against democracy in his two volume work Democracy and Liberty, blamed the American rebellion on Parliament's encroachments on the Royal Prerogative. Lecky wrote:

The disruption of America from the British Empire was largely due to the encroachments of Parliament on the ancient prerogative of the Crown; and no small part of the success of English colonial government is due to the class of men who have been appointed governors. They have represented in high perfection the type of aristocratic statesman which English institutions produce, and they have displayed a higher average of competence and character than either hereditary sovereigns or elected presidents.

H.L. Mencken told us about the American Revolution:

Even the American colonies gained little by their revolt in 1776. For twenty-five years after the Revolution they were in far worse condition as free states than they would have been as colonies. Their government was more expensive, more inefficient, more dishonest, and more tyrannical. It was only the gradual material progress of the country that saved them from starvation and collapse, and that material progress was due, not to the virtues of their new government, but to the lavishness of nature. Under the British hoof they would have got on just as well, and probably a great deal better.

Becky Akers now has a new novel out based on Benedict Arnold, known as a traitor in the American myth, but vindicated by the novel, Abducting Arnold.

Matthew Feeney wrote of the benefits of monarchy at Reason.com this past summer. Here at Enter Stage Right, Bruce Walker gave a defense of monarchy in contemporary Europe last July. Exceptions to the rule that Americans are anti-monarchist do exist (even outside the monarchist blogosphere).

It was certainly in previous times more so than today that monarchs served as a bulwark against those elected. However, in this day and age it seems more the role of a monarchy to legitimize the actions of politicos. Politicians have the final say, but actions are done in the Queen's name. The Bagehot doctrine that the Crown does more than it seems appears less relevant as time passes by, and the doctrine that elected politicos have the final say becomes even more cemented. We can hope, though, that the monarchy does serve a moderating purpose behind the scenes. Let us also remember that the current Queen's uncle was "allowed" to abdicate because he was not a monarch of the establishment's liking.

An important reason to keep the monarchy also follows from Murphy's Law, that is, that when you think the state of affairs cannot get worse, they probably will. If what's left of a monarchy gets to be replaced by a formal republic, it is very likely that this will happen under strong influence of today's establishment. Best case is that it won't get worse. Most likely, it will get worse.

Peter Hitchens has predicted the final end of the British monarchy in a not so very distant future. Let us hope he is mistaken.

Leland B. Yeager, associated scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, was definitely onto something when he told us about monarchy:

[I]ts very existence is a reminder that democracy is not the sort of thing of which more is necessarily better; it can help promote balanced thinking.

Indeed. As long a country keeps its monarchy, an alternative or balance to democracy is alive. This is true even if the monarchy has no real influence at all. Even though no political power is afforded to it, its presence represents a balance to the concept that elected representatives are the good guys. Once abolished, it becomes much more difficult.

Queen Elizabeth II has served almost 62 years from the throne – or thrones if you wish. For exactly one leap year she even served as Queen of Kenya, a country which has had its share of blows from post-colonial, universal-suffrage government. The Western world has suffered under democratism; democracy as ideology. Africa has suffered it more obviously, not having centuries of development and the institutions of the West that originally had little to do with universal suffrage democracy.

While staying alive for 60 years plus after the age of 26, is no great achievement in this day and age, especially when having access to the kind of doctors the Britannic monarch has, as it has been sarcastically noted. However, serving for this amount of time is impressive. Certainly, the quality of the service can be questioned, but in these troubled times, with high time preference, where people jump from job to job, stability is the rare exception, a Queen having served for 60 years is worth something. Also, the fact that the same monarch has been on the throne for 60 years in an age where a very normal sentiment is that monarchy does not belong in our times is an accomplishment. ESR

J.K. Baltzersen writes from Oslo, the capital of the Oil Kingdom of Norway. You are cordially invited to his blog Wilson Revolution Unplugged.

 

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