Something I like to do when I’ve run out of things to do on the internet is flip through this site at leisure, which I did the other night, one-handed, after my operation. This post I especially liked, since it hits all my buttons, but also because I have that picture on my wall (or did; now it’s in the Special Frames box).

The Monarchist – Why Monarchy? Why Tradition?

I am sometimes reproached for my support of the monarchy. The standard line, little challenged by the small band of valiant Canadian monarchists, is that the monarchy is an anachronism, or useless, or expensive or undemocratic or foreign or about half a dozen other reasons, usually thrown out in no particular order. What does seem to unite the anti-monarchists – at least in Canada there is no significant movement in favour of a republic – is an emotional repugnancy toward the monarchy which grabs at whatever it can find to remove the crown from Canada. The emotion is by no means strong, really more of a nuisance they want to get rid of. I’ve met very few ardent republicans / anti-monarchists, it’s simply not a grand enough cause to attract much attention either way. The small band of monarchists, unfortunately, often chooses equally questionable ground to defend the crown against its enemies.

My aunt explains this (as I believe I’ve mentioned here before) that unlike Australia, with the US on its doorstep Canada has other things to worry about than its monarch.

Since the Enlightenment monarchy and tradition have both suffered from two powerful intellectual forces born, or perhaps more accurately reborn and refined, in the eighteenth century; democracy and reason. The two are not necessarily complimentary forces in history or intellectual discourse. …

Tradition and monarchy have little place in this narrative. Reason asks why certain traditions exist and demands rational explanations for their continuance. Appeals to ritual continuity or divine sanction will go nowhere with the rationally minded. Appeals to faith, trying to uphold both monarchy and tradition are equally doomed on these terms. One can try to revolt against reason and liberty but on what grounds? The material and spiritual well-being that brought about the scientific, industrial and liberal revolutions of the 18th and 19th century was unprecedented. Could one really turn one’s back on all that? With nothing more than a hazy appeal to tradition and faith?

Monarchy maintained itself in Britain, and what became the Commonwealth, because it became an instrument of liberty. In much of the world monarchy obstructed both democracy and liberty; in Britain it ensured that liberty was preserved as genuine mass democracy emerged. Given that only a handful of nations achieved this feat, and only one, the United States, was a republic, this might at first have helped the image of the monarchy as co-defender of liberty with limited democracy. Instead as time past the monarchy, which might be praised for its role in ushering in liberal democracy, was now seen as dispensable. Its services rendered to the people, the people were all grown up and could do without. Don’t let the palace gates hit you on the way out.

Monarchists cannot, as they could a century ago, argue that freedom requires a monarchy to hold back the worst excesses of oligarchy or democracy. If even the French can run a republican liberal democracy then why would the English, and their commonwealth descendants, need a monarchy? Tradition was the last argument left and it was now in the public understanding as much an anachronism as monarchy itself, a process made worse by the crippling historical amnesia imposed by modern public education on the general populace. The nations of the English speaking world do not know their past or seem to aspire to anything not of the moment. If a society abhorrent of tradition has little time for the past, a society proudly ignorant of the past is far worse.

If you go over there to read the rest of it, you’ll find yourself pleasurably diverted in the margins by portraits, quotes, and trivia. My favourite:

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

Now I feel rather like I’m going sideways so I think I’ll do something else for a spell.