Long Live The King?

If one either feels rapturous or hostile feelings towards a person or institution, it seems easy to write about it, but my own feelings about monarchy, whether based on my own limited and unpleasant personal experience with the institution thus far or my own reading and thinking subject, is not either of those extremes. I must admit I am slightly envious of those friends and acquaintances of mine whose feelings about the monarchy are such that they can celebrate her life and her role as a stable force in what for Great Britain was an incredibly unstable time for much of the past few decades. I am less envious of those whose feelings for her are so hostile that they feel that the death of someone is a fit time to vent their spleen about their own political axes to grind.

Anyone who holds a position in the contemporary world where power is limited but where there is a lot of visibility and ceremony has my sympathies, if not always my approval. We live in a world where institutions are often led poorly and where people feel free to express all kinds of hate and hostility towards others while demanding that their own positions is viewed with respect by those they casually hold in contempt. Whatever my ambivalent feelings are about monarchy and about the House of Windsor nee Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, by all accounts Elizabeth II was a decent lady and I am not going to be among those who pillory someone simply because they find it necessary to deal with the ridiculousness of the contemporary world by giving a stiff upper lip to the haters. If I am less fond of Charles III, as I assume he will be called when he presently takes up the throne, and still less fond of the hussy housebreaker Duchess of Cornwall, then I still have sympathies for them and the fact that holders of royal institutions who are dependent on public goodwill are having a tough time around the world because goodwill is in short supply.

Elizabeth II had the unfortunate task of presiding over much of the decline of the British Empire. If I am by no means a particular fan of imperialism in general, I am aware that we live in a world that is far from ideal. If there must be empires, I would prefer by far a world where empires are run by nations like Great Britain and the United States (one exceptionally formally and the other exceptionally informally) than to see such empires be held instead by the Russians or Chinese. If I am intensely hostile to claims of divine right monarchy, a ceremonial constitutional monarchy can be a reasonably sound investment in tourism and ritual for a nation, and I do not begrudge any nation for so doing, as long as royals (and anyone else) are kept far from absolute political power. I like a pleasant garden party as much as anyone else, and seeing a royal family get enough money to keep castles and their grounds looking pretty and give ceremonial honors to people for cultural achievements and setting an example of public service while being safely protected from political power seems like a reasonable investment to me.

For me, at least, one of the more interesting aspects of royal families is the question of succession. The goal of a royal family is to preserve its rule more or less forever. This requires that its members have enough children to preserve the line generation after generation, and preserve in those people, many of whom have hardly any chance of succeeding to the throne, a sense of duty for the nation and institution of the monarchy that they serve and that is responsible for any difference between their own life and the lives of ordinary and sometimes ornery commonfolk like myself. This is not easy to do. A good monarch in the contemporary age requires enough dazzling charisma to win over people who might fancy themselves to be egalitarian and who might have some bones to pick about the history of Great Britain and who think of themselves as supporting the rise of merit rather than those whose position comes from the privilege of birth. In addition to that, they must be people who are savvy enough to behave in ways that benefit the royal family while also sacrificing their personal interests for the interests of the firm and the nation as a whole. This is an exceedingly difficult task, one fit only for saints, and saints are in short supply in the contemporary world, it must be readily admitted. As far as the implications go that it is only fit for saints to rule, I leave it to others to discuss.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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