Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why I am a monarchist (9)

I am a monarchist by tradition. It is the tradition of my country, Canada, to have a monarchy. Historically monarchies have been more stable and humane institutions than their republican competitors, the only really successful republics in history are the Roman, the Swiss, the Dutch (which is today a monarchy) and the American. Most republics have been disasters. The French Republic - now on version 5.0 - survived into the second half of the twentieth century largely because of the efforts of one man, Charles de Gaulle, whom many called an uncrowned king in his dozen years as President. Why are most republics such spectacular failures? The modern world affords many examples of stable democratic republics, South Korean, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Greece and most of the states of Eastern Europe. Notice, however, that none of these republics have strong liberal democratic traditions dating before 1945, most were dictatorships of one variety or another as late as the 1970s or 1980s. None, importantly, have faced a grave military or economic crisis and should - forbid the thought - the world undergo another Great Depression I cannot see many standing for very long.

The period between 1929 and 1932 signalled the end of what has been called the first era of globalization, it was also the end of the first era of global liberalism, in the broad and original understanding of that word. Poverty and crisis overwhelmed the feeble republics of Europe and Latin America. Among the republican states only Switzerland, France - barely - and America survived. The stability of the House of Windsor, and the houses of Scandinavia, were never questioned.

An inherited position, especially of great wealth, mitigates corruption or ambition. A politician has the perspective of a few years between elections, and he is always fund raising. A monarch, or one in waiting as Prince Charles, must take the perspective of centuries. Unlike private wealth, which may come without responsibility, the wealth and glory of a monarch in a modern liberal democracy does not. The Queen and the Prince of Wales are among the hardest working people in the United Kingdom, enduring a schedule as brutal as that of many cabinet ministers or top executives. To whom much is given, much is expected.

It instills a sense of duty and public service, in the older meanings of those words. Today duty is seen as a thankless task performed with reluctance. Public service a code word for subservience to an over mighty state. No sane man would wish to be King, but having been placed in that line of fate, awesome even in a constitutional state, the opportunity to make an impact on the world is still great. It is this perspective, the wrinkles of centuries, that gives a monarchy its flavour and grandeur. To have lasted so long does not guarantee goodness, but it suggests that an institution has spoken to some deep desire and need of the human race. We ignore this truth at our peril. Those eager to replace the House of Windsor, and the personal union of Her Majesty's 16 Commonwealth realms, with some kind of crowned republic are pursuing, at best, a foolish, and often dishonest strategy.

We too, in Canada, Australia and New Zealand can have some bloodless head of state like Italy or Israel, a nonentity plucked from obscurity to shake hands with foreign diplomats, a figure too weak and irrelevant to challenge an overly ambitious minister of state. A monarch like our current sovereign is not crossed lightly. She has seen too much and been enough away from the fray of politics, a detached and largely impartial observer, not to have learned much. We do not know what she thinks. We are fairly certain she was no fan of Mrs Thatcher, but very much liked Mr Wilson and Mr Major. Yet government worked as smoothly as ever. It was headlines when the Queen was alleged to have reprimanded Mrs Thatcher for being "uncaring," yet Thatcher could not - whatever the rightness of her cause - ignore the crown with impunity. А constitutional monarch who reigns more than rules, provides a valuable check on the power of her ministers. Crown is something not to be trifled with.

1 comment:

Jeseppi Trade Wildfeather said...

I agree with your final statements of this post. My thoughts on monarchy are as follows: A monarch owes allegiance to God and his/her people. Ennoblement from the crown is a wisdom which manifests itself materially in the lives of all those touched by the recipient. Through grateful remembering it rewards the spirit of giving over and punishes those obsessed for getting. Symbolized in the monarch these principles endure without corruption or the stain of political agenda.