Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What we are not defending

. Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Putting forth rational arguments for the maintenance of the Crown is a labour I would rather ignore. Like the other gentlemen scribes here at The Monarchist, I would sooner just go on believing against all prudence that our ancient Scone will last forever, but alas all good things need to be proactively defended. Now I know this splendid blog says “Defending the British Crown Commonwealth...”, but tell me which of you has actually put forth a “modern” (horror!) set of arguments in support of it? Not even the blog’s founder has done so after almost four years (an eternity in the blogging world) of “defending” the Crown, though there have been some very readable general essays on the issue.

c1-stpaulsSo let that be our immediate task in the days and weeks to come. For now, however, allow me to tell you what I think it is not about. It is not about:

1. The Popularity of the Queen: Believe it or not, it is not about Her Majesty, it is not because the Queen has been a dutiful head of state or that she is the most experienced statesperson in the world. It is not really about the Sovereign, Her Successors or the Royal Family. Preservation of the monarchy should not hinge on the specific character or personal attributes of the Monarch. Saying that we should keep the monarchy because the Queen is a lovely lady is patently absurd;

2. Promoting Tourism: Also ridiculous is defending the notion that the British Monarchy is a wonderful “tourist attraction”, as if safeguarding the institution was akin to preserving family trips to the city zoo, which has to be one of the saddest arguments ever devised in its favour. In any event, this would only be true as it relates to the United Kingdom. Canadian or Australian monarchists could not plausibly argue that the monarchy has been good for their tourism, nor could Britons convincingly make the case that tourism would suffer catastrophically if the monarchy was abolished;

3. Taxpayer’s Money: It is not because it generates revenues for the state, or costs the treasury a mint to operate, or bequeaths a sizeable net profit to taxpayers. There is no proof that a republican head of state is any more cost-effective than a monarchical one on a net revenue minus expense basis, but even if there was, who cares? I should hope that a monarchy is more costly than a republic. Magnificence comes with a price;

4. Colonialism: It is not about protecting hangovers from “colonialism”, that old canard which reveals the self-inflicted inferiority complex of those who make it. Memo to the masses: Some of us actually liked the Empire and thought it did some real good in the world. Besides, you cannot stand there and pretend you were not part of the enterprise, or that you were somehow victimised by it when your adopted country or your British ancestors enthusiastically fought for it, defended it and was loyal to it. You were not suppressed from afar, you willingly partook in the great adventure. So kindly get unstuck from your colonial mentality;

5. National Unity: To argue that the Queen embodies, reflects or represents the national unity of our people is not nearly as true as it once was. Public opinion polls are routinely divided on the issue of monarchy and given the number of republicans and the great swarm of indifference to the franchise, this is at best a weak argument for maintaining it;

6. Multiculturalism: Monarchists have actually argued in the past that due to the Queen's bloodlines, Elizabeth II is quite “multicultural". “Among the strains that can be identified in the backgrounds of the Queen are: Arab, Armenian, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Italian, Persian etc... As such, the Queen is very capable of representing the great majority of us”. Let me be the first to say that this is an unbelievable load of politically correct rubbish. Notice how they left out “English” (no, better not say Anglo anything, they might be onto something), yet they managed to put in “Arab”. One wonders how they left out Chinese;

7. Sentiment and Nostalgia: It is laughable to assert that only monarchies are susceptible to cringe-inducing bouts of the most empurpled sentimentality. The “I have a dream” swooning over Princess Obama currently underway in America surely testifies to the “moist, vapid emotions of the Diana cult” that are clearly prevalent in the “Great Republic”. The lack of stoicism and emotional dignity is a plague that affects modernity in general, and is no reasonable basis for defending the monarchy. Please vote for Obama if you want your misty-eyed fairytale.

There are no doubt other bad reasons for defending the monarchy, but these are the seven that come immediately to mind.


Beaverbrook said...

Right you are, Bolingbroke. Let's devise and aim to perfect a current list of arguments for the Crown and file it in some conspicuous location.

Lewis said...

Bravo! I'm glad to see there's acknowledgment some of the "modern" arguments for the monarchy are simply nonsense. Please copy this to the CML, NZML, AML etc...

Sir Walter Scott said...

I think this is all true, though there are reverse sides to some of them; for in a few cases they are perversions or misdirections, not so much outright falsities.

For instance: take sentiment and nostalgia. The wrong sort of sentiment, and the wrong sort of nostalgia, is abhorrent and illogical. But there is justly an emotional bond with the crown; it simply isn't wibbly and ridiculous, and blown with every gust of nonsense; it is religious, chivalric, historic, and strong like iron, and there are many noble orders, portions of liturgy, and annual rituals, as well as deeply bedded unspoken feelings in the mass of subjects, which go to sustain it.

It is I suppose, however, not so much a *reason* as a part of monarchy, and something equally worth protecting.

Cramwold said...

Speaking of NZ, all things being equal, imho we stand to lose far more than we would gain by becoming a republic. In effect our current system may only provide the notion of a limit to political power, but that alone is worth retaining. The monarchy is the link to our cultural development and freedoms. As such it represents the nation whereas governments essentially only represent political organisations. They come and go, as do their ideologies and with their departure we are never the worse off. Nothing that is proposed matches the majesty (pun intended), of our current arrangement for government. History I think has taught us little people to squint our eyes when listening to charlatans :)

Bolingbroke said...

Thank you for the comments. I just think this blog needs to put forth its arguments, through genuine and truthful introspection, without any of the politics indemic to the monarchist leagues. And let them stand or fall on their respective merits. Republicans of goodwill should be able to read them, be convinced of their honesty, and then agree or disagree with them on that basis.

Adrian Kidney said...

I would suggest the good members of this blog read Vernon Bogdanor's excellent book 'The Monarchy and the Constitution' for a well-written argument in favour of the powers of the Sovereign in British politics.

And while I agree that most of what Bolingbroke puts forward as rubbish arguments are indeed rubbish, I would say that financing of the monarchy - at least in Britain - is a subject that constantly comes up and I find myself repeatedly having to correct people's notions about the Civil List and so on.

So I'd argue for elaborating on that aspect at least!

P said...

Lord Bollingbroke, I have to mainly agree with your points. Arguments 1 to 6 are easily debunked. Point 7 is less well defined.

While I utterly detested my nation's (the UK) open display of self-pity over the unworthy Diana, surely the Monarchy is an emotive issue for many people? A virile attachment to our institutions, is surely based in part on emotive sentiment? I reiterate that I do not think that a favourable "Hello" magazine style
cult of celebrity is remotely healthy: rather I insist that it must be recognised that a lot of people are simply fond of the monarchy because it is a part of the national fabric.

I say "in part" for I agree that there are many "rational" arguments for the retention of the status quo.

I am based in "Great" Britain and certainly from my view such rational arguments are:

1) The office of Head of State is politically neutral.

2) Institutions swearing allegiance to the head of state, such as the Army and Civil service are therefore politically neutral.

3) This country has benefited from the parliamentary monarchy in terms of political stability. (Relative to our neighbour nations in Europe and certainly relative to the many nations that have undergone revolution in the "Republican" Commonwealth or Latin America to cite two examples). While there do exist very successful republican states, we have no experience of that model and there is no particular drive for such a change as the current system works extremely well.

4) Enhanced prestige on the international stage. The UK is the last "old" great power that has retained its continuity. I believe that our traditions of negotiated compromise between factions in the UK are regognised abroad when the royal family visits. Furthermore, the Royal family are shared with some very well-thought-of independent nations (Canada, Australia and New Zealand). The monarchy is therefore "imperial" (in the sense of world-reaching and traditional) and simultaneously representative of some of the most liberal and free states on the planet. Dismantling this network from the UK's perspective would clearly be folly.

These are the arguments for retention from the UK's perspective. From the point of view of the other realms the arguments might be different.

There is no longer a particularly deep political relationship between the realms, although people links are strong, as is mutual investment. This is perhaps a cause of Republican sentiment in those countries?

Davion said...

As an Englishman who has lived in the UK, New Zealand and now Australia (and a long-time reader of this excellent blog), I would like, if I may be so bold, to add a couple of comments:

In response to P's last question I would say that in Australia much of the Republican sentiment appears to be based upon the idea that the monarchy and Britain are both distant and uninterested in the affairs of the Antipodean realms.

I do not honestly believe, however, that these sentiments have been generated primarily by some primordial national need for 'independance.' On the contrary, as P suggests, I think that it is more to do with a lack of cultivation of UK-Australian political and cultural relations, and more so on the part of the British. If the Royal Family and the British Government were to take a more active interest in the Commonwealth, I think they would be warmly welcomed.

The Australians are, from my experience with and amongst them, by and large a conservative and traditional lot. While they possibly wouldn't tell it to your face, they still seem to hold a fondness and connection to the UK in their national psyche.

Secondly, and possibly more importantly, I believe a rational argument exists for the monarchy based on the grounds of executive experience.

Unlike an elected President, a monarch is born to rule. This means that, from their birth, an heir apparent is schooled and trained in the arts of statecraft, and the guardianship of the power they hold in trust. They have their whole life to prepare for their office and because of this, it is no accident that Her Majesty is regarded by all who meet with her to be a politically wise and naturally conservative head of state. In addition, an heir apparent is watched from birth and their personal traits and foibles noted from an early age. When a king or queen ascends the throne, the realms of the Commonwealth know what character of person we are getting.

In comparison, let us examine the current US Presidential election. This is a political contest, with all the mudslinging and rose-tinting that entails. The two candidates that have not prepared all their life for the office they are about to hold, and it is a common assumption that some sort of scandal will rock any presidency at least once.

Until the election campaign, McCain and Obama especially have lived personal lives generally unknown to everyone but their own constituents. And now, the American public must attempt to examine each of these men's characters through a lens clouded by political narrative and filtered information.

Whilst a constitutional monarchy is described by the Republican movement as archaic and impractical, it can be seen that, as well as the oft-cited inherent stability, monarchs are more often than not far more able to wield executive power deftly and wisely than a politician who may or may not be fit for the task and who has to get himself re-elected every few years.

In addition, quite simply, a monarch is aslo far more able to bring public attention and scrutiny to bear on important domestic and national issues that may otherwise have been overlooked for being 'politically inconvenient.' Whatever you may think of Diana, one must respect the way she used the media to focus a spotlight on matters that concerned her.

Our roads and infrastructure in Australia are woefully neglected by buck-passing governments - imagine how much could be accomplished if Her Majesty came with her accompanying media parade to 'encourage' some action from her ministers?

Hmm...that was longer than expected, I hope it is worth something!

Lord Best said...

Actually I think most anti-Monarchy sentiment in Australia stems from rabid hatred of Britain that seems prevalent in many baby boomers, along with associated anti colonialist feelings. Support for the monarchy is much higher in we younger generations that did not get brought up with all that 60s nonsense.

P said...

In reply to Davion's post.

Perhaps a practical way of enhancing the relationships between the realms would be to offer some kind of advantage where possible?

For example, Australia and New Zealand have a scheme where their citizens can seek work in the other countries without going through the immigration processes required of citizens of other nationality. This is aided by their proximity but also must surely make the two friendly rivals happy to be associated to each other.

Bilaterally, Britain could offer to extend the kind of deal we give to Irish citizens to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. (Irish citizens have the full rights of British Citizens and vice versa in either country.)

This would be a pretty good offer - for example if such a treaty applied between the UK and Canada, Brits and Canadians would have so many more opportunities open to them such as home rate university fees and working opportunities.

This would also allow hard negociated deals with the EU and NAFTA to remain in place and wouldn't affect national sovreignty.

Does this sound realistic? It doesn't sound unreasonable to me, although the Brits may be too embarrased to propose it in case they are rejected.

Adrian Kidney said...

Well, the UK did originally pursue this policy immediately postwar, but I understand Canada passed its own immigration laws in the late forties which began to unravel it.

There is a lot of population interchange among the Crowned Commonwealth though, more so than ever before. London is a hive of Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, it's marvellous. as you say, the younger generations seem less rabidly hostile to the Crown and the UK, partly because they didn't have the 60s, but also because more get to appreciate British culture now and see its links to their own.

J.K. Baltzersen said...


Thanks to "Lord Bolingbroke" for this great post.

If one is defending the Commonwealth Crown as an institution which is good for its peoples, one must avoid irrelevant arguments. One such argument is tourism.

Moreover, "if it works, don't fix it" is an argument very much defensive in nature. If one bases one's case on it, there is a high risk that one will lose in the end.

Of course, a case can be made that much of so-called "progress" is not progress at all. However, just rejecting new solutions on the basis that the existing works is to a large extent fighting a losing battle.

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Crown of Disenchantment: What does it require to withhold royal assent?
Colonial Mentality: Key republican thinks Victoria Cross is a colonial relic
The Red Baron: Billy Bishop, not Mannock, was the British Empire's top ace
Which Scots conservatism: Unionist or Nationalist?
Loyal Subject: After all she has done, we owe the Queen our oath
Victoria Day – Fête de la Reine: Official B'day of the Queen of Canada
Renaming the Victoria Day Weekend: Let's get rid of Heritage Day Bob
Pro Valore: Canada mints its own Victoria Cross in time for Victoria Day
State Visit to Turkey: Mustafa Akyol says God Save the Queen, Indeed
Norn Iron Unites: What issue is uniting all parties of Northern Ireland?
Extreme Loyalist: Michael Stone attempted to slit the throats of Adams and McGuinness because he just "can't handle" republicans being in government.
Canada's Vice-Regal dubbed an elegant mix between Lady Di and Nelson Mandela
Queen of Australia: Support for Australian republic hits new low
A Heroes Welcome: The Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo, 8-10 May 2008
Fat, Vile and Impudent: Alan Fotheringham is back on the bottle
The Devine Right of Bling: Our Royals have become hereditary celebrities
Battle of the Atlantic: Canadians remember the longest battle of WW2
Old Etonian Toff: Boris Johnson installed as Tory Mayor of London
Britain needs a Patron Saint: Cry God for Harry, Britain and St. Aiden?
Anglos in Mont-Royal: Rooting for the Montreal Canadiens
Daniel Hannan: Borders of the Anglosphere and the British Empire was a mistake
Australia 2020: One Big Fat Republican Con Job
Bye bye Tommy: O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy go away"
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Carpetbaggers Down Under: Kevin 'Mugabe' Rudd wins 98.5% support for republic
Kipling: The Jeremiah of Empire and the Poet Laureate of Civilisation
Duke of Edinburgh: Behind the gaffes is a man of real sincerity
Lord Rutherford: The Father of the Atom lives on in great great grandson
Queen of Australia: Royalty Protects us from Tyranny, David Barnett
Long Live the Broadsheet! Norumbega, more traditionalist than the Pope.
A Tale of Two Countries: Soldiers of Britain and Canada serve the same Queen but...
Loyal Subject: Polishing the Royal Crown, Matt Bondy & Brendon Bedford
Devoted to the End: Obituary of Sir Phillip Bridges
The Monarchist does not recognize the Republic of Kosova
Loyal Subject: MPs Ruse Defeated; God Save the Queen!
St. Paddy's Day: Edmund Burke, the greatest Irishman who ever lived
Not Amused: The Bunkum of Timothy Garton Ash
Hero Harry: Rave Reviews across the Commonwealth
Patriot Prince: Prince Harry fought for us all, Charles Moore
William F. Buckley, RIP: He had a Tory gratitude for the pleasures of life
Their Lordships' Duty: The House of Lords can influence the Lisbon Treaty debate
Knights of Oz: Revive Sirs or I'll have your guts for garters
Peter Hitchens: People love the Queen...and the BBC hates us for it
Our Greatest Monarch: Paul Johnson says Henry V was our greatest monarch
Princess Diana Inquest: A Dirty Raincoat Show for the World
Malcom Turnbull: 'Queen's death will spark republican vote'
Duke of York: The Royals are not "stuffed dummies". They should have their say
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Peter Hitchens: Get rid of the monarchy and you will get rid of a guardian of liberty
Honouring Sir Edmund Hillary
The Queen versus an E.U. President
Going Solo: Prince William earns his Wings
James C. Bennett: The Third Anglosphere Century
Knights of Oz: Revive Sirs or I'll have your guts for garters
Princess Diana Inquest: A Dirty Raincoat Show for the World
Malcom Turnbull: 'Queen's death will spark republican vote'
Future Peer: The life and times of Lady Victoria Beckham
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Peter Hitchens: Get rid of the monarchy and you will get rid of a guardian of liberty


New York Times: Ever Backwards into the Royal Future
Peter Hitchens: People love the Queen...and the BBC hates us for it
Christopher Hitchens: An Anglosphere Future
Andrew Cusack: Republicanism is a traitor's game
Courageous Patrician: Rt Hon Ian Douglas Smith (1919-2007)
The Last Rhodesian: What began with Rhodes and ended with Ian?
Gentleman Journalist: The Lord Baron W.F. Deedes, 1913-2007
Not Amused: Blair's sinister campaign to undermine the Queen
Loyal Subject: Queen Elizabeth: A stranger in her own country
Reverence Deference: Bowing and Scraping Back in Tradition
Rex Murphy: Kennedy, Churchill, Lincoln - The rousing bon mot is no more
Gerald Warner: Don't shed a tear for Diana cult in its death throes
The End of Grandeur: Rich, chincy Canada puts Strathmore on the blocks
Confessions of a Republican Leftie: "The Queen charmed the pants off me"
The King's Own Calgary Regiment: Cpl. Nathan Hornburg is laid to rest
The Royal Gurkha Rifles: Prince William grieves the death of Major Roberts
Queensland Mounted Rifles: Trooper David Pearce, 41, killed in Afghanistan
The Order of Canada: 100 investitures later, Canada's highest honour turns 40
Prince Edward on Prince Edward Island: Troop's link to monarchy important
HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN: Unveils the UK Armed Forces Memorial
Great Britain: "A rotten borough with a banana monarchy" - by Europhile
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Remembering 'Smithy': An obituary tour de force by Andrew Cusack here, here and here.
NOT AMUSED: Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Quebec not invited to Quebec's tercentenary