Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Architecture and the Prince of Wales, cont'd

Peter Hitchens defends Prince Charles against modernist architects. (See previous posts here, here, and here.)

There now seems to be an orchestrated campaign by architects against Prince Charles. Hardly a week goes by without another one attacking him. I think we should all side with the Prince. He is the nearest thing we now have to the great John Betjeman, who saved many fine buildings from being destroyed, and spoke up for beauty against barbarism. Charles may be wrong about many things, but he is right about buildings, and his interventions against ugliness have been a proper use of his influence. These architects, all glinting efficient types who seem unable to design anything except boxes, go on about democracy. But who chose them, or the hideous and un-British styles they force on us?

A lively discussion follows (relevant comments excerpted here). My contribution:

Other respondents have already defended the monarchy calmly and eloquently. I will add, perhaps less calmly, that republicans like the one to whom they were responding make me sick. I've lived in a republic (the USA) all my life and find it profoundly alienating; I cannot stand having a head of state who other people voted for but I did not. Far more fair to have a head of state selected by no one. Critics of Prince Charles don't seem to understand what "above politics" means: it means that the sovereign and royal family are not products of the partisan political process, not that they are to express no opinions on anything which might be controversial. I do not agree with the Prince of Wales on everything, but I am glad he speaks his mind, and he is certainly right about architecture. What is so sacred about the "democratic process" anyway?

I recently spent a month in England and despite all the inconveniences of travel felt at home there in a way I cannot in the USA, and the monarchy was a big part of that. Places like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are thrilling to visit not only because they are beautiful, but because they can offer what Versailles and Schonbrunn cannot: the excitement of a working palace, still used for its intended purpose, still occupied by the direct descendants of those for whom it was built, still part of an ongoing tapestry of tradition and pageantry. When I would love to live in a constitutional monarchy but due to number of practical obstacles cannot yet do so, it makes me absolutely livid to see those lucky enough to have been born in one spit on their good fortune, showing nothing but contempt for those of us who love Britain as she is--or at least was. The monarchy is not for the benefit of the royal family, it's for the benefit of the ordinary people like me, neither powerful nor rich, who love it. Yet republicans in the UK would tear the heart and soul out of their country, cutting it off from all continuity with its past, depriving their monarchist countrymen of the very centre of their patriotism, alienating people like me forever. I cannot see their goals as anything less than evil. As far as I'm concerned, "British" republicans are essentially traitors who ought to be consigned beyond the pale of civilised discourse. Just as I do not seek to transform America into a monarchy, but rather hope one day to immigrate to the country I truly love and join the noble fight for England's heritage and traditions, perhaps republicans should consider immigrating to the United States. I'd be happy to trade places with any of them. In the meantime though, they should at least keep their mouths shut.

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