Thursday, August 26, 2010

Church and State, Here and There

As wonderful as the Edington Music Festival is, one thing that does irk me (which I've also noticed at other churches of the Church of England) is the absence of prayers for the Queen and Royal Family from the Intercessions. Of course it is nice at Evensong to hear the Precentor intone the correct words "O Lord, Save the Queen" rather than the awkward American substitution "O Lord, Save the State," but that's all the acknowledgement Her Majesty gets, with nothing for the rest of her family. This seems strange and indefensible to me, since as an American Episcopalian I am accustomed to hearing prayers for the President (and for the US armed forces, courts, and elected officials) in church every Sunday as a matter of course. As American Christians publicly pray for the President, whether they particularly like him and his office or not, surely British Christians should publicly pray for the Queen, whether they particularly like her and her office or not (not that I have much tolerance or respect for those who don't!). But in my experience, with the exception of Royal Peculiars such as Westminster Abbey, they do not. Why not?

It seems to me that while American Christianity tends toward excessive patriotism, British Christianity errs in the opposite direction. American Christians like to put the national flag in the chancel, where I don't believe it belongs, and too often appear to confuse America's will with God's. But the dominant clerical mentality in the contemporary Church of England appears to be ashamed of the Church's historical links with the Monarchy and the State, reluctant to mention not only the Queen and Royal Family but anything distinctly English. The prayers I've heard in churches here in England generally concern only the Church and the World, with nothing that could not be said in any other country, as if belonging to a universal Church and sharing a common Faith means that Christians should be concerned only for Humanity in general. But this is false and incomplete: as human beings we are meant to relate to God and each other through a particular local reality, and as members of a particular national society we are obliged to pray for those in authority over us, who in Britain and the Commonwealth Realms are all represented by the Queen. Now admittedly I as an American personally have a hard time putting this into practice enthusiastically, since I am hampered by my persistent wish that my "particular local reality" were British rather than American, a dilemma I have not yet resolved. But at least I understand the concept.

I don't think the Anglican clergy who refuse to pray for the Queen are anxious to live somewhere else, or even necessarily republican. But they appear to have been shaped by a globalist, egalitarian, and implicitly anti-patriotic worldview that while couching itself in the language of the universal Church owes more to modern political correctness than to authentic Christianity, which enjoins its adherents to render onto Caesar that which is Caesar's, honour the King, and be subject to the higher powers. Christians should not fall into idolatry of their particular Country, but neither should they pretend that it has no claim on them at all. The national flag should not be placed in the chancel, which ought to be focused on that Kingdom not of this world, but Christians should pray for their temporal leaders, of whom in Britain the Queen is the most important. It is frustrating that on neither side of the Atlantic do we appear to get this balance right.

I mentioned that the clergy of Westminster Abbey do pray for the Queen and Royal Family, but even they no longer use the beautiful florid collects of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, having replaced them with shorter and simpler versions. I wish they would, for it is the classic texts that most perfectly express the ideal relationship of the Christian to those in authority over him. Even if the clergy will not join us, it cannot hurt all English-speaking Christians and monarchists to join me in saying them regularly ourselves.

O LORD, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only Ruler of princes, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen ELIZABETH; and so replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that she may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies; and finally, after this life, she may attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, the fountain of all goodness, we humbly beseech thee to bless Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Charles, Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and all the Royal Family: Endue them with thy Holy Spirit; enrich them with thy heavenly grace; prosper them with all happiness; and bring them to thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Greek Royal Wedding

Prince Nikolaos of Greece married Tatiana Blatnik today on the Greek island of Spetses. I believe this is the first royal wedding to take place in Greece since that of Prince Michael and Marina Karella in 1965, Prince Nikolaos's parents King Constantine & Queen Anne-Marie having been married the previous year. Pictures of the pre-wedding reception featuring royal guests from all over Europe can be seen here; preliminary Hello! coverage here; BBC video here; CBS pictures here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma (1930-2010)

Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma (b 8 Apr 1930, Paris) died on Wednesday at 80 in Barcelona (Telegraph obituary). He was the head of the branch of the Bourbon family that ruled the Italian state of Parma until 1860 and was a "Carlist" claimant to the Spanish throne. His 1964 marriage to Dutch Princess Irene (they had four children and later divorced), younger sister of Queen Beatrix, was controversial in the Netherlands at the time. The Dutch royal family led mourning this week in The Hague. Some pictures are available at my forum (thanks to "Ethiomonarchist") here and here.

England 2010

The lack of posting recently is mainly because I've been enjoying my fourth visit to the United Kingdom (1st/2nd/3rd), this time focused on Wiltshire. I arrived on Thursday and spent the weekend at Sarum College in Salisbury, where I toured and attended services at the magnificent Cathedral and visited numerous fascinating attractions including the Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, Stonehenge, Old Sarum, Mompesson House, and The Rifles (Berkshire & Wiltshire) Museum. It was a marvelous three days.

The main reason for my trip, however, is the Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy, a unique week at Edington's gorgeous 14th-century Priory Church featuring four choral services a day (generally Matins, Mass, Evensong, & Compline) sung by three superb choirs incorporating some of the best singers from all over England: a men's chant schola, a choir of men & boys, and a choir of men & women. The three services I've attended so far (last night's opening Compline and today's Matins and Solemn Eucharist) have been stunning. As I posted on Facebook, imagine at night a medieval stone church lit only by candles in which the haunting sounds of plainsong echo from somewhere beyond the ancient choir screen, and then a single boy treble intones the first verse of a Latin hymn, the service later concluding with "Totus tuus" by Henryk Gorecki gradually diminishing to the sort of pianissimo that only the most polished singers can pull off. Then imagine mass the next morning as the sunlight streams through the windows illuminating clouds of incense to the sounds of polyphony by Victoria and Byrd. That's the Edington Music Festival.

Edington is a small village surrounded by idyllic English countryside. I'm staying in a beautiful bed & breakfast, parts of which date to the Tudor era, run by the wife of a former military equerry to HRH the Prince of Wales; his family have served King (or Queen) and Country for at least eight generations. I could not think of a better way for a devotee of England and sacred choral music to spend a week.

(Anyone curious about the Edington Music Festival can listen to tomorrow's Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3, live at 4 PM in the UK which is 11 AM US Eastern/10 AM US Central.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Weak Tsar?

Blogger Christina Croft dissents from the conventional wisdom that Russia's Nicholas II (1868-1918) was a "weak" Tsar. I mostly agree with her analysis, though it's perhaps unfair to compare Britain's King George V (1865-1936) unfavourably to his Russian cousin as the British constitution would not have allowed him to occupy his time with anything much more politically decisive than shooting and stamp collecting. (Via Tea at Trianon via The Sword & The Sea.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Queen Michelle?

A ridiculous article in the New York Daily News, trying to criticize American First Lady Michelle Obama's Spanish vacation by making a clumsy analogy with Marie Antoinette, only demonstrates the writer's deplorable ignorance. For one thing, as blogger Elena Maria Vidal just reminded me privately, Marie Antoinette didn't take "vacations"; she never left France after arriving there for her marriage in 1770. This writer's casual calumny indicates how much Jacobin propaganda continues to cloud the reputation of the much-maligned queen, who while she might have had little concept of the value of money when a teenage girl (not, I think, the last teenage girl with that trait), was in fact deeply concerned with the plight of her husband's poorest subjects and undertook many charitable endeavors. Clearly monarchists have a lot of work to do, when it is still widely taken for granted that "Marie Antoinette" can be a byword for heartless extravagant luxury. This blog takes no position on Michelle Obama's vacation, but will not stand to see Marie Antoinette insulted. Recalling Lloyd Bentsen's famous 1988 retort to Dan Quayle, I can only say, "Michelle Obama, you are no Marie Antoinette."

Tea at Trianon has more on this silliness here.

Most of today's "conservatives" know nothing of history and nothing of conservatism. It used to be that opposition to the French Revolution was a defining characteristic of conservatives, even Americans (starting with John Adams). Not anymore; now it's nothing but naked partisanship. As far as I'm concerned anyone who brings up the French Revolution in order to side with the mob against the King & Queen has no right to be considered any sort of right-winger. Modern Republican "conservatism" is utterly bankrupt and deserves nothing but contempt.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Truth about Royal Assent

Socially conservative monarchists, especially Roman Catholics, sometimes complain about the way Europe's contemporary constitutional monarchs, whatever their private beliefs, have failed to block legislation contrary to traditional Christian morality. This issue has previously been discussed at this blog with regard to Spain, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom. The staunchly Catholic blog Roman Christendom explains why Queen Elizabeth II had no authority to veto Britain's 1967 legalization of abortion. Wherever one stands on abortion or other divisive contemporary issues, it ought at least to be clear that in modern European monarchies, if you don't like the laws, you must blame the politicians who enacted them, not the sovereigns who nominally assented to them.