Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 4 and the Emptiness of Whiggery

Once again American monarchists' unhappiest anniversary is upon us.  Keen to live up to a friend's description of me as "the worst American [she's] ever met," I am wearing black (including my new souvenir shirt from the "Royal River" exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich featuring Canaletto's 1746 masterpiece "The River Thames with St Paul's Cathedral on Lord Mayor's Day") in honour of King George III and the Loyalists.  On this date more than any other, American monarchists--especially those of us who identify primarily with the British monarchy--are reminded that we are strangers in a strange land as everyone around us celebrates what to us were treasonous, unjustified, and lamentable actions, severing us from the Crown we love and wish were ours.

I don't expect most Americans to agree with my negative view of the Fourth of July and what it represents.  But I cringe when British conservatives with whom I otherwise often agree wax all pro-American, as Ed West does today.   What I find so depressing about essentially Whiggish British commentators like West (Daniel Hannan is another example) is that while they may score valid points against the contemporary Left now and then, articles like this make it clear that deep down they are not coming from the same place as I am at all. The contemporary "Right" is almost completely dominated by the sort of men who probably would have fought for Cromwell in the English Civil War (1642-51); in Britain almost as much as in America, the Cavalier point of view is comparatively silent.  West and his ilk might defend the monarchy when they have to (though if I recall correctly his main reason for celebrating the Royal Wedding last year was that it annoyed leftists), but what they really care about is the Whig cult of "Liberty." Whereas what I love about England is the monarchy and its pageantry, the countryside, the castles, the cathedrals, the Church (pre- and post-Reformation) and its traditional liturgies, the music--especially Tudor and Anglican sacred choral music, angel-voiced boys in cassock and surplice lining up to process into an ancient church for Evensong...none of which have much to do with "Liberty," at least not as Roundheads, Whigs, and "Patriots" have understood it. Any Englishman who says that the Declaration of Independence (treasonous war propaganda full of slanders against a good anointed Christian King) is England's "greatest gift" to the world is obviously moved by a very different concept of England than I am.


Aaron Traas said...

My sentiments, almost exactly. Me celebrating the 4th as a Catholic would be no different than, say, celebrating Bastille Day, or the fall of the Papal states under Garibaldi.

The Moderate Jacobite said...

In my naughtier moments I'm tempted to host a party on 4 July calling it "Thank goodness we got rid of them Day".

You are, of course, entirely correct about the nefarious British whigs who pretend to be conservative - among whom Mr. Hannan is a definite leader. I don't know how much British political history you know, but the splitting off of the Liberal Unionsts and their subsequent alliance with the Conservatives has been a terrible development for my country.

I would, however, be amiss if I didn't disagree with you about H.M. King George III - at the time of the Declaration he was not a good king he was a usurper illegally holding the throne of H.M. King Charles III. It was only with the demise of the Jacobite line on the death of H.M. King Henry IX and I that George III had any legal claim on the throne of England/Britain.

Anymouse said...

A good point. They had arguably already gone a century without a legitimate monarchy.

Theodore Harvey said...

No, it was not a good point. Even the Holy See did not agree: in 1766 when the Old Pretender died Rome refused to extend recognition to the Young Pretender, thus implicitly accepting the Hanoverian succession. George III was the undisputed King of Great Britain and her colonies by the time of the American Revolution. Even actual Jacobites such as Flora MacDonald recognised that the principle of Monarchy was more important and supported the King against the American rebels. If George III (great-grandson of George I) was a "usurper," so was Henry II (great-grandson of William the Conqueror), from whom the Stuarts as well as the Hanoverians were descended.

Dynasties change occasionally, 1688/1714 was not the first time, and to deny George III's legitimacy betrays ignorance of how the English/British monarchy actually works. Primogeniture alone, while the normal basis of succession, has never been the sole determinant of who legally occupies the throne--it certainly wasn't in 1066, 1399, or 1485, from all of which "usurpations" the Stuart inheritance derived.

The Moderate Jacobite said...

It may be a point with which you disagree, but that has no impact on whether it was a good point or not. To claim that George III was the 'undisputed' king in 1776 is a clear factual error - that he was overwhelmingly recognised as such is obviously true but there were (and are) those who dispute his claim.

The position of the Holy See was one of ambiguity arising from the realities of being a diplomatic actor in the European sphere - it is not particularly relevant.

The events of 1688 is in no way comparable to 1066 - the latter was a war of conquest, the former a coup d'etat by the same whigs whom you excoriate. In 1688 'Parliament' (scare quotes used as that body cannot meet except under the sovereign) declared the throne to be vacant - anybody who accepts that such an act is licit cannot claim to be a monarchist in anything other than the sense of one who gets doey-eyed at the sight of pretty uniforms and semi-obscure ritualisation of governance.

Finally, it does not follow that seeing George III as a usurper necessarily leads to supporting the revolution of 1776. To replace a bad form of government with a worse one makes no sense at all...not least because God, in his great mercy, allowed for the demise of the dynasty in 1807 thus allowing for a legitimation of those occupying the throne.

Theodore Harvey said...

I don't think much of the 1688 "Glorious" Revolution either and probably would have opposed it at the time. But George III was born half a century later and cannot be blamed for it. He certainly did not play a "Whig" role in history and was in fact opposed by those who did. Normally "usurpers" need to do some actual usurping--being the great-grandson of a "usurper" who is the third of his line does not make one a "usurper" oneself.

If "war of conquest" is your standard, than surely the victory of George II at Culloden in 1746 qualifies as much as that of William I at Hastings in 1066. For all practical purposes George III was "undisputed" by 1776, thirty years later--yes, there were those who would have said otherwise, but even today there are those who absurdly claim that the late Michael Abney-Hastings was the "rightful" King of England, yet somehow I doubt HM Queen Elizabeth II loses any sleep over this.

Mateus G. M. F. Tibúrcio said...

While I´m sympathetic towards Jacobitism, I think George III was by far the best Hanoverian monarch. Despite these dynastic and religious problems, it was better than the Masonic and Liberal USA.

The Moderate Jacobite said...

The suggestion regarding Culloden is certainly worth a mention, however I would see it as more comparable the Rebellion of the 1640s (remember that the Roundheads claimed state power for themselves, as did that Hanoverians) and the very last thing I intend to do is acclaim the arch-traitor Cromwell as legitimate king on the basis that the New Model Army won.

The dynastic laws of England/Britain evolved over many years, and by the time of the 1688-1807 difficulty they had certainly reached the point that randomly sticking one's candidate on the throne with the backing of nobility and men-at-arms was dodgy.

If 1688 was illegitimate, was the Stadtholder of the Netherlands nonetheless King afterwards? If not, when did the Stuart line cease to be the holders? I posit a clear breach on the death of Henry appear to be suggesting a completely vague wooliness, wanting to oppose the Whigs (on which point we agree solidly) yet also wanting to gaze benignly at the outcome of their nefarious plot.

Also, when did I blame George III for anything? I merely said that he wasn't King in 1776. I make no comment about his behaviour or the manner in which he dealt with the de facto position in which he found himself - it is entirely reasonable to suggest that a man thrust into that position made the best of it, without thereby acquiring the legitimacy of a true monarch.

Theodore Harvey said...

...except obviously George III was King. Otherwise who were the American revolutionaries rebelling against? They were certainly not rebelling against Bonnie Prince Charlie. What was the Tory/traditionalist position in 1776? It would certainly not have been to shrug one's shoulders and fail to oppose the rebellion on the grounds that George III wasn't the "real" king anyway.

Yes, 1688 was "dodgy." No argument there. That doesn't mean that George III was still "dodgy" by 1776. Since 1807 we seem to be in agreement, and that's good enough for me.

As for any analogy with the Civil War, there is all the difference in the world between replacing one king with another (however regrettable in some circumstances) and claiming to have abolished the Crown itself, which is always an abomination and never legitimate. We should be able to agree on that.