Wednesday, August 27, 2014


When monarchists, traditionalists, and reactionaries criticize "Democracy," we do not necessarily reject the very idea of elections or legislatures (though some might). Rather, we reject the modern idea that Democracy (a word disliked even by most of the American founders) is always the best form of government, and that "democratic" is necessarily good and "undemocratic" necessarily bad. We deny that democracy is the only source of political legitimacy. We deny that Democracy is an end in itself. The existence of some sort of elected legislature as a check on the power of the monarch or his chief minister may be a good thing in particular circumstances. Democratic structures make the most sense at the local level. But the genuine common good is not necessarily best served by universal suffrage, and an elected legislative chamber should in turn be checked by a hereditary component (e.g. the pre-1999 or better yet pre-1911 British House of Lords). Of course all this is sadly quite theoretical in the West today, but perhaps times will change.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Altar and Throne

It would be hard to deny that when Monarchical Government and Hierarchical Society were the Established Order of things in Europe (largely the case until 1917-18), the major Christian Churches (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran) appeared, at least, to bless, affirm, and sanctify that order, teaching obedience to it as God's will. But institutional Christianity has proved more flexible than some of its more traditionalist adherents would like (or than its revolutionary enemies thought it could be), generally today appearing to endorse Democracy and Equality now that these very different values are dominant in Western society, a transformation that applies to many Christians who would consider themselves "orthodox" or "conservative" as much as it does to Christians who would consider themselves "progressive." There is a lot that has been and could be written about this, but the observation I'd like to make here is that Christians (and for now I'm really referring only to the sort who even bother to think about this sort of thing, and primarily liturgical Christians who believe in a hierarchical institutional Church) can perhaps be roughly divided into three basic groups according to how they react to this shift.

For traditionalists (and it should come as no surprise that I count myself among this group), the human element of the Church were right then but are largely wrong now: Monarchy and Hierarchy remain the proper order of things established and desired by God, against which the world has been in revolt for the past 225 years, a revolt the Church should not at all appear to endorse or accommodate. For conservatives, the Church was right then and is right now: prudence requires the Church to adapt to whatever circumstances she finds herself in; forms of government and social structure are not all that important and what matters politically is order and stability. For progressives, the Church was wrong then but is increasingly right now: the ancien regime Church's collaboration with Feudalism is a shameful embarrassment and only recently is the Church beginning to see the light of Equality which is what Jesus really wanted all along. (Technically, a fourth permutation--wrong then and wrong now--could exist, but that wouldn't make any sense: it's unlikely anyone believes that the Church should not have been monarchist in the past but should be monarchist today.)

Note that the above classification applies only to issues related to monarchy/hierarchy versus democracy/equality; it is quite possible that a Christian could hold "conservative" views on theological and sexual matters but fall in the "progressive" category when it comes to perspectives on the relationship of Altar and Throne. Conversely, a Christian could be sympathetic to monarchy and aristocracy past and present without being particularly traditionalist on some other issues. While there is plenty of room in today's Churches for both conservatives and progressives as I've described them, genuine traditionalists may sometimes feel deeply uncomfortable with the state and apparent messages of their Churches today, especially with regard to their most visible clerical leaders. But what is the alternative to perseverance? Politically conservative and politically progressive Christians need to know, at least, that the politically traditionalist Christian viewpoint still exists, and why.

On the subject of Altar and Throne, here is a fascinating 1945 documentary on Westminster Abbey, produced not without difficulty during the war. Viewers familiar with the Abbey today will notice that the exterior was much dirtier. But in general it's reassuringly familiar if you've been there, despite all the changes in Britain and the world since then. [I first visited in 2002 (the only time I had to pay admission), had the great honour of singing daily services with The Incarnation Choir for a week in both 2009 and 2011, and attended services in 2012 and 2013.] The seven decades that have passed since this was fiilmed are but a blip in the Abbey's 900+year history.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More on the WW1 centennial

I would have liked to watch or listen to the service at Westminster Abbey yesterday, the leaflet for which is available online, but it was not available live outside the UK. The end of it was led by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, extinguishing the last candle.

The boys of The Choir of Westminster Abbey must have been brought back from their summer holiday specially for this. One hundred years ago, a lot of boys only a few years older than they are, some of whom had surely been choristers too, went away and didn't come back.

I don't endorse every point, but Peter Hitchens's sobering article "The Foul Tornado" is worth reading.

The Man Who Would Be Kaiser

"If the facts change, I am a free person who can adjust to anything," says the head of the House of Hohenzollern, Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia. Well, that's better than nothing. But German monarchists need to make the case for changing those facts, and Germans need to listen. Monarchy is always relevant.

The War That Ruined Everything

A century ago yesterday (the future Queen Mother's 14th birthday), Britain declared war on Germany. The initial cast of characters for the destruction of Europe's old order was complete. There would be no real enduring glory, for the savagery that would unfold would prove as damaging to the "victors" as to the vanquished. Everyone lost...except those to whose short-term advantage it would be to build ...hideous new orders on the ashes of the old. It is perhaps the greatest and most tragic irony of modern European history that the traditional values of patriotism, courage, and obedience in this case ultimately contributed to the fall of the very authorities those values tried to serve. With hindsight we can see that it would have been better if more questions had been asked. But any explanation that attempts to blame one country or one ruler for the war is overly simplistic. Whatever the causes, the catastrophe happened, and there is little we can do today but mourn for what was lost, not only the human lives but an entire tapestry of dynastic and aristocratic rule with its roots in the chivalry of the Middle Ages. Instead of kings and kaisers an age of ugliness and banality is upon us, from which virtually the only relief is the surviving beauty of that which was created before the apocalypse of 1914.