Updated: Jun 6
Monarchy gives the UK in-built advantages over the powerful authoritarian forces now battering the West says Allister Heath for the Telegraph - 1st June 2022
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the State Opening of Parliament in 2010 Credit: Leon Neal /PA
Britain is a lucky country, and not just because we have been blessed with the most extraordinary Queen these past 70 years. The constitutional monarchy she heads has turned out to be one of our country’s greatest strengths, a central reason why we remain a haven of tranquillity, prosperity and liberty in a world of chaos, revolution and warfare.
The monarchy is not an afterthought, a symbol, a relic of the past: it is one of Britain’s central institutions, a driver of who we are as a nation, an engine of renewal and unification, absorbing the present into our past, powering our unusual ability to reinvent ourselves without jettisoning our essence. It serves as a bulwark against extremism, against demagogues, tyrants, fascists, communists, and woke cancellers.
The 1,136 years of Royal continuity since Alfred the Great have been a remarkable story of evolution, a shift from absolutism to rule by consent, from feudalism to a form of capitalism, from Catholicism to a multi-faith society, from Anglo-Saxon kingdom to empire to Brexit. The monarchy, paradoxically, given what it was prior to Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, now protects the people against power. The monarch serves as a reminder to politicians that they are not, ultimately, in total control: there are forces and institutions above them.
Other methods exist to protect nations against extremism or tyranny, such as the division of powers at the heart of the US constitution. But the downside for America is constant paralysis and an inability to reform institutions that are broken. Thanks to our constitutional monarchy, we are able to evolve when necessary; others must raze everything if they are to change.
This is no naive paean to a Whiggish view of history: plenty of the changes made to this country over time have been bad, with botched devolutions a case in point. But we can cope with and absorb damaging ideas or ideological revolutions without losing our souls; the French and Russians and even Americans cannot.
It used to be argued by republicans that meritocracy was incompatible with a monarchy: the huge changes of the past few decades, Big Bang in the City, the drastic progress made by the working classes in the 1980s and by minorities in the 2010s, has shown this not to be true. Anybody in Britain today can be prime minister or a billionaire.
Crucially, the monarchy’s central role in British life moderates our politics and society. It drastically reduces the threat of extremism, violence or ideological overreach, a quality that the rest of the world values hugely about Britain.
A monarchy, with its titles, palaces, carriages and servants, is obviously not compatible with communism, although it can coexist with pretty radical Left-wing governments. The Royal family is inherently internationalist, as is the Commonwealth: autarky or complete isolationism would be psychologically difficult. When military personnel sign up to the Armed Forces they swear an Oath of Allegiance not to the prime minister, but to the Queen: the threat of a coup organised by some hothead demagogue is vanishingly small.
The Queen’s role as head of the Church of England – and the possibility that, one day, the monarch’s role may broaden into that of defender of all faiths – militates against compulsory, official secularism as well. The Queen’s heartfelt Christianity, her moral language and leadership, have helped break down barriers between the faiths, made it easier for minority worshippers to feel fully British, and, in a way that baffles legalistic French and American observers, helped enshrine religious pluralism in Britain.
Over time this will hopefully help defuse both Islamism and extreme-Right sentiment, and forge a more tolerant and integrated society at a time of mass immigration.
Monarchies’ time horizons are extremely long, a useful counterpoint to a social media-addled age where attention spans are diminishing, where senior roles turn over too quickly in the public and private sectors, where ministers come and go every year, and where wisdom and experience are undervalued. Western societies also tend to downplay the importance of the family: nepotism is rightly taboo in educational institutions, big firms and the public sector.
But in the private sphere, in the real world, the family and blood ties matter, and often more than anything else. The Royal family reminds us of the continuity between the generations, even when there are tensions, disagreements and scandals. When millions are battling atomism, a demographic implosion, loneliness and a quest for meaning, anything that rebalances our perceptions of the good life is surely welcome.
Yet the greatest danger to our societies today is disintegration from within, the idea that our countries are inherently evil, racist and “white supremacist”, that free speech, the rule of law and democracy are cover for “microaggressions” and “violence”, that genders and ethnicities should be pitted against one another, and that anybody who disagrees should be “cancelled” and destroyed.
Here again I’m hopeful that Britain will, in time, be better placed to stave off much of this woke revolution. The monarchy has become a unifying focal point around which every group can coalesce without degenerating into identity politics: all can feel pride. It is an institution that reminds us of our unique history, of the extension of rights, individual and political freedoms and immense economic opportunity that has characterised British history.
No honest reading of the past 1,000 years can remotely claim that we are uniquely bad – for all our flaws, all our mistakes, we have long been a beacon among nations, improving and developing before others and tackling injustices more quickly.
The Queen’s reign, and her deeds, expose the woke critique as preposterously wrong-headed and imbecilic. Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, perfectly captured Her Majesty’s remarkable qualities and dedication in his special Jubilee prayer: “Her crown is honour and majesty; her sceptre, law and morality. Her concern has been for welfare, freedom and unity, and in the lands of her dominion, she has sustained justice and liberty for all races, tongues and creeds.”
The monarchy, and the Queen in particular, have provided us with an in-built advantage in contending with the destabilising forces battering Western democracies. For that, and for everything else Her Majesty has given us during her 70 extraordinary years on the throne, we should be eternally grateful.
For this article in pdf, please click here:
Here is an article from John Bradley who is one of our Members and from his background and life experiences he has developed a very clear view of history.
His article in pdf is entitled "Monarchy in Context" and can be read here by clicking on this link: