Thursday, May 27, 2010

Britons, Senators and the Succession

Some time back, in need of a distraction, the former Labour regime in the UK started talking, yet again, about changes to the British succession law to do away with the passages that single out Catholics or anyone married to a Catholic for exclusion from any possibility of coming to the British throne and, possibly, doing away with male primogeniture as well. My comments on the subject generated considerable opposition from some John Bull types but so far, with the recent election, I fear my warnings at the time have only been validated. My primary position was that this issue should have been handled long ago ‘in-house’ as it were to avoid causing controversy. The law could have been changed in form without any major change in substance by simply removing the language that singles out Catholics as being particularly evil and leaving it with a simple requirement that the monarch must be in communion with the CofE to reign. Maintain the established church, male preference and allow the monarch, who must approve all royal marriages, to ensure that no dreaded Catholics creep too close to the throne. Sound reasonable?

My God! One would have thought Queen Mary I was alive and going for the matches again! I was assured that the paranoia about Catholics was totally justified, that the British Royal Family is not to be trusted with freedom of religion, even the monarch, that attempting any changes to the succession would almost certainly lead to the disestablishment of the CofE and possibly the end of the monarchy altogether. I maintained that, just as the Labour government had done on the recent occasion, this issue would continue to be brought up any time the government needed a distraction by painting themselves as “reformers” getting rid of the bigotry and discrimination enshrined in British law. Therefore, it would have been better to have taken care of this a long time ago (when a hereditary House of Lords could have kept the debate sane) and that to deal with it sooner would be safer than leaving it for later. After all, I don’t see British society trending more religious and traditional.

At the time of this exchange my fears focused mostly on the Prince of Wales and the Commonwealth. It is no secret that, according to republicans themselves, the British monarchy is safe at home and in the Commonwealth while HM Elizabeth II is Queen but they are eagerly awaiting the succession of the Prince of Wales to make their republican move. In my view, an issue like this could be more safely dealt with while the Queen reigns than waiting until the future reign of King George VII when many traitors in Britain and across the Commonwealth have said the gloves will be coming off. With the Prince of Wales newly established as monarch, lacking at first the popularity of his beloved and long-reigning mother, such an occasion could be the ideal opportunity for the fall of the monarchy in more Commonwealth countries and possibly more damaging and liberal changes in the UK itself. Hence my position that it would be better to remove this tool from the republican arsenal while Elizabeth II is still Queen because anyone should be able to tell from recent years that politicians will continue to resurrect the issue whenever they need to divert public attention.

Well, it seems we might not have to wait for a change in monarch for the danger to increase. I am speaking, of course, of the plans to do away with the House of Lords in favor of an elected or appointed sort of ‘British Senate’. Does anyone seriously trust a bunch of senators, appointed or elected, rather than lords temporal and spiritual, casting a vote on the future of the British monarchy and the established church? Unlike some of those I have crossed swords with in the past, I personally do not favor elected officials having any say whatsoever concerning the succession, I would prefer that be left to God and the course of nature alone, but the fact is that ship sailed long ago. By that same token I would sooner put my trust in the monarch and tradition than in man-made laws and legislation written up by a bunch of self-serving politicians. Nor do I think doing so would change the religion of the entire monarchy. The Queen must approve all royal marriages and she has approved a number in recent years to Catholics. Is the law revoking their place in the succession really necessary? Have any of them been anywhere close to actually having the slightest chance of ever inheriting the throne? Of course not, and even without the law, if they were the Queen could simply refuse permission for the marriage -which would not even mean they could not marry but only that the marriage would not be recognized by British law and thus put them out of the line of succession anyway.

I know many people dismiss attacks on the British monarchy as futile; it is the most prominent and well known monarchy in the world, it is supported by a majority of the British people; all that is true. However, it has fallen before and I may be paranoid but I am ever on the lookout for storm clouds gathering. Apathy can be dangerous while I see no down-side to being overly vigilant. First, there is a piece of proposed legislation that politicians have and will use to their advantage to tinker with the succession and possibly the established church. Second, there are many well-intentioned people who would sympathize with such changes. Third, the institutions most affected show no signs of fighting for the way things are. Fourth, there are republican groups who are waiting for the change in monarch to launch their bids to abolish the monarchy. Fifth, changes to the succession must be passed by all commonwealth realms -a golden opportunity for republicans around the world and finally there is the threat that all of this could be done by elected commons and senators with absolutely no voice in government for the cause of hereditary tradition. That ‘perfect storm’ for republicans must be avoided at all cost even, and I know this will really hurt to some people, dropping a few words from the Act of Settlement.


  1. As an Australian, I can assure you that the Crown will be not be going here very easily. Australia would certainly be the first domino to fall if your theory were correct, since only the junior Coalition partner (the Nationals) have monarchism as part of their platform. We also have an extremely high concentration of media ownership, and such owners are invariably republican.

    Still, they couldn't manage it in 1999, when their media dominance was so biased it surprised plenty of people. Now, with the blogosphere (and the ACM and AML sites being highly accessible), the dominance of the media owners is under seige, and plenty of bloggers (such as myself) would be arguing for retaining the Crown.

    Certainly, the only distinctly resonant republican argument is that the Queen is not Australian (I call that tosh, but what do technicalities matter in a world of appearances?). But I could provide such a devastating demolition of the republican idea that the Queens nationality (percieved or otherwise) wouldn't matter. Plenty of others could do that (though if I hear Jai Martinkovits waffle on about "checks and balances" again, things will get unpleasant).

    So don't worry about republicans moving at the ascension of George VII. There's even the distinct possibility of the move backfiring, as Australians let him have a go. We love our bitch-to-change constitution (mainly because it means we actually have to want the change. No change wanted by the political class has gotten through).

    Finally, a word on the Catholic succession - I'm Catholic myself, and frankly, I don't care that I'm singled out. Good riddance, says I! Like I'd want to have the possibility (no matter how remote) of having to deal with those dirty dirty politicians every day. Though in all probability you're right on the money with "must be in communion with the CofE" part, considering the Queen's actually the head of the church (though I frankly wish she'd remind everyone of the fact from time to time, considering just how sundered the Anglican communion has become).

  2. If you've noticed, with me, things are never "okay". From what I've been able to gather the republican referendum in Australia failed as much if not more because of a failure of republicans to get their act together rather than overwhelming attachment to the Crown. There is the sovereign/head-of-state division that makes me nervous, the "crowned republic" mentality makes me nervous, the tenacity shown by republicans in spite of democratic defeat makes me nervous and the way the media & political elites seem to take for granted that a republic is "inevitable" makes me nervous. I also have learned never to underestimate the ability of politicians to find legal loopholes & assorted dirty tricks to get their way even when the majority opposes them.

    As for Catholics in the succession, the point itself is rather irrelevant -no one has been banned because of their religious who had even a remote chance of attaining the Crown. However, the Catholic hierarchy opposes Catholics being singled out (not necessarily -it bears repeating- the established church and requirement for the Monarch to be an Anglican) and politicians who don't give a damn about Catholics will still use the issue to their advantage. I'm sure they would also not hesitate to use the words of the Catholic hierarchy to press their case even though they disregard those same clerics on a multitude of other moral and political issues they disagree with them on.

  3. can you imagine a Catholic as head of a Protestant Church?

    some catholic monarch would that be...

  4. The "Inevitable" Change to a republic is promoted because of how we are taught to View hostory. We udnerstand it as primitive tribes developing Monahcies that Gradually loose power as we become more Enlightened. At the end of this long Evolutionary Journey is the hiher and mroe developed Government system called Democrscy. Monarhcy is old and outdated, and Democracy the highest level o Human acheivemen and advancement. Thus the thinking goes that Democracy will win the day, everyone will beciome a Demcoracy, and if any Royal is left they will be left only as a sort of leftover form the past, and eventually done away with as the wolrd emrrbaces the Future and becomes truly modern.

    its all tosh and nonsence, but that the thining.

    I also agree, All this talk about Reform is nothign but an excuse for the Government to look like its doign something, and of coruse ot give Politicans mroe power or promote their own Socialist Democracy schemes. It has nothign to do with a genuine need of reform.

  5. mpr, I don't have to imagine it as that has actually happened before. However, I, at least, am not arguing that point. You have to be CofE to be sovereign of the UK, it's as simple as that and it may be safer to do a little minor reworking of the system now to avoid the total loss of it later.

    That being said, as has been mentioned I think, HM the Queen is certainly not the effective head of the CofE in any way that matters. If she were I have no doubt it would not be in the poor state that it is today. I would also tend to doubt that the CofE can continue to have a preeminent, protected, government-sponsored status when its membership is falling off dramatically, long-held doctrines and disciplines are abandoned and, perhaps most importantly, while immigration is dramatically increasing the number of people in Britain who are Catholic, Orthodox, Hindu or Muslim. In short they have much bigger and more immediate threats to deal with than the possbility that someone in the higher ranks of the succession would want to marry a Catholic, that the Queen would approve the marriage and that they would inherit the throne, have children, raise them Catholic and then have a Catholic monarch a couple lifetimes from now. According to current demographics the dominant religion in Britain will be Islam long before there is time for all of those "if's" to ever come to be.

    And Zarove, you are right, it has nothing to do with "reform" (they are not even well-intentioned ignorants on this score) it is simply a blunt object to beat the traditional monarchial system with.

  6. The big problem with the Church of England is that P{oliticians selectt he Bishops who are selected on the basis of who is amenable to their plitical Agenda. Lets face it, we have a lot of near Atheist Bishops who enourage peopel to vote Labur because Labour picked the Bishop candidates. Now that its Tory-Lib Dem it;ll be interesting but I suppose Tpry will win out next opening.

    They really shoudl lett he Queen on her own Pick the Bishops, or the Churhc itself, but this too removes the power from the Politicians.

  7. Zarove, what you have said about the bishops being appointed by politicians just makes a mockery of the supposed secularism of the Labour Party in particular, but also of the entire British political establishment. Are they so precious they can't deal with a little criticism from someone they already deride and disagree with? After all, that's what makes so many people angry with the Catholic Church.

    And yes, I forgot you only think things are OK when monarchies don't even get polled for support - it's assumed to be in the high-90s.

    But that doesn't change the fact that the Australian constitution is nigh-on impossible to change if we don't want it. The process of plebiscite as proposed by the ARM is arguably unconstitutional (and could thus they can only be used as glorified opinion polls), and as Proffesor Flint points out, invites a vote of no confidence in one of the world's most successful constitutions.

    Unfortunately, modern society doesn't build things to last. Things are constantly amended and changed today in the political sphere, whereas in the Horse and Buggy era when the constitution was written, things were actually made with the general idea that they were to last for a bloody long time. Consider how many trinkets we buy and then have to replace as they wear out (seriously, I bought my mother some salt and pepper grinders for Christmas. Before January's end, the salt grinder was broken. Completely), and how quickly they do that.

    This isn't an attempt at change for the better, and all you need is one person to point out that the Emperor has no clothes for the entire facade to come crashing down. That the elites are behind it means that they are open to being accused of being power-hungry twats who can't bear the thought of never having one of their own as Sovereign.

    As for "Crowned Republic", it is a technically correct use of the word. However, I do agree, we shouldn't try and save the monarchy by forgetting that it is a monarchy. Monarchism has plenty of points that can easily crush any argument of republicanism. Playing small target just doesn't seem like a good move in the long run.

  8. Considering that Australia has already had one referendum on the republic, national leaders and a media elite that still support it and are actively pushing for it, and, again, the talent of governments to "find" ways to get what they want regardless of constitions and traditions, I still would not be too comfortable.

    However, the original point was about the UK and other Commonwealth monarchies, unfortunately, do not have all of the safeguards that Australia has.

  9. I agree with Wells in this regard, that we shoudl go after the Big Target. The Big Target is the Narrative. What I mean is, everyone has a Philosophical Narratice, a sort of Protostory which explains our world and life, and which determines how we think things shoudl be or ought to be.

    The Current Narrative is that of the Enlightenment. While the actual Philosophical neelifs have been modified over the past 200 years, the same basic assumptions and premises are used, and really all of Modernity grew from this Philosophical Basis which Challenged the Old Order and began the New Order of Republicanism, which became todays love of Democracy.

    The Narrative is what I said above, we start with Primitive Tribes who develop Monarhcy which gradually looses power as Humanity becomes more Enlightened, and sets it asid ein favout iof the higher and more advanced Democratic society. There is also a firm basis in talk of Liberty, the Rights of Man, and that all rightful Power is vested in the People.

    The Narrative we face that most peopel beelive and most seem to repeat is that under a Monarchy we woudlk be oppressed. Democracy gives us Freedom. Thats wy so many think we're stark raving mad for beign Monarhcists. Even in Monarchies like Australia or the United Kingdom pepel are Proud of the Fact that they are a Democracy and the Monarch serves only a Ceremonial Function.

    People honestly think that before the Age of Democracy and the Enlightenmeng we lived int he Dark Ages, were Religion reigned Supreme, and everyone was forced ot liv ein Swaller and Oppression. Freedom somehow came baout because we have the democratic Reforms.

    But its more insidious than just this, they also bae been sold ont he idea that all rightful Power belongs to the People, that all Power is vested int he People, and the Generlal Will of the Pepel shoudl be Supreme Law. The Ideal Vision of Democracy is as if we all get togather in a big room, tlak over the issue, and arrive at Consensus. Everyone knows this is Preposterous, but this ishow its viewed. Especially when you talk about removing Democracy. Its a Contradiction few seem willign to admit exists, but they know full well that Electiosn are Divisive. here in America we endlessly have contention etwen the Republicans and Democrats and nayone who thinks this or that Canddiate for President will be a Unifying Figure is Delusional. We are always, I mean ALWAYS at Each Others throats. The same is true int he rest of the world were Modern Democracy is Practiced, and freely admited...until you CHallenge Democracy itself.

  10. THEN the peopel get up in arms and declare that this system id a Government "For the people, of the Peple, and by the People". Nevwer mind thatjust Five Minuets before they just admited hat the General Will of the people doesn't actually exist, they will inist it does because Democracy and Freedom are Synonyms, and the whoel Narrative w've been Fed sicne the Two Great Revolutions of the 18th entury is of an Absolute Monarhcy and evil Religious body, the CHurhc, ruling over poeple, allowing no Freedom,a nd hinderping Progress. Thre Revolutionaries overturned this and gave us Freedom. The only way to have Freedom is to ghave a Democratic Government wiht Seperation of Church and State and a Division of Powers, a Government in which all officers are elected from the Cmmon man y the Common Man.

    They never question this. They never even Question the assumptions that Democraticlaly Elected Governemtns will always allow Freedom. The Assumption is, because its Duly Elected it MUST be Free! Thats why when they want to depict soemone as evil they say he wasnt really Elected. Thats the real Origin of the claim that Bush stole the Officein 2001, and how he didnt relalyw in agaisnt Kerry. (Some did say this.) Others think Obama was really Born in Kenya, or has soem other Ineligability to prevent him form Leglaly holdign the office. Anything other htan admit Demcoracy soemtimes Fails.

    Nor do they QUestion the idea that all the Power uis ested in the People, and comes form it. They don't Question the idea that Human Rights are Determiend by Majority Concent, or that any passing desire w have is a Right. They thin anythign you desire to od o shoul be a right so long as it desnt direlcty hurt others, then try to dictate what does and doesnt hurt others.

    The fact is, most of todays talk of Rights is about nothing but Self interest and Hedonism.

    They also tend to Define Liberty int he same way. I shoudl be at Liberty to Drink myself into a gutter every night, do all the Pot I want, have numerous Lovers and possiely CHildren by dozens of women, only to end up Dead in a back Aly because of an accident I caused because its what I wanted to do.

    Meanwhile, sayign a Prayer in Public is a VIolation of some other gusy Relgiiosu Freedom ebcause it Violates the Seperation fo Churhc and State and htus means we have a Theocracy which means no oen will be allowed to beekve as they like.

    Yes its contradicgory but the poitn is, thats what we're up agaisnt. The whole Dmeocratic Midnset.

    We need to target the Idea and Principle Philosophy: Democracy itself.

    We need to show that it dopesnt prpduce Freedom Automaticlaly and can actulaly Binder Freedom. We need to shwo that Monarhcy can preserve Freedom. We need to get peopel to stop assumign every passion they hodl to is a Right, and that Responcibilities must also be accounted for. We must also encourage pepel to udnerstand that, while they are Free to beelive as hte like, Expressions htta cme form a Rleigiosu TRadition are part of the CUlture and shoudl also be Respected. We need to get them to udnertand that Popularity COntests arent the only Valid way to pick leaders and he General Will of the Peopel doens't exist. We need o ge thtem to see, in short, that Democrayc itself may lead to a Tyranny and destruction.

  11. I'm not sure what the "small target" referred to. I've certainly never favored putting faith in democracy, nor do I put total faith in paper constitutions, documents and treaties and so on drawn up by politicians, signed by other politicians, promising to bind future politicians to do what is "best" for the people. I have said all along that no matter what the current interpretation of the law is and no matter what current democratic opinion is, we should never lower our guard or presume that revolutionaries, republicans and traitors will not use any and all means, legal or illegal, to get their way.

  12. I never sai you did. But, while we should point to the endless Faults to specific arguments, I think we should also remind people from time to time that this really isn't about one or another thing, like the Act of Settlement, which is Meaningless in Belgium and even more Meaningless in China, and is really about somethign far more.

    I do think we need to keep up the speific arfguments on specific cases, but the ideology behind such moves should really be Challenegd as well.

  13. MM, as an educated european, i do know a little bit of english history.

    i wasn't making an historical question, but a ethical one.

    what sort of Catholic would accept, in his good conscience, to be the leader of a secularized Church, wich denies the authority of the Pope?

    most certainly, modern bishops and anglicans of the country would demand the kings conversion to anglicanism.

  14. That's all well and good but I don't see how it matters much considering that there is not the slightest chance of it happening regardless of what happens to the Act of Settlement and removing the wording that singles out Catholics (but not other religions or denominations) would not change the fact that the monarch must be in communion with the CofE in order to reign.

    In addition to all that, as has been mentioned, it is not effectively the monarch who governs the CofE but the PM who, in the case of Tony Blair, was a Catholic (or I might should say "Catholic") who waited until his term was over before saying so.

  15. The small target I was referring to was calling constitutional monarchy a crowned republic. That's a small target strategy.

    And yes, you are right - Australia stands alone as having one of the toughest constitutions to change in the world. However, considering that Kiwi MPs said "Bugger off" to an MP who was trying to get a republican plebiscite bill through their parliament, I still think that there's enough there to stand by the Crown.

    What Zarove points out is the ultimately destructive influence that we have in the West, equating democracy with freedom, and the lionisation of separating Church and State. This separation ultimately pulls down the social and cultural structure of society, which requires expanded government to enforce some vague concept of morality (anyone game for a really big bill of rights?), thus causing government expansion and ultimately, totalitarian tyranny by majoritarian influence.

    Quite why a majority being for something makes said something the best thing is certainly a questionable thesis. But the corollary, that a few know best, or one knows best (save God Himself, naturally), are also not proven by this.

    All things in moderation. That includes democracy.

  16. I've always htoguht wise Counsil shuld be Sught rather than the rule of one Man. This is why I do nto advoxate Absolute Monarhcy, nor Democracy. Absolute Monarhcy asks us to trust one man, who is traiend ofr a lifegime to rule, to always make the best descisions. No matter how well traiend or well intentioned, one man is both limited in knowledge and flawed. He will also have passions, selfishness, and other fualts to contend with, which woudl be devistating.

    On the other hand, Democracy asks us to accept the will of the Majority of VOters who by and large arent' traiend to rule, or even think matters through, have no possibiltiy of knowign all the facts, and liekly have to work to support their Families and dont sit down and relaly dig into all the major issues of the Day. Most are easily swayed by Emotional arguents or Rhetoric, and often they are simply uninformed and driven by mass appeal.

    Somehow Im suppose to think this is a better Alternative?

    I prefer a Limited Cnstitutional Government with Hereditary and Appointed Lords, chosen for their SKill and expertise, traiend in a feild, or members of the Clergy, to sit alongside Hereditary Peers who do nothign BUT look over these bills with a sense of Proffessionalism and understanding, in consultation with a King who sits over them.

    As qwith Locke I think this shodul be "By the COncent fo the Governed" via elected officials, but they shoudl eb the reverse of Modern Parliemtns. The King shoudl make the Laws with his Lords, only to pass it to the COmmons for approval or amendment.

    That'd PRevent both Tyranny and Democratic Lunacy.


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