Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Conrad Black on the British Monarchy

I must admit that I grew up ambivalent towards the House of Windsor, particularly with the pipes of Culloden ringing in my ears from my Scottish mother by way of Nova Scotia.  That said, I have come to appreciate the institution and its possibilities going forward.

Without question money and power needs to be mediated through an electoral system and that has or is becoming the global norm because it actually succeeds given enough time.  And so it has come to pass.  Nor any longer is one family called upon to provide timely leadership but potentially any one of us is called for superior results.

What the role now does is focus the flow and ebb of the intangible flux of influence.  This may sometimes be about money and power, but not necessarily.  Influence often faces a vacuum which is something kingship is able best to fill through its agents

Our polity is an unfinished enterprise that will surely take centuries to well sort out.  After all, the US Constitution is still less than 250 years old, while a representative parliament with power is around 350 years old.  That after thousands of years of one man rule in its various forms.  This is something that we are only now seriously seeing off with decades yet to work through.

In my own writings I have introduced the Rule of Twelve as a natural tool to facilitate the flux of influence. I posit that its success will establish happiness as a human norm.

Is telling however that George will live a good one hundred years.   He will know his great grandmother who lived most of the twentieth century.  That is almost two centuries of institutional memory that is living history.  Money and power touch our world like moths to the flame and are gone.  Money is only a counting tool and power is what is willingly granted.  Influence is a test of character and intelligence.

Conrad Black: The monarchy’s upswing started with a death, not a birth

Conrad Black | 13/07/27 

Nothing could be more natural than the celebrations that have followed the birth of a healthy baby boy to the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William.

But even before the birth, the level of international interest in this relatively routine event had been astonishing.

The racks of periodicals in supermarkets and pharmacies have been heavy-laden for many weeks with glossy magazines proclaiming the child’s imminent arrival. Media reports, not entirely implausibly, claimed the event would produce billions of dollars of tourist revenue for the labouring U.K. economy, in part through the sale of trinkets and mementos and bric-a-brac.

It was only 16 years ago, at the time of the tragic death of this baby’s paternal grandmother, that the same media, and in some cases the same individuals, were triumphantly proclaiming the imminent demise of the monarchy itself.

At the time of the death of Princess Diana, I lived not far from her home in Kensington Palace, where the new baby and his parents are now living. My wife Barbara and I walked over to the palace to take in the astonishing sight of the masses of informal mourners, and observe, since news film and photos of it were scarcely credible, the flowers piled up to a depth of several feet, up to 20 feet out from the palace fence.

Many perspectives were represented. A card asserting: “You were a neat Chick — God be with you” was on a bouquet next to “Gays of East London will never forget what you did for us.”

And I recall various people solemnly, and no doubt sincerely, informing tourists from Europe and North America this tragic loss was not in vain, as it had set in train the republicanization of the country. A number of people announced quite confidently the monarchy had gone down with the princess.

In fact, horrible though it was, the death of Diana was the watershed that marked the beginning of the revival of the monarchy from one of its periodic dips.

Diana had been running a parallel monarchy: She declined, unlike her mother-in-law’s great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra, consort of Edward VII, to be a silent and indulgent pretty face and girlish figure, while her husband ran an open-plan marriage. The media were thoroughly manipulated by Diana as she leaked damaging information to selected reporters while the more irresponsible sections of the press hacked the Prince of Wales’s cellphone and even recorded his ill-considered descent into scatology in conversation with his later wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. (“Tampax Britannica” was the headline in the Spectator magazine — which my associates and I owned at the time — after he compared himself to a tampon.)

No one imagines the Royal Family is composed of brilliant people, though some are quite intelligent, but they are solid, reliable and dedicated

The marriage disintegrated before the titillated and prurient eyes of the nation and the world.

No one knows what goes on in someone else’s marriage, but Diana had no difficulty establishing herself as the wronged party and the popular favourite; and the Palace, unaccustomed to being on its back foot, looked like a superannuated heavyweight blinking in disbelief at the blows being rained on it by an agile underdog opponent.

When Diana died, the Royal Family remained in Scotland, and, as was then the custom when the Queen was not resident in London, there was no flag over Buckingham Palace to lower. The prime minister, Tony Blair, advised the Queen emotions were unprecedentedly profound and visible in London and she had to become more involved. The Daily Mirror bannered on its front page: “Show Us You Care, Ma’am.”

The Queen returned to London, the royal standard was raised to half-staff, and she decreed a ceremonial funeral at Westminster Abbey. She spoke to the nation briefly but eloquently on television and radio on the eve of the funeral, and expressed her sorrow “as a grandmother and as your Queen.”

The 76-year-old Prince Philip walked with the Prince of Wales and the princess’s sons and brother behind the caisson bearing her casket; the 97-year-old Queen Mother stumped majestically up the aisle, and the House of Windsor paid its respects with immense dignity and moved into a new era.

The media got off Prince Charles’ back, the Queen Mother passed on, and the Queen soldiered through her 50th and 60th anniversaries as monarch, and closes in on Queen Victoria’s record of almost 64 years, the mother of the nation at last.

The Queen has never offended or embarrassed her subjects these 61 years, not once, a performance of astounding virtuosity

She is not always the most imaginative or evidently vivacious sovereign, but she is intelligent and dutiful, and has never offended or embarrassed her subjects these 61 years, not once, a performance of astounding virtuosity.

There is not a twitch, whisper, or wisp of republican sentiment in Britain today. Everyone knows that Britain can’t unite the roles of chief of state and head of government in the same person, as France and the United States do.

In the United States, the Constitution established three co-equal branches, executive, legislative and judicial, and they are entirely separated, completely unlike, and not adaptable to British traditions; which is why nobody in Great Britain, even in the asylums for the deranged, advocates jettisoning the whole set-up of British government.

(In France, Charles de Gaulle ended the 170-year battle between monarchists and republicans through two monarchies, two empires, three restorations, four republics, a directory, a consulate, a government in exile, provisional governments and a “state,” by re-establishing a monarchy in the form of his presidency and calling it the Fifth Republic. This is not the British way.)

The enthusiasm over this royal birth goes far beyond happiness that the next three monarchs — Charles, William and George Alexander Louis — are now in view; and beyond natural goodwill for the evident pleasure of this attractive young couple.

It reflects an appreciation for something beyond the failure, the mediocrity, humbug, and frequent incompetence of the political class in post-Thatcher Britain.

No one imagines the Royal Family is composed of brilliant people, though some are quite intelligent, but they are solid, reliable and dedicated. And the British institutions that are headed by people of whom the same can be said are so scarce that, apart from the military, it is a challenge to think of any.

It was not the Queen who ditched Britain’s closest allies and most selfless supporters in the world, the old Commonwealth of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to plunge into a Europe that is now in shambles except for Germany and its coteries of satellites.

The monarch did not commit Britain beyond reason to the special relationship with the United States, which ended abruptly when a new American regime decided it had no interest in Britain and sent back the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.

Her Britannic Majesty has her ministers to thank for those brainwaves, and they have gone, and she’s still there, and will remain, even unto the third following generation, and beyond.
There is no need to incant “God save the Queen,” not because God is dead, as has also been reported, but because the Queen is in no need of salvation. The people are.

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