Thursday, September 15, 2022

Monarachy: A Problem with Definitions

 As I am sure you know, Queen Elizabeth II passed away at the age of 96 recently.  I am not a royal-watcher, but I am a royal-watcher-watcher. That is, the question of why people care about the lives of these people intrigues me. A few notes

1) Was she a good Queen? People tend to think so; however, since the job is somewhat ill-defined its hard to say. 

2) The Queen is supposed to be above politics (she does not vote- I was surprised to find out that legally she can, but she really can't). We know very few of Queen Elizabeth II's opinions on political events. But the notion of political is not well defined. One would think that if she did an appeal for people to take the COVID vax that would not be political, but somehow it is (I do not know if she did such an appeal). King Charles III believes in global warming and that we need to do something about it. This again should not be political but is. 

3) She is the second longest reigning Monarch. First is King Louis XIV who first became king at the age of 4. I had a blog complaining about this here. However, there is a more interesting point I want to make. From the first to the last day of King Louis XIV reign not much had changed. Technology, politics, other things just didn't change much. By contrast the world changed A LOT between Queen Elizabeth II first and last day:

a) The British were an important power in 1952. Less so now.

b) When her father died she was in Kenya and it took 4 hours to get the news to her. Now that would be immediate. 

c) Divorce was considered bad in 1952 and is why King Edmond VIII could not be king (he wanted to marry a twice-divorced woman whose ex-husbands were still alive). And now three of the Queen's children have been divorced.

d) Gay people.. enough said. There has even been a royal gay wedding, see here

Black people (can't call them African-Americans), Women,... you fill it in. 

e) When Charles wanted to get married it seemed to be important that he marry a virgin. We cannot imagine this mentality anymore. When Prince William and Kate got married they were already living together and this was NOT an issue for ANYONE. I looked up what the Church of England thought of it and all I got was some very bland comments like That's what young people do nowadays. 

3) Is the monarchy a good thing? As an American I feel I do not have a right to an opinion. If the citizens of the United Kingdom approve of the monarch (polls show they do) then who am I do tell them they are wrong? Even so, lets look at reasons for it

a) Tourism. It has been said that the Monarchy leads to MONEY from tourism. So it is worth the price? Nobody seems to know and it would be hard to tell. However, I don't think the citizens of the United Kingdom view  money as the reason for Monarchy. The American analog is giving Disneyland tax breaks to be in Florida which generates jobs. I doubt they think of the Monarchy in those mundane transactional terms. 

b) CS Lewis said 

Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes and gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

This is  bit odd- they must all pretend to like the monarchy to make it work. A long time ago when Charles and Dianna were both having affairs, 80% of the citizens the United Kingdom thought that was okay so long as they are discreet so the people don't find out. But- those ARE the people.

Also odd- CS Lewis was a theologian and a  believing Christian; however, his comment above can apply to God as well as to Kings. 


  1. C. S. Lewis' observation is pithy. (Where monarchy is concerned, I think another advantage is that it discourages the short term, careerist motives that are all but universal among elected officials and politicians, at least where terms of office exist. The monarchy, at least one with teeth, is faced with the opposite situation: not only is the monarch there for life to face the consequences, but his children inherit whatever mess he's left behind.)

    As you've mentioned God, where definitions are concerned, "religion" serves as yet another example of a term that is used confidently, but for which offering a definition is very difficult, certainly if we falsely believe we can bracket away questions of the truth. But a good working notion in this context is that religion concerns the worship of what one takes to be the highest good. Thus, every man is religious by nature and inescapably so. It is only what one worships that differs. Thus, any debate ought to concern what is worshiped, whether it is indeed the highest good and thus worthy of worship.

    Where monarchs are concerned, they are something like parental figures in the extended family of the nation. And if God is an exalted father, then we see that familial relations are essential to man and reflected across all relationships. If that is so, then monarchy is the most natural form of government and the burden of proof rests largely with all the rest. Republics, I would claim, may be justified as a concession to human corruption.

  2. CS Lewis was quite wrong. The problems with hereditary monarchies are legion, the main being that being that the process for selection isn't concerned with ability (being there and not drooling are all that's required, and the not drooling bit is optional). And since it's heredetary, you either get inbred idiots or snotty classist (or worse, racist) comments about the people your royalty marry (and marrying into a monarchy is a really bad idea (those who have done it in Japan have had horrible lives)). Honoring just about anyone on CS Lewis' list makes more sense than honoring a king.

    Also, of course, they are ridiculously expensive.

    By the way, as Americans we have a perfect right to point out the Brit's silliness: we had the good sense to fight a war to get out from under their royalty problems.

  3. To clarify- I didn't mean to say that no American has a right to an opinion, just that I feel that I don't have a right to an opinion.

    And yes, marrying into the royal family seems like a bad idea. Kate seems to be doing fine, but if course we don't know. As for Meghan--- gee, I don't know what to think.

  4. he wanted to marry a twice-divorced women (woman); they are discrete (discreet) so the people don't find out.

    1. Thanks, Fixed. Also, I never knew that discreet was spelled differently from discrete, so thanks for that!