Increasingly pessimistic, this article may very well just be me being unwarrantedly critical. However, there is nothing like a smidgen of conflict to get people interested in reading what we have to say; here goes nothing, I’m going to disagree with Daniel Hawker.
Let me be clear: I am not a republican, nor am I indifferent to the monarchy that we have. I also do not dislike either Edmund Burke or the late Sir Roger, having read works from both – and yet, I disagree with Mr Hawker’s recent commentary piece on the role of our monarchy. The King, or the Royal Family, isn’t ‘Britain’s Soul’, nor is it ‘our one national continuity’ (my emphasis, not Mr Hawker’s). Though, perhaps first I should commend what I think he has gotten right, and where we have common ground.
Our late Sovereign Lady was indeed an embodiment of moral courage and civic duty. I would go so far as to say she was a fantastic public figurehead for traditional, protestant Anglican Christianity. Likewise, it is indeed true that the more radical left want to tear down our traditional institutions, while the soft left want to turn them into glorified green-social democrat mouthpieces – we know. One could even go so far as to say that we should be vocally supportive of our King, or at least the institution of monarchy, perhaps solely on the basis that it annoys the right people.
Britain, however, is not the monarchy; Britain is a nation; a nation is a collective of people. What defines those people is what those people do – the customs and common practices, attitudes and values. The ‘soul’ of the British is our popular culture, or even our values (I would prefer the term religion), in how the British think and so how the British act. British people have generally enjoyed popular sovereignty and familiarity in regards to what is visibly around them. This is why the 2016 Brexit campaign focused on “take back control” and mass immigration changing our familiar towns and cities – against distant institutions on the continent. Nigel Farage did not invoke, at least not prominently, the idea that Brussels had taken power from the Queen.
It is not a good thing that we have a ‘personal connection’ to the Royal Family, or that we view the King as some kind of dad that we never had. It is not ‘trad’ to have the monarch be at the forefront of Britons’ minds; this is counterintuitive to a mystical, sacred monarchy. The word ‘mystical’ is, unsurprisingly, from the same root word as ‘mystery’; secret. How is it possible to maintain mysticism and a sacral quality if the King is supposed to seem intimate to us? How is it possible for the monarchy to be sacred if they appear ordinary? It is this attitude that was the root of the subsequent celebrification of the Royal Family, which has been disastrous. The King does not have to be #relevant to the everyday lives of British people.
There is a necessity in balancing civic involvement, mystical and sacred qualities, and representing public morality – if not a higher morality – that the Royal Family has a duty to pursue. Our King has to remain sufficiently far-off to be sacred. He also has to be visibly moral enough to be respected and involved publicly enough to maintain institutional confidence. Balancing what can be at odds with each other is not easy, but an overly-involved and relevant, though not in the progressive sense, monarchy, which I think, perhaps unconsciously, was guiding Mr Hawker’s thought, is not the right way forward.
If you want to discover and influence “Britain’s Soul”, turn away from institutions and towards the people. Institutions are important, vital even, but they are another subject to what Mr Hawker was trying to tackle. Turn towards what moral, dare I say even religious, forces are guiding everyday people, and what ordinary people do communally. The monarchy did not compel me to love my country, nor does it govern my every action; Jesus Christ does, and I pray in every beloved Book of Common Prayer service that we will only be quietly governed by our monarch. At the end of the day, I do not think that it is historically or presently accurate to pin our whole national being on one institution, albeit an important one, while that which is popular is effectively sidelined.
If you want to discover and influence ‘Britain’s Soul’, be practical, straightforward and actually change how people think and act; how people’s souls are actually oriented. Avoid placing too much emphasis on a single institution, especially when they do not govern our everyday lives. Some institutions ought to, like the Church (which has a presence in every community, I am told), and you may find that they are more relevant to the subject of souls. Other institutions currently hold too much sway over the developing souls of Britons, like schools – as opposed to parents. Other institutions try to suppress the outward signs of inward Graces in our souls, like the police. You will not make any progress in a ‘conservative revolution’ by having tunnel vision.