Against the Republican Option | Xander West

Increasingly, there are whispers about an uneasiness in the air, an end of an era without a likewise act to follow. Within most, it produces an understandable feeling of uncertainty, yet there are others for whom it creates a malevolent energy which broods and bides its time as I write. If one has not realised, I am alluding to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth’s mortality and what comes after.

In an alternate United Kingdom, where a totally dominant majority were monarchists, there would be no question at the close of a reign to ask nor answer. Charles, Prince of Wales, is the rightful heir to the throne by the laws of succession and of God. His Royal Highness and His Royal Highness alone must succeed Her Majesty as monarch. There would be no talk of workarounds or exceptions for that is his unmalleable destiny. However, such a consensus no longer exists so universally and there are now questions around his succession. One of these ponders whether the Duke of Cambridge should take the throne instead, even though the laws of succession render such an idea impossible at the outset, but another asks if the United Kingdom should simply give up its monarchy altogether. Whilst this article will not serve as the definitive polemic for British royalism, which can be left for another day and to the many writers in this publication who are as committed to the monarchy as I am, one feels an urgent compulsion to riposte against this republican question.

More than any other group of troublemakers, the republicans are the most dangerous faction in the Kingdom today. This danger is an existential one, even more so than that posed by Irish or Scottish nationalists to our territorial integrity, yet it is all the more sinister by being far less visible. I would argue one has to be either incredibly brave or incredibly foolish to openly be a republican. Our adoration for Her Majesty is, in my view, the only universal truth left standing in this country to the degree that even the republicans begrudgingly accept it and know they cannot win. Yet.

Just wait, readers, until the queen passes from this world to the next for streams of these sorts to emerge from their caverns and organise a fifth columnist threat to the nation the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes. We already know they reside amongst the Irish separatists, but the same will be true of their Scottish and Welsh counterparts before long. They will be in all the national parties of the left, the Conservative Party, the House of Commons and the Cabinet. I know from a combination of experience and publicly accessible information that they are there already to a worrying extent.

There is no doubt these people will use the fog of national uncertainty at the end of the queen’s reign to consolidate and organise into a campaign promising a referendum on the republican question. They will embellish it with fluffy terminology such as equality, fairness and modernisation, but they are nonetheless heralds foretelling national suicide. I should also mention a second kind of ‘reluctant republican’ which grows more prevalent by the month amongst the ranks of those who describe themselves as ‘conservative’ or ‘common sense’. It is in this latter, but by no means less insidious category, to which I generously ascribe Hansel Chestnut-Browne and his article.

I do not think there is much to discuss of this article which would not have figured in a defence of the British monarchy on its own, but it and particularly its reception has forced my hand. Fortunately, he admits that the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall was legitimate, and indeed uses most of his thoughts as a lament of his inability to prove otherwise. However, the argument within what remains about the “immense frailty” of the monarchy is worth exploring.

Why has it become frail? Why can Republic post treasonous material online and get away with it? Why has this publication entertained the thoughts of a fifth columnist, whether Chestnut-Browne is self-aware of that status or not? I cannot answer the latter question, but I shall respond to the others.

For the British monarchy to generate any love or obedience from its subjects, it has to draw on historical continuity in lieu of the real power it once held. Walter Bagehot puts the reason why more eloquently than I could in the following quote: “the elements [of the constitution] which excite the most easy reverence will be the theatrical elements; those which appeal to the senses, which claim to be embodiments of the greatest human ideas – which boast in some cases of far more than human origin.” A constitutional monarchy, even the rather too weak one the British are subject to, can thus thrive on demonstrating historical continuity alone because the monarch transcends the level of the individual to become the sole and ultimate embodiment of a nation and its ideals. 

When could a president, subject to the whims of an everchanging electorate and surrounding zeitgeist, ever come close to timelessly representing a people as a monarchy does? One assumes this is why the American republic reveres its constitution so much, although even a shallow look into American politics reveals that the document is near-constantly subject to reinterpretative tinkering.

The monarchy is hence congruous with our past, yet the republican question persists. This means one must look at the state of the masses for its cause. The republican question is emerging increasingly because we have lost this same sense of continuity in ourselves through modernity. Modernity is quite happy to divorce itself from anachronisms in its ceaseless mission for the triumph of human reason and logic. We call this ‘progress’, although by now its march has become positively illogical and unreasonable to many onlookers. The unconcern of progress for anachronism is a neglect of our living links to the past, of the thread which ties us to our ancestors as long ago as the Kingdom of Wessex and gives us a mooring from which we can make a constructive impact in this world for the generations which inherit our labours.

This national historical belonging can best be nurtured through education, particularly as part of lifting minds out of the intellectually primitive state of childhood. Yet we teach our history so sparingly and inadequately nowadays that it is no surprise young people are so atomised, rootless and the strongest supporters of the republican question. I do not think they are like this entirely willingly. One cannot help but feel some sympathy for these people as they do not know who they are nor where they have come from. Their heroes are computer-generated images created in Hollywood whilst they have been taught to treat their ancestors as irredeemably evil and demonic presences, even shackles which must be thrown off to be truly free to fester in postmodern bliss. 

A growing number in this society wish to reject the very existence of this thread and their duty to maintain it, partly because they do not even know how to begin answering their obligations. I have discussed similar ideas once before with regards to Members of Parliament, but it can be equally applied to the masses whose only connection to the monarchy is a temporal one to Her Majesty. There is still a residual patriotic feeling that the queen belongs to us, even though constitutionally the truth is the inverse, but this transcends no further than what is seen on the television. In this sense, the House of Windsor are no more privileged in popular consciousness than the latest faddish celebrities, placed in various palatial enclosures for the enjoyment of the viewing public. I believe groups like Republic are aware of this and so are more than willing to sow the seeds of doubt in misdirected minds before the time comes when this link is broken.

Before I conclude, I should address the politics of the Prince of Wales, which Chestnut-Browne mentions in his article. I am fully aware that the ideas of environmentalism His Royal Highness believes have served as the prime motivation for the growth of ‘reluctant republicanism’ on the right. There are several easy arguments to make against this somehow disentitling him from inheriting the throne. Firstly, British monarchs still have only ‘soft power’ in our current system. Secondly, a monarch who wishes to enact a kind of vision for this Kingdom would be more in keeping with the past thousand years or so of our history and could even help restrain the ambitions of a demagogic government. Thirdly, his tendency to discuss his views with globalists remains congruous with the global outlook the British monarchy has maintained for the past few centuries, whether it irks certain subjects or not. Lastly, his environmentalism may be overt, but it should not be shirked when it results in laudable projects like Poundbury, which is centred around traditionalism and a return to building in humane proportions alongside minimising carbon emissions. Therefore, I urge readers to remember that these ‘reluctant republicans’, although merely misguided by the republican question, rest within the same camp as our enemies and would do this nation great harm for short term political satisfaction.

Although I have not mentioned it explicitly, this article serves in some ways as a call to arms to prevent the end of the queen’s reign becoming a threshold to national oblivion. I have written before that the British constitution yearns for true constitutional monarchy. Unlike the Barbadians, who have already answered the republican question for themselves, to tear the mother country of the British monarchy asunder from its entire historical foundations would not occur without grave consequences. Making this country a republic at the end of Her Majesty’s reign would create new ways to politically divide us, would not increase democratic power in any way, would perpetuate a markedly worse elite than the House of Windsor, and would leave the British people with nothing higher to aspire to than contingency and consumption. I do not have a simple “fear of the new” in the pejorative sense Chestnut-Browne employs, but rather fears of a final rupture with our history and the very disintegration of our nation in tandem with the institution most worth conserving. The frailty he identifies in the monarchy is emblematic of the result of decades of modernisation attempts to force this venerable and dignified Kingdom to conform with the systems of modern republican democracies. Readers will have noticed plenty of mentions of the ‘end of history’ in the media as of late. If monarchists are unable to reject all notions of the republican question in the United Kingdom, then our history as we know it might very well end for us soon.

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