Are You a Monarchist?
Most people asked the title question to-day would doubtless contemptuously answer “no!” Some few – very few in these United States – might answer in the affirmative. But how well do either really understand what they are denying or assenting to? Just what is a Monarchy? For that matter, what is a republic? Just as our Federal Union, Hitler’s Germany, and North Korea are all called republics, so too are Austria-Hungary, Canada, and Imperial China called Monarchies. But in both cases, what a world of difference! About the only thing you can say that most Monarchies shall have in common is the hereditary principle in choosing the Sovereign – but that is not the case to-day with either the Holy See, the Sovereign Order of Malta, or the Co-Principality of Andorra; nor, for long stretches of history, was it true for either the Holy Roman Empire or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
There is, of course, as with republics, a great difference between types of Monarchy. This diversity is reflected those which survive to-day. Of these, Great Britain and the Commonwealth Realms (sharing the British Queen but in all ways independent from HM’s UK government – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and twelve others), Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Andorra, Samoa, and Spain are Christian Constitutional Monarchies – that is, the Monarch reigns but does not rule, and the politicians do so in Their Majesties’ names. The Holy See, SMOM, Liechtenstein, Tonga, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Monaco are – to a greater or lesser degree – Christian Absolute Monarchies; this means that the Sovereign has the preponderance of political power subject to law and/or tradition (this seems like a lot, but it leaves them unable to bring in abortion or same-sex marriage – the ability to change reality belongs only to absolute “democracies”). There are Islamic Monarchies – Jordan (the closest to Western in style), Morocco, Malaysia (which is, as a Federal Constitutional Monarchy, a case apart), Brunei, Kuwait, The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrein, Oman, and Saudi Arabia – in these the Will of the Ruler is tempered only by Sharia Law or whatever other codes he chooses to bind himself with. There are three Buddhist Monarchies – Bhutan (where the King recently divested himself of absolute power), Thailand, and Cambodia, in all of which the King’s authority as much or more religious than political. Then there is the Empire of Japan, where under the American-imposed 1947 Constitution the Emperor has no power, but remains an important symbol in national life. There are, in addition, throughout the Third World an army of Sultans, Rajas, Hereditary Kings and Tribal Chiefs, and various other “Traditional Rulers” (as they are called in UN-speak) ruling or reigning over select areas within ostensible republics.
Speaking of which, republics too come in several varieties, knowledge of which shall help us focus in on the question at hand. As with Monarchy, we generally suppose that republics do not rely on the hereditary principle for choosing their Head of State, though that is not always the case, as with North Korea, Cuba, and the Duvalier dynasty in Haiti. There are four major types of republics in the World to-day. The first is the executive republic, where the elected president has many of, most of or more than the powers of such as Louis XIV, Henry VIII, or Alexander III; such are the United States, Russia, France, and most of Latin America. There are Parliamentary republics, where the president – generally elected by parliament and not the populace as a whole – is a ceremonial figurehead with all the weakness and none of the prestige of a Constitutional Monarch (this is why their palaces are generally retirement homes for used-up politicians). Most European republics are of this variety. There are Islamic republics, which claim to incarnate both Sharia and the Will of the People; and then there is a wide variety of failed states – all of whom claim to be republics.
A true red herring that cuts across all of these lines is what media, government, and academia – the unholy trinity of opinion manufacture – are pleased to call democracy. Supposedly, all republics and Constitutional Monarchies are democracies by definition – although a certain strand of American Conservative insists upon the difference between a Constitutional republic such as the United States once were, and a democracy. But what is democracy? One might define it as majority rule, but since the great majority of countries that now have abortion and same-sex marriage had them imposed by judicial or legislative fiat when a great majority of their populations did not want them, this definition does not hold water. Indeed, democracy can be defined as whatever those really ruling a given country wish it to be – hence the old joke that the United States have a representative democracy, the pre-1989 Soviet Bloc featured “Peoples’ Democracy,” and Idi Amin defined cannibalism as “nutritional democracy.” But in reality, it functions as a smokescreen for those in power.
But to call oneself a Monarchist – even before we define our terms further – is to claim heirship to a record of failure in the last century or so. Since I was born in 1960, a lot of Monarchies have been overthrown: Nepal, Laos, Iran, Afghanistan, South Arabia, Yemen, Ethiopia (the last Christian Empire), Rwanda, Burundi, Libya, Zanzibar, and Greece – all of whom did far worse afterwards, however badly they might have been doing before. The same is true of those Commonwealth republics who more or less peacefully overthrew the Queen: Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Malta, Ceylon, Sierra Leone, Rhodesia, The Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Tangyanika (Tanzania after merging with Zanzibar), Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana – and most disastrous of all, the Union of South Africa. My brother was born a mere seven years before me, but in that time. Monarchical attrition was rife: Vietnam, Tibet, Egypt and Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Tunisia all bit the dust. Our father was born in 1926; before my brother came, he saw the overthrow of the Kings of Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, and the Regent of Hungary – and India and Ireland switched from Dominions to republics. Grandpa hit the jackpot, however! After his birth in 1890, Madagascar, Korea, Portugal, China, Germany (and its constituent Monarchies), Austria-Hungary, Russia, Turkey, and Mongolia all fell – as had Brazil the year before he was born. Certainly the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the American, French, and Latin American Revolutions to -say nothing of the sad ends of Iturbide and Maximilian in Mexico – did not end well for Monarchists. Bear in mind, of course, that all of these fallen thrones were as different from one another as the surviving one.
Even so, if you google “Why I am a Monarchist,” you shall get about 10,900 results – and that includes only English-speakers. John Medaille, Michael Davis, and Ryan Hunter, Americans all, appear on the first page and give different cogent answers to the question. Mr. Davis asks a very important question: “But perhaps you might ask yourself—you who grew up on tales of King Arthur, and Cinderella, and the Chronicles of Narnia—when did you stop being a Monarchist?” Indeed, indeed. One might well make the argument that, just as the soul is naturally Christian, it is also naturally Monarchist. In any case, each of those gentlemen’s response to the stated question are worth reading.
But we still want to find out a bit more about the varieties of Monarchy before we can discover the answer to the title question – as to whether you, dear reader, really are a Monarchist yourself. Now, I must here admit an open bias. I am not really interested that much in non-Christian Monarchies. I would not have wanted to live under the Ottomans or the Qing. That said, however, such Sovereigns were almost always better than the freedom-talking tyrants who succeeded them. Nevertheless, I shall leave them out of the discussion.
Before I move on to more contemporary matters, however, I want to bring up for your delectation the views of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas on the matter of governance. They held that there were three kinds of good government – Monarchy, Aristocracy, and what they called “Polity” – that is to say, rule by an educated, landholding, and military-serving citizenry. Opposed to these three were their corresponding bad governments: Tyranny, Oligarchy, and what they called “Democracy” – mob-rule. As far as they were concerned, however, the best form of government was “mixed,” featuring King, Nobility, and landholding, service-minded Commoners. This was the Medieval form of government – and it survives in a desiccated mummified form in the current British system, which resembles its origins in the same way and degree that the Church of England resembles Medieval Catholicism. Of course, neither sage spoke a mixed regime such as that which prevails throughout the West to-day, seamlessly combining Tyranny, Oligarchy, and the Mob! But one other feature of Medieval governance which must be touched upon is the dichotomy between authority and power. Authority – which is the right to say what ought to be done, came from God and was mediated to the Sovereign through the Church, hence the Coronation Rite; Power, the ability to make things happen, was diffused throughout the Estates of the Realm. The King had some, but so too did the Church, the Nobility, the Guilds, the towns – even the peasantry. A good King was like an orchestra leader, while a bad one brought not despotism but anarchy, as contending power-holders fought for more. With us, it is the opposite – power is concentrated in our ruling elites, while authority is dispersed among a largely amorphous electorate.
Regardless of when they were deposed or lost their powers, the Monarchs of Europe have left a strong mark upon every aspect of life, both in the Mother Continent and in the Daughter Nations across the Seas – including our United States. This includes law, the arts, the military, hunting, literature, and even much of the built heritage. Certainly, the first impulses toward government support of historical preservation, conservation, education, agriculture and anything else came from them, and we all benefit from that rich if forgotten legacy. But one supposes that gratitude is not a modern virtue.
In any case, this brings us to another Monarchical division; from the 17th to the 19th centuries, the Royal Houses of the British Isles, France, Spain, and Portugal divided; the last named century also saw the Royal Houses of Savoy and Hohenzollern annex or dominate all the other Sovereign Houses in Italy and Germany, with the influence of the Habsburgs being confined to their own domains. But these struggles were as much over ideology - the nature of the Monarchy in the given country – as genealogy. Within the context of the Modern World, the senior lines wished to retain the Traditional sort of Monarchy as developed in their respective countries, while the junior became the creatures of the new national Oligarchies, who wished to conceal their dominance with Royal trappings. In the Three Kingdoms, the supporters of the older line were first called Cavaliers during the first round of civil wars, and then Jacobites; their equivalents in France were called Legitimists (a name which came also to be applied to all such groups in Europe generically); in Spain were he Carlists, and in Portugal the Miguelists. All lost; with the exception of the Stuarts, who became extinct in the Male line, they all eventually sought refuge (alongside the deposed German and Italian Houses) in Habsburg Austria.
Although the Russian Tsars continued as champions of Orthodoxy, the new Monarchies of the Netherlands and Belgium were founded on more or less liberal principles, while those of Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece were erected on a strange mix of liberalism and Orthodoxy. The Scandinavian Kings, on the other hand, like the British, accommodated themselves to Oligarchical “democracy.” Thus, they survived alongside the British and the Benelux Sovereigns when the World Wars swept away most of Europe’s Monarchs.
All of that having been said, as I am not much interested in the non-Christian Monarchies, neither am I really that interested in the liberal or Constitutional Monarchies – save to maintain the existing one, which do have certain benefits, and in any case would be replaced with something worse. Nor am I unaware that from time to time some of their Monarchs (or in the case of Canada, Australia, and South Africa, their Governors-General) come into salutary Constitutional conflict with “their” governments. But it is Legitimist Monarchy that interests me.
To be sure, the proponents of Traditional Monarchy in the British Isles, France, Iberia, and Central Europe all had very different national mores. But ironically, as an American, it is easier for someone like me to see their commonalities than it might be for them. There are, roughly, five points in common, and it is upon these five points that a Monarchism for the 21st century can be developed. They may be summed up as Altar, Throne, Subsidiarity, Solidarity, and – for want of a better word – Occidentalism. Let us deal with each in turn.
1. The Altar
The Altar symbolises the place of the Church in Society. Mediator of Divine authority to the Monarch, the Church Crowns and anoints him. But it also is the animating philosophy, the arbiter of morals. Accompanying public and private life, its ceremonial enriches everything from openings of the legislature and judiciary to school graduations. But these not only sanctify, but symbolise the Church’s proper role in education, social work, and every aspect of life.
2. The Throne
The Throne deals with the place of the Monarch himself. Deriving his authority from God and national tradition, in the modern world he must have sufficient power to “protect his people from their politicians,” in the pithy phrase of Franz Josef. No Christian Monarch, as we have mentioned, has ever been absolute over Society in the way that – say – the Supreme Court of the United States is. But it seems to me that powers vested in the presidency by the Constitution, as opposed to the ones usurped by subsequent presidents and the judiciary – would be sufficient. Moreover, where subjects, enamoured as they are with the supposed power given them by voting, are content to allow presidents to usurp power, one can imagine how watchful they would be for any such actions on the part of a Monarch – precisely because he was hereditary.
All of the groups referred to earlier included provincial or local liberties – what we call to-day subsidiarity – among their rallying cries. This means that, politically, as much power as can be wielded effectively is devolved to the lowest possible level. In other words, while the King and his ministers preside over foreign and military affairs, whatever can be best done by the Provinces is left to them. They in turn leave to the counties what is best for them, and they to the towns and villages. But in, with, and under these levels of governance are Leo XIII called “Mediating Bodies,” and which modern commentators call “civil society” – churches, unions, societies, guilds, schools, and organisations of all kinds that are neither government nor business – all the way down to the family, each with the autonomy proper to it. Moreover, none of this is a gift, but a right, as confirmed in numerous Coronation oaths throughout European history.
Solidarity or Class Cooperation has gone by many names through the past few centuries: Solidarism, Social Monarchy, Distributism, Guild Socialism, Corporatism, and a number of others. What these various systems have in common is the idea that economics must be for the Common Good, and the first end of the Common Good is to provide sufficiently so that the inhabitants of a place can concentrate on the Salvation of their Souls, rather than just avoiding starvation. Ideas of how to achieve this vary considerably; but at the end of the day, the Sovereign is the guardian of all of the economic interests among his subjects, and do his level best to give them both sufficient harmony and sufficient freedom to pursue their welfare in this world and the next.
The last is the most difficult to define, but basically it is this: from the time that Christianity became the Established Church of Armenia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Nubia, and the Roman Empire, there has always existed the notion of Christendom, of the Res Publica Christiana – the idea that in a vague and loose way, all Christian realms were part of the same entity – despite whatever disputes they might have among themselves. This was expressed in different ways: the idea of the Holy Empire – whether Byzantine or Holy Roman, the Reichsidee, as the Germans put it. Used as we are to identifying Empires with despotism, it is difficult for us to understand what that meant originally: an organic but free union. As Viscount Bryce describes it,
“The territories over which Barbarossa would have declared his jurisdiction to extend may be classed under four heads: -- First, the German lands, in which, and in which alone, the Emperor was, up till the death of Frederick the Second, effective sovereign. Second, the non-German districts of the Holy Empire, where the Emperor was acknowledged as sole monarch, but in practice little regarded. Third, certain outlying countries, owing allegiance to the Empire, but governed by kings of their own. Fourth, the other states of Europe, whose rulers, while in most cases admitting the superior rank of the Emperor, were virtually independent of him.”
This idea would be carried on in different ways down to 1806. But this underlying unity was not merely Imperial; the Muslim invasion underscored the fact that Christian lands were really one – Abendland in German, l’Occident in French. Despite the disruption brought about between East and West in 1054 and then with the Protestant revolts, the survival of this idea is indicated by the Crusades and the various Holy and Catholic Leagues against the Muslim menace, down to the 18th century. Much the same might be said about the various anti-French Revolutionary coalitions, culminating in the Holy Alliance. A touch or two of this same spirit might be detected in the foundation of the European Union and the United Nations, far as those bodies may have strayed from any resemblance to this ideal.
All of which having been said, what does this mean for the Monarchist of the 21st century? Obviously, if one lives in a country with such a tradition, it is a matter of either increasing the position of the existing Monarchy to something approaching its days of greatness or restoring it where it has been overthrown. But what of the United States? Surely it is an impossible notion for our country – irrelevant at best, ridiculous at worst? By no means.
It is certainly true that Monarchism as an organised force in our country departed with the Loyalists in 1783. There have been a few – mostly literary figures – who have claimed the title since: Fitz-Greene Halleck, Ralph Adams Cram, and T.S. Eliot, to name a few, as well as ethnic figures such as Wilfrid Beaulieu, Pedro Villasenor, and Alcée Fortier who have had connections to foreign Monarchist groups. There have been and are philosophical Monarchists who without loyalty to a particular dynasty believe it in one or more of its various forms to be a better form of government. There are religious Monarchists who – whether Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu – consider Monarchy to be the form of government most favourable to their Faith. Ever since 1789, foreign revolutions have sent thousands of emigres to our shores, and often they and/or their descendants retain some loyalty to their ancestral dynasty. Lastly, there are the Anglophiles, who to a greater or lesser degree wish that our country was still connected somehow to Great Britain.
But such Monarchism is a sentiment to indulge, not a cause to fight for. Still less is there a dynasty or even a unified “Crown of America” to rally around. There were abortive attempts to offer that Crown to Bonnie Prince Charlie, Prince Henry of Prussia, and Washington himself – all of whom refused it. San Francisco’s beloved Norton I claimed to be “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico” – but it was the major symptom of his madness, for all that his adopted city accepted his scrip as legal tender. Harry Turtledove and Richard Dreyfuss imagined a world where the American Revolution had never occurred in The Two Georges. Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, which chronicles the history of the Church in a future post-Atomic War North America also shows successive the rise of the Harq-Hannegan dynasty from barbarian warlords to Tudor-style Emperors of Texarkana to Constitutional Monarchs of the Atlantic Confederacy. When the latter power is faced with an atomic war even worse than the one that almost wiped out mankind before, the Defence Minister refers to “His Supremacy’s Government.” In response, a lady reporter shoots back: “His Supremacy is an eleven-year-old boy, and to call it his government is not only archaic, but a highly dishonorable–even cheap! –attempt to shift the responsibility for a full denial from your own.” My own Star-Spangled Crown was an attempt to imagine a future where a truly American Monarchy was able to tie up the many loose ends in our national life.
But does any of this have any relevance to these United States outside the realm of fiction? Yes, I believe it does. Let us look again at those five points of Traditional Catholic Monarchy, and see where they might bring us. At first glance, the most opposed to the American ethos and impossible to bring to fruition would be the first – the Altar. This country has always prided itself on its religious diversity? Surely the adoption of Catholicism as the religion of the nation is not worth considering? Put in those terms, yes. But let us look at reality. Every society has an animating philosophy that functions as its state church – in the Soviet Union it was Communism. With us it was a combination of a synthetic religion of the country that basically deified the American experience and could be indulged in alongside any other faith, and a shared moral consensus. But the latter was destroyed during the 60s, and the former is dying before our very eyes. Something must replace it, if the Country is to survive, Why not Catholicism? Orestes Brownson foresaw its necessity for national liberty as early as the 1840s. Seen in this fashion, our evangelising our native land becomes as much a patriotic as a religious duty. If ever we accomplish it, the national institutions shall adjust to it – even as did those of Rome and the barbarians, from which adjustment came Christendom. Obviously, we are speaking of a long-term project; but one has to start somewhere – and this is something any Catholic American Monarchist would join in on as a sine qua non.
The second is even harder – the Throne! But again, not as much as one might think, given the quasi-regal status of the American presidency. As Harvard University Press says of Eric Nelson’s The Royalist Revolution, “On one side of the Atlantic, Nelson concludes, there would be kings without monarchy; on the other, monarchy without kings.” Of course, as we have seen during the Obama and Trump administrations, the current system makes the Head of State president not of everyone, but only of those who voted for him – while those who did not despise him. The personal staff of the president at the Whitehouse incorporates all the functions of both the Royal Household and Downing Street. In my novel I proposed a fictionalised version of the House of Liechtenstein as our prospective dynasty, because the youngest heir will inherit the claims to the British Isles of the Stuarts (under whom 12 of the 13 colonies were founded) and so descends from the French and Spanish Bourbons - thus encompassing within himself all three of our foundational Monarchical traditions. But, in truth, it would be extremely difficult to simply install a Monarch in this country – although it would probably be wise using a European dynast than an American family – sectional neutrality alone would call for it. In any case, there is little to be done in this area as things stand at the moment – save to speculate - and to vote for presidential candidates who might execute the office with a touch of style and dignity, as did FDR and JFK (whose policies I definitely did not agree with) and Ronald Reagan (with whom I did!).
Subsidiarity, however, is another thing entirely. This country was built on State Sovereignty – anything that would encourage State’s rights is important. But more than that is the need for healthy communities: county and city, town and country. Intelligent participation in local politics, local historical societies, historical preservation, conservation, cultural activities, and stimulating local businesses are all things that should attract Monarchists – both because the ends are worthwhile in themselves and because of the training one will get in doing things and the opportunities that will emerge to share one’s beliefs. Above all, as the afore-mentioned American religion dies, it is taking with it American patriotism. A new patriotism must be constructed form the bottom up: love of town leading to love of county, to love of State, to Region, and then to the totality of the States – a love of country based not upon some abstract ideology, but upon what is actually here. Evangelisation requires love of those to be evangelised – this we cannot do without exploring our area thoroughly. We must regain a sense of the Commonweal, of our country as a proper realm, filled with things that go together to make up a worthy focus of loyalty and love.
That sense of Commonweal, where we can, must bleed over into our economic life. Solidarity means not only looking after the poor, the sick, and the elderly, it also means trying to reconcile the various competing economic claims according to our state in life. If we are in Management, we should try to accommodate labour; if are with the Union we ought to try to see what we do in common with management. Shopping at local businesses and farmer’s markets is also something we can do in attempting to build a community worthy of a Monarch. We need to learn and where we can, employ, the Social Teachings of the Church. All of these, oddly enough, are possible sources of Monarchist action.
So too with forming our views regarding that Europe from whence we or our fathers came. We must remember that Europe, and many of Europe’s Sovereigns – from Ferdinand and Isabel who bankrolled Columbus, to King Christian X of Denmark, from whom we bought the Virgin Islands – erected the solid foundations upon which our national life has been built. When Europe is healthy, so are we; when not, not. To-day, as we know, Europe is in bad shape. The Mother Continent needs the Five Principles more now than ever before. The Austrian Paneuropa Movement, headed by the Archduke Karl von Habsburg, has some insights into just what Europe is:
“Christian motivated thinking and acting is the only alternative to the inhumane ideologies of Marxism, consumerism, Islamic fundamentalism and other sectarian doctrines of salvation. It is rooted in the realization that there is an absolutely valid order of values that extends beyond all times and forms and is anchored in the transcendental. Anyone who violates them not only damages the community, it also becomes a plaything for uncontrolled and uncontrollable forces. That is why we also want to know and shape politics in accordance with these values. Christianity has shaped Europe for almost two millennia. That's why Europe will be Christian, or it will not be Europe anymore.”
They go on to explain that:
“Europe is not just a geographical term for us, encompassing the area between the Atlantic and the Urals. Because of their centuries of common destiny, the peoples of our continent form a spiritual unity, which finally should follow the political, so that Europe can exist in peace and freedom as an equal partner of the great powers. The soul of this continent is Christianity. Whoever takes it out of political action, makes Europe a soulless body, a fragile construction that is exposed to all the influences and currents of the Zeitgeist.”
But in addition to the altar, the Throne too is important for Europe. Fr. Aidan Nichols, O.P., in his Christendom Awake! would call the Holy Roman Empire back into being:
But even if we do as the good Dominican suggests, and “dare to exercise a Christian imagination on an as yet unimaginable future,” what relevance would a loosely connected Christian European Empire made up of constituent Monarchies have for our American homeland – even if that same unimaginable future saw our States recast as a similar Monarchy of their own? Well, as the manifesto of another organisation, Identita Europea, puts it: “By encouraging an EUROPEAN IDENTITY we do not intend to promote a ‘western culture’ which absorbs and dissolves all diversities in a leveling attempt. On the contrary, our aim is to enlarge this identity beyond the European boundaries, thus recovering that large part of our continent ‘outside Europe’ – from Argentina to Canada and from South Africa to Australia – which looks at the old continent not as a distant ancestor but as a real homeland.” We owe it to ourselves to encourage the attempts of Europeans to revive their Continent – which, in a very real way, is ours too.
ALL OF THIS HAVING BEEN SAID, IT IS TIME NOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION POSED BY OUR TITLE.
- If you believe in bringing this country to Christ in His Church, both for the Salvation of Souls and for its corporate survival;
- If you want a non-partisan, dignified head of government who shall endeavour to rule with equity regardless of faction or region;
- If you want to love and be proud of an harmonious country made up of revitalised and prosperous States, Counties, and Municipalities;
- If you would like to see all classes and conditions of your countrymen working together for the common good; and
- If you would like to see the lands from whence came our religion and culture prosper in tandem with us and the other Christian nations,
then you may well indeed be a Monarchist yourself. If nothing else, it is something worth deeply thinking about.