Friday, 29 July 2016

Do we still believe in Royalty?

On the 11th June this year I poured a glass of something rather nice and raised a toast to Her Britannic Majesty, as she celebrated her official 90th birthday. Of course she had her being-born-birthday on April 21st, but you really can’t begrudge her another one (I myself keep a three day celebration for the feast of St Bede). No matter what, she has been a great example of steadfast service to her country – a life dedicated to the role she inherited and did not choose.

Occasionally you hear rumblings of republicanism, or criticism of Prince Charles for being too political, and you can even sometimes hear dark murmurs of Jacobite claimants to the throne, but in the United Kingdom, for the foreseeable future, Royalty seems here to stay.

This does not, of course, mean that the Church approves of it. Simply because something exists does not mean that it is good or that it should be preserved or promoted. In fact, one of the strengths of the monarchy throughout the ages has been that even though you can get good Kings or bad Kings, it is the monarchy which stands or falls. The principle is Kingship, not this or that individual King. In this way it is rather like the Papacy. You can have good ones, and terrible ones… but this does not abolish the institution.

So what about the Church and Kingship? And here I mean monarchy in the sense of monarchs wielding political power, even to the small extent that our beloved Queen does. Well in one way, the Church does not really bother herself too much with systems of government, except, of course, when they go wrong, or are elevated to a position which damages the people put in their care. In this, it is always worthwhile re-reading Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum of 1891. It does not tell you much about political theory, but then again you would not expect it to. We have seen in recent history the dangers of atheistic Communism, and new forms of truth being proclaimed by Parliament, we have seen dictators ruling by power, and also by popular acclaim. In industry we have examples of small collectives and large multinationals, we have private companies ruled by the will and strength of an individual/founder, and organisations run by representative board members. Is one better than another, does one tend to good and another to evil? Should we promote this one and decry that?

Obviously (I hope!) the answer is “no”. Some may be better in certain situations than others, and none is essentially right, and none essentially wrong. For example, is it better to have a benign dictator ruling you or voting in a democracy which then goes on to allow the killing of innocent life. Would you prefer a hereditary, all powerful Queen who governs fairly with justice, or a series of collectives which cannot defend you or your loved ones?

This is not some paean of praise for the British Parliamentary Democracy, simply a small reminder that the purpose of government is prescribed, and the form of that governance can change. We creatures of God are called to live in community in harmony and peace, and to do that effectively there must be organisation and structure, but as to what that is… well it changes according to individuals and times. We are not progressing in some Marxist way, from one to another – the mentality that says “in the olden days we had kings and Princes because we were not advanced or civilised enough to govern ourselves”.

There is one thing which is essential, and it is this: all Kings, Presidents, Dictators, First-Citizens, whoever, must realise that they are under the authority of the Kingship of Christ. Any government which violates the law of God, of which the Church is the guardian and exponent, is not worthy of its high calling. In Queen Elizabeth II, we see a woman who knows her obligations under God, and on the final day she will stand before him, as a Queen. And I have no doubt that she will acknowledge His Majesty, for she is a woman of faith.

So we do believe in Royalty… for Christ is our King.

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