Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Honour the king"

  • From Tea at Trianon: Bad history: rethinking Whiggish American orthodoxy. Regular readers know I'm undecided about the American Revolution. The rebels' original republic was good, but they wrongly blamed George III, and besides, Americans had vowed their loyalty to him. Because the colonies weren't under English law regarding religion, his being Protestant wasn't a problem. So the Loyalists are unsung heroes, not traitors but quite the opposite. Better an anointed Christian king than the principles of the "Enlightenment." (The founding fathers were proto-Modernists.) But wasn't Edmund Burke sympathetic to the colonists? Also, look how the mother country, Canada (the alternative America minus the Revolution), Australia, etc. have turned out, more liberal and less religious than here. By the way, is it true that a reason what's now Canada didn't side with the rebels is that the king promised Quebec that their Catholicism would be protected while the rebels wanted to Protestantize them?
  • Also, a monarch with an unwritten constitution might mean the government ruling in his or her name has most of the monarch's power, so you get government control of everything in the form of semi-socialism.
  • Edward VIII and George VI. Monday was the 77th anniversary of George VI's coronation. Some say he was temperamentally unsuited to be king so the office eventually killed him. (Or he died too soon simply because he smoked.) Anyway, it got me thinking about the king who would have been. He was the Prince William of his day, good-looking thus very popular. “’Ark, the ’erald angels sing/Mrs. Simpson stole our king.” (He abdicated right before Christmas.) It seems the official "unofficial" story the British government fed the public around the time of the war was that he was a Nazi symp so intel said he had to go. Plus he was sent away to the Bahamas for the duration in case Germany invaded so he wouldn't become a puppet king. But the Nazi angle may have been "fleshed after the fact." Actually for once the Church of England stood up for principle. Even though it was founded to give a king an annulment he didn't deserve (technically none of his five failed marriages were divorces, and it remained as strict as the Catholic Church about divorce and remarriage), it said it couldn't bless his marriage. But yes, stepping down for "the woman I love" was romantic, though manosphere pundits might say it was a mark of "demonstrated lower value" so it would backfire for most men. Then again he was still a duke and set for life, so there you go.
  • Dead end. When you see the ceremonial around the coronation, with coped bishops, or royal weddings with that and the best of the Prayer Book, it looked like an official British return to the church was possible (which is what the Holy See had in mind, rather than the Irish cause, for example). Alas. After the council, the Pope gave Archbishop Ramsey (the last good Anglican archbishop of Canterbury) one of his rings, so Anglo-Catholics thought they were becoming Catholic and Catholic liberals thought they were becoming mainliners. Now everybody knows such unions won't happen and the world's less churchy now so nobody's interested. We know what the others teach and aren't trying to kill each other. Good enough.
  • That said, despite the history of England being forced from the church - the martyrs (orate pro nobis) and the anti-Catholic Articles of Religion, leaving Anglicanism can be harder than it seems because the Episcopalians' semi-congregationalism enables conservative congregations, or at least it used to, so people talk themselves into staying. It's also how I started to learn pre-conciliar Catholic practice from some of them, when official churchmen wanted nothing to do with it. Parishes are small so you get close communities. Hooker's mildy "reformed" religion was a made-up faith and again forced on the English.
  • The closest I've been to the royals wasn't there but here once. Remembered that Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla were visiting someplace in Philadelphia and literally ran over there. Saw them pull up and get out of the limo; if they'd turned to their left I would have talked to them.


  1. The Quebec Act of 1774 effectively restored the Catholic Church as the Established Church of Quebec (by enabling it legally to collect tithes from all inhabitants of Quebec [then 99% of the population] who were not members of another religion); it also removed from the oaths required of government officials in the province any references to the Royal Supremacy over the Church, the renunciation of any "foreign jurisdiction" (i.e., the papacy), or to the Protestant Religion. This excited hysteria in the 13 colonies, especially New England; and others were angered by the inclusion in Quebec colony the area that later became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota.

    As to the American Revolution itself, its purported justifications rest on bad history, bad law, and Whiggish political theory, itself contrary to the laws of England, as well after, as before, 1689. On the other hand, the events of 1776 can be seen as no more or less than the turning of the specious and illegal "revolution of principles" of 1688-89 against the regime and dynasty that owed its position to them, but which were forgotten and ignored by that regime as quickly as possible. The moral of the tale? "One good turn deserves another."

  2. In the period of the American Revolution, Edmund Burke was indeed sympathetic to the colonists. At the time, however, Burke was not thought of as a conservative. He was a Whig (liberal) and contended with his Tory (conservative) friend Samuel Johnson who was not sympathetic to the colonists at all (although Johnson's biographer James Boswell, also a Tory, was of Burke's opinion). Burke's conservative reputation dates to his reaction to the French Revolution. The question is whether Burke underwent a conversion of sorts. Russell Kirk, emphasized the continuity between Burke the Whig supporter of the American colonies in rebellion and Burke the conservative opponent of the French Revolution. Since what Burke argues in defense of in "Reflections on the Revolution in France" - the constitution, monarchy, and established religion of England - is what Samuel Johnson said the Tory exists to defend, I would argue that the Burke of the "Reflections" could be called a "neo-Tory". Remembering Irving Kristol's definition of a "neo-conservative", Burke was a Whig, mugged by the reality of the French Revolution.

    That the king had guaranteed the people of Quebec their language and (Catholic) religion was one of the real reasons for the revolution on the part of the colonies which were heavily influenced by anti-Catholic Puritanism. Conversely, yes, the king's guarantee and the rebelling colonies' plans to Protestantize all of North America, were among the reasons Quebec did not join in the revolution. The Loyalists who founded English Canada were mostly Anglicans and Presbyterians so their motivations would have been different.

    While it is true that Canada is now more liberal and less religious than the United States, this was not historically the case. The French province of Quebec was ultra-conservative and staunchly Roman Catholic until the 1960s. English-speaking Canada was loyalist, royalist, and Protestant. The Western province of Alberta, for most of the twentieth century, was governed by the fundamentalist, Bible preachers who led the right-wing Social Credit party. My country's transformation from an ultra-conservative to an ultra-liberal country was engineered by the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 1970s. They were able to get away with it because the old order had been severely weakened by the British Empire's Pyrrhic victory in World War II and because Catholicism inexplicibly lost its sway over Quebec in the 1960s.

    1. yeah, the british empire's victory in WWII was a rather hollow one (of course the alternative to victory would of been much, much worse), with the Suez Crisis being the final nail in the coffin. Call me a conspiracy nut but I honestly believe what happened in the 60s was a result of years of communist infiltration targeted at the administration level of higher education and it managed to finally trickle down to the bottom during the 60s.

  3. Last night I went to a CofE church in Cambridge. For Our Lady of Fatima, the congregation prayed the rosary (with the Fatima prayers, of course), followed by Solemn Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary (according to the traditional Roman rite, but in hieratic English---probably the English Missal!). I counted 56 lit candles on the high altar. Only males with cassock and surplice in the sanctuary. Every word was sung, except the homily (a ringing defence of Our Lady as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces!).

    After Vespers, some Royal Navymen hoisted up an enormous statue of Our Lady of Fatima and followed the priests out of the church amidst clouds of incense. We all solemnly processed through the streets while singing an extremely long version of the Lourdes Hymn (refrain: "Ave, ave, ave Maria..."). Some of the extra verses:

    O Mary, blest Mother! Reign o'er us once more,
    Be England thy Dowry as in days of yore.

    The City of Cambridge, our work and our play;
    Direct all endeavour, and guard us alway.

    We pray for all sinners and souls that now stray
    From Jesus and Mary in heresy's way.

    When time claimed thy body, and drew thy last breath,
    God raised thee to glory, above pain and death.

    And so on. When the procession returned to the church, they then brought out a monstrance and had exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, with the Tantum Ergo, Divine Praises and everything.

    My mind was sufficiently blown by this 2-hour display of higher-than-high Anglo-Catholicism. Didn't know there were any of these left in the tired old CofE. Oh, and the 60-odd congregation didn't seem gay at all (a mix of young and old, opposite-sex couples).

    And here's the kicker: Rowan Williams was scheduled to participate in this service but took ill and had to back out.

  4. with the quebec act, there was indeed a huge amount of colonial (i.e. low church and nonconformist protestant) outrage that Catholicism was being established as the state religion in the New World and would spread to the thirteen colonies. The deist American revolutionary intelligentsia (Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison et al) were more worried with its secular consequences, that is western expansion into Ohio country and other Indian territories being halted - I think the land question of the Quebec act it is what the Declaration of Independence alludes to.

    of course much like the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, anti-Catholicism being one of the causes of the war were quickly forgotten and brushed aside early on once it became obvious France's help was needed to win the war. That aside George Washington apparently was always non-antagonistic if not friendly to Catholicism. Here is a letter of his post war to American Catholics

  5. As a diehard Loyalist (who wears black on July 4) myself I'm not "undecided" about the Revolution at all, but thank you for this. Of course for a fervent royalist like me, the most "liberal" constitutional monarchy is still preferable to the most "conservative" republic. Though I daresay you'd rather be governed by Tony Abbott than by Barack Obama.

  6. It always bemuses me to see "fervent royalists" who support a dynasty of usurpers, as all English/British monarchs from 1689 have been.

    And I discovered a gratifying fact recently. In 1809 Gustav IV of Sweden (1778-1837) was deposed by a conspiracy of army officers, and his decrepit uncle put on the throne in his place as Charles XIII (1748-1818) who adopted as his heir Napoleon's general, Jean Bernadotte, fro whom all succeeding Swedish monarchs descend. However, Gustav IV had a son, also Gustav (1799-1877) who had a small party of dedicated supporters in Sweden during his life, although seemingly he had no interest himself in the throne, spending most of his life a an officer in the Austrian army.

  7. If we are going to get into usurpation, we can keep going back, to 1066 or earlier.

    At any rate I see two decided holes in this romantic thesis about the revolution. First off, the monarchy plainly didn't stop England's evolution into what it is today, nor do I think it wold have in an alternate world except one in which the social gospel had never been conceived of. Second, 1789 was just around the corner. Revolution was inevitable; hold it off, and the eventuality was not that English Enlightenment, the continental one, or even the Communist one.

  8. "Second, 1789 was just around the corner. Revolution was inevitable"

    I doubt it; and so have an increasing number of French Revolution historians for the past 40 years. See, for starters at least, William Doyle's *Origins of the French Revolution, originally published in 1979 by Oxford University Press, and now in its third edition. The first two editions have a large historiographical section on changing historical perspectives since the 19th Century on its origins and causes.

    In brief, it appears that (1) had Louis XVI's new regime not abandoned the total overhaul of the judicial structure and the beginning of a similar overhaul of the tax system begun in 1769 by Chancellor Maupeou with the unexpectedly total and firm support of Louis XV and/or (2) had Louis XVI not shown such (alas, characteristic) indecisiveness and ineptitude in the face of the financial crisis and collapse of 1787-88, the revolution would not have happened.

    1. In like manner: had Charles I not proceeded with such ill-advised recklessness as to try to impose a Prayer Book on Scotland in 1637, the various streams of resentment among various strata of Scottish society would not have found the prefect cause around which to unite them all; and had not events in Scotland spiralled so quickly out of control, thus bringing financial disaster to Charles I's English government, and thus necessitating, in turn, the summoning of a Parliament there, his "personal rule" might have continued indefinitely, without polarization (or at least without any "focus" for opposition) and civil war.

    2. There comes a point where piling on the "if someone had acted differently" speculations becomes unconvincing in its own right, and for me that point is reached almost immediately. I tend to subscribe to the notion that if that they had dodged one bad decision they were still prone to a similar mistake of the same ilk.


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