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Bring Back the King

It has always baffled me how anyone who has so much as skimmed history could regard the horrifying legacy of the British Royal family (see persecution of Irish Catholics, prosecution of the First World War, palling around with Nazis before the Second World War, et al) and avoid feeling green. The interminable primaries are bad enough, but hearing that President Obama will contort tonight's State of the Union address into a campaign pitch is beyond the pale. One might expect the State and the Union would be protected from use as debased gee-gaws for voter bemusement. Apparently not.

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Topics: Justice, Elites
Bring Back the King January 24, 2012  |  By Peter Stockland
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Having been a small child in the last years before Canada dumped its red Royal Mailboxes into the dustbin of history, I have always considered the British Crown a useless necessity.

It has always baffled me how anyone who has so much as skimmed history could regard the horrifying legacy of the British Royal family (see persecution of Irish Catholics, prosecution of the First World War, palling around with Nazis before the Second World War, et al) and avoid feeling green.

I am, at the same time, almost ferociously anti-republican. Frankly, anyone paying the slightest attention to the absurdist electoral shenanigans in the United States must be.

The interminable primaries are bad enough, but hearing that President Obama will contort tonight's State of the Union address into a campaign pitch is beyond the pale. One might expect the State and the Union would be protected from use as debased gee-gaws for voter bemusement. Apparently not.

Being both anti-republican and a monarchist-with-caveats creates a conundrum for a contemporary Canadian.

Canada is, after all, enjoying a Royal moment. Last summer's post-wedding-bliss visit of Kate and What's-His-Name appeared to marry populist sentiment and the Harper government's vows to restore the Crown's lustre.

Whippersnappers such as my colleague Father Raymond J. de Souza, editor-in-chief of Cardus' new magazine Convivium, advocate so fervently for the British monarchy that they seem to think, consistent with their generation's habit of mind, they invented it.

More seasoned sorts, too, are suddenly belting out huzzahs for Queen first and then country. Senator Hugh Segal writes a lovely essay in the February/March issue of Convivium on the political truths he learned long ago watching young Queen Elizabeth shake hands with a local rabbi.

The eminent Toronto writer John Fraser, Master of Massey College, has a book due out in March revealing the secret to Canadians' love affair with the Crown. Fraser argues that we will never as a country bend the knee to the false god or republicanism.

The problem with the argument, as with the champagne blush of Crown fever currently dizzying young Father de Souza and his generational soul mates, is that it is based on a false dichotomy of republicanism or the monarchy as currently constituted.

Of course, we must say 'no' to republicanism. Human beings, being political animals, require subjection to a Sovereign. Common presidents are good enough for private corporations, but not for the common good.

We need a check on the presumptions of citizenship. It can come only from a structure of authority created to constantly remind us that we are subjects first, and therefore subordinate to something far beyond our democratic whims and whistles.

Claims for the continuation of constitutional monarchy in Canada will always fall short of ringing true, however, so long as the current ignoble interlopers remain on the Throne. True, we do not get to select our monarchs. Evelyn Waugh is said to have refused to vote because he did not presume to tell his Sovereign how to choose her government. So much less would any of us imagine we should do something so vulgar as to cast a ballot for our Head of State.

Yet anyone who has brush history knows aed up against the leasts a matter of fact that for more than 400 years, the British Crown has been in the hands of thieving brigands who usurped the Throne from its rightful occupant and his heirs.

If you have the stomach and the hangover-carrying capacity to attend a Robbie Burns dinner this week, you might notice a few among the crowd making a small, circular motion over their water glasses during the toasts. This is a sign and symbol of enduring hope for the restoration of the King Over the Water, that is of the James II and VII who was overthrown and forced to flee to France. As a result, of course, Catholics have since been illegally denied the British Crown.

For Canadians, more important than the last Stuart king's Catholicism is his embodiment, as sovereign, of toleration for religious freedom and what we today call minority rights. Indeed, in many ways, Canada expresses the Jacobite ideal.

It is not enough, then, to merely restore the word 'Royal' as a kind of patriotic marketing brand. The very necessity of a Sovereign demands that a constitutional monarchy be not just utilitarian but legitimate.

Jacobites, unite! We have more to restore than our mailboxes.

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