Categorized | Culture, History, Politics, Society

In Defense of Monarchy

Monarchy is a principle as old as history itself. The natural order of human history was with notable exception a society based around a king and his court, or the chief and his tribe from the noble to the yeoman down to the serf. It is a principle which was held to have an authority not based, as one would have it, on just blood or wealth or prowess in battle, but rather from one’s force of personality. The other characteristics mentioned, the nobility and wisdom, the “grace” ascribed to the throne ideally emanated from one’s being king rather than giving one the right to kingship. It was this aura that gives us tales of a royal disguising himself among a crowd as a commoner and still being identifiable as king, or the old myths about the health and fruitfulness of the land being correlated with the health and vitality of the monarch. Most importantly, the throne was a sacred authority bestowed upon a king not from “below”, or from the masses but from above, from Divine authority. This was a key element to understanding the high regard for the throne and royal blood in virtually all societies prior to the Enlightenment.

Today monarchy is regarded in the United  States and a good portion of the rest of the world as an antiquated system, a feudalistic throwback, something humanity has outgrown. The few remaining ruling royal dynasties either rule remote, geopolitically irrelevant enclaves or worse, simply exist as powerless figureheads with virtually no responsibilities; celebrities with royal titles and nothing more. The sorry state of monarchy today is a far cry from its place even a century ago when despite the gains of revolutionary democratic and republican movements, most of the world’s population lived and died under the leadership of a king or emperor.

The negative view of monarchy today is tied to the quasi sacred belief in the idea of “progress” in which history is viewed as a continuous marching forward, with advancements socially, culturally, technologically, one in which primitivity and barbarism is the starting point and civilization is a sort of eternal end point. The liberals and so called progressives label anything that is contrary to their own ideological leanings as “reactionary” or regressive as it is far easier to dismiss something as backwards than actually judge it on its own faults and merits.  Throughout history, this view was not the case as people understood their societies as part of organic unities with constant cycles of birth, growth, decline and death.  Civilization is not infinite, and eventually all societies begin to decline, regardless of their political alignment. We must remember that the age of republicanism is historically speaking, a blip in the radar, only the most arrogant type would assume any system or nation is permanent.

A monarch gives a nation a sense of destiny and continuity an elected figure never can, as the throne transcends time limits and links one generation to the next in a way some four to six year term limit never could. More importantly, the king’s position is one that unites a nation in a way no political faction could, as the throne is by its very nature above political parties. What party did Cyrus, Alexander, Frederick Barbarossa, or Peter the Great belong to, or what use did they have for political parties? It is easy to point to one or two bad kings, or a dynasty that has declined and say kingship is bad because of individual bad kings. But a bad king does not make kingship bad in and of itself. As Benito Mussolini said the best of blood will sometimes get into a fool or a mosquito. It is the crown, the scepter and sword, as symbols of a nation that matter more than the individual man wearing the purple. Certainly many of the decadent absolutists who abused their position for cheap amusements and most of the spineless kings and royals of the last century shoulder much of the blame for the collapse of traditional monarchy. When corrupt monarchs are overthrown in the last century, the solution has been to do away with the monarchy altogether, rather than simply doing away with the monarch! While there are bad kings and good kings, a politician is by nature a careerist whose positions are based on maintaining his party’s position. By and large, even a well meaning politician is by his very nature shackled to interest in career and towing a party line.  This is the case in both states that purport to be republics and most of the constitutional monarchies with a parliament. Politicians with strong views rarely come to the forefront, as they risk alienating a potential percentage of their constituency. Sometimes a nation’s destiny requires a drastic move on the part of the leadership which may cause temporary discomfort to the people or some group that will be of tremendous benefit later on. Politicians would sacrifice long term gains for short term political victories as these are far easier to point to than the risky move of pushing for something that may be unpopular but is infact crucial to national growth or even its survival. It is not uncommon for politicians to completely backpedal on an issue based on some change in party line, or indication their view may cost them votes or funding. One look at the campaign trail and the nauseating pandering candidates do should be enough to call people to wonder about why they let these people decide anything for them!

It should be noted that advocating a monarchy does not mean advocating a tyranny, as the two are frankly quite the opposite. Plato noted in his Republic that the “philosopher king” was the first and ideal form of government, and the worst, the last devolution of government before its fall was tyranny. In the first, the best rules his natural lesser in a manner that is neither self serving, nor dictatorial while in the latter the best of men are ruled by their inferiors without any pretence of legitimacy in a fashion that is self serving, cruel, and ultimately destructive to everyone but the tyrant and his immediate entourage and flatterers. What else is our class of politicians today, than essentially a class of tyrants who rule primarily for their own benefit while putting on a song and dance for the people?

About Ray Wilson

Ray Wilson is a New York City resident with a degree in history and interests in philosophy, theology and entomology.
  • Peter B.

    Here, here!

  • Pingback: In Defense of Monarchy - Religious Education Forum

  • Hugo

    I feel it would be important to mention the Kingdom of Bhutan, in case you do not know, Bhutan was the only country in south east asia in the 20th century not affected by modernity or globalization. It remained completly isolated from the rest of the world and therefore did not even introduce TV or the Internet until 10 years ago. It fully maintained its dharmic religion, the absolute monarchy and a rural subsistence farming way of life throughout the 20th century. I personally believe that Marco Pallis may have influenced the Royal Family of Bhutan with his traditionalist ideas though i have no concrete evidence for that, only a picture of him with the Bhutanese Queens and the emphasis the King puts on Tradition. I count as some of the virtues of Bhutan, the very low crime rate, the environmentally sustainable economy, the matrilineal property system and the deeply artistic and religious culture. Though there are downturns, after the introduction of TV the crime rate has been rising slowly, the new king decided to become a democracy in 2008 and they seem to be on a road of irreversible modernization and globalization. I’m worried it might look similar to India or Nepal in 20 years unless the King wakes up.. still i have some hope, the majority of people are still subsistence farmers and those moving to urbanized areas of the country are often becoming alienated, in rural areas they always had a web of support.. oh well, what will be will be.

    To get a better picture of the country, here is a picture of a bhutanese family
    http://i45.tinypic.com/14cg02h.jpg
    and a small docu on “100 years of Monarchy”

    • Ray Wilson

      Thank you for your input Hugo. I was following events in Bhutan for sometime and greatly saddened by the new efforts towards “modernization” undertaken by the young king. He believes he  will make his people happier but he should take a trip to New York City or any great modern city and compare the stressful, rushed existence of the citizen here with the tranquility of his homeland. In the article i did say that some traditional monarchies exist but they don’t have any real power or influence, and Bhutan is definitely in this category- despite the happiness and peace in the country, it is simply to remote and faraway for most people to see as anything but an exotic curiosity. There have been some exceptions to my criticism of modern aristocracies and monarchs, of course but by and large most are following the line of either abdication or giving in to pressures to give up what little privileges they still possess.  This is the first mention I’ve heard of Marco Pallis, i’ll have to keep him in mind in the future and thank you for bringing him to our attention!

  • Whippoorwillstudio

    I’ve been a bit obsessive in the last few weeks, tracing my ancestry to every royal line I can hitch it on to.  It means nothing to anyone but myself, and I think I’ve been doing this as a sort of rebellion against the US Pop Cult Royals (I think I just made that up) and how society worships them.  I am jealous of my friends around the world who have true Royalty to look to, and the history that goes with it.  So maybe I’ve just been grasping at those distant bloodlines to prove to myself that I do have a rich heritage to be proud of.  
    Or maybe it’s just another one of my crazy artist tangents and after a few paintings and digital pieces it will be out of my system and I’ll move on to something else… Nah!

    • Ray Wilson

      Being able to trace one’s ancestry was always a mark of pride and nobility for the ancients. Guenon said society today is the inversion of traditional society and indeed we see that in our pop icons- in ancient times dancers, singers and actors were seen as the lowest of the low, a profession of ill repute that required its practitioners to use false names so as to not bring shame to their families (hence stage names). Nowadays, they have become sort of our modern day version of nobility, a leisure class that determines our direction culturally and weighs in on political events. This is something any traditional man would find absurd. Good luck- Ray Wilson

    • http://www.ridingthetiger.org/ RayJWilson

      Being able to trace one’s ancestry was always a mark of pride and nobility for the ancients. Guenon said society today is the inversion of traditional society and indeed we see that in our pop icons- in ancient times dancers, singers and actors were seen as the lowest of the low, a profession of ill repute that required its practitioners to use false names so as to not bring shame to their families (hence stage names). Nowadays, they have become sort of our modern day version of nobility, a leisure class that determines our direction culturally and weighs in on political events. This is something any traditional man would find absurd. Good luck- Ray Wilson

  • ghanderman

    i really wanted to read this article but after the first several lines of tripe and its incredibly shallow, narrow, western & phallogocentric bias i just could not. i knew it would be a waste of time given the obvious (and fallacious) predilictions of the writer.

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