Queen Elizabeth II - Primus inter impares.
The ambivalent nature of monarchy in the 21st Century.
Today many people in Britain and around the world will be aware that Queen Elizabeth has reached the grand age of ninety years. On a personal level it is cause for celebration and congratulation, in which as loyal but insignificant subject, I am pleased to join.
All such events provoke mixed emotions of pleasure and pain and we recall them from our own families, redolent as they are of memories and the inevitable shadow of transigence. In the midst of celebrating life, hopefully well lived, we are reminded of suffering and loss. Of our own kith and kin, friends and family, that have passed on.
Joy and sorrow reside cheek by jowl. At the very same time as crowds packed the streets of Windsor patriotically waving flags, men, women and children, desperate to escape situations of tyranny and chaos, were drowning in the unforgiving waters of the Mediterranean, with no one coming to their rescue, or indeed appearing to care a great deal.
In some ways these mental images starkly epitomise the gulf in circumstances affecting humans on the earth. Perhaps to a lesser extent they also exist in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth of which Elizabeth II is Monarch and Head, a situation that many regard as ambivalent.
'Ambivalence', means 'the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.' As regards Monarchy and the present Queen's fulfillment of the role, ambivalence can be experienced in a number of ways. It may be contrasted with 'consensus' of approval much in evidence in Windsor this afternoon. However even those that wave flags and cheer patriotically may harbour misgivings and doubts. It is quite possible to support and admire the Queen in person, whilst holding reservations on the place of Monarchy in the 21st Century.
The Queen's approval rating and popularity is a great credit to her personally. It is not merely a product of a public relations effort, although no one would claim it is not a factor, but a genuine reaction of affection by a public, to a good person, dedicated to a particular job, for an inordinately long period of time. Admittedly she has been afforded every convenience and support and provided with the best that life has to offer, but even so the obligation and responsibilities are huge and the pitfalls many. She has managed with great dexterity and aplomb to fulfill the former and dodge the latter.
Her children have brought her both pleasure and pain, including an 'annus horribilis' in 1992 and five years later, with the suspicious circumstances of Princess Diana's death, perhaps even a threat to the continuation of the institution itself. With time the unparalleled display of public emotion and recriminations have faded with the apparent success of Prince Charles remarriage and the popularity of his sons, but the issue is still not wholly resolved in the public mind.
There is little doubt that had it not been for the personal popularity of the Queen herself, the 'family firm' might well have crashed at that point. Stories of sexual impropriety in the royal household in connection to the Jimmy Savile scandal remain a current and future threat.
How all these issues will impinge on the continuation of the institution in the person of Charles, is yet to be revealed. At the great age of ninety years some devolution of responsibility is to be expected, although there is no indication the present Queen's position as Head of State, Church and Commonwealth, is to be abdicated.
Perhaps Charles will at some point be created 'Prince Regent', although as a student of history, he would probably not wish to be associated with its precedent. In its absence he could well be in his late seventies before obtaining the functions or position of King.
In the well known words of Walter Bagehot, the 19th Century journalist and writer, a 'constitutional monarch' has the threefold right to be 'consulted, to encourage and warn', the practical application of which continues to this day, most notably in the weekly Tuesday evening meeting with the current Prime Minister.
Her Majesty is also in theory and practice the Head of the Armed Services and an important element of the threefold Parliament of Commons, Lords and Sovereign, all of which must concur before any legislation can become the law of the land. Her many honorary positions places her centrally and influentially at the heart of the nation.
Bagehot also highlighted the twin roles of monarchy: 'dignified' - that of symbolism and ceremonial on the one hand and 'efficient' - practical governance on the other. Despite the passage of 150 years, these remain the guiding criteria of her constitutional role, from which she has never deviated.
To his we must add the complex position of the 'established' Church of England, of which she is also the 'Supreme Governor', that dates back to her forebear Henry VIII's split with Rome. Despite this she retains the title 'Defender of the Faith' (Fidei Defensor in Latin) bestowed on him by Pope Leo X in 1521. Of course Henry went from Papal favourite to declared heretic in the course of his reign, a rupture that has only been to some extent repaired during the course of Elizabeth II's.
We need not remark on the great changes that have occurred in attitudes particularly as they relate to Christian teaching and reconciling it to scientific discovery, since that time, nor of Prince Charles' desire to become the 'defender of faiths', but on a personal level it is clear Elizabeth II has taken this particular role and her Christian beliefs, very seriously. Who could argue that it has not at every stage influenced her attitude and behaviour in an ethically positive way? How this will play out on her eventual and inevitable passing, remains to be seen.
(to be continued)
Do not be misled: the way the matter of 'historic abuse' has been expertly handled to: 1. keep it focused on the past; 2. to keep attention fixed on expendable entertainment celebrities rather than establishment or politicos; 3. where the evidence against latter becomes irresistible, ensure individuals are either dead or die shortly afterwards; 4. label accusers as unreliable or complicit; 5. wrap records in 70 year secrecy on pretext of protecting the children; 6. close and/or demolish institutional buildings allegedly implicated; 7. alternatively subject same to redecoration or improvement thus incidentally removing any remaining evidence; 8. criticise police investigations and methods; 9. increase pressure or dismiss any police doing their job; 10. engender sympathy for alleged abusers; 11. close down any current cases; 12. persecute/prosecute 'whistle-blowers'; set up police and other 'independent' inquiries, that either discover 'nothing to see' or take so long to report, or are rigged to exclude sensitive areas, so that the issue is effectively shelved for half a decade or longer. 13. change the law to protect vulnerable parties. These are the methods that have been and are being successfully applied to the matter. We should be in do doubt about that whenever leading politicians claim to be intent on getting to the root of the problem. See: http://veaterecosan.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=hampstead for a current casestudy in some of the methods employed by the state.