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Silence Exile and Crumpets
 
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Sunday, February 13th, 2005

Time Event
10:41a
Kings and things
I would rather, on the whole, that we were living in a Republic. I would rather that the Stuarts had never been restored, or that the Hanoverians had been retired into private life in the early C19, and that we had got rid of the idea of a hereditary head of state and head of the Church a long time ago.

However, I don't think the issue is worth the considerable investment of time and political will that is going to have to be put in to get rid of it now. It is a distraction from creating a properly democratic Second Chamber, and from sorting out the precise arrangements of an expanded European Union. In particular, I don't favour re-arranging an unwritten constitution at the behest of an unoly alliance of bien-pensants and the Murdoch press - which, let it be remembered, has gone republican largely because Buckingham Palace refused to suck up to the ghastly Rupert.

If we are going to move to an elected monarchy, and run those elections on the basis of the day to day private behaviour of members of the family from whom monarchs are selected, we might as well become a republic and get rid of the hereditary principle altogether. Except that, of course, either Presidents are pious nonentities, or they are the executive head of state with all the deference that makes US attitudes to the President sometimes make royalism look healthy and democratic.

The traditional defense of the monarchy by its supporters is unwholesome nonsense - all that guff about symbolism and sacredness is precisely what got Charles Windsor and his women into the unholy mess in the first place. He was brought up to believe in a level of duty no less obscene in its demands than the Divine Right of Kings - he has been left a psychological mess at the behest of this nonsense. However, if there is a case for the monarchy and for the hereditary principle, it is this - that the monarch is not a sacred symbol, that they are a person selected for this position and burden by the arbitrary process of birth.

As the Duke of Wellington said of - was it the Garter or the Bath - a good order ' with no damn nonsense about merit'.

It is, from that point of view, sublimely irrelevant whether Charles' private life is or is not wholly admirable. He is a mess, as are we all, and as such is as good a representative of his people as his dim mother and stuttering grandfather. The moment the monarch is supposed to be special, or popular, or acceptable to focus groups, it gets far creepier than our just living with whom the lottery of birth turns up, absent their actually being deranged or criminal.

In lots of ways, I have a certain amount of time for Charles Windsor - but that is not the point. It is his flaws that fit him to be King, not his virtues, because they remind us that the Head of State is just another human being and that we have to rely on ourselves for a moral centre.

The same point applies to the Church. Evangelicals are unhappy that a man married to a divorcee is going to be Supreme Governor of a church that was created in the first place as a way of allowing a king to dump those wives he could not have judicially murdered. The moment the head of the church is expected to be morally perfect, the C of E might as well opt for a celibate sexist careerist like Karol Woytola.

If I were a Christian, I'd far rather the head of my church were acknowledgely a miserable sinner like the rest of us rather than someone riddled with spiritual pride.

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