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02 April 2009


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When will we humans stop waitin' for a superman?


"Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.

For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world there are only the vulgar, for the few find a place there only when the many have no ground to rest on."

Don't touch her indeed.


From The Prince, Ch. 18:

"There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality, inasmuch as men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.

For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world there are only the vulgar, for the few find a place there only when the many have no ground to rest on."

Don't touch her indeed.

Duncan Kinder

The British royals are not the only one's who can provoke a discussion.

E.g., here is a discussion of who, exactly, would be the rightful claimant to the French throne.


I see nothing wrong with having the "majesty" of the state separated from the political side of the state.

The combination of the head of state with the political head of state has the downside of "majestifying" the political.

On the other hand, it can certainly be argued that the political as the sovereign, demystifies the state--a good thing I think.


Americans crave the depth of identity that ancient history brings.

Most of the European-descended stock, therefore, look back to Europe as a sort of motherland -- while indignantly declaring that the U.S. is the triumph of all that ancient squabbling.

It's a schizoid confusion, and the source of much of the U.S.'s racial problems.

As a confirmed Episcopalian, i've lived and loved my fair share of Anglophiles. The traditions are reassuring, and give warmth in spiritually cold places.

But they are a distraction, and in time, they become an addiction.

Over time i have come to look to the other side of my family -- the Indian side -- and have found a lot more personally fulfilling food for thought in Mexican culture than i ever did across the ocean.

But of course, Billy O'Ranty, Cheney, and their ilk are incapable of seeing the forest for the trees.

"Old Europe", indeed.


I'm not as fascinated by British royalty as some misty-eyed Canadians I've seen watching the Queen on TV in their neck of the woods. Nor as repulsed as some Irish-Americans I know.
At least the Revolution gave us a Constitution and home rule without having to wait for approval. Imagine the Queen's representative being able to intervene with US government decisions!

David Habakkuk

'The Brits would have no idea how to function without this institution.'

I think it is open question whether this is so -- but while it is fascinating to speculate about what a British 'Second Republic' might look like, it is a matter which this particular subject of Queen Elizabeth II would prefer not to put to the test.

I would, for one thing, agree with some remarks made the anthropologist Declan Quigley, in his introduction to a recent symposium on The Character of Kingship.

Modern society, he comments, 'has become so caught up with material explanations of social life that many professional social scientists -- let alone the average lay person -- have lost sight of the fundamental role that ritual plays in all our lives every second that we engage in relations with others.'

And Quigley also says something which is I think relevant to the very different paths taken by the United States and the United Kingdom. It is in the nature of symbols, he writes, that 'our own symbolic devices appear indisputable and natural to us, while those of other people appear peculiar -- manufactured, unreal and dispensable.'

In the United States the constitutional order is a republican one -- which means that not only the ideas underlying it, but much of its symbolism and ritual, are rooted in European arguments against absolutism, which in turn have their roots in readings of Roman history.

The last thing I would be fool enough to want to see, obviously, would be any further undermining of the underpinnings of the constitutional order in the United States. But as a simple matter of empirical fact the constitutional order in Britain has been a constitutional monarchy.

Moreover, Quigley's arguments point to a certain irony. Following the early twentieth British anthropologist A.M. Hocart, he argues that, in its origins, kingship is a ritual rather than a political function.

In Britain, the trend since the era of the American and French Revolutions has not been towards absolutism -- but towards monarchy reverting to a purely ritual role. Absolutist systems -- with their own very distinctive rituals -- have on some notable occasions emerged in the wake of failed republican experiments.

This happened in France, after the First and Second Republics -- and in Germany and Russia after the collapse of their monarchical systems at the end of the war of 1914-18.

Of course rituals are commonly bound up with beliefs, and practises, which in a 'rational' civilization come to seem absurd. A fascinating depiction of a curious ritual to do with monarchy comes in the evocation of the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the novel The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, by background a Jewish journalist from Galicia.

Not long before the outbreak of war in 1914, in a village on the fringes of his domains, Roth describes a meeting between the Emperor Francis Joseph and a congregration of Jews. The patriarch, Roth writes, 'gabbled in an incomprehensible language the blessing which Jews utter in the presence of an emperor.' Then comes a quite extraordinary moment:

'"Blessed art thou," said the Jew to the Emperor, "who shalt not see the end of the world." I know it, Francis Joseph thought. He offered the old man his hand. He turned. He mounted his white horse.'

And then, as he portrays the Emperor watching his army at manoeuvres, Roth harks back to one of the oldest images of kingship -- where the king is like the sun:

'Through field glasses Francis Joseph saw the movements of each separate line and for a few minutes he felt proud of his army, and for a few minutes felt regret at losing it. For he saw it already dispersed and dashed to pieces, split up among the many nations of his monarchy. For him the great golden sun of the Hapsburgs was setting -- shattered against the primeval basis of the universe into sunballs which, as isolated stars, would be set to shine on independent nations. It'll never suit them to be ruled by me, thought the old man, there's nothing to be done about it, he added to himself. For he was an Austrian.'

By the time Roth's novel was published, in 1932, the empire had indeed fragmented. In Germany, a republican experiment was disintegrating, and one of Francis Joseph's former subjects was about to take power on the back of hysterical nationalist emotion -- which generated its own kinds of ritual, very different from those of the old empire.


She's still our Queen out here in Australia, of course (a referendum on casting off the ties was narrowly defeated back in 1999).

This wasn't due to any deep-seated desire to maintain the monarchy, but rather a lack of enthusiasm for upsetting the status quo. Republican supporters were also divided over how any replacement head of state was to be chosen and this pushed quite a few into either abstaining or voting against.

None of this is to say there aren't enthusiastic supporters of the Queen. Even amongst avid Republicans, I don't think many have anything against the old girl; she's regarded as sound and, in her own fusty way, quite likeable. Not so when it comes to the next generation of royals. Indeed, I think they're viewed with real scepticism; celebrities, certainly, but hardly Kingly material, although I get the impression most see Charles as a likable eccentric who's done some good things.

My guess is Australia will quietly go its own way at some point in the next decade or so, at a time when it's all taken on an air of quiet inevitability. Certainly, there's little of that fawning fascination out here. Then again, Australians are naturally a bit on the anti-authoritarian side. It's simplistic, of course, but the convict roots here may have helped create that sort of culture.

As for America's strange fascination, from this distance the presidency has long seemed tinged with purple so perhaps it isn't all that odd.

Loved your last sentence, by the way.

Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA

I spent three years in outer Suffolk, and actually did read the first volume of Churchill's "History of the English Speaking Peoples" so if I might offer a couple of thoughts:

- A crowned head in our rambunctious country would not work. For which I am grateful.

- What would the U.S. be if not for the British monarchy? Would we have representative government if it weren't for the barons who forced the signing of the Magna Carta?

- What American isn't gladdened to learn of the Brit practice of slamming the Commons' door in Black Rod's face when he brings the monarch's command to attend?

And so on. If the Brits are happy with it (and don't mind paying for it) so be it. I still have no idea what an "equerry" is but neither do I understand about cricket.

Patrick Lang


I should make it clear that I think she, personally, admirably fulfills the need for ritual and myth that David points to. BTW I thought the minor curfluful over Edinburgh's remark that Obama perhaps could not remember who was who among the G20 heds of state was both innocent and mildy funny.

DK made a comment about the pretender to the French throne. I understand there are several depending on dynastic claims?

A more interesting question would be as to who is the rightful claimant to the throne of Jerusalem. pl

Abu Sinan

It is interesting that whilst some Americans seem to long for monarchy, there are many that have fought and died recently to get away from the monarchy.

The Catholics in West Belfast arent so endeared to the British monarchy. Up the Republic!

Cato the Censor

I have always been puzzled myself about America's fascination with British royalty. Even taking into account our general national ignorance of the world and the fact that we were originally British colonies, there are still far older and more distinguished lineages out there than the House of Windsor, e.g., the Emperor of Japan can trace his succession back directly to about 300 CE, I believe. This is possibly due in large part to the fact that Japanese emperors and Scandinavian bicycle riding kings are too prosaic to make good tabloid fare.


for the edification of my esteemed compradres. How often does some talking head on TV pronounce the "Court of St. James?"

it is actually James x 2
that is James's

from the Wiki

"The Court of St. James's is the name of the royal court of the United Kingdom.[1]

The Court of St. James's is named after St James's Palace which is the senior Palace[2] of the Sovereign, currently Queen Elizabeth II. It remains the official residence[1] of the British Monarchy despite Queen Victoria moving to Buckingham Palace after her accession in 1837.[3



Prince Charles has remarked that he wants to be a 'working' monarch,that could cause some trouble for the Royals.


Col. Lang:

As the Brits would say: Well-played, well-played.

Maybe a monarchy would quiet our disquieting republican aspirations. Regardless, thank you for the good giggle.


But how do you feel about US citizens accepting British decorations, especially noble titles? I'm particularly concerned when it involves serving or past members of the US government and armed services.

I have no issue with bestowal of civil and military honors, but find it odd how receptive so many Americans are to the trappings of royalty.

William P. Fitzgerald III

Pat Lang,

The answer is, because their history is our history. From Alfred the Great onward to the conquest, the slow rise of parliamentary institutions under the Plantagenets, Magna Carta,the long struggle between King and Parliament, and the resolution of that stuggle in The Glorious Revolution resulted in the ideas of government and society which were established in America.

Machiavelli has naught to do with it. "The Prince" is philosophy and a manual for effective governance and says nothing about why Americans are interested in the royal family. Neither does the fact that the present dynasty is the House of Windsor. The interest would be there were the Hanoverians still on the throne. Shared history, traditions, and language make this the real "special relationship".

Disclosure: I'm something of an anglophile and even have two little English grandchildren.

A special acknowedgement to Capt. Charles Martin, late professor of history at The Citadel.


Tony Dismukes

As usual, Terry Pratchett provides a relevant quote:

"Royalty was like dandelions. No matter how many heads you chopped off, the roots were still there underground, waiting to spring up again.

It seemed to be a chronic disease. It was as if even the most intelligent person had this little blank spot in their heads where someone had written: "Kings. What a good idea." Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees." - from Feet of Clay



You old irrevant Irishman, (Yes, I know you consider yourself non tribal. But maybe,just maybe a "wee bit" of that Celtic bile still simmers over ancient wrongs done by those English aristocratic twits)

At least your tribe wasn't forced to emigrate at the end of an English bayonet as were my ancestors in Scotland. (And thank God they were. Some of my old cousins in Scotland still live in stone huts) Nice to visit, but personally I like my central heat.

But maybe,just maybe as the Western World descends into whatever dark place our children are going to.

They will look back on the days which contained a valid British Monarchy as not so bad after all.

Hell,maybe it will happen so fast, you and I will hold that opinion!

Patrick Lang


No. I am tribal, just not a supporter of monarchy, at least not until the Stuarts return. My family left the great Glen in 1697. pl

Sidney O. Smith III

Celtic Confession from a Waffle House in the Deep South

With the rise of the imperial executive branch in the United States, Bagehot’s book, The English Constitution, has grabbed my attention again. The American people, including many progressives , apparently desire a de facto royal branch and, of even greater concern, one that is more than just ceremonial but indeed wields imperial power, unlike the present British system.

Everyone knows Franklin’s warning: it’s a republic if you can keep it. Arguably we lost the republic with the destruction of the Jeffersonian tradition, the death pangs of which may very well have begun on the Virginia battlefields during the mid 19th century.

And with the death of the Jeffersonian tradition, the idea of a parliamentary system with a President and Prime Minister warrants consideration, at least to me, as it represents a possible mechanism that prevents the continued rise of crass American imperialism run amuck. At a bare minimum, Bagehot’s book demonstrates the weaknesses of our system. (just as Soviet Marxist writers also revealed other weak points in the constitutional framework, as some predicted that corporate interests would corrupt the legislative branch leading to an institutional implosion).

But under the parliamentary approach, the President, of course, plays the ceremonial role of cultural icon and embodies the best of the American heritage -- one that is ideally anti-imperial mixed in with the spirit of don’t tread on me and I won’t tread on you. The President thus plays a ceremonial role that memorializes the anti-imperial tradition so it does not get lost in a society hell-bent on corporate materialism and the destruction of history. Through no fault of their own, our founding fathers did not see the immense power of a national corporate media that, of course, has contributed wildly to the rise of the imperial presidency as well as the fragmentation of the American ethos into sound bites and commercials.

I reckon the British like the hereditary idea of cultural office. But an elected ceremonial office fits in well with the American spirit.

At a bare minimum, President Obama makes for a grand ceremonial president, in my opinion. Arguably he projects outward and around the world the best of American culture and, of course, the progressive Star Buck venti crowd goes ga-ga. But I don’t want a king with imperial power, so I prefer the Jeffersonian tradition (actually the St. George Tucker tradition) and can’t help but at least consider any alternative that would bring back to life the lost dream our founding fathers.


Ah, yes, the 'rightful heirs' the Stuarts. Unlike the current German castaways monikers who currently sit the throne. Poor poor Scots who were betrayed by Robert the Bruce.

Look at all the hard earned Englishman's money the sank-hole known as the 'Royal House' vacuums up each year, all so they can look pretty and play-like they are 'important'. Vanity of vanities.


i once met a monarch, King Hussein,
Sr. in 1966. I was struck by how short he was. Regina, Elizabeth II, is herself quite short. this was obvious standing next to the stately Obamas.

My sister is married to an English Major and I have a British niece & nephew. I am struck by a particular postage stamp on the envelopes. Merely a silhouette of the Regina (Latin for Queen). No country identification such as U.K. needed.

What balls!

William R. Cumming

Confusion! Confusion! A post and comments filled with confusion. The American revolution as implemented through President Lincoln's time was that power of government flowed from the people not from King downward. As the white majority in America dwindles down will Americans still have same fascination with British Royalty? Doubtful! What supposedly is a meritocracy (US) as opposed to a hereditary class structure may keep the US a democracy (Republic)a while longer. But now that the financier class has stolen from the taxpayer almost 13 Trillion dollars perhaps the thought of the philospher KING might reappear. Is that what OBAMA represents? Don't think it will stand the test of even his first year in office. But I could be wrong.

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