Marking the Death of Good Queen Bess

From a somewhat loyal subject

I am a raving left wing loonie who wants to overthrow capitalism. Yet I feel, not really sad, but wistful, about the death of Queen Elizabeth. It is a mark of the passage of time, going toward my own end.

I am now pretty old. Yet I was not born when Elizabeth came to the throne. Her death signals the passing away of the world I had been familiar with.

So I am sick of reading all the virtue signalling twaddle about imperialism and colonialism, class privileges and so on. The Queen is personally responsible for everything bad in the past two hundred years of history, or past thousand, maybe. She got to grow up in all those palaces just because she was born right.

On the other hand you have all the fawning that goes with anything to do with royalty. This actually contributes to the decline of the royal institution. It is possible to respect the monarchy for what it is without treating the royal family like tabloid celebrities to either mock or adulate.

Unstable people like an unstable society. Normal people like a certain degree of stability. They are comfortable with symbols of stability and permanence.

We are short of such symbols in these destabilized times. There is a huge effort these days to tear down any connection with the past. But people do need some sense of continuity and connection to the past.

This is why there is still so much positive feeling for old Bessie, all over most of the world. This is also why there is such a furious attack on these feelings, not so much on the Queen herself. This attack comes from a hostility to society itself, not to anything the monarchy is presumed to represent.

The attacks on the monarchy are emotional triggering. They do not get us anywhere useful.

The Queen had huge power and privilege just because of the luck of birth. First of all, the modern monarchy is a position of responsibility without much real power. She was a figurehead.

Second, no one chooses how to be born. Steaming about someone’s “privileged” birth is as bad as hating on people who were born with better genes; more intelligent or attractive. It is a mark of a flawed personality.

Old Bessie was well aware of her relative privilege. She was also imbued with a sense of obligation. She seriously committed herself to service to society as well as she could do, and as she understood it.

The monarchy is colonialism, racism, Imperialism, yada, yada, yada. The present day monarchy has no responsibility for any of these things, which are mostly abstract concepts anyway. The monarch is not personally responsible for things which happened remotely in time and distance.

You could write a very long history book examining the above statement. But just as an example; in Canada, the attack against aboriginals by settlers happened after the British government turned control over to local governments. The Royal governors actually privileged the tribes; they were key to defence of colonies against US invasion.

Some Nimbuses have made the incredibly important public service announcement that: of the 194 countries in the world, Britain did not invade 22 of them. This is a very entertaining factoid, but so what? Here in Canada, we also got ‘invaded’ and would not have come into existence as a nation otherwise.

The Royal family is very rich. They own property all over, some of it under ancient feudal rights. As that good communist cadre Deng Xiao Ping said, there is nothing inherently wrong with having some rich people.

The problem with rich people is when they develop a contempt for society, a revanchist or ‘right to rule’ mentality, and a mentality of extraction or profit maximizing. The British Royals seem to manage their wealth for long term viability, and to benefit the public as much as themselves, rather than for short term profit maximization. Curbing the excesses of the wealthy in favour of the public good was what monarchy often did well.

The decline of monarchy in modern times seems to have much to do with the rise of modern capitalism. The old monarchs; the Tsars and Kaisers from early last century, seem to have been knocked off because they were getting in the way of the advance of global capital. Those monarchies which have survived, like the English Royals, have done so by withdrawing from government and preserving their symbolic power.

But many royal families are accused of exerting a malign influence behind the scenes, and of being one of the forces behind global capitalism. The Dutch royals are most often accused thus but the English monarchy is also accused. If so, they have covered their hand pretty well.

This is the ‘three Rs’ theory about the money behind globalism; the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, and Royals. About the first two there is not much doubt. These are the descendants of the ‘robber barons’ of the industrial revolution, and of the ‘court Jews’ going back to the middle ages.

The third R must be more nuanced. The actual Royals, those who remain, mostly have a sense of the realities and obligations of their positions. Those who do not seem to be fading away.

The problem of malign influence from an ancient aristocracy seems to be a real one. More on continental Europe than in the English speaking world, people with inherited titles and wealth, but no responsibility, continue to be a problem. Of course, many of the Queen’s relatives are also like that.

This is often called ‘revanchism’; descendants of old feudal nobility who are still angry and vengeful about the French Revolution, the collapse of empires at the end of the first world war, and the general slow collapse of feudalism. They have found ways to preserve and protect their wealth and many want to continue to exert a malign influence. These people seem to be a big factor behind the European Union and earlier attempts to put the brakes on democratic progress in Europe.

Meanwhile, the British monarchy endures. It stays out of politics and uses its power in benevolent ways, according to their understanding of right. This is in fact what seems to be behind a lot of the attacks on the monarchy.

For example, the Queen tried all her life to build The Commonwealth. This has been a fairly successful institution. We just finished watching the Commonwealth games.

The accusation is that this is a back door way of reestablishing the British Empire. This is foolish and ugly. It comes from the secret grudge against the Commonwealth, that it gives the people of countries with the English language in common a way of interacting outside the boundaries of globalism.

The best thing Queen Elizabeth did in her reign was to go to Northern Ireland and shake hands with Sinn Fein. This symbolic act greatly helped to open the way to peace there. It is also known to have infuriated much of the British security state who did not want some ‘terrorist’ group to be seen to have won something.

This brings me to the constitutional question which the monarchy raises in settler countries like Canada. We mostly still have a ‘Governor General’ who is the Queen’s ‘representative’, but is appointed by whoever controls our ‘Westminster model’ parliament. Any time the monarchy is brought to mind it creates a new round of huffing about this corrupting and undemocratic arrangement.

The British monarch is the last person to blame for this situation. The Queen and her advisors had long recognized that a serious governmental crisis in any of these countries would put her in a bad position. They have been hinting for a long time that they would like to get out of this.

Almost always, the real problem with replacing the monarchy in former British colonies is in getting agreement about what to replace it with. Yet almost all of these countries have worked out a solution. That these white settler countries have been incapable of deciding on something better is their own disgrace, not Bessie Windsor’s.

It is amusing to think of her telling any of the more offensive prime ministers of Canada to piss off, I don’t want to be your Queen anymore. But she is much too well mannered for that.

I wrote something awhile back about the problems of eliminating monarchy in Canada. Most of it remains relevant. It will remain undoable until we can get off this immobilism and do a thorough refit of our our outdated institutions.

I would walk back slightly on what I said in that piece about the role of the British monarchy in globalism. Also, on the monarchy as a source of stability. To repeat, it does give society some sense of continuity with the past, in a time of great upheaval.

Further to the role of monarchy in social stability, I have recently read an interesting tome from an unlikely author. It is available online and titled “On Kings”. It is cowritten by someone who thinks he is an ‘anarchist’, David Graeber. Some would find that ironic.

But monarchy has been a very stable institution. For all of human history we have kept turning back to monarchy. It is usually not forced on us, but becomes the only way to deal with the threat of invasion and internal conflict.

Graeber finds that people seem to have a need for monarchy in order to legitimate the legal and political system. To do that, Kings, and sometimes Queens, have to be seen as in some way above and beyond ordinary people. They tended to be descended from gods, or to become gods after death.

An older philosopher called Hobbes made almost identical observations about kings. Graeber even borrowed Hobbes’s cover illustration. Yet most modern liberal philosophers are hostile to Hobbes and his ideas about sovereign power.

The truth is, in premodern times people generally did not accept ‘law and order’ coming from their peers. There were successful democracies when there was a will to make them work. Yet normally, it was as Hobbes said; without a sovereign authority to provide protection, people turned on each other and life was nasty, brutish, and short.

The recent decline of monarchy is a historic anomaly. It is not in fact being replaced by democracy. In most of the world we now have sham democracies, which are covers for capitalism, which is an ideological cover for the predatory oligarchy which monarchy had usually kept in check.

Not to get into a long discourse in the political science of monarchs, it seems to me that modern, technological civilization has become too complicated for monarchies. It is too complicated for democracies as well. I would say that this is why capitalism has gone so far out of control.

It seems that the most successful countries in the world today have developed meritocracies; government by cadres of carefully selected and trained experts, and that this is the way of the future. Historically, a meritocracy works within the frame of a monarchy, as in the Chinese emperors and their mandarins. Some attempts at a meld of meritocracy and democracy in the present world have been wrecked by capitalism before they really got going.

History is still working out what kind of government will work best in an advanced and post capitalist country. However, monarchies seem to be coming to an end. Even a merely ‘ceremonial’ monarchy is becoming impossible to sustain.

Being a figurehead can still be a very complex job. Managing a royal family in the electronic age is even harder. The job of being a British monarch and commonwealth head is becoming impossible.

The decline of the British Royals is not because they are bad people. As with most families, there some bright lights, some mediocrities, and some bad seeds. But the kinds of pressure they are now under is inevitably corrupting and demoralizing.

At the moment, the tremendous pressure which British society is under produces a ‘rally to the crown’ effect. The old order is collapsing and a new one is not ready to emerge. In such times people will cling to symbols of stability and that symbol, if he uses some intelligence, can help steer the country in a good direction.

I think it is after things finally settle down in a new course and life gets better and more certain for British people, that the monarchy will gradually fade away. In settler countries like Canada, the need to finally scrap outdated, colonial age institutions will lead to the replacement of the monarchy.

As for the Commonwealth, it seems to be humming along pretty well on its own. Come on, we all speak the same language.

But something must replace this anthropological need for an ultimate authority presiding over human society. I have yet to hear any serious idea about this. People who claim to be for democracy and want ‘the people’ to be sovereign, are really looking to capture power for themselves and their own faction or class.

These are the questions raised by the death of Queen Elizabeth. There is one other barely noticed issue raised by the way she died. It really shows the sad state of Britain and most other countries today.

The Queen died of covid. She caught it a year ago and never shook it off. Her husband Phillip also died of it.

People in their nineties usually do not recover from covid. They develop the long covid syndrome and slowly die of it. Elizabeth, out of a sense of discipline and duty, kept working until days before her death, when she could barely get to her feet.

Any time someone in their nineties dies of covid, it is a shame on society. It shows a society which does does not protect its vulnerable and does not cherish its elderly.

There is no reason for covid. It could be eradicated in a few weeks if proper health measures could be employed. The inability to do this shows how far the deterioration of society, in Britain and elsewhere, has gone.

So people now think we are into the reign of Charles the Third. That is not officlal yet. Prince Charles has several time stated that he hates the name ‘Charles’ and wants to call himself George the Seventh.

The sovereign can call himself anything she wants. He answers the question “and how will you be called” at the coronation ceremony, and that is how she goes down in the history books. Queen Victoria’s given name was ‘Alexandrina’.

As God recently tweeted; “I can only save the Queen for so long.”

Get used to hearing “God save the King.” The Elizabethan age is over. We will be nostalgic for it.

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