Tuesday 30 November 2010

Modern Constitutional Monarchy

Republicans have a habit of conflating the terms “Democracy” and “Republic”, treating them as synonyms. Republics and constitutional monarchies are of course merely different forms of democracy (and we can cite numerous undemocratic republics).   

Constitutional monarchies are limited monarchies –limited by the constitution and its conventions. Of the 31 constitutional monarchies in the world, only two have an uncodified constitution: the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The other constitutional monarchies are Australia, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Granada, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, and Tuvalu.  16 of the world’s 31 constitutional monarchies recognise HM The Queen as Sovereign.

Constitutional monarchies comprise some of the world’s most developed, wealthy, democratically accountable and progressive states.  The 2009 United Nations Human Development Index, a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, and standards of living worldwide, is generally regarded as the best index for determining the quality of life offered by a state. The HDI ranks constitutional monarchies extremely highly:  7 of the top 10 (Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden) and 16 of the top 20 countries in the world, in terms of quality of life, are constitutional monarchies. This is all the more remarkable when one realises that republics outnumber monarchies by 5-to-1 (31 vs approx 150).

It would be foolish to claim that it is by virtue of their status as monarchies that these countries afford their citizens such a high quality of life -- that is an obvious absurdity; the form of government and quality of life is most likely due to their stability. However, their success provides clear evidence that constitutional monarchies are not an impediment to modernity or progression (be it social, cultural, scientific or technological) -- neither are they incompatible with democracy and the institutions of a modern state. It is also incorrect to categorise constitutional monarchies as naturally or inherently conservative. Sweden, Norway and Denmark are amongst the world’s most socially progressive states. Monarchy, as a symbol of stability and continuity, may in fact be an asset to a reforming government as it can provide a fixed point for a society undergoing dramatic transformation, making the change more bearable.

Constitutional Monarchies survive today because they are adaptable and have been able to change to face new challenges. Those monarchies which failed to evolve (Russia and France for example) perished. Despite some awkward moments, the British Monarchy has developed a good understanding of the importance of ensuring that the Crown maintains the essential elements of heritage and tradition whilst remaining relevant to the modern age and reflecting positive aspects of contemporary society. 

Friday 26 November 2010

A Sorry State: Self-Denigration in British Culture

Last night I attended the launch of a splendid new book, edited by the noted author and authority on the British cultural zeitgeist, Peter Whittle of the New Culture Forum, and with contributions from many leading authors and scholars, all of whom are proud to be British and seek a revival of pride in Britain's accomplishments. If you are concerned about British culture, the book may be of interest to you and may be pre-ordered via Amazon.co.uk at this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sorry-State-Self-Denigration-British-Culture/dp/0956741002/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290782711&sr=8-1

To quote from the blurb of the book:

"Self-loathing permeates our culture to such an extent that we no longer even see it for what it is. For many of us, it has come to be the natural way of looking at the world. We have become used to living in a permanent state of cultural cringe, of apology, of guilt for real or imagined acts; where our opinion formers appear to agree that western culture is an indefensible horror.
The aim of this collection of essays is to illustrate how self-denigration operates in both specific and general areas of contemporary life. So, along with Helen Szamuely’s essay on history teaching in schools, Emma French’s exploration of the effects of cultural self-laceration in higher education and Marc Sidwell’s analysis of the big state as an expression of self-distrust, we have Gulliver Ralston examining the effects of self-hatred on music education, Paul Seaman on corporate image-building, Juliet Samuel on the environmentalist movement and Douglas Murray on how our response to radical Islam is being compromised. Tony Wells describes the minefield of a simple dinner party among the middle-class intelligentsia, Guy Stagg makes an argument for religion as an expression of self-hate, and Richard D. North describes how so-called ‘anti-elitism’ is another facet of the same phenomenon.
We have aimed to be constructive in this collection, to offer up ways out of self-hatred. Leadership is not just about economics, and the sooner our own elected representatives acknowledge that the burning issues of our time are cultural ones, the better. In the words of countless demonstrators over the years, it is time to ‘Stop the Hate’.
Contents of A Sorry State
Table manners by Tony Wells
Over the rainbow: How radical environmentalists thwarted Copenhagen by Juliet Samuel
There’s no such thing as the state by Marc Sidwell
Cultural self-effacement in music education by Gulliver Ralston
How public relations sells western firms short by Paul Seaman
‘Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe’: Cultural self-laceration in British universities by Emma French
Mea maxima culpa: Religion and the sanctity of self-hatred by Guy Stagg
How do self-hatred and self-blame shape our response to radical Islam? by Douglas Murray
History came to a . by Helen Szamuely
The country that hates itself: Why curing anti-elitism can sort things out by Richard D. North"

Monday 22 November 2010

Watch my TV Interview on the announcement of the Royal Engagement

It's a few days old but here is my interview on the announcement of the Royal Engagement: Click on the link and then scroll down to my name in the right hand "CTV News Box": 


Saturday 20 November 2010

Is Love Enough for the newly engaged Royal Couple? -

Is Love Enough?  A newspaper article in today's National Post (Canada) newspaper by Peter Goodspeed, features commentary from me and my colleague Arthur Bousfield of the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust:

"Peter Goodspeed, National Post · Friday, Nov. 19, 2010
Fairy tale or nightmare? The royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and commoner Kate Middleton already holds the public enthralled with all the gushing sentimentality of a great love story and the horror of a train wreck.
For the first time in 350 years, an heir to the British throne has proposed to marry a commoner -- for love -- jettisoning age-old traditions of arranged marriages and dynastic alliances based on class.
Some see the event as a transformative step toward modernizing the British monarchy, the most conservative of Europe's remaining royal houses.....
"The monarchy always reflects the society it presides over," said Arthur Bousfield, vice-chairman of the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust and coauthor of several books on the British monarchy. "If it didn't, it would be so out of touch it would lose its raison d'etre.
"The monarchy always adapts and royal marriages are the way it sort of rejuvenates itself."
It is a pattern that has been repeated elsewhere.
"Prince William and Kate Middleton are not breaking with European tradition," said Rafal Heydel-Mankoo, an editor of Burke's Peerage & Gentry. "They are following in the wake of their continental counterparts.
"The Crown Prince of Norway married an unwed mother, the Crown Princess of Sweden married a personal trainer and gym owner, and the Crown Prince of Denmark married an Australian whom he met in a pub in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics."...
"In an egalitarian 21st century, Kate Middleton's unexceptional middle-class background is an asset," said Mr. Heydel-Mankoo. "She is a person to whom the average person can relate, even more than they could to Diana, Princess of Wales, or Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, both of whom, though technically commoners, were daughters of aristocrats."
"Kate Middleton is living the fairy-tale dream," he said. "Her story could be anyone's. That's where the magic of monarchy comes into its own."
(C) National Post

Friday 19 November 2010

William and Kate - A break with British tradition but part of a new European trend

Since the announcement of the engagement of HRH Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton, I have had to field questions from many journalists and reporters, all of whom have been keen to understand the implications and consequences of a marriage that will unite the heir to the throne with a woman from a vastly different social background with whom he has already been living for several years. "Is this a stark break from European tradition?", I have been asked. "Will this forever change the Monarchy?" "Given their different backgrounds, can the marriage survive on love alone?"

The success of the existing European monarchies has been their ability to adapt and change with the times; those that were unable to evolve, perished. The British Monarchy, with its close ties to the Church of England, has traditionally been the most institutionally conservative of Europe's royal houses. Prince William and Kate Middleton are not breaking with European tradition, they are following in the wake of their continental counterparts.  The Crown Prince of Norway married an unwed mother, the Crown Princess of Sweden married a personal trainer and gym owner and the Crown Prince of Denmark married an Australian whom he met in a pub in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics. 

To remain relevant, monarchies must reflect contemporary society. Traditionalists may not approve, but they are not the ones who need to be convinced of the value of monarchy. The British Royal Family learnt this lesson in the immediate aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. I am certain that Prince William and Kate Middleton will refashion the monarchy and forge a new relationship with the nation, a nation whose priorities and attitudes may be starkly different from those of earlier generations.  

As for the happy couple themselves -- although love is essential to a happy marriage, given the pressures of modern royalty and the constant scrutiny of a global media, a successful royal marriage also requires many other qualities, not least of which are commitment and sacrifice.  Having been with Prince William for several years, Kate Middleton has a clear advantage denied to her predecessors:  she has been given time to understand the duties required of a Queen, she has had the opportunity to contemplate the experience of previous royal brides and she has had the benefit of her partner's guidance. Kate Middleton is not entering into this marriage as a naive, young girl but as a mature and fully-informed woman. 

In an egalitarian 21st century, Kate Middleton's unexceptional middle-class background is an asset. She is a person to whom the average person can relate, even more than they could to Diana, Princess of Wales or Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother both of whom, though technically commoners, were daughters of aristocrats. Kate Middleton is living the fairy tale dream -- her story could be anyone's. That is where the magic of monarchy comes into its own. 

In 2010, Miss Middleton's background is irrelevant to her ability to fulfil the duties required of a Queen. Prince William clearly does not see her background as an obstacle and the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Royal Family are extremely fond of her. That should be enough to satisfy anyone. So long as she demonstrates a clear commitment and dedication to the task before her, and we have no reason to believe she won't, the people will accept her. I wish the happy couple every success in the world -- may they both live happily ever after!

Thursday 18 November 2010

The Canadian Governor General's first investiture ceremony for the Order of Canada

Today HE The Governor General of Canada, Chancellor of the Order of Canada presided at his first investiture ceremony for the Order, of which HM The Queen of Canada is Sovereign.
Photo: (C) Office of the Secretary to the Governor General of Canada
More photographs at the GG web site: http://bit.ly/9Jv28X

Engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton

Congratulations to HRH Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton on their engagement.  

Question of the Day:

1. St. Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey?  Following Miss Middleton's visit to the Abbey yesterday, it appears likely to be the ancient royal peculiar, site of the weddings of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips, and the Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson. The Prince of Wales' decision to marry in St. Paul's Cathedral in 1981 was a break with royal tradition which, some claim, was an attempt to connect the royal couple with the public (and was also due to the Prince of Wales' love of the building). St. Paul's Cathedral is very much the National Church -- a place for events of national celebration and commemoration whereas the Abbey is both Royal Church and, as the resting place for kings, queens and national heroes, a national pantheon.

Watch my interview on the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton (click on link and then scroll down to my name in right hand "CTV News Box"): http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/201


Winnigpeg Free Press: TORONTO -- The love affair between the future heir to the British throne and his glamorous middle-class schoolmate may fan the flames of Canada's fondness for the monarchy, experts suggest. Word that Prince William and Kate Middleton have set a 2011 wedding date prompted optimistic predictions from royal observers who view the couple as being well-positioned to renew Canadian support for the Royal Family.

Rafal Heydel-Mankoo, a historian and commentator on British royalty, said William and Middleton present an appealing portrait of how the monarchy will function in the 21st century.
The couple _ media darlings of the British press _ strike the ideal balance between time-honoured traditions and much-needed modernization, he said.
"If the monarchy is to survive, it does need people like William and Kate who actually show the modern face of monarchy --  respecting its traditions, but understanding that times change and institutions have to evolve," he said.
William has only visited Canada twice, but Heydel-Mankoo said the prince's place in the Canadian consciousness was secured 12 years ago when he was seen donning Roots' Olympic gear while on a ski vacation with his father and brother, Prince Harry.
Canada was the birthplace of William's celebrity status, he said, adding the country will likely hold special significance for him.
Still, Heydel-Mankoo contends it is Middleton _ the daughter of a former airline worker and an ex-flight attendant that built up a multi-million dollar fortune _ who will resonate most with Canadians.
Her savvy style, confidence and comparatively modest background will make her appealing to a nation that embraces everyday heroes, he said.
"She is your stereotypical middle-class person. She's not an aristocrat who comes from a long line of irrelevant traditions to which most Canadians can't relate," he said.
"She's someone who is very much a person of the people, so I think that they will find her fairy-tale story will be one that they could relate to." FULL STORY: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/breakingnews/royal-wedding-may-help-revive-canadians-interest-in-the-monarchy-108445714.html