Monday, February 14, 2005

British Constitution Explained

The Church doesn't approve of re-marriage, and doesn't really like the idea of civil marriages very much, however, they are quite happy to "bless" the civil marriage of their divorced future defender of the faith to his divorced spouse, because, er...

I mean, really, Bish. Either take the Catholic line and say no re-marriage at all ever, which puts you on the moral high ground but loses you some compassion points, or do what every other religious denomination has done and accept that life and marriage is messy and divorce happens sometimes. But don’t try to have it both ways.

Journalists please note

1: The Queen is not the head of the Church. Jesus is.

2: If I hear one more person say “ I thought that the whole reason the Church of England got started was so the king could get divorced and remarry" I shall cut off their heads, or nail some theses to their door, or annul them, or something.


The fact that he may have been a bit of a cad to Lady Di doesn't effect whether Charlie-boy is worthy to be king one way or the other. The minute you start talking about "worthy" or "qualified" you've pretty much given up on the idea of monarchy. Well, unless you live on Naboo, where they apparently elect young girls on the basis of their hair styles. What makes you worthy to be king is being the next in line to the throne. That's what "monarchy" means. Charlie doesn't seem to be as worthy, as, say, Elizabeth the First, (third greatest Englishman after Winston Churchill and Lady Di), but he's a good deal worthier than Mad King George or Bad King Richard.

He might just as well be seen as the victim of this little tragi-comedy as the villain. Unable to marry his true love because she wouldn't be appropriate for a man in his position; bounced into a marriage with a flighty wench far to young for him... There's even something quite noble in being married to England's Rose and dreaming of your (let's be honest, here) rather plain true love.

But that's neither here nor there. Unless he becomes a catholic or we become a republic, Charles is going to be King. That's what it says in our constitution, ancient and unchanged since, oh, since the last time we changed it.

Call me old fashioned if you like, but if it is true that Charlie married Di out of a sense of duty rather than for love, I find it hard to regard that as very wicked. Up to a point, I regard it as quite admirable.


We should abolish the royal family because everyone is totally obsessed with it, and a royal wedding like this fills the papers up with stories about wedding dresses and palace gossip when they should be worrying about the great issues of the day, like hare coursing and who Ken Livingstone was rude to. If we abolished the royals, no-one would pay any attention to the doings of the rich and famous ever again, as evidenced by the fact that, once she was kicked out of the royal family, the papers stopped printing stories about Princess Di.

Furthermore we should abolish the royal family because it is an archaic and remote institution, and no-one is interested in it any more.

How many people in the Church of England actually believe in the apostolic succession (the theory which states that Jesus chose Peter, Peter chose Cardinal Woolsey, Cardinal Woolsey chose Henry VIII, Henry VIII chose the Queen?)
Do they actually believe that if the monarchy were abolished and the line of succession from Jesus to Rowan Williams broken, the C of E would cease to be a church? Is this a problem only for the very highest Anglo Catholics, or would it worry some low church happy clappy types as well? Is the Establishment of the C of E simply a matter of tradition, we've alway done it this way so we'd just as soon carry on, or does it actually effect something central in some people's religion?

If so, is there a human rights issue regarding the right of indigenous Anglicans to continue to practice their traditional native religion without interference?

At moments like this, I always take the opportunity to say "antidisestablishmentarianism".


I admit it, so long as the monarchy isn't doing any harm, and of all the silly things there are in the British constitution (first past the post elections, the house of Lords, no bill of rights, Tony Blair, etc) the monarchy seems to be one of the most harmless, I like the absurdity of it all.

I like the fact that we have had it for at least several hundred years and arguably at least a thousand.

I like the fact that parliament is formally opened by a queen with a real crown and a real golden coach.

I'd much, much rather that all the bowing and scraping and ritual of state were directed at a rather horsy upper crust old lady who sometimes seems rather bemused by the whole thing than at a politician. Can you imagine them playing "Hail to the Chief" at Tony? At Maggie, even? (And yes, I'd still, on balance, take that view if some horrible outbreak of food poisoning at Windsor castle meant that parliament was going to be opened by, say, an oafish teenager who doesn't know what fancy dress outfits are in good taste and which aren't.)

And now, of all times, is not the time to talk about abolishing the monarchy. It would move us another step toward a Blairite Year Zero. Can you imagine a Blairite republic? A sort of constitutional millennium dome, in which the president swears allegiance to three different religions and none, and promises that he will do his best to be a good a citizen and recycle most of his household waste and keep the boy scout law.

The British empire may not have been anything to be particularly proud of, but I'd sooner be giving out medals called "order of the British Empire" that acknowledge that that part of our history existed than come up with some bland squeaky clean politically correct blank slate which fits in with that weeks politically trendy cause and pretends, that we don't actually have any history

Imagine if Thatcher had set up a Republic. We'd all be awarding each other the Order of Winston Churchill and Christmas would have been replaced with Trafalgar Day. Imagine if Harold Wilson had set up a Republic. "All You Need is Love" would probably be the National Anthem.

O gracious Prince, we thee implore
To go away and sin no more
Or, if the effort is to great
To go away, at any rate.

Congratulations, your Royal Highness and your soon to be Semi Royal Highness-ess. I wish you joy and gladness. May you rule wisely, or at any rate, slightly more wisely than your Home Secretary. May you continue to mean well, and occassionally make a bit of a fool of yourself. May you concentrate on organic gardening, which you know about, and keep your gob shut about medicine, which you don't. May your sons eventually come to their senses, and, if they don't, may you remember that it is part of the job of heirs to the throne to behave awfully. May slightly muted crowds line the streets of Windsor, and shout "God Save the Princess Consort Elect" with only a slight tinge of irony. May your mother live a long and happy life, but may she pop her clogs or abdicate while you are still young enough to open parliament without a zimmer frame. Speaking for myself, I shall not cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand 'til we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land.

I may even buy a mug. Although, come to think of it, I don't think I bought a Golden Jubilee Mug, so the continuity of the Rilstone mug collection may be irrevocably broken.


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a citizen of a former colony (and we still have in my town a building with the Lion and the Unicorn on a balcony, from whence our Declaration of Independence was read), I've always felt rather sorry for Their Majesties and Highnesses. And at the same time, rather envious. You see, the members of our President's family are expected to supply the sparkly glamour of Royalty, just as much as screen stars and the Blonde Bomb du jour are, whereas you have an entire extended family dedicated to that task so your elected leaders can (presumably) get on with their work.

I mean, there was a little party in Washington, D.C. recently, and the papers were full of articles about what the First Lady and her daughters would wear, and if they were getting illegal special favors from fashion houses or fancy shops. War? what war?

We're ignoring the fact, now that they're of legal age, that one of the young ladies is known to have an unaddressed alcohol problem. Not unlike HRH Hermannn there.

'T would be better far to leave all that to people whose claim to fame is that they are descended from Pocahantas or something, rather than the family of the world's most powerful pretense Texan. He's already inclined to swagger.


Anonymous said...

Hullo there. I have just spent several hours wandering around your site and when I looked up I was rather suprised as to how absorped I was. And how much time I spent here. So I wanted to say thank you for a very interesting experience. I have to agree with some other person who left a comment about feeling that they were "eavesdropping" by reading this -- I really feel the same way. But its been fun -- I do plan on coming back again.

Anonymous said...

No remarriage at all really is not the Catholic line. The Catholic Church will even allow divorce in some circumstances and anyone can apply for an annulment. Given the circumstances it is unlikely that Camilla would have any difficulty getting an annulment if she were a Catholic. Indeed, since she was married to a Catholic who, I believe, has since remarried, it may be that the Catholic Church has already declared her marriage invalid. Charles and Camilla have the misfortune to belong to the C of E. I don't think any other religion or denomination would have any problem at all with their getting married.

Did Charles behave badly in marrying Diana? I agree that marrying out of a sense of duty is not necessarily a bad thing to do but you do have to be honest about it. Diana was pitifully deluded into thinking that Charles loved her. That was not just dishonest but cruel.


Anonymous said...

The Queen is not the head of the Church. Jesus is.That's good, but I prefer these:

Q. Why did the Anglican cross the road?
A. Because there is much to be said for both sides.

Q. What do you get when you cross an Anglican and a kangaroo?
A. A woolly jumper.

Q. How many Anglicans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None: the lightbulb merely reflects shifting patterns of illumination in our complex, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, 21st century Britain. And besides, changing it might offend the Muslims.

Dotan Dimet said...

Somehow when you discuss the Royals (and the Church of England), you always seem to refer to Star Wars.
(OK, the last essay of yours I read on the subject discussed the Jedi religionists in the National Consensus, but still).
I wonder if you find that the absurdity of British traditions lends some credibility to Lucas' daft worldbuilding by comparison?

Anonymous said...

One point: it would bit nice if HRH could keep his mouth shut on organic farming as well, as the fewer influential people pushing the prelapsarian Arden myth on which the Organic lobby trades the fewer people will by misled into thinking it is not all a big con.

Anonymous said...

I entirely agree. This is just what I've been saying myself. (Being in Canada, but British, some people seem to expect me to have a personal relationship with these people. "But he's divorced!" one friend said. "So am I," I replied.

I especially like the bit about building Jerusalem.

Ken Shinn said...

You may well say that Charles was cruel to marry Diana since he didn't really love her, but this seems to me to buy all too easily into the dangerous image of Diana as "pitiful victim/potent victor" which all goes to hide the very real possibility that she was just an opportunistic young social climber with an eye on the throne. And the equally real possibility that the real cruelty was from the parents who wanted Charles to marry regardless of how he felt about it all. Larkin about indeed.

Anonymous said...

I know this is getting off-topic; I beg your indulgence on this:
Sam: I think the problem with the Organic industry is its simplistic outlook. There are undoubtedly some modern innovations that are problematic - I'd like my foods without organophosphate residues, thanks - but their criterion for whether something is allowable is neither whether it's good for the consumer, nor the farmer, nor even for the environment, but whether it's natural. So it's allowable to apply quantities of animal manure but unacceptable to use a genetically modified strain of crop that will grow well in a lower-nitrogen soil - even though the latter might (subject to being demonstrated safe to your chosen level of satisfaction and so on, let's not get started on that one) be better for the environment. Similarly with pesticides - it's OK to spray plants with a suspension of insecticidal bacteria, but not with a solution of insecticidal chemical - and this is not a function of how appropriate the spray is but whether it's "natural". There's nothing terribly evil about organic food or organic farming, but there's something unpleasant about the smugness with which the organic industry promotes itself and definitely some holes in their arguments that theirs is the best way of working.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to take you at your word here, and just jump in.

You were asking about the apostolic succession. I'm ELCA (Lutheran), and our governing body agreed to "Called to Common Mission," which is basically a quasi-merger with the Episcopals. It lets Lutheran congregations call Episcopal priests, and Lutheran pastors serve Episcopal congregations. This has really upset a lot of people, because it demands that the ELCA accept apostolic succession. This is, from a Lutheran point of view, bad theology. We don't believe that the laying on of hands makes a valid ordination, it is the call of the congregation that makes it valid. As part of the deal, all ordained ELCA pastors were grandfathered in, and all future pastors are to have an Episcopal bishop lay hands on them at their ordination. A lot of Lutheran pastors understand this to mean that they are not really clergy, and they are steamed. (Quite a few new pastors have refused to have a bishop lay hands on them, as well. Do a Google search for "Word Alone" for more about this.)

To be fair, a lot of Episcopal priests aren't happy either. Episcopal congregations call now call Lutheran pastors, creating a class of what I have heard described as "bastard priests." By simply accepting all these Lutherans as valid, the whole concept of laying on of hands has been thrown out the window, and there are really strong feelings.

At one joint service I attended, with lots of both kinds of clergy in attendance, a Lutheran pastor (technically recognized as a priest by the EC) was celebrating communion. An Episcopal priest went around to the back of the altar, behind him, and shadowed him throughout the ceremony. She made the gestures and mouthed the words along with him. To the onlooking congregation, it was bizarre and somewhat comical. The Lutheran pastor was unaware of it, and angry and embarrassed when he found out afterwards. The priest explained that she had not realized until she saw him up there that there wouldn't be an Episcopal officiating, and she didn't see any other way to make the sacrament valid.

There was obviously a lot of discussion. Everyone agreed that the service wasn't well thought out. But the gist of it was that, even if they didn't want to say so, most of the Anglicans didn't really believe that Communion officiated by Lutherans was valid, because they weren't in the apostolic succession.

You do get those who argue that it is all symbolic, and that it just indicated being part of the historic church, and I'd buy that. But underneath, there really are a lot of people who take it very seriously, and would indeed say that without the apostolic succession, the church ceases to be The Church.


Anonymous said...

RE: Charles' love for Camilla as "romantic" whilst publicly with Di: Glad to see someone going with this interpretation - it annoys me greatly that we are all seemingly meant to see Charles as the bad guy in this simply because a) He and Camilla are alive and ugly, whilst Diana is dead and pretty and b) Because it's like a millions voices cried out that they'd rather shag Diana than Camilla, thus Charles must be Bad and Wrong.