Ah, young Prince George, we’ll never know ye. As king, that is. So, at least, muses novelist Hilary Mantel. From “ back of an envelope” calculations, the author of the “Wolf Hall” trilogy about Henry VIII’s doomed enabler Thomas Cromwell, believes the British monarchy is “gone within two generations.”
Her rationale? “It’s hard to understand the thinking behind the monarchy in the modern world when people are just seen as celebrities.”
Hold on, I say. On its face, Ms. Mantel’s rationale for monarchy’s demise is just as easily a glowing endorsement of the Crown’s centrality in contemporary society. Given how the press fawns over the Sussexes, Harry and Meghan — two minor Royals — what acclaim awaits honest-to-goodness royalty?
Yet Ms. Mantel is herself steeped in an age where the monarchy actually stood for something: “Kingship is so ancient and it has a dimension of holiness.” To stand for nothing but celebrity is the crown’s self-inflicted wound of lèse-majesté.
The Queen and the Prince of Wales bear their royal burden “as well as anyone possibly could,” Ms. Mantel says approvingly, and “take it as seriously as anyone could.” But that is not enough for Ms. Mantel. It may not be enough for true monarchists. Elizabeth II, for all her popular esteem, is honored more for an unruffled reign and less for principled positions defended in the face of public and political opposition. Perhaps, after all, this is for the best.
What, though, of the royal generations to come? Is it too much to hope for a “Brexit” Crown? Brexit, after all, was inspired by the belief in independence. First, the United Kingdom freed from subservience to the European Union. Many dreamed of more, of a return to politics responsible to the people, such as described in John Locke’s “Second Treatise” and idealized in Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence”: government answerable to the governed.
Only a stout heart still entertains such optimism given the high-handedness of Boris Johnson’s ministry. Yet libertarian theorist Hans-Hermann Hoppe offers some hope. Though not himself an avowed monarchist, Professor Hoppe writes favorably of kings who saw statecraft as a sacred trust: to entrust to their heirs a patrimony greater than they themselves inherited. As a “monopolist,” the king cares “about the repercussions of his actions on capital values.”
In contrast, Modern “caretaker” politicians, looking no further than the next election, are intent only on current emoluments for supporters and future electoral success. Monarchs-of-old would never have hoodwinked their parliaments to endorse the deficits and government largesse that are the hallmarks of current politics — the “capital consumption” — now veiled and camouflaged under the repackaging of “popular government.”
The Gold Standard and, in America, “King Dollar,” as Larry Kudlow likes to call it, once kept government answerable to the people. Now, fiat currency and quantitative easing mock political probity and hold out to over-extended taxpayers inflation as a method of redeeming debts.
Support for a Brexit Crown could stem this tide toward political oblivion. One benefit is the monarch’s role as head of state, with MPs relegated to roles as mere representatives. Even the prime minister is no more than first among equals — primus inter pares.
Let Britons ponder BoJo as president and see how well they’ll sleep at night. Could any welcome such an undisciplined and erratic Executive? “I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government,” Jefferson wrote James Madison in 1787. “It is always oppressive.”
Let those 41% of young Britons who, polled by YouGov, declared their preference for an elected Chief Magistrate ask themselves how the political class has comported itself under cover of “containing” Covid.
Does it not smack of “oppressive” to them? Maybe those 31% who want to maintain the monarchy have a more promising vision to offer them.
Ms. Mantel herself does not claim any clairvoyance in respect of the monarchy’s longevity. “I think it’s a fair prediction,” she admits, “but let’s say I wouldn’t put money on it.” After all, she is a “progressive.” She was dismissive of Brexit and the cause of Britain’s freedom from the European Union. She might not see the potential of an independent “sceptre’d isle.”
I do. A Brexit Crown keeping politicians in check and encouraging its subjects toward individuality surely has more appeal than slouching toward sclerotic government.
Let Princes Charles and William endorse such etatist schemes as President Biden’s “Build Back Better” and Davos Agenda’s “Great Reset.” They take their future subjects for granted. All the more likely, I’d like to think, that Ms. Mantel notwithstanding, Prince George will come into his birthright at a moment when the wind is at his back.
[email protected] Drawing by Elliott Banfield, courtesy of the artist.