Our Royal Family can either be traditional or modern, that is to say, it can either survive or pursue its own destruction.
Her Majesty the Queen has, throughout her life, been consistently dismissed as unremarkable and dull. A Monarch whose station far exceeded her ability.
Even recently she was assessed by the writer of the Netflix series “The Crown” as being of unremarkable intelligence. It seems likely that this assessment is largely based on her unwillingness to deliver forthright views on any matter or to entirely rebuild the Monarchy in her image.
Sometimes it takes remarkable intellect and foresight to say little and do less. Warren Buffet credits the decision to do nothing against human instinct as being the biggest source of his wealth.
A Monarch’s role is twofold; to serve their nation and to maintain their household. That is often a far more present and crucial balance than even between traditionalism and modernism.
It is obviously one Her Majesty has struggled with, the constant reminder of her uncle, and how disastrous self-indulgence can be, and the very apparent burden of unhappy marriages upon her sister and children.
Nonetheless, somewhere along the way the truth of what it is to be royal has been lost in the public imagination and enveloped by the modern cult of fashion and celebrity.
The only necessity of celebrity is to be immediately popular, and it is a yet more fragile a bubble even than royalty.
Very few celebrities manage to remain in fashion throughout their lives, as fashion changes with the moons, and to be at the height of it at any moment only ensures you will one day be at the bottom of it.
If Monarchy offers products, their flagships are marriages and offspring. Arguably it is marriage that has been the biggest source of crisis in Her Majesty’s long reign, but also the biggest cause of momentary celebration and popularity. Her Majesty’s failure to defend the institution of marriage as incorruptible from the onslaught of modernity and under pressure from her own family may in hindsight be her greatest error, as both Monarch and head of the Church of England.
It is very difficult today to make the case for marriage for any other reason than love, but that necessary balance between duty and self-indulgence is a price one pays to be a royal. A royal marriage is and should be very different to the marriage of anyone else. Duty has no friends.
Marrying Meghan Markle appears to be a decision of a young prince in love.
There is little doubt that the ceremony in May will be touted as a great success and the Royal Family will experience great popularity and attention because of it. The longer-term effects are far more difficult to predict, however.
What the Royals are gaining in Markle is a celebrity whose views are fashionable and far more in-line with the modern than the traditional, and the same could be said for the apparent values of the Princes and the Duchess of Cambridge. It is therefore difficult to see where the traditional and conservative influences on the Monarchy will come from in the future, and without any, they will ensure their eventual oblivion. Fundamentally there is nothing modern about Monarchy, and there never will be.
As Roger Scruton writes, conservatism starts from a sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.
For most of the past century, the Royal family have rigidly adhered to being apolitical, they have often seen that to reserve judgement in all but the most extreme cases has been a sound path to the preservation of their position.
The liberal-left preserve of celebrity has more recently drawn the Royal Family to such ideas as the Duchess of Cambridge being guest editor of the left-wing blog The Huffington Post, or Prince Harry interviewing and working with Barack Obama and deriding President Trump.
As with the Church of England and the British Conservative Party, modernisation and moving with fashion may win the acceptance of your traditional opposition, but it does not win their support.
Equally, the age of unconditional and deferential support for anything has all but passed. It is probably true that conservatives would defend the Queen to the end, but such support cannot be taken for granted for her heirs without regard to their actions and bearing.
Whilst the Royal family is apolitical, their supporters, and detractors, are far from it.
Support for Monarchy among conservatives is high, but equal only to the support for republicanism on the left. The political centre will continue to collapse across the West and will leave the British Monarchy, at home and abroad, with an increasingly stark choice between short-term media popularity and long-term survival. That is not to say the Royal Family should only cater to conservatives, but it should certainly be a considerable focus. If they do not they will surely find themselves deserted in the fashionable company of republicans.
The liberal end of history theory has always been wrong but definitively came crashing down in 2016-17. The ideals of liberalism do not offer either the economic or cultural strength to sustain a society. The assumption that traditional institutions had no other option but to feed the progressive agenda in the hope it will eat them last has been disproven, and those institutions must now embrace their traditions to stand any hope of survival.
The Royal Household will of course carefully explore the popularity of their positions and plans with polling and focus groups, but these methods at best only give an impression of the immediate, not the eternal.
It takes an unusual and brilliant instinct to see long into the future.
Her Majesty the Queen is either extraordinarily fortunate or is possessed of such instinct rather more so than her heirs. The result has been the longest reign in British history. Its lesson is that Monarchy is about remaining present and relevant for eternity, often at the cost of being fashionable today.
God has already saved the Queen, but at home and in overseas territories as the focus shifts to her successors, the salvation of her family remains in great question.
Cllr Benjamin Harris-Quinney, Chairman of the Bow Group, Britain’s oldest conservative think-tank.
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