I've got a couple excellent video podcasts from iTunesU. My new pet is David Starkey who is an engaging and wry commenter on matters concerning English history.
It should be completely obvious to me that there would be such men as Starkey who provide more background than I might come to expect from only Hitchens, but I have been a bit lazy of late. Obsession with work these days, I'm afraid. And so I will continue at iTunesU and from the archives of the Hoover, and will seek parallel publications from Britain as well.
So what he describes quite brilliantly in his lecture on monarchy is that it is quite still with us, and is a singular part of human nature. Just as I have finished the book on Magellan and was quite initially stunned at the foolish way he met his demise on Mactan Island, I am coming to some conclusions about matters of prestige and dignity affordable to the Peasant. I have been initially intrigued by the idea that prestige and even dignity are things that issue forth from potentates & kings immediately accessible to Peasants, as contrasted to that which is recognizable from good deeds and right thinking. Honor is in whose hands? What is honorable to the Peasant but his fidelity to the king? Well, that question being unresolved, it is clear that Magellan was willing to do all kinds of idiotic and egotistical showing off for his king, and it got him and dozens of men under his command butchered. Ordinary people are extraordinarily motivated by non-democratic institutions, like churches, families, corporations and universities. Starkey makes an easily convincing case for studying monarchism in these modern institutions. I have already been thinking that way in the argot of feudalism, thus my own Peasant Theory.
What he then does is links England's own history of monarchy to an extraordinary moment which bears much repetition in our own American confusion on matters of marriage. He describes the efforts of a phalanx of clergy who sought to block reforms in English law making divorce more acceptable. The leader of that phalanx was one Cosmo Gordon Lang, who if whatever counts for truth be told, was homosexual. I bring this up because of the fashion we currently suffer in endless debate over the meaning of homosexuality to the institution of marriage. It is rather unthinkable, therefore, that we might hear a story of a powerful man who works at the highest levels to assist King George VI in defending Marriage. And the miracle of George VI is that he becomes king precisely because his older brother could not, because his older brother divorced.
It might go without saying in England that divorce among the monarchy is unthinkable, but we Americans probably know nobody but Henry VIII, and that vixen Dianna. But it is so deeply held that Kings and Queens do not divorce to the British people that the monarchy was transformed into a great symbol of prestige and dignity in modern times by the choice of George VI. Rather in the same way we think of Grace Kelly making the extraordinary accessible to the middle classes, Marriage became elevated in England when it became possible for commoners to become part of the Royal Family.
I do not do Starkey justice, and strongly recommend that you watch this video in its entirety.
Half, he says, of Western European countries still have monarchies. Norway, Sweden, Belgium, England, Spain.. Sure the countries are democratic, but the monarchs have their roles and as institutions their permanence says something transcendent that is fundamental to humanity. The nexus between Royalty and marital fidelity is etched in the ideas of honor, prestige and dignity. It's not something just made up by political activists who presumably are 'phobic', but deep in the history of the West.