Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On the Monarchy

A move is being made once again to change the way in which the British royal succession is determined.

'Unfair' male right of succession to the throne set to be scrapped

Like other monarchies around the world, the British royal succession is based on a system of ‘male primogeniture’. That is to say, the first-born son of the Monarch will succeed to the throne upon the Monarch’s death.

Feminists are claiming that this is unfair, and moves are made periodically to try to change it. Let’s make one technical point first. People often say at these times “The government is proposing to abolish primogeniture”. This is the opposite of the truth. The government is proposing to extend primogeniture. ‘Primogeniture’ means ‘the first born’, and at the moment, we have a modified system of primogeniture, in that it is only the first-born son who can succeed; the idea is to remove this modification to give us a system of pure, unadulterated primogeniture, in which the first-born child will succeed.

It is worth asking how we came to have a system of male primogeniture in the first place. Evolutionary theorists might comment that humans are a member of the chimpanzee family, and as such, territories are held by a group of males, with females being exogamous, which is to say that they marry out; on marriage, they leave their parents’ troupe, and go to join their husband’s. This helps to promote genetic diversity. Exogamy is reflected today in the fact that married women take their husband’s name, and property passes down the male line. In ancient times, when communities would find themselves threatened by other communities, they relied on the military for survival, and that means the males. The strongest male was simply the best person for the job. Females could not successfully challenge the alpha male in combat, and moreover, they were too biologically valuable to risk losing, as they constituted the community’s ability to reproduce itself.

Monarchy is an ancient institution, and it follows male primogeniture because in ancient times, the King was also the head of the army, and marched to war with his men. He was the gang leader, the godfather, the alpha male, the toughest kid on the block. There were many other men who wanted the job, and if they could topple him, they would. Very few women could survive for long in that environment, nor wanted to try. In those days, unlike today, women would have valued masculine strength.

The real question is not “Why didn’t women succeed to the throne on an equal basis with men?” What we should be asking is “Why did women ever succeed to the throne at all?”

Those who managed to get themselves into power wanted to cling to it by any means, including passing it on to their children. A breakdown in the royal succession often led to civil war and foreign invasion, and everyone wanted to avoid that. The worst outcome for a monarch was to die childless. It is no surprise that the Royal daughters became Plan B. If the King had a daughter but no sons, then she would often succeed to the throne in order to maintain political stability. At the same time, do not imagine that Royal women in the past were passive idiots; they were just as rich and arrogant as the men, and they maneuvered on their own behalf.

Male primogeniture, like much else in society, is a cultural reflection of human nature, not some sinister misogynist conspiracy. Feminists constantly bite the hand that feeds them. It is the effort of males over centuries which has created the relatively stable, rich and peaceful society which we currently enjoy. Women today can consider standing for political office, safe in the knowledge that they are not going to have to ride into battle carrying a sword, or be stabbed to death by a rival in their beds. The nature of leadership has changed. Rather than express gratitude for the comfortable and safe life which male-dominated society has provided for them, feminists can only complain.

It is not as though women have fared particularly badly in English history. If you ask English patriots to name the greatest leaders of English history, they will typically name five.

Queen Boudicca (died c.AD 60)
Ancient British Queen who led a revolt against Roman occupation. Her army defeated a Roman legion, and burned London, Colchester and St Albans to the ground. As a result, the Roman Emperor Nero considered withdrawing from Britain altogether, before she was finally defeated.

Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603).
Her reign took place during the golden age of European maritime exploration, and saw the early colonization of North America, the defeat of the Spanish at sea, the origins of the British Empire, and helped undermine the Vatican’s despotic control of European thought.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
The longest-serving British monarch in history, the ‘Empress of India’ presided over the world’s most powerful nation, and the largest Empire the world has ever seen.

Winston Churchill. (1874 – 1965)
Although not a monarch, no list of the greatest moments in British history would be complete without mentioning Churchill, the great war leader who inspired us to stand alone against Hitler, when most other politicians, including the Communists, were advocating appeasement and the USA was neutral.

Margaret Thatcher (Prime Minister, 1979-1990)
Again not a monarch, but undeniably one of Britain’s greatest leaders, she confronted communism both at home and abroad, and helped to reverse a period of national decline.

No doubt some historians might dispute this list of the greatest British leaders, but if you were to ask ordinary people for their opinion, this is probably who they would name. The fact that our two greatest modern leaders were not monarchs reveals the fact that the monarchy today does not have any real political power anyway.

The thing you will notice about our greatest leaders is that four out of the five are women. I remember being a teenage Leftie in the early 1980s, and listening to poisonous feminist harridans hissing and whining about how awful it is to live under the yoke of The Patriarchy. I remember thinking “Who rules this country? The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, and the head of the government is Margaret Thatcher. Some Patriarchy”. But that argument didn’t wash. It was a Patriarchy, despite the fact that it was ruled by women. One of their favourite sayings was ‘Margaret Thatcher is not a real woman. No woman would behave like that’. Cognitive dissonance can be a terrible thing.

As a teenage Leftie I was an instinctive Republican, and believed that the monarchy should be abolished. A few years later I moved to Turkey to teach for a few years. One of my students gave me a different view.

“When we went to school, they told us that the Republic was the best form of government, and that Monarchy was primitive and medieval. But we looked to our neighbours on one side, Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Soviet Union, and we saw that these are all republics, and they are all authoritarian police states. Then we looked to Europe and we saw countries like Great Britain, Holland, Belgium and Sweden, and these are all rich democracies where people are free, and yet they are all monarchies. We knew which ones we preferred.”

I stopped being such a knee-jerk republican after that. The world is often more complex than it first appears.

Hitler thought that democracies were inherently weak, and he had no fear of them. The only country he feared in Europe was Great Britain, because he thought that it wasn’t really a democracy. Maybe he had a point. A think-tank in the 1990s published a survey of how democratic various countries are, and Britain came out well below places like the Czech Republic, on the grounds that we have an unelected head of state, an unelected upper house, and no written constitution. But for all that, Britain is still one of the most tolerant nations in the world, although feminists and cultural Marxists are doing their best to change that. They, not the Royal Family, are the real threat to civil rights in these islands.

The proposed change will not make a great deal of difference. Here is the royal family tree.

The current heir to the throne, Prince Charles, is the Queen’s oldest child, so his succession will not change. Some don’t realize that the succession follows what software engineers call a depth-first search, rather than a breadth-first search; if Charles should unexpectedly die, the succession will not pass to his younger siblings, but to his first son, William. As William is also the first child, this will not change.

The current line of succession shows that, even though she is the Queen's second child, Princess Anne comes behind all three of her brothers, and all of their children (including their female children, interestingly). Perhaps this is what vexes the feminists so much. The main effect of the change will be that Princess Anne's position will move from 10th to 4th, and of course her children will move up with her. I don't anticipate any civil wars any time soon.

This raises the question that if it really makes such little difference, then why bother doing it? I'm fairly agnostic about the Royal family, and I have no objection to abolishing male primogeniture. It will probably not happen anyway, as any such move would have to be approved by the parliaments of every nation of which the Queen is the head of state. I can't see that happening before the next election.

16 comments:

Davout said...

Nice post, but I have some points of contention:

While QV, WC, and MT are all exceptional people and arguably meriting of such distinction (and anti-feminist to boot, I might add), I don't agree that the selection of the first two (QB and QE) is justified.

First, I'm not clear on why the British would consider these women on a higher level than say Marlborough, W the conqueror, Henry IV, Edward I Longshanks, Wellington or Cromwell. All of the latter had a direct hand in influencing events which made their fame. The fact that Elizabeth I profited from the exploits of Francis Drake, Raleigh et al is not a reflection of her abilities. The Spanish Armada was defeated by the strategy of Effingham and the tactics of Drake, not by her inspirational speech. Indeed, Elizabeth's attempt to retaliate using a British Armada in 1589 might be viewed as a strategic failure on her part. Indeed, the Spanish fleet became the most powerful after 1590. She was an effective, inspirational ruler but one has to question if she supersedes the aforementioned men in terms of personal achievement.

Second, I have a major quibble with naming Boudicca one of the five greatest leaders in British history. Her claim to fame was primarily based on burning a number of towns, routing a handicapped Roman legion by sheer force of numbers (4:1) and then getting thrashed by another Roman legion in spite of possessing a ridiculous numerical superiority of 23:1. She did nothing constructive nor did she win battles through military genius.

The feminists love her because she represents a woman who got raped and then fought her 'rapists'.

Heretic said...

Davout,
I agree with you. These leaders have a romantic reputation in popular culture, but, as you say, others achieved more in reality. I guess William the Conqueror is not included for the same reason as the Emperor Claudius; he was a foreigner who invaded the country, not something patriots wish to celebrate. Henry IV is not popularly known. Edward I Longshanks, although able, is regarded as a thug who massacred the Scots, Welsh and Irish. The Mel Gibson film 'Braveheart' is partly responsibile for that. Marlborough and Wellington were generals, not national leaders. They are in the same category as Nelson, Raleigh and Drake, but probably not so well known. Cromwell is principally known as a Puritan who made Christmas illegal, and although he served the country very well in some ways, he is not fondly remembered by many. Boudica's reputation was made by the Victorians who romanticised her as a kind of incarnation of Britannia. She is a good counter-example to feminists who claim that women leaders are more peaceful. Boudica was undeniably a violent thug.

Heretic said...

Personally, I don't rate Queen Victoria that much. She found herself ruling an Empire, but what was her contribution? As a young person she seems to have been superficial, and after her husband died, she became a depressive recluse.

An argument against hereditary monarchy is emerging here. The talented people in British history were generally not the Royals.

mike savell said...

This proposed law will not have much practical purpose as it is almost impossible to see a monarchy in England once we are in
the clutches of Brussels.Maybe it will become something like the Netherlands but it certainly will not have a head of state.
I think our mealy mouthed feminists know this only too well and this is a show of power by them,another ribbon so to speak.

radical royalist said...

Thank you for this interesting post. Changing the British/Australian/Canadian, Barbadian etc. law of succession would - as you rightly pointed out - not alter the immediate succession. It might be relevant in 50 or 60 year, may be in a hundred years. I am afraid, Gordon Brown is so unlucky in handling the Prime Minister's job, he just wants "some success" elsewhere.

I am a great friend of India and while visitng the Southern state Kerala people pointed out to me, that the Maharajas of Travancore (which was amalgamated with Kerala in 1957 and forms the most Southern part of the state) had an interesting succession law: It was always a son of his sister, who succeeded the dead Maharaja became the new ruler. Travancore had also a female inheritance line and even nowadays Kerala women are better off than women in other parts of India. The Royal Family of Travancore is still following these rules. You see, succession laws do not necessarily follow the old chimpanzee rules.

Miss Ondrya said...

You want to be careful when making comparisons with other primates. I once saw a documentary called "chimps" in which a group of chimpanzees in a zoo were observed over a longer period of time.

The dominant male monopolized access to the females, and also helped himself first when it came to food.

When the makers did an experiment by bringing in a fake lion, the group was in an uproar. I thought that this would be the moment that the dominant male would earn his privileges and protect the group, but much to my surprise he climbed into a tree, way high up, and sat there until the threat was removed.

Didn't do a damn thing.

Maybe that's why his kind is still sitting in that tree today :-)

Davout said...

Wikipedia got a list of 100 greatest britons and guess who is at number 3.

Queen Vic made an effort to suppress the suffragettes and maybe that is why I am partial to her =+)

Wellington was prime minister for a couple of years and Marlborough was cheated out of the same post by none other than Queen Anne.

mandy said...

Most American scratch our heads about that British whole royal family situation. It is more of a Disney type of tourist attraction to me so the idea that people get so worked up about the details(one way or the other) is mostly beyond my comprehension.

I always thought the point of keeping the Royal Family in Britain is for cultural continuity, heritage and historic importance. Wouldn't this change negate all those aspects? If you are changing the tradition, then it isn't really the same tradition. The cultural connection to Medieval, Elizabethan, Victorian, etc. Brits is lost.

Most of the powerful women you mentioned exercised power via a coterie of loyal, intelligent men. Victoria smartly learned the languages of her subjects and endeared herself to them on a personal level. They then enjoyed most of the benefits of British culture that were created by men. She knew when to sit back and let the men strategize, which is an important skill lacking in all feminists.

Cracks me up that an intractable Celt makes that list! Boudicca would likely be in the IRA today. I see her as reckless and angry, someone who wanted personal vengeance against the Romans, not the best interest of her people.

Davout, I believe it was her daughters that got rape so as to make them unmarriagable, She got lashed.

ray said...

good post but you're very wrong to believe this move "doesn't make any difference"

the manouver is not merely cosmetic or p.r.-oriented

the matriarchies now in place in the west are designed not for years, or decades, but to endure hundreds and thousands of years -- and to concentrate and maintain power in certain hands for as long as possible

that's also the purpose behind the UN, the EU, the Global Elders, ad nauseum

future genetics will allow parents (i.e., women and the matriarchal State) to decide specific characteristics of progeny, most certainly including desired gender

i think you can work it out from there. . .

Davout said...

You're right, Mandy. The Celts viewed rape as due cause for revenge more so than humiliation. Boudicca saw herself as having been raped vicariously because her daughters were raped. In so far as she saw this, she took up the sword on behalf of her daughters.

It makes for a good feminist plotline... if you ignore the battle at Watling Street.

It is also entirely possible that the Romans raped her daughters in a deliberate effort to goad the Iceni into some kind of foolish attack because the Romans just knew that a bull headed henchwoman would NEVER engage in that kind of stuff ;-)

Elusive Wapiti said...

Good post as always, Heretic.

"Feminists constantly bite the hand that feeds them. It is the effort of males over centuries which has created the relatively stable, rich and peaceful society which we currently enjoy."

I've always been struck by this contradiction. Feminism is only possible due to modern technology and creature comforts that are a direct result of Western cutural development. The instant Hobbes' brutish nature starts to rear it's ugly head again, you'll see those feminists scurry back to those evil patriarchal men in no time flat.

Anonymous said...

The feminisation of the succession would mark the final chapter in the collapse of the monarchy as an institution in the UK, just as the feminisation of any once-great institution does.

The British monarchy is already three-quarters of the way to oblivion, having long since lost virtually all of its meaningful power, and in recent years being reduced to little more than a soap opera for the entertainment of the masses, full of empty pomp and ceremonial. Members of the royal family are now regularly lampooned and caricatured in all quarters. They are largely regarded with a strange mixture of nostalgia for a world long dead, amusement as an anachronism that somehow or other manages to work in a surreal Disney-like way (where else can a girl from the lower orders harbour dreams of meeting and marrying a real-life Prince Charming?) and sneering contempt.

So I guess it would be symbolic for the feminists to take over making the rules for this watered-down, dumbed-down eviscerated sideshow, as the final act of driving the last nails into the lid of its coffin. Feminists are very good at destroying things.

Miss Ondrya said...

"The British monarchy is already three-quarters of the way to oblivion, having long since lost virtually all of its meaningful power, and in recent years being reduced to little more than a soap opera for the entertainment of the masses, full of empty pomp and ceremonial."

Couldn't agree less. What opponents of the monarchy fail to appreciate is that every clan has a totem. Every people has a head of state. This is not a choosing matter. If you don't have a regular king, you'll have a president who is treated like one, and you'll have pop stars who are referred to as 'the king'. Don't kid yourself, you cannot get away from this. Every people has an aristocracy and a head of state. The head of state resides between our ears and always will.

The current parliamentary monarchy is actually one of the best systems of government ever because it separates the head of state (king) from the leader of the cabinet (prime minister). Since the king serves a symbolic function and the minister a practical one, they can both perform optimally because they are two different people.

In the US the president is both king as well as prime minister. If the minister gets into trouble, and it's always difficult to avoid for a politician, then the king is also affected. This was painfully clear in the Monica Lewinsky affair. It was not just Bill Clinton the politician who was humiliated in front of the whole world, but also Bill Clinton the head of state. Very embarrassing.

Now look at Spain. After the Madrid bombing. Prime minister Aznar gets caught in a controversy, but the Spanish king is not affected by this and can address the people as head of state who is above the clamor and unify the nation.

Without the monarchy it would be more difficult to keep countries like Spain, Belgium, perhaps even the United Kingdom from falling apart.

Germany also has a separate leader of the cabinet (chancellor) and king (president), but this head of state has very little allure. No castles, no pedigree, no princesses. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of Germans didn't even know his name.

Since having a "head of state" is primarily a matter of mass-psychology, the monarchy with it's fairy-tale like paraphernalia performs so much better than anything else.

To do away with it would be unwise and futile.

Coyote Skinhead said...

Heretical:

I am currently publishing a series of Blogs.

I would wholly appreciate it if you contacted me and assisted me in my writing. I'm a bit rusty on my essay skills, and I would really like to turn my main thesis (the myth that women were ever oppressed) into a very formal, professional essay.

I'm having trouble finding resources to back-up my thesis, since feminist thinking has infested our culture so much that history books seem to be rewritten.

I would appreciate any help you have to offer.

Davout said...

Coyote Skinhead,

I realise the question was not directed to me but I cannot resist advising you to buy Steve Moxon's "The Woman Racket" with specific regard to the theory that women were never oppressed. PDF excerpts of the book are in the link above. I recently bought it and it is most excellent IMO.

Heretic said...

I'll try to get back to you guys this weekend - too many other commitments lately. Apologies.