Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Saturday, 25 June 2005

The Decent Draperies of Life

Against the modern mania for explaining, rationalizing and modernizing symbols as irrelevant, or out-of-date, the Queen's speech illustrates the importance and the mystique of symbols and ritual in our common life. In that five minutes, something special happens. I am connected, via an old lady in a slightly ridiculous Norman Hartnell hat, to something that matters, to identity, tradition and heritage....

In that moment, we are united in loyalty, in duty, and in our allegiance to something bigger than ourselves. That is what symbols, ritual and titles do; they remind us of our place in the scheme of things; they maintain our ideals...

Human beings aren’t rational. We don’t put everything in boxes. We crave a sense of belonging to something, bigger and more mysterious. We seek connection, and transcendence. Our minds aren’t scrubbed clean of mystery, but attuned to it. Royalty, for all the tabloid gutter-press has done to it, is a source of mystique, a symbol of something important, something sacred.. The tangible expression of words like honour, duty, integrity and service, all mixed up in their minds with the glories of the past, and our common heritage. This, in a nutshell, is what makes symbols important. They connect us with what they represent. They hallow the ordinary. That’s why Burke called titles and processions, and symbols like this "the decent drapery of life". They are things which make the ordinary special, which remind us, even for a moment, that we are part of something transcendent.

The Monarchy does this, of course, but there are other things, small things and insignificant things, perhaps, which point upward towards the things that really matter. Our symbols are expressions of what we value, and what we are a part of. Titles are symbols like this. Not just titles like ‘Your Majesty’ or ‘Ýour Grace’, but titles like ‘Mr. Justice Davies’, ‘Father Brown’, ‘Mr. Smith’ and smaller, homelier titles, like ‘Dad’ ‘Mum’ and Áunt Mary... We show our respect not just for him, but for the ideal of family, a family of which we are a part. We touch something special. Something bigger than us. We don’t call Mr. Justice Davies ‘Mr.Justice’ because he is something special, but because he represents something we value. By showing reverence to him, and wearing robes and wigs and bowing and scraping, we aren’t bowing to the fat, red-faced old man in the robe, but to what he represents-To justice. A friend of mine said to me the All those óut-of-date’ rituals are expressions of ideals. We need ‘the decent drapery of life’ to touch the ordinary and bring it into contact with the divine, the divine we are programmed to appreciate and to pursue.

Rejection of titles and symbols is inevitably a rejection of the ideals with which they connect us. "Mum" who asks to be called "Mary" by her children is really saying Í don’t want to be Mum, and I don’t believe we are a family’. Progressive Teachers and trendy clergy who say "Call me Bob" are denying not an historical title, but they are denying any difference between themselves and their charges, and rejecting the position of responsibility and the ideal which the title denotes.

A further attack on the ‘decent drapery of life’ is the "continuing debate" among the literati, demanding a new National Anthem and a new flag. Every three years or so, someone will come out demanding that either (or both) be changed immediately. ‘They are irrelevant!’ they cry. ‘They don’t matter; they’re colonial hangovers and they must go!’. Let us be under no illusions here about what these people are actually saying. The Union Jack in the corner of our flag symbolizes (there’s that word again) our links with Britain, and the tremendous contribution that the British have made to contemporary New Zealand. It is a symbol of where most of us have come from, and the culture and history that represents. Moving the Union Jack is a rejection of European culture. Replacing it with a Silver Fern is an affirmation of what? Sport? Kiwi culture? Kiwi identity? Can we define any of these without reference to British culture? Is our own identity completely separate from where we have come from? I don’t think so. We are a separate nation, but retaining the Union Jack recognizes that our roots are European; that we share in European culture and European history; that we are a part of something bigger than just three islands at the bottom of the world, European Civilisation. If we wish to reject this in favour of a constructed Asia-Pacific identity, let us be clear about what we are doing. These things matter. Similar considerations apply to the National Anthem. God Defend New Zealand affirms the place of God inside and above our National life. The call for a new anthem is an attack, not on dull English tradition, but on the place that God has in it.

Of course, Justices, clergy, parents, spouses and monarchs and people who march under flags are not perfect. They make mistakes, and do dreadful things. The Queen is an ordinary person, as The News of the World makes very clear. But the more flawed those who hold the titles, and the more inadequate the symbols, the more important it is that we recognize and respect that which they represent. The fact that the Queen is an ordinary person should make me cling more, not less, to the "drapery" that she is also more than that, she is the connection to the ideal of a good government, doing justice with mercy. A bad judge, a bad cleric, a bad parent-They should make us cling more to true religion, give us more reverence for true justice and family., because the worse they are, the less we can afford to reject the ideals they represent....

There is no such thing as a perfect world. As Oscar Wilde put it: ‘The truth is rarely pure, and never simple" . Pure Justice is rare, ideal families do not exist. But as Burke puts it "We have emplanted in us ideas of what is just, fair, honest and pious which no learned sophistry nor political craft can entirely expel from our breasts" We ought to, and we do, value Justice, value family, value marriage and good government, and pursue them. The symbols we use elevate the ordinary, and express what we value. That is why we ought to value them too. They remind us who we are, and what we are a part of. They are our heritage. A heritage we must hold on to in a changing world.

Pitt the Younger (originally posted here)