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

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

This Happy Plot

This fortress, built by Nature for herself...this earth, this realm. This England. Henry V

Lewis Holden gets the point of my last post, or at least half of it, like the bright lad he is. He writes:

Because while it may be true that the considerable case for a republic is based on reason, it is also based on an inarticulate allegiance, attachment and custom...The point is that because of our allegiance to New Zealand, we deserve a head of state who is one of us, selected by us to represent our status as a nation. The monarchists will protest that this is the reality; but they are fooling themselves, and gentlemen like Dr Swift know it. If New Zealanders love the monarchy it is only because it represents to them a link to their (which, thanks to statistics, we can see as being almost always New Zealanders of British ancestry) history and traditions. And it is to this that they must appeal to win the hearts and minds of New Zealanders.

To drop the persona for a moment, I love this country. I was born in Canterbury, and, by God's grace, I will come home to be buried here. My bones will lie under the plain, facing upwards into a huge expanse of sky. I have known, and I have, no other home but this. It does Lewis credit that he is prepared to admit to "pride in his patch", that he loves that sacred dirt which is sacred because it is home. I have always thought that the sort of Thomas Paine style internationalism which says 'The world is my country, and good is my religion' is a supreme cop-out designed to justify having neither patriotism nor religion, and I salute Mr. Holden for resisting it.

But from there, he goes astray, alas.

It is true that retaining the Monarchy is a nod to our history and traditions. But they are not foreign, not colonial, now. They are not, as Mr. Holden seems to think, a sign of infancy, dependency, or immaturity, something imposed from outside. They have taken root here, they have grown, and become our own, and they have continuing relevance. The Treaty of Waitangi, to paraphrase Lord Bledisloe, was a covenant by which we came together as one people, a binding betrothal between two peoples. And by it, all that was British, the rights and liberties of British subjects, became available to Maori. Lord Cobham said: "I always hear New Zealand is a young country. I never know what that means. All that was ours is yours also. You are as old as Britain".

Our laws, our liberties, and our religion, are British. But they are also ours. Passed to us, received by us, earned by us, they are New Zealand laws and New Zealand liberties too. Retaining our links with our Commonwealth family, like retaining the Monarchy and the British institutions which we have received, recognises that we are a mature country, one which is able to reject the bad in its heritage, and embrace the good. It recognises that we are part of something bigger than just ourselves, Western civilisation, what my friend Lord Beaverbrook calls "the Anglosphere". It is an affirmation of all that is common "where people of British stock are living".

New Zealand, as we know it, and as we love it, is not possible, or conceivable, without the values and institutions passed to us by the British. Mr. Holden might call that cultural cringe. I call it reality. We are twigs upon a very old tree, and our roots go deep. More than that, the bonds which tie us to our Queen, and her Commonwealth are family ties, fraternal, not colonial, bonds which unite us around common values, common concerns, and a common view of what is important in life and human society. The Queen, for many of us, is the embodiment and representative of these liberties, and these values.

In childhood, we hang upon apron strings. In teenage years, we rebel, retract, remove, repeal, and differentiate ourselves from our parents. And in maturity, we look upon our parents with affection, seeing their flaws, and embracing them with kindness. So it is with our heritage. We can rebel, and glory in the fact that we are Not-Britain, we can stand-on-our-own two feet. The fact that we repeat the mantra of a growing Enzed identity with increasing volume tends to rob the notion of conviction. In truth, we are what we always were: people, all pulling together in the great organic trust that is human society, valuing the contributions we all make to the common good, and protected by the overarching institutions which secure liberty. These institutions are not "theirs", but "ours", strengthened by the contributions of all of us.

Here's the question Mr. Holden did not answer. When he has knocked down the most potent binding forces which hold us together in union; when he has divorced us from our history, ripped the fabric of our constitution beyond repair, and replaced the Queen, and all she represents with, say, Jim Bolger as our first President, does he really think that Uncle Spud will be the same? Does he really think that the national story of the emerging Enzed identity, the narrative of Not-Britain, the idea that whatever we are, Asian, Pacific, post-colonial, we are Mature and Confident As A Nation All Out Here On Our Own Two Feet (tm); does he really think it will exert the same pull, the same love, the same hallowedness of custom as the Queen does? As the personification of the nation, does he think we will see the like of the Crown again, once it is gone?

And when we have abandoned our friends, what Helen Clark calls "the Anglo-American bloc", and joined up in the councils of the world, as we have done often, with France, Belgium and Germany, does he really think that we will have a brighter future, or a more mature country?

I will leave it to him to answer. I love this country; like Lewis Holden, I treasure this happy plot. But when it comes to remembering who made it what it is, I would prefer it that the branch, the happy, green and flourishing branch, did not rip itself from the tree, just to prove that it can. What is republicanism? Is it a negation of Britishness? Or is it an affirmation of New Zealandness? And how much of what it means to live, to be, and to love here, do we owe to what it means to be a Briton?

Cross posted at The Kiwi Examiner

4 comments:

Scott said...

Brilliant!

Scott said...

Brilliant!

Beaverbrook said...

This encapsulates the natural instinct beautifully. The bottom line is that the republicans would have us lose the Crown, and everything that connects through it, which is everything by the way, everything that works, in return for nothing, nothing at all. What of Crown prosecutors, Crown Law and the Queen's Bench, what of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Navy and Regiments, Her Majesty's New Zealand Ships, Royal Societies, and royal warrants that bequeath us our unique heraldry, honours and chartered bodies. They offer nothing but the destruction of pomp and pageantry and real progress in return for a squaresville president that evokes no memory, no tradition, no record of liberty, no reverence for institutions. They offer not an affirmation of national identity and heritage, but the gross plundering of it.

Beaverbrook said...

In other words, it is the race to assert one's identity by destroying every living connection to one's past.