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

Friday, 14 March 2008

The Bunkum of Timothy Garton Ash

The self-proclaimed English-British-Anglospherist-European-liberal-internationalist-world-citizen is able to cast his net of loyalty ever so wide, yet he can't spare even the most token allegiance to Her Majesty and any of the institutional Britishness she represents.

I am glad to be a British citizen. I like it here. There are many countries with better weather but few to which I would rather belong. There is much in Britain's past and present to be proud of, as well as some of which we should all be ashamed.

However, I don't think of myself as a subject of the Queen - not because I have anything against Her Majesty personally, but because I decline to be subjected to anybody. The great Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt said he wanted on his tombstone the words "he was nobody's subject". My sentiments exactly.

As for national identity: my emotional and cultural loyalties, the things that make my heart beat quicker, whether in poetry, music, history or sport, are mainly English rather than British. Even when the England team play such feeble rugby, I'm not for a moment tempted to defect to Scotland. But I have several other identities and loyalties, both smaller and larger, from Oxford and London, through Europe and the Anglosphere, all the way to a liberal internationalist sense of being a citizen of the world. How about you?

These multiple dimensions both define and complicate the debate about citizenship that has been spluttering away in Britain for at least two decades. Honour should go to the Charter 88 initiative which, in 1988, marking the 300th anniversary of the so-called Glorious Revolution, helped to kick-start a discussion around a more active notion of being citizens rather than mere subjects...

Another non-starter is spreading the oath of allegiance. Goldsmith records what those who acquire British citizenship are currently supposed to swear: "I, [name], swear by almighty God that on becoming a British citizen I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors according to law ..."

Now I myself am rather attached to the novels of Sir Walter Scott, but in 2008 this is an amazing load of anachronistic bunkum. First of all, let's leave God out of it, shall we? Secondly, what on earth does it mean to "bear true allegiance" to Her Majesty, and why should I extend this courtesy to Prince William, let alone Harry?...


Tweedsmuir said...

Mr. Ash reflects what's wrong with contemporary Britishness. They are offended by their traditional identity, and desperately want to create something that is new, through top-down, government-driven edicts. That's not how culture, patriotism and national identity work. The whole thing is a political farce.

Anonymous said...

I met this man several times when I was studying at St Antony's College, his lair in Oxford. The man is an arse. You should have seen him fawning over Tony Blair when he came to speak on the EU in our college. I was very close to requiring a sick-bag.

That said, it's interesting that the explanation for opposing the status of "subject" is more American than European, and draws upon a sturdy "country-opposition" ideology which has been latent in Anglosphere political discourse since at least the 17th century. Although, having met the man, I doubt he means it.


MandysRoyalty said...

I can understand being wary of the thought of swearing allegiance to two young men who sometimes lean towards the wayward, but what of the Queen? Is it because she's in her eighties that we cannot bear the thought of swearing allegiance to her? Oh no, not in 2008! She's old, forget her! Anachronism, anachronism! Off with her head!

Sounds like age-ism to me, but surely a suave, multi-cultural man about the world like Mr. Ash would NEVER insinuate something like that. No, only an adolescent bored with his life would do that to sound 'cool'.

Believe in SOMEthing, or you'll fall for anything

Stauffenberg said...

Quite a disappointment as Prof Ash used to talk and write a bit of sense about Eastern Europe around 1990. Still, this is just a politely put hodgepodge of the tiresome drivel you would expect from most of the Guardian's contributors. In his introduction The Monarchist has summed up very nicely the eminence of this scholar...I am digressing from the Professor's original rant, but what I have found off-putting before and what has just struck me again this morning is the smugness in Charter 88's name. They referred to, or played with that name's similarity to Charta 77, a dissident organisation in communist Czechoslovakia. To put the faults and failures of the UK on a par (implicitly) with the situation in a post-Stalinist dictatorship during the 1970s is just preposterous self-aggrandisement. Islington in search of victimhood status.

Scott said...

Very sad. Again we get this tedious non-argument about it being 2008 and the 21st century, as if that somehow automatically vitiates anything he dislikes. But it's also Sunday, and rainy, and I can't see why that should have any bearing at all on how we wish our nation and identity to be constituted. By God's grace we are captains of our fate; we are masters of our future; we are not ruled by numbers on a calendar. Ash and all the others need to really get this absurdity out of their system. History is not a one-way fait accompli won by secularism, cynicism and cultural death.

We see a man who assumes a priori that, in each and every case where idealism, romanticism and imagination exist they are naturally hostile to realism, logic and practicality. But man is not a rational creature. He is complex: he needs more than fine words and images, that is true - the hot-air of the French Revolution shows us that - but there is no reason that eloquence and fancy and emotion cannot be tied to effective and enduring constitutional systems.

Loyalty to the head of state and the line of succession both stirs the heart - it is intensely poetic, and in it we do become, like Ash hints, brothers with the Walter Scott loyalists, kin with Robin Hood, Francis Drake and all else - *and* it makes a heck of a lot of sense in encouraging stable government, in which subject and politician are in no doubt as to the long-term future of the country's constitutional order and identity, the importance of their loyalty to the authority of the Crown and no mere transient human, the vital endurance of the way things have always been done. It puts down roots. It is not the mere surface pleasantry of promising to be nice and democratic, under which the most monstrous disruption and tyranny to these things - often born of apparent good intentions - is possible, if not probable.

The Monarchist said...

Excellent comments.

Now I myself am rather attached to the novels of Sir Walter Scott, but in 2008 this is an amazing load of anachronistic bunkum.

This contradictory sentence disappointed me the most because it started out with so much promise. Like all good liberals he attempts to be something to everybody, trys to show he values everything but in the end actually holds onto nothing.

Scott said...

His phrase, the "so-called 'Glorious Revolution'", should live in infamy. Doesn't it ever get tiring being so smarmy and randomly condescending?

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Anonymous said...


J.K. Baltzersen said...

Thanks for posting this.

I don't think of myself as a subject of the Queen - not because I have anything against Her Majesty personally, but because I decline to be subjected to anybody.

He pays how much in taxes? 40 per cent? And he is a citizen subjected to no one?

He has his work, home, and life how much regulated? But, of course, he is a citizen subjected to no one!

He lives in a modern democracy, where he can say as he damn well pleases, but must do as he is damn well told. Citizen, but subject to no one?

Please! Don't make me laugh!!!

Anonymous said...

You know, the sad thing is that it will take the death of our wonderful Queen to put this dross to bed for a generation or two. Although there is almost no-one who will entertain this childish nonsense about subservience - does the man even understand that the monarch is our servant? - in our great nation, our media will allow these rats to spew their bilious vanity until the British people show the doubters their confidence in their institutions. This will happen when the Queen dies. It may well be that in death she gives us the greatest service.