An overly apologetic monarchy will not survive
On the scaffold at the Banqueting House on 30th January 1649, Charles I is said to have expressed deep remorse for having signed the death warrant of his close ally Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. He had done so eight years earlier, under great pressure from his enemies in Parliament, in the faint hope that it might mollify them and stabilise the deteriorating political situation. It did not work.
Now, nearly 374 years later, another King Charles has felt compelled to cut loose a courtier in the hope of blunting the assaults of his critics.
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The comparison with Strafford is absurd, of course. And yet I wonder whether there might be a germ of a lesson there for our new King. It was reported on Sunday that he and Queen Camilla have invited Ngozi Fulani for “talks”. If true, this seems to reflect a certain pusillanimity on their part, a willingness to cede a good deal of moral and political ground that does not need to be ceded.
For the Fulani-Hussey kerfuffle is an entirely synthetic “scandal”, initiated and sustained by an individual with a clear ideological agenda. A brief apology for Lady Hussey’s lack of tact would have been more than sufficient. That the Palace does not seem to understand this does not bode well for their ability to weather more serious storms.
More serious storms are certainly coming. Two notable trends point to this. First, the demographic transformation. Britain will become a majority-minority country, with white Britons forming less than 50% of the population, early in William’s reign — and perhaps even in Charles’, given current levels of immigration. Second, the broad and deep cultural radicalism of the rising generations, as well as their vast ignorance of Christianity and our national history. Taken together, these will be used as a battering ram against the sustainability of a Christian hereditary monarchy, buttressed by tradition and pageantry, rooted in the Bad Old Days of whiteness and Empire.
It may be these storms are inevitably terminal, and that 1300 years of Christian monarchy are drawing to a close regardless. But not necessarily. It is not foreordained that my twilight years will be spent watching Mr George Windsor retire to private life while Buckingham Palace becomes a Museum of Colonial Infamy. The royals must find the vigour, the self-confidence and the courage to stand up for the country and its history against those who would tear down the whole edifice in the service of their sterile and resentful ideologies.
There is no certainty of salvation this way, but there is certainty of ignoble defeat if they embrace the alternative — grievance summits and apology tours, political faddism and gradual erosion of state ceremonial; death by a thousand cuts, making endless concessions in the vain hope of appeasing powerful foes. If the monarchy patently does not believe in itself or in the nation, no-one else will. Better to die standing than live on your knees.