In Caritas in Veritate, the present Pope drew on the long, long tradition concerning the role of such a figure as the Christian Roman Emperor, the Byzantine Emperor, the Holy Roman Emperor, or the Tsar of All The Russias. In practice, no such figure ever enjoyed sway over the whole world, or all Christians, or all Catholics. Many such a figure – not only Byzantine or Russian – was in serious conflict with the Papacy.
If there is still a comparable mission and ministry accorded by Divine Providence, then it has been accorded to the British monarch within each and among all of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, within each and among all of the Commonwealth Realms, within each and among all of the Territories dependent on or in free association with any of those Realms, within each and among all of the Crown Dependencies, as Paramount Chief of the Great Council of Chiefs of Fiji, as Head of the Commonwealth, and elsewhere.
Such has been the case for a very long time. Ireland was incorporated into the Union specifically on the promise of Catholic Emancipation, which the previous Irish Parliament would simply never have countenanced. The Orange Lodges duly opposed the Act of Union. Even seventy years later, calls for repeal were led by those to whom the only nation in Ireland was the Protestant, "Saxon" nation; leaders who gleefully pointed to the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, with its consequences for the system of tithes, as a nullifying breach of the Union.
The Crown alone made it financially possible for priests to be formed in Ireland, and the alliance of Throne and Altar delivered breathtaking improvements in Irish education, agriculture, industry, and so on. From Ireland and from her Diaspora in Great Britain, the Faith was propagated to the ends of the earth, under a flag incorporating Saint Patrick's Saltire, and on a scale without any real parallel, not even when one considers Spain or Portugal. English, Scots and Welsh Catholics have never had any more desire to go down the road of who did or did not "really" belong in an English, Scots or Welsh Republic (as they would certainly become if they were ever set up) than Ulster Protestants have to go down the road of who does or does not "really" belong in an Irish Republic.
Only within and under the British Empire was the old France, "the Eldest Daughter of Holy Mother Church", able to survive, having providentially passed from French to British sovereignty so early that Jacobinism still forms no part of the heritage there. The fleur-de-lys, on the Royal Arms of England and then of Great Britain from 1340 to 1800, remains the symbol to this day, and the Assembly quite recently voted without any dissent whatever to retain the Crucifix between the Speaker's Chair and the Royal Coat of Arms.
Back in Ireland, one of the two main parties, in what became the 26-County Republic that no one wanted as such, was created by British intelligence (as was the other one, which duly hanged its former IRA comrades, but that is another story) as a merger not least between far wealthier and better-connected Southern Unionists, and far more numerous Catholic "ultras" who considered de Valera's Constitution inadequate on that basis. They were united, not only by the fact that most Protestants were far closer to much of Catholic moral teaching in those says than is often the case today, but also by a common aversion to what looked like a sort of Irish Bolshevism which they were equally determined to resist, a resistance to which they both saw the continuation of Commonwealth ties, ties among which the monarchy was not then optional, as an indispensable weapon.
It is within the Union that large numbers of Irish Protestants, including C of I ones, still are close to much of Catholic moral teaching. Just as it is within the Union that Catholic schools in Ireland, and some protection for the unborn child there, will abide long after they have been furiously swept away in the Republic that the Catholic "ultras" feared no less than did the Southern Unionists.
One could go on, and on, and on. It is impossible to construct a purely secular or atheistic argument for having a monarchy, and countries with them have exemplary records in constructing social democracies not just happening to be compatible with Catholic Social Teaching, as in Scandinavia, but profoundly influenced by it, as in the Benelux countries and up to a point in the United States. And as in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It was at least a generation before quite different forces began any serious assault against the Christian-based moral consensus that those measures were so popular precisely for upholding, and those measures themselves only came under sustained attack a generation later, when those forces reached political dominance.
At the same time, the institution of the monarchy also came under such attack, especially, at least in Britain and Australia, from newspapers strongly supportive of the dismantlement of the Common Good. We now have a Political Class which regards both the Sixties and the Eighties as unquestionable, and which treats the monarchy and everything that it embodies - social cohesion, historical consciousness, public Christianity, the Commonwealth, increasingly also the Union - as if it did not exist.
What we have seen this week is not a new alliance. But it could not possibly be a timelier one.