Saturday, 18 September 2010

Throne and Altar

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.


  1. David,

    You've spoken several times about Cumann na nGaedheal and Fianna Fail having been set up by British intelligence. I have always found this astonishing, and must ask you why you believe this to have been so.

    I'm not even disagreeing with you: I simply wish to know why you believe it.

    I'd be grateful if you could direct me to some credible academic work - articles or books, I don't mind which - that make this case.


    The Thirsty Gargoyle
    (blog currently resting and contemplating resuscitation.)

  2. I happen to know that you will have to keep an eye out in the coming year or so for publication on this. But it has always been a very open secret. Just ask Sinn Féin. Well, until very recently, anyway. I shall come to that change of tone.

    Britain set up Fianna Fáil. No one else could have engineered that 1926 secession from Sinn Féin, which duly went on to hang the IRA. Likewise, only Britain could have engineered the 1933 merger of the Blueshirts, Cumann na nGaedheal and the National Centre Party, complete with a commitment to Commonwealth membership (which in those days necessitated retention of the monarchy, and a very high degree of integration in foreign policy and defence), albeit for a United Ireland as the ultimate aim.

    Fine Gael went on to be outmanoeuvred into declaring the 26-County Republic that neither it nor anyone else then wanted as such, but before that, while the King retained certain functions as Head of the Commonwealth, Fianna Fáil had already felt obliged to install as the first (internal) President Douglas Hyde, an antidote to the ahistorical association of the Irish language with Nationalism.

    The Irish Labour Party has always been funded by trade unions which exist throughout these Islands and are headquartered in Britain, and in Conor Cruise O’Brien it returned to the Dáil probably the only full-blown Unionist ever to sit in it.

    In the run-up to the 2011 State Visit, at least one Fianna Fáil branch is raising funds, both for itself and for its local hurling team, by raffling tickets to meet the Queen, whom it describes simply as “the Queen”.

    Of course Dublin governments have always been, in Sinn Féin’s words, “British governments by proxy”. That much has always been obvious. By adhering to the British proxy parties rather than to Sinn Féin, the voters of the 26 Counties have always made it clear that it was what they wanted. They continue to make that clear.

    But who are the British proxies now? Sinn Féin has accepted that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland cannot be changed without the consent, not only of the majority of voters there, but also of the majority of those who define themselves by their opposition to any such change. In other words, the majority of those voting No would have to vote Yes. Since that is impossible, change is impossible. Sinn Féin has signed up to this.

    Ted Kennedy’s knighthood was an obvious dry run for that of someone from Sinn Féin, almost certainly Gerry Adams, who would thus have become the Jan Smuts 'de nos jours' if sad revelations about his family had not intervened.

    Sinn Féin’s sell-out, which is what it is, is almost universally popular. “Dissident” paramilitary activity raises the question of what we are paying for; Fianna Fáil hanged the IRA, as we had set it up to do. But no “dissident Republican” contested the 2010 General Election, and the Workers’ Party failed to contest West Belfast for the first time in living memory.

    Northern Nationalism as a political, rather than a cultural, phenomenon is now manifestly minimal. Any statement of such aspiration is, on any objective criterion, the very last thing made by means of a vote for Sinn Féin.

    And it was always the very last thing made by means of a vote for Fine Gael, and not least (though not only) for that reason by a vote for the Irish Labour Party. Just as, for anyone who took either a dispassionate, or a coherently Republican, view, it was always the very last thing made by a vote for Fianna Fáil.

    Sinn Féin never tired of pointing out that fact; there was, of course, a Fianna Fáil government for the great majority of the “proxy” years. But it no longer does. Because it no longer can.

  3. I'd really need to see something credible to support this, rather than speculation, however persuasive.

    For the moment, though, I'd read nothing into one Fianna Fail cumann or any parish GAA team referring the QE2 as 'the Queen'. I refer to her as 'the Queen'. So does everyone else I know, even though we know there are others, even in Europe. I usually refer to Obama as 'the President' too, despite that term being as validly used for Mary McAleese, Nancy Rothwell, Hermann van Rompuy, or quite a few others.


  4. Conspiracy drivel. A conspiracy that has managed to be hidden during the entire period since the foundation of the state.

    And where was Jim Larkin involved in this "conspiracy"? Were Davie Neligan and Eamon Broy involved?

  5. It is not a conspiracy at all. It has always been entirely open. SF never tired of pointing it out, until they themselves were brought on board.

    How recently that really was, is altogether a different question. In any IRA cell, as the saying goes, one of the them was MI5, the second one was Special Branch, and the third one went to jail.