The Monarchy in Australia

By Charles A. Coulombe

"Whereas the People of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established."

I am an American who is terribly concerned about the state of things in Australia. As a native born citizen of the world's most successful republic, I think I might have a few pertinent observations about your current dispute over the Monarch. In a way, I feel a bit like Marley's ghost when I hear Mr Keating and his gang jabber about the superiority of a republic. As Marley said to Scrooge, "you have yet a chance and a hope of escaping my fate", after which it is time for chain shaking. Now, before I stick my foreign hand into the lion cage, let me tell you with whom you are dealing. On the one hand, my birth was in New York, in many ways the epitome of the American dream; my residence is in Los Angeles, that city where said dream is packaged for export and pumped into the mental bloodstream of the world. Moreover, I served in our armed forces and swore allegiance to the Constitution, as all Americans who would receive government pay must, be they President or Private. On the other hand, I am blood French-Canadian, mostly, and French is my first language. In my bones is resentment of our defeat at the hands of your ancestors on the Plains of Abraham in 1759 -- as a result of which I had to learn your language if I was to make a living. Moreover, I am Catholic, and a believing one; the Church's claim to be the One True Faith founded by Christ receives my wholehearted assent. You must accept my apologies for boring you with so much biography and for being so blunt in usually delicate matters; but it is necessary, I'm afraid, if one is to avoid having the sort of retorts thrown up that Australian republicans inevitably throw at anyone who opposes them, no matter how reasoned their arguments. You know the drill: "lickspittle", "cringer", "Anglophile", and "grey beard" to name a few. Oh yes, I am 35, and so must beg off the last crack as well. To begin with, let me toss a squib of my own at Mr Keating, simply because he has styled himself "Initiator of the Republic". It is just this - that when he declared in Ireland that he was a republican because he was a Catholic, one could not help but wonder why his opposition to abortion -- mandated by the Faith we share -- has been so muted. Surely, if he felt that his deep piety forced him into working for the overthrow of the Crown to which he had bound himself in oath by his sacred honour, he would work at least as hard on the abortion issue? But to my knowledge, he has simply echoed the Australian Labour (yes, as an American, I reserve the right to spell this word properly) Party line. In truth, this touching assertion of religiosity seems as specious as the other arguments advanced. The Crown is foreign to Australia? So are English, common law, democracy, and even Prime Ministership -- indeed, any civic organisation more complex than tribal. The Monarchy separates you from your neighbours? Which ones -- Thailand, Japan, and Malaysia, or China, Vietnam, and Indonesia? If the former three, you already have a Sovereign, as they do; if the latter, you might want to reconsider whether or not you really wish to be run in the same manner as the Chinese and Vietnamese. As far as Indonesia is concerned, you may debate just how free that country is until doomsday; but no matter how republican the government in Jakarta, the country has literally hundreds of Sultans and Rajas who play an important role in their subjects' lives -- visit say, the Kraton of the Sultan of Yogyakarta if you do not believe me. Really, did not your media keep chanting these foolish objections like mantras, they would be banished in moments by a touch of clear thought. Yet Mr Keating's invocation of the religious issue does stand apart from the rest of the drivel in one way; at bottom, the struggle between Monarchy and the Republic, in Australia as in the rest of the world, is religious - if not, perhaps, in quite the way that Mr Keating thinks. For Anglicans, of course, one would think that the question would be obvious: the British Crown founded the Church of England and her daughters of the Anglican Communion. With the exception of the Protestant Episcopal Church in my own country, did not all of the Books of Common Prayer - at least when the present Queen was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1953 - contain something for Morning and Evening Prayer like this? :

O Lord our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only ruler of princes, who doest from thy throne behold all of the dwellers upon earth: Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth; and so replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that she may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way: Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies; and finally, after this life, she may attain overlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Did not the Litany therein not request more such of God? For that matter, did not the order for Holy Communion also? Of course they did, in resonant phrases calling down upon the Queen, the Defender, at least, of their faith, all sorts of blessings. In my country, the Episcopalians, until their alterations of the past couple of decades, always seemed a bit embarrassed not to have a Monarch to pray for. So apart from altering the words for various ceremonies in such wise as, "O Lord, Save the State" (which never seemed quite to fit such a Royalist liturgy), they treasured up the remnants of their Monarchical past. Many a pre-Revolutionary parish in the thirteen oldest States cherishes communion silver given them by Queen Anne or one of the three Georges; when Queen Elizabeth visited New York's Trinity Parish a few years ago, she was proudly presented with a crystal containing three hundred peppercorns -- the sum owed the Crown by the vestry for the rent on the parish's extensive (and lucrative) landholdings on lower Manhattan. Bruton Parish in Williamsburg, Virginia, and King's Chapel in Boston (Unitarian since 1785 but still using a version of the Book of Common Prayer) boast of their Royal Governor's pews, complete with canopies and Royal coats-of-arms. For all that their heads tell them that they are citizens of a republic, their hearts wish it were otherwise. The idea of republican Anglicans in a country which retains its allegiance to the Queen is absurd, bound to her as they are by ties of history, liturgy, and often in the case of clergy (up until 1973, for Australians, anyway) oath.

It is quite different for us Catholics. The popular wisdom, incarnate in such as Mr Keating, holds that Catholics must be republicans. Look at Ireland! Look at Quebec! Well, we shall in a moment. But before we do, let us expand our horizons a little. To begin with, let us not forget that the Church is a Monarchy. Our religious head, the Pope, is also a temporal sovereign, albeit having signed away most of his land in 1929. The tiara, the triple crown, reminds us that he is the last of all Christian absolute monarchs; even if the present Pontiff does not wear it, it remains the symbol of his office. Although the Popes since Leo XIII (1878-1903) have been at pains to emphasise that the Church can coexist with any form of government, Pius VI (1775-1799) was clear in echoing his predecessors from St. Peter ("Fear God, Honour the King") on. In his 1793 allocution, Pourquoi Notre Voix, after calling Monarchy "the best of governments"; he went on to attack the French Revolutionaries for abolishing it. In writing after writing, before and since, various Popes heaped praise on the institution , pointing out its roots in the Kingship of Christ Himself. In 1925, Pius XI wrote an encyclical on the topic, Quas primas, in which he maintained that: Christ Himself speaks of His own Kingly authority ; in His last discourse, speaking of the rewards and punishments that will be the eternal lot of the just and the damned; in his reply to the Roman magistrate, who asked Him publicly whether He were a King or not; after His resurrection, when giving to His Apostles the mission of teaching and baptising all nations, He took the opportunity to call Himself King, confirming the title publicly, and solemnly proclaimed that all power was given Him in heaven and on earth.

The Pontiff goes on to say that "When once men recognise, both in private and in public life that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well ordered discipline, peace and harmony. Our Lord's regal office invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizen's duty of obedience." To underscore this point, he enacted at that time a new feast-day for the Church calendar - the Feast of Christ the King. For it, the Pope composed a new proper liturgy; this included a hymn, some of whose words comprise the whole Catholic teaching on Monarchy: "Let Kings the Crown and Sceptre hold, as pledge of Thy supremacy; and Thou all lands, all tribes enfold in one fair realm of charity." But this liturgical commemoration of Monarchy goes much further back than 1925; Pius XI was simply following an ancient tradition. The Roman Pontificale (the book of Bishops' liturgies) contained until 1962 an order for the Coronation of a King; the Missal until 1970 contained set of prayers "For the King". To this day, the Litany of the Saints begs the Almighty that He "wouldst vouchsafe to give peace and true concord to Christian Kings and Princes." The tight connexion between Altar and Throne in the Mediaeval Catholic world whence came these prayers is summed up in the phrase Rex Dei Gratia - "King by the Grace of God." In his Coronation, down to that of Paul VI in 1963, the Pope was informed that he was "the Father of Kings and Princes". In token of this paternity, he gave various rulers of Christendom additional titles to commemorate their deeds on behalf of the Faith. We all know of the award of "Defender of the Faith" to Henry VIII for his book, In Defence of the Seven Sacraments (what is more ironic - Henry's continued use of the title after his break with Rome, or the Australian Parliament taking the place of the Pope to remove it in 1973, may be left to my readers to decide). But there were many others. So after St Stephen of Hungary converted his country to Christianity, he was given the title of "Apostolic King" by Pope Sylvester II - which privilege was inherited by the Austrian Emperors; the King of France was recognised by Pope Paul II in 1464 as "the Most Christian King", the King of Spain was called "Most Catholic Majesty", after Ferdinand conquered Granada in 1492; the King of Poland was "His Orthodox Majesty", after John Sobieki's relief of Vienna from the Turkish siege of 1683; and Pope Clement XI proclaimed King John V of Portugal and his successors the "Most Faithful Majesty",following the latter's battling the Turks. The presence in old Mission San Gabriel, not five miles from my home here in California of a Blessed Sacrament lamp given by King Charles III of Spain to the Mission in 1771, is a reminder of the part played by Catholic Monarchs in planting the Faith in the New World.

With the French Revolution, however, the old link between Altar and Throne was threatened. Yet all over Europe, Catholics arose to battle the Revolution in the name of Church and King. After its end, and even to our time, Royalism in Catholic countries was all bound up with defence of the Church. At this point, one might say, "well, that's all well and good, just maybe, in Catholic countries with Catholic Kings! But what about the French-Canadians and the Irish?" Well, as far as the first-named go, until they became secularised and very non-Catholic during the "Quiet Revolution" of the 1960s, they were amongst the most Monarchist of Canadians. In part, this was because of the Quebec Act of 1774, which guaranteed the French in Canada their religion and their civil rights, voiding the English Penal Laws in the Province (this is still called one of the "Intolerable Acts" in American schoolbooks, and was duly denounced in our Declaration of Independence). But it was also recognised that the form of Government most in synch with Catholicism was Monarchy. Hence various of the greatest of the French-Canadian writers and orators of the 19th century praised it. In 1866, Louis-Francois Laflesche, Grand Vicar of Trois Rivieres, Quebec, informed his faithful that "The best form of government is a moderate monarchy (the Church and the family are examples of it .." To this day, the Quebec motto is Je Me Souviens .. "I remember". But it is a fragment of a longer line -- "I remember that, while bornunder the Lily, I flourished under the Rose". It is well argued that the present growth of separatism in Quebec draws much psychological strength from the republicanism of various Anglophone politicos in Ottawa. After all, if it is wrong to owe allegiance to a Queen in London whose ancestors guaranteed the survival of French Canada, why should it be right to owe it to faceless bureaucrats in Anglo-Canada? The Irish are a different kettle of fish entirely. Certainly, their struggle for national religious and cultural survival involved them in centuries of struggle with the British Crown. But this began to change with two events. The first was the growth of Catholic Emancipation; the second was the perception on the part of many of the most pious that the republics coming into existence in America and France were far more of a threat to the Faith than the British at their worst. Upon the outbreak in New England in 1775, the Irish Catholic Committee presented to King George III an address "justly abhorring the unnatural rebellion which had lately broken out among some of his American subjects against his most sacred person and government. We hardly presume to lay at his feet two millions of loyal, faithful, and affectionate hearts and hands". Although during 1798, many Irish in concert with some French Revolutionary support rose against the Crown, those of Munster remained loyal. "Hunting Cap" O'Connell of Derrynane, uncle and foster father of Daniel O'Connell, led his tenants in repelling an attempted French landing. The reason was simple: it was in Munster that most of the Irish soldiers in the service of France were recruited, and from their relations the Munstermen had first hand knowledge of what the Revolutionaries really intended for Church and State. Hunting Cap's brother, Count Daniel O'Connell, was the last commander of the Irish Brigade in the service of France, and as Seumas McManus put it, "Munster was too Jacobite ever to be Jacobin." O'Connell the Liberator himself saw the taking of the Bastille, and never forgot it. As a result, for all that he wished to break the Union of Parliaments with Great Britain he was ever a supporter of Monarchy. As the 19th century wore on, it became ever more apparent to keen observers in Ireland that, for all that the country's ills needed to be addressed, a republic would not serve the cause of the Church. No better modern witness to the Catholic view of Monarchy may be found then John Healy, Archbishop of Tuam at his death in 1918 :

The character of Kings is sacred: their persons are inviolable; they are the anointed of the Lord, if not with sacred oil, at least by virtue of their office. Their power is broad - based upon the Will of God, and not on the shifting sands of the people's Will ... They will be spoken of with becoming reverence, instead of being in public estimation fitting butts for all foul tongues. It becomes a sacrilege to violate their persons, and every indignity offered to them in word or act, becomes an indignity offered to God Himself. It is this view of Kingly rule that alone can keep alive in a scoffing and licentious age the spirit of ancient loyalty, that spirit begotten of faith, combining in itself obedience, reverence, and love for the majesty of Kings which was at once a bond of social union, an incentive to noble daring, and a salt to purify the heart from its grosser tendencies, preserving it from all that is mean, selfish, and contemptible. (P J Joyce, John Healy, pp 68-69).

The argument might be made that this was a minority view; but in fact, until the British, having allowed the Protestant Curragh Camp mutineers to go free in 1914 executed the Dublin Rising folk two years later, most of the Irish were content to remain under the Crown. If, in 1916, the British authorities gave the Nationalists credibility through their own actions so late as 22 May 1921, the noted Irish spiritual writer and Abbot of Maredsous, Belgium,Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B. could write, at the height of the Anglo Irish War:

Poor Ireland is in a sad plight; and unless God gives very special help and light, I don't see any way out. England will never give us a republic as long as she has a soldier to carry a gun; and Ireland won't be satisfied with anything less. I am not for separation from England, nor for a republic; but I desire a very large measure of "self determination", such as you have in Australia.
That last is a very telling phrase, indeed. Moreover, this was in the bad old days, before the Australia Act of 1986! It was even before the Statute of Westminster! Yet somehow, Australia was perceived as having "a very large measure of self determination!"

At any rate, Mr Keating must look elsewhere, if he is to find religious justification for his republicanism. He must not ask the Lutherans: they owe their very foundation to Kings and Princes in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Nor ought he to seek out the Presbyterians - at least, no while some are Orangemen, and others members of Elizabeth II's own Church of Scotland! As for the Orthodox, they're even worse. For them, even moreso if possible, than in Traditional Catholicism, does the Monarch have a religious role - which is why so many prelates in the Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Greek, Bulgarian, and Georgian Orthodox Churches are active in Monarchist activities in their various countries. Well, perhaps non-Christians might help him. Not the Jews indeed - they have never forgotten their own Monarchy, and those who lived in Central Europe were among the most stalwart supporters of the Habsburgs (which perhaps is why Hitler hated that dynasty so). Nor the Muslims, either. Until 1924 the Caliph of Islam was the Sultan of Turkey, accepted by all the Muslim world - save a few, like those who looked to the Sultan of Morocco, or the Aga Khan. Islam is a monarchical region and in the days of the Raj, many an Imam prayed for the King-Emperor as the Padishah, successor by right to the Mogul Emperors (indeed the boast was often made before India became a republic in 1950 that the King of Great Britain, by virtue of numbers, was the greatest Muslim ruler in the world). If we turn to Buddhism or any of the other Eastern Religions, we find a host of Monarchs doubling either as chief patron of the country's religious establishment, like the King of Thailand, or even in effect head priest, like the Emperor of Japan. The problem one has is this: that every religion so long as it is not secularised, is Monarchical -- that is, in its world view, it insists that temporal rule be invested with Divine (and so usually hereditary) authority. The reverse is also true: Monarchy cannot long hold the affections of its people without being firmly anchored in their religious traditions. For all that we live in an age of computers, the alliance of Altar and Throne is a powerful one. Powerful it may be, but Mr Keating may still seek refuge in the temples of one world religion: Americanism. To this land of the free, this home of the brave, may Mr Keating and all his republican ilk turn, as the devotee toward Mecca. For in the end, the greatest argument in the world on the issue at hand remains this: these United States are the most powerful nation in the world, and they are a republic. It matters not that, save ourselves and Switzerland, the world's republics sway giddily between chaos and despotism. In the face of all reason and logic, and even though it is generally understood rather than stated, here is the heart of the matter. Really though, it is a sort of Cargo Cult approach to politics. Instead of building an imitation airstrip so that phantom cargo planes bearing goods will come, the Keatingites would build an imitation republic, sure that "nationhood" whatever that may be, will follow. But just as the South Sea Islanders were mistaken in their estimation of what brought the cargo to their homes, so too are the republicans. There are three factors which have allowed us to carry on as we have in America. One is economic prosperity on a scale, until recently, simply not to be seen anywhere else. Another was an apolitical judiciary (although this has been in recent years altered). But the third was the erection of a semi-"religion" of the nation. This faith does not require exclusive membership; all it needs from you is a veneration of certain symbols (the flag, the Pilgrims, the Liberty Bell), and a resolution not to let any other spiritual beliefs you might have take precedence of the quest for cash (or the "pursuit of happiness" as it is put in our Declaration of Independence). Art, learning, religion, all are suspect if they do not generate income. Religion above all, must not infect public life. It is a fond myth of American conservatives that our "Christian Republic" has been corrupted. But the truth is that the most important of the founding fathers --- Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Madison - were Deists, with a pronounced hostility to Christianity and revealed religion of any kind. Unlike yours, our Constitution (to which we must swear allegiance "so help me God") makes no mention of God. While the Christianity of the majority did affect the course of our culture for a long time, we are now more nearly in line with what Jefferson et al. had in mind.

Yet it is ever thus with republicans, no matter what their stripe. For all the fine talk, what you get is envy and naked self-interest. It is folk almost at the top of society who want such changes, because they envy the King and his entourage; once in power, however, they are not content. They aspire to be little Gods as well, arbitrating not merely political questions but moral and spiritual ones (generally in the realm of education and social issues). If human Kingship is disposed of, Divine will not be far behind. Remember this: where a country has been a Monarchy, even its Republican politicians have sworn oaths to God to "bear true faith and allegiance" to the Sovereign (yes, I am aware that there are all sorts of fine arguments as to how those don't really bind; but perhaps as a Frenchman I lack the subtility of the Anglo-Saxon mind to see such distinctions, and perhaps as an American who would be tried for treason if I broke my oath, they make little sense to me). Yet these they have no problem breaking. What makes anyone think that the same men's oaths sworn before God to a Constitution or simply a country - intangible as they are -- would be any better kept? And if (as I have heard) oaths really don't mean much in modern society anyway, why demand them in courts of law? Lastly, mark well again your Constitution's preamble quoted at the beginning. It is proposed to remove from it the words "under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland." Do you really think that "humbly relying upon the blessing of Almighty God" will long remain after? Why, that isn't the American way -- and depend upon it, if you give up the Monarchy under which your Federal Commonwealth was formed and your nation's character established, that Way will be your Way too, however much you tart it up with Australian trappings.

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