Two Kinds of Monarchists

Since I began this website in the fall of 2000, I have had two basic goals: promoting monarchist ideology and providing news and information about historical and (especially) contemporary royalty. The two goals remain equally important to me, although the second inevitably takes up a greater portion of the website as there is simply more material. However, in the process of corresponding with and visiting the websites of others who share my interest, I have noticed that many of them tend to be more concerned with one of these two aspects than the other. To me this difference in priorities suggests the existence of two distinct kinds of contemporary monarchism. It is the purpose of this essay to identify, define and explain these two approaches and clarify my own position regarding them.

Observers of American politics will be familiar with the increasingly bitter dispute on the Right between neoconservatives (who generally favor an aggressive foreign policy and open immigration) and paleoconservatives (who generally favor a non-interventionist foreign policy and restrictions on immigration). Those interested in the Roman Catholic Church will also be aware of a somewhat similar division between conservatives (or "neo-Catholics") who defend the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI's subsequent changes to the liturgy and traditionalists who believe that these changes themselves, not just abuses by modernists, have been bad for the Church. (My own sympathies are with the latter group in each case, but that is beside the point.) I bring up these two controversies, seemingly unrelated to monarchism, only because I believe that to a certain extent the terminology associated with them can be applied to the topic of this website. In short, most of the fellow royalists I have encountered can be described as either "neomonarchists" or "paleomonarchists," occupying positions within monarchism similar to the political and religious categories described above.

What is a neomonarchist? Neomonarchists see monarchy as entirely separate from Left/Right political divisions. Their own political views are likely to range from liberal to moderately conservative, or they may not be very interested in politics at all. While respectful of the religious traditions associated with royalty, they are usually not particularly religious themselves. Neomonarchists are primarily concerned with the support of existing constitutional monarchies, such as the ten currently reigning in Europe, and it is this model of monarchy that they would advocate in the case of any possible restoration. Many of them enthusiastically follow the lives of contemporary royals, and are inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt when they are criticized. Neomonarchists tend to be socially liberal and so are unlikely to object to non-traditional marital alliances such as that of the Crown Prince of Norway with an unwed mother who had confessed to using drugs. They embrace multiculturalism and see monarchy as a potential unifying figure in Europe's increasingly diverse countries, as exemplified by Denmark's part-Chinese Princess Alexandra and the Prince of Wales's interest in Islam. They enjoy contemporary popular culture and welcome royals' interactions with it. Most importantly, neomonarchists are those royalists who have made their peace with modernity and do not see any fundamental conflict between monarchism (they may prefer to say "interest in royalty") and liberal democratic values. Not especially prone to nostalgia, they are nevertheless often quite fascinated by the royal personalities of past eras, and have no problem sympathizing on a human level with members of autocratic royal families such as Russia's Romanovs while rejecting everything that these royals stood for ideologically.

What is a paleomonarchist? Paleomonarchists are faithful to the original political framework of the French Revolutionary era, in which support for monarchy was one of the two fundamental issues (the other being religion) defining the Right, as opposed to the anti-royalist, anti-religious Left. Therefore they see their support for monarchy as an integral part of a counterrevolutionary rightist worldview--perhaps the most, but by no means the only, important political issue. They tend to be drawn to the most traditional and hierarchical forms of Christianity, particularly Eastern Orthodoxy or pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. Paleomonarchists tend to see today's constitutional monarchies as, at best, pathetic shadows of what they used to be or, at worst, "window-dressing for socialist tyranny" (as one such correspondent of mine put it). They are unimpressed with democracy and yearn for the restoration of traditional monarchies such as those of the Bourbons, Hapsburgs, and Romanovs. Paleomonarchists may be rather indifferent to contemporary royalty, and find it hard to admire ceremonial heads of state who appear to embrace or at least tolerate so much of what traditionalists detest (socialism, secularism, multiculturalism, relaxed moral standards, pop culture, etc.). They would like princes and princesses to adhere to the old standard of marrying only persons of equal rank, or at least not single mothers. They tend to be skeptical of the multicultural transformation (via mass immigration) of Europe and resent the apparent enthusiasm of royals such as Prince Charles for it. In stark contrast to neomonarchists, paleomonarchists reject much of modernity, and monarchism is only part of their desire to "turn back the clock."

As with all generalizations, these categories are not perfect, and readers may find that they agree or disagree with parts of both descriptions. For example, I know one royalist who has described himself as socially liberal but nevertheless wishes that royals would make equal marriages. As implied by the first paragraph, I myself sort of have one foot in each camp. While I lean toward paleomonarchism, in my opinion both views have virtues and shortcomings.

Fortunately, apart from succession disputes, the kind of bitter internecine warfare that characterizes the neocon/paleocon and neo-Catholic/traditionalist debates seems to be largely absent from monarchism, although that may be only because we are so much smaller in number than either conservatives or Catholics, or because the two kinds of royalists do not interact very much. Indeed, since most of the distinctions described above are nothing more than my own interpretation of impressions gleaned from private e-mail exchanges and perusal of royalty websites and discussion forums, it is difficult to find discussion of this dichotomy.

However, what might be described as a critique of paleomonarchism from a relatively neomonarchist perspective can be found in former Monarchist League secretary Don Foreman's 1994 article (apparently no longer available online) on French royalism. Mr. Foreman persuasively questions the wisdom of linking the restorationist cause with traditionalist Catholicism, opposition to immigration, and other right-wing views.

More recently, the neomonarchist view was expressed more defensively (but without any criticism of paleomonarchists) in an essay entitled "Why Royalty?" (not available online) by one Glenn R. Trezza, Ph.D., in the February 2003 issue of the European Royal History Journal. Dr. Trezza begins by describing his embarrassment at his progressive psychology colleagues' discovery of his interest in royalty, fearing that they would see it as a "celebration of elitism and the pretty things of privileged oppressors." He then proceeds to justify his enthusiasm for European royalty from a politically progressive perspective, coming up with eight rationalizations which together constitute a spirited and articulate defense of what I call neomonarchism.

Examples of the paleomonarchist view include the Marian Horvat article already referenced and Charles Coulombe's writings. Free Republic participant Goetz von Berlichingen would also seem to fit this description.

As already stated, I personally am closer to paleomonarchism in the sense that I believe in traditional (non-democratic) monarchy, hold counterrevolutionary views on other issues, do not relish witnessing royal enthusiasm for pop culture, and doubt that even constitutional monarchy is compatible with a leftist worldview. However, I part company with some other reactionaries in that I have a generally favorable view of contemporary royalty, and do not believe they can be blamed for failing to resist various unfortunate trends occurring in their countries over the course of the twentieth century. The reason for this is simple: democracy and egalitarianism have been incredibly powerful trends; consequently, without exception, every modern monarch who refused to become a "rubber stamp" lost his throne (and in the case of King Louis XVI and Tsar Nicholas II, his life). The most recent example of this phenomenon in Europe was Greece's King Constantine II, whose attempted defense of his rights (and the Greek constitution) against the overambitious Prime Minister George Papandreou may have been heroic but ultimately led to the fall of the Greek monarchy.

I believe that there is room in monarchism both for those who can easily work within modernity and for those less comfortable with it. We need both pragmatists and purists, democrats and traditionalists. There is no reason for monarchists to succumb to the bitterness that has divided the participants in the political and religious debates mentioned above. Since the democratic ideology that became dominant in the twentieth century does not appear to be about to go away anytime soon, monarchy must currently be defended and preserved within a modernist context, but that is no reason for those of us for whom it is inextricably linked with older values to give up on counterrevolutionary ideals.

Today's European monarchies (except for Liechtenstein's) may be purely symbolic, but traditionalists should be the first to recognize that symbols matter, and are worth fighting for. I would rather have a powerless monarchy than no monarchy at all; however disappointing individual royals might be, their republican enemies are worse. Therefore it is my hope that all monarchists, whether or not we long for a broader counterrevolution, will continue to give the world's surviving monarchies (and efforts toward restorations elsewhere) the principled support they need and deserve.

--Theodore Harvey
April 4, 2003

A few days after I wrote this it occurred to me that the existence in Great Britain of a venerable tradition of constitutional monarchy which predates the French Revolution suggests the possibility of a third distinct tendency for which the neo- and paleo- labels are inadequate. What might be called Anglomonarchism combines the neomonarchist belief in constitutional monarchy with the paleomonarchist commitment to traditional values. Anglomonarchists are those who fully support the ideals of the 1688 "Glorious Revolution," rejecting both Jacobitism and republicanism, but are suspicious of more recent "progress." Right-wing British journalist Peter Hitchens is a good example, and many British, Canadian, Australian, other Commonwealth, and American Anglophile monarchists would probably also fall into this category.