Oldest Daughter of the Church, II

[Part I]

Given all the years that have passed, and despite all of this history, one might well wonder why we should care about the French Monarchy and its claimants. It has been gone, after all, for a long time. For that matter, why should its claimants and their partisans struggle so strenuously for it? The answer is several-fold.

For Frenchmen, of course, the shadow of the Monarchy is heavy over everything. In the Church, of course, every older institution is connected with some sort of royal foundation or patronage — from the Annonciades Sisters to the royal parish of St. Germain l’Auxerrois (where the Kings’ weddings were celebrated) to such shrines as Corbeny, Le Puy, Boulogne, and countless others. Every parish church near a royal palace, and every old cathedral can make the same boast. The palaces themselves — the Louvre, Versailles, Fontainebleau, Compiegne, Saint Germain-en-Laye, Rambouillet, Chambord, Blois, and the others still reflect the grandeur of their builders and remain among the top attractions in the country: there is even a move afoot to rebuild the Tuileries.

But the work of the Kings is further afield than the realms of prayer and memory. The oldest hospitals such as Paris’ Hotel Dieu, Bicetre, and Salpetriere are royal foundations, as is the Hotel des Invalides (and its museum) for old soldiers. Education? No, you cannot escape the Monarchy there either. The Sorbonne, College de France , and the University of Poitiers, for example, on college level; so too with some of the country’s most distinguished secondary schools, such as the Lycées Louis-le-Grand, Charlemagne, and Henri IV. The scientific and cultural institutions that are the country’s great boast also claim royal roots: the Institut de France, Academie Francaise, Biblioteque Nationale, Mobilier Nationale, Opera National de Paris, Jardin des Plantes, National School of Equitation, Legion of Honour; the national stud farms and sheepfold, and so on. The Office of National Forests likewise began under the Kings, to administer their royal forests and hunting. In a word, all that France enjoys was given it by its Kings.

Of course, the King’s mark is strongest on the shape of government. The emptiness of the throne is emphasized by the regal trappings still clung to by successive presidents — the Garde Republicaine (successor to the Royal Guard); the Presidential Hunt (given up recently for reasons of cultural effeminacy); honorary canonries (including St. John Lateran); and co-princeship (with the Spanish Bishop of Urgel) of Andorra. In much the same vein — regardless of the religiosity of the President of the Republic, after Sunday High Masses, a prayer “for the republic” is intoned — just as the King was once prayed for (and the Queen of Great Britain still is). The special relationship of the Kings of France with the Holy See resulting in French control of various Roman properties is continued for the President (including protection of the chapel of St. Petronilla in St. Peter’s). So too, in continuation of the alliance of the Most Christian King with the Ottoman Sultan, the French Consul-General in Jerusalem oversees certain properties and institutions in the Holy Land, and receives on behalf of the President various liturgical honours. So too with the French Consulate in Istanbul and its attendant parish church.

But it is not only the substitute Head of State who revels in royal trappings. The three highest judicial bodies in the land, the Conseil de l’Etat, the Cour de Cassation and the Chambre des Comptes all claim descent from the Curia Regis. Judicial dress originated under the Monarchy, while the Court of Appeal in Paris, nestled in the Palais de Justice (former royal palace) claims descent from the old Parlement of Paris. Many of the other regional courts of appeal make similar claims. Today’s legislative Parliament has some similar connections. The Senate maintains some descent from the Chamber of Peers of the Restoration and Louis Philippe (though few today belong to the French Nobility Association), and Napoleon III’s Senate. The Assembly Nationale likes to think of itself as having had a continuous existence since 1789. For royal roots in government, though, the Cabinet ministries are a jackpot: the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, Justice (and its headquarters), and the Interior (and the Departmental Prefects it appoints). As might be expected, the military is strongly attached to several royal traditions — the army served long centuries under Kings and Emperors, and most of the Cavalry, Infantry, Marine, Foreign Legion, and Artillery regiments trace their lineages back to royal or imperial units. The Navy too is very much a child of the Kings.

It will be by now obvious that there is precious little in all France that does not remind one of the Old Regime, if he is conscious of any history. But why should Americans care? Well, if not quite so heavily as on their homeland and its colonies, France’s Monarchs left their mark here as well. Obviously, the many groups of French-Americans, whose ancestors came here at royal command, have played a role in the development of this country out of all proportion to their numbers. But even if one is not of Quebecois, Acadian, Creole, Cajun, or Metis descent, or a resident of an area settled first by the French, the Kings of France are as much a part of our heritage as the Founding Fathers. Without the intervention of Louis XVI, thirteen rebellious colonies would never have been able to defeat the might of the British Empire and their own Loyalist countrymen. The pictures of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in Philadelphia’s Congress Hall; towns called “Louisville” in Georgia, New York, and Kentucky in the King’s honour; the statue of the King in the Kentucky City; and above all, the continuing existence of the Society of the Cincinnati affirm a forgotten truth: that Louis XVI deserves to be called “Father of Our Country” almost as much as any Virginian.

On a larger level, it looks rather unlikely that a son of St. Louis will one day again ascend the throne, be crowned at Reims, and bind together the bits and pieces of the shattered Royal and Catholic heritage that is today’s France. But however unlikely it be that Louis XX, Henry VII, or their progeny will accomplish that feat, it is a far happier future than an Islamic Republic of France, which looks like the only other viable alternative. On the one hand, it will happen, perhaps, if the stalwarts we looked at in the beginning have their way. On the other, grand as the French Monarchy has been, Dom Prosper Gueranger — himself a Royalist — had this cogent comment: “Other faults alas ! were to compromise still further, and then, twice over, to wither up or break the branches of the royal tree. Long did [St. Louis’] personal merits outweigh before God the scandalous immorality, which our princes had made their family mark, their odious privilege: a shame, which was transmitted by the expiring Valois to the Bourbons; which had to be expiated, but not effaced, by the blood of the just Louis XVI; and which so many illustrious exiles are still expiating in lowliness and sorrow in a foreign land. Would that thou couldst at least recognise these thy remaining sons by their imitation of thy virtues! For it is only by striving to win back this spiritual inheritance, that they can hope that God will one day restore them the other.” May it be so — for France’s sake, for Europe’s, and for ours.

  • defiant12314

    With all due respect the LAST thing France needs is a Monarchy; For every St Louis the Tenth there is a Louis “the sun king” Fortieenth, for every St Wenceslas there is are ten Wenceslas the fourths who has his Queen’s confessor murdered for remaining true to the seal of the confessional and for every St Edward the Confessor there is a henry VIII.

    Whilst a monarchy might be the best form of government in principle ( I confess that reading Tolkien stirs the passions of monarchy in my heart), in practise a republic with checks and balances on the power of the executive is the best means of limmiting the damage that complete morons (oxford/harvard educated or otherwise) can wreak on a country. I also have doubts about people ruling by sheer accident of birth, if i may quote Father John Ball who was murdered for providing spiritual succor to the rebellion of Watt Tyler “when Adam delved and Eve span who then was the gentleman

  • Charles A. Coulombe

    Adam, of course. It couldn’t be Eve! I would have to take issue with the idea that “in practise a republic with checks and balances on the power of the executive…” is best – given that there has only been one of those, it put itself through an intensely bloody civil war, and is now morphings seemlessly into we know not what. I would also take issue with the proportions you offer of good versus evil monarchs – even Louis XIV, though far from ideal had more than a few good points. If we want to play the same game with elected heads of government, etc. I can toss Hitler, Mussolini, and any number of Latin American chaps into the mix. If we want to maintain that they do not count, then we are thrown back on to purely USA examples – which again returns us to the present. Of course, no Christian Monarch of the past – not even Henry VIII – ever presided over anything like our slaughter of the unborn. Of course, you might then point out that this is an example of our no longer being such a republic as you describe. But when did we lose that prized status? 1973 with Roe v. Wade? 1933 with the New Deal? 1865 with Appomattox? 1803 with the Louisiana Purchae? You see what I mean. The ideal you ascribe to has affected only a small minority of folk in its passage through history, and appears to be on its way out.

  • defiant12314

    Dear Charles let me answer your points one by one

    1) the Rev. Ball was attacking the English class system which entrenched privelege based upon accident of birth and which quite often involved having an ancestor who was either a mistress of the king, had bashed someone over the head rather spectacuarly in full view of the king and been rewarded for it, stolen the lands and title from someone else (usually involving swords) or had been given said lands and title because he was the King’s best hunting chum. The American decleration of Independance asserts quite rightly that All men are equal before God, not in abilitiy, wealth etc etc but in dignity; therefore the American President is as answerable to the law as the poorest pauper recently arrived from China in order to pursue the American Dream, here in England no member of the ‘royal’ family can be tried in a court of law as they are alledgedly the font of all Justice in the Realm. Also I might add that to sit in Parliment you have to swear allegiance to the ‘queen’ wheras in America elected officials swear allegiance to the Constitution, not to a man.

    2) Did I say that america is perfect? NO, America still has a long way to go and although the Constitution is an excellent document it is not divinely inspired; but its much better than being ruled by foppish morans who’ve never done an honest days work in their lives and if history is any guide tned to spend thier days deciding which mistress they’ll commit adultery with tonight.

    3) your points about Germany and Italy are invalid as their systems were/are parlimentary democracies where the executive, legislature and (mostly) control of the judicary are held by one party, in America you currently have a situation where although the Democrats control the executive they do not have control of the legislature and therefore the legislature can to a large extent limit the power of the executive.

    4) Give Republicanism a chance, it has only been around (in its current form) for a couple of hundred years and I think that most sane people realise its benefits jI will leave with a quote from C.S Lewis “Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power
    over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be
    slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no
    men fit to be masters”

  • quotquot

    Orestes Brownson contends that “Catholicity Is Necessary To Sustain Popular Liberty”. http://www.orestesbrownson.com/108.html

  • Charles A. Coulombe

    Dear Jack:

    Allow me, on this feast of Christ the King, to do the same!

    1) John Ball’s Peasant Revolt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wat_Tyler#The_Peasants.27_Revolt) is of course a matter of much dispute – how Lollard it was, etc. But it did nehead the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury. While I have known a few bishops who might seem to deserve such a fate, it is nothing I would condone! I am aware of the verbage of the Declaration of Independence – to include its Orwellian condemnation of the Quebec Act. It was as fine a piece of political propaganda as has ever been writte. But the men behind it formed the Oligarchy who already ran the several colonies and dominated their assemblies – for which the majority of white males could not vote, although they had to pay taxes levied therefrom.

    2) I believe that our history and our present state show that our country is quite capable of being “ruled by foppish morons who’ve never done an honest days work in their lives and if history is any guide tned to spend their days deciding which mistress they’ll commit adultery with tonight.” There is a reason why the age of consent in DC is 16 by act of Congress – although I am jaded, having lived and worked in Washington during 1982’s “Summer of Love,” when several congressmen – most notably Gerry Studds – took advantage of said law to evade prosecution for molesting pages. And when last I checked, the bordello we call a Capital still works under the Constitution.

    3) It is certainly true that a Democratic-dominated Congress can inhibit a Republican present; but somehow it is never quite as effective when their roles are reversed – perhaps because the leadership of the two parties are not so different as their election rants would suggest. Then again, as the saying has it – if you don’t enter Congress a millionaire, you shall certainly leave one! That being said, we are the only executive republic that has evaded the dreary round of coups that have affected all the rest.

    4) As you say, American republicanism in the form we knew it is recent; but it has been on the way out for quite some time. In any case, these United States are an exception to most rules for several historical reasons, and it was the French Monarchy which I was praising for France; this country could not support such a government any more than it could tolerate a legal system inspired by Catholic morality. We are what we are. But I too shall close with a C.S. Lewis quote – since he distinguished slavery from Monarchy: “Monarchy can easily be debunked, but watch the faces, mark well the debunkers. These are the men whose taproot in Eden has been cut: whom no rumour of the polyphony, the dance, can reach – men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.” It’s as though he had read our American media today!

  • schmenz

    I marvel at the effectiveness of those 5th grade history books, which paint America’s beginning as somehow touched by the finger of God. Those books have absolutely closed the minds of millions of Americans, the same ones who sit by and cheer on this country as it lurches from barbarity to despotism. No US outrage is horrible enough to change their minds that America is the “shining city on the hill”, or whatever cliche is popular at the moment.

    We have given Republicanism a chance; the results are all around us.

  • I believe that Jack Hughes hails from the UK.

  • jdumon

    The “Great Monach” prophecies (about 2 dozens from various saints and seers for 2 millenaries) assert that a King will come back on the throne of France.

  • jdumon

    “Without the intervention of Louis XVI, thirteen rebellious colonies would never have been able to defeat the might of the British Empire and their own Loyalist countrymen”
    Certainly America, even if the Brits had won over her during the Independence War, would have succeeded in becoming independent later from England, but without the help of Louis XVI one may think that instead of one so powerful nation, England would have been cautious in allowing the birth of several independent states in order for her to divide for reigning.
    Poor King Louis, so few rewarded.

  • Alphonsus Jr. ✠ Dᴇᴜs ᴠᴜʟᴛ

    The “All men are created equal” clause is in fact the most disastrous language in all of politics.

  • defiant12314

    Well then take the issue up with Archbishop Stephen Langton who helped to draft Magna Carta, after all it was the great charter and liberties that it proclaimed that were the Casus Belli for the American Revolution.

    I come from a working class family and was raised by a single mother, I am the first to go to University and to have a real chance of breaking into the professional classes. Don’t you dare tell me that the head of the LMS in England was created ‘better’ than me, just because he belongs to the minor aristocracy.

    My Godfather came from the working class and my hero. He was chosen for officer training when he did his national service and retired as a Colonel in the British Army, go figure.

  • Alphonsus Jr. ✠ Dᴇᴜs ᴠᴜʟᴛ

    You should have honored the tradition of your ancestors by pursuing a trade.

  • defiant12314

    I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not, I really can’t.