We all want to be equal. The trouble is we are not. No matter in which department of life we excel, be it talent, native intelligence, social grace, looks or whatever, we can be quite certain others surpass us. Persons who don’t see this delude themselves. Such persons seem very numerous nowadays.
Of course according to liberal democracy, the form of government regulating the life of society in the U.S. and Western Europe today, everybody is equal. This helps account for the widespread self-delusion, the weight of the system reinforcing the egotism born of human nature being fallen. The illiberal democracy espoused by leaders like Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and which is rooted in Christianity, a religion that knows everything in the universe is ordered hierarchically, is superior in this regard. Better yet is monarchy, which is why St. Thomas Aquinas identifies it, seconded by aristocracy, as the best form of government.
This is not to say that Christian political and social order is impossible within a republican framework. There are historical proofs that it is: Garcia Moreno’s Ecuador, Salazar’s Portugal, Dollfuss’ Austria, De Valera’s Ireland and a few others. Nonetheless, most persons have the sense, if but instinctively, that there is something about monarchy that makes it best of all and explains why it is under its sway that civilized men have lived throughout history until recent time. The “something,” in part, is that it corresponds to the reality of inequality, for who can be more unequal than a king and his subjects? This helps account for the interest most persons have in the doings of royalty, their betters, even if they pretend otherwise with a reverse snobbery that stems from the liberal delusion. It also brings us to the subject of this commentary, which is not quite declared by its title.
“Not quite” because our interest here is not primarily in the persons of Prince Harry and his wife, American former television actress Meghan Markle, except to note that prior to her involvement with Harry she was an outspokenly pro-abortion and anti-Trump feminist whose woke beliefs have colored the couple’s marriage, as when they promised to limit the number of their children to two so as not to pollute the environment with still more human beings. Nor is it in all the news that followed their announcement via Instagram last month that they would be “stepping back” from royal duties, residing in North America as well as the U.K. and looking to make money of their own instead of living on what working royalty receives from the state. Nor is it in the announcement a week later from the Queen herself that she had decided the couple wouldn’t be merely “stepping back” but stepping away entirely (they wouldn’t even be using their Royal Highness titles). Least of all are we interested in all the rumors and purported insider information that surrounded the news and was received avidly by persons with an insatiable appetite for celebrity gossip.
What is of interest here is a three-layered contest, illustrated by the situation, of liberalism versus monarchy, self versus duty, and modernity versus tradition. To apprehend this we want to remember that before the false philosophy of liberalism replaced Christianity as the dominant force in the lives of individuals and society in the West, and indeed in the Graeco-Roman world before the advent of Christianity, everything that exists, including life itself, was seen as imbued with divine meaning and purpose. The good life, the life well spent, consisted of an individual conforming himself to this meaning and purpose willed by God. He would do this by means of prayer, the acquisition of wisdom, and cultivation of virtue. That he would feel impelled to devote himself to prayer, acquiring wisdom and cultivating virtue was the aim of education. He would be fortified by his attachments to religion, family and community, institutions now no longer as strong as once they were (which means they no longer serve as intermediaries between us and the naked power of a state gone wrong). Those who succeeded at this lifelong work would be recognized and honored for their wisdom and virtue, the wisest and most virtuous of all being honored most of all for what they were: saints.
The false philosophy of liberalism spawned by the Enlightenment and whose core tenet is that individuals may and even should lead their lives and conduct human affairs without regard to anything higher than themselves, as if God did not exist, turned upside down the social and political order we are describing. Instead of conforming themselves to divine meaning and purpose, individuals expect everything to bend to the fulfillment of their desires. Instead of wisdom and virtue, success is now measured by the yardsticks of sex, fame, money, and power. The vision of divine meaning and purpose has been replaced by scientific categories: race, IQ, gender, sociological data, and so on.
The Queen is 93. Most persons living today can’t recall a time when she wasn’t a major figure on the world stage. When we think of her, of what do we think? When she is remembered in the future, for what will it be? There are the palaces, Rolls Royce limousines, and servants, of course, but we also think of her faithfulness to her vow on her twenty-first birthday to serve the people of Britain and the Commonwealth for as long as she lived “whether my life be long or short.” That was her duty, and she has kept to it. In all this she represents things as they were before the advent of modernity. When her stout heart ceases to beat the entire world, east and west, north and south, will stop for a moment. There may not be much grief because we knew her end had to be coming sooner rather than a great deal later. However, there will be a deep sense of loss which will translate into the largest television audience in history watching her funeral – the world paying tribute to what was once upon a time.
Of what do we think of Meghan when we think of her? Celebrity, of course, along with the modern categories she presents (biracial, “strong” woman, etc.), but isn’t it also of faithlessness? She abandoned her first husband, she abandoned her own family, now she has abandoned the duties of royalty after being told she couldn’t keep its trappings as she wanted by staying half-in and half-out. What could be more modern than such faithlessness to all but one’s self?
For what will she be remembered? For nothing else, and not even that for very long once the luster of her short-lived royalty has faded.
If much loss is felt when the Queen passes, there will also be an element of fear. It will be fear that all she represented, faithfulness, duty, a world that honored virtue instead of “success,” will be gone forever.
If each of us does his own duty to cling to the Faith and live according to its teachings, it will not. It will remain in some number, whether it be small or greater, ready for restoration in God’s good time.