Druid Thoughts: Monarchy and the Druid

CrownWe have a new heir to the throne of England, and no doubt a shocking amount of media hype and obsession will follow. Once upon a time, as Pagans tend to know, being the ruler meant having a relationship with the land (let’s not get into that stuff with the white horse, though). Although The Golden Bough is shaky as anthropology, it does convey pretty clearly that in cultures around the world and across time, monarchy and the land have been connected.

For a good thousand years and more, monarchy in Europe has had far more to do with war leaders. Raise an army, win a fight, claim a bit of turf. We’ve fought over English soil so many times. There’s only one official civil war on the books – that bit with the roundheads and cavaliers. However, the Wars of the Roses and the spat between Stephen and Matilda gave us long years of fighting. Alongside that, we’ve been (at different times) a Protestant state killing off its Catholics and a Catholic state killing off its Protestants, but that doesn’t get classified as war, even though it can be just as bloody. We’ve persecuted our Pagans, our Jews, our gays. Somewhere along the way we collectively forgot that ownership of the land is different from stewardship of the land. We forgot that buying power with blood often means the crops rotting in the fields and people going hungry.

The modern monarchy doesn’t use much of the influence remaining to it. I suspect it wouldn’t last long if the royals attempted to use the powers that are technically still theirs. They don’t own the country in any way their forebears would have recognized. Still, they do get a lot of money out of the peasants. As a peasant, I’m not terribly keen about this. Prince Charles makes the occasional eco-friendly noise, he does seem to have some vague awareness that the land could use looking after, but he wriggles out of tax payments, and I’m prepared to bet his carbon footprint is a large one.

What would happen if our rulers came to the job with more of a desire to serve than a desire to be important? What would happen if we had a monarchy that saw caring for the land as more important than displays of wealth? How many homeless people could be sheltered and fed if the royals opened their doors and took them in? How much landscape could that wealth preserve? How much good could they do, if they wanted?

I also wonder what it would be like to have a leadership we could take pride in. Many of us expect our politicians to be self-serving, unreasonable, short termist, and under the thumb of big business. What would it be like to be led, or for that matter ruled, by someone who genuinely put the good of all, and the good of the land at the top of the agenda? Not seeing nature as a bit of green-washing and pretty scenery. Not giving a nod to eco-issues with no intention of acting on them, but a real determination to look after the one planet we have, giving everyone a fair share of the available resources, keeping the air clean, the water safe, giving dignity to all human life and protection to wildlife.

Yeah, I’m an idealist and a dreamer. But I’m tired of being told that there is only one way, and that way is to rip everything to shreds for the sake of a fast buck and the wealth of a tiny minority. So, you future rulers of England, I wish you well, but I also wish you integrity, and I wish you to be sovereigns in the old sense, and married to the land.

Druid Thoughts is published on occasional Wednesdays on Agora. Follow it via RSS or e-mail!

About Nimue Brown

Druid blogger, author of Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors and Spirituality without structure (Moon Books) Intelligent Designing for Amateurs (Top Hat Books) and Hopeless Maine (Archaia). Book reviewer for the Druid Network and Pagan Dawn. Volunteer for OBOD. Green, folky, Steampunk wench with a coffee habit. www.druidlife.wordpress.com and www.hopelessmaine.com @Nimue_B and can be hunted down on facebook.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I am a big fan of monarchy. I am just not a big fan of the monarchic model we currently have.

    I don’t blame our monarchy, I blame the power hungry pillocks in Westminster.

    I have a different idea for how the British Isles could be governed, but it would require a rather large societal ‘reset’.

    One point, that I think is relevant here, would be my distinction between crown and throne.

    I see the crown as the symbol of the populace and I see the throne as the symbol of the land. In between the two is the monarch.

    I would describe myself as loyal to the throne, but not (perhaps) the crown.

  • Ravyn Darq

    “What would happen if our rulers came to the job with more of a desire to serve than a desire to be important?”
    I’ve seen this said by others about the royal family. What exactly have they done to give anyone the idea that they want to be “important”? After all, they are born into the role. If they abdicated the role would that be enough or would they then just be trying to shirk their responsibilities?
    This is simply a question to satisfy my curiosity. In my books, the royal have my deepest sympathies; it’s a life I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I agree. They are born to duty and obligation.

      Far more worrying are those that actively seek power/importance. The popularists who will say anything they think will get them more votes, yet renege on all their promises as soon as they get the power they so desperately want.

      Sure there are problems with monarchy, just don’t let it be absolute. (In some Pre-Christian societies, a poorly performing monarch would make a very tempting sacrifice.)

  • Marlene Dotterer

    This is actually at the heart of the mistakes made by all countries. The land has been taken away from the people, so that it no longer belongs to everyone and to all creatures. We are all dying because of it.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Would you not see it the other way round?

      The land has been taken by people, as such not everyone can belong to it any more.

      What is that saying? “The land does not belong to man, the people belong to the land.”

      • Marlene Dotterer

        Yes, that’s exactly what I want to say. Yet, somehow, most of the land on earth “belongs” to the wealthy, to the detriment of the poor. I’m thinking of the early American government (and England or Spain before them) taking the land of the Western Hemisphere for themselves and granting pieces of it to wealthy supporters. Or the Italian upperclass getting laws passed that forbade the poor from hunting on their lands, triggering mass starvation and forcing most of the poor to immigrate to America. Today, it is nearly impossible for the poor to find land they can live on. Especially the homeless – in America, they cannot even sit on many sidewalks for very long. Loitering is a crime. If they camp under bridges, the local law enforcement shut them down and drive them off. The homeless don’t even have someplace to go to the bathroom, since most toilets are “for customers only.”

        This type of land ownership has been going on for a long time, all over the world – probably ever since the beginning of agriculture. I think we’ve reached the end of any available land on the planet. It’s all owned by somebody, with precious little of it held in common for the masses.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Too many people, not enough land.

          The land will continue without people. Can the reverse be said in truth?

  • Griffin

    I think you are way under estimating Charles, and the value of the Monarchy in general.