We 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.