Women and the Monarchy

Andrew Roberts thinks the recent move is absurd:

The news that sons and daughters of future British monarchs will have equal rights of accession to the Throne will delight modernists, and might even lull feminists into thinking that some kind of a blow has been struck for women’s rights. Yet in fact, all the Governments of the 16 Commonwealth countries who have The Queen as their Head of State are really doing is treating the wearer of the British Crown as just yet another civil servant doing a public job. Once again, the politicians have let daylight in upon magic.

The whole concept of a monarchy is so ancient, so unlike any other institution in public life, and so inherently, wonderfully illogical that as soon as one attempts to apply today’s standards to it – especially modern human rights and equal opportunities legislation – one undermines the strongest reason for existence. It is precisely because it so magnificently atavistic, archaic and irrational – so unlike absolutely anything else in modern society – that it exercises such power over the human imagination, connecting Britons directly over a thousand years back to their Saxon past. To apply the values of our modern politically correct age to a concept that dates back almost to the Dark Ages is absurd on every level….

One might as well try to apply heath and safety legislation to the Coronation, where a monarch has to wear the 39 oz. Imperial State Crown – with four rubies, eleven emeralds, sixteen sapphires, two hundred and seventy seven pearls, and two thousand seven hundred and eighty-three diamonds – for hours upon end. Or the European Working Time Directive to The Queen, who is eighty-five years old and yet still carried out 509 official engagements on Britain’s behalf last year. How does the assertion that the monarch rules “by the grace of Almighty God” square with the Trades Descriptions Act? The monarchy isn’t some civil service job that one applies for through the appointments section of your newspaper; it is profoundly different and ought to be treated as such. It is the very archaisms that give it strength; they reflect British history and tradition, not the passing mores of our 21st century life, still less “the modern societies that we have become.”

Of course, there’s no rhyme or reason why Prince William’s younger son should succeed to the Throne before his older daughter, but neither is there any rational explanation to the solemn anointment by oil, a ceremony that can be traced back to Biblical times. To attempt to apply our generational chauvinism to customs and traditions that go back centuries, on the grounds of what we consider “fair,” is a mark of our ludicrous pretentions to omniscience. Anyhow, why should the elder daughter succeed before the younger son: isn’t that age discrimination? Shouldn’t all Britons decide which of them will be God’s anointed by a secret ballot?

If the proposed new law had been in place in 1901, at the time of the death of Queen Victoria, one of the few truly deranged psychopathic monarchs of modern Europe, Kaiser Wilhelm II, would have become King of England on the death of his mother, Victoria’s eldest daughter the Empress Vicky of Germany later that year. A man partly responsible for the outbreak of the Great War, who long before the Nazis advocated the gassing of Jews “like mosquitoes,” would have sat on the British Throne. Our ancestors were wise in not adopting a system that would have had that outcome, and we are insufferably arrogant in thinking that our mores trump theirs when it comes to an institution as ancient as the monarchy.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Jon Bartlett

    I’m British and delighted. Never mind the ‘what-ifs’ of succession – the three greatest monarchs of the last 1000 years have been Elizabeth 1 & 2 and Victoria.

  • jinny

    So, what might have been trumps the current what might be? By the grace of God alone, things aren’t worse, but I don’t follow Roberts’ logic here.

    I hope the UK education system will be teaching the future monarchs history so that we don’t have to deal with genocidal racism again, but then, even non-royals are sinful, and succession had nothing to do with it.

  • Fish

    This is satire, right? The closing graf that postulates that the proposed new law would have resulted in the gassing of Jews like mosquitos even earlier is brilliant.

  • P.

    This article is so full of hogwash that it’s not even fit to, well, wash hogs.

    So, giving equal rights to a female heir will break the connection to Britain’s Saxon past? It will reduce the monarch to just another civil servant? How’s that again? As to the last paragraph, male primogeniture prevented an unsuitable person from taking the throne? How about the other monarchs who were also unsuitable people? The illogic of this whole article boggles the mind.

    Overturning primogeniture is important because it sends the message that women are just as good/valuable as men are.

  • http://www.darenredekopp.com/ Daren Redekopp

    Some of the logic in this piece seems so flawed that I can’t help but think it’s a joke. At the same time, there is something to be said for holding on to tradition for the sake of historical connectedness.

  • DRL

    “treating the wearer of the British Crown as just yet another civil servant doing a public job” ???

    All civil servants should live in such lavish opulence!

  • Andy H

    Coming from an Irish republican background, I think the best thing to do is to let this go by in charitable silence. Besides, I really wouldn’t know where to begin….

  • TSG

    To my children, your royal highness is your arse.

  • Robert

    Like Andy, I don’t know where to begin either. The only saving grace of the monarchy through much of its history was the fact that, apart from Henry VIII, they couldn’t behave as absolute rulers, and people proved to be rather good at getting rid of those who tried.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/majlens_art/ gingoro

    As a Canadian of Celtic background I find the whole royalty bit, irrelevant. Except of course that it provides a bit of circus for those who care when a member of the royal family visits us.
    Dave W

  • http://messageofgenesis.blogspot.com Val

    Ah, the what ifs…what if King Henry’s daughter (later Bloody Queen Mary) had been heir to the throne? England would be a strong Spanish sympathizer, perhaps even been a Spanish State – but Mary wouldn’t have been so bloody, her Dad wouldn’t have had to divorce her mom and take on 5 more wives in search of the elusive son, Queen Elizabeth 1 wouldn’t have been born and England would have remained Catholic, at least up until the Protestant Reformation and civil wars that bloodied Mainland Europe in the 17th Century.

    But…IF Princess Vicky (Queen Victoria’s eldest) had been destined from birth to be Queen of England – she would NOT have married a King (of any country) – Notice that the current Queen’s husband is not a King – just a Prince. This was/is law,so that no husband could usurp the throne from the British line (due to Husbands formerly acquiring all their wives assets upon marriage, including her country if she happened to be Queen – why Elizabeth the 1 stayed single – in her day monarchs could only marry monarchs). Therefore, Princess Vicky would have been married to a (most likely) British aristocrat, not the King/Kaiser Wilhelm the psycho of Germany. Notice her mother, Queen Victoria was not married to a king following British Law for female monarchs. Funny the author didn’t realize this?

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

    This law would also have made the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 unnecessary. James II’s Protestant daughters Mary and Anne would have become queen in succession without any question of James’ Catholic son, much younger, taking the throne – at least until 1714 after both Mary and Anne died without surviving offspring. English, and American, history might have been very different, and ironically the law banning Catholics from the throne might never have been introduced.

    But, Val, note that two British female monarchs have been married to kings: Mary I and Mary II.

  • Anna

    Thank goodness I’m American and only have to worry about elections.

  • Diane

    The writer contends that the British royalty is “unlike absolutely anything else in modern society.” I simply don’t even know where to being … oh, perhaps with the idea that the patriarchy inherent, until now, in the system of royal primogeniture … is, in fact, “remotely like” the way primogeniture operates among the British (and most European) nobility … oh, and that male privileging is alive and well in most of modern society? Or did I miss something?

  • Jon Altman

    Just to reiterate one point already made: If Princess Vicky had been the heir to the throne, she would not have married the German Kaiser, so Wilhelm II (who would have had half his DNA be different) would have had no claim on the British throne.

  • http://messageofgenesis.blogspot.com Val

    to #13 Anna – Americans actually have to vote on a lot more policy- Royalty comes and goes and we have no say. Our Prime Minister decided for us that Canada would agree to allow a British female heir to ascend to the throne – not the country at large (most Canadians had no clue it was being decided until it was announced that the change occurred).

    My parents winter in Arizona and are amazed at how much Americans have to vote for (judges, sherifs, propositions on ballots etc.). In most British Colonies we elect a Parliamentary representative who does all the voting in Parliament for us (he/she votes on propositions (bills), the government elect appoints our supreme court judges).

    We only vote when our Prime Minister calls an election, and then only for someone in our area to represent us in Parliament. Our PMs appoint senators (silly, but a left -over from the British House of Lords). So I vote once in a while and get to check off one box. You vote every two years for either senators or representatives (not sure of the name) and have to vote on policy separately on the ballots. I’d be more tired with your job.

  • James petticrew

    Why is it that even apparently intelligent people whenncommentating on the UK seem incapable of understanding the difference between England and Britain? I am a Scot, I am therefore, until we gain Indpedence, default a Briton. However with the Welsh and Northern Irish, who also make up Great Britain with the English, I have no Saxon heritage! English history is part of British history but is not on it’s own British history.

  • James petticrew

    Can I make it clear despite it’s frequent use in the States, there is no King or Queen of England, since the 1707 Act of Union, the monarch has been the monarch of Great Britain. It’s like saying your president is the president of Virginia not the US when you talk about the Queen of England

  • Richard

    James #17, #18 The Queen is not the monarch of Great Britain but of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the UK but not Great Britain. The events you left out include the 1801 Act of Union and the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. It amazes me how few people in the UK know the story of the founding of the State in which they reside.


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