King Juan Carlos has made the right choice

It is a sad indictment of the current state of constitutional monarchy in Europe that King Juan Carlos of Spain has probably made the right decision to abdicate today. He has become unpopular in Spain, and the continuation of his reign might well have undermined the monarchy to such an extent that Spain would have been in danger of drifting back into republicanism. He has thus shown the same selfless approach that he displayed in 1981 when he seized back control of Spain from a military coup, and then promptly reigned as a more or less powerless figurehead for the next 33 years. The King has abdicated while the stock of Crown Prince Felipe remains high, although banking on the fickleness of public opinion for the success of one’s monarchy seems a perilous strategy. However, it is important to note that Spain’s modern monarchy is a very young one, and Spain has experimented with republicanism in the not-so-distant past; there is no comparison to be made between Spain and Britain in this sense. The monarchy is immensely popular in Britain and the Commonwealth realms at present, owing to the effect of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George, but the popularity or otherwise of the British monarchy is still neither here nor there in Britain itself. The British have no recent historical experience of a republic and, frankly, most British people despise republican government and its foibles more than they love the monarchy. British pessimism and cynicism about an elected head of state will keep the monarchy in business for a good few decades yet.

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UKIP in Scotland

Of all the European election results, the one that disappointed me the most was the election, by a narrow margin, of a UKIP MEP in Scotland. Alex Salmond has done well to give a major speech on independence straight after the vote, when most Scots are looking with horror at UKIP’s victory south of the border. And indeed some people have pointed out to me that the election of one UKIP MEP in Scotland is a good thing, in the sense that it serves to remind Scots that UKIP is not a remote threat but one that may come to affect them directly. Who knows, if Scots do not vote for independence in September, they may find themselves being governed by a coalition government containing UKIP after the 2015 general election. If Scotland does vote for independence, it raises the interesting question of what will happen to David Coburn, representing a party whose name has become obsolete, not to mention its unionism. So perhaps the message to Scotland should be to vote for independence, if only to deprive UKIP of a major part of its raison d’etre – and to force it to change its name to the less catchy EWNIIP (England, Wales and Northern Ireland Independence Party)…

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The Monarchist Case against UKIP and for the EU

As I try to put my finger on what exactly it is that makes UKIP so repugnant to me, I am drawn to the conclusion that it is because UKIP is a radical party. It is characterised as conservative by its opponents, a sort of refuge for the right of the Tory Party, but I am not sure this analysis is right at all. Nigel Farage may have crafted a political image as a tweed-clad gent, and many of UKIP’s supporters are no doubt from the same stable as those who are on the right of the Conservative Party, but there is something much more insidious at the party’s heart. Nationalism and conservatism have never been easy bedfellows, even though, in the twentieth century, the two sometimes joined forces. This is why a lot of left-wing and liberal commentary on UKIP misses the mark: UKIP is a nationalist party, and therefore fundamentally radical.

Nationalism, of course, only came into existence at the end of the 18th century. ‘Vive la nation!’ shouted the French revolutionaries, against ‘Vive le roi!’ The assertion of the priority of national identity entailed the destruction of an older identity focussed on loyalty to the person of the monarch. Indeed, just by existing, the monarch was an enemy of the nation. We see a pre-echo of this in the execution of Charles I, who died because he embodied a focus of resistance to the idea of an English republic. We see a later manifestation in Hitler’s internment of the Bavarian royal family in Dachau. All nationalism rests on the organic fallacy: the reification of ‘the people’ as a thing in its own right (the same fallacy on which the rebels of 1776 based the Constitution of the United States). It has led to untold suffering, persecution and exploitation, and may perhaps be counted as one of the most harmful ideas of all time. The fundamental basis of monarchism is the repudiation of the organic fallacy, because monarchism existed long before nationalism ever did. ‘The people’ cannot be the foundation of a constitution, because ‘the people’ has no real existence. Only an actual human being, to whom the people are bound by bonds of love, loyalty and affection can truly secure the stability of the state.

Insofar as they are committed to Unionism, all of the major political parties in the UK are nationalist. But UKIP is especially so, because of its organic conception of the UK as an entity absolutely sovereign from Europe, and more importantly because it sees the identity of the UK in terms of its ‘people’. Immigration from the EU must be stopped, because these people cannot possibly be considered ‘British’; they are not British, because they lack the defining characteristics of Britishness; the ability to speak English, perhaps, or a white skin. Yet on another reading, by choosing to come to England, and by choosing to become part of and support English society, immigrants acquire the crucial characteristics of Englishness (a common loyalty and a desire to work for the common good) just by being here.

It is regrettable that in the mid-20th century, fear of Communism often led nationalists and conservatives to join forces. Franco’s union of the crypto-Fascist Falange and the traditionalist Carlists to form a single party in Spain is a case in point, as is the alliance of Horthy’s Hungary with Nazi Germany in the Second World War. The false polarity of Nazism and Communism eventually discredited conservative regimes that had nothing in common, ideologically, with nationalism. In the same way that the entire Conservative Party was tainted by the leadership of the profoundly un-Conservative Margaret Thatcher, so 20th century traditionalists and conservatives were understandably tainted by their association with radical nationalism as monarchy ceased to be a force with any strength in Europe.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, something like what we call ‘the state’ first emerged, but almost always it was centred upon the person of a monarch. The idea that the state is somehow coextensive with a population that speaks a particular language or shares a particular ethnic identity is a much newer one, that was sadly encouraged by the League of Nations after the First World War. New also is the idea that the sovereignty of a nation state is unqualified and absolute. The Holy Roman Empire is a case in point, where individual statelets could raise armies, make war, levy taxes and do virtually anything whilst still retaining an overarching loyalty to the Emperor. This was an arrangement that particularly offended the French revolutionaries and Napoleon, with their organic conception of the state, so they swept the Empire away. So called ‘Patriots’ in America were similarly offended by those who remained loyal to King George in the colonies, inconsistent as this was with their fundamentalist approach to sovereignty. As we enter a future in which the inviolability of national territories seems increasingly irrelevant, given global trade and a borderless world of information, I question whether the old ‘nationalist’ conception of an unqualified and absolute sovereignty remains tenable, realistic or desirable. That is why I support the European Union and the further integration of its constituent nations – not because I do not believe in sovereignty or the state, but because I am opposed to nationalism in all its forms as inherently antithetical to monarchism.


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European Elections 2014: who to vote for?

I must confess that I am somewhat at a loss as to who to vote for in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament on 22nd May. One of the principal imperatives is to oppose UKIP, which represents the low water-mark of post-Imperial British Unionism. UKIP is most prominently opposed by the Liberal Democrats, but I do not think I could ever look myself in the eye again if I were to vote for the Liberals. The Conservative Party advocates an in-out referendum on Europe, which I oppose, because I do not trust the English people to know what is good for them and vote to stay in Europe; the Conservative Party is, in any case, riddled with Euroscepticism, even though I have a great deal of respect for many people in it, such as Ken Clarke. The Labour Party doesn’t seem to have much chance of doing very well in the European elections, at least not in the part of the country where I am – they would never gain a seat, and a vote for Labour is probably wasted. Which leaves me with the Green Party, about whom I have mixed feelings. I have no strong views on ecology, but I certainly endorse the Green Party’s Socialist agenda and their pro-European stance. On the other hand, the Greens have a deplorable record of opposing the monarchy and favouring constitutional reform. However, they do have one major positive, and that is that the Greens are the only UK-wide party to support Scottish independence. They are, therefore, the only party that I can vote for that favours independence – and they have a fighting chance of winning a seat in this part of the country. I remain undecided, but the Green Party may well be the way that I go…

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The real difference between Cameron and Clegg – separation of church and state

This week’s comments by David Cameron and Nick Clegg on whether Britain can be considered a ‘Christian country’, and Clegg’s call for the ‘eventual’ separation of church and state, are a reminder of a fundamental ideological difference between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats that has not been effaced by the coalition deal. David Cameron was not, admittedly, explicitly defending the establishment of the Church of England, but Nick Clegg was certainly attacking it. He also made the point that there are now as many Catholics in England as Anglicans. It seems unlikely that disestablishment will become an issue of political controversy in the near future, but Nick Clegg’s comment in particular have given me reason to reflect on the significance of the establishment of the Church of England for Jacobites. There are two legitimate Jacobite viewpoints on the issue: on the one hand, Jacobitism is the lineal continuation of the High Tory ideology of the 1680s, which was itself a continuation of Civil War Royalism, and therefore fundamentally wedded to the idea of the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. On the other hand, the Non-Juroring Anglicans became the enemies of the established church after 1688 and were forced, like the Catholics, to go their own way. On that reading of establishment, it is part of the apparatus that discriminates against Catholics within the heart of the British constitution.

I incline to the former view, that a belief in the establishment of the Church of England is fundamental to what it means to be a Jacobite. This creates the apparent paradox that many Jacobites are Catholics supporting the establishment of the Church of England, but I would argue that the co-existence of Catholics and Anglicans (and indeed dissenting denominations) in a shared spiritual economy is a fundamental part of the Jacobite vision of religious toleration. Jacobite religious toleration is not the same as a secular state in which all religions enjoy equal rights. The Catholic Church is privileged because it is the religion of the monarch, and the Church of England is privileged because the monarch is its Supreme Governor. The extent to which English Catholics were involved in the established church should not be underestimated. Catholic landowners held the right to present incumbents to churches under their influence, and used the opportunity to appoint Catholic-friendly clergy. Many  served as churchwardens of their parish church and were heavily involved with their local vestry committees (the predecessor of today’s Parochial Church Councils). Catholics cared deeply about the fabric of their local parish churches, paying for bells and repairs, as well as erecting funeral monuments since the parish church was the only place where they could be buried. During James II’s reign, the King appointed Catholics to a number of positions within the Church of England. This was possible because Canon Law distinguishes between ecclesiastical offices (such as bishop, incumbent and so on) and ecclesiastical honours (dean, canon, prebend etc.). Offices such as bishop and incumbent carry with them, ipso facto, spiritual responsibilities and a cure of souls. Honours do not. Thus, James created the Catholic John Massey Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford in 1688. James was rumoured to be contemplating making his Jesuit chaplain Edward Petre Archbishop of York but this was unfounded; legally, Petre could never have been an Archbishop.

Protestant commentators at the time were convinced that James was trying to undermine the Church of England by these Catholic appointments. In reality, he was simply using his royal patronage. The church was one area in which he had the power to distribute patronage, to Catholics as well as Protestants, and so he used it within the scope of the law as it stood at the time. The Jacobite model of religious toleration does not seek to determine a ‘lowest common denominator’ of beliefs, like the models of toleration that emerged from the Enlightenment; it recognises the essential role of the Church of England to the stability and welfare of the nation, as well as its uniquely privileged status in law. James II allowed himself to be crowned in an Anglican ceremony (albeit the ceremony was organised by the Catholic Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk) by the Archbishop of Canterbury because he knew that he had to continue as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, in spite of his Catholic faith. For James II, the two titles ‘Defender of the Faith’ and ‘Supreme Governor’ referred to the two faiths he was pledged to defend; the Catholic faith and the faith of the majority of the population, Anglicanism. Unfortunately the Jacobite experiment in England was so brief that we have no way of knowing how it might have developed, but I believe that a state of peaceful co-existence of Christian denominations might have been maintained indefinitely.

James II’s approach was a truly English solution to religious toleration. In arguing for the separation of church and state, the Liberal Democrats reveal their true colours as the children of the guillotine.

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Osborne’s own-goal


George Osborne’s suggestion, echoed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, that an independent Scotland could not be part of a ‘Sterling Zone’ and share the pound, seems a spectacular own-goal for the ‘No’ campaign. It is astonishing that Unionist politicians think that they can still get away with threatening the people of Scotland, when the reality is that the post-independence arrangements of an independent Scotland would have to be reached in a treaty with England whose text has not yet been written. It seems highly likely that, in such an eventuality, England would not want to distance itself any more than it needs to from an independent Scotland; one obvious way to retain ties between the two states, and thus preserve Britain’s international reputation, would be to retain a single currency. The current approach of the ‘No’ campaign is to tell Scots what they cannot have in case of independence; a more alienating strategy it would be hard to invent. Perhaps the SNP has infiltrated the ‘No’ campaign and is directing policy?! Unless the ‘No’ campaign adopts a positive message soon, I am not sure that the result of the referendum will be as clear-cut as they should like.

However, the SNP must surely share some of the blame for the current strategy of the ‘No’ campaign, which is likely to frighten some would-be pro-independence voters, because the SNP’s vision of independence does make it a frightening prospect. The idea that Scotland will be able to erect institutions of state such as an army and a civil service overnight is absurd and, as I have already outlined, a pro-independence strategy with a far higher chance of success would emphasise the ways in which an independent Scotland remains part of the country of Great Britain. If the SNP Government were to adopt such an approach, it would disarm the ‘No’ campaign completely. Admittedly, such a u-turn in policy would be damaging to the SNP so close to the referendum, but that does not mean that different models for an independent Scotland cannot emerge from the ‘Yes’ campaign. I am troubled by the fact that the ‘Yes’ campaign is primarily a party-political issue in Scotland; whilst there are pro-independence members of the Scottish Labour Party, it seems that the SNP alone is setting the agenda for independence. But an independent Scotland is not about the SNP; it is about the future of a multiparty Scotland.

The Daily Telegraph, a paper that I used to read devoutly but had to give up on because I found its smug Unionism unbearable, has recently suggested that an independent Scotland might not be permitted to retain the Queen as Head of State. The suggestion is that the Prime Minister might advise the Queen not to become Head of State of an independent Scotland. This seems unlikely, given that the Queen is the Head of State of the other Commonwealth Realms, and it would be odd for David Cameron to advise the Queen not to become Head of State of, for instance, an independent Quebec that had seceded from Canada. The article in question goes on to suggest that Scotland might be forced to restore the House of Stuart in the form of the Duke of Bavaria or, indeed, the Duchess of Alba. The latter would, of course, be excluded from the succession as the descendent of an illegitimate son of James II (the Duke of Berwick), although the Duchess could well be recognised as a native peer in an independent Scotland, as indeed could all inheritors of Jacobite peerages (in the Peerage of Scotland anyway). The really interesting question, which The Telegraph fails to raise, is whether the Parliament of an independent Scotland would have to pass legislation on the royal succession before it could have a Head of State at all. The pre-1707 Scottish Parliament never passed its own version of England’s 1701 Act of Settlement, which made the House of Hanover the heirs of Queen Anne. Thus, if the Parliament of an independent Scotland were regarded as a direct continuation of the pre-1707 Parliament, it would need to pass an Act declaring Elizabeth II Queen of Scots. Otherwise, the Scottish Crown would automatically revert to the Duke of Bavaria. However, on another interpretation, English common law requires that the monarch should be born on English territory, suggesting that James III and VIII was the last Jacobite monarch, and was succeeded in 1766 by George III as de jure King. But it is far from clear whether this principle of ‘English common law’ applies to Scotland.

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Independent Scotland: An Alternative Vision

After much consideration, I have concluded that the best way I can respond to the Scottish Government’s white paper Scotland’s Future is to produce a brief paper of my own setting out an alternative vision for an independent Scotland, entitled One Country Two Kingdoms. I am uploading it here in PDF as well as in the body of this post.

Flag ScotlandFlag England

1. The Scottish Government’s model of independence

The approach to independence adopted by the current Scottish Government, in its white paper Scotland’s Future (November 2013), envisages an independent Scotland as a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. On this model of independence, Scotland would leave a rump ‘United Kingdom’ behind, establishing sovereignty on a novel basis (the sovereignty of the people of Scotland rather than the sovereignty of the Queen in Parliament). An independent Scotland would have its own institutions: a Scottish armed forces, a Scottish civil service, a Scottish intelligence service, a Scottish broadcasting service to replace the BBC, and so on. Whilst the Scottish Government proposes retaining the monarchy, the status of a post-independence Scotland would be akin to a Commonwealth Realm, like Canada or Australia, where the Queen is head of state but has no actual role in the legislative process.

2. The basis of independence

The Scottish Parliament that voted itself out of existence in 1707 was unrepresentative of the Scottish people and dominated by Whigs sympathetic to the idea of full constitutional unity with England. The fact that the Act of Union did not represent the collective will of the people of Scotland was borne out by the subsequent Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745, which were not simply attempts to restore the Stuart dynasty but also attempts by the Scottish people to assert Scotland’s independence in arms. The Act of Union was an injustice to Scotland, and the importance of the 2014 Independence Referendum is that it gives Scotland an opportunity to redress that injustice. An independent Scotland would not be a new state, but an ancient one. Independence for Scotland is not a financial, fiscal or economic solution, but rather the basic right of a nation state whose destiny was cut short by England in 1707.

3. One country, two kingdoms

The Jacobite Intelligencer’s proposal for an alternative model for an independent Scotland is based on the constitutional situation that developed in Great Britain between 1603 and 1707. In 1603 King James VI of Scotland became King of England (as well as King of Ireland), thereby bringing the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland into personal union. Each of these kingdoms retained its own parliament and laws. The three kingdoms were each sovereign, insofar as the sovereignty of each one was vested in its monarch, but since the monarch happened to be the same man in all three kingdoms, a situation of shared sovereignty was created.

Furthermore, from 1603 onwards the term ‘Great Britain’ began to be used to refer collectively to the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, in other words the territories on the island of Britain under the rule of King James I and VI. From 1606 a single flag (the original ‘Union Flag’) designated the united kingdoms of England and Scotland. English and Scottish soldiers fought together under the same flag, for the same monarch.

International law recognises nation states as its subjects, but the state is not necessarily coextensive with the ‘the nation’ and ‘the country’. This is already the case in the UK, where Scotland and Wales are referred to as ‘nations’, but ‘the country’ is taken to refer to the UK as a whole (a similar position arises in Ireland, where ‘the country of Ireland’ consists of the territory of two separate states). In the case of Great Britain, ‘the country’ arguably refers to more territory than the state (the UK) actually consists of under international law. Most inhabitants of the UK would regard the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as part of ‘the country’ of Great Britain, even though under international law, and according to the UK’s constitution, neither the Isle of Man nor the Channel Islands are part of the UK. However, these territories share a monarch with the UK and, under agreements with their governments, the UK government provides them with defence, policing and many other services.

The Jacobite Intelligencer proposes that, in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on Scottish independence, the usage of ‘the country of Great Britain’ would be extended to cover an independent Scotland, just as today it covers a legally (if not practically) independent Isle of Man and the Channel Island Bailiwicks. After Scottish independence a single country, Great Britain, would continue to exist, made up of a number of sovereign entities including an independent Scotland. This would be more than a ‘federal UK’, but less divisive than the separatist model currently proposed by the Scottish Government, and it would preserve as far as possible the constitutional situation in these islands as it existed before 1707.

4. The name of the country

The Scottish Government currently proposes the creation of a new nation state, to be regarded as a distinct country as well as a distinct nation, called ‘Scotland’. Scotland would be distinct from the United Kingdom of England (including Wales) and Northern Ireland. It is likely, therefore, that the ‘rump state’ of the UK would alter its own name in the event of Scottish independence and the implementation of the Scottish Government’s model of sovereignty. However, such a situation would be inconsistent with the constitutional situation that existed before 1707, and if Scottish independence is to be regarded as a reversion to the constitutional situation of 1707, a more appropriate approach would be to re-name the country that consists of the sovereign states of England and Scotland.

The simplest way to do this would be to alter one letter of the current name of the sovereign state known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. A name change to the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would preserve the personal union between England and Scotland (‘united’) and the sovereignty of each of the nation states (England and Scotland) composing the new country.

5. Institutions of unity

The primary institution of unity in a Great Britain defined as ‘one country, two kingdoms’ would be the monarchy. The person of the monarch held Great Britain together as one country in personal union between 1603 and 1707 and would continue to do so after Scottish independence. On a practical level, the monarch’s role as the country’s centre of unity could be exercised primarily through the institution of the Privy Council. At present, the Privy Council consists primarily of ministers of the Crown, and this would continue after a Scottish independence vote, with the difference that the ministers would be members of two separate governments: the English Government and the Scottish Government. Rather than holding its meetings almost exclusively in England, the Privy Council would convene alternately in London and Edinburgh.

In addition to a single monarch and a single Privy Council, the two kingdoms of Great Britain would share a single armed forces, a single intelligence service, a single BBC, a single NHS, a single currency and a single civil service; indeed, Scotland would share everything with England apart from its Parliament, its ministers, and its judicial system (the Supreme Court could no longer have jurisdiction over an independent Scotland). Unless Scottish sovereignty and independence requires as a matter of constitutional necessity the creation of a separate institution, all current UK institutions should remain institutions of the country of Great Britain.

6. A solution for Scotland and England

The model of independence proposed above represents a solution to resolving the constitutional status of Scotland that is neither the separatism of the SNP nor the scaremongering of the British Government over the ‘dissolution’ of the United Kingdom. Under these proposals, the Act of Union would be repealed, but the personal union between England and Scotland would remain and would have meaningful constitutional implications for both states. The SNP’s view that an independent Scotland would go its own way is only ever destined to appeal to a minority of Scots, and for that reason the Scottish Government is unlikely to win a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 Referendum with its current plans. Furthermore, the SNP’s approach to independence, and its desire to sever virtually all institutional ties with the rest of the UK, is frightening to many people in England and creates the anxiety that Great Britain would lose status on the international stage as a result of Scottish independence. The plan here proposed would keep the disruption caused by independence to a minimum, retaining the significance of ‘Great Britain’ whilst returning Scotland’s rightful independence and sovereignty.

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