Sunday, 29 May 2016

Royal flight of fancy puts republicans in a spin

       So Prince William and his wife Kate hired an £8m helicopter. This story - featured large in a national paper - took a dim view of this flight of fancy, quoting the cost (£5,000) and tutting puritanically at Will and Kate's apparent laziness in choosing 45-minutes by air over a much longer but cheaper journey by land.

       And, in an attempt to get its readers on side, the article stresses that such extravagance comes from the pockets of ordinary hard-working people who are expected to bow, scrape and touch their forelocks for the privilege.

       But will the proletariat be stirred to action by such princely goings-on? Will blue- and white-collar workers unite behind the republican flag? Should members of the monarchy be tumbrelled along the mall lined by peasants baying for blood?

       Hardly. Let's not forget that kings, queens and princes are put on high only because lesser mortals actually want someone to look up to. Although - or even because - many once-trusted institutions are falling by the wayside along with our belief in God, humans still feel the need for figureheads, the reassuring presence of a well-known face. And, because celebrities come and go or - unforgivably - grow old, monarchs and their offspring will do nicely. 

       Of course, monarchy* comes at a price.  When the nation of Israel was formed under the Mosaic law, rulership was by Almighty God through His judges and prophets. This worked well as long as the people kept to the commandments, but when the prophet Samuel grew old and his sons proved unworthy of taking on their father's role, the people demanded a king. They wanted a majestic icon, just like the kings of the surrounding nations - someone they could see. "Give us a king to judge us."

       Samuel was devastated at what was, in effect, a rejection of Israel's God. Under inspiration, he warned Israel not to appoint an earthly ruler, listing everything a king would have the right to demand. "He will take your sons and put them in his chariots and make them his horsemen.....and he will appoint for himself chiefs....and some will do his plowing, reap his harvest, and make his weapons of war.....He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards and your olive groves, and he will give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grainfields and your vineyards, and he will give it to his court officials and his servants. And he will take your male and female servants, your best herds and your donkeys.....he will take the tenth of your flocks, and you will become his servants." (1 Samuel 8:1-18)

       Did the people listen? No, they were determined to have a king "like all the other judge us and lead us and fight our battles." Anyone who has ever studied the history of Israel will know how few kings succeeded in bringing peace, security and happiness to the people. On the contrary, most of Israel's rulers caused untold misery.

       Fortunately, modern-day royals have comparatively few powers, existing almost solely to be seen and admired. And if they bring gaiety (along with a thriving tourist industry) to the nation, who would begrudge them the occasional helicopter ride?

*Monarchy (the Greek word mon’os meaning ‘alone,’ and ar-khe’ meaning ‘rule’) is the oldest form of human government, a system which has long been viewed as a unifying force. One eminent teacher of medieval history, John H Mundy, explains,   “Because it transcended particular parties, the institution of monarchy was suited for large areas with diverse and conflicting regional interests.” (See my post

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