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Humanitarian intervention in the Mesozoic: lukewarm

Monday, July 21st, 2014

[by Lynn C. Rees]

Article II, Section 3 of our Constitution opens with this strongly worded suggestion:

He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

As a people, we underutilize the President’s Annual Messages to Congress from 1789-1913: here is a compact, blow by blow, year by year glimpse into how we saw ourselves through what the president wanted us and our representatives to hear about the state of our Union. What is reported is, inescapably, political. Yet, before Thomas Woodrow Wilson (may his bones be crushed) and cousin Franklin turned the president’s annual message into the State of the Union Spectacular, its submission to Congress was low key. Real history could seep through without being pooped on by monarchial excesses that turned its submission to Congress into a spot-the-living-applause-line-sitting-near-to-the-First-Lady-snore.

The instinct of His Excellency Thomas Jefferson, that old serpent of creative hypocrisy, was right: a clerk reading the annual message into the Congressional Record is less monarchial, more modest, and more republican than what we do now. Over time, Americans have acquired the usual growing taste for what the Nazis sold as Führerprinzip“leadership principle”. If your answer to every question is, from most complex to least complex, “These problems will be fixed when we elect __________” or “We need presidential leadership” or just “We need leadership”, you’ve already broken Godwin’s Law. Hero worship is a crutch for the weak-minded and beneath the dignity of a free people.

Few Americans worship at the altar of Grover Cleveland. Understandable: he was a walrus-like fat dude from Buffalo, New York. Yet his administration’s reporting on its evolving response to the Cuban War for Independence is a model of how sovereignty clearly communicates its responsibilities under the law of nations before that law was corrupted by international law.

The response began lukewarm:

Whatever may be the traditional sympathy of our countrymen as individuals with a people who seem to be struggling for larger autonomy and greater freedom, deepened, as such sympathy naturally must be, in behalf of our neighbors, yet the plain duty of their Government is to observe in good faith the recognized obligations of international relationship. The performance of this duty should not be made more difficult by a disregard on the part of our citizens of the obligations growing out of their allegiance to their country, which should restrain them from violating as individuals the neutrality which the nation of which they are members is bound to observe in its relations to friendly sovereign states. Though neither the warmth of our people’s sympathy with the Cuban insurgents, nor our loss and material damage consequent upon the futile endeavors thus far made to restore peace and order, nor any shock our humane sensibilities may have received from the cruelties which appear to especially characterize this sanguinary and fiercely conducted war, have in the least shaken the determination of the Government to honestly fulfill every international obligation, yet it is to be earnestly hoped on every ground that the devastation of armed conflict may speedily be stayed and order and quiet restored to the distracted island, bringing in their train the activity and thrift of peaceful pursuits.

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Coronation: the magic of monarchy

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- describing the second of two books I am currently working on -- your comments invited ]
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I’m currently working on two book proposals for a publishing start-up a couple of friends of mine are putting together, and wanted to keep interested ZP readers informed. One proposal is titled Coronation: the magic of monarchy, and the other Landmines in the Garden: religious violence and peace-making. In this post, I want to say a little about coronation and monarchy.

Coronation:

Tregear's image of the coronation procession of Queen Victoria, 1837

Coronation is the secret ingredient in monarchy, the symbolic gesture which sets things turning. It is high ritual — but whereas in general sacred rituals, countly rituals, legal rituals, military rituals and so on are separate and distinct from one another, at a coronation they are combined, with the sacred taking pride of place.

Thus in Tregear‘s image above, we see the loyal subjects, the liveried flunkies, the military, the justices, the noblility, and Her Majesty… but it is the church to which her procession tends, the church in which she is crowned, and the church, in the person of the Archbishop, which crowns her…

Coronation is a fascinating business, and in the course of the book I’ll be exploring coronations far and wide — papal coronations, the coronations of Charlemagne and Napoleon, the tantric union of the Emperor with the Sun Goddess Amaterasu-omikami in the symbolism of the Imperial Japanese enthronement rites [Holtom, Japanese Enthronement Ceremonies; White, Tantra in Practice, p 27]

Closer to my second home here in the US, I’ll be looking at the coronation of Mormon offshoot leader James Strang, the alleged ordination as “king of the Kingdom of God” of Joseph Smith himself [Shipps, p 199 n 7] — and the extraordinary 2004 coronation of the late Rev Sun Myung Moon in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

Ah, well…

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The Anointing:

This golden Ampulla containing sacred oil or chrism was first used at the coronation of Henry IV in 1399

The secret ingredient in the western tradition of coronation is the anointing: it is the signing with chrism that confers on the monarch the blessing of God, the crown being no more than a confirmation of that blessing in terms of visible power and dignity. Thus Sir Laurence Olivier, reading the words of Christopher Fry in the film commentary on the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, called it “a moment so old, history can scarecely go deep enough to contain it”.

From a poetic perspective, the sacral anointing of the monarch conveys not merely temporal power, but also a priestly and a healing function. Thus the ceremonial partakes of some of the same features as the ordination of a bishop, while the monarch also receives the gift of healing scrofula with the Royal Touch, as Shakespeare notes in Macbeth:

A most miraculous work in this good king;
Which often, since my here-remain in England,
I have seen him do. How he solicits heaven,
Himself best knows: but strangely-visited people, 150
All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
The mere despair of surgery, he cures,
Hanging a golden stamp about their necks,
Put on with holy prayers: and ’tis spoken,
To the succeeding royalty he leaves
The healing benediction. With this strange virtue,
He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy,
And sundry blessings hang about his throne,
That speak him full of grace.

In monarchy, and by the divine anointing, earthly and celestial powers are ceremoniously aligned.

Notice, too, that in Handel‘s celebrated coronation anthem, Zadok the Priest (video below), it is the anointing of the monarch that is featured:

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The ripples that extend from anointment and coronation across time and continents are many and varied. This video shows one small but beautiful ritual associated with British royalty since the twelfth cedntury, which takes place during the third week of July each year…

At the opposite end of the royal spectrum, if I may call it that, we find the cargo cult on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu that awaits the coming of the man they call Man Belong Mrs Queen:

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I will close with the ode Handel wrote for the Birthday of Queen Anne, Eternal Source of Light Divine, featuring the fabulous voice of countertenor Iestyn Davies and brilliant trumpet of Alison Balsom, directed by Trevor Pinnock with the English Concert.

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Your comments and suggestions for the book are most welcome.

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Sunday surprise 7: HRH Prince Charles

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- two more short videos in my series of Sunday Suprises, aiming for unexpected delight & continuing Brit-USian amity ]
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Here in a nutshell is a glimpse of why I admire and like HRH:

And I’ve chosen this example of Leonard Cohen, not for the line “where the light gets in” which has been quoted too often for its own good, but for “the holy dove, she will be caught again”.

There’s so much more in this song to learn, to take in, to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” as the prayer book says.

Hoping you’ll take some pleasure in one or both of these clips this Sunday!

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Dajjal and Antichrist: the family resemblance

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- on the assignment of archetypal roles to members of the British Royal Family ]
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For those having trouble distinguishing the Dajjal from the Antichrist, I thought I’d post two screen-caps from a video of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, one of whom is identified as the Dajjal:

together with the cover of a book identifying the Antichrist — by his coat of arms — as Prince Charles:

In true conspiracist connect-the-dots fashion, then, the Antichrist is the Dajjal’s father.

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Dajjals, Antichrists, Messiahs and Mahdis all function as Rorschach blots on which people project their hopes and fears, associating celebrities and leaders they despise and admire with archetypal instances of the final evil and the final savior.

By now, we should surely have figured out that this tells us more about those making the attributions than it does about the supposed, dreaded or hoped for end of days…

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A tale of two cities: Rome and Canterbury

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- on the ceremonial installations of the 266th Pope in Rome, and the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, together with a brief excursus on getting through doors ]
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This particular pairing of photographs is a light-hearted offering, showing the Pope being quietly and graciously assisted down the steps of St Peter’s to the open air altar, while the Archbishop of Canterbury must pretty much force his way into his own cathedral with three strong blows from his pastoral staff… both ceremonies having taken place over the last few days.

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The gesture of beating on the church door, requesting permission to enter, is in fact an old one. Here is video of the same ceremony, as enacted on the death of the Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, when the body of that exalted aristocrat and devout Catholic was brought the Capuchin Cloister to be buried:

The text of the ceremony proceeds in a beautifully constructed threefold fashion. First, the Archduke begs admission to the church under his hereditary stiles and titles:

Prior: Who desires entry?

MC: Otto of Austria; once Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary; Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and the Bukowina; Grand Prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, of O?wi?cim and Zator, Teschen, Friaul, Dubrovnik and Zadar; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenburg etc.; Lord of Trieste, Kotor and Windic March, Grand Voivod of the Voivodeship of Serbia etc. etc.

It is not enough:

Prior: We do not know him.

On the second occasion, he presents himself in terms of his own accomplishments and honors:

(The MC knocks thrice)

Prior: Who desires entry?

MC: Dr. Otto von Habsburg, President and Honorary President of the Paneuropean Union, Member and quondam President of the European Parliament, honorary doctor of many universities, honorary citizen of many cities in Central Europe, member of numerous venerable academies and institutes, recipient of high civil and ecclesiastical honours, awards, and medals, which were given him in recognition of his decades-long struggle for the freedom of peoples for justice and right.

And again it is not enough, it is not simple enough:

Prior: We do not know him.

(The MC knocks thrice)

This third and final time, the appeal is simple and all too human:

Prior: Who desires entry?

MC: Otto, a mortal and sinful man.

Prior: Then let him come in.

And thus, ceremonially, neither his high position nor his accomplishments suffice the man to enter the church, whose threshold requires humility…

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I am, I suppose, at the antipodes from many of my fellows these days — a futurist who nonetheless glories in ceremonial and tradition, believing that gestures such as the knocking on the door just described carry a symbolic impact which can move us deeply.

Accordingly, I am going to append here the two booklets containing the respective orders of service in Canterbury and Rome these last few days:

First in temporal sequence, the Mass for the inauguration of the Pontificate of Pope Francis, March 19, 2013. including his installation in the chair of St Peter in Rome.

Second, the Inauguration of the Ministry of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Portal Welby, including his enthronement in the seat of his predecessor, St Augustine.

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The entire ceremony of the installation of Pope Francis has been made available on YouTube, and while I do not expect many Zenpundit readers to watch it in its 4-hour entirety, I am first posting here a single excerpt, the Te Deum by Tomás Luis de Victoria sung at the conclusion of the Mass of Inauguration:

Here, for those who may be interested, and for the record, is the telecast in full:

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I have only been able to find a severely edited BBC version of the enthronement ceremony in Canterbury, which gives little sense of the majesty of the English ritual and choral music —

There was also some African drumming, as can be seen in this (far shorter) Telegraph video:

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By way of comparison, here is a surviving video of the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II in London, about sixty years ago:

I would like on some other occasion to walk you through one or more such great rituals as these, exploring the depths and symbolic meanings of such things as the red coloration of a cardinal’s robes, signifying a sworn willingness to die for the faith, and the anointing and robing of a British monarch, symbolizing her (or his) quasi-priestly function as Supreme Governor of the church…

The details of such rituals — strong statements uttered in a moment of high purpose, such as “Be so merciful that you be not too remiss, so execute justice that you forget not mercy” in the English coronation rite — can shape a lifetime, and a people.

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