One of the great insights of Edmund Burke’s monumental treatise Reflections on the Revolution in France is his defense of the principle of inheritance in government. Burke argued against certain radical theorists who claimed that Britain’s limited monarchy meant that the King of England’s title was dependent upon the “right” of the people to “choose” their ruler. No such right existed under the British constitution, Burke made clear, citing the pedigree by which the king held his crown as an inheritance, just as the king’s subjects held their liberties as an inheritance.
This principle of heredity as the basis of government might strike most Americans as archaic. If they would take time to read our Constitution, however, they would find that it was the solemn intent of the Founding Fathers to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Thus, our rights as Americans have been bequeathed to us as an inheritance — a gift from our remote ancestors — and we can see in Burke’s argument how the rights of Englishmen were likewise inherited, through the same historical processes by which the king inherited his crown. The limits of the royal power had been developed in a series of struggles dating back to the 13th-century crisis in which the barons at Runnymede compelled King John to sign the Magna Carta.
All of this used to be common knowledge among educated men, and during my schoolboy days, our teachers explained why the Magna Carta was so historically important. Even though the barons were mainly concerned to protect their own interests against the crown, by obtaining the king’s assent to this charter, they laid the foundation for a principle that would eventually inspire our own revolution.
Burke’s defense of British monarchy came to mind in the wake of the tawdry spectacle of Prince Harry and his wife being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. As much as every decent American might wish to ignore this unseemly sideshow — the decadence of the younger Windsors is depressing — nevertheless we ought to ask ourselves what it means for us.
What was perhaps most astonishing in all this was the Duchess of Sussex’s accusation that racism — “RAAAAACISM!” — tainted the royal family. Dear God in heaven, ma’am, exactly what do you think a hereditary monarchy represents? The Windsors, like the rest of what’s left of European royalty, are a product of many generations of inbreeding. How inbred are they? When World War I broke out, England’s King George V, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Russia’s Czar Nicholas II were all cousins. To marry royalty and then complain about “racism”? My dictionary contains no adjective strong enough to apply to this folly.
Of the many absurd tendencies of liberal American women, nothing is more absurd than their obsession with the British royals. Having made a devotion to egalitarianism their political creed, liberal women are blind to the self-contradiction manifested by their fixation with affairs at Buckingham Palace.
Some of us are old enough to remember Princess Diana’s 1981 wedding to Charles, which inspired legions of American feminists to forget their stern commitment to sexual equality long enough to ooh and ahh over this grand ceremonial celebration of patriarchal custom. What this revealed was a truth that hasn’t changed at all in the past 40 years: Inside every female Democrat’s heart is hidden a secret girlish wish to become a princess, live in a castle, and be waited upon by servants.
As American citizens, we ought to strive to deserve our liberty, much as members of the British royal family ought to strive to deserve their crowns.
One might suppose the fulfillment of such a dream — which certainly made her an object of envious admiration among her liberal Hollywood friends — would have been enough to satisfy Meghan Markle. Alas, like so many other women of her generation, she is a confused bundle of insecurity and anxiety, incapable of happiness under any circumstances. Any competent psychologist, examining Markle’s addiction to drama, would almost certainly diagnose her as a case of borderline personality disorder, prescribe her Celexa or Zoloft, and schedule weekly appointments for therapy. But I digress.
Insofar as we admire the British, what inspires our admiration? Their courageous good cheer, the kind of stiff-upper-lip determination that awed the world when Britain stood alone against the infernal power of Hitler’s war machine. After the collapse of France and the evacuation of Dunkirk, when it seemed that Europe was doomed to subjugation under the brutal regime of Nazi terror, the English simply refused to quit. Even as Hitler prepared to unleash Göring’s Luftwaffe to bombard them in their island fortress, Churchill stood before the House of Commons to give a speech that echoes down through the ages:
The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.… Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
Tens of thousands of British soldiers, sailors, and airmen died to make good Churchill’s bold promise, and in “their finest hour” cemented forever their nation’s reputation for undaunted courage.
What sort of ruler could deserve the loyalty of such splendid subjects? Certainly, during her long reign, Queen Elizabeth II has endeavored to uphold the royal dignity. Nearly 70 years after she was crowned, Her Majesty is still a national symbol almost universally loved by her subjects. (The “almost” in that sentence is necessitated by the lamentable existence of Commies and other anti-royalist cranks.) The Queen has seen her share of heartaches, including the divorce of Charles and Diana and the unfortunate circumstances of Diana’s untimely death. Yet whatever her sorrows, Her Majesty never felt the need to do a “tell-all” interview with Oprah — and thank God for that.
Queen Elizabeth was just 14 when the Nazis overran France and Churchill urged his countrymen to “brace ourselves to our duties.” Her own duty, of course, was to act the proper part of royalty, and in this duty she acquitted herself admirably. In October 1940, while Hitler was still trying to bomb England into submission, the teenage princess went on the BBC “Children’s Hour” radio program to reassure the nation’s youth, who were being evacuated overseas to escape the blitz:
We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers, and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well. For God will care for us, and bring us victory and peace.
Stiff upper lip, you see? Men were being asked to give their lives fighting for her empire, and young Princess Elizabeth understood even then that duty required her to uphold the dignity of her crown.
What misery must Her Majesty now feel to see her grandson Harry tarnish her legacy with his tacky American wife! To go on Oprah for a televised pout-fest and complain of racism as if the royal family were like a university under some sort of “diversity” quota requirement!
Simple question: Would anyone really notice Meghan’s race if she weren’t constantly calling attention to it? Her father is white, and she herself is sufficiently light-complected that most Americans would scarcely think of her as black. Perhaps some might remark on her appearance as vaguely “exotic,” but she’s visibly less black than Barack Obama, our half-Kenyan former president, and I struggle to imagine that the Windsor family’s alleged racism could fully explain Meghan’s unhappiness in her royal marriage. But again I digress.
One suspects that the Duchess of Sussex’s main problem was jealousy of her more popular sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge. Say what you will about Prince William, he certainly married well. Kate Middleton’s family was considered middle-class by British standards, although her father is a descendant of Edward III and some of his grandmother’s cousins were baronesses. Royal genealogy buffs have determined that Kate and her husband are distantly related, as William’s mother’s Spencer ancestry can be traced back about 14 generations to Sir Thomas Leighton, who is also an ancestor of Kate’s father.
At any rate, it seems William chose his wife wisely. For one thing, Kate’s got a strong chin and jawline, traits in which the Windsors are generally deficient. (William’s father’s choice of Diana Spencer was also commendable in this aspect, as she had a splendid jawline, a trait more apparent in her son Harry than in William.) In addition to her strong bone structure, however, Kate also seems to have a strong sense of her appropriate role as a royal wife. She is a lovely ceremonial symbol, always smiling cheerfully and dressed tastefully. Are her royal duties burdensome? The Duchess of Cambridge never shows any public sign of fatigue — stiff upper lip, and all that.
Meghan Markle could never hope to compete with Kate as the most popular of Britain’s royals, and losing that competition seems to have inspired her to lash out at her in-laws. Or at least that’s my analysis of the situation, as an American who tries to ignore all the gossip-column chatter about the House of Windsor. My ancestors fought a war to be free from the British crown — I can trace the family tree back to a teenage soldier in the South Carolina militia that whipped Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens. Whatever problems we have as Americans (and these are quite serious), at least we don’t have any royalty blabbering to Oprah. And thank God for that.
We Americans have inherited our liberty in the same way that the British have inherited their Queen — or rather, has the Queen inherited the British? Either way, my point is that inheritance as a principle of government is not something to be taken lightly. Being conscious that our form of government is a valuable legacy bequeathed to us as an inheritance from our ancestors should inspire us to defend and preserve this legacy.
As American citizens, we ought to strive to deserve our liberty, much as members of the British royal family ought to strive to deserve their crowns. As we behold the scions of the Windsor dynasty behaving like decadent fools — alas, poor Harry! — this should cause us to stop and think about our own decadent follies. I’ve been trying hard to act like a respectable American citizen lately, but some of my fellow citizens have entirely abandoned their dignity.
Citizenship involves not only rights, but duties, and, as Churchill told his countrymen, we must “brace ourselves to our duties.” Teach your children to admire and emulate our patriot forefathers, to whom we owe “the blessings of liberty.” You can’t imagine George Washington boo-hooing on Oprah, can you? No, nor would you find John Adams insulting people on Twitter or posing for an Instagram selfie in the middle of a riot.
The cause of constitutional liberty has suffered a few reversals lately, but as disastrous as the Biden presidency may be, it’s not as bad as the debacle the British suffered at Dunkirk. We can endure this dark hour, my fellow Americans, if we call to mind the best of our traditions and try to live up to the example of our forefathers. Do not lose hope. We must still believe what that teenage princess told England’s children in their nation’s darkest hour: “We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well. For God will care for us, and bring us victory and peace.”
God save the Queen, and may God bless the United States of America.
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