The Death of a Queen: Why Liberals Don’t Mind Monarchies

The recent demise of Queen Elizabeth II (of the United Kingdom) has been accompanied by a deluge of extremely cringe tributes.

The British media for example⁠, which is as secular as you can get with Western media⁠, now suddenly seems to believe in miracles. Apparently many people witnessed a cloud shaped like the dead Queen just hours after she had passed away.

This sort of reverence isn’t restricted to liberals. Nor is it limited to the UK.

Tucker Carlson, the most renowned American “conservative commentator,” defended the dead Queen against wokists who accuse her of colonialism. He also took the opportunity to try and paint the British Empire as being “benign.”

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Of course we all know how Tucker Carlson would never defend Prophet Jesus (‘alayhissalam) even half as passionately as he did Queen Elizabeth.

Nor was he capable of noting the irony in trying to vindicate what was primarily a liberal empire, when he denounces the cultural havoc caused by liberalism.

Well, to be fair he’s an American conservative, which basically means he’s actually a deluded liberal.

But why do even those who are proud liberals love monarchies?

Isn’t the very concept of monarchy irreconcilable with their beloved ideas of individualism (with someone having a hereditary right to rule) and democracy (where you can’t choose your ruler)?

These proud liberals often tend to argue in a similar fashion to the “conservatives,” i.e., deluded liberals:

The monarchy represents “history,” “tradition,” “continuity,” is “part of our cultural heritage,” etc.

In summary they’ll defend this institution using secular-nationalist arguments, and this is why the monarchy continues to thrive.

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The Nation-State as the New King

Ernst Kantorowicz (1895-1963) was a German historian specializing in medieval history. As an ethnic Jew, Kantorowicz was forced to flee National-Socialist Germany during the ’30s despite his self-professed German nationalism. And in 1957 he published one of the best modern books on political theory, The King’s Two Bodies.

He presents everything from medieval theological debates, to Shakespeare, and even obscure court decisions⁠. The book spans literally hundreds of pages wherein he traces the genealogy of the modern nation-state.

We will attempt to provide a summary of Kantorowicz’ thesis.

He argues that there was a noticeable shift that took place in around 12th and 13th centuries regarding the discourse surrounding the legitimacy of the king. It went from being a purely religious narrative (“representative of Christ”) to one centered more around law and justice.

Jurisprudence was replacing theology.

During this period you had the emergence of nationalism in Europe, which is visible in the different Italian city-states affirming their own identity due to newly acquired wealth (a bourgeois class⁠—as it measures life in purely economic-materialist terms⁠—introduces phenomena such as urbanization and individualism, but it also introduces nationalism as cleverly noted many decades ago by conservative English philosopher Michael Oakeshott).

It was therefore natural that, parallel to this phenomenon, you also had critiques of “caesaropapism”⁠—the idea that the Church also had worldly (social and political) authority in addition to its religious and spiritual authority.

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This is the reason that the likes of Dante (Italy’s most respected poet) in his De Monarchia and, more importantly (as he’s considered the forerunner of both the Protestant Reformation and modern democracy), Marsilius of Padua in his Defensor pacis, had attacked the Pope’s authority in politics during the 1300s, and they did so quite vehemently too.

It is during this period that Kantorowicz notes a transformation in the king’s “two bodies” (the title of his book).

Prior to this it was assumed that the king had both an ephemeral earthly body and also a celestial or transcendent one. This latter body was believed to be “inherited” by the king’s successor, the new king.

But with secularization and the loss of the credibility and authority of the Church, the “second body” (the metaphysical one) was gradually transferred into a new entity: the nation-state.

This is where the nation-state finds its complex history, despite generally being dated to the peace of Westphalia (1648) and the new secular legitimation in the name of sovereignty.

We could of course argue that it was yet another consequence of the innate deficiencies within Christianity that⁠—unwilling and incapable of producing any political philosophy of worth⁠—led to such secularization. Ironically however, some Christian apologists parade this fact around as being a sign of the superiority of Christianity. Rémi Brague for example (one of the rare few Christian philosophers in contemporary France and someone who is open about his hatred for Islam) adopts such a view.

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We can now see why liberals don’t mind a bit of monarchy⁠:

It doesn’t matter if it’s a King or Queen at the helm. Nor does it matter whether they’re “constitutional” (like in the UK) or “absolutist” (like in Saudi Arabia). The reality is that the actual “sovereign” is always the secular nation-state, centered around secular notions of legitimacy (“history,” “culture,” etc.) and objectives (“national interests”).

Why would a liberal have any problem with such a liberal creature?

Of course when a monarch attempts to follow Islam, the liberals go wild, flinging their own garden-variety of blasphemy accusations at him. Remember what happened with Brunei a few years back?

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