Thursday, 18 June 2015

"Will, Will, Harry, Stee..."

Three months since I last posted here, but this time there is something worth saying again finally I think, so here I am.

Now, I am in no way a monarchist.  I think the monarchy is a pointless anachronism and probably has no place in any society, and even if it had, that it had long outlived its usefulness by the seventeenth century when Cromwell did his thing.  Having said that, I also think the monarchy is the least of our troubles and that arguing for a republic is a bit like complaining that the handle of the axe which is about to chop off your head is green rather than red, so I don't feel strongly about it and I think there are more important things to worry about.

Even so, I find the monarchy interesting for a number of reasons, and also believe it to be a structure to hang history on in the same way as the periodic table is a structure to hang happy tales of underachievers with lung cancer on (or maybe even chemistry) and the tree of life to be something useful to enthuse oneself about the variety of life on.  On the whole, monarchs are winners, so there is a problem with looking at history through queens and kings, and I also see history as a process which goes on without individuals having much to do with it, so I wouldn't want to personalise history too much, but doing that can give you a way into it.  Unlike most other subjects I've mentioned on here, I'm very much an outsider to history.  It's not like science, herbalism or linguistics to me, so I may very well be pretty naive with respect to it.  Well, I just am - what more can I say on that matter?

Anyway, there's a famous mnemonic rhyme for the kings and queens of England from William the Conqueror onward.  It has various versions, one of which goes like this:

Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three;
One, two, three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four, five, six... then who?
Edwards four, five, Dick the bad,
Harrys twain VII VIII and Ned the Lad;
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again...
William and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges I II III IV, William and Victoria;
Edward seven next, and then
George the fifth in 1910;
Ned the eighth soon abdicated
Then George the sixth was coronated;
After which Elizabeth
And that's the end until her death.

I've always felt a little uneasy that we can't know how this ends, but that's just how time is, isn't it?  As it happens, someone on YouTube has addressed this issue thus:

We just don't know what the future holds, do we?

Monarchs are interesting for several reasons.  One of them is that they are people who represent their time.  They're clearly not representative of people at their time in that they are far from average, but the attitudes they have and embody are often in some way typical.  Moreover, precisely because there's nothing special about them, they constitute interesting character studies because they're thrown into the limelight and respond in all sorts of ways to the pressures their times and places put upon them.  Also, they are by no means any more free than their subjects.  They have to marry out of expediency, for example, and if they try to exercise their supposed freedom in certain ways, bad stuff happens to them (think of Edward II for example).

Also, what's going on around them is important.  A country in which even a royal can die of smallpox in this part of the world is clearly very different from the one we're living in now, and many of the events currently taking place in other parts of the planet are remarkably reminiscent of what went on here a few centuries ago, so either it's being hushed up better here than it used to be or we have no leg to stand on when we look down at such shenanigans.

Therefore I make no apology for being interested in the monarchy, and to this end I hereby submit the picture I've just cobbled together which is the real raison d'etre of this entry.  It's derived from the artwork above and will of course be removed on request, but here it is: