Tag archives: England

God Save George VII

by Robert Morrison

July 26, 2013

The audience was all agog when the stern visage of the British Army colonel leaned over the podium on Tuesday this week. In that short interregnum between the birth of the royal heir and the naming of the same, there was a buzz of anticipation in Washington. In Washington, no less. The last time we had British Army colonels running about, they were torching the place. That was two hundred years ago, however.

Col. Richard Kemp solemnly addressed the mostly Christian audience, saying: “The Palace has authorized me to say that the first name of the royal baby will be—Prince.” The audience howled.

It was not long before the world knew the eight pound-six ounce baby boy’s name—George Alexander Louis Mountbatten-Windsor. That’s quite a moniker, even for a little monarch-er. And the 101-gun salute that was fired in London to celebrate the arrival of the heir to the throne reminds us all that England is still a very special place.

There was plenty of speculation about the child’s name. Americans really don’t have a stake in that game, since we happily sundered all ties with the British royal family on July 4, 1776. King George III was somewhat forgiving—of John Adams. When the great Founding Father served as our first Minister to the Court of St. James’s (as Britain’s diplomatic capital is officially known), the King welcomed him with about as much grace as one could expect.

But when John Adams made bold to bring his young red-headed friend, Thomas Jefferson, to meet King George, the miffed monarch coldly turned his back on the Virginian. He was unwilling to forget how Mr. Jefferson had labeled him a tyrant in the Declaration of Independence.

Not all Britons have been entranced by the Royal Georges, either. Here’s a bit of nineteenth century doggerel that made the rounds after George IV departed this earth.

George the First was always reckoned

Vile, Viler still was George the Second

And what mortal ever heard

Any good of George the Third?

When from the earth the Fourth descended

God be praised the reign of Georges ended!

The author, Walter Savage Landor, was happy to see them depart. George IV, the end of the line, so to speak, was notorious for his philandering ways. When Napoleon expired in exile, courtiers brought the news to the King. “Sire, your worst enemy has died.” “Has she, by God?” He was speaking of his estranged wife. The people sided with the Queen.

It took some 73 years before England had another George—George V. This time, however, the King was a model of public probity. He and his formidable wife, Queen Mary of Teck, reigned for a quarter century (1910-1936). Through World War I, the the General Strike, the Depression, and the Rise of the Dictators, King George V represented an island of stability in a world of dizzying change.

Near the end of his life, George V glumly predicted his airhead son and heir would not last a year on the throne. As King, Edward VIII didn’t. He jumped at the chance to run off with the exquisitely thin American, Wallis Warfield Simpson.

That brought to the throne his younger brother, the Duke of York. He was known as “Bertie” to his family, but he assumed the name of George VI, as King and Emperor. He was to be the last Emperor of India, too.

George VI was supported by his gracious, warm, and devoted wife, Queen Elizabeth. With their two young daughters—the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret—they made their family the center of their lives. (The famous British luxury liners of the last century—Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth—were named for these great queens.)

The recent Oscar-winning film, The King’s Speech, tells the story of George VI’s heroic efforts to overcome a severe stammer. His speech coach—Sir Lionel Logue—also helped my great college professor of Diplomatic History, Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, to overcome his childhood stammer. Sir John was the official biographer of King George VI. The movie earns its “R” rating by its inclusion of all the “sailor words” used to treat the King’s speech impediment. Sadly, the movie doesn’t hint at George VI’s strong Christian faith.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were heroes of World War II. When Buckingham Palace was hit, Queen Elizabeth defiantly said: “Now we can look the East End in the face.” London’s East End, where there were many slums, had been hardest hit by Nazi bombs. As the Blitz intensified, reporters asked the Queen if the young princesses would be sent to safety in Canada. “They will never leave without me. I will never leave without the King. And the King will never leave.”

What magnificent courage! What a heritage for this newborn Prince George of Cambridge. We can be as Yankee Doodle as ever and as republican as our own great George (Washington) wanted us ever to be. Still, we can welcome this child.

As American poet Carl Sandburg wrote: “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” We believe every one deserves a birth day. And we ask God’s blessing on this child—and all the children.

Long to Reign Over Us? No, Over Them!

by Robert Morrison

June 6, 2012

Why is it so many Americans get a bit loopy over the British monarchy? What was that 1776 business all about? I write this column under a portrait of Thomas Jefferson. Its a copy of the one done by Charles Willson Peale in 1791. Jefferson had just returned from his five-year stay in France as our second minister to the court of King Louis XVI.

Mr. Jefferson came back from that diplomatic assignment all the more convinced a republican. His friend, John Adams was minister to Great Britain at the same time.

(This dual posting may have been Providential since it kept both men out of the country during the drafting of the Constitution.)

When Jefferson visited John and Abigail Adams in London after the War of Independence, John hauled his gangly younger friend in to the Court of St. Jamess to be received by King George III. Bad plan. King George for some reason was willing to forgive John Adams, but he bore a grudge against the red-headed revolutionary from Virginia, Jefferson. Instead of letting bygones be bygones, old Farmer George turned his large back on Jefferson and snubbed him.

I thought about all of this when the Great Diamond Jubilee took place over the past weekend. Why should we as Americans care whether Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne over there for 60 years? Truth is, we do care.

We believe that all men are Created equal, right? They obviously dont. We are citizens; they are subjects. We defend democracy; so do the British. What? Well, actually, they do.

During two World Wars, the War in the Falklands, and even now, with the War on Terror, the British have been defending the idea that the people have a right to govern themselves, free from strutting dictators and murderous jihadists. And the way British people govern themselves is with a hereditary monarch. If they held a royal recall election, the Queen would probably win with 80%. Thats an even better showing than Scott Walker.

As pro-family Christians in America, it might be significant that monarchy is based on the family, united in marriage. We wish William and Kate had not cohabited in a palace before they were married in great state last year, but they did marry. And their Royal Wedding at the Westminster Abbey offered perhaps the best platform for Jesus words on marriage to be heard by a billion people around the world.

Nineteenth century political scientist Walter Bagehot, the famous founding editor of The Economist, intelligently defended monarchy. He said most people dont understand defense budgets and frigates, and such, but they do understand marriages and children. They like monarchy because it is familiar in principle to them and to their own experience.

The four-day Jubilee just concluded in Britain was an extravagant affair. Bonfires were lighted from one end of Britain to the other. Union Jacks outnumbered White flag/red cross banners of England by 100-1. Many a reveler said the Queen put the Great in Great Britain. In truth, she is a living symbol of the United Kingdom.

Its hard to imagine Britain without a monarch. Shakespeare couldnt:

This royal throne of Kings, this sceptrd isle,

This earth of Majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea

Which serves it in the office of a wall

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this orb, this realm, this England.

Winston Churchill was half-American, proudly tracing his ancestry to Pocahontas. But he was all British, and thoroughly monarchist. This best friend of America called us the Great Republic, but he never wavered in loyalty to his sovereigneven when it hurt him greatly in politics. He was the one who bowed when he and FDR first met on the deck of the USS Augusta. He presented the President with a letter of introduction from King George VI.

When that Christian King died, his devoted young daughter, Elizabeth, was crowned in Westminster Abbey as Queen by the Grace of God. Damian Thompson, a blogger for Londons Daily Telegraph, credits Queen Elizabeth II with keeping alive the public acknowledgment of Christianity in Britain these past 60 years. Thats high praise, indeed, especially from a young British Catholic.

Im grateful to my friend, Bill Bennett, for reminding us of our own revolutionary heritage from our Founders. James Madison politely but firmly put down any notion of highfalutin titles here.

But I can rejoice with my British friends in their happiness. God save our Gracious Queen, they sing, God save our noble Queen. And they conclude: long to reign over us. Amen to that. Over them.