Rejoice, radicals! The Royal Episiotomy has been performed with averted eyes, the Royal Meconium is working its way through the a line of bowels that dates back to William the Conqueror / William Of Orange / King David!
And radicals should rejoice, for, as this blog post shows, monarchy is one of the things that saves us from fascism!
Except, of course, it isn’t. In fact, I’m going to argue that having a monarchy (or having a large landed aristocracy, of which a monarchy is a normal part) makes a country much MORE prone to fascism. Right. Here we go.
First, it’s pretty clear David Boyle is stretching any evidence he can find to fit his thesis. His argument is that when monarchies go, ‘very rapidly’ fascist dictatorships arrive, as they did in the last century in Germany, France, and Spain.
We’ll give him Germany, for the sake of generosity.
I’m not sure what he means by suggesting that France became a fascist dictatorship, because it quite famously got rid of its monarch in 1789. More than a century before fascism existed. If he’s referring to Petain’s regime, it’s a bit odd to suggest that fascists ‘very rapidly’ replace monarchies when there’s a 150-year gap between the two. In fact, one might suggest that being invaded by fascists is a much quicker way of making a country fascist than losing a monarchy seems to be.
In the case of Spain, the fall of the monarchy led to the rise, of course, of an anti-Fascist government. It was, among others, monarchists who helped overthrow the elected government and install a fascist dictator. It’s worth remembering that Franco ruled as Regent To The King Of Spain. Far from being a bulwark against fascism, monarchy was the only justification for it. Franco didn’t need to have elections because Franco was ruling in the king’s stead.
And let’s not forget Italy. If only Italy had had some sort of monarchy to stop the fascists coming to power. Some sort of monarch like Victor Emmanuel III. Whom they did have.
Or Albania! Let’s not forget how having a monarchy stopped (didn’t stop) their country falling into the hands of fascists.
Still, they’re all foreign countries. What about Britain?
We probably shouldn’t constantly need reminding of the royal family’s flirtations with Nazism, nor the fascination it held for a significant part of Britain’s aristocracy.
(For the next bit, I’ll put some footnotes in. Footnotes = fun!)
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
1) During the 1930s the Queen Mother used to give Cabinet members copies of Mein Kampf, describing its “obvious sincerity” in the inscription she wrote for the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax. When she was reading it, she described it to her mother as “very soap-box, but very interesting”. (1)
2) Her husband, George VI thought he could probably sort out the whole war nonsense if he just wrote a personal letter to Hitler. After Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement appeasing Hitler in 1938, both the King and Queen brought him out onto the balcony of Buckingham palace to thank him, something which is of debatable constitutionality. (2)
3) The Duke of Windsor, as Edward VIII became after he abdicated, gave interviews during the Second World War that were so defeatist that Winston Churchill threatened to court martial him. In 1940, he said:
In the past 10 years Germany has totally reorganised the order of its society … Countries which were unwilling to accept such a reorganisation of society and its concomitant sacrifices should direct their policies accordingly.
In fact, listing the incidents in which the Duke of Windsor expressed sympathy with the Nazis, or hatred for ‘natives’ or ‘Central European Jews’ would take too long. Let’s just say that he asked the Nazis to look after his holiday homes, which they did, he was probably going to be reinstated as king if Hitler won (which sort of undermines Boyle’s whole thesis), and up until the 1960s he held that the Second World War was caused by “Roosevelt and the Jews”. (3)
4) Not that he was the only royal to think like this. Prince Philip (who, let’s not forget, had brothers in law in the SS and SA) explains the thinking of the time: “I can understand people latching on to something or somebody who appeared to be appealing to their patriotism and trying to get things going. You can understand how attractive it was.” In the same interview he goes on to say that there were, within his family, “inhibitions about the Jews” because people were “jealous of their success.”
Let that sink in, for a few minutes. That’s a prince by dint of birth, whose sisters married Princes of Hesse, and who married the heir to the throne of the United Kingdom being jealous of other people’s success.
Put in that context his constant ‘politically incorrect slips’ or ‘actual racist comments’ don’t seem quite so harmless (as if an unelected consort to a head of state, one of the richest and most powerful men in the world could ever be harmless while mocking the people he meets). His desire to come back as a virus and ‘do something about the overpopulation problem’ seems less eccentric. And his grandson dressing up as a Nazi becomes less of a joke. (4)
These are what Boyle calls “forces for inclusion and tolerance”.
In terms of the wider aristocracy, however, the royals aren’t uniquely fascist. In fact, even when they’re leaking information to Ribbentrop (Duchess of Windsor) they’re barely fascist compared to lots of the aristocracy. Let’s not forget that, as late as the 1970s, Lord Lucan, Lord Aspinall and James Goldsmith were ‘imagining’ a coup and someone was funding Peter Wright and other MI5 agents to imagine it in slightly more concrete terms. (5)
In 1972 Lucan bought Mein Kampf and a biography of Turkish dictator Kemal Ataturk in one trip to Hatchards, and the Countess of Lucan said: “He did have very right-wing views, some might describe them as fascist. I didn’t know he was indulging in extremist reading matter in 1972, although I knew he listened to recordings of Hitler’s speeches at Nuremburg Rallies.”
Just a general tip, if you don’t know if your spouse is getting heavily into extremist reading matter, if he listens to the Nuremburg Rallies for fun, THAT’S A CLUE!
The playful flirtation of the British right wing – and particularly its aristocratic arm – with fascism, from Alan Clarke’s fairly naked espousal of pro-fascist views to Neil Hamilton’s speaking to neo-fascist student groups in Italy in the 1960s and giving Nazi salutes at the Reichstag (6) is always striking.
Far from being a bulwark against fascism, a monarchy, the monarchy, our monarchy, has been its biggest asset.
1) Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, William Shawcross (2012)
2) Munich, 1938, David Faber (2009)
3) A lot of this is from The Duke Of Windsor’s War, Michael Bloch (1982) “Roosevelt and the Jews” is from Sebba, Anne, “Wallis Simpson, ‘that Woman’, After The Abdication”, New York Times (2011)
4) Most here is from Levy, Andrew, “Prince Philip Pictured At Nazi Funeral”, The Daily Mail (2006)
5) Martin Bright, “Desperate Lucan Dreamt Of Fascist Coup”, The Guardian (2005)
6) Sweeney, John, Purple Homicide (1997)