A Really Grand Duke

Public Television recently ran a series recently on the Queen of England. Now, as a monarchist, you'd think I would be interested in such a series. I am not. Elizabeth II may be a queen, but she is not a monarch, a “single ruler.” In fact, she has no substantial connection with political power in England whatsoever. From the snippets of the show that I caught, he role seems to be giving garden parties for those who have done good works, and such like things. A worthy endeavor to be sure. Or rather, it would be worth it if the queen were really connected with power, which she is not. I leave it to the English to debate whether her function is worth what they pay for it; I am not much interested in the outcome of that debate.

I am a monarchist because I am a democrat (small “d”, let us note). I believe the people are sovereign over their own daily affairs and the disposition of their own funds. But there are issues over which they have no sovereignty, and over which they should never rule. Paradoxically, this democratic vision requires a strong monarchy, if a highly-manipulated majority is not merely to become a tyranny. Kings work best in a society of subsidiarity; that is, when there are strong institutions that have their own defined rights and privileges which hem in the Monarch, or any other power that would disturb the subsidiary powers. Institutions like guilds, cooperatives, the Church, free municipalities, and many others besides. A proper political order requires a host of countervailing powers well distributed throughout the social order.

But of course that vision does not hold anywhere today. Aside from the Pope's monarchical control of one-square mile in Rome, the only actual monarch in Europe is the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, who retained the power to veto acts of the legislature that violated good order and right reason. Or at least he did until a few days ago, when he was stripped of that power. His crime? He vetoed a bill allowing euthanasia. For the crime of defending the culture of life, he lost the power to defend the culture of Europe.

He was a minor prince on a minor throne in a tiny country. But the Grand Duke was right to make one last Grand Gesture in the name of life, in the name of Europe, in the name of his own people. The best way to protect the power of the people is to see that the people do not exceed their powers. For once they do, they are open to every sort of tyranny, and are likely to get it. The Duke is accused of violating democracy; in fact he has defended it by attempting to stop its illegitimate use. Now the Duke is like the Queen a England, an expensive and living tourist attraction. Come see the wreck of Europe in their worthless crowns, in the tyranny of a democracy that is largely a sham of big money and powerful corporate interests. The last shred of monarchy, and therefore the last shred of real democracy, is gone.


Anonymous,  Friday, December 5, 2008 at 10:41:00 AM CST  

A small correction: formally he hasn't lost his power of veto yet, but he is going to, unless the Luxemburg parliament members decide to refuse such constitutional amendment. But I agree this was a proper and Grand gesture.

Doctor Sententiarum Friday, December 5, 2008 at 10:58:00 AM CST  

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments but yet another "small correction": the Prince of Liechtenstein retains the right to prorogue that small country's parliament in cases of need, is seriously consulted by the elected ministry et cetera and, perhaps because of Liechtenstein's size and his relatively large economic importance therein, maintains de facto a much larger place in Liechtensteiner public life than do constitutional princes elsewhere.

Sarsfield,  Friday, December 5, 2008 at 11:57:00 AM CST  

To the King Over the Water!

Anonymous,  Friday, December 5, 2008 at 12:25:00 PM CST  

I recommend Karl Schmitt's "On the Contradiction between Parliamentarism and Democracy." That democracy is something different from liberalism is a very true idea.

If we respect the will of the people, we must respect their choice to cede decisionmaking authority. I can't go so far as to say I am a monarchist (or any sort of -ist with an ideal political regime-- I think what matters more is social habit), but the distinction you make is important.


Roy F. Moore Friday, December 5, 2008 at 1:41:00 PM CST  

Put pressure on the Luxembourg parliament to not modify it's laws and make the Grand duke a figurehead.

E-mail or postcard their parliament. Don't let them get away with this travesty. All is not lost.

The Dan Ward Friday, December 5, 2008 at 6:12:00 PM CST  

This is such a great blog. I learn so much every time I stop by. I never would have heard about the Grand Duke's courageous, principled position from any other source.

Thank you for what you do!

Fr. Anthony,  Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 6:39:00 PM CST  

Queen Elizabeth has far more constitutional power in Australia than in the UK (and I suspect in a host of other Commonwealth countries).

In terms of other leaders who have supported life to the detriment of their supposed public standing, you can't go past the Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez. He vetoed an abortion bill saying it was more important to provide support for women with unwanted pregnancies than to enable them to have abortions.


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