Monarchy, an institution always ancient and always new
Royal palaces, sumptuous balls, fairy-tale marriages, royal babies: undeniably, the monarchy (first and foremost, the British) is much loved by newspapers and social networks. The fact is that there’s something inexplicably attractive about the monarchy, perhaps because it gives this technocratic and bureaucratic world we live in a touch of magic: some of the medieval symbolism (which we also find when we enter an ancient library or a gothic cathedral) that deeply pervades this institution and takes us back, at least in part, to another society, to other codes of conduct, to another way of perceiving ourselves as citizens.
Certainly not everything connected to the monarchy is good: the division of society into classes, the game of thrones, or palace intrigues. For all of these reasons, the monarchy may seem something outdated, a remnant of the ancien regime that the many revolutions throughout history have not been able abolish completely.
Yet there’s something about the monarchy that seems to be especially contemporary: it gives someone the possibility of identifying him or herself with a family, a family where (just as in ours) children are born and grow, relationships are interwoven with one another and normality is interspersed with great events; a family that represents the best traditions of a country and which, precisely for this reason, can present it to others. One can truly identify with such a family, so different and yet so similar to ours. The crown therefore gives us the opportunity to identify with our own history, without necessarily becoming nationalist, as often occurs in our republics: indeed, in which countries of Western Europe is xenophobia growing fastest?
Finally, there’s something else that can be really significant about the monarchy in our time: the King, the Queen, the Royal Family give stability. In a world where governments change rapidly and the election of Presidents of the Republic is at the mercy of various popular or parliamentary currents, a coherent and well-formed monarch can be an even greater guarantor of a country’s democracy and institutions.
Respect for the person of the king, a sense of belonging, a sense of honour in conduct: these aren’t simply antiquated codes that we can now only find written about in books or written into the video games we like to spend our time on. All of these can have profound existential and spiritual implications. It is precisely for this reason that we can ask ourselves: why do Christians and other religions not call God “President” but “King” instead? Why is God not voted for, while it is to his banner that one makes ones vows loyally and totally?
There are some profound and radical choices for which the logic of the “term-limited government” (which, in many respects, is both positive and necessary) cannot be valid: faith, like love, is related to loyalty and fidelity.
Evidently, even in the small area of Ignatian spirituality, we clearly distinguish between the “Eternal King” and “Temporal Kings”: as believers, we know well that the latter (even those who are good) are only a pale image of the first. Precisely for this reason, what I write shouldn’t be taken to be “monarchical”: certainly, however, they can be a reason to help re-evaluate and reflect upon what this institution brings to the table.
Yet perhaps, as said at the beginning, monarchies and crowns are important for their symbolic strength and that of which they remind us: the games played as children in which we dreamt of being righteous kings and valiant knights, the call to live our life as adults with loyalty and values, and our ultimate destiny, when the Lord will consecrate us and allow us into his Court, where eyes will no longer have to be lowered and cheeks will no longer have to blush.