Nicholas II, Charles I, Louis XVI… pick your deposed monarch. If you look at history with a jaundiced eye, you have to wonder: how did ANY of these guys survive as long as they did?
When asked “why was so-and-so deposed?,” different groups give different answers. Historians start looking for “root causes” — Charles I didn’t accept the new commercial ethos of the Puritan middle class; Nicholas II tried to rule as an autocrat through an all-but-medieval bureaucracy, etc. History Channel specials focus on personalities — that Richard III sure was a bastard, wasn’t he?
But forget about all that for a sec, and just focus on the situation. People actually fought for these guys, even though slitting, say, Henry VI’s throat would’ve been the easiest thing in the world. The lords who did all these loons’ heavy lifting on the battlefield could’ve crowned themselves king with — at worst — no more of a fight than the civil war they were already fighting on behalf of their drooling halfwit king. Why didn’t they?
It’s the culture, stupid. Think of English Bob’s “why not shoot a President?” speech in that great old Western Unforgiven: “At the mere sight of royalty, one’s hand would shake as if palsied!” One doesn’t kill a king because…. one doesn’t kill a king, even if that means meekly going to the chopping block or into exile like so many Howards before.
Your rebel lord, in other words, is just some guy. The peasants may hold him in awe, but his fellow aristocrats don’t — peers maneuvering to ruin each other was the national sport of every court in the Middle Ages, in their brief breaks between trying to kill each other on the battlefield. Very few kings got shanked, even when it was in everyone’s obvious best interest (e.g. the Hundred Years’ War, which would’ve been about 75 years shorter if someone had just slipped Jean II some tainted snails).
This is a lesson our wannabe-aristocrats in the political elite should ponder. As the Z Man points out re: Hillary Clinton, she’s not in it for the ego-stroke; she’s in it for the money. But the Clintons are arrivistes, the 21st century equivalent of hustling rubes from the sticks who bought their patents of nobility from an addled old monarch who found them almost as useful as they were amusing. While being a titled court jester suits Bill just fine — he’s a poonhound who only cares about droit de siegneur — Hillary’s got a hole in her soul that no amount of money will ever fill. She certainly thinks she’s in it for the money, as she has understandably confused money with security and above all prestige… but she’s wrong, as she will find out to her great dismay should she win the Presidency. Even if the King is a drooling halfwit, he’s still the King, and she’s not, and never will be. We can only hope she doesn’t set the world ablaze trying to avoid that lesson.
Or the related lesson, which is that once the Majesty of Royalty is revealed to be a “social construction” — ponder that deliciously postmodern phrase for a sec — deposing monarchs gets to be something of a habit. Look at all those Roman emperors who barely had time to slip on the purple toga before getting shanked by their Praetorian guard. Wilhelm II was ousted in favor of some lawyers; a grubby bald professor-wannabe had the last Czar killed almost as an afterthought; El Sleazo Caudillo del Momento always gets it from some playboy junior officer who can barely zip his own pants.
Legitimacy is built on symbols. The process takes decades, if not centuries. But it’s gone in an instant.Loading Likes...