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Rough: Monarchy is commonsense: Obasan

Ooni of Ife

Unhereditary monarchy is common sense or how to stop worrying and integrate the monarchy into your psyche (or enjoy the monarchy)

Monarchy, paradoxically, is common sense; we are accustomed to the idea of its critique as a result of the expansion of universal suffrage and the increasingly happy acceptance of limits on their power by monarchs, and the idea that they hold title by the continued indulgence of their people. However, these are not the most useful ways for us to think about monarchy in the 21st century, whether in London, Malaysia, Nigeria or indeed, India, Russia or France. Its important to try to reconnect with some degree of first principles in terms of how what we call Monarch emerged. It is also important to say that the idea of the Monarch as the dignified and the premier political leader as the efficient is robustly sound – though in many countries this is combined, not least in the United States, yet these places then look for their beauty and edification in the reflected glory of their ancestral countries, for most WASPish Americans, that is the United Kingdom.

The mournful aspect is also the one that connects to humans’ consciousness of time and a need to mark it; from the memory of grief and time before and after, human beings would have begun to mark time by the reign of a person’s life – and that we have elaborated in many ways, but it remains about measuring time.

 If we are to try to discern the first emergence of the original combined power of state and government, dignified and efficient that we call Monarchy, it is likely that it originated either sympathetically, meritocratically, or mournful in many parts of the world. The ceremonial aspects of monarchy in which we decorate a body and glorify a body that is fairly still and dignified probably arises from many ancient communities to integrate many people who were incapacitated either by hand or by foot; such persons, unable to move much would have started to provide facility of being a lookout, the keeper of beautiful things found by others who gathered and hunted as well as wearing beautiful things and marking the comings and goings of their band from their stationary point; in time such a person would be dignified with a title and a reverence, and the objects returned would have been given as tax for continued presence in their area. It should also be remembered that very often disability might have arisen through pregnancy, as such the first monarchs were likely to be women. The meritocratic origins of hereditary monarchy is likely to have arisen from the proving of self in combat; the first Dukes that became kings and leaders of bands were very often the strongest or the wisest or the most strategic – and this strength had to re-proved often to confirm their continued rule; in Kemet, the Monarch were expected to prove themselves by running; to show that they were physically fit. However, it arose, political monarchy was societies conceding to invest so much power in one head and then slowly redistribute that power of sovereignty having built up the muscle of the state which it rules. We might call this process the declination of the crown; the monarch either by its own devices or by some other way, becomes becomes a hollow crown or a much more ceremonial crown – it is the later we find in the United Kingdom. The hereditary principle was actually originally meritocratic; the assumption being that people of the same blood would share the same leadership qualities – and as such it was a sure bet to pick a monarch whose line would then remain solid without the awful bother of elections; despite the obvious challenges that emerge from any such guarantee to people, once such a principle is established it was hard to walk away from. because turkeys don’t vote  for Christmas; second to that, in the days and ages when there was not firm communication methods, one of the strongest ways to sustain communication was through family lines and the inherent power of attraction and disapproval that comes from being bonded to people by blood or by blood adoption or the suggestion of blood. It was also efficient as a way in times absent of our communication tools, of managing vast lands and distances; rather than elect periodically a head of a clan, it was organisationally more efficient to identify a family head and crown it with authority with instruction of how it should pass down after death. The point is that representation is not something that governments can ever get away from – regardless of whether the powers being dealt with are concealed or revealed. The monarchical principle also works in reverse, and indeed this was the case in Rome, where Augustus took the role of Emperor by proving himself, ad his heirs established their authority upon his divinity; in effect, it was the nachlass of Augustus that ennobled his family as the imperial family of rome, in effect the imprint of honor comes from the public role, celebrated or notorious of family members, and despite the vast territorial concerns, kings and queens are no different – all royals drawn on the first achievement of their ancestor who was a conqueror – so, they are in effect, merely drawing on the authority of age rather than divinity; once you have held an office the mark of it passes on to your heirs unless it’s absolutely forgotten. This is actually one of the arguments against abolishment of monarchies in the United Kingdom – it is unlikely that the press would cease to cover the lives of all the children and descendants of the House of Windsor if the monarchy no longer was.

In fact of course it started from Egypt obviously there were things that preceded Egypt but I won’t go into that right now the monarch is actually the idea of the states continuing to exist so the demise of the chronicle rather the demise of the crown is actually also the manifestation of Horus so horse the king dies horses energy leaves the King’s body and goes right into the next King’s body and that can actually happen both by both by rights of birth or by right of conquest so if you conquer land as William the Conqueror  you automatically assume the spirit of that land and the spirit of its crown; at least until the 1930s conquest was a legitimate way of establishing authority;

The UDHR changed two metaphysical states, that of kings and enslaved in 1948 or 1946; all people born after the declaration of the Universal Declaration of human rights which is to say after Charles, every single person in the monarchy has a legitimate and legal right to refuse the crown on human rights ground. the monarchy as a marker of time and a principal expression of the decorous, glorious and ceremonial, militarily and otherwise, is actually very common sense.

when a monarchy has been properly domesticated – its people can look upon them as the mark of their culture and say that’s my custom. The last point I’m going to make is that so much of this is actually to do with what you are called; it has nothing to do with money well has something to do with money but very often it’s literally just about being given the right title or a good sounding title, and does anybody who’s ever written a book or film or play or anybody who’s going to go see a book or film or play would know – sometimes a title – what we call or name a thing or person can either make or break them; in the battle between who should add the gloss to the achievements and prayers of our lives, it is my suspicion that those dignified by what we call monarchy – hereditary, divined, fully elected or semi-selected or otherwise- will always win over the purely functional titles of President or Prime Minister; for symbolically, kings in a democratic dispensation, are paradoxically, the walking expression of the law – which is to say that the consequences of contract, absent any unavoidable happen stance – will be followed through. I think all this means in effect that given the relative fact or other facts on the ground we all need to chill a little bit about the idea of the abolition of the monarchy and focus on its constraints and watch much more closely the doings of our modern day barons, whilst having a good beer I’m raising a toast to the UK’s king of kings given that we’re all sovereigns, with a head to wear our crown

In fact in relation to the United Kingdom, Africa and the Commonwealth, who rule dead empires are most accurately called customary rulers, which is to say they pay the custom of heaven through their ceremonial duties of keeping the time – and seeing through what needs to change in customs and what needs to remain the same; I think that as I said before the hereditary principle is not core anymore to monarchy you can have elected kings, as has happened in the past; for example, Hanover, which had an elected king, the elector of Hanover. It is possible to envisage a situation where the king of England is elected. I think in sports is where we find the possibility of the most natural expression of a nobility that relies only partially on the hereditary and draws equally on skill, knowledge and determination; this in combination with the silence and firmness of the crowned head is actually a very good principle because though the political riotousness of the world is good, it is also good to have a space where people are silent and express themselves principally in religious and or timely devotion.  So I think that is an argument for sustaining monarchy itself and there’s obviously successful examples of it being electoral; Ibadan and Malaysia, both have rotational monarchies. There’s a current conversation about abolishing the House of Lords I actually think that would be a mistake cause basically what we’re talking about here is we may alter the content but we should keep the form it’s about 1000 years old I think most would rather get a knighthood from  King Charles or from Lord Oona King who becomes King of England, or some selected through their physical prowess. The continuity is to be found in the form and continued existence of the institution, not the manner of selecting its head.

There’s another point to make which is that the crown properly speaking is not the people who are holding the office nor is it the family in office nor is it the title – the crown is actually sovereignty over the land; Charles, King of the United Kingdom has 70 million gems in his crown; the crowns of Nigeria, in all have about 248 million gems, albeit in many hands. The point is that the crown is actually the symbol of sovereignty, with much of its  power and wealth entrusted to the king rather than owned; in effect, The Crown is the distanced expression of sovereignty as caring for time, valuables, property and people; it is connected to parliament in the sense that parliamentary sovereignty is just a different way of saying the will of the people; the continued presence of a person with the title and financial grant to the title of King is an expression of the will of the people as expressed in Parliamentary disputation, resolution and passage of laws – the King then becomes the last proof reader of the laws in giving assent; as such, the king is a member of parliament in absentia, much as most citizens are – were a subject to propose a law abolishing the monarchy they would be within their rights to do so and those for it would be within their rights to defend it – and the outcome of that debate would be the settled will of the sovereigns of parliament, which is to say – all voters; as it stands though, no such bill has ever been put forward, and The House of Windsor is probably going to be the last house standing in Europe but it probably will eventually fall but it is likely that it will fall in love with ordinariness and being middling rather than through abolition; I think the biggest and most legitimate question about the whole institution of monarchy in England, and indeed Nigeria and many other parts of the world, is not whether it should exist – most people acknowledge the magical in what we call the kingly, divine, royal or sacred; no, the biggest question is why it should be concentrated in eternus in one family; there are deeper answers to this beyond what can be addressed here – but there is a democratic skill that could used in future to choose a beautifiable but silent and politically inactive monarch, and that is the skill of running – the physical race – and I believe most people would be content with many runners as their king in future – as it stands today, in England we have a new king; Nigeria has a relatively new Oni – so it is unlikely we have to worry about the material facts of this for some time.

To wit, the point of choice in sovereigns – both as able to stand for office and occupy office, mostly through  the voting process rests on the assumption and act in law that most adults are of average intelligence, which is to say able to comprehend and manage most briefs or consider them for instructions to civil servants; in this vein we must imagine that Diana, Princess of Wales and Anne, Princess Royal or the Erelu Kuti of Nigeria are on the same spectrum of intelligence as Margaret Becket, Betty Boothroyd or Ezekwesili – so whether we select in some instances because of experience or convenience or whether we elect – we would still have to watch the head that rues the crown; history shows that both elected and selected leaders do that. The more salient fact is that whether you elect or select a leader – their performance is likely to be known only when they are in the role – and more importantly that selection and/or first refusal within the constraints of one or more disciplines is often a justifiable means of selecting a head – whether of a country or otherwise; more important, is that the noble qualities wanted in people are as diffused as possible into a population so that everyone can be – if nothing else, king of themselves; given that so important is the principle of being regal and monarchical to Africans (and many other culture) that it is embodied in the idea of elders being nobles – and the sense, particularly in my own natal culture that you are sovereign over yourself and body – – and Oba Ara e; though in the past this meant you should govern yourself with decorum to police against familial disgrace – now it decidedly means, within legal or secret means – you are the owner of your own life, in so far as you can stand the gossip, judgement and stares when people disapprove – this individual sovereignty then connects with the sovereignty of the crown, and the head that wears the crown as King of Kings in a democratic territory; it should be said though that only states with long and strong roots in the ground, and governments that behave in rights bound ways can have permanent monarchical heads who are principally stable, social, ceremonial and worshipful, walking expressions of the order of the law – without the threat that they will seek to make themselves a political power in the land for either the left or the right. Britain is fortunate to have that, whatever else may be wrong with us at the moment – as we would for our own head then, we can say, God save the King and once again, for England, Harry and St. George! Lastly, for those who as British Africans or commonwealth citizens who for reasons of historical denigration rather than political reasons recoil from the idea of celebrating this particular form of coronation – the knowledge that it is to be traced back to the idea of an eternally dying and rising god first expressed in Africa’s Kemet, the world’s first nation-state – should be a source of pride; as such, this coronation is merely a drop of that first majesty, and you can legitimately sing ‘God Save The King’ in reverence for the power of your history’s influence over today. For those for whom the entire spectacle is a vulgar glorification of a mere human being – you have the option of keeping silent at this particular wedding to the nation, blowing a raspberry, or mooning the celebrants for your own bit of fun. However, you enjoy the coronation – its your choice but enjoy the day nonetheless.


By Odele Fatunla-Adesina

Odele Fatunla-Adesina is the managing editor of The Vex, and its founder; his paternal surname is Fatunla and his maternal surname is Adesina.

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