Friday, 29 April 2011

Pretenders (BSDA #19)

I've pointlessly spent the last few hours reading several Wikipedia articles on the lines of succession to various monarchical countries, and, in particular, pretenders to such thrones. A pretender is basically someone who believes they have the legitimate right to a particular throne. Examples include the Jacobites, who felt the exile of James II and VII, and his replacement by William and Mary in the 1688 "Glorious Revolution", was illegal and that therefore his descendants were the rightful kings of England and Scotland. Jacobite spirit was a huge part of the lives of many Scots in the eighteenth century, affected as they were by the awful Highland Clearances, which explains the massive support for the Jacobite pretender Bonnie Prince Charlie in the rising of 1745. Charlie's army marched down from Scotland, gathering hugh support, but, facing the military might of the British king, they stopped at Swarkestone Bridge (near to where I live, in Derbyshire) and then went home. The Jacobite succession currently rests on an obscure German aristocrat called Franz, Duke of Bavaria. Thankfully I think there is little likelihood of him trying to regain the throne any time soon.

Other interesting people are the Carlists, in Spain, who argued that Philip V's Pragmatic Sanction of 1830, in which he gave the succession to his daughter Isabella, was illegal as, following pure Salic law, women could not take the throne. They supported instead the Infanta Carlos and his descendants, and were a major part of Spanish politics until the restoration of the monarchy in 1975. For example, they were part of the broad coalition who supported General Franco throughout his fascist dictatorship.

Even more interesting are the four different claims to the French throne, the legitimists, the Orleanists, the Bonapartists and the Jacobites again. This, however, is so incredibly confusing that you should go to Wikipedia now, as you basically have to understand in detail a century of French history, if you want to make sense of the different arguments. And let's not even get involved with English claims to the French throne, or French claims to the Spanish throne, or Spanish claims to the Dutch throne....

Obviously today was some wedding or something. I like the couple, and by and large I liked their wedding. Republican I may be, but I do feel that the presentation of William and Catherine as just two ordinary people highlights their appeal to the public. I don't begrudge monarchists their day of fun. The support for William and Kate is based in a pure utopian "romantic nationalism", just as were the fantasies of the Jacobites about the King Across The Water. These myths and fantasies draw us together, give us hope and even write stories for us about good and evil. In an age of bland media saturation, cynicism and worldwide coverage of the horrors that humanity is capable of, we all need stories that make us feel good, that make us fight for what we hold dear, that make us think life is worth living. These stories may be just stories, but they're damn good stories.

I just want to, you know, have a choice about who our head of state will be. (Did I mention how much I enjoyed the music at the wedding? It was good. Although the number of conservatives who seem to misunderstand the radical socialist sentiment of Jerusalem continues to annoy me. It should be England's national anthem, you know. Because it's bloody progressive.) 

Follow, comment, happy dance. Twitter: @antmoorfield.

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