Sep 13, 2022
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Why Russians were suddenly touched by the death of Queen Elizabeth

The death of Queen Elizabeth aroused considerable interest on the Russian Web – an interest that generated bewildered questions. Why are people in our country so attentive to the natural death of a very old woman in a foreign country, with whom relations are openly hostile?

Many – including those in Britain itself – say that the monarchy is a meaningless and parasitic institution that completely wastes taxpayers’ money, the aristocracy is a bunch of degenerates, a relic of dark times that has nothing to do in the modern world. The royal family is eagerly reminded of the obviously low moral character of a number of its members and the scandals that the tabloid press happily replicates.

Of course, there is much that can be said about the royal family and about the British monarchy in general; There has always been a lot of talk about this, but especially now. But people are still attracted by the very institution of the monarchy – a man crowned with a crown, around whom his faithful gather. What makes people feel a vague longing for the monarchy and reach for it even in such a worn and faded form as the British royal house?

Monarchy is translated as “the power of one”, and in history there was a temptation to compare the dictators of the twentieth century with “kings”. However, a dictator is the opposite of a monarch. The dictator comes to power usually as a result of turmoil and professes an ideology that proclaims a radical reshaping of society. Monarchy comes from a completely different world view. It is rooted in history, not in revolution, in religion, not in ideology. Monarchy is associated with a certain symbolism – and a certain ideal.

Our time is characterized by the loss of symbolic perception: an elderly woman is nothing more than just an old woman, a crown is nothing more than an incomprehensible and annoying tinsel. But behind these symbols is something important – the royal dignity and vocation of man, the ideal of power as a service. Democratically elected leaders are said to be “hired managers.” It is assumed that the “people-employer” can fire them in the next election. One can argue about how plausible this picture itself is, but it is better to pay attention to the ideas behind it. An employee is not associated with the people who hired him in a relationship of duty and fidelity; he can be replaced by another, and he himself can find another job.

The monarch is not a “hired manager”. He is a king, and his power is service, in imitation of the King of Heaven, who “came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The king is with the country in a covenant relationship – a lifelong alliance that binds both parties with sacred obligations, “until death do them part.” He rules not because this or that conflicting faction put their man in the elections, but because he is the rightful heir to the throne, whose family is rooted in the history of the country. Were there real, historical monarchs at the height of their calling? Not; people are never at the height of their calling. But the ideal sets guidelines, and does not state reality. You cannot grab the stars from the sky; but you can navigate them.

The English writer Clive Lewis wrote in 1952, when the queen ascended the throne: “The magical, fabulous atmosphere of this coronation was not very imbued here. Those present at the ceremony were most impressed by the fact that the Queen herself seemed to be completely stunned by the mysterious side of this action. And because of this, they all experienced a feeling (how to describe it!) – awe – compassion – inspiration – mystery. The burden of a huge heavy crown on this small young head becomes a symbol of the position of humanity as such: it is called by God to be His vicar and high priest on earth, but feels its inadequacy to this high role. The Lord seems to be saying: “In my unspeakable love, I lay on you, the dust of the earth, glory and risk and responsibility that surpass your understanding.” Do you understand what I mean? We will not understand anything if we do not feel that we have all been crowned, and this crowning, for all its splendor, is full of tragedy.

Of course, it is difficult to see any reality behind this symbol and ideal these days, whether in the UK or elsewhere. The oath of the new monarch, Charles II, to “defend the faith” is nothing more than an old formula that means nothing, and the faith of the modern Anglican Church would have left even its 1952 hierarchs in deep bewilderment. But in it there is an indication of the meaning that can be remembered – once it all meant something. As in the ruined church, the choir once sang and people gathered to do something very important for them.

Of course, the monarchical society was based on inequality – there were classes in it, although the boundaries between them were not impenetrable – the nobility could be acquired by diligent service. But inequality is inevitable in any society; and attempts to eradicate it led to a poor society, not free, and still unequal. Nowadays, someone is still in a privileged position – born into a wealthy family, with all the resources and connections for a great career, with the best educational opportunities.

And here aristocrats are not just people who, by virtue of an accident of birth, inherited class privileges. These are people who firmly know that to whom much has been given, much will be required from him, and the position obliges. These are the ones who cultivate a sense of responsibility and self-discipline. Rejecting and ridiculing monarchical and aristocratic ethics, we get not equality – we get inequality without ethics.

We can hardly talk about the revival of the monarchy in Russia – too much has been destroyed, the cultural layer has been burned too carefully. But we can remember the values ​​behind monarchy – dignity, loyalty and service. They will still be useful to us.

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