June 10, 2010

traditionalism in the royal family

And no, it's not the good kind.

This really shouldn't be shocking (it's been out for many years that he wishes to be known as "Defender of Faith"––note the lack of a definite article––if he is ever King), but it's remarkably tone-deaf, even if he was speaking to an Islamic student group.

Occasionally (usually from Greeks, sometimes Russians), I hear Orthodox mention that Prince Charles has a spiritual father and visits Mt. Athos. Usually, I just nod about it, but sometimes they voice some secret hope that Charles is crypto-Orthodox (no one ever remembers that his father apostatized and became CoE), and then I feel a need to gently deflate said hope, but usually without any need to refer to Guénon, who the Prince is almost certainly a follower of, at least in spirit if not in conscious fact. Prince Charles has a spiritual father, and dedicates mosques, and is CoE, and so on and so forth because he believes in all that pleasant 19th-20th c. rot about the spiritual core of most (or all) religions being the same and their participation in one, grand tradition. I suppose that believers in the perennial philosophy are less annoying than other types, and relatively harmless now that their more dangerous doctrines have been carried out to their logical extreme by more popular movements, but it still isn't Tradition.


  1. I can imagine Prince Charles goes to Athos and has lots of warm, fuzzy, mystical feelings but I worry a little about what goes on in the minds of those who want to believe he is secretly Orthodox. How can they expect (or admire) an Orthodox man prepared to lie before God simply to become a king given that the Church of England’s Accession service is full of solemn vows?

  2. I don't think that the idea is that he is "secretly Orthodox," but that the fact that he is (clearly) sympathetic to Orthodoxy might lead him one day to become Orthodox (whether before or after his accession to the throne).

    This would no doubt provoke a constitutional crisis, but I am not sure that that is altogether a bad thing. What, after all, does an established Church mean in a country which is no longer Christian in the sense, and to the degree, that it was at the time of the Reformation? And what does it mean to be the "Defender of the Faith" when the Church of England no longer, as a practical matter, preaches and practices the faith that the sovereign was originally charged to defend?

    I think it would be very interesting to see how the UK would deal with a monarch who seriously professes the Apostolic faith upon which the UK's religious establishment is supposed to be based, but no longer is. A public embrace of Orthodoxy by the Prince would provide precisely that challenge.

  3. Margaret,

    I suppose I didn't make it totally clear enough, but usually the types of people I hear this from are immigrants, and not only that, this is America and Americans typically have pretty fuzzy notions about English royalty––when we have them at all––anyhow. I don't think anyone I'm talking about really thought much about it at all. Not an accusation, just an observation.


    I agree that this would all be interesting, but sixty-one or older is rather old to suddenly develop a new principles (not discounting its happening, I've known converts to Orthodoxy who came older, but none with nearly so much to lose as Charles). It is particularly hard to covert Traditionalists to anything particular because of their core beliefs, which prove difficult to shake because they are so infinitely applicable. So they may move from Sufism to Byzantine Catholicism or whatever, but it has a wholly different meaning than conversion does in the normal sense. I suppose I get so hung-up on the utter unlikelihood that I can't enjoy the thought experiment, sorry.

  4. I don’t know, Chris, I would like to think it would be interesting but I suspect it would actually be grindingly boring. Given that the monarch has no consitutional power whatever and therefore his beliefs have no bearing on life I think the people at large would regard it as one of his endearing eccentricities like sounding off about hideous architecture or supposedly talking to plants and as there’s no way Christianity is going to get a hearing in either of our Houses of Government I think they would find some way of fudging it - even if that involved endless committees until he died.

    Ariston, no, you did make yourself clear, but I failed to. I have met people in the UK, usually Russophiles or with Russian great-grandparents, who just lurve the idea of an Orthodox monarch and who are adamant that Prince Charles has been received into the Faith on Athos. Of course they think that the Holy Passionbearer Tsar Nicholas is Equal to the Apostles and have a copy of the Protocols in their coat pocket but that is beside the point :)
    And I apologise for being logged in as my cat.