Tag Archives: monarchy

A CALL FROM SINGAPORE

Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia and just at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula, the island country of Singapore is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures. The Lion City is one of the world’s most dynamic, vibrant and prosperous nations.

A friend from Singapore called me at the weekend.   Amongst other things we discussed President Trump’s visit to the region, which is now taking place.   He told me that Singaporeans (mostly ethnic Chinese) believe that America is on the way down and China is on the way up.   In other words, the most powerful nation in Asia and the Pacific is now NOT the US, but China.   Every nation in the region is having to come to terms with Chinese domination.

My friend, who is over 80, remembered the events of 1942 that led Singaporeans to realize the British Empire was on its way down.   One of the greatest military defeats in British history was the fall of Singapore on the 15th of February in 1942.   The story is told of Lee Kwan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore.   While he was a student, the British blew up the causeway that linked the city to the mainland, to delay Japanese forces.   The sound of the explosion could be heard across the island.   When Mr. Lee’s British headmaster came out of the school building and asked him what the noise was, Mr. Lee responded: “It is the sound of the British Empire falling.”

Effectively, it was.   The fall of the British built and developed city started a series of events that led to American domination of Asia and the Pacific.   Now, China’s economic success means Beijing has greater clout in the area than Washington — many nations are looking to Beijing rather than Washington, to secure their future.

I posted an article to my blog in February to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first time anybody realized that the US had overtaken the United Kingdom as the world’s pre-eminent nation.   It’s all recounted in the book “Picking up the Reins,” by Norman Moss.   It wasn’t until the following year that the term “Leader of the Free World” was applied to the US.   Seventy years later, we find people openly talking about China overtaking the United States. Chinese resentment at US domination is illustrated by an item on today’s BBC World News website.   Apparently, the Chinese use the term “Boss of the World” to describe America.

China isn’t the only power center trying to take over from America. The European Union is also determined to provide an alternative to American hegemony, with Germany’s Angela Merkel now often labeled “the Leader of the Free World.”   Bible students will not be surprised at these developments.

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IRAN – SAUDI STRUGGLE

Keep an eye on the growing Sunni-Shia struggle in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia leads the former and Iran the latter.   The two countries are fighting a proxy war in Yemen.   The latest development was a missile attack on the Saudi capital, fired by Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran.

Iran also supports Hizbollah in Lebanon, whose prime minister resigned on Friday out of fear that he, like his father, will be assassinated.

From Monday’s Jerusalem Post:  “Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.”

Syria is also caught up in the Sunni-Shia conflict.   Iran supports the Syrian president, Bashir Assad.

The West is solely focused on ISIS, a Sunni Islam group which is fighting Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria.   ISIS is re-grouping in a number of countries, claiming to represent and defend Sunnis from the Shi’ite heretics.

It’s all very complicated.   Not at all as simple as TV news depicts.

A new area of conflict is in the Sahara, where the US lost four military personnel last month.   Most attention was focused on President Trump’s call to the young wife of one of the men who died. Little attention has been given to the wider problem of a growing conflict right across the Sahel.

The West seems to think ISIS has been defeated; the reality is that the organization has dispersed and formed new radical terrorist groups in a number of different countries.  ISIS fighters have also been returning home to western nations – we should expect more terrorist attacks following the “defeat” of ISIS.

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WALL STREET’S BREXIT WARNING

Big banks are worried about Brexit.   A group of large financial institutions with big London operations, including JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and HSBC, has told US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross that Britain’s unstable government and slow progress in Brexit planning may force them to start moving thousands of jobs out of  the City in the near future.   The lack of clarity over a transition deal is making them nervous.

Their concerns are unlikely to be assuaged by the latest chaos in Theresa May’s cabinet.   Mrs. May is under pressure to strip two more cabinet ministers of their jobs following separate fiascos involving Priti Patel and Boris Johnson.   And the EU has warned that the UK has less than a month to make concessions on a divorce settlement.   The FT’s editorial outlines how the British government’s flailing at home is translating into weakness abroad: “Allies are increasingly wondering whether Mrs. May’s government has the focus or ability to play Britain’s traditional global position — let alone the enhanced role pledged by Brexit.”   (Financial Times, 11/8)

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TEXAS CHURCH ATTACK

26 people were shot dead in church Sunday, following a man’s argument with his mother-in-law.   Twenty others were injured, some very seriously.

This was the 307th incident of mass murder in the US this year. Today is the 310th days of the year, so, in effect, the US is experiencing an average of one mass attack per day.   A mass murder incident is defined as the murder of four or more people.

No other nation in the world sees so much violence.   Yemen, in a civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims (see segment above), has the second highest incident rate.   Statistically, you would be safer living in Yemen, than in the United States.

I’ve always believed that people have a right to defend themselves, a right that goes back at least to the time of Henry II in the 12th century and perhaps goes back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom prior to the Norman ascendancy.  The second amendment of the US constitution guarantees that right.   After an attack in London a few weeks ago, I pointed out that if one member of the public, just one, had been carrying a weapon, the terror attack might have been thwarted.

President Trump raised the issue of mental health in the context of mass shootings at a press conference in Tokyo.   Mental health is certainly a major issue.   But easy access to guns, especially by the mentally ill, is also a factor and needs to be addressed.   It’s time for that presidential commission of inquiry into mass gun violence.   Let the public have their say.   They are the ones that are dying, even in church.

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100-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

November 7th is the anniversary of the Russian Revolution that brought the communists to power.   Not surprisingly, Russians are not enthused about the anniversary.   They rejected communism over 25 years ago.

There is still talk of a restoration of the monarchy, though most people do not seem to be in favor and do not expect it to happen.

There are lessons here from both France and Spain, two countries that were once dominated by their respective leaders, Charles de Gaulle and General Franco.   Both were strong men, who were vain enough to think that nobody could possibly replace them after their deaths.   Both men thought that the best way to preserve their nations in the future was through the restoration of their national monarchies.

De Gaulle was a close friend of the Comte de Paris, the descendant of the Orleanist monarch, Louis Phillipe, who ruled France from 1830-1848.   The Comte was aware of de Gaulle’s desire to restore the monarchy.

In 1968, France was rocked by student riots and violence across the country.   DeGaulle presented constitutional reforms (not including a restoration) that were rejected, leading to his resignation as President of France in April, 1969.   He died one year later.   De Gaulle, the inspiration behind the Fifth Republic in 1958, need not have worried  — the Fifth Republic remains to this day.

General Franco of Spain, a fascist dictator, had more time to think about the Spanish succession, proclaiming that his heir and successor was to be Juan Carlos, of the Bourbon line of monarchs. As soon as Franco died in 1975, Juan Carlos was proclaimed king.   Rather than continuing Franco’s conservative ideology, the new King dedicated himself to protecting Spanish democracy, thereby at the same time preserving the monarchy.   He even had the respect and support of Spanish communists.

Vladimir Putin may be thinking along the same lines.   He’s been a very strong leader, with a 90% approval rating at times.   He must be fearful of Russia’s future after he leaves the scene.

The restoration of the Romanov dynasty along Spanish lines, may be just what he’s thinking.   He’s already reviving Russian culture, and has helped the church take center stage.

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SYRIA SIGNS UP TO PARIS ACCORD

The US is now the only country in the world that has not signed up to the Paris climate treaty.   Syria was the only other holdout, but has now signed.

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PARADISE PAPERS SCANDAL

The Anglo-Saxon world loves its scandals, especially when its leaders are exposed.   In this regard, the Paradise Papers did not disappoint.

While TV audiences are focused on who has what and why, it should be emphasized that absolutely no one “exposed” broke the law.  They simply took advantage of legal tax loopholes, just as most people do, only theirs is on a much bigger scale than the average citizen.

The only law-breaking going on here was by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which somehow gained access to private financial information.   The paper’s partners in this enterprise included the British Guardian newspaper and the New York Times.  No surprises there.

Another concern is this:   the revelations are the latest “scandal” to undermine our institutions.   As if the Harvey Weinstein and other sexual revelations are not enough, we now have nightly reports that Queen Elizabeth II (and others) have been protecting their assets by moving them beyond the control of national governments.

Times have certainly changed.   Fifty years ago, royal tour-guides would proudly announce that the British monarch was the richest woman in the world.   Now, she’s not even in the top 500 wealthiest people in Britain (J.K. Rowling heads the female list), and people are getting riled about it.

The amount involved was only 10 million pounds ($13 million).

Exactly 100 years after the class warfare of the Russian Revolution, people have learned nothing.   All socialism brought was “equal shares of misery for all” (Margaret Thatcher’s definition).   Do we really want to embrace it again, naively thinking it will improve all our lives?

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ANGLO-SAXON DELUSIONS

UK and eu

According to the British Daily Express on Friday, 92% of the British people are now against remaining in the European Union.

This means that Prime Minister David Cameron’s gamble has not paid off. Mr. Cameron hoped that by gaining some concessions from his EU partners, the British people would vote to remain in the 28-nation bloc.

What’s defeated him is the migrant crisis.

“Shock poll result as asylum claims rocket yet again,” is the remainder of the front-page headline. The British people feel like they are being invaded and that the British way of life is seriously threatened. One of my brothers put it well when he said you don’t hear English spoken any more at the local “precinct” (mall).

This is not a recent phenomenon sparked by the mass exodus of people fleeing Syria. It’s been going on for some time. Migrants take advantage of Britain’s generous welfare system. They will cross a dozen countries in Europe to get to the United Kingdom, when international rules on asylum say you should apply for asylum status at the first country you go to.

The British only have themselves to blame.   Firstly, in joining the EU in the first place; secondly, in having such generous welfare benefits; thirdly, by, unbelievably, distributing leaflets on claiming benefits in British Council offices around the world.   This was the way it was when we lived in Ghana.   The British Council was a British taxpayer funded library and information center in the Ghanaian capital and in the second biggest city of Kumasi.   Leaflets on their information table promoted all the freebies available once an individual arrived in London.   Britons should remember St. Paul’s admonition: “If a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10)

Under EU rules, anybody moving from country to country within the EU is entitled to receive benefits from his/her new country upon arrival. All people have to do is get to the EU, from where they can easily move to Britain. This is causing serious financial problems in the UK and is widely resented.

Question:  if Britain leaves the EU, where will she go? What will she do?

The Norwegian Foreign Minister, visiting Britain last week, cautioned the UK on leaving. Norway is NOT a member but often pays a heavy price for not being allowed to make decisions on European trading policies, dictated from Brussels.

Prior to entering the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the EU, Britain had close trading ties with its former colonies, the four Dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.   These countries now have different priorities.

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The term “dominions” is not used any more, except in Canada, whose official name is “Dominion of Canada.” Australia is the “Commonwealth of Australia.” Collectively, the four nations mentioned were termed the “Dominions.” When I was growing up, the British government had a special minister to handle relations with these nations, they were so important. He was the Secretary for the Dominions. The dominions each had the Westminster system of parliamentary government with the British monarch as Head of State.

“New Brunswick premier Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley suggested the term ‘Dominion,’ inspired by Psalm 72:8 (from the King James Bible): “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” This is also echoed in Canada’s motto:  A Mari Usque Ad Mare (Latin for “from sea to sea”). The term had been used for centuries to refer to the lands held by a monarch, and had previously been adopted as titles for the Dominion of New England and the Dominion and Colony of Virginia. (Wikipedia: “Name of Canada”)”

These dominions, together with Britain itself, were the number one military and economic power in the world prior to the United States.   They were the only nations that fought against fascism in World War II from beginning to end. In World War I, they led the fight against German militarism.

In June 1953, the prime ministers of these countries, who then comprised the British Commonwealth, met in London to discuss security matters. They had been in the capital for the coronation of the queen. Sir Winston Churchill chaired the meeting. Sir Robert Menzies, the Australian prime minister and an ardent monarchist, was also present.

Two of the issues they discussed were the Korean War, in which the Commonwealth played a major role; and the new radical government in Egypt, which had overthrown the Egyptian monarchy. The new nationalist government wanted to seize the Anglo-French Suez Canal, an artery of the British Empire, giving Britain ready access to its territories in the east.

In 1956 the Egyptians seized the canal. The British and French, together with the Israelis, invaded Egypt to take the canal back.   Unexpectedly, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower told them to stop and threatened the UK with severe economic consequences if the country went ahead with its plans.

This spelled the end of the British Empire. It was clear that Britain could no longer continue as a global power.   Britain’s colonies were rapidly given independence, most of them joining the Commonwealth, which became meaningless. Today, 94% of the people in the Commonwealth are Asians or Africans. This has totally transformed the organization from what it was in 1953. Most member nations are republics, though they still recognize the Queen as the Head of the Commonwealth.

Now, it’s America’s turn to start pulling back from international commitments.

If Britain pulls out of the EU, it presents Australia with an opportunity. Instead of severing the last tie with Britain, the country could propose a reactivation of the alliance that existed right up until Bob Menzies was PM. The four nations that were founder members of the original Commonwealth (South Africa, Rhodesia and Newfoundland were the other three) could once again be a formidable force, with a global reach. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom could have a major presence in the world again. Queen Elizabeth II is queen of all four countries, in herself a unifying symbol.   This does not mean Britain would be in the lead.   But all four, working together, would be a positive force in the world.   They have a great deal in common, including a commitment to the freedom of the individual and the rule of law. A formal, more meaningful relationship between the four could also bolster the US led western alliance, at a time of growing disillusionment and disinterest in the US.

It’s such a good idea, it’s unlikely to happen. Australia and New Zealand will more likely continue to pursue closer ties with Asia; the UK pursuing a differed European model. Further examples of Anglo-Saxon delusions.

The result is the continuing decline and fragmentation of the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples who, a century ago, dominated the world.

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The US Administration is also delusional.

Amidst clear signs that the economy is slowing down, unemployment has dropped to below 5% for the first time in a few years. This is due to the way the unemployment figures are calculated and has little to do with reality.   The figure is based on how many people are receiving unemployment benefits and are actively looking for work. As benefits are for a limited time only, the numbers decline over time. Additionally, millions of people have simply given up looking for work.

Another sign of spreading delusion is the federal deficit. It passed $19 trillion last week and hardly got a mention. Nobody cares anymore. It appears that nobody in Washington has any concept of why the country should live within its means.   Of course, few people, mere mortals included, has any idea how to balance a budget, so it’s not surprising our leaders get away with it. Somebody once described credit cards as “45 days to reality” – it may take longer for the US to reach its “pay by” date, but it will come and when it does economic upheaval will follow.

Further delusion was shown when the President visited a mosque Thursday, as a guest of the Islamic Society of Baltimore.   Stressing how Muslims were involved in America from the beginning, he continued to build on the false idea that this country is based on Judeo-Christian-Islamic principles and that Islam, together with the other two religions, is a religion of peace.

None of this is based on reality. Yes, some Muslims were brought to America as slaves, but they did not retain their religion. The book “Muslims in America” says the first recorded Muslim was an American who converted after his travels in the Middle East. This was after the Civil War. The first mosque was opened in Chicago in 1929. The mosque visited on Thursday is only 47 years old. As for Islam being a “religion of peace,” history shows otherwise.

Perhaps there’s no time to read history when you’re President of the United States!

There’s no time for geography, either, when you are running for president. Marco Rubio has upset both the Swedes and the Norwegians by suggesting that one of his rivals should run for president in one of the two Scandinavian countries. The two nations are quite upset with this suggestion – they have never had a president. Nor do they want one. Can you blame them after being exposed to all the debates on CNN?

Note the following comment from a Swedish magazine:

“The thing with some American politicians, such as Sarah Palin, is – I don’t want to use the word stupid, but I do. They are. They are so ignorant about the rest of the world. They think there are two monarchies in the world. And that’s the UK and Monaco, because of Grace Kelly.”

– Roger Lundgren editor of Sweden’s Kungliga (Royal) magazine

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The presidential candidates did not just sleep through history and geography classes, they dozed off during English classes as well. In one of the Republican debates, I was introduced to the following new words:   “vigorousness” (Ted Cruz) and “falseness” (Rand Paul, who has since dropped out, hopefully to take further English classes!)  Donald Trump also expanded my vocabulary.  Thankfully, those words were bleeped out!

The Democrats, meanwhile, argued over the meaning of the word “progressive.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!

queen-elizabeth-parliament-opening

According to the BBC’s website:   “Almost all of Australia’s state and territory leaders have signed a document in support of the country becoming a republic.”

This follows republican Malcolm Turnbull replacing monarchist Tony Abbot as prime minister of Australia.   Both men are Liberals.  The Liberal Party in Australia is actually the nation’s conservative party.  Mr. Turnbull feels that this is not the time for a republic – it would be best to wait until the Queen’s reign ends.

Elizabeth II has been Queen of Australia for more than half the country’s existence as an independent nation.   Nobody speaks ill of the Queen, who has been a conscientious monarch, serving the country well.   But Australia has changed in the fifty years since the queen’s first Australian prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was in charge.   Sir Robert was an ardent monarchist who attended the coronation of the monarch in 1953.

At the time, Sir Winston Churchill was the British prime minister.  When the nine Commonwealth prime ministers met for their bi-annual conference, they spent a great deal of their time discussing defense matters.   The Korean War was ending and there were serious threats to the British Empire in Egypt, where the new radical government of Gamal Abdul Nasser wanted to gain control of the Suez Canal, a move that would later deal a fatal blow to the whole idea of empire.

Today, the Commonwealth has 53 members, almost all of whom are non-white and mostly have different ideals and priorities to the mother country.

Trade ties have declined with Britain’s industrial decline.  Australia now has closer ties with Asia than with Britain.

Demographic trends also mean that there are less people of British descent in Australia.

It’s interesting to note that the new Canadian prime minister feels very differently to Mr. Turnbull.  In December, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Malta for the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.   The BBC asked him if he had any plans to make Canada a republic, something his father favored when he was PM.  Justin Trudeau, thirty years later, replied:  “No, we are very happy with our Queen, the Queen of Canada.”   Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party is a left-wing party, so very different from Mr. Turnbull’s Liberal Party.

Why the difference in attitudes toward the Crown?

I suspect the answer lies in the word “identity.”

Canada was founded by Loyalists who did not want to be a part of the new American Republic after the American Revolution.   They asked for independence in 1864 while the US was fighting a Civil War.  They did not think much of the American form of government, adopting a system more in line with Great Britain.   They wanted to retain the British Head of State, Queen Victoria, as their own monarch.   They laid the foundation of the Commonwealth.  Australia, New Zealand and South Africa followed their example.   These nations were the mainstays of the British Commonwealth until after World War II, when India, Pakistan and Ceylon joined the club.

Canada’s identity, dwarfed by its more powerful southern neighbor, is bound up in the monarchy.   It needs to retain the link in order to maintain its sovereignty, separate and distinct from the United States.

The same dynamics do not apply in Australia, though a case can certainly be made for preserving Australia’s distinctly unique way of life, separate from other nations in the region.  The link with the Crown is a part of Australia’s cultural heritage, which sets it apart from most other countries in the region.

magazine has been in favor of an Australian republic ever since the issue was first raised, describing the queen as “Elizabeth the Last.” But even The Economist admits that it will lead to ten years of political instability, as the ripple effects will require a number of constitutional changes.   Perhaps now is not a good time to change the system.

It should also be pointed out that, approximately half the population remains very loyal to the monarchy, so any change could be divisive.

Interestingly, whereas many Australians who favor a republic would prefer the US system, it’s not likely to happen.   Politicians prefer the German or Irish system, replacing the Queen with a figurehead president appointed by parliament.   This is not a very good system.   While the monarch is above politics, any political appointee inevitably won’t be.   It should also be remembered that, when the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, died in office, the new Chancellor did away with the office and had himself proclaimed Fuhrer.   The rest, as they say, is history!

It’s also interesting to note that the Toronto based organization “Democracy Watch” recently listed the seven most democratic countries in the world.   All were constitutional monarchies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.   The United States was not in the top seven.   Sadly, America has become less democratic in recent decades, as big business together with lobbyists seem to determine everything in politics.   Add to that the influence of the media – elections are increasingly just personality contests.  Reality TV has taken over.

An additional factor for Australia to consider is that constitutional monarchy is the cheapest political system.

Christians should also remember I Peter 2:17 – “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king.”

It might be good for everyone to ponder on the old maxim:   “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

QUEEN ELIZABETH LONGEST REIGNING MONARCH

Westminster Abbey's bells will peal, a flotilla will sail down the River Thames and a gun salute will ring out on Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving monarch in British history.
Westminster Abbey’s bells will peal, a flotilla will sail down the River Thames and a gun salute will ring out on Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving monarch in British history.

Today at 5.30pm British Summer Time, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history, overtaking the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

She still has some way to go to pass the longest reigning European monarchs,   Austrian Emperor Franz Josef (1848-1916) and France’s Louis XIV (1643-1715).   However, the latter doesn’t really count as he was only five when he became “king,” meaning that his mother and Cardinal Mazarin ruled in his place.

Thailand’s current king was crowned in May 1950 so he’s been around even longer than the British monarch.

A PBS documentary on the queen aired last week.   The one-hour documentary is available on DVD.   It’s part of the “In their own words” occasional series.   There was one mistake in the program when a BBC broadcast announcing that “the king’s life draws peacefully to a close” was applied to her father, King George VI, who died in 1952.   The recording dates to January 1936 when his father, George V, was dying.   The queen’s father was found dead in bed on February 6th, 1952.   He had been out hunting the previous day. Elizabeth and her husband were in Kenya, on a tour of the empire, when he died.

The monarchy goes back over one thousand years.  It has evolved through the centuries into today’s constitutional monarchy.   The system has worked very well, giving Britain and the other Commonwealth realms (which include Canada, Australia and New Zealand) an unparalleled period of political stability, without which economic progress is difficult to achieve.

The very complimentary documentary highlighted Elizabeth’s role as constitutional monarch, using her influence rather than authority in chaperoning the country for over sixty years.   It’s been a time of unprecedented change, as was Victoria’s in the nineteenth century.

The program began with then Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday broadcast from Cape Town, South Africa.   In her own words she pledged herself to serve “the great imperial family to which we all belong,” a reference to the Empire and Commonwealth, which included South Africa.

Immediately after these words were shown on the documentary, a royal expert then added a comment about her lifelong service to Britain.

There’s a blind spot here, which obscures Britain’s incredible decline during her reign.   As she is a constitutional monarch, the blame for this decline rests with the politicians, especially the twelve British prime ministers who have served under her.   Her Canadian, Australian and New Zealand prime ministers can also share some of that responsibility.

The fact is that the British Empire has gone and its successor, the Commonwealth (the “British” was dropped 50 years ago) is no more than a shadow of what it was.   It may not even survive the queen’s passing.   The queen remains Head of State of 16 countries and has 138 million subjects.   She is also titular Head of the Commonwealth, an organization of 54 former colonies.   It remains to be seen if Prince Charles will be able to hold it all together after he succeeds his mother.

Sir John Major, her ninth British prime minister, said in the documentary that throughout all the changes of the last six decades, the queen has been the one “constant” in the country, giving a sense of continuity and stability during monumental and significant changes.   This is true, but it hides some painful realities.

The loss of empire saw a rapid decline in global power.   The country’s military capability is about one-twelfth of what it was at the beginning of her reign – and continues to decline even under a Conservative administration.   The queen’s international role remains at the core of British “soft power,” along with the BBC World Service and British aid.   This soft power has replaced the strong military power it used to have.

With the empire gone, Britain entered the European Common Market (now the European Union), which has progressively taken away the UK’s independence.   Under the EU’s freedom of movement rules, millions of people from other European countries have been able to move to Britain, changing the composition of the nation’s population.

Added to this has been mass immigration from Commonwealth countries like India and Pakistan.

The changes are so significant, it’s fair to say that the Great Britain she inherited in 1952 and the Great Britain of today are two very different countries.   It’s amusing to remember that in 1949, when she was Princess Elizabeth, she spoke out against the evils of divorce.   The nation would not take kindly to such comments today and the queen would not be qualified to speak on the subject anyway as her own family has seen a few divorces.

None of this detracts from the great accomplishments of Elizabeth II.   She has set an incredible example of service.   Her sense of duty is unsurpassed by anybody in any field.   In her own personal private life she has set a fine example, never putting a foot wrong.

In many ways, the world was a better place when the Queen ascended the throne on February 6th, 1952 (the Coronation was in June the following year).   At that time, she presided over the greatest empire in history.   As countries were given independence, all too often they were taken over by self-serving bad leaders who destroyed much of what Britain had accomplished, enriching themselves by stealing from their own people.   They were often from the lowest echelons of society, suddenly receiving absolute power, which they abused in every way.

I remember an incident 35 years ago at a time when Ghana, in West Africa, was going through a long period of political instability and economic chaos, I stopped to buy some food at the side of the road. When I opened my wallet, the lady who was selling me the items, saw a British bank note with the portrait of the queen on it.   The lady sighed and said:   “Ah, Queen Elizabeth.   She used to be our queen.   Now we have so many presidents, we cannot count them all. And we are in such a mess.   And England still has the queen.”   Stability is so important.

Two verses in the Book of Ecclesiastes illustrate this so well:

“Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time —
For strength and not for drunkenness!”   (Eccl. 10:16-17.)

Britain has been greatly blessed with Elizabeth II as Queen.

As many are saying today:    “Long may she reign!”

CHARLES VISITS WASHINGTON

Prince Charles and Camilla

Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, are visiting Washington DC.   During their visit to the US, they will commemorate three things — the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, the most important secular document in the history of the English-speaking peoples; the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War; and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The Prince of Wales visited the National Archives yesterday where a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta is on loan from Lincoln Cathedral in England.  The Magna Carta is embodied in the American Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

I’ve had the privilege of viewing the same Magna Carta, signed by King John at Runnymede on June 15th, 1215, in Lincoln, which is not far from my hometown.   A depiction of the event can be seen on the bronze doors of the Supreme Court building.

It’s been over forty years since the Washington Post claimed that President Richard Nixon was brought down by Magna Carta.   The charter established the principle that everybody is equal before the law, including the king or president.   This principle separated England from the continental powers, where the head of state is above the law.   When French President Jacques Chirac was accused of corruption while in office, nothing could be done about it until he was no longer president of France.

Exactly ten weeks after King John was pressured into signing the charter, Pope Innocent III declared it null and void.  He said that no people had any right to demand anything of their king. Consequently, England was plunged into civil war.

Magna Carta reminds us that:   “God is no respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34)   We are all equal before God, who is the ultimate Law-giver.

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It’s a good thing that the royal couple were not in America on Sunday, where they might have seen the first episode of “The Royals,” on the E! Network.   This show depicts a fictional royal family ruling in England.

I watched the first 30 minutes of the 75-minute much-hyped premiere.

It was utter and total trash.

If any of today’s royal families behaved like those in the fictional series, they wouldn’t last very long.

Monarchy has a serious side.   According to the organization “Democracy Watch,” the seven most democratic countries in the world are all constitutional monarchies.   They are:   The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Canada and New Zealand (the United Kingdom was not included in the list, maybe because it does not have an elected Upper House).

They have all also been the most stable countries in the world.

Constitutional monarchy also happens to be the cheapest form of government.

There’s a lot to be said for constitutional monarchy.   In contrast, there is nothing positive to be said for the new television series, which raises trash to a whole new level – and that’s really saying something when it comes to TV!

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While on the subject of royalty, I have to recommend the new “Cinderella” movie.

My son and I took his two girls to see it on Sunday.   The girls, aged 8 & 9, have gotten used to me falling asleep whenever I take them to a movie.   Brooklyn, the youngest, promised to wake me up if this should happen again.

But it didn’t.   The movie was engrossing.   It is beautifully made with real people.

I have never been one for fairy stories, even when I was a child.   But this was different.   It’s a real old-fashioned love story, with an upbeat ending that will leave many in tears.

Lily James (Rose in “Downton Abbey”) plays a very convincing Cinderella.   (One of her ugly step-sisters is played by Downton’s Daisy.)   Richard Madden plays the prince.   Helena Bonham Carter, one of England’s greatest actresses, plays a humorous Fairy Godmother and Cate Blanchett plays the Wicked Step-Mother.

The movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, one of England’s greatest theatrical talents.

A superb movie, perfect for the whole family.   It’s also perfectly respectable for married couples to go without children — I intend to take my wife who could not go on Sunday.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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The Middle East remains the focus of Bible prophecy with Jerusalem as its epicenter.

And Jerusalem is very much in the news just now.

Following an assassination attempt on a right-wing Jewish leader, Israeli soldiers shot and killed his assassin. The Israeli government then thought it prudent to close the Temple Mount to all three religions. This was temporary but a Palestinian leader declared the decision “an act of war.”

The Temple Mount reopened in time for Friday prayers but the city remains tense and the prospect of a renewed intifada remains high. At the close of prayers moments ago, Palestinian youth were starting to riot.

Meanwhile, relations between Israel and the US are at an all-time low, with Obama Administration officials using bad language to describe the Israeli leader, Benyamin Nethanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister this week authorized the building of over 1,000 new homes in East Jerusalem, which the US protested. Natanyahu, a conservative, had little choice if he hopes to win the election scheduled for next year.

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News out of Africa this week has been very interesting, even without Ebola, which continues to rage in West Africa. The BBC today described the region this morning as one of the worst governed parts of the world. We used to live in Ghana, so I can echo those sentiments. Whereas Ghana itself has greatly improved, neighboring Burkina Faso is quite different.

President Blaise Compaoere was finally forced to resign this morning, after 27 years in office. He came to power in a violent coup in October 1987, overthrowing the previous president ,Thomas Sankara. I have been continually reminded of Sankara’s assassination throughout the years as a traffic circle in Ghana’s capital, Accra, is named after him. Ghana’s leader, Jerry John Rawlings and Sankara were close friends, both left-wing revolutionaries in the mould of Che Guevara.

Their devotion to revolutionary fervor did not, however, deter them from personal gain while in office. Compaoere was just the same.

The capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, has witnessed considerable violence for some days now, following the president’s request to the national assembly to approve a change to the constitution, which would allow him another 15 years in office. Tired of all the corruption, the people rose up and said no. Sadly, though, whoever takes over is likely to be just as corrupt. Coups and corruption are the order of the day throughout the continent of Africa. With each change of president, there is short-lived hope of real change,  hope that is soon dashed with the first signs of corruption.

Events in Burkina Faso bring to mind Christ’s profound observation on gentile government:   “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.” (Matt 20:25).   Abuse of power in most African countries is an every day occurrence.

A more orderly transition is taking place in Zambia, another African country considerably to the south and east of Burkina Faso. The 77-year-old President of Zambia, Michael Sata, died in London earlier this week while undergoing medical treatment. Under the constitution, his Vice President is taking over and must preside over an election within 90 days. He himself cannot stand for election as his parents were not born in Zambia, a constitutional requirement when standing for the office of president. What is remarkable is that the interim president is Guy Scott, a white man born in Livingstone in what was then Northern Rhodesia. His ancestry is Scottish. This is the first white man to rule an African nation since F.W. deKlerk, President of South Africa in the last years of apartheid.

Unlike Burkina Faso, Zambia has been quite stable since independence, fifty years ago. Under its post independence leader, Kenneth Kaunda, it pursued a socialist course that set it back economically. But, in recent years, it has been catching up.

Zambia and Ghana are two countries that give some hope to Africa. Sadly, Burkina Faso is another country that reminds us of Africa’s tumultuous post-colonial history.

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I’ve often wondered if Vladimir Putin, Russia’s eternal leader, might one day have himself proclaimed Czar.  His determined swagger through the Czar’s palaces conjure up images of a bygone era.

A friend has just sent me a couple of articles showing that support for a monarchical form of government is growing in both Russia and Rumania.

According to the 24/7 news channel, “Russia Today”, quoting the All Russia Center for Public Opinion, almost a third of Russians support restoration of the monarchy. Only 6% feel that a candidate must be from the Romanov dynasty that ruled Russia for over 300 years.   The vast majority feel the Czar must be Russian Orthodox. 13% feel a prominent Russian could fill the role (Putin?), but a further question and answer showed that 80% feel that no contemporary Russian can fit the role. So, that leaves Putin out. The results were announced by the head of the organization, Valery Fedorov, at a Moscow conference dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the Romanov Russian royal house.

In Rumania, the current Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, is running for the figurehead position of president. If he succeeds, he is promising to hold a referendum on restoration of the monarchy, which was abolished by the communists in 1947. King Michael is still alive, aged 93, and is well thought of in the country.

As disillusionment with the present systems of government grows, nostalgia for an older, more stable and seemingly better time will increase. But it remains the case that only a dramatic upheaval is likely to result in the restoration of ancient crowns.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN HOLLAND

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At first glance, the fact that Holland’s Queen Beatrix has abdicated in favor of her son, Prince (now King) Willem-Alexander, may seem insignificant.  After all, the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy where political power rests with the elected government, while the Head of State is purely a figurehead, with no real power.

History shows it’s not as simple as that.

The constitutional monarchies of NW Europe have been the most stable countries in the world since the middle of the 19th century.

These nations are:  the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom.  The latter has had a stable political system since 1689.

They are as democratic as the United States but avoided the upheavals of neighboring republics, particularly Germany and France.  Both of these countries have had checkered histories.  In the middle of the nineteenth century Germany was many countries, which were finally united under a Prussian monarch following wars with Austria and then France.  Just over 40 years later, World War I led to the demise of the German Empire, to the instability and economic disasters of the Weimar Republic, to Hitler and then division between East and West.

France was even more unstable historically.  Following the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy in 1789, the country had 25 years of turmoil and war, including a brief period as a republic.  After Napoleon’s Empire, the Bourbons were restored in 1815 but overthrown again fifteen years later.  There then followed another monarchy until 1848, the year of revolution across Europe.  A second republic followed for four years, then a second Napoleonic Empire, then war with Prussia in 1870-71, the fall of Napoleon III, who was replaced by the Third Republic, which lasted from 1871-1940, almost seventy years.  Hitler’s invasion of France led to the establishment of Vichy France (a part of France whose leader cooperated with the Germans); after which came the Fourth Republic.  In 1958, that was replaced by the Fifth Republic, which is still in operation, though there has been talk of its imminent collapse.

If you found that list rather exhausting, realize that all this happened during the same period the United States has been a republic.   Though it has to be said that the American republic did have one big upheaval, the Civil War of 1861-65.  Since then, the US has enjoyed a stable political system, rare for a republican form of government.

Clearly, when you consider Germany and France, you can see real advantages in the system of constitutional monarchy, which has enabled so many countries to have political stability, except when invaded by Germany in the world wars.

Constitutional monarchy also makes dictatorship far less likely.  When the office of head of state is by birth alone, nobody else can have it.  This is just as well as elected prime ministers under a parliamentary system are very powerful – they can do anything they want if they have the backing of a majority in parliament.  A prime minister is more powerful within his own country than the US president.  The monarchy acts as an effective buffer against prime ministerial power.

Constitutional monarchy is also cheap.  The annual cost to the British taxpayer is $87 million, compared to a $1.4 billion tag that goes with the American presidency.   Even the $87 million cost in the UK is deceptive.  The cost is more than offset by entrance fees to the royal palaces, money that goes straight to the Treasury.  Additionally, money the queen receives for her constitutional role is actually revenue the government receives from the Crown Estates.  The government, in effect, is giving her back her own money – and they only give back 15%!

Other nations that remain loyal to the crown, notably Canada, Australia and New Zealand, benefit even more as there is no cost to them except when the monarch visits.

An additional benefit to all the countries named is that the monarch is a unifying figure who remains above politics.  Any monarch (or family member) who expresses a political opinion risks dividing the country over which they preside.  It would be very unwise and could prove fatal, leading to revolution or civil war.

Meanwhile, the monarchs are kept extremely busy in their respective roles.  The 87-year-old British monarch takes on more engagements each year than the US president.   So do other members of her family.  The other monarchs play a similar role.

Holland is unusual in that it has become tradition for an elderly monarch to retire.  This is not the case in other European nations.

Finally, a sovereign is a guarantor of sovereignty.  As long as The Netherlands has a monarch, a European super state under one federal authority remains problematic.  At a time of strengthening European unity, these monarchs are the greatest guarantee of their country’s continued existence.

The grand hand-over ceremony and celebrations marking Queen Beatrix’s abdication and her son’s swearing in may not seem very important but Holland is one country that is so stable the rest of the world doesn’t have to worry about it.