Change is in the Heir

Craig buchanan

Craig Buchanan offers a rather comprehensive road-map to Royal ascendancy. Despite all the history the impending heir still may be best predicted by the TAB.

A little over a week ago, Shloss Nymphenburg made the sad announcement that Duke Franz of Bavaria (whom Jacobites and legitimists consider to be our rightful king, and publically acclaim as Francis II) had been diagnosed with cancer.  His Royal Highness is receiving treatment, and the prognosis is said to be good.  While we wish him a speedy recovery and a restoration to good health, we must concede that the attention of royal watchers the world over has shifted this morning to the usurping House of Windsor (or Mountbatten-Windsor, as Prince Charles looks likely to rename it when he ascends to the throne), and the announcement by that other palace that Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child.  Speculation is doubtless rife already across the web as to what they will name the infant.  I admit to having read none of it, but offer the following thoughts from the standpoint of one versed in British history, and possessed of a vague grasp of tradition.

Since biology tells us that there are two distinct possibilities for the heir to the heir to the heir – a girl, or a boy – and since each carries a distinct set of historical (and indeed constitutional) baggage, let us begin by splitting our discussion in twain, and consider the female options first.

It is worth noting from the outset that, if the Duchess is delivered of a girl, the infant will, under recent changes to the law, be the first female heir apparent (as opposed to heir presumptive), and will reign in her own right after her father, regardless of any male siblings who might follow.  What that means in terms of this discussion is that, for the first time in British history, the royal couple will be naming a girl whom they know for certain will be queen.

Recent history provides us with a number of female names that we might fall back on.  Elizabeth would allow the proud parents to commemorate both the child’s great-grandmother, and her great-great-grandmother to boot.  It would also have the benefit of harking back to the current Elizabethan era, which might be no bad thing in fifty years time.  It strikes me as a tad too ‘status quo’ though.  Margaret was chosen for the current Queen’s late sister, but I think we can safely rule that out, as Scotland had a Margaret in the form of the Maid of Norway, and we would therefore be forcing a Margaret II upon the English when they had hitherto had no Margaret I (the convention being that the higher royal numeral wins out).  Anne was mentioned by one newscaster this morning, but I think that equally unlikely, both because it would place us in the unenviable position of having two ‘Princess Anne’s at the same time (the current Princess Royal being the other), and because the previous Queen Anne has little to recommend her as a positive role model.  She was, as much as anything, a caretaker monarch, neither completely Stuart nor completely Hanoverian, not to mention the fact that she bore no heirs of her own – hardly, therefore, an auspicious name with which to burden the newborn hope of a nation.  No, with a nod to the outside chance that her parents might break with all manner of tradition and name her Katherine after her mother (thus giving us out own Katherine the Great in due course, and perhaps no bad thing), my money is firmly on Victoria if the Duchess has a girl.  That name carries with it both a sense of romance, and a sense of stability, and would appeal to both modernist and traditionalist alike.

A boy presents us with an entirely different set of problems.  We have more names to choose from, but fewer that appeal.  Let us see what we can glean from resent precedent. 

First up, we have the most popular monarchical names – Edward and Henry.  Edward carries with it the same complications noted for Anne, given that there is already a Prince Edward in the form of the Earl of Wessex.  It is also a name with historical baggage, in that it reminds one of Edward VIII and the abdication, hardly the House of Windsor’s finest hour.  And, as a third black mark against it, it would mean that the child would reign as Edward IX.  Now I don’t want to be accused of underestimating the educational achievements of the general public at large, but it’s hard enough in this day and age to explain the first seven or eight roman numerals to people, without trying to explain that nine is written as ten-minus-one.  For that reason alone, I think Edward is likely to be a non-starter.  And while the royal couple might chose to name their firstborn after his paternal uncle, I think Henry IX is equally likely to be off-putting to the focus groups (not to mention running the risk of confusing folk, since theJacobites had their own Henry IX in the form of the Cardinal King, younger brother of Bonnie Prince Charlie). 

George might seem at first glance to be a safer bet, but there are also issues to be overcome there.  George I and George II, founder and heir respectively to the Hanoverian claim, spoke barely any English, while George III was as mad as a March hare.  George IV is mostly remembered for his excesses while Prince Regent.  George V was something of a starched shirt, and the last of the old-school monarchs who prided themselves in remaining distant from their subjects, while George VI, though much loved, had never been born to rule, and died at a remarkably young age, mostly as the result of the stress he endured though first the abdication crisis and then the Second World War.  And perhaps most important when considering George as an option, there are strong indications that Charles, unwilling to risk the ire of the Jacobites by reigning under his own name as Charles III, intends to reign instead as George VII when his time comes.  As much as I respect the current Prince of Wales, I expect his reign to be neither a long, nor a particularly bright one.  He looks more likely to be another caretaker monarch, as the people await the advent of William.  George VIII would therefore be a tie to an unfortunate recent past best forgotten.

No, if we are looking at a male heir, I think we need look a little further afield for a suitable name.  Not too far afield, however.  There have been a number of royal Richards in recent years – Richard of Gloucester comes immediately to mind, though Edward of Wessex also boasts Richard among his Christian names.   Richard of York, and Richard Plantagenet both trip off the tongue easily enough after that.  It is a name that harks back the glories of the Lionheart, and for all that its second and third bearers did not exactly distinguish themselves on the pages of history, the time seems ripe to recognise it as a worthy contender.  It is a name worthy of the ushering in or a new era, yet one with sufficient tradition behind it that it would not upset the royal apple cart – just the sort of balance between modernity and tradition which might appeal to William and Kate.

So there you have my own predictions, for what they are worth – Richard for a boy, Victoria for a girl.  Richard IV, or Victoria II, in due course.  Now, off down to the TAB with the lot of you, and put a fiver on each.  And, in six months time, when you are greeted with the news of the royal birth, remember that you read it here first, on, website extraordinaire, sans royal appointment.

Craig Buchanan is an occasional contributor to MH, and studied at the University of St Andrews alongside Prince William and Kate Middleton, though he recollects seeing the former only occasionally, and the latter not at all.

An Australia Day Reflection about our Flag

Craig buchananWell, it’s that time of year again folks – Australia Bashing Month, when the media, with nothing else to report in the run up to Australia Day, denigrate and deride our nation’s culture and history, almost to a man, all in the name of some greater social planning experiment that they and their friends in the far left want to foist upon us.  And, as in previous years ad infinitum, they have picked on two symbols this time around – the Queen, and the flag.  I have, on a previous occasion, used this site to discuss the Queen’s continued role in Australia, so I thought Australia Day 2012 might prove as good a time as any to reflect upon the flag.

Now most of these guys – the journos and their trendy pollie mates, I mean – studied politics at undergrad level, so I guess we have to take their word that the flag is one of the key issues of the moment, and that our leaders need to focus on it as a priority. And even if we have our doubts, let's humour them, and put all thought of reducing our $200 billion dollar debt aside for a few days; let's leave the overcrowding on Christmas Island alone for a week, and put law and order firmly (or perhaps not so firmly, given the context) out of our minds. After all, those are minor concerns when viewed alongside the republican movement’s unstinting drive to change that most reprehensible and unreconstructed of our national symbols.

Forget as well that this was the flag under which our troops fought while liberating Europe from the Nazis. The naysayers would much rather you remembered that it was hijacked by racists on the beaches of Cronulla. Forget that it represents the red, white and blue of western democracy, a beacon towards which thousands upon thousands of the under-privileged have fled from their own oppressive regimes around the world, and continue to flee as we sit here contemplating both this question and our navels. The left would rather we remembered that the Union Flag in the top left-hand corner is a symbol of all that is wrong with Australia, an unwelcome echo of our colonial past.

And when it comes down to it, I don't suppose I disagree all that greatly with their individual points, though I do with the conclusion they chose to draw from them collectively. I think it's a crying shame that mindless thugs are allowed to wrap themselves in any national flag, and use it to justify their narrow-minded actions. But I'm also of the view that it's the thugs, not the flags they wave, that leave people broken and bleeding in the streets. And who am I to argue that we weren't (and aren't) the product of colonial expansion? History tells us, clearly and without argument, that we were, and many a modern political issue suggests that we still are at heart. But that, in itself, is where the naysayers and I part company, because I am willing to accept our history, willing to acknowledge it, and to move on. They and their ilk are too busy apologising for what was done by previous generations to properly attend to the problems of the present day, let alone those we're storing up for the future, which should in my opinion be the true focus of our leaders and our legislators.

It was the American philosopher George Santayana who said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and moves to whitewash our past (if one is allowed to use the phrase in this context) threaten to doom us to just such a fate. Yes, unspeakable acts were committed beneath the combination of the Southern Cross and the Union Flag that we now recognise as the Australian National Flag. People suffered, often those very people who tended to the land for centuries before the white man first set foot upon it. But however much we abhor them, those acts are a part of our history. They have gone to make us who we are today, and we only heap further disrespect upon those who suffered as a result of them if we brush the original insults under the carpet, and think that by changing the linen on the flag pole we will somehow have disassociated ourselves from the actions of our forebears. But then, it's often easier to change the linen than to make substantial retribution, isn't it?

Is the flag perfect? Far from it. It does, however, chart the beginnings of our journey. It reminds us, first and foremost, of our physical location. The Southern Cross was used by sailors for centuries as a navigational aid, and places us right here in what the early explorers had named Terra Australis long before they discovered the reality which awaited them in the warmth of the southern oceans.

The much-maligned Union Flag in the top left-hand corner serves to remind us that we came from the Old World, some of us forcibly, some looking for a better life, and almost all granted a new start. And we are not alone in having that flag as part of our own. One commentator spoke recently of the need for a flag that was less 'geographically ambiguous' than the current one, but where is this ambiguity? Do the geographically literate have trouble finding Hawaii on the map? Or Fiji perhaps? And I wonder if our neighbours in New Zealand have somehow dropped off the globe while I wasn't looking? (I concede that I had to look up the location of Tuvalu while researching the list of some thirty nations, islands, and states which still retain the Union Flag as a part of their own, unique, national and regional symbols, but that should be taken as an indication of a lack of learning on the part of the current author, rather than any negative connotation affixed to the flag itself! For the record, Tuvalu is in the Pacific Ocean, almost half-way, oddly enough, between Hawaii and Australia, with whom it shares that very portion of its flag and its history).

And beyond the canton (the technical phrase for that top left-hand insert) which seems to so easily offend folk who otherwise want to welcome the peoples of all nations to our shores (so long as they're not beastly British colonial types, of course – perish the thought, vicar!), the flag's depiction of our historic journey continues with the Federation Star, which stands witness to the birth of a unique nation, through the coming together of our varied states. Not bad for one little old piece of cloth really, is it?

Does everyone agree with me that our history is worth preserving, and worth building upon? Almost certainly not. I'm sure there are hundred, if not thousands of people who would rather forget all about it, wipe the slate clean, and start over. But surely the braver course, and the truer, is to build upon what we already have, and what we already are; to concede that we have not always done the best we could, but to determine to do better in the future; to acknowledge our mistakes, and to use them to make not only ourselves, but future generations better for the lessons those earlier actions have taught us.

Or, we could throw the baby out with the bathwater, and launch a national competition to involve the two five-year-olds at the end of my street, and your son, and Mrs Ompala's third cousin up in Cairns in a race to design a new flag, which ignores all that heritage, disrespects not only those who fought under our current colours, but also the memory of those who were disadvantaged beneath the shadow of the same flag which we aren't willing to take the time to rehabilitate, and thus beckon in a new era of silly season play-time politics, where an apology need not be heartfelt so long as it is announced loudly and on prime-time television, while substance takes second place to spin.

Fine. Please remember not to colour outside the lines, boys and girls, and to gather up your nice new non-toxic crayons when you're done.

Craig Buchanan is President of the Nedlands Branch of the Liberal Party (WA).  He occasionally admits to being tired, but is not yet flagging…

Racing Royal Gee Gee’s

Crb Craig Buchanan argues that our constitutional monarchy isn't broken, so there's no reason to change it… but… that it might just be improved by a Royal Governor-General:

Is it just me, or has there been a slight warming towards the royal family from Australia’s media outlets of late?  I don’t just mean those discussions about Pippa’s bum, and whether she had it padded or not.  Within days of each other, Prince Charles and Prince Harry each got some fair and balanced reporting around their visits to riot affected sites in London, while the tenor of comments related to the Queen’s visit to Perth next month also seems to be generally positive.  Perhaps I just haven’t waited long enough for the other shoe to drop.

That said, I’m not so much a monarchist as a realist, and the first rule of the realist, as blokes in sheds all across this great country of ours will tell you, is that if it ain’t broke then we don’t intend to waste a perfectly good Saturday morning trying to fix it.  And let’s face facts, the monarchy here in Australia ain’t broke.

Broke would, by definition, be a presidential style leadership, drawn from a small group of second rate politicians – broke, because it would cost the Australian taxpayer a right-royal fortune, while potentially causing problems rather than solving them.  Can you picture it?  Craig Thomson, retired after fifteen reasonably uneventful years as a Labour backbencher, having been able to call upon the legal resources of his Party once or twice to keep his name out of the press, is finally bumped upstairs as a safe pair of hands and no real loss to the Parliamentary party, only for us to discover that he needs to be escorted around the Presidential Palace of an evening.  Who would credit it?  And who could risk offering the job to Malcolm Turnbull, without a constant nagging fear that he might suddenly decide that he is a fan of royalty after all, and declare himself king?  Then again, perhaps we’d go with celebrity appeal, and elect our own version of Ronnie Reagan.  I hear Mel Gibson might be looking for a new role.  No?  Too contentious?  Well, perhaps we could dust Paul Hogan off?  Barry Humphries?  No?  Ah well, back to the drawing board.

Wait a minute, though. Here’s a radical thought.  There’s this neat little family, mostly based in London, but who travel down this way once in a while.  They’ve had a few scandals of their own, I admit, but the Poms seem pretty happy paying the vast bulk of their bills, just leaving the pocket change for us to deal with when they visit.  They’re happy to do as little or as much as we ask of them, and even better, they’ve sworn off getting involved in politics, and are content to leave the running of the country to the Prime Minister, Cabinet, and Parliament, all of whom we already pay quite handsomely enough for us to expect them to get the job done on time and within budget, without having to add a new and unnecessary layer bureaucracy on top!

No, as I said, the monarchy ain’t broke.  But it might benefit from an injection of Aussie sunshine, so here’s another thought to mull over.   Recent Governors General have served an average of just under five years in office, which means that Quentin Bryce, who was appointed to the post in late 2008, might reasonably be expected to step down in early 2014, neatly avoiding any clash with the federal election scheduled for late 2013.  And there’s the rub.  If, as current polls predict, the Gillard/Brown government is given its marching orders, then there is a very real chance that we will have an Abbott premiership around that time, and Abbott has never hidden the fact that he is a loyal, and at times outspoken, monarchist. 

With that in mind, is it perhaps time to dust off an idea last considered in the 1970s, update it, and give it some serious thought?  How about a royal Governor General?  Prince William is newly married, and without a doubt the most popular of the royals, here in Australia as well as across the Commonwealth.  His father, Prince Charles, is more than aware of what it’s like to spend years without a meaningful job to occupy ones time.  So why shouldn’t Tony open a quiet dialogue with the Palace, and ask if Wills and Kate might consider coming Down Under for a spell?  It would potentially do Australia a world of good to see a new generation of working royals up close, and to see once and for all what a constitutional monarchy has to offer the people in a modern democracy.  Indeed, it might prove the saving of the whole institution of monarchy here in Australia.  And on top of that, we might finally get to the bottom (if you’ll forgive the pun) of the padding question.  After all, Pippa’s bound to visit, and you can’t hide a lot of padding in a bikini.  Can you??

[Craig Buchanan is President of the Nedlands Branch of the WA Liberal Party, and a fan of not fixing things that are working perfectly well as they are]


Wither The Union

Crb Craig Buchanan looks at the UK, the EU and Federalism:

The casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that Britain has been coming apart at the seams of late.  First there were the parliamentary scandals – resignations by the London bus load, and Members of Parliament arrested, while luckier colleagues were forced to pay back thousands in misappropriated (taxpayer) funds.  Then Scotland threatened to vote with its feet, electing the first majority government at Holyrood committed to eventual independence and the end of the Union.  And now the good people of not only London, but also Birmingham, Liverpool, and Bristol, are cleaning up after riots, looting, and a side serving of recreational arson.  As England mops up (and the Scots, Welsh, and Irish gloat quietly to themselves) it is tempting to paraphrase that most English of musical acts, Kit and the Widow, in punning “’Whither the Union?’ they’re asking, to which the answer’s ‘yes’.”

Meanwhile, just across the Channel, Merkel and Sarkozy are busy proposing a single European government with France and Germany at its heart, ala Charlemaigne, while Britain, once the defender of European independence, looks on through the smoke.

Of one thing there can be no doubt, however.  David Cameron and his Conservative-Liberal coalition government seem committed to preserving their almost mythic Union at any cost.  Unionist to the core (the full title of Cameron’s party is, after all, the Conservative and Unionist Party, even if the Union in question harks back to the Irish Union of 1801, long since defunct, and beloved of almost no one), they have pledged to fight to preserve what they have in the face of all comers.  But are they in danger of allowing those who wish to see the break-up of the United Kingdom the upper hand?  Exactly what sort of Union should the Unionists be looking to save, or perhaps to salvage?

It may now be time for the right-of-centre, Unionist parties in the UK to take the lead, and declare exactly which parts of the Union are worth saving, and which parts they might be willing to cede to make that happen.  If Scotland’s Nationalist First Minister, Alex Salmond, can talk of Independence Lite (a plan whereby Scotland would gain 95% of the objectives for which the SNP has stood for almost a hundred years, while at one and the same time managing to avoid two or three of the most obvious pitfalls of complete sovereign status), then might it not be time for Cameron to step up to the crease and propose a Union Lite alternative?

And what better model for such an alternative than the federal structures already in place here in Australia?

Since 9/11 it has been increasingly difficult for nationalists in Scotland (the Welsh, to give them their due, have never seriously tried) to propose independent armed forces, to the point at which the SNP has fallen back for some years now on a ‘defence pact’ model, wherein Scotland and England would continue to share bases, troops, and command structures towards a common defence.  Meanwhile, in spite of strong republican leanings amongst some of its members, the SNP continues to support the retention of the Queen as Scotland’s head of state post independence.

Scotland, Northern Ireland, and (to a lesser extent) Wales already have their own devolved parliaments, their own laws, and their own levels of fiscal autonomy.  If Cameron and his Unionists want to get a lead on their detractors, they have to take the bold step, recognise that lethargy and inaction will doom the very Union they claim to love, and voluntarily cede control of those areas which are peripheral, in the name of saving that which is central and good. 

In other words, they need to come out in favour of a federal state.  Give the constituent nations fiscal autonomy.  Let them raise and spend their own taxes on what they like, and pay into a central pot to maintain defence and foreign policy commitments.  Let them run their own education systems (they already do anyway).  Let them maintain their own hospitals (ditto) and roads (ditto).  And, in the name of sanity, let them establish an equivalent body in England – a fully fledged English Parliament – to look after all those concerns south of the border, and to give the downtrodden Englishman a voice and a forum, taking the debate off the streets, and putting it back where it belongs.

And Westminster?  Let it sit three days a week, rather the way Canberra does, and let it focus on defence, border protection, and foreign policy.  In the process, it will cost the British taxpayer less, as well as allowing more time for it to do what it arguably should have been doing all along – promoting Britain, not holding it back; giving people a common voice, rather than stifling individual identities.

Union Lite, anyone?  Oh, and do pass the Pimms …


[Craig Buchanan is President of the Nedlands Branch of the WA Liberal Party.  A British ex-pat who migrated to Australia in 2003, he stood as an approved candidate for the Scottish National Party in the early 1990s, sitting slightly to the right of that party’s centralist norm]