Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Greek crisis

The current financial and political crisis engulfing Greece has, no doubt, various causes, but one to which I would draw attention is the fact of the exile of King Constantine II and the Monarchy. Twentieth-century Greece had a troubled history, but the events of 1967, compounded in 1974, removed from its public life an institution that could have provided, as it was designed to under the constitution, a focus of stability.

That is not to say that it would be the King's responsibility to solve the economic woes of his country, any more than we would expect the Queen to solve herself the problems her government ministers have landed us all with. That is not the function in modern society of a constitutional Monarch - indeed one might wonder if it ever has been. The function of the Monarch as the ultimate custodian and regulator of authority is to give that stability which enables politicians and administrators to do their specific tasks in the service of the common good.

Coat of Arms of the Royal Family of Greece

The irony is that the tendency of modern Greek politics is on the part of both the political left and right towards the hereditary leadership of political parties, yet, as I understand it, many of the Greek political elite have been opposed to the Monarchy as a result of the events of 1920-22. The politicians often come from the families of those Greeks who lived in Asia Minor, and who felt let down by the Monarchy when their ancestral territory did not become part of the Kingdom of the Hellenes, and they were forced across the Aegean as exiles.

Greek politicians do not seem to have made a very good job of running the economy or anything else there, other that is, than their own careers. In a time of turmoil it is the stability the Monarchy could provide that is lacking. That function is currently being exemplified by the King of the Belgians in the latest governmental crisis there.

Greece is the most obvious basket case amongst the Euro-zone economies. That the next two in line appear to be Portugal and the Irish Republic will not surprise. Here again the absence of the inherent stability offered by Monarchy has produced a political establishment that is self referring, and self indulgent. Spain may also have economic woes, but they have the immeasurable blessing on the restored Monarchy as a focus of unity and stability.

Saying "It's the economy, stupid" may have become a political mantra - maybe "It's the Monarchy, stupid" that may well be part of the answer that needs to be given.

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