• Hi Guest!

    The costs of running this forum are covered by Sea Lion Press. If you'd like to help support the company and the forum, visit patreon.com/sealionpress

A British Revolution and the perception of monarchy

TheCoolCucumber

Well-known member
So I've recently been thinking about how the abolition of the British monarchy would affect how we think of monarchy in the anglophone world. I'm not really interested in how the monarchy is abolished, but rather how we would perceive monarchies in other nations and how it would be portrayed in fiction.

Would this change how monarchy is portrayed in fantasy for example? Would we see writers give a more varied portrayal of pre-modern government, perhaps taking inspiration from the Italian city states or the Dutch Republic when constructing fictional countries?

Would monarchy in general be seen as backwards or outdated by the general public?
 

SenatorChickpea

The Most Kiwi Aussie of them all
Patreon supporter
Pronouns
he/him
Great question, but I think you need to narrow it down a bit. The circumstances and timing of the monarchy's abolition will have dramatic effects on how its perceived. A Parliamentary Republic that survives the death of Cromwell is going to be a very different affair from a monarchy that falls because, I dunno,a King, let's call him Andrew, is caught in an international child abuse ring.

Off the top of my head, there are four broad possibilities:


1. As noted, a surviving Protectorate.

2. The monarchy falls in the Age of Revolutions, circa 1780-1830 (that is, in the era of the American, Dutch Patriot, French and Haitian revolutions. This is an Enlightenment era fall of the monarchy, as distinguished from

3. The monarchy falls in Liberalism's heyday. 1848 is one possibility, but it's not completely impossible that the monarchy's stock continues to decline before the cult of Victoria really takes off in the 1870s. This is a monarchy that likely falls with a whimper, not a great revolution; Victoria dies middle aged and deeply unpopular, her son is a rake who has yet to grow into his redeeming features, the other sons are non-entities.

4. The monarchy falls in the mid twentieth century, a combination of post-war upheaval (in victory or defeat,) social unrest, economic depression and an out of touch aristocracy.


Any one of those scenarios is going to lead to radically different depictions of King and Crown. Any in particular you'd like to focus on?
 

TheCoolCucumber

Well-known member
Great question, but I think you need to narrow it down a bit. The circumstances and timing of the monarchy's abolition will have dramatic effects on how its perceived. A Parliamentary Republic that survives the death of Cromwell is going to be a very different affair from a monarchy that falls because, I dunno,a King, let's call him Andrew, is caught in an international child abuse ring.

Off the top of my head, there are four broad possibilities:


1. As noted, a surviving Protectorate.

2. The monarchy falls in the Age of Revolutions, circa 1780-1830 (that is, in the era of the American, Dutch Patriot, French and Haitian revolutions. This is an Enlightenment era fall of the monarchy, as distinguished from

3. The monarchy falls in Liberalism's heyday. 1848 is one possibility, but it's not completely impossible that the monarchy's stock continues to decline before the cult of Victoria really takes off in the 1870s. This is a monarchy that likely falls with a whimper, not a great revolution; Victoria dies middle aged and deeply unpopular, her son is a rake who has yet to grow into his redeeming features, the other sons are non-entities.

4. The monarchy falls in the mid twentieth century, a combination of post-war upheaval (in victory or defeat,) social unrest, economic depression and an out of touch aristocracy.


Any one of those scenarios is going to lead to radically different depictions of King and Crown. Any in particular you'd like to focus on?
I was thinking something along the lines of the first half of the 19th century, maybe a little earlier, but definitely not latter than the early 1850s. Of course if anyone has any ideas about other time periods I'd love to here those as well.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
If both the British and French monarchies have fallen around the same time (and after 1848 or similar, France's has fallen twice), monarchies would probably be seen as a thing that is ludicrously unmodern and you can't have a democracy that has one - and the Restoration and Bourbon Restoration will jointly be remembered as perfidious royalty shoving themselves back in, delaying the future.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
If both the British and French monarchies have fallen around the same time (and after 1848 or similar, France's has fallen twice), monarchies would probably be seen as a thing that is ludicrously unmodern and you can't have a democracy that has one - and the Restoration and Bourbon Restoration will jointly be remembered as perfidious royalty shoving themselves back in, delaying the future.
Yes, it's likely that TTL conception of liberalism has much less room for a constitutional monarchy, with it being remembered as the last hurrah of feudalism.
 

Indicus

<insert title here>
Location
Trawno
Pronouns
he/him
It certainly wouldn't discredit monarchy - there'd still be plenty to look to. Not just absolute or otherwise empowered monarchies - there'd be other examples of parliamentary monarchy for certain for monarchist reformers to look to. With an early-to-mid nineteenth century POD, there'd be Norway and Belgium (for instance) to look up to, and of course ideas of liberal monarchy would still be up in the air. It would be discredited to a larger extent than OTL, but it would not be wholly discredited by any means.

Within the Anglo-American world, with both the US and Britain lacking a monarchy, it could make monarchy a totally and entirely "foreign" thing. Perhaps it would be reminiscent of eighteenth century nationalism, with the British people considering themselves uniquely poised in terms of liberty ("France isn't really liberty loving", I imagine, may be a common refrain among these sorts of nationalists). The American Revolution may be viewed as the beginning of the end of Anglo-American monarchy in historical narrative, with both the American and British Revolutions being a result of the common Anglo-American "thread of liberty" from the supposedly liberty-granting Magna Carta through to the seventeenth century struggles between Crown and Parliament.
 

SenatorChickpea

The Most Kiwi Aussie of them all
Patreon supporter
Pronouns
he/him
I did a jokey list a while back where the American and French Republics are mirrors of the Soviets and PRC- Jefferson as Stalin, Lafayette as Chiang, that kind of thing. Not my best work.

Anyhow, part of the fun was the analogue to the Sino-Soviet split- of having two competing traditions of Liberal republicanism.

That might be an interesting way to play things- an 'English' antimonarchism that's perhaps more friendly to property and large landowners. In this conception of history, planter aristocrats like Jefferson and Washington are seen as being part of the same class of reforming Aristocrats who lead Britain's Whigs/Liberals, and claim descent from the wise Parliamentarians who were first to stand against Royal tyranny before being overcome by the more fanatical (and less-well bred) junior officers.

In these scenarios, the fundamental problems with monarchy are firstly that it concentrates power in one person, rather than being dispersed amongst a wise group of leaders who in turn are strongly tied to their land and constituents. Secondly, it corrupts the hereditary principle; these are societies where many of the leaders see nothing wrong with inheriting wealth and property but that's because their families 'earned' it, and continue to earn it through service to the nation. It's not that the blood is magical, my goodness no, though I can expect some nasty pseudo-Darwinian theories developing.

These liberals would look back to Rome, yes, but also to a particular vision of Anglo-Saxon England; of a Kingdom led by a gift-giver who listens to wise chiefs, that degenerated into 'Continental' autocracy. Patronage might well be more entrenched in these societies; not legally, but in the manner of the American spoils system mixed with the British focus on going to the right school and knowing the right people. It will be expected that a ruling class is made up of people who stay connected to their underlings, who hold each other to a fine moral standard, and pull down anyone who gets too powerful. That class would see itself as depending upon a citizenry of smaller property holders. I can picture lots of rotton boroughs and gerrymandering, to keep power away from the corrupt cities led by merchants who don't have the same understanding of noblesse oblige.

In this society, 'fantastical' narratives of Kingship might be started by a Walter Scott figure. Ivanhoe already gave us much of the mythology of the 'Norman Yoke,' but I can see Scott writing a tragedy about the fall of Good King Harold, the last King of Free Men. This is a fantasy genre where 'good Kingdoms' have great charters and parliaments and a healthy dose of Saxon and Scandinavian allthings. Their religions are modeled on low Anglicanism- Bishops and vicars who are part of the community, with just enough ceremony to show they are part of glorious tradition, but not enough to suggest evil monarchical Catholic hierarchy. 'Bad' Kingdoms are consciously European- they are probably led by Tsars and Kaisers, and have great Versailles style palaces with gold around the mirrors and shit in the hallways. They are definitely ultracatholic or ultraorthodox- their churches and temples are unpleasant and arcane autocracies that mirror the corruption of the temporal realm.
 
Last edited:

SenatorChickpea

The Most Kiwi Aussie of them all
Patreon supporter
Pronouns
he/him
The Second Tradition: 'Continental' Republicanism.


Contrasting this, we can imagine another tradition: anti federalist (in the literal sense), heavily focused on a great capital as the seat of the nation, friendlier to capital and the mercantile elite, but also with a cult of the People that harks back to Athens and certain bits of the Roman Republic.

This is an antimonarchism that clearly draws much more strongly from the early French republic, but also probably has a strong intellectual tradition from New England. It is an antimonarchism that probably has much less time for the landowning elite; instead, it celebrates lawyers, merchants, military officers (who did not buy their commission,) all the members of the Republic of Letters.

This anti-monarchism we might divide still further: a 'Bonapartist' Republicanism, or if we're being cheeky a 'Hamiltonian' Republicanism that believes in an extremely strong executive as a manifestation of the popular will. In my head, I'm imagining that this is a world where Napoleon stays Consul rather than Emperor, but even then I can imagine that there are so-called republicans who will angrily explain why 'Emperor of the French' is a democratic, popular position that's completely separate from being 'King of France.' This is a Gaullist anti-monarchism; a strong leader who periodically is confirmed and reconfirmed by the public in an election that has no intermediary process of confirmation by parliament. It might be democratic by our standards or it might not, it might have a powerful representative house or it may not, but it's distinct from the Anglo-American republicanism described previously because it has a contempt of inherited elites. Its military makes a big thing of officers who rise through the ranks. Its schools and civil institutions have a strong focus on technocracy and command of detail. Coincidentally, many of its leaders might still come from old established families, but there would be strong social codes against appearing out-of-touch, and land-owners would be seen as bucolic and hopeless bumpkins. Caesar, Danton and even Cromwell are celebrated in this tradition.

In fantasy fiction, this anti-monarchism probably has a bit of a cult of the Hard Man Making Hard Decisions. This is a tradition that would celebrate Denethor and Boromir, not Aragorn and Faramir! Its Good Kingdoms are probably idealised depictions of late Republican Rome, though its ideas of good senators are closer to the Gaius Marius than to Cicero; actually, The First Man in Rome is a decent model- its heroes are tough, practical and Get Things Done. They listen to the crowd and lead them, but aren't of them. Their enemies are decadent elites or effete lawyers; they are pious enough to be humble, but not more than that. This is a very heterosexual masculine model, obviously.

Another possible tradition would be more Jacobin: this is an anti-monarchism that is suspicious of political structures that put too much in between expressions of the popular will and the exercise of power. I should be working, so I'll cut this short: this is an anti-monarchism that valorises people who come from and can speak for the crowd. Once again, the Roman republic will be a model: this time, expect the heroes to be the Gracchi or even Catiline. The Athenian Democracy will also be held up, especially against the oligarchic tyranny of Sparta and the monarchies of Persia and Macedon. Possibly Cleon gets rehabilitated somewhat.

This is a fantasy fiction where I'd expect a lot of emphasis on assemblies of people in the great marketplace of the city; its protagonists will have to make a heroic speech to win the people over. If Babeuf has been an influence, communal land ownership could also be a mark of freedom as opposed to monarchical or Anglo-American liberalism; at the very least, land reform so that every citizen has something to call their own would be a strongly held ideal. You can imagine this developing into a scenario where the landowners are literally depicted as other; in this Scouring of the Shire, the peasant hobbits literally overwhelm the Elven Nobility who have stolen the people's birthright.

Christ, I should be working.
 
Last edited:

Roger II

Well-known member
In your first case, is there much emphasis on universal education to identify and recruit potential "new blood" to elites?
 

SenatorChickpea

The Most Kiwi Aussie of them all
Patreon supporter
Pronouns
he/him
Could go either way: education as a moral good, or education as a privilege and luxury- does a laborer really need more than basic literacy or numeracy? I think there'd certainly be that old suspicion against people 'in trade,' who know things a gentleman doesn't need to know- it's a bit nouveau riche, a bit bourgeois, a bit, dare I say, Jewish?

I think in America there'd be even more of a focus than historically on the frontier mentality- push west, steal land, keep spreading that class of yeoman farmers who are the backbone of the republic. As per usual, that's not a sustainable model- urban populations of all strata, the rural poor, enslaved peoples, that's all going to cause real tension. I imagine that these elites will have to be able to accommodate new types of gentleman farmer: Southern plantation owners will have to make their peace with the cattle ranchers of the west and the corn barons of the plains, or eventually they'll be outvoted.

I'm picturing a nation of ruling elites who all think they're the Good Plantation Owner from The Patriot, but are actually just Mel Gibson.
 

Roger II

Well-known member
Could go either way: education as a moral good, or education as a privilege and luxury- does a laborer really need more than basic literacy or numeracy? I think there'd certainly be that old suspicion against people 'in trade,' who know things a gentleman doesn't need to know- it's a bit nouveau riche, a bit bourgeois, a bit, dare I say, Jewish?

I think in America there'd be even more of a focus than historically on the frontier mentality- push west, steal land, keep spreading that class of yeoman farmers who are the backbone of the republic. As per usual, that's not a sustainable model- urban populations of all strata, the rural poor, enslaved peoples, that's all going to cause real tension. I imagine that these elites will have to be able to accommodate new types of gentleman farmer: Southern plantation owners will have to make their peace with the cattle ranchers of the west and the corn barons of the plains, or eventually they'll be outvoted.

I'm picturing a nation of ruling elites who all think they're the Good Plantation Owner from The Patriot, but are actually just Mel Gibson.
Yea I'm a Jacobin now.
 

SenatorChickpea

The Most Kiwi Aussie of them all
Patreon supporter
Pronouns
he/him
Oh sure, but as I said the original idea sparked from a joke list. I was just taking it seriously as an intellectual exercise. I think it’s a system whose inherent strains will bring it down, and probably before the latter half of the nineteenth century.
 

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
Thing is, I could totally see the initial situation being 'all property owners can vote' under the potwalloper rules (i.e. you need a door, a fire and a cooking pot) which would be a very expansive franchise initially, even including women's suffrage (because that actually was a thing before 1832 in places) but where there's tight restrictions on who can actually stand that take decades to actually be unravelled.

It occurs to me a potential compromise from the early days could literally be 'tenants and renters count, but the landlord casts all their votes on their behalf.'
 
Top