Of 31 monarchs in Europe, the English Queen is the only remaining anointed one. Jubilee watchers will have been affected by this in unfamiliar ways, which may account for some of the outpouring of feeling.
For unlike politicians or presidents, the Queen embodies sacred aspects of ourselves and our national life that other political figures cannot, for they are limited to representing only what current fads will allow.
To embody is much more than to represent. The contemporary idealisation of democracy occludes the fact that it is not the only or even the best political format (witness the struggles to embed it into places radically unfitted for it: Pakistan or the House of Lords for instance.)
We are more than mere consumers or voters. The wholeness of our humanity, which includes the spiritual and even sacerdotal, cannot be represented by whatever current discourse will allow.
I was once told for example, by the eminent New Atheist Professor A C Grayling, without irony on a BBC news feature about my book on chastity, that I could not resurrect this discourse because it was ‘coercive’. Yet chastity is essential to spiritual and social health, even when fashionable dons try to suppress that fact.
As an anointed monarch, the Queen embodies and binds into her symbolic being as a constitutional guarantor, or surety, the spiritual and eternal aspects of our national life that may be otherwise vulnerable to political or social whim. And under the authority of Christ at her coronation, this became personal and relational.
For there, she received the Orb ‘set under the Cross’, and was bidden to ‘remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.’
To embody this is to incarnate it. These are all words that we no longer use; but which nonetheless carry the freight of this nation’s constitutional struggles, its sense of duty to others.
Even when this sense distorts into dangerous meddling (Israel) and hubristic folly (Iraq), it is not possible to explain Britain without understanding this.
The checks and balances of the English monarchical constitution embody the power of the people under an authority higher and infinitely more benign than its own authoritative apex.
Standing on the royal barge for several hours in the rain – even to the point of hospitalisation – says something about a country whose vision of power is tempered by a religious idea that no celebrity guru could possibly emulate. Imagine an X-factor search for a Queen and you get the idea.
Christ, which means Anointed One, from whom the English monarchy takes its model, was the King who undertook his own jubilee pageant on a donkey. The British monarch may own palaces, but no one can possibly deny that here is no strutting potentate.
And that’s why the River Pageant was so moving. It was most true to the spirit of a nation that at best is both gallant and modest.
It is no coincidence that it was also the part that the BBC got most wrong.
The BBC’s religion is relativism. In attempting to be ‘inclusive’ even of what is worthless (Fearne Cotton’s ‘Diamond Jubilee sickbag’), they betrayed the nation’s good.