The Pope, the Prince and our desire for Order
Thanks to Sam’s Club, one of those inexpensive, atomic clocks provides my study with split-second time, day, and date and even inside and outside temperature information. To your faithful correspondent, that super-accurate clock is the symbol of both order and perfection; the twin goals sought by humankind since the first Sumerian sheepherders gazed up at the stars and planets and asked each other: Who put them there? And why do the twinkling stars and the unblinking planets move about each other in a certain order?
Later, the ancient Greek thinkers would ask: What do we know? How do we know it? And, what does our knowledge tell us about how we should live and how we should be governed? Yet, no matter how one phrases the questions, they all get back to a quest for order, a quest for knowledge on how to live in peace and harmony with nature and with our fellow human beings.
Last week, the world witnessed two spectacles: One majestic, and one tawdry. But both, in their different ways were about order. We went from the majestically sublime (the last rites for Pope John Paul II) to the ridiculously tawdry (the wedding of Britain’s Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles).
Despite Roman Catholicism’s scandals of homosexual, pedophile priests and the charade of allowing divorces among the Kennedys and their ilk to be deemed “annulments,” the majesty of the Pope’s funeral reassured the world that the Roman Church stands for order in a troubled world. We watched spellbound as millions of the faithful packed Rome and the Vatican. But instead of chaos, there was the kind of order and peacefulness one would expect from those who have chosen to follow the Prince of Peace and his faithful servant, John Paul II. Secular America can’t celebrate a major sports championship without arson and loss of life.
In stark contrast to the celebration of a life extraordinarily well-lived and even historic with regard to the collapse of Godless communism, the British royals staged what looked like a lady’s ugly hat contest. Every hat won.
But one has to feel for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. Surely, they wish Prince Charles and Prince Andrew had chosen better mates. Andrew’s betrayed him while he was at sea with the Royal Navy. Charles and Diana were unsuited for each other. If the Queen didn’t care for Diana, then the prospect that Charles’ off-again, on-again lover of 34 years might become Queen of England must be terribly upsetting.
So, why do the British hang on to the idea of monarchy and a royal family? Because humanly flawed as some of them might be, the royals are reminiscent of a time when the Pax Britannica brought more order to the world than it had ever known before. Despite the human frailties of Charles and Camilla, the pomp and circumstance attending the religious ceremony inside Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel gives rise to the hope that the Rule of Law and Great Britain will, somehow, muddle through.
As for Prince Charles, your faithful observer is reminded of a time in West Germany when I served alongside the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). It didn’t take long to notice that the day-to-day supervision of the Royal Army’s Other Ranks (enlisted personnel), is the province of the NCOs. Meanwhile, the Royal Army’s commissioned officers were spending most of their time playing soccer and staying fit. This division of “labor” struck me as odd, so I asked a sergeant major about it. He said, “Oh that. Well, you see, the role of the officers is to show us how to die.”
So, if the British Officer Corps exists to show the Other Ranks how to die, is it too much to ask the British Royal Family to show us how to live? At that, Prince Charles has been a royal failure. Long live the Queen!
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2005. William Hamilton.