I was out doing errands today, and missed seeing the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, though I did hear on the radio Britons singing "God Save The Queen" for the last time in the lifetime of anyone alive today (because there will be kings -- Charles, William, George -- for as far as we can see). That was moving, and it sounds like the British acquitted themselves very, very well in sending off their beloved monarch.
Paul Kingsnorth, a British subject and recent Christian convert, sat at home in County Galway watching. He wrote a very moving reflection on his Substack. It might be paywalled, but I'm telling you, Kingsnorth "Abbey Of Misrule" is one of the best things out there. In today's post, Kingsnorth savors the sacral symbolism of the funeral, and the world of transcendence it stood for. That's gone now, but he thought as he watched the massive crowds queueing to pay their respects that people don't really want to be done with the old world, that they just say they do because they feel that they have to.
Still, they do say it. Kingsnorth says that the Queen believed in sacral monarchy, and he thinks that her son, the new king, does too. Kingsnorth doesn't speculate, but I have heard that William, the new Prince of Wales, does not have a religious bone in his body, which, if true, would make him like most of those over whom he will reign one day. If the monarchy survives that long.
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I am thinking that there is a throne at the heart of every culture, whether we know it or not, and that if we cast out its previous inhabitant - and the entire worldview that went along with it - we had better understand what we plan to replace it with. Someone, or something, is going to sit on that throne whether we know it or not. I can’t think of any societies in history which have believed - as ours does - that all that matters is matter. That nothing resides above the spires of the Abbey. That there is no throne. If there were any cultures like that - well, they didn’t last to tell us about it.
As I say, I am not making an argument. I am just watching. I am just looking down from that height, onto the nave and the transept and the coffin draped in the standard, and I am thinking: I have just heard the last post sounded for Christian England. We are in a new land now. We should pray that we find our way.
I hope it is not true, but I am confident that it is. If Christianity survives in Britain, it will be in Benedict Option enclaves, at least until the British people are open once again to the Gospel. Kingsnorth's terrific last novel, Alexandria, which he published shortly before his conversion to Orthodox Christianity, centers on a tribe in future post-apocalyptic Britain trying to hold on to its humanity through cobbled-together fragments of Christian and pre-Christian English belief. Whether they know it or not, I believe Paul Kingsnorth and Martin Shaw, both middle-aged former pagans who have come to Christ in Orthodoxy -- in Shaw's case, after a miraculous night encounter in the forest (click here to listen to him tell the story) -- are the prophets that what is left of Christian Britain need now. If Christian England is buried, then Kingsnorth and Shaw are the seeds germinating deep in the soil.