The republican anti-aesthetic
The most uninspiring, mundane movement
We have seen a lot of captivating ceremony these past few days, as well as a lot of republicans taking the opportunity to complain about how the Queen, even in death, is treated as such.
Given all this, it’s become worth reiterating the obvious: British republicanism is the most uninspiring, mundane and philistine movement in the entirety of the United Kingdom. Totally devoid of any prospective “high aesthetic”, British republicanism is about as grandiose as acrylic filler — an unremarkable utilitarian artifice. What’s more, its aesthetical poverty is entirely self-induced, as proponents often see their philistinism as a virtue which sets them apart from everyone else.
If Britain became a republic tomorrow, everyone intuitively knows we would get some unglamorous non-entity as our head of state — some Steinmeier-esque scarecrow that nobody knows or cares about. As Farage put it: “some sort of duffer, somebody who had failed … Neil Kinnock, or somebody.”
This is why the recent arrests are so absurd. Anything which gives Britain’s residual aristocratic spawn, having long-nestled in the columns of Britain’s centre-left broadsheets, an opportunity to LARP as dissidents is bad enough. Giving republicans the seductive aesthetical veneer of “disturbers of the peace” is objectionable hook, line and sinker.
The eyesore of a Union Jack three-piece suit has more charm
As a rule, they’re a powerless minority of pot-bellied, graphic-tee wearing, mothballed-meeting room attending geriatrics — aposematic automatons, fuelled by a dilapidating concoction of contraceptives and SSRIs, grouchy socialist oxygen-thieving pseudo-rebels who “work” as “comedians”.
Even “Low Monarchism” has an edge on contemporary British republicanism. The eyesore of a Union Jack three-piece suit has more charm than the platitudinous Picketcore of bitter parochial libs.
Granted, republicans aren’t completely monolithic in outlook. Whilst many of them concede that the ceremonial aspect of monarchy is magnificent, they argue it is outweighed by the underlying hereditary aspect.
The go-to counter argument is that republics have historically been, and still are, basically hereditary in practice. Both the republics of Florence and Venice were run by hereditary patriciates. The United States was founded on explicitly aristocratic ideals, given the juxtaposition of liberty and democracy. Having descended into a perverse mixture of ochlocracy and oligarchy, the US continues to maintain a closed-door political system.
These politico-historical facts aside, it is also evident that republics still have little to offer in terms of aesthetics. Five-or-so merchant-bank families playing pass-the-parcel with a lifelong-held office isn’t exactly as appealing as the undivided otherworldly proclamation of the rightful heir to the enamoured masses.
Moreover, there is an aesthetical value to the concept of monarchy, not just the pomp and circumstance which surrounds it. There is more to an aesthetic than the material composition used to convey it. Embellishing an impotent president with lavish ceremonies doesn’t address the aesthetical implications that come with a termly elected politician.
If anything, it brings us back to the “bureaucrat with jewels” arrangement we have now, albeit without the understandings in which people find solace and wonder: the constant axel around which the cycle of politics revolves, the immovable trunk which roots disparate branches, the personal-ancestral representation of national-historical fraternity, the metaphorical weight of history made literal in the crown itself and so on.
Even if one doesn’t consider themselves a supporter of the monarchy, they may still consider themselves a supporter of monarchy.
British republicans are actively hostile to culture and aesthetics
The uncomfortable truth that many republicans don’t want to admit is that a key component of monarchy’s aesthetical appeal is the underlying hereditary aspect. It’s not something which can so easily be disjointed from the ceremonial aspect and spliced together with liberal-democratic procedure.
Instead, the aesthetical vitality of republics appears not in the republics themselves, but in the revolutions which produce them. This is far from a bad thing. The dreary talking-shop inaugurations of Russia, France and the United States will forever be eclipsed by the artistic goldmines of 1917, 1789 and 1776. Though this seems like mere coincidence, it makes theoretical sense. Commitment to the ideals of the revolution can ensure against corruption and arbitrariness from political officials as well as cement and prolong political legitimacy.
Alas, such aspirations are divorced from contemporary republicanism. They’re not Carlylean firebrands proclaiming the immortal greatness of Cromwell. They’re not D’Annunzian legionaries seeking an Impresa di Londra. The average British republican wouldn’t touch such ideas with a bargepole.
“Why can’t the President just live in a B&B in Coventry?” says the republican. “Why can’t the President just walk or ride a bike?” says the republican. “Oh, why can’t we be Grown Up like Germany?”, says the republican. Trite losers, the lot of them.
Never mind a glorious revolution, British republicans are actively hostile to culture and aesthetics. In the place of grand ideals, they are defined by a spiteful desire to drain any sort of grandeur from public life, disguised as level-headed practicality and being modern — the latter of which has done more harm to the monarchy’s aesthetical might than any republican protest.
Remember the Platinum Jubilee? We could have had a redcoat hell march. Instead, we got celebrity buses, a twee drone show and Paddington Bear. Assuming it ends at some point, the monarchy’s end is set to be very twee. This incremental whittling down of the monarchy into a caricature of itself significantly lowers the bar for republicans seeking its abolition. What if republicans were prepared to undertake grand ideals, spearheaded by some Caesarist hurricane with popular support? You can’t rely on your enemy’s ineptitude forever.
Monarchy is winning the aesthetical war for now. However, should encroaching modernisation — propagated by tasteless reactionaries of the eternal present — be allowed to continue any further, and should republicans cease their unrelenting hostility towards high culture, the pomp and circumstance will find itself conducting its final march.
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