Ernest Belfort Bax

Royalty and Revolution

(8 July 1893)

Royalty and Revolution, Justice, 8th July 1893, p.4.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

By the time the present number of Justice is in the hands of our readers England will have witnessed one of those royal pageants in which the heart of the great British public seems to “go out” to the family which does it the honour to accept a portion of the products alike of the wages of its proletariat and of the exploitations of its middle-class. Not only does the family condescend to this, but it has the magnanimity to consent even to pocket its pride, abase itself still further, and vicariously send the hat round, with intimations that it is not averse to receiving yet more indications of love and loyalty in the shape of hard cash, or its equivalent, on occasions like the present. When the man who is low in the wind takes to cadging even from his well-to-do friends he is ...; but “royalty,” apparently without being “low in the wind,” deems it not unworthy – not mean – to screw pence out of schoolchildren and extort contributions from poor and unwilling givers. Such is the self-respect which associates itself with the English throne.

We need not wonder at this, however, when we reflect what Monarchy and its representatives mean to-day. The feudal monarch had a certain raison d’etre. He was the head of a hierarchical organisation of an essentially military character. He was prepared to risk his life at the head of his barons; and he took pot-luck with them and their retainers. Brutal he might be on occasion, but he was at least not mean, and certainly destitute of all snobbery. The king in the middle ages fulfilled a distinct function. He was not a mere parasite, whose one object was to heap up dividends. What a descent, for example, from Henry V to Albert Edward, or from Philippa of Hainault to our “sovereign lady” Queen Victoria! Nowadays, royalty and its tawdry saturnalia fulfil no necessary function, even from a bourgeois point of view; they mean nothing more than the glittering gilt cupola on the jerry-built structure of modern capitalism. Hence the monarchy, like most other adjuncts of our latter-day society, is pre-eminently vulgar. The very personnel of its representatives, from the highest downwards, indicates this fast. The very faces of those royal personages are of a type which well serve as the reverse of a rote that bears on its obverse the face which is the hollow, haggard, brutalised outcome of the slum. We do not dwell upon this fact, since we have no wish to blame people for their looks. We merely note the fact as significant, and as only what we might expect from modern royalty – that shoddy Sunday coat – of a shoddy society.

Friday’s papers will doubtless overflow with accounts of crowds, numbered by the hundred thousand, of enthusiastic greetings, of displays of loyalty, of the transports of joy with which London has greeted “its future king and queen.” How much all this is worth every student of history knows. In July, 1790, Louis XVI amid enthusiastic crowds of gay and festive Parisians, amid salvoes of applause, celebrated a great public function. In August, 1793, gay and enthusiastic crowds celebrated another great public function without him. So much for “loyal” demonstrations.


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 11.6.2004