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Saturday, 21 January 2012

Monarchism, the Nationalist's Guide part 1

It has already been put forward on this blog many times that in order to successfully propagate monarchism as an ideology to my fellow Irishmen several things need to made clear. (This is only terms of propagation of Monarchy as an idea, not touching upon the other myriad cultural factors that need to change in order for a successful restoration)

1) The distinction between Irish Nationalism as a sociopolitical force and the Republican Ideology. Defining what Irish Nationalism actually pertains to since its inception, its modern permutations and driving a wedge between this understanding and the Republican ideology.


2) The disassociation of the idea of Monarchy and Monarchism from Britain. This will be done by emphasising the long tradition of Irish Kingsmen both at home and abroad and Ireland's relations with other monarchies, particularly those of France and Spain, throughout the centuries.

We shall deal with the first factor for now.

What was Irish Nationalism and what is it now?:
Nationalism in Ireland did not actually exist until the late 19th century. Prior to this, the Irish people had always possessed a fierce sense of identity, culture and a sort of National pride. However the War of the three kingdoms, Cromwell's effective destruction of Gaelic Civilization, the flight of the earls and the penal laws had essentially dismantled Irish culture to the point almost nothing remained and the Irish themselves, almost wholly, existed as a race made up entirely of peasants, prisoners in their own land. Oh surely we Irish made fine peasantry, in fact we were once described as the finest peasantry in the world for a time. But for too long that had defined the Irish character, and the English notion that the Irish were 'unfit' to govern ourselves.

However stirrings began in the 19th century when largely protestant intellectuals began flirting with the ideas of 'Irishness' and appeals for greater legislative autonomy for Ireland in the form of a parliament in Dublin. During this period three forms of Irish 'Nationalism' emerged which were distinct both from eachother and, on a whole, largely distinct from other forms of nationalism found in Europe. These three strands of Nationalism were Cultural, Political and Intellectual. The movement grew to become something of a force in Imperial politics when the Home Rule question and the growing Catholic Middle class in Ireland putting their own weight behind the push for legislative independence (as well as further associating Nationalism with Catholicism which alienated many protestants) led to increasingly strengthened Home Rule bills which had almost resulted in a separate Parliament for Dublin had it not been for the outbreak of World War One.

What is casually looked over quite often when studying this period of History, (late 19th-early 20th century Ireland), is the lack of violent revolution in Ireland despite the tremendous popular support the home rule movement enjoyed. More specifically why there was a lack of violent Revolution. This is because Irish Nationalism, from its inception right up to the Easter Rising, had been a prominently monarchist affair, and the vast majority of Irish 'Nationalists' were in fact Irish 'Monarchists'.

This is particularly evident when looking both at the nature of the Home Rule bills themselves, what they sough to achieve and looking at the revolutionary elements of Irish Nationalism that did exist and why they failed to achieve dominance in the Nationalist movement.

The Home Rules bills were and always have been, about the formation of a Parliament in Dublin to deal with Irish Affairs separately from Imperial affairs. Nowhere in these bills did the Irish Nationalists seek outright independence from the Empire in fact, despite the horrible treatment and misgoverning of Ireland by England, the vast majority of Irish where loyalists to the King and the Empire. The Home Rule bills at most sought an effective end to the lie of the United Kingdom. That being, it cannot be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland when the territories are only treated as one kingdom with one parliament when there is obvious difference in culture, identity and needs between the two kingdoms. Home Rulers sought, at times, the creation of a Personal Union, a Parliament in Dublin and London with the King being the Head of state for both, the sovereign being the 'King of Ireland' in an official context. In fact even one of the leaders of Sinn Fein, the then 'dual-monarchist' party, envisioned a union along Austro-Hungarian lines.

The British of course, would never have it, and it was more blind pride and prejudice then practicality that fueled Tory resistance to the Home Rule movement. That a nation of 'peasents', Catholic ones at that, being the equal to the English was unthinkable for many in britain. In fact, the prejudice was so strong that a comment by an Irish priest stating that, truthfully, the incompetence and cruelty of English governance was such that the English were unfit to rule Ireland, had caused a furious uproar and shock amongst the upper classes there.

Furthermore, under the New Departure initiatives, the attempts to find common ground between Irish Nationalists and Irish Republicans is proof that in the beginnings, there really was little common ground between Nationalists and Republicans in Ireland.

In fact, such was the profound monarchism of the Irish Nationalist movement in the early 20th century that DeVelera himself had to promise the electorate that he would allow a referendum for the formation of an Irish Kingdom should such a thing come to pass.

How quickly we forget history.

In the modern Context, Irish Nationalism, especially here in the North has been so intertwined with Irish Republicanism that it seems to be an impossible knot to untangle. I will attempt to explain the ways in which Irish Nationalists, through the education of history, can untangle the snarl of republicanism, and return to the true implications of their own social identity in my next part.


  1. "The Home Rule bills at most sought an effective end to the lie of the United Kingdom...Home Rulers sought, at times, the creation of a Personal Union, a Parliament in Dublin and London with the King being the Head of state for both, the sovereign being the 'King of Ireland' in an official context."

    I think you are conflating the cause of Home Rule with that of Repeal. The former involved mere devolution within the United Kingdom, the latter meant the repeal of the 1801 Act of Union and a return to the status quo ante (Grattan's Constitution) that existed from the repeal of Poynings' Law in 1782 up until the Act of Union, when the two parliaments were merged. Despite some nationalist romanticization, Grattan's Parliament was never really anything more than the Parliament of an English colony, and its composition was of course exclusively Protestant. As the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, the Earl of Clare, noted in a speech in the Irish Parliament on 10th February 1800 (ie. *before* the Act of Union): "The whole power and property of (Ireland) has been conferred by successive monarchs of England upon an English colony, composed of three sets of English adventurers who poured into this country at the termination of three successive rebellions. Confiscation is their common title; and from their first settlement they have been hemmed in on every side by the old inhabitants of the island, brooding over their discontents in sullen indignation."

    "In fact even one of the leaders of Sinn Fein, the then 'dual-monarchist' party, envisioned a union along Austro-Hungarian lines."

    This is Arthur Griffith, who in the Resurrection of Hungary noted that he was a republican at heart, but viewed a republic as practically impossible to attain in the circumstances. In other words he was a pragmatist, amply conscious of the fact that he was dealing with the most powerful Empire the world had ever seen.

    In truth the world cannot be neatly divided up into 'republicans' and 'monarchists'.

    "The British of course, would never have it, and it was more blind pride and prejudice then practicality that fueled Tory resistance to the Home Rule movement."

    While that was probably a factor in many individuals, I think most unionists had respectable reasons to oppose Home Rule, unconnected with pride and prejudice. Some feared religious domination in a majority Catholic state, others feared a largely agricultural country would impose protectionist tariffs perilous to the industry of the north, others feared it would lead to full seperation from the Union (and given how rapidly the independence cause is proceeding in Scotland since Home Rule in 1999, they probably had a point.)

    1. I was deliberately conflating the entire cause of Repeal and Home rule (largely because to properly address it would have extended the blog post monstrously and I didnt want to defeat the purpose by simply linking to the huge wikipedia article on the attendant factors.) and what you say is correct. Gratton's parliament was a protestant parliament, but the repeal movement failed and the Home Rule movement was much more successful in both getting Britain's serious attention as well as being the primary catalyst for the coalescence of Nationalism as a force in Irish society.

      While I have no doubts about Griffith's own Republicanism, nevertheless, it was what was thought about and what was supported by Sinn fein at the time. In this context I suppose I should concede and say that at the time Griffith was a Monarchist in practical terms. Much in the same way most monarchists today living in Republics are republicans because they are forced to work with the system they live in.

      The Unionist fear of Catholic domination is iffy and has been the ultimate source of the strife here in the North. Doubtless of course, had Home Rule succeeded the Irish parliament would have most definitely been dominated by Catholics to the point where Ireland would have been effectively a Catholic Kingdom with a Protestant monarch, so the fear of loss of influence is definitely well founded, but it is the fear of antagonism towards the unionist north which, ultimately is constructed. It was in response to the encrouching Catholic dominance of the Nationalist movement that protestants, particularly northerners, began to turn virulently pro-union, but this was an aggregation of the fear of losing influence rather then active sabre rattling against the protestant minority of Ireland by the Catholic Majority. You will note that it was the Protestant militias who formed before the Irish ones. Had the Protestants not become so virulently anti-nationalist out of this fear the catholic majority would not have aimed to 'punish' the northern Industry as you suggest they feared. They'd have no reason to since northern industry would be apart of the overall Irish industry. While conceding that Unionist did fear the catholic dominated movement would lead to a breakup of the union, it only shows a lack of understanding on their part of how little chance the republicans had of actually achieving their aims of total independence and how little the overall nationalist movement sought such a goal of total separation from the Empire.

      But in Britain, they did not have the same fear of the Irish protestants, it really was essentially pride and indignation that fuelled conservative resistance to Home Rule

  2. Great post - I completely agree that these are the two factors requiring our attention. It has to be emphasised again and again that what really gave Irish democratic republicanism its motivating power and mass appeal in the late 19th and early 20th century was when it was harnessed to the natural desire amongst Irishmen to restore and revive our native language and national traditions. What attractive force democratic republicanism had, came from its promise as an effective means to accomplish this great and noble task. Alas, though useful against a foreign monarchical order, it contains within it the seeds for the dissolution of a distinctively Irish civilisation and society.

  3. Very, very interesting indeed.

    As very much a newcomer/near ignoramus to this topic, I cannot comment much.

    But I shall be printing and re-reading this entry and other recent ones, as I prepare myself to visit Ireland soon, both north and south.

    I am grateful for your writing IM and it seems to be getting more fine and developed.

    Meanwhile to end on a depressing note, I wonder what you make of this:

    Myself, newcomer/near-ignoramus that I am, am not only depressed, but wonder if it indicates that the only hope for a sufficiently strong national movement would be a strong Catholic faith again ...

    What do you think?

  4. PS: Forgot to say - thank you for bringing back the original graphic! Looks gorgeous!

  5. Hello and thanks for this article. When can we await next part? Please reply to, thanks.

  6. about de Valera's referendum pledge. he did demand one caveat if the irish people chose a monarchy, but the caveat is one I consider sensible anyway, he insisted that the succession law of any Irish monarchy would specifically provide that no member of the house of Windsor could ever become king. if i had been alive then, i would have, even without moderate republicans demanding it, been for such a provision. for the record the laws governing succession to the throne of belgium specifically exclude the house of orange by name. so a no-windsors clause in the succession law would not be unprecedented and would help protect the sovereignty of ireland. i do not think irish monarchists should need external pressure to want a no-windsors clause. it would also help dispel the notion that we want to resore the british crown if we go out of our way to bar windsors from the throne of ireland.