God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Heart of the Monarchy

Article excerpt

God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Heart of the Monarchy. By Ian Bradley. (London and New York, Continuum, 2012, Pp. xxxiv, 299. $25.00.)

Timed to coincide with Queen Elizabeth H's sixty years on the British throne, this Diamond Jubilee Edition of a book first published in 1999 provides a deep probing of a thousand years of the institution of sacred monarchy in the United Kingdom and a compelling rationale for its continuation there. Ian Bradley has long been the dominant voice on this aspect of the British monarchy and in this iteration of the book he adds an important and enlightening chapter - "The way ahead" - on what he sees as the future of the institution in an age that has become increasingly disenchanted, to use the precise meaning of the term.

Bradley begins by offering an overview of the development of sacred monarchy in the Hebrew Bible and its subsequent adoption byjudeoChristian/European civilization. He might have given a nod to ancient Sumer in this regard as having been foundational to later conceptions of the "High King," but, that said, he argues persuasively for monarchy's place as an indispensable political construct in the creation of English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish identity and subsequent (united) Christian nationhood. He implies, indeed, that recognition of sacred monarchy is intrinsic to Christianity itself, leaving readers with the rather loaded question of whether or not republicans - with their automatic denunciation of kings - can be wholly Christian? While such an implication is surely to rankle Bradley's American readers especially, the question is of considerably more than mere rhetorical value.

Much of the book, however, is not history of this more antiquarian type, but rather of the orthodoxies and practices of the modern British monarchy of the twentieth century and the long reign of Elizabeth II, a tenure stretching now well into the twenty-first. …