Thursday, 16 June 2016

Will the future be Logres or Britain? - a guest post from John Fitzgerald

The Royal Family, as you rightly pointed out in your post, 'What Will Happen When the Queen Dies?' 

have a tendency to polarise opinion.

Some see them as active agents of evil and willing participants in the ongoing dissolution of British culture and society. Others view the Sovereign as a genuine 'still point of the turning world', a bulwark of stability in the face of a collapse which would only career downwards at an even more breakneck speed without the Queen's restraining hand.

There is much, as you say, which is unknown about the aims and intentions of the inner circle of Royals. The truth, I feel, lies (as ever) somewhere between the extremes. There are, however, a series of storm clouds gathering vis-a-vis the succession.

The poet Kathleen Raine (1898 - 2003) had, I recall, a remarkably exalted view of Prince Charles and his role and destiny in our island story. She saw him as standing at the heart of what she called the 'Great Battle', a standard bearer and lightning rod for everything good, beautiful and true.

I've lionised Charles before on these pages to a gentle hum of disapproval, so I won't labour the point, save to say that his tremendous advocacy of Middle Eastern Christians has led some commentators (in The Catholic Herald notably) to speculate that he might be on the point of converting to Orthodoxy. Another potential reason, therefore, why he might find his path to the throne blocked.

I can certainly foresee a degree of tension between partisans of Charles and supporters of William. There is an apocalyptic French prophecy from the Middle Ages (I forget the source) which speaks of great troubles in France followed by a civil war in England sparked by a Sovereign's death and a dispute over the succession.

On that eschatological note, there are three monarchical restorations, I feel, which could potentially occur in the near future and shift the level of debate, due to the extent to which they could possibly be seen as prefigurations of the return of Christ as Judge and King. These restorations could come about as a reaction to political and economic collapse, as an act of defiance against tyranny or as a spontaneous realisation and insight into the spiritual significance and symbolic depth of the Crown.

'If Christ is to return,' as the theologian John Milbank puts it, 'then so too is Arthur.' The three countries in question are France, Russia and Logres. I'll come to Logres shortly, but first the other two points of the triangle -

(1) France, because of her centuries-old commitment to civilised values, especially in scholarship and the Arts; the longevity of her monarchy (496 - 1793), and her Christian witness and elevated status as 'eldest daughter of the Church' - and

(2) Russia, due to the spiritual intensity of her people (as reflected in Russian music and literature) and the idea of Moscow as the 'Third Rome', the true successor to Imperial Rome and Byzantium. Whether this claim is grounded in anything substantial or not, the very fact that it is made reveals a religious vision and an awareness of history way beyond the reach of most Western nations.

Logres is something different. It is the inner, spiritual side of what is commonly known as Britain. It is hidden, invisible, unmanifest - yet always there for discerning eyes to catch a glimpse from time to time. The writer Paddy Leigh Fermor, for instance, saw the ruined abbeys of post-Reformation England as the 'peaks of a vanished Atlantis drowned four centuries deep.'

It is C.S Lewis, however, who really sees beyond the screen of surface appearance in this sizzling passage from 'That Hideous Strength':

'It all began,' said Dr. Dimble, 'when we discovered that the Arthurian story is mostly true history. There was a moment in the Sixth Century when something that is always trying to break through into this country nearly succeeded. Logres was our name for it ... And then we gradually began to see all English history in a new way. We discovered the haunting.' 'What haunting?' asked Camilla. 'How something we may call Britain is always haunted by something we may call Logres. Haven't you noticed that we are two countries? After every Arthur, a Mordred; behind every Milton, a Cromwell: a nation of poets, a nation of shopkeepers. Is it any wonder they call us hypocrites? But what they mistake for hypocrisy is really the struggle between Logres and Britain.' 

Whatever our thrust and counter-thrust regarding the Windsors, it seems fair to say that they belong to Britain rather than Logres. They may well represent the very best of Britain, but there is a qualitative gap between Britain and Logres which they simply cannot bridge. They're not on that level.

Well then, who is? The Jacobite in me would plump for a restoration of the Stuarts and the return of the 'King over the Water' but that again would be to plant my standard on too low - too materialistic - a plane. Logres doesn't work like that. We would be best advised to turn to Lewis again and the continuation of the above-quoted passage, where Dimble asserts that there has been a 'secret Logres in the very heart of Britain all these years: an unbroken succession of Pendragons.'

This suggestion of a secret or alternative line of Sovereigns chimes well with similar motifs in other countries and cultures - the clandestine Merovingian bloodline in France, for example, or the Hidden Imam of Shia Islam. It ties in too with the universal myth of the Sleeping King, as recounted in this part of the world in the story of King Arthur and his Knights asleep in a treasure-filled cave, awaiting the hour of their country's greatest need, when they will wake and rise again to expel once and for all evil from her shores.

These themes, to my mind, have the ring of truth - not the empirical truth of an 'evidence base' but the truth of myth and story, which is an altogether deeper and richer thing, analogous to the 'Deeper Magic From Before the Dawn of Time' that Lewis writes of in 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'.

It is this level of truth that Winston Churchill tuned into during the Second World War. He recognised in his country's story - its highs and lows, twists and turns and narrative ups and downs - a greater depth of truth than the shortfall in money, manpower and arms, which daunted so many. The 'evidence base' spoke of a prudent acquiescence to the inevitable and a necessary accommodation with the enemy. The 'story' (a la Arthur and Alfred the Great) sang of turning the tables and setting the odds at nought.

This is how Churchill won hearts and minds. He backed the story and built his strategy on that. He chose, in short, Logres over Britain.

Which begs the question, did Churchill himself belong to the hidden line of Pendragons? It is an entertaining thought. Let's leave the last word to Lewis:

'Some of the Pendragons have been known to history, though not under that name. Others you have never heard of. But in every age they and the little Logres which gathered around them have been the fingers which gave the tiny shove and the almost imperceptible pull to prod England out of her drunken sleep or to draw her back from the final outrage into which Britain tempted her.'