Regnum Britanniarum


stitching_the_standard_leightonI was re-reading the De Regno the other day and pondering an odd remark St Thomas makes when describing the various social forms that develop in the course of man’s search for the perfect community (that society which possesses within itself all the necessary means for the attainment of its end). St Thomas deals, as one might expect, with the family, the city, the province (what we might call the ‘country’) and ultimately with Christendom or the Church. However, between the family and the city, in the space moderns would likely call ‘civil society’, he places the vicus.

Now since man must live in a group, because he is not sufficient unto himself to procure the necessities of life were he to remain solitary, it follows that a society will be the more perfect the more it is sufficient unto itself to procure the necessities of life. There is, to some extent, sufficiency for life in one family of one household, namely, insofar as pertains to the natural acts of nourishment and the begetting of offspring and other things of this kind. Self-sufficiency exists, furthermore, in one street with regard to those things which belong to the trade of one guild. In a city, which is the perfect community, it exists with regard to all the necessities of life. Still more self-sufficiency is found in a province because of the need of fighting together and of mutual help against enemies. Hence the man ruling a perfect community, i.e. a city or a province, is antonomastically called the king. The ruler of a household is called father, not king, although he bears a certain resemblance to the king, for which reason kings are sometimes called the fathers of their peoples.

Vicus is here translated ‘street’ as is reasonable given the context although ‘quarter’ might give the sense a little better. He clearly means the district of a city where the members of one guild ply their trade. How could such an area be supposed to have any kind of self sufficiency? One can hardly live off shoes or ironmongery. I think St Thomas must suppose that one guild represents the group responsible for providing one particular element necessary for the temporal live of the city and being thus indispensable is always in a position to trade for the rest. One could, with relative ease, divide up human life into the relevant sectors:

Area of Temporal Life Example of Traditional Guild
Information Scriveners
Energy Chandlers
Water Plumbers
Food Mercers
Furniture Carpenters
Clothing Taylors
Tools Smiths
Buildings Masons
Transportation Farriers
Weapons Fletchers
Learning University (Faculty of Arts)
Health University (Faculty of Medicine)
Organisation University (Faculty of Law)
Salvation University (Faculty of Divinity)

This would seem (with one obvious exception) to divide human life into the necessary areas in all societies in the wayfaring state. Of course, the mediaeval guilds were more diversified than the examples I give in the second column because they were diversified by the natures of their crafts as well as by their ends. However, by St Thomas’s logic, the vicus would be diversified only by the end (for this is what gives it its quasi self-sufficiency). I would suggest that in a society conformed to the tenets of Thomistic social doctrine society ought to be organised in this way. Indeed in England (the Regnum Thomisticum) and then Britain until the nineteenth century it was so organised. The Corporations of each Borough and City (the Masters of all the Guilds) ran the Towns and elected their representatives to Parliaments and the Masters of Oxford, Cambridge and the Scottish Universities governed those Universities and elected their Members of Parliament. The University seats and business vote remained features of British public law up to the nineteen sixties. Earlier still the guilds (at least) provided the non-charitable welfare and insurance functions now usurped by the state and financial institutions. The charitable welfare functions were, of course, provided by the hierarchy and the monastic orders.

What is the obvious exception? It is the manor. In fact, another meaning of the word vicus is village, manor, hamlet or suburban settlement. The knight or lord of the manor is to the urban vicus what the master is in a guild or university. Just as membership of the  University is divided into scholar, bachelor and master and membership of the Guild into apprentice, journeyman and master so membership of the order of chivalry is divided into page, squire and knight. The knight emerged in the chaos which followed the collapse of the Carolingian Empire in the ninth century. The knight was a local hard-man who controlled an autarchic minimum of agricultural territory farmed by others for whom he provided security and lower governmental functions. His control of this territory was legitimised by military service offered to the ruler of a larger area responsible for higher governmental functions. The guilds and universities found themselves in a similar relationship with the King or Emperor. As Chivalry emerged in the socio-economic-military sense so Chivalry as a code of behaviour and spirituality emerged as the Gospel, the Monastic Orders and the Hierarchy interacted with and elevated this natural phenomenon. Knighthood as such was quite independent of the aristocratic system and was meritocratic. One could even be fined (distraint of knighthood) for failing to be knighted when in possession of the relevant feudal territory. To this day the feudal system in Britain is quite independent of the honours system. Although almost immediately the aristocracy tried to assimilate knighthood reducing it to the lower rung on the table of honours they never truly succeeded. Emperors, Kings and Princes have always fallen over themselves to draw attention to their status as knights rarely do they allude to the fact that they happen to also be a count or a baron.

This other form of vicus also found expression in the Regnum Thomisticum. The Writ of summons to the Model Parliament of 1295 expressly requires that “without delay you cause two knights, of the more discreet and more capable of labour, to be elected from the aforesaid county… and that you have them come to us on the day and at the place aforesaid ; so that the said knights shall then and there have full and sufficient authority on behalf of themselves and the community of the county aforesaid.” In a way therefore the vicus is the basic unit of society in Thomas’s vision, and in fact in Mediaeval England, for the next highest unit is already (in some degree) perfect. The vicus that is the manor or guild (or university) provides something indispensable to society as a whole and thus cannot be eradicated without eradicating the perfection of that society. Its disappearance from the constitutional landscape is a sign that slavery has crept again from out its unquiet grave and slithered its rotting fingers once more around the neck of western man.

 

lords_chamber

The reform of the House of Lords is urgently necessary. Her Majesty the Queen is in her ninetieth year. At the accession of the next monarch it is essential for the continuity and stability of the realm that the Coronation be carried out exactly as in 1953. There is some hope for this given the present political constellation and the seemingly remote prospect of a change of governing party in the foreseeable future. One serious obstacle will be the great prominence of the hereditary aristocracy in the Coronation Rite. This will be the crack through which secret and open republicans will seek to prise open the question of the Coronation Rite and subvert it and the monarchy with innumerable banalities.

If the House of Lords is reformed prior to the Coronation in a manner that preserves its essential character but which is unimpeachably democratic this danger can be eradicated and the sovereignty of the King in Parliament protected for future generations.This seems like a tall order but I believe it is possible. How?

  1. The old county boundaries should be restored. Larger urban areas should be exempted from their jurisdiction. Each resulting City and County must then be given, in addition to its County or City Council an elected Lord Mayor or Lord Sheriff. The people of each areas may choose by plebiscite whether the Lord Mayor/Lord Sheriff should be directly elected by the electorate or by the council. Anyone standing for election in this way must either already be a Peer or have served as a member of the House of Commons. These Lords Mayor and Lords Sheriff will then sit in the House of Lords as Lords of Parliament for as long as they retain office in their City or County and represent the interests of each.
  2. The Lord Mayor of London would be appointed in the same way as he is now.
  3. The existing Peers who today compose the House of Lords should be divided into groups according to their party with an additional cross bench group. The members of these groups should then be arranged in order of creation (life or new hereditary) or accession (ninety hereditaries).
  4. The number of Lords of Parliament should be set to 400 (roughly the capacity of the Lords Chamber).
  5. After each General Election for the House of Commons the Lords Sheriff and Mayor should be supplemented by Peers from the party and cross bench lists in order of seniority so that the final number of Lords of Parliament is in exact proportion to the percentage of votes cast for each party in the General Election (the party lists) and of electors who did not vote (the cross bench list).
  6. The Lords Spiritual, the Earl Marshal and the Lord Chamberlain would remain as now in addition to the 400.

In this way the Lords will remain an appointed chamber of broadly the same character as today but with a democratic mandate. Nevertheless, the connection of the majority of the Peers in the Chamber to the electorate will be less direct preserving the primacy of the House of Commons.

 

…for, even as Christ, in whose throne I sit in this part of the earth, is the husband to the church and the church his spouse, so I likewise desire to be your husband, and you should be my spouse; and, therefore, as it is the husband’s part to cherish his wife, to entreat her kindly, to reconcile himself towards her, and procure her love by all means, so it is my part to do the like to my people.

James I, Address to Parliament on 19th February 1623

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the bloodiest day in British military history. I wonder how many of the young men who went over the top on the Somme that Saturday morning in July knew that it was the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Too few: but those who gave their lives or limbs for Christian civilisation, however poorly understood, made a sacrifice which He surely did not spurn. If there are any souls of those who died on either side in that battle still in purgatory, may they rest at last in peace.

A week ago the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who fought on the Somme, and at Mons and Passchendaele voted. They voted to resist an anti-Christian empire that wishes to rule them. The vote was close, but it was clear. It may be that if five more years had gone by, the changing of the generations would have caused the vote to be different. But the vote was not taken in five years time, it was taken in the year of grace 2016.

Now we hear voices saying that the people must be made to vote again, till they get it right. How can the poor and the uneducated be expected to know what is best for them? A feature in the Guardian yesterday solemnly warns us that elections can be the enemy of democracy. Here at Laodicea we have supported suffrage by household rather than by individual; but given that the youth vote was in favour of ‘Remain’, and given that a larger proportion of such voters than of older ones are living in another’s household, then the margin of victory would have been even larger on Laodicean principles.

In any case, the vote has been taken, and has shown an impressive popular will to resist the propaganda and the vested interests of the godless rich, and the sense of having a heritage to defend. Of course the country cannot be healed by such a will or such a sense, without first turning back to the Precious Blood. But this is, at least, a chink in the darkness, a first unmerited grace (gratia operans) given to Britain. May the descendants of the heroes of the Somme be not unworthy of their sires.

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The nations, not so blest as thee,

Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;

While thou shalt flourish great and free,

The dread and envy of them all.

Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:

Britons never will be slaves.

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