QE2 is dead, long live Charles

Balmoral Castle, where Queen Elizabet died and Prince Charles succeeded her as king. (Yahoo)

Anglophilia runs deep in this corner. Not because Great Britain has a royal family but because it has embraced Western civilization more than any nation. This fact explains its reign as Europe’s most powerful and influential country for centuries, nationally and globally, up to the middle of the 20th century.

To a degree, Queen Elizabeth II presided over Britain’s decline – its loss of its colonies (a mixed blessing), its weakness in international affairs (even if it still punches above its weight), and the decline of its politics, culture and socio-economic conditions have degraded British life in recent decades more than necessitated by its decline in national power and global influence.

The queen was not to blame for this. Britain’s monarchy grew far more nominal in the 20th century, but that process had been ongoing since the Magna Carta in the 13th century. Elizabeth’s role as queen for 70 years avoided a much more dire situation for Britain through her dignity and her persistence in upholding British traditions.

As the British writer Theodore Dalrymple wrote today in City Journal:

Her conduct was as modest as her position was exalted. She never made the mistake of thinking that she was an interesting or remarkable person in herself, and thereby became remarkable.

Margaret Thatcher’s prime ministership in the 1980s served to strengthen the monarchy by blocking political tendencies toward socialism that the queen was largely powerless to address. This could have rendered the monarchy even more nugatory, or ended it altogether. The “awokening” of British politics, culture and society in the past decade has arguably deranged British national life even more than it has that of the United States.

It is expected by many that Charles’s assumption of the throne might deepen these dangerous trends. But the worst of them – wokeism, climate alarmism, and Muslim immigration and refusal to assimilate – are too deeply ingrained by now to require assistance from a king so limited in his political authority.

That leaves many in Britain and overseas to wonder what will become of the former prince’s powerful activism in the important realm of architecture. In 1984, when he was still almost four decades from reigning as king, Charles as the Prince of Wales began his crusade against modern architecture.

In a brave lecture to the Royal Institute of British Architects upon its 150th anniversary, Charles stated that a proposed addition to the National Gallery on London’s Trafalgar Square would be “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.” Way to slam dunk that gauntlet!

In 1987, to a national meeting of town planners, Charles added: “You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe: when it knocked down our buildings it didn’t replace them with anything more offensive than rubble. We did that.” The BBC called this speech “one of the most outspoken speeches ever made by a member of the royal family.″

These two statements by the prince, along with others, furiously rattled the gilt cages of the modernist architectural establishment (probably even more insular than in America), but created a swelling of hope in the large majority of publics on both sides of the pond, who prefer traditional architecture by a large margin but feel ignored and powerless to influence the appearance of where they live.

Prince Charles may have waxed and waned in his vocal denunciation of modern architecture, but he has persisted in his institutional activism. He created the Prince’s Foundation and other institutes to promote traditional architecture, historic preservation, town planning and the survival of rural and farm life. He has lent his name and influence to similar causes around the world. In an act perhaps more “outspoken” than all of these wrapped together, he oversaw the development of a new town – beautiful and successful – called Poundbury. The architecture critics hate it but the public loves it.

Charles’s persistence in this very important matter tests the limits of the role of the British constitutional monarchy. Royals are not allowed to commit politics, as it were, but there is some wiggle room at the intersection of convention and precedent. Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) declared that “the sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy … three rights – the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn.”

What can – what will – Charles make of this?

Charles may consult his own precedent and build his own convention, to the extent that his will permits. Does he have the right to sit by and watch in silence as his country founders in a miasma of its own making? Or might his role permit him to express himself on issues of vital importance that rise, more or less, above politics? The power of the people to deliberate democratically the quality of their own built environment might be such an issue – one less fraught with danger to constitutional prerogatives than other issues facing this sceptered isle. In such a manner might a long-arising crisis be addressed – by mixing the bravery of the prince with the dignity, modesty and persistence of his mother.

King Charles, mount your steed – if you dare!

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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9 Responses to QE2 is dead, long live Charles

  1. John the First says:

    Regarding prince Charles. The green agenda is ultimately about top down control of land, energy, food, (and health sector), which thus penetrates into the whole of society in various areas (including architecture, how and where we live, what we eat, etc). The amount of money which is invested in it by enormously powerful corporations, banks, investing companies, and various all too powerful institutions is GIGANTIC.
    Such fundamentals of life and society should not be in the hands of a global mighty top and their servants of course, and neither should a king occupy himself with such matters, that would be regressive. A king being a patron of high culture, including for instance great architecture, that is not historically regressive, it would be suitable, even give his role and status great value and legitimacy, instead of it being a mere parade and theatre. But sticking his nose into how ordinary people live, in terms of architecture, is already a trespassing, let alone sticking his nose into land, energy, food and health. But that applies to the whole top of all too mighty powers, whether old money and status, or new. A king which aligns himself with the agenda of a contemporary oligarchy should be regarded as someone who takes the side of dictatorial power.

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  2. LazyReader says:

    Climate alarmism?
    the hottest temp ever recorded was in Death Valley, California….in 1913. 100+ years ago. When that record is broken….I’LL worry about the climate…If over a century and 700 BILLION tons of added carbon dioxide cant break it……

    Meanwhile thanx to green…Europe…enjoy the coming winter

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    • Europe is going to have a hard winter because it is dependent on fossil fuels imported from Russia. If it had already completed the shift to clean energy, it would not have that problem.

      Meanwhile, Europe’s rivers are drying up because of drought.

      Global warming is global, so you have to look at average temperatures, which have been rising steadily since they have been keeping records, not at one location.

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      • LazyReader says:

        We’ve spent $5 TRILLION on wind/solar over the last 2 decades. Here’s what it has bought us………..jack. LESS than 3% global energy demand.
        No one is obstructs renewable transition cept nature and laws of physics.
        – California now power shortages, begging people NOT To plug in ev cars.
        – UK allow fracking
        – germany is restarting coal, keeping nuclear plants open.
        Renewables #FAILED because they only make electricity…..

        Energy and electricity are different things…..People continue to confuse energy for electricity in debates. Energy is the ability to perform work, electricity is a form of energy in the form of flowing electrons. Only 12.9% of US energy consumption is Electric and..Only 14% of Global energy consumption is electric. Because heat energy as chemical or mechanical power is more efficient; Given thermodynamic energy losses generating power; and transmission transitioning from conventional energy to renewables means building 16-24 times more powerplants than present and 20-50 fold grid expansion.

        Conversion of chemical energy into heat is very efficient, especially where high temperatures are concerned, especially since what you’re using fossil fuels for anyway involve carbon chemistry products (Steel, drugs, plastic, medicine)

        72% of the worlds energy is thermal based because it’s efficient to convert thermal energy directly into work without having to convert it to electricity. You convert to electricity you lose half to 2/3rds of the energy as waste heat. The carbon emissions from changing electric sources wont matter much since 75% of all GHG emissions come from non electric sources. The transition to renewables; means replacing thermal, chemical and mechanical power with several added steps, electric generation, electric voltage, transmission, and plug in. ALL these stages result in thermodynamic losses.Even after generation, as much as 30-50% of electricity sent thru the grid is lost as parasitic or heat, usually about 10% lost every 100 miles. Its the reason Natural gas has grown in popularity; in power production, you can use it in close proximity, Combustion of Natural gas produces only 2 byproducts, CO2 and water, neither of which is toxic and it’s proximity to residents omits huge losses. While the electric motor enjoys greater application of power, it’s sourced energy doesn’t. Thermodynamic power losses amount considerably. Fossil fuels are so much simpler, nuclear much more efficient.

        So putting your energy policy into the hands of a special needs teenage girl was a bad idea?

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        • John the First says:

          Follow the money in need of a teenage girl, plus indoctrination of youth. Carbon itself is now worth money, follow Goldman Sachs (carbon caps), Blackrock (sustainable energy investments), etc, and a whole industry making money out of what is now a multi-trillion dollar industry, and subsidized by tax money too. The mountains of money are partly rerouted from investments in the fossil fuel industry, party value creation bubbles, partly tax payer money. Originally even some of the fossil fuel industry cooperated in the scheme, since natural gas releases less CO2, a big natural gas company thought they could get a greater market share by pushing C02 intensive’ fuels out of the market.

          Mister Brussat must be thinking, hmm, this is supposed to be a blog about architecture.

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  3. Climate alarmism??

    Have you seen the latest study showing that, even if we limit global warming to 2 degrees C (which is the best we can realistically hope to do), we will pass tipping points that make it inevitable that
    Greenland ice will collapse
    West Antarctic ice will collapse
    Low latitude coral reefs will die off
    https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abn7950
    And things will be much worse if we don’t limit it to 2 degrees – which seems to be the goal of those who talk about “climate alarmism.”

    In the SF Bay Area, we have just gotten through a period where temperatures have gotten up to 112 degrees F. One-third of Pakistan is under water.

    That is with 1.1 degrees C of warming. Isn’t it alarming to think about what 2 degrees will do?

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    • John the First says:

      Temperature has not risen for two decades, other than very very marginally. Sea levels do not rise to any dangerous degree when such large areas of ice melt. Higher temperatures means less tornado’s and such extreme phenomenon, thus more stability. Higher temperatures are also local, not global, higher temperatures are a blessing in many ways. Human societies flourish when temperature rises (within limits of a few degrees), and nature also flourishes.
      CO2 levels have been historically low, the rise of the CO2 level has brought about a considerable enlargement of the vegetation. The CO2 level is still low and a rising of it will be a blessing.
      Alarmists get everything upside down, live from irrationality, both in terms of cause and solutions, and they always mix their fear mongering with irrelevant temporal data, bad weather here, and bad weather there.
      Greenland was once a good place for agriculture, maybe it will become inhabitable once again. Where there is ice, hardly any life can flourish, but under the most uncomfortable and primitive conditions. Less ice on the Earth is a positive thing, ice means the death or impossibility of most of advanced organic life.

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      • It is rare to see such a large collection of falsehoods.

        When ice on the oceans melts, it does not cause much sea level rise, because the ice is already floating on the ocean. But when ice on land melts, the sea level rises: eg, West Antarctic ice melting will cause sea level to rise 20 to 40 feet.

        No need for me to waste time debunking the rest. Just read the news about how life is flourishing in Pakistan right now.

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        • John the First says:

          I have posted two times a link, where it is explained how Pakistan has known several floods throughout the twentieth century, of more severe impact. Even if the current one would be the most severe, it proves nothing of climate change. According to some, ongoing deforesting might have to do with it.
          Plus a link which shows how in the UK temperatures have not been rising but declining, and how the rise of temperatures earlier on cannot be linked to CO2 emissions. But it all seems to get filtered. The issue is not to convince believers, but for those willing to look into the matter themselves, rather than to follow the alarmism of prestitutes, and those who are willing to abuse the suffering of others for their own agenda.

          Like

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