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How far and in what way did the monarchy provide a focus for loyalty in the British World , 1870-1970?

How far and in what way did the monarchy provide a focus for loyalty in the British World , 1870-1970?

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Dara Folan. Originally submitted for History: HI408 The Rise and Fall of the British World, 1870-1970. at National University of Ireland Galway, with lecturer Dr. Simon Potter in the category of Historical Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Dara Folan. Originally submitted for History: HI408 The Rise and Fall of the British World, 1870-1970. at National University of Ireland Galway, with lecturer Dr. Simon Potter in the category of Historical Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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04/30/2014

 
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Title of Essay: How far and in what ways did the monarchyprovide a focus for loyalty in the British World, 1870-1970?
 
Page 2 of 2
The later reign of Queen Victoria was marked by a conspicuous recrudescence inpopular royalism throughout the United Kingdom and the British world moregenerally, this period witnessing a major metamorphosis in the public image, functionand modus operandi of the institution. Such a transition culminated in the crown
sre-definition as the great ethnarch of empire, an enduring personified symbol of pan-British unity, prestige and historical continuity; a reassuring, impartial, presenceas the titular pinnacle of the imperial social order, and as a moderating force in a timeof societal flux and political progress.
1
The fact that monarchy was chosen, adaptedand aggrandised to act as the iconic and incarnate totem of British nationality was notsurprising given the empire
s lack of a formal sense of interdependent citizenship,such a constitutional concept being primarily reserved to the republican traditiontypified in contemporary France and the United States. Bernard Porter has elucidatedthe rationale behind such a civic weltanschauung, commenting that the politicalessence of Britishness was encapsulated by the individual subject
s relationship andallegiance to crown rather than to the collective citizenry, the monarchy being the
de jure
repository of the nation
s sovereignty.
2
Such was the sentimental attachment tothis near feudal form of nationality that even as late as 1947 nearly two thirds of Australians desired to retain the traditional constitutional self-definition of 
Britishsubjects
rather than the adoption of separate Australian nationality.
3
It is myintention to explore and probe the evolution of the monarchy in the period 1870-1970in the context of its role as a unifying figure head of empire, analyzing the origins anddevelopment of the symbolic role, and furthermore to delineate the extent to which itpermeated the popular imagination of the British world during this century. I shallbegin by looking at the historical and ideological factors surrounding the expressionof unity through the British monarchy, and will then consider its impact upon severalsettler colonies and/or later British dominions as a means of gauging the phenomenonover a broader timescale, contextualizing broader political trends were applicable.Linda Colley has argued that the gravitation towards the monarchy as a means of expressing patriotic sentiment through popular royal ritual can be traced to aconcerted effort on the part of the British state to both rival and distinguish itself fromconcurrent French manifestations of nationalism in the post revolutionary andNapoleonic era; in part emphasising their distinctiveness by what made them differentfrom the antagonistic
other
.
4
Martin Pugh also endorses such a view. Furthermore,by the 1870s popular patriotism was undergoing a considerable revival as aconsequence of growing pride in Britain
s imperial panache coupled with anenhanced consciousness as to encroaching foreign rivalry. Such a milieu precipitateda flurry in monarchist loyalism, this being considered the most appropriate method of demonstrating collective national sentiment.
5
Such developments must also be
1
 
Linda Colley,
 Britons: Forging the Nation
(London, 2009), p. 235.
2
 
Bernard Porter,
The Absent Minded Imperialists
(Oxford, 2004), p. 19.
3
 
Stuart Ward,
 Australia and the British Embrace
(Victoria, 2001), p. 29.
4
 
Linda Colley,
 Britons: Forging the Nation
(London, 2009), pp. 220. 221.
5
 
Martin Pugh,
State and Society: British Political and Social History
(NewYork,1994), p.72, 84.
 
Page 3 of 3
contextualised in the broader political progressions of the era, the movement towardsmass democratisation as a result of the legislative reforms in 1867 and 1884contributing to the channeling of popular political energies into a form of jingoisticimperialism with notions of racialist superiority buttressing ideas of divinely ordaineddomination.
6
Such imperial nationalism required the active co-operation of therather aloof Queen Victoria, who after a prolonged and unpopular absence from thepublic limelight re-entered high society with unparalleled grandeur in the twentyyears preceding the
 fin de siècle,
undergoing a profound transformation from the socalled
petulant widow to imperial matriarch
’ 
 ,
and in doing so becoming the iconicfigure in the imagery and imagination of empire.
7
 The gradual atrophy of the crown
s effective political prerogative throughout thenineteenth century enabled it to discharge the duties of an apolitical constitutionalfigurehead with far greater efficacy than previous politically pro-active incumbents.Indeed , such perceived non-partisanship provided the newly constituted imperialmonarchy, as envisaged and effectuated under the premiership of Disraeli, to appearas truly representative of the global British imperial family, ensuring in the longerterm that moves among settler colonies towards greater political autonomy would notnecessarily appear incongruous with their traditional sentimental fealty to the throne;the reigning King or Queen appearing merely as a disinterested party whose solicitudeextended equally to all his/hers
realms and territories.
8
However such an apoliticalperception of the monarchy was at times at odds with the practice, the Britishgovernment occasionally utilised royal tours and crown symbolism as a means of promoting their own foreign policy interests, this being the case in 1939 when KingGeorge VI embarked on a tour of Canada. It was anticipated that the lavishing of thepersonal attention of the sovereign upon his Canadian subjects would under gird theunity and interdependence of the empire and curtail nascent signs of isolationism inthe event of imminent war.
9
 According to historians David Cannadine and Peter Marshall colonial Britonsaspired to mould their newly acquired landscapes into sociological replicas of theidealized home country, importing and endeavouring to perpetuate the conservativegradated social structures and societal mores prevailing in Victorian Britain. IndeedPeter Gibbons and Andrew Porter have lucubrated further on what might be termed aform of colonial cultural dissonance, that is the desire to recreate the stability andsecurity of the familiar as a reaction to an alien and amorphous geo-cultural climate.
10
 
6
 
Dane Kennedy,
 Britain and Empire, 1880-
1945 (New York, 2002), p.5.
7
 
Simon C. Smith,
 British Imperialism 1750-1970
(New York, 1998), p.79.
 
8
 
David Cannadine,
Ornamentalism: How the British saw their Empire
(New York, 2002),p.101
 
9
 
Simon Potter,
The BBC, the CBC, and the 1939 Royal Tour of Canada
, Cultural andSocial History 2006, p.432.
 
10
 
Peter Gibbons,
Cultural Colonization and National Identity
,
 New Zealand Journal of  History
, Vol.36, Part 1 (Auckland 2000), pp. 7, 8 and Andrew Porter,
Empires in the Mind
,
The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire
(Cambridge, 1996), p. 186.

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