A Very Public Affair by Philip Benwell MBE - Read Online
A Very Public Affair
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This book is intended only for those seriously interested in the debate on Australia’s constitutional future and how the case for the monarchy was put forward. It is most probably the most extensive published work on the debate.

“A very Public Affair” is the work of many years of research, thought and argument on Australia’s constitution and the Crown. It comprises a series of talks by the author, Philip Benwell, over a period of several years and follows his earlier book: “In Defence of Australia’s Constitutional Monarchy”, Edwin Mellen Press ISBN: 07734-66967 (Library of Congress - USA)

Additionally it has extensive endnotes, 838 in total, providing references and details on matters commented upon in the talks. When Benwell and others stood up to defend Australia’s constitutional arrangements in the early 1990s, there were few reference books that could be called upon to assist in opposing and debating claims put forward by republicans. There were legal tomes and much older books written on the constitution, all of which were helpful, but there was no ready reference that debaters and writers could easily call upon.

Whilst the prospect of a republic has faded into the background in recent times, undoubtedly it will again become an issue in years to come. This book will, in most instances, be as relevant to those who stand up for Australia’s constitution in the future as it has been for those in past years.

It will also, of course, be of use and interest to students and researchers into the proposals for constitutional change and into the arguments that won the referendum of 1999 and the media-driven debate that continued on for the ensuing 15 years.
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This book was first published in 2009 and relates to speeches and articles written over the preceding eight years. The title itself, ‘A Very Public Affair’ may seem to many to be perhaps more suggestive of a quixotic film script than a title for a series of writings on the Australian Constitution and Crown.

Unlike the somewhat romantic Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, the origins of the Australian Constitution lie not in the dreams of revolution, but in the ordinary and often boring debates of ordinary and often mundane individuals. However, the evolution of Australia’s constitution is unique in that it was not imposed from on high, but actually resulted from a series of public gatherings and referendums of the people and, furthermore can only properly be amended by popular vote.

It is Section 128, generally referred to as ‘the referendum clause’ that makes the Australian Constitution different from all others within the Westminster ambit. Those of most countries can be decided by their Parliament, or in the case of Canada and Malaysia, Parliaments, but this section stipulates that the Australian Constitution can only be amended by a vote of the people counted dually with a national vote plus a vote in each of the six States.

It is interesting to note that, in its 113 years of existence, only eight out of forty four proposed amendments to the Australian Constitution have been passed by the people (see endnote⁷⁹⁵), whereas the 52 year old Malaysian Constitution has already been amended by its Parliaments on some 650 occasions!

This book comprises a series of speeches delivered and papers written on issues relating to the Australian Constitution, the development of the Westminster System and what I see as problems created by the European Union to the supremacy of the Crown. It is not meant to be just collections of talks and Papers, but more as a sort of text book that can help people to arrive at a greater understanding of our system of democracy under the Crown. As well as facsimiles of constitutional documents relevant to Australia, extensive references have been incorporated into the endnotes to enable readers to prepare their own factual articles, talks and arguments in defence of our Constitution.

I am indebted to the internet encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, the resources of which I have used extensively in checking – and at times even preparing – the references. My thanks are also due to a former Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Hon. Robert McClelland MP for his advice on reproducing constitutional documents.

It is now over ten years since my earlier book ‘In Defence of Australia’s Constitutional Monarchy’ was published and nearly fifteen years since the ‘Republic Referendum’ of 1999.

During the years of the Howard pro-Monarchy Government the issue of constitutional change was never to the fore, although there were always, what may be termed ‘housekeeping’ matters to deal with, which included educational programmes and membership activities, opposition to media ploys to push a republic and lobbying campaigns against companies ridiculing the Queen as a means of promoting their products. In all of these activities, we have enjoyed a remarkable success.

However, Labor’s victory at the October 2007 general election and Julia Gillard’s successfully negotiated alliance with the Greens and Independents to snatch government in 2010 has meant that a republic came back onto the agenda. The Australian Labor Party has, as a part of its policy platform "reform of the Australian Constitution and other political institutions to ensure that they reflect the will of the majority of Australian citizens and the existence of Australia as an independent republic."

In April 2008, when in London, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd told the BBC: "Our position as a party is clear – we are committed to an Australian republic. I am a republican and that is what we will work towards over time, but it is not a top order priority just now,"

In August 2010, in Townsville, Julia Gillard, who had seized the prime ministership from Kevin Rudd a few weeks earlier, announced declared herself to be committed republican: "I obviously am a republican and I believe the nation should be a republic…I think the appropriate time for the nation to move to being a republic is when we see the monarch change,"

The Queen is respected, indeed, almost venerated by the majority of Australians, whatever their ethnic background, their age or their political inclinations as was shown by the huge and enthusiastic crowds which gathered to greet Her Majesty during her October 2011 Tour of Australia.

Furthermore, the visits of Prince William of Wales in 2010 and 2011 and his marriage to Miss Kate Middleton in April 2011, and now the birth of their son, Prince George, has generated a fervent support for the monarchy amongst younger generations.

This support will become very evident as the Royal couple, created Duke and Duchess of Cambridge upon their marriage, together with their son, visit Australia in April 2014.

The election of the Coalition headed by the pro-monarchist Tony Abbott to government in September 2013 means that any further move towards a republic is now very unlikely for some years to come.

We do, however, expect several proposals for constitutional change to be put to the people during the term of this government, particularly with regard to recognition of Aboriginals as ‘First Nation’ and possibly another attempt at constitutional approval to enable the Federal government to directly fund Local councils.

Even in the few months since the election of the Abbott pro-monarchist government, there have been calls by former Labor prime ministers for a republic supported by a bevy of republican journalists.

These people conduct frequent ‘sorties’ so as to keep their issue alive amongst a general public that, itself, actually has little interest in their republic.

All methods of government, whether it be the republican form in the USA or the monarchical form in Australia, have their groups of defenders, each with differing interpretations.

It is thus that some monarchists in Australia say that we are already a republic, but one under a crown, and that the Governor-General is legal and ultimate head of state. Others, such as myself, hold the view that a constitutional monarchy is a far different system than any sort of republic, but that if we are to use the term it is that the Governor-General, following appointment by the Queen, then assumes the position of effective, or officiating, head of state.

My own opinions have been formulated as a result of much research and evaluation. I believe that they are right but I am always open to being corrected. Indeed, I believe that life itself is journey of discovery and that our views are in a constant state of maturing. As a consequence, readers of my first book may therefore find that my position on some interpretations of our system of governance has been modified.

I would, however, emphasise that I am not in any way an expert on the Constitution, but am rather an ordinary person expressing views that I believe to be akin to those of other ordinary Australians, as opposed to those eminent academics and learned lawyers, who pontificate from their lofty ‘ivory’ towers in a manner which can often be quite removed from the mundane issues that prioritise the lives of the rest of us. Change to a republic is far from being an important issue.

In fact it appears as though the debate on a republic has, in recent years, been carried on, not by the people, but by academics and politicians as is evidenced by the fact that, out of the fourteen people called to give evidence in April 2009 to the Senate Inquiry on the Plebiscite Bill, five were professors and of the Senators present, only one was not a republican.

The Australian Monarchist League itself can be said to be representative of what Australia is all about. We have few wealthy members. Most are ordinary, but very patriotic, Australians who wish only the best for their country. Our organisation does not stand for the aristocracy, the moneyed elite or the privileged, but for the liberty of the Australian people as a whole which we believe is best protected by the Australian Constitution and Crown.

Philip Benwell MBE

March 2014


Philip Benwell is the longest serving head of any mainstream monarchist or republican organisation in Australia, having been national chairman of the Australian Monarchist League since its re-formation in 1993. He openly admits that when he became engaged in the debate on Australia’s constitutional future, he was almost totally ignorant of the Constitution as a legal document, although his deep interest in history had ensured a passing acquaintance with the Westminster system and a more thorough knowledge of the monarchy and Australian and British history.

He initially became involved in the republican debate when he was approached to counter those who sought to malign the Queen. He makes it plain that it was never his intention to become involved in what he terms as the ‘debate political’, but, as lead organisations sought to appease republicans in the 1999 referendum debate by obfuscating the role of the Crown in the Australian Constitution, he was the natural choice to be the principal advocate of those who sought a more open and rational explanation of Australia’s system of Constitutional Monarchy.

He had been awarded the Order of the British Empire in the 1976 Commonwealth Honours List and was believed to be the youngest person at the time to receive the award.

In 1990, together with the late Dame Pattie Menzies, Philip Benwell coordinated the activities of the Queen Elizabeth Gate Appeal in Australia raising what is understood to be the largest contribution from any Commonwealth country.

When, in 1994, the Keating Government stopped the distribution of prints of The Queen through Government bookshops, Benwell took it upon himself to print, with the artist’s permission, several thousand copies of the Queen’s portrait by (the late) Sir William Dargie. The League continues to distribute them upon request and without charge to schools and organisations.

In 1999, Benwell was accorded the distinct honour of addressing both the Conservative Constitution Committee and the Cross Benches of the House of Lords on the Constitutional Referendum Australia. He has since been invited, on a number of occasions, to return to the House of Lords and address meetings and even a rally in Trafalgar Square.

In 2000, he debated with Australia Post on the subject of The Queen’s Birthday Stamps which led to Australia Post and the Australian Monarchist League jointly promoting The Queen’s 75th Birthday Stamp in 2001. The resulting sale of stamps was so great and profitable that Australia Post to this day continues with the printing and promotion of the Queen’s Birthday Stamps each April.

In 2003 he was involved in the organizing of an Exhibition and in the marketing of the stamps for The Golden Jubilee and on the 21st April 2006 he was invited by Australia Post to unveil The Queen’s 80th Birthday Stamp.

Benwell has always been one to use his initiative, often getting into hot water for doing so. Although placing too great a trust in certain people got him into serious problems, his entrepreneurial experience has stood him in good stead in motivating support and organising campaigns against companies, large and small, which seek to denigrate the Queen in their advertising.

He is noted for his plain speaking, often to his personal detriment. In fact, some constitutional monarchists have criticized him for being a ‘street-fighter’ meaning it as an insult, but Benwell took it as a compliment as his campaigns advanced from success to success. One such campaign caused the President of the Toyota Motor Company which in advertising their Lexus 4 wheel drive proclaimed "Don’t Worry Your Majesty, You’re Not The Only British Export To Have Had Its Day", to plead with Benwell to desist with his efforts as they (Toyota) had done everything he had asked of them, even presenting a formal apology to the Queen.

He is listed by the media as a writer and debater on the Australian Constitution and is often invited to participate in talk-back programmes throughout the country.

His advice on the Australian and British Constitutions is often sought. Lord Molyneaux of Killead had commented that Benwell "is renowned not only in Australia but throughout the Commonwealth for his dedication to sound governance. His first-hand experience of structures in most nations of the world, where his judgment is widely respected, has led to his advice being widely sought in democracies great and small."

HRH Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia, who is working hard to establish a system of constitutional monarchy in his country, had recently said of Benwell: "Thanks to your noble endeavour and continued determination for the preservation of constitutional monarchy in Australia we all know the institution has always been admirably represented and safeguarded."

In 2007 he assisted in organising a tour of Australia by the Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the House of Romanov. Later that year Her Imperial Highness wrote to express appreciation for the work Benwell had done both for the Royal visit and also for the cause of constitutional monarchy internationally. In her letter, Her Imperial Highness wrote: "…in recognition of your outstanding contribution… we are pleased to elevate you to the dignity of Knight Commander of the Imperial Order of Saint Anna."

The Hon. Tony Abbott MP, prime minister of Australia had said of Benwell: "He was, and still is today, one of the staunchest defenders of our Constitution and institutions that have stood the test of time. Philip’s commitment to the Monarchist League is a reflection of his patriotism and his willingness to be counted in the debates that have shaped our nation. Philip has marched to his own drum and demonstrated himself to be a man of conviction."

Although he is often asked to lecture, particularly in the United Kingdom where the elderly say he reminds them of the parliamentary orators of earlier days, Benwell says that he does not like public speaking, much preferring to remain in the background. He emphasises that he is simply an ordinary person expressing views that he believes are akin to those of other ordinary Australians.

Readers of this book will be able to judge for themselves.



(Written in May 2007)

All too often the Queen and members of her family are accused, mainly by a subjective media, of existing in an indolent state of luxury on taxpayer monies, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. At over eighty years of age, Her Majesty works harder than many people even half her age. The Prince of Wales toils assiduously for good causes and raises more money for charity than any other person in the world. Similarly, Princess Ann deservedly earns the title of one of the hardest working royals in history. Furthermore, the Queen does not receive a salary but is only paid an allowance for costs and the upkeep of the royal establishments and yet even that is only a partial return of the monies the Government receives from the Crown Estates¹³⁴.

Despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, the media, and those who take pleasure in denigrating the Monarchy, continue with their iniquitous lies and infamous absurdities. Even the announcement in May 2007 by General Sir Richard Dannatt KCB CBE MC, Chief of the General Staff of the United Kingdom, that a decision had been made not to allow Prince Harry to join his regiment in Iraq¹, produced the usual denouncements of favouritism, whereas the truth is that it is quite the reverse.

What this decision has actually shown is that, as third in line to the Throne, Prince Harry is not free to lead a normal existence. Whilst he, personally, was always ready to place his life on the line to serve his country, his presence would have created a target that would have put the lives of others in danger.

Indeed, the exponents of, to quote from Robert Burns², ‘sour bigotry’³, should appreciate that being a member of the Royal Family is, on many occasions, anything but a privilege, but rather an onerous burden that Prince Harry will have to endure for some time and a cross which his brother, Prince William, will have to bear for the rest of his life.

Whatever one may think of the war in Iraq, or of that in Afghanistan, the hearts of all those who care go out to soldiers fighting on the front-line against terrorism. Although Muslim for well over a thousand years, it is only in recent times that Iraq has been a war-zone of bloodshed and tyranny; one finds it difficult to imagine that the once oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein⁴ was in times past the homeland of thriving civilisations which existed five thousand and more years ago, even before the Pyramids which seem, to most people, to be the sole illustration of those ancient and illustrious times.

The problem is that we know so very little about the real past of those ancient cultures. We can, of course surmise that they would not have been blighted with the asinine election campaigns of our modern politicians with their absurd billion dollar core and non-core promises (did not Disraeli⁵⁷ say of his own party: the mule of politics that engenders nothing⁵). However, we do know that even in those distant ages, there were kings and governments and cities with law and order. The Bible itself tells us in Genesis 4:17 that Cain was building a City.

To build and maintain a city obviously requires law and order which means that some sort of civilisation existed long before anything yet uncovered by man. Whilst the earliest written records that are available to us date from the early civilisation of Mesopotamia, there must have been in existence an intelligent culture in Britain which created the ‘standing stones’, the most famous of which is of course, Stonehenge⁷. The name is possibly a derivative of Saxon English meaning a stone structure or ‘hanging stones’ of which construction commenced around 2800 BC, thus predating by around 300 years, the pyramids of Egypt!

Stonehenge comprises huge stone slabs and boulders being somehow unaccountably transported for more than 150 miles from the Preseli Mountain Range⁸ in Wales to Salisbury Plains. The amazing thing about these ‘standing stones’ is their inexplicably accurate alignment to the summer solstice and other astronomical observations. Likewise inexplicable are the mathematical computations used in the earlier construction of the great burial mounds found throughout Great Britain.

In his ‘Guilt and Sorrow’ the nineteenth century romantic poet, William Wordsworth⁹ wrote:

Pile of Stone-henge! so proud to hint yet keep

Thy secrets, thou that lov’st to stand and hear

No one has as yet been able to unlock the secrets of Stonehenge or to uncover the civilisation that constructed it. There are many theories, one of which is that Britain is the remainder of what was once a much greater area of land spreading southwards towards Africa called ‘Atlantis’, first written of by the Greek Philosopher Plato¹⁰ around 360 BC in his dialogues ‘Timaeus and Critias’¹¹.

However, whilst there is no surviving record, the indisputable fact is that Stonehenge is itself proof that 5,000 years ago there existed in Britain an intelligent civilisation which would have had a law and order society. We will never know whether that ‘society’ was ruled by a king, but we do know through mankind’s first known written records of Sumer in the Mesopotamia of pre-Babylonian days that kings did exist at the time!

Mesopotamia is the first civilisation so far known to mankind, evolving in 8500 B.C. and progressing into what became the advanced Sumerian culture of around 4000 B.C. It was they who developed the first known writing in the form of lines and shapes called ‘cuneiform’ and, it is thought, were the first people to construct the wheel, used originally for the manufacture of pots.

The Egyptian civilisation closely followed, but it was from Ur¹² in Babylon that Abraham travelled to establish Israel. It is therefore not surprising that there is a great similarity amongst the legends of ancient times and those recounted by Moses in Genesis.

Most of the Kings and chieftains of these early times were warlords, ruling by force, but along with civilisation came rulers who were perhaps more politicians than military men. Indeed, many of the early Egyptian, Greek and Roman rulers owed their positions to cerebral rather than physical attributes.

However, they all submitted themselves to one or more higher deities and accepted, in religion and often in governance, the strictures and advice of the priests. In some societies the priests became the rulers and established what is known as theocracies. Modern-day Iran is one such theocracy where since 1979 the political institutions remain subject to the clerics. Ancient Israel was once ruled by prophets; and even modern Israel, although democratic, is subject to rabbinical law.

All early religions required a sacrifice of one sort or another for a blessing or an appeasement. Abraham¹³ was required to sacrifice Isaac¹⁴ and was released from this only because of his absolute obedience. The significance is, however, that Abraham accepted the necessity in having to sacrifice his favourite son, whose miraculous birth to the 90 year old Sara¹⁵ and the 100 year-old Abraham made him exceedingly precious indeed.

Religion, therefore, became intertwined with secular rule, and the King became accepted as the living representative, and often a sacrifice to the deities. Because the King was needed to govern, it became customary for other humans or animals to be sacrificed in his place. It was thus that the ‘king’ became the physical representative of whatever deities his people worshipped.

The Roman Emperors went a step further and declared themselves to be divine beings. It was in an attempt to emulate the power and authority of the Caesars that the German and Russian Emperors called themselves: ‘Kaiser’ and ‘Czar’ which are derivatives of the word ‘Caesar’

However, when Rome accepted Christianity as its official religion, instead of the Emperors declaring themselves to be gods, as was the earlier custom, they were thereafter consecrated unto the Almighty God, as was our Queen at her own Coronation.

In fact, the British coronation ceremony follows almost exactly the ancient Israelite ceremony of dedicating and sacrificing the sovereign to the service of God and the people, thus making the Monarch a ‘priest-king’. It is because of her binding Coronation Oath that the Queen has indicated that it is not within her right to abdicate.

The Anointing also has a very special purpose for the Queen. It has been said that: this has imbued her (the Queen) with a conviction of something irrevocable and that She must do everything within her power to maintain the Gift of Royal Privilege and Obligation bestowed upon Her. Shakespeare¹⁶ wrote in his ‘Richard II’: Not all the water in a rough sea can wash the balm from an anointed king.

It is interesting to note that a poll conducted some years ago held that 30% of the people polled believed the Queen had been chosen by God to reign¹⁷.

However, whatever one may think in this regard, what is true is that from the time Augustine¹⁸ converted the pagan Saxon King, Æthelberht¹⁹, in 597 AD, our monarchy has been based on the scriptures of the Holy Bible.

We, today, owe so very much to the Saxons who found themselves in Britain more by accident than design. Being an island kingdom, Britain had been subjected for several thousands of years to many invasions with predators drawn to the riches of the island of pearls, gold, flints and above all, tin. Trade with Europe and later with the civilisations of the Middle East had been taking place for several thousand years prior to the Roman invasion.

The Saxons were never traders. They, together with the Angles and associated tribes, were living in the swamplands of Schleswig in what is now Northern Germany and Southern Scandinavia, and having no fertile lands or treasures had therefore been of no interest to the Roman Empire. The Roman historian, Tacitus²⁰, wrote in his ‘Germania’ that the habitat of the Angles was: defended by rivers or forests. Nor in one of these nations does aught remarkable occur, only that they universally join in the worship of Herthum; that is to say, the Mother Earth.

The known involvement of the Saxon people with Britain goes back to the Roman occupation when in around 300 AD several hundred were brought over by Rome as ‘Foderati’ or mercenaries and stationed to protect the extreme borders against raids. However, when facing defeat in 410 AD, the Romans extracted some 5,000 of their soldiers to defend Rome itself against attack, but with raids – predominantly by the Vikings²¹ – increasing, the Britons adopted the Roman practice of hiring Saxon mercenaries. However, unlike the Romans, they reneged upon their contract and denied payment to the mercenaries, who, seeing the weakened state of those they had been hired to protect, turned aggressor and settled down on land they forcibly occupied in lieu of payment. The richness of the soil and the wealth of the country in general led others from the Saxon lands to migrate, at first in small and non-invasive numbers, and then in such quantities as to provoke a dire threat.

Eventually, Britain succumbed to the invasion, and the Saxons, along with the Angles and the Jutes settled in lands along the east coast of Britain and followed the line of the Thames as far as Oxfordshire. Their sheer numbers were able, over time, to purge the Christian religion from the occupied lands and to substitute, instead, the worship of their Saxon gods.

The Saxons also eradicated the language of Roman Briton, replacing it with their own largely vernacular language, the dialects of which were basically understood by most of the occupying tribes, whereas the more elitist and scholarly Latin was not. This commonplace ability to communicate was a binding factor amongst the ordinary people and, as time progressed, the disparate peoples who now occupied Britain were able to become one single nation due to the unifying factor of one collective language generally understood by most.

This, of course, also facilitated the development of the early processes of law and government and it was in this manner that Saxon Britain deviated from the rest of Europe and developed its own code of laws and methods of governance. It is now so very strange that British law and British justice, once admired throughout the world, even by its enemies, has now been made subject, by the British parliament itself, to Roman Law and the Napoleonic code of Europe!


The way in which the Saxon kings ruled was also dissimilar from other parts of the world, for the Witan⁷⁹⁹, the early precursor of the House of Lords and Privy Council, exacted authority from an early stage. The Witan chose their kings on the basis of the person most suitable to rule whether or not he was the eldest male son.

Although Augustine converted King Æthelberht of Kent to Christianity in 597, the edict of Pope Gregory²² was not, to impose Roman traditions upon the Saxons but to adapt their heathen practices and convert their temples for the use of the Christian Church. It was thus that the names of Saxon gods have been immortalised in the English, and subsequently weekdays internationally.

Of course, prior to the Saxon invasions of the 4th and 5th centuries, Christianity had thrived, particularly during the latter days of the Roman occupation and, it is now believed, even before the Emperor Constantine²³ converted to Christianity. Gildas, who was a monk at Glastonbury in the twelfth century, wrote, from records thought to be later destroyed by fire, that Christianity came to Britain during the reign of Tiberius Caesar⁷³² who ruled from AD 14 until AD 37. Britain was not subjugated by Rome until successfully invaded by Tiberius’s nephew, Claudius Caesar⁷³³ in AD 43.

Constantine’s father, Constantius, had been Emperor of the West; and Constantine spent much of his childhood in Britain. He was in York when his father died and he was proclaimed Emperor in his place. It is thought that his mother had been converted to the Christian Faith by the early British church. The huge basilica, St John Lateran²⁴ in Rome, remains as an impressive tribute to Constantine.

Whilst kings of England were consecrated unto God, this did not mean a combining of church and state, which always remained separate, even though some political and most clerical offices under the King were held by priests. This was because education and literacy were, until the advent of the printing press, the sole prerogative of the church.

The state and the church were combined in 1534 when Henry VIII¹¹⁸, as a result of the Act of Supremacy²⁵, was recognised as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but England continued to remain a secular monarchy and not a theocracy, as it was the state which controlled the affairs of the church, albeit in the name of the King. Nevertheless, this joining of state and church created a complex situation which was totally mishandled by the Stuart dynasty; for the Scottish kings, who had been strongly influenced through intermarriage with the French monarchy, believed inexplicably in the divine right of kingship, where the very soul of the King was believed to be the Spirit of God. This was, of course, very similar to early civilisations which had revered their shamans or sorcerers for their magical powers which they believed were an expression of divinity.

Just prior to his accession to the Throne of England, James I (then VI of Scotland³⁹), a direct ancestor of the Queen, wrote to Cecil, the secretary to Elizabeth 1 For my part, I hold it the office of a king as sitting upon the throne f God As James I, King of England, he later stated in a speech to the English parliament²⁶: Kings are justly called Gods, for that they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth. In another speech to parliament in 1609 James said: The State of Monarchy is the supremest thing on earth, for kings are not only God’s lieutenants, and sit upon God’s Throne, but even by God himself they are called gods. He said of parliament: I am surprised that my ancestors (he was a great-great grandson of Henry VII⁴⁴) should ever have allowed such an institution to come into existence. This attitude was an underlying reason for the Civil War of 1642-1651 and the consequent execution of James’s son, Charles I³⁷, and his replacement by a parliamentary republic and then a dictatorship. It is interesting to note that only one other English monarch, Jane 1⁷³⁴, had been beheaded although at least six others had been killed or murdered for failing to respect the conventions of English kingship.


The mistake that the Stuarts made was that, being only superficially Protestant, they believed implicitly in the ‘divine right of the King to rule’ whereas in England there had been constitutional developments entrenching the ancient Saxon beliefs that the King ruled by ‘the (divine) right of the people’. Dr Geoffrey Fisher GCVO, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1945 until 1961 and later Baron Fisher of Lambeth²⁷, explained that the difference was that the British Crown was worn, not by ‘Divine Right’ but because it was ‘God-called’. William I²⁸ (the Conqueror) appreciated this difference, as did his son, Henry 1²⁹, who granted the first Charter of Liberties (or Rights)³⁰ to the people.

We do know that it was during the reign of Henry I that a parliament – comprising the bishops and the King’s tenants-in-chief – met. This council was the early foundation of the House of Lords. It was more than a century later in 1265 that the famous Parliament of Simon de Montfort³¹ met and for the first time incorporated a representation of burghers from towns and counties together with lesser clergy and knights.

The treaty of Magna Carta¹⁵⁰ gave the parliament, although embryonic at the time, the right to tax: No scutage nor aid shall be imposed on our kingdom, unless by common counsel of our kingdom.

As a consequence, subsequent parliaments – although initially haphazardly constructed and meeting on a random basis throughout the ensuing centuries – had the power to be a constant bar to the absolute rule of kings who tended to summon them to meet as seldom as possible, and then generally only when they needed funds.

Whilst there had been earlier charters granted by the King guaranteeing the rights of the people, the first Magna Carta, forced from King John³² at Runnymede³³ on the 15th June 1215 by leading nobles backed by an army of some 2000 knights and retainers, established not only the guidelines for future parliaments but essentially the basis on which the conventions of parliamentary government were formed. Additionally, the control of the nation’s finances, originating from Magna Carta, led to the authority of the Commons and its ability to eventually create a parliamentary system of government.

King John of England signing Magna Carta on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede. coloured wood engraving, 19th century. Held by The Granger Collection, New York

King Henry I, by unknown artist, circa 1620. National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 4980(2)

Magna charta cum statutis angliae (Great Charter with English Statutes) Date: 14th century

1297 copy of the Magna Carta, purchased by the Australian Government for £12,500 from King’s School, Bruton, England. On display in the Members’ Hall of Parliament House, Canberra.

Portrait of William III by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

Copy of the Act of Settlement

King Charles III portrayed wearing the robes of the Sovereign of the Order of the Garter. Artist:Lely, Sir Peter c 1675. Current location: Euston Hall, UK

Portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud.

As well as ensuring that certain taxes were no longer to be left to the prerogative of the King and could only be collected by the common consent of the realm, the Great (or Magna) Carta basically guaranteed the freedom of the courts and, most importantly, the concept of habeas corpus. The Charter was incorporated into the Statute Roll in 1297 and was confirmed on some fifty five further occasions by succeeding kings.

The partition of the parliament into the two Houses of the Commons and the Lords had the effect of entrenching the essence of Magna Carta and the rule of law into the parliamentary system. It was this fundamental principle that exacerbated the differences which led to the Civil War of the 17th century.

The Westminster doctrine therefore developed as a result of the centuries-long struggle for power between the King and the parliament. It was a struggle which could well have cumulated when, in 1649, following the Civil War, the parliament imprisoned and, later, executed the King. However, although the parliament had assumed absolute control of governance, it did not know what to do with supreme authority and failed miserably, resulting in almost total chaos ending only when, in 1653, Oliver Cromwell³⁴ closed down the parliament and assumed for himself total authority as Lord Protector. Never had any English king held such absolute power. Fortunately, his republican dynasty ended when his weakly son, Richard³⁵, abdicated and in 1660 parliament was restored and it invited Charles II³⁶, son of Charles I, to take up the throne thus re-establishing the constitutional checks and balances of the fledgling democracy that had existed prior to the republic.

Heavily influenced by his mother, Queen Henriette-Marie⁷⁷⁵, a daughter of King Henry IV of France, Charles II could be said to be at most, a closet Roman Catholic, at least sympathetic to Roman Catholicism. He maintained extremely close ties to his maternal cousin Louis XIV³⁸, King of France, during the entirety of his reign; but he never forgot the execution of his father, and respected at all times the supremacy of the parliament, even though he secretly resented it. It was only on his deathbed that he acknowledged his Roman Catholicism.

That same influence no doubt led to his brother, James II³⁹, who was a soldier and in no way a diplomat, refusing to put aside or trivialise his Roman Catholic beliefs. It was this rather obstinate, but at the same time worthy, attitude that led to the second and final confrontation between parliament and the King resulting in the Parliament inviting William of Orange⁴⁰, a grandson of Charles I, to invade and assume the throne along with his wife, Mary⁴¹, the elder daughter of James II. Parliament later said of James that he has sought to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion, and the laws and liberties of this kingdom.

The parliament listed twelve main complaints including the dispensing or suspending of laws of which he did not approve – levying money for his own use without parliamentary consent; grossly interfering with elections, corrupting the legal system by establishing his own courts and initiating arbitrary prosecutions – imposing excessive bail, fines and punishments; and maintaining a standing army in peacetime without the consent of Parliament. Following the arrival of William in England, James fled London on the 11th December 1688, throwing the great Seal of England into the Thames, and by this act was held to have abdicated.

On the 12th February 1689, parliament drew up a Declaration of Rights⁵⁰⁴, affirming the ancient rights and liberties of the people and this was presented on the next day to William and Mary at a formal ceremony during which they were, jointly, offered the crown.

This was the first occasion on which an incoming sovereign had been required to enter into a contract with the parliament. According to the 17th century jurist, Sir Edward Coke⁴², the legislative supremacy of the parliament at this time became: transcendent and absolute¹⁵².

The Declaration of Rights was enshrined in the Bill of Rights of 1689, the long title of which is: ‘An Act for declaring the rights and liberties of the subject and settling the succession of the Crown’. The intent of the Act was not to transfer the totality of the sovereign’s power to parliament but rather to limit the Sovereign in acting against the interests of the nation as a whole. The ‘powers’ that were assumed by the parliament were solely as trustee for the people. It was required that parliament thereafter be allowed to function free from any control by the Monarch. Whatever dispensing and suspending powers that remained with the Monarchy were removed, and taxation could not be levied without parliamentary consent.

Writing nearly two hundred years after the Bill of Rights was enacted, Macaulay⁴³ in his ‘History of England’ written between the years of 1849 to 1861, said: It is because we had a preserving revolution in the seventeenth century that we have not had a destroying revolution in the nineteenth.

It was at this time that the King ceased to have power over the life and death of his subjects, but he was still the executive head of government with the right to select and chair the council (or cabinet) of ministers. Since parliament had, in 1688, invited William of Orange, a great-grandson of James I, to assume the throne from James II, the succession was established as a right of the parliament.

It was, actually, only following the invasion and establishment of the Norman dynasty, that the crown adopted the principle of hereditary primogeniture⁷⁹⁸. In Saxon times, it had been subject to election by the council or Witan; and often bypassed the direct line in favour of a person whom it was thought would be a more suitable king.

The greatest deviation in the direct line of succession from 1066 was the Tudor dynasty. Generally the crown moved on to, or was seized, only by close claimants, but the claim of Henry VII⁴⁴ was a long bow to draw. Owen Tudor⁴⁵, whose Welsh name was ‘Owain ap Meredith ap Tewdur’, married Catherine of Valois⁴⁶, widow of King Henry V⁷⁹⁷. The couple had five children, the eldest of whom, Edmund, married Lady Margaret Beaufort⁴⁷, one amongst many of the minor claimants to the Throne, being a descendant of Edward III⁴⁸ through John of Gaunt⁴⁹. Their son, born a few months after Edmund’s death, was Henry Tudor.

The seizing of the throne by Richard III⁵⁰ in place of his nephew, the child-king Edward V⁵¹, caused a revolt in which Henry defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth⁵² in 1485 and, being a descendant of the royal line through his mother, he was crowned king, by consent of the parliament, that same year.

When it became clear that the heiress presumptive (the Protestant Princess Ann⁵³, younger daughter of James II, was not likely to produce a live heir, it was the parliament which legislated through the Act of Settlement of 1701 that the protestant Princess Sophia⁵⁴ (a granddaughter of James I), would in that event, succeed Ann. In the terms of the Act: Princess Sophia Electoress and Dutchess dowager of Hanover and the heirs of her body being Protestants upon whom the crown of England is settled by an Act of Parliament.⁵⁰⁰ & Annexure 12

The extraordinary circumstances of the period 1660 to 1714 saw two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren of James I becoming monarchs of England: Charles II and James II; and then William III and Mary II, Anne I and George I⁵⁵ (the son of Sophie, who had died just two months before Anne in 1714), who was invited by the parliament to ascend the throne. It was at this time that there began a dramatic and permanent transfer of power from the King to the parliament.

The precedent of ministers meeting in cabinet in the absence of the King was established – not as is said. because George was a German barbarian who was ignorant and spoke no English and therefore left the ministers to govern on their own, but because he was required by the English government to further British interests on the Continent.

Whilst Walpole⁵⁶ was considered to be the first ‘prime’ minister, he never acknowledged himself as such. He was the ‘first minister’ and the leader in the parliament. Any power he exercised was on behalf of the King who was, in effect, still the nation’s chief executive.

It was the King who chaired the cabinet council and it was only in his absence that it was chaired by the ‘first minister’. In fact the term ‘Prime Minister’ was only first used in an official document when Disraeli⁵⁷ signed the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, and had no special precedence in the Kingdom until the Order of Precedence of 1905 recognised the office.

Whilst the English of George I was very bad, perhaps even excruciating, it did improve and after some years he was actually making notations on ministerial documents in English. However, he, together with the entirety of the Government, would have been proficient in French, thereby completely disproving the theory that the King was unable to communicate with his ministers.

Furthermore, the Court of Hanover was one of the most progressive and cultured in Europe. George was an Elector, which meant that he was one of the Council which ‘elected’ from amongst themselves the Holy Roman Emperor. In fact, it is possible that George himself may have been elected Emperor had he not been made heir to the throne of England.

George I came to the throne by right of the Act of Settlement (12 and 13 William III, cap 2, 1702)⁵⁰⁰ which legislated that the crown would go to his mother, Sophie or to the issue of her body. However, the parliament could easily have amended this Act and, in fact, Queen Anne had made it known to her half-brother, the ‘old Pretender’, that the Throne could pass to him if he renounced Roman Catholicism and became a protestant. He refused, the Act remained as is, and the throne passed on her death to her cousin George.

Other than his being the most senior protestant in line to the throne, the British parliament wished to make use of his connections to extend their influence in Europe to equal or even surpass that of France with which they were then at war in ‘The War of the Spanish Succession’ (1701-14). His son, George II⁵⁸ was actually the last king to lead British troops into battle at the Battle of Detingen in 1743.

History books also deride the Hanoverian dynasty as one which was morally corrupt, saved only by the example set by Queen Victoria. It is very easy to judge the times of three hundred years ago by our present standards, which themselves can in no way be said to be pristine! Why pick on the immorality of the Georges and ignore the depravity of the Stuarts? James I, and Anne I were all said to have had homosexual lovers whilst Charles II had countless public mistresses who begat him some sixteen illegitimate children from whom several of our current dukedoms descend.³⁶

Whilst George III⁵⁹ and his wife, Charlotte⁶⁰, were the first happily married king and queen of their dynasty, George had had his fill of mistresses; and was even rumoured to have entered into a morganatic (and therefore illegal) marriage with a shoemaker’s daughter, a Quakeress, Hannah Lightfoot⁶¹.

Even Queen Victoria⁶², as a young person, was said to have been somewhat broad-minded. As Queen she could see nothing wrong in her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne⁶³, openly having a mistress, until her puritanical husband, Albert⁶⁴, persuaded her otherwise. The age of Victorian prudery was not the product of the Queen but that of the Lutheran Albert, the Prince Consort, whom Victoria had married in 1840. Albert, whose father’s sister was Victoria’s mother (herself said to have had an improper relationship with her secretary, Sir John Conroy), wrought huge changes in British society causing, Lord Melbourne to bemoan: "This damned morality will ruin everything!"

Prince Albert died of typhoid in 1861 at the very young age of 42. Benjamin Disraeli eulogised: With Prince Albert we have buried our Sovereign. This German Prince has governed England for twenty-one years with a wisdom and energy such as none of our kings have ever shown. However, Victorian morality was in many ways hypocritical. Men still kept mistresses openly and high society remained licentious. Country house-parties were renowned for their orgies conducted now behind bedroom doors, and yet, in company, it was considered to be imprudent to even mention a lady’s ‘leg’! In this day and age, when alternative ways of sexual expression are taught to teenagers in schools, who are we to condemn the lack of morality of the early Hanoverians? We should not forget that it was under them that England became more of a church-going nation than ever before and moreover exported its Christian ideals throughout the world.

Whilst people today, with all our material and worldly advantages, may not go to church and may not even believe in God, we cannot escape the fact that we, under the Crown of the United Kingdom, are Christian nations, in that our laws, our societies and our cultures are based on biblical traditions. We therefore owe a lot to the Hanoverians, for if it were not for them, Westminster democracy may never have developed and we could well have gone the same way as France, and not been the saviour of the democratic world – such as it is – today.

Sophia of the Palatinate, Electress of Hanover

George I

Prince Albert, The Prince Consort

Benjamin Disraeli

It was thus that, during the later reign of George III, great-grandson of George I, it became convention for future first (or prime) ministers to enjoy the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons. Indeed, it was not until this reign that what had developed over the years in practice was put into words by the then prime minister, Lord North⁶⁵ (prime-minister 1770 to 1782): Your Majesty is well apprised that in this country the Prince on the Throne cannot with prudence oppose the deliberate resolution of the House of Commons.⁸¹³

King George III was the last to chair a Cabinet Council (in 1781) and his son, William IV⁶⁶, the last to dismiss a government which still held a majority in the Commons when he dismissed the Melbourne ministry in 1834 and by the time Victoria, the granddaughter of George III, ascended the Throne in 1837, the system of government was fairly similar to that which we have today.

It was during her reign that the nineteenth century law authority Blackstone⁶⁷ stated that:

Parliament has sovereign and uncontrollable authority in the making, confirming, enlarging, restraining, abrogating, repealing, reviving and expounding of laws concerning matters of all possible denominations ecclesiastical or temporal, civil, military, maritime or criminal. This being the place where that absolute despotic power, which in all Governments must reside somewhere, is entrusted by the Constitution of those Kingdoms. All mischief’s and grievances, operations and remedies that transcend the ordinary course of laws are within the reach of this extra-ordinary tribunal. It can regulate the succession to the crown, as was done for Henry VII and William III. It can alter the established religion of the land, as was done in a variety of instances in the reigns of Henry VIII and his three children. True it is that what the Parliament doth no authority upon earth can do.⁸¹³

This means that, under the Westminster system, the parliament, comprising the King, the lords and the commons, has the right to make or unmake any law.

Time and time again, the British parliament has legislated against the tenor of constitutional convention, even to the extent of extending its own life, such as in 1716 and 1914. The precedent has therefore been set for the convention ‘that parliament can do no wrong’ for it can legislate to legalise what was hitherto an illegality.

Whilst the parliaments of most Crown Realms are restricted only by their respective constitutions, the British parliament is not, for the British constitution is vested in the parliament and regrettably now openly flouted by the executive. However, it was during the reign of Victoria that the evolution of Westminster took what I believe was a wrong turn with the transfer of much of the royal prerogative to the executive.

In the United Kingdom, the lower house of the parliament has virtually nullified the House of Lords and abrogated sovereignty to the European Union so that it can be said that the parliament now comprises the European Union, the Queen and the Commons.

However, in the Realms, such as Australia and Canada, the opinion of Coke and Blackstone on the supremacy of parliament remain applicable, as their written constitutions have ensured the sovereignty of their parliaments, even though there is an increasing trend to empower the offices of prime-minister, creating the illusion of ‘presidential prime-ministerships’.

The Australian Constitution is the only one under the Crown which its parliament (or parliaments) have no power to directly amend. This can only be achieved by a vote of the people at referendum, which is why executive power continues to remain vested in the Queen and exercisable by the Governor-General as Her Majesty’s representative (section 61)⁷³⁵

However, in 1986 the Federal and State Parliaments enacted the Australia Acts⁶⁸ & Annexure 2 which, although introduced ostensibly to remove all vestiges remaining in the state legislatures of old colonial Acts passed by the British Parliament in the nineteenth century, also seemed to empower the Australian Parliaments, combined, to be able to amend the Constitution Act of 1900 of the United Kingdom⁶⁹ of which the Australian Constitution⁷⁰ is a schedule. This is of tremendous concern should one political party control all seven parliaments in Australia.

Albert Venn Dicey’s⁷¹ ‘Law of the Constitution’ of 1885, was the first publication to explain the concept of parliamentary democracy and to detail the following three principles which distinguished Westminster democracy from all other constitutional systems:

(1)  The legislative supremacy of parliament.

(2)  The prevalence of the rule of law.

(3)  The dependence of the Constitution on the conventions.

Constitutional monarchists, including myself, have been wont to proudly point to the Westminster system as being based on what is termed the ‘doctrine of the separation of powers’ in that the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, as organs of the Government, are prevented by constitutional convention from exercising or interfering with the functions of each other. The process is supposed to be that, whilst the legislature enacts the laws, the executive must administer them and the courts interpret them.

It was always felt that the separation of powers is a protection of the freedoms of the people, for if they were all entrusted to one entity, then that would surely lead to an abuse of power and a threat to democracy. However, when one analyses the process of government in any country under the Westminster system, one finds that this doctrine does not hold true in the absolute sense and, in fact, has never held true other than as a matter of honour which, unfortunately, is sadly lacking in the parliaments of this modern age.

Prior to the recent modifications to the Lords, it could be said that the British legislature was somewhat independent of absolute control by the Prime Minister, as the hereditary Peers could never be influenced by the party whips. However, changes to the House of Lords in 1911⁷³⁷ and 1999⁹⁵ have so emasculated their potency, that it can now be said that the parliament is today dominated absolutely by the executive. Similarly, in Australia, the senate was established by the Constitution to be both a house of review and representative of the interests of each State in the Federation.

Regrettably, it has since become a second party-political chamber controlled by the whips, and therefore its role as a protector of the people’s democracy has been impaired. The mistake that so many make is to equate ‘democracy’ with modern parliamentary government. In its original Greek translation democracy means ‘people power’, not rule by a few which is, sadly what our Parliaments have now actually become, due not to any constitutional change but rather to public indifference.

The sovereign, as well as being an integral part of the legislature is also the head of the judiciary and the supreme executive authority in the land. When the prerogative resided in the King, it was exercised on a strictly impartial basis without fear or favour. However, now that much of the prerogative, or power, of the crown, is exercised by the Prime Minister, that impartiality is no more.

Even though the Lord Chancellor, as head of the judicature, was always a member of the cabinet, at the same time he was an officer of the Crown and sat in the House of Lords and was thus able to maintain a sense of impartiality. Today his office has been severely politicised, and no longer enjoys a measure of autonomy, as opposed to the situation in the Realms, where law officers still continue to zealously guard their independence from political interference. The only saving factor, in spite of the diminished prerogative, is the continuing strict impartiality of the Queen; a requirement expected of each Governor-General in the Realms, but regrettably not always adhered to.


George Orwell⁷², made famous by his works ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’, once wrote: He who controls the past commands the future. He who commands the future conquers the past.⁷³⁶ How very true the writings of this prophetic man have become, particularly in his ‘1984’, as we experience, in the sterile society of 2007, the increasing intrusiveness of government into our day to day lives.

The nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth saw the loss of most monarchies throughout the world. For the first time there were revolutionaries disseminating anarchism. Theories of secret societies abounded, but have not there been conspiracies amongst humans, ever since gathering into communities, for the sole purpose of gaining power for themselves? The 19th century Ralph Waldo Emerson⁷³ was quite right when he wrote: Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members⁸⁰²

The ancient empires sought to conquer or otherwise subdue and rule their known worlds. The Roman Empire may have been the first world government, for there was little of the civilised world left outside its borders. The next world government could be said to be the British Empire, for its flag flew in all four corners of the globe.

Dante’s⁷⁴ book ‘Monarchia’, written in 1329, touches upon the vision of universal supremacy; and the 1625 ‘De Jure Belli ac Pacis’ of Hugo Grotius⁷⁵ is looked upon as the origins of international law.

Over the past thousand years, particularly since the time of the Crusades⁷⁶, there has been a plethora of secret societies from the Knights Templar⁷⁷ to the more esoteric freemasonry orders. The late middle ages saw the establishment of the Rosicrucians⁷⁹ and in the eighteenth century, the Illuminati⁷⁸.

It is interesting to note the comments of famous individuals of past ages on the subject of conspiracy. In 1798, George Washington⁸⁰ stated:

It is not my intention to doubt that the doctrine of the iluminati and the principles of Jacobinism⁸¹ had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more satisfied of this fact than I am.

And, in 1844, Benjamin Disraeli made the very intriguing comment: The world is governed by very different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.

Given the comment of Mayer Rothschild⁸² in 1828: Allow me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who writes the laws and the earlier observation of Thomas Jefferson⁸³ in 1816:

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

It is no wonder that many books have been written – and today’s internet is replete with theories – of the many conspiracies of the banking and business communities to control global wealth. Until only recently, to talk about global domination was taboo.

Today President George W Bush⁸⁴ openly talks about the new world order, which he supports – provided, of course – it is his new world order! The United Nations⁸⁵, the World Bank⁸⁶, the International Monetary Fund⁸⁷, and other such-like organisations may influence and