19 July 2022

Grinning Royalties

 I think the noblest coins of the last century were the Irish set. Deriving inspiration from the drachmae of Greek city-states, they offered elegant renderings of such animals as befitted Mr de Valera's rural paradise. Three cheers for Percy Metcalfe ... and, indeed, for W B Yeats.

But, for more than a couple of millennia, monarchs had tended to dominate most such national systems. Thus a potentate could leave his mark upon his subject peoples; thus a People velit nolit could be reminded who their Ruler was. I could give you a Gospel reference ...

England and Scotland did well out of such a culture. Most recently, British coins, during the period 1998-2015, offerred a most elegant rendering of Elizabeth II, by a Mr Ian Rank-Broadley. It stood as proud of the surface as the genre permitted; it occupied as much as possible of the surface space available. And it married ... in my view, perfectly ... a recognisable likeness of a recognisable human being, with an expression of Majesty. you can see the tiny initials IRB just beneath where the neck is cut away.

I do not claim that my own aesthetic opinions are anything better than subjective and personal ... but I much dislike the current bust which replaces it. It shows Elizabeth II grinning ... or smiling ...

Many readers will be familiar with the Preface to Paradise Lost of C S Lewis. He emphasises the adjective solempne  and its noun Solempnitie. He points out that these Middle English terms, unlike their derivatives in modern English, "do not suggest gloom, oppression or austerity". 

" ... you must be rid of the hideous idea, fruit of a widespread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connexion with vanity or self-conceit. A celebrant approaching the altar, a princess led out by a king to dance a minuet, a general officer on a ceremonial parade, a major-domo preceding the boar's head at a Christmas feast--all these wear unusual clothes and move with calculated dignity. This does not mean that they are vain, but that they are obedient; they are obeying the hoc age which presides over every solemnity. The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual."

I think a fair bit of this logic applies also to how Majesty is or should be represented numismatically. 

If we are to bother with Majesty at all ... either on coins or anywhere else ... we had better enable it to be Majestic. 

Even long-standing republics, when they place symbolic figures on their representative tokens, instinctively show them raised by dignity above common humanity.

Not giggling. 

I think the only beta triple plus coin currently in circulation is the 50p of circa 2008, with the IRB Elizabeth II on one side and Britannia on the other. I regard the current chopping-up of the royal shield as a most unfortunate idea.


Michael Kakooza said...

I believe that one fundamental challenge that 'modernity' fails to understand is the true meaning of humility. I reproduce 2 quotes from the article, 'Humility and Station in Life':

"A queen does not become humble by dispensing with the pomp and honors that signify her office, but by remaining interiorly humble and detached despite the pomp and honors."

"A pope who spends his own private fortune to relieve the poor and suffering, as Pius XII did during World War II, exercises humility and magnanimity because he his putting himself at the service of those whom he has some sort of care over; but a pope who thinks to help the poor or demonstrate humility by abandoning the signs of his office or refusing to govern with authority brings the papacy into contempt and weakens future pontiffs by inadvertently giving away his own power in a gesture of false humility."

See https://unamsanctamcatholicam.com/2022/06/06/humility-and-station-in-life/

coradcorloquitur said...

This discussion of false humility and its ostentatious pretenses could not be more pertinent to the present pontiff and his immediate predecessors (with the possible exception of Benedict XVI). Right-thinking, normal people not affected by papolatry cannot but notice the vulgar display of false humility intended to hide pathological self-will and arrogance in the words and actions of Papa Bergoglio: from the discarding of the title "Vicar of Christ," to the new (and luxurious) dwelling which is Casa Santa Marta, to the refusal of signs of reverence to the office (such as his rude, brusque withdrawing of his hand when visitors to the Vatican intended to kiss the Ring of the Fisherman), to his affectation of using the Buenos Aires subway as archbishop, and many more. Rather than humility, such gestures clearly speak of pride: he is the owner of the papacy and of the Church (and behaves like a harsh owner, too) and can dispense with all the trappings he deems needed to cultivate the "Pope of the Poor" image he knows the leftist media and Modernists demand. In fairness to Bergoglio, though, this unhealthy charade began with Paul VI and his refusal of the papal tiara (all the while allowing the Bugninian butchery of the Apostolic Mass as if it were his private property). These are the sentiments, actions, and frame of mind of demagogues, of charlatans rather than of truly humble men of God. The great St. Pius X was totally correct when he observed that "the true friends of the common man are not the innovators but the men of tradition." In connection to this one thinks of the wise, insightful clergy of the Anglo-Catholic (ritualist) movement in the Anglican Church who often served the poor working-class faithful of East London: they loved the ritual themselves, no doubt, but also knew that men and women whose lives were hard and joyless all week long needed the uplifting solace of beauty at least on the Lord's Day when they worshipped the Divine Majesty. Those were the true friends of the poor.

coradcorloquitur said...

Correction: Although Pope Paul VI did away with much of the regal ceremonial attached to the sacred office of the papacy, it was his successor, Pope John Paul I, who seemed to wish to continue the dismantling of the splendor of the papal office by refusing to wear the papal tiara at his "inauguration" (like a president)---to the delight of liberal iconoclasts and promoters of a humiliated Church (though not exactly a humble one) everywhere. Mea culpa.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

You make a valid point about beauty on tbe Lord's Day. The thing is, Pugin got it right, and his detractors wrong. The church of the counter reformation all too often treated men and women as if they were meant to be angels, and Oaul VI's destructive liturgical reforms takes this even further.


Little Black Sambo said...

The chopped-up heraldry on the present coinage is a sick joke. Whoever designed it has I hope now seen a psychiatrist.