THE PRINCES AND THE PEOPLE
By SIR ARNOLD WILSON, M.P.
LEADERSHIP is _life, and as the life of a nation in- creases in richness and variety so does the need for leadership, not of one man but of many, increase. The strength of a democracy, lies in its ability to find such leaders and to follow them, and in the willingness of the leaders to give place to others when their work is done.
But a nation needs, in addition, a leader, to whom all owe allegiance, and the State a permanent head, who, as Machiavelli observed nearly five hundred years ago, can keep the minds of citizens steadfast by so living among his people that no change, be it for better or worse, will require him to alter his way of life, or them to modify their attitude towards him. This is the role which the Royal House has achieved in this country with a success vouchsafed to no other.
But the responsibilities of the King extend far beyond these shores ; he is the sole constitutional link between His Governments in the various Dominions, and he is Emperor of India.. He can seldom leave England ; his sons can travel far, and can represent the British Empire in foreign countries as can no one else. Within the Empire they are eagerly welcomed and acclaimed wherever they, go because all the world knows- that, like their father, they are above all political parties and regional groupings, not merely in appearance but in reality, and less by necessity than by every circumstance of birth and train-. ing. . No President of a republic today dare leave his country ; our Princes may travel freely. A President.
or a Prime Minister owes his position to a party : he will not for long be allowed to forget it. He has opponents as well as allies. A Prince is no respecter of persons, though, as Lord Chancellor Bacon observed, doubtless from per- sonal experience, "his more special favour should reflect upon some worthy persons, because there are few of that capacity." Thus it is that when national movements are set on foot, men turn to one of the Royal Family to act as Patron or Visitor, as an acceptable guarantee to the public that sectional interests will not be allowed to over- ride national needs. The Equerries and Private Secre-.
taries to various members of the Royal Family quietly. perform, in this connexion, a service to the true interests of the nation which only those in intimate contact with affairs can properly assess.
When statesmen- from the Dominions or India, or from, foreign countries, visit England almost the only person.
Of importance in this country personally known to the leading men in many countries overseas is often one of the Princes. In such cases the bond is personal, rather than official, and does much to ease the tension of official life. " Gagnez lee coeurs," wrote Pascal, " lee nffaires sont moms importantes que lee hommes." It has been given to few statesmen to gain so many hearts as have our Princes.
• Nor is the appeal to the great public at home and abroad less strong. Moralists may amuse themselves by analysing the sentiment• underlying the popularity of the royal family, but the fact_ is undeniable, and it is one of the eldest of human sentiments. Whatever be the origin of the motto " Ich diem"— " I serve "—the people know it to be true today. Our Princes are known ill the Fighting Services ; they are familiar figures in every part of the Kingdom ; they are everywhere assured of a welcome ; their words are well-weighed, and they carry weight be- cause, unlike "the King's Speech" it is known that more often than not they express personal rath2r than official views. It is, in the nature of things, only in the last ten or fifteen years that this new relationship between Princes and People has grown up, and it has not reached its full development. It is not an exaggeration to say that no four public men have seen or heard so much of so many sides of national life in the last ten years as have the Princes. They are far better informed than most Ministers ; they are good listeners, with a genius for striking the right note, which is not always the one anticipated by the audience.
In work and in play, in sickness and in health, in war and in peace, the Princes are one with the nation, sharing our joys and sorrows, sometimes as leaders, sometimes from the ranks. Theirs is an arduous calling ; the mantle of office must often hang heavily: the eager eye of the great public imposes a heavy strain upon its cynosures. Their reward in this country, and wherever runs the writ of the King Emperor, is the knowledge that they are the corner-stones of the world's greatest and most solid demoeraey. They owe nothing of their reputation-to the popular Press, with its genius for vulgarization and its traditional tendency to caricature, to traduce and even to abuse scions of every royal house but our own. The peccadilloes of politicians or presidents en pantouftes are seldom news in this country: but foreign :princes are fair game.
A few months ago the ill-mannered ridicule by an obscure American journalist of the ceremonial of a function at the Court of St. James caught the eye of the sub-editor of one of our "great " dailies, to -whom news is that which can profitably be printed on the back. of an advertisement. He devoted two columns on the front page to her gibes : no one cared, for in such ;natter the popular Press "do not count." Yet, there arc. some in this country who look a little wistfully at the long list of debutantes who have filed past their Majesties, printed at length in papers with the name of their dressmaker.
Does the levee not lose something of value in this associa- tion with the extravagancics of the millinery market ? Could it not be made less formal, less wasteful of money, and more intimate, even if sonic be excluded ? ' A few words from the King or Queen to a young debutante or to one of the King's men, be he soldier or civilian, Would be a life-long possession.
The part played by the Royal House has varied from reign to reign and from decade to decade,. for whatever is living is subject to change. It has never been more im- portant than today. At a moment when electoral _insti- tutions are, for many reasons, under suspicion. the monarchy is more popular than ever. None can doubt that should a revolutionary government declare its in- tentions to create a republican president there would be but one acceptable candidate, and he of the Royal HQUSC, and his re-election would not be in. doubt. And were he to choose to exercise all the vast autocratic powers that republican democracies are wont to entrust to. their favourites, he would be less likely to incur -hostility than any living commoner, for in this country, as in no other, millions can say in the words of Ecclesiastes x, ; "I have seen .princes walking as servants upon. the earth." We have, as always, scribes and . pharisees among us, binding on men's shoulders heavy burdens and grievous, which they themselves will not wear, but we. know that the greatest among us is our servant. In that knowledge we celebrate the Jubilee with glad and grateful hearts, "0-well is thee and happy shalt thou be."