Monday, 2 April 2012

Friends' "Loyal Address" to "Her Majesty"

I don't know how many Friends have seen the text of the 'Loyal Address' presented to the Queen on our behalf last week as part of the Diamond Jubilee ceremonies. The full text, with an interesting range of comments is on Jez Smith's 'Nayler' blog here.

On the whole it strikes me as lacking the forthrightness that I would expect in an official statement on behalf of Friends. As one of the commentators on the Nayler blog (an American Friend) writes:
This message shows only the tiniest inkling of courage — of the real courage that many Friends demonstrate in other situations and which is, in a way, slightly betrayed here, or at least undersold. This address just speaks mutually congratulatory platitudes to power.
 I wonder what Sheffield Friends make of it?

1 comment:

Gordon Ferguson said...

Elizabeth Windsor is a person. We are charged to cheerfully answer that of God in her. To indulge in polemic and cheap political points is to deny our integrity. Jeering from the sidelines is the easiest thing to do; searching for and discovering the place of dialogue the hardest. It is instructive to read the whole of our address (also loyal) to Charles II, which can be found here. That address is highly personal, and seeks dialogue at every turn, appealing for understanding and the exercise of conscience.

The fact that we were asked to present an address shows that we are a recognised and respected part of British society and culture, the very thing that the writers of the Charles II declaration wanted to secure. The presenting of these addresses is part of an elaborate ritual of affirming our constitution and trying to discover what we Quakers might call unity in diversity. The ritual setting makes dialogue virtually impossible, but nonetheless the Queen is a figurehead around which such unity can be discovered. What we have is by no means perfect, but it is what we have, and there are better places to struggle for change. I would prefer an elected head of state, so that we can potentially address someone who is much more representative of us as a people than the highly privileged Queen. However, unless we first of all dismantle class privilege and structures, we are rather likely to end up electing someone of similar isolation from the general run of our culture as the royal family is now.

For me, the address shows that we have tried to find points of dialogue, based on what little knowledge we have of the Queen's person and activity. We have clearly, but politely respecting the ritual nature of the occasion, stated our own position, on peace, equality and sustainability. It should be remembered that the actual occasion was an oral address delivered in person, and shorter than the reported written version. The manner and tone in which this was delivered, especially refusing any sign of deference, would perhaps carry more weight than the mere written word. Perhaps we could have been more forthright, but would we have been any better heard as a result? We could have refused to participate in the ritual altogether, but just what message would that actually send? A pompous jumped up bunch of middle class lefties who think they know better, perhaps?

However, I have one major objection to the address as reported. It sticks in my craw that we called the Queen 'her majesty', and I hope to God that we did not use the term to her face. I have no problem with 'the Queen', it is merely a job description, and no different to referring to someone (in the context of their work) as 'the Cleaner'. But 'her majesty' is deference of the first order, and we should be deeply ashamed that we let the phrase be associated with us. And we should have objected to being called a 'privileged body', by at the very least putting the phrase in quotes.