Sunday, May 11, 2014

Catholicism against success (bargain keeping monarchies, or not)

Protestant monarchies have a much better survival rate than Catholic monarchies.

The ultimate willingness of the British monarchy to support broader rather than narrower social interests--in the Reform Bill crisis of 1832 and Parliament Act crisis of 1911--was in stark contrast to the performance of Bourbon monarchy in 1789-1792, the Hohenzollern monarchy under Wilhelm II (despite his support for protective legislation) or the House of Romanov under Nicholas II. Of course, the execution of Charles I and deposition of James II might have been learning experiences for the British monarchy. (In 1981, Juan Carlos of Spain proved he had "got the memo".) If there was one thing Charles I, Louis XIV and Nicholas II had in common, it was that you could not make social deals with them that stuck.

The failed Protestant monarchy in bombastic mode.
Noting that--with the exception of the (restored) Spanish and (created) Belgium monarchies--all the surviving monarchies of Europe are either Protestant (UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden) or tiny (Luxembourg, Liechenstein, Monaco), with Catholic (Italy, Portugal, France, Austria) and Orthodox (Russia, Greece) national monarchies having a much higher failure rate than Protestant ones (Germany), suggests that being able to engage in (and keep) broad social bargains is a survival trait in a monarchy. (Being overthrown by Soviet occupation or Soviet-supported post-Nazi insurrection--Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Albania--can be discounted.) The Protestant "naked before God" all-in-this-together outlook, including different time perspectives, being an advantage over the Catholic & Orthodox absolution-available, hierarchy-rules approach.

I once heard a Serbian historian observe that edicts of religious toleration in Protestant Europe tended to stick, while those in Catholic Europe were not worth the paper they were printed on. A point that has wider implications, perhaps.  Those absolution-granting "deals with heretics don't count" priestly intermediaries may not have been a good long-term survival bet for monarchies.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]


  1. You seem to be classifying the Hohenzollern monarchy in Prussia as Catholic. This is not correct; they were Lutheran.

  2. I see that I overlooked where you acknowledge that the German monarchy was Protestant. Sorry.