Catholicism against success (bargain keeping monarchies, or not)

By Lorenzo

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

The failed Protestant monarchy in bombastic mode.

The failed Protestant monarchy in bombastic mode.

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.

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.

One Comment

  1. Nigel Davies
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    It is not just monarchies that work better on a Protestant base.

    The ONLY republics that could pretend to be really successful are Protestant (or Protestant legal system if you want to talk about a couple of British colonies).

    The other republics can be quickly identified by shorthand:

    Catholic Republics = fascist dictatorships. (See Spain, Italy, Greece, anywhere in South America – including some claiming to be ‘socialist’ – and the National Socialists whose power base was the Catholic part of the Weimar Republic).

    Orthodox Republics = communist dictatorships then, and fascist now. – yes Putin that includes you ( not that I really see much difference between the two).

    Islamic Republics = theocratic dictatorships

    Hindu or Buddhist Republics = well it varies, but it isn’t usually good… (See the few, and possibly fast failing exceptions – Singapore, India and ummm…)

    The ‘promise keeping’ problem of non Protestant states is not limited to monarchical states!

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