When I began my interest in royalty I was at first solely concerned in learning their particular genealogies. As I delved into the history of each country I began to be interested in the reigns of each monarch. I learned how monarchies survived going from periods of absolute power to the constitutional form we have today. Somewhere in the process I became a monarchist myself. With all the political infighting that occurs among politicians I think it is beneficial to have a figurehead as the Head of State. A Head of State that is symbolic of the nation and is above the petty partisan politics of the day. I think there are many beneficial aspects of having a Head of State being politically impartial for that gives them the opportunity of serving all the people and not just members of a particular party.
I need to be honest though, I do miss the days when Monarchs actually ruled and held some power. It is one of the things I enjoy about reading the history of these countries that were or are monarchies. For me it is an issue of power. In life some people have power and some do not. It is fascinating to read how those that held power used that power. So I find that the days when monarchs actually held power to be fascinating. Those times are even more interesting when a larger-than-life figure such as when Charlemagne or William the Conqueror or Louis XIV held power. I am sure I am romanticizing things because I know life was not all puppies, rainbows and roses under these monarchs. Yet things were not always terrible for there were monarchs that held power that did good for their country.
I look at King Edward I of England (1272-1307) as a good example. Historians report that the king could be a frightening individual and that he had a reputation because of his intimidating fierce temper also with a domineering physical presences. There is an anecdotal story about when the Dean of St Paul’s, who desired to confront the king about his broad level of taxation, was so intimidated by the king that he collapsed and died instantly the moment he was brought into the King’s presence. That sounds crazy to our modern scientific minds but it could be plausible that the stress of meeting this intimidating King could lead to sudden cardiac arrest. There was also a report that when the Prince of Wales (future Edward II) petitioned and pressured his father to grant an earldom for his personal favorite and friend, Piers Gaveston, the King grew impatient with his sons demands and the King exploded in anger and purportedly tore out handfuls of his son’s hair!
Edward is also known for the establishment of the Model Parliament. Parliament gathered on a fairly regular basis during his reign. In 1295 the king brought about some significant changes. At this point in history the English Parliament contained the secular (the nobility) and ecclesiastical lords (Priests and Bishops). In 1295 Edward also summoned two knights from each county and two representatives from each borough. These two representatives from the boroughs planted the seed for what eventual lead to the development of the House of Commons. Although having commoners sit in Parliament was not exactly new, the precedent setting status of these commoners was the fact that they were given, by the king, authority (plena potestas) of their communities, to give assent to the decisions made in Parliament. No longer were these commoner representatives there to give a rubber stamp and to simply assent to decisions already made by the upper magnates, they now met in Parliament with the full authority nobility and ecclesiastical lords had. This structure eventually became the standardized formation for later Parliaments.
Edward I was a mixture of being a good king with some bad personality issues. Now I do support Classical Liberal ideals of the democratic principles that came of age during the Enlightenment period where we have a right to select those that rule over us. However, I do enjoy reading about these monarchs such as Edward I who did hold power and also, with his creation of a more egalitarian Parliament, demonstrated that many times they could be effective and efficient rulers. While it is best to now have the monarchs as being above partisan politics you really cannot blame a monarchist for missing the good old days when they held actual power.