The Monarchy and Christmas
By Matthew Groves: Blogger-in-Residence
Everyone is well aware of the strong links between the Queen and Christmas today, from the Queen’s Speech after Christmas lunch to the sending of a cutting from the Glastonbury Thorn to Her Majesty on the old Christmas Day of 6th January. However, the links between Christmas and our Royal family are more deeply linked than that. It was those narrow-minded Seventeenth Century republicans, the Roundheads, who not only committed regicide and turned this realm into a dreary republic, but they also went about banning Christmas! Christmas carols and Christmas puddings were forbidden. Indeed the attempt to eradicate plum pudding was so resented by the ordinary folk that, when the Monarchy was restored, the restoration was celebrated on Oak Apple Day by the eating of Christmas pudding in spring!
The Roundheads were proto-Left wingers, who showed the same characteristics of resenting people enjoying themselves and trying to make life miserable in the name of a good cause as today’s politically-correct brigade. So Christmas and the Monarchy were both attacked by the Puritans in the name of the Bible and Christianity, just as today the dour republicans attempt to attack the Monarchy and Christmas in the names of equality, modernity and multiculturalism. It is always worth distrusting zealots for apparently good causes, when the effect of their policies is to make us all more miserable. The suspicion is that their motive is more envy and resentment at others ability to make merry than any genuine passion for the cause they claim to be campaigning for.
In a recession the need for a Royal family is all the more apparent as people long for a bit of glitter and specialness in life when times are hard. The republican cannot get his head around this, just as Mr Scrooge could not understand why his poor clerk, Cratchit could enjoy Christmas when he was so hard up!
In England particularly much of our Christmas imagery stems from the symbols of Royalism and the Cavaliers in the Seventeenth Century. Many Royalist apprentices rioted in Canterbury and other parts of the country at the suppression of Christmas, calling for the return of the King and Christmas traditions during the Commonwealth. The ancient character of Father Christmas was given new life during those years of Puritan rule as a symbol for all that had been lost with the abolition of Monarchy. Political plays were written about this mystical character of the greenwood, with his links with the green man and Odin – a very different character from Santa Claus who evolved from Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children.
Father Christmas was invoked by the Royalists because he symbolised tradition, merry-making, wassailing, drinking and feasting. These were all the things the Puritans despised and attempted to stamp out. This country’s short period of enduring republican government proved that our nation’s temperament is one of affection for tradition, approval and enjoyment of making merry and an Anglican and traditional celebration of Christianity, rather than a dour, puritan adherence to faith. Monarchy is the institution central to this and without the heart of our traditions many others would fall away. So when Charles II returned Christmas was restored too and through Charles Dickens’ writings to our present day, we haven’t looked back and continue to celebrate and make merry when commemorating the birth of Christ! And after all the feasting we settle down to hear our Sovereign lady address her people.