Invincible Summer |||

The return of the king

Elizabeth Line
Ben Jennings in The Guardian

Marina Hyde in the The Guardian yesterday:

She was widely held to have embodied virtues whose absence in public life is increasingly evident. For some time, there has been a growing sense that the wheels are coming off all sorts of different machines – a feeling that we may not be watching the end of a season but the end of the whole series.

And Martin Rowson today:

Time like an ever rolling stream

For my part, I was born and raised in the hype of a New Elizabethan Age. Mercifully it subsided and we managed to get along with the lady’s profile for postage stamps and banknotes, and Commonwealth shindigs.

I have always had a queen. I never minded. A king seems different. I have never had one, and I am not sure that I want one now. I heard a good deal about kings in school, and in Shakespeare, and I suspect that’s where I am happy for them to stay: in plays and histories.

Put not your faith in kings and princes: three of a kind beats them every time. — P.J. O’Rourke

Others disagree. A survey of 18-24-year-olds found 61% in favour of a ‘strong man’ ready to break laws.

The Rest is History

The excellent podcast The Rest is History recently aired two episodes on the life, work and influence of J.R.R. Tolkien. As the most expensive television ever made is being streamed weekly on Amazon Prime, I’m rereading The Lord of the Rings, this time including the appendices and The Silmarillion from which most of The Rings of Power is drawn.

Like his contemporary T.S. Eliot, Tolkien’s work bears the stamp of the First World War. (And of their time in the Second as air-raid wardens.) Both authors were ultra-conservatives and high-churchmen. Eliot famously described himself as “classicist in literature, a royalist in politics, and Anglo-Catholic in religion.”

The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings, “The Wasteland”, “The Hollow Men”, and “Ash Wednesday” all conjure a context of decline, of “the long defeat”. It might have been primarily a response to the loss of the Edwardian Summer; it certainly chimed with Spengler and Toynbee; I wonder if it is now resonating with the young, who face living most of their lives in the coming collapse. Is Tolkien’s ardour for a sacral king become yearning for a heroic saviour? (The flourishing of Marvel Studios does not suggest otherwise.)

Here is Tolkien on Aragorn in Appendix A to The Lord of the Rings.

His face was sad and stern because of the doom that was laid on him, yet hope dwelt ever in the depths of his heart, from which mirth would arise like a spring from a rock.

Charles Windsor in 2013, by Nadav Kandar
Charles Windsor in 2013, by Nadav Kandar

I lost my own mother this summer. She told me she felt she had lived in the best of times, and had no wish to see what was to come. In retrospect it seems she hung on long enough to hear I was safely home from a stay in hospital: she passed away two days later.

Here’s John Crace in The Guardian:

The rest of those in the know were just grateful the Queen had lived long enough to accept Boris Johnson’s resignation. The last thing the country needed was a narcissistic prime minister who would make a monarch’s death all about him.

A final gift to her people.

Aragorn’s mother, Gilraen, bids him farewell, addressing him by his Elvish name, Estel, which means hope:

“This is our last parting, Estel, my son. I am aged by care, even as one of the lesser Men; and now that it draws near I cannot face the darkness of our time that gathers upon Middle-earth. I shall leave it soon.”

Aragorn tried to comfort her, saying: “Yet there may be a light beyond the darkness; and if so, I would have you see it and be glad.”

But she answered only with this linnod:

Onen i-Estel Edain, ù-chebin estel anim1

and Aragorn went away heavy of heart. Gilraen died before the next spring.


  1. I gave hope to the Dúnedain, I have kept no hope for myself.↩︎

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