Luca Fumagalli

Hilaire Belloc, journalist and polemicist, was an extraordinarily prolific writer, who ventured into most disparate genres. With his inseparable friend G. K. Chesterton he shared the desire to make culture a weapon in support of the truth of Christ and his Church. A lover of facts rather than words, even on the slippery political terrain he spent a long time supporting the rights of the lowest and the oppressed. He was responsible for the first theorization of the so-called “distributism”, a movement that aspired, unfortunately without success, to create an alternative economic model to capitalism and communism.

Although Belloc remained a convinced republican until the end of his days, he gradually realized that, in order to function, a republic needed republicans, unfortunately increasingly rare. His experience in parliament among the ranks of the liberals was in fact important for him to understand that the United Kingdom, beyond the apparent political divisions, was actually governed by a uni-party in the hands of the banks. Therefore he came to convince himself, like St. Thomas Aquinas, that the monarchy was the best form of government among those practicable, the only one capable of mastering what Napoleon called the Money power in the State, that is, the power that a few exercise over the masses thanks to their immense wealth.

Monarchy (1938), recently republished by the meritorious Arouca Press, is one of the most representative essays of the late Belloc. According to Roger Buck, author of the long and detailed preface, the work is a profound meditation on Kingship and on the different roads travelled by the English and French monarchies. If the former, with its Protestant spirit, has favoured the spread of liberalism and capitalism, the latter, however imperfect, represents the traditional Catholic kingdom, which defends the masses, their needs and their freedom (but also the faith, arts and culture). Belloc goes beyond Weber’s well-known thesis, suggesting that Protestantism, capitalism, oligarchy and plutocracy belong to the same impulse, just as Catholicism, distributism and monarcy belong to another.

The story of Louis XIV, the famous Roi de Soleil, told at times with an almost psychological approach, is therefore used by Belloc to exemplify how the French monarchy remained genuine, while from 1688 the English one, under the control of William, became a mere ghost, controlled by the capitalists.

The author clearly knew both England and France, but what he claims in the book is not always acceptable and certainly his prediction of a resurrection of the monarchist spirit in the era of the great totalitarian regimes has been denied by subsequent events. However, as Joseph Pearce states, those wishing to understand history and political philosophy on a deeper level should read a book such as Monarchy and learn the lessons it teaches.

Hilaire Belloc, Monarchy: A Study of Louis XIV (Arouca Press, 2022), 446 pages, $24.95

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