The Family as Miniature Monarchy

The Scottish jurist Thomas Craig (1538-1608) writing in defense of the hereditary monarchy of England, argues that the family was, historically, the blueprint for the monarchy. They are similar in that both arose from paternal authority:

“Now families at first were kind of small monarchies…In those families, government by many, whether aristocratical or democratical was never seen or heard of…Nor is it otherwise in families at this day, the master of the family commands, all the rest in their different stations being obliged to obey, the wife lovingly, the child with reverence…[Yet] was the father ever chosen by his children, or was there a place for election in families?”
(Craig, Right of Succession, p. 5, 9, 16)

I personally prefer the monarchy as a form of government, but I do not want to argue for that here (Davis Carlton makes a strong case for it here).

Nonetheless, whether or not monarchy is your preferred system of government, I think the case can still be made that the forsaking of the idea of the family as a small monarchy is one of the core ideological shifts that led to the destruction caused by the sexual revolution and the rise of feminism. Thinking of our own families in terms of little monarchies has significant implications for our familial life:

-Rootedness and stewardship. Despite modernist propaganda against pre-modern Christendom, one needs to remember Christendom historically viewed authority in terms of responsibility and stewardship. A king has an obligation to his people for being their “flesh and bone” (II Samuel 5:1). For the father of the household, this applies with increased intensity. The hereditary and territorial aspects integral to a monarchy can and must also be valued within the context of the nuclear (and extended) family. This dynamic helps keep family life ordered and creates an increased sense of duty and belonging. This sense of belonging is not to be limited to the territorial aspect, but the hereditary nature of authority can also serve to counter the atomization of the nuclear family, and shift both our thinking and lifestyle back to the traditional (and far superior) clan-based society – one characterized by an active interconnectedness between ancestors and progeny.

-Pride and Duty. Speaking of duty and belonging, there is an almost instinctive pride awoken in a people when they see their own royalty. There is both an aesthetic and sacredness about kings, queens, princesses and princes. Thinking in these terms about our own families might sound fairytale-ish to the modern mind, but this was not necessarily the case historically. Prior to the rise of rationalism, Christians thinking in terms of their spiritual status as adopted sons and daughters of the King of Kings and therefore part of the Divine royal family was the most normal thing in the world. Accompanying this sentiment is a sense of duty towards these sacred bonds. Husbands as leaders, wives as supporters and home-keepers and also children would view their duties and privileges through radically different lenses if they thought about this in terms of the sacredness associated with royalty.

-It is both anti-egalitarian and beautiful. One of the problems with the modern view of marriage is that is viewed as solely based on love. Most Christians would answer that the only core criteria for choosing a spouse is that he or she is a believer and that there is a bond of love. Individuals are encouraged to marry for love and to believe that love keeps us together. Yet, divorces have become far more common since this ideal has become accepted in the twentieth century. From the pulpit and on television, Christians often hear that love – and that is love understood in terms of an emotional attachment – is at the heart of any successful marriage. Yet, love-based marriages lead to the dissolution of the value of the institution itself. As feminist historian Stephanie Coontz admits:
“Until the late seventeenth century the family was thought of as a miniature monarchy, with the husband king over his dependents… [B]asing marriage on love and companionship represented a break with thousands of years of tradition. Many contemporaries immediately recognized the danger this entailed. They worried that the unprecedented idea of basing marriage on love would produce rampant individualism.
Critics of the love match argued – prematurely, as it turned out, but correctly – that the values of free choice and egalitarianism could easily spin out of control. If the choice of a marriage partner was a personal decision, conservatives asked, what would prevent young people, especially women, from choosing unwisely? If people were encouraged to expect marriage to be the bet and happiest experience of their lives, what would hold a marriage together if things went ‘for worse’ rather than ‘for better’?
If wives and husbands were intimates, wouldn’t women demand to share decisions equally? If women possessed the same faculties of reason as men, why would they confine themselves to domesticity? Would men still financially support women and children if they lost control over their wives’ and children’s labor and could not even discipline them properly? If parents, church, and state no longer dictated people’s private lives, how could society make sure the right people married and had children or stop the wrong ones from doing so?”

I am not arguing in favor of arranged marriages, but merely that marriage cannot purely be based on affections and emotions. This has led to an egalitarian view of the institution and its relationships which has effectuated the death of millions of the unborn and has led to countless broken families. Marriage, like any institution, whether it be in the economic, academic, political or any other sector, has to have a hierarchial authority structure to function at all. Marriage is also a familial and public affair that involves two families intimately and, to a lesser degree also society as a whole. Therefore it is almost without exception unwise to marry without the approval of one’s parents, for example. This is also why it is also not permissible for a man to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage without having asked permission from her father first.

I firmly believe that reclaiming the idea of the family as miniature monarchy is crucial in terms of viewing and stewarding our families within the context of a larger cultural, national and spiritual context with a transcendent and eternal purpose. This will effect a de-atomization of the family – something which is absolutely necessary if we are, by the grace of God, to save more marriages, save children from broken homes and ultimately, also save Christian civilization.

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