The Concordance of High Monarchists of Ireland
by John Michell with illustrations by Martin Brennan.
Baleful forces, not always of native origin, have succeeded in creating a situation in lreland where no reconciliation of conflicting interests is possible in terms of modern political conventions. To find principles for common agreement by all honest parties it is therefore necessary to transcend those conventions and to contemplate ideals rather than current forms.
By virtue of geography, the land of Ireland is a unity, but its people are not. Troubles in Ireland, whether spontaneous or manufactured, arise constantly from that paradox. Yet there is nothing new in it. Throughout its history Ireland has been co-habited by many different clans, tribes and nations of different race and religion; but all these people have enjoyed common possession of the native Irish culture which is rooted in the land itself. The further back one goes into the ancient past, the more refitted and established one finds the high culture of Ireland, and the more effective its role in unifying the people, while allowing them to cultivate a diversity of traditional laws and customs. The problem then, as now, was how to reconcile individual and local freedoms with the civilising benefits of a national government. The answer to this in prehistoric Ireland, and widely throughout the ancient world, was to establish a central authority whose functions were mainly ritual and academic, thus allowing it to intrude but lightly and indirectly into people's daily affairs. The authority was the High King, and the proposal here is to restore that office, and to define it in the highest terms which are in accordance with practicality.
The authority of the High King of old Ireland rested on his symbolic marriage with the goddess or native genius of the country. From his seat at the dynamic centre of the island, which was also conceived of as the centre of the universe, he ruled in name the people of all Ireland. In practice, the four provinces occupying the four geographical quarters of Ireland - Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht - were independent. Once a year the four provincial rulers and their chief retainers assembled in hierarchical order around the High King to settle their disputes and discuss matters of common interest. Many of these were cultural matters, relating to forms of music, bardic history, philosophy, astronomy, geomancy and the preservation of standards. It was the duty of the High King to maintain the standards of science and art and to concern himself with the health and fertility of the entire realm.
The appropriate and traditional device in Ireland for reconciling the physical fact of the country's unity with its ethnological diversity is the High King (who could equally well be a High Queen, subject to an adjustment to the symbolism referred to in the previous paragraph). As a constitutional monarch, occupied in ritual, symbolic and academic duties, the High King has no political power. That resides with the governments of the four provinces within their own territories.
The four provinces have each whatever form of government suits them. From their parliaments or assemblies they elect deputies to serve in the High Council which meets regularly under the High King and provides ministers for the offices under his control. Following ancient custom, the four provincial kings or heads have an annual summit meeting with the High King, which is largely ceremonial and features ritual expressions of mutual good will. It is the occasion of a public holiday throughout the realm.
Each province has its own system of transport, medicine, education, law, police and so on, and the administrators of these departments have representatives on the national High Committees which co-ordinate their activities in common. In some cases - with aviation, railways and customs - perhaps the central authority will be found more useful than in others, and certain of the central authorities, acting in the name of the High King, may be asked jointly by the provinces to manage affairs on their behalf. In other cases, in medicine and education for example, the High Committees will provide colleges and prestigious institutions of crafts and scholarship. The High Committees are funded by the corresponding provincial authorities, who thus determine whether they are too weak or powerful.
The High King's offices.
The officers under the High King include all those set up by the national High Committees, the Ordnance and Geological Surveys, the national colleges, libraries, galleries and learned institutions, the departments of antiquities and wild life, the offices of weights and measures, astronomy and time-keeping and all that are concerned with national culture.
The chief military officers of the provinces are nominated to a High Committee under the High King, and are subordinate to the Army Minister in the High Council. The national army is limited to the size required for state ceremonial; but in times of emergency the provinces may require the High King to place their armies under the command of the military Committee.
The national police force is also composed of senior officers who may be asked to co-ordinate the operations of the provincial forces. Their other duty is to maintain the security of the national institutions through their own staff.
As well as the provincial law courts, there is a High Court, consisting of senior officials nominated by the provinces, which has the authority of the High King but is independent of him. It hears appeals in certain cases from the provincial courts and has jurisdiction in cases involving the High King's offices.
The High King is lodged in a central city-state, the nucleus of which is an area of 1440 acres or 12 hides (equal to the area of a square of 12 furlongs or 1 1/2 miles) which is his own property, administered by the Royal Estates. All his institutions (ideally, if not always in practice) are located there. Within this area each of the four provinces has its own quarter, and each of the quarters has representatives on the local council which manages its civil affairs. The city-state is designed as a microcosm of the whole realm, and it is a duty of the High King to ensure that posts and privileges within it are held equally by the people of the four quarters.
It is beneath the dignity of the High King to tax the provinces or to be financially dependent on them. His income arises mainly from his ownership of all property within the central 1440 acres of his city-state. Its houses, shops, markets, hotels, offices and small manufacturies are let equally among the people of the four provinces in their respective quarters. Further income arises from the minting and sale to the four provinces of currency and postage stamps, of which the High King has the monopoly. These are of the same value but of different design for each province. The Royal Estates also profit from the sale of maps by the Ordnance Survey and from other such services provided by the High King's offices.
This income enables the High King to maintain himself and his institutions, to entertain and perform his ceremonies in proper style. He is also expected to patronise the arts. Of all the institutions managed by the national High Committees, those relating to the arts are likely to be the least generously funded by the provinces, and the High King gains prestige by supporting them from the Royal Estates.
In order that the High King may never have the surplus resources to initiate political activity on his own account, his income is limited to that required by his annual budget, and any excess is administered by the High Council, which may also vote provincial funds for any national project which it instructs the High King to carry out on behalf of all four provinces. For this a majority of over three quarters of the members of the High Council is required. The effect of this arrangement is to discourage expensive national enterprises, because if the four provinces have to decide among themselves how and in what proportion they are going to pay for them, it is un-likely that anything will be agreed.
The High King has privately the same right as anyone else to practice any religion he pleases, but he is constitutionally barred from establishing or permitting a National Church, from officially upholding any particular academic theory and from using his office to advance any one school of thought against others.
Selection of the High King.
Throughout the ages many ingenious schemes have been tried for finding a satisfactory ruler and for binding him to do what is required of him and no more. He may be popularly elected, nominated by a senate, inherit, be found as an avatar and so on. A suggestion here is that a High King be nominated for the term of his reign by each of the four provinces in turn, their manner of choosing him being left for them to decide individually. In certain circumstances, not yet defined, the other three provinces may veto a nominee. In one case they are bound by law to veto him: if he has ever occupied or presented himself for political office either at home or abroad. In that case he is ineligible.
The High King serves until he abdicates, or is advised by the High Council to do so, or dies.
One of the main functions of the High King in old Ireland, as in ancient China and widely elsewhere, was to look after the interests of the land itself, to maintain its harmony and vitality and to watch over the natural order within it. For this purpose he had the service of the state geomancers, employing a traditional science which is now practiced only vestigially in the East. One of the requirements of the modern High King is that he should establish a college of geomancy and encourage research into geomantic method and its relevance to modern Ireland. In practice the state geomancers will have the right throughout all provinces to forbid or modify schemes for land development if they are found to be against the interests of the landscape as a whole. All architects and planners will be required to study the geomantic code, which will serve to co-ordinate, and harmonise all developments throughout the country which affect the landscape, its inhabitants and its natural life. In this respect the High King's office has priority over all other authorities.
A federal form of government for Ireland is now seriously considered by many of the ruling authorities. Opposition to it arises from fears that the federal administration will overrule the laws. and customs of provinces. These proposals are designed to remove that objection and to provide a reasonably acceptable guide to a practical constitution.
An FitzGibbon (Sunday Telegraph magazine, 3 January 1982) for a federation of the four historical provinces, in which "each province would elect its own parliament and have its own police force and complete control of its own internal affairs". His choice for the federal capital is Armagh, where now are located the seats of both the Roman Catholic and the Church of Ireland primates. There he would establish the Supreme Court and the Federal police, and he would surround it with a 'politically neutral zone'.
This goes a long way with the present proposals, but without the dimensions of the High King it allows the federal authority to become unacceptably powerful. It is unlikely that any such rational scheme can be devised which will satisfy all parties in Ireland. That can only be done by transcending sectarian jealousies and diverting the passions and energies now given to them towards a higher, more glamourous common purpose. As a practical proposition the High King's restoration has some unique advantages. It is in accordance with Irish tradition, and can not therefore be dismissed as an untried utopianism; it allows for local independence and the renewal of institutions and cultures; it encourages the development of worthy state ceremonies to the benefit of proper national and regional pride; and it places such important matters as the protection of the landscape and the order of nature under the direct care of the Head of State.
Opposition to High Monarchist proposals.
The great majority of people in Ireland, as elsewhere, are honourable and well-intentioned but there exist people who are neither, who have become victims to intellectual or psychological or diabolical obsessions. To them, and to those under their spell, any proposal towards reconciliation, revival and the restoration of culture is anathema, and they can be counted upon to oppose it violently. It is not the weaknesses and obvious insufficiencies of this proposal which will attract their criticisms, but its general object, the healing of nations - an object which is not universally desired
Apart from these evilly disposed, there are many honest objectors to these proposals, such as anarchic idealists and those who are not friendly to the name or notion of kingship. Let them try their own hands at constitution making! They will find that the only possible unstructured form of society is the nomadic, to which we do not plan to return prematurely, and they may come to agree that a politically neutralised High King, confined to a routine of cultural and official administration and occupied with higher matters than interfering in local and personal affairs, allows the maximum of individual freedom which is compatible with civilised order.
These proposals are designed to be practical in the modern world, but one difficulty to be faced is that the modern world is dominated by forces which are more powerful than any regional or small national government. It is therefore widely held that all states need to centralise authority and resources in order to deal on even terms with the great promoters of modern industry, finance and new forms of energy. This seems to suggest that the High King's bureaucracy will inevitably grow to become as powerful, at the expense of the provinces, as in any other modern state. But the proposals made here allow for the possibility that economics and politics in the future will not reflect exactly the same conditions and priorities as those of the recent past. If the newly-apparent tendencies in world economics in favour of smaller political, social and industrial entities continue, and the advantages of localised institutions become more widely acknowledged, the High Monarchy scheme will come into its own as a model for our times. It is firmly based on tried precedent and consists simply in the re-invigoration of a form of government which was taken as a reflection of the ideal throughout the entire ancient world.
'As I was composing the illustrations to the CONCORDANCE OF HIGH MONARCHISTS OF IRELAND I fell into a reverie, and this drawing of the park is based on what I saw.
I saw the High King leave his residence as dawn approached on the equinox. He rowed to the mound island in a boat that was designed like a swan. At the moment of high noon, in the middle of the day which is the middle of the year, the King placed the crown on his head just as a brilliant sliver of light entered the chamber and illuminated the disc immediately before the cone of the crown. After this the King rowed to the opposite shore and mounted the top of the round tower (situated in the park on the site corresponding to that of the round tower at Glendalough) to survey the realm. At sunset the King went to the fountain of knowledge situated at the source of the Boyne River. As the shadow of the standing stone at the top of the mound island fell on the fountain, the King drank of these waters.
At different times of the year I saw the King perform similar rituals in different parts of the park, and I saw thar the park is none other than a reproduction of the Garden of Eden.
The cross in the south-east of the park is a celtic cross representing the sun, like the cross on the bottom edge of the disc of the crown. Standing stones are placed in the park in reference to the ancient capitals of the provinces and to the famous monuments of the country. I mean this to be a preliminary sketch, not the final plan. The positioning of the monuments has to be far more carefully worked out. In the vision, for example, there were 18 different types of trees representing letters of the Ogham alphabet, and the arrangement of the trees spelt out words with mystical meanings......'
The plan is based on the diagram of traditional cosmology, as followed by the designers of temples, ideal cities and places of ritual in antiquity.
In the centre is the mound-island and lake, surrounded by the circular park, 3,960 feet or 3/4 mile across, landscaped as a microcosm of the whole country. The buildings intruding into the park are:
north: National Museum and Library;
east: High Council chamber, City Hall, Royal estates offices;
south: National Gallery, concert hall, theatre, city college;
west: High King's palace, Institute of Geomancy.
Outside the park are the seven rings of the city blocks, in which the smaller streets, alleys, courts and buildings are designed by the whims of their inhabitants.
The total diameter of the central part of the city is 7,920 feet or 1 1/2 miles, and the square containing it,1440 acres in area, is the property of the High King.
The twelve smaller circles in the diagram, each of diameter 2,160 feet, represent aspects of the moon (diameter 2,160 miles) or the twelve Platonic months (each of 2,160 years) within the Great Year, and the circle of the inner city, to which they are tangent, represents the earth (average diameter 7,920 miles). In the city-state, these twelve areas, three to each quarter, are the sites of cultural, administrative and other institutions, placed with reference to the traditional attributes of the four quarters of Ireland, as follows:
north: Ulster Hall, High Military Committee and police headquarters, industrial, engineering and craft institutions;
east: Leinster Hall, the Treasury, Post Office, National Bank, institutions of trade, agriculture and economics;
south: Munster Hall, High Royal University, Royal Observatory, colleges of music, mathematics, art and science, Irish language and English language Academies;
west: Connacht Hall, law courts, records offices, embassies, colleges.
A ring road bordering a canal, six miles round (equal to the perimeter of the square, defining the High King's demesne) passes through the areas of the institutions, beyond which the formal scheme gives way to the geomantically designed suburbs, villages and countryside.
- Text © John Michell 1982.
- Published by the author, John Michell, 11 Powis Gardens, London W11,
- and available from him or from:
- Martin Brennan, 274 68 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11220, USA
- or, Jack Roberts, Droum, Leap, Skibereen, Co Cork, Ireland.
- Illustrations by Martin Brennan.
- Designed by Richard Adams.
- Typeset by Cecilia Boggis.