Grounding future heads of state in Country
(University of Auckland)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines one way in which the Australian Crown seeks to maintain its moral authority symbolically. Using preliminary results from ethnographic fieldwork, I argue that the Crown harnesses local associations with land and sacrifice to support its own legitimacy.
Paper long abstract:
The Crown in Australia, as embodiment of the state, is largely concerned with executive control and management over resources, minerals and territories - land - but arguably without some of the parallel obligations of honour which underpin the crown in other common law countries. Consequently, the Australian Crown remains a contested notion which sits uncomfortably and reluctantly in public discourse.
Yet Queen Elizabeth II remains Australia's Head of State. This is what most Australians popularly associate with the crown, and rightly so because constitutional monarchy depends on the legal fiction of the monarch's two bodies, corporeal and incorporated. However, any sovereign necessarily requires moral legitimation and ideally should embody the land over which they rule. This task is complicated when that ruler is foreign. Through royal visits and gap years, the Crown's corporeal embodiment - the royal family - regularly circulate through the Commonwealth, reminding Australians of shared histories, genealogies and kinship, worldview and claims on shared cultural treasures.
Royal tours make reciprocating claims on Australia, often through carefully cultivating relationships between individual royals and Australian soil. They go outback to remote stations and settlements, wrestle crocs, and plant trees. Royals participate in events rich with notions of sacrifice, such as Anzac and military memorials, which are understood to have secured Australia's lands from her enemies. By grounding future kings in Country, the taken-for-granted concept of the crown can be reconciled with and naturalised in the land it rules.
Moral politics and the modern state: the crown and constitutional reform in post-colonial settler societies