A Royal Cause
Happy Winter, everyone! The past few months have certainly flown by. I apologize for being so far behind. But doing so has allowed me to take up an initiative that, despite the lack of sleep, has been worth every minute. It has also provided some insight into an aspect of royal duty that I never thought of. Royalty – and elites in general – have always been interconnected in charitable activities. While acts of charity is not exclusive to Christianity, as examples include the Ottoman Empire (Muslim) and Japan (Shinto), they are especially linked with queens consorts. Back in the medieval period, while kings and nobles fought on the battlefield, their wives were known to have actively participated in charitable works. In many ways, it reflected the feminine aspect of monarchy, where benevolence balanced the malevolent (and masculine) nature of warring between factions and kingdoms. One could argue royal patronage was an indirect way of maintaining support for The Crown during war- and peacetime.
Before the age of social welfare, the most vulnerable had limited resources for support. Chief among them were almhouses. The poor, the unemployed, and the elderly found comfort in these limited places for free room and board. But these places held a strong religious link: in exchange for free food and shelter, the tenants were often required to pray on Sunday – if not daily – for the soul of its founder, praying for the departed to rest comfortably in the afterlife. In England, the earliest almhouses were royally-appointed. Winchester’s Hospital of St. Cross was founded by a grandson of William the Conqueror. The establishment also coincides with the founding of the office of the Royal Almonry. The office of Lord High Almoner has been appointed by English monarchs for almost 900 years – the exception being the Commonwealth period. The position, usually given to a cleric, was responsible for distributing alms to the poor. This eventually became linked with one of the English and, later, British Monarch’s annual ceremonies. The Royal Maundy Service, arranged by the Almoner, has become an annual tradition. Different records suggest when this ceremony takes place, but the Monarchy has conducted its present form since 1670. Every Thursday before Easter Sunday, the reigning king or queen distributes Maundy money as alms. The Sovereign would also wash the feet of the poor as Christ had done. For the public, it would have been a great spectacle. They would not only receive a gift of coin from their Monarch, but they would then be asked to kick off their shoes and allow the royal majesty to wash their feet. (Un)fortunately, feet-washing ended after the reign of James II.
Over the centuries, royal charity went beyond supplying succor for the poor. New charitable organizations emerged to assist the arts, sciences, sports, and more. In Britain, King George II became the first recorded royal patron of the Society of Antiquaries, formed around architectural and art conservation. Successive monarchs and royals, over the centuries, would lend their name to various organizations and causes. For the most part, royal patrons belonged to relatively politically neutral organizations. Hospitals, art galleries, and the like. But it would be a royal outsider who would challenge the royal causes.
Hailing from one of the most ancient noble houses in the land, Lady Diana Spencer was a breath of fresh air for the Monarchy. The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 was one of the most watched royal weddings of the 20th century. Unfortunately, their marriage- like most of Queen Elizabeth’s children – began to unravel. The annus horribilis of 1992 culminated with the announcement of their separation. Between her separation and her divorce, Diana actively pursued plans to shape her image. Most notably, in her charitable pursuits. A day after her divorce, Diana resigned from over 100 organizations – most of them deemed ‘proper’ for a princess – in favor of six organizations. Whereas the royals continued to patron organizations like lawn tennis, horses, and art galleries, Diana’s patronage included organizations that offered support for homeless youth and AIDS patients. A stark contrast, Diana’s royal causes represented a modern monarch in an age of questioning loyalty and relevancy. Her legacy has certainly touched her children, who continue to support causes that highlight modern issues such as mental health, women’s rights, AIDS, and youth homelessness.
In September, Legialle celebrated the first-year anniversary of its founding. And while there have been many changes over that year – flag, symbols, anthem, regnal names (sort of), and the like – the one constant has been a desire to do good in the community. To use our micronation to highlight local and global issues. To effectively take up a ‘royal’ mission to support creative programs and projects that foster positive relationships in communities. After a year, I decided to concentrate on six key areas:
· Climate Change – We believe in the role of communities taking an active and positive lead responding to changes in our environment. It is our duty to continually and consciously act as stewards of our environment.
· Advancement of Women – Women are key role-players in our local, regional, and global communities. We find ways to advance diverse causes that ensure women are given an influential voice.
· Elimination of Child Poverty – We must assure the next generation are given a fair and equitable chance to make a positive impact in their communities. Without them, all would be lost.
· Promoting Inter-Cultural Dialogue – Regardless of color, culture or creed, we are all part of one community – and should treat each other as such.
· Honouring Haitian Art & Culture – Legialle is inextricably linked with the history and culture of Haiti. Once known as the ‘Pearl of the Antilles’, we shed a positive light on Haiti and Haitians throughout the world.
· Promotion of LGBTQ+ Rights – We must uphold and demand that no person should be left behind regardless of sex or gender identity.
During Rochester Pride Week in July, I was proud to announce Legialle’s first initiative, Flower City Queens. In truth, I had been working on the project several months before. Recruiting the drag queens, booking (and re-booking) them for shoots, reaching out to potential sponsors, building the website as well as maintaining a social media calendar. Half of the proceeds from each calendar sale is going to a local safe shelter for LGBTQ homeless youth. Though there have been moments of stress, the purpose for this calendar always gives me hope – reassurance of a royal cause worth taking up.