Even Those Who Show Disdain for the Old Ways of Life Are Not Totally Immune to the Splendor of the Nobility

June 20, 2013

Sailors of the Royal Navy and marines of the Royal Marines, pass in review in front of Queen Elizabeth II as troops from all three services formed on parade at Windsor Castle during the Diamond Jubilee Parade and Muster in May 2012. Photo by the Defence Imagery

Pius XII emphasizes vigor and fertility of works as characteristic of genuine nobility and encourages the nobles to contribute such qualities to the common good.

Vigor and fruitful works! Behold two characteristics of true nobility, to which heraldic symbols, stamped in bronze or carved in marble, are a perennial testimony, for they represent as it were the visible thread of the political and cultural history of more than a few glorious cities of Europe. It is true that modern society is not accustomed by preference to wait for your class to “set the tone” before starting works and confronting events; nevertheless, it does not refuse the cooperation of the brilliant minds among you, since a wise portion thereof retains an appropriate respect for tradition and prizes high decorum, whatever its origins. And the other part of society, which displays indifference and perhaps disdain for ancient ways of life, is not entirely immune to the seduction of glory; so much so, that it tries very hard to create new forms of aristocracy, some worthy of respect, others based on vanity and frivolity, satisfied with merely appropriating the inferior elements of the ancient institutions.” (1958 allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility.)

The Golden Coach for Queen Beatrix to attend the annual Prinsjesdag, September 2011. The Queen is accompanied from Noordeinde Palace to the Binnenhof.

In this paragraph, Pius XII seems to be refuting an objection possibly raised by discouraged aristocrats appalled by the egalitarian wave already spread throughout the modern world. According to these aristocrats, the world scorns the nobility and refuses to collaborate with it.

Regarding this objection, the Pontiff reasons that one can distinguish two tendencies in modern society in face of the nobility. One “retains an appropriate respect for tradition and prizes high decorum, whatever its origins,” by which “it does not refuse the cooperation of the brilliant minds among you.” The other tendency, which consists in exhibiting “indifference and perhaps disdain for ancient ways of life, is not entirely immune to the seduction of glory.” Pius XII notes expressive evidence of this disposition of spirit.

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Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), 42.

 

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