Inverted Virtues

At a recent visit to Knole House in Kent one of the volunteers made a mistake. The main staircase has a painted tableaux of the Virtues. In one of them a king is seen ruling over subjects. The volunteer ran through the five virtues displayed and when she arrived at this one she described it as the virtue of ‘Monarchy’.

When The Clever One with me queried whether that was right (‘is there really a virtue called ‘Monarchy?’) the volunteer’s plucky trainee said of course, it was in the interest of the monarchs who owned the house to show ‘Monarchy’ as a virtue. (It should be said that the monarch only owned the house after Archbishop Cranmer had been forced to make it a gift to Henry VIII –  a example of the virtue of Monarchy at work, no doubt.

As we walked on to the gallery of royalty and archbishops I questioned it too. The Clever One muttered under her breath that the virtue was actually ‘Submission’. That made much more sense. How often to we invert the virtues and give ourselves a pat on the back, I wondered.

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