Australia has lost not only one of the great stalwarts of the constitutional monarchy, the nation has lost one of its leading intellectuals. Christopher Pearson was one of the very few journalists prepared to come out and staunchly and unreservedly support the constitutional monarchy in the nineties, a time when it was extremely unfashionable to do so.
Christopher Pearson died in Adelaide at the age of 61 on Sunday, 9 June 2013. The son of an Anglican clergyman he was educated at Scotch College, Flinders University and the University of Adelaide. Until then a traditional Anglo-Catholic, he was received into the Catholic Church in 1999.
He founded The Adelaide Review in 1984, which he turned into one of the nation’s leading intellectual journals, publishing an eclectic range of distinguished writers. He also managed The Wakefield Press, and during the course of the 1999 referendum published The Cane Toad Republic, one of the two books used by the monarchist cause during the referendum.
I was honoured then when Christopher agreed to write the foreword. He wrote that I had posed the fundamental question: “In what ways would republican change enhance or further protect our freedom?”
“The answer,” he responded “is of course none at all.”
He ended with these words:
“This is a pragmatist’s account of an unsatisfactory proposal but it is also an accessible version of how the existing system actually works and why. It is not a sentimental account but a fleshing-out of why the Constitution is so serviceable and how it is that, in Justice Michael Kirby’s phrase, the Crown has functioned to temper narrow nationalism and to soften brutal majoritarianism.”
…advice at the convention….
During the 1998 constitutional convention he invited me to discuss with him the tactics which the constitutional monarchists should adopt and about which he had written in the press. His proposal terrified the republicans. Had it been accepted, a different model would have emerged for the referendum. There is no doubt it would have resulted in an even bigger defeat for the republicans.
Our meeting had one inadvertent consequence. I was absent from the photograph of all ACM delegates and workers at the convention. His proposal was not one which I could recommend, but he took my rejection and eventually that of ACM and the four other monarchist groups, with his usual charm and courtesy.
Despite this he agreed to become a patron of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.
Christopher Pearson wrote for a number of leading newspapers and journals and in more recent years contributed a weekly column to The Weekend Australian. This covered a wide variety of cultural political and religious matters. His was the first report of the decision by the Vatican to permit Anglicans to be received into the Catholic Church while retaining their Anglican liturgical heritage under the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.
He also served as a speech writer to the former Prime Minister John Howard and the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. He was a member of the boards of the Special Broadcasting Service, the National Museum of Australia and The Australia Council.
He worked closely with opposition leader Tony Abbott, editing three of his books and some of his major speeches.
Christopher Pearson was an extremely erudite and generous man, fascinating in both in his writing and in conversation . Taking a meal with him was always a pleasure not only because you would be would be assured of an excellent choice of cuisine and wines but also because your knowledge and understanding of society and civilisation would invariably be enhanced. I always found that a meal with Christopher would lead to more reading and to further requests to him to explain some aspect of learning of which I was up to them unaware.
Many readers of The Weekend Australian would go first to his column. His untimely death will deprive them of this pleasure. The nation is also deprived of his many contributions.
May he rest in peace.