Religion & Liberty Online

Sir Roger Scruton was a fearless ‘Knight of the West’

The late Sir Roger Scruton has been given many titles since his death on January 12. He’s been hailed as the “greatest conservative thinker of our age,” Britain’s “intellectual dissident” and beauty’s best modern defender. For Samuel Gregg, he will be forever remembered “as a gentle Knight of the Realm, but above all a fearless Knight of the West.”

Writing at Law & Liberty, Gregg recalls Scruton’s fearlessness in the face of harassment endured for decades. Scruton was an unapologetic conservative, the likes of which are disdained in higher education and intellectual circles. “The price that Scruton paid for being unwilling to compromise his opinions on these subjects—or be quiet about them—was substantial.” As recent as spring 2019, he was antagonized by a group of Tory MPs, dismissed from Britain’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission on the grounds of “phobias.” It was later revealed that Scruton’s initial chairmanship had been installed for the very purpose of showcasing his supposed bigotry. Despite this, Scruton never tired of defending what he believed were the hallmarks of civilization: “objective morality, a strong attachment to private property, a rich and independent civil society, tradition in the best sense of that word, broadly orthodox religion, the conviction that some choices are always good and others are always evil, and that the state and law do have some responsibilities in this area.”

A few months after Scruton was made a Knight Bachelor in the 2016 Birthday Honors List for his “services to philosophy, teaching and public education,” I was fortunate enough to see him in London when he spoke at an Acton Institute conference. The night before that event, Scruton was present at a dinner at which the aforementioned Rémi Brague was also in attendance. After introducing Brague to the guests as perhaps continental Europe’s most important living lay Catholic intellectual, I then presented Scruton as the conservative thinker of our time. His recent knighthood, I added, was not only immensely deserved but long overdue.

When the evening came to a close, Scruton sidled up to me and said, “You know, Sam, it’s not about me. It’s never been about me. I’m not important. What really matters is our civilization. It’s the hope of humanity. I’d die for it.”

Read: “Roger Scruton, Sentinel of the West.”

Image: Elekes Andor [CC BY-SA)

Caroline Roberts

Caroline Roberts is a managing editor at the Acton Institute and produces Acton's weekly podcast, Acton Line.