Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Sad Absence

I have not posted in a while, as some of you probably know but for those who do not, last Sunday my mother passed away. She fell, around last Thanksgiving, due to a heart problem and medical problems seemed to accumulate after that until, finally, she could carry on no more. It was, of course, a terrible shock and one I am not sure I have yet to fully come to terms with. She was a wonderful mother, no one who knew her could have ever had room to complain. She was a woman of traditional values, a housewife who always had lunches packed in the morning, always had supper ready when her husband came home from work, helped you with your problems, nursed you when you were sick and was later a very doting grandmother.

She was a regular at church, an ardent conservative in her politics and she loved monkeys, murder mysteries and Star Trek. She liked listening to Dean Martin, she could cook, she could sew and do all the things that girls used to be taught to do. Her cooking, in fact, made her something of a local celebrity, all the more impressive considering that she came to Texas from a far off country and, in those days, had never even heard of many of the dishes she would one day come to master. At auctions for local scholarships, her baked goods always raised the most money, her cinnamon rolls in particular regularly sold for hundreds of dollars for each pan. She hated rodents, was scared to death of cats and was never comfortable around firearms. Even after so many decades in Texas, there are some things that certain people just never get used to.

Dealing with her loss continues to be very difficult. It is all the worse in that, particularly with her passing, the traditional "comforters" of our family are now all gone. I am beginning to feel like one of the 'last of the Mohicans' here. My grandparents are all gone, on my father's side of the family, out of six boys, only my father and one uncle remain and, from my immediate family, three of five children and now our mother is gone so that only my oldest sister, our father and myself remain though my sister's two daughters have been a great comfort. When so many are gone, and so few are left, it causes a very unsettling feeling I can only label as a sort of despair. It's an uncomfortable feeling like being one of the last attendees at a party, loitering around after most everyone has gone home. When you look around and realize it, you start to feel out of place even in familiar surroundings.

Anyway, I didn't write this just to have a moan. When it comes to the web, 'out of sight' is usually 'out of mind' and I just wanted everyone to know why I have been absent for some time and to ask your indulgence as I may be gone a while longer. I have been trying to get back in the usual routine but it is difficult. This has put a great deal of emotional strain on someone with a mental state that, according to the professionals, was not in perfect working order to begin with. I will try to get things back to normal as soon as I can, I am sure it would be good for me to, but until then I hope you will all understand the reason why and know that I appreciate your patience.

God bless and keep on,
The Mad Monarchist

Thursday, October 13, 2016

King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great of Thailand (1927-2016)

It has just been announced that His Majesty, Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, Lord of Life, King of Thailand, has passed away. Such news has been long expected but is no less tragic, nor is the impact mitigated by that fact. Few monarchs in the world today have been so loved, so respected and so revered by their subjects as the late King of Thailand. For the Thais, he has been a rock of stability, a beacon of hope, a helping hand, a kind father and a wise leader throughout his amazing 70 year reign. Beyond the borders of Thailand, he has also been a powerful presence in Southeast Asia, a firm and reliable figure throughout many years, even decades of troubled times. He was, in every way, providentially the right monarch in the right place at the right time. As Thai everywhere mourn the passing of this great and beloved sovereign it may be helpful for those unfamiliar with Thailand to take a look at some of the specific reasons why Rama IX is so popular, so revered and why he is referred to as “the Great”.

Born in the United States in 1927 while his parents were on a sort of world tour, King Bhumbibol succeeded his older brother as monarch in 1946. It was a delicate time for the Thai monarchy. After the end of the absolute monarchy in Thailand, King Prajadhipok abdicated and left the country and the young boy, King Ananda Mahidol was nominal monarch from 1935 until his death in 1946, having a regency the entire time. From the end of the absolute monarchy, instability and prevailed in Thailand and this was only ended with the establishment of an authoritarian military regime while the young king was out of the country. This was the regime which joined with Japan and the Axis powers during World War II so, in the aftermath of all of that, Thailand was in a very delicate position and the monarchy had been shaken and, for the first time in Thai history, to a large extent absent for an extended period of time. Many hopes were placed on young King Ananda Mahidol and when he died in 1946, it was yet another blow to an already bewildered people. Thailand had a new king, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had never expected to be king.

Known for his love of music, young King Bhumibol returned to school in Europe and switched his studies to political science and statecraft while the military regime continued to rule. This situation prevailed after his return until a conflict arose against the long-standing strongman Field Marshal Phibun (the man who had ruled throughout World War II). Phibun went to the King who advised him to resign before he was overthrown. Phibun did not listen and soon after was overthrown in a coup at which point the King, acting on his own, declared a state of emergency and took control of the situation himself. Public order was secured, the people were calmed and normalcy prevailed while the government situation was sorted out. For the first time since the end of absolutism, traditional royal customs were revived and the King took on a much more high-profile role in national life. The people were quickly drawn to the young man who traveled throughout the countryside, in simple clothes and dark glasses (worn since he had lost an eye in an automobile accident in Europe), looking into their concerns and coming up with his own solutions through government action or the private activities of his own charities.

Thailand experienced what could be called a sort of compassionate counter-revolution during this period. The monarchy was back in public life as it had not been for many years, traditions were restored that had long been dormant and the King obviously had a great deal of influence and was certainly not a captive of the government. At the same time, he was meeting regularly with ordinary people, he was acting outside the government, in person and through his own private agencies, to help people who needed it and improving the countryside in areas from infrastructure to agriculture. Whereas, in the past, the King had been the government, then the government had taken power while child monarchs were absent or powerless but now the King was rising above the government. The state was still there but the King could act in a private capacity without them and soon his moral authority was more powerful than any political authority held by the government of the day.

It was also during this period, in the 50’s and 60’s, that communism began to sweep Southeast Asia and the Kingdom of Thailand allied itself with the United States in fighting the spread of communist subversion. Most think of Thailand simply providing support to the U.S. forces in Vietnam, rest and recreation facilities, ports and air bases and the like, but Thai forces also joined the fight with Thai soldiers seeing action in Laos against the communist movement. There was a real fear that Communist China would dominate Laos and use it to gain entry to Thailand. The Kingdom of Thailand also sent the hard-fighting “Queen’s Cobra battalion” to South Vietnam where it served alongside American and South Vietnamese forces against the communists from 1965 to 1971. These days, of course, this long struggle is not viewed favorably anywhere but it was certainly not lost on the people at the time in Thailand that the victory of communism and the loss of the Vietnamese emperor and the kings of Laos and Cambodia went hand-in-hand with civil war, misery and tyranny whereas Thailand, for a time alone, remained a free and relatively prosperous country under their beloved King.

The end of this era came with the death of General Sarit Dhanarajata in 1963, after which the military governments became increasingly less stable as squabbling generals vied for power among themselves. This has become fairly common in Thailand but, thanks to the King and his wisely moderate use of his extensive moral authority and public prestige, Thailand could be said to have unstable governments but a stable country. The long period of military rule finally began to draw to a close when this government instability became so severe it threatened to destabilize the country as a whole. The King foresaw the danger and decided to intervene, though initially it was actually a non-intervention. He refused to endorse new regimes that took power by force during the 1980’s and this ensured that these dissident forces never lasted very long since, if the King did not recognize them, the vast majority of Thais likewise viewed them as illegitimate and ultimately power reverted back to the legal authorities. It was a precarious time, and there were minor outbreaks of violence, but what under other circumstances would have caused national collapse and civil war, ended with little major turmoil thanks to the King.

Finally, there came the issue of the transition to democracy. Thailand had actually had almost no experience with democracy, despite claims to the contrary, prior to the 1990’s. The end of royal absolutism brought to power a new class of political elites but they were not true democratic representatives of the public will and they were soon replaced by military leaders who had held power ever since. That changed with the military coup of 1991 in which General Suchinda Kraprayoon seized power, making himself dictator. However, this time, there was considerable public opposition and violence broke out as army units fought to suppress anti-government demonstrations. The chaos spread throughout Bangkok and fears began to rise that an all-out civil war was eminent.

Once again, the King saw that the situation was critical and warranted his intervention. He summoned General Suchinda and the leader of the democracy movement (a retired general) Chamlong Srimuang to the Royal Palace on May 20, 1992. The event was televised and the Thai public watched as these two generals, the two most powerful non-royals in the country, crawled on their knees and bowed down to the revered King. He urged them to resolve their differences peacefully, for the good of the country, nothing that sounds very radical. However, this was a hugely significant event. The dictator of the country had been seen humbling himself on national television, side by side with the leader of the dissidents and while the King did not openly take a side in the issue, by urging them to resolve their differences peacefully, this was a clear indication that he did not wish to see the army used to shoot down dissidents in the streets and that some accommodation would have to be reached. Without military force, that accommodation could only come by way of the democratic process. However, it also meant that the pro-democracy side would have to stop their riots and start talking policy and making their case to the Thai people.

Not long after, General Suchinda resigned and after a short time a general election was held and a democratic government came to power in Thailand. Again, a civil war had been averted and the transition from military rule to parliamentary democracy had taken place without a major, nationwide upheaval, thanks to the intervention of the King. The people did not forget, nor the many and on-going charitable works of the King which impacted their lives in a positive way. As the 1990’s passed beyond the year 2000, however, democracy began to take its toll quickly on Thailand. A leftist government, led by the wealthy and unscrupulous Thaksin Shinawatra came to power, basically by buying votes, promising people other people’s money and he held on to power by means of his media empire and intimidation by his bully-boy supporters. In time, accusations of corruption, violation of human rights, even murder were raised against the Thaksin government and people again called on their revered monarch to dismiss him and appoint a new prime minister of his own choosing in 2006.

The King refrained from doing so, on the grounds that Thailand had a democratic system and the democratic process was the proper way of dealing with things. However, many people increasingly distrusted the democratic process overseen by the Thaksin regime and in the next elections a great many people boycotted them. Thaksin claimed victory even though he clearly lacked a truly democratic mandate and there was an immediate uproar. Finally, after a private meeting with the King, Prime Minister Thaksin announced he was stepping down. Reports also leaked out of a treasonous alliance between Thaksin and the Thai communist party to overthrow the monarchy and assume absolute power. Thaksin denied this of course but left the country, also to avoid prosecution for the crimes committed while in office, but still maintained his power from abroad by having his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, as the leader of his political faction in Thailand.

Yingluck was, as most probably know, removed from power by a military coup in May of 2014, charged and found guilty of abuse of power. This came after much of 2013 had been consumed with anti-government protests against her and her brother’s regime. The King endorsed the military action as the only way that law and order could be restored in the country as the clashes between the pro- and anti-government forces had become violent. He had earlier warned that the situation had been allowed to fester to the point where there were no good options. However, despite what some argued, the situation was secured, peace and order were restored and the military government has remained in place and will certainly remain in place for a while now, if for no other reason that to secure a peaceful transition from one monarch to another. To the very end of his life, he was concerned with the good of the nation, the welfare of the people and preventing them from coming to any harm.

This is why people in Thailand revered their king so sincerely. It was not just the new roads and bridges he had built, making their lives easier. It was not just his emphasis on education and national history in particular, it was not just his sending of his own medical team to treat poor people in the countryside or that he allowed many more poor Thais in the countryside to own their own farms with his land programs. It was the fact that, on numerous occasions throughout his reign, the King saved Thailand from chaos, disorder and civil war. After World War II, Burma, Vietnam, Laos and (for a time) Cambodia all got rid of their kings and people could see the result. Thailand, alone among them, always stood firm, thanks to the popularity of King Bhumibol, and easily became the most free and prosperous country of all her neighbors to the east and west. The King earned the love and respect of his people and he was able to use that love and respect for their benefit by stepping in to stop government dysfunction from damaging the whole country. He used his moral authority wisely and sparingly but always to the benefit of his people. He was a living example of what even a constitutional monarch can do if their people are fervently loyal and fervently support them.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great will always be remembered as one of the most significant and successful and beloved monarchs that Thailand has ever had in her ancient history. He has deserved all of the accolades he has received, will always be missed and will always be remembered. For the time being at least, while people come to grips with his loss, the “Land of Smiles” has become a ‘land of tears’…

Monday, October 10, 2016

Reaction to Politicizing Royals

I have mentioned here, at least a couple of times and many more times elsewhere and in personal conversations, that the liberals of today seem to be going out of their way to prove Mussolini right when he said that liberalism would die when people realized that the liberals are liars who believe in freedom only for themselves and not for everyone. So, for example, they preach democracy but you have the European Union being thoroughly undemocratic and saying that referendums should no longer be allowed. You have governments saying that they support freedom of religion but allowing some religions to be mocked and others, well, one in particular, to be protected from all ridicule. You have liberals claiming to be for free speech but suppressing speech they don’t like by calling it “hate speech”. You have the right to privacy when it comes to allowing abortion but not when it comes to keeping your phone or email records private. You have liberals saying they believe in equality but then saying that some people are morally inferior to others or that, while they support death taxes because you should not be able to benefit from the accomplishments of your ancestors, you should, on the other hand, be punished for the misdeeds of your ancestors. I could, rest assured, go on and on.

This is why Mussolini said, at the end of his life, that Fascism would come back some day because people would be confronted with evidence that he had been right about the liberals all along when he essentially said they were a bunch of phonies and liars who didn’t mean a word of what they were spouting. “The liberal state is a mask behind which there is no face, it is a scaffolding behind which there is no building,” was one of the late Duce’s more memorable lines. We are, alas, seeing something similar happening to the institution of monarchy, in the limited, constitutional, largely ceremonial form which prevails today in the First World countries and British Commonwealth Realms. It was the liberals, after all, who said that the monarchy should be totally removed from politics. Yet, today, they are only too happy to use the royals of their various countries to help push support for their own political agendas.

Originally, of course, one of the great advantages of a monarchy was that it was above political parties and factions and could be counted on to behave in a dispassionate and impartial way. That, however, first began to change when the monarchy itself became an institution that the revolutionary types wished to do away with and so, naturally, the monarch had no choice but to support the faction that favored his survival and oppose that which wished to see him killed or deposed and his children disinherited. That is where the left-right division in politics, certainly in the English-speaking world, first emerged. The Cavaliers or Tories were for the King and the Roundheads were against him. Later it was the Tories who were for the King and the Whigs who were against him, later still these became Tory and Labour though these days the pattern seems to be shifting as the Tories have drifted very far from where they historically have been. In the same way, the actual terms of “left” and “right” came from the French assembly at the time of the Revolution when those who favored retaining the monarchy sat on the right and those who favored a republic sat on the left.

It would be absurd and unnatural to expect any monarch to be impartial with divisions such as that. The only rational, healthy thing for any monarch to do would be to favor the right and oppose the left. Eventually, however, after a great deal of ‘storm and stress’ as the Germans would say, the monarchy of the English-speaking world adopted a policy of a non-politically involved monarchy. Other countries abolished their monarchies, people in the German-speaking countries retained monarchs with a large role in government and, of course, the Russians retained an absolute monarchy longer than any other major western power (though saying that, I realize there is still plenty of disagreement on whether Russia is part of western civilization or not). One will notice that these monarchies no longer exist but those which did, whether by coercion or by simply having the good sense to get out in front of a popular wave that would have otherwise crushed them, are the ones which still survive.

For a time, the lesson seemed to be well-learned even by people on the right that it would be best to have the monarchy separated from politics so that, with all of the chaos of multi-party political dabbling, if things went wrong, the politicians, rather than the monarch, would get the blame. That has, on the whole, proven to work rather well. More conservative liberals seemed to find a ‘sweet spot’ in which monarchs stayed out of politics and acted instead as moral, almost spiritual leaders of the nation as a whole. They did not make policy but they set a good example, drew attention to areas not covered by the government, championed charitable social causes and embodied the best attributes of a people. Again, it seemed to work quite well and others followed the example. In theory, that is supposed to be the state of affairs which prevails today and yet any honest observer can see that it is not. Royals are not allowed to be actively involved in politics of course, but any reasonable person should be able to see that they are not totally separated from politics and political divisions.

This is not, I cannot stress hard enough, because of the royals themselves. They, as with any decent person, want to have a purpose, they want to have something to do and will gladly do almost anything if the only alternative is to do nothing. They have also been trained to think and act the way they do, often by people and institutions which are certainly not pro-monarchy or pro-traditional authority of any kind at all. There is also the fact that their previous, non-political, work has been squeezed out. In our world today there is virtually nothing which the government does not consider its business, from how far from your home you are allowed to cook meat in your backyard, to who can style your hair to how curved your cucumbers can be. So, once upon a time, if the Prince of Wales wanted to champion the cause of environmentalism, that would have been seen as simply a well-meaning thing for a royal to do, encouraging people to be good stewards of the planet. Today, however, it is certainly political as governments all over the world have decided that their policies can stop the climate from changing.

Consider, for example, the case of the Norwegian Royal Family. The Crown Prince has long championed the cause of homosexuals, transvestites, transgender people and so on. He doesn’t push legislation or champion a particular political party but certainly any rational person would see that such work is cheered by leftists while being frowned upon by those on the traditional right. His values reflect his upbringing. He received his first higher education in the United States at the famously far-left University of California at Berkeley. The fact that his work has not been truly non-political can be seen by simply asking the question if the political establishment would have allowed him to do exactly as he is doing now but if he championed specifically heterosexual people or only traditional gender roles? I think we all know the answer. His father, not so long ago, gave a speech at a garden party calling for open borders, tolerance and “diversity” and was cheered by everyone on the political left. Would they have still cheered if he had called for stricter enforcement of Norway’s borders and saving Norway for the Norwegians or would they have immediately shouted him down with accusations of meddling in politics? Again, I think we all know the answer.

Recently, on their first royal visit to Canada as a family, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were taken, by liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to meet with Syrian refugees recently arrived in Canada at the appropriately Stalinist named “Immigrant Services Society Welcome Centre” in Vancouver, British Columbia. To me, this seemed like a blatant display of the liberal PM Trudeau using the royals to boost his political position of taking in Syrian refugees, something which at least some conservative Canadians are not at all happy about. However, there were, of course, no complaints, certainly from the political left in Canada, about the royals being taken to such an event. Some conservatives, the few unconcerned with being vilified by the politically correct, did complain about it but few will have heard them and it would be downright impossible to imagine the royals ever being taken to an event that would be on the opposite side of the issue since any such event would be instantly considered racist and/or Islamophobic.

My advice, to conservative Canadians, would be to, of course, not hold anger on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for such displays but rather to simply use the occasion to highlight the history and culture of Canada. There is a reason why this attractive English couple comes to Canada and matters to Canadians, because Canada, certainly English-speaking Canada, was founded by British colonists, was a major part of the British Empire and, God willing, the Duke of Cambridge and little Prince George in turn will one day be King of Canada. It is an occasion to highlight the important part Canada occupies in the history of the English-speaking world, where Canadian customs, traditions, culture and so on originally came from and grew from. However, that is something that any more traditional Canadian will have to do on their own because the government is certainly never going to do it nor would any royals ever be allowed to do such a thing themselves.

Even in the Far East, where the concept of monarchs being uninvolved in politics is not new but being allowed to say or do nothing political at all certainly is, we have also seen how the politicization of every aspect of life has made it harder for a monarch to be non-political. So, when the Emperor of Japan says something positive about protecting the environment, the left cheers and sees nothing objectionable about that at all. Yet, when the Emperor says he supports something as benign and uncontroversial as singing the Japanese national anthem or flying the Japanese national flag, the same people object that this is straying into partisan politics (and so such remarks have only ever been made privately). Of course, the only reason it is a partisan issue, which it should not be, is because the radical leftists have decided to make national symbols like the flag or the anthem a political issue!

Even to many in the west that might seem rather hard to imagine but it is not so far removed. Can one imagine the King of the Netherlands saying he prefers the ‘Prince’s Flag’ with its orange stripe in reference to his own royal house rather than the red-white-blue version? Can one imagine the Prince of Wales publicly encouraging people in England to fly the St George Cross? To bring it back to an earlier point, can anyone imagine a member of the British Royal Family, part of whose job it is to support Britain and British culture around the world, voicing support in Canada during their national flag debate for the Canadian Red Ensign since it symbolizes the British roots of modern Canada? Once again, I think we all know what sort of accusations would be hurled at the royals who made such statements and that they would never be allowed to make them in the first place.

Today, most bizarrely, even the concept of national survival has become a controversial and all too political subject. Only rarely has any royal figure dared to voice the least bit of skepticism of the influx of non-European peoples into European countries. The only exception that comes to mind is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark who spoke up, bravely but still guardedly, about the need to defend Danish values and not be afraid of being called “racist” or “intolerant” for doing so. Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, a monarch who actually has the last word on what goes on in his tiny country, has openly and publicly taken positions that are opposed by most of western European society such as his advocacy of capitalism and Austrian economics and his staunch opposition to abortion in his country. However, most simply ignore him and because his country is so small, it is all the more vulnerable to outside pressure. The abortion issue raised a bit of a ruckus in Europe but, for the most part, those who would be most opposed to what is a very capitalist, officially Catholic and effectively absolute monarchy in the heart of Europe, overlook it because it is so tiny as to be considered inconsequential. And since his second son, Prince Maximilian, married an African-American, putting a biracial son in the line of succession of a European monarchy for the first time, no one could accuse him of being racist which is invariably the accusation of choice for liberals.

Aside from the amiable Prince of Liechtenstein, most of the royals who have taken openly conservative or traditional points of view are non-reigning royals. Archduke Imre Emanuel of Austria, along with his American bride, are known for their pro-life, anti-abortion campaigning (coming from an extremely large Imperial Family, the Archduke is quite far removed from the former Austro-Hungarian thrones). Prince Bertrand of Brazil is well known for his support for private property rights, free market economics and his opposition to socialism and radical environmentalists. Examples such as these, sadly, are thin on the ground as even many non-reigning royals either stay out of politics in the hope that republican governments will take nothing more from them or try their best to stay in the good graces of the political class in the hope that a restoration is possible by way of some friendly party or faction. In any event, it is unfortunate as I have seen it turn good conservative people, the kind most would expect to be loyal to Queen and country (or king as the case may be) into republicans. I hate to see this because they are playing right into the leftist, globalist, Marxist trap.

For years these disgraceful traitors have tried to destroy economies based on private property, destroy Christianity, destroy monarchy, destroy entire countries. In most of the places where it mattered, the most powerful and prosperous parts of the world, they failed. So, rather than giving up, they simply decided to infiltrate and degrade these institutions so that their stalwart defenders would no longer consider them worth fighting for. So, and you can look at the donor list of leftist political candidates to validate this, they undermine economies by making free markets into the plutocratic farce known as “crony capitalism”, they turn the oldest Christian churches into social justice soup kitchens devoid of real doctrine, they corrupt whole countries until people no longer respect their country or consider it worth fighting for. And, they use their royals wherever they can to push causes and make changes that undermine the very concept of monarchy itself even while offending the most loyal and winning over no one.

What is a monarchist to do? Resist. Do not simply abandon your traditions to those who have corrupted them but rather, take them back. Free your royals from their government captors, even the ones who show symptoms of Stockholm syndrome. Do not become so scrupulous that you lose sight of your ultimate goal. Do not destroy yourselves arguing over the bones of principle while the other side takes total control of your destiny. In Europe, there is scarcely a genuine, traditional conservative presence in politics at all. It has simply been wiped out. However, you can still support some who will move things in the right direction. This is something which, frankly, seems to be a weakness unique only to western, European, Euro-descended people from what I have seen. No one else seems to have this problem of demanding nothing less than perfection at the outset, before committing themselves.

Take, for example, voting patterns in the United States, where detailed records are kept about what sort of people vote for which political party. By very large margins Muslims vote for Democrats, most of whom are not Muslims and who support policies which are, according to traditional Islamic values, fundamentally immoral. Democrats support secularism, abortion, gay marriage and so on and yet Muslims vote for this party regardless of that because they are not going to abandon their religion, they are not going to have abortions or adopt lifestyles that preclude procreation and no one has yet made an issue about asking Muslim bakers to make any gay wedding cakes, so as far as they are concerned, all of that stuff is only to the detriment of non-Muslims and not themselves. Meanwhile, Democrats support other policies that do benefit them or move things in the direction they want them to go. It is not at all like the Christians saying, “I can’t vote for Trump because he doesn’t reflect my values”. No one else cares if someone ‘reflects their values’ or is exactly like them, they just care about their agenda and who is going to move things in a direction favorable to them.

If the people in the countries of the world where some vestige of traditional authority survives were to do this, adopt the ‘victory at any cost’ mentality, the royals who are currently being used by the political left, would have only two options: either oppose the will of the people and in so doing completely upset the very system they have been trained to uphold, the system that says if the parliament passed a bill calling for their execution they would have to sign it, or else they would have to do what they have done before and get out in front of it. Personally, I think they would do the latter and, perhaps, some might rejoice. We don’t know what they actually think because they are, frankly, not too dissimilar from hostages at this point, in most cases.

Consider, for example, the case of Queen Sofia of Spain. When word got out that she has spoken against gay marriage and abortion, there was a huge outcry in Spain and the republicans immediately cried that the royals were “interfering” in politics by the then Queen consort expressing an opinion on these subjects. Certainly her position should have come as no surprise, this is a woman who was raised Greek Orthodox and later converted and is a practicing Roman Catholic. Did anyone really think she would have approved of gay marriage or abortion? Of course not, but they didn’t care until she dared to actually say something about it, even if often only privately! She could have said that diversity is a strength, that fossil fuels are destroying the planet, or she could have just rattled off some of the totally meaningless words or phrases so popular these days like “sustainability” and that would have been fine, but if a royal dares to say anything supportive of traditional values that cannot be allowed. There may be more royals who think the same way but who know they have much to lose and nothing to gain in the current environment if they say so.

I have mentioned before but will mention again the case of the passing of His Majesty Baudouin, King of the Belgians. His death was a shock and he was a much beloved, highly respected and long-reigning monarch but he was also a monarch who took some very unpopular public positions and defied the prevailing political establishment. First, on the occasion of the granting of independence to the Belgian Congo, he made a speech which was complimentary of his relative and predecessor King Leopold II, praising his foresight and taking the first steps towards the development of central Africa. He also warned the new Congolese government that independence would bring with it greater responsibilities and neither of these were things the new government wanted to hear and there was an immediate backlash. Later, and probably most famously, the government had to declare him unfit and remove his as monarch temporarily when he steadfastly refused to sign a bill legalizing abortion in Belgium, despite fears that it would provoke a constitutional crisis. The politicians got their way but it made news all over the world that a supposedly ‘ceremonial’ monarch had defied his government and refused to rubber-stamp the will of the elected representatives.

Keeping all that in mind, when King Baudouin suddenly died, the level of royal attendance at his funeral was practically unprecedented for the post-World War I era. All the crowned heads of Europe came to mourn him, virtually every non-reigning royal heir to a throne, from Portugal to Russia came, the Emperor of Japan came, the Empress of Iran, the Crown Princes of Nepal, Morocco, Jordan and Thailand came and most surprising of all, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom came. The British monarch, as most royal watchers know, almost never attends such events on the continent. It is by now a well established tradition that the British monarch will send a representative but never go in person to a royal funeral or wedding or other such event. There had also, it must be said, been a bit of bad blood between the two families over British treatment of King Baudouin’s father, King Leopold III and King Baudouin had not attended the funeral of the Queen’s father King George VI. Yet, when it was time to mourn King Baudouin, Queen Elizabeth II broke with the usual procedure to be there. It is only my opinion, but I cannot help but think that this immense showing of monarchs at the funeral of King Baudouin was a sign of monarchs supporting one of their own for standing up to the political class, even, perhaps, if some disagreed with his reasons for doing so.

In short, if the political climate changes, I think we will see a change in royal attitudes as well. The important thing is not to concede to the revolutionaries and allow them to turn you away from your own country, your own people, your own hereditary chieftains. Do not despise them but rather charge to their rescue to liberate them from their captors. Be involved, be engaged, do not get lost in the weeds, do not make the perfect the enemy of the good but never be satisfied. The rot is currently extensive but things will never be restored if the rot is not first stopped. We must be stubborn, we must say, “no farther” and fight for what is left even if it is only the bare bones. We must be as farsighted and unrelenting as the enemy has been. Follow the example of St Joan of Arc who was loyal to a monarch who was not always perfectly loyal to her. In the end, she was vindicated, her cause prevailed and France was restored to the French. If we can all have at least as much courage and determination as that teenage girl, we can be triumphant as well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sailor of Monarchy: Admiral Luigi Longanesi-Cattani

One of the most prominent Italian submarine commanders of World War II was Captain Luigi Longanesi-Cattani. Born in Bagnacavallo, in the province of Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna on May 4, 1908, he attended the naval academy at Livorno, graduated and began his career as an undersea naval officer on the submarine Marcantonio Bragadin. Later, he was posted to Italian East Africa on the submarine Benedetto Brin. He was serving as commander of the Benedetto Brin, one of the Brin-class of submarines, in Taranto when the Kingdom of Italy entered World War II. His was then the only boat of his submarine squadron, the rest being on service in the Red Sea when war broke out. He served in the Mediterranean and earned the Cross of War for Valor after successfully saving his boat from an Allied air attack. In October of 1940 he was ordered to make the perilous journey through the Straits of Gibraltar to Bordeaux, home base of the Italian submarines operating in the North Atlantic.

The submarine Benedetto Brin
Longanesi-Cattani crossed Gibraltar on November 4 but, upon surfacing, was surprised by two British destroyers which immediately opened fire. Thanks to his quick thinking, Longanesi-Cattani and his boat survived and escaped but he was forced to put in at Tangiers for repairs. Earlier that summer, Tangiers had been occupied by Spanish troops and, after the Brin was joined by another submarine, the Spanish were able to shield the Italians from the British destroyers. After a period of frenzied repairs, as well as a great deal of play-acting to fool British spies, both submarines were able to slip out of Tangiers in December and arrive in Bordeaux a few days later. For this little adventure, Captain Longanesi-Cattani was awarded his first Bronze Medal for Military Valor. However, that was not his only achievement. While on route to Bordeaux, Longanesi-Cattani happened upon the British submarine HMS Tuna. The British mistook the Italian sub for one of their own and there was an exchange of signals before they realized they were in the presence of the enemy. The British sub fired one full salvo of six torpedoes followed by another of four torpedoes but, though extremely close, the Brin avoided them and fired two torpedoes of their own. These missed as well, though fire from the Italian deck gun did appear to hit the British sub, both survived the encounter.

Longanesi-Cattani meeting the admiral on his return
Once arriving in Bordeaux, it took some time to repair the Brin and fully restore it to fighting shape after the ordeal it went through on the way there. Everything was finally in order for a proper war patrol in the summer of 1941 and on June 13, 1941 Longanesi-Cattani and his men participated in an attack on Allied convoy. It was a great success with the Brin, in only about fifteen minutes, sinking two merchant ships (one a Greek vessel and the other a French ship in use by the British) as well as damaging two more. For this achievement, Longanesi-Cattani was awarded the Silver Medal for Military Valor as well as the German Iron Cross second class. The commander of all German submarines and all Axis submarines in the Atlantic, Admiral Karl Doenitz met with Captain Luigi Longanesi-Cattani and the two became good friends. However, little more than a month later he was ordered to return to Italy, making the dangerous passage in front of Gibraltar again, but arriving safely in Naples with several victory pennants flying.

The captain on the Leonardo da Vinci
On October 6, 1941 Longanesi-Cattani was given a new command, the Marconi-class submarine Leonardo da Vinci, which would be the most successful Italian submarine of the war. He returned to France but was soon sent on something of a ‘refresher course’ in the latest submarine warfare tactics in what is now the Polish city of Gdynia, at the time part of Germany. Once completed, he took his boat to hunt in the waters around the Azores but soon had to turn back due to mechanical problems, even being forced to pass on attacking an Allied convoy a couple of days later. Still, his service was further recognized by promotion to lieutenant commander in December. In January of 1942, while on patrol northeast of the West Indies, Longanesi-Cattani had better luck, sinking a Brazilian ship by torpedo attack and two days later a Latvian ship with a combination of torpedoes and gunfire. Upon returning to port, he received a second Silver Medal for this.

By this time, pressure was being placed on Brazil to join the war and with Allied convoys in the North Atlantic so heavily guarded, it was correctly thought that the Brazilian shipping lanes would offer greater opportunities for the larger Axis submarines such as the Italian boats and the German Type-IX’s that had sufficient range to operate in the South Atlantic. Longanesi-Cattani was sent in and patrolled off the coast of Brazil but was later diverted to the African coast. On June 2, 1942 he sank a large schooner with his deck gun, the Reine Marie Stuart, and a few days later sank the British ship Chile with a single torpedo. On June 10 he successfully torpedoed the Dutch ship Alioth (also with gunfire which was not uncommon for Italian submarines since their torpedoes were not as effective as the German magnetic type) and later another steamer, the Clan McQuarrie. Longanesi-Cattani had become an “ace” sub skipper, sinking more than five ships and returned to port to receive another Silver Medal and the Iron Cross first class from his German ally. After a job well done, in August he was ordered back to Italy for a new assignment, his boat to be given to Gianfranco Gazzana-Priaroggia who would gain fame as Italy’s most successful submarine commander.

Longanesi-Cattani on the bridge
All in all, Captain Luigi Longanesi-Cattani had, during his participation in the Battle of the Atlantic, sunk eight Allied merchant ships for a total of 34,439 tons of Allied shipping destroyed. Once back home, he was given what seemed to have been an even more critical assignment, being attached to the elite Xth Flotilla MAS, which was rather like the special forces branch of the Italian submarine fleet. These were the men who launched attacks on ships in heavily guarded enemy ports using “human torpedoes” or mini-subs and it was intended that Longanesi-Cattani would command a special team of CB-class midget submarines in operations against the Soviets in the Black Sea. However, that assignment never came to be. Instead, he was attached to the command of the zealous Fascist and overall X Flotilla MAS commander Prince Junio Valerio Borghese, aka “the Black Prince” and was to command the submarine Murena for a special mission against an Allied pipeline that was under construction. However, before that could get underway, the entire Italian war effort was thrown into confusion by the dismissal of Mussolini by King Vittorio Emanuele III and his replacement by a new government led by Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio.

Prince Borghese
The military had no warning about this and Marshal Badoglio announced publicly that he would be continuing the war alongside the Germans (in reality, he immediately began trying to secretly arrange an armistice with the Allies). Longanesi-Cattani put aside his personal views and remained committed to his duty and carried on preparing his submarine for the attack on the pipeline at Gibraltar. Everything was just about in order when Marshal Badoglio announced an armistice with the Allies and ordered all Italian forces to cease hostilities. Longanesi-Cattani had been at sea performing tests when this happened and learned of it only after returning to port. Like many, he was shocked and rather bewildered by this abrupt change. He almost had to sink his own boat until the last-minute intervention of Prince Borghese had the order revoked. Many Italian soldiers, sailors and airmen were torn by this sudden turn of events. Prince Borghese gathered his men and asked who among them would stay with him to carry on the fight against the Allies alongside Germany. Most agreed and Longanesi-Cattani decided to as well but only after being assured by Borghese that this would not compromise his oath of loyalty to the King of Italy.

Princess Irene and Princess Anne
During the confusion of the armistice period, Longanesi-Cattani was dispatched to Florence to protect the family of Prince Aimone, nominal King of Croatia. The Prince’s wife, Princess Irene of Greece & Denmark, who was heavily pregnant and her sister-in-law Princess Anne of Orleans, Duchess of Aosta, were there. The veteran submariner was there, watching over the family in Florence, when Prince Amedeo the current Duke of Aosta was born on September 27, 1943. He was also there when, only a few days earlier, the Italian Social Republic was proclaimed, formed by Mussolini at the insistence of Hitler, and that was a deal breaker for Captain Longanesi-Cattani. He refused to break his oath of loyalty to the King of Italy, which came before all else for him, and immediately wrote to Prince Borghese informing him of this. He also wrote to the republican Secretary of the Navy, Captain Feruccio Ferrini, handing in his resignation. This was a major risk for him as he was trapped in northern Italy which had been occupied by the Germans and were taking into custody anyone who opposed the Italian Social Republic. Regardless, his loyalty to the King was all that mattered and he willingly surrendered himself to the authorities and, along with Princess Irene and Princess Anne, was sent to the concentration camp at Hirschegg near Innsbruck, Austria on July 26, 1944.

The camp was eventually liberated by American troops and, as King Umberto II of Italy had, upon going into exile after the farcical referendum, released everyone from their oath of loyalty, Captain Longanesi-Cattani returned to duty with the navy of the new Italian republic, eventually rising to the rank of Squadron Admiral. His only other prominent part in a public issue was sitting on the commission of inquiry into the former commander of the BETASOM Italian submarine base in Bordeaux during the war, Captain Enzo Grossi, where Longanesi-Cattani had served. Captain Grossi was ultimately cleared. After a lifetime of service to his country, including becoming one of the top Italian submarine commanders of World War II and earning four Silver Medals, two Bronze Medals, the War Cross from the King of Italy and the first and second classes of the Iron Cross from Germany, Admiral Luigi Longanesi-Cattani died in Rome on March 12, 1991.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Word on "Bloody" Mary

It was on this day in 1553 that Queen Mary I of England, eldest child of King Henry VIII, had her coronation as "Queen of England, Ireland and France". She came to the throne in a rather jubilant atmosphere as the vast majority never regarded the Lady Jane Grey as legitimate in any way and her brief bid for power only lasted a little more than a week. However, since her death, Queen Mary I has been vilified to the extent that even all these centuries later she is still known as "Bloody Mary". This is really unfortunate as, despite her reputation, Queen Mary I was not a cruel or heartless woman. She was, rather, a perhaps overly zealous woman, more concerned with principle than politics and an early case of what happens when your enemies write your popular biography.

It is also unfortunate that the case of Queen Mary I is often, to this day, seen through a partisan, religious, glass. The truth is that the Tudor period was a time of intense religious zeal in Christendom and neither Catholics nor Protestants were particularly tolerant of each other. Queen Mary herself had been persecuted, not tortured by any means but certainly persecuted, for her adherence to Catholicism and her refusal to change and embrace Protestantism. Yet, her villainous reputation stems entirely from the fact that she had several hundred Protestants burned alive during her rather short reign for heresy. That is true and by modern standards it is horrific but there are a few facts people should keep in mind before being too harsh towards Queen Mary (and that includes many Catholics who blame her for the failure of their cause in England).

Queen Mary I actually began her reign with a very tolerant attitude toward those who had tried to prevent her from taking the throne, those who had persecuted her mother and the most adamant Protestants of the Church of England. It was only after this attitude of reconciliation was not returned that she likewise became more intolerant. Though often blamed, her husband King Philip II of Spain, actually urged against taking repressive measures, for political reasons of his own. It is also true that Queen Mary had fewer Protestants put to death for their religion than either her father before her or her younger sister after her would have Catholics put to death for their faith, the caveat being that Queen Mary I reigned for only a few years while Henry VIII and Elizabeth I reigned for a much longer period of time. All the same, most of those who were put to death would have or could have justly been put to death anyway for treason but the Queen decided to put them to death for heresy, by burning, rather than for treason which called for a slower and more gruesome means of execution.

Despite her reputation, Queen Mary I was not cruel or heartless. She had a very soft spot for her younger brother and predecessor King Edward VI, though he was raised a radical Protestant and, despite some frustrations, could never bring herself to be too harsh toward her younger sister Elizabeth. She was very fond of children, likely all the more so since she was never able to have any of her own, and would visit the homes of humble common people and always give money to the mothers of small children, who she invariably fussed over. Her ladies-in-waiting and all those who knew her best and spent the most time with invariably described her as kind, considerate and compassionate. It was only that, on the subject of religion, she would not bend to what was expedient. She was a firm believer that the Catholic Church was the only true church and, as such, the humane thing to do was to stamp out heresy ruthlessly so that more souls would not be lured away from the path of righteousness. She inflicted nothing on any Protestant that she would not have been willing to endure herself if the roles were reversed.

Most today would certainly regard what she did as unspeakably cruel and this is not the place to argue over that but the point is that the Queen herself certainly did not see it so. The last evidence of that is in the manner of her death. Her final hours show a woman with a clear conscience who did not dread the judgement of the Almighty. In stark contrast to her more beloved sister, Queen Elizabeth I, who died in agony, tormented by terrifying visions, Queen Mary I died calmly, peacefully, with visions of angelic children playing around her. She was a zealous woman but she was not an evil woman or a heartless woman and should not be portrayed as such.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Knights of St Stephen of Tuscany

In the old days of Christendom, there were religious military orders subject to the Roman Pontiff, such as the Templars, as well as religious military orders subject to a particular dynastic house. One of these was the Order of St Stephen of the Italian Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Officially, the “Holy Military Order of St Stephen Pope and Martyr”, it was founded on October 1, 1561 by the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’ Medici with the permission of Pope Pius IV. This could be seen as part of the normalization of the transition in Tuscany to monarchy, away from the city-state Republic of Florence, taking on more of the trappings associated with monarchy as Florence became the seat of power of a hereditary Grand Duke rather than a republican leadership. The order was named for Pope St Stephen the Martyr because his feast day (August 2) corresponded with the victories that Grand Duke Cosimo had won at the Battle of Montemurlo (August 2, 1537) against republican insurgents who wanted to restore the Florentine republic and the Battle of Marciano (August 2, 1554) in which the Medici grand duke had conquered the city-state Republic of Siena.

Cosimo I
Grand Duke Cosimo had actually been trying to establish such an order for some time and more than one attempt was thwarted by Church opposition, largely for political reasons which was typical of the period in which Italy was divided among feuding states. That, however, finally changed with the reign of Pope Pius IV who was a Medici. The primary purpose of the order was to combat the Islamic pirates who were raiding the Mediterranean at will and who had increasingly threatened the Tyrrhenian Sea where Grand Duke Cosimo had built a new, modern port at Livorno. He also wished to demonstrate his support for the cause of Christendom and to unite his people, including the more recently conquered regions such as Siena and Pisa, against a common, non-Italian and non-Christian enemy. The Grand Duke also hoped it would add prestige to his newly established grand duchy, standing alongside other dynastic orders and adding fame to the name of Tuscany and the House of Medici for fighting on the front-lines against the forces harassing Christendom.

Based on the religious rule of St Benedict, the order took as its symbol a red eight-point cross on a white background, incorporating the red and white colors of Florence, with a heraldic lily flower in between the arms of the cross, again using a symbol associated with Florence as well as that of the House of Medici due to their ties with the Royal House of France. Grand Duke Cosimo served as the first Grand Master of the order and, as it was a dynastic order, this would be passed on to every subsequent Grand Duke of Tuscany. The headquarters of the order were originally in Portoferraio but later moved permanently to the city of Pisa where one can still find the magnificent Palazzo dei Cavalieri and the church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri. The knights focused primarily on coastal defense but also took the fight to the enemy in cooperation with larger allies. The first of three, broad “campaigns” that the Knights of St Stephen fought was done in cooperation with the Spanish in their fight against the Ottoman Turks in the Mediterranean.

One of the order's war galleys
The Knights of St Stephen, with their own war galleys, fought alongside the Spanish (and other allied Italian states) at the siege of Malta in 1565 and the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. They also participated in the attack and capture of Annaba in Algeria in 1607 under Admiral Jacopo Inghirami in which the city was devastated. This phase in their campaigning was, such as at Malta and Lepanto, defensive and focused on stopping major Turkish offensives against southern Italy. However, once that was done, low level harassment on the part of Turkish and, more often, Barbary pirates remained a problem and the Order of St Stephen focused its second campaign on dealing with this problem. They also concentrated on areas closer to home with raids on the Turkish-held islands of the Aegean as well as launching attacks on Islamic forces in Dalmatia, Negroponte and the island of Corfu. These were successful enough that offensive military operations by the Knights of St Stephen decreased, their last major campaign, coming around the year 1640, during the reign of Grand Duke Ferdinand II, focused on coastal defense and aiding the Republic of Venice in their on-going struggle against the Ottoman Empire.

Ferdinand III
The year 1719 saw the last time that the Order of St Stephen was used in combat by Grand Duke Cosimo III. Later, in 1737, a major change came when the House of Medici was supplanted by the Austrian dynasty of Hapsburg-Lorraine. The second Hapsburg grand duke, Peter Leopold I, formally ended the military aspect of the order and reorganized it as an order that would focus on education for the elites of Tuscany. It became more a feature of social status and no longer an order focused on war and military defense. The Order of St Stephen lost its fighting capacity under the Hapsburgs but things soon became even worse. In 1791 Emperor Leopold II abdicated the throne of Tuscany in favor of his son Ferdinand III who has the dubious distinction of being the first monarch to recognize the revolutionary First French Republic. However, that was not enough to save him. French expansion continued and the Austrians eventually agreed to hand over control of northern Italy to the French Republic in exchange for half of the territory of neutral Venice. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was occupied by the French, the Grand Duke was forced to abdicate and the Order of St Stephen was suppressed.

Leopold II
Thankfully, that situation did not endure. In due time Napoleon was defeated and the Grand Duke of Tuscany was put back in his place in 1814 and, the following year, the Order of St Stephen was restored. It was, however, restored in its reformed form, not a military order but became more of a sign of favor with the grand ducal family. The French experience also seemed to have an affect on the Italian populace as so many years of division, feuding and foreign rule or foreign occupation prompted the growth and spread of a new Italian nationalism. It was an unfortunate period for the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, who were good men of good motives and intentions but their natural inclination to support their Austrian relatives was not matched by their subjects and many deserted the forces of Tuscany to join the Piedmontese and the Italian national movement in fighting to expel the Austrians from Italian soil. Grand Duke Leopold II, a noble and tragic figure, made the mistake of so many of his contemporaries in granting constitutional government, only to later revoke it and he was forced to abdicate. Grand Duke Ferdinando IV, his successor, ruled for only about a year before he too was forced out in 1859 by the Italian nationalists. In 1860 Tuscany was formally annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.

Neither the Kingdom of Italy nor the current Italian republic officially recognize the Order of St Stephen, though it does still exist but as a purely private organization under the leadership of the Hapsburg-Lorraine heirs of the former grand duchy. Prince Sigismund, Archduke of Austria, is the current Grand Master and the order is considered, by the Catholic Church, as a “public association of the faithful” with historic papal foundations. The Knights of Malta still recognize it but membership is extremely limited, mostly to close friends and family. One must have extensive documented proof of aristocratic ancestry to even be considered for membership and the costs required, as with most such orders today, ensure that only quite wealthy people could ever hope to be invited. Nonetheless, what exists today is a valuable reminder of what a glorious and formidable military-religious order the Knights of St Stephen once were and one can still see their educational facility and naval war college in Pisa, a testament to their past as one of the major forces on the front lines of defending Christendom in the Mediterranean area.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monarch Profile: King Willem I of the Netherlands

It is no exaggeration to say that the reign of King Willem I of the Kingdom of the United Netherlands was the culmination of centuries of struggle, climaxed by the most critical conflict since the Dutch won their independence from Spain and which would remain the most critical until World War II was thrust upon them with the German blitzkrieg in May of 1940. From the start of the Dutch fight for freedom, that fight had been led by the Princes of Orange and, as founded, the independent Netherlands had been a republic but a republic which reserved a special place of leadership for the Princes of Orange. However, a more strident republican faction had emerged that sought to exclude the House of Orange from any position of influence. In response, a royalist faction rose up to counter them, often called the Orange party for the Orange sashes they often wore to show their support for their prince. As the republican faction strove to make the Netherlands more puritanically republican, so too did the Orange party move to do away with republican concessions and make the Prince of Orange their king.

Princes Willem & Frederik
Willem Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Orange-Nassau, was born in The Hague on August 24, 1772 to Prince Willem V of Orange and Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia. The internal struggle that had long troubled the Netherlands was still going strong at the time of his birth, not long before the forces of revolution began to sweep across the western world. In America, British colonists rose in revolt and declared the independence of the United States. Prince Willem V favored the British but the Dutch government allied with the Americans and declared war on Britain. That conflict was eventually settled but a more serious problem arose with the growth of a much more radical revolutionary movement in France. The Dutch republicans saw the French revolutionaries as their natural allies and rose up in a rebellion known as the “Patriot revolt” which was suppressed with help from the Prussians in 1787. Prince Willem and his brother Frederick were both given an education that stressed military matters, both eventually attending a military academy in Brunswick.

While on a visit to Berlin he met Princess Friederike Luise Wilhelmine of Prussia, his cousin, and the two were married in 1791. After finishing his education, the Hereditary Prince was made a general in the Dutch army by his father and given a seat on the Council of State of the Dutch republic. Not long after, the Dutch republicans were to learn that the kinship they felt with the French revolutionaries was not returned when the French National Convention declared war on the Dutch republic in 1793. Prince Willem was given command of the Dutch ‘mobile army’ to meet the attacking French and he was soon leading his troops alongside the armies of other powers in the Flanders campaign. It was hard fighting and the Prince tasted both victory and defeat such as when he captured Landrecies and was later smashed along with his allies at the Battle of Fleurus in 1794. Still, he made enough of a favorable impression that the Emperor Francis II gave him command of the Austrian forces in the region, to be grouped with his own though, in the end, the huge advantage in numbers possessed by the French revolutionaries with their campaign of mass conscription, proved impossible to overcome.

Willem, Prince of Orange
In 1795 Prince Willem V was forced to leave the Netherlands and go into exile in Britain, taking his sons with him as the French and their Dutch republican collaborators proclaimed the birth of the Batavian Republic, effectively a French puppet state. Prince Willem wanted to strike back immediately but his Prussian relatives vetoed the idea but he returned nonetheless in 1799 in an effort to spark a loyalist counter-revolution in cooperation with a joint Anglo-Russian invasion. The whole affair was a fiasco, though much of the navy and some Dutch soldiers did defect to join their prince. These men were formed into the King’s Dutch Brigade which later saw action in Ireland. When the British made peace with the French “First Consul”, Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1802 the cause of the Dutch loyalists seemed lost. Prince Willem felt betrayed by the British, who also went on to conquer a number of far flung Dutch colonies such as the Cape colony in South Africa and Ceylon in the Indian Ocean. Embittered, the Prince left England for Germany.

However, in 1806 Napoleon invaded the German states, the same year that Willem V died and his son officially became Prince Willem VI of Orange, and the Prince fought alongside his Prussian relatives against the French as a divisional commander of the Prussian army at the Battle of Jena. However, the Prussians were defeated and the Prince was forced to surrender the next day. He was given his parole, forced to promise not to fight against the French any more and was granted a pension from France as his country was a vassal of the government in Paris. However, he had no intention of keeping his word to the French and when the Austrian Empire went to war with France, he quickly joined their ranks and was wounded at the Battle of Wagram while serving on the staff of the Austrian commander Archduke Charles. Later, he received a great boost from Czar Alexander I of Russia who promised to help restore Dutch independence and make the Prince of Orange king. Prussia and Britain were both expected to agree. After the defeat of Napoleon at Leipzig, an Orange restoration seemed imminent.

By 1813, republicanism had been hugely reduced in the Netherlands, mostly thanks to the French. After promoting himself to Emperor, Napoleon had abolished the Batavian Republic and recreated the country as a satellite state called the Kingdom of Holland with his brother Louis as monarch. As it happened, King Louis proved rather popular and seemed to take his position seriously and clashed with his brother when French and Dutch interests collided. Napoleon would have none of that and so he sacked his brother and simply annexed the Netherlands to the French Empire. This turned the Dutch completely against the French and Napoleon’s constant wars and increasing demands for more money, more men, more resources brought about a very anti-French attitude amongst practically the entire Dutch population. The period of French rule made everyone long for the return of the Prince of Orange and the idea of a Dutch monarchy was more popular than it had ever been before.

The return of the Prince of Orange
On November 30, 1813 a British warship landed the Prince of Orange at Scheveningen, almost exactly the spot where he had left the country eighteen years before and the local provisional government immediately offered him the title of king. Humbly, the Prince of Orange refused, at least for the time being, calling himself “Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands” and, knowing well enough that the years of French prattle about the “Rights of Man” had to be taken into account, called for “a wise constitution”. He knew what he was doing and would end up in a far stronger position than any of his ancestors could have dreamed of. A new constitution was drawn up but it was a constitution that made Willem an all but absolute monarch. With the agreement of the Emperor in Vienna, he was made Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) and in exchange for the Duchy of Nassau, who he gave to Prussia, he was made Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The allies had all agreed that it was best to have all the Low Countries united under one reliable monarch as a bulwark against any future French offensive into central Europe.

King Willem I inspects the army in the 100 Days Campaign
With the allies gathered at the Council of Vienna, and Napoleon escaping his exile to return to power in France, it was unanimously decided to regularize the situation in the Low Countries by making the “Sovereign Prince” King Willem I of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, covering all of the Dutch and Belgian lands as well as Luxembourg. He was proclaimed king on March 16, 1815 and with French troops marching into Belgium, King Willem I’s son and heir, the Prince of Orange, was made a corps commander in the allies army that definitively defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. It was the hour of triumph for the new King Willem I who had achieved more for his house and country than any would have thought possible. He was practically an absolute monarch over all of the Low Countries with the support of all the major powers, his greatest enemy was defeated and tributes poured in from abroad. The King of Spain awarded him the Order of the Golden Fleece, the King of Great Britain sent him the Order of the Garter, it was as though all of the wildest dreams of the old Orange party had come true at last.

However, there were problems. The Belgians had hoped to gain their own independence from the wars with France and many were not happy about being subject to a Dutch king. Though his son was popular there, King Willem I was not. The Belgians complained of being underrepresented in the new Dutch government. They resented the King pushing everyone to adopt the Dutch language as, in those days, not only did the Walloon population of Belgium speak only French but the elite, the educated and the businessmen of Flanders spoke French as well. The Belgians were also solidly Catholic and they also resented the special favor shown by their Protestant monarch to the Dutch Reformed Church. This is all, of course, completely understandable just as it is understandable that King Willem I wished to have all parts of his kingdom united, wanting one people, one language, one religion under one monarch. It might not have been so bad if Belgian expectations had not been raised previously. It also did not help that the policies which benefited the Dutch population of traders, bankers and businessmen were often less than helpful to the farmers and laborers of Belgium.

King Willem I
In the summer of 1830 the Belgians rose up in revolt, soon declaring the independence of the Kingdom of Belgium and looking around for a monarch of their own. King Willem I responded by sending his sons with the Dutch army to put down the rebellion. The Prince of Orange was quite popular in Belgium, particularly Flanders where the Orange party existed in a new form but whereas the Prince was open to reconciliation, his father was not. King Willem I wanted all rebellion suppressed by force, the ringleaders made example of and that to be an end to it. In a short campaign the Royal Dutch Army was quite successful at scattering the rag-tag Belgian civilian-soldiers. However, when the French King Louis Philippe threatened to intervene, the Dutch were forced to pull back. Pressure was applied by the French, British and Germans to get King Willem I to agree and, failing that, they simply recognized the Kingdom of Belgium anyway. The Dutch army held on for a time in the fortress-port of Antwerp but they were besieged by the French Royal Army and in time were forced to concede and recognize Belgian independence.

This was a particularly bitter pill for King Willem I to swallow as he had been so very proud of his “United Kingdom of the Netherlands” which, after the separation of Belgium, became instead the Kingdom of the Netherlands as it is today though still with the personal union with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Dutch liberals also took advantage of the opportunity that came with amending the constitution to take into account the loss of Belgium to diminish the King’s powers. It was not an immense change but it did mean that the King could no longer do as he pleased entirely and King Willem I was outraged by this. He was also facing mounting anger over his private life as, since the death of his wife in 1837 (after giving him two sons and two daughters) he had taken up with a countess who, to the outrage of the Dutch public, was a Catholic and a Belgian. He wished to marry her but it was clear the Dutch people would not stand for such a thing. So, with King Willem I refusing to accept the constitutional changes, his people refusing to accept his choice of wife and lingering resentment over the loss of Belgium, King Willem I started the tradition of Dutch monarchs abdicating when he gave up his throne on October 7, 1840.

The former king, to make room for his more popular son, left the country for the Kingdom of Prussia, using the title Count of Nassau. He married his beloved Belgian countess and she took good care of him for the rest of his life, which was not long. He died in Berlin in 1843 at the age of 71. The care his wife, Countess Henrietta d’Oultremont, showed to him even softened the hearts of the Dutch government sufficiently for them to grant her a pension and a castle near Aachen, though not enough to have her buried along with her husband and other Dutch royals when she passed away in 1864. So, in the end, King Willem I of the Netherlands had left his country on a less than happy note. He had fought the French for years to regain his country and his triumph in becoming the first King of the Netherlands was the culmination of many, many years of struggle for the House of Orange and their supporters. Yet, the subsequent losses he had to face were more than he could accept. Nonetheless, his reign had still been the most successful of any of his dynasty and his victory gave us the Kingdom of the Netherlands that still exists today.

Looking back at King Willem I, everyone would agree that he was a pivotal figure in Dutch history. Born into the Dutch republic, he presided over the creation of the Dutch kingdom. Today he tends to be viewed though, rather unfairly, in a critical light as a rigid man with a noticeably authoritarian streak. That is not, in itself, that unfair but it should be seen in context. Had he been a little less rigid the Kingdom of the Netherlands might not exist today. He was a man of great tenacity, who was unrelenting in his fight to restore his house and the independence of his country, making common cause with anyone who would help make that dream a reality. It is certainly understandable why the Belgians would have been unhappy with him but subsequent history can also be seen as something of a vindication of his policy given how bitterly divided Belgium has become as a bi-lingual country. In his opposition to the constitutional modifications, it is true that his loss of power was not a great one (real changes in that regard would come under his son) but one must remember the background of King Willem I. He had seen much of and learned even more about all the strife in his country when, as a republic, power was shared with the princes of Orange and he did not want to simply go from being a republic with a prince to a kingdom with a president. He had fought long and hard to finally make good on his family’s dynastic dream to become king and as king, he intended to rule. Willem I may be criticized for that today, but for him to have done otherwise would, for someone like him, seemed a complete betrayal of everything he had spent his life fighting to achieve and all the struggles of generations of his ancestors as well. History should be more kind to him.
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