Monday, June 30, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Starting where we left off last week, a new poll in Spain found that ¾ of Spaniards want HM King Felipe VI to play a greater roll in politics and would like to see him more active in pushing the parties to cooperate and come to agreements. That is definitely encouraging news, however, I have the feeling the numbers would change drastically if the parties came together on policies unpopular with the masses -and sometimes what is needed is not what is popular. The new royal couple met with members of the Social Solidarity Association at the Royal Palace in Madrid and reviewed the Spanish armed forces. In a move that will cheer some and outrage others, Felipe VI became the first King of Spain to meet officially with members of the LGBT community. Certainly a move that will not be well received by traditionalists but it should be kept in mind this was in the context of a mass-meeting with 350 NGOs. At this point, what can you really say about it? When Pope Frank says, “Who am I to judge?” it seems hard to be very critical of the King of Spain in such an instance. The group certainly has a more favorable view of Queen Letizia than of her predecessor Queen Sofia who made known her opposition to “gay marriage”. When pressed about this, Queen Letizia refrained from any criticism, saying her mother-in-law is “a woman of her time”. You know, there were days when time was not the determining factor -faith was. In other news, the litigious persecution of HRH Infanta Cristina continues with a judge concluding a 2-year investigation by saying that charges should be brought and the Princess and her husband summoned to court again. A top anti-corruption prosecutor slammed the ruling on the rather significant basis that, in the two years of investigations, absolutely no evidence has been found that the Infanta is guilty of anything. Obviously, biased and publicity-hungry litigators are determined to drag this out for as long as possible.

Moving north, in the Principality of Monaco the mother-to-be Princess Charlene has started to show some visible signs of her maternity at recent public engagements. The Sovereign Prince said that they were “thrilled” and “overjoyed” to learn that a baby was on the way for the Grimaldi dynasty. In other baby-related news, the Princely Family was gathered in full force at the royal chapel in the Princely Palace for the baptism of Raphael, son of Charlotte Casiraghi and Gad Elmaleh. What I have not seen in any of the coverage is exactly what the name of the little bundle is. Raphael…what? The couple are not married and have not given many clues that they intend to change that so is he Raphael Casiraghi or Raphael Elmaleh or what? Perhaps some reader in the know will enlighten me on that score. Anyway, all the best to the new little Christian (with the background of the father I wasn’t entirely sure there would be a christening) and pretty much the whole family was there, the Sovereign Prince and Princess, grandmother Princess Caroline, Andrea, Pierre and their significant others, little Princess Alexandra of Hanover (though she is looking quite grown up these days) and Princess Stephanie and her three children. There were, of course, also members of Gad’s family present but I prefer not to think about him more than is absolutely necessary. Moving on!

There was plenty of pomp and pageantry on display in Luxembourg last week as the Grand Duchy celebrated its National Day, which was on Monday, in honor of the birthday of the Grand Duke. The family was out in full force, there was a military parade, receptions, a Te Deum at Notre Dame Cathedral, a nice fireworks display and all the rest of it. At the Te Deum the Archbishop of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Hollerich said, “That the cathedral is so full, is a sign, that the Luxembourg people stand by you, Monseigneur, and your family,” he told the Grand duke. “You are the symbol and guarantor of our freedom.” A Jewish rabbi, Muslim imam and Anglican vicar also offered prayers at the service because we’re all very multicultural these days. Further events in the low countries included the King of the Belgians meeting with their recently victorious football (soccer for the Americans) team the “Red Devils” and there was a royal visit by the King and Queen of the Netherlands to Poland (probably talking about how much they dislike Russia).

For northern Europe, Prince Harry was not around, going on a tour of Chile and Brazil. He also, apparently, said that his nephew Prince George looks like Winston Churchill. Sure, but what chubby little baby *doesn’t* look like Churchill? That’s an easy one. The Countess of Wessex helped the Brownies celebrate the 100th birthday of their organization and HM the Queen visited Northern Ireland, touring the set of “Game of Thrones” and, most distastefully for this monarchist, touring a Belfast jail with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness acting as guide. Would I criticize the Queen for such a thing? Never, rather I would salute her for having the dignity and self-control to endure such a situation arranged for the sake of fostering peace and reconciliation or some such pretty phrases. Later, the Queen hosted military veterans at a special garden party (much better company that) and in another display of the superiority of the private over the public, the Crown Estate (the Queen’s own property) was appraised at a value of £10 billion, up 15% from last year and generating £267 million in revenue for the Treasury since the Queen hands over most of the profits from her estates to the government in return for an allowance (the Civil List). It makes one wonder what a land of prosperity the UK might be if the Queen were in charge of the economy rather than the politicians. It also came out last week that the Prince of Wales lobbied the former regime of little Tony Blair to expand grammar schools which the Labour government had effectively declared war on. Too bad he was not listened to.

The biggest news in royal Scandinavia this week was certainly the engagement of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden to longtime girlfriend Sofia Hellqvist, former reality TV star and “glamour model” (don’t let the name fool you, she got naked folks -all kinds of nekkid!) and this was something I did not think was going to happen. Perhaps it was wishful thinking but I was convinced Sofia was just a phase Prince Carl Philip was going through and, in time, he would settle on someone more suitable. I’m sure about every guy has had some girl like that in his past (mine was named Samantha) who is like a terrible craving but who is definitely a “bad girl”, not the kind you could bring home to mother and so you move on and hopefully become a little more mature. Then again, sometimes you don’t. I don’t want to be too critical (I’m going to but I don’t really want to) and maybe Sofia is a perfectly lovely person, I’m sure she’s very nice and all that and, true, with the trendy new succession law in place it is not as though she is likely to ever be more than a princess by marriage but, but … really? It reminds me of that underwear model that Crown Prince Frederick had the red hots for but Queen Daisy (I love Queen Daisy ever so much) said that in no uncertain terms would a woman with photos of herself parading around in her knickers *ever* be Queen of Denmark and matriarch of the oldest monarchy in Europe. Not. Going. To. Happen. Crown Prince Freddie got over it and married his Australian bride who is now beloved on two continents. But then, Sweden is not Denmark, Prince Carl Philip is not (any longer) heir to the throne and, as I desperately try to find a bright side to this, I can sincerely say that I’m no more distressed by this than the marriage of Princess Madeleine to a New York investment banker. At least someone from the world of reality TV is open and honest about being a total sell-out. Anyway, I do wish them the best, and I mean that sincerely, his choice is made and I hope nothing but the best for them and every Swede should pray God that they have a long life of wedded bliss together. It just seems we’ve come down awfully fast from fellow royals or at least high aristocracy to reality TV stars who’ve bared it all for the cameras.

And finally, saving the “best” for the last in a week that seemed chocked full of stories designed to get on my last nerve, we have the news on this anniversary last week of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife that Bosnian Serbs have put up a monument to the double-murderer Gavrilo Princip in East Sarajevo. This…this is so despicable I barely have words to describe it. I have tried to find some way to illustrate this -monstrosity- to just your average person on the street and really nothing can compare but I did come up with something. Americans certainly will be aware of the name of Charlie Manson and probably many foreign readers will have heard of him as well. He is quite possibly the most notorious criminal in US custody today (aside from terrorists or people like that). Charlie is infamous all over the world for being behind the gruesome Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969. Now, can you imagine a group of diehard environmentalist nut-jobs putting up a statue of Charlie Manson in Los Angeles? Such a thing would be unthinkable! Yet, putting up a statue of Gavrilo Princip is far, far worse. Think about it for a moment; Charlie, lest we forget, didn’t actually kill anyone himself. Gavrilo Princip did, he killed two innocent people, a loving husband and wife, orphaning their three children. Charlie was convicted for being responsible for the murders on the grounds of being part of the conspiracy, in other words, he caused the deaths of seven people even though he did not actually take part in the killings. Gavrilo Princip, with his double murder, caused the deaths of tens of millions of people even though he took no part in the actual war.

I have tried to put on my “Fox News fair & balanced” hat to look at this and there is just no way on God’s green earth that Gavrilo Princip can be seen in any sort of favorable light. Even for Serbian nationalists, why not a statue of one of the multitude of stalwart, courageous, long-suffering Serbian soldiers who fought day after day against the combined might of Austria-Hungary and Germany instead of a man whose only claim to fame is shooting down an unarmed man and woman? This also brought to mind a former post on the effort by Korean Catholic bishops to have an assassin canonized as a saint, go back and have a look at that article for my thoughts on the subject, they will be much the same as this, only, again, Gavrilo Princip is far worse (and having just had a look back at the article, I see one reader brought up this very comparison). He started a World War and sure, Serbia was lucky enough to come out on the winning side and gain all the territory it wanted, becoming Yugoslavia but Princip was long dead by that time and he was certainly no prophet. What if things hadn’t ended that way? What if Russia had refused to get involved and Serbia was just conquered by the Austrians and absorbed completely into the “Dual-Empire”? His despicable act might just as easily have brought about the total elimination of Serbia from the map. Finally, on one last note to all Serbian nationalists tempted to view Princip favorably; remember that it is exactly this same sort of attitude that has allowed Kosovo to be taken away from you. Think about it.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Today in Austrian Imperial History

It was on this day in 1914 that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were assassinated by the Serbian terrorist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia when he was in town for military maneuvers of the Imperial & Royal Army. Princip was part of a gang of conspirators armed and trained by elements within the Serbian military which wished to provoke a war in the hope of creating a "Greater Serbia". It was the spark that ignited the powder keg of alliances, bringing about the First World War. Before it was all over, fighting would reach all across Europe, the Middle East, parts of Africa, Asia and all the oceans of the world, bringing down the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. The institution of monarchy would never be the same again.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Monarch Profile: Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide of Luxembourg

One of the most dramatic and moving true stories to come out of World War I is a story that is not very well known. Amongst the monarchs of the Great War most people know about the tragic downfall of the Czar of Russia and his family, the heroic resistance of the King of the Belgians and the villainous portrayal of the German Kaiser. Many more than in the past also now know about the Austrian Emperor who tried to make peace. Yet, how many know the story of the first female monarch of Luxembourg who lost her throne and almost brought down the monarchy with her as a result of the First World War? It is a rather surprising story from start to finish and perhaps nothing is more surprising than the fact that more people do not know about it. True enough, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is one of those very small European countries that attracts little attention. However, it has had a pivotal place in European history for centuries with many declaring that the possession of the fortress of Luxembourg determined who ruled the continent and the effort of France to annex Luxembourg in 1867 almost brought about the Franco-Prussian War three years early. It has long been vital and, in the wake of World War I and the reign of Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide, it came close to disappearing from the map or at the very least becoming something totally alien to the Luxembourg of today.

Her Grand Ducal Highness Marie Adelaide Therese Hilda Wilhelmine was born on June 14, 1894 in Berg Castle in central Luxembourg to Grand Duke Guillaume IV and his Grand Duchess Marie Anne of Portugal. She was the eldest of six children, all of them girls, which was somewhat problematic for a country under Salic law. In fact, the House of Nassau had taken the throne of Luxembourg from the Dutch House of Orange, detaching it from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, not very long before specifically because the Salic law in Luxembourg would not permit the Grand Duchy to be ruled by a woman; Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Initially, there was no resume to suppose that a son would not be born eventually, however, after the birth of her fifth little sister in 1902 it became clear that something would have to be done. Either the law would have to be changed or there would be a succession crisis that could, possibly, have disrupted the peace of Europe. The last thing anyone wanted was to see France and Germany start fighting over Luxembourg. So, the law was changed and on July 10, 1907 the 13-year-old Princess Marie-Adelaide was declared heir presumptive to the Grand Ducal throne.

All too soon, the Princess was face to face with destiny. On February 25, 1912 her father died and at the age of 17 Marie-Adelaide became the first reigning Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and the first Luxembourgish monarch born on native soil since Count John the Blind in 1296. The seemingly fragile girl, with her delicate beauty, was naturally charming and it helped that, for the moment, she had her mother to help her along as regent until the Grand Duchess turned 18 the following year. Her mother, a Portuguese Infanta born in Germany due to the ousting of her father King Manuel I, was only too familiar with what was necessary in a monarch. She was also responsible for the deeply held Catholic faith of the young Grand Duchess. The minority of the new monarch was soon over and on her birthday in 1912 the Luxembourgish Prime Minister, Auguste Laval, administered her oath of office amidst a respectful and happy atmosphere.

Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide, from the beginning, even at so young and age, made it clear at her inauguration that she would be an active monarch and also showed how much the values of her family and her religion she held to. Her first speech contained many sentiments that people even today will find familiar. She said, “It is my desire to judge according to the requirements of justice and equity which will inspire all of my acts. The law and general interest will only guide me. Is judging fairly not just equal justice for all, but a protective justice for the poor and weak. The growing economic inequality between men is the greatest worry of our age. Social peace, no matter how ardently desired, remains to this day an elusive ideal. Is it not necessary to work on reconciliation and solidarity?” Alas, before her reign was over, it would seem that many of her subjects had forgotten those compassionate and heartfelt words from their Grand Duchess. And, just to further show how seriously she took her faith and her authority as monarch, she refused assent to a bill on her first day “on the job” that would have minimized the role of the clergy in education. She would be an active monarch, a devoutly Catholic monarch and, it should perhaps be most emphasized, a patriotic monarch.

Her words were timely as there were grumblings of social discontent in the little country that only a few years before had been described as rather delightfully dull. A London periodical on world affairs described the events of 1910 in Luxembourg as, “Nothing worth registering happened in this happiest of all countries”. Very soon, however, the hushed rumblings of grievances were drowned out by the growing tensions between France and Germany as well as, increasingly, most of the Great Powers of Europe. Then came the earth shattering events of 1914. In Sarajevo the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, a threatened war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary entangled Germany, Russia and France. The German plan for fighting a two front war called for an invasion of the Low Countries to take the French Republic in a strategic flank. This move was modified so as to avoid invading the Netherlands but Belgium and Luxembourg would not be so fortunate. The neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg became a “scrap of paper” and it was no great secret that the Germans intended to violate it. The German government itself stated that they had broken no law for, “necessity knows no law”.

On August 2, 1914 the grey-green columns of the Imperial German Army began to march toward the borders of Luxembourg. Today, many people know of the calm and courageous leadership of King Albert I who took command of the Belgian army to wage a hopeless defense of his country against the Teutonic juggernaut. The monarch of Luxembourg, on the other hand, had far less than even the Belgians could muster in their small but determined army. Nonetheless, Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide decided to meet the foe herself. In a dramatic move, she raced to the Luxembourg frontier and parked her car crossway in the middle of the road to block the way of the German forces. She also sent an urgent radio message to German Kaiser Wilhelm II, warning him that he would, “sacrifice the honor of Germany” if his forces violated the neutrality and sovereignty of Luxembourg. To make sure it was known that Luxembourg was not a willing accomplice of this violation she also sent a copy of the message to King George V in London. None of it, of course, could stop the German advance and Luxembourg was occupied on the first day and would remain under German control for the duration of the war.

In fact, Luxembourg became the command center of the Central Powers war effort as not long after Kaiser Wilhelm II established his headquarters in the Grand Duchy. It was an unfortunate situation but it had happened and there was nothing the Grand Duchess could do about it. Luxembourg was at the mercy of the Germans, so the Grand Duchess endeavored to make the best of a bad situation. She received the German Kaiser with all due courtesy and ensured that little to no animosity was displayed between them. Later on, the Grand Duchess would be viciously attacked because of this, but of course to have done otherwise would have only made a bad situation worse. There was also a very real danger of Luxembourg losing its independence entirely as most German planners envisioned the Grand Duchy being annexed to the German Empire in the event of a Central Powers victory. With her charm and consideration, it is also often forgotten, the Grand Duchess also prevailed upon the German Kaiser to commute the death sentences of a number of French, Belgian and Luxembourgish nationals who had been accused of anti-German activity. Many people owed Marie-Adelaide their lives.

Nonetheless, elements in the government became increasingly upset with her for a number of reasons, the war often simply providing a popular excuse to oppose the Grand Duchess for other reasons. Leftist parties, for example, had long been disgruntled by her active involvement in the governing of Luxembourg, some even going so far as to accuse her of having launched a royal coup. The fact that she championed many causes which they claimed to support made no difference to them. Using the war as an excuse became easier the longer it dragged on as Luxembourg undeniably suffered a great deal, not simply from the occupation but from the devastating impact of the Allied blockade as well (probably most of all but, of course, it wouldn’t do to complain about that when the war was over and the Allies stood victorious). One incident enemies of the monarchy seized on was a visit by the Grand Duchess to King Ludwig III of Bavaria in June of 1917. This, combined with what they termed to be royal “interference” in politics was the professed justification for the leader of the coalition government of Luxembourg to resign. What no one seemed to care about was the personal and perfectly innocent reasons the Grand Duchess had for visiting the Bavarian Royal Family.

The fact was that there was a burgeoning romance between the younger sister of the Grand Duchess, Princess Antonia of Luxembourg, and the widowed heir to the Bavarian throne Crown Prince Rupprecht, who happened to be commander of an army group on the western front and a field marshal. In fact, the two became engaged in 1918 and Princess Antonia of Luxembourg became the last Crown Princess of Bavaria. The fact that “the heart has its reasons”, that a marriage between two Catholic royal houses like Bavaria and Luxembourg was perfectly natural and that the Bavarian Crown Prince was a fine man and a humane, upstanding officer was shrugged off. It was all portrayed in the most negative way possible and the worst of the blame was heaped on the monarch Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide who was practically made out to be a traitor, giving aid and comfort to the enemy when in fact, all she had actually done was to be courteous and civil and actually saved a number of lives in the process and probably made life easier for her subjects. It can be easily imagined that the occupation could have been made much more painful if the Grand Duchess had been openly antagonistic toward the Germans. It might also be mentioned that no one knew how it would turn out and if the Central Powers had been victorious the very existence of Luxembourg as a sovereign state might have depended on the good graces of men like the German Kaiser or the support of the King of Bavaria.

Again, much of this was likely phony outrage by people who were enemies of the Grand Duchess for political reasons. As it turned out, Luxembourg seemed to be almost in as much peril as a result of the Allied victory. The French Foreign Minister accused her of having compromised herself with the enemies of France and there was some talk of France annexing Luxembourg. Others also gave serious consideration to the idea of handing Luxembourg over to the Kingdom of Belgium. The simmering situation boiled over as soon as peace came to Europe and the Grand Duchess seemed beset by enemies. She was cruelly and most unjustly vilified as being some sort of a collaborator when, of course, no one had been more opposed to the German invasion and occupation than she had been. Still, the enemies of the monarchy did their work well and soon there was a growing republican movement in the country which only a few years before would have been positively unthinkable. A growing number of the people also voiced support for some sort of closer association with France or Belgium. In fact, in 1922 Luxembourg did enter into an economic union with Belgium. The French government encouraged such disorder by refusing to have anything to do with Luxembourg, calling the government of the Grand Duchess “gravely compromised”.

It was an astonishing position to be in. Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide had been the first and most forceful to act when Luxembourg was faced with an invader. That she did not stop them on her own, with her one automobile, is hardly something to condemn her for; Luxembourg was simply not capable of resisting. Since resistance would have been futile and would have certainly brought about only greater suffering, the Grand Duchess adapted to the situation and did the best she could for her people and her country. She had also broken no laws and despite the complaints of her “meddling” in politics, she had never once violated the constitution or overstepped her authority in any way. However, republicans are nothing if not irrational and they raised an increasing fervor against their monarch until at one point the French Republic seized on the disorder to send in troops to occupy the country yet again. On January 9 the situation deteriorated to the extent that socialist leaders openly declared a republic. The dynasty was hanging by a thread. With great sadness, the pious and kind-hearted Grand Duchess finally felt she had no choice but to step aside in the hope of preserving the monarchy and so, on January 14, 1919, she abdicated in favor of her sister Charlotte.

Ultimately, there was a vote on whether Luxembourg should become a republic in September of 1919 and by an 80% margin the public chose to keep their monarchy and the new Grand Duchess Charlotte. That the electoral victory was so large is a clue as to just how trumped up all the vitriol against Marie-Adelaide and the monarchy had been in the first place. After her abdication, Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide went to Italy and entered a convent, being known as Sister Marie of the Poor. However, despite being only 24 years-old at the time of her abdication, her health was rapidly failing and she was eventually forced to leave the convent so as not to be a burden on the other sisters. She went to live in Bavaria with her sister, by then Crown Princess Antonia of Bavaria (though the Bavarian monarchy had been abolished of course) and it was there that she died of influenza in 1924 before she had even reached the age of 30.

Happily, the monarchy in Luxembourg has endured with Grand Duchess Charlotte seeing it through another World War and another period of German occupation, though she went into a temporary exile in London, and today the monarchy in Luxembourg is secure and quite popular. Nonetheless, what happened to Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide was a gross injustice. It was, at least, not as tragic as the fate suffered by the Romanovs, but it was a despicable outrage nonetheless. Never had the monarchy of Luxembourg come so close to falling and it was all based on monstrous falsehoods and malicious insinuations. Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide deserves to be better known and indeed honored as a caring, devoted and engaged monarch, a kind and sincerely Christian young woman -for such she was and as such she should be remembered.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Bonaparte Crusader

Few people, even, or perhaps especially, monarchists would think of a Bonaparte as a religious crusader. Napoleon Bonaparte supported the violently anti-clerical French Revolution and though he ultimately made his peace with the Church, none could forget that he had looted Rome, annexed the Papal States and even took the Pope prisoner at one point. Devout Catholic monarchists were always among his most bitter of enemies. Yet, his nephew and eventual successor, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, eventually Emperor Napoleon III, had a reign which, on the face of it, would suggest to the casual viewer of history the character of a champion of Catholicism. Is this a case of appearances being deceiving? On the other hand, the Catholic Church has a history of strange relationships with those regarded as her most ardent defenders. Two men widely regarded as Catholic champions were Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and his son King Philip II of Spain. Both actually waged war against the Pope, the Emperor inadvertently unleashing the most savage and vicious brutalization of the city of Rome that ancient city has ever experienced. Emperor Napoleon III never did such a thing, in fact causing himself considerable trouble by his commitment to defending the Pope. Yet, Napoleon III remains less than highly regarded in virtually any of the wide variety of Catholic circles.

The reasons for this odd relationship owe something to the man himself, the Bonaparte president who made himself “Emperor of the French” as well as to the times in which he lived, his family name, which was both a blessing and a curse, and the changes in the nature of Catholic sentiment from what it had been in centuries past. What is undeniable is that Napoleon III did many things in the name of defending Catholicism and it is just as evident that it did him little good personally. Certainly, his past plays a part in his public image. Early on, no one would have taken Louis Napoleon Bonaparte to be a future protector of the Catholic Church. He joined a revolutionary secret society in Italy that made him a wanted criminal by both the Papal government and that of the Austrian Empire. His life-long goal, of course, was a return to political power in France for the Bonaparte name and in that he did manage to put himself alongside many Catholics. They may not have been in favor of the same thing but they were opposed to the same thing; the popular monarchy of King Louis-Philippe. Eventually, after numerous failures and exiles, Louis was successful in rising to power in the wake of the downfall of the last King to reign over France and he became President of the Second French Republic.

Almost immediately, the “Prince-President” as he was known, came charging to the rescue of the temporal power of the Catholic Church. In the Revolutions of 1848 radicals led by Giuseppe Mazzini had driven Pope Pius IX from the Eternal City and declared the birth of the Roman Republic. The French government sent troops to wipe out this new regime and, of course, increase French influence in Italy as well. However, as they marched on Rome they were defeated by the veteran Italian guerilla fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi. Louis Napoleon sent reinforcements and the Roman Republic was crushed in a second attack. From that time until the end of his rule, French troops would remain in Rome to suppress dissent and uphold the political power of Pope Pius IX. This earned Louis-Napoleon some popularity with French Catholics. However, while approving of his actions, not all approved of him and particularly worrying was the large presence of Catholic French monarchists in the international volunteer army Pope Pius IX assembled to defend the political power of the papacy. For those men, who were obviously ardent Catholics and just as ardent legitimist French monarchists, Napoleon III was a usurper who they would never respect or support regardless of what his policies happened to be.

Napoleon III & Eugenie
However, after managing to become President-for-life and finally Emperor as Napoleon III, Louis took a step that added greatly to the Catholic character of his empire. He married the very devout, conservative and lovely Spanish countess Eugenie de Montijo. For the rest of his reign, Empress Eugenie could be counted on to always argue in favor of Catholic causes and rushing to the rescue whenever the Church was imperiled. Napoleon III was usually persuaded to oblige but, it seems safe to suppose, perhaps not always with the purest of motives. As early as 1853 the Emperor took France into a major and costly war ostensibly on the grounds of defending the rights of Catholics in the Holy Land, which was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, in response to demands from Czar Nicholas I of Russia for greater rights for Orthodox Christians. In truth, of course, the war was more about Britain and France trying to prevent Russian expansion into the Balkans as well as holding off the possible collapse of the Ottoman Empire for fear of the destabilizing effects that would have (surely an unrealistic concern…) but, officially, it was portrayed in the French press as Napoleon III defending the Catholics of the Holy Land against Eastern Orthodox efforts to dominate them. The war was hard and the war was bloody but, fortunately for Napoleon III, it ended in an Allied victory and the Russian Empire being forced to sue for peace.

French attack on DaNang
Not long after, Napoleon III initiated the first of what would be several interventions in East Asia when, in 1858, he joined the British in an expedition into China. Here, the initial pretext was the murder of a French priest and a general unpleasantness for Christians in China. However, again, there was also the ulterior motive of opening up Chinese markets to French trade. French influence in China would also, ultimately, be tied to French involvement in Indochina, starting with Vietnam. Here again, the first involvement came about in response to the persecution of Catholic missionaries. Of course, there was much more to it than that. France had originally made an alliance with the Nguyen Dynasty in the reign of King Louis XVI. However, due to domestic unrest at home, France never supplied the assistance the King had promised but still tried to collect payment (in privileges and territory) from the “Great South”. However, subsequent Vietnamese monarchs tried to keep their distance from the French and draw closer to China. Emperors Minh Mang, Thieu Tri and Tu Duc tried to discourage missionary activity by expelling French priests and threatening to execute Catholics. Some were but the most dramatic threats were never followed through on and were issued mostly in an effort to frighten foreigners into staying away. That tactic did not work, nor did the effort to carry out anti-foreign policies at times when France seemed to be distracted by events elsewhere.

French attack on Saigon
Empress Eugenie was always quick to urge her husband to take action whenever Catholics were in danger around the world. It is also true that the French navy had a high proportion of very conservative, Catholic officers and they were able to take action on their own authority being so far removed from the government in Paris. They, like Napoleon III, were also concerned about France falling behind Britain in the race to gain control of Asian territories. Ultimately, again, the persecution of Catholics prompted French naval forces to take action and in 1858 they bombarded and captured the coastal city of Danang. Napoleon III sent in reinforcements and an undeclared war was underway. French forces suffered heavily from heat and tropical diseases as well as fierce Vietnamese resistance. Despite their technological superiority, the Vietnamese forces may have been able to prevail with the aid of their inhospitable climate were it not for the outbreak of a revolt in the north that forced Emperor Tu Duc to come to terms with France in order to prevent the possible overthrow of the dynasty. In 1859 French forces occupied Saigon and Cochinchina, the extreme south of Vietnam, became a French colony. In time, all of Indochina would come under French control.

French land in Beyrouth, Lebanon
New opportunities for Napoleon to act as the champion of the Catholic Church came quickly. In what is now Lebanon, then part of the vaguely defined region of Syria within the Ottoman Empire, Maronite Christians came under vicious attack by radical Islamic elements. The Middle East had a special place in the historical memory of France and for the Bonapartes in particular due to the victories there by the first Napoleon. The song “Departing for Syria” had been written by the Emperor’s mother and had become a sort of unofficial national anthem for the Second French Empire. To the applause of French Catholics, Napoleon III sent about 7,000 soldiers to Lebanon in 1860 and 1861, putting a stop to the violence against the Maronites and obtaining from the Ottoman Sultan the right to appoint a Christian governor for the region (who was subject to the approval of the Sultan of course). In less than a year the French troops were withdrawn and Napoleon III could congratulate himself on a rather neat and successful intervention which had increased French influence in the near east and won him praise (if not lasting, heartfelt support) from Catholics in France. His next foreign adventure would not end so well.

French officers in Mexico
For some time there had been growing concern over events in Mexico. A bitter civil war ended with the radical, anti-clerical Benito Juarez becoming President and defaulting on all foreign debts. The Catholic Church lost all special privileges, Church property was seized and the Mexican government attempted to take total control of the Catholic Church in Mexico. Empress Eugenie took a special interest in this case and urged her husband to do something. Many powerful bankers also wanted some action that would see them paid the money owed them. Ordinarily, the United States would have prevented anyone from intervening in Mexico (other than themselves of course) but as a civil war was raging north of the Rio Grande there was nothing that the Lincoln administration could do but issue threats and condemnations. In 1862 Napoleon III joined with the British and Spanish in a joint expedition to enforce the payment of debts from Mexico. After some rushed promises, Britain and Spain withdrew but France did not and after an early setback at the Battle of Puebla, Napoleon III sent in more troops and the French were everywhere victorious. Mexico City was taken, a Catholic conservative junta was established and in 1864 the Archduke Maximilian of Austria was crowned Emperor of Mexico. More victories followed and soon the government-on-the-run of Juarez was on the verge of total defeat and collapse.

The Prince-Regent of Korea
Everything seemed to be going well but then, in the spring of 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was forced to surrender and the American Civil War soon came to an end. The United States sent a curt ultimatum to France: pull out or we will force you out. War weariness had been growing at home and a dejected Emperor ordered French forces to withdraw from Mexico. At about the same time, there was another episode, again on behalf of the Catholic Church, that caused Napoleon III some serious embarrassment. In 1866 the Prince-Regent and father of the King of Korea launched a surprise campaign to eliminate western elements in his country and had about 10,000 Catholics massacred, Korean converts and French missionaries. This was combined in the minds of the French naval officers in the region with further persecutions in China. As the Chinese had dominated Korea off and on for about a thousand years, the French thought that retribution against one would also send a message to the other. Admiral Pierre Gustave Roze led a naval force and about 600 French marines to punish Korea for this and threatened to conquer the whole kingdom for the French Empire. This was mostly an empty threat as, without considerable reinforcements from France, Roze could obviously not conquer anything with his one squadron and a few hundred marines. As it happened, they were overwhelmed by about 10,000 Korean troops and were forced to retreat after doing relatively little damage.

Empress Eugenie as 'Queen of Asia'
Some demanded a more serious expedition to bring serious retaliation against Korea but with the deteriorating situation in Mexico, Napoleon III considered further action to be out of the question. By the following year the Mexican Empire had collapsed and Napoleon III faced more criticism, being blamed for abandoning the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian to a republican firing squad. In the years that followed, France also came under increasing threat from the rising power of the Kingdom of Prussia which was rallying all the German states north of Austria behind its leadership. Napoleon III hoped that the Catholic German states of the south would take the side of France or at least remain neutral rather than ally with the Protestant Kingdom of Prussia but that hope was a vain one. The French Emperor still had one heavy price to pay for his policy of acting as the defender of the Pope and the Catholic Church. With France under threat and Austria having just been humbled in a short war with Prussia, there was a plan to form an alliance to contain Prussian expansion. However, the Austrian Empire was worried about the newly formed Kingdom of Italy taking advantage of any conflict to reclaim Italian territory still under Austrian control. The Austrians would not agree to any alliance with France unless the Italians joined in as well to ensure that they would not act independently or take the other side.

French light infantry in Rome
At first, this seemed to be no problem. King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy had been an ally of Napoleon before and was fully prepared to take part in such an alliance. There was just one problem and that was the continued presence of French troops on Italian soil, the garrison that remained in Rome to maintain papal rule of the city. The nationalist Italians wanted all foreign troops out of Italy and wanted no part of an alliance with France until those forces were gone. Napoleon III knew that he would face an immediate outcry from French Catholics if he withdrew his army, especially after having maintained them there for so long. He simply could not do it and so the hoped for alliance never came to be. Without Italy, Austria would not move and so France stood along against Prussia and her German allies. The result was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 which saw the Second French Empire crushed and Napoleon III forced to abdicate and go into exile. So, we return to our original question; was Emperor Napoleon III a champion of Catholicism and should he be remembered as such?

"Apotheosis of Napoleon"
To some adherents of the Bonaparte legacy he may well be and, as we have seen, they have a considerable number of facts to support such a claim. If one is to look at who took action, who took risks and who plain and simply ‘did something’ to protect the Catholic Church and Catholics around the world, Napoleon III certainly deserves some credit for that because he did. However, it can also be said with justification that he might have done the right thing for the wrong reasons. In every case there was invariably some ulterior motive to the imperial foreign policy besides an altruistic effort to protect Catholicism. Yet, has that not almost always been the case anyway? Very rarely does any government do something for one reason and one reason only. What makes it perhaps even more interesting that, whatever his other reasons for doing so, Napoleon III so frequently took action to defend the Catholic Church is the conclusion that it ultimately did him little to no good at least as far as his own career and his objective of firmly establishing the Bonaparte dynasty in France was concerned. A cynical look at the basic facts and political realities would cause not a few to conclude that Napoleon was wrong to have risked anything or gone to any pains to help the Church at all. The fact that he did may, perhaps, have been the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of French Catholics.

Napoleon III at Sedan
Most really devout French Catholics who were serious about religion and about defending the Church and particularly the power of the Pope were, as mentioned earlier, staunch monarchists and the most zealous were the legitimist monarchists in particular. They might still fight for France in spite of Napoleon (and some did) but they were never going to accept him. Napoleon III was never going to win these people over no matter what his policies did. Even if he had stepped in front of an assassins bullet and gave his life for the Pope it would not change the fact that he was a Bonaparte and would never have any legitimacy to rule over France in the eyes of the legitimists. Certainly there were some Catholics who did support Napoleon III and many more that were prepared to accept him and at least not oppose him but his policies in regard to the Church probably won him more enemies on the left than they did friends on the Catholic right. Most monarchists never regarded him as anything more than a usurper and were it not for the bitter feud between French royalists it is possible he would have never come to power in the first place.

The legacy that was not
Was Napoleon III a Catholic champion? He certainly did a great deal on behalf of the Church and Catholics around the world that the leader of no other major power did. He did it with ulterior motives in most every case but that was nothing really new. It was also always hard to regard his actions as totally sincere given his radical, revolutionary youth, particularly when seen in combination with his ulterior motives. There was also the tendency to view any effort undertaken on behalf of the Church to be credited to Empress Eugenie rather than Napoleon III. Whether his actions won him favor in the eyes of God is something known only in eternity. For the world in which he lived, Napoleon III was faced with the fact that, at the end of the day, his greatest strength was his greatest weakness. He had risen to power on his name and his connection to his famous uncle. If he had not been a Bonaparte he would have likely died in obscurity. However, that very name alone probably meant that he would never be seen as a great hero to most devout Catholics. He may have done a great deal for the Church around the world, but for French royalists, as much as they might have approved of what he did, he was still not the man that should have been doing it and nothing could change that. In purely political terms, for his empire and the future of his dynasty, what Napoleon III did for the Church ended up gaining him nothing and in some ways costing him a great deal.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Canada Lost a Good One

This is somewhat old news, but there is quite a distance between the land of the Lone Star and the land of the Maple Leaf. I was quite distressed to see that Canadian journalist, author and all around super-cool babe Brigitte Pellerin decided in April to exit the public stage and avoid politics from now on. A tweet posted on April 15 said, “I give up. I will not comment on, or get interested in, public affairs anymore” and her personal website had basically the same message, commenting also on how she has “been disgusted by the state of Canadian politics for a very long time” and that she just doesn’t have the energy to go on arguing for smaller, more limited government anymore. This is a terrible loss for Canada in my opinion as I have been very impressed by this remarkable lady ever since she first came to my attention. On the political front, I should make clear, she is a solid conservative, not a raving reactionary lunatic like yours truly but if there were more people with her opinions Canada would be much the better for it.

She has long stood up for traditional values, has been a long-time pro-life advocate and first came across my radar for speaking up against the Quebec separatists removing the Canadian flag from the upper chamber of the legislature. In the course of that report she also mentioned how these politicians disrespect the Canadian monarchy by crossing their fingers or mumbling the words of the oath of loyalty to the Queen while of course having no problem taking salary from Her Majesty. She also mentioned, in that report, that if the Quebecois dislike the Maple Leaf, Canada should bring back the Red Ensign. That made me an instant Brigitte Pellerin fan and I am very disappointed that her voice will no longer be heard. It is Canada’s loss without question. However, her husband is still staying in the fight. He is columnist and commentator John Robson who Canadian readers will probably know and who can be seen on Sun Media (various outlets) and on his blog “I Want My Country Back”. Still, quite sad to see Brigitte Pellerin throw in the towel. It is perfectly understandable but that is one less voice of reason in the national discourse in Her Majesty’s Dominion of Canada.

Robson’s Blog
http://iwantmycountryback.ca/ 
Organization co-founded by Brigitte Pellerin
http://www.prowomanprolife.org/
_________________________________________________________________________________

Personal Aside:
As unfortunate as I think it is that Brigitte Pellerin has removed herself from the public discourse in Canada, I can certainly understand where she is coming from. I have had the feeling myself that it is more frustration than it is worth, a feeling recently given considerable reinforcement. Republican attacks with their idiotic leftist arguments are easy to handle but what is discouraging is the feeling of having to fight both at the front and in the rear with so-called monarchists of the “holier than thou apostate”. Rather than working on taking back what has been lost, they are content to toss it all overboard and just wait for some savior to deliver them and force everyone else in society to submit to their ideal (and none have the same vision of what that ideal would be, making the impossible even less possible -if that’s possible). Republican outrage comes with the territory when one is a monarchist. That I can take, their worldview is fundamentally different from my own. What is harder to take is those who call themselves monarchists but do not actually support any monarchy that still exists today and then even tell me that I am not sufficiently monarchist *because* I support the few remaining monarchies in the world. If this makes sense to them, it certainly does not make sense to me. In a recent conversation with my friend and cohort the Alberta Royalist, he told me that if I had put as much time and energy into promoting communism as I have monarchism I probably would have been given the Order of Lenin by now (or some such thing) instead of the constant string of annoyances from people claiming to be monarchists while not actually supporting any existing monarchy.

I have been actively involved in defending and promoting monarchy for about fifteen years now and it can be very disheartening and some of the things I have been through would probably put anybody off (being reported to the FBI as a spy, being threatened with a lawsuit by someone claiming the Prince of Monaco was paying me to slander him, having several years worth of work stolen and claimed by others etc) and there are times when I have asked myself, “Why do I bother?” I don’t gain anything from any of this. I could be living the good life of a leisurely country gentlemen, buzzing around the ranch keeping an eye on the livestock and oil and gas wells, reading books, catching up on my favorite shows and shooting cute, little fury animals (just to be evil of course) instead of plugging away at a computer day after day, trying to defend monarchy when it seems many so-called monarchists do not see them as being worth defending while republicans still consider them to be worth attacking. That has always been a key point for me, which it seems many do not see the same way, that for all the whining about modern kingdoms being no different than republics, the republicans still think so and still want the monarchies to disappear entirely. “Monarchists” look at a modern monarch and see a ceremonial figurehead with no power who is not worth defending. Republicans see a living reminder of a history and heritage they hate and despise and which must be wiped from public view and recognition entirely. 

Sometimes I do ask, “why bother” and the idea of disengaging has become more and more tempting. So, I may say, “I give up” as well, though my convictions will certainly never change, but if and when I do, it will be because of people calling themselves monarchists, not because of people calling themselves republicans.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Thanks to the Duke of Bavaria

I mean that sincerely. I wish a thousand appreciations to HRH Duke Franz of Bavaria. Why, you may ask? Because with the recent focus on Spain, the abdication of King Juan Carlos and the installation of His Majesty King Felipe VI the neo-Carlist republicans have been coming out of the wood work in the last few days doing their best to help bring about a Third Spanish Republic. I had to ask myself why these pretended legitimists are such a bigger pain than the neo-Jacobites out there (and they are out there, at least on the web) and the only conclusion I can come to is that the neo-Carlist republicans have a pretender to rally to and the neo-Jacobites do not because Duke Franz, God bless him, nor any of his predecessors going back to Bonnie Prince Charlie ever tried to claim to be the King of England, Scotland, Ireland and France. The neo-Carlist republicans, on the other hand, have Prince Sixte-Henri de Bourbon-Parma as their figurehead and I can only assume that is why they are so much more active in causing problems and trying to kill monarchism in Spain forever. So, on behalf of every actual monarchist and loyal monarchists across the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Realms (if I may be so bold), thank you Duke Franz, thank you from the bottom of my heart and I do pray God that you one day be restored to your rightful throne (as King of Bavaria).

Some, undoubtedly, will accuse me of being intentionally antagonistic by referring to the neo-Carlists as republicans. In the first place, I have no problem with that considering how antagonistic they have been recently and secondly, I say that because that is exactly what they are. Spain has a monarchy, they do not support it. They have nowhere near enough support to bring about any of the sort of changes they want, so by opposing the monarchy they are actively assisting in the creation of another republic. They are hurting the cause of monarchy and helping the cause of the republic, hence they are republicans whether they are honest enough to admit it or not. There is also no way on God’s green earth they could be called legitimists. The neo-Jacobites may or may not be republicans depending on their attitude to the British monarchy but that they are legitimists no one can deny. In the French royalist community the legitimist royalists are legitimists without question. The neo-Carlists, on the other hand, are nothing of the sort. In this area, again, they are republicans. This should be quite obvious by the very person of their royal front-man Prince Sixte-Henri. He has absolutely no legitimate claim on the Spanish throne at all. Period. He is leader of the neo-Carlists solely because he proved more popular than his brother Prince Carlos Hugo, who himself had no legitimate claim either.

The true Carlists of history came into being officially because of a legal dispute but also because they really did not like the wife of King Fernando VII who would be regent on behalf of his young daughter Queen Isabella II. In truth, both sides had some tradition on their side. As a legal matter, the Carlists were completely correct, King Fernando VII had not acted according to the law in the way in which he named his daughter as his successor. What is a bit ironic is that the Carlists were the ones who favored an absolute monarchy while the forces of the Queen Mother Maria Christina favored constitutional monarchy and it was the fact that Fernando VII was the last absolute monarch of Spain that made him think he could just do as he pleased and make his daughter his successor rather than his brother. As far as tradition goes, the Carlists were fighting to uphold the traditional Salic Law which did not allow a woman (or in this case girl) to become monarch under any circumstances. On the other hand, this had only been the tradition since the House of Bourbon replaced the House of Hapsburg in Spain which had died out. The earlier tradition in Spain allowed for female monarchs though males still had preference.

However, in an effort to gain greater support, the Carlists decided that while they were very attached to the Bourbon tradition of Salic Law, they were not so attached to the Bourbon tradition of centralizing power and so they denounced this and thus attracted a great deal of support from the regions that resented the loss of their old privileges to the government in Madrid. So, they were traditional in some ways, not so traditional in others but that they were legitimists no one could deny. That remained the case up until the time of HRH Infante Alfonso Carlos, Duke of San Jaime. He was the last male-line descendant of the original Carlist pretender the Count of Molina (Carlos V to his supporters) and after his death the senior male descendant of King Carlos IV (the last monarch before Fernando VII and all the trouble) would be the (by then deposed) King Alfonso XIII of the rival line. So, it was at that point that the Carlists ceased being legitimists because if they had, they would have embraced King Alfonso XIII and then his son Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona, his son King Juan Carlos I and his son King Felipe VI and we would not be having any of this fuss today. Instead, however, they abandoned bloodline legitimacy in favor of ideological popularity and Infante Alfonso Carlos (again, breaking the very laws the Carlist rebellion originally started over, only more so) determined that he could decide who would be his rightful successor and he chose the nephew of his wife, Prince Xavier of Bourbon-Parma.

Things really came to pieces during that time with the Carlists being split into a number of factions and that has continued until today with the most prominent faction basically deciding who the “legitimate” heir to the Spanish throne is based on his religious and political opinions, thus it landing on the person of Prince Sixte-Henri who is not even the legitimate heir to the Duchy of Parma to say nothing of the Kingdom of Spain. Infante Alfonso Carlos, the last legitimate heir of the Carlist line, had ordered his adherents to support Generalissimo Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War and they played a considerable part in his success and were a significant force in Spanish politics in the aftermath. However, their breakdown in unity, their abandonment of bloodline legitimacy and so on meant that they lost influence rapidly during the Franco years and have never since been a political force worthy of serious consideration. In recent years, or decades at this point, many (of the faction that did not go the Marxist route) attached themselves to the cause of Catholic groups such as the Society of St Pius X or those that refuse to accept the legitimacy of the Pope, saying that there has been no Pope since Pius XII or John XXIII (there is disagreement on that point). Obviously, it is a mess and even if they all came together they would still not have sufficient support to effect their grandest wishes and as it stands now, their own in-fighting would preclude them from even making a genuine effort at effecting change of any sort.

The problem with these modern-day neo-Carlists is that they manage to be both practical republicans in the present and totally insult the memory of the original Spanish Carlists who were legitimist monarchists at the same time. The fact that they carry on as they do, even in times of crisis for the Kingdom of Spain, is enough to make one speculate that they may be more than just inadvertent republicans, helping the cause of republicanism out of ignorance. They would have to get their own house in order before being able to have any chance of even the slightest effort at an actual political impact in Spain and so far they cannot even agree on which house is their own to start getting it in order. So, they attack and slander the existing and legitimate Spanish Royal Family, adding their voices to all those of the enemies of monarchy while having nothing but an even more godless republic to replace it with and, moreover, while their list of things they oppose grows longer. For example, while remaining staunchly Catholic, they condemn the Spanish monarchy for not being sufficiently Catholic while also condemning the Pope and the leadership of the Catholic Church for not being sufficiently Catholic. Perhaps, then, instead of wishing to change the government, monarchy and entire Royal Family of Spain they should focus first on making the Catholic Church more to their taste and teach and behave the way they think it should and then perhaps their dissatisfaction in Spain will take care of itself, perhaps the existing Royal Family will be given proper instruction and become ideologically acceptable to them. Focusing on one impossible goal at a time might make sense to some people.

Anyway, having probably wasted my time with that last bit there, I want to point out that not everyone, certainly not all Catholics, share this same ignorance and this can be proven by looking to Russia. First, keep in mind that the place in question here is the Russian Empire that was officially and zealously Russian Orthodox and recall that the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches have not gotten along very well for about a thousand years or so. I have read a number of history books written by Catholic authors which deal with the subject of the Russian Revolution. These were extremely partisan books which were not bashful about recounting the history of Catholic-Orthodox relations as being pretty black and white, with the Catholics in the right and the Orthodox in the wrong, one even going so far as to joke (I think?) that the sacking of Constantinople should be a feast day on the Catholic calendar. Now, keeping all that in mind, not one of these books recounted the Russian Revolution as anything other than the horror it was and while some may have had some criticism for the Emperor and Empress, every single one regarded them as good, God-fearing people who died a heroic death at the hands of the worst criminals imaginable.

Why do I point this out (this is a post about modern Carlists that started in Bavaria and has gone to Russia, don’t act so surprised)? Because even though each of these very partisan, Catholic authors would have regarded the ideal as Russia and the rest of the Orthodox world reuniting with Rome while offering their abject apologies and for Russia to become a Catholic empire “eastern style”, they knew that such a thing was not about to happen and that what did happen was that the traditional, religious, God-fearing Russian Orthodox monarchy was replaced by a murderous, godless Bolshevik regime that waged war on the very idea of any religion. In the same way, these same Catholic authors condemned the overthrow of King Charles I of Britain despite the fact that he was a Protestant because what was bound to come after was not going to be a Catholic Britain but a Puritanical one. On the opposite side, I have never come across a Protestant, British monarchist who cheered the French Revolution because it brought down a “Papist” monarchy that did not have a government or a church that they approved of. Would they feel different if the very Catholic and absolute monarchy of France had been replaced with one that was constitutional and Protestant? Perhaps, but that is not what happened and no one would be so great a fool as to think there was any chance of it.

That is the bottom line and that is one major reason why I call these neo-Carlists republicans. There is no more chance of the current Spanish monarchy collapsing and everyone in Spain deciding to make Prince Sixte-Henri of Bourbon-Parma the absolute monarch of a new Spain religiously administered entirely by the Society of St Pius X than there was of the French Revolution turning the country into a Protestant constitutional monarchy or the Bolshevik revolutionaries deciding to turn the Russian Empire into a Catholic monarchy. The odds are absolutely as ridiculously infinitesimal as that. Spain will have the monarchy it has or it will have no monarchy at all. For my part, being a monarchist is simple; I support the monarchy, the monarchy which would be reigning over me if things had gone differently in the past (and perhaps if there had been no series of wars over the succession the Spanish Empire could have been maintained) and I have drawn the line in the sand here. I cannot change the past but I can make a stand in the time and place that I am now and I say that I want no more monarchies to fall. In the world where I live, in the time that I live here, I can say, “no farther, not if I can help it”. It is for that reason that I will not abide or tolerate in any way anyone who does not support the precious few monarchies we still have with us today and why I say ‘thank you’ again to the Duke of Bavaria and why I say sincerely ¡Viva Felipe VI!

(Additional Note: The night before posting this I received two or three confirmations that neo-Jacobite republicans do exist and are indeed adding their voices to the republican mob, so I may have spoken too soon with my praise. I will hope otherwise and in any event still appreciate the Duke, and his predecessors, for having more sense.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Royal News Special Report: The New Reign in Spain

His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain had tears in his eyes on Wednesday when his forty year reign officially came to an end. At the Royal Palace in Madrid, the King signed the official instrument of abdication before embracing his son and heir. The assembled guests and close members of the Royal Family applauded before the Royal March started playing. It was done simply, representing how hastily arranged everything was as the constitution made no provision for a monarch abdicating. Legislation had to be passed after King Juan Carlos announced his intention to abdicate to make everything legal. Further legislation was passed allowing for King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia to retain their titles and their immunity from prosecution. Some media outlets have tried to make a fuss over the latter point but this is Spain we are talking about, a country that seems to have more than its fair share of publicity-hound judges who have ordered all sorts of foreign and domestic people of high profile to appear before them to answer charges. HRH Infanta Cristina can attest to that, as could the late President Pinochet of Chile and, as we mentioned here not long ago, another judge ordered the arrest of former Chinese leaders Jiang Zemin and Li Peng (which of course will never happen). Given that, not to extend the sovereign immunity of King Juan Carlos would be asking for trouble.

Later on there was a poignant moment of “passing the baton” as King Felipe VI donned the official uniform of the Captain-General of the Spanish Armed Forces. He was then assisted by his father who bestowed on him the red sash of this office, following the formal abdication. Not everyone may have appreciated the significance of this event, but I would think most monarchists would. Tradition and ceremony are vital elements of both the military and monarchy and the two institutions have always been very closely linked together. On hand for this ceremony, besides the royal father and son, were Queen Sofia, Queen Letizia, new Princess of the Asturias Leonor and Infanta Sofia, Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo and (I believe) her son Don Felipe. And, speaking of tradition, with the accession of King Felipe VI the Spanish Royal Standards received a makeover. When King Juan Carlos came to the throne a new Royal Standard was adopted that was different from previous designs, being blue with a smaller coat of arms set over a Burgundy Cross in the center. For King Felipe VI the standard has reverted back to the traditional style of a larger coat of arms on a crimson flag (previous royal standards have generally been red or purple) and with that, the other standards of other Royal Family members changed as well since all are basically modifications of the King’s official flag.

Later on Thursday came the formal swearing-in ceremony at the Cortes Generales (Spanish parliament). King Juan Carlos absented himself from the occasion, but Queen Sofia was present, joined by Infanta Elena. King Felipe VI emerged on the platform accompanied by Queen Letizia, Princess Leonor of Asturias (now the youngest heir to the throne) and Infanta Sofia. There was a long applause by those assembled, despite two subtle attempts by the King to signal them to stop. With the ceremonial crown on a nearby cushion, Felipe VI took his oath to uphold the constitution and was then proclaimed King Felipe VI with shouts from the chamber of ‘Long live the King’ and ‘Long live Spain’. The new monarch gave a short speech in which he thanked his father for his long years of service, pledged to have a renewed monarch for new times, promised to listen and to advise and to work for reviving the Spanish economy and creating jobs. He also pledged his support for Spanish unity and ended his remarks by saying thank you in the four regional languages of Spain; Castilian, Basque, Catalan and Galician.

Afterward, the Royal Family made their way to the palace in an open car with the new King standing to wave to the crowds lining the streets. It was quite a display of military pageantry, particularly the cuirassiers with their shining breastplates and helmets with long horse-hair manes escorting the Royal Family. As they pulled into the palace the Royal March was played again and artillery fired a thunderous salute. Once back inside, all came out on the balcony to greet the public, this time with King Juan Carlos joining in. The immediate Royal Family had some time on their own and King Felipe VI also had some time on the balcony alone, just himself and his subjects together. To make sure that there were no disruptions to make the country look bad at a time when world attention was focused on Spain, a special law banned all republican symbols though, alas, only temporarily as people must always be free to espouse the cause of treason (at least in monarchies it seems). It was a great day for Spain, a day of transition but also of stability and continuation. Everyone present seemed genuinely happy, for their country and for the monarchy. It was not lost on everyone present that Spain is a diverse country and for those who do not wish to see their country broken up into a collection of small, petty-republics, the monarchy provides an invaluable source of unity if the people choose to avail themselves of it and not make the mistake (again) of throwing it away.

There was also, from what I was able to see, no focus on King Juan Carlos or any of the recent troubles the family has gone through but a positive and hopeful focus on King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia which does give hope that the monarchy can get beyond the recent rough patch and move forward to happier times. Everyone seemed impressed with the King and willing to give him a chance, which is probably the best that can be expected. Let us hope that, with King Felipe VI, all of that former talk of people being ‘Juan Carlists’ but not monarchists will stop and that the monarchy is here to stay will be taken for granted. ¡Viva el Rey! ¡Viva España!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Today in Canadian Royalist History

It was on this day in 1813 that Canadian heroine Laura Secord set out on a 20-mile long, cross country journey to warn the Crown forces under British Lieutenant James FitzGibbon of an impending American surprise attack on Beaver Dams in the province of Ontario. A force of British troops and Native American warriors were able to prepare and repel the American attack. In all the excitement of the War of 1812, the heroic act of Laura Secord was forgotten for a time until the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) awarded her 100 pounds (obviously a great deal more in 1860 than it is now) for her contribution in saving Canada from American conquest. In the years since her story became part of the national story of Canada, for the benefit of American audiences sometimes referring to her as the 'Canadian Paul Revere'.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Today in Mongol Imperial History

On this day in 1307 Kulug Khan was enthroned as Emperor of the Mongols (Emperor Wuzong of the Great Yuan in China). An accomplished warrior, he ruled in the fashion of a traditional Mongol chieftain, making him very popular with the other Mongol princes but less popular with the Han people of China. He supported the major religions and the military, completing the seizure of Sakhalin Island during his reign.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Italian Military Tradition, Part II

Continued from Part I
As mentioned before, the House of Savoy itself produced a number of significant military leaders. Many, however, focus only on the defeats while ignoring the victories of the Piedmontese-Sardinian troops such as King Carlo Alberto at Goito or those led by General Giovanni Durando who successfully defended Vincenzo and won high praise by the allies for his leadership of the Italian contingent in the Crimean War. Certainly, however, the most celebrated Italian military figure of the period was Giuseppe Garibaldi who, acknowledging numerous distasteful opinions of his, was unquestionably a gifted leader of men. He gained fame as a guerilla fighter in South America and in Italy, was offered a top command in the United States army by President Lincoln and who defeated the French in front of Rome. His most stunning success though was when he took a little more than a thousand ragged volunteers and defeated the greatly numerically superior forces of the Bourbon Two-Sicilies to conquer the whole of southern Italy to unite it with the north for the creation of the Kingdom of Italy. After the reunification of Italy under the House of Savoy the battle most seem to remember is the disastrous defeat at Adowa in the first war with Ethiopia. However, that ignores the numerous colonial victories before and after that battle. Many also ignore the war with Turkey in which Italy won control of Libya and became the first to use aircraft in combat.

Italian troops on the Isonzo
In World War I the courage and tenacity of the Italian army was remarked upon by many observers from the other Allied powers while also noting the outdated leadership coming from General Luigi Cadorna. Everyone remembers the disaster of Caporetto but ignore the larger picture. For one thing, the mountainous front across which Italy faced Austria-Hungary was recognized as the most difficult of the war. Even hardened German officers who had served on both the eastern and western fronts said that the Italian front was the worst of all. The Austrians also enjoyed all the benefits of the rugged terrain, dug in high on the mountains with the Italians forced to attack in the open, up hill under the most difficult circumstances. Still, while overly costly in lives lost, Italy was continuously gaining ground in the successive offensives along the Isonzo leading up to Caporetto. It should also be remembered that, for that defeat, the Germans had sent in massive support for the offensive, it should also be remembered that not all the Italian forces broke (the army of the Duke of Aosta held firm) and while many claim that only the arrival of French and British reinforcements saved the Italians from total annihilation, the truth is that they arrived after the crisis was over and the Austrian offensive had run out of steam.

Arditi on the attack
What is remarkable is how strongly Italy was able to bounce back after so stunning a loss. Under General Armando Diaz the Italians came roaring back, did very well in the air war and developed shock troop tactics that produced a new type of soldier that was famous far and wide for his reckless courage and no one could doubt the courage of the Arditi who charged enemy machine gun nests with a grenade in each hand and a dagger between their teeth. In the end, Italy won the battle of Vittorio Veneto that knocked Austria-Hungary completely out of the war. People also tend to overlook the numerous conflicts Italy was involved in between the world wars. There was the pacification of Libya, the conquest of Ethiopia, the intervention in the Spanish Civil War and the occupation of Albania, all of which were Italian successes. Incredibly, some seem intent on trying to denigrate the Italians even when they are victorious. For example, some like to pretend that Libya was never totally pacified; not true. It was and, in fact, it had become such a model colony that when Air Marshal Italo Balbo died at the start of World War II, the Libyans seemed more distraught than the Italians. In the Spanish Civil War, one defeat early on is often used to tarnish the whole Italian intervention. This is stupid, it was one loss and the only one of its kind. The Italians made a very valuable contribution, particularly in the Santander offensive under General Ettore Bastico.

Italian artillery in Ethiopia
The war in Ethiopia deserves some special mention because almost everyone has a totally incorrect view of the conflict. Too many accept the portrayal of it as a super-mechanized, modern Italian war machine simply massacring hordes of primitives armed with sticks and stones. This is simply a disgustingly incorrect view and an insult to the Ethiopian people as well as the Italians. The Ethiopians were not ignorant primitives. They had rifles, they had machine guns, they had artillery, European-trained military officers and European military advisors. They had an immense numerical advantage and the advantage of fighting a defensive war on their own ground. They were highly motivated and tenacious fighters who were very experienced at warfare. Experts at the time who were hostile to Italy predicted that it would take Italy at least two years to conquer Ethiopia and many even predicted that Italy would lose because the sanctions would cause the economy to collapse before that could happen. In the end, the Italians conquered Ethiopia in seven months and that was as much a logistical accomplishment as it was a tactical one. The war in Ethiopia was a hard fought victory, it was no cake walk.

"Eight million bayonets"
But, of course, most of this prejudiced view of Italian martial prowess is a result of World War II and that is no accident. It was an explicit tactic of Allied propaganda to denigrate the Italian war effort as a way to boost their own morale and to cause division between Germany and Italy, in other words, to make the Germans resentful by portraying the Italians as incompetent weaklings that had to be carried by Germany. Obviously, things did not go well for Italy but that was due mostly to being worn out by extensive pre-war operations and because of the lack of a proper upgrading of the armed forces. Contrary to what most think, Italian forces performed quite well under extremely difficult circumstances during the war and had a number of very competent commanders. Much of the bad press Italy continues to receive usually boils down to the invasion of France, the first invasion of Egypt and the invasion of Greece. All of this has been grossly overblown. For France, the Italians were unprepared and did poorly in their first operation of the war. Rather like Britain, France, Russia and America all performed rather poorly right out of the gate as well. In Egypt, too much was being asked of a force that was woefully behind the times and in Greece, that was not the disaster everyone thinks. It did not go well certainly but things began to turn around before the Germans intervened so that it was a stalemate that existed on the Greek front, not a collapse.

The "astonishing" Bersaglieri
It would take too long to recount in detail all of the instances in which the stereotype is wrong but here is a brief rundown: The most successful non-German submarine commander of World War II was an Italian and the Italian submarine fleet sunk almost ¾ of a million tons of Allied shipping. Italian naval forces penetrated the British anchorage at Alexandria, Egypt and sank two battleships and a tanker and by the middle of 1942 the Royal Italian Navy totally dominated the central Mediterranean. In the Battle of Britain the outdated Italian aircraft actually gave as good as they got, later produced some planes superior to their Allied counterparts and Italian planes managed to sink 72 Allied warships and 196 freighters during the war. At Gazala in 1942 it was the Italian X Corps that saved the German 15th Brigade from total destruction and it was the Italian forces in Egypt that held off the British in Egypt while the Germans retreated after El Alamein (a battle the Italian commander predicted would end in disaster and for precisely the reasons for which it did) and in individual engagements Italian forces won stunning victories over the British and the Russians. Speaking of the Italian light infantry, Field Marshal Rommel said, “The German soldier astonished the world, but the Bersaglieri astonished the German soldier”. In terms of military commanders, Marshal Ettore Bastico proved his competence in Spain and gave good service in North Africa, being one of the few officers Rommel would at least listen to. Marshal Giovanni Messe (an ardent royalist) won victories on the Greek, Russian and African fronts and even Marshal Graziani, though ridiculed for his failed invasion of Egypt, knew it was a no-win situation and in any event that was the only defeat of his career. The Duke of Aosta won the respect of the British for his skillful and gallant defense of Italian East Africa, Major Adriano Visconti was one of a number of ace Italian fighter pilots in the war, shooting down 26 Allied aircraft and units such as the Folgore Division earned the respect of their enemies for their courage and tenacity on the battlefield.

Obviously, there were plenty of losses as well, the overall war was a loss for Italy and a defeat is a defeat. However, the point is that every country has its successes and every country has its failures and it is simply ignorant to slander an entire people the way the Italians have been. What started out as simple wartime propaganda has been repeated so endlessly and exaggerated out of all proportion that it is truly ridiculous. The vast majority of the sweeping generalizations that too many people make are simply untrue. The Italians have an illustrious military history with many great victories and many brilliant military leaders to be justly proud of. I also wish more people would keep in mind that denigrating someone, even an enemy, is often just as insulting to the other side. Where is the honor in defeating a totally hapless enemy? More simply though, I wish more people would simply pause before belittling anyone who put on a uniform and went into actual combat, something most people have not done. It is a pet peeve of mine to see the brave military forces of the past denigrated by smug people who usually don’t have the first clue as to what they are talking about and the two that seem to be put down the most, and thus infuriate me the most often, are those of Austria-Hungary and Italy (and I have touched on Austria-Hungary before). It really needs to stop and people should have more decency. Just as in art, music, exploration and so many other areas, when it comes to warfare the Italians have much to be proud of.
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