Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Christian Churches and Monarchy Today

Recently, some clerics of the Church of Sweden made headlines by writing an editorial in a Swedish newspaper that condemned the celebration of Sweden’s “National Day”, the official national holiday of the Kingdom of Sweden. They come from a very immigrant-heavy area of southern Sweden and their editorial was riddled with all the most popular left-wing buzzwords of our time, saying that, “Patriotism has its roots in the patriarchal thinking that celebrates traditional masculinity as strength, competition, inequality, and reduced men to soldiers, and women to mothers. It goes without saying that this does not create good conditions for a world without borders.” Clerics of the Church *of Sweden* said that the Church of Sweden has become too “synonymous with being Swedish”. Imagine that. Some historian might remind them that this was rather the point. They also said that for Swedish Christians (and presumably all Christians), “nationalism and patriotism must be swept away and replaced with internationalism and solidarity”. Thankfully, most Swedes expressed opposition to this article though I’m not sure what the view of the lesbian Bishop of Stockholm was, the woman who removed the crosses from a church in her diocese so that Muslim immigrants could use it as a mosque effectively.

The Church of Sweden is not alone, sadly, among the Protestant state churches which have forgotten why they were founded in the first place: to be *national* churches. The Archbishop of Canterbury, primate of the Church of England, has twice referred to Britain leaving the European Union and becoming independent again as “poison” and repeatedly urged the Prime Minister to appoint a cross-party commission to advise her on how best to, presumably, minimize the effects of this terrible poison which somehow never managed to kill Britain in all the centuries prior to January 1, 1973. One cannot but stand aghast at the sight of clerics of legally established, national churches which first came into being, at least in large part, by wanting to be free of an Italian pontiff in Rome, now condemning the idea of national independence or the very idea of nationality at all, at least in terms of their own people. All of these state Protestant churches were based, to varying degrees, on the idea that there should be no earthly power set above their national monarch. Now they are arguing the exact opposite.

Protestant churches have, at various times and in various places, been both opposed to monarchy and supportive of it, depending on the situation. Originally, the teachings of Martin Luther sparked widespread opposition to the idea of any traditional authority at all, secular or spiritual, which was manifested in the “Peasant’s Revolt” in Germany. Luther himself, who was sheltered by a German prince, quickly tried to make amends by calling on the princes to slaughter the disloyal peasants and the Protestant cause soon came to be wedded to the monarchies of the various nations which embraced it. In England, for example, Protestantism came into power in a rather round-about way. It started very much with loyalty to the Crown being paramount above all else and this meant what was largely a continuation of Catholicism but with the King (Henry VIII) rather than the Pope at the head of it. It was only later, during the regency of the unfortunate King Edward VI, that the Church of England actually became Protestant. From the time of Queen Elizabeth I onward, Protestant Christianity and the monarchy seemed to be inseparable. The same could be said for countries such as Denmark or Sweden.

The Netherlands is also an interesting case. Originally, the cause for independence from Spain had little to do with religion at all. The Princes of Orange did not start out as Protestants and, indeed, even after the Dutch War for Independence was well underway, there were Princes of Orange who were still Catholic. However, the Dutch took up the Protestant cause, some doubtless from conviction, others because they wanted to attract the support of the Protestants in Germany and England to support them in their fight against Catholic Spain. Something similar also happened in France, though this is not always remembered today. The French Protestants, the Huguenots, were very anti-monarchy in the time of King Charles IX and have been credited by some with the idea of “popular sovereignty” (though, personally, I would say, “blame” rather than “credit” would be appropriate phrasing). This did change somewhat with the Edict of Nantes but, to a large degree, Protestants who had not left France became reconciled to the monarchy but they were always rather suspect and thus it came as no great surprise when King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and insisted that France would have one faith and that faith would be Catholic (though, it is worth pointing out that the leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope, opposed both Louis XIV and the revocation of religious tolerance for the Protestants).

This was, of course, in a country that was largely Catholic and in Protestant countries, the bonds between the Crown and the national church generally went on proudly together. The break between the established Protestant churches and the cause of monarchy came relatively quite recently. In some ways, these churches remained at least nominally monarchist even longer than they remained at least nominally Christian. There were even a number of news stories this year that, after a long period of precipitous decline, attendance at the Church of England was growing along with the revived sense of national pride and patriotism that grew up around the “Brexit” referendum. However, given the reaction of the Anglican hierarchy to the outcome of that vote, I would not be too hopeful about this continuing. These established Protestant churches remain, today, officially supportive of the monarchy in its current, purely ceremonial form, but they are increasingly abandoning any pretense of actual Christianity and embracing, even championing ideas which run directly in opposition to the very fundamental idea of monarchy. Of course, the monarchies themselves have been poked, prodded and cajoled into going along with this trend which works directly against the long-term survival of the monarchical institution.

I know many disagree with me on this, but I will go back to one of my pet-peeves which is the recent trend, now embracing almost every monarchy in Europe, for ending male primogeniture. This necessarily rejects the Christian notion of family, that it is the wife who becomes part of the family of her husband rather than the reverse. As such, not only do we now have royals marrying commoners as the rule rather than the exception but you also have, by traditional Christian standards, royal dynasties giving way to common ones. The Swedish Royal Family will likely not change its name but, by the old standards, will be the Westling dynasty rather than the Bernadotte dynasty after the passing of the current King. Britain, Norway and Denmark are not quite in the same position as they have had male heirs born first in any event, Queen Elizabeth II is old enough to have still married an actual royal and Queen Margrethe II, while not marrying royalty, did not quite go full ‘common’ as her husband is, as I recall, from very minor French nobility or some sort of aristocratic background.

Why do I bring this up? Because it undermines the idea that royals are set apart, that their bloodline matters and it seems to go hand in hand with the other changes in society, the borderless, internationalist world the Swedish pastors are so fond of in that Europeans seemed to have stopped caring about the bloodline of their royals at the same time they stopped caring about their own. It all feeds into the narrative of the egalitarians that we are all the same, we are all interchangeable, “everyone is special” which means that no one actually is. It is simply an unavoidable fact that monarchies are being dragged along with this revolutionary, egalitarian mindset. To say that male primogeniture is “unfair” is true, in the terms of the egalitarians, but it is no less “unfair” than saying the firstborn is heir rather than the second or third. By these standards, *monarchy* is unfair and they will always see it as such. Likewise, it would be absurd to argue that a monarch must be a descendant of a certain bloodline, a lineage with historic roots in the country, but that the people of said country could be anyone from anywhere. This is obviously not conducive to monarchy nor is it in line with Biblical Christianity which Protestants once prided themselves on. Even a cursory reading of the Bible will show immediately just how important genealogy, bloodlines and national history was to the Christian religion.

Now, of course, the Catholics have to get theirs too. The Catholic record in regard to monarchy is not terribly different than the Protestant one, albeit for very different reasons. Going back to the very beginning of the Catholic/Orthodox Church, loyalty to the Roman emperors prevailed even when those emperors were pagans who persecuted Christians. A pagan emperor could be disobeyed if he commanded something contrary to the faith, but he was not to be rebelled against, not to be overthrown, he was to be converted and this eventually happened. Things began to change, however, with the fall of the Western Roman Empire which created a power-vacuum filled by the Pope and, at which time, the Pope also became a temporal ruler which meant that the papacy and the monarchy became rivals. This did not happen in the East Roman Empire since it both survived for much longer and the clerics remained subjects of the Emperor and had only their own spiritual fortitude to fall back on to keep the faith, there was no equivalent of the Papal States in Eastern Christianity. Catholic Christianity, on the other hand, developed the “two swords” approach with the Pope having the spiritual sword and the Emperor having the temporal sword but with the Pope also saying that his sword was bigger than the Emperor’s sword and that, naturally, led to a great deal of trouble.

As the popes became real or potential rivals for power with the emperor and lesser monarchs, the papal attitude toward monarchy tended to shift depending on the situation. An important distinction was that the popes tended not to be anti-monarchy, simply anti-whoever was the strongest monarch. So, the Pope would ally himself with the republican city states of northern Italy because they were not a threat to him while the Emperor in Germany was powerful enough to be so. Later, the popes, as we have discussed previously, tended to alternate between the Germans and French depending on who was the least threat to them. So, for example, when the German Emperor became the most powerful Catholic monarch, the Pope would support the King of France against him and, alternately, when the King of France became the most powerful Catholic monarch, the Pope would throw his support behind the Emperor in Germany. This was generally a successful strategy in maintaining papal control over central Italy but it also meant that any time a Catholic monarch emerged who was strong enough to unite Christendom, the Pope would be working to undermine him, even, ultimately, if that placed him on the same side as the Protestants such as during the time of papal opposition to King Louis XIV of France and by extension his Stuart cousins in Britain.

Papal support for the cause of monarchy was attractive to monarchs but, needless to say, the papal claim to total supremacy over them in exchange was not. King Charles I in Great Britain, for example, was a High Anglican married to a devout Catholic and an ardent defender of absolute monarchy and the “Divine Right of Kings”. He seemed very inclined to take the plunge and convert to Catholicism but could not and would not accept the idea that the Pope had the power to take his crown from him. He likely could have, and in his conscience perhaps did, accept that the Pope had supreme authority in spiritual matters but could not countenance the notion that his crown would be owed to the Pope rather than to God directly. Ultimately, over the centuries, monarchs thus began to slowly concern themselves less and less with the political wishes of the popes, which was often unfortunate as the popes quite often called for good things, like everyone uniting to retake Constantinople, which they never did. By the time of the French Revolution, the papacy had lost most political influence however that unhappy event did, albeit briefly, bring about a change in the papal attitude best illustrated by the admirably reactionary Pope Gregory XVI. Good Pope Gregory opposed any innovation of any kind and opposed all rebellion against traditional authority regardless of the circumstances. This meant that he not only locked up secular Italian revolutionaries in Rome but he also condemned Irish Catholics rebelling against a Protestant British king and Polish Catholics rebelling against the Russian Orthodox Czar. Gregory XVI was nothing if not consistent.

However, that era ended with him after which the world got its first, short-lived, taste of a liberal pope. When Blessed Pius IX came on the scene he reversed all of his predecessor’s policies. He not only let the revolutionaries out of prison but appointed them to high office under a new constitution that brought laymen into the government of the Papal States. He championed the cause of Italian nationalism and urged the Emperor of Austria to withdraw his armies from Italian soil so that all his children might live happily in their own national territory. Then he was ousted by a republican mob and instantly reversed himself in every regard, allying himself with a Bonaparte President-turned-Emperor to maintain his rule over Rome. Ultimately, history proved that Pius IX had attached himself to a falling star and with the downfall of Napoleon III, Papal rule over Rome ended too and Rome was once again the capital city of a united Italian peninsula. However, it would take some time before the papacy would count as lost what had been lost and this would lead to some unusual situations such as Pope Leo XIII making peace with Protestant Prussia and allowing French Catholics to participate in republican politics while still refusing to deal with the Catholic King of Italy or allowing Italian Catholics to participate in politics in the Kingdom of Italy.

The Church also diminished its own influence by taking sides in Catholic dynastic disputes and, unfortunately, tending to take the side that ultimately lost meaning that things were rather awkward in dealing with the winners. Inexplicably, the otherwise admirable Pope Pius XI also undercut the Catholic royalist cause in France just at the time when it seemed capable of success. The reasons for this are still debated today, some saying it was because the unofficial leader of the movement was not a believing Catholic, others that it was because the movement favored the Orleans branch of the French Royal Family while the Church remained committed to the senior branch, while more recently others have argued that it was because of righteous papal indignation at the anti-Semitism that prevailed in French royalist circles. Whatever the cause, it happened and even when it was later undone, history had moved on. Oddly enough, the last time the Catholic Church really took up the monarchist cause on a level beyond praising individual (and usually deceased) monarchs was prior to the Italian referendum of 1946 in which, rather belatedly to say the least, the Church awoke to the fact that it faced a choice between a Catholic monarchy and a secular republic and so, as strongly as possible while still maintaining a modicum of detachment, urged Italians to support the House of Savoy. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out.

Nonetheless, in theory or in terms of general concepts, the Catholic Church remained pro-monarchy throughout all but its recent history. It would be wrong to heap all blame for changing on the Second Vatican Council (aka ‘when the hippies took over’) as the creep had started before that but it does represent the most visible break with the traditional teachings of the Church of Rome of the past. Democracy, freedom of conscience, separation of church and state etc, all once condemned by the Church suddenly became embraced as good things. Attitudes which were once lauded as being devout and pious have recently been criticized as being rigid and dogmatic. Holding fast to sacred traditions was previously considered a divine commandment only to now be regarded as Pharisaical and putting ‘form’ ahead of ‘substance’. What was once considered being reverent is now considered exclusionary and un-Christian. It should come as no surprise that even while the current Roman Pontiff has received glowing praise from the secular elites, mass attendance and religious vocations have continued to decline rapidly. A lukewarm faith doesn’t seem to be winning many converts, indeed those in the most heavily Catholic part of the world, Latin America, are either moving to the very Protestant United States (with the encouragement of the Church) or are converting to Evangelical Protestantism in their own countries brought by American missionaries.

The one group of the “big three” to stand out in regards to monarchy is the Eastern Orthodox Church(es). As previously stated, they started out in the same boat as the Catholics but kept their Emperor after the West lost theirs and had only the Pope. Today, it is quite popular for Christians in the west to speak rather condescendingly of “Caesaropapism” in the east, implying that Christian leaders in the east put their loyalty to the Emperor above and before their loyalty to God. This is rather unfair. The Emperor was certainly more important in the East than in the West after the fall of the Western Roman Empire as the West, firstly, had no emperor and, secondly, when they did it was one created by the Pope. Eastern clerics could and did oppose the monarchical power when they judged it to be in the wrong but, as stated previously, like the first popes but unlike most later Bishops of Rome, they had no independent state of their own to protect them from possible imperial domination. They had only the strength of their faith to rely on to prevent them from becoming no more than imperial chaplains. Anyone can look at how tradition and orthodoxy have been maintained in the east to judge whether or not their faith was more reliable than the armies and political maneuverings of their western counterpart. As with each, there were wins and losses.

Much has also often been made of the national character of Eastern Orthodoxy after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the lack of unity and nationalist attitude of the various churches often being compared, unfavorably, to those united with Rome. Again, however, this can be rather unfair and, upon reflection, I think may be exaggerated by those eager to have something over the Orthodox. After all, for much of the history of Eastern Christianity, most of these national churches were under the rule of Muslim conquerors and surely that would have contributed to nationalistic attitudes more than the administrative divisions of their Church. The divisions of Eastern Christianity may have also actually been beneficial in at least one way. Since their entire outlook on how the Church was supposed to work required a unity that did not exist, it meant that no one had the power to change things or mess things up as, I think it would be hard to argue, did happen in the West. Furthermore, while Orthodox Christians have often opposed each other, the same could be said for Catholics and Protestants as well. For that matter, one could simply point to the very existence of Protestantism in the West, which the papal office did not prevent (and, indeed, at times exacerbated) whereas no similar division of such magnitude ever happened in the east where Church and Crown were more firmly on the same side.

One could also argue that the Eastern Christians, because of history, were forged in a more intense fire than the Western Christians. The West certainly had plenty of problems but most had nothing like the centuries of living under Islamic rule that the Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, Serbians and others had. They did not have to live under the rule of Mongol conquerors like the Russians had and, indeed, for many Eastern Christians, it was hardly the blink of an eye in historical terms from the time they had been persecuted by Muslim rulers to the time that they were persecuted by atheistic Marxist rulers. It does seem to be the case that religious beliefs are never more strongly reinforced than when they are subject to persecution. The British tried to pound the Catholicism out of the Irish for centuries without success only for Ireland to practically abandon it on their own within mere decades of becoming independent of Great Britain. If it is true that, ‘that which does not kill you, only makes you stronger’ then the Eastern Christians have every reason to be quite robust indeed. While Catholics rulers fought each other over where the border would be between France and Germany, whose family would rule which country or how much of Italy they could control, Orthodox Christians were fighting for their very survival, both as Christians and as distinct people.

It cannot escape notice, however, that while Christian monarchs still reign in the west, none do so in the east. However, that is not very significant when one considers how this came about. Catholic France was already on her third republic by the time the monarchy fell in Russia and the Orthodox monarchies in Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia were not overthrown by their own people but conquered and demolished by the invading Soviets. It also says something about the strength of monarchist sentiment in the east that the idea of a limited, ceremonial monarchy always remained rather alien to them. The Czar of Russia remained an absolute monarch practically until he was overthrown and the Romanian, Bulgarian and Yugoslav monarchs all were effectively absolute monarchs as late as just prior to World War II with the “King’s Government” of Boris III in Bulgaria in 1935, the “January 6 Regime” of Alexander I in Yugoslavia in 1929 and the “National Renaissance Front” of Carol II in Romania in 1938. Even the “August 4 Regime” in Greece under George II of 1936 was somewhat similar. The point is that, monarchy in these Orthodox countries not only survived but was quite robust up to the very end.

Whereas today Christian leaders in the west, whether Catholic or Protestant, tend to stick to the usual liberal platitudes and practically never praise monarchy as an institution, indeed as the *only* political institution endorsed by Christianity itself, such Christian leaders can be found in the east. There are not enough of them to be sure and, in some ways, the Ecumenical Patriarch was Pope Frank before Pope Frank was cool, but high ranking Orthodox clerics from Serbia to Georgia have openly called for the restoration of monarchy and spoken of monarchy as the proper form of government for Christian civilization. It would, needless to say, be most significant if such efforts were coming from Russia, the largest and most powerful Orthodox country, but they have been so far hesitant to be so bold, though they did finally join their overseas brethren in recognizing the piety of the last Czar and his family but this is hardly equivalent to calling for a restoration. Pope St John Paul II beatified the last Emperor of Austria but he certainly did not openly call for a restoration of the Habsburgs. Unfortunately.

What has been done is significant though and I think worthy of praise. It would be great if Protestant and Catholic leaders would follow the example of the Orthodox in this regard because the Orthodox leaders who speak out in favor of traditional authority are, as such, the only ones offering a viable and proven alternative to the liberal malaise of modern times. Western Christian leaders are, sadly, not doing this and, indeed, are moving ever further from genuine Christianity in favor of a “social justice gospel”. It is, for this reason, not surprising that while right-wing dissidents in the east rally around the Church, similar dissidents in the west have begun rallying around a sort of neo-paganism. That would be unfortunate enough from a Christian point of view and yet, worse than that, it seems to invariably be a neo-paganism of the Celtic or Germanic variety which has little to offer. As I recently pointed out, if you are of European descent, unless your lineage is Greek or Italian, your pagan ancestors were not much to write home about. They became some of the most advanced and outstanding civilizations the world had ever seen in the Christian era, but as far as non-Christians go, the Egyptians who built the pyramids, the Jews who built the Temple of Solomon or the Babylonians who built the hanging gardens could rightly ask the worshippers of Odin and Thor just what they had ever done that was so impressive.

Yet, Christian leaders can hardly be very critical of people inventing their own religion given what they have been doing for the last few decades, becoming increasingly worse all the time. They offer no clear vision, no sense of identity and increasingly not even any hope for survival. If church leaders are telling people that they must give up their homes, give up their countries, give up a future for their children in order that others, more worthy than they, can have these things, they should not be surprised when people turn away and start looking for a belief system that, to put it bluntly, cares about them and will allow them to live. This is not authentic Christianity. Authentic Christianity says to remember your lineage and your national story, it says not to be “unequally yoked”, it says to remember the rock out of which you were carved and the hole you were dug out of, it says to take care of your own kind before taking care of others, its says we are not all the same, not interchangeable and it says the majority will usually do what is wrong rather than what is right. Authentic Christianity says it is evil for everyone to do what is right in their own eyes and it says to “fear God and honor the emperor”. Christianity is a fundamentally monarchical religion and it cannot be reconciled with liberalism. Many have tried for a very long time and the only result has been that liberalism dominates while so-called Christianity surrenders. Emperor Theodosius of Rome, Vladimir the Great of the Kievan-Russ, Harald Bluetooth of the Danes or Clovis of the Franks would not recognize what passes for Christianity today and, I dare say, would want no part of it for themselves or their peoples.
Altar and Crown, both must be restored.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monarch Profile: King Tabinshwehti of Burma

The Kingdom of Burma has had a long and colorful history with more than one high point over the centuries. The Burmese, for one relatively short period, even dominated the entire Indochinese peninsula. Although he did not reach that height, one of the most successful and most celebrated monarchs in Burmese history was King Tabinshwehti. His victories were mostly confined to what is Burma today though he also, inadvertently, played a part in uniting the Thais against the power that he represented. He was extremely significant in reuniting his country and laying the foundation for future success and is still quite revered, even worshipped, in Burma today so great was his impact on the public imagination. He certainly ranks among the most famous Burmese kings of all time. He was born on April 16, 1516 at Toungoo Palace (named for the Toungoo Dynasty of which he was a member) to King Mingyi Nyo and his concubine Khin Oo. The King was 56 and was overjoyed to have a son and heir, immediately naming him crown prince and raising his mother from the status of concubine to queen.

King Mingyino of Toungoo
It was a time of intense struggle for Burma as the country had been locked in a seemingly endless series of civil wars for decades. Additionally, a great deal of hope and many aspirations rested on young Tabinshwehti as it was believed he was the fulfillment of a prophecy about his great-great grandfather Crown Prince Minye Kyawswa who was famous warrior predicted to be reborn to lead his people to greatness at a time of great crisis. As Tabinshwehti was believed to be the fulfillment of this prophecy, his education emphasized the martial arts and in 1525 he saw combat for the first time in the (failed) month-long siege of Toungoo. At the time, his state was still a small one but its population was growing rapidly as wars and invasions of Upper Burma caused a great many Burmese refugees to flood into the city, particularly after the fall of Ava to the Shan confederation in 1527. Tabinshwehti succeeded to the throne of Toungoo on November 24, 1530 at the age of 14 upon the death of his father King Mingyi Nyo.

When the Shan captured the city of Prome in 1532, an ally and just across the river from a Toungoo city, King Tabinshwehti decided to go to war to unite Burma under his leadership, beginning with an attack on the Hanthawaddy kingdom south of Toungoo. This was the largest city-state of the many which grew up in the aftermath of the fall of the Pagan Kingdom of Burma and being located on the coast was very wealthy as a center of trade. This made it an attractive target but also a difficult one and the war would last from 1534 to 1541. Initials attacks were unsuccessful so the Toungoo resorted to subterfuge to spread division and distrust in the enemy camp. This tactic was highly successful, causing the Hanthawaddy leadership to turn on each other and many of their most accomplished ministers were executed on suspicion of being disloyal. This sufficiently weakened the Hanthawaddy for the Toungoo forces to win a stunning victory over them at the Battle of Naungyo despite being outnumbered. This gave Toungoo a great deal more wealth and power and caused many of the other leaders of the region to come on side and pledge allegiance to King Tabinshwehti.

Postcard of Toungoo
With most of Lower Burma under his control, King Tabinshwehti sent an ultimatum to the last holdout, Martaban, in 1540. When Martaban refused to submit, Tabinshwehti attacked. Again, the offensive was initially unsuccessful. Martaban was reinforced by Portuguese mercenaries who led the defense of the city and Portuguese ships provided the backbone of the naval defense as well. This was a significant advantage as, in those days, the Portuguese were highly sought after in Southeast Asia for their advanced weapons and military knowledge. Any ruler who wished to be powerful would usually have some Portuguese in his employ. However, after months of frustrated attacks on land, the Toungoo fleet finally broke through the seven Portuguese ships in the harbor and Martaban fell, the city being pillaged for three days. As the defenders had refused to surrender, King Tabinshwehti had them massacred and this caused a great many others in the neighborhood to fall into line rather than risk a similar fate.

All of Lower Burma was now under the control of Tabinshwehti as well as access to the sea, trade routes and the money to employ his own (usually Portuguese) mercenaries and their modern weaponry. At this point, he turned his attention back to Upper Burma and the city of Prome, launching an offensive against it on November 19, 1541 after the end of Buddhist Lent. After pushing the defenders and their allies inside the city walls, the Shan Confederation forces arrived under King Thohanbwa but they were unable to break through the Toungoo lines. More reinforcements were called for but Toungoo forces ambushed them and wiped them out, leaving Prome isolated. Finally, on May 19, 1542 King Minkhaung surrendered Prome to King Tabinshwehti. This victory greatly alarmed the Shan Confederation and they assembled a massive invasion force from across the seven states to crush Toungoo once and for all. Despite having the larger army, they were unable to defeat Tabinshwehti who had a respectable and veteran force of 12,000 troops, a 9,000-man flotilla and Portuguese weapons and mercenaries. After a month of combat, the Shan forces retreated and the Toungoo gave chase, expanding their reach all the way to old Pagan (or Bagan).

Remains of Bagan
With the former capital now his, Tabinshwehti held a formal coronation for himself as the new King of Pagan, effectively, what we would today consider a coronation as King of Burma. He did not control quite all of Upper Burma but the city-states which remained aloof were in no position to challenge him. Instead, he chose to direct his forces against the Kingdom of Mrauk-U, starting with the state of Arakan in 1545. The war would last until 1547. Again, the first attack failed, the second was more successful but Mrauk-U was able to just barely hold on by flooding the area to drive out the invaders. In the end, the two sides agreed to a negotiated end to the war, King Tabinshwehti withdrew his forces and peace prevailed for the next three decades. His attention was already shifting beyond the border to Siam after Tavoy was occupied by the Siamese in early 1547 (in a region claimed by both sides). This resulted in the first Burmese-Siamese War of 1547 to 1549, not long ago brought to the big screen with the Thai film, “The Legend of Suriyothai” in which, of course, King Tabinshwehti is portrayed as the villain.

Unfortunately, for those who like to see a clear moral cause behind every dispute, this conflict depends entirely on which side you are on as to who is in the right and who is in the wrong. For Burma, the Siamese attacked and captured their city of Tavoy and King Tabinshwehti retaliated. For Siam, this city already belonged to them and the Burmese were simply exploiting a time of internal conflict for the Kingdom of Ayutthaya to expand the Toungoo empire. In any event, even with his very talented chief lieutenant Bayinnaung leading the way, this war was not a success for King Tabinshwehti and the Siamese successfully repelled his invasion, Queen Suriyothai famously dying in the climactic battle. It was not, however, a catastrophic defeat for the Burmese and they would be back before too much time had past under Bayinnaung. That, unfortunately for him, would not be a victory that King Tabinshwehti would live to see.

King Tabinshwehti
The King had always lived a very active life, had survived many battles, married many wives and never suffered from much in the way of poor health. Yet, that all changed when a Portuguese mercenary in his employ introduced him to a little thing called alcohol. From his first taste of Portuguese wine, Tabinshwehti was hooked and quickly became an alcoholic and his health rapidly deteriorated. Rather than fighting, the mercenary in question became the King’s exclusive source of wine and the two basically partied all the time. The King stopped going to war, stopped running the country and even gave his wine maker a Burmese court lady as a wife. Government officials tried to get Bayinnaung to step in and take the throne but, because of his great respect for and loyalty to King Tabinshwehti, he would not. He did, however, pay off the mercenary and send him home. Sadly, not everyone was so loyal and on April 30, 1550 the King was beheaded while sleeping in his tent by two assassins. According to his will, the very capable Bayinnaung succeeded him as king but the Toungoo empire quickly fell apart without his leadership. King Bayinnaung would have to start over, putting it back together again, which he did, ultimately leading Burma to its period of greatest territorial expansion in the years to come.

Despite his sorry end, King Tabinshwehti had achieved a great deal for Burma and is still highly revered to this day, regarded as a saint or a sort of god, one of 37 in the Burmese national pantheon. He is famous for being a great leader, a successful warrior, a courageous man who started his campaign of conquest by attacking the strongest rival rather than the weakest. He united almost all of Burma under his leadership and laid the foundation for the even greater victories that would come after him, a period in which Burma would dominate everything between India and Vietnam. Ultimately, King Bayinnaung would accomplish more in terms of territorial expansion, yet none of it would have been possible without the campaigns of King Tabinshwehti. It is thus entirely fitting that he should be a hero of Burmese history and an example of what great heights Burma is capable of achieving.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Tale of Two Interviews

Recently, two royals gave interviews; Britain’s Prince Harry and Princess Marie of Denmark (wife of Prince Joachim). Of course, of the two, the interview with Prince Harry, for Newsweek magazine, got the most attention as any news involving the British Royal Family invariably does; they are playing to a larger audience after all. However, that might not be a bad thing as the interview given by Princess Marie could easily be taken as shockingly outrageous by the oh-so-sensitive “social justice warrior” crowd. Needless to say, I loved it for the very same reasons they would find it offensive. It is probably for the best that fewer people will see it because I can see (knowing how these SJW types think) how it could be used to portray Princess Marie as a horrible person (like me), which she certainly is not. This is, though, the common thread between the two interviews because, as did the son of Albion who sent me the article, I could tell from the headline alone that this would be a gift to the traitorous republicans of Britain and the Commonwealth and I knew exactly how they would (and have) twisted the Prince’s honest observations to fit their agenda.

Starting with Prince Harry (an article on the interview can be found here), the one line that was singled out from the entire interview to plaster all over the headlines was his relating that no one in the House of Windsor really wants the “job” of being monarch. He said, “Is there any one of the Royal Family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.” It is no coincident that this one line was singled out for the most attention rather than the Prince’s follow-up remarks about the dedication to duty the Royal Family has and the importance of the monarchy for people in Britain and across the Commonwealth. No, they seize on the line about no one wanting the top job because it fits in well with a traditional republican narrative, I call it the “nice guy” republican narrative. This is the one that says, ‘see, the royals don’t event want to live the sort of life they do, they have no freedom, so the best thing we could do for them is to abolish the monarchy and set them free from their gilded cage!’ or some such similar nonsense.

This is a typical republican response to monarchies that enjoy high popularity as it allows them to advocate abolishing the monarchy without attacking the monarch but, rather, posing as the ‘saviors’ of the Royal Family. The problem with this is that it is one, rare, republican argument which actually has facts behind it, what is despicable is the completely dishonest and disingenuous way they use it. The truth is that, yes, the royals do not have quite so envious a position as people think. They are constantly under tremendous scrutiny, have obligations they never asked for, have much of their lives planned out months in advance and have less personal freedom than anyone in their country. They have no freedom of movement (for the monarch anyway), no freedom of speech and no right to vote among others. They have all of the stress and scrutiny of a position of authority but none of the power to go along with it. Were they to lose their royal status, they would simply be very wealthy private citizens and could live their lives without a care in the world or any concern for public opinion. I have no doubt it would be quite liberating.

The republicans, however, seldom actually fool anyone with their supposed concern for the happiness and freedom of the royals. They are, after all, a big reason why the royals have so little. However, while what the Prince said was doubtless true, the Crown being an awesome responsibility that no sane person would want if they truly understood the consequences of it, he should not have said what he did as it simply does not play well with the modern public. Thanks to the media, academia and so on, all of which is inundated with Marxist “values” far too many people have been taught to view everything with an envious lens. The last thing the modern masses want to hear is someone complaining about his life who lives in a palace, dates bombshells, skis in the Alps and so on while they live in a council house and eat takeaway. It’s not right, it’s not healthy but that people for you. The idea that common people live poorly because royals live well is a canard that should be obvious yet it has been deployed to some effect at least as far back as the French Revolution, so it should not be discounted.

Most concerning to me was Prince Harry’s expressed desire, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to “modernize” the monarchy when their time does come. I do not like the sound of that, mostly because I am gun-shy about anything involving modernity. In my experience, whenever anyone talks of “modernizing” something the result is usually plainer, uglier, less meaningful and more ridiculous than it was before. However, it is probably not a coincidence that this interview was with an American periodical and if Prince Harry sticks with his current girlfriend he will certainly gain a great deal more attention in the United States and break new ground. If the Prince and Meghan Markle take this all the way, Meghan could become the first mixed-race American actress to become a royal princess. That would certainly please the diversity crowd. However, even then, as with President Obama, I can already predict that, being half Irish-American, there will be some who insist she is not “Black enough” to count. Of course, Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein married a 100% African-American some years ago, giving Europe their first Afro-European prince but, of course, that is Liechtenstein which hardly shows up on the radar, they are not *technically* royal and I am quite confident that more than 99% of Americans have no idea where Liechtenstein is or even what it is.

Anyway, the bottom line is that while Prince Harry would certainly get a great deal of attention if he stuck with his current ‘flavor of the month’ the sort of crowd that would be most impressed by that is the same sort that is never satisfied so pandering to them would be futile. However, it does also provide a tenuous connection with the subject of the second interview, Princess Marie of Denmark (her interview can be read here) who is the second wife of Prince Joachim of Denmark, his first wife being Alexandra Manley, a mixed race woman of Euro-Asian ancestry from Hong Kong who was previously Princess Alexandra, now Countess of Frederiksborg and soon to be no longer on the government payroll. Their breakup was the first royal divorce in Denmark since 1846, so, rather significant. Both have since remarried, Prince Joachim to Marie Cavallier, a native of Paris, France in 2008. Her father-in-law is also French and both converted from Catholicism to the Lutheran Church of Denmark for their marriages.

Princess Marie gave a perfectly pleasant and perfectly frank interview and came off looking like an altogether nice person, open, honest and good natured. I think more highly of her after reading it. However, as stated as the outset, she did say some things that the SJW crowd would be quick to pick apart and pounce on if they were to actually read it (which I doubt any will). Some parts would likely have raised more eyebrows in the past than they would now. Her remark that, coming from France, she had to adjust to how much earlier people start to work in Denmark, would have, in years past, caused some huffing about stereotypes of Gallic laziness versus the Protestant work ethic but I don’t think anyone notices that anymore. What they would, however, surely seize on was her remark that, in explaining how much more trusting Danes seem to be than other people and asked if this had anything to do with the size of the country, “The size probably plays, because the territory is homogeneous. But we must also take into account our very ancient history. We have the oldest monarchy in Europe and are deeply attached to our traditions. At the same time, the country is very modern. Education also plays a great role.”

For those of you fortunate enough not to know how the mind of the fanatic, revolutionary leftist works, saying that a “homogeneous” country is a positive thing is one of the worst things you could possibly do. No, homogeneous societies are bad and only diverse societies are good (at least when it comes to western countries anyway). Princess Marie and any Dane who would say it is a good thing for Denmark to be Danish would certainly get an ear-full from any “social justice warrior” who would berate them as terrible “racists” for such thinking and demand that they acknowledge that Denmark has never been very good and never will be until more Africans, Arabs and Asians are bought in to bring all the benefits of “diversity”. According to these people, Denmark has always been substandard precisely for being so homogeneous. Princess Marie, needless to say, was not thinking of any of this and seems to be an entirely good natured, optimistic type of person. She was, I have no doubt, simply relating what used to be considered common sense; that a small group of people who are alike, share the same values and are generally on the same page will be able to trust each other and get along with each other much easier than if the opposite were true.

Princess Marie was then asked about Prince Joachim, the interviewer pointing out that he is half French. She responded with glowing praise for her hubby, saying that he inherited great qualities from both his parents but emphasizing that, “He’s indeed the perfect Dane…” which I am sure some could find fault with. However, that would be as nothing compared to her answer to a question about the negative portrayals of Denmark, this coming after she related how wonderful she thought Denmark and all things Danish are. The Princess seemed at a loss as to what could possibly be a negative cliché about Denmark so the interviewer proposed the notion that Denmark is a country of Vikings. In an answer that would surely upset the snowflake crowd, Princess Marie brushed this aside, seemingly oblivious to the idea that anyone could possibly consider being associated with the Vikings as a bad thing. She actually agreed with the stereotype but thought it was a positive thing saying, “It’s also true. My husband is never sick. He never goes to the doctor. He’s very tough. He’s quite a Viking. They have very good genetics!”

I really loved this answer. The interviewer was doubtlessly thinking of big, brawny blondes killing and looting as the epitome of what it means to be a Viking. Princess Marie, however, chose to instead take pride in the Vikings as strong, robust people who were very tough, went on to associate her husband with them, in a very positive way, and then just to make sure the SJW types would reach critical mass, praised the genetics of the Vikings, inherently implying that some people have better genes than others. Again, I have no doubt such a thought never entered the Princess’ mind for a moment, but that is just the sort of thing that the people who are constantly on the hunt for something to be offended and outraged over would seize upon as being terribly insensitive, even “racist”. Frankly, I simply found it to be refreshingly positive and very charming that the Princess can be blissfully unaware that such unpleasant and manipulative people exist in the world who might zero in on such innocent remarks. Again, I came away from reading the interview with a higher opinion of Princess Marie than I had previously. I point these examples out simply to show that royals today, in spite of their diminished roles, must tread a very difficult path because their enemies are every watchful, ever deceitful and have no depths they will not stoop to in order to undermine the last vestiges of tradition that exist in the world today.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Monarchist Destinations: Virginia's Royal Palace

The British Royal Governor's Palace of Virginia is one of the most prominent structures of colonial Williamsburg. It was the residence of the Royal Governor of Virginia during the colonial period and was home to seven royal governors, starting with Alexander Spotswood and ending with John Murray, the fourth Earl of Dunmore who was forced out of his position during the American War for Independence. The original palace was built starting in 1706 with funds voted by the House of Burgesses at the insistence of Lt. Governor Edward Nott. By 1710 it was sufficiently finished to be the residence of Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood who held power in the absence of the actual Royal Governor, the Earl of Orkney (who as far as we know never actually set foot in Virginia). As such, it was the center of royal authority for the colony until the outbreak of revolution forced the Earl of Dunmore to evacuate in 1775 after the arrival of the Hanover militia under Patrick Henry. Dunmore retreated to the coast and then to a British warship after which he famously promised emancipation for any slave who joined the British cause, resulting in the raising of the short-lived "Ethiopian Regiment". This action turned the Virginia planters zealously against the British cause and, being early in the conflict, left Dunmore and his loyalists and escaped slaves with no military support and they were soon defeated.

Battle of Williamsburg
During the war, Patrick Henry and future President Thomas Jefferson served as governors of Virginia in succession, occupying the residence until the capital was moved to Richmond due to the threat of the British returning which was a constant worry due to the domination of the east coast by the Royal Navy. Toward the end of the conflict, the palace was used as a military hospital during the siege of nearby Yorktown and in 1781 the main building was destroyed by fire. Most of the subsidiary buildings which remained were then destroyed during the Peninsular Campaign of the American Civil War in 1862. The Battle of Williamsburg, fought on May 5, 1862 between the armies of George B. McClellan and Joseph E. Johnston was the first major engagement of the failed effort to capture Richmond by way of an amphibious landing on the Virginia coast. Both armies demolished the remaining buildings of the palace complex to make use of the materials.

At long last, in the early XXth Century, with money gifted from J. D. Rockefeller, the Royal Governor's Palace was rebuilt in its entirety using historical documents and descriptions from the period. It has since been renovated as new information has been uncovered to make it as historically accurate as possible. An exhibition of the palace, outbuildings and grounds was first given to the public in 1934. It is the second largest building in colonial Williamsburg after the capital building itself. Today it is a museum and often part of the whole "living history" experience that is maintained in colonial Williamsburg, making it easier to imagine what it was like back in its day as the center of society and government for the colony of Virginia under the British Crown. More information can be found on the official webpage of the palace here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Duc de Lauzun, a Life Lesson

The life of Armand Louis de Gontaut, Duc de Lauzun, better known in the Revolutionary period as Biron as he had by then become Duc de Biron, offers a great many lessons even for people today. He was a leading Freemason in France, a known proponent of the values of the “Enlightenment” and was very much a figure of the fashionable left, well known and quite popular with the elite ‘chattering class’ of high society people who loved flattering themselves, competing for radical credentials and discussing revolutionary ideas in their salons. The Duc de Lauzun was born in Paris on April 13, 1747 and grew up as a figure of the anti-traditional aristocracy. He married and was very popular in leftist high society, though it was not known as “the left” at the time of course. Like most of his friends, he still thought very highly of France in an abstract, civic way but spent his time pouring scorn on the traditions of France, never taking into account that, as an aristocrat, his very fate was bound up with those traditions he was undermining. It was, however, in the service of France, that he had his first real profession which was as a soldier.

Soldiers of Lauzun's Legion
In the aftermath of the disastrous French & Indian War (Seven Years’ War for Europeans), the French military was reformed in a major way. All too often historians today ignore how King Louis XVI of France had improved and revitalized the French army which Napoleon was later to lead to so many victories. Training, tactics, weapons and equipment were finally standardized, military academies were established, purchasing commissions was stopped, one light and one heavy company was added to each infantry regiment of the line, Prussian order tactics were adopted and so on. A group of eight new units were created, known as legions, of Volontaires étranger de la Marine for overseas service. These units were made up of Poles, Germans, Hungarians and exiles from Ireland and were combined arms formations with each having two fusilier, one grenadier and one chasseur companies as well as artillery and cavalry (hussars) in their own independent companies. The idea was to have units that could move quickly, pack a punch and be able to respond to any given situation with their own infantry, cavalry and artillery components. The British were set to do the same with such units as the Queen’s Rangers or the British Legion. A more modern example of something similar would be the battle groups of World War II.

Lauzun's Legion
The Duc de Lauzun gained some attention for capturing a British fort in Africa, Fort St Louis in Senegal, in early 1779 but it was the second of these foreign, marine legions that Lauzun raised and was given command of, along with the rank of brigadier in the corps overall. His unit soon became known as Lauzun’s Legion and was included with the French corps under the Comte de Rochambeau which was sent by King Louis XVI to aid the rebel colonists in America, led by George Washington, against the British during the American War for Independence. A lack of sufficient transportation forced Lauzun to leave many of his men behind but he was able to take several hundred infantry, cavalry and gunners who would make something of a name for themselves in the climactic Yorktown, Virginia campaign. A particular moment of glory was the action at Gloucester Point on October 3, 1781 when Lauzun’s Legion met and bested a British force under the fearsome Lt Colonel Banastre Tarleton, probably the best British cavalry officer of the war. Colonel Tarleton and the Duc de Lauzun almost engaged in personal combat but Tarleton was brought down when his horse was wounded and was taken away by some of his own men, narrowly avoiding being captured by the French. It was the largest cavalry engagement of the war and the British had been forced to retreat.

Not surprisingly, the Duc de Lauzun, after the surrender of the British at Yorktown and subsequent recognition of the independence of the United States of America, returned home to great fanfare as a genuine war hero. King Louis XVI promoted Lauzun to maréchal de camp for his exploits. However, Lauzun started on a new career in politics after the King, reluctantly, recalled the Estates-General. The Duc de Lauzun was chosen to be a deputy for the nobility of Quercy and, not surprisingly, became an outspoken advocate of the Revolutionary cause. When the French Revolution began, despite all of its ridiculous egalitarian thundering, the Duc de Lauzun was an ardent supporter. That is important to understand as he was not simply going along to get along as many other cowardly aristocrats did when the disaster came, he was taking his earlier political views to their logical conclusion and was just as devoted to the cause of the Revolution as he was to eradicating any who opposed it. In 1791 he was trusted with taking the oath of the French army of Flanders and was subsequently given command of that army. The following year he was given command of the Army of the Rhine to stand guard against the Austrians.

Badge of the Vendee' royalists
In every way, the Duc de Lauzun was a devoted revolutionary. After one year of watching the Rhine, he was assigned to deal with internal enemies, taking command of the army at La Rochelle in May of 1793. It was in this capacity that he aided in crushing the counter-revolutionaries of the Vendée, the heroic Catholic royalists who had risen up in the name of their faith and their monarchy. Lauzun, or Biron as he was then, was not the most brutal in suppressing these faithful people but he was certainly zealous. He gained credit for taking Saumur (site of a royalist victory in June) and winning the Battle of Parthenay. However, his troops had become increasingly disorderly and his superiors, in their typical revolutionary paranoia, began to have greater fears and suspicions about their accomplished duke. They subjected him to numerous questions, interference in his command and other harassment until he finally resigned his command. In spite of it all, the only thing they could actually accuse Lauzun of was being insufficiently vicious in his treatment of the counterrevolutionaries. He had never shown any lack of support for their cause but the charge that he was too lenient, too soft, on the enemies of the Revolution would haunt him.

The aristocrat, Duc de Lauzun, had sided against his class to support the Revolution but, in the end, he discovered that this would not save him. The barbaric firebrand Jean-Baptiste Carrier accused Lauzun of treason or “lack of civic virtue” in the revolutionary parlance and in July of 1793 he was stripped of all rank and offices and imprisoned. After a quick show trial by the Revolutionary Tribunal he was taken to the guillotine and beheaded on December 31. His wife was also subsequently arrested and she too went to the guillotine the following summer. So it was that the story of the Duc de Lauzun came to a tragic end, yet, it is hard to imagine anyone feeling much sympathy for him. Here was a man who was a traitor to his king, his country, his religion, his class and the entire civilization that birthed these things. In the end, he was also condemned as a traitor by his fellow traitors and that at least provides a valuable lesson, even for people today.

Biron, the revolutionary general
Although the French Revolution is usually portrayed as a mass uprising of the common people against the monarchy and a corrupt, decadent aristocracy, we must remember that, in terms of numbers, it was the common people who suffered the most from it. Whether out of conviction, as seems to have been the case with Lauzun, or mere self-preservation, not a few aristocrats decided to take the side of their natural enemies and join the Revolution. It should also not be forgotten that no small number of clergymen did as well in what was rather like the “liberation theology” of its day. They were, in their own way, no different from many of the so-called conservatives we see today who go along with the liberals either because they are dishonest and are fervent liberals themselves or because they think that the goodwill and cooperation they show the liberals will be returned to them. As we see in the case of the Duc de Lauzun or, to take a more lofty example, the Duc de Orléans, “Philippe Égalité” who voted for the death of his first cousin the King only to ultimately be sent to the guillotine himself also in 1793.

The revolutionary fervor of these men did not save them from being consumed by the flames they helped to fan in the first place. The drivers of the Revolution, with all of their egalitarian rhetoric, were happy to have the help of aristocrats like the Duc de Lauzun to gain power but they turned on them in the end since, no matter what their opinions, words or actions were, *who* they were, the very blood that was in their veins, made them the enemy. The Duc de Lauzun was obviously a man of talent, an aristocrat who, as such, was a natural leader. His military victories show what great deeds he was capable of and yet he could not or would not grasp the simple facts that his own revolutionary cohorts could; that a prince and a peasant are two different things that can never be the same, no less than a Swiss and a Saracen or a man and a woman. Aristocrats like the Duc de Lauzun, clergymen or even princes of the blood would never be more to the revolutionaries than what Stalin referred to as “useful idiots”. Some, like the famous Marquis de Lafayette, were able to survive but revolutions tend to ultimately feed on themselves and the Duc de Lauzun, as with most others who did not manage to escape the country, fell victim to the forces he had helped unleash. One can but wonder if, on his way to the guillotine, he did not have the awareness to regret the terrible path in life he had chosen to take. His life and his death should be a warning to anyone who thinks they can make common cause with the forces of darkness, posing as the forces of “enlightenment”.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Clash of Monarchies: The First War of Italian Independence

The idea of some sort of a unification of the Italian peninsula was one that long predated the series of wars for Italian independence. Indeed, unification and independence were not the same thing and might not necessarily have been linked. After the downfall of Napoleon and the re-drawing of the map of Europe by the Congress of Vienna, most of northern Italy was handed over to the Austrian Empire of the Habsburgs and their cadet branches of the family. Central Italy was restored to the Pope and the south of Italy was returned to the junior branch of the Spanish Royal Family. However, from the very beginning, there was trouble in the south and Austrian troops had to be dispatched to keep the King of the Bourbon Two-Sicilies on his throne. Between the north and the south, this meant that, fairly early on, Austria was forced to maintain a military force of over 100,000 soldiers on the Italian peninsula to maintain the existing power structure.

The Austrian statesman, Prince Clemens von Metternich, knew this was unsustainable in the long-term and so proposed to the allies the creation of an Italian federation under the leadership of the King of Lombardy-Venetia, who not coincidentally happened to be the Emperor of Austria. The allies rejected this proposal and the unrest continued, particularly in the south. Metternich feared that this tendency toward rebellion would spread and threaten those areas recently placed under Habsburg rule. In response, he produced the “Troppau Protocols” in 1821 in which Austria, Prussia, France and Russia agreed that any outbreak of revolution would be met by concerted military force to suppress it. It was unlikely that such cooperation was to be forthcoming but Metternich hoped that the statement alone would be enough to convince potential rebels of the hopelessness of their cause and bolster the King in Naples in particular. To his frustration, however, such hopes by Metternich were dashed.

That same year, rebellions broke out in both Piedmont-Sardinia and the Two-Sicilies and Austrian troops were dispatched to both to suppress them. In Turin, the rebels did not try to bring down the monarchy but demanded a constitution, which Prince Carlo Alberto gave them, as he had taken control of the government when King Vitttorio Emanuele I abdicated in favor of his brother King Carlo Felice who was out of the country at the time. King Carlo Felice, with his loyal regiments and the Austrians, regained control of the country and restored the absolute monarchy, exiling Prince Carlo Alberto to France. In Naples, Austrian troops suppressed the rebels and restored King Ferdinando IV to power. This, however, only strengthened the hand of the radicals who argued against constitutional monarchy and in favor of radical republicanism. This faction was led by Giuseppe Mazzini who had no use for kings at all and would make great use in his propaganda for every time a monarch on the Italian peninsula granted a constitution at a time of weakness only to revoke it once they had an Austrian army behind them.

King Carlo Alberto & Kaiser Franz Joseph
This set the stage for the wars of Italian unification and independence. The momentum was toward that goal but the question remained whether it would be the radical republicans or the constitutional monarchists who reached the finish line first. The two most prominent monarchs involved would be the King of Piedmont-Sardinia, firstly King Carlo Alberto who came to the throne in 1831 and the Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph who would come to the throne in 1848. King Carlo Alberto, despite his earlier reputation, was a monarch of very traditional leanings and had fought, during his exile, for the legitimist cause in Spain as well as supporting other such legitimist causes elsewhere on the continent. He would give Piedmont-Sardinia (and by extension Italy as a whole in due time) her only monarchial constitution but it would be one that reserved considerable authority to the monarch. Nonetheless, once given, it would not be revoked and that garnered the House of Savoy a great deal of popularity. King Carlo Alberto also had a vision for a united Italy, independent of the Austrians but which would consist of a confederation of Italian princely states under the leadership of the Pope. However, the events of 1848 changed the situation and it became, again, a competition between the Italian nationalists who favored a republic and the Italian nationalists who favored a monarchy. King Carlo Alberto knew that if he did not succeed, Mazzini and his cohorts would.

1834 and 1838 had seen revolutionary outbreaks across Italy but in 1848 revolution began to sweep across multiple countries throughout Europe. In January the Sicilians rose up and overthrew the authority of the king in Naples, by March the Austrian Empire was engulfed in rebellion with uprisings in Milan, Venice, Budapest, Cracow, Prague and even Vienna itself. The regime of Kaiser Ferdinand was suddenly threatened by independence movements by the Hungarians in the east and the Italians in the west. In Milan, after five days of bitter struggle, the Austrian authorities were driven out while at the same time the Austrians were expelled from Venice in an uprising led by Daniele Manin. The Habsburg Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Habsburg Duke of Modena, the Bourbon King of the Two Sicilies and the Bourbon Duke of Parma were all forced by popular uprisings to grant constitutions. Likewise, in Rome, political reforms were demanded of Pope Pius IX who had initially favored the nationalist cause, to the point of liberating from prison and appointing to high office a succession of revolutionaries whom his predecessor, Pope Gregory XVI, had arrested.

Graf Radetzky
In Turin, King Carlo Alberto granted a constitution and was urged to take the lead in supporting the independence movement and driving the Austrians from Italian soil. He was very popular with the nationalists though the radical republicans of Mazzini’s faction naturally opposed him as the last thing they wanted was for a king of the most venerable Italian royal house to be the one to secure the unity and independence of Italy. Meanwhile, in Vienna, the Habsburg government was paralyzed and in need of leadership. Kaiser Ferdinand, handicapped from birth, was simply not up to the challenge. Moreover, the strength of the Austrian military had recently been reduced and now, suddenly, there were disasters in practically every part of the empire that needed to be dealt with so that Austrian military strength was severely overstretched. The one bit of good fortune the Austrians did have was the person of their commander on the ground in Italy; Field Marshal Joseph Graf von Radestky. He may not have been the most brilliant general but he was experienced, extremely competent and, most importantly, unflappable. He kept a cool head in the crisis when panic had gripped everyone around him.

So it was that with only 68,000 troops at his disposal and no immediate prospect for reinforcement for Radetzky that the Italian nationalists saw their chance and men such as Camillo di Cavour, Cesare Balbo and Massimo d’Azeglio urged King Carlo Alberto to take the lead and attack the Austrians before the republicans took control of the uprising. The King agreed and on March 29 led his small but highly proficient army of 28,000 men across the Ticino River with the aim of moving on Milan. With so many of their forces tied down all across Lombardy-Venetia trying to suppress rebellion, for the time being, the Austrian and Piedmontese forces would be about evenly matched. Further, as soon as word came that King Carlo Alberto had crossed the frontier, nationalist support for the Savoy monarchy erupted all across the Italian peninsula. Not wanting King Carlo Alberto to claim all the glory of liberating Italy for himself, Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany and King Ferdinando II of the Two-Sicilies likewise dispatched forces to join him in a joint war-effort against the Austrians. Even Pope Pius IX sent his support. The vision of independence and unification by way of a coalition of the princes of Italy seemed to be coming true.

Uprising in Milan
Brigadier General Guglielmo Pepe, a veteran of the Peninsular War and the Battle of Tolentino, commanded the Neapolitan contingent and, even more surprisingly, the Piedmontese and former Mazzinian General Giovanni Durando was given command of the Papal army by Pius IX. Altogether, a combined force of 100,000 Italian soldiers was moving or set to move against the beleaguered Austrians in the north. With such a force arrayed against them, the Austrian position seemed doomed. Any other commander would likely have lost his nerve but not Graf Radestky. He ordered his subordinates to fall back even as he pulled out of Milan. Yet, this was no disorderly retreat. Austrian commanders threatened horrific retaliation to remote areas of Lombardy-Venetia if any disturbances occurred, frightening most into taking no action. Radestky concentrated his forces in the Quadrilateral, the area within the fortresses of Verona, Mantua, Legnano and Peschiera. This would permit the Italian coalition no weak area to exploit. Thanks to the calm determination of Radetzky, the Austrians would soon discover that their position was not so vulnerable as it seemed.

On March 29, to great public fanfare, King Carlo Alberto entered Milan at the head of his troops. He marched on and his army pushed the Austrian rearguard across the Mincio River. The Austrian withdrawal caused the Piedmontese to push ahead before their allies from the south had arrived. Durando and the Papal Army was still south of the Po, Pepe and the Neapolitans were further north and the division from Tuscany was still on the march. King Carlo Alberto, seeing the Austrians retract, was determined to keep up the pressure on them and push forward, crossing the Mincio in mid-April toward Verona. On April 30 he met the Austrians at the Battle of Pastrengo and won a solid victory. Peschiera was besieged and the King was still pushing forward toward Verona. Graf Radetzky was finally compelled by this to take action and do something to take the initiative away from the Italians. An Austrian contingent was ordered to strike out from the city and on May 6 they administered a sharp sting at Santa Lucia that forced King Carlo Alberto to divert to the southwest of Verona, to Villafranca, to wait for further Piedmontese reinforcements and his allies from the south to join him.

Princely solidarity
At first, pan-Italian support only seemed to grow as the fight was underway. Nationalist sentiment in Parma and Modena forced their dukes to join the war effort. However, at this same critical moment, the expected help from the more significant states began to fall away. Tuscany remained pledged to the Italian cause but seemed unwilling to actually engage. Pope Pius IX suddenly sent an order to Durando forbidding him to cross the Po River, causing considerable bewilderment and likewise the commitment of King Ferdinando II of the Two-Sicilies seemed to fade away as April passed. A republican coup tried to unseat the King in Naples and disrupt the royal coalition. They failed at the first goal but succeeded in the second. King Ferdinando retracted the constitution he had earlier granted and recalled his army. General Pepe refused to go but most of the Neapolitan troops abandoned him. The remainder joined with the forces from Tuscany standing watch around Mantua. As for the Papal Army, General Durando argued with the Pope over his sudden about-face and finally simply disregarded the order and took his army across the Po anyway in an effort to cut off Radetzky from Venice.

Sardinian Grenadiers at Goito
Unfortunately for the Italians, Durando did not coordinate with King Carlo Alberto in these operations but the Austrian response of Graf Radetzky was, by contrast, extremely well coordinated. Field Marshal Lieutenant Count Nugent was dispatched with 16,000 men to stop the Italian advance in Venetia, hitting Durando at Cornuda and forcing him back to Vicenza. Throughout June, Durando and the Papal Army would remain there, surrounded by Austrian forces. This allowed Radetzky freedom to maneuver and while the Piedmontese remained at Villafranca, the Austrians flanked them with a march to Mantua. On May 29 they defeated the small contingent of troops from Tuscany and the 2,000 Neapolitan soldiers who had not abandoned Pepe at Curtatone-Matanara. Radetzky then moved his men from Mantua along the west bank of the Mincio with the aim of cutting off King Carlo Alberto from Piedmont. Unfortunately for the Austrians, King Carlo Alberto spotted this move and immediately grasped the enemy plan. He moved quickly to attack the Austrians while they were on the march and at the Battle of Goito on May 30, the Italians were victorious. Peschiera fell on the same day.

The Savoy star was still shining brightly, however, the situation was far from favorable. What little support that had been available from Tuscany, Naples and the Papal States was now completely gone and even with the many volunteers from across Lombardy and reinforcements from Piedmont, King Carlo Alberto had only 75,000 men which would be insufficient to launch a major offensive into Venetia or to mount a proper siege of the fortress cities of Mantua or Verona. King Carlo Alberto had no option but to remain at Villafranca and watch. At the same time, unflustered as usual, Graf Radetzky was methodically carrying on and was also finally receiving reinforcements from the rest of the Austrian Empire. The window of opportunity of Austrian weakness had closed on the Italians and Radetzky was able to launch a serious offensive of his own, descending on the Italians with two armies at the Battle of Custozza .

Austrian attack at the Battle of Custozza
This was the climactic engagement of the war, 33,000 Austrians against 22,000 Italians and the Italians fought valiantly against superior forces for three days from July 23-25. However, in the end, the Italians were forced to retreat. Yet, it was a fighting retreat, the Italians fell back in good order, continued to give resistance until disengaged, abandoned no equipment or anything of the sort. They had also inflicted considerably higher losses on the Austrians than they had suffered and the Austrians had not been able to decisively destroy the Piedmontese army. All the same, King Carlo Alberto would not waste the lives of his men needlessly and knew that without the whole of Italy standing together, he could not defeat the Austrians who would only grow stronger as his own forces grew weaker. The King had seen a chance but that chance was now gone and on August 9 he agreed to an armistice with the Austrians. In due course the Piedmontese abandoned Lombardy, returning to their own territory and the First War of Italian Independence came to an end. The following year, King Carlo Alberto did, briefly, attempt another effort but it was a short-lived disaster and, proud man that he was, this resulted in his abdication in favor of his son who became King Vittorio Emanuele II.

For the Austrians, the war had been one crisis among many. They had gained a new monarch in the young and determined Kaiser Franz Joseph, more laurels for a genuine war hero in Graf Radetzky and though they had come close enough to disaster to look it directly in the eye, that disaster had been averted and the Austrian Empire would survive, though ultimately concessions would be made to the Hungarians. Nothing of the sort would be forthcoming for the Italians however who continued to be ruled in the same manner that they had been before. The Kaiser even became somewhat cross with his younger brother, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, when, as Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia, he attempted to win over the Italians rather than flog them into submission. There was even talk that the Archduke himself entertained thoughts of uniting the Italian peninsula himself. He was soon put in his place and made no more than a ceremonial figure so that he began to look toward Mexico for a place to prove himself. In short, despite coming so close to defeat, the Austrians were determined to change nothing in regards to Italy.

Abdication of King Carlo Alberto
As for the Italians, the First War of Independence was a major turning point. It represented the one and only time that the monarchs of the existing Italian states, no matter how enthusiastically, came together in common cause as one Italian people. The fact that this fell apart almost as soon as it came together meant that the vision of the more traditional nationalists of an Italian confederation of princely states would not come to be. Going forward, it would be the republicans or the House of Savoy alone who would have to see foreign rule ended on the Italian peninsula. The Savoy would take the lead, initially quite reluctantly, to prevent the republican vision from becoming reality and in the end even many republican nationalists would be swayed to the monarchist side because the Savoy had a record of success and the republicans had only a succession of failures. It would take at least two more wars before Italy was completely independent of foreign rule but the First War of Italian Independence clearly illustrated who would lead them and how they would be fought.
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