Continued from Part I
Emperor Napoleon III of the French. I confess that he is not one I enjoy including on such a list but he does, I think, warrant inclusion if for no other reason than his sponsorship of the restoration of the Mexican Empire under Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Of the two, Maximilian was the more honorable character but nonetheless it was Louis Napoleon who made the restoration of monarchy in Mexico possible. Did he do a great deal to inadvertently thwart the succession of this operation? Yes. Did he ultimately go back on his word and abandon Mexico to republicanism? Yes. But who did more? Many, many people thought that a good, solid monarchy would be just the thing to deliver Mexico from the chaos of a continuous succession of republican dictators yet no one else was willing to actually pledge the men and the money to bring about such a thing. Napoleon III did it and more than that, had things gone differently, he had planned to do more. He tried to learn from the mistakes of his uncle and he did manage to make himself acceptable as a member of the club of European monarchs. He was on decent terms with Austria and Spain, friendly with Italy and Queen Victoria of Great Britain was charmed by him. Even the Pope could scarcely say a bad word about him as it was only the presence of French troops that maintained papal political control over the city of Rome.
Unlike his uncle, Napoleon III preferred not to risk trying for major territorial expansion in Europe but to focus instead on spreading French influence abroad, which he did from the Americas to Africa and the Middle East to East Asia. This was certainly part of the reasoning behind his push into Mexico but it is also true that there was genuine concern for the Church and the conservatives in Mexico (particularly by Empress Eugenie) and an understanding that monarchy could make Mexico a stable and prosperous country. And who ever did more? What other world leader ever returned to a state after roughly forty years of republicanism and successfully restored a monarchy? It can truthfully and legitimately be argued that Napoleon III didn’t do enough or failed to see it through; but who did more? And his campaign to bring French-friendly monarchies to the New World did not stop at Mexico. He had big plans to bring to life new monarchies in South America as well, on the west coast, under appropriate princes. He had engaged in correspondence with local leaders towards the goal of making a “Kingdom of the Andes” from a base in Ecuador. If other (more legitimate) monarchs had gone to such pains rather than rushing over each other to recognize South American republics, the trend away from monarchy in politics might have died an early death. His biggest problem was that he was often too short-sighted in his foreign policy but he was also the victim of circumstances beyond his control.
While he certainly could have handled things better in regards to Mexico, the bottom line is that he did not just pull out when things got difficult. In fact, he was forced to pull out when his armies were on the cusp of victory. The life or death of the revived Mexican Empire ultimately depended entirely on the outcome of the American Civil War. The United States of America was never going to accept a French-backed monarchy in Mexico and France was simply not strong enough to win in a fight against the Union forces whose armies were vastly more numerous and much better equipped than his own. The only hope for success in the Mexican adventure was if the Confederates succeeded in winning their independence. Napoleon recognized this but knew that his support alone would not be enough to ensure a Confederate victory and while the British came close, they ultimately refused to get involved. Britain and France together might have ensured a Confederate victory and thus secured the safety of the Mexican Empire but as that did not happen, Imperial Mexico was doomed as soon as the Confederates were defeated. Napoleon III did not just retreat from Mexico, he was ordered to withdraw by the victorious Union forces and he had no other choice in the face of the overwhelming force the USA could have deployed against him.
German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Aside from his paranoid fear of Asians, Kaiser Wilhelm II demonstrated throughout his reign a strident commitment to monarchy and monarchial solidarity. From the earliest days of his reign he was always warning about the danger of republicanism and the need for monarchs to stand together in guarding against it. During the Spanish-American War he urged his fellow European monarchs to come together to aid the Kingdom of Spain and stop American expansion but he was ignored. He was aghast that the Russian Empire would ally with republican France and tried, though perhaps not in the best way, to bring Russia into alliance with the other major continental monarchies; Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. He was always talking about the rights and responsibilities of monarchs and the looming threat of republicanism. While he ended up being blamed for the calamity that was the First World War, the Kaiser himself tended to attribute the disaster to a lack of monarchial unity as demonstrated by his royal cousins the Tsar of Russia and King of Great Britain allying with republican France.
The First World War, as we have discussed here often (this year in particular), was a disaster for all involved and once it began there was no way that it could possibly have ended well. However, we can see that the Central Powers, under the leadership of the Kaiser, was much more intent on seeing the inevitable changes that would come about because of the war be on the side of monarchy. The survival of some monarchies certainly depended on an Allied victory but the Allies were not too concerned if emerging states were monarchies or republics. No such ambivalence existed where Kaiser Wilhelm II was concerned. Where German troops were victorious new monarchies emerged, all with German princes in charge of course. These included the short-lived Kingdom of Finland, the United Baltic Duchy, the Kingdom of Lithuania, the Kingdom of Poland and some sort of monarchy for the Ukraine, whether under a Hetman or an imported German prince or Austrian Archduke. There was even talk of putting one of the Kaiser’s son on the throne of Ireland if the Allies had been defeated. On the other side of the world, the government of the Republic of China in part justified its declaration of war against Germany by claiming that the Germans had supported efforts to restore the last Manchu Emperor to power. It was only because the Allies won that Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland all ended up becoming republics and the Ukraine was, of course, absorbed by the Soviet Union.
That issue, of course, brings up the one black spot on the monarchist record of the Kaiser; allowing the passage of Vladimir Lenin back to Russia. Even there, however, I cannot bring myself to be as critical of the Kaiser as others have been. For one thing, no one could have known how it would end up working out, the Kaiser had grave misgivings about it but Imperial Germany was in a fight for its very survival and it should, perhaps, not be so shocking that they would use any weapon in their arsenal, no matter how distasteful, to help ward off their own immediate destruction. It is also possible that some of the other monarchies, on the Allied side, might have survived a Central Powers victory. There were many who wanted to annex the Kingdom of Belgium and Grand Duchy of Luxembourg but perhaps this might have been avoided or at the very least perhaps they may have survived as a monarchy within the German Empire. The Kaiser was absolutely furious when his cousin the King of Romania entered the war against him and yet, once defeated, the King of Romania lost some territory and resources but not his throne. Likewise, while mostly assume (and probably legitimately so) that Serbia would have been annexed by Austria-Hungary it is at least possible that this might not have happened given how opposed the Hungarians were too it who did not want to see more Slavs in the empire to compete with them for political power. What we do know is that the downfall of the Kaiser meant republics in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and a monarchy without a monarch in Hungary.
The Kaiser was not alone in this of course, Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary (or Kaiser Karl I) was certainly devoted to the cause of monarchy and to seeing new monarchies emerge from the conflict but by the time these issues came up it was clear that it was the Germans who were driving force of the Central Powers war effort. Still, Emperor Charles deserves at the very least an honorable mention for his refusal to abdicate as well as his efforts to restore himself in Hungary. I have always been most impressed by those monarchs, be it the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary or the last Emperor of China, who actively worked for their own restoration. I wish more non-reigning monarchs displayed as much zeal. However, with the end of the First World War there also came an end to the dominance in Europe of traditional monarchies. The next historical period which had immense consequences for the cause of monarchy was World War II and in that conflict, in Europe, monarchs would not play a very prominent role. Asia, however, was a very different story. In Asia, republicanism was an alien and almost totally unknown concept until very recent history. Prior to World War I and the Russian Revolution and the creation of the French Syrian mandate, there was not a single republic on the entire Asian continent. That all began to change with the historically pivotal collapse of the monarchy in China, then came the Soviet victory in the Russian Civil War and the absorption of Outer Mongolia as a Soviet republic in all but name.
Showa Emperor of Japan (better known as Emperor Hirohito in the west). Given the Japanese tradition, the Showa Emperor could not and did not go around expressing his views on monarchy in the same way that someone like the German Kaiser did. However, the entire imperial institution and the very monarchist culture surrounding the Emperor of Japan helped ensure that, more than any other power in World War II, Japan pursued a very pro-monarchist foreign policy. The biggest and best example of this was the key role of the Japanese in the restoration of the last Qing Emperor to the throne of the revived Manchu Empire (better known as Manchukuo though that is simply “Manchuria” in Chinese). That was not something that Japan really had to do, after the “Mukden Incident” the Japanese were in total control of Manchuria and could have done with it as they pleased but they did the right thing and restored the Manchu Emperor (PuYi) to his legitimate throne. Even more than that though, while some of the more disreputable characters involved did undermine it with their actions, Manchukuo was to represent a sort of “showcase” for monarchy in Asia as an example of righteous royal government and unity of the five races.
During the course of the war, everywhere Japanese forces went, support for monarchy followed wherever possible. China and the Philippines already had republican governments and Indonesia had no single royal heir but Japan restored the Manchu monarchy, allied with the Thai monarchy (though the King was absent at the time, being at school in Switzerland), kept in place the existing Malaysian monarchs other than a couple who were removed so that more legitimate monarchs could be restored and eventually Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were supported in asserting their independence under their traditional monarchies. In Burma there was no royal restoration, merely the declaration of an independent “State of Burma” but it is worth noting that the leader, Dr. Ba Maw, was the son of a staunch Burmese monarchist and was treated with very royalist pomp and ceremony. It is not unthinkable that a restoration might have occurred if Japan had prevailed in the war. According to one reader of this web log, some Japanese offered to make Sukarno the monarch of Indonesia but I have seen no confirmation of that.
We do know that Japan supported the Prince De Wang or Demchukdongrub as leader of an autonomous Inner Mongolia who had pan-Mongol monarchist ambitions and the Mongols were included in the list of titles of the Emperor of Manchukuo (as he was the heir to the title of “Great Khan of the Mongols” as well) so there is no doubt that a Japanese victory would have meant a monarchist revival in Mongolia to some degree (depending on how things developed with the Soviets). Japan did also consider, if it ever became possible (which it didn’t) creating an independent monarchy in Xinjiang (or “East Turkestan”) under an Ottoman prince. That would not technically have been an imported royal ruler either as the area was essentially the ancestral homeland of the Ottoman Turks before they moved west and occupied Anatolia. The farthest west Japanese speculation about monarchist alliances reached was Afghanistan where Japan had intermittent contact with Prince Sardar Mohammed Hashim Khan, uncle of the Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, though other than an exchange of moral support and some economic investment Japan was never able to do anything of any significance as far afield as Afghanistan. Naturally, national interest was involved in all of these moves as it was for France in Mexico and as it was for Germany in Eastern Europe but again, as in those cases, those who would discount these efforts must be asked; who did more? If the Japanese vision for East Asia had prevailed there would have been monarchies in Japan, Korea (though subordinate to Japan), Manchuria, at least Inner and perhaps even Outer Mongolia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, possibly Xinjiang and perhaps even in Burma whereas, the way things actually did work out, we have only monarchies in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia (plus Brunei to both lists) and Cambodia. And, while he was not involved in matters of policy, the devotion to the Showa Emperor was positively at the heart of this pro-monarchy mindset.
Sadly, since the end of World War II, monarchs have ceased to play an active role in foreign policy and the world stage has been dominated by republics. The relatively few monarchies that survived the disastrous Twentieth Century have become noticeably less assertive and virtually all depend on the United States to protect them against such enemies as the Soviet Union or Red China. In Europe, most have submitted to the leadership of the bureaucrats of the EU who have no time for monarchy and, one could argue, have even imperiled them by antagonistic expansion eastward, arousing the anger of a Russia desperate to prove its relevance. In these modern times, in this world setting, most monarchs have not been allowed to show any monarchist tendencies and have been raised up in an environment in which the elites of society and certainly education and media actively despise the institution. Yet, for all the criticism ardent monarchists often spout about their mostly power-less royal heads-of-state, one can still find clues that point to monarchist principles surviving in these frustratingly republican times.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other Realms and territories. How can this be? Again, one must accept that grand, decisive actions are no longer possible for most monarchs, so subtle things must be looked at; the evidence is there. In areas where the Queen herself has final say, she has acted in various ways to show how monarchist she really is. One has been her treatment of royals who have lost their thrones but found a safe haven in Great Britain. The Queen has been very close and supportive of such former or would-be monarchs as King Michael I of Romania and Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia during their time in exile. Perhaps the best example is the treatment accorded to the deposed King Constantine II of Greece. It caused the British government some slight discomfort when the Greek usurpers in Athens protested so loudly at how the Queen continued to treat King Constantine II as if he were still a reigning monarch. This was most noticeable at Royal Family events in which the guests are seated by rank and at which King Constantine II was seated alongside his fellow monarchs. Yet, despite the protests from Athens, this was something the British government could do nothing about as it was a matter handled by “the Palace” and no one else.
As a devoted constitutional monarch, the Queen has certainly kept within her legal limits but within those limits she has shown herself to be as monarchist as a modern, European monarch can reasonably be. Sometimes this has been illustrated by what she has done and other times by what she had refused to do. When the Church of England started down the path of accommodation with modernity by allowing women into the clergy, the Queen stayed out of the matter but noticeably showed no disfavor toward those royals who could not stomach the changes and sacrificed their birthright by converting to Catholicism. As part of her recent Jubilee celebrations, when almost all the monarchs of the world came to congratulate her, some objected to the presence of certain African or Arab monarchs whose countries are not up to the liberal standards of human rights advocates. Yet, none were shown the door just as no British politician seemed willing to put human rights concerns ahead of good relations with republican dictators from Libya to China. However, I always thought one of the best examples of the monarchist sensibilities of Queen Elizabeth II to be something seldom remarked on, in fact, I have never heard of anyone else making the connection. That would be the funeral of King Baudouin of the Belgians.
The sudden death of who was then the longest-reigning monarch in Europe certainly came as a shock and his funeral was one of the most widely attended events for royalty from all over the world. Yet, aside from being well respected and such a familiar figure, a popular man and an accomplished monarch (his success in unifying a divided country caused King Juan Carlos of Spain to take him as his example), King Baudouin was also known as the only monarch in the post-war era to defy his politicians. A devout Catholic, King Baudouin had adamantly refused to grant his Royal Assent to a bill legalizing abortion in Belgium. Faced with a constitutional crisis, it made headlines all over the world when the government essentially deposed the King of the Belgians for one day in order to sign the bill into law without him. This made him rather unique amongst the crowned heads of Europe. And, when the King of the Belgians was called to his reward, many were rather surprised when Queen Elizabeth II appeared in Brussels for his funeral. Why was this so special you may ask?
To fully understand why this was so significant, a few things need to be kept in mind. For one thing, there had been, several decades before, some tension between the British and Belgian Royal Families. When the Queen’s own father, King George VI, had passed away, King Baudouin had refused to attend the funeral because of how his own father, King Leopold III, had been treated by the British during and immediately after World War II. Things had been improved since then of course, but still, it was there. Combine this with the fact that the Queen herself almost never attends any royal functions on the continent at all, invariably sending some other members of the British Royal Family to weddings, funerals or enthronement ceremonies. Why then did the Queen make an exception for the King of the Belgians? I cannot help but speculate that it had something to do with his willingness to defy his ministers over a cause that was just. King Baudouin was the one monarch who said “No” to the elected representatives of the people and lost his throne for a day because of it. Other monarchs would not do the same, indeed most European monarchs could not do the same, but he did and I believe that the Queen chose to break from her usual routine and attend his funeral, at least in part, as a mark of respect to this monarch who had refused to be a rubber-stamp.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Sunday, November 23, 2014
The start and spread of the Protestant Reformation was certainly a painful period for the western world with Christians fighting Christians as never before and thus also Christian monarchies fighting each other as well. Some monarchs embraced Protestantism while others opposed it and some peoples were inspired by it or perhaps simply used it as an ideological shield to actions they wished to undertake in any event, to rise up in rebellion against their princes. Such was the Peasant’s Revolt in Germany and later, encouraged also by economics, the Dutch Revolt in the Netherlands which was, at that time, ruled by the Spanish Hapsburgs. The Dutch rebels embraced republicanism, albeit republicanism of a very unique sort that most today would not recognize, though their greatest leader was a prince and one who came to Protestantism rather late in the game, perhaps as much to attract the support of Protestant powers as religious conviction. The primary enemy of the Dutch republicans was, of course, the man the were rebelling against; King Philip II of Spain. King Philip II of Spain also happened to be a very monarchist monarch.
However, King Philip II was a monarch who took royal power seriously (though he was no arbitrary tyrant as he respected the laws and traditions of his various domains). He was so staunch a Catholic that he considered even Pope St Pius V insufficiently zealous, yet he was himself at odds with the Supreme Pontiff on more than one occasion (though, fortunately he never took it as far as his father had). It is evidence enough that Philip II was a loyal son of the Church even when he was sometimes considered a papal adversary that even today the most zealous Catholics tend to take the side of the King over that of the leader of the Catholic Church. King Philip II was a Catholic champion but he was also a monarch who believed in monarchy and would not allow the Pope to diminish his own legitimate authority or shy away from opposing the Pontiff politically, though such occasions were very much the rare exception.
Political realities, religion and the principle of monarchy came together again when King Philip II sent Spain’s “Invincible Armada” (which turned out to be all too ‘vincible’) against England. There were numerous motivations for this but one was certainly the regicide of Mary Queen of Scots by Queen Elizabeth I of England. Putting a monarch to death was a shocking event and one monarch subjecting another to a trial and execution was perhaps even more so. The Scots Queen was beheaded in 1587 and the Spanish Armada set sail the following year which, as we know, was unsuccessful in its aim of invading England and overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I.
Prince Willem II of Orange rather than his father. His father was, of course, a giant figure in Dutch history, a masterful military commander as well as an astute statesman but it was Prince Willem II who actually took to the field to fight for the idea of a Dutch monarchy and a powerful, Calvinist (because he saw himself as a champion of his religion just as Philip II of Spain did) ‘Kingdom of the United Netherlands’. Of course, each side also had their confederates in Britain as the English Civil War was the pivotal monarchy vs. republic contest of the time. Prince Willem II naturally favored the side of his father-in-law and thus there were many close ties between the Orange party in the Netherlands and the royalist Cavaliers in England. Prince Frederik Hendrik had also supported King Charles I in his domestic troubles and had even considered bringing his highly professional and experienced Dutch army to England to help the royalists win their war.
Tsar Alexis I of Russia. He was only the second Romanov to rule Russia and was a great monarch all around. Tsar Alexis I presided over the last flowering of Muscovite culture before the campaign of westernization, he was a powerful monarch, a devout Orthodox Christian and it was he who took the first steps towards modernization though in a more limited and conservative way than Peter the Great would. He tried to rebuild the Russian economy after a costly war with Poland by promoting trade. Yet, though it certainly was not beneficial to his country, Tsar Alexis put principle before profit and cut off all trade with England after the regicide of King Charles I. The fact that someone so far removed from the issue that he could do practically nothing else about it always impressed me all the more. Tsar Alexis I had no real vital interest in what happened in Great Britain and any actions he took would have little impact (the English Commonwealth certainly did not suffer unduly for lack of trade with Russia) yet, he nonetheless did what was in his power to do to show that he would have nothing to do with a regime which had murdered its legitimate, anointed sovereign.
King Louis XIV of France. As a man who was not above getting his hands dirty if it would advance French interests, his reputation was not so pristine as the Tsar of Russia (he did deal with Cromwell, as did the Dutch but that was the republican faction rather than the Orange party), yet King Louis XIV was certainly a big believer in monarchy and the sacred nature of monarchy which anyone who knows anything at all about him can attest. He also gave support to the British Stuarts in their hour of need but I think what stands out as the most laudable thing he did for the cause of monarchy came after the Stuart restoration. In the end, it was a promise he was never called upon to fulfill but he did promise his support and even a French army should it be necessary to keep King Charles II on his throne and defend the British Crown from republican traitors. It was also thanks to the subsidy King Louis XIV that Charles II had the funds to dissolve Parliament and rule in his own right for the final years of his life. This was not insignificant as it prevented Parliament from being able to force the King, by the power of the purse, to disinherit his brother and place the succession under the control of Parliament. This would have effectively meant that the Crown was in the gift of the Parliament and that the King of England, Scotland and Ireland reigned ‘by the grace of Parliament’ rather than “By the Grace of God” as is right and proper. When King James II was overthrown, Louis XIV gave him shelter and support and finally French troops to aid in his attempted restoration in Ireland, which, as we know, ended in failure at the Boyne. Practical reality finally compelled Louis to come to terms with Britain’s new Dutch monarch but while he was obliged to withdraw most of his support from the exiled James II, he never forced him to leave the country and even tried to find a crown for him in Poland but James refused the offer.
After the English Civil Wars there was not much opportunity for a monarch to prove their monarchist zealousness in the way we are looking at here for quite some time. The next major clash between republicans and royalists came with the American War for Independence and Britain had been riding high for so long that most were not unduly distressed to see Britain humbled. In some ways it seemed as though the crowned heads of the world were eager to embrace the new American republic. The French Revolution was another story but in that regard it is still difficult for individual monarchs to stand out since almost all were united in their opposition to the monstrous French regime. After the rise of Napoleon, almost every monarchy was also forced at some point to come to terms with the new regime in France. It is for that reason that one monarch stands out, to me at least, and that was the much maligned Tsar Paul I of Russia. He was a staunchly monarchist monarch which was even displayed when he did finally come around to recognizing Napoleon. Paul I was a monarchist very much of the legitimist variety and it was this that ultimately led to his falling out with the Allies and why many have accused him of having an erratic foreign policy (often cited amongst the evidence for his being insane).
Thankfully, in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, there was a somewhat greater degree of monarchial solidarity in Europe as most everyone recognized that it was in their own interest to maintain the principle of monarchy. Since republicanism threatened everyone, it was more common to see monarchs coming to the assistance of each other when they were threatened. Yet, there were also disagreements as to what formula for monarchy was best to preserve the institution. This was on display in civil wars in Spain, Portugal and Italy in particular. As constitutional monarchists battled against absolute monarchists many, particularly the powerful British Empire, tended to favor the constitutional monarchists. Many absolutist-sympathizers of course have very uncharitable views about Britain because of this, yet it should be kept in mind that many people viewed constitutional monarchy (and Britain was the most shining example) were more conducive to stability and the long-term survival of monarchy than absolutism was. This was the view that absolute rule invites rebellion and disorder, possibly resulting in the overthrow of monarchy and the victory of republicanism, while constitutional monarchy was able to give the people enough of what they wanted to keep them peaceful and orderly and to take out their frustrations at the ballot box rather than barricades in the streets. Give them elected representatives, was the idea, so that they have politicians to hold to account rather than blaming their monarch for any misfortune that may come along.
Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. He was certainly a monarchist monarch and an absolute monarchist (and monarch) at that. His political views were illustrated early on by the curtailment of the power of the government in Congress Poland (of which the Russian Emperor was also King). When the Poles protested, favoring a constitutional monarchy, the Tsar sent in Russian troops, dismissed the Polish constitution and from then on ruled Poland as a conquered province rather than an independent country in personal union with the Tsar. Nicholas I also offered to come to the aid of any European monarch who came under threat from republican traitors or even constitutional monarchists whom he tended to view as subversives. None availed themselves of his help until the Revolutions of 1848 when the Austrian Empire came to be in a desperate state. Rebellions by the various ethnicities of the polyglot empire seemed to be breaking out all at once. The Italians were seizing control of northern Italy, riots had broken out in Vienna and the Hungarians were rising up and showing signs of being determined to take Hungary out of the Austrian Empire. The Hapsburg Emperor fought back hard but it seemed doubtful that he had the military strength to suppress both the Italians in the west and the Hungarians in the east at the same time. In 1848 the Austrian Empire really did seem on the brink of collapse.
However, Tsar Nicholas I came riding to the rescue. Even though his country was not under threat and even though one could argue that the break-up of the Austrian Empire would have presented favorable opportunities for Russia, the man known as the “Iron Tsar” and the “Gendarme of Europe” did not care about such things. A monarchy was imperiled and he would lend assistance regardless of the circumstances. He sent a large Russian army into Hungary in 1849 to stamp out rebellion there and this was successfully accomplished with the rule of the House of Hapsburg being restored there. Nicholas I also sent his moral support to the King of Prussia not to give in to those who were demanding a constitution. No one can doubt that the Russian Emperor would have sent his army to Berlin to help prevent such a thing if the King of Prussia had asked it of him. For the Tsar, it was a matter of principle and he had an absolute clarity on the subject. The Revolutions of 1848 ended with most monarchies having been shaken but having survived. The crowned heads of Europe would not feel such nervousness again on such a scale until the outbreak of the First World War. More on that next time.
Continued in Part II
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
To end, I’ll just say “Remember”. Always. (monarchists should at least get that one)
Monday, November 17, 2014
|King Carol I|
Finally united and independent, in March of 1881 the government in Bucharest declared the country the Kingdom of Romania and Prince Carol crowned himself King Carol I of Romania with the famous “Steel Crown”, so-called because it was made from one of the guns that saw action at the battle of Plevna. The Kingdom of Romania was at last a fact but it would need a strong monarchy with a Royal Family and assurance of an orderly succession to see it thrive and prosper. Toward that end, King Carol I married Elizabeth von Wied (aunt of the Prince Wilhelm who would be Prince of Albania for a time in 1914). She was a literary woman, author of many poetry books under the name of “Carmen Sylva”. However, their only child, Princess Marie, died before her fourth birthday so in order to secure the succession King Carol adopted his nephew Prince Ferdinand von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Prince Ferdinand upset his family by renouncing Catholicism to join the Romanian Orthodox Church but he was just as determined as his uncle to see the Kingdom of Romania persevere and succeed. He learned Romanian and began seriously looking for a bride of his own to secure a stable Romanian royal dynasty. At the court of the German Kaiser he decided on Princess Marie of Edinburgh, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
So, at that moment, in the summer of 1916 the Kingdom of Romania declared war on the Central Powers and launched an invasion of Hungary. Unfortunately, things began to go wrong very quickly. The army was not well trained or prepared and German Colonel General Erich von Falkenhayn already had a plan for the conquest of Romania ready to put into effect. The Central Powers were not so crippled as the leaders in Bucharest thought and soon Field Marshal August von Mackensen was leading a massive invasion of Romania with troops from Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. Overwhelmed by this massive counter-attack, Romania was almost completely conquered and even started to destroy their oil facilities to keep them out of German hands. A remnant managed to hang on in the east but the next year, 1917, Russia began to come apart and the Romanians were left with no choice but to concede defeat and sign a treaty giving up border territories to the Central Powers and Germany control over Romanian oil production. Some were amazed that Romania was to survive at all given how furious the German Kaiser Wilhelm II was that a member of his own family would declare war on him. Fortunately for Romania, this humiliation was only temporary.
Crown Prince Carol finally agreed to return and marry the woman his parents chose; his sister-in-law Princess Helena of Greece in 1921. Later that year a son and heir was born to the royal couple; Prince Michael, named in honor of Prince Michael the Brave of Romanian history. However, the Crown Prince already had another mistress in the person of Elena Lupescu which caused quite a scandal. No one could decide what was worse; that she was a commoner, that she was Catholic by religion or that she was Jewish by blood. She converted to Orthodoxy but she had also been married before and divorced so that, for any number of reasons, “Magda” Lupescu was popular with practically no one besides Crown Prince Carol. Finally, in 1925 he was forced to renounce his rights to the throne in favor of his young son Michael. He divorced Helena and lived in France with Magda Lupescu. So it was that when King Ferdinand I died in 1927 he was succeeded by his 6-year-old grandson who officially became King Michael I of Romania.
|King Carol II|
King Carol refused and shortly thereafter Codreanu was shot by the police, supposedly while attempting escape though few believed it. As World War II broke out, things got worse for Romania. Hitler was hostile to King Carol II and there was nothing to do but concede when Stalin (at the time in league with Hitler) demanded the return of Bessarabia. Hitler also demanded that Carol II return northern Transylvania to Hungary. All of this was done, and it is hard to see how the King could have done anything else, but it cause a massive uproar in Romania particularly by the Iron Guard and the pro-German supporters of General Ion Antonescu, a former Minister of War. In September of 1940 General Antonescu organized a coup that brought down King Carol II and put King Michael I back on the Romanian throne. However, he was to be a mere figurehead with General Antonescu ruling Romania as dictator. He took the country into the Axis camp and participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. King Michael did not even know his country was at war with Russia until he heard about it on BBC radio. Still, despite the situation, King Michael was able to prevent the hand-over of Romanian Jews to the Nazis and he began to organize his own network of pro-Allied supporters.
|King Michael I|
When the war ended in victory for the Allies, the Soviet stranglehold on Romania became tighter. However, King Michael did all in his power to block them at every turn. Still, he was limited to small things since Romania had been abandoned by the west to the vicious Stalin and his stooges. There were some happier moments though, such as in 1947 when King Michael met Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma in London, the woman who would be the great love of his life. They soon made plans to marry the following year and that was the last sort of spectacle that anyone in Moscow or their lackeys in Bucharest wanted to see. The Romanian communists had hoped the King would have stayed in Britain but he returned home and was determined to never leave his people. The communists had other ideas and when all of their harassment could not induce him to leave, they finally resorted to outright coercion. In December they demanded that King Michael abdicate his throne or else they would begin executing 1,000 students as “subversives”. Of course, the King could not allow such a bloodbath and had no choice but to agree. He signed their document, under duress so it had no validity, and left the country with little more than the clothes on his back as all royal property was confiscated by the communists.
|the royal wedding|
The National Liberal Party did ask King Michael to run for president, which he of course refused and the party won no seats in the election. The King was perfectly willing to return as monarch if the Romanian people so desired it but he had no desire to become a politician. To return to his beloved country was, however, naturally the first thing that King Michael wanted to do but he met opposition from the government. His first effort to return saw the government cancel his visa so the first member of the Royal Family to return was Princess Margarita, his daughter, in December of 1990 on a humanitarian mission. That year she had founded a charitable organization after being moved by the plight of the children in the wretched state orphanages run by Ceausescu. For those not aware, this was probably the greatest horror of the communist regime and what happened to the orphaned children in state care is a story too horrific to relate here. There was starvation, neglect, abuse and even more disgusting crimes that can scarcely be imagined. After bringing up the subject with the prime minister, who did not say the King would not be allowed to return, the King prepared to come home.
|The King & Princess Margarita|
Friday, November 14, 2014
|George II of Britain & Louis XV of France|
In 1753 France established a line of forts in Pennsylvania along the Allegheny River. The British Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, dispatched Lieutenant Colonel George Washington with his militia to demand that the French commanders evacuate the fortifications. Naturally, the French refused to abandon their foothold and launched an attack to prevent the British from establishing a base of their own. So, Washington was sent back in 1754 to force the French out with his militia. The Virginia militia met a detachment of French troops under Ensign Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville and soundly defeated them, with the Indian allies of Washington mutilating the young French officer. Washington and his men then fell back and hastily built Fort Necessity. Any military engineer observing the position would have guessed it to be the work of an utter idiot. Built on low, marshy ground with poor fields of fire it was in every way a textbook example of where and how NOT to build a fortification. The French returned and quickly forced Washington to surrender. Given French outrage at what they considered an ambush and murder of one of their officers it is amazing Washington and his men were released at all, especially after Washington signed a formal confession to the murder of Jumonville before his brother who commanded the French counter attack. Washington later claimed he had not understood what he had signed and recanted his confession. In any event, the man later known as the ‘father of his country’ had just gone off and picked a fight with a world power and presided over the war’s first atrocity. Still, on July 4, 1754 no less, he was allowed to take his men back home.
The war got off to a very bad start for Great Britain, despite having an immense numerical advantage over the French because of their much larger population base in North America. In 1755 General Edward Braddock led an army of British regulars and American militia in another march against Ft Duquesne, hoping to make up for the previous defeat. Braddock was an old army veteran and his force included 1,400 men in two British regiments, 450 Virginia militia (under Washington again) and some Indian allies supplied by a train of 150 wagons. Forced to cut their way through the dense wilderness, they made very slow progress and the French and their Indian allies had plenty of time to prepare for them even though their available forces consisted of less than a thousand men, most of them Indians with only a handful of French regulars and Canadian militia. The French plan was for General Braddock to march his men right into an ambush by these French and Indians. To his credit (because he seldom gets much), Braddock thought of this and made generous use of scouts and flankers and it was actually the French who made the first move. The fact that they were so outmatched tended to make the French take bolder risks and fight with greater desperation in this war.
|French & Indians take down Braddock|
And so the trend continued, to the utter delight of the Gallic population. Another attack on Ft Duquesne had failed, quite bloodily this time, and the French also beat back British attacks on Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga in Upper New York. Despite being greatly outmatched, they were clearly winning the war so far. The sole British victory in the first part of the war was the capture of Ft Beauséjour in what is now the Province of New Brunswick, part of what was then known as Acadia. This little episode would have far-reaching consequences for North America. A great deal of animosity lingered with the change in rule from Paris to London, animosity which ultimately led to the British deciding to clear out the local population and bring in one of their own, the food would be worse but they would be more orderly and well behaved. So it was that the French Acadians were exiled from Canada and these stalwart refugees sailed away, mostly to the south, landing in the Gulf coast around Louisiana where there was already a French population and establishing the Cajun community of the American south. However, that one loss aside, good news for French North America came in as well when the French forces in the New World received a new commander in the person of the Marquis de Montcalm in 1756. He didn’t get along with the civilian leadership and was often horrified by the practices of his Indian allies but he would bring a world of hurt down on the British.
|Marquis de Montcalm|
For France, it all must have seemed to good to be true. Despite the odds against them, the French forces under Montcalm were totally dominating the war in North America. Some British American colonists were reluctant to join the militia for fear that their farms would be attacked by Indians in their absence. There were raids and some of this fear was genuine but much of the hysteria was also intentional. British propagandists tried to stir up fear and hatred of the French and Indians in a number of ways such as tales of lurid Indian atrocities or claims that the French would force all the colonists to convert to Roman Catholicism if they were victorious. Of course, while these tactics were successful in making the colonists fear France and the Indians, it also meant that they were reluctant to march off to war and leave their farms and families behind -so the effectiveness of such propaganda was a mixed blessing for Britain. Such scare tactics are often a sign of a desperate situation and by 1757 the British situation certainly seemed desperate, but all that was about to change. Traditionally, Britain has been very good at looking at failures honestly, learning from them and improving going forward. One way in which the British fought back was beating the Indians at their own game and that was the result of one unit in particular; the famous Roger’s Rangers. These men were formed under the command of Captain Robert Rogers as a company of light riflemen who carried out similar duties to those of the Indians fighting with the French; they even scalped on occasion.
They had the ball and ran with it, sending over large numbers of reinforcements from Britain to set up a knock-out blow against the French in America. In the summer of 1759 the British conquered Forts Niagara and Ticonderoga (known as Fort Carillon to the French) as well as Crown Point. Present at the Crown Point victory was William Johnson whose command included Roger’s Rangers who were used to great effect. These men gained such a reputation for expertise that before long all British commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the light infantry first served with the Rangers to learn their trade (even today, the special forces of the U.S. army trace their roots back to that green-clad elite group). Upper New York and most of the Great Lakes region was now in British hands and the string of French victories had been totally reversed. The heart of French North America, modern Quebec, also came under attack when British forces under General James Wolfe moved to attack the formidable walled city which was held by 15,000 French soldiers under the Marquis de Montcalm. For three months the British troops besieged Quebec City but could find no advantage. Finally, in September, in one of the most famous battles in British military history, General Wolfe launched a surprise attack across the Plains of Abraham which won the battle and gave Britain control of modern Canada. Unfortunately, neither General Wolfe nor the Marquis de Montcalm survived the battle. The French had gone as far as their limited resources could take them, and done astonishingly well, but when the British put their all into it, they had turned the war around and dealt France a crippling blow.
|The death of General Wolfe|
Many may not often remember the French and Indian war today, especially in the United States (it is more remembered in Canada where the French population still have yet to get over it), but so much of our modern world and how it has developed descends from that one conflict, mostly due to the impact of the United States rising to global super-power status. The fact that North America is dominated by the Anglo, Protestant culture would not be so were it not for that war. Had Britain lost there might today be a North America dominated by French, Catholic culture instead. There would not be a United States or a Canada, at least as we know them, and even Mexico and the southwest might be vastly different from what they are today had the French and Indians won the war that bears their name (at least on this side of the Atlantic). So much comes from the conflict; it was where George Washington first saw combat and first felt slighted by the British social and military hierarchy. It saw the birth of Roger’s Rangers, the forefathers of our modern day U.S. Army Rangers and thanks to Benjamin Franklin it saw the first proposition that the American colonies should join together in some kind of union. It gave the British Empire one of its most famous martyrs in General Wolfe and saw the battle which made the reputation of the highlanders of the “Black Watch” as one of the most courageous regiments in the British army.
|Washington & the French at Yorktown, 1781|