Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The (Very Real) Crisis in Sweden

After one remark by President Trump at a rally for his supporters, everyone is suddenly talking about the Kingdom of Sweden. Trump referred to a huge upsurge in violent crime and sexual assault since the Swedes opened their borders to massive waves of immigrants from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. The Swedish Prime Minister immediately said that this was a total fabrication, indeed, seemed shocked and bewildered that someone would make such an outlandish accusation. However, for those who have been keeping your ear to the ground, this was neither shocking nor anything new. In fact, Trump seemed to go overboard in making it sound like it should be hard to believe, that the peaceful, idyllic Kingdom of Sweden could be so beset by violence and social chaos. However, plenty of people have been pointing this out for quite some time, for about as long as this “refugee” crisis has been going on. Sweden is in a perilous state and the government would not be trying so hard to suppress information and retroactively scrub the statistics if everything was all cakes and ale in the land of the Swedes.

For a country with so small a population as Sweden, the amount of non-Swedish immigrants that have already been taken into the country is well beyond the point that the total extinction of the Swedish people has become inevitable in the long term barring drastic measures that most in modern, Western Europe today seem to view as unthinkably horrific, by which I mean mass-deportation of these people to their actual homelands (yes, I know, “the horror”) and that is something most seem unwilling to countenance. The Swedes, of course, would not be the first people to succumb to death by demographic drowning (see if you can find a Manchurian these days) but they do stand out in being so willing to sacrifice themselves and their descendants to oblivion. No one is forcing Sweden to do this. No one is holding a gun to their head. They are, as things stand, willingly allowing themselves to be displaced in their own homeland, willingly giving the land of their ancestors to the descendents of people from a foreign culture, a foreign religion, even foreign continents. That is rather unprecedented.

Some, I have noticed, seem to have no sympathy for the Swedes because of that, even holding them in contempt because of it. I am certainly not among them. Their plight may be their own fault but it is no less tragic in my mind for that. The majority in Sweden seem to have taken liberalism to its ultimate, unfortunate, conclusion and are embracing death purely for reasons of self-image. They seem to think it makes them morally superior to sacrifice themselves for the less fortunate peoples of other lands. That is not something to hate them for but rather something to pity. The Kingdom of Sweden is a part of the rich tapestry of western civilization and do not wish to see the kingdom nor the Swedes themselves depart from the world. Evidently, saying that, makes yours truly quite an evil person in the eyes of many but so be it. Sweden is more to me than lines on a map. It is for that reason that the level of crime, while certainly terrible and worth talking about, is not finally the point.

In any talk about immigration or the “migrant crisis” or the “refugee crisis” you will usually hear a great deal about how it would all be okay if only the immigrants would, in this case, learn Swedish and adopt Swedish values and customs and assimilate into Swedish society. For me, that is ultimately irrelevant because Sweden is more to me than a language or a name on the map of Europe. As I have said before about France, Sweden, without Swedish people, would not be Sweden to me. There have been many changes in Sweden since the reign of King Eric the Victorious but the Swedish people have always been Swedish, not Arab or African or Pashtun and that is how I would wish it to stay. Such a sentiment should not be sufficient to warrant the label of “racism”. Has the world changed so much in my lifetime that wishing to preserve a people from extinction is “racist” rather than believing your own people are inherently superior to all others? It seems fantastic but, for many, it seems to be the case. Again, so be it.

There is, of course, little I can do about the matter other than what I already have done which is to make my opinion on the subject known. I have also tried, in the small way I can, and as I have done with others, to remind people of their own glorious past. To remind people, in this case Swedish people, that they are better than this current population of willing victims to demographic suicide. I admire the history and heroes of the Kingdom of Sweden, even if I would have been on opposite sides to some of them, for their great achievements. I have posted here before about King Charles XII, “the Last Viking”, about the Swedish empire overseas, the brilliant Marshal Torstensson, “the father of field artillery”, King Gustavus Adolphus, “the Lion of the North”, the controversial Queen Christina who caused such a splash in her own time, one of only three women to be buried in the crypt beneath St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and King Sigismund III of Poland who dominated Eastern Europe and, for a time, was also King of Sweden. The blood that flows through the veins of Swedes today is no different than that which flowed through the people who dominated northern Europe, made the Baltic a Swedish lake and left there mark on far distant shores.

I hope that the Swedes awake from this nightmare because I don’t want to see the people of Sweden become extinct. The problem is that the longer they wait, the harder it will be to set things right again and it should be of serious concern to people in Sweden that they do not suppress their natural patriotic impulse to the point that drastic solutions become the only possible solutions. That point is rapidly approaching and it is dangerous to ignore it and not, I should add, primarily for the Swedes. The only thing most dangerous to them, as a people, is ignoring the problem indefinitely. I want the Swedes to survive, they are vital part of the tapestry of Europe and western civilization. They are, as I have tried to show in these pages, a great people with a glorious history of fantastic achievements. I do not consider the Swedes expendable or replaceable. It should also go without saying that a key component of this is the Swedish monarchy. Like Sweden itself, I have seen far too many take an ambivalent attitude toward the Swedish monarchy. I am certainly not among them, regardless of the fact that I have no doubt that they would not wish someone so, let us say ‘politically incorrect’ as myself, as a supporter.

Just as I am unwilling to give up on the Swedes, so too am I unwilling to surrender on the subject of the monarchy. Yes, it would be nice if the Swedish royals themselves were standing up for their people but this is a totally unrealistic expectation. For one thing, as I have said of many other royals, they have been raised to think in much the same way as most people in Sweden have been raised to think. They have no actual political power to effect change, one way or the other, and given how biased and dishonest the mainstream media is, all around the world, they may not even be aware of the full extent of what is going on in their country. If the Swedish royals did speak up in defense of their own people, they would certainly be swiftly denounced and, given current voting patterns, would most likely lose everything they have and all to no effect. Giving up everything in return for nothing is hardly a brilliant move.

I view the Swedish royals as being not far removed from hostages at this point. They are under the power of the captors with a sword of Damocles constantly hanging over their heads. Monarchists who feel no support or sympathy for the Swedish royals because they do not think as you do would be well advised to keep in mind what sort of people you would be making common cause with by opposing them. The Swedish Republican Association, while having some members from what passes for the “conservative” right, is largely dominated by Social Democrats and open-borders globalists. They even considered changing their name in years past for fear of being associated with American Republicans like Sarah Palin. Their Secretary-General, in 2010, Mona Abou-Jeib Broshammar is a native of Lebanon with a Syrian father and Swedish mother. Her father evidently fled Syria for Lebanon and then the family fled Lebanon, due to the war there, for the Kingdom of Sweden. Yet, two failed republics in her own family background has not dissuaded Ms. Broshammar from campaigning to bring republicanism to Sweden.

The Swedish republicans have not hesitated to blast their enemies as racists and to use race of “multiculturalism” as a propaganda tool for their own goal of bringing down the Swedish monarchy, the cornerstone of the traditional cultural heritage of Sweden. When President Obama was elected in the United States, the Swedish republicans seized on his widespread popularity in Western Europe to promote their own cause. They put out an ad campaign changing Obama’s slogan of “Yes We Can” to “No We Can’t”, lamenting that Sweden could never have a Black President like those lucky Americans as long as they have that stuffy, old monarchy with its boring, White Swedish Royal Family. Sweden could, of course, have a Black monarch someday, if the proper choices of spouse are made, but then he wouldn’t really be a “Swedish” monarch anymore than a blue-eyed White guy with sandy brown hair could ever really be a “Japanese” emperor even if by some extremely unprecedented marriage arrangements produced such as heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. But, all of that would take too long anyway. The Swedish republicans were trying to seize on a moment when it seemed so ‘cool’ and so progressive to have a Black Head of State in a majority White country. Their ad campaign no doubt turned a lot of heads but it did not ultimately bring down the Swedish monarchy in favor of an African presidency. Nonetheless, they made it perfectly clear as to where they stand, not only on their opposition to the monarchy but also on their position that Sweden is just too Swedish to be a really ‘great’ country (though they may not want to be great either as I think Trump has tainted that term).

We tend to forget but should not, that even though they rarely make anything of it, practically all the leftist parties in Sweden contain in their programs the ultimate abolition of the monarchy and these are the same people of the same parties who are the ones doing their best to replace the native Swedes with a totally foreign population. This is something that should not be allowed and all I can do is to implore the people of Sweden to come back to reality before it truly too late and there are no more Swedes in Sweden. I want Sweden to survive. I want Swedes to remember who they are and be proud of their great achievements, be proud of their people and history, to carry on so that their culture is not something to be seen only in isolated pockets of the American Midwest or like a carcass on display in a museum. Read some of the past posts linked to above and remember that you have the same blood in your veins as the people who accomplished all of those great deeds. Do not forget who you are, where you came from and what you are capable of. Sverige Vakna!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Royal Regalia: Recent Papal Tiaras

The Roman Pontiffs, because their spiritual position is of greater importance than their political position (though sometimes it hasn’t seemed that way) have never had the sort of accoutrements than secular royals have had, these typically being a sword, a scepter and a crown, at least in western, Christian countries. However, there have still been some items of personal adornment that have distinguished the Bishops of Rome such as the “Fisherman’s Ring” (which is unique to each Pontiff), the red shoes and, most strikingly, the three-tiered crown or Papal Tiara. The oldest sort of unique papal ceremonial headgear dates back to the Dark Ages but there soon developed a sort of crown, originally a bullet or beehive-shaped object with a crown at the base. Later, a second crown was added and, in time, a third which became the traditional norm for hundreds of years. Popes would wear their crown at their coronation, of course, and certain other formal events but, it should be noted, were never liturgical wear other than on one occasion when Pope St. John XXIII wore his tiara at a special joint Catholic-Orthodox service.

The Palatine Tiara
The three crowns on the Papal Tiara can symbolize a number of things, from the triple Christian roles of prophet, priest and king to the Church militant, Church suffering and Church triumphant to the supreme authoritative position of the Pontiff as, “the ruler of the rulers of the world”, a phrase which was formerly used at the papal coronations. Most of the Papal Tiaras were destroyed when the French Revolution came to Italy but a new collection was begun as popes were often donated a Tiara from their home diocese. When Pope Bl. Pius IX lost his political position as ruler of central Italy, Catholic countries seemed to try to compensate for failing to go to war to defend his property by showing how much they still respected his spiritual authority by gifting him a Papal Tiara. He ultimately collected six Papal Tiaras, the most of any Pontiff. For a time, it became tradition to use the 1877 “Palatine Tiara” of Pope Bl. Pius IX at papal coronations. All of his successors were crowned with this Papal Tiara until the coronation of Pope Bl. Paul VI.

Tiara of Bl. Paul VI
Pope Bl. Paul VI was crowned with a very distinctive tiara made for him by his former archdiocese of Milan. However, his would be the last papal coronation to date as, at the end of the Second Vatican Council, Bl. Paul VI gave up his Papal Tiara as a gesture of humility, selling it to benefit the poor. It was bought by the Catholic Church in America and is currently on display in Washington DC at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This was the last Papal Tiara to ever be worn or, at least, the last to ever be worn publicly (who knows what the Popes try on for size behind the walls of the Vatican). However, old traditions do not ordinarily stop so suddenly and, other than the short-lived Pope John Paul I, every one of the Pontiffs since Pope Bl. Paul VI have still been given a Papal Tiara of their own from some group or another. Obviously, though it remains only as a symbol on the Vatican City coat-of-arms, the Papal Tiara is still the one symbol most associated with the papacy.

Tiara of St John Paul II
When elected to the throne of St Peter, Pope St John Paul II remarked on his immediate predecessor not having a coronation. He lamented that the Papal Tiara had come to be viewed in an incorrect way, yet, he made no effort to correct this other than pointing it out on this one occasion. In the same remarks he said that he too would not be having a coronation to mark his installation as Supreme Pontiff. While Pope Paul VI had done away with much of the traditional pomp and ceremony of the papal court, the reign of St. John Paul II saw occasional use of traditional finery but an explosion of extremely novel modes of dress for a Pope. It seemed to be the era of tie-dye vestments. However, though it remained unknown until long after his passing, Pope St. John Paul II did have a Papal Tiara of his own. It was made by unknown persons behind the “Iron Curtain” in Hungary and was smuggled out of the land of the Magyars to Rome. Although simple in style, it is still quite striking. The lack of lappets (representing the Old and New Testaments and traditionally featured on all bishops miters and Papal Tiaras) suggest it may have been made solely as an artistic work and was not intended to be worn at all. Who was responsible for its construction remains a mystery (as far as I know) and photos of it only emerged after the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Whatever faithful Hungarians were responsible, I say God bless them for helping to carry on the tradition of every pope having a crown of his own.

Tiara of Pope Benedict XVI
With the death of St. John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI the era of the tie-dye papacy had certainly come to an end. Benedict XVI took a noticeably more traditional style in his dress and habits, however, unfortunately, that did not extend to the Papal Tiara. Benedict XVI reportedly inquired about having a coronation but was told that it would take too long to organize and come up with a proper ceremony on such short notice so that, effectively, it could not be done. I have no way of verifying that story, just relating what I heard but it seems like a lame excuse. Pope Benedict instead opted for a larger, more old-fashioned style of pallium (the wool band worn about the shoulders by popes and metropolitan archbishops) to be invested with at his inauguration, though it was later replaced with one more like those others wear but still slightly distinctive. However, the Papal Tiara was not only used but even removed from the papal coat-of-arms, replaced with an odd looking miter sporting three, connected, gold bands around it. This was designed by Deacon (now Cardinal) Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo. Pope Benedict XVI was not to end his reign without a tiara of his own though. In 2011, after a General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI was presented with a Papal Tiara by a group of German Catholics with a businessman named Dieter Philippi being behind the project, having employed a Bulgarian firm that makes liturgical headgear for the East Orthodox which makes it more likely than not that this Papal Tiara can actually be worn. Unfortunately, it was not, despite Benedict XVI being known for trying on all sorts of hats and reviving other forms of papal headgear, specifically the camauro, not seen since the days of Pope St John XXIII (though he did only wear it once).

Tiara of Pope Francis
The election of Pope Francis brought about a drastic change from the more traditional style of his predecessor. From the first day of his election, Pope Francis dispensed with traditional papal fashions along with other displays to highlight his humility in contrast to his predecessors such as refusing to live in the papal apartments at the Apostolic Palace and wearing black or brown shoes rather than the traditional red shoes meant to symbolize martyrdom. With the new standard for humility and simplicity set by Pope Francis, papal coronations seem firmly consigned to the history books and, needless to say, the Papal Tiara has remained absent from the papal coat of arms as well. Whether it was his decision to live in the equivalent of the Vatican ‘guest house’ to his preference for a compact car over the dreadfully named “Popemobile” much less the stately Sedia Gestatoria, Pope Francis has been known for his public displays of humility and renunciation of traditional finery. One would think that he would be the last Roman Pontiff who would wish to receive a Papal Tiara of his own, yet, he too has one. In 2016 Pope Francis was presented with a Papal Tiara by the President of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia. It was handmade for him by the nuns of the monastery of Rajcica of Ohrid pearls from a nearby lake. It is quite an exquisite Papal Tiara, obviously made with great care. Pope Francis has never worn it nor would any expect him too. In fact, it was stated at the time that those giving the gift are well aware that Papal Tiaras have become a thing of the past and obviously did not expect their gift to ever be used.

Pope Francis being presented with his tiara
The papacy has, in a very short time, outpaced even the progressive constitutional monarchies of liberal Europe in not only ceasing to have coronations but going so far as to remove their crowns from even symbolic use. Any pope could at any time choose to revive the old traditions, as the pope can generally do as he pleases and is not bound by the actions or words of his predecessors, but the way in which it was done makes this highly unlikely and unfortunately so in my opinion. Pope St John Paul II lamented that the Papal Tiara was, “…an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes” but nonetheless refrained from the use of one and, in that same remark at least seemed to imply that a clash with the virtue of humility was the reason. The portrayal of the abandonment of the Papal Tiara by Pope Paul VI as a symbol of the ‘renunciation of earthly glory’ thus set a standard that it would be very hard for a future Roman Pontiff to undo. By abandoning the Papal Tiara as a gesture of humility, how can any future Pope return to it without appearing vainglorious? It may be hard enough simply to move back in to the Apostolic Palace after the reign of Pope Francis without appearing to show vanity. And that, I think, underscores a more fundamental point about why the renunciation of the Papal Tiara was a mistake. In attempting to show that such “appearances” do not matter, they have, on the contrary, shown the extent to which “appearance” is all that matters.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Story of Monarchy: The Kingdom of Denmark

In all the monarchies of the western world, none can match the longevity of the Danes. The venerable Danish monarchy can boast of having the longest unbroken hereditary succession in the world other than Japan. As such, the history of Denmark stretches back to traceless antiquity. Scientists have found evidence of human habitation in Denmark going back 11,000 years though very little is known about the people that lived there at that time other than that they survived by hunting and fishing. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the onset of the “Dark Ages” things began to become more exciting for the people of Denmark who, under their various chieftains, struck out on Viking raids into neighboring countries. In the 800’s Danish Vikings conquered most of southern England while others conquered and settled on the northern coast of France. Referred to as the “Northmen” or Normans, this area has since been known as Normandy. These Danes were Vikings but eventually adopted French culture, mixed with the local population and converted to Christianity.

Sweyn Forkbeard
About the year 950 AD the Danes were finally united into one country by a chieftain known as Harald Bluetooth. It was his son, Sweyn Forkbeard (and you have to love those Viking names) who led the Danish conquest of England which was completed by 1013. King Sweyn Forkbeard was, in turn, succeeded by his son King Canute the Great who conquered Norway in 1028. This represented a high point in Danish history but it was to be rather short-lived. After the death of King Canute the Great things began to come apart, aided in so small part by the fact that various chieftains battled over the throne. While civil war prevailed at home, Denmark lost control of England and Norway as well as other territorial holdings outside Denmark itself. However, when your history is as long as that of the Kingdom of Denmark, there is time for more than one high point and, in a way that seems rather foreign to people today, the Danes were not deterred by these setbacks and as soon as the domestic problems were settled, began to expand again to build another era of power and glory for their country.

A new Danish empire stretching across the shores of the Baltic Sea was established by two particularly powerful monarchs with the same name; King Valdemar the Great (1131-1182) and King Valdemar the Victorious (1170-1241). Thanks to their successful campaigns, the lands of the Kingdom of Denmark stretched across much of northern Germany, the island of Gotland and east to what is now Estonia. It was also King Valdemar the Victorious who gave Denmark its first legal system known as the “Jutland Code”. This law code was to remain in effect in Denmark until 1683 and influenced subsequent Danish law codes far beyond that. However, the Danish empire built by the two Valdemars eventually met its match with the rise of the German merchant city-states that banded together in the Hanseatic League. Denmark lost most of its continental possessions to the League as well as absorbing an amount of German customs due to proximity and close interaction. But, you can’t keep a good Dane down and as the 1200’s gave way to the 1300’s the Kingdom of Denmark began to rise again.

Queen Margaret I
The island of Iceland became a Danish possession in 1380 and would remain such until the middle of the last century. The late 1300’s also saw the emergence of one of the most famous and formidable characters in Danish royal history; Queen Margaret (1353-1412). During her time on the Danish throne, Queen Margaret was able to unite under her rule all of Denmark, Norway and Sweden by 1397. These countries did not become Danish possessions but retained their own national governments. They were, however, united in personal union with Queen Margaret of Denmark. This union of the Scandinavian countries survived Queen Margaret but not by much. It began to come apart when the Swedish nobility rebelled against King Christian II of Denmark (1481-1559) and the Swedes succeeded in winning their independence from the Danish crown in 1523.

Baptism of Bluetooth
On the religious front, the beginning of Christianity in Denmark dates back to our old friend King Harald Bluetooth. There are conflicting accounts as to how exactly it happened but all agree that King Harald Bluetooth was the first to convert to Christianity and was the first Catholic monarch of Denmark. He even had his father, Gorm the Old, (honored as the originator of the Danish monarchy) removed from the old pagan burial mound and reburied in a church. King Harald Bluetooth helped to spread Christianity though it would take some time before the faith was accepted in Norway and Sweden. However, eventually it was and Denmark was a Catholic country as were Norway and Sweden. So firmly were these lands a part of the wider Christendom that Christian knights from the most distant northern land of Norway even participated in the Crusades to retake the Holy Land from the Muslims. However, by the sixteenth century, religious changes arrived in Denmark and were to change the course of Danish history.

King Christian III
In 1536 King Christian III of Denmark (1503-1559) became a Protestant, adopting Lutheranism and making the Lutheran church the official state religion of the Kingdom of Denmark. Prior to this, as elsewhere, the Catholic Church held extensive properties and assets in Denmark. When King Christian III embraced the Protestant cause, he seized all of these assets for the Crown of Denmark and in so doing greatly increased the wealth and power of the Danish monarchy. This also, of course, separated Denmark from the countries of Catholic Christendom but it did not mean peace and tranquility with the Protestant powers either as this was followed by a long period of conflict with the Kingdom of Sweden which had also become officially Lutheran as well. For most of the next two hundred years Denmark and Sweden were often at war. The Danes were trying to force Sweden back into the personal union with Denmark while the Swedes were growing more powerful and ambitious and wished to secure control of the Baltic shores and to obtain an outlet to the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Denmark and Norway stood in the way of this goal and frequent warfare ensued. The fighting was fierce but between 1649 and 1660 the Swedes succeeded in gaining access to the ocean and expelling the last Danish footholds from the Swedish mainland. Over the next two centuries the Danes would fight to regain the territory lost to Sweden with the situation not really calming down until the Napoleonic Wars.

The defeats at the hands of Sweden were certainly demoralizing but they did prove rather beneficial for the Danish monarchy. The nobility of Denmark had been devastated by the wars with Sweden and this gave rise to the middle classes increasing their power and eliminated the nobility as a major rival for power with the King. The middle classes wanted stability and the opportunity to advance themselves and so joined with the King in opposition to the aristocracy and so it was that in 1660 King Frederick III (1609-1670) made the Kingdom of Denmark an absolute monarchy and, officially, a hereditary monarchy. In the old days, the monarchy was elective but effectively hereditary as the eldest son of the previous monarch was invariably chosen to be the next king but Frederick III made this official. Even modern historians have had to admit that royal absolutism benefited Denmark.

King Frederick VI
Absolute monarchy brought greater stability to Denmark which in turn brought about a flourishing of commerce and, with the increased wealth, also a flourishing of the arts as monarchs sponsored great artists. In 1721 the Danes settled Greenland and in 1788 serfdom was abolished in Denmark by King Christian VII (1749-1808), though as most regarded him as quite insane, it was actually his doctor and later brother and regent who produced these changes. The end of serfdom meant the end of the huge estates which hurt the economy in the short term but eventually led to improvements in farming that benefited the country as a whole. It was under the regent, later King Frederick VI (1768-1839), that the Napoleonic Wars first came to Denmark when the British launched two attacks on Copenhagen, in 1801 and 1807, to stop Denmark from trading with France and frightening Sweden, Prussia and Russia away from the same. A period of hostility between Britain and Denmark ensued with the British taking the view that Denmark was essentially taking the side of France and, as such, when Napoleon was ultimately defeated, Denmark would have to pay a price as well to the victorious allies. In 1814 the Kingdom of Denmark was forced to hand over Norway to the Kingdom of Sweden as their compensation for the Swedes giving Finland to Russia.

Like the country as a whole, King Frederick VI was embittered by this loss and a gloomy mood seemed to hang over Denmark in the aftermath. The King abandoned the tentative liberalism of his youth and turned hard reactionary though he did allow for consultative assemblies on the local level. This, however, produced two problems in the decades that followed; disputes between the Danes and Germans in the Schleswig-Holstein region and increasing demands for even more democracy and representative government in Denmark. The absolute monarchy came to an end in Denmark with King Frederick VII (1808-1863) who signed a new constitution that allowed for the creation of a Danish parliament and made Denmark a constitutional monarchy in 1849. There was also the growing crisis over Schleswig-Holstein to deal with. Did the new constitution apply to these areas? To make matters worse, these lands were becoming of greater interest to the Germans at a time when the Prussians were starting to move to displace the Austrians as the dominant power in the German-speaking community.

Victorious Danish troops
Schleswig was a Danish dependency while Holstein was a German dependency but both were ruled by the Crown of Denmark. The Germans in Holstein wanted not only their own territory but Schleswig as well to be part of the German Confederation (the presidency of which was held by the Austrian House of Habsburg). In 1848 Holstein and southern Schleswig finally rose up in open revolt against Denmark. The Prussians and later the Austrians gave aid to the rebels in their fight against the Danes. The result was the First War of Schleswig of 1848-1851 and later the Second Schleswig War of 1864. In the first war, despite the rebels being aided by the German Confederation (primarily Prussia), the Kingdom of Denmark was victorious. Some people in Norway and Sweden volunteered to fight for Denmark because of their fear of the growing power and expansion of the Germans at the expense of a Nordic neighbor.

Danish attack in the Second Schleswig War
The second war, in 1864, was generally a hopeless fight as both the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire aligned against the Kingdom of Denmark. Not only were the Danes hopelessly outmatched by the relatively new Danish politicians interfered with the army in how to conduct the war, leading to the Danish forces being poorly deployed to repel the German invaders. The Austrian and Prussian invading columns pushed the Danes back where forced to retreat or risk being surrounded. Fighting and retreating February, often in blinding snow, was a bitter and grueling experience. The Danes fought hard and were able to win some engagements but most were delaying actions, stalling the inevitable Austro-Prussian advance. Bismarck also pushed the Austrians to go along with invading Denmark itself, not stopping with the conquest of Schleswig-Holstein. At Heligoland the Danish navy won at least a tactical victory though it would not effect the outcome of the war. Ultimately, King Christian IX of Denmark (1818-1906) was forced to accept an unfavorable peace being totally outmatched by Prussia and Austria while being unsupported by his Scandinavian neighbors. Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg were handed over to the victorious Germans and King Christian IX immediately became a very unpopular monarch for, evidently, not being able to work miracles.

Nonetheless, in the ensuing years, Denmark become more and more prosperous. Industry and trade expanded, new farming methods were devised and cooperative enterprises were developed. The Kingdom remained neutral during World War I and in 1918 granted independence to Iceland though it remained in union with the Crown of Denmark. In 1920 a political shift occur when King Christian X (1870-1947) dismissed his elected cabinet and this brought about a left-wing backlash that further subordinated the Crown to the elected government. Though, that same year, following the collapse of the German Empire, northern Schleswig voted to rejoin the Kingdom of Denmark. However, the era of peace was not to continue indefinitely. With the outbreak of World War II, Denmark and her neighbors thought they could remain neutral but this proved impossible, mostly due to efforts to infiltrate Norway. On April 9, 1940 the Germans invaded Denmark. The government had largely neglected the armed forces and put all of their faith in other countries respecting their neutrality. As a result, Denmark was taken by surprise and was practically helpless in the face of the German attack.

King Christian X
The Danes were thus unable to resist and so, effectively, they didn’t resist and the German occupation of Denmark was completed in a matter of hours. It was a strangely peaceful and swift end to over a thousand years of independence. It is often forgotten that until April of 1940 the Kingdom of Denmark had never been conquered in all of its very long history. Fortunately, the Germans were initially on their best behavior, the Nazi government portraying Denmark as the ‘model protectorate’. In time, however, that relationship began to break down with the Danish underground carrying out acts of sabotage and Danish workers going on strike which resulted in greater German repression of the population. In the summer of 1943 King Christian X was placed under German guard, the Danish army was disbanded and the parliament ceased to function. The Danish navy sank their ships to prevent them being confiscated by the Germans. A “Freedom Council” was organized to coordinate resistance against the Germans and when Jews began to be arrested for deportation the Danes worked to smuggle more than 5,000 into neutral Sweden. In 1944 the Germans even disarmed the Danish police but, as we know, by the following year the war ended and Denmark was liberated from German control.

King Frederick IX (1899-1972) came to the throne in 1947 and presided over Denmark joining the United Nations and abandoning neutrality, which had not proven an effective defense, in favor of joining NATO in 1949. During the war the Allies had occupied Iceland and during that time Iceland severed ties with the Crown of Denmark and became a republic. Themselves under German occupation at the time, Denmark was unable to respond to this. In 1953 a new constitution was adopted which saw Greenland upgraded from a Danish colony to an independent country but still within the Danish Commonwealth in union with the Crown of Denmark. In 1953, following a referendum, the Danish monarchy changed to allow women to succeed to the throne for the first time in the modern history of Denmark and upon the death of King Frederick IX he was succeeded by his eldest daughter Queen Margaret II, the first female Danish monarch since the fourteenth century.

Queen Margaret II
An accomplished artist and sometime translator, Queen Margaret II has presided over a tumultuous period of Danish history with the rise of the European Union, the end of the Soviet Union, NATO participation in the “War on Terror” and an unprecedented rise in immigration to Denmark. The Queen spoke out in 2005 about the rising population of Muslims in Denmark and raised some eyebrows on the left when she said that Danes had to stand more firmly for their principles and culture and be more clear about what immigrants are expected to do when coming to Denmark, regardless of what unkind names Danes may be called for doing so. This was said in the context of a contentious debate in which any who oppose total open borders and unlimited immigration have frequently been labeled “racists”. Quality of life in Denmark has remained consistently high and society remarkably united. Recently, however, parliament did voice objections when it was learned that Danes are now a minority in a number of Danish cities. The Queen is highly respected in the country and her heir, Crown Prince Frederick and his Australian bride Crown Princess Mary, are likewise popular. As it stands now, the oldest monarchy in Europe faces challenges but seems secure for the foreseeable future to carry on their remarkable longevity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Look Back at Emperor Claudius II

This is an appropriate occasion to take a look back at the Roman Emperor Claudius II, also known as "Claudius Gothicus". Read to the end to see why.

A Short Look at the Life of Marcus Aurelius Valerius Claudius Augustus, Emperor Claudius II

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Monarch Profile: Emperor Gia Long of Vietnam

In the first half of the eighteenth century, Vietnam was a divided country. While the emperors of the Latter Le Dynasty continued to reign in Hanoi, actual power was held by two feuding families; the Trinh family in the north and the Nguyen family in the south. Most recognized the damage and stagnation this was causing but neither side wished to give up their hold on power. Rebellions increased dramatically but none were successful. Significant change was not sparked until 1771 when the Tay Son brothers, from an area in central Vietnam under the control of the Nguyen family, rose up in revolt. As usual, they promised to rob from the rich and give to the poor and also to restore the Le Dynasty emperor to actual power. In 1778 they accomplished what the Trinh never had and routed the Nguyen militia in front of Gia Dinh (Saigon) and massacred the family almost entirely. The only survivor of this bloodbath was one 16-year old prince named Nguyen Anh. Born in 1761, he would prove to be more formidable than any enemy the Tay Son would ever face.

Prince Anh during his sojourn in Siam
Prince Nguyen-Phuc Anh was the third son of Prince Nguyen-Phuc Luan, the second son and designated successor of Prince Nguyen-Phuc Khoat, lord of southern Vietnam. However, when Lord Nguyen Khoat died, a powerful mandarin named Truong Phuc Loan changed his will to keep Prince Nguyen Luan from power, imprisoning him until his death in 1765. It is then, not so surprising that Prince Anh would grow up to be such a formidable character. As a young child his father had been betrayed and imprisoned, denied his birthright and as a teenager he had witnessed the wholesale slaughter of his entire family by the rampaging forces of the Tay Son. To redeem the memory of his father and restore the achievements of his ancestors became the driving ambition of his life. Despite being left alone in the world, he was committed to doing whatever was necessary to regain all that had been lost, no matter how long or how difficult it would be. From there, he had higher aspirations still but focused, for the time being, on the battle at hand.

While the Tay Son turned their aggression on the Trinh, abandoning their earlier promise and ousting the Le emperor to establish their own, short-lived, imperial dynasty and even defeating a Qing Dynasty army from China sent in to rescue their Le Dynasty vassal, Prince Nguyen Anh rallied the remnants of his family’s forces. Despite his young age, he proved a very inspirational figure, cunning leader and, above all, a young man of boundless determination. After regrouping, he succeeded in re-taking Saigon from the Tay Son forces and, for a time, a sort of stalemate ensued as the two sides battled back and forth for domination of southern Vietnam. In 1783, however, the stalemate was broken and the Nguyen forces once again suffered a devastating defeat. Having earlier taken refuge in Siam, this time Prince Anh fled to Phu Quoc. A Catholic seminary was there and he was given a safe haven by the French missionary Pierre Joseph Pigneau de Behaine, a Catholic priest and eventual Bishop of Adran. Pigneau and Prince Anh quickly became very devoted friends.

The Tay Son had originally posed as the friends of the Christian minority in Vietnam but, after achieving power, began persecuting them. Pigneau wanted to do something to end the suffering of his fellow Catholics, naturally, and also to secure special favor for his native Kingdom of France in what was then known as Dai Viet. Prince Anh, likewise, knew that his own forces were far too depleted and he would need foreign assistance, particularly advanced foreign warships and firearms, to achieve his goal of victory over the Tay Son. Despite his setbacks, he was more determined than ever to not only regain his family’s rule over the south of the country but to reunite the whole country under his leadership.

Pigneau de Behaine
Toward this end, Prince Anh dispatched Pigneau to arrange an alliance with his country and, as a sign of his goodwill, sent along his first son, Crown Prince Canh (by his first wife Thua Thien), who was only five years old. Pigneau first went to Pondicherry, in French India, but the local governor would give him no support. Undeterred, he traveled all the way to France where little Prince Canh was quite the sensation. He met with King Louis XVI and made the offer of Prince Anh to His Most Christian Majesty; if France would provide ships and weapons to help Anh become emperor, there would be freedom of religion for Catholics, France would be ceded the island of Poulo Condore and part of the port of Da Nang along with special trading privileges. King Louis XVI was most agreeable and Pigneau and his young charge set out for the return voyage to Indochina confident that they had succeeded. Upon arrival in India, however, they found out that due to the growing threat of revolution in France, no official help would be extended after all. Still undeterred, Pigneau acted on his own to hire French mercenaries to act as advisors and obtain what modern ships and artillery he could.

Pigneau finally returned in 1789 with two ships filled with French soldiers of fortune and various war materials along with Crown Prince Canh, who had been baptized into the Catholic faith. Prince Anh would be forever grateful to his friend Pigneau for this and used these forces to regain control of his ancestral lands in the south. He won over the locals who had become disenchanted with the Tay Son who had promised much but delivered little. Prince Anh impressed the people with his honesty as he admitted that his family had made mistakes in the past, had acted incorrectly but promised to set things right with a renewed commitment to morality and good government based on the ethical code of the great Confucius. Spears were made, muskets and swords distributed, ships were stocked, cannon were loaded and the war elephants were prepared. Prince Anh launched a massive and devastating offensive against his enemies, sweeping inexorably north through the country until the Tay Son were totally defeated and he stood victorious as the master of all.

Neither Pigneau nor Crown Prince Canh had lived to see this triumph but it marked the beginning of the reign of the Nguyen Dynasty in 1802. Prince Anh, to show that the country was now united, with neither the north ruling the south or the south ruling the north, moved the capital to Hue in the central provinces and took as his reigning name Gia Long, a combination of the words Gia Dinh (Saigon) and Thanh Long (Hanoi). He immediately set to work to establish his dynasty. He sought and received the recognition of the Qing Emperor in Peking for his reign over Nam Viet, though the Qing court reversed the name of the country to Viet Nam. Emperor Gia Long set to work keeping the promises he had made. Vietnam became a staunchly conservative Confucian country with the imperial commands implemented by a bureaucracy of mandarins trained in Confucian morality.

To their annoyance, France did not receive the pride of place they had expected due to the fact that they had not fulfilled their promise to aid Gia Long. He knew that what help he received was due to Pigneau and not to the government in Paris. Therefore, out of respect for his late friend, Christianity would be tolerated in Vietnam as long as Gia Long was alive. He was, however, not entirely pleased that his late son and heir had been converted to Christianity and was careful not to allow western influence to spread in his country. Rather than any particular religion, Confucianism was to be the backbone of the country under Gia Long and trade and contact with the west was restricted. This was the basis of what has become the major criticism of Emperor Gia Long, which is that he isolated Vietnam and allowed the country to stagnate and thus become vulnerable to French expansion in later years. This, however, is not entirely fair.

Emperor Gia Long did do his best to secure the country, strengthening the military and building a series of modern fortresses across the country. However, neither he nor anyone should be expected to foretell the unprecedented events that would happen in the future. He had restored his dynasty to power, consolidated control over the whole country, reunited the country and ended the fratricidal north-south divide. He had the recognition of Imperial China, the traditional powerhouse of East Asia and no one then expected that the European powers, about which most in East Asia still knew very little, would so soon come to dominate the whole region. Some of his domestic policies, such as heavy taxation and mandated periods of forced labor, were quite unpopular, however they were essential to rebuilding and strengthening the country quickly after such a long period of turmoil and civil wars. Furthermore, while he did work to curtail western influence in his country, he continued to maintain contact and trade with East Asian powers such as China. The Nguyen lords in the south had even maintained quite active trade ties with the Empire of Japan prior to the shogun adopting its isolationist policy.

Most of the reign of Emperor Gia Long was concerned with consolidation. Fairly early on there developed two different factions at the imperial court, one of which was more focused on establishing ties with the west, based around the family of the late Crown Prince Canh, and the other which favored closer ties with China and isolation from the west which was focused on the family of Prince Nguyen-Phuc Dam and this was the faction that Emperor Gia Long favored, naming Dam as his heir and successor. Emperor Gia Long was obliged to neglect the navy so as to have funds for the building of fortresses and an extensive infrastructure project of building roads to improve travel and communication as well as canals and other waterway projects to boost agricultural production. Again, not all of these were popular at the time, but all of them paid dividends in the long run though the lack of a modern navy would be problematic when the French came calling in the years to come.

Emperor Gia Long enacted a new legal system, basically a combination of the old Le Dynasty legal code and that of the Qing Dynasty in China. The focus, again, was on the authority of the Emperor, the centrality of the mandarins as his instruments and the traditional family values of Confucian ethics. To placate the spirits of his family, he took his revenge on the Tay Son, executing those who had survived and desecrating the remains of those already gone. He did away with their political innovations and restored the traditional laws that had preceded them. He had sense enough to advise his heir not to provoke or offend the western powers but told him to take his example from the Empire of Japan which was careful to shut them out.

Emperor Gia Long, first emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, founder of the last Vietnamese imperial line, died at the age of 57 on February 3, 1820. He was buried at Thien Tho Tomb, which he had originally built in 1814 for his beloved wife Empress Thua Thien, but which has since, sadly, fallen into disrepair. For someone who had such a remarkable life, rising from the ashes of defeat and the massacre of his entire family, to triumph over his enemies and forge an empire, the historical legacy of Emperor Gia Long has been grossly distorted due to the political bigotry of those who have come to power since the Nguyen reign. While generally dismissive of the entirety of traditional Vietnamese history, the Communist Party seized on Emperor Gia Long as a particular enemy in their propaganda. Taking the side of the Tay Son rebels, they tended to heap all blame for any misfortunes which befell Vietnam on Emperor Gia Long and his policies. This is quite unfair and quite outrageous considering the extent to which Emperor Gia Long is responsible for what most recognize as traditional Vietnam even today.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Papal Profile: Pope Paul III

Few Roman Pontiffs ever inherited so unfavorable a position as Pope Paul III. Rome had been sacked, much of Italy was in ruins, Protestantism was taking root and the papacy itself was firmly in the grip of the German Emperor and King of Spain Charles V. However, Pope Paul III would not be deterred by any of that. A Renaissance prince, rather typical of the period, he had his negative as well as positive qualities yet his pontificate would be remembered as one of pushing back wherever possible and accepting the ills of the day when not. A man from an illustrious family whose name appears often in papal history, he was born Alessandro Farnese on February 29, 1468 in Canino, in what was then Latium, part of the Papal States. His family were well known in the ranks of the condottiere and his sister, the famously lovely Giulia Farnese, had been the beloved mistress of the notorious Pope Alexander VI. As a son of the Italian Renaissance, Alessandro Farnese would be known for his great culture, his love of art as well as for his political machinations and nepotism. However, as with the Renaissance Popes as a group, he was a more pious man than he is usually given credit for.

Young Cardinal Farnese
It is true that Alessandro Farnese lived a rather colorful and worldly life as a young man. He fathered four illegitimate children but this was all before joining the priesthood. By the time he was ordained in 1519 he had abandoned his worldly ways and dissolute life and devoted himself to the service of God. It is interesting how often this fact, which is not uncommon among the Renaissance Popes, is often left out of the popular histories. In spite of the recent obsession with mercy and forgiveness, the Renaissance Popes often seem to be denied either and are forever tainted by their misdeeds prior to becoming men of the cloth. In fact, many of those people absent-mindedly regard as notorious, were, like Alessandro, faithful to their vows once they had taken them. His career in the Church was undoubtedly aided by his family connections but he was by no means unfit for the stations he held. In time he was made a cardinal bishop and was dean of the Sacred College prior to being elected at the age of 66 on October 13, 1534 after the death of the long suffering Medici Pope Clement VII. He took the name Paul III and quickly set to work trying to restore a sense of normalcy about the Church and begin pushing forward again.

His election had taken only two days, a sign of the respect his fellow cardinals had for him as well as being seen as no friend of the King of France but also not beholden to the German Emperor though he was careful not to cross him. As someone who owed his red hat to his sister being the mistress of Pope Alexander VI, it should not be too surprising that, while his own life had changed considerably upon entering the Church, Pope Paul III was not above laughing at a bawdy comedy, turning a blind eye to the indiscretions of the Roman court and elevating his teenage grandsons to the Sacred College. Nonetheless, when it came to matters of the Church, the spiritual life of the Church and the revival secular historians have dubbed (erroneously) the, “Counter-Reformation”, Pope Paul III provided invaluable leadership to Catholic Christendom.

In political matters, Pope Paul III was not too timid to clash with the secular authorities. He famously excommunicated King Henry VIII of England for his divorce of Queen Catherine of Aragon, appropriation of Church property and various other desecrations of the sacred which Henry termed as a ‘campaign against idolatry’. Paul III was though careful not to find himself opposed to Emperor Charles V and he backed the Habsburg war against the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Lutheran princes in Germany which was happily in his own interests as well. However, Paul III knew there was only one thing that would fully satisfy Emperor Charles V and it was the one thing all of his predecessors since the first outbreak of Lutheranism had been reluctant to do; call a general council of the Church.

Pope Paul III with two of his grandsons
Emperor Charles V had been pushing for a council for years. Although he would make peace and grant toleration to Protestants when it served his interests, he most wanted the Church leadership to address the problems that Luther and his fellows made issue of so that some sort of reconciliation could be made that would restore the tranquility of Christendom and stop his German subordinates making war on him and each other. However, history had taught the popes that this was a dangerous thing to do. Such councils, particularly those pushed for by German emperors, frequently ended with an effort to depose the Pontiff and replace him with someone more amenable to the imperial position. This resulted in a cycle of antagonism between popes and emperors which could be extremely disastrous as such a thing had only recently resulted in the near death of Pope Clement VII and the Sack of Rome which was absolutely unprecedented in its horror and bestial cruelty. Pope Paul III finally put a stop to this cycle by calling the Council of Trent which first met in December of 1545 and would carry on for quite some time addressing the many problems and corruptions that had permeated the Church.

This actually had a huge impact and was probably the single most significant thing that Pope Paul III did during his reign. Nothing happened overnight, but the Council of Trent did provide the framework and the starting point for what would be a Catholic revival which would ensure that the Church of Rome not only survived the Protestant storm but would push back against it, ultimately regaining at least a good deal if not all of what had been lost. As part of this overall campaign, Pope Paul III also continued the work of his predecessor Clement VII in pushing for reform in the religious orders. The Theatines, Capuchins, Somaschians and Barnabites were rejuvenated, the Ursulines (a teaching order of nuns) was established in 1535 who would prove quite effective and in 1540 Pope Paul III officially recognized the Society of Jesus. In 1550 he would confirm their constitution and he showed great favor to the Jesuits, viewing them as the spiritual ‘shock troops’ of Catholicism in combating the spread of Protestant sects. He also established and gave extensive powers to the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition. Despite his worldly reputation, Paul III was obviously someone who took his faith seriously.

Pope Paul III
So, there were two sides to the coin of Paul III. On the one hand he was the pope who made his teenage grandsons cardinals, pushed the power of the Farnese family wherever possible, who made his son Pier Luigi the Duke of Parma and lavished wealth on his grandson Ottavio so that Margherita of Austria would marry him and yet, on the other hand, he was the pope who began reforming the Church, authorized zealous new religious orders, urged respect for the persons and property of the Native Americans and condemned their enslavement. He was also a great patron of the arts and paid heavily for the rebuilding and refurbishment of Rome itself. Probably his most noteworthy project was commissioning the great Michelangelo to finish his painting, “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel. He had a relatively long pontificate for a man who was 66 when he first was elevated to the Throne of St Peter. Pope Paul III died of fever on November 10, 1549 after reigning 15 years and 29 days. He had his good points as well as bad ones but the good was far more significant whereas the bad can generally be reduced to being partial to his own family. That should be considered easily forgivable, especially considering the very valuable work he accomplished as well as setting the stage for greater successes to come. On the whole, Pope Paul III is another example which should prove that the supposedly notorious ‘Renaissance Popes’ were not nearly so awful as most imagine.

Monday, February 6, 2017

When Monarchs Lost Power

When people think of when traditional monarchy was replaced with largely ceremonial monarchy most tend to set World War I as the time when everything changed. As usual, this is true to some extent but not universally so. World War I impacted monarchy a great deal in that it saw the downfall of three major monarchies in which monarchs still ruled, namely Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. The German Empire was a constitutional monarchy but one in which the government answered to the Kaiser and not to the public. In Austria-Hungary the situation was, of course, more complex but the Kaiser still had, more or less, a dominant position and more power than anyone else. The Russian Empire was the last absolute monarchy among the major powers and though, since the Russo-Japanese War, had taken the first tentative steps towards constitutional government, was still effectively an absolute monarchy in which the Czar appointed who he pleased to high office and could close down the Duma whenever he wished. In those cases, the war meant not only a loss of power but the loss of the monarchy entirely.

The other major and quite old monarchy to be brought down by World War I was the Ottoman Empire of Turkey. However, while it did survive the war briefly, in fact the Sultan had already lost power before the conflict began. Sultan Abdul Hamid II was the last Turkish monarch to really rule his empire. In 1908 he was forced to give up his power and the following year was deposed entirely, replaced by Mehmed V who was effectively a figurehead for the “Young Turks” who actually ruled the empire. In Greece, King Constantine I was brought down by a pro-Allied coup and replaced by King Alexander who was also little more than a figurehead but when a monkey bite cost him his life, King Constantine was restored. Greek monarchs continued to be power players for about as long as the monarchy existed. No other country had such an ‘on again, off again’ relationship with their monarchs as Greece. For most of the monarchs who survived World War I, their fortunes varied from case to case. Some emerged from the conflict stronger, others weaker.

At the end of World War I, the King of Italy was actually one of the most powerful monarchs in Europe, due to the fact that the original constitution of Italy was rather vague and reserved considerable powers to the King. It also made a difference that King Victor Emmanuel III was not a man who relished involvement in politics. He disliked stepping in and generally did so only when the politicians could not sort things out for themselves. So, when no liberal politician was prepared to take responsibility for the disastrous state of affairs in the country, he appointed Benito Mussolini to power. Despite the changes brought about by the Fascist regime, it was still the King who was the only one able to dismiss Mussolini from office in 1943. His power drastically declined after that, due to the situation of World War II at the time but the Italian monarchy had only a few more years of life left to it in any event. For Italy, as with some others, the King mattered a great deal right up until the point where he ceased to matter at all because he ceased to be King.

In the Low Countries, no monarch emerged stronger from the war than King Albert I of the Belgians. Although starting out as a limited, popular monarchy, King Leopold I had astutely mastered his politicians to be the indispensable man of his time in his country. His son, King Leopold II, was not so respected but almost always managed to get what he wanted, even if he had to bypass his government and do things for himself. King Albert I, on the other hand, had considerable influence due to his personal popularity. He was nothing like his uncle Leopold II and his heroic stand in World War I made him an international celebrity. World War II would prove the more decisive conflict for the Belgian monarchy. King Leopold III had hoped to use the disaster as an opportunity to correct many problems but he was quite wrongly and quite unjustly vilified for remaining in Belgium during the war and ultimately lost his throne as a result. His son and successor, King Baudouin, exerted considerable influence because of his personal popularity but he would be the last Belgian monarch to do so to date.

The fate that befell King Leopold III of the Belgians in World War II was somewhat similar to that which befell Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide of Luxembourg in World War I. She had been a monarch with rather robust powers and who played a prominent part in the government of her country. However, her decision to remain in Luxembourg during World War I when the country was under German occupation resulted in a considerable backlash that almost saw Luxembourg deprived of its independence by the victorious Allied nations and which almost brought down the monarchy in Luxembourg itself. Grand Duchess Charlotte gained considerable prestige for going into exile during World War II and standing for resistance to the German occupation (and indeed annexation of Luxembourg) but no monarch would ever be quite so influential again as had been the case prior to World War I. In recent years the Grand Duke Henri voluntarily gave up having any significant part in government due to his unwillingness to be a participant in certain actions by the government which violated Catholic moral teaching so that today the monarchy of Luxembourg is effectively ceremonial.

For the Netherlands, the original Kingdom of the United Netherlands had effectively been an absolute monarchy. However, before the end of his life King Willem I abdicated due to the determination of the political class to lessen, if only slightly, his royal powers. The real change came in 1848, the year revolution swept across most of Europe. The Netherlands, however, was mostly untouched by the tumult because King Willem II decided to get out in front of it and willingly adopt a new constitution that made the Netherlands a limited, parliamentary monarchy. Nonetheless, the King was still an integral part of government and retained considerable influence. This was lessened during the First World War, though the Dutch were neutral, with the expansion of democracy in 1917, lessening the share of power for the monarchy. King Willem III had been able to master or at least intimidate his officials to be the dominant force in the governing of the Netherlands and even after 1917 his daughter Queen Wilhelmina was able to have considerable influence due to her popularity and her strong will. World War II saw quite a lot of tension between the Queen and her government-in-exile but the Queen invariably prevailed. However, the loss of the Dutch empire in the aftermath meant the loss of Dutch influence on the world stage and no Dutch monarch ever had quite so much influence after that point. However, it is worth noting that the Dutch monarch does still retain a role in government and more influence than most may realize, partly due to popularity and partly due to being longstanding stockholders of the Royal Dutch / Shell Group, in the past owning 25% of the stock. It is much less now but would still cause them to be a family that "mattered" whether they had a kingdom of their own or not.

In Scandinavia, the monarchies of northern Europe took no part in World War I but were all very much impacted by World War II. In the Kingdom of Denmark, most venerable of all western monarchies, King Christian X exerted considerably more influence than his successors have. He was a very popular and highly respected figure, particularly because of his actions during the war years and yet he had already been obliged to surrender most of his royal authority during the inter-war period. In 1920 King Christian X had been able to dismiss the elected cabinet because he disliked it and while his authority was upheld on this point, it caused a backlash that effectively subordinated the Crown to the democratic process, his later popularity from the World War II years notwithstanding. Denmark had only become a constitutional monarchy in 1849 and prior to the crisis of 1920 the monarch, while forced to work with parliament, still had the most prominent role in national affairs. In the neighboring Kingdom of Norway, recently separated from Sweden, the monarchy was more limited from the outset. King Haakon VII was able to exert some influence but this evaporated after World War II with his failing health. His son, King Olav V, known as “the People’s King” was never one to clash with the elected government.

In Sweden, King Gustav V was the last monarch to intervene in politics over his insistence that Sweden strengthen itself in the event of World War I spreading to Scandinavia. The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused a spread of leftist politics in Europe and Sweden was not unaffected by this. The King tried to replace the outgoing government with another conservative one but found himself powerless to do so and forced to accept a succession of basically socialist governments afterwards. Seen as being sympathetic to the German Empire in the First World War he was also accused, though Sweden was neutral, of being sympathetic to Nazi Germany in World War II. These charges mostly come down to the fact that he preferred not to antagonize Hitler rather than risk the swift conquest and occupation of his country, which hardly seems out of order. In any event, no matter how unjustly, King Gustav V did see his reputation damaged because of World War II which meant that along with the loss of his political power, his personal influence fell away as well. Since that time the Swedish monarchy has been firmly restricted to a purely ceremonial role with no real part in government at all. Incredible as it sounds, the Swedish monarchy was most impacted by two world wars despite Sweden being neutral in both.

The French, of course, remained republican before, during and after both world wars. The last monarch to reign over France was Napoleon III who was, of course, the dominant figure in the Second French Empire but the last King to reign over France was King Louis Philippe. He was a constitutional monarch but still one in which he played an active role in government and making policy. That, of course, ended with his downfall and the end of the monarchy altogether.

In neighboring Spain, King Alfonso XIII was around for the First World War, though he lost his throne at the start of the decade that saw the outbreak of World War II. The powers of the Spanish monarchy had changed several times throughout history, from the change from the Habsburg style to the more absolutist Bourbon dynasty and then with the defeat of the Carlists from absolute to constitutional monarchy. However, King Alfonso XIII retained some powers and considerable influence throughout most of his reign. He had zealously pushed for the war in North Africa to conquer a new Spanish empire to compensate for the loss of the old one but this produced a great deal of public anger and, in the end, the King backed the dictatorship of the Marques de Estella. He was forced from power in 1930 and the King lost his throne in 1931. When the monarchy was restored with King Juan Carlos, the King inherited near absolute power from Generalissimo Franco but willingly became a constitutional monarch. However, because of his popularity from doing this, King Juan Carlos retained a great deal of influence until 2012 when he lost popularity so quickly and so dramatically that he felt obliged to abdicate, something he had never expected to do. Since then the monarchy has been largely ceremonial.

In the Kingdom of Portugal, which was destroyed prior to the First World War, the monarchy had shifted from absolutism to constitutional rule with the Liberal Wars of 1823 to 1834, the cause of absolute monarchy being defeated with King Miguel I but the monarch retained certain powers and continued to play an active role in national policy right up until the overthrow of the last King of Portugal, Manuel II, in 1910.

For Portugal’s most long-standing ally, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and (Northern) Ireland, the world wars also did not have a significant impact on royal authority. The power of the monarchy had shifted in both directions over the centuries but certainly a major change came with the Revolution of 1688 and later with the throne passing to the House of Hanover when the prime ministerial office first took shape as the leader of the British government. That looked to be set to shift back again in the opposite direction under King George III but his decline and need for a regency, caused the trend to continue and the British monarchy became firmly set as one which reigns but does not rule. The world wars had no appreciable impact other than a scare with the rise of radical leftist agitation at the end of World War I and in the inter-war years when, along with his choice of wife, many feared that King Edward VIII intended to play a more active role in the government of his country than was the norm for British monarchs, something which helped force his abdication and replacement by King George VI who was reliably committed to the constitutional set up as it was. However, one can still see a considerable loss in influence coinciding with the loss of the British Empire for the monarchy which was to a large extent caused by World War II.

Finally, though, we have one area which is often overlooked but which provides a rather dramatic example of monarchs becoming more powerful rather than less so during the interval between the world wars and that was in the Balkan monarchies of Bulgaria, Romania and the post-World War I Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Although starting out as a constitutional monarchy, cobbled together from the southern provinces of Austria-Hungary after World War I and under the Serbian Royal Family, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia saw a dramatic change fairly early in life. On January 6, 1921 King Alexander I dissolved the constitution and ruled the country himself for the rest of his life in what was termed, rather critically, the, “January Sixth Dictatorship”. He worked to centralize power, tried to force together the various nationalities into a new Yugoslav national identity and as part of that it was he who changed the name of the country from the rather wordy title of “The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes” to simply, “The Kingdom of Yugoslavia” or the southern Slavs. In 1931 he moved to enact a new constitution but one which still reserved primary power to the Crown, though he was assassinated in 1934 and as a result of World War II, that constitutional arrangement would not last long.

Something similar happened in the Kingdom of Romania. Upon his death in 1927, King Ferdinand was succeeded by his grandson King Michael who was, of course, a child who could not exercise power. However, in 1930, his father, Crown Prince Carol, returned to his homeland and seized power as King Carol II. He began a campaign which he referred to as a “national renaissance” with a focus on reviving Romanian nationalism, devotion to the monarchy and national regimentation. With their uniforms, berets and Roman salutes, many observers referred to this as a sort of fascistic royal dictatorship. Absolute monarchy was being revived in Romania under King Carol II. Because the political situation had been so chaotic, King Carol II was able to use the royal emergency powers to enact a new constitution which effectively made him an absolute monarch in all but name. However, Carol II tended not to be too persistent and he soon handed over most of the duties of government to General Ion Antonescu in 1940. With the outbreak of World War II, the Romanian monarchy became imperiled as the Nazi leadership in Germany did not like King Carol II. When they started to conspire with Antonescu the King ordered the arrest of the general but was then overthrown in a coup and replaced by his son, King Michael, who was restored to his former throne. He was not allowed to rule but did seize power when he overthrew the pro-Axis government in 1944 but that, of course, did not last long as by the following year the Soviets had occupied Romania and the monarchy was soon destroyed.

The Kingdom of Bulgaria saw a similar revival of royal power in the inter-war years as in Yugoslavia and Romania. King Boris III came to the throne after the Bulgarian defeat in World War I saw King Ferdinand being forced to abdicate. There was unrest, threats of revolution and a deluge of assassinations but King Boris III handled the situation adeptly. In 1934 a coup established a short-lived military dictatorship but in 1935 Boris III organized a successful, royalist, counter-coup that resulted in a new prime minister who, along with his successor in office, with both loyal royalists who could be counted on to govern in accordance with the wishes of King Boris III. He was the man in charge in Bulgaria and everyone knew it. Boris III banned dissident political parties, made a royal marriage alliance with the Kingdom of Italy and reconciled with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In short, he was ruling and ruling rather well. World War II, however, changed everything. Bulgaria joined the Axis powers but refused to participate in the war with Soviet Russia. Hitler was outraged and after a fiery meeting with the Nazi Fuhrer, King Boris III died under mysterious circumstances. Succeeded by his son, King Simeon II, the child monarch naturally could not rule and the end of World War II brought a swift end to the Bulgarian monarchy so that he never had the opportunity, though he would later govern the country as elected prime minister.

So, as we can see, World War I had a major impact on the power of kings but only in certain countries. For others, World War II was the pivotal conflict and for others, neither had all that much to do with their ultimate overthrow or loss of power to elected politicians. The years between the wars saw some of the most dramatic changes; the King of Spain lost his throne, the King of Denmark lost his power while the Kings of Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia saw themselves empowered to the point of practically becoming absolute monarchs. The purely ceremonial monarchies of today are a rather recent innovation when one takes the broad view and, as was seen in the recent Supreme Court case involving Britain leaving the European Union, we are reminded that monarchs today, such as the British monarch, often still retain considerable power and authority but are simply not allowed to exercise it. Given how chaotic politics is becoming these days, I would say it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that a monarch who acts to put himself (or herself) at the forefront of a campaign for national revival in a time of emergency might be able to reverse this recent trend. However, whether any would and whether the situation develops in a way that would be conducive to it, is anyone’s guess.
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