Wednesday, March 28, 2018
I do not like to see this end, if for no other reason than the amount of time I have put into it. The better part of a decade and currently with a consistent 3,500 readers, give or take, every day is, in my book, nothing to sneeze at for what is a very niche and non-mainstream topic. Obviously, not everyone is impressed and I am told I will be able to have a much bigger impact in other fields but it will not be the same as this blog was, from start to finish, entirely my own, my effort to carry on independently after the respectable monarchists showed me the door. It will always be my baby and I will keep it up for now, I may come back to it at some point depending on how things go elsewhere. For now anyway, I have to pack it in. I have some big things to figure out and some big decisions to make about going forward. To the one I shall not name who left the un-posted comment, I thank you for your sentiments, your words count more than most in my book and if you feel like discussing the issue in question further you can leave another message with your email address if you would like. If not, know that I do it appreciate your support and we'll leave it at that. And, thank you to all of you who are regular readers. Many have come and gone over the years but I do know a few who have stuck around almost from the very beginning. I do appreciate it, I am very grateful for it and sorry for disappointing.
Goodbye, farewell and Sayonara...
The Mad Monarchist
King João IV: Known as “the Restorer” led the war for independence from Spain which started when the upper and middle classes united against the Spanish monarch in Portugal. With support from some other powers, the Portuguese were able to defeat the Spanish and João IV secured the Braganza dynasty on the throne. Once done, he set about on another war to recover the Portuguese territories overseas lost during the Habsburg reign. Not everything was recovered but it was remarkable, given the state Portugal was in, just how much in South America, Africa and Asia was recovered. A great patron of art & music, he was in every way a successful monarch. He restored his country, recovered lost territory and secured the succession for his line. All in all, a solid win.
King Afonso IV: I have a soft spot for Afonso IV and a great deal of sympathy. The poor man hardly had a chance. Struck ill as an infant, his body became half paralyzed and his constitution very weak. It was also said that his mental capacities were diminished but, personally, I doubt that was entirely true. Anyway, he was disabled as a child and from then on the hits just kept coming. His brother Pedro had him declared incompetent, made himself regent, effectively stealing his crown, then stole his wife and had poor Afonso locked away until his death. It was a sad state of affairs and I can only feel sorry for him. Could he have reigned on his own? Maybe not, but it seems to me that he was not treated the way he deserved.
King Pedro II: After replacing his mother as regent, shipping his brother off to the Azores and marrying his sister-in-law, a princess of the House of Savoy, Pedro II became king in his own right. He renewed the alliance with England, giving the English their first foothold in India with the marriage of Catherine of Braganza to King Charles II, he boosted industry, switched to the winning side in the War of Spanish Succession and was very important in the development of Brazil. Other than how he came to power, he was highly praiseworthy and wins back a bit of my approval for being a fairly accomplished bullfighter. An astute monarch with many accomplishments, I just wish he’d been kinder to his brother. Nonetheless, a talented man.
King João V: It is not for nothing that João V is sometimes referred to as the Portuguese King Louis XIV and, like the “Grand Monarch” of France, it is impossible not to admire João V. He was lavish, ambitious, adept at statecraft and, more so than the “Sun King”, devoutly religious. He increased the state income but spent so much that there was no great increase in wealth but I give him a pass as he built grandiose monuments that are national treasures. He expanded the Portuguese empire abroad, earned the title of “Most Faithful Majesty” from the Pope for himself and his successors and ruled very much as an absolute monarch. He had enough children to secure the succession, had a care for the souls of his subjects and left Portugal more grand than he found it. An easy favorite.
King Jose I: Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse with Jose I. A man who loved music, hunting and women, especially fond of opera, he was rather less fond of governing and left that to the Marquess of Pombal who ushered in the “Enlightenment” to Portugal (Boo! Hiss!) and marked the change by expelling the Jesuits who had seemed such a permanent feature before. This obviously upset God as a massive earthquake hit Lisbon that was very damaging to the economy and left the king traumatized forever after. With a British assist, his forces did win a smashing victory over the invading Franco-Spanish armies but on the whole I view him as a less than admirable character whose reign was less than exemplary, bringing in many negative changes.
Queen Maria I: Maria was the sort of monarch I am inclined to like, having a reputation for both piety and madness. She was a pretty great queen, sending Pombal packing with all his terrible, “progressive” ideas, and being very much opposed to his liberal, anti-clerical policies. Very religious, she became ever more so after the poor woman suffered a string of misfortunes and many finally believed she to be going mad, suffering from depression, though there may have been a physical illness to blame for her most severe symptoms. Declared unfit to rule, her son acted for her as regent and after a brave but futile fight, the invasion of Napoleonic France and Spain forced her into exile in Brazil where she finished her life. An unfortunate woman but a great one in my book anyway.
King Pedro III: I cannot have very strong views about Pedro III as he was only technically the King of Portugal by virtue of being married to Queen Maria, which is fine, though he was also her uncle…which is disgusting. However, he seems to have been an alright guy. He took the side of the nobility against Pombal, also stuck up for the Jesuits, though the Pope suppressed them anyway, and generally just built stuff and did his own thing while his wife ran the show (as long as she was able anyway). They were happy enough as a couple and he did his job by fathering seven children so, good enough in that regard. He did what he was supposed to do. He was just a lot older than her and, well, her uncle, so it’s …just gross.
King João VI: A big deal in Portuguese history, João VI certainly never had it easy but still left his mark. The French invaded and occupied his country so he had to fight them from Brazil, deal with rising expectations there and put up with a conspiratorial wife. When the Anglo-Portuguese forces drove the invaders out, he came home but then had to deal with rebellions by people who had a taste for French Revolutionary ideas now like “rights” and such nonsense, which João VI was having none of. So he had a great deal of trouble fighting those people, trying to put his country back to the way it had been but with a Brazil that had been elevated to co-equal status as a kingdom. His reign was one crisis after another but I say God bless João VI for always fighting the good fight.
King Pedro IV: “Unique” is a word that can certainly describe Pedro IV as King of Portugal. Prior to taking that job, he led the war for independence in Brazil, which he secured. However, almost as soon as he became Emperor Pedro I of Brazil, he was proclaimed King Pedro IV of Portugal upon the death of his father, a job he did not particularly want, being quite attached to Brazil. He tried to abdicate the Portuguese throne but this was problematic due to the burgeoning feud between the constitutional and absolute monarchists. More a liberal absolutist than a constitutionalist, he was in an impossible position and finally had to abdicate in Brazil and go to Portugal to see out the fight, complicated by the ‘spill over’ of the First Carlist War in Spain.
Queen Maria II: Born into a maelstrom, Maria II was a good woman stuck between a rock and a hard place. Named queen to take her father’s place as Portuguese monarch, she was the figurehead of the constitutionalist faction which was opposed by the absolutist faction led by her uncle Miguel, who was also her regent and who she was also supposed to marry. Yes, again, ‘yuck’. Civil war raged in Portugal but the liberals, backed by France and Britain, were victorious. Maria II married another prince, received the honor of a Golden Rose from the Pope. Born in Brazil, educated in France, her on-again, off-again reign was largely determined by actions beyond her control. Still, she seemed a good woman who did the best she could under the circumstances.
King Miguel I: The champion of tradition to the reactionaries and a usurper to the liberals, as usual, both sides had a point. Miguel was convinced that the Portuguese were unready and unsuited for constitutional government and sure it would be a disaster. He was, in all honesty, rather deceitful in how he came to the throne and his civil war possibly prevented Portugal from regaining her largest and most important territory (Brazil), however, he also represented the last gasp of the grand, old Portugal of yesterday which tugs at the heartstrings. After being tossed out, coming back, fighting another round, the romantic reactionary was ultimately defeated and lived in rather destitute exile thereafter. A pity, as history would rather prove him right about the viability of liberalism.
King Fernando II: Another king by marriage only, Fernando was from one of the multitudinous branches of the Saxe-Coburg family and was married to Maria II. As such he was related to Queen Victoria, Belgium’s King Leopold and the ill-fated Empress of Mexico. He was well-suited to be the standard bearer of constitutionalism alongside his wife. As he was responsible for her eleven pregnancies, he often oversaw things while she was incapacitated by impending motherhood. A fine enough fellow, intelligent, talented and all that, he was simply too “modern” for my taste. He represents dull, reliable practicality in my mind, in contrast to the ruinous but romantic King Miguel.
King Pedro V: Such a tragic waste, Pedro V, for me, is the great “might have been” of Portuguese monarchs. He had so much potential and so many hopes resting on his young shoulders. He seemed the ideal sovereign; young, handsome, intelligent, diligent and dedicated. Even at a young age he went to work quickly to modernize the infrastructure of the country, improve communications and healthcare. Sadly, his beloved wife died of diphtheria and he later succumbed to cholera at the age of only 24. Beloved by the people, he had given the country hope that the fortunes of the nation would be revived. That was something and he did achieve much in his short reign but it only serves to tantalize the imagination as to how much more he could have done if he had had the chance to.
King Luis I: The highly intelligent Luis might have been hailed as a Renaissance Man of sorts in another time. As it was, he had the misfortune to reign at a time when the problems of liberalism really began to take effect on the country. Feuding political factions stagnated the nation, bitterness and partisanship grew. Luis was inclined in the right direction but was not supposed to rule and busied himself with oceanography and his love of English literature. He was a cultured man, high in intellectual curiosity and a very good constitutional monarch. However, the fortunes of the country declined during his reign, the fault of the system itself rather than the King. When called to choose, he would choose the better option but, limited as he was, he could not do more.
King Carlos I: The problems that festered under Luis I began to come to a boil under King Carlos. Portugal went bankrupt, then went bankrupt again and a public uproar was caused when the British seized the interior territories between Portuguese East and West Africa. King Carlos tended to be quite unfairly blamed for this due to his friendship with the British Royal Family. Well, they were Portugal’s oldest ally and if Portugal had tried to fight for the territory the results would’ve been disastrous. This unpopularity was seized upon by the republican faction and Carlos, along with his son and heir were murdered in 1908, setting off the last act of the Portuguese monarchy. Again, there was much to recommend Carlos I but there was little he could do to save the situation.
King Manuel II: Thrust upon the throne in the most difficult of circumstances, young Manuel II hardly had a chance to prove himself. Given the situation, he took a more active part in national life but discovered that the republican conspiracy was far more advanced than anyone had imagined. Bright, popular and devoted to his people and country, Manuel II came to ruin by way of practically an accident. A military revolt in 1910 seemed to have failed but the confusion of the situation allowed the revolutionaries to catch Manuel II helpless and seize power. The first republic was declared and Manuel went into exile, gallant to the last and always remaining devoted to his nation. It gave him no satisfaction that Portugal went to ruin under the republic that usurped him.
Sunday, March 25, 2018
The House of Habsburg
King Felipe I: Felipe II of Spain claimed the throne as grandson of King Manuel I at the death of Henrique though it took a little longer (and an armed invasion) for the Portuguese government to accept him. He appointed a viceroy and let the Portuguese keep their own laws but the country was obliged to subordinate its own interests to those of Spain. A large part of the famous “Spanish Armada” that attacked England was Portuguese, for example. The worst part, however, was that the enemies of Spain now became the enemies of Portugal and it was open season on Portuguese ships and colonial outposts as far as England, France and the Netherlands were concerned. Felipe I was a good king but having him as king was not always good for Portugal.
King Felipe II: Felipe III of Spain was a very good man but not a very strong one. Factionalism became a big problem and Portugal was increasingly being stripped to fund the wars fought by Spain in Europe. He was a very diligent, very religious man but bad economic decisions, made because of emergencies in Europe and to aid the wider cause of the House of Habsburg, began to have disastrous consequences for Spain and Portugal. Peace was made with the Dutch but not long after Felipe II intervened to bolster the cause of the Habsburgs in Germany which was perfectly natural for him to do but which really could have only ill-effects for Portugal. He was personally a good guy but a somewhat “hands-off” ruler so that he tends to be criticized more than he deserves.
King Felipe III: Felipe IV of Spain was a little different as, while his two Spanish predecessors had not been terribly disliked in Portugal, Felipe III was. He was an able and energetic man and quite a good king for Spain all in all but Portugal was really hard hit by the enemies he made during this time. The English took Hormuz, the Dutch nabbed Ceylon, replaced Portugal in trade with Japan and seized a large part of northern Brazil. What was to become the Dutch East Indies was seized from Portugal in Southeast Asia. Some African holdings were lost though the losses in Brazil were eventually regained. This, combined with his efforts to make Portugal basically a Spanish province, caused the Portuguese to revolt, happily aided by other anti-Spanish powers.
Saturday, March 24, 2018
King João I: The illegitimate son of Pedro I, his seizure of power prevented Portugal being annexed by Castile in the wake of the chaos following the death of Fernando, the last of the original line of Portuguese kings. Grand Master of the Order of Aviz, he became King of Portugal and took the name of the Knights of Aviz for his own royal line. When French and Castilian troops invaded, King João and his English allies sent them packing. The Spanish withdrew and Portuguese independence was secured. He conquered Ceuta (in what is now Spain) from the Muslims in 1415, held it and told Prince Henry the Navigator to send ships to have a look around Africa. A successful monarch and renowned gentlemen, he set the scene for Portuguese greatness to follow.
King Duarte I: A veteran of his father’s conquests on the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, Duarte I commissioned Henry the Navigator to make further explorations of the African coast, and did his best to rule by consensus, frequently consulting the Cortes. However, his attack on Tangier, Morocco, led by his brother Henry, was a disaster, the Portuguese ultimately being outnumbered more than 10-to-1. His brother Fernando was given up as a hostage but the Cortes refused to surrender the territory the Muslims demanded to secure his release. King Duarte I died, heartbroken, in 1438 at only 46. He left chaos in his wake but he shouldn’t be judged too harshly. He was a scholarly and thoughtful monarch who would have likely done better had he been given more time.
King Afonso V: Son of an ill-fated father and unpopular mother, Afonso was only 6 when he became King of Portugal but he eventually made quite a good job of it. After doing away with the regency and dealing with some rebellious elites, Afonso V went on campaign of conquest in Morocco. He supported the further exploration of the African coast while Prince Henry was alive but not after his death, being consumed by his battles in Morocco which earned him the nickname, “the African”. He was a warrior king who had little time for or interest in politics and administration, much preferring life in the field delivering the wrath of God upon the heathen hordes. He tried to gain the throne of Castile but found no joy, retiring to a monastery after. All in all, an impressive king.
King João II: Having earned his spurs on the battlefield as a young man, João II came to the throne determined to close the gap left by his father who had been a great warrior king but a largely absent administrator. He despised corruption and favoritism, centralized power, cracking down on the nobles who had gained power while the king had been away in Africa. João II picked experts to oversee affairs, greatly pushed exploration, finding new lands and new resources, putting Portugal on more solid financial ground than any other European power. He clashed with Castile over ownership of the newly discovered lands in America but was regarded even by them as a great man. He was far-sighted and fully deserving of his reputation as one of the best monarchs of his time.
King Manuel I: Coming to the throne in 1495, Manuel I continued the succession of great Portuguese monarchs. It is hard to separate him from the events of his reign as these were huge; Portugal discovered the sea route to India, Brazil was discovered and Portuguese superman Albuquerque seized the vital choke points giving Portugal control of all access to the Indian Ocean and a monopoly on trade with the Far East -epic win there. Manuel was an absolutist and very religious, spreading Christianity around the world and expelling all Jews who would not convert from the country. He made trade deals with China and Persia and put Portugal on the path to being the richest country in Europe and a global empire. All in all, Manuel I was seven kinds of awesome.
King João III: The good times kept rolling with João III who basically reinforced the gains made in the reign of his father. He gave up fighting the Muslims for deserts in North Africa to focus on strengthening Portuguese footholds in Brazil and Asia but the wealth in trade caused infighting by officials and more competition from other powers. He also had to deal with the Turks but also made contact with Japan and gained Macau in China. Also devoutly religious, he established the Portuguese Inquisition, encouraged education and expanded the holdings in Africa from which the first slaves were imported to Brazil. He had a tough act to follow and maybe did not do quite as well but he had a lot to deal with so we should give the guy a break. He did good all things considered.
King Sebastião: Coming to the throne young, Sebastião must have seemed like a fairy tale prince. He was tall, strong, blonde, known for his bravery and piety, just everything the ideal prince was supposed to be. As a minor, he had a regency and his actual reign was not very long but did see the expansion of Portuguese power in Africa, reform of the law code and advances in promoting social welfare. He wanted to get along with England, France and Germany and be a good Catholic. He wanted to launch a crusade against Morocco but Spain wouldn’t help. Young King Sebastião went on his own, charged into the Islamic horde and was killed in battle at only 24. Young, handsome, virtuous and brave, such a death was the finishing touch to a king tailor-made for legendary status.
King Henrique: The death of Sebastião left no one but Henrique to succeed to the throne and, as this had never been expected, he had already joined the Church and risen to the rank of cardinal when called to assume the throne. As Archbishop of Lisbon and head of the Inquisition, he brought the Jesuits in and their missionary activity spread across the global Portuguese empire. He asked to be released from his vows to marry and produce and heir but King Felipe II of Spain, who wanted Portugal for himself, objected to this and so the Pope would not allow it. Cardinal Henrique did not live long enough to do very much and his death sparked off a crisis as to who would control the extensive and lucrative trade network that Portugal had established.
King Antonio: The natural grandson of King Manuel, Antonio is not always listed among the ranks of Portuguese monarchs as he was more a claimant to the throne than an actual monarch. He set up his own court and was acclaimed by some but had little luck against the powerful Spanish army led by the Duke of Alba who came to secure control of the country for Felipe II of Spain. Forced to clear out with as much wealth as he could carry, he was recognized by France and England only as a way to bedevil the Spanish as I doubt anyone took him too seriously. He never really proved his claim and eventually died penniless in France.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
King Afonso I Henriques: Known as “the Conqueror” or “the Founder” or simply King Afonso the Great, this Portuguese born son of Henry of Burgundy, Count of Portugal, came up as a vassal of the Spanish King of Leon during the war to liberate the Iberian peninsula from the Moorish Islamic invaders. Afonso proved to be a great warrior and a formidable military leader. After the smashing victory at Ourique he was proclaimed the first King of Portugal in 1139. He married a daughter of the House of Savoy, proved adept at political maneuvering and switched the King of Leon for the Pope in Rome as his feudal overlord. Overall, a pretty great king to whom the existence of Portugal as a country is owed.
King Sancho I: Although he is understandably often overshadowed by his father, the second Portuguese monarch was quite an accomplished guy. He took the country his father had created and made it work, giving it a proper administration, an economy, businesses and so on. He also stopped fighting with his fellow Christians and concentrated on the Moors to the south, which is always to be preferred. He built several new towns and was noted for his love of literature and attached great importance to education. This would pay large dividends later on. King Sancho also understood the importance of demographics and made sure to move people into unoccupied areas of the country to solidly their possession. Hence his nickname, “Sancho the Populator”.
King Afonso II: Remembered for his rotundity, the third King of Portugal liked the peace and quiet. He made peace with both his Christian and Islamic neighbors and decided not to push to expand his kingdom further. His priorities were domestic and, unlike his two predecessors, was a bit of a control freak who worked to centralize power in his own hands. This put him at odds with his feudal overlord the Pope as the Church held considerable power in the country, leading to Afonso II being excommunicated by Pope Honorius III. He tried to repent but sadly died still shut out from the Church. On the whole, not a monarch who really accomplished a great deal.
King Sancho II: After a king who was excommunicated, it is only fair to have one known as “the Pious”, though the Church authorities might dispute that. He had to agree to a long list of concessions to win back the good graces of the Pope but got high marks for shrugging off government to wage war on the Muslims, which he excelled at. Unfortunately, his absence meant he wasn’t around to protect the Church from the merchant class and they complained to the Pope who declared Sancho II a heretic and his throne to be free for the taking. His brother in France, another Afonso, joined with rebellious nobles in fighting a civil war against Sancho II, eventually forcing him across the border into Spain where he died in exile.
King Afonso III: Put on the throne by Pope Innocent II, Afonso wanted to succeed where his brother failed so he focused on administration. He had his military successes to, most notably the conquest of the Algarve, adding that to his royal title but he also wanted to ensure domestic tranquility by having everyone share in the privileges and responsibilities of government. He gave the common people representation in government, fine, he taxed the merchant class, fine and he taxed the Church…which was not fine. In fact, it got him excommunicated, making two kings in a row and so upsetting him that he dropped dead at 68 after an otherwise successful reign.
King Dinis: Brought to the throne at 18, he took care to make amends with the Church, even marrying a future saint, Elizabeth of Aragon, and he brought considerable prosperity to Portugal. Dinis expelled all foreigners from positions of power, made Portuguese the official language, encouraged education and greatly improved agriculture as well as tapping into what resources the country had to offer. Soon, he had such a surplus that Portugal had a booming export economy. He hired some Italians to start the Portuguese navy and he founded the Order of Christ, mostly from former Templars after their order had been suppressed. He centralized power, made Lisbon the capital and greatly furthered the country’s development. All in all, a very successful monarch.
King Afonso IV: He had it rough, not being very well liked by his father and if there was one word to sum up the reign of Afonso IV it would be “drama”. Portugal was one long soap opera or novella in these years. There were civil wars between Afonso IV and his brothers, his daughter was married to a Spanish prince who cheated on her, leading to conflict there, his son wanted to marry his mistress but the King had her locked up in a convent, then when she was killed the crown prince started a rebellion against his father and this carried on until Afonso IV finally died. If you were writing a series of romance novels, your publisher would probably tell you to tone it down but truth is not only stranger than fiction, it can be more dramatic too.
King Pedro I: The tragic, forbidden romance of Pedro and Ines and his subsequent rebellion against his father has made this king possibly the most visible in popular culture with numerous stories, songs, operas and so on all written about his rise to the throne. I really want to believe that he had Ines dug up and crowned queen alongside him but that may be just a legend. More people believe that he found the men who murdered his beloved and ripped out their hearts with his bare hands. Harsh, but fair. And that is not only my opinion as he has been known as both the “just” king and the “cruel” king. He also ensured that he would be buried facing his beloved Ines. What else of his reign? Who cares?! He was the great avenger of his true love and I think he was awesome, I hope all the stories are true.
King Fernando I: The reign of the first Fernando was taken up with the Castilian succession war in which the kings of Aragon and Navarre, the English Duke of Lancaster and Fernando I of Portugal all claimed the throne of Castile. Fernando and the Duke of Lancaster made a deal to try to knock off the King of Castile but it didn’t work out. Later, they tried again but John of Gaunt (the duke) got on the King’s nerves and he broke his alliance and made a deal to marry his daughter to King Juan of Castile whose children would rule both countries. This didn’t happen though and the lack of a legitimate male heir brought an end to the Burgundy line of kings, an interregnum, some warfare and eventually a new dynasty to the Portuguese throne.
Monday, March 19, 2018
When war broke out in 1939, British boats were deployed to Heligoland to patrol the waters off the southwest coast of Norway for German ships and u-boats. Unfortunately, this proved very dangerous even without the Germans as British submarines sometimes fired on each other, mistaking their submarines for German u-boats. Likewise, even when in their designating hunting areas, British submarines were sometimes attacked by the RAF who mistook them for German u-boats. However, the British subs did finally score their first victories with successful attacks by two S-boats. HMS Sturgeon sank a German ship in November and HMS Salmon sank a German u-boat two weeks later. The British submarines would gain a high reputation for their ability to sink enemy submarines at a time when surface ships were still assumed to be their primary targets. The Royal Navy proved that the best weapon to use against a submarine is another submarine and that fact remains true to this day. By the time the war was over, British submarines would account for the loss of 39 Axis subs.
|Admiral Horton, 1940|
Unfortunately, even with 17 boats in the vicinity, the big game proved elusive. The prized German warships Gneisenau, Hipper and Scharnhorst all escaped attacked due to poor visibility and radio direction-finding by German shore installations which were able to direct their ships around areas where British submarines were on the prowl. This was a problem that would come up again later. There were other minor successes but the fact remains that the British submarine force had failed to stop the German invasion and the Royal Navy had been forced to rely only on the submarine force because of the effectiveness of the Luftwaffe in keeping the British surface fleet away. Likewise, operations off the North Sea coast during the German invasion of France and the Low Countries proved to be of little effect. Concentrating boats in these confined spaces had proved to be a mistake, due to the effectiveness of shore installations in homing in on their radio transmissions, the risk of “friendly fire” and the constant daylight in northern areas.
Morale fell as British submarine losses continued and though successes did increase when the government in London authorized the use of unrestricted submarine warfare, the latter half of 1940 was fairly disastrous for the Royal Navy boats. While sinking less than 1% of Italian shipping to North Africa, Britain had lost nine submarines, five at the hands of the Italian navy and the rest to air attack or mines. At one point, Britain was reduced to only five operational boats in the Mediterranean. Clearly, something had to be done. Italian shipping losses had been extremely light in 1940, warships were not engaged and overall Italian superiority in the central Mediterranean had been maintained. It was a gloomy time as the British came to grips with the fact that, despite what Allied propaganda had told them, their enemy was a formidable one. However, the British did what they have traditionally done; learned from their mistakes and adapted.
In March, HMS Rorqual laid a minefield, sent two freighters to the bottom and then sank the Italian submarine Capponi. The same month, another British boat, the P31, made a successful attack on a large freighter using Asdic (sonar) alone, earning the commander the DSO. The following month also saw the beginning of a string of victories for the man who would be the most successful British submarine commander of World War II, Lt. Comm. Malcolm D. Wanklyn of HMS Upholder. He sank a freighter in April off Tunisia and two more on May 1, beginning what would be a very successful career, albeit a short one. Sadly, Wanklyn was killed in action in 1942 by the Italian navy but by that time had managed to sink 21 Axis vessels, earning the Victoria Cross. Because of men like him, things were turning around for the British war under the waves. In the first half of 1941 they managed to sink about 130,000 tons of Axis shipping while losing only two submarines, both to Italian minefields. Still, the rate of success was slow at less than two ships a month and of the shipping interdicted by the Allies, including the movement of Rommel’s Afrika Korps to Libya, less than 5% was lost to British submarines.
Having inside information on when and wear Italian supply convoys would be sailing, the British were able to post their submarines in picket lines in front of the enemy. In so doing, the British boats began to really bite into the Axis war effort, sinking four Italian troopships in a few weeks and badly damaging the new Italian battleship Vittoria Veneto which was attacked by HMS Urge and put out of action for over three months. In the second half of 1941 the British lost six submarines but received 13 new boats and in that time managed to take a significant toll on Axis shipping which was critical to the North African war effort. In the desert, logistics were paramount and when the supplies flowed, Rommel advanced; when they did not, the Italo-German forces fell back. The losses were serious enough to compel the Germans to dispatch some of their own u-boats to the Mediterranean, adding a new and dangerous foe for the British to deal with, proven when the U-81 managed to sink the only British aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, HMS Ark Royal, in November. Moreover, German and Italian air attacks on Malta proved to be devastating, eventually wiping out the RAF defenders, forcing the withdrawal of many ships and damaging three submarines.
Dogged determination proved effective though and despite the reduction in numbers in April of 1942, British submarines sank 117,000 tons of Axis shipping along with the Italian cruiser Bande Nere (sunk by HMS Urge), a destroyer and six Axis submarines. It amounted to only 6% of the materials being sent to Rommel in North Africa but, due to the withdrawal from Malta, was significantly more than what the RAF had managed to intercept. British submarines were also being used to carry cargo to keep Malta alive as Italian naval forces prevented much of the surface convoys from landing their supplies. To fight back against this, British submarines were dispatched to prowl outside the main anchorages of the Italian fleet, to attack when possible but also to warn the high command of when they were moving out. The result was a fierce fight for control of the Central Mediterranean with wins and losses for both sides. However, the need for Axis air power on the Russian front gave the British some breathing room and soon more and more Royal Navy subs were posted to the Mediterranean with new flotillas organized in Gibraltar and Beirut.
Axis power was receding in the Mediterranean and the British boats were at the forefront of the naval victory thanks to men like Comm. J. W. Linton of HMS Turbulent who was killed in action after sinking 90,000 tons of enemy shipping and an Italian destroyer. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Comm. George Hunt of HMS Ultor sank more Axis ships than any other British submarine commander at 30 for which he earned the DSO with bar twice. Comm. Ben Bryant was similarly decorated for sinking over 20 Axis vessels as well as numerous warships. With the capture of Sicily by the Allies, the naval war was practically over but, while outpaced by the air forces, Allied submarines, mostly British, accounted for roughly half of all Axis naval losses in the Mediterranean.
East Asian operations were not as extensive but could still be intense. Lt. Comm. Anthony Collet of HMS Tactician saved a downed American pilot from the USS Saratoga despite being under enemy fire from shore batteries on Sabang and with a Japanese torpedo boat bearing down on them. For this act of heroism, Commander Collet was awarded the Legion of Merit from the United States. More British submarines were dispatched to the region and two new flotillas were organized. Their impact was not negligible and by late October 1944 the British subs had sunk 40,000 tons of merchant shipping, almost 100 small craft as well as a cruiser, three submarines and six smaller warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Not too bad. The smaller British subs were also able to operate in areas such as the Java Sea which were too shallow for the larger American boats. By March of 1945 all Japanese shipping in the Malacca Straits area had been virtually eliminated.
Overall, the British submarine force made a significant contribution to the defeat of Germany, Italy and Japan. Early on, they suffered some serious losses and learned some hard lessons against the Germans in the North Sea and the Italians in the Mediterranean. However, they adapted and came roaring back, taking a considerable toll on Axis warships and plaguing the supply lines keeping Rommel and his Italo-German forces in the field in North Africa. One of, if not the most decisive factor in the successful British defense of Egypt was Rommel’s lack of sufficient fuel and supplies and the British submarine force played a major part in that. Once the Mediterranean was secure, Britain was able to focus on East Asia where not much had been left by the American submarine campaign (the most successful in history) and yet, there too, the British boats played a significant part in disrupting the Japanese lines of supply and taking out several major enemy warships. The Royal Navy impact on the surface might have been more significant, and they may not get as much attention as some others but the British submarine force earned a record in battle during World War II that they can be proud of, contributing to the tradition that would carry Britain forward to the present day.
Friday, March 16, 2018
Maurras had plenty of criticism for the Jews, no doubt about it, however, while this is sufficient for the mainstream to condemn him today, any thoughtful person can easily see that there is more to the story. He had just as much negative things to say about French Protestants, the Germans or Freemasons, yet no one seems to mind any of that so much. He also condemned the racist policies of Adolf Hitler which serves to illustrate where his opposition to the Jews came from. The goal of Maurras was a restored Catholic Kingdom of France, though he himself appreciated the Church more than he believed in it, and the Jews, like the Protestants or any non-French people, were not what he wanted for his Kingdom of France as they would always be a source of division and internal discord. In 1926 the Catholic Church condemned Action française and its periodical even gained the distinction of being the first newspaper placed on the Index of Forbidden Works. Later, Pope Pius XII lifted the condemnation but this did little good as it allowed the members to claim that the previous prohibition had been politically motivated, simply opposition to a nationalist movement, while also allowing critics of Pius XII another bit of propaganda to portray him as being soft on anti-Semites (the ridiculous “Hitler’s Pope” canard).
Some number of Jews had been present in France since the time of the Roman Empire. When the Roman Empire became Christian, Emperor Valentinian III put restrictions on them from holding any positions of influence but, it is often omitted, these restrictions applied to pagans as well. It was not a specifically anti-Jewish ordinance but rather part of a recognition that Rome was a Christian empire and non-Christians would not be allowed to rule over Christian people within it. This was the earliest example of the sort of problem that the Kingdom of France would have in dealing with the Jews. The barbarian tribes who conquered the Western Roman Empire took little notice of them but later they gained a sort of a special status under Charlemagne, elevated to the rank of emperor by the Pope in 800. They had some restrictions placed on them in so far as their interaction with Christians went, but Charlemagne protected them and they became quite prosperous as merchants and traders with the near east. Charlemagne, as well as his son Emperor Louis the Pious, believed that, in time, they would convert to Christianity though we know from the accounts of bishops at the time that there were concerns about their presence being at odds with the nature of a Catholic empire.
|The baptism of Clovis|
King Robert II of France tried to solve this problem by trying to basically intimidate the Jews into conversion. He was also just as hard on heretical Christians if it matters as his goal was to have his kingdom united in one faith. The situation became worse over a correspondence between the Jews in the west with the Jews in the east concerning an upcoming Islamic offensive which resulted in the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This produced such a backlash against the Jewish population that Pope Alexander II wrote to the local Church authorities condemning any acts of violence and any efforts to convert the Jews by force. These were, however, localized events and Jews in the unaffected parts of France continued to thrive and prosper. An upsurge did come about with the launching of the Crusades and it is not difficult to understand some of the reasons why. It made little sense to a considerable number of people to be fighting so hard against a religion that considered Christ a prophet while tolerating at home another religion which considered Christ a criminal. In 1182 King Philip Augustus of France ordered the expulsion of all Jews from royal lands, allowing a grace period for them to sell the goods they could not take with them and make arrangements to move, though this did not remove them from the whole of France, simply from lands belonging to the Crown. However, in 1198, the same king allowed them to return.
|King St Louis IX|
First of all, on the economic front, he tried to persuade the nobility of France to stop allowing Jews to loan money in their lands and he forbid the nobility and the Crown of France itself from borrowing money from Jews. Given the system of government that existed at the time, in which every lord was practically an autonomous ruler of his own lands, this was about all the king could do as, despite what many people think about the Middle Ages, the king could not tell a noble lord what he could or could not do on his own lands arbitrarily. He forgave the debts of about 1/3 of Christians who owed to Jews and decreed that no Christian could be imprisoned for failing to pay back a loan from a Jew. Finally, he ordered all Jews engaged in usury to be expelled from France though, it seems, this order was not entirely carried out, probably due, again, to the decentralized nature of countries at that time. Most controversially today, he also ordered the mass burning of all copies of the Talmud and Jewish holy books in Paris in 1243.
|Burning offensive books|
King St Louis IX was also a supporter of the efforts by the Church to maintain Catholic orthodoxy throughout Christendom. France was, in fact, to become “ground zero” for what would be formalized as the Holy Office of the Inquisition after the outbreak of the Albigensian heresy in the south of France and the formation of the Dominican Order to combat it. Jews were often brought before the French Inquisition though, as the Inquisition only had authority over Catholics, it was only in cases of Jews who had converted and were either insincere (false converts) or who apostatized and returned to Judaism. This comes to the nub of the issue which is one of identity. The Jews could have, at any time, converted to Catholicism and would have been treated the same as every other Catholic in France, however, if they refused to do so, choosing to remain separate, they had little room to complain about being treated differently. The problem that the Inquisition had to deal with (as it later would more famously in Spain) was that many Jews converted, not because they believed in the teachings of the Catholic Church, but in order to improve their standard of living. Today the Church might applaud them for that but, at the time, the faith was taken more seriously and basically lying about the most important question of all was seen as a heinous crime and so a false convert or someone who converted and relapsed into Judaism was treated no differently than any other heretic. If the case was proven, they would be given the chance to repent and be forgiven but, if they persisted, they would be turned over to the secular authorities for execution.
|King Philip the Fair|
In 1315 King Louis X allowed the Jews to return to France with certain restrictions in place. In their absence, there had been essentially no money lending at all and so the King finally decided to have them back again but with the restriction that the interest they charged could not be excessive, that they had to wear the identification badges, could not discuss religion with French people and so on. He also stated that they were under his special protection and could not be attacked or have their property taken from them. However, the restrictions put in place were fairly quickly flouted and all of the old problems soon resurfaced. There was the people being shackled in debt, bribery, influence peddling and the civil disturbances that erupted, inevitably, from having society divided in this way. Once again, it was determined that something had to be done and so King Charles VI (perhaps best known for coming to believe he was made of glass) investigated the situation and found the Jews to be guilty of numerous and widespread outrages against their Christian neighbors and so, in 1394, ordered them expelled from France. The Jews were removed from the country and all debts owed to them forgiven.
|King Louis XIV|
In 1789 the first call for Jewish emancipation came up, with the full-throated support of the arch-criminal Robespierre, but the issue was postponed. In 1790 some Jews were emancipated and in 1791, to great applause by the revolutionary assembly, Jews were granted full citizenship as with “Muslims and men of all sects”, setting the stage for the free for all France has become now. Many were persecuted during the Reign of Terror but such was the case with many others as the Revolution began to devour its own. On the whole, they remained staunchly supportive of the Revolution and the military efforts to spread the Revolution abroad, raising large sums of money to support the war effort. Later, under Napoleon, Judaism was given recognition by the state along with Catholics and Protestants, though their clerics did not receive government support. As had been the case in England, when King Louis XVIII was restored to the throne, things had come to such a point that these changes were not undone. It was a touchy subject given that, as the Jews had been so supportive of the Revolution, they had naturally attracted the ire of the royalist counter-revolutionaries.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Napoleon, the former revolutionary, also became, with power, increasingly conservative and the new order he envisioned for Europe was not that of the First French Republic. Whereas the revolutionary armies had marched into neighboring lands erecting republics and planting those absurd “liberty” trees, Napoleon turned these into client-monarchies with monarchs chosen from among his top generals or, more often, the ranks of his own family. The sort of European system Napoleon endeavored to create, while not ideal, is not, at least to my mind, devoid of some promise. The ideal, for most traditional monarchists, would probably be the Europe of Christendom. Unfortunately, that high-minded ideal had never really been capable of producing the unity and concerted action that it might have done. This only seemed to come close to fruition during the Crusades and, even then, was certainly not devoid of division and trouble. The European order that Napoleon planned can be seen in how he tried to make the unity of Europe a largely family affair.
Maria Paola Buonaparte, better known as Pauline, had a very colorful life to say the least of it. In 1797, in Milan which had just been occupied by his French troops, Napoleon married Pauline to General Charles Leclerc who was later put in command of the expedition to restore French rule over Saint-Dominque (Haiti) which had been in rebellion since 1791. Despite frequent bouts with yellow fever, Pauline engaged in numerous affairs but refused all efforts by her husband to send her home. She much preferred being the mistress of Saint-Dominque than being a subordinate in Paris, famously saying that, “Here, I reign like Josephine”. In 1802 her husband died of fever and Pauline had to return to Europe and, with the papal envoy playing match-maker, was married to Prince Camillo Borghese of Sulmona. Napoleon later made her sovereign Princess and Duchess of Guastalla but she sold it for six million francs to the Duchy of Parma. After Napoleon’s downfall, she lived in a villa in Rome as the guest of Pope Pius VII.
On the continent, all of this meant that, for a longer period than most realize, Napoleon had a family network that brought about a sort of European unity. Brother Joseph was in Spain, brother Louis in Holland, step-son Eugene in northern Italy, sister Caroline and Marshal Murat in Naples, brother Jerome in Westphalia and Napoleon himself entered into a marriage alliance with the Austrian Empire by marrying Archduchess Marie Louise, daughter of Kaiser Franz II. Prussia was reduced and surrounded by Westphalia to the west, the French-allied kingdom of Bavaria to the south, the French-established Duchy of Warsaw to the east, ruled by Napoleon’s ally King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, while to the north was the French-allied Kingdom of Denmark and Sweden where a Marshal of France was the new king. From 1807 to 1810 Czar Alexander I of Russia was an ally so that, for a time, the whole of Europe was more firmly united than it has probably ever been with the only major power holding aloof being Great Britain. Every continental power was either ruled by Napoleon himself, by one of his family, one of his allies or was so isolated as to be unable to do anything but go along other than the Ottoman Empire of Turkey which had a Serbian rebellion to deal with and which proved incapable of defeating the uprising by the fundamentalist Wahabi sect, making them no threat to the new Napoleonic order.
Ultimately, this episode of enforced European unity did not last, and perhaps could not have done so given the very ideas of the French Revolution that it enabled to spread. However, whether one takes it as good or bad, it was certainly remarkable and quite unprecedented. Had Napoleon not overreached, had this new order endured, can we imagine how history might have evolved? It is hard to imagine someone with such restless ambition as Napoleon retiring to a quiet life and with all of Europe, with the possible exception of Great Britain, pulling in the same direction, that seemingly impossible things might have been accomplished. It would be easy to picture Napoleon resuming his conquests with the a massive pan-European army that would liberate the Balkans, Constantinople and the Holy Land, which might then press on into Persia and India. Who knows how far they might have gone?