Sunday, November 23, 2014

Monarchist Monarchs, Part I

I am often asked who my favorite monarch is and my reply is always the same; I could never pick just one favorite monarch and even then, some of those who are my favorites are not necessarily always the best. However, I can say with no fear of causing undue shock that my favorite type of monarchs are the most monarchist monarchs. By that, I mean those who have taken action in various ways to support not only their own monarchy but the cause of monarchy in general, whether by supporting other monarchies beyond their borders or supporting the principle of monarchy beyond the point that it would effect themselves directly. What follows is some favorite examples of such monarchs, though the list is not exhaustive of course and future posts may add to it. It also should be kept in mind that events (fate, the hand of God, time and chance etc) play a role in such things. There doubtlessly were and are monarchs who are just as monarchist as any on this list but who never had the opportunity to show it.

The start and spread of the Protestant Reformation was certainly a painful period for the western world with Christians fighting Christians as never before and thus also Christian monarchies fighting each other as well. Some monarchs embraced Protestantism while others opposed it and some peoples were inspired by it or perhaps simply used it as an ideological shield to actions they wished to undertake in any event, to rise up in rebellion against their princes. Such was the Peasant’s Revolt in Germany and later, encouraged also by economics, the Dutch Revolt in the Netherlands which was, at that time, ruled by the Spanish Hapsburgs. The Dutch rebels embraced republicanism, albeit republicanism of a very unique sort that most today would not recognize, though their greatest leader was a prince and one who came to Protestantism rather late in the game, perhaps as much to attract the support of Protestant powers as religious conviction. The primary enemy of the Dutch republicans was, of course, the man the were rebelling against; King Philip II of Spain. King Philip II of Spain also happened to be a very monarchist monarch.

Given the background just covered, one cannot attribute simplistic motives to the leaders of the time and King Philip II certainly had more than monarchist reasons for doing the things he did, yet monarchist they were nonetheless. A fought the Dutch because the were in rebellion against his royal authority, also because they tended to be Protestant and also because their form of government was scandalous to him. Not every monarch felt the same way such as Queen Elizabeth I of England who sent vital support to the Dutch republicans as a way of bedeviling her Spanish royal rival. King Philip II evened the odds by doing the same to his former sister-in-law by supporting rebels (though not republican ones) in Ireland against the English Queen. Once again, it also mattered that the Irish were Catholic and the English monarch was Protestant. King Philip II always sought to further the cause of Catholicism and to fight against the expansion of both Protestantism and Islam and some may wonder if this was not his sole motivation and any ideas he had about the importance of monarchy had nothing to do with it but the facts do not support such a supposition. As with everything, King Philip regarded Catholicism as inseparable from monarchy anyway.

However, King Philip II was a monarch who took royal power seriously (though he was no arbitrary tyrant as he respected the laws and traditions of his various domains). He was so staunch a Catholic that he considered even Pope St Pius V insufficiently zealous, yet he was himself at odds with the Supreme Pontiff on more than one occasion (though, fortunately he never took it as far as his father had). It is evidence enough that Philip II was a loyal son of the Church even when he was sometimes considered a papal adversary that even today the most zealous Catholics tend to take the side of the King over that of the leader of the Catholic Church. King Philip II was a Catholic champion but he was also a monarch who believed in monarchy and would not allow the Pope to diminish his own legitimate authority or shy away from opposing the Pontiff politically, though such occasions were very much the rare exception.

Political realities, religion and the principle of monarchy came together again when King Philip II sent Spain’s “Invincible Armada” (which turned out to be all too ‘vincible’) against England. There were numerous motivations for this but one was certainly the regicide of Mary Queen of Scots by Queen Elizabeth I of England. Putting a monarch to death was a shocking event and one monarch subjecting another to a trial and execution was perhaps even more so. The Scots Queen was beheaded in 1587 and the Spanish Armada set sail the following year which, as we know, was unsuccessful in its aim of invading England and overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I.

The Dutch, however, were not without monarchist monarchs of their own in several of the Princes of Orange. They were not actually monarchs of course at the time but I always tend to think of them as monarchs who had not yet come into their own. Fairly early on there emerged two factions in Dutch politics; the republican party and the Orange party which was distinctly royalist. Prince Frederik Hendrik began to really make the Dutch republic a monarchy in all but name. He was made a knight of the Garter by King Charles I of Britain and the English Princess Royal was married to the heir of the Prince of Orange, Willem II. It is hard to choose a favorite of the two of them but for monarchist credentials I think I would have to go with Prince Willem II of Orange rather than his father. His father was, of course, a giant figure in Dutch history, a masterful military commander as well as an astute statesman but it was Prince Willem II who actually took to the field to fight for the idea of a Dutch monarchy and a powerful, Calvinist (because he saw himself as a champion of his religion just as Philip II of Spain did) ‘Kingdom of the United Netherlands’. Of course, each side also had their confederates in Britain as the English Civil War was the pivotal monarchy vs. republic contest of the time. Prince Willem II naturally favored the side of his father-in-law and thus there were many close ties between the Orange party in the Netherlands and the royalist Cavaliers in England. Prince Frederik Hendrik had also supported King Charles I in his domestic troubles and had even considered bringing his highly professional and experienced Dutch army to England to help the royalists win their war.

However, it was Prince Willem II who actually went the furthest, even to war before his all-too-short life ended to advance the cause of a Dutch monarchy while also doing all he could to help English royalists. His widow, naturally, also gave aid and shelter to her brothers King Charles II and the future King James II. The English dictator Cromwell even went to war with the Dutch republic and at least some of the motivation behind that was because so many English royalists were harbored there and the House of Orange had been so supportive of the Stuarts (which sound ironic given what would happen later). Also worth mentioning, in connection to the English Civil Wars, was another monarchist monarch very far removed from the British Isles; Tsar Alexis I of Russia. He was only the second Romanov to rule Russia and was a great monarch all around. Tsar Alexis I presided over the last flowering of Muscovite culture before the campaign of westernization, he was a powerful monarch, a devout Orthodox Christian and it was he who took the first steps towards modernization though in a more limited and conservative way than Peter the Great would. He tried to rebuild the Russian economy after a costly war with Poland by promoting trade. Yet, though it certainly was not beneficial to his country, Tsar Alexis put principle before profit and cut off all trade with England after the regicide of King Charles I. The fact that someone so far removed from the issue that he could do practically nothing else about it always impressed me all the more. Tsar Alexis I had no real vital interest in what happened in Great Britain and any actions he took would have little impact (the English Commonwealth certainly did not suffer unduly for lack of trade with Russia) yet, he nonetheless did what was in his power to do to show that he would have nothing to do with a regime which had murdered its legitimate, anointed sovereign.

The one other monarch which probably did more than any other to support the cause of monarchy was the great King Louis XIV of France. As a man who was not above getting his hands dirty if it would advance French interests, his reputation was not so pristine as the Tsar of Russia (he did deal with Cromwell, as did the Dutch but that was the republican faction rather than the Orange party), yet King Louis XIV was certainly a big believer in monarchy and the sacred nature of monarchy which anyone who knows anything at all about him can attest. He also gave support to the British Stuarts in their hour of need but I think what stands out as the most laudable thing he did for the cause of monarchy came after the Stuart restoration. In the end, it was a promise he was never called upon to fulfill but he did promise his support and even a French army should it be necessary to keep King Charles II on his throne and defend the British Crown from republican traitors. It was also thanks to the subsidy King Louis XIV that Charles II had the funds to dissolve Parliament and rule in his own right for the final years of his life. This was not insignificant as it prevented Parliament from being able to force the King, by the power of the purse, to disinherit his brother and place the succession under the control of Parliament. This would have effectively meant that the Crown was in the gift of the Parliament and that the King of England, Scotland and Ireland reigned ‘by the grace of Parliament’ rather than “By the Grace of God” as is right and proper. When King James II was overthrown, Louis XIV gave him shelter and support and finally French troops to aid in his attempted restoration in Ireland, which, as we know, ended in failure at the Boyne. Practical reality finally compelled Louis to come to terms with Britain’s new Dutch monarch but while he was obliged to withdraw most of his support from the exiled James II, he never forced him to leave the country and even tried to find a crown for him in Poland but James refused the offer.

After the English Civil Wars there was not much opportunity for a monarch to prove their monarchist zealousness in the way we are looking at here for quite some time. The next major clash between republicans and royalists came with the American War for Independence and Britain had been riding high for so long that most were not unduly distressed to see Britain humbled. In some ways it seemed as though the crowned heads of the world were eager to embrace the new American republic. The French Revolution was another story but in that regard it is still difficult for individual monarchs to stand out since almost all were united in their opposition to the monstrous French regime. After the rise of Napoleon, almost every monarchy was also forced at some point to come to terms with the new regime in France. It is for that reason that one monarch stands out, to me at least, and that was the much maligned Tsar Paul I of Russia. He was a staunchly monarchist monarch which was even displayed when he did finally come around to recognizing Napoleon. Paul I was a monarchist very much of the legitimist variety and it was this that ultimately led to his falling out with the Allies and why many have accused him of having an erratic foreign policy (often cited amongst the evidence for his being insane).

Naturally, he detested the French revolutionaries and was prepared to give any assistance he could in thwarting them. However, when the struggle was well underway he became disenchanted with his allies, such as Britain and Austria, due to their lack of legitimist principle. For example, when Napoleon conquered northern Italy and destroyed the Republic of Venice (and eventually every ancien regime in Italy) Paul I found it shocking that the Austrian Empire would come to terms with what was then still the First French Republic (which had the blood of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on its hands) to divide the territory of ruined Venice between them. Later, after the French were driven out, Austria kept northern Italy for itself rather than restoring it to its pre-revolutionary Italian rulers. Even more bitter to Paul was the case of Malta as Tsar Paul I had long had a great love and fascination for the Knights of Malta and their heroic exploits. The French had conquered the island and the British had aided the Maltese in overthrowing them but then the British had kept Malta because of its strategic location whereas it was the dream of Tsar Paul to see the island restored to the Knights of St John. Of course, there were also other examples, but these are indicative of why the Russian Tsar fell out with his allies and even pondered sending a Russian army to evict the British from India. It helped him come to see Napoleon as perhaps not that much worse than the other rulers in Western Europe and he reasoned that his elevation to emperor was at least a move back towards monarchy and away from revolutionary republicanism. For all of that, Tsar Paul I has always seemed to me one of the most staunchly monarchist monarchs of the early Revolutionary-Napoleonic period.

Thankfully, in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, there was a somewhat greater degree of monarchial solidarity in Europe as most everyone recognized that it was in their own interest to maintain the principle of monarchy. Since republicanism threatened everyone, it was more common to see monarchs coming to the assistance of each other when they were threatened. Yet, there were also disagreements as to what formula for monarchy was best to preserve the institution. This was on display in civil wars in Spain, Portugal and Italy in particular. As constitutional monarchists battled against absolute monarchists many, particularly the powerful British Empire, tended to favor the constitutional monarchists. Many absolutist-sympathizers of course have very uncharitable views about Britain because of this, yet it should be kept in mind that many people viewed constitutional monarchy (and Britain was the most shining example) were more conducive to stability and the long-term survival of monarchy than absolutism was. This was the view that absolute rule invites rebellion and disorder, possibly resulting in the overthrow of monarchy and the victory of republicanism, while constitutional monarchy was able to give the people enough of what they wanted to keep them peaceful and orderly and to take out their frustrations at the ballot box rather than barricades in the streets. Give them elected representatives, was the idea, so that they have politicians to hold to account rather than blaming their monarch for any misfortune that may come along.

This issue remained at the forefront and particularly came into view with the outbreak of the Revolutions of 1848. In that time of crisis, many monarchs had to fight to maintain their thrones but one monarch stood out as being safe enough at home to champion the cause of monarchy abroad and that was Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. He was certainly a monarchist monarch and an absolute monarchist (and monarch) at that. His political views were illustrated early on by the curtailment of the power of the government in Congress Poland (of which the Russian Emperor was also King). When the Poles protested, favoring a constitutional monarchy, the Tsar sent in Russian troops, dismissed the Polish constitution and from then on ruled Poland as a conquered province rather than an independent country in personal union with the Tsar. Nicholas I also offered to come to the aid of any European monarch who came under threat from republican traitors or even constitutional monarchists whom he tended to view as subversives. None availed themselves of his help until the Revolutions of 1848 when the Austrian Empire came to be in a desperate state. Rebellions by the various ethnicities of the polyglot empire seemed to be breaking out all at once. The Italians were seizing control of northern Italy, riots had broken out in Vienna and the Hungarians were rising up and showing signs of being determined to take Hungary out of the Austrian Empire. The Hapsburg Emperor fought back hard but it seemed doubtful that he had the military strength to suppress both the Italians in the west and the Hungarians in the east at the same time. In 1848 the Austrian Empire really did seem on the brink of collapse.

However, Tsar Nicholas I came riding to the rescue. Even though his country was not under threat and even though one could argue that the break-up of the Austrian Empire would have presented favorable opportunities for Russia, the man known as the “Iron Tsar” and the “Gendarme of Europe” did not care about such things. A monarchy was imperiled and he would lend assistance regardless of the circumstances. He sent a large Russian army into Hungary in 1849 to stamp out rebellion there and this was successfully accomplished with the rule of the House of Hapsburg being restored there. Nicholas I also sent his moral support to the King of Prussia not to give in to those who were demanding a constitution. No one can doubt that the Russian Emperor would have sent his army to Berlin to help prevent such a thing if the King of Prussia had asked it of him. For the Tsar, it was a matter of principle and he had an absolute clarity on the subject. The Revolutions of 1848 ended with most monarchies having been shaken but having survived. The crowned heads of Europe would not feel such nervousness again on such a scale until the outbreak of the First World War. More on that next time.

To be continued.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When the Mad Monarchist Thinks (it is what it sounds like)

I have been thinking a lot recently about the Renaissance. A lot of people are very negative about the Renaissance, but I love it. There was plenty of negative things going on to be sure but it was also a glorious period, a flowering of the High Middle Ages and a high point of western civilization. It had achieved the height of Christendom in the High Middle Ages, then in the Renaissance that flowered into a more total encapsulation of western civilization with the rediscovery of classical history, of glorious ancient Rome and putting the sum total of western civilization altogether in one glorious package. There was good and bad like always, but it was grand and only the good was celebrated while the bad was recognized for what it was and nobody tried to twist it into something good. But I was thinking about the Renaissance and about Tudor England and all the things that happened back then and that forces one to think about King Henry VIII. And Henry VIII is not one of my favorite monarchs, he was not what I would consider ideal because he did not hold fast to the traditions that were handed down to him and many people today who do admire him, though that is a majority of a minority, do so because he set the stage, not because they would have liked the play at the time. It’s because he was a colossus in English history because everything that happened before him was all his creation (it created him not that he created it) and everything that happened after was a result of what he did or what he set in motion and a lot of the people that admire him today admire him because they like what came after, because that became the new normal, the new tradition but if they were alive at the time, with their current mindset and values, they would have criticized King Harry for upsetting everything and being so revolutionary in all the things he did but what he did became the new normal for the conservatives to hold on to. And you can’t get around the fact that a lot of that has to do with religion because that’s when the division in England started between the Catholics and the Protestants so the Protestants have a reason to admire him or at least defend him while the Catholics have a reason to hold anger on him. They have more reason because they were the injured party in that country but they also cannot single the King out alone because the bishops in England, they all went along with it, all but Fisher we know and that really wasn’t unusual. They let him have his way and made him think he could always have his way and most of them went along with whatever way the wind was blowing. Who can say they were entirely wrong? Things might be seen very differently, even by the Catholics, if the Queen had died sooner or even if Queen Mary had had the son she thought she was going to have, it might have all been just a small bump in the road toward an Anglo-Spanish era of domination. Because bishops going along with their king was not new and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it has helped the Catholic Church survive a long time. When the Hundred Years War was going on, the French bishops told their king that God was on his side and the English bishops told their king that God was on his side and they both went to war full of faith and nobody questioned the Church about it. If they had tried to carry out some sort of super-national master plan they would have been seen as suspect and as enemies and the reaction would have been only natural just as it was perfectly natural at the time for clerics to be faithful to God and loyal to their king, no matter what borders they were inside of because they are not other-worldly beings but people too. The Pope made Chalemagne an emperor, gave him the title, and bowed down to him because he was the emperor. And this is part of what monarchy is and why it has lasted so long and why revolutionary republicanism is so fundamentally evil, because it goes against nature. It tries to be beyond nationality and all about legal constructs and not about people, not about the earth or the hole of the pit we were dug out of that we’re supposed to remember, by God’s command. To love your country is perfectly natural and I don’t trust people that don’t love their country. Love your country even if you distrust your government. Thomas More said something like that, the King’s servant as far as that could take him because he was English and that’s what he was supposed to do, that was natural. Of course, being a monarchist in the United States, I get people all the time accusing me of hating my country and nothing could be farther from the truth. I don’t hate my country and I get very frustrated when monarchists start going anti-American just because it’s popular to be against whoever is riding high at the moment, when there’s no reason for it. Right now there’s hardly a monarchy in the world that doesn’t depend on the United States for protection. But if you love your country you’re going to love your king because he is the personification of your country, the land, the history, the traditions, the whole national story are all bound up in that one man or woman and their family, if it’s a long one or a short one. All this republican, internationalism is devilish stuff, super-national, globalism and all, that’s Tower of Babel type chicanery, that’s nothing new and it’s nothing good. Of course, that doesn’t mean being xenophobic, a xenophobic person is a small-minded person, they got a pinched sense of reality, they’re blind to the world around them and they’d cut their own throat if they thought it’d make their neighbor have a bad day. You shouldn’t talk negatively or insulting about countries or nations anyway, individuals is one thing, a government is one thing but not the country, not the people, who are just trying to make their way and follow the path of least resistance. They’re just looking for some peace. But you have to walk that line, that narrow path that isn’t easy between internationalism and the sort of nationalism that’s just xenophobic and self-destructive because the enemy is pushing both ways. They push the internationalism junk openly but they don’t mind the radical, destructive type nationalism either because it is self-destructive and so they know it helps internationalism win in the end and it’s a perfect bogey man for them to scare the great mass of moderate, middle of the road types while they go on herding them in the internationalist direction, trying to tell them that’s the path to salvation and world peace. It’s what caused the world we have, it’s what made the world after the world of the Renaissance was destroyed. Just when western civilization started to reach this new level of learning, of art and religion and all that they started to undermine it and tear it down. Then the bad guys got their big moment of inspiration with the French Revolution. It wasn’t the American Revolution, that was child’s play to these people and those Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917 weren’t singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” marching down the street, they were singing “La Marseillaise” and raise the bloody banner, water the fields with impure blood, the world is against you, so go fight against the world. It’s why Marx said “Workers of the WORLD unite” and why Stalin said he would see the world conquered in his lifetime and why Mao said the “world has stood up” on the heavenly gate of peace. And if love of king and country wasn’t stamped on our DNA they would have done it too but they’re still trying. They have about got people poisoned off on their kings, helped out here and there by those that put their prejudice before even their own self-interest and now they’re going after (and having an easier time of it with the kings all shackled) the countries by going after property, the idea that anyone has a right to own anything, to their own property or their own native soil. It doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to everyone! It belongs to whoever needs it worst. How do we know who needs it worst? The commissar will tell you, don’t worry about that and even your country, that doesn’t belong to you or your people, it belongs to the whole world, because countries are just legal constructs, a border is just a line in the dirt, it’s not like nations are each unique families, their own unit with a father-monarch that embodies them, no, they say, we’re all just alike, we’re all interchangeable and nothing belongs to you, it belongs to everyone. That’s equality and all good, decent people believe in that, they all believe in liberty, equality and brotherhood right? This is what people don’t understand when they tell me that I have to make a better case for monarchy, I have to better show how monarchy can take care of everyone better, do what a revolutionary republic does but do it better and they don’t understand that I don’t even see it that way. You can, it’s a perfectly legitimate way to go if you want to, you can make that case and it’s true because when things are going the way nature intended, it will be better and it will be easier in a way at least, but that’s not my bottom line, that’s not my standard of judgment and people don’t see it when they tell me that you can’t just be critical of republics, you have to show that monarchy is better. I want to shout at them, but I can’t because I’d be doing it over and over again every time until I blow out my throat, that that’s a fine way to go but I don’t feel like I should have to prove that monarchy is better because I don’t believe that’s the standard of judgment. My standard is not fundamentally utilitarian, I say a third time, that’s fine if you want it and it can work like that, but I say you make your life better, that’s not the King’s job to make your life better, it’s not him who is responsible if you’re a failure. I say he is the King and should stay the King because it is his right and no one should have the power to take that away from him. I don’t care if you can run my property better than I can, I don’t care if you think you can make it more profitable than I can, it’s mine and that’s all the reason I need for saying you can’t have it. The King is the king because it’s his birthright and no one should be able to take that away from him. Change things around him all you like if it makes you feel better, you’ll just get burned by it eventually but you have no right to take away his birthright. When you do that, everything else is pointless. Everything reaches but it’s too low to catch, it bottoms out and going from there, you might inch up once in a while, some spots may be a little higher than others but you’re totally playing on the wrong damn field and nothing you do can change that until you get back on the right track and have things based on what they’re supposed to be based on, the way things grew up naturally to make you who you are or what you are, Understand? It’s like God, I’ve probably gone on with this long enough, but a monarch is like God, not in an idolatry kind of way but in that you have to have a monarch to have everything else in order, on the temporal side of things. That’s not clear. Sorry. I say God like God is the number zero. What is zero? It’s a contradiction, it’s the number that isn’t a number, it’s the quantity of nothing, it doesn’t make any sense but if you don’t have zero, if you don’t have that starting place, you can’t have math, you can’t have fractions even, you have to have the number that isn’t a number so you can have actual numbers. Nothing would make sense without it, it’s the starting point and so God is a contradiction, God cannot be explained but without that basis there is nothing and so the monarch is like that for peoples, you just can’t have a country without that natural framework. Even if you have a system, not a system but a tradition that is done a different way like the Chinese Confucian sort of system, you still have to have that basic traditional framework that grew up organically over centuries, even thousands of years, or everything falls apart so that you look at China today, after the Qing were torn down and there’s hardly anything really Chinese about China anymore. You could say the same thing about some colonial countries that went revolutionary and abolished their monarchies and today, looking back, they were more true to themselves when they were ruled by foreign powers than when they are independent because they’ve gotten rid of that anchor, that basic necessary starting point that everything else flowed from. Vietnam was more Vietnamese when the French were there, when the damn French Republic was there, because the soul survived, the spirit was maintained, in a real sense the spirits were maintained so it was okay there was hope there was the foundation. It’s what the patriot Tran Cao Van said right before they cut his head off, “The earth is still below us, Heaven is still above us, the Dynasty is still there, we wish 10,000 years to His Majesty the Emperor”. It’s good, we’ll come through. Now look at it. The spirit is being smothered or they’re doing their best to. Or you look at Mexico, look at Maximilian who took up where his ancestors had left off, he heard a divine calling to save those people, like the Holy Ghost fluttering over the abyss, I know he heard it and when he took his oath it MEANT something to him and when he died, he died like a king, he died with dignity and his generals died like heroes and that’s the first thing the enemy comes for is your dignity, we see that all around us. They come for your dignity first, they set up conditions so people give up their own dignity willingly, so that they shed it like wet clothes, fast as they can, with great enthusiasm just for the mere chance of some reward or just for a few minutes when people will notice them because they’re cutting us off from each other. They cut up the family so we don’t have that support and they cut us off from the king, from that anchor to the ancient and fundamental or they shackle them with so many chains that they can just glimpse us and we can just glimpse them like through that dark glass. We can see them we can see each other but we cannot touch, they want to slowly or quickly however they can do it, tear us away from our roots, from who we are and make us into something else. That’s why I don’t like hateful criticism of those royals we have today with so many limitations on them. I don’t hold anything against them, I can’t, I feel sorry for them because they are suffering too even if they don’t realize it because they’re being torn from us just like we’re being torn from them. It’s happening all over and we can see all over the world the powers that be dragging us in the same direction, some want to go faster, some want to go slower, but almost all of them are going in the same direction or are at least trying to. One side may put the brakes on from time to time but none have the courage or maybe none have the strength to take us back because the villains have managed to make that into something seen as hateful. You can’t go back, is what they tell us, you can only go forward, even if behind you is paradise and before is misery and despair they say it’s only good going forward and you shouldn’t even look back (because they’re afraid of what the people might see) but just take their word for it that it was all horrible behind you and keep going forward even when you see the cliff coming in front of you. This is going to probably be pretty hard to read but, too late now, may as well go on. It’s happening everywhere in one form or another, we just have a hard time keeping it straight, between helping each other out (because they’re all pulling together, at least when it counts they certainly do) while we’re torn between wanting to avoid losing who we are, because it’s because something so precious rare, and falling off into tribal bickering and old hatreds for injustices long past. It’s hard to keep straight and all the while the villains keep trying to pick away at our roots, at our foundations, trying to rip us away from that thing that someone once called the “taproot to Eden”, you know who it was. Some countries have done it quickly, just ripping it off like a bandage, you see this more in Third World countries and they are generally pretty miserable places but even in First World countries, the same thing is happening just more slowly, it’s all part of the same thing and it’s trying to strangle every last shred of decency and grace and glory out of all of us. In the western world I think they started doing that or at least making progress with that around the time of the Renaissance or the end of it, that probably helped end it but the bad guys were assisted by plenty of close-minded people too, there are always collaborators, you can count on that, always collaborators. And that’s not to say no one was trying before, they were always trying but they were not making any real progress because their holes kept getting patched up but just like the fall of Rome, because the Romans did everything in the world two thousand years ago already, eventually the holes became too many and people got lazy about patching them up or maybe made mistakes in which were the most serious but I think you know what I mean. Actually you probably don’t but I may as well stop now as don’t really have a set place to stop because I didn’t really set out with any goal in mind here, just think of it as “thinking out loud” but written down. If you got anything useful out of it, I’ll say it was worth it and if not, I probably won’t have the nerve to put this sort of stuff out here again anyway so maybe next time things will be more familiar.

To end, I’ll just say “Remember”. Always. (monarchists should at least get that one)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Story of Monarchy: Romanian Rise and Fall

The Kingdom of Romania was a monarchy that experienced a meteoric rise followed by an infamous fall. The story of the Kingdom of Romania is rooted in a very long struggle for unity and independence dating back to the Middle Ages when what is now Romania was divided between the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia as well as parts of Transylvania. The whole area was conquered by the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the XV Century and remained so, though there was a brief interlude under Prince Michael the Brave in the XVI Century when Wallachia and Moldavia came together as an independent feudal state of a kind. These two provinces reverted back to Turkish rule after his death with Transylvania being ruled by the Hapsburgs of Austria as part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Bessarabia, on the Moldavian border, was ceded to the Russian Empire by the Turks in 1812 and rightful ownership of the territory has been disputed almost ever since. Russia returned the southern portion after being defeated in the Crimean War but not long after, in 1861, Wallachia and Moldavia came together again as the “United Principality of Romania” under Alexander Ioan Cuza but it was still under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Sultan.

King Carol I
Several years later a liberal and conservative coalition forced Cuza from power and elected the German Prince Karl Eitel von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen to be their Prince. He was from the southern, Catholic branch of the Prussian Royal Family. This was to gain German support for eventual Romanian independence but the Austrians were less than thrilled with this development and Prince Karl had to travel in disguise, using a false passport, to reach Bucharest safely through Austrian territory. He adopted the Romanian form of his name, Carol, and became Domnitor of Romania in 1866. He was not Romanian by blood nor could he speak the language (he tended to speak French which most of the upper class understood) but he impressed everyone with his zeal to be a good monarch and to advance Romanian interests. In time, it became clear that the Romanians had chosen quite a capable monarch for themselves. In 1877 Prince Carol allied with the Russian Empire against the Turks and saved the day for Russia at the battle of Plevna in what is now Bulgaria. It was a decisive defeat for the Turks and in the aftermath Romania received official recognition of her independence at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. However, southern Bessarabia did have to be ceded back to Russia again.

Finally united and independent, in March of 1881 the government in Bucharest declared the country the Kingdom of Romania and Prince Carol crowned himself King Carol I of Romania with the famous “Steel Crown”, so-called because it was made from one of the guns that saw action at the battle of Plevna. The Kingdom of Romania was at last a fact but it would need a strong monarchy with a Royal Family and assurance of an orderly succession to see it thrive and prosper. Toward that end, King Carol I married Elizabeth von Wied (aunt of the Prince Wilhelm who would be Prince of Albania for a time in 1914). She was a literary woman, author of many poetry books under the name of “Carmen Sylva”. However, their only child, Princess Marie, died before her fourth birthday so in order to secure the succession King Carol adopted his nephew Prince Ferdinand von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Prince Ferdinand upset his family by renouncing Catholicism to join the Romanian Orthodox Church but he was just as determined as his uncle to see the Kingdom of Romania persevere and succeed. He learned Romanian and began seriously looking for a bride of his own to secure a stable Romanian royal dynasty. At the court of the German Kaiser he decided on Princess Marie of Edinburgh, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Queen Marie
A granddaughter of Britain’s powerful Queen-Empress, a daughter of German royalty and a descendant of the Russian Emperors by her mother, Princess Marie seemed the ideal candidate to give Romania plenty of friends in high places. However, getting along with the rest of the family proved rather difficult. She was too assertive for the tastes of her father-in-law and was a literary rival to her mother-in-law. However, she did her royal duty and in 1893 produced an heir to the throne who was named Prince Carol, after the King. But, in 1914, King Carol I died just after the outbreak of World War I and so it was the newly crowned King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie who would be called upon to lead Romania through its first great crisis as an independent kingdom. As a Hohenzollern, King Ferdinand tended to sympathize with his German relatives but Queen Marie was even more emphatically on the side of Great Britain and the Allies. The government also tipped the scales in her favor after Britain and France promised Romania vast swathes of Hungarian territory  when the war was over if they would join on the Allied side. It seemed so perfect; the massive Russian Empire promised support, Allied armies were in Greece, the Germans were stretched to the limit by the Somme offensive and Austria-Hungary seemed just about to crumble under the ferocious Brusilov offensive by Russia.

So, at that moment, in the summer of 1916 the Kingdom of Romania declared war on the Central Powers and launched an invasion of Hungary. Unfortunately, things began to go wrong very quickly. The army was not well trained or prepared and German Colonel General Erich von Falkenhayn already had a plan for the conquest of Romania ready to put into effect. The Central Powers were not so crippled as the leaders in Bucharest thought and soon Field Marshal August von Mackensen was leading a massive invasion of Romania with troops from Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. Overwhelmed by this massive counter-attack, Romania was almost completely conquered and even started to destroy their oil facilities to keep them out of German hands. A remnant managed to hang on in the east but the next year, 1917, Russia began to come apart and the Romanians were left with no choice but to concede defeat and sign a treaty giving up border territories to the Central Powers and Germany control over Romanian oil production. Some were amazed that Romania was to survive at all given how furious the German Kaiser Wilhelm II was that a member of his own family would declare war on him. Fortunately for Romania, this humiliation was only temporary.

King Ferdinand
In 1918 the Central Powers began to collapse, the Romanian army reorganized itself and in the end, Romania emerged on the winning side. King Ferdinand had led his people through their darkest hour since becoming an independent country but they had emerged as a more dominant country than ever before. Queen Marie set up camp in Paris when the Versailles Treaty negotiations were underway and she, along with the Romanian delegation, saw to it that Romania got all the spoils promised, primarily the annexation of Transylvania from Hungary (the return of Bessarabia was also confirmed). When all was settled the Kingdom was known as “Greater Romania” as it reached its greatest area of territorial control. The future looked bright but, of course, Romania was to suffer great turmoil as a result of the First World War just like every other country, whether on the winning side or not. Increasingly radical political trends began to sweep the country and inside the monarchy itself there was dissension. Crown Prince Carol was determined to marry the daughter of a Romanian general, Giovanna “Zizi” Lambrino. King Ferdinand did not approve but Prince Carol spirited his sweetheart away to the Ukraine where they were married in secret. Later, a son was born but King Ferdinand had never given permission for the marriage and neither it, nor any children from it, were legitimate in Romanian law.

Crown Prince Carol finally agreed to return and marry the woman his parents chose; his sister-in-law Princess Helena of Greece in 1921. Later that year a son and heir was born to the royal couple; Prince Michael, named in honor of Prince Michael the Brave of Romanian history. However, the Crown Prince already had another mistress in the person of Elena Lupescu which caused quite a scandal. No one could decide what was worse; that she was a commoner, that she was Catholic by religion or that she was Jewish by blood. She converted to Orthodoxy but she had also been married before and divorced so that, for any number of reasons, “Magda” Lupescu was popular with practically no one besides Crown Prince Carol. Finally, in 1925 he was forced to renounce his rights to the throne in favor of his young son Michael. He divorced Helena and lived in France with Magda Lupescu. So it was that when King Ferdinand I died in 1927 he was succeeded by his 6-year-old grandson who officially became King Michael I of Romania.

King Carol II
But, the boy-King’s father was not out of the picture yet. In 1930 the Peasant Party came to power and invited Carol to return as long as he agreed to leave Lupescu and reconcile with Queen Helena (she was titled Queen Mother in 1927 despite her husband never having been King at that point -the two were officially divorced in 1928). He agreed and returned to Bucharest where the national assembly voted to effectively depose King Michael and make his father King Carol II (the liberals dissented but were out-voted). However, Queen Helena refused to reconcile and it was never something Carol II took seriously anyway; Lupescu was his true love and she was soon in Bucharest as well with her own household). King Carol II enacted a new constitution that gave more power to the Crown and formed his own nationalist-royalist paramilitary movement to bolster his regime and try to counteract the other such parties that were gaining strength across the country. He also cracked down on any real or potential opposition such as by arresting the leader of the fascist Legion of the Archangel Michael or Iron Guard, Cornelius Codreanu. In 1938 Queen Marie died, depressed at the situation in her country, and in a visit by King Carol II and Crown Prince Michael to Bavaria, Hitler offered to support the King if he would drop his Jewish mistress and free Codreanu from prison.

King Carol refused and shortly thereafter Codreanu was shot by the police, supposedly while attempting escape though few believed it. As World War II broke out, things got worse for Romania. Hitler was hostile to King Carol II and there was nothing to do but concede when Stalin (at the time in league with Hitler) demanded the return of Bessarabia. Hitler also demanded that Carol II return northern Transylvania to Hungary. All of this was done, and it is hard to see how the King could have done anything else, but it cause a massive uproar in Romania particularly by the Iron Guard and the pro-German supporters of General Ion Antonescu, a former Minister of War. In September of 1940 General Antonescu organized a coup that brought down King Carol II and put King Michael I back on the Romanian throne. However, he was to be a mere figurehead with General Antonescu ruling Romania as dictator. He took the country into the Axis camp and participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. King Michael did not even know his country was at war with Russia until he heard about it on BBC radio. Still, despite the situation, King Michael was able to prevent the hand-over of Romanian Jews to the Nazis and he began to organize his own network of pro-Allied supporters.

King Michael I
The Nazi secret police suspected something was up but General Antonescu shrugged off their warnings, saying that King Michael was “just a kid”. His opinion no doubt changed in 1944 when that “kid” organized a successful coup that removed the dictator from power. King Michael then declared an end to the war with Russia and put Romania into the Allied camp. Unfortunately for Romania, the western Allies had already sold them out. When the King was in secret communication with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the British leader had already agreed that Romania would be in the Soviet sphere of influence in exchange for Greece being put under the protection of Great Britain. When the King sent his troops out to salute the passing Soviet Red Army, the Russians took them all prisoner and began to flood the country with communist agents to rally disloyal elements and intimidate and terrorize the rest into submission.

When the war ended in victory for the Allies, the Soviet stranglehold on Romania became tighter. However, King Michael did all in his power to block them at every turn. Still, he was limited to small things since Romania had been abandoned by the west to the vicious Stalin and his stooges. There were some happier moments though, such as in 1947 when King Michael met Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma in London, the woman who would be the great love of his life. They soon made plans to marry the following year and that was the last sort of spectacle that anyone in Moscow or their lackeys in Bucharest wanted to see. The Romanian communists had hoped the King would have stayed in Britain but he returned home and was determined to never leave his people. The communists had other ideas and when all of their harassment could not induce him to leave, they finally resorted to outright coercion. In December they demanded that King Michael abdicate his throne or else they would begin executing 1,000 students as “subversives”. Of course, the King could not allow such a bloodbath and had no choice but to agree. He signed their document, under duress so it had no validity, and left the country with little more than the clothes on his back as all royal property was confiscated by the communists.

the royal wedding
This was the start of decades of a life in exile for King Michael I of Romania. He married Princess Anne, making her Queen Anne of Romania, organized the Romanian National Committee to keep track of events at home and keep in touch with anti-communist Romanians in exile while working at a number of jobs in Britain, the United States and Switzerland. In Romania itself, a socialist republic was proclaimed, all former supporters of the Axis alliance as well as any royalists they could get their hands on were executed and various communist factions struggled for power. In the end, the man who emerged as dictator was Nicholas Ceausescu, a brutal tyrant who ran what many considered the most “Stalinist” regime in the Soviet bloc from 1965 to 1989. When Ceausescu was finally toppled from power (he escaped but was later apprehended and executed) in a revolution that was quite bloody. However, as with many East European countries, much of the old elite remained in place with former communists simply calling themselves social democrats and carrying on as before. There was no thought given to restoring the legitimate monarch to his throne and the first elected President of Romania, Ion Iliescu, was, not surprisingly, a former communist who ran as a social democrat.

The National Liberal Party did ask King Michael to run for president, which he of course refused and the party won no seats in the election. The King was perfectly willing to return as monarch if the Romanian people so desired it but he had no desire to become a politician. To return to his beloved country was, however, naturally the first thing that King Michael wanted to do but he met opposition from the government. His first effort to return saw the government cancel his visa so the first member of the Royal Family to return was Princess Margarita, his daughter, in December of 1990 on a humanitarian mission. That year she had founded a charitable organization after being moved by the plight of the children in the wretched state orphanages run by Ceausescu. For those not aware, this was probably the greatest horror of the communist regime and what happened to the orphaned children in state care is a story too horrific to relate here. There was starvation, neglect, abuse and even more disgusting crimes that can scarcely be imagined. After bringing up the subject with the prime minister, who did not say the King would not be allowed to return, the King prepared to come home.

The King & Princess Margarita
On Christmas Day, 1990, King Michael I flew into Bucharest on a private plane. The airport officials received them very cordially but government officials were caught off guard. Eventually the party was stopped and forced to leave the country. Their pilot was arrested and many fear something worse might have happened were it not for the media (including a French TV crew) that was following the events. In 1992 he was allowed to return to celebrate Easter and was cheered by a crowd of 200,000 people. Later, a crowd estimated to be a million-strong turned out to see him. This so alarmed the aforementioned President Ion Iliescu that the King was forbidden from returning to Romania for five years. However, in 1997, a new government restored his Romanian citizenship and eventually restored some of his properties and granted him the status of a former head of state. However, while the government has not seen fit to restore King Michael to his legitimate throne, that has not stopped them from making use of him as it was the King who led the public-relations campaign to gain Romania membership in NATO (and thus a war guarantee from the United States to defend Romania if it is ever attacked). In this he proved a great help and Romania became a member of NATO in the fifth enlargement in 2004. Leading political figures in Romania have also spoken favorably of holding a referendum on the subject of restoring the monarchy. It would certainly benefit Romania to restore the monarchy (that should be obvious given all that has occurred) and it would be only just and right to do so in the person of King Michael I, who never should have lost his throne in the first place. However, if that is to happen, with the King being 93-years old, it would have to be done quite soon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Clash of Monarchies: The French and Indian War

The French and Indian War was one of the most pivotal events in the history of North America. Yet, it was only part of the larger conflict known as the Seven Years War which raged in Europe from 1756 until 1763. What started as a frontier skirmish spread to be a land grab in Germany, embroiled two continents and ultimately decided the fate of all of North America. It started with one of the great figures in European history; the Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria. She had inherited the vast Hapsburg lands from her father who had spent all but his last penny buying the support of the crowned heads of Europe for the Pragmatic Sanction which would allow his beautiful but unprepared daughter to succeed him. He hoped that the Pragmatic Sanction would ensure a peaceful succession for his strong-willed, pious (and awesome) daughter but he would be disappointed in this hope. The ambitious and militaristic (as well as awesome) King of Prussia, Frederick the Great, immediately went on the attack and marched 30,000 troops into the Austrian territory of Silesia. Although her own ministers urged her to give in to Frederick, Maria Theresa proved to be a strong and determined young woman. She refused to give in to Prussian aggression nor to cede one inch of Austrian territory. Austria allied with Russia and France while the Prussians allied with Great Britain and the war was on!

George II of Britain & Louis XV of France
This formalized and enlarged the hostilities which had actually already broken out between France and Great Britain in North America in 1754. Tensions had always existed, but the growth of British and French settlements soon made conflict unavoidable. Both sides claimed disputed territories, which were; Acadia (Nova Scotia), the Great Lakes region, the area around lakes Champlain and George and the land between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River. In 1749 France sent an explorer named Céloron de Bienville into the Ohio River valley to reinforce the French claim. The Ohio Company did the same in 1750, sending Christopher Gist into the region for Great Britain. It was a slow-paced race to see who could take control of the disputed territories first by establishing military installations and forging advantageous alliances with the Native Americans who populated the region. The British, with a larger settler population at hand, had an advantage in building forts and holding ground but this also meant that the French had the upper hand with the Native Americans who tended to side with the French who traded with them rather than flooding their lands with European colonists.

In 1753 France established a line of forts in Pennsylvania along the Allegheny River. The British Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, dispatched Lieutenant Colonel George Washington with his militia to demand that the French commanders evacuate the fortifications. Naturally, the French refused to abandon their foothold and launched an attack to prevent the British from establishing a base of their own. So, Washington was sent back in 1754 to force the French out with his militia. The Virginia militia met a detachment of French troops under Ensign Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville and soundly defeated them, with the Indian allies of Washington mutilating the young French officer. Washington and his men then fell back and hastily built Fort Necessity. Any military engineer observing the position would have guessed it to be the work of an utter idiot. Built on low, marshy ground with poor fields of fire it was in every way a textbook example of where and how NOT to build a fortification. The French returned and quickly forced Washington to surrender. Given French outrage at what they considered an ambush and murder of one of their officers it is amazing Washington and his men were released at all, especially after Washington signed a formal confession to the murder of Jumonville before his brother who commanded the French counter attack. Washington later claimed he had not understood what he had signed and recanted his confession. In any event, the man later known as the ‘father of his country’ had just gone off and picked a fight with a world power and presided over the war’s first atrocity. Still, on July 4, 1754 no less, he was allowed to take his men back home.

pro-union campaign
The French and Indian War had commenced and in the first campaign Washington and his men were attacked and soundly defeated near Fort Duquesne (modern day Pittsburg). Who could have known then that this was just the beginning of a long career that would see George Washington elevated to the status of “military genius” for an almost unbroken record of defeats. The representatives and leaders of the British colonies in America met in New York at the Albany Congress to discuss the situation and adopt a plan for united military action against the French. One delegate, Benjamin Franklin, proposed a political as well as military union for the colonies but found no support for his idea. All the English-speaking colonies coming together, in some sort of “union” when they were so different and had so many conflicting interests…what an absurd notion! Throughout the conflict, the American colonists (not unreasonably) would remain primarily focused on defending their own settlements from Indian attack while the British wanted to go on the attack to conquer French territory. Relations between the British and Americans were often far from cordial as the Americans had become accustomed to the benign neglect of the government in London and resented British officers showing up to give orders. Everything with the Americans was conditional and every act of support for the war effort had to be bargained for -to the utter frustration of the British.

The war got off to a very bad start for Great Britain, despite having an immense numerical advantage over the French because of their much larger population base in North America. In 1755 General Edward Braddock led an army of British regulars and American militia in another march against Ft Duquesne, hoping to make up for the previous defeat. Braddock was an old army veteran and his force included 1,400 men in two British regiments, 450 Virginia militia (under Washington again) and some Indian allies supplied by a train of 150 wagons. Forced to cut their way through the dense wilderness, they made very slow progress and the French and their Indian allies had plenty of time to prepare for them even though their available forces consisted of less than a thousand men, most of them Indians with only a handful of French regulars and Canadian militia. The French plan was for General Braddock to march his men right into an ambush by these French and Indians. To his credit (because he seldom gets much), Braddock thought of this and made generous use of scouts and flankers and it was actually the French who made the first move. The fact that they were so outmatched tended to make the French take bolder risks and fight with greater desperation in this war.

French & Indians take down Braddock
Captain Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu, dressed in buckskins at the head of this very native looking little column happened to run right into the British advance. Captain Beaujeu was killed by the first British volley and the Canadian militia broke and ran for their lives, however, the remaining French and Indian troops showed remarkable calm and courage, stayed and pressed the attack. Showing considerable tenacity and quick thinking they attacked from the flanks, behind cover, while Braddock, used to European warfare, tried to form his troops into lines of battle only to have them cut down around him from all directions. Braddock, betraying no lack of courage himself, was killed while Colonel Washington led the few survivors in a retreat back to safety (leading well-executed retreats was Washington’s particular area of expertise). Two thirds of the officers were killed, more than 60 in all, and of the 1,400 enlisted men only 459 survived. This battle could only be considered a miraculous victory for the French and a stunning defeat for the British. This victory also helped to rally the bulk of the Indian population to the French side other than the Five Nations of the Iroquois who tended to favor the British. The war had only just begun and so far the French had bested the Brits at every turn.

And so the trend continued, to the utter delight of the Gallic population. Another attack on Ft Duquesne had failed, quite bloodily this time, and the French also beat back British  attacks on Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga in Upper New York. Despite being greatly outmatched, they were clearly winning the war so far. The sole British victory in the first part of the war was the capture of Ft Beauséjour in what is now the Province of New Brunswick, part of what was then known as Acadia. This little episode would have far-reaching consequences for North America. A great deal  of animosity lingered with the change in rule from Paris to London, animosity which ultimately led to the British deciding to clear out the local population and bring in one of their own, the food would be worse but they would be more orderly and well behaved. So it was that the French Acadians were exiled from Canada and these stalwart refugees sailed away, mostly to the south, landing in the Gulf coast around Louisiana where there was already a French population and establishing the Cajun community of the American south. However, that one loss aside, good news for French North America came in as well when the French forces in the New World received a new commander in the person of the Marquis de Montcalm in 1756. He didn’t get along with the civilian leadership and was often horrified by the practices of his Indian allies but he would bring a world of hurt down on the British.

Marquis de Montcalm
Now, instead of repelling British attacks, the French went on the offensive themselves, despite being heavily outnumbered. With large numbers of Indian allies and a hard core of French soldiers and marines, Montcalm continued the wave of French victories with his successful attacks on Forts Oswego and William Henry in Upper New York. Ft Oswego was captured, a great strategic victory, giving the French control of Lake Ontario and Montcalm with his French and Indian forces compelled the British at Ft William Henry under Lieutenant Colonel George Munro to surrender under generous terms. It was a good thing too as Montcalm was running low on ammunition when he gallantly delivered the intercepted message to Munro from his superior informing him that he could expect no reinforcements. However, afterwards, many of the British prisoners were killed by some of the Indians allied with the French in a massacre still controversial and much debated today. There is no doubt though that many of the French were horrified and Captain Louis Antoine de Bougainville expressed how much he feared his own Indian allies. The idea that Montcalm subtly ordered the atrocity is a total fabrication.

For France, it all must have seemed to good to be true. Despite the odds against them, the French forces under Montcalm were totally dominating the war in North America. Some British American colonists were reluctant to join the militia for fear that their farms would be attacked by Indians in their absence. There were raids and some of this fear was genuine but much of the hysteria was also intentional. British propagandists tried to stir up fear and hatred of the French and Indians in a number of ways such as tales of lurid Indian atrocities or claims that the French would force all the colonists to convert to Roman Catholicism if they were victorious. Of course, while these tactics were successful in making the colonists fear France and the Indians, it also meant that they were reluctant to march off to war and leave their farms and families behind -so the effectiveness of such propaganda was a mixed blessing for Britain. Such scare tactics are often a sign of a desperate situation and by 1757 the British situation certainly seemed desperate, but all that was about to change. Traditionally, Britain has been very good at looking at failures honestly, learning from them and improving going forward. One way in which the British fought back was beating the Indians at their own game and that was the result of one unit in particular; the famous Roger’s Rangers. These men were formed under the command of Captain Robert Rogers as a company of light riflemen who carried out similar duties to those of the Indians fighting with the French; they even scalped on occasion.

Lord Amherst
In 1758 there was also a major change in London when William Pitt became Prime Minister to King George II of Great Britain and his administration brought new vitality into the British war effort. King Louis XV and his ministers had always focused mostly on the European front and King George II was likewise always most concerned with his homeland of Hanover in Germany. There was a constant struggle in London between those who wanted to focus on America and those who wanted to focus on Europe. Under Pitt, the British gained a clear direction; North America was to be given priority as it held immense potential for the future and whichever country controlled it would be in an immensely stronger position going forward. That same year British troops  under their new commander in America, Lord Jeffery Amherst, went on the attack with new vigor. They stormed Louisburg after a six week siege (where the wife of the French governor, Madame Drucour, was on the battlements helping man the artillery) and besieged and captured Forts Frontenac and Duquesne. George Washington doubtless took great satisfaction in this last victory as he participated in it among the British forces of General John Forbes. Unfortunately for Washington the French evacuated and blew up the fort before Forbes arrived; robbing the British of a little piece of their glory. Nonetheless, the French were sent reeling and were unable to regain the initiative. After so many humiliating defeats, the British Empire was striking back in a big way.

They had the ball and ran with it, sending over large numbers of reinforcements from Britain to set up a knock-out blow against the French in America. In the summer of 1759 the British conquered Forts Niagara and Ticonderoga (known as Fort Carillon to the French) as well as Crown Point. Present at the Crown Point victory was William Johnson whose command included Roger’s Rangers who were used to great effect. These men gained such a reputation for expertise that before long all British commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the light infantry first served with the Rangers to learn their trade (even today, the special forces of the U.S. army trace their roots back to that green-clad elite group). Upper New York and most of the Great Lakes region was now in British hands and the string of French victories had been totally reversed. The heart of French North America, modern Quebec, also came under attack when British forces under General James Wolfe moved to attack the formidable walled city which was held by 15,000 French soldiers under the Marquis de Montcalm. For three months the British troops besieged Quebec City but could find no advantage. Finally, in September, in one of the most famous battles in British military history, General Wolfe launched a surprise attack across the Plains of Abraham which won the battle and gave Britain control of modern Canada. Unfortunately, neither General Wolfe nor the Marquis de Montcalm survived the battle. The French had gone as far as their limited resources could take them, and done astonishingly well, but when the British put their all into it, they had turned the war around and dealt France a crippling blow.

The death of General Wolfe
The fall of Quebec proved to be decisive and it convinced the French that the time had come to make peace on British terms. The fighting straggled on for a time though, at least until Lord Amherst captured Montréal, but the issue had already been decided at Quebec and in 1763 the French signed the Treaty of Paris which surrendered all French territory in Canada and east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain. Spain surrendered Florida to the British but gained control of all French territory west of the Mississippi as well as the vital city of New Orleans. By the time all was said and done the French kept only the small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon south of Newfoundland as the only remnants of their once vast North American empire. Britain had taken the majority of the territory and had only the weakened Kingdom of Spain to share the continent with. The French and Indian War was over and the fate of North America had been decided and the future of the continent would belong to the English rather than the French speaking people.

Many may not often remember the French and Indian war today, especially in the United States (it is more remembered in Canada where the French population still have yet to get over it), but so much of our modern world and how it has developed descends from that one conflict, mostly due to the impact of the United States rising to global super-power status. The fact that North America is dominated by the Anglo, Protestant culture would not be so were it not for that war. Had Britain lost there might today be a North America dominated by French, Catholic culture instead. There would not be a United States or a Canada, at least as we know them, and even Mexico and the southwest might be vastly different from what they are today had the French and Indians won the war that bears their name (at least on this side of the Atlantic). So much comes from the conflict; it was where George Washington first saw combat and first felt slighted by the British social and military hierarchy. It saw the birth of Roger’s Rangers, the forefathers of our modern day U.S. Army Rangers and thanks to Benjamin Franklin it saw the first proposition that the American colonies should join together in some kind of union. It gave the British Empire one of its most famous martyrs in General Wolfe and saw the battle which made the reputation of the highlanders of the “Black Watch” as one of the most courageous regiments in the British army.

Washington & the French at Yorktown, 1781
The conflict also produced a fair share of literary works for such a forgotten war, from Longfellow’s “Evangeline” poem about the exile of the Acadians to the famous novel “The Last of the Mohicans” which weaves the fall of Ft William Henry into its story of romance and cultural clash. Perhaps most importantly, the total expulsion of the Kingdom of France from North America left a deep hatred in the hearts and minds of the French people that would not go away. By removing the French as a threat many Americans saw no further need of allegiance to Britain and this helped to get the colonies on the road that ultimately led to the American War for Independence. The French, eager to take revenge on Britain for the terms they had been forced to accept, were eager to aid the Americans, even if they were republicans, for the chance to give Britain back some of what the French had tasted and possibly regain some of what had been lost. In this clash of monarchies, the French of King Louis XV stunned everyone with their skill by dominating the game to the first half but it was the British of King George II (succeeded at the end by King George III) whose great strength, material superiority and bold attacks saw it through to victory in the end. The conflict allowed Britain to dominate North America but also set the stage for the American War for Independence and the creation of what would become the most powerful republic in world history.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Anniversary of the Emperor of Japan

This year marks the Silver Jubilee (as it would be called in the west anyway) of HM the Emperor of Japan who had his formal enthronement ceremony twenty-four years ago today. It was truly an historic event, coming after the 63-year reign of his father, the Showa Emperor, which was the longest reign in Japanese imperial history. Although born in the time of the Empire of Japan, the current Emperor was still only about 12-years old when Japan surrendered in 1945. He did most of his ‘growing up’ during the days of the American occupation and the post-war State of Japan. As such, things were quite different for him compared to past Japanese emperors and on his shoulders rested an immense responsibility. He would be the first monarch to reign after the war, after the empire and under the new constitution and the new place Japan found itself in on the world stage. Fortunately, he had the advantage of a long-reigning father who presided over the most dramatic changes and so the Emperor was able to be brought up in this new atmosphere and fully prepared for his position and what would be required of him by the time he came to the throne in 1989. Since then, he has proven himself to be one of the great monarchial leaders of the world and an example to his own people and to others worthy of emulation.

The past 25 years of the current imperial era have seen high points and low points for Japan but through it all, the Emperor has been exactly the monarch that the situation, and the times, needed him to be. He came to the throne at a time when Japan was undergoing astounding economic success. The country had risen from the ashes of war to become the second largest economy on earth and, for a time, it even looked as though Japan might surpass the economic powerhouse of the United States as the value of the currency rose and investment poured in. However, over-confidence, reckless spending and bad decisions by banks, businesses and the government soon caused the bubble to burst and Japan experienced the infamous “Lost Decade”, which was actually more than a decade, of economic stagnation. Over the many years of difficulties, the Emperor was a symbol of reassurance to the public as well as an example of frugality and simplicity. The Japanese monarchs have long been known for living elegantly but simply and the current Emperor has been no exception. He always set an example of being majestic and dignified without being ostentatious. The public, after the economic bubble burst, took this to heart and began to follow his example; extravagance was no longer fashionable.

On the political front, the long rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (the most conservative mainstream party) came to an end in 1993 but the coalition that replaced it soon collapsed and the LDP made its way back into politics in a bizarre coalition of its own that gave Japan its first socialist prime minister in half a century. Although most remembered today for his high profile apology to the other nations of Asia for the Japanese role in World War II, the election of a socialist prime minister was just the first in a string of disasters Japan had to deal with. His massive amounts of new regulations and entitlements did the economy no good, in 1995 a major earthquake struck Kobe and two months later a cult group carried out a poison gas attack on a Tokyo subway that killed 13 people and injured many, many more. The Emperor responded to such events with a dutiful adherence to his constitutional role and by acting in a kind and compassionate way to give comfort to his people in times of natural disasters. Both of these duties the Emperor would be called on to perform throughout his 25-years on the throne. In terms of politics, the Emperor has remained above the turmoil, never drifting to one side or the other but always on the side of Japan as a whole.

Although the Emperor is not a political figure in that he is not involved in politics or policy making, he is a leader and is undoubtedly the greatest leader Japan has and not simply by virtue of being the Emperor. He has shown more wisdom, moderation and foresight than virtually any political or social leader in Japan in his lifetime. In terms of domestic politics, the Emperor has always been scrupulous about following the rules and sticking to the constitution. This has made him an invaluable source of stability in very politically unstable times. Even when Japan was undergoing rapid turnovers of governments, one after another, there was no collapse in confidence domestically or in foreign countries. Anywhere else where governments came and went so quickly this would cause a panic but not in Japan and that is because, simply by being there, the Emperor has a calming effect. The politicians in Tokyo may bicker and feud but everyone feels that it will all be okay because the Emperor is still in his palace and all is right with the world. The Emperor, going about his duties, closing one Diet session and opening another, is a sign of survival. The Emperor is still there, just as he always has been, so Japan is still here, the country will not cease to exist because politicians cannot come to an agreement.

On the world stage, the Emperor has been, perhaps even more important over these last 25 years. His reign has seen the start of Japan reemerging as a force in world affairs and as a major military power (even if it is not, legally, a formal military). Japan deployed forces (in a non-combatant capacity) abroad for the first time since World War II, showing an increasing willingness to put the past behind them and become more self-sufficient in defense matters. Of course, this has not always been welcomed by those in other countries and bigoted elements at home and abroad (though they despise each other) have both sought to cling to memories of the war and keep Japan shackled to the past, a focus of hostile and suspicious feelings. However, so far, they have been unsuccessful thanks in no small part to the actions of the Emperor himself. In contrast to the narrow-minded chauvinism of the radicals, the Emperor has traveled the world, solidifying relations with allies, renewing old friendships and forming new and better relations with foreign countries as the embodiment of a confident, peace-loving, mature Japan. He has struck just the right note on every occasion, expressing regret for past events but honoring past heroism and sacrifice, acknowledging history but not being enslaved by it. Rather than carry on old grudges, the Emperor has set his focus on strengthening the Japan of today and tomorrow by goodwill and strong friendships in the international community. And, where Japan has been met by bigotry, the Emperor has taken the moral high ground, meeting such animosity with polite kindness, an open mind and an outstretched hand. Such warmth and dignity on his part has served more than once to highlight the immaturity of those powers which cling to bitterness.

While serving as an inspiring example at home and putting the best image of Japan forward around the world, the Emperor has also been a great comfort to his people in times of crisis. At no time was this more evident than in the worst disaster Japan has suffered since the end of the war; the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The Emperor took the almost unprecedented step of addressing the entire nation personally in a televised message, the nearest thing to which that was ever done before being the address by radio to the people by HM the Showa Emperor in 1945. The Emperor and Empress also made numerous visits to the victims of the disaster, greeting them personally, talking to them, listening to them and comforting them. No one who experienced such a visit or even witnessed one could not have failed to be moved by the genuine sympathy and compassion the Emperor showed to every one of his unfortunate subjects at such a sad and difficult time. Once again, he set the perfect example and the people of Japan came together in a most heart-warming way to help each other, care for each other and to join in resilient determination to rebuild, recover and improve the afflicted area. With the moral leadership that the Emperor provided, everyone could see that the old values many had thought had disappeared in Japan, were still alive and could come back into focus in times of crisis for the country.

Throughout his reign, the Emperor has seen a number of natural disasters afflict his country. There has also been an increase in tension with Japan’s closest neighbors with harsh words and military scares from China, Korea and Russia. This, naturally, has led to Japan placing more emphasis on national defense and this, in turn, has provoked protests from Korea, China and Russia with China and Russia in particular clinging to the memory of World War II and wishing to, in their words, “preserve the post-World War II world order” which of course would include a powerless Japan. However, so far, their efforts to frighten other countries and divide Japan and her closest allies have proven mostly fruitless, thanks in no small part to the Emperor himself. He has always made it clear that he values nothing higher than peace, remembering the horrors and ruination of the war very well himself, and he has always been ready to reach out in friendship to any country. His actions have shown the rest of the world that any tensions, such as between China and Japan, are not being instigated by Japan but by China. The Emperor has also been of immense benefit in strengthening existing friendships with American and European powers as well as forging new and better relations with other Asian countries such as India.

The Emperor cannot keep the peace on his own, but he has set the right example, the right moral tone and been the best sort of ambassador Japan could ever have. He has spread trust and goodwill wherever he has gone and won over people in every country he has visited with his kind smile and genuine warmth. The last 25-years have, in many ways, been difficult for Japan. The country has troublesome neighbors, more national debt than any country in the world, faces a looming demographic crisis and has had to deal with many natural disasters. However, the people have also been coming together like never before, becoming more realistic and more involved in the world community and have shown the talent and creativity to overcome great problems. And through it all they have had the Emperor’s prayers to support them, the Emperor to set a matchless example for them, an Emperor to be their best public face to the world, an Emperor who has comforted them in times of crisis, congratulated them on great achievements and reminded all Japanese people everywhere of their shared history and illustrious national story. In brief, the Emperor has been, in every way, the model monarch and a matchless moral leader for his country and all his people. Congratulations on 25-years on the throne and may the Emperor reign on, until the pebbles grow to might stones. 天皇陛下万歳! 万歳! 万歳!
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