Tuesday, December 8, 2009

WW2: Fate of Monarchies

Most recognize the entry of the U.S. into World War II as the begining of the end for the Axis powers. The conflict is often expressed in terms of democracy vs. tyranny (USSR?) but it is not often looked at in terms of the effect on the monarchies of the world, in contrast to the First World War. It may surprise some to know that most of the Allied nations were republics and most of the Axis nations were monarchies. However, those statistics can be a bit misleading considering that many were monarchies in name only and others were simply colonial monarchies ready to accept help from any quarter to gain independence. So, what exactly were the effects on monarchy around the world for those monarchies directly involved in the war on their own soil? Here is a rundown:
Albania: A monarchy which had long been occupied by Italy it was incorporated into the Italian monarchy with the King of Italy named King of Albania so the monarchy itself never went away. However, after the Italian defeat it fell to communism.
Austria: Probably should not be included here, but the Fatherland Front of Engelbert Dollfuss had been discussing a Hapsburg restoration. Obviously the Nazi takeover squashed this idea nor was it taken up during the Allied post-war occupation.
Belgium: The Germans kept the monarchy in place during their occupation but then dragged King Leopold III off with them as they retreated. In the end the monarchy was liberated and restored though under a regency until Leopold III abdicated in favor of his son.
Bulgaria: Originally a member of the Axis to gain their "Greater Bulgaria" a communist coup took the country into the Allied camp but also spelled the eventual end of the monarchy as King Simeon II was deposed by the communist takeover after the war.
Cambodia: The Japanese maintained the monarchy and the country was returned to French rule though independence was soon declared.
Croatia: An Axis state which invited the Italian Prince Aimone to become King as Tomislav II, he never actually resided in Croatia and abdicated following the Italian defeat.
Denmark: The Germans invaded but did not remove the King though he often gave them trouble, the country was eventually liberated.
Ethiopia: Monarchial rule never went away but following the Italian conquest the King of Italy became the Emperor. During the war the Ethiopian Emperor was restored with the liberation of the country by the Allies.
Greece: The Royals fled into exile with the Axis conquest. The country was liberated and the monarchy restored though civil war raged between royalists and republicans afterwards.
Hungary: A unique case, Hungary was technically a monarchy on the Axis side under regent Admiral Horthy who had already opposed two efforts by the late King (Blessed Charles of Austria) to regain his throne. The regent and on-paper monarchy was overthrown by the pro-Nazi faction and later taken over by the communists after the war.
Italy: An Axis partner for most of the war, when Italy was invaded by Allied troops the King dismissed Mussolini, switched to the Allied side and later abdicated in favor of his son, King Umberto II but after the war the monarchy was ended by a highly suspect referendum.
Japan: An Axis partner in which all was done in the Emperor's name though he did not make policy, after the war the monarchy was maintained but only in a purely ceremonial fashion.
Korea: A subsidiary part of the Japanese monarchy, Allied liberation saw the country divided into feuding republics which situation has persisted ever since.
Laos: Occupied by the Japanese who never abolished the monarchy though the King was pro-French, they simply worked with supportive royals and the country was later liberated.
Luxembourg: The Germans annexed the country with Gran Duchess Charlotte in exile in London. The country was finally liberated and the monarchy restored.
Malaya: Pro-independence royals cooperated with the Japanese following whose defeat the country was restored to British rule.
Manchuria: Following the Japanese occupation the Empire of Manchukuo was established under the last Manchu Emperor. At the end of the war a Soviet invasion destroyed the monarchy and the country fell to republican and later communist China.
Monaco: Occupied by the Italians and later the Germans, Monaco was to be within the Italian sphere of influence though Prince Louis II was never removed from the throne. The U.S. liberated the country and young Rainier III served with the French on the western front.
Montenegro: Part of Yugoslavia, then an independent monarchy allied with the Kingdom of Italy the country fell to communism after the war.
The Netherlands: The German invasion forced the Queen to go into exile but the country was finally liberated and the monarchy restored.
The Netherlands East Indies: Occupied by the Japanese who encouraged pro-independence factions at the end of the war the islands were restored to Dutch rule.
Norway: After a brave fight the King and government were forced into exile and at the end of the war the country was liberated and the monarchy restored.
Romania: First fought on the Axis side the young King Michael pulled off a pro-Allied coup but the monarchy nonetheless fell to communism after the war.
Thailand: The monarchy was officially allied with Japan however the young King Ananda Mahidol was out of the country at the time only returning after the conflict was over.
Vietnam: Japanese occupation first remained alongside Vichy French colonial rule. Later, with Japanese support an independent Empire of Vietnam was declared in 1945 but only a few months later a communist revolution forced the last Emperor to abdicate.
Yugoslavia: Oddly enough, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was first a member of the Axis nations under the Prince regent Paul. Two days later he was removed, the country was taken apart and the Serbian/Yugoslav King Peter II supported the Allies and was forced into exile. During the war the Allies switched their support from the royalists to the communists and after the war Yugoslavia was restored but as a communist dictatorship.


  1. A helpful rundown. I'll have to find out more about Christian X. Interesting how he remained in Denmark and so forth (and I believe the government did, too), yet was never accused of collaboration and treason like poor Leopold III.

    Leopold III, of course, as a prisoner of war, was in the "impossibility of reigning" during the occupation. Nonetheless, it's true the country remained, constitutionally, a monarchy and the Germans never abolished this.

  2. Denmark was supposed to be the Germans' "ideal" protectorate but of course things did not always go as smoothly as they hoped. King Christian X was most known for his solitary rides through town which greatly alarmed the Germans when they became occasions for great displays of support for the monarchy. He was an admirable figure.

    I continue to be baffled by the treatment of King Leopold III, especially considering the uniquely difficult position he was in; not only enduring the occupation of his country, some violations by the Allies as well, but also having to deal with native enemies. All countries had their own 'Quislings' but he had to deal with Flemish Nazis who wanted incorporation into a 'Greater Netherlands' on one hand, pro-Nazi elements of the Rexists on the other and German Nazis who wanted to solve all of that by absorbing all of Belgium into Nazi Germany. Few if any other leaders had to deal with the situation he had to deal with. Alot of people also tend to ignore the fact that no one had a crystal ball to know which side would win and leaders on the ground at the time had to deal with circumstances as they arose.

  3. My understanding is that one allegation often made about Christian X - namely that he ordered Danish Gentiles to wear Stars of David in protest against Nazi persecution of Danish Jews - is in fact false, and was indeed denied by Queen Margarethe not all that long ago. Still, it's notable that so many people should have wanted to believe it; and not even the most perfervid Danish republican seems to question King Christian's patriotic pride during WW2.

    Some years back I read Roger Keyes' vindication of Belgium's Leopold III (Outrageous Fortune) and found it most instructive. Given the ineptitude of French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud at the start of the war (an ineptitude aggravated by the antics of his horrid mistress), most people would regard being calumniated by Reynaud as a tribute to their integrity. But as G. K. Chesterton said in another context: "The truth is always half an hour behind the slander."

  4. Yes, I've also heard the star of Davis story is untrue but there was also a fairly extensive campaign (secretly) to smuggle Jews to Sweden. King Christian was essential just as a symbol in keeping Danish hopes alive. It gave them courage to see him continue his routine regardless of the German occupation. The Nazis were also extremely annoyed with him and his subtle opposition.

    King Leopold III, and to a degree Belgium as a whole, really suffered a betrayal at the hands of their Allies. You hate to cast stones but when the King is slandered I cannot help but point out that to a large extent the Belgians were sacrificed to buy time and all but abandoned. When they finally had to surrender the King was insulted for not going into exile or fighting to the death. Unfortunately he was not the only monarch, on the Allied side, betrayed by the other Allied powers.


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