Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Possible American Monarchs

American monarchists are a rare breed to be sure. Most Americans are taught to idolize the republic and disdain all monarchies and it would be positively absurd to think of actually trying a monarchy for the United States. Yet, such people existed even at the very begining. We all know about the "Patriots" and the "Tories" but there was another minority who favored independence for the 13 colonies but still thought that a monarchy was the way to go; the tried and true method of government as it were. So, who exactly was it that might have become the first monarch of a 'United Kingdom of North America'? Here is a list of the possible candidates discussed, by some at least, at the time:
  • HRH Prince Charles Edward Stuart, aka "Bonnie Prince Charlie", aka King Charles III to loyal Jacobites. A four man delegation made up of 2 brothers from Pennsylvania, a lawyer from New York and a gentleman from Maryland made the trip across the water to offer the crown of America to the "Young Pretender" in Florence, Italy in 1782. The Prince reportedly turned down the invitation.
  • HRH Prince Heinrich of Prussia, the younger brother of the famous Prussian warrior-king Frederick the Great. In 1786 Nathaniel Gorham and Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben approached Alexander Hamilton (known to be favorably inclined toward monarchy) on the idea of Prince Heinrich becoming President, or even King, of the United States. Prussia had been one of the first European nations to recognize the USA and the countries were on friendly terms, nonetheless, the idea was dropped before Prince Heinrich knew about it.
  • HRH Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of America's archenemy King George III was actually suggested by some of the colonials still somewhat attached to Great Britain. The Duke of Kent had the advantage of being still quite young and thus more adaptable to becoming an American monarch, yet this was an idea that went nowhere and it is impossible to imagine that if it had even been made George III would have ever allowed it. Nonetheless, it is curious to try to imagine his daughter, the great Queen Victoria, as an American.
  • General George Washington, Continental Army, America's first President and probably the only man in history who actually could have been King of the United States had he so desired. The idea was presented to the general in the famous Newburgh Letter by the Irish-born veteran of the British army Colonel Lewis Nicola, a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. He wrote to Washington on behalf of his fellow army officers, disgruntled at the mismanagement of the Continental Congress and proposed to make Washington King of the United States with the support of the army. Of course, Washington refused.

Looking at this list, even with the inherent anti-monarchism of the colonial rebellion aside, the prospects do not look very good. Prince Charles had the benefit of being a natural enemy of the Hanoverian King George and the reputation of a romantic figure from the '45 but his years in exile left that reputation somewhat tarnished. Probably most importantly he was also a Catholic and the colonial rebels considered even granting the basic civil rights and religious tolerance to Canadian Catholics one of the "Intolerable Acts". He also had no male heir other than his brother Prince Henry the Cardinal Duke of York -something America at that time would never have stood for. Prince Henry of Prussia's major drawback was that he was a Prussian -one of the most strict, absolutist monarchies in Europe and it would be hard to imagine, for all of their "Enlightenment" talk, a brother of Frederick the Great being a constitutional monarch. This would not have been a problem for the Duke of Kent, but he would have suffered from simply being a son of George III and the King, as stated, would surely never have allowed his son to reign over rebel colonies. George Washington thus would have stood the best chance, he was an aristocratic sort of fellow who thought shaking hands beneath the dignity of the President, but of course he was not royal, not terribly inclined toward monarchy and as he himself admitted later on, he had no male heir either and by his own admission would have been an unsuitable monarch.


  1. My understanding of the Revolution is that the COlonists by and large did not wish to break from GReat bitain. Currnt Researhc indicates that only about 15% wanted Independance, abou 20% wanted to remain, and te rest just tried ot lead theirown lives as best they could.

    But even then, most of Americas Founding Fathers wheren't themselves opposed to Monarchy as an idea. Only THomas Jefferson, and the Other Thomas, Pane, were outright Anti-Monarchy. They wher also the most rebellious of the Founders f America, and in Jefersons case the most desirous of personal Gain.

    I doubt American Monarhcism woudl have enured though, because Jefferson and Paine at the time both held such promenant roles, especially Jefferson.

  2. They radical crowd had the misfortune of living in colonies that were actually more prosperous than the motherland. When times are good it is harder to incite people to rebellion. Most sat on the fence looking to cast their lot with the winning side -which happens quite alot in such situations around the world.

    Paine is an interesting case, most of the Founders actually thought the guy was a nut and just used him for the good propaganda he produced (he was also a native Englishman). However, oddly enough, when he went to France to get in on the Revolution there he actually cast the only vote *against* the execution of King Louis XVI. His reasons were not entirely pure but he fell out with the French traitors because of that. Paine basically said that by killing the King the Americans would immediately turn against the French Revolution because so many Americans looked to King Louis as a benevolent monarch for aiding their war against the British and giving the crucial help essential for victory in securing American independence.

    Who would have guessed that the man who first turned the war in America against King George personally and who ridiculed the Divine Right of Kings would be thrown in jail by other revolutionaries for opposing the execution of a (formerly) absolute, Church-backed monarch.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...