Monday, May 31, 2010

Royal on Film

It may be too little too late but tonight on TCM the 1928 silent film classic "Four Sons" was featured. Devoted movie fans might be aware of the film but they may not be aware (at least I wasn't) that he had an actor in the cast with very prestigious royal connections. Listed as simply playing "a captain" in the Imperial German army was Archduke Leopold Maria Alphons of Austria (Archduke Leopold of Austria on the cast list). He was the son of Archduke Leopold Salvator of Austria and Infanta Blanca of Spain (daughter of Duke Carlos of Madrid) who was the son of Archduke Karl Salvator of Austria (of the Tuscan branch of the Hapsburg family) and Princess Maria Immaculata of the Two-Sicilies. The sad but touching film tells the story of a German widow and her four sons, one of whom ends up in the US Army in World War I.

The Marine Who Became a King

On this Memorial Day the Mad Monarchist would like to share the little-known story of one of the most unusual tours of duty in the history of the US military. It is the story of Polish-American Sergeant (later warrant officer and in some documents lieutenant) Faustin E. Wirkus, United States Marine Corps. A native of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania he joined the Marine Corps at the age of 18 in 1915. He was dispatched to Haiti when that country was in political turmoil which prompted US occupation. He distinguished himself in combat against local renegades and in 1921 was assigned to serve as administrator of the island of La Gonave about 40 miles north of Port-au-Prince.

Faustin worked hard on the island and soon gained the respect and admiration of the natives. After about a year he was summoned to the home of Queen Ti Memenne who related to him the story of a past ruler of the island who had also been named Faustin. He had disappeared in 1848 but promised that one day one of his descendents would return to claim the throne. Because of his name and the energy he displayed in improving their lives the US Marine was formally crowned “King Faustin II” in a Voodoo ceremony by the natives. The new monarch used his status to further improve conditions on the island and ensure a smoother running administration. Later he was transferred off the island to help establish a military academy to train local Haitians to facilitate the hand-over of responsibilities and the withdrawal of American forces.

The people of La Gonave were sad to see him go but gave him quite a send-off. By that time, according to a 1930 newspaper report, King Faustin II had become something of a celebrity across Haiti. By the time American forces left Haiti in 1934 Faustin E. Wirkus was the subject of a number of dime-store novels which related, with various embellishments, the story of the US Marine who became the “White King of La Gonave”. Faustin himself cooperated in the writing of at least one such book of the same title. The New York Times ran an obituary on the Marine-turned-monarch on October 9, 1945.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Monarchist Profile: General John Burgoyne

John Burgoyne was born in Sutton, Bedfordshire on February 24, 1722 into a well-to-do family and as a young man in 1740 purchased a commission in the 13th Light Dragoons. He quickly became known for his dramatic, flamboyant style and was nicknamed “Gentleman Johnny”. Even as a young officer he had a reputation for grand style, lavish uniforms and high debts. Nonetheless he was promoted to lieutenant only a year later. He had to live abroad for a while after eloping with the daughter of Lord Derby but was back and made amends in time for the French and Indian War during which he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the elite Coldstream Guards and was instrumental in the Portuguese campaign.

Burgoyne often seemed to personify the worst of the stereotypes of British officers of the period with his grand manner, obsessively particular about his uniforms, given to entertaining and, after the death of his wife, his mistress and illegitimate children. Yet, to say this was all he was would be unfair. He served in Parliament, was an accomplished playwright and a very innovative military officer. He pioneered the use of light cavalry and encouraged subordinates to act on their own judgment and for his soldiers to adapt their tactics beyond the rigid, linear system. He was known as something of a dandy in society life and in politics generated some controversy by his attacks on Lord Clive of India.

His greatest chance for fame came with the outbreak of war in the American colonies. By that time a major general, he was dispatched to Boston in 1775 as soon as the conflict began but he did not take an active part in the first major battle at Bunker Hill. With little to do he returned to England but soon came back to America, specifically to Canada, where he took charge of the northern front. He relieved the beleaguered garrison at Quebec under Sir Guy Carleton and together they drove the revolutionary forces out of Canada. However, Burgoyne worked behind the back of his superior (Carleton) to have him removed from military command. King George was finally persuaded to do so and the command of British forces in Canada was given to General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne.

The plan was for Burgoyne to strike south from Canada across Lake Champlain while General William Howe, with the main British army, advanced northward from New York. The two forces were to meet in Albany and thus cut off the troublesome New England colonies from the middle and southern colonies. However, the offensive was not well coordinated and some historians have since doubted whether all involved were even aware of the broader strategy. Nonetheless, confident that could overpower any opposition Burgoyne set out on the campaign he was sure would be his moment of glory. With 7,000 troops; British regulars, Hessian mercenaries, American loyalists and Indians, he began the march south.

At first, all went according to plan. He captured Ft Ticonderoga, was promoted lieutenant general and later captured Ft Edward. However, rebel forces harried him every step of the way, wrecking bridges and felling trees that slowed his progress. Finally he was forced to make a choice; return to Canada while there was still time or break off from his lines of supply and communication and press on southward in the hope of linking up with Howe. Always confident and ever a gambler, Burgoyne rolled the dice and marched on. It was to prove a disastrous mistake. Slowed by his artillery, stopping to dispatch foraging parties and the harassment of rebel forces the Continental Army under General Horatio Gates had time to gather and overwhelming force to oppose him in the area around Saratoga, New York.

In a series of battles through September and October of 1777 the British were thwarted by rebel attacks led by Benedict Arnold. Superior British discipline was able to fend off disaster but Burgoyne was encircled, outnumbered and had no hope of relief. Finally, on October 17, Burgoyne decided he had no choice but to surrender the nearly 6,000 troops still on hand. By negotiation he was able to obtain very generous terms but the battle of Saratoga was a humiliating blow to the British war effort and was the event that prompted King Louis XVI of France to recognize the United States of America and join the war against Britain.

Burgoyne returned home a very unpopular man but, by 1782, had managed to restore his rank through friends in high places. He was made commander-in-chief in Ireland and continued to dabble in politics until his death on August 4, 1792 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Happy Oak Apple Day!

Today marks the birthday of the late King Charles II of Great Britain and Ireland as well as the date of his triumphal entry into London when the monarchies of the 3 kingdoms were restored after the nightmarish Cromwellian interregnum. In 1660, to celebrate the occasion, May 29 was declared an official holiday, Oak Apple Day, by the English Parliament. Sadly it was dropped as an official holiday in the British Isles in 1859 though there is evidence that certain festivities continued to be held for many years thereafter. When monarchial restorations are such comparitively rare things, monarchists must take what opportunities they can to celebrate and certainly there were few such genuinely widespread and happy occasions as the restoration of the "Merry Monarch" Charles II after the Puritanical tyranny of Oliver Cromwell. The Mad Monarchist extends a happy Oak Apple Day to all blog readers, followers and subscribers!

Royal News Roundup

A bit of the far north came to the far east last Friday with a visit by HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden to the People’s Republic of China. He met with communist dictator (President) Hu Jintao to strengthen Sino-Swedish ties and the King of Sweden said, presumably with a straight face, that, “China and Sweden have no conflict of fundamental interests despite different national conditions, and good bilateral ties have brought tangible benefits to both peoples”. Yes, cheap junk made in forced labor camps goes to Sweden and, well, really nothing much goes back to China from Sweden other than money. Basic freedoms and individual rights certainly have not been shared. The Kingdom of Sweden (may God forgive them) was the first western country to establish full diplomatic relations with the Chinese communist regime some 60 years ago. In other Swedish royal news, poor Princess Madeleine is having a hard time dealing with the break up with her cheating rat of a former fiance (who else thinks this guy is in dire need of a good ol’fashioned ass whuppin? I know, I’m in a mood today, bear with me). She has had to cancel a number of additional royal engagements while she works through this hard time. My heart, and I’m sure those of all blog followers, go out to the Princess.

In happier royals news, the King of Spain has sufficiently recovered to get back to work. He has had his first meeting with the prime minister and has kept a light-hearted attitude about the whole affair. However, he will still not be traveling abroad for the time being but the Prince and Princess of the Asturias have done quite well filling in for him in that regard. In other happy royals news, this past Monday Prince Feisal of Jordan (brother of King Abdullah II) married Sara Qabbani, a Saudi raised Lebanese lady who works at an organization supporting the on-going peace process that was set up by Prince Feisal. The Mad Monarchist wishes them many years of wedded bliss. Finally, some very happy news indeed from New York City, it was announced that, yesterday morning, HRH Prince Luis Alfonso de Bourbon, Duc d’Anjou (rightly King Louis XX of France to legitimists) and his wife Princess Marie Margaret welcomed twin boys into the world; Prince Luis and Prince Alfonso. They were born by c-section and mother and sons are said to be in “perfect condition”. Heartfelt congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Anjou and the latest additions to the venerable French Royal House.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mad Rant: Canada's "Foreign" Queen

It was lately brought to my attention (via one of the members of the Mad Monarchist Brain Trust) that republican traitors in Alberta are again spreading their vitriol against Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Canada in preparation for her upcoming visit. It seems the republicans have nothing new to offer as it was a tired repetition of the same inane arguments they have been making for years; that Canada is not truly independent so long as it shares a monarch with the rest of the Commonwealth realms, that the monarchy is an ominous reminder of their dreadful colonial past and that the Queen of Canada (God save her) is a foreigner; unfit to be the Canadian head of state. Balderdash and bull cookies!

This last argument (the “foreign” Queen argument) particularly chaps my hide. Some would cry ‘nationalism’ at this point, but it really is not even that. Such could only be true if there were actually a “Canadian” nation -which there is not. The Queen, most would agree, is British. But what is “British”? The Queen had an English father, a Scottish mother, belongs to a German royal house and has ancestry going back to numerous nations. Not so very long ago one could be born and raised in Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Jamaica, Canada or (even further back) New York, Virginia or South Carolina and still be considered “British”. And what exactly is this “Canadian” nationality that the Queen is not included in?

Canadians like to claim that they won the War of 1812 against the USA. In fact, in 1812, everyone on both sides of the border considered the inhabitants of Canada to be British. The only people who were known as Canadians were the French. Here is my ultimatum: Canada, if you are going to insist that the British are unrelated foreigners and that Canada is still not a truly independent country, stop claiming the credit for winning the War of 1812. Leave the laurels with the British along with the rest of your supposedly oppressive colonial past. Of course it also seems odd that, with Canada being such a downtrodden colony of tyrannical Britain, that so many loyalists, escapes slaves and Native Americans fled the republican USA to Canada.

This same revolutionary propagandist spoke hopefully of converting Canada to a republic upon the passing of the current Canadian monarch with the role of head of state passing to the Governor-General. The odd thing about that is; the current Governor-General (who has at times claimed to be the head of state anyway) is herself not a native born Canadian but was born in Haiti. Furthermore, the previous Governor-General, Adrienne Clarkson, was born, not in Canada, but in Hong Kong -a *Crown Colony*. That’s right ladies and germs, the last G-G of Canada was British! All the blood in her veins was Chinese of course and she spent the majority of her life in Canada but these details do not seem to bother those who wish to invoke the mentality of xenophobia to promote treason in Canada against their monarch.

I’ve never met the author of this piece of trash article -but I would imagine he does not look very dissimilar to the Queen of Canada (as in I doubt he is blue or something unless he’s been standing outside in Edmonton too long). He speaks the same language as she does, lives under the same legal system, shares much of the same history and was probably born at least in the same religion. So why exactly is the Queen of Canada so “foreign” to this guttersnipe? And why is it that it is most often the open-borders, united earth, “we are the world” leftie morons who are usually the first to denounce their monarch simply for being born in a place with a bit of water between them and all their people? Of all the republican arguments this has got to be one of the most ignorant and asinine of them all and it never ceases to make me a very, very…Mad Monarchist.

The Emperor's Library (III): Emperor Tiberius

Tiberius Claudius Caesar is one of the better known but still controversial Caesars which is probably to be expected given that he was only the second Roman Emperor and the successor of the deified Augustus. Considered a bloody tyrant by some, he was certainly, as papal Latinist Father Reginald Foster once said, “a hard man”. Like many ancient monarchs and Roman emperors especially he was a complicated man and something of a mixed bag who also evolved over the years. No one could deny that he was a great general and later a capable ruler. However, much of the criticism of him stems from his later years when he seemed to slip further and further into paranoia and depravity. However, one must also remember that, as with a great many of the emperors of Rome, we depend a lot on the accounts of others in our assessment of these men and all too often these accounts were written by political enemies who may have took liberties with the truth to make their subjects look as bad as possible. Nonetheless, as the heir of Augustus and Emperor of Rome he is significant to the world and Christians remember him as the Emperor who reigned during the ministry of Christ. When Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar…” the Caesar he was speaking of was the Emperor Tiberius.

Tiberius was born on November 16, 42 BC as Tiberius Claudius Nero to his namesake Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla who later divorced his father and married the Emperor Augustus in 39 BC. Tiberius later married his step-sister Julia the Elder and was adopted by Augustus as his official son and heir after which he was known as Tiberius Julius Caesar. Nonetheless, despite these lofty family connections, Tiberius was not an ambitious man who desired power for its own sake. As a man who knew something of the world and the harsh realities of life he had no grand vision of power but realized that its glories came with dangers equally as great if not more so. He was a sober monarch who appreciated the weight of his authority and responsibility and eventually became known as a recluse and as his paranoia increased he became an awesome figure his people feared rather than loved or admired. When his death finally came many Romans rejoiced but given that he was succeeded by his adopted grandson Caligula, they may have eventually regretted their condemnations of Tiberius and happiness at his final end.

Emperor Augustus tried to prepare him for power by placing him in important government offices but he always hoped a candidate of his own bloodline would be his heir. Tiberius spent most of his time fighting on the Roman frontiers where he proved himself a very capable general and won a number of victories. He fought the Parthians in Armenia, married the daughter of Marcus Agrippa, fought Galls and Germans, fought barbarians in the French Alps and found the source of the Danube before returning to Rome in 13 BC to become consul and to welcome his first son, Julius Caesar Drusus into the world. When General Agrippa died in 12 BC Rome was stunned but Tiberius and Drusus moved up on the succession list. Great right? Not for Tiberius it seems. Emperor Augustus had him divorce his wife and marry his step-sister Julia the Elder -who turned out to be one of the most “horizontally accessible” women in the Roman Empire. It is really no wonder Tiberius came to associate power and prestige with personal pain and suffering.
Augustus was reportedly reluctant to name Tiberius as his heir but was compelled to for reasons of state. He considered Tiberius too austere and rather off-putting but after the deaths of the other potential heirs, Tiberius was ‘the only game in town’ as it were. He had an excellent military record but no administrative experience when Augustus died and Tiberius became Emperor in 14 AD. This was the first time power in Rome had changed hands based on the hereditary succession of one emperor after another and it was a little tricky. There were rivals to be dealt with, the Senate, which had to bestow the titles of Augustus on his successor and the legions who, in some cases, mutinied and had to be put down. Tiberius dispatched his adopted son Germanicus to handle this, which he did and went on to lead the frontier legions deeper into Germany. Tiberius finally halted any further expansion and called back Germanicus who was still treated to a triumph upon his return. When Germanicus, who was very popular, later died some suspected Tiberius of complicity.

One of his biggest problems was his mother, the Dowager Empress Livia. At one point, he left Rome and went to his island-fortress of Capri just to get away from her. When she died he refused to attend the funeral, stopped the effort to deify her and refused to implement her will. That was in 29 AD, the same year he arrested Agrippina (Germanicus’ widow) and her son Nero after Sejanus (basically Tiberius’ right-hand-man after he left Rome and moved to his pleasure grotto on Capri) accused them of plotting against him. Conspiracies were everywhere and Sejanus himself was later killed for allegedly plotting against Tiberius and replaced by Naevius Sutorius Macro. He would be a key player for the rest of Tiberius’ reign and would play a controversial part in the change of monarchs when Tiberius died. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It is easy to forget that Tiberius was an effective emperor. At the start of his reign he tried to follow the example of Augustus as best he could. He was attentive in his duties, presided at the senate, attended games and sporting events, handed out gifts and gave charitably on occasion. He took his job seriously but he lacked the social skills of his step-father. He tended to come off as distant, arrogant and intolerant. Eventually he became rather unpopular, especially after his austerity cut into the public entertainment budget. The Romans may have had their bread but they felt cheated on the circus front. When it came to government, although he retained final authority, he largely let the provinces govern themselves and did not interfere in the administration very much. He tried to get along with the senate but was unsuccessful and came to see most of them as potential rivals.

His unpopularity increased after he went into seclusion on Capri and had more senators and so on put to death as he feared conspiracies against him around every corner. His actions on Capri would become legendary and may be somewhat exaggerated but suffice it to say he was in a pretty bad place toward the end of his life and had little hope for the future with his only remaining heirs being his grandson Gemellus, who was too young, and his adopted grandson Caligula -who even early on tended to scare people. His tax increases helped put Rome on firmer financial ground but angered the populace and the constant treason trials made him hated by the senate and probably contributed to stories that his death on March 16, 37 AD may have been unnatural (Macro was accused of suffocating him). When news of his demise reached Rome many people rejoiced and shouted “to the Tiber with Tiberius!” His body had to be taken to Rome under armed escort and cremated by the troops away from public view.

In the end Emperor Tiberius was not deified as Augustus had been but neither was he officially criticized. Despite his unpopularity he had governed effectively. There were no major disasters or problems during his 23 years on the throne and when looked at objectively he seems to have been a basically good ruler who was simply not likeable. One has to wonder if those who criticized him came to miss him after he was gone and Caligula was Emperor. Supposedly, Tiberius spoke of his successor when saying that he was “nursing a viper in the bosom of Rome”. At the start of his reign he said that he would consider himself a success if he governed well and did what was right even if it was unpopular. In that regard history has largely vindicated him though it would be a while before the Romans themselves could see it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Real Rainier III

An absolute monarch in all but name (and actually in name for a time) whose reign was a resounding success for his country, HSH Prince Rainier III is nonetheless often misrepresented in the media and misunderstood in popular opinion. Read about the real Rainier III, a Man and Monarch of Integrity at Mad for Monaco.

Britons, Senators and the Succession

Some time back, in need of a distraction, the former Labour regime in the UK started talking, yet again, about changes to the British succession law to do away with the passages that single out Catholics or anyone married to a Catholic for exclusion from any possibility of coming to the British throne and, possibly, doing away with male primogeniture as well. My comments on the subject generated considerable opposition from some John Bull types but so far, with the recent election, I fear my warnings at the time have only been validated. My primary position was that this issue should have been handled long ago ‘in-house’ as it were to avoid causing controversy. The law could have been changed in form without any major change in substance by simply removing the language that singles out Catholics as being particularly evil and leaving it with a simple requirement that the monarch must be in communion with the CofE to reign. Maintain the established church, male preference and allow the monarch, who must approve all royal marriages, to ensure that no dreaded Catholics creep too close to the throne. Sound reasonable?

My God! One would have thought Queen Mary I was alive and going for the matches again! I was assured that the paranoia about Catholics was totally justified, that the British Royal Family is not to be trusted with freedom of religion, even the monarch, that attempting any changes to the succession would almost certainly lead to the disestablishment of the CofE and possibly the end of the monarchy altogether. I maintained that, just as the Labour government had done on the recent occasion, this issue would continue to be brought up any time the government needed a distraction by painting themselves as “reformers” getting rid of the bigotry and discrimination enshrined in British law. Therefore, it would have been better to have taken care of this a long time ago (when a hereditary House of Lords could have kept the debate sane) and that to deal with it sooner would be safer than leaving it for later. After all, I don’t see British society trending more religious and traditional.

At the time of this exchange my fears focused mostly on the Prince of Wales and the Commonwealth. It is no secret that, according to republicans themselves, the British monarchy is safe at home and in the Commonwealth while HM Elizabeth II is Queen but they are eagerly awaiting the succession of the Prince of Wales to make their republican move. In my view, an issue like this could be more safely dealt with while the Queen reigns than waiting until the future reign of King George VII when many traitors in Britain and across the Commonwealth have said the gloves will be coming off. With the Prince of Wales newly established as monarch, lacking at first the popularity of his beloved and long-reigning mother, such an occasion could be the ideal opportunity for the fall of the monarchy in more Commonwealth countries and possibly more damaging and liberal changes in the UK itself. Hence my position that it would be better to remove this tool from the republican arsenal while Elizabeth II is still Queen because anyone should be able to tell from recent years that politicians will continue to resurrect the issue whenever they need to divert public attention.

Well, it seems we might not have to wait for a change in monarch for the danger to increase. I am speaking, of course, of the plans to do away with the House of Lords in favor of an elected or appointed sort of ‘British Senate’. Does anyone seriously trust a bunch of senators, appointed or elected, rather than lords temporal and spiritual, casting a vote on the future of the British monarchy and the established church? Unlike some of those I have crossed swords with in the past, I personally do not favor elected officials having any say whatsoever concerning the succession, I would prefer that be left to God and the course of nature alone, but the fact is that ship sailed long ago. By that same token I would sooner put my trust in the monarch and tradition than in man-made laws and legislation written up by a bunch of self-serving politicians. Nor do I think doing so would change the religion of the entire monarchy. The Queen must approve all royal marriages and she has approved a number in recent years to Catholics. Is the law revoking their place in the succession really necessary? Have any of them been anywhere close to actually having the slightest chance of ever inheriting the throne? Of course not, and even without the law, if they were the Queen could simply refuse permission for the marriage -which would not even mean they could not marry but only that the marriage would not be recognized by British law and thus put them out of the line of succession anyway.

I know many people dismiss attacks on the British monarchy as futile; it is the most prominent and well known monarchy in the world, it is supported by a majority of the British people; all that is true. However, it has fallen before and I may be paranoid but I am ever on the lookout for storm clouds gathering. Apathy can be dangerous while I see no down-side to being overly vigilant. First, there is a piece of proposed legislation that politicians have and will use to their advantage to tinker with the succession and possibly the established church. Second, there are many well-intentioned people who would sympathize with such changes. Third, the institutions most affected show no signs of fighting for the way things are. Fourth, there are republican groups who are waiting for the change in monarch to launch their bids to abolish the monarchy. Fifth, changes to the succession must be passed by all commonwealth realms -a golden opportunity for republicans around the world and finally there is the threat that all of this could be done by elected commons and senators with absolutely no voice in government for the cause of hereditary tradition. That ‘perfect storm’ for republicans must be avoided at all cost even, and I know this will really hurt to some people, dropping a few words from the Act of Settlement.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Guarding the southern compound against revolutionaries.

British Woes

In the traditional display of pomp and ceremony that monarchists like me thrive on, HM Queen Elizabeth II opened Parliament with her (government-issued) speech from the throne. It all looked as magnificent as usual but this was a speech for hard times, dominated by plans for cost-cutting, budget clean-ups and getting rid of waste. In other words, it was the message of a government that knows it is out of money but cannot bring itself to actually get rid of the vast social welfare-state that is at the heart of all the financial woes. It would be political suicide to say so openly, but it seems to me an unavoidable truth that when you have a government-run healthcare system that employs more people than any other organization on earth save the Indian national railway system and the People's Liberation Army no amount of fat you might trim from here or there will be sufficient to save the British economy.

It also does not help having the Duchess of York in a money-grabbing scandal days before such a speech when everyone in the UK is being forced to cut back. On that score, let me say that I have never been a fan of the Duchess of York, I have never really liked the woman, I didn't like her cheating on her husband, I didn't like her fostering the "me against the monarchy" mentality and I didn't like her selling herself for advertisements and I certainly didn't like this latest low behavior which I can only hope will shock her to her senses. That being said, I also don't like entrapment and the targeting of members of a certain family (notice it is always the wives) by these "journalists" who are out to embarass the Royal Family in any way possible (and contrary to many reports the Duchess is *not* a royal or member of the RF but they are the ultimate target). What she did may not be a crime but is was despicable, but it was also pretty low to set up this whole sting operation to entrap someone who is not a royal, not a government official, not on the public payroll etc. There are plenty of legitimate targets out there to go after.

Getting back to the throne speech though, one bit of at least somewhat good news was the promise by the government (via the Queen) that the British public will at least be consulted before any more of their sovereignty is shipped overseas to the EU. As regular readers will know I am certainly no fan of unfettered democracy nor rule by referendum, however, when it comes to putting any brakes at all on the power-grabbing bureaucrats at the EU, I will take whatever I can get and call it at least a step in the right direction. Now, if only they would get out of the EU altogether, look to their sovereign for their sovereignty (what a novel thought), restore the House of Lords and end this "senate" nonsense and slash the welfare state to death we would really be moving things in the right direction. At least from where I am sitting.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MM Video: Nguyen Dynasty of Viet Nam

The Nguyen Dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of Vietnam reigning from 1802 to 1945. The 13 Nguyen dynasty emperors were: Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Duc, Duc Duc, Hiep Hoa, Kien Phuc, Ham Nghi, Dong Khanh, Thanh Thai, Duy Tan, Khai Dinh and Bao Dai. The influence of the Nguyen dynasty is still seen today in the culture of Vietnam and the Forbidden City and Nguyen Imperial tombs in the old capital of Hue are considered among the wonders of east Asia.

Enlightened Despot: Emperor Joseph II

Known as one of Europe's "Enlightened Despots" was Joseph Benedict Augustus John Anthony Michael Adam von Habsburg-Lothringen. The son of Maria Theresa, over whom the War of Austrian Succession was fought, Joseph II broke with the devoutly Catholic policies of his mother to embrace the sweeping trend of the so-called "Enlightenment" which viewed traditional Europe as a place of injustice and intolerance. In fact, of all the so-called "Enlightened Despots", Joseph II was the only one not to be titled "the Great" despite the fact that he certainly lived up to the ideals to an infinitely greater degree than many others who were. His reign saw an increase in the German culture, Austrian dignity, and unheard of advances in social and religious toleration. In many ways he was a monarch years ahead of his time. Yet, his reign also saw the destruction of many of the core Catholic principles which had held the Holy Roman Empire together for a long time. I tend to think some Catholic writers have been rather too hard on Joseph II, but there is no doubt that he was not a friend of the favored position of the Church in Austria.

After the death of his father Joseph became, in name at least, Emperor of the Romans, King of Germany, Jerusalem, Hungary and Bohemia, Archduke of Austria, Grand Prince of Transylvania, Grand Duke of Tuscany, etc, etc. However it was not until the death of his mother that he became absolute ruler of Austria. Upon his ascension he gave his large inheritance to ease the national debt and ordered his brother to do likewise. He cut government spending, built the first truly public parks, charged the Church with caring for the sick and destitute and granted religious toleration to Jews and Protestants. He abolished such traditional Catholic devotions as the Rosary and religious processions, expelled the Jesuits and seized a great deal of Church property. Yet, throughout his reign, whether in Vienna or on the battlefield, he heard mass every morning and was an enemy of Protestant Prussia (though both monarchs had a great deal of respect for the other's abilities). It was under Joseph II that Wolfgang Mozart rose to fame, though his music was a little too extravagant for the very simple Joseph. Nevertheless his support of Mozart & his contemporaries earned Joseph the nickname, "The Musical King".
This taste in music corresponded with the rest of his reign, whether religious or political. He was very German, he favored always simplicity and efficiency. It was said that his poor houses and government buildings looked like army barracks. He himself usually wore a military uniform rather than the latest fashions and he despised court ceremony and lavish Church rituals. The fact that his cold relationship with the Church would probably not be so notable were it not for the fact that he was the Holy Roman Emperor, and the son of Maria Theresa, expected to be the Church's first defender. However, he was often disdainful of the ecclesiastical leadership, just as he was of the elites of society, whom he saw as contributing nothing to the good of the nation.

For all of these things Joseph was adored by the common folk but despised by the aristocracy and high clergy. Certainly the Emperor had his share of heartaches and trouble. His beloved first wife died early on and Joseph never recovered from the loss. Victory over Prussia's Frederick the Great constantly escaped him and his sister was the famous Marie Antoinette who was murdered by French revolutionaries. In the royal community of Europe, most of whom were also adherents of the "Enlightenment", Joseph was consistently held in very high regard. Czarina Catherine the Great of Russia was greatly impressed with the young monarch who oddly insisted on wearing an Austrian army uniform rather than lavish costumes, and Prussia's Frederick the Great never ceased to express his admiration for Joseph even when they faced each other in battle. In fact, it was partly the high esteem in which Joseph held the Prussian king that led to his desire to emulate his victories in the field.

Emperor Joseph viewed it as his duty, as an absolute monarch, to protect and serve his nation and all of his people, regardless of their religion or class. He was beloved by his people, but, perhaps unwittingly, removed some of the key supports of his empire. Yet, in the sense of helping the common people of his country, setting aside his anti-Church policies, he was probably the only "Enlightened Despot" who actually did improve the lives of his subjects.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Royal Passings

Recently two of the great monarchial houses of Europe have suffered losses. On May 15, at the age of 90, His Imperial Royal Highness Archduke Rudolf of Austria died. He was the youngest son of Their Majesties Emperor Charles I and Empress Zita of Austria-Hungary. Yesterday, Her Imperial Highness the Dowager Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna passed away in Madrid at the age of 95. She was the mother of the current head of the Imperial House of Romanov, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, and wife of the late Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich. The Mad Monarchist sends condolences to the houses of Hapsburg and Romanov and prayers that both are being welcomed into God's embrace.

Favorite Royal Images: Lion of Judah

The last Emperor of Ethiopia with one of his pet lions. In general, my favorite images of any of the Ethiopian Emperors are those when they are in their full imperial regalia -showing all the glory of what a real, genuine African emperor looks like as opposed to the most recent (Bokassa) in Central Africa who tried to look like a Frenchman for some reason. However, I love the symbolism of the photos of Haile Selassie with his lions, mostly because of the symbolism, iconic images very evocative of Africa -the only native African Emperor and the lion, the "King of the Beasts" and they also (as intended) point to the Ethiopian Emperor's title, "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah", which itself points to the Ethiopian tradition that their emperors descend from the offspring of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel.

Consort Profile: Empress Carlota (Part V)

By the beginning of 1867 Napoleon III was bringing his troops home and advised Emperor Maximilian to return with them. By this time Maximilian was aware of the true situation in the country and the strength of the republican forces that opposed him. He was not the sort to wish to impose himself by force, and in any event with the withdrawal of French troops he had almost no force left. Again, he considered abdication, however, he was already involved and though they had opposed the enterprise, his family now urged him to stay on as long as possible to uphold the honor of the Hapsburg name. Maximilian, always the romantic sort, decided he had to remain and would seek one more climactic battle alongside his loyal Mexican troops that would decide everything. He made his last stand at Queretaro, which was eventually captured by republican forces and on June 19, 1867, to the horror of the civilized world, President Benito Juarez had Maximilian executed by firing squad. Even though she was half a world away at the time, in many ways Empress Carlota died alongside him that day.

That summer, Queen Marie Henrietta came to take Carlota back to Belgium. She was the wife of Carlota's brother King Leopold II, and Carlota had never liked her. While Carlota was very feminine and a deep thinker, her sister-in-law was a tomboy who thought about nothing but horses. Nonetheless, she took Carlota home and the Empress of Mexico took up residence in the Palace of Laeken with her family where she did quite well until another emotional breakdown in mid-1868 caused her to be put in seclusion at Tervuren castle. She came back once, but by the spring of 1869 her mental stability had deteriorated to such an extent that she was sent back to Tervuren for good. During her worst episodes nothing could console her, laughing hysterically one minute and weeping uncontrollably the next, talking endlessly on some subject or another or sometimes gibbering nonsense. During respites from these attacks she could for a time carry on as though nothing at all was wrong, behaving like her normal, charming and refined self. She would read, paint, play piano and answer questions perfectly rationally. And, as always, she took great care about her appearance and was just as beautiful as she had ever been.

A change in residence came after a fire in March of 1879 forced her to move temporarily back to Laeken, though she had to be tied to her carriage with a shawl, and then on to Bouchout castle where her behavior became even more erratic over time. During her worst attacks she would fly into a screaming rage, destroying furniture, shattering vases, even tearing up her beloved books and paintings. Yet, she never harmed anything that had some connection to her beloved husband, and even kept a doll that she slept with and called Max. Her brother, King Leopold II, never visited her, though Queen Marie Henriette and her girls did. Princess Stephanie, who would one day perhaps feel some connection with Carlota, said that she was never afraid of her deranged aunt even when she was very young. One day, Princess Stephanie would also marry a Hapsburg, the son of Maximilian's brother Emperor Franz Joseph, but this also ended in tragedy when he killed himself at Mayerling.

In her more peaceful moments it seemed that Carlota transported herself in her mind to the last part of her life where she felt the hope and optimism she once had in such abundance. In these moments, she was still in her palace in Mexico City, with her husband by her side and a world of possibilities before her. This was helped by the fact that everyone in her household continued to refer to her as "Your Majesty" and titled her as Empress of Mexico. In 1914, when World War I erupted and German troops invaded Belgium, Carlota was spared the sort of suffering that others endured. On orders from the German Kaiser notices were posted at Bouchout informing all German soldiers that the estate was the property of the sister-in-law of their Austrian ally Emperor Francis Joseph and strictly forbid any molestation of the property or person of the Empress of Mexico. Eventually the war passed and Carlota lived on in her tragic condition, sometimes in touch with reality and sometimes not, until her death by pneumonia at the age of 86 on January 19, 1927.

On the whole, one cannot but be touched by the tragic life of Empress Carlota of Mexico. She deserved such a better fate than the one she had. Her good nature, sincerity, compassion and high ideals could have made her the ideal queenly figure in a country and a time desperately in need of such a person. Yet, all her good qualities were met by the deception, betrayal and cruelty of those around her. She was young, full of exuberance and for a few years brought beauty, grace and civility to a torn and divided country. Ever the model of a devoted wife, the manner in which her good intentions and those of her husband were returned with senseless hostility and ultimately also by the murder of her beloved Max crushed her spirit and caused her to descend into a grief-induced madness from which she never recovered. Today, one can only appreciate her drive and goodness, sympathize with her suffering and loss and ponder at how much different, and better, things could have been if only she had been given the chance that she so much deserved.

Rest In Peace sweet Empress, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Oh Fergie, Fergie, Fergie

Today Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, is supposed to be on her way to Los Angeles, California to "accept an award for her charity work". Rather ironic considering that it has just come out that "Fergie"was caught on tape accepting a $57,000 downpayment of a whopping $720,000 bribe to buy access to her husband, HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York. You can read the details at the link provided but I would just like to say that I've never been a very big fan of Fergie but this surprised even me. I wonder what all of those who think HM the Queen was cold and unkind toward Fergie are thinking now? Perhaps Her Majesty is a better judge of character than most would like to believe.

Consort Profile: Empress Carlota (Part IV)

Carlota arrived in France on August 8, 1866 and it seemed that the French Emperor was somewhat intimidated by the idea of facing her and he sent a telegram claiming to be ill and regretting that he could not receive her. Carlota refused to be dismissed though and she went on to Paris, lodging at the Grand Hotel where she was met by Empress Eugenie. Once again, it was these two women, the most devoted to the cause of Mexico, who worked things out and with the help of Empress Eugenie, Carlota was able to obtain an audience with Napoleon III. She came at him with all guns blazing, reminding him of his obligations, pointing out that the republican insurgency had been on the verge of collapse when he ordered his forces to withdraw. How could he abandon her husband now after so many lives and fortunes had been spent on the Mexican campaign? However, Napoleon III refused to give in, and hid behind his ministers who were advising him to give up on Mexico. Carlota began to break down, she had taken an incredible weight on her shoulders, holding herself responsible for working a miracle with the French, but Napoleon was intransigent. At their second meeting she became enraged at the French betrayal and broke down in hysteric sobs. When they met for a third time Napoleon reiterated that he was finished with Mexico and that decision was absolute and final. Carlota went to pieces.

She wrote to her husband that Napoleon III was "possessed by the devil" and stood for "the evil on earth". On the way to Trieste she became paranoid, ordering the coachmen to go as fast as he could, constantly covering her face with a handkerchief and fearing that a farmer they passed on the way was an assassin sent to kill her. When she arrived at their old home of Miramar there was a message from Maximilian asking her to go to the Pope for help. He had no idea that his wife was on the edge of a total nervous breakdown, but nonetheless she went to Rome and met with Pope Pius IX. The visit did not go well. Overcome with paranoia and despair, she rushed into the papal apartments, threw herself at the feet of the pontiff hysterically claiming that everyone was trying to poison her, that her food was tainted and she was starving for fear of eating anything. She tasted some chocolate milk the Pope was drinking with her finger, and asked to stay in the Vatican where she would be safe. The confused and concerned pontiff had a bed put in the library for her and Empress Carlota became the only woman to ever stay overnight in the Vatican.

Her condition continued to deteriorate, yet she was able to control herself on occasion. The mother superior of a local convent took her to visit some orphans, and though she made the trip with her handkerchief held over her face, she was her usual, charming self when it came to her royal duties and she spoke to the children perfectly well. Yet, it did not last, and while touring the kitchen she tried to snatch up a cooking piece of meat, burned herself and fainted. When she was taken back to her hotel it was discovered that she had live chickens tied to the legs of her table and had insisted that her attendants kill, clean and cook them as she watched to make sure no poison was slipped in. While out in public she took a glass from the Pope and used it to drink from a fountain. As soon as her family in Belgium found out about these activities they were naturally extremely concerned and sent her brother, Prince Philip, to escort her back to Miramar. Once there she was the responsibility of the Hapsburgs and no one was allowed to visit her. Doctors were brought in who observed her condition and quickly pronounced her insane.

After having a little peace and quiet in familiar surroundings, Carlota's condition began to improve, at least as far as her health and appearance were concerned. Mentally, she remained bewildered and unstable. She was not invited to Philip's marriage in May and while she remained shut away reading and writing letters her absence prompted many rumors and gossip. The most common one was that she had been pregnant when she left Mexico with the illegitimate child of Baron Van der Smissen and gave birth to a son in 1867 who some later claimed was Maxime Weygand. Even some more modern writers have spread the story, but the rumors simply don't add up. Not only would such an affair have been totally out of character but the notes of her doctor at Miramar showed that she never missed a period and was certainly not pregnant. Carlota was totally devoted to her husband and in fact would likely not have had such emotional trauma if she had not been.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the Far East, HM King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia made his first state visit to Japan on Monday where met with the Emperor, Empress and other members of the Japanese Imperial Family. He also met with government leaders to discuss closer ties between Cambodia and Japan, the two monarchies probably on the most opposite ends of the prosperity spectrum in the Far East. This was the first visit to Japan by a Cambodian monarch since the restoration of the monarchy in 1993.

Moving to the Middle East, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah started his state visit to the Kingdom of Jordan, also on Monday, and this will be the first time such a visit was undertaken by a Kuwaiti sovereign in 20 years. The Emir met with HM King Abdullah II behind closed doors where they discussed the peace process in Israel and improving relations between Kuwait and Jordan which were cut off during the First Gulf War over accusations by Kuwait that Jordan was collaborating with Iraq. Dowager Queen Noor of Jordan was in the south of France this week for the Cannes Film Festival (also attended by two of the Casiraghis from Monaco) to promote a documentary called “Countdown to Zero” which promotes the elimination of nuclear weapons. Finally, Queen Rania of Jordan was in the U.S. this week where she was given a humanitarian award by the Microsoft corporation. She described technology as “helping humanity move forward”.

On Sunday the Princely Family of Monaco turned out for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, greater coverage can be found here. In the absence of the still recovering King of Spain, the Prince and Princess of the Asturias met with the President and First Lady of Mexico on Monday to open the Spain-Mexico Forum at the Cervantes Institute. The Prince of the Asturias spoke of the shared values of Mexico and Spain, “peace, freedom, justice, democracy, welfare and development” (so nothing that impresses me very much) and also mentioned the need for cooperation in the ongoing struggle in Mexico with the armed drug cartels. President Caledron said that the ties between Mexico and Spain had never been stronger. On Wednesday HM Queen Sofia of Spain traveled to her homeland of Greece, where her brother was formerly King, to promote all things Spanish from architecture to language.

Also this week the Belgian Crown Prince and Princess traveled to Brazil to promote greater economic ties between the two countries ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games. As is often the case Prince Philippe handled more of the political and business side of things while Princess Mathilde concerned herself with humanitarian events. There was also a special exhibit commemorating the trip made by King Albert I of the Belgians to Brazil. In other Low Countries Royal news the Crown Prince and Princess of the Netherlands traveled to the World Expo at Shanghai to visit the Netherlands Pavilion on Tuesday which was ‘Dutch Day’ at the Expo. While there Princess Maxima saw the tiara she wore at her wedding in 2002.

Finally, on the 17th the Royal Family was out in force for National Day in the Kingdom of Norway. It was a very colorful occasion, as usual, with the Crown Prince and Princess, and their children, taking in the parade dressed entirely in Norwegian national costume. The King, Queen and Royal Family were on hand to wave from the balcony as one expects on these occasions and trips were made to visit certain areas throughout Oslo to mark the occasion. May 17 marks the day in 1814 when the constitution of Norway was first adopted -the oldest constitution in Europe still in use and only the second oldest in the world. A belated happy National Day to Norway!

Consort Profile: Empress Carlota (Part III)

With their relationship with the French deteriorating, Maximilian and Carlota began to address the subject of the succession. Empress Carlota had been unable to have children, though chances are the responsibility for that lay with Maximilian, and so in order to have an heir who also had legitimacy in Mexico and no connections with the French they decided to adopt two grandchildren of the original Mexican Emperor, Agustin de Iturbide. The agreement between the two families was finalized on September 15, 1865. Some in the House of Iturbide were excited that they would be regaining their position and felt they had finally been recognized for the role of Agustin de Iturbide in winning the independence of Mexico. However, there was some embarrassment when the mother of Prince Agustin, chosen to be heir to the throne, went complaining around France that Maximilian and Carlota "had stolen her son from her". Adopting a child was something of a sacrifice for the proud Carlota, but it was one she bore as part of her duty, as Empress, to her new country and she never shirked her duty.

Her heartaches continued to mount though. In December of 1865 her father, King Leopold I, died in Belgium and this, along with all of the many problems in Mexico was almost more than she could stand. 1865 also brought the end of the War Between the States north of the Rio Grande and allowed the United States to more actively support Juarez and pressure Napoleon III. A so-called Army of Observation, consisting of 50,000 veteran troops was dispatched by the US to the border and this, along with mounting discontent at home and the increasing aggression of the Prussians prompted Napoleon III to withdraw his support for the Mexican Empire early the following year in 1866. Disregarding his earlier promises of total support until Mexico was secure, Napoleon III ordered his forces back to France and said there would be no more help in either men or money to support Maximilian. Carlota finally lost the last of her optimism and became depressed and increasingly nervous about the fate of her husband and her new country.

Maximilian, not wishing to impose himself if he was not truly wanted, and seeing the odds mounting against him, considered abdicating, but Empress Carlota, despite her sadness, was not the sort of woman to give up and she was determined that they would prevail against all those who had used and deceived them. She was a source of strength to her husband who finally came to agree with her, remembering that regardless of the circumstances he had sworn an oath at his coronation to serve and protect Mexico and nothing could cause him, or Carlota, to abandon their country. Carlota had been on less than friendly terms with the French for some time, and when Napoleon broke his promise and the Treaty of Miramar, it was more than she could stand and she was determined to show Napoleon that she was not a woman to be trifled with. She decided to confront him herself, she would fight for her husband and her country and demand that Napoleon honor his agreements and seek whatever additional aid she could in the courts of Europe.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mad Rant: Draw Mohammad Day

Yesterday was “Draw Mohammad Day” and, fortunately in my view, it fell flat. Now, for the benefit of my adoring fans who think I am a Muslim, let me state a few facts first. I know as well as anyone what this was all about and I do find it cowardly, hypocritical and abhorrent that in western society it is perfectly acceptable to mock and ridicule other religions, particularly the Christian religion of the majority, while staying away from Islam and the Prophet Mohammad out of fear of terrorist retaliation. To my mind all this really does is send the message to other religions that, if you want to avoid disrespect, killing innocent people is the answer; it will get you want you want. However, while I think there should be no double-standards I do NOT think that means it should be acceptable to ridicule the Prophet Mohammad but rather that it should be considered unacceptable to ridicule Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary or the Buddha for that matter.

Most of these ‘artistic standoffs’ with Islam have come, let us be honest, not from Christians but from areas and peoples of the formerly Christian world who have embraced secularism and have no religion at all. Unlike these people I do NOT consider it an integral part of my culture to profane that which is sacred -to anyone. What does anyone gain from insulting Islam? Sure, it may be thrilling to annoy the Islamic terrorists but what about the Muslims who are just as aghast at these criminals, just as threatened by them and just as repelled by their methods as people in the west are? Is a symbolic tweaking of the terrorists worth offending and aggravating the majority of Muslims who do not share their murderous views? Profaning the sacred should not be part of “western culture” whether it is an insulting drawing of Mohammad or a theatre piece which portrays the Virgin Mary as a lesbian. Respect can only exist if it is reciprocal.

Now, this does not mean that I agree with bending over backwards to please everyone. For instance, I find it to be in appallingly poor taste to build a mosque next door to where the World Trade Center once stood. I do not think we should allow Saudi Arabia to build Muslim schools in western countries, claiming a right for themselves they deny to others. I am reminded of the time the Saudi King asked Benito Mussolini for permission to build a mosque in Rome. The Duce replied that he would gladly give permission if the Saudis would permit the Italians to build a Catholic Church in Mecca. Obviously the matter was dropped. Today of course there are many mosques in Rome but still absolutely no Christian churches anywhere in Saudi Arabia. I do not favor discrimination, I do favor fairness and consistency and, I would add, when I have seen Christian symbols attacked and profaned it has been done by western secularists and atheists -not by Muslims or members of some other religion. Rather than needlessly antagonizing Muslims westerners should try to be respectful of religious faith -perhaps starting with their own. No one *needs* to mock Mohammad anymore than anyone *needs* to mock the Pope (or their monarch for that matter) and these juvenile jibes at religion do not make me feel satisfied in any way they just make me mad. Terrorists should be fought openly, honestly and with stunning violence on the battlefield, not given more ammunition by further examples of godlessness and religious disrespect. I don’t see where it gets us anywhere. And no, reader who knows who you are, I am not a Muslim. I am … the Mad Monarchist.

Consort Profile: Empress Carlota (Part II)

It was 1863, French forces had been fighting in Mexico which had only just come out of a period of internal conflict and the American Civil War had reached its bloodiest point. Maximilian was hesitant and his family strongly opposed the idea. It was still a dangerous country, divided, chaotic and poverty stricken, problems that seemed nearly impossible to solve, and the House of Hapsburg would be risking a lot getting involved. Charlotte, however, urged Maximilian to accept the offer. She was optimistic and had faith that this would be their chance to prove their own worth and talent as well as to put their own ideals into practice and make Mexico their showcase for benevolent, progressive monarchy. To Charlotte, it seemed like destiny and she also felt a humanitarian obligation to help the people of Mexico. Maximilian came to his wife's point of view, but still refused to accept the offer until Napoleon III promised him that he was genuinely wanted and that French troops and money would support him until Mexico could stand alone.

Not everyone reacted to the news well. Charlotte's French grandmother cried that, "They will be killed! They will be killed!" and Emperor Francis Joseph told his brother that he would have to renounce his rights of succession in Austria if he accepted, hoping this would dissuade him. Charlotte tried to dissuade her brother-in-law, but the stern monarch would not budge and eventually she persuaded Maximilian to agree to the terms. Along with the encouragement of Charlotte and French promises of support, Maximilian also received the results of a plebiscite held in Mexico in which the public voted in favor of restoring the monarchy with himself as Emperor. Little did he or Charlotte know that it was generally accepted that French troops had engineered the outcome to be in his favor. This, along with the opportunity to show the world what he could do finally prompted Maximilian to accept the offer and the Mexican delegation proudly hailed him as Emperor while a regency was set up to govern until he arrived. Also, unlike the Hapsburgs, the Belgian royal house largely met the news with great excitement and all of the optimism that Charlotte herself displayed. The new Empress changed her name to the Spanish version Carlota and she joined her husband in learning Spanish, studying Mexican history, custom and styles.

On April 14, 1864 the Imperial couple left Austria. They stopped at Rome to receive the blessing of Pope Pius IX and on orders from Queen Victoria the British garrison at Gibraltar saluted them as they entered the Atlantic. Carlota was excited with the possibilities that lay before them and envisioned a country full of adoring people who needed and wanted them, a romantic empire of scenic beauty, Latin charm and a chance to fulfill their destiny. When they landed in Veracruz on May 24, 1864 there was not much of a reception though and the journey across country was rough and uncomfortable aside from the warm welcome by the Indian population which saw them as potential liberators from their status at the bottom of Mexican society. It was not entirely what Carlota had expected, but there was still great promise. She was amazed at seeing such poverty contrasted with immense wealth and shocked by the ignorance of so much of the people, particularly noticeable to one as intelligent as her, which she blamed on a failure of the Church to properly educate and catechize as they should have.

Things were somewhat different when they arrived in Mexico City to a jubilant reception, welcomed not only by the conservatives who had supported the French intervention, but also by many who opposed it who saw in the gentlemanly Emperor and his lovely wife a chance at something better than the succession of petty dictators and warlords that had held power throughout Mexican history. In fact, so many occupants had come and gone so quickly that the National Palace was in horrible condition and Carlota could not sleep on her first night there because of the lice that infested the place. They decided to renovate the old Aztec summer palace at Chapultepec as their primary residence. Still, Carlota was charmed by many of the adoring people and their coronation in the national cathedral was a glamorous event the likes of which no one in Mexico had ever seen. Nonetheless, the rose colored glasses slowly fell from her eyes as even Carlota, who had been so enthusiastic about Mexico, was confronted with more and more disappointments.

She was shocked by the poor that lined the streets and she decided to give them jobs working in the palace and helping with projects to preserve national monuments and beautify the city. However, she wrote home bitterly that these people to whom she had tried to give an opportunity for something better often lasted in the palace for only a day, leaving in the night with as much stolen goods as they could take with them. Furthermore, they soon learned that not everyone in Mexico was overjoyed by their presence and the French warned them not to venture too far out unless they had an armed escort. The country had not been totally pacified and French forces were still fighting the considerable armies loyal to President Benito Juarez. The United States, though occupied in their war against the Confederacy, also opposed the monarchy and supported Juarez who had given them considerable concessions.

Nonetheless, Carlota was a woman of duty and she held grand balls at the palace to raise money for charitable causes and sponsored the building of schools, hospitals and poor houses. She toured the country on behalf of her husband, going to the wild Yucatan Peninsula and visiting the ruins of Uxmal. While Maximilian traveled about the country, Empress Carlota ruled in his absence as regent, even preparing official documents and running things when he was at home. Many Mexicans and French came to realize that she had a stronger personality than her husband and was much more formidable to deal with. If Mexico was not an ideal country, she was still determined to make it an ideal one but the policies Carlota and Maximilian enacted toward this end often worked against them. When he refused to restore the huge estates to their previous owners the conservatives became less enthusiastic about his rule and when he also refused to restore the favored position of the Church, the Pope recalled his nuncio in 1865. Carlota began to feel like a woman under siege, but those against her and Maximilian were to find her a formidable enemy. Their relationship with the French was also not always a cordial one. Carlota distrusted the French commander Bazaine and greatly preferred the commander of the Belgian legion in Mexico, Colonel Alfred Van der Smissen, whose troops acted as her personal guard.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mad Monarchist Fan Mail

Believe it or not, I get lots of fan mail. I don't think I've ever posted my email address but it's not too hard to guess. Some of these are comments that I did not approve but were too good to erase, most however were email messages, with their addresses clearly shown and often enough even signed as well. Enjoy the heartfelt compliments of my biggest fans:

“Monarchy…uh huh…do you realize how out of date you are?”

“This is the most evil blog I have ever seen in my life. You are just evil. You are defending evil tyrants with blood on their hands.”

“F*** you! You f****** psycho!” (I corrected the spelling of psycho for this one)

“I have read quite a bit of your blog now and I have no doubt that you are yet another papist enemy of the British monarchy. You support absolutism and autocracy just like the antichrist in Rome. The British monarchy means liberty and democracy. The Queen hates you!”

“Whoever is behind this blog is obviously a bloodthirsty Buddhist who wants the return of the Dalai Lama clique. China saved people from brutality of Buddhism and you want to enslave them in misery. Buddhists like you should die.”

“Dear Mad Monarchist, you are a perfect illustration of the very worst of the Orthodox heretics. Can we say Caesaropapism? The Catholic Church opposes divine right of kings, we have freedom but by all means, you and your kind go ahead licking the boots of your dead murdering emperors.”

“You are Satan!” (short and to the point I guess)

“I have just read The Mad Monarchist blog for the first time. You will be pleased to learn that it did not disappoint. It is mad with a capital M.”

“Just so you know, you are a racist a****** and I hope you die.”

“Monarchy has to move with the times to survive. You are stupid if you think you are doing monarchy any favors by being an anti-gay bigot. Or is this a joke? Seriously, morals and values have changed and if you were a real monarchist you would want the monarchy to change with the times. Most of them have anyway so, sux 2 b u!”

“To the so-called Mad Monarchist: You are a Nazi son of a ***** and you should be stripped of your citizenship and deported to some monarchy-hell like England. You would fit in perfect with the a******* there.”

“What’s with the Muslim a**-kissing? I hope the Muslims kill the people like you first. Traitor.” (This one, I can’t help but add, came from one of those geniuses who signed his comments “anonymous” but used his name for his email address).

Another long and rambling message accused me of being a fraud (I guess because of the avatar) and seemed to think I was actually trying to convince people that I am a White Russian general who died in 1921. Yes, I’d have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool that sharp cookie. My favorite however, is an old one I have long since lost which accused me of putting on an elaborate ruse to hide the “truth” that I am actually a secret agent of the communist government in Vietnam working behind the scenes to destroy monarchist movements around the world. Gosh I feel important. I’m so loved!

Update on Thailand

Following a military offensive in Bangkok the Thai government has declared the recent crisis over with soldiers now engaged in 'mopping up' operations following the crackdown on the red shirt protestors. After giving final warnings to disperse and allowing those who wished to evacuate units of the Royal Thai Army stormed the red shirt barricades and put an end to the disturbers of the peace though radical elements retaliated with some bomb attacks and setting fires. Once the military had restored order the captured red shirt ring-leaders were taken into custody yet opposition leaders warned that they had not given up their struggle. Former PM, billionaire and convicted criminal Thaksin Shinawatra (who bankrolled much of the protest) said he continued to support the red shirt movement -so the efforts to change the balance of power are not over yet and more trouble can be expected in the future. Nonetheless, thankfully, for the moment at least, peace has been restored and the Kingdom of Thailand is safe for now.

Consort Profile: Empress Carlota (Part I)

The woman who would become the last Empress of Mexico was altogether a tragic figure. She was a woman of great dreams and high ideals, of intense courage and devotion. Superficially she seemed to have quite an enviable position; she was a beautiful princess, married to a romantic, tall archduke, living in palaces and attending grand parties. Yet, beneath it all, she was a woman who suffered intensely from deception, betrayal, restlessness, loneliness and finally a grief so intense that she suffered a total emotional breakdown. She was born Marie Charlotte Amelie Augustine Victoire Clementine Leopoldine of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on June 7, 1840 to King Leopold I of the Belgians and his second wife, the French princess Louise Marie d'Orleans at Laeken Palace in Brussels, Belgium. She was named after Princess Charlotte of Great Britain, the beloved first wife of King Leopold, who had died in 1817 and was a first cousin to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Great Britain.

Princess Charlotte suffered the loss of her mother when she was 10 and partly as a result, she had to grow up in a hurry. She grew into a well read, very intelligent, energetic and committed young woman. She enjoyed social functions but was also very serious, especially about her royal duties, which she never neglected. She was also interested in philosophy as well as mathematics and could read Plutarch when she was 13. It was in the summer of 1856 that she first met the Austrian Archduke Maximilian von Hapsburg. The slim, blonde prince was a hopeless romantic, charming, humorous and friendly. He was probably not as intelligent as Charlotte, but he had varied interests. He was a naturalist who studied birds and butterflies and seemed to have an inherent appreciation for beauty in the world. With her slender figure, soulful dark-brown eyes and long black hair, the 16-year-old Charlotte was certainly a beauty he could appreciate. They fell deeply in love and Maximilian soon asked King Leopold for the hand of his daughter. The Belgian monarch would have preferred Charlotte to marry King Pedro V of Portugal, but the only brother to the Hapsburg Emperor was a prestigious match and he allowed Charlotte to marry Maximilian if she wished.

Their romance deepened on Maximilian's second visit to Belgium. Maximilian talked to her about politics, Lord Byron, his own beliefs and goals, his planned for home of Miramar in Triest, Italy and about his many travels. Both were idealistic and very progressive for their time and Maximilian once remarked that he was a liberal, but Charlotte was a radical. She became more fascinated by him and totally adored and idolized him. There were though, rather tiring negotiations concerning Charlotte's dowry that went on and on until the handsome couple were finally married on July 27, 1857. The beaming Charlotte, at 17-years-old, was now an Austrian Archduchess and traveled first to Vienna and then to Italy where Maximilian took up the post of Viceroy of Lombardy and Venice. Their reception in Milan was not extremely cordial, but Charlotte was very impressed with Venice and did what she could to win the approval of the Italians. She wore local dress and wrote letters home about how much she loved the area. They were housed in the villa Miramar other than for a period in 1859 when an Italian rebellion forced them out for a time, and while Maximilian carried out his royal duties Charlotte busied herself with reading, writing, swimming, sailing and painting. However, both of them were enthusiastic and idealistic young people and felt somewhat restless and disappointed that they were not being used to their full potential.

In time, their opportunity for greatness did come and it came from Mexico, via the French Empire of Napoleon III. In many ways, what became popularly known as the "Mexican Adventure" was settled by two women: Princess Charlotte and Empress Eugenie of France. For some time Mexican traditionalists had been in France lobbying for intervention in Mexico following the takeover by the regime of President Benito Juarez who had expelled all conservative opposition, attacked the Church and seized control of all large estates. Empress Eugenie was particularly touched by the plight of the Church and she worked on her husband to help resolve the situation. Napoleon III thought it would also be good for French prestige and commerce to have a friendly government in Mexico City and so he backed the Mexican conservatives who went to Miramar to offer the Crown of Mexico to Archduke Maximilian.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Religious Cooperation

On the occasion of Vesakh on the 17th, the holiday honoring key moments in the life of the Buddha, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a statement stressing areas of common agreement between the Christian and Buddhist communities. The feast will be celebrated in upcoming days, on different days in different predominately Buddhist countries. The statement pointed to areas in which Christians and Buddhists share common values such as environmental conservation, the protection and dignity of all human life in all states of development and the importance of the family unit as the building block of human society. In these days of increasing atheism and secularism (and religious hatred on the part of some) it is good to see and highlight the areas in which major religious groups stand together on natural, traditional morals and values. Buddhist monks offering prayers for aborted babies in Vietnam
The full text of the Message for the Feast of Vesakh from the Holy See website
"Christians and Buddhists Respect Human Life As the Basis of Respect for All Beings"

Video: Princely Visit to Pope Pius XII

A little cross-over post from my 'other' blog Mad for Monaco -a visit of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco to Pope Pius XII who bestowed on the Prince the Papal Order of the Golden Spur. Enjoy the vid-the grand display of papal-monarchial ceremony would not be around for many more years.

Mexican Monarchism

A great many monarchists around the world are, thankfully, aware of the tragic history of monarchy in Mexico embodied in the two gallant emperors; Augustin and Maximilian. However, not too many are aware of what happened to the cause of the Mexican monarchy in between the reigns of these two men or what happened to the monarchist cause after the atrocious execution of Emperor Maximilian. In Mexico, since the time of Spanish colonial rule, there had been quite a glittering local aristocracy. Many of these naturally supported the monarchy, and during his short reign Emperor Agustin created new titles of nobility, but support was not universal with many looking out for their own survival in the tumult that came with the fall of the first empire. When Emperor Agustin was executed the natural focus shifted to his son and heir the Prince Imperial Agustin Jeronimo.

He led a very diverse and interesting life, not always the sort one would expect of the heir to an imperial throne. While in exile he fought alongside Simon Bolivar in the War of Colombian Independence. After returning to Mexico he defended the republic during the war with the United States, leading the Celaya Battalion and calling upon the memory of his late father as the ‘Father of Independence’. He later served the Mexican republic in the civil sphere as an attaché to the Mexican legation in London. Showing his deep devotion to the Catholic Church that the Iturbide dynasty was known for he also served a tour a duty with the Papal army in Italy. He was not involved in the French intervention or the creation of the Second Mexican Empire of Maximilian but he did approve of the Hapsburg adoption of two of his nephews to serve as the heirs of the childless Maximilian. He died in New York, unmarried and with no heirs in 1866 and was buried in Philadelphia as was his mother Empress Ana Maria.

In the intervening years chaos prevailed in Mexico with the occasional president coming to power who was more favorably inclined toward the monarchist position though never actually willing to surrender power themselves in favor of a monarchist option. General Anastasio Bustamante had been a personal friend of Emperor Agustin I and he served as President of Mexico three times. He never took any steps to reestablish the monarchy but did take some tentative steps to restoring the image of the first Emperor as “Father of Independence”. When he died his ashes were buried alongside the martyred monarch. However, during the years between the two empires the one man who dominated Mexican politics more than any other was the shifty, vain and ambitious General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Throughout his dramatic and colorful life he seemed to have been on every side of every issue at one point or another, supporting and betraying every faction.

Santa Anna had originally led the coup that brought down Emperor Agustin in the first place but later on, just as he at times posed as a liberal populist, he also took on more monarchial styles. He restored the Imperial Order of Our Lady of Guadalupe, even at one point taking to styling himself as “His Serene Highness”. An open admirer of Napoleon (who gloried in being referred to as the “Napoleon of the West”) some thought he harbored ambitions of making himself Emperor. That never happened but it was Santa Anna who first sent the staunch conservative Jose Maria Gutierrez d’Estrada to canvas the courts of Europe in search of a suitable Mexican monarch -a campaign the ardent reactionary continued even after Santa Anna had fallen from power yet again. This man would ultimately be a key player in the Mexican expatriate community in Europe that would bring Maximilian to Mexico.

It was the marriage of convenience between the monarchist expatriates in Europe (for the most part) and the conservative clerical party in Mexico (led finally by President Miguel Miramon) that came together in support of the French intervention to create the Second Mexican Empire. As most know, unable to have children of his own, Emperor Maximilian adopted two grandsons of Emperor Agustin as his heirs; Prince Agustin de Iturbide y Green and Prince Salvador de Iturbide y de Marzan. Agustin was named heir to the throne, usually titled Prince of Iturbide, and had the monarchy survived, upon the death of Maximilian he would have become Emperor Agustin II. That not being the case his natural family took to him to England and later he spent most of his youth in the United States. After his graduation from Georgetown he renounced his titles and claim to the Mexican throne, returned to Mexico and pledged his allegiance to the republic, serving for a time as an officer in the Mexican army.

This was during the dictatorship of General Porfirio Diaz, one of the most famous enemies of Imperial Mexico. Obviously, Mexican monarchists had not fared well since the fall of the empire, some fled to south Texas, some to Europe and others kept low and silent. However, there was a slow return to boldness and although the regime of General Diaz has often been termed as one favoring the elites to gain legitimacy, in most cases these were not the true aristocrats of Mexico but more like a post-revolutionary nouveaux riche. The old aristocratic families and lingering monarchists got in touch with Prince Agustin and prevailed upon him to come out publicly in opposition to the Diaz dictatorship in 1890. This action (not unexpectedly as he was an army officer at the time) led to his being arrested, brought before a court martial and being put in prison for 14 months for sedition.

After his release he went into exile again in the United States where, for a time, he suffered a nervous breakdown due to a paranoid fear of being assassinated (rather like his adopted mother Empress Carlota). Yet, he recovered, worked as a translator while living in a monastery and eventually teaching at Georgetown. He died in 1925 and was buried in Philadelphia. His cousin, Prince Salvador, then inherited the imperial claim to the throne of Mexico. Empress Carlota had sent him to safety in Paris after his adoption and he lived there until moving to Hungary in 1867. After the death of his adopted parents Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria granted him a pension though despite repeated requests he never increased the amount. He married into the Hungarian nobility and later moved to Venice where he became close friends to the Carlist heir to the Spanish throne. He died while visiting Corsica of an appendicitis.

In Mexico itself the monarchist cause was virtually wiped out but a loyal few have always kept the light burning. They cannot be totally dismissed given the amount of attention the republican government paid to them. When the Imperial Austrian government paid for the construction of a special chapel, dedicated in 1901, on the spot where Emperor Maximilian and his two top generals were shot the republican government quickly erected a massive monument to Benito Jaurez, the man who ordered the executions, directly in front of it (one wonders if they would have allowed the chapel to be built at all if that had not been planned all along). Well into the 20th Century Mexican monarchists would make an annual pilgrimage to the Church of La Profesa to hear mass for the repose of the soul of Emperor Maximilian and each time there would be agents from the Ministry of the Interior present to keep an eye on them.

However, the monarchist community, especially as the years drew closer to the present, suffered from the complete absence of the heirs to their throne with no connection to those who had inherited the imperial title. The only monarchy with a history in Mexico to cause a stir was that of the Kingdom of Spain and when King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia visited Mexico for the first time in 1978 monarchists and aristocratic families fought over who would be given precedence at formal events and receptions. Some have even attempted to gain titles of nobility from Spain but have been stopped by the law. However, for all those welcoming the Spanish monarchs, there were more who held protests each time they came to the country. In the same way many cried colonialism when Spain began to invest in Mexico only to cry betrayal when Spain stopped investing in Latin America to become a member of the European Union.

Monarchists loyal to the empires still exist in Mexico but they are not well organized, few and far between. Soap operas, novels, plays and so on abound about the second empire period in particular but the “politically correct” view and that taught in the schools is still one of hostility to the monarchist position. Websites appear from time to time devoted to the subject, but most soon vanish or stop being updated. The distant heirs of Maximilian have shown no interest in visiting Mexico or speaking about their imperial heritage. Maximilian remains despised by the majority though Carlota is sometimes treated with more sympathy. It also often seems that the only people to celebrate the Emperor Iturbide are the “white nationalist” fringe who sometimes hold marches waving neo-Nazi banners and carrying portraits of the first Mexican Emperor. However, though being hampered by being few in number and fairly scattered, the monarchist community remains, keeping alive the glorious vision of a grand and prosperous empire for Mexico that Agustin and Maximilian tried to bring to fruition.
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