Friday, March 25, 2011

Royal Profile: Basil the Embroidered

In hindsight most historians would agree that World War I was the conflict which determined whether monarchy or republicanism would dominate the 20th Century; whether the old dynastic empires would continue or if political ideologies would become the chief method of dividing the world. Had things gone differently then our world would certainly be considerably different, and one way we can glimpse this is by looking at the actions of the Central Powers on the Eastern Front, where Germany and Austria-Hungary were ultimately successful in defeating Imperial Russia and set about re-working the map of Eastern Europe. However, unlike that done by the Allies at Versailles, the remodeling done by Germany and Austria was to be very monarchist in nature, planning for a Kingdom of Finland, a "United Baltic Duchy" of Latvia and Estonia and a Kingdom of Lithuania all reigned over by minor German royals. There was also a short-lived Kingdom of Poland established which would likely have gone to Archduke Karl Stephan von Hapsburg. There was also talk about the possibility of establishing a Kingdom of Ukraine with the crown perhaps going to the Hapsburg Archduke Wilhelm von Austria-Toskana.

Many in the Ukraine had long been dissatisfied with Russian rule and a republican government was quickly declared after the Germans drove out the Russian armies. This was soon replaced by a new government under the rule of a pro-German "Hetman" who ruled as a sort of Cossack military dictator with a cabinet made up of mostly Russian monarchists. The Hetman therefore faced constant accusations of being both too greatly pro-German and pro-Russian. The attention of the Ukrainian monarchists focused mostly on the Archduke Wilhelm who was the third son of the possible Hapsburg King of Poland Archduke Karl Stefan. A graduate of the Maria Theresa Military Academy, he commanded the Ukrainian Legion in World War I, later given the more historical title, "the Ukrainian Sich Rifles". He was fluent in Ukrainian and very familiar with the culture, even taking the name Vasily Vyshyvaniy. His friends began calling him "Basil the Embroidered".

He gained a fairly considerable following and rumors began to abound that he would become the King of the Ukraine in 1918. However, he failed to gain the necessary support of the Germans who were, for the time being, sticking with the Hetman, Pavel Skoropadsky. Certainly, with his undeniable knowledge and love of the country there could have been no better candidate for Ukrainian king among all the royals of the German and Austrian Empires. In fact, talk of his elevation to the throne became so widespread that the Hetman began to worry about his political future, complaining to the German Ambassador and even German Kaiser Wilhelm II himself, demanding that the Hapsburg Archduke be removed from his country. The Kaiser looked into the matter, but the German Ambassador advised that it be best for "Basil the Embroidered" to stay where he was as a way to make sure the Hetman realized he could be replaced if his pro-Russian sentiments became too strong.

It is proof of his character that Archduke Wilhelm remained in the Ukraine even after the retreat of the Germans and continued to serve as a colonel in the Sich Rifles in the hopeless fight against the invading Russian Red Army. Later, a Polish-controlled directory took power but was itself soon overthrown by the Red Army forcing Basil and his men to retreat through Poland back to Germany. He based himself in Munich, setting up a headquarters for Ukrainians who wished to work to drive out the Russians and restore Ukrainian independence. By the early 1920's Basil had gained some financial backing as well as a diverse collection of Ukrainians, Baltic Germans, Cossacks, Poles and even a Romanov claimant to the throne of Russia, Prince Cyril Romanov. There was finally enough resources for Basil to order the formation of a Free Ukrainian army under a Polish-Russian general named Biskupski, even the famous General Erich Ludendorff associated with them on occasion in his on-going denunciations of Bolshevism and the Versailles Treaty.

Unfortunately, Basil came to discover that his supporters were not the sort he had hoped for. Most had their own agendas for advancement and impossibly grandiose dreams of an invasion of the Soviet Union and every other variety of ridiculous schemes. Time and resources were squandered on fantastic schemes rather than on more immediate, and most importantly, reasonably possible goals. It became clear that the causes of the Baltic, Ukraine and Russian monarchists were too diverse to form a well-working, coordinated group. Finally, the German government disbanded his force and after a Russo-German treaty was signed all enemies of the Soviet regime operating in Germany were to be suppressed. Basil lost his funding with General Ludendorff managing to have most of the funds diverted to the growing German Nazi Party.

After living for a time in Spain, Basil moved back to Austria where he kept in constant contact with the Ukrainian exiles and never ceased to work on their behalf, especially when the Red Army began a campaign of persecution in the country. Basil served on an international committee, formed at the request of the Greek-Catholic Episcopate for the Ukraine led by Andrei Sheptytsky. Prior and during World War II Basil was placed under tight surveillance by the Gestapo. When the Red Army re-conquered Eastern Europe Basil was taken and died sometime in the 1950's though the details remain a mystery. Some say he died in Kiev while Austrian POW's assert he was tortured and killed by the Communists. In any event, the last hope for an independent Ukrainian kingdom had died with him. Given all of the oppression, starvation and horrific murder the people of the Ukraine were subjected to after their initial liberation in World War I, we can only imagine how much more happy and peaceful the country could have been as a free monarchy with Allied support.


  1. Many times i had think what would happend to the world if Central Powers won WWI, let me explain how i think that it would be, first of all oriental europe would be home of many kingdoms born from the fall of the Russian Empire, the kingdom of Ukraine that would maybe would include Moldavia, an Kingdom of Bielorrusia, A Kingdom of Finland, and the Baltic Countries would be merged in a single Monarchy as the MM said, then going to the balcans A-H would anex Montenegro and maybe Serbia would be spared but mostly of it territory would be given to Bulgaria (the region of macedonia), and The Ottoman Empire could regain some land in tracia and some agean islands, going to western europe a Kingdom of France with the Bourbon back, Belgium still exist but with an german king and maybe but unlikely the house of Braganza may be restored, and in the United Kingdom would still exist but without the Windsor and the king maybe would be Friedrich August III that some british monarchist consider the true king of the UK because he was an decendent of the Jacobin dinasty and Ireland could have an High King of course german in Italy i am not sure but perhaps the 1815 borders would be restored, in america the Dominion of Canada would no longer exist anlong with Newfoundland the USA would be forced to cede Arizona, Texas, Utah, California, etc back to the Mexicans as the germans them promised all the some of the colonies of the british and france could be ceded to the germans and in south america it would be kept the Status Quo, in Asia the Ottoman Empire could recover kuwait, kars and Armenia an independent in would be born of the Ruins of the British Empire, perhaps Siam could regain some of the land ceded to the frenchs and Indochina would be a german colony and Australia would be an Independent Republic, in africa a great german colony in the centre of africa reuniting the former british, belgian, portuguese and french colonies the the region of Magreb and Argelia could remain in french hands, Egypt and Lybia restored to the Ottoman rule and maybe Tunisia and perhaps the italian french and british colonies could be ceded to Abissinia if they join to the Central Powers, and South Africa another ex-dominion that became republic, this is how i imagine the world with an the victory of the Central Powers.

    Hi from Argentina.

  2. marquitosidolo - I certainly hope Frederick August III (remind me again who his predecessors on the British throne were?) wasn't a Jacobin. The were the French Revolutionaries (Jacobite is what you're after. Welcome to the politics of monarchism :D).

    On a more serious note, however, your ideas that a German victory would see the Jacobites restored is fanciful. Even Catholic Jacobites like myself accept the Windsors as our lieges. And at the end of the war, Germany had no ability to project power beyond the European landmass. That's the sheer stupidity of their promise to Mexico - it was a promise they could never make good on.

    So don't get too far ahead of yourself (fun as it might be). The map of Europe would be very different, oh yes. But the British Empire would stand, and so too the American Union.

  3. I have been thoroughly convinced for a long time (even before I became a monarchist and was still an ardent republican) that a Central Powers victory would have been better for the world than what we got with the Entente's victory.

    LAW Wells is correct, however. Even with the Central Powers' victory, Britain and the United States would/should be generally unaffected. As wonderful as a Jacobite Restoration and a cessation of territory to Mexico would have been, even were it possible, I think it would have been a bad idea at the time, practically speaking. Most Britishers (Forgive me if that is an offensive term to anyone, I am still learning what expressions are acceptable and which are offensive) are either too loyal to the Windsors or too staunchly republican to accept a Jacobite Restoration. It would have only caused more chaos, and would have been detrimental to the Isles. Perhaps with time, it can happen. But not then, and not now.

    And with the United States, nationalism is a powerful weapon. Had those states been ceded back to Mexico, there would have been immediate rebellion (especially in Texas). Until nationalism can be broken down and faith in the Federal Government and the "American Dream" whittled away, cessation of any territory from the United States would be disastrous.

  4. And what would be "wonderful" about giving territory to Mexico -even if American nationalism did not exist? President Carranza (the son of an ardent Juarista, enemy of the Emperor and a butcher of Indians) who presided over a violently anti-clerical, revolutionary regime was sufficient to make even Wilson look good in comparison. He was barely able to rule his own country much less that of anyone else.

    I stick to my position that WW1 was a disaster that should never have happened -no matter who won it was sure to be disastrous. I admit that, the grass always being greener, it sometimes seems that a Central Powers victory would have been preferable. However, from a monarchist perspective, there were monarchies on the Allied side that would have faced ruin (Britain, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Serbia, Romania, possibly Greece) if the Central Powers had won outright.

  5. LAW Wells - Excuse me, i had an mistake it wasnt King Frederick August III of Saxony it was Rupprecht of Bavaria, Heir of the Throne, son of the King in that moment Ludwig III of Bavaria and his wife Maria Theresia of Austria-Este, Queen Consort, who was pretender of the Jacobite Throne, because the Stuart line ended with the death of Cardinal "Henry IX" in 1807, the claims continued to travel through the House of Savoy and the Modenese branch of the Habsburgs, even if the claimants didn't really claimed the title of King of England and Scotland, on February, 3 1919 Maria Theresia of Austria-Este died, and her claim passed to her son Rupprecht, because of that he was the jacobite claimant of the throne and because of that in case of a german victory he could be crowned as King of England and Scotland, the actual claimant of the jacobite throne is Franz, Duke of Bavaria.

    In my older comment i said but incomplete that the two other countries born would be India and Georgia.

    And it is true that Germany can't realize it promise of an restoration to Mexican Rule of the provinces cede to the USA i said in CASE of an total victory of the Central Powers it would restored to Mexican Rule.

    Hi from Argentina

  6. You make a good point. I suppose I was thinking idealistically, with a restoration of the Mexican Empire going hand in hand with the cession of territory.

    And yes, I agree that the Great War should never have happened. I also feel that it should have ended in 1916 when the Austrian Emperor sought peace. Failing both of those, I still would have preferred a Central Powers victory over the Entente victory. Also, while there would have been some decline and weakening of the Entente monarchies had the Central Powers won, I do not believe it would have been as disastrous as we have seen in the Entente victory. Of the monarchies you named, I believe only Britain and Belgium remain so. The others have all completely lost their monarchies. I do not believe the monarchial Central Powers would have allowed for a sufficient weakening of the royal position in these countries so as to allow them to fall to republicanism the way the Entente did.

  7. The bottom line is that we cannot say for sure what would have happened -ultimately it is speculation. There may have been unforeseen consequences that could have made things far worse, either for monarchy or the world in general. As I pointed out in a past post ( -though maybe not as directly as I could have- in World War II most of the Axis powers were actual or nominal monarchies. One could assume that there would have been more monarchies in the world had things gone differently, certainly from 41-45 but, would any prefer a world in which the Axis powers had triumphed completely -Nazi Germany being the strongest amongst them? Messy business...


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