Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Mad Rant: Monarchists and Italy
Where Italy is concerned, these are the facts: unification happened and there is no great support for breaking up the country. What minor support there is for secession is all in the north (most of which originally belonged to the House of Savoy) and their politics range from Marxist to Fascist with nary a monarchist group among them. Considering that this argument is 150 years old, most Italians have only a passing awareness in the pre-unification states and when they do they regard them as foreign and not at all desirable. The heirs to these former states likewise accept the political reality, made their peace with the united Italy long ago and are not in any way seeking restoration and the dissolution of Italy. To continuously argue for that makes as little sense as arguing for the Duke of Bavaria to be the King of Great Britain. I could even go so far as to say that he IS the legitimate King of Great Britain but the fact remains that the ACTUAL Queen of Great Britain is HM Elizabeth II and the Duke of Bavaria has zero desire to even attempt to replace her. And, by the way, if he did, patriotic Brits would be adamantly opposed to such a foreign monarch. He is a foreigner and a Catholic and if you think Brits are not likely to fuss over such details just ask any Englishman in any local pub about Queen Mary I or the Spanish Armada. It may not be right, it may not be just or fair but it is a fact of life.
Let me say at the outset that what happened to the Papal States was unjust any way you look at it. Aggression is aggression, conquest is conquest. Let me also say that, on the whole, I consider Pope Pius IX one of the greatest pontiffs the Church has produced in the post-revolutionary era. That he was the victim of armed aggression is a fact. It is (and this may hurt) also a fact that he sent out a huge amount of “mixed signals” leading up to the occupation and annexation of the Papal States. These included voicing his own support for the “Italian nation”, his support for Italian unity, letting the revolutionaries out of prison and appointing a known supporter of unification from the army of the House of Savoy to command his own military forces during one of the wars the Savoy fought against Austria (General Giovanni Durando). When these forces took part in battles against the Austrians the Pope was shocked and the rest of Italy was shocked that he was shocked. The Pope had a legitimate change in his political thinking but by that time, he had, so to speak, already let the genie out of the bottle and nationalist sentiment could not be contained lacking the intervention of an army of Frenchmen sent by the Bonaparte Emperor Napoleon III.
Just imagine for a moment, the Church being judged by foreign powers according to the voluminous amount of advice and criticism on political issues that has come from the bishops and the Holy See. Imagine the Pope, as a ruling monarch, having to deal with union strikes, a social welfare system, crime and punishment and political refugees and Islamic immigrants. Either clerical rule would be upheld and the spiritual leaders of the Church would be judged for their political success or failure or else there would be no clerical rule, the place would be a papal constitutional monarchy and a lay government could pass all sorts of laws that would make a mockery of the Church and the Sovereign Pontiff. If papal rule did not turn out well, people left central Italy or became poor, discontented and angry -which would be a huge embarrassment to the Church and the papacy- or it would all work out well, be prosperous and then attract every immigrant and asylum seeker be they Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu and dealing with that would be an embarrassment. Does no one who calls for these things think them through?
As I have said, there is no great mass of people in Italy today who want to see their country broken up. The vast majority of Italians love their country and the few who do wish for secession are not in Rome, not in the south but are in the north and are as far away from being monarchists as one can possibly get. What really kills me is that these arguments are being constantly floated around, invariably by non-Italians, usually with snide accompanying remarks. My paramount goal is the defense of existing monarchies and the restoration of fallen ones. These useless arguments and centuries old grudges do nothing to help that cause. Your average, modern Italian is not going to be very favorably inclined to consider monarchy as a viable form of government if every time he tries to look up the subject on-line he finds constant calls by monarchists for the total dismemberment of his country. Moreover, every actual Italian monarchist I know or have ever met (and I mean ones actually carrying on the struggle in Italy) loves their country, loves the House of Savoy (even if not every current member) and it makes me, if not angry, at least quite sad that they would ever feel isolated by the wider monarchist community. They are on the ground, in their homeland, doing their best to restore their lost monarchy and yet many people outside Italy, who should be their Allies, are wishing not only for the failure of their monarchy to be restored but for the destruction of their very country.
And all of that suffices to make me a very … Mad Monarchist
I am not playing a game here and my monarchist sentiments are not about some abstract theory or historical scenario. My goal is actual monarchial preservation and actual monarchial restorations, here in the real world, not in the past and not on some ideal, imaginary plain. It is for that reason that I refuse to sacrifice the preferable in pursuit of the perfect and why I grit my teeth and do my best to make an argument for even the most limited, ceremonial of monarchies. Monarchies today are an endangered species and nothing, positively *nothing*, is going to be accomplished by trying to re-fight battles hundreds of years in their graves that only serve to divide monarchists and alienate potential political converts. Again, I truly understand the historical arguments. I would have been on the side of the Pope in 1860, I would have been a Jacobite in 1688 and I would have been a Tory in 1776 but those battles have been fought, the outcomes decided and we have to move on, learn from them what we can and face reality as it exists today. Weakened as the cause of monarchy has been in the last century, the monarchist cause is already hard enough, we don’t need to make it totally impossible by dividing ourselves, alienating compatriots and fighting enemies long dead instead of those existing.