Monday, December 19, 2011

The Case for Monarchy: France

The Kingdom of France holds a special place in the heart of most western monarchists because so much of the subsequent dominance of republicanism and the idealization of revolution stems from its downfall. Even today it would not be totally untrue to assert, as past republican figures have done, that France IS the Revolution. Because the French Revolution assumed such a place of worshipful devotion it has been necessary for subsequent republican leaders to glorify the leaders of that horrific event and to blacken the name of the old Kingdom of France and in this they have, sadly, been mostly successful. For most people, the colors of blue-white-red, the French national anthem and even the guillotine evoke things like patriotism, the struggle for liberty, equality and fraternity, the overthrow of oppression and so on. Likewise, for most people, the Kingdom of France is often viewed as a terrible period of absolutism, exploitation, impoverished peasants being preyed upon by corrupt, distance aristocrats clustered around a hedonistic court presided over by power-mad monarchs and hypocritical clerics. Like most pieces of propaganda this is the result of ignoring unpleasant facts, facts that do not fit the narrative, and greatly exaggerating real problems to the point of inventing falsehoods.

France can be seen as revolutionary in one way. For almost as long as it has existed as a recognizable nation it has known a series of rises and falls. There was the rise of the empire of Charlemagne (though it is still a matter of bitter dispute among some whether this was a French or German accomplishment) which dominated western Europe before dividing and going into decline. Then there was the rise of France as the great right-arm of Christendom with French knights subduing enemies and rivals across Europe, from Sicily to the Balkans and who made up the bulk of the crusader armies that held out against the powerful forces of Islam in the Middle East. Then there was division, the Hundred Years War with England and a long period of relative weakness. However, France rose up again, briefly, before being submerged for a time in religious turmoil only to rise again and become the single most dominant power in western Europe. French explorers reached Canada and the Mississippi, France was the center of art, science and philosophy. During the reign of King Louis XIV it is no exaggeration to say that everything revolved around France as almost everything done by any nation at that time was a reaction to some action by King Louis. Yet, not long after, came a number of setbacks and finally the Revolution.

It is important to note that the only subsequent major French accomplishments on the world stage were achieved by, on one or two occasions, when the Kingdom of France was briefly restored, or during the two periods of the French Empire. Napoleon I dominated Europe for a time (not necessarily a positive accomplishment but definitely an accomplishment nonetheless), King Charles X extended French influence into North Africa, Emperor Napoleon III briefly extended French influence in the Americas, established the first real presence in Indochina and made France at least a major player in events in the Middle East, the Balkans, Italy and Africa. The French republic, any of the five, have, by comparison, accomplished very little and what they have managed to achieve was done with significant help from other powers and was usually simply building on the foundations already established by their monarchial predecessors. However, the royal period in France had high and low points as well. In any given time there is no doubt that the French have proven themselves capable of great things when they set their mind to it. Government can only help or hinder in this regard. The monarchs usually helped, the republic has, without exception, always hindered.

For the French, the real question is; what sort of France do they want to be? During all of the ups and downs of French history, there is an ample selection to choose from. It would be unfair to present the choice as being between the finest examples of the Kingdom of France and the most horrid examples of revolutionary republicanism. There is not much of a comparison between St Louis and Robespierre after all. At least for humane and civilized people. The problem is that the adherents of the republic often romanticize and justify what most French monarchists would consider the most wicked and terrible pages of their history. Republicans would justify things like the Reign of Terror and the Paris Commune and those who scorn the history of Catholic France in favor of secularism (and there are plenty of them) do see the likes of Robespierre or even Marat as more admirable figures than St Louis or St Joan of Arc. And, just for further consideration, there are those like Napoleon I, King Louis Philippe or Napoleon III who tried to combine the two.

Revolutionary republicans also tend to take the “Whig” vision of history; that progress means moving ever forward and that there is no time better than the present. Given that, one could point to even the grandest heights of royal France and fairly compare it to today. Is the France of today truly representative of the best the French are capable of? A monarchist would certainly say “no”. One can also look at the French Revolutionaries and their own ideals to judge how well they have lived up to them. Originally, they were quite nationalistic, as was seen in the vilification of the once beloved Queen Marie Antoinette as the hated foreigner, the Austrian and so on. Yet, at no time in history has France been less ethnically French than it is today. There are large numbers of non-French Europeans in France, a huge and rapidly growing Arab and African Muslim population and even the most prominent couple in France, the President and First Lady, are an ethnic Hungarian and an Italian. So much for the republic being more “French”. Of course, the Kingdom of France (and even the French Empire to an extent) were cosmopolitan places with their own sort of diversity but it was never enforced in such a way as to water down the distinct native population. A Frenchman was a Frenchman, a German was a German and a Spaniard was a Spaniard. Able to get along, but certainly not the same thing and definitely not interchangeable. Fraternity has been a failure.

What about liberty? Surely the republic has improved in that area over the old days of the monarchy? An objective observer would have to say, again, say “no”. The King was unelected and (theoretically) unaccountable to the people and yet much of French life today is regulated by the bureaucrats of the European Union in Brussels who are, likewise, unelected and unaccountable. And, unlike the kings of old, they do not even have the welfare of France as their top priority. Assuming their first concern is not themselves, they are expected to act in the interests of the EU as a whole rather than in those of a single country. If the republic has been such a blessing to France, so democratic, so accountable and such a champion of liberty, one would be forced to ask why they have had to have so many of them. For about a thousand years the Kingdom of France operated, in good times and bad, with the occasional change in the Royal Family line, on the same basic principles of a Catholic monarchy. Yet, just since the Revolution (just a little over two centuries ago) France has gone through a directory, a couple restorations, two empires, one “State” and a grand total of five different republics. In fact, many of the low points in the recent history of France can be attributed simply to political instability. Furthermore, for those who uphold the present state of affairs as ideal, one could hardly credit the Revolution for this level of liberty since plenty of other countries have almost identical rights and freedoms that never went through a revolution at all.

As for the goal of equality, that can be easily dismissed since no society has ever achieved it, nor are any ever likely to. A simple look at France today will show that there is still an elite, still those who have power, positions and privileges which others do not and who are treated better, even put somewhat above the law, just because of who they are. In short, like most modern supposedly egalitarian societies, they still have all of the failings of a titled nobility but none of the benefits. It should be clear to anyone by now, simply by observing, that an upper class will always exist. You can either admit it and expect a level of responsibility and noblesse oblige from that upper class or you can hypocritically ignore it and have it exist as an unofficial elite based more often than not on the negative aspects of self-advancement.

So, again, France must make a choice. What sort of France do the French want to have; the Catholic French monarchy that was the “Eldest Daughter of the Church”, the vanguard of Christendom and the most respected source of culture and civilization for centuries (recalling a time when even English and German monarchs spoke French almost exclusively) or the France of the Revolution, the Reign of Terror, anti-clerical genocide, a guillotine in every town, constant turmoil and instability and a country being sold-out by professional politicians and bureaucrats with no connection to the land or people at all? In the past few centuries the French have seen every alternative firsthand, the kingdom, the republic or something in between. All that remains is to make the choice. Of course, if monarchy is chosen there will still, sadly, be another choice to be made afterwards, but nonetheless, we can take this one step at a time. For my part, I look at France today and see a nation that has proven it can be so much more, so much greater and yet clings to what is easy and familiar even if it is mediocre at best and harmful at worst. The French have every right to aspire to greatness, to be a noble, righteous and chivalrous example to the world as they have been before. That is the example that should be embraced and that is why the whole culture of the revolution should be looked at for the horror it is, totally and finally rejected and the monarchy restored.

14 comments:

  1. Well put, Mad Monarchist.
    I've always believed, to be honest, that Western populations have a latent authoritarianism and monarchism that needs to be reawakened by some great political crisis.
    I have some thoughts on the manner in which monarchy ought to be revived and which dynasty is best equipped to do so (you can probably guess which one), and I'll get them up on my blog if I can force myself to update it a few more times. I would elaborate here, but I've got a flight to catch.

    Oh, Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il are dead, which I found very strange - one man worked to end a communist dictatorship, and the other worked to strengthen one.

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  2. I agree with what you wrote but will add this. I get into trouble a lot for saying that everyone has a Religion, but it’s True. A large part of Modern Religion, even in the US amongst professed Christians, is the idea of a Tyrannical Monarchy and greedy oppressive Aristocrats being Overthrown by the Noble Revolutionary, who then gives the people freedom. The ideal of the Revolutionaries is not really based on dispassionate fact, it is based on a Mythology, by which I mean a story that explains a greater Truth.

    To today’s Minds, the facts are ignored because the Story is so compelling and forms the basis of how Civilisation is understood. The reason the terrors of the revolutionaries and realities of the System are ignored is because we have become enamoured by the Idea of Republicanism, and no Democracy, and never examine it. ( Yes I know that people here have, I mean collectively and in general.)

    The Revolution and the Ideals of the French revolution define what it means to be French, and to an extent what it means to be European or a part of the Western World in our Modern Era, and the Narrative is more than just a story that tells our History, its what defines the very way we understand how History works and who we are.

    Thus, we can’t simply combat Republicanism by citing the Facts, for they will be ignored and we will be called Revisionists. Rather, we must control the Narrative and find something compelling to draw people in. We must make this story not just a story but get people to so internalise it that it becomes the very essence of their being.

    People don’t love the Revolution or Modern Democracy for what they are, but for what they are suppose to be. People don’t really Love Democracy at all; they love the Idea of it. Its much like how a Young Girl may romantically imagine Life with the Rouge as exciting and full of fortune and infinite pleasures, whilst ignoring the more stable and hard working suitor. Until she realises her Romantic imagination doesn’t match reality, nothing will change. But she must do more than just abandon the false imagined impression of the Rouge, but must create a new Dream around the much better suitor; preferably one that actually matches the facts but told in such a poetic way as to marry fact with Idealism to create the Happiest of Unions.


    France tome is dead. Bu one day as Jesus she may ressurect. Until then, its just the Republic of the Penninsula and provence of the new Federal Europe.

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  3. mr. Nicot, I do not beleicve the Authoritarian Stresak you obsrve is a part of Western Civilisation, but part of he Human Condition. Humans naturally structure themselves around a fam ilial principal. The reason Monarchy works better than Republics is the same reason a Republic that resembles a Monarchy works better than one that doesn't. its because Human Nature needs the one man ( or woman yes I know) at the centre to focus on as leader and rallying point. We also work better if all peopel are brought into agreement under said leader, rather than haveing someone picked by political contest which will eb argued over for the duration fo the term they serve.

    In America they originally had the Articles of Confederation, which were much more democratic than the Latr Constitution, once critisised as too Monarichl. in a way irt is. The president is basicqally an elected King. However, this system, as well as the Modern Parlimentary Republics where a president acts in the position of s King liek France or Ireland, work better than the Soviet Duma ever did.

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  4. So is the "Case for Monarchy" in different countries going to be a new series?

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  5. I hope so, my only concern being everyone is going to want some 'other' republic to be addressed and I cannot cover them all. However, I have Portugal done, have started one on Italy and then plan one for Germany. That is the list so far.

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  6. I look forward to the others. You might also consider adding to the list monarchies that still exist but are under attack. (Although that would be a long list since almost all are under some sort of attack).

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  7. MM, in light of recent events, what is your take on the situation in North Korea? I've encountered the phrase "communist monarchy" (how's that for a contradiction in terms?) on more than one blog or news site, and frankly it really boils my blood. I have to admit that the generational succession has some of the window dressing of a monarchy, minus the legitimacy, respect for tradition, and genuine concern for the people. I just fear the long term harm it could do to real monarchies having that term repeated too often, and I expect we'll hear a lot more of it in the coming weeks.

    Of course, we all know the true Korean monarch (Yi Won) is now a manager at Hyundai and is evidently a rather quiet and unassuming person who makes few public appearances outside religious ceremonies. A shame, because that's the sort of Korean leader that should rightfully be making headlines.

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  8. I've never heard that, but I have heard "dynasty" tossed around as one would expect. It's probably unavoidable and the up side is that it cannot stand up to scrutiny. They don't claim to be monarchs, they are not following their national traditions (or religions) and of course are no more monarchs than Oliver or Richard Cromwell.

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  9. You know the history of france and germany is a great irony, how is it that the kingdom of france a very decentralized realm with a weak monarch, become such a centralized state with the french monarchs, rather than german monarchs, behaving like autocratic roman emperors and then there is germany or Francia Orientalis, who's emperors tried to create a strong central state, an empire and they even took the title, but yet they ended up like the first french monarchs rather weak and beholden to their nominal vassals, and of course of all the "french" monarchs that acted like roman emperors it would be napoleon who would in the end emulate everything roman, dissolving the Holy Roman Empire and calling himself Emperor. Call me crazy but it is my opinion that if a german emperor from the swabian or saxon dynasties would have created an empire that included all of charlemagne's realm there would've been no napoleon, "Europe" would have looked more like the Byzantine Empire, and perhaps if charlemagne's realms were reunited by a strong german monarch then maybe even today the french, dutch, belgians, and germans would be known as Franks, that is of course if false nationalism and delusional democracy never developed

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  10. Apologies for going slightly off-topic, but do you know if Charles DeGaulle supported a monarchial restoration? Thanks.

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  11. Ixoa:
    I may be able to help there. As far as I know, Charels de Gaulle was a closet monarchist. "Je suis un monarchiste,la Republique n'est pas le regime qu'il faut a la France" - "I am a monarchist, the Republic is not the regime that France needs".

    However, due to political considerations of his time (WWII), he was unable to work to that end while the much more urgent goal of national liberation awaited. He was supposed to have met with the Count of Paris a few times, but I think some political maneuvering on behalf of other parties prevented that. The Bonapartist heir also wanted to meet with him for the same reasons, but he was captured by the Germans.

    De Gaulle felt that if he could not have a monarchy, he would have a monarchical presidency, hence the fifth Republic's centralized structure. He most definitely was a monarchist in spirit if not in action.

    I hope I can be of assistance.

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  12. Many thanks A. Nicot for your very helpful answer.

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  13. What a WONDERFUL article!! You described in words what I always felt in my heart. Do not get me wrong. I truly believe in democracy and representative government; it has worked for centuries in Britain and America. Yet France has to me always been a disgrace. That the greatest of western monarchies and the eldest daughter of the Church should be on its FIFTH republic is mind boggling. If the British so well married Parliament with constitutional monarchy why could not the French? To think that their President has minimal French blood and his Italian wife with her sordid past represent France to the world is truly an embarrassment. France should be a monarchy with a Parlement de France AND its flag should be what is the flag of Quebec! The heritage of France is monarchical and Christian; it is what created her and gave her life. The greatest and most beautiful buildings of France today are witness to her splendid past. The republic is an offense; as is her rag flag and her bloody savage national anthem. I truly feel sorry for the french monarchists; outnumbered by the mobs!

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  14. Great article. France does seem to be the lynchpin in the matter, in the march downstairs. But I'm still betting on the United States being the greatest historical lesson of suicide by republican democracy.

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