Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Happy Birthday

Today The Mad Monarchist fondly marks the birthday of the great Austrian monarchist and political writer Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, author of "Liberty or Equality". Here was one of the few staunch monarchists to actually make himself widely known in the conservative circles of America thanks to his many years of writing for National Review (he hated Woodrow Wilson before hating Woodrow Wilson was 'cool'). He was a brilliant man and we can only be sorry there are not more of his kind around today. Happy birthday mein herr, wherever you may be...

MM Video: Empress Eugenie of France


MM Video: Manchukuo

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Royal News Roundup

In Scandinavia the memorials, and sadly the death toll, continue to go up in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Oslo. On Wednesday at Copenhagen Cathedral HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, the Crown Prince and Princess attended a memorial service for the victims of the attacks in neighboring Norway. Also, if the perpetrator intended to spark a war against the Islamic presence in Europe, his effort, to say the least, was a dismal failure. On Tuesday HRH Crown Prince Haakon visited the World Islamic Mission Mosque in Oslo along with the government Foreign Minister, the Mayor of Oslo and a Church of Norway bishop. The Crown Prince did not speak but added moral support to the words of the others present. The Foreign Minister said that the changes underway in Norway could not be stopped and the policies of democracy and tolerance were unalterable. The Imam of the mosque also spoke of how harmonious Norwegians have been toward the growth of Islam in their country and that Norwegian society will be better for its continuance.

On the Mediterranean front, Italian royalty could be coming to America and a small screen (who still has a “small” screen these days?) near you. HRH Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Venice is in talks about the possibility of his own reality show on the American airwaves. What sort of show it may be the Prince will not say and may not even yet be decided however he is adamant that it will not include having cameras in his home as he has always kept his children out of the spotlight. The Princess of Venice, French actress Clotilde Courau, is not a big “reality TV” fan but, if it comes to pass, she is anxious to live in Los Angeles and try her hand in Hollywood. Both also stated that they find the LA area a great place for their daughters and have had some of their best times visiting southern California. The Prince of Venice, you might remember, made a splash appearing on the Italian version of “Dancing with the Stars” which he said he had done in order to clear up some misinformation regarding his personality that had crept in during the long years of the Savoy exile.

The Prince said his name and his family history is very important to him and something he respects but is totally apart from his career and that he has no interest in being the King of Italy. Rather, he said he wants to see what he can do to help Italy today, as he is (hasn’t this become an all-too-common attitude). On the subject of the controversy surrounding Italian PM Berlusconi, Princess Clotilde called his actions “unacceptable” but the Prince was more measured, saying that no one should be judged before the trial is over. It would be terrible if it were true, but he is holding final opinion for the verdict. However, Prince Emanuele Filiberto, you will be glad to know, is at least supportive of the idea of monarchy and the unifying role royals have. To quote the Prince, “Royal families are on top of political parties. So they’re not interested in right, left, up, down, black, white. They’re really interested in the good of their people and their country. It’s important to have someone who’s on top of the parties who really loves the country and doesn’t need to be elected by the people so he doesn’t need to compromise between right and left.” Which is very well put; are you sure there’s no interest in being King there? Stay tuned.

Also in southern Europe, some unexpectedly good news out of the often over-looked country of Montenegro. I admit when I first heard rumblings about this story I discounted them as being exaggerated -too good to be true, but, it seems it is not. The former Montenegrin Royal Family has been officially “rehabilitated” by the parliament and HRH Crown Prince Nicholas II has been recognized by the government as an official, national but not political figure. The Crown Prince will promote national unity, the history, culture and heritage of Montenegro but remain outside of all political issues. The Crown Prince will be paid by the government, several properties have been restored and the royal succession has been recognized by law. All in all, this is probably the closest I have ever seen a country come to restoring a monarchy without actually doing so. Montenegro became independent (as a principality) from the Ottoman Empire in 1878 and in 1910 became a kingdom. After World War I the Allied powers gave the country to Serbia as part of the new Yugoslavia after which the King went into exile. Montenegro has had no native monarchy since that time. Perhaps, with this recognition, a full, formal restoration will not be far off. Montenegro became independent of Serbia in 2006.

In Southeast Asia there is great sadness as the Kingdom of Thailand mourns the passing, at the age of 85, of HRH Princess Bejaratana. Her cousin the King has ordered 100 days of mourning at the palace and the Thai government has also ordered an official 15-day period of mourning. The Princess was the only daughter of HM King Vajiravudh, the sixth king and the niece of HM King Prajadhipok, the seventh king. She was born only two hours before her father died in 1925. A woman very popular throughout the country for her extensive charitable work, she was also very gifted at mathematics and music -some would say an unusual combination. She was not married and has no children to leave behind. The Mad Monarchist sends heartfelt condolences to the people of Thailand and the Chakri dynasty on the occasion of the loss of this great lady.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Monarch Profile: King Umberto I of Italy

The man who would become the second King of the united Italy was born HRH Prince Umberto Ranieri Carlo Emanuele Giovanni Maria Ferdinando Eugenio di Savoia on March 14, 1844 in Turin to HM King Victor Emanuel II and Queen Adelaide of Austria. It would be enough to judge him by the extent to which the ordinary Italian people loved him and how the radical leftists despised him, but the reasons for these positions reveal a man who was a committed constitutional monarch but who also saw that as no limitation to his desire to see the Kingdom of Italy achieve greatness. As a boy he was given the best education possible by some of the most respected scholars in Italy at the time. Yet, like all royals of the House of Savoy in those days, he was expected to have a military career and do his part to win greater glory for his dynasty and the Italian nation that was then still forming.

Toward that end the young Prince Umberto served as a captain in the army of Piedmont-Sardinia (the highest rated amongst the Italian states) in the Italian Wars for Independence. Promotions followed and he fought at the battle of Solferino in 1859 and led a division at the battle of Custoza in 1866. That engagement was a bitter blow for the Piedmontese, being defeated by a significantly smaller Austrian army, however, Prince Umberto acquitted himself well. Near Villafranca, he and his men were attacked by the Austrian cavalry (which was famous across Europe) and the Prince had his men form square and repelled every charge with the Prince himself remaining with his troops at all times, exposed to constant danger. In the aftermath of the battle, he helped to form the rear-guard, covering the retreat of the Piedmontese army and won numerous decorations for his courage and gallantry.

Not long after, Prince Umberto, or rather his parents, began searching for a suitable wife for him, but this was not an easy process. The rulers of the princely states of Italy were not happy with the House of Savoy for leading the campaign for unification, nor were their Spanish, French or Austrian relatives. The conflict with the Pope, known as the “Roman Question”, also made other Catholic royal houses uneasy about a marital alliance with the heir to the Savoy throne. However, it would be wrong to conclude that the dynasty was being totally ‘blackballed’ as there were some princesses who were considered. An Austrian archduchess was set to be the chosen one but she burned to death in a rather horrible accident while trying to hide a forbidden cigarette she had been smoking. So, on April 21, 1868 Prince Umberto married his first cousin, Princess Margherita Teresa Giovanna of Savoy. The two had a very happy marriage and by the next year the princess gave birth to their first and only child, fortunately a boy, the future King Victor Emanuel III.

Prince Umberto, like his father before him and his son after him, had it impressed upon him at an early age that his duty was to make Italy a great nation and to lead the Italian people to a place of prosperity and greatness befitting their glorious ancient history. The House of Savoy had embraced enemies, alienated friends and risked all in this one mission; to see the unification of Italy and to make the Italian nation a great and powerful kingdom. Prince Umberto would never forget this and his duty to his people and his country always came first. His father had succeeded in the first step, uniting the country and becoming the first King of Italy, and it would be up to Prince Umberto to carry on that legacy and take the nation his father had given him to greater heights. This was firmly in his mind when his father died and he became King Umberto I of Italy on January 9, 1878. Whereas his father had not changed his name when he became King, Umberto specifically chose to reign as King Umberto I rather than “King Umberto IV” using the older Savoy numbering. He did not want to appear as a Piedmontese monarch ruling Italy but as the first King Umberto of an Italian kingdom with a new Italian Royal Family.

Also to further this ideal, as one of his first acts, King Umberto I undertook, along with his prime minister, a tour of the Italian peninsula. Despite the controversy associated with unification he was well received. Even in Naples, large crowds turned out to cheer for him. However, during a parade he was attacked by an anarchist. The King drew his sword and fended off the would-be assassin who was later sentenced to death. However, King Umberto commuted this to life at hard labor and the man later died in a mental hospital. This earned the King greater popularity as did his solemn commemoration of the death of Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1882. Garibaldi had been greatly romanticized and celebrated as a nationalist but he had fallen out with the royal house somewhat over his revolutionary republicanism. Nevertheless, the King gained a wider base of support for honoring the memory of the man who had played such a significant role in Italian history.

King Umberto I became known as the “Good King” or “Umberto the Good” by the common people because of the care and concern he showed them. When Verona and Venice suffered massive flooding in 1882 the King went himself to direct the efforts to minimize the disaster and gave generously from his own funds to aid those displaced. When a massive earthquake struck Ischia the following year the King again intervened, ordering rescue operations to continue five days longer than planned which resulted in many lives being saved. Again, he went himself to lend a hand even though the area remained quite dangerous. He showed similar compassion in 1884 when a cholera epidemic struck southern Italy and by all of these and similar actions was beloved by the Italian people. In securing the dynasty and uniting the country, the reign of Umberto I was an early success. The only ones not satisfied were the radical leftists who opposed the rise to prominence of more conservative elements in government, the most notable being Francesco Crispi.

In the area of foreign affairs, like Prime Minister Crispi, King Umberto favored colonial expansion and it was under his reign that the first foothold was made for what became the Italian colonial empire, eventually encompassing Eritrea, Somalia and (under his son) Libya and the Dodecanese Islands. King Umberto took Italy into the Triple Alliance alongside Germany and Austria, which was met with skepticism by those who still regarded the Austrians as their natural enemies since the wars for independence. He visited Vienna and Berlin but was also careful to maintain the good relations the Savoy had long maintained with Great Britain. In fact, the King considered the Triple Alliance only half effective so long as Italy lacked a naval alliance with Great Britain. However, this string of foreign policy successes came to an end with the disastrous defeat of the Italian colonial army at Adowa, Ethiopia in 1896 in a war over a disagreement concerning a treaty that agreed to Ethiopia being an Italian protectorate. This led to opposition to the war and colonial expansion in general which was hyped by the radical socialists who had always opposed the drive toward empire anyway.

In 1897 the King survived another assassination attempt, by another anarchist, near Rome. The following year came the one most controversial event of his reign. Riots, first over the price of bread but whipped up by leftist agitators, broke out in Milan and the city was placed under martial law. As the situation began to get out of control, General Fiorenzo Bava-Beccaris ordered his artillery to fire on the crowd, killing about a hundred people and wounding many more but putting an immediate stop to the rioting. Many were shocked by this and many people (mostly revolutionaries anyway) were outraged when King Umberto I decorated the general afterwards. This incident has been used to paint the King in a very negative light and it was an unfortunate incident undoubtedly. However, the King only recognized the general for taking decisive action to restore law and order and safeguard lives and property against the already violent crowd of rioters in the streets. It was not an award for butchery but for putting a swift end to an ugly situation that was threatening to become worse. The Socialist Party had been behind the outbreak of violence which included, incidentally, a young radical named Benito Mussolini.

Nonetheless, if the King was unpopular with the radical leftists and socialists before, this incident made them absolutely despise him. However, this was not the only case by which many have misjudged the second King of Italy. Another was his policy of no-compromise regarding the “Roman Question” as the standoff with the Holy See was called. The King, in 1886, famously affirmed that Rome was the capitol of Italy and would always remain so and never return to clerical rule. King Umberto was, however, no anti-clerical and in the end the Church came to accept secular rule for the Eternal City. After the Italian army had occupied Rome in 1870 the Pope had been offered royal honors, sovereign status and rule over the whole of the Leonine City but this was rejected. Catholicism was always maintained as the state religion of Italy and, as we know, in the end an accommodation was reached to the satisfaction of the Holy See even though the territory on offer was reduced only to the Vatican. The King also became more and more religious throughout his life and was always charitable, though not many know it, as he helped others privately without any fuss or fanfare.

In 1900, in what would be the last major foreign policy act of his reign, King Umberto dispatched Italian troops to China as part of the Eight Nation Alliance to suppress the Boxer Rebellion. The Kingdom of Italy would gain a concession in China as a result but Umberto I would never know this. On July 29, 1900 King “Umberto the Good” was driving in Monza when he was shot four times and killed by an Italian-American anarchist named Gaetano Bresci, an act of revenge, the man claimed for the suppression of the riot in Milan. The public mourned heavily for the King they remembered fondly for his good humor and generosity. On August 9, 1900 he was laid to rest in the Pantheon in Rome next to his father.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mad Rant: Son of God/Political Football

It is a political football game with the left invoking the name of Christ. The socialist, left-wing, George Soros funded group “American Values Network” is taking aim at the enemies of the big-government welfare state by highlighting the opposition of objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand to religion. They have called their campaign, “Ayn Rand vs. Jesus Christ” and it is deplorable. Unfortunately, conservatives opposed to the recent campaign by the left to ramp up the drive to total socialism might be a bit frustrated at the reaction of the objectivist camp. Of course, they object to the AVN mixing religion and politics but they cannot get away from the ardent atheism that has been drummed into them by their foundress and more or less agree that Jesus was a socialist and, though they do not come right out and say it, all but admit that, yes, one does have to choose between Ayn Rand or Christ and they are hoping you will choose Ayn Rand.

I am so mad at both sides of this thing I could spit. In the first place, yes, the left is being totally disingenuous and are using the Son of God as a tool to gain political points by driving a wedge between traditional conservatives (who tend to be religious) and libertarians (who tend to be non-religious) because they fear that they are gaining ground on the one big area they have in common: taking down the socialist nanny state. These so-called religious people at the AVN who endlessly repeat the verses about helping the poor and warning off the rich also embrace a plethora of positions totally opposed to traditional Christian values such as abortion and the homosexual agenda. The objectivists are at least being honest in what they believe, the AVN and George Soros certainly are not. They are no friends to organized religion and certainly no friend of real Christianity by any stretch of the imagination.

Let me also say, even though I know it annoys a lot of people when I say anything nice about the objectivists, that even at their worst the objectivists and libertarians are better for religion than the radical revolutionaries. The revolutionaries want to destroy religion, suppress it and promote what is contrary to it. Libertarians, as with most things, simply take a “hands-off” attitude toward religion, neither favoring nor opposing it. Undoubtedly, Ayn Rand was an adamant atheist who was not bashful in her opinions toward any religion including Christianity. In fact, she openly stated that she considered the very concept of “faith” to be immoral. However, though neither her friends nor foes talk about it much, she was also adamant that she was not a “militant atheist”. She stated clearly that she was not trying to fight against religion, she was fighting for pure laissez-faire capitalism. Remember that one of her fundamental principles of objectivism was a total rejection of force or coercion. She adamantly opposed denying anyone the right to be religious just as much as she adamantly opposed denying anyone the right not to be religious at all.

However, the objectivists are not saying that. If you look at what they say closely, they are, again, actually agreeing with the socialists that one must choose between Ayn Rand or Christ. The socialists are saying this because they are portraying Christ as a socialist and what Christians to reject anything Ayn Rand or her modern disciples say. The objectivists are saying it because, well, they think Christianity is basically socialist as well and are hoping you choose Ayn Rand and her philosophy instead. They are not that blatant about it but, keep them talking on the subject long enough and they will admit eventually that, yes, they think ultimately one would have to choose between the two and of course they think objectivism is the superior philosophy to Christianity. They are both, essentially, accepting the same lie: that Christ was a socialist.

Objectivists, who again I will say I agree with on a number of issues (to the great annoyance of many of my readers), often simply have a bigoted attitude toward religion because of the godlike pedestal they have placed Ayn Rand on -who was an outspoken atheist. The socialists are being dishonest and they know it, that is their intent, however, the objectivists seem to be simply sloppy or ignorant. Yes, we know about the verses in the New Testament that always come up; the one about the apostles ‘sharing things in common’ or how it was ‘easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter heaven’ (wow, 2 verses!) but there is a huge (gargantuan) amount of context that is being ignored. In the first place, there were rich people who were favored by God, in fact there were people who became rich because God blessed them. But, sticking with the New Testament here, the important point (that I would think objectivists of all people would recognize if they were not so blinded by their idolatry toward Ayn Rand) is the total LACK of coercion regarding all of the verses that deal with the rich or helping the poor.

That is what is at the heart of socialism; using force to take what one person has to give it to someone else. That never happened in the New Testament, Christ never did it, nor did He ever advocate or command anyone to do it. Jesus did give to the poor and afflicted, and a good Christian is supposed to be “Christ-like” but we do have one serious roadblock to doing exactly “what Jesus would have done” which is that we are not God. Christ could work miracles, He healed the sick, fed the hungry and so on by performing miracles. I suppose I should not speak for everyone but I certainly cannot do that. If I could work miracles there would be crowned heads ruling over the world, I would have perfect health, be living in a villa in Costa Rica and married to Alessandra Ambrosio. In short -not going to happen. Look, instead, to the example of Christ and the rich, young nobleman who asked what he had to do to obtain salvation. Christ told him to give away all of his wealth and follow Him. ‘Aha!’ the socialists exclaim, ‘see, he was one of us!’ Uh, no, because there was no coercion. Now, if Christ had seized the young man, robbed him of all his riches and then, after pocketing a bit for Himself, gave the rest to the poor, THEN Christ would have been a socialist. He didn’t do that. He advised people to be compassionate and charitable, He never advocated using force to take from one and give to another.

As the great William Shakespeare so famously wrote, “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:” Compassion and charity cannot be forced. When it flows naturally, as Shakespeare said, it rewards both parties in the transaction. Socialism is, at best, coerced charity which simply replaces one possible injustice with another definite one. Besides which, at the end of the day, we all know Jesus was a monarchist. To see objectivists and socialists, two essentially atheist groups, arguing over what economic system the son of God would have preferred, neither adhering to the facts, makes me an extremely … Mad Monarchist.

Hurrah - Justice is Served

Just a quick note to give every monarchist something to smile about today. This is the 217th anniversary of the day Maximilien Robespierre the revolutionary, regicide, mass-murderer and all-around hate-filled republican hypocrit got a taste of his own poison as he was sent to the "national razor" by his own terrified comrades. Madame Guillotine never did better service. Long live the King!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Battlefield Royal: The "Black Duke" of Brunswick

Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel is probably one of the more conspicuous royals to have fought on the battlefields of Europe during the Napoleonic Wars and, I have to say, I like the style of the man. He was born in Brunswick in 1771, a younger son of the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Princess Augusta of Great Britain. When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out he was quick to rush to the front, joining the Prussian army in 1789 where, due to his royal rank, he was immediately commissioned captain. He rose rapidly in rank though not as rapidly as some might think considering that his father was the commanding Field Marshal of the Prussian army. Revolutionary France was the antithesis of everything he believed in and he fought them with unmatched ferocity. His motivation only increased when his father was killed at the battle of Jena, one of the many great victories of Napoleon and in which he too had fought as a Prussian major general.

Since his oldest brother had already died and his other two older brothers were unable to succeed, after the battle of Jena he inherited the Brunswick family duchy from his father. Ultimately, Prussia was defeated by France in the ‘War of the Fourth Coalition’ and the Duke of Brunswick lost his ancestral home as it was ceded to the French as part of the peace agreement. Furious and blaming the French as the authors of all his misfortunes, he resolved to fight them to the bitter end, regardless of the circumstances. He had married Princess Marie of Baden and left his home (which had been given to one of the lesser Bonapartes as the ‘Kingdom of Westphalia’) and went to the Grand Duchy of Baden. When the great powers of Europe began to form a fifth coalition to take on Napoleon, the Duke of Brunswick saw his opportunity and was given permission by the Emperor of Austria to raise his own troop of irregulars. It was the start of one of the most famous, if colorless, outfits of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Duke raised and outfitted his own corps of men, known variously as the Black Legion or the Black Brunswickers because of their ominous uniforms; all black and sporting large silver skulls. Some have said this was done as a sign of mourning for the occupation of their native land by the French. A less romantic view is that the Duke intended it as a symbol of his utter lack of mercy for his enemy; that death was the business of these men and the French could expect no pity from them. They certainly made for an imposing image and, lest we be too hard on the Duke, his hatred of revolutionary France and Napoleon was fully returned. In fact, Napoleon sent him a message telling him so, presumably because the Duke was so closely related to the British enemy Napoleon despised the most. The Duke was a grandson of the late Frederick, Prince of Wales, and was the brother-in-law of the soon-to-be King George IV.

The Duke mortgaged virtually everything he owned to raise his legion of troops and for him, this was a fight to the death. However, the War of the Fifth Coalition went no better than the Fourth. He and his Black Legion did manage to liberate their native piece of Brunswick for a time but, yet again, Napoleon led the French to final victory and added still more territory to his expanding empire. However, the “Black Duke” was not about to surrender and just as he had fought his way eastward to join the Austrians in the first place, after their defeat he and his men fought their way north, all the way across Germany, where they were picked up and evacuated by the Royal Navy. He and his men were then transferred to the Iberian Peninsula, seeing action against the French across Portugal and Spain until, worn down by constant fighting, they were effectively wiped out. However, the Duke and the remnants of his men were able to finally go home after the French defeat in Russia and the liberation of Brunswick by the Prussians.

From 1813-1814 the Duke was restored to his lands, where he was beloved by the people as a national hero for his determined fight against their former occupiers. When Napoleon escaped from exile to make his second bid for power, the “Black Duke” did not hesitate, immediately reforming his old legion and leading them to the front once again. This time, however, they were not such a potent force as before, consisting largely of raw, young recruits but their commander had lost none of his determination nor his reckless courage. He was killed in action on June 16, 1815 at the battle of Quatre Bras in Belgium. However, his reputation only grew in subsequent history as he came to be seen as the ideal German prince. He refused to give in, refused to make any accomodation with France but instead risked all he had, his life, his fortune and his property to carry on the fight, under any flag possible, Austrian or British, until his homeland was liberated.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Favorite Royal Images: A Cambridge Cowgirl

The Day Franco Restored the Monarchy

It was on this day in 1947 that the Spanish monarchy was technically restored. “Technically” because there was still no King of Spain. What there was amounted to a regency in the person of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. The nationalists, which Franco led to victory over the communists in the last Spanish Civil War, had always included a large number of monarchists and Franco himself said he was a monarchist. However, the problem for Spanish royalists was a lack of unity (haven’t we been down this road before). In fact, there was probably never a time in Spanish history that the republicans ever held a majority of popular support. They were able to take control of the country only because the royalists were feuding with each other and, then as now, many on both sides were prepared to risk a revolutionary republic rather than see the “other side”, Alfonsist or Carlist, take the throne. Therefore, Franco knew the royalists were something of a double-edged sword. He needed their support, indeed he likely could not have won without them, but his restoration of the monarchy in 1947 did not include the restoration of an actual monarch.

To do so would have meant choosing either the Alfonsist or Carlist candidate and thus immediately sacrificing the support of the side passed over. Franco wanted Spain strong and united and was desperate to avoid such an event, even to the point of informally offering the Spanish throne to the recently deceased Archduke Otto von Hapsburg (the Archduke declined of course and recommended Prince Juan Carlos). During his years in power, Franco swayed somewhat, back and forth, from one faction to the other. However, as we know, he ultimately decided on the more established Alfonsists and named as his successor Prince Juan Carlos who became King of Spain after Franco’s death. I would take a moment to point out that there is a lesson here for monarchists to learn from. How many opportunities were lost for the restoration of the ancient monarchy of France due to the vociferous animosity between the competing factions there? In any event, despite what the Spanish government said later about King Juan Carlos owing his position solely to his legal, hereditary right, few would doubt that there would be no Kingdom of Spain today were it not for Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Even King Juan Carlos seems to think so as, despite how politically incorrect Franco has become in the decades since his death, the King does not speak about him in public and even in private will not allow anyone to speak ill of the late Caudillo in his presence.

It may not be socially acceptable to say so, but I cannot be too critical of the Generalissimo either. What happened may not have been ideal, certainly it would have been preferable if a man like Franco had not been necessary at all. However, I maintain that he was necessary. Were it not for him Spain would have remained a communist dominated republic, oppressive, violently anti-clerical and where traditional Spanish culture, including monarchist support, would have been wiped out entirely. Spain would, I believe, have become little more than a Soviet satellite state which would have been disastrous for the entire Free World. All of Western Europe would have been outflanked and in the aftermath of World War II nations like France and Italy would have been scarcely defensible. No, unsavory as some of his actions might have been, I am convinced that Franco did the world a great favor by his victory over the Spanish republic and his transitioning of Spain back to its natural state, that of a monarchy.

I may have said this before, but the way in which so many people today criticize Generalissimo Franco and his regime (and he was a dictator, pure and simple) while never thinking about what life might have been like or how history might have developed had he not held the line against communist aggression, always makes me think of that famous scene in the film “A Few Good Men” with Jack Nicholson. Nicholson, as Marine Lt. Col. Jessup says,

“Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns…I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom…and my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall…I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said ‘thank you’ and went on your way.”

Franco could say pretty much the same, I think, to his critics today. He was not politically correct, he was not liberal or “pluralistic” but when the specter of communist tyranny was looming on the horizon, we certainly needed him on that wall.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mark Steyn on Norway

Canadian-born author Mark Steyn (with whom I let some things pass for the sake of his admiration for the British Empire) wrote a column for National Review Online concerning the tragedy in Norway. One question I have been pondering since all this happened is that, if the media reports are correct (and Steyn raises some doubts) that this all comes down to Islamophobia and anti-multiculturalism; just exactly how important are these things to Europe and Norway in particular? I mean, if that is the cause, if this massacre was the result of anger over multi-culturalism I have to ask -is it worth it? What exactly does multi-culturalism provide to modern Norway that is so valuable or so vital that it must be furthered even when it (supposedly) drives ordinary farmers into murderous rages against his own countrymen? I could ask the same question of other European countries. What is it that our "pluralistic" society provides which is so valuable as to offset the Oslo bombing, the Madrid train bombings, the London tube bombings, the riots in Paris, the Christmas bombing in Stockholm and so on and so forth? Look at how many acts of horrific violence have been carried out because of or in opposition to "multiculturalism". I ask again; is it worth it? If so, I would really like to know how and why. -MM

Consort Profile: Queen Marie Leszczyńska of Poland

His Most Christian Majesty King Louis XV of France probably does not have the reputation of being the greatest husband in history but he did have a few years as a devoted spouse and he had an admirable queen consort in the person of his Polish wife Marie Leszczynska of Poland. She was born in Trzebnica, Poland on June 23, 1703 the second daughter of King Stanislaw I of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and his wife Queen Catherine Opalinska. Her early years were spent being swept along by the political turmoil swirling around her father. Polish politics was never for the faint of heart and it was a constant struggle for King Stanislaw to keep, retain or re-take his throne depending on the situation. Her father had been placed on the throne by the warrior-King Charles XII of Sweden and there were rivalries within and the threat of another partition from without on the part of Prussia, Russia and Austria. Because of this situation Marie spent much of her childhood outside of Poland, in Sweden or in France. While in France she was even proposed to by the Prince of Conde, but nothing came of it.

However, the idea of a marriage with the Bourbons of France did not go away. The King of Poland was in need of any sort of political support and individuals in France began to consider Princess Marie a possibility too. The young King Louis XV was in need of a wife and yet every possibility seemed to bring too much political baggage to the table. Poland, however, had very few friends and thus a marriage with a Polish princess would not bring with it any unwanted entanglements. The Prince of Conde had no hard feelings and supported the match as did Cardinal Fleury who had replaced the prince as prime minister to Louis XV. She was young, pretty, good natured and politically neutral, in short, she came to be seen as the ideal choice. She was older than the King (22 years to his 15) but not excessively so and could be expected on to fulfill her duty to secure the succession right away. So, on August 15, 1725 the two were married by proxy at the cathedral of Strasbourg with the Duke of Orleans standing in for the King. The couple did not actually meet in person until the day before their face-to-face ceremony on September 5, 1725.

As is often the case, the new Queen Marie faced her share of difficulties after coming to France and marrying the King. Some of the more elitist elements at court thought a marriage to a Polish princess whose father only briefly and intermittently held a throne beneath the dignity of a Bourbon monarch of France. Ugly rumors were spread about the new Queen but, as hurtful as these must have been, Marie never showed any sign in public that such was the case. The common people of France were impressed with her from the start as she gave out alms to the poor on the way to her wedding. Nor were their any complaints from King Louis who fell instantly in love with the young Polish princess and she with him. Their initial life together seemed idyllic and so it was. They were infatuated with each other and in no time at all the new Queen consort was pregnant with twins. In 1727 she gave birth to two girls; Princess Louise Elisabeth and Princess Henriette Anne at Versailles. A son, of course, was what was hoped for, but the twins were healthy, the couple still young and in love and there was no great worry that more children would follow and France would have a son and heir.

The snobs at court still smirk at their Polish queen but she proved them all wrong by keeping the affection of her husband and did indeed give birth to eight more children; six girls and two boys including the sought-after Dauphin Louis Ferdinand. Despite all the negativity directed at the Queen, she was not lacking in intelligence nor in diligence. The elaborate protocol of Versailles frustrated many a royal consort but the Queen worked hard to master it and if the gossiping bothered her she certainly never let it show but carried herself always with grace and dignity. However, her many pregnancies caused the age difference between her and her husband to become more evident and the lustful King Louis began to wander. Her feelings had not changed and she was hurt by the string of mistresses Louis XV began to take but, to her credit, she never made a scene over his affairs, always remaining polite and friendly.

The Queen was a good natured woman, not at all extravagant and concerned about the plight of the least of the French people. She was very artistically inclined and loved to paint and take singing lessons. Her passion for music caused her to bring Polish choral music to the chapel of Versailles and she was quite impressed with meeting an up-and-coming young composer named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. She was sufficiently liberal in her thinking to secure a pension for the “Enlightenment” writer Voltaire, but she certainly did not share all of his views. Queen Marie was, for instance, sincerely religious and turned her back on the more licentious members of the court and, for the most part, stuck to her own little circle of friends who shared her commitment to the faith. Madame Pompadour, most famous of the mistresses of Louis XV, may have eclipsed her at court but Queen Marie never cared about the favor of such people of whose behavior she disapproved. She also had the comfort of knowing, which she did, that outside the confines of Versailles she was the most popular member of the French Royal Family. It therefore came as a great blow to the people of France when Queen Marie died on June 24, 1768 at the age of 65. She had been the longest-serving Queen consort in French history and still managed to outlive Madame Pompadour. Her children were heartbroken as they had all been very close to their mother and even King Louis, for all his philandering, was not unmoved. Under quite difficult circumstances she had been a model queen consort, a credit to France and Poland.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Royal News Roundup

First, we have the tragedy in the Kingdom of Norway. According to authorities, yesterday a Norwegian man, Anders Behring Breivik, age 32, exploded a car bomb in downtown Oslo, near the office of the Prime Minister and other government officials and then proceeded to a Labor Party youth camp at Utøya where he gained entrance disguised as a policeman and proceeded to shoot a huge number of people, mostly teenagers (last report I saw put the number at around 80). His Majesty King Harald V took to the air waves to address his people in this time of crisis:

Today we have witnessed horrific acts both in Oslo and Utøya. Our thoughts go naturally to the survivors and the relatives. I would like to thank all those who have helped to rescue people out of this situation … In such a horrible situation it is important to stand together and support each other so that we can rise up again,” the King repeated, “Now it is important that we stand together and support each other. The fact that we do not let fear prevail. As we support each other we come through this terrible situation that we have experienced”.

King Harald was noticeably upset as he spoke to his people and it is no wonder. The normally peaceful Scandinavian monarchy has not experienced such a bloody attack since the Second World War. Some reports describe the arrested Breivik as a “right-wing extremist” while other experts have said they know of no right-wing extremists in Norway capable of carrying out such an attack. So far the motivation remains unknown. Early suspects were Al-Qaeda, opponents of the Norwegian contribution to the war in Afghanistan or the bombing of Libya, and terrorists of that type. The Somalian community in Norway, in the past, provided recruits for terrorist groups operating there. Few of the initial suspect profiles fit the 32-year-old Norwegian farmer now in custody.

Some cannot help but think there is some Islamic terrorism connection and this has led to greater criticism of Norwegian involvement in places like Afghanistan and Libya (which has been nominal in any event, a few hundred support troops and a few fighter jets) as well as the printing of the infamous Danish “Mohammad cartoons”. However, I would caution that even if this man has nothing to do with any of that, there is still a connection in the immediate “it is our own fault” response. When European nations cave in to terrorist attacks, such as Spain did by pulling out of Iraq after the Madrid bombings, it sends the message to everyone that terrorism works. Not a good idea folks. I was also particularly moved by a text message sent out from the island, describing a gunman shooting people and asking when the police were going to arrive. It is chilling and, I am a Texan and I cannot help it, but my first thought is that if someone else, just one person, at that camp had had a weapon of their own they could have put one in the guy’s head and saved a lot of lives.

But, that has not been the Scandinavian way. Even the long-neutral Kingdom of Sweden has not been spared as we can recall the Iraqi immigrant who bombed a crowd of Swedish Christmas shoppers last year. This is the world we live in and so long as things continue as they have been, I cannot see it changing. God bless the Kingdom of Norway and all those affected by this tragedy.

Moving as far away as we can from that scene, we have some royal scandal within the African Kingdom of Swaziland, whose king probably already has the worst reputation of any reigning sovereign in Africa or Europe. That is HM King Mswati III of Swaziland, often criticized for his excess in the midst of poverty, absolutist rule and the small army of wives he has collected. On that score, readers may recall that last year wife number 12 (approximately, there are conflicting accounts as to how many wives the king has) was accused of being “caught in the act” of adultery. The wife in question, Nothando Dube, is claiming to being held prisoner, under house arrest, though she has managed to go public with a story in a South African newspaper. She complains that she has suffered emotional abuse from being cut off from her friends and family and being kept under constant surveillance. She married the King in a traditional festival ceremony when she was 16 and has three children by the King. The Palace has denied the accusations and says she has a home of her own, a maid and government cars that will drive her wherever she wishes to go. Two other wives of the King have fled the small kingdom in the past. What can I say? Someone is not telling the truth here but, one would think that a person would be extra careful about avoiding even the hint of adultery when marrying an absolute monarch. Did this woman ever hear about Henry VIII? There are also other countries in the world today where ordinary women found guilty or even accused of adultery are given a punishment considerably worse than house arrest in a big house with a maid and personal driver.

Also in the scandal department, TSH Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco have become quite fed up with the rumors about their marriage, put out by the French media, picked up by the British and others and then carried around the world ever since the day before their wedding. Legal action has been threatened and after the Prince and Princess of Monaco returned from their honeymoon in Mozambique and the Prince met with three members of the French press for the nice-guy equivalent of a dressing down at the palace. Monegasque Minister of State Michel Roger has also said the Grimaldis intend to sue the first mainstream paper to run with the story and added, again, that stories of Princess Charlene trying to “escape” are false and he asserted, regarding the paternity allegations, that, “We have proof that this is false”. It doesn’t help the credibility of the rumors that they were first put out by someone with a well known vendetta against the Prince, who also happens to be your resident mad man’s only (so far) “e-stalker”. Anyway, you can read more about this and the Prince’s response at Mad for Monaco.

To the north, the Kingdom of Belgium celebrated the 180th anniversary of the start of their monarchy when the Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became King Leopold I of the Belgians. However, it was also a less admirable anniversary as well marking 400 days without a government. As a result, for the second National Day in a row, King Albert II refused to grant any titles or to attend any of the more festive celebrations of the occasion. As duty demanded he went along to the Church services and military parade but, like last year, said he could not celebrate when the Belgian people have been left in the lurch by their feuding politicians. He also made a very animated speech in which was more blunt than usual in criticizing the politicians for their failure to reach a compromise as well as warning them about the dangers of the continued state of limbo. Unfortunately, one of the major tools he used in making this argument was how the division of Belgium could adversely affect the future of the European Union. Please Your Majesty! I’m begging you! Why do you try to hitch your wagon to the falling star that is the EU? They are not your friends or your allies, trust me sire. Good grief, I’m trying to contain an outbreak here and he’s driving the monkey to the airport.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Terrorists Strike Norway

The usually peaceful Kingdom of Norway has been hit by a terrible double-terrorist attack with a bombing at the offices of the Prime Minister in Oslo and a mass-shooting at a nearbye youth camp. Police say the two events are linked. So far, I have not heard who or what group authorities think may be responsible. Some have speculated that in may involve a former Al-Qaeda official from northern Iraq who was (foolishly) granted asylum in Norway. The Norwegians have since been trying to deport him but (what a shock) he doesn't want to go and has been fighting it in court while also making violent threats against the Norwegian state. You know, there was a time when this sort of think did not, would not and could not ever happen but now isn't the time to go into that. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Norwegian people at this difficult time and with the victims of this senseless slaughter. May God be with them.

Monarchist Profile: Marshal Giovanni Messe

It is quite satisfying to know that the man widely regarded as the most talented Italian general of World War II was a monarchist. Giovanni Messe was born in Mesagne, Apulia, Italy on December 10, 1883 and decided to pursue a military career in 1901. In 1902 he volunteered for service with the Royal Italian Army, enlisting as a private soldier. However, he proved himself so capable that only a year later he was made a noncommissioned officer and participated in the Italian expeditionary force to China as part of the international effort to suppress the violent Boxer Rebellion. His superiors were impressed with his abilities and he was given the chance to join the ranks of the officer corps in 1910 when he attended the Modena Military School. Applying himself, he graduated quickly and was commissioned lieutenant. In 1911-1912 he served in the victorious war against the Ottoman Empire and earned promotion to captain during the conquest of Libya.

When World War I came, like many later Italian officers of high reputation, he first proved his military talents in a major way. Most significant was his contribution to the creation of the Italian ‘shock troops’ or “Arditi” units which were crucial to the resurgence of the Italian forces and their march to final victory. Promoted to major, he was given command of an Arditi battalion and earned high praise for his conduct in the June 1918 counterattack on Mt Grappa. After the war, he continued to show his worth, commanding assault troops in Albania in 1920, winning promotion to colonel in the famous Bersaglieri, serving in the War Ministry and in 1935 he was given command of the mobile Celere Brigade. He performed with his usual ability in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and was promoted to major general and given command of an armored division. He commanded occupation troops in Albania and after the invasion of Greece in 1940 was appointed to command a special army corps to deal with the Greek counter-attacks. The successes of his forces were one of the few bright spots of that campaign for the Italian forces.

However, what General Messe is probably most known for was his contribution to the war against the Soviet Union. In July of 1941, after their first commander fell ill in Austria, Giovanni Messe was prompted to the temporary rank of lieutenant general and given command of the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia. This often overlooked military force represented the Italian contribution Mussolini was determined to make in the massive Axis invasion of the USSR, usually described as simply a Nazi or German invasion but which actually included a huge number of troops from all over Europe, from Spain to Scandinavia. Originally a corps of about 60,000 men, the Italian Expeditionary Force later grew to about 200,000. General Messe, however, was not pleased with this. At the outset he pointed out the gross insufficiency of their equipment and supplies, particularly considering the harshness of conditions on the Russian front.

General Messe expressed the opinion that his corps should not have been enlarged unless the Italian government could keep them properly supplied and they had been unable to do so even with the initial contribution. However, Mussolini wanted a much larger force to show that Italy was making a valuable contribution to the “crusade against Bolshevism”. The conflict between the general and Mussolini over this issue eventually led to him being replaced, however, during his roughly four months in command he had done quite well and was recognized by the Germans by the award of the Knights Iron Cross. On January 31, 1943 Messe was promoted to full general and sent to take command of the First Italian Army in Tunisia, a unit formerly led by the famous German Field Marshal Rommel and which was best known as the “Africa Corps” (though the German Africa Corps was only one part of a larger force and two-thirds of the troops were Italian throughout the war).

Of course, by that time, the war in North Africa was over for the Axis and everyone knew it as the British closed in from the east and the Americans from the west. Still, General Messe performed with his usual talent, fighting a delaying action, trying to hold off the Allied armies as long as possible. His task was impossible but Messe still managed some successes, holding the Allies at the Mareth Line for a time with some defensive victories. On May 7, 1943 Giovanni Messe was promoted to the rank of Marshal of Italy and the following day he surrendered to the Allies. He was later repatriated to Italy to take up the post of chief of staff of the reorganized Italian army after HM King Victor Emmanuel III dismissed Mussolini and made peace with the Allies, eventually joining them after the Germans occupied most of Italy. Marshal Messe had served as military secretary to the King from 1923 to 1927, before his promotion to colonel, and he was devotedly loyal to his monarch at all times and so it was only natural for him to fight against those who betrayed their loyalty to the King in favor of a political strongman.

Marshal Messe remained chief of staff until 1945 after which time he left the army, one of the few men who had earned the respect of the Allies as well as the Germans and of course his own troops who admired him for his care of them as well as his skill. He wrote two memoirs and in 1953 entered Italian politics as a senator for the Christian Democratic Party. He later founded the strongly monarchist UCI or Italian Veterans Association. In 1957, his loyalty never wavering, he was elected to parliament again as a member of a monarchist party and he was reelected in 1963 with the Liberal Party (which does not mean the same thing in Italy as it does in places like America for example). His eventful life finally came to an end when he died in Rome on December 18, 1968 at the age of 85.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

National Day in Belgium

The Mad Monarchist wishes all Belgians everywhere a happy National Day! It was on July 21, 1831 that HRH Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was formally sworn in as His Majesty Leopold I, King of the Belgians. Considering what a rought time Belgium has had of it lately with poor King Albert II trying to make peace between the politicians of the feuding language communities who still have been unable to form a government, monarchists would do well to pay more attention to the plight of the Kingdom of Belgium as I know of no other monarchy in Europe that is under such a level of threat as that one. Many have taken advantage of the current crisis to use Belgium as an example of the failure of a multi-national state (using much of the same language that was once used against Austria-Hungary) but it may be a better example of the shortcomings of democracy and socialism. I say democracy because polls in Belgium that I have seen are so often contradictory. One will say a majority favor the preservation of Belgium while another shows continued support for the political parties that have almost driven the country apart. I say socialism because, it seems to me, the discontent of Flanders largely seems to boil down to resentment over the redistribution of their wealth to Wallonia (where the socialist party is even more dominant than the separatist party is in Flanders). Of course, as has happened to multi-national states in the past, many are quick to dismiss any chance for the survival of Belgium. I, of course, do not wish to downplay the dire emergency the kingdom is in -be assured I consider it as serious as the country has ever faced. However, I also believe that if the Belgians really want to get through this they can. Be it the Revolutions of 1848, the World Wars or the "Royal Question" the Kingdom of Belgium has survived disasters in the past and -if they so choose- can do so again. I strongly hope they will do so and that the proud history of the Kingdom of Belgium will continue into the future. God bless Belgium and Long live the King!

Papal Profile: Pope St Pius V

It can be a great mark of saintliness when one is as controversial centuries after their death as they were in life, and such is the case with Pope Saint Pius V of holy memory. Like all saints, he was a simple man, holiness being a difficult but not a complicated thing. However, like many popes he was also a man who often confused and infuriated the secular rulers of the world. He pushed a number of reforms in the Church, was a major force in the "Counter-Reformation" (which was actually the one authentic reformation in that it aimed to reform the Catholic Church rather than starting a new one) and was a firm defender of doctrinal orthodoxy. He was austere, determined, un-compromising and like all good fathers was not afraid to use firm measures when needed. At a time when the Islamic Ottoman Empire was dominating the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Balkans, he was a champion of Christendom under threat from the south and, perhaps more controversially, a terror for heretics in the north. This view, in all these centuries, has remained mostly unchanged. For Catholics he is still the Holy Father, saintly and admirable. For Protestants and Muslims he is still the greatest villain of the period.

He was born Michele Ghislieri on January 17, 1504 and joined the zealous Dominican order as a young man. The Dominicans were formed to combat the Albigensian heresy and were known for their preaching, doctrinal purity and staunch opposition to anything unorthodox. He eventually rose to become Inquisitor-General where he gained experience at dealing with the heretics who were, from the Catholic perspective, rotting Christendom from within at the precise time when they were under the most dire threat from without. When he was elected to the See of Peter on January 7, 1566 he lost none of the austere living he had as a religious. He lived in very plain surroundings, kept nothing of value himself and wore a coarse hair shirt under his papal vestments. He visited hospitals, cut spending and washed the feet of the poor every day. He was the model of humility and lived the Christian social doctrine. He also fought any hint of heresy tooth and nail and never gave an inch when anyone, no matter how powerful they might be, crossed the line of Church teaching. In doing so, he was often as much of an annoyance to Catholic clerics and monarchs as he was to Protestant ones.

St Pius V was a Catholic reformer in the true sense. The Council of Trent was his guide and he quickly set about putting the Church in order and stamping out the remnants of what he viewed as Renaissance worldliness that had crept in. He put out a new catechism to help spread the true teachings of the Church and formalized the Tridentine rite of the mass which remained in use universally throughout the Latin rite until after the Second Vatican Council. He also demanded his same standards of piety which he lived by of all clergymen. Pius V saw to it that all priests had to reside in their own parishes, kept a close eye to ensure conformity among the religious orders and abolished those which had fallen prey to corruption altogether. He made full use of the Index of Forbidden Works started by Paul IV and, by and large, totally wiped out all heresy in Italy.

This saintly pontiff also set an example in how to deal with the temporal sphere as well. He would not allow the power and prestige of any person to sway his determination to do what was right in the eyes of God, even when many Catholic world leaders claimed he was being foolish and needlessly confrontational. The most remembered example of this came in 1570 when he excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I of England who had renewed the schism of her father and started persecuting Catholics. Many have claimed, not without some justification, that this only worsened conditions for English Catholics, however, it was not as though Pius V had no grounds for the excommunication, in fact Pope Paul IV had already declared that Elizabeth I could not succeed to the throne on the grounds that she was not of legitimate birth. In any event, this should not be seen as all that outrageous considering that Elizabeth I obviously did not consider herself a Catholic and never had (though she made some pretense when her Catholic sister was on the throne, but even then no one really believed her). In that light, the excommunication can be seen, not so much as a punishment as a simple statement of fact. The Queen of England was not a Catholic and Elizabeth certainly never claimed to be.

The Pope could also be problematic for Catholic sovereigns, even ones such as the Catholic champion of Europe at the time, King Philip II of Spain (one of those who often claimed popes were insufficiently Catholic -of which today there are many). Despite being allies in the grand scheme of things Pius V and Philip II were often at odds, usually over the age-old issue of where spiritual authority stops and secular authority begins. Pius V also first supported Queen Catherine de Medici, the Italian regent of France, when she was leading the struggle against the Protestants in France. However, the Pope was outraged when the Queen came to terms with the Protestants and signed a treaty granting them freedom of religion. Pius V warned that this would prove to be nothing but trouble in the long run and, as such, many have since used this to criticize the Pope for being “intolerant” and against freedom of conscience but, hard as it may be to accept, French history would go on to prove that the Pope was right as the treaty by no means ended the religious problems in France. Besides which, it was only in recent times that people have decided that tolerance and freedom of religion were good things.

Again, Pius V was a simple man. He saw the world in terms of good and evil, right and wrong. He was also a man who believed in moral truth and absolutes. There was no doubt in his mind at all that Christianity was the one and only path to salvation for mankind and that, as a predecessor of his on the papal throne once said, that the Catholic Church was the one ark of salvation outside of which all others would perish in the flood. Therefore, he would have considered it not only absurd but utterly reprehensible to “tolerate” anything outside of Orthodox Catholicism. If Christianity as taught by the Catholic Church was right and good anything else was wrong and evil and evil would not and should not be tolerated. This makes a man like Pius V rather hard for modern minds to grasp and very easy to criticize, however, he would probably, in a way, agree with many of his modern critics and the last thing he would want would be to earn praise for being tolerant of that which he viewed as immoral or coming to any sort of accommodation with what was not orthodox Catholic teaching. Anything contrary he would resist, whether it came from a Protestant Queen, a Catholic King or a Muslim Sultan.

This has though, fairly or not, meant that most view the papacy of Pius V as a success in terms of the real, beneficial and long needed reforms he brought to the Church but an overall failure in terms of temporal politics, earning more enemies than friends. However, perhaps his greatest temporal victory as Pope came with his formation of the Holy League with Spain and Venice (along with some lesser Italian states and the Knights of Malta) to combat the threat of Turkish invasion. In fact, Pius V hoped for nothing less than the eventual liberation of Constantinople. He called on the faithful to pray the rosary for the victory of the Christian forces and at the stunning battle of Lepanto the Turkish fleet was destroyed by the outnumbered Holy League forces under Don John of Austria. The Pope made the day the Feast of Our Lady of Victory to give thanks to the Blessed Mother for her intercession.

To the disappointment of the Pontiff, the victory was not followed up with a crusade to liberate Constantinople. The Catholic powers of Europe had their own rivalries, the Protestant powers to worry about and there was also a bit of fear of the massive Ottoman Empire and a reluctance to risk lives and fortune to liberate the Eastern Christians who despised them. Pius V never recognized such matters, seeing only Christianity and Islam and the scandal of the capital of the old Eastern Roman Empire, the “second Rome” under Muslim rather than Christian rule. He was not the only Pontiff, certainly, to vainly hope for Christian unity in opposition to the foreign religion to the south. However, Pius V carried on, preaching morality, austerity with his policies of strict interpretation of doctrine, zero compromise with those who deviated from it and devout living until his death on May 1, 1572. He was canonized in 1712 by Clement XI. As stated at the outset, he remains a controversial figure. However, none doubt his own personal piety and where there is criticism of Pope Pius V it invariably stems from his stern refusal to tolerate any opposition to Catholic orthodoxy. Those who accuse him of being intolerant, intransigent and reactionary are perfectly correct. Whether one views those as negative attributes is another issue.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Royal Regalia: Denmark

The royal regalia of Denmark is quite magnificent, befitting the oldest monarchy in Europe. The primary objects are three crowns, a scepter, an orb, the sword of state and an ampulla (a vessel of ancient Roman origin for holy oil). The royal regalia of Denmark is housed in Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen and a royal residence until 1710. The first crown is the crown of King Christian IV, made in 1596 for his coronation. It is made of gold, enamel, cut gems and pearls with symbols representing piety, fortitude, justice and charity. It was last used for the coronation of King Frederick III in 1648. The second crown is the crown of King Christian V (son of Frederick III) and is most associated with the era of the absolute monarchy (though there was no coronation). It was made in Copenhagen in 1671 and is gold, decorated with sapphires, spinels, garnets and a generous amount of diamonds, topped by a very large ruby. That last crown is the crown of the Queen consort made in 1731 at the request of Queen Sophia Magdalen of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, consort to King Christian VI, who wanted a new crown.

The scepter was made for the coronation of King Frederick III in 1648 and is gold with enameled ends and decorated with diamonds. The scepter symbolizes the supreme earthly power of the king. The orb was made in Hamburg for the coronation of King Frederick III in 1648 and symbolized the supremacy of Christ over the world. The sword of state is kept in a red velvet-covered scabbard decorated with the royal crests with gems decorating the grip and cross guard and the scabbard decorated with diamonds. It was given to the future King Frederick III by his father King Christian IV as a wedding gift and symbolized the royal power to guard the nation and uphold the law. The ampulla was also made for the 1648 coronation, in Copenhagen and is gold with an enamelled lid decorated with diamonds.

In the old days, when it was recognized that a monarch ruled in conjunction with the clergy and nobility (and kings were nominally “elected”), representatives of these bodies would actually crown the monarch at the coronation ceremony. This tradition was upheld until the creation of the absolute monarchy by Frederick III. After that time, coronations were no longer held, though the crown was still worn, and the place of the coronation taken by the anointing with holy oil. The greater emphasis placed on that custom being to reiterate the “Divine Right of Kings”. However, when Denmark went in a more liberal direction with the adoption of the Constitution of 1849, which made Denmark a constitutional monarchy, the anointing ceremony was discontinued. The current monarch, HM Queen Margrethe II, began her reign simply by being acclaimed as Queen by the Prime Minister on the balcony of Christiansborg Palace. The royal regalia, or certain pieces, are still displayed on very formal royal occasions such as at the funeral of a monarch.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Monarch Profile: Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Part V - The End

Abdication had been mentioned before, even by some in the extended Imperial Family, but Nicholas II had always dismissed such a notion. This was not out of any ambition on his part but rather on his heartfelt view that the position of Tsar was a sacred duty, a responsibility God had entrusted to him and as much as he would have liked to leave government behind and live the life of a private country gentleman he could not shirk that responsibility or put it off on others. This was also why he had opposed things like constitutions and democracy because, even if he gave up his power to others, he could not give up the responsibility. As he saw it, to do so would still have been forsaking his duty and even if he gave up his powers God would still hold him responsible, and no one else, for all that was done in his name. However, when he was overtaken by the revolution, surrounded and his family under threat, Nicholas had no higher priority than his wife and children. When the President of the Duma, supported by the generals, said that only his abdication could prevent a total breakdown of social order, Nicholas did not hesitate. On March 2, 1917 he signed the instrument of abdication for himself and on behalf of his son the Tsarevitch Alexei.

This final act has been the cause of a little controversy in historical arguments. Could he have abdicated for someone else, even his son? If he had signed his own abdication first, how could he have had the legitimate power to do so? With his first signature he lost all power and Alexei automatically became Tsar and no one but he could have signed his position away. Most, however, accepted that as Alexei was a minor, Nicholas II, as his father, could do as he pleased on his behalf. In any event, none of it would ultimately matter anyway and Nicholas only did it because he feared for the life of his beloved (and frail) son. Doctors assured him that were Alexei separated from his family, as he surely would be if he remained in Russia as a figurehead Tsar while the rest were sent into exile, he would surely die. No parent would have allowed that and would have done anything to prevent it. Once the abdications were done, Nicholas was allowed to go to his family and all of them were taken into “protective custody” by the provisional government. Nicholas fully expected that they would be allowed to leave the country and that his cousin and ally King George V of Great Britain would give them sanctuary.

Despite the indignities they suffered in captivity, Nicholas and the rest of his family behaved with stoic courage and made no complaints. Everything was in the hands of God and, like Job on whose day he was born, no trial or hardship would shake his faith in God. His faith in his fellow man, if he had any left, might have been struck a blow though. Whereas Nicholas had been adamant, even in the darkest days of the war, that he would be loyal to the alliance of nations and never make a separate peace, his supposed “allies” quickly deserted him. In France and Great Britain the downfall of the Romanov monarchy was cheered and in the United States the Congress joined in the congratulations as the change made them feel at least a little less hypocritical about entering a war to “make the world safe for democracy”. If the Imperial Family had left immediately they might have been okay but they were delayed by the children coming down with smallpox. By the time they recovered things had changed in Britain. The labor unions had grown increasingly troublesome during the war and Prime Minister Lloyd George feared the consequences of letting the Tsar come to England. He intervened with the King and the offer of sanctuary was withdrawn. The royal houses of Europe were shocked by this. Even Kaiser Wilhelm II had offered safe passage through German waters for any British warship that would rescue his cousin (and enemy) the Tsar from captivity but it was not to be. Fear of the labor unions turning against the British monarchy outweighed all other considerations. The Romanovs were left to their fate.

To his credit, Nicholas II took it all with his usual calm and good nature. In quick order most of the guards and officers were won over by Nicholas and his charming family. The only one to suffer any torment was poor Alexei whom many of the guards seemed to delight in bullying. However, on the whole, everyone who had contact with Nicholas could only marvel at how wrong their previous opinion of him had been. This was also true of Alexandra of whom the very worst lies and slander had been told, yet, when the revolutionaries actually met her and talked to her they realized what a distorted view they had entertained. However, with the October Revolution the radical Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd away from the provisional government and the situation for the Imperial Family became much worse. There were rumors about civil war breaking out, monarchists sending them support and even of rescue plans but nothing ever came of them. Finally, the Tsar was told to prepare for a trip to Moscow.

Most assumed Nicholas was to be put on trial just as previous gangs of traitors had done to Louis XVI of France and Charles I of Britain, however, that did not concern the Tsar. His greatest fear was that he would be forced to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This was the treaty the Bolsheviks had signed with the Germans, renouncing vast tracts of the Russian Empire in return for peace. Even in his poor condition, this was what had outraged the Tsar the most. Toward the end, the Russian army had seemed to be on the rebound. Munitions production was up, better weapons were coming out and better-planned offensives had almost knocked Austria-Hungary out of the war. The Tsar had already been betrayed but with Brest-Litovsk, the Bolsheviks had done worse to him; they had betrayed his beloved Russia and it was only then that he confessed to having regretted his abdication. However, it all came to nothing as, before reaching Moscow, Nicholas and his party were turned back to their house-prison at Yekaterinburg (a Bolshevik stronghold in the Urals).

The fateful moment came in the early pre-dawn hours of July 17, 1918. The Imperial Family, Dr. Eugene Botkin, a maid and two male servants, the only attendants left, had been told not to go to sleep that night and were later ordered to assemble in a room in the half-basement of the house. Nicholas carried Alexei who could no longer walk and seated himself next to his wife while the others stood behind or sat on the floor. A squad of Bolsheviks led by Jacob Yurovsky then entered the room, read out a short order from the local Soviet (though the instructions had originated at the highest levels in Moscow) and then, in a monstrous display of the very worst depths humanity can sink to, the troops leveled their pistols and opened fire. Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, their five children, doctor, two servants and the family dog were all killed. The bodies were later doused with acid and thrown down a mine shaft. At first the Bolsheviks admitted only to the murder of the Tsar, not of his wife and children but later there was no denying the truth. Less than a month later monarchist forces of the White Russian army occupied the area, too late to rescue the Tsar.

Trotsky himself later wrote that the massacre was necessary saying, “The severity of this summary justice showed the world that we would continue to fight on mercilessly, stopping at nothing. The execution of the Tsar’s family was needed not only in order to frighten, horrify and dishearten the enemy, but also in order to shake up our own ranks to show that there was no turning back,”. To the last, Nicholas II had behaved with dignity and gentility. The inhumane murder of the Tsar and his entire family set the tone for the civil war that followed and that should be kept in mind when any talk of the many atrocities of the Russian Civil War. The atrocities started at Yekaterinburg with the Romanovs. The suffering of Russia was only beginning but for Nicholas II and his family, their sorrows had finally come to an end. In 1981 the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia formally canonized Tsar Nicholas II as a saint and martyr, along with his family. In 2000 the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church also recognized their saintly status but as “Passion Bearers”, as people who died in a Christ-like way.

 Aside from these religious issues though, Tsar Nicholas II will always be known by loyal monarchists as a martyr for the cause of traditional authority, as the living embodiment of the grand and glorious Russian Empire that was killed just as dead as he was on that day in 1918. Those who still persist in criticizing the Tsar do so thoughtlessly. He was as upright a man as could be hoped for, he was a monarch who felt intensely the weight and severity of his position and the responsibility that rested on his shoulders. He was a devoted husband, a loving father and a man who always cared more for his country than for himself. If, even with all of this, he is still held to blame for the problems Russia suffered it is as good as saying that one good man cannot make a difference, that morality does not matter and that loyalty, faith and righteousness count for nothing. If a man with such strength of heart and character as Nicholas II cannot make an effective ruler then we had best give up the idea of any government completely. He was not flawless to be sure, but he was beset by the blind hatred and vicious cruelty of the revolutionaries who took advantage of every opportunity to destroy their country and their Tsar. Nicholas II did not fail Russia, he did not fail his people. However, certainly as it concerns the revolutionaries, there were a great many who failed him.
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