Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Special Profile: The Blood Countess

The case of Elisabeth Bathory is an ideal one for the Halloween season. Her life story reads like a modern horror novel and, indeed, the lurid tales of the notorious Hungarian countess have been cited as the inspiration for numerous works of fiction intended to terrify. She is known today as one of the most infamous serial killers in history and yet, as with so many figures who have gained such notoriety, it is difficult to separate the facts from the lurid fiction. Are the horror stories about her true? If not, she must be one of the most grossly misrepresented figures in all of history. If, on the other hand, they are, she would justly deserve to be known as one of the most vicious living nightmares known to man. Elizabeth Báthory was born on August 7, 1560 on the family estate in Nyírbátor, Hungary to George Báthory of the Ecsed branch of the family. Her uncle was the former Voivod of Transylvania, Andrew Bonaventura Báthory, and her mother was Anna Báthory whose father was Stephen Báthory of Somlyó, who had also been Voivod of Transylvania and King of Poland. She grew up at Ecsed Castle near the Romanian border and was given a good education, becoming learned in Greek, Latin and German.

On May 8, 1575 Elisabeth was married to a Hungarian count who was often away fighting the Turks, leaving Elisabeth to manage his extensive estates in the Carpathian mountains in his absence. In 1604 he was mortally wounded in battle, leaving Elisabeth completely on her own as she had little to do with the raising of their children. It was during his long absences and after his death that many lurid rumors began to spread about the countess. From very early in life Elisabeth was known as a great beauty with long, lovely hair, shapely figure and she was especially known for her white, spotless, almost shining complexion. As the story goes, she became excessively vain, perverse and increasingly obsessed with the occult, surrounding herself with all sorts of alchemists and other assorted charlatans. She recruited local peasant girls to serve in the castle, which was considered quite an honor as well as a duty. However, more and more of these girls began to go missing and most seemed to be very attractive young virgins, which only fueled the horror stories and speculation about what was going on in the castle.

As the tales go, Elisabeth Bathory had become fanatically obsessed with retaining her youthful beauty she was so proud of. She became convinced that the only way to accomplish this was to regularly bath in the blood of virgin girls. Some accounts said she was even given to vampirism and would drink the blood of the girls from fine, jewel-encrusted cups. All sorts of torture allegedly were carried out by the bad tempered countess in her house of horrors; servant girls slashed with razor blades, whipped to a bloody pulp, burned with red hot pokers, burned with red hot coins for stealing, having their mouth sewed up with needle and thread for talking too much or being tied naked to trees to be devoured by wild animals. Every conceivable horror was talked about to explain the disappearances and the summons of a young girl to the castle was considered as good as a death sentence. Many went in, none ever came out. Eventually, so the stories go, her habit of bathing in blood so depleted the local female population that there were virtually no peasant girls left, which forced the murderous countess to look for victims among the aristocracy.

So, the countess decided to advertise her castle as something of a “finishing school” where aristocrats could send their daughters to learn proper manners, behavior and all the things expected of a high-born, well-to-do young lady. Knowing the venerable name the countess represented, many, especially among the minor gentry, jumped at the chance to send their girls to study in such a famous household. They had no idea what they were in for. Upon entering the castle they entered a world of unimaginable horrors, presided over by the demented countess who would bite off chunks of their flesh, mutilate their bodies in a number of areas as well as presiding over sadistic sexual rituals before bathing in their blood. If even a fraction of the horror stories are true, the castle of the “Blood Countess” was a living nightmare if ever there was one. However, the pedigree of her new victims would be her undoing. Fellow aristocrats were not going to stand idle once it became clear that their daughters, sent to the countess for schooling, were never coming back.

If she had contented herself with tormenting her own people or could have stopped herself once her immediate supply was exhausted she might have escaped all punishment. But, of course, she could not. It was a compulsion, a sadistic depravity born out of vanity. She must maintain her famous beauty and so she must have more virgin girls to kill to fill her tub. To do this, she would have them suspended over it and then slash their throats. Eventually, her victims included some of the most important and powerful families in that part of Hungary and the nobility gathered to take action against the monstrous woman. Alarming reports had even spread to Vienna and so King Matthias sent agents to investigate. Before this was even completed, as more and more stories were collected, each more gruesome than the last, it was decided that the countess would have to go. She was arrested and the King, thoroughly disgusted by the reports that reached him, wanted to put her to death but he was persuaded that this would inflame the nobility who would not want to see one of their own executed no matter what the crime. Instead, Elisabeth Bathory was sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of her life. So it was the she spent the rest of her days, walled up inside a few rooms of her castle, screaming and ranting, totally shut off from the outside world with no doors, no windows and only a small opening to pass her food. Under such conditions she lived only another four years before her death on August 21, 1614.

And so Elisabeth Bathory, the “Blood Queen” or the “Countess of Blood” has gone down in popular memory as one of the most terrifying monsters of history. Her story has been the subject of many books, horror novels and even a few slasher films. But is it all a true story? Was she really responsible for torturing to death some 650 girls and some accounts claim? A few have their doubts. For instance, there is evidence that, when she was actually administering her estates, the countess acted with wisdom and even compassion. There is evidence that she championed the cause of poor women and those raped by marauding Turkish soldiers during the war. Much of the reported “hard evidence” for her crimes was also conveniently lost and lately some have even pointed to the possibility of a conspiracy against her. The countess was (officially anyway) a Protestant and thus none too popular with the very Catholic Hapsburg rulers in Vienna. Some now have put forward the theory that the whole story of the vicious “Queen of Blood” was part of a Hapsburg conspiracy to bring down a prominent Protestant noblewoman. If so, the tactic succeeded beyond all expectation. One would hope that humanity could not be capable of such crimes as have been attributed to Countess Elisabeth Bathory and yet, even if she really were the victim of the greatest “smear job” in history, the image of her as a nightmarish monster has become so engrained in popular culture it would be impossible to think she could ever be rehabilitated no matter what evidence ever comes to light. At least one film, made by a Slovakian filmmaker, has tried to tell the story of the countess as the victim of a conspiracy to ruin her by the villainous Palatine of Hungary but, so far, it is the more lurid (if harder to believe) stories of murder and depravity that prevail when the name of Elisabeth Bathory is mentioned.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the Far East, The Mad Monarchist wishes a happy 20th birthday to HIH Princess Mako of Japan, eldest grandchild of Their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan. In southeast Asia, on Thursday HM “King-Father” Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia returned to his homeland after extensive medical treatment in China. He was greeted by Prime Minister Hun Sen (*cough* dictator-in-all-but-name *cough*) and HM King Norodom Sihamoni. This will be a busy weekend of celebrations for the Cambodian Royal Family and all Khmer people. Saturday is the anniversary of the coronation of King Norodom Sihamoni, Sunday is the 20th anniversary of the return of King Norodom Sihanouk to Cambodia after the civil war and on Monday the “King-Father” will celebrate his 89th birthday. Best wishes and congratulations on all these events to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Finally, in the Near East, HRH Prince Nayef of Saudi Arabia has, predictably, been named Crown Prince and heir to the throne following the death of the elderly Crown Prince Sultan in New York last week. Now Crown Prince Nayef is known for his close ties to the Wahhabi school of Islam and has opposed many of the changes enacted by the present King. Meanwhile, down on the Dead Sea, HM King Abdullah II of Jordan opened the World Economic Forum which focused on the economic prospects of the Middle East. The King praised the “Arab Spring”, said that democracy is the way and also called for Palestinian statehood as well as greater recognition of Israel.

Southern Europe has had a pleasant amount of good news for the royal houses. On Wednesday TRH Prince Nikolaos and Princess Tatiana of Greece are expecting their first child next spring. Also, in an interview with CNN Greek Crown Prince Pavlos discussed the current crisis in Greece saying it stemmed from an over-reliance on the public sector, that the middle class consisted almost entirely of government workers and that the private sector needed to be “re-introduced” to Greece. He also pointed out the lack of confidence in past and present governments. The Crown Prince said the road to recovery would be painful but that he remained optimistic because of the admirable qualities of the Greek people. The Mad Monarchist also sends congratulations to HM King Michael I of Romania who celebrated his 90th birthday on Tuesday. The King later, in a historic moment, addressed the Romanian parliament for the first time since 1947 when he was still reigning. The venerable monarch did not shy away from being critical of the corrupt officials in the Romanian government, taking a thinly veiled swipe at them by condemning, “demagogy, selfishness and attempts to cling to power”. He received a standing ovation and many cries of “Long live the King” from the assembled members. His official birthday celebrations were attended by the King of Sweden, the Queen of Spain, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, the former King of Bulgaria and Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, head of the Imperial House of Romanov among others.

In the Low Countries, HRH Princess Elisabeth of Belgium celebrated her 10th birthday on Tuesday. After a change in the succession law, and provided the country stays together, Princess Elisabeth will one day become the first reigning Queen of the Belgians. On Friday HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and HRH Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange began their first full day of activities during their visit to the Dutch island of Aruba in the Caribbean. Aruba is now one of the four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and has been part of the old Dutch colonial empire since 1636 when the Dutch East Indies Company first arrived. In fact, there is an American connection there as the man who brought Dutch rule to Aruba was Peter Stuyvesant, the last governor of the New Netherlands colony which is today the state of New York. With France having gone republican and America pushing out the Spanish, the Netherlands and Great Britain are the only monarchies that still maintain a presence in the Caribbean Sea. May they long continue.

Finally, as probably everyone knows by now, British Prime Minister “Call Me Dave” Cameron has declared victory in the effort to change the succession laws in Great Britain to prevent any gender discrimination against the as yet non-existent offspring of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. What? Huh? What about all the messages and emails I received from people telling me this was impossible because it would require the legal agreement of all the Commonwealth realms to be valid? Well, I hate to say “I told you so” (and I really do in this case) but one should never expect politicians to abide by legal limitations to government. They will always find ways, find loopholes or just flat out ignore the laws that would prevent them from having their way. “Call Me Dave” just asked the people at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference and they said, “sure, why not” and now that’s that. Well, not quite, but that is the message being conveyed. It is over, it is done, “Davidulus locuta est, causa finite est” (or something like that). Firstborn girls can inherit the throne over younger brothers and everyone can marry a Catholic. On that point, “Call Me Dave” was quick to point out that the monarch would still have to be in communion with the Church of England (since she’s supposed to be the boss of it) so as to calm any fears of another “Bloody Mary” (which, really, at this point I just have to laugh about -the sheer number of modern people who still dwell on that).


Forgive me a sidetrack here: Personally, this is one more step, it seems to me, toward the CofE giving up the ghost and disestablishing. And, as much as I would prefer England remaining “officially” Christian, I don’t think it would distress me as much as it once would have considering the extent to which they’ve tossed most of Christianity and given that the CofE has been disestablished everywhere else but England, the Queen doesn’t actually oversee it anymore and, as there are now republicans among the ranks of the clergy, they have evidently tossed out even their foundational issue I really don’t see much of a point in it anymore. The number of those I consider the good, traditional, Anglican types are becoming ever fewer. Many have decided to ask for a “do over” and have returned to the Church of Rome while others, a faithful few, remain determined to go down with the ship. I blame the government. Government-run religion doesn’t work. Royal-run religion can (I suppose) but in every case, in Europe at least, what started out as royal-run religion became government-run religion and the government in London has so run the CofE into the ground there are now many Anglicans who feel their traditions and beliefs will be in safer hands in the Church led by the Bishop of Rome than that in the hands of the Queen of England. But, it is not *really* in her hands anyway as we know. But, I am the reactionary sort. I don’t think either divine truth or the royal succession should be subject to popular opinion or the interference of politicians AT ALL.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Monarch Profile: Duke Francis V of Modena

The last reigning Duke of Modena was born Francesco Geminiano von Habsburg-Lothringen on June 1, 1819 to Duke Francis IV of Modena and his wife Princess Maria Beatrice of Savoy (daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia), the second of four children. At his baptism five days later his godfather was HIM Emperor Francis I of Austria with Archduke Ferdinand Charles Joseph of Austria-Este standing proxy. He grew up in an atmosphere of tension and tumult as agitation grew among those advocating for a more limited government, and end to Austrian interference in the duchy and greater democracy. All of these efforts Duke Francis IV worked hard to suppress. Fortifications were destroyed (for fear they would be used by rebel forces) and Austrian troops became a common sight. Austrian rule was not particularly unjust but it was not what the public wanted, having been fond of the methods of the previous Este rulers who had made infrastructure improvements, passed political reforms, spoke the local dialect and who had led them against the French. Austrian rule, on the other hand, was (as in other areas) mostly unpopular with the educated upper-classes who opposed the principle rather than the effect.

Duke Francis grew up amidst all of this and was known for his kindness and sensitivity as well as being at times indecisive. He also had quite an illustrious pedigree, not only on the Hapsburg side of his father but also on the Savoy side of his mother. In 1840, when his mother died, intractable British Jacobites recognized the future Duke of Modena as “King Francis I of England, Scotland, Ireland and France”. An interesting historical twist but, needless to say, Francis never used or claimed such lofty titles himself. He knew he would have his hands full simply becoming and remaining Duke of Modena. He was given a good education with a number of eminent aristocrats and clerics serving as his tutors. By 1842 he had been honored with the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece, the Dutch Order of the Netherlands Lion and the Savoy Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation. He was fond enough of chivalric orders that in 1855 he started one of his own, the Order of the Eagle of Este.

Inheritance to the duchy came with the death of his father on January 21, 1846 at which time the young man became Duke Francis V of Modena, Duke of Reggio and Mirandola, Duke of Massa, Prince of Carrara and Lunigiana and, of course, Archduke of Austria. He inherited a domain in a great deal of turmoil with many divided loyalties, much genuine, honest discontent but also a great deal of unrest spread by the revolutionary Carbonari who were very active in the area. Ironically, the Carbornari had for a time supported Francis IV when he had ideas of encouraging Italian nationalism and becoming King of Italy but, alarmed by the 1830 Revolution in France, he had them arrested at which point they became even more devoted to the overthrow of the monarchy. Austrian troops had been needed to suppress the uprising then and they would be needed again. In the Revolutions of 1848 rebellion broke out again and again the Duke was forced to flee only to be restored later by Austrian forces. This worked for the time being but did nothing to improve his image with the nationalists who rather resented an Italian duke being sustained by Austrian troops and in an Italian duchy where the national anthem was ‘God Save the Emperor of Austria’.

By this time Francis also had a family to worry about having been married in 1842 to Princess Adelgunde of Bavaria (daughter of King Ludwig I) and if the trauma of the 1848 revolt was not bad enough it was followed by the death of the couple’s only child, Princess Anna Beatrice in 1849. However, none of this should be seen as the result of a personal dislike for Francis V. Even though many people were unhappy with the state of affairs in Modena, their Duke remained quite popular with the ordinary people. He was fair in matters of justice and impressed many people during the war when he helped care for the sick and injured himself. Even those suffering from a cholera outbreak were not shunned by the hands-on Hapsburg Duke. When he was restored by the Austrian forces after the unpleasantness of 1848 many people turned out to cheer his return. Even those who wanted some political reform and to join in some union or coalition with their Italian brothers often still liked the Duke personally and hoped that he would lead them in that direction.

Alas, it was not to be and in the settlement of the Second Italian War for Independence in 1859, following the battle of Magenta the Duchy of Modena was handed over by the Austrians to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. On June 14 Francis V fled to Austria amidst another rebellion and on August 20, 1859 Piedmontese troops marched in to occupy Modena. On November 7 chosen leaders from Tuscany, Parma, Modena and the Papal Legations formed the United Provinces of Central Italy and elected a president, who King Victor Emmanuel II refused to recognize, sending a royal governor to oversee the area instead. In December the area was declared the “Royal Provinces of Emilia” and after plebiscites were held Modena was formally annexed by the Kingdom of Italy on March 18, 1860. Duke Francis V, in Vienna, formally protested the annexation four days later but, of course, the tide of events had long passed him by and no country, not even Austria, could reverse the course of history.

Duke Francis V spent the rest of his life in exile, mostly in Austria but occasionally visiting other countries, including a pilgrimage to the Middle East. He died, still loved by some and despised by others, on November 20, 1875 and was buried in the Capuchin Church in Vienna, leaving his large estate to his cousin the ill-fated Archduke Francis Ferdinand, who also inherited his title of Archduke of Austria-Este.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Consort Profile: Empress Myeongseong of Korea

In this age of efforts to enforce to gender equality, it is easy to forget that, even in patriarchal monarchies of the past, women have often played crucial roles. One example of this is the Empress Myeongseong of Korea. She was a consort in a strictly Confucian monarch of the Far East and yet she was a formidable force and is still remembered by Koreans today as one of the champions of independence against the encroaching power of Imperial Japan. The future empress was born into the aristocratic Min family (hence her often being known as Queen Min) on October 19, 1851. She was orphaned by the time she was 8-years old, which was actually something of a benefit to her in terms of marriage as when the future Emperor Gojong went looking for a wife (when he was 15-years old) the preference was for a girl without many relatives who would be seeking favor at court and be inclined toward corruption. The little princess had an average education, nothing outstanding but sufficient and she was lovely, from a respected family and in good health so as to be expected to provide many children. So, after a lengthy process of selection, she was finally chosen to marry the young King of Korea when she was 16-years old on March 20, 1866.

Queen Min, from the very start, showed herself to be decisive, intelligent and assertive, not content to simply sit back and be a beautiful wall flower. She was very modest, very frugal and had no time for frivolity, extravagance or the usual social gatherings with their gossiping elites and trivial chatter. She was concerned with bigger, political issues, the fate of the monarchy and the Korean nation. It was a time of great tension as the traditional power of Imperial China was on the decline, the power of Imperial Japan was growing and the Russian Empire was showing increased interest in the region, partly for economic reasons and as part of their on-going quest to find an ice-free port on the Pacific. Queen Min caused a great many tongues to wag as she studied political affairs, international relations, economics, military matters and every other subject of importance that was not considered normal for ladies. She became her own teacher and greatly expanded her knowledge, not only on political affairs but also science, philosophy and religion.

The former regent and “great prince of the court”, the Daewongun, was particularly annoyed with her ambition and interest in affairs of state. Undeterred, Queen Min worked with courtiers and officials to establish her own circle of power, supportive of her and opposed to the Daewongun. When her first child by King Gojong died, the Daewongun saw an opportunity to be rid of Queen Min and declared her incapable of having male children. He then ordered the King to give one of his concubines a try who, to the delight of the Daewongun, later gave birth to a healthy baby boy. This was to be the means of pushing Queen Min aside, but she would not give up and roll over. She rallied the officials loyal to her and, in council, proposed that, as the King was then 22-years old, the regent should retire. Caught off guard the Daewongun had no choice but to accept their decision and retire. The Queen also had the newly delivered concubine shipped off to the country and her child died not long after. Not surprisingly, some accused Queen Min of having the child done in but, of course, there is no evidence for that at all. From that time on Queen Min was the dominant lady at court and her position only further strengthened. Far from remaining in the background, she was more of a partner, with her husband, in ruling Korea. In fact, it seemed to many she was more interested in state and world affairs than he was.

During this time the Kingdom of Korea was still maintaining a policy of isolation and had already greatly offended the Japanese by turning away their envoys sent to establish formal diplomatic relations. In fact, had Japan been prepared, there may have been war much sooner. In any event, Japan later sent a powerful naval force to compel Korea to open her ports to them, in much the same way Commodore Perry of the United States had done to Japan. Rather than risk war the Korean government agreed to trade with Japan and allow Japanese persons to buy land in Korea, though many were still nervous about having anything, whatever, to do with the outside world. Tensions, however, only increased as Japan was already more advanced than Korea and the local merchants were unable to compete with the Japanese which hurt the Korean economy.

Like many, Queen Min was shocked to learn how far Japan had raced ahead of them. Koreans were quite proud of past victories in which they repelled Japanese attacks but now there was no denying that Japan had completely surpassed them. Queen Min knew Korea would have to tread carefully and she favored a plan by which Korea would continue to deal with Japan in order to modernize and, once that was sufficiently completed, would then ally with the United States or some other or more western powers to drive the Japanese influence out of Korea. Conservatives at court rejected this idea and regarded the Japanese and the western powers alike as being too dangerous to deal with at all. However, the Queen was determined to see Korea modernized and, after another fact-finding mission to Japan in 1881, she began to reorganize the Korean government herself. Special attention was given to dealing with Japan, China and Russia, studying western technology, modernizing the military and studying western economic models. Of course, the establishment opposed these efforts in every area and there was even an attempt to overthrow Queen Min, but she found out about it and was able to suppress it quickly.

In 1882 there was a more serious mutiny by elements of the army resentful of the special status of the new, modern military units and they attacked areas associated with the Queen’s family and killed many of her friends and allies. The old regent even came out to take charge of the rebellion which was aimed almost solely at the Queen. The rebels grew in strength and finally King Gojong and Queen Min were forced to flee the palace and go into hiding with the Daewongun taking control of the government and quickly issuing orders ending all of the modernization programs and reasserting the policy of isolationism. This prompted the Qing Empire to dispatch Chinese troops to Korea (which they still viewed as within their traditional sphere of influence). They arrested the former regent, bringing him back to Peking for trial and restored the King and Queen who promptly retracted the retractions enacted in their absence. In the aftermath, King Gojong signed a new agreement with Japan and when Queen Min learned of this she quickly tried to strengthen ties with China as a way of off-setting Japanese influence in an effort to ensure that no one power gained dominance over Korea. She also sought relations with the United States in an effort to advance Korean industry, hoping to surpass Japan.

As this balancing act was maintained, the King and Queen grew closer together. Korea began to industrialize and modernize but the international situation remained tense. In 1894-95 the First Sino-Japanese was fought, largely in Korea, in which the Japanese ejected the Chinese from the Korean peninsula. With the Japanese ascendancy came a plot against the Queen who, on October 8, 1895, was assassinated at Gyeongbokgung Palace by Japanese agents after overcoming the palace guard. In the aftermath the King, and their son Crown Prince Sunjong, had to take shelter in the Russian legation. Later, Gojong tried to assert independence by proclaiming himself Emperor of the Korean Empire (hence the Queen being known as Empress Myeongseong). The court drew closer to Russia to offset the influence of Japan but this came to an end with the shocking defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War after which Korea became fully integrated into the Empire of Japan in 1910. However, to the very last, the example and the tragic death of Empress Myeongseong inspired her people to resistance and to fight for their independence. She remains an honored, if somewhat controversial figure, in Korea to this day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Favorite Royal Images: The Cadaver Synod

A special image for Halloween, the infamous "Cadaver Synod" in which Pope Stephen (VI) VII had the Pope Formosus dug up, his putried corpse dressed in papal vestments and then put on trial at St John Lateran's Basilica. Believe it or not, this convinced many people that Pope Stephen was quite insane...

Today in History

The Mad Monarchist remembers the birth, today in 1919, of His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, last Shahanshah (King of Kings) and Aryamehr (Light of the Aryans) of Iran, the last legitimate ruler of that proud and ancient country. May we soon see the day when the rotten republic collapses and the legitimate monarchy is restored to the lands of ancient Persia.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Off Topic Tuesday: Serbia and Kosovo

I have never been an anti-war person, however, when President Clinton began his bombing campaign of Serbia and the regime of the communist dictator Slobodan Milosevic, I (and my family) opposed it simply because it served no national interest of our own that any of us could see. Later, full of righteous anger over the events of 9-11, I had to question if my opposition to the intervention in Kosovo was legitimate or simply a knee-jerk reaction to opposing any action taken by a liberal U.S. President. I am pleased to feel that my opposition was justified in light of subsequent history but, of course, as is always the case in such instances, I cannot take too much satisfaction in that because of all of the problems that have resulted from it. Aside from my own selfish interest in not being a hypocrite, I can take no pleasure in being proven right on this score. I am also rather upset that, on this side of the Atlantic at least (I cannot speak with the same certainty regarding Europe), that everyone seems to have forgotten about Kosovo and, as far as most of the American public is concerned, it is yet another case of “out of sight, out of mind”.

The Serbians may justly resent this but they can take what comfort they can in the fact that they are hardly alone in this. “Hanoi Jane” Fonda and all the other anti-war protestors never gave their opposition to the Vietnam conflict a second thought after the U.S. troops were withdrawn and millions of southeast Asians were killed by communist tyranny and continue to this day to suffer under an oppressive and totalitarian regime. They do not think about it and do not care in the least. So, it is nothing new that the majority of Americans today think not at all about the current consequences of what was started by that bombing campaign and the subsequent European forces invasion in southern Serbia. There is plenty of room to speculate that Clinton did this for his own purposes, as yet another distraction for the American public amidst his many scandals (which if anyone cared to look were far worse than fornication in the oval office). Yet, even if it was done for the purely benevolent and humanitarian reasons given one still cannot but be aghast at the sheer stupidity of it all. Let us explore that just for a moment.

To be sure, Milosevic was a villain. He was a dictator, not on the level of Stalin or Hitler as he was sometimes portrayed (have you noticed that every bad guy the U.S. has taken on is always a modern-day “Hitler”?) but he was certainly bad enough. It is sufficient for me that he was a communist and the only good communist is a dead communist -so at least he’s a good communist now. Milosevic was not really the issue though, the issue was the Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. There were charges of ethnic cleansing and no one was surprised given all the charges of ethnic cleansing leveled at every participant of every conflict in the Balkans in our time. So, here was President Clinton of the United States on his white horse charging to the rescue of the poor persecuted ethnic Albanians, saving them from the dastardly Serbians. I think from our current vantage point it is safe to say that the Islamic world has not really shown a great deal of appreciation for the U.S. bombing multitudes of Christian Serbs for the sake of their co-religionists. Yet, that is essentially what happened. President Clinton boldly let loose the full firepower of the United States Air Force to make Kosovo safe for the Albanian Muslims.

Serbia was humbled, Serbia was laid low and Kosovo was suddenly up in the air -a prize to be grabbed by those bold enough to step forward. The whole conflict had certainly emboldened the Albanians. Later on, President Clinton would try to claim that everything had proceeded exactly as he had planned from the start. Hard as this may be to believe, Clinton is not telling the truth. When he first tossed up this hair-brained scheme for a bombing campaign the Prime Minister of Italy was, naturally, a bit concerned and asked Clinton what he planned to do if the bombing did not immediately produce the desired results. Witnesses said it was clear from the look on his face that such an idea had never entered his mind at all until the Italian premier raised it that very instant. Clinton, befuddled, asked his National Security Advisor (Mr. Paper Pants) who, equally befuddled, could come up with nothing more brilliant than to say they would just keep bombing. The air campaign did not, as we know, solve everything and European ground troops had to go in, humiliating Serbia, emboldening the Albanians and leaving Kosovo in limbo.

Now, Kosovo is claiming independence. This is one of the most absurd and most positively blatant deceptions of the present time. This should fool no one. Kosovo has no business being independent, no history of it and, by the time it was done, not even the semblance of a reason for it. More to the point though, it is a deception, a charade and a painfully obvious one at that. Kosovo could never be really independent no matter what Albania, the U.S. or the European Union says. It is not capable of being independent, anyone can see that, and so it is clearly a stepping stone for future annexation to create a “Greater Albania” which the Albanians feel rather cheated out of since they were only briefly able to enjoy that status during World War II and even then it was the product of Mussolini’s labor rather than their own. Some might think this a just reward for all the chaos and bloodshed unleashed by the efforts on the part of the Serbs in the last century to create their “Greater Serbia” (later Yugoslavia) but this would be a callous view indeed. Serbia at least had some (admittedly extremely distant) history to back up their more modest claims, Kosovo has none whatsoever. If this farce of an independent Kosovo continues it could prove to be the spark that re-lights the Balkan powder keg into a new round of anti-Serb ethnic cleansing that might shock even this jaded generation.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Malaysian Sultan Turns 81

The Mad Monarchist sends congratulations to (deep breath) His Royal Highness Sultan Ahmad Shah al-Mustain Billah ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Al-Muazzam Shah of the state of Pahang in the Kingdom of Malaysia. You can keep up with the goings-on of the nine Malaysian kings at Radin's Blog.

Monarchist Profile: Manuel Marques de Sousa

One of the leading monarchists of the Brazilian Empire was Manuel Marques de Sousa. He was born in what is now Rio Grande, Brazil on June 13, 1804 to Manuel Marques de Sousa II and Inacia de Silveira when Brazil was still part of the colonial empire of the Kingdom of Portugal. He came from an aristocratic family with a long tradition of military service, thus it came as no surprise when young Manuel showed enthusiasm for a career in the army at an early age. In 1818 his hitch began when he joined the First Regiment of Cavalry. He saw his first major combat in the Cisplatine War between the Empire of Brazil and Argentina at the battle of Passo do Rosario on February 20, 1827. Later he served in the so-called War of the Ragamuffins, fighting with the loyalist forces of the empire against separatist republicans in Rio Grande do Sul. The war ended in 1845 in victory for the Brazilian Empire and with further advancement for de Sousa whose skill and courage were noted by his superiors.

In 1851-52 Marques de Sousa saw extensive service in the Platine War, allied with Uruguay against the Argentine Confederation led by the strongman Juan Manuel de Rosas. He led the First Brazilian Division with great skill and joined with the Allied army that administered the final defeat of the Argentines. Following this conflict, the respected soldier retired from active military service but, when trouble began anew over Paraguay he again rushed to the service of his Emperor and presented himself as a volunteer for what became known as the War of the Triple Alliance or the Paraguayan War. This was a conflict that saw the Empire of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay allied against Paraguay which had just undergone a massive military buildup. The Paraguayan republic had invaded Brazil in Rio Grande do Sul and it was Manuel Marques de Sousa who commanded the Brazilian forces which defeated the invasion and forced their surrender at Uruguaiana in the presence of Emperor Dom Pedro II.

By this time Marques was seen as one of the brightest stars in the military firmament of the Brazilian Empire and he was entrusted with command of the II Army Corps, National Guard Cavalry, operated in that region. Despite being less than a young man by that point, he earned great praise and admiration for his stamina and personal bravery. His greatest moment of glory came at the battle of Tuyuti in which the Paraguayans, despite being outnumbered by the Allies, came very close to success. However, they were defeated and Manuel Marques de Sousa earned high praise from all quarters for his tenacity, quick thing and immense battlefield courage. This marked the last major Paraguayan attack and, although it did not end the war, it devastated their army and made their final defeat only a matter of time. This was, in some ways, the crowning achievement of his military career. Over the years the Emperor recognized him for his service by raising him to the nobility, granting him a number of hereditary titles, the final being Count of Porto Alegre which was bestowed upon him in 1868.

Like many of his social set, during his retirement from the imperial army, Porto Alegre served in the political realm. He was elected to serve in the Provincial Assembly on a number of occasions and he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Provincial Secretary of War. He was also awarded a number of honors throughout his career by the Emperor such as being made a Knight of the Imperial Order of St Benedict of Avis, the Imperial Order of the Southern Cross and the Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of Christ. The Count of Porto Alegre died in Rio de Janeiro on July 18, 1875 to great public mourning. Today there are numerous streets, monuments and so on named in his honor. He stands as one of the great military and political defenders of the Empire of Brazil and a man whose first loyalty was always, first and foremost, with his Emperor.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Video: Prince Hans-Adam II Extensive Interview on Politics

HSH Prince Hans-Adam II on "Uncommon Knowledge" at the Hoover Institute discusses Liechtenstein's economic success, problems in Europe, America, Russia and China as well as talking about the benefits of free markets and localized self-government in opposition to top-heavy welfare states. Take some time and have a listen to the Prince of Liechtenstein:

MM Video: Vietnamese Imperial Family

MM Video: Central African Empire

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Royal News Roundup


Starting in the Arab world, HM King Abdullah II of Saudi Arabia, who is in his 80’s and been in fragile health for some time, has had back surgery in Riyadh to attend to the ligaments on his third vertebra. At the same time the King’s half-brother, also in his 80’s, Crown Prince Sultan, is currently in New York Presbyterian Hospital where he is believed to be in terminal condition. He has suffered from cancer in the past. Human rights groups are worried that the end may be nearing for the Saudi monarch who has presided over increased liberalization in Arabian society including allowing women to hold public office and the right to vote. The concern is due to the man expected to succeed to the throne, Prince Nayef, who is much closer to the more fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics and takes a much more hard-line on religious and social issues. On a much different note, in neighboring Dubai, the popular Princess Haya, one of the wives of Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, was invited to formally open the TongRenTang Clinic, a traditional Chinese medicine clinic, in Dubai. TongRenTang has been in operation since 1699 and has served the Qing Imperial Dynasty as well as Chinese communities around the world through their clinics. Princess Haya is showing signs that the birth of her second child may not be very far off.

In the United States, Soap Operas have been somewhat on the decline lately but some are still going, one of which is The Bold and the Beautiful. Why bring this up? Well, the B&B will be having a royal co-star from now on. HRH Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark, youngest daughter of HM King Constantine II of the Hellenes, using the screen name “Theodora Greece” will be appearing on The Bold and the Beautiful as “Alison” the personal secretary to the primary villain of the show, “Bill Spencer”. I’ve never watched the show so I can’t comment any more on that, however, this will hopefully be a useful foothold for the Greek Princess who has been in Los Angeles trying to ’break out’ in the acting community for some time. So far, things seem to be going her way. She has also reportedly secured a part in the upcoming western film based on the old series The Big Valley. The film is currently in post-production in which the princess will play “Peggy”. Of course, we wish the Princess all the best in her acting career. If a Hollywood actress can become a princess, why can’t a princess become a Hollywood actress?

As for the Scandinavian royals, it has been a busy week. Here’s a run-down, try to keep up: Lovely Princess Madeleine of Sweden rubbed elbows with Ivana Trump, Kim Kardashian and Naomi Campbell at the 2011 Angel Ball, to benefit cancer research. HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden met with the Vice President of South Africa in Sweden for a conference. Meanwhile, the King and Queen of Sweden met up with the King and Queen of Norway in New York to open a new art expedition at the Scandinavian House of New York (oh yeah, and the President of Finland was there too). Queen Sonja cut the ribbon. And, finally, on Thursday Crown Prince Haakon of Norway marked “Global Dignity Day” of which he was one of the founders. I am sure that is all very great and wonderful but, personally, I’m getting sick of hearing the word “dignity”. God bless the Crown Prince and I’m sure he’s doing a great job and has the best intentions, it’s just been my experience that whenever someone uses the word “dignity” these days, they are not talking about how one lives their life (which is what I was taught) but always seems to boil down to giving someone money, let someone get away with a crime or letting someone kill their grandparents. I’m just rather burned out on “dignity” drum-beating.

However, the big news, of course, has been the homecoming of HM the Queen of Australia. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived on Wednesday in Canberra, greeted by the Governor-General, Prime Minister and a 21-gun salute along with the crowds of flag-waving Aussies. It was a spectacular scene marred only by the presence of the trashy republican Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The traitor couldn’t even bring herself to curtsy to her sovereign, managing only a slight nod. Wow…what humility. However, aside from the PM reinforcing the stereotype that gingers are evil, things went pretty well. The Royal Couple went on a lake tour and later visited one of the most magnificent flower displays in the world at the Floriade flower show. Later, in Canberra the Queen gave one of her typically appropriate speeches at Parliament House, along with the Prime Traitor and the leader of the opposition who also disappointed me by voicing Australian support for succession “reform” (ugh -well it’s up to you Canada). The Queen will be going to Queensland (how appropriate is that) and will be meeting with those who responded to the recent devastating floods in that state. Many media outlets have been saying that this may be the Queen’s last visit to the land Down Under, but others (as I would) are saying, “never say never”. The Queen is in good shape and Windsor women have quite a tradition of longevity and remaining active practically right up to the minute God calls them. Never count out the Queen. It has also been pleasing, despite the usual cries from the republican dominated liberal media, to see all the crowds of cheering, loyal Australians greeting their sovereign. It warms the heart. God Save the Queen of Australia!

Update: Today the Royal Saudi Court announced the death of 85 year old Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s deputy Prime Minister and minister of defense and aviation. The official statement said, "With deep sorrow and grief, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud announced that his brother and faithful Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, passed away at dawn, on Saturday, 24/11/1432A.H. corresponding to 22/10/2011A.D. after suffering from an illness abroad and that a funeral prayer will be performed for the deceased Crown Prince after Asr prayer at Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh on Tuesday.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Royal Wedding in Indonesia

Jakarta royals tie the knot.

Royal Profile: Princess Elisabeth of France

One of the most tragic but most spotless, pious and saintly royal figures who became a martyr of the French Revolution was Princess Elisabeth of France. She was born in Versailles on May 3, 1764, the youngest child of the Dauphin Louis, making her the granddaughter of King Louis XV and the sister of His Most Christian Majesty King Louis XVI of France. Along with her siblings she was raised by Madame de Marsan, the royal governess and she was given a good education as well as becoming an accomplished rider and artist. Her father died only the next year after she was born and she was only about three years old when her mother died. However, her parents (a lovely couple) passed on to her a deep sense of devotion to the Catholic Church and the venerable monarchy of France. Princess Elisabeth and her siblings were a very close-knit little family and the Princess grew into a very religious, very royalist and very devoted young lady. Being the youngest, she remained at home longer than any other while her older siblings went on to other positions, marriages and so on.

Princess Elisabeth remained with her brother, King Louis XVI, and was very attentive to him. There was some talk of her being married to the Austrian Emperor Joseph II but nothing came of it. It might have been better for her if she had ultimately, but as things stood at the time the Princess was wise to refuse as the Emperor was of a fairly different mindset from Elisabeth. The Emperor was a very modern-minded man, an “enlightened despot” who favored greater state control over the Church. Elisabeth was a very traditional conservative and a very devout Catholic who put her faith first and above all else. She was considered, along with her brother the Count of Artois (the future King Charles X) to be the most pro-Church and staunchly royalist member of the family. She was also a very strong-willed and determined woman. As a girl those traits had made her a little difficult but, as she grew up, her growing faith turned these into admirable qualities and gave her a great moral strength with firm and uncompromising principles. She turned away from any thought of marriage to devote herself to caring for her brother, the Royal Family, the French people and one would be hard pressed in any event to find a husband worthy of her.

Madame Elisabeth (as she was known) was also an extremely kind and compassionate woman who, rather than the glamorous life of a royal princess or even consort, would have preferred the life of a simple Carmelite nun. She would have taken vows at once but, King Louis XVI said he could not do without her. So, she set an example for charity and piety from the palace at Versailles. She had great love and respect for her eldest brother and even the younger Count of Artois (who was known for his rather wild ways) who she adored and tried to gently pull back to the straight and narrow. She also cared deeply for the poor (and despite popular perceptions she was not alone in that), even starting a dairy to provide free milk to poor children. Yet, she was not some dour, grim, puritanical sort of figure either. Madame Elisabeth enjoyed life, enjoyed art and beautiful things, enjoyed music and loved to dance. Of course, as with others, none of these admirable qualities were enough to save her when the horror of the Revolution descended on France. In fact, the revolutionaries, necessarily, poured out their deepest hatred on the purest and most upright individuals who represented all that was best about the old, glorious, Christian Kingdom of France.

When the Revolution came, usually dated with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 the King was concerned for the safety of his family and had several sent abroad. Madame Elisabeth, however, refused to abandon her post and she disagreed with her brother compromising in any way with the revolutionaries. There was, it is often forgotten, a brief period in which France was a constitutional monarchy as Louis XVI was forced to give in to the demands of the revolutionaries. All of this Madame Elisabeth staunchly opposed. She always supported her brother of course but, with her strength of will and character, she was against any concessions or coming to any agreement with a movement that was wicked in its very core. It was not simply an effort on her part to maintain royal authority but also to maintain the independence of the Church from the revolutionary laws to bring the Church under state control totally. This, of course, made her all the more hated by the revolutionaries who regarded her as one of the ultra-royalist, reactionary faction they correctly identified as their greatest enemies. Unfortunate, perhaps, but true. The Revolutionaries and Madame Elisabeth represented two completely opposite and irreconcilable positions one of which would have to perish for the other to survive.

Madame Elisabeth remained with King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette in their darkest hour. Her status as a leading enemy of the revolution was confirmed when the National Assembly intercepted a letter she sent to the Count of Artois in which she supported foreign monarchs sending troops to rescue the Royal Family, crush the revolution and restore royal authority. Still, even when the mob stormed the Tuileries, Madame Elisabeth bravely confronted them with some in the crowd mistaking her for Marie Antoinette. With the rest of the Royal Family she was taken into custody by the revolutionaries and originally imprisoned with the Queen but the two were later separated. Although she did not know it, Marie Antoinette addressed her last letter to her beloved sister-in-law. Locked away, Madame Elisabeth knew about the execution of her brother the King but was kept in the dark about the murder of the Queen. In her confinement she tried to comfort her niece Marie-Therese, daughter of the late King and Queen, even though she was constantly being insulted and tormented by her captors.

When the time came for her show-trial she was as calm and determined as ever as she was accused of aiding the King in his effort to escape, supporting the royalists abroad and counterrevolutionaries in France. When the King was slanders as a bloody tyrant, Madame Elisabeth, who had advised him to take a more hard-line approach, defiantly told the court, “If my brother had been what you call him, you would not have been where you are, nor I where I am”. Which was perfectly true as the King could have ordered his troops to shoot down the mobs in the streets but had refused to do so. Nonetheless, the verdict was pre-determined and on May 10, 1794 Madame Elisabeth was taken to the guillotine at the Place de la Revolution and executed. In her final moments she had offered her life to God as a sacrificial victim for all her country was enduring. Even in her final moments she helped others on the way to their execution and guided them in saying their prayers, a saintly princess from start to finish and a credit to the Royal House of France. Although there is no cause underway for her canonization, no less a figure than Pope Pius VII said he considered her a saint as do most French royalists. She was a martyr, martyred for her royal blood and her opposition to the godless forces of the Revolution.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Mad Dog is Dead

There seems to be no doubt now that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has been killed by Libyan rebels in his hometown of Sirte. This is good news. Gaddafi was a thug, a terrorits, a tyrant and a traitor to his king and country. Does that mean what replaces him will be better? By no means. So far, the conduct of the rebel government has only reinforced my skepticism about them and their movement. It seems likely that Gadaffi's tyranny, which was dominated by his own bizarre personality cult and served his own selfish interests and megalomania, will be replaced by a more religiously-based tyranny in line with the worst elements sweeping the Islamic world today. I hope that some sanity will prevail and the monarchy will be restored, but I fear that hope will be in vain (I would be happy to be proven wrong in that regard) as mob uprisings seldom result in actual improvement. Nonetheless, Gaddafi was a bad guy, an enemy of the world, a man who terrorized his own people and others, who threatened foreign nations, launched terrorist attacks against other nations and blackmailed his neighbors as well as betraying and overthrowing his lawful monarch. The world is better off without him. Good riddance.

Papal Profile: Pope St Celestine V

Pope Celestine V is an often misrepresented Bishop of Rome. Many will state that Celestine V was the only pontiff in history to abdicate, but this is not so. Although it is certainly rare in the extreme, no less than four pontiffs have abdicated in the long history of the papacy. What is true is that Celestine V was one of the most saintly men to sit on the Throne of Peter and one of the most reluctant. He was born Pietro del Morrone about the year 1209 and came from Molise. Not much is known about his formative years beyond the fact that he was a peasant whose father died when he was very young. Some accounts will say this forced him to work in the fields at an early age, but I tend to doubt that as most peasant children worked in the fields as soon as they were able even if their father was alive. In any event, he was familiar with manual labor and instilled with a strong faith by his mother Maria at an early age. Even as a child he was noticed to be bright, kind and compassionate as well as very religious. Thus, it came as no surprise that he entered a Benedictine monastery when he was seventeen-years-old.

You know you have a truly Christian nature when you live the life of a Benedictine monk and still yearn for something more withdrawn, difficult and austere. So, Morrone and a few companions went to live in caves in the mountains, devoting themselves entirely to intense prayer and severe penance. St John the Baptist was his example and out of this work he eventually founded what became the Celestine order. While this work was underway, the Church was going through a pretty rough patch. There were tensions with the secular powers, the expansion of Islam to the south and papal elections were becoming increasingly difficult and quite long, drawn-out affairs. So, when Pope Nicholas IV died and the cardinals gathered in Perugia to elect a successor (because Rome was in pretty bad shape), Morrone sent a letter urging them to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit and elect a new Pontiff quickly. In the end, he may have wished he had kept silent on that issue because, after extremely long and lengthy disputes and riots going on in Rome, the cardinals decided to elect him. That was the last thing the simple, austere hermit wanted. His primary concern was his order, looking after the sick and impoverished and he had not the slightest desire to take on the responsibilities and particularly the bitter political entanglements of the papacy.

However, he was the one choice all agreed on, unconnected to any faction and undeniably of saintly character. Still, it took a great deal of effort to persuade him to accept the Papal Tiara. Among many other clerics and royals King Charles II of Sicily visited him to urge him to accept, which he finally did. Charles II escorted him to Aquila where he was formally consecrated as Pope Celestine V. The closeness of the Sicilian king was not purely religiously motivated. The politically innocent new Pontiff agreed to live in Naples rather than Rome and appointed everyone to office that Charles II recommended to him. He even took the step of naming the King “guardian” of the next conclave and he relied heavily on royal advice even in the normal administration of the Church which he had absolutely no experience with.

Discontent grew as many began to complain that the Pope had simply become a rubber-stamp pontiff for the Sicilian king. One of those most disconcerted with this state of affairs was the Cardinal-Priest Benedetto Caetani, an aristocrat who had very definite ideas about papal supremacy (which he would later, famously articulate without ambiguity) even at the expense of royal power. Pope Celestine V was without doubt a good and pious man. Even in his own time word spread of his miraculous deeds, however, his innocence of the world of power politics had left him as a pawn in the hands of others and reduced him to being little more than the chaplain to the King of Sicily. His religious sincerity remained admired by all but it became ever more clear with each passing day that he was simply not cut out to be the Supreme Pontiff. Never wanting the job in the first place, no one would have agreed with his unsuitability for the office more than Celestine V himself. He knew he was not up to the task and in quick order began looking for a way out.

Conveniently, Cardinal Caetani was on hand to assist him in the process of abdication. He painted the picture (obviously not untrue) that Celestine V had been preyed upon by Charles II from day one. The King had pressured a simple, pious clergyman into accepting an office he neither wanted nor was fit for simply so that he could dominate him. Pope Celestine V, on December 13, 1294, after only five months and nine days on the throne, abdicated and charged the conclave to elect a new pontiff according to the rules established by Gregory X. In quick order, and with no lack of effort on his own part, Cardinal Caetani was elected in his place, taking the name of Pope Boniface VIII. He would go on to be a very controversial Successor of St Peter but certainly not lacking in decisiveness. Many at the time and in all the time since have condemned Boniface VIII for having his predecessor, the former-Pope Celestine V, arrested and imprisoned. Celestine tried to escape but it was to no avail and, for an ascetic hermit like Celestine, his life in confinement was hardly worse than his own preferred life of solitude. It should also be kept in mind that Boniface VIII was very concerned about someone “rescuing” his predecessor from his solitude, influencing him and using his name to challenge the unity of the Church.

Former Pope Celestine V endured his confinement as he did all the other misfortunes of his life but the conditions of the area in which he was held soon ruined his health and he died only ten months later on May 19, 1296. There were, of course, rumors that he had been murdered by his successor but no proof was or has ever been produced to support that theory. Even after his death he was used as a political pawn. In 1313 he was canonized by Pope Clement V and though none deny his saintliness, the canonization was done at the urging of King Philip IV of France as a way of further smearing the name of Pope Boniface VIII who had been his antagonist. Nonetheless, despite all the misfortunes of his reign, St Celestine V has remained blameless. His sincerity, piety and compassion have never been challenged and his intentions and motives were always pure. The fault lay with those who had used the innocent and uninformed saint to advance their own agendas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Off Topic Tuesday: Wall Street Protest

We have been hearing a great deal about the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations which have gathered around the country. Although they are incoherent and certain individuals can be found in the crowds espousing almost every variety of thought, philosophy or ideology. However, I cannot help but view them as a radically leftist group overall. I base this not only on what most of them are shouting in the streets but based on those who have embraced them. The mainstream media that totally ignored the “Tea Party” protests, until they began to vilify them, have been providing constant, non-stop coverage of the OWS protests. Nancy Pelosi, President Obama, Rosie O’Donnell and the leftist tyrant Hugo Chavez of Venezuela have all embraced the protestors. You cannot tell me any of those people would be saying one kind or apologetic word about the protesters if they were in any way conservative, traditional or anything other than advocates of big-government socialism. They seem to me to be in every way the leftist reaction to the Tea Party people. Obama (a leftist) came to power to initiate a remaking of America based on the model of European social democracy. In response, the Tea Party formed calling for smaller government, cuts to spending and reforming at least or ending at best entitlements. They pushed the Republicans to victory in the last Congressional elections and now, as Obama drops in the polls and the economy gets worse the OWS movement comes forward in response to demand bigger government, more spending and more entitlement programs.

In some ways, conservatives, capitalists, GOP-supporters etc can take some heart from this. The OWS movement would not be happening if the leftists did not smell death in the air. As they have contemplated the possibility of Obama losing the presidency the socialists have been forced to take this action to try to frighten the political elites into staying on the socialist, big-government path. There are things I would agree with many of the OWS people on, but in a completely different way than they do. I would agree that bailing out the banks was wrong but not because it was a “bailout of the rich” but because I don’t think the state should bail out anyone. They should succeed or fail on their merits. I would agree that the US needs to “bring our troops home” but I would start with the 50,000 troops in Germany because they serve no purpose and the US should not be subsidizing the defense of Europe, especially from an enemy (the Soviet Union) that no longer exists. I am not an isolationist but I don’t think much of what American forces are doing now serves US interests or security. I would agree that there is too much of a cozy relationship between many big businesses and the US government but my answer would be to separate the two rather than have the one absorb the other, which is what they seem to advocate. That is socialism. They are for it, I am against it, plain and simple.

Some say we should take these protests very seriously, others say we should pay attention but not be too alarmed by them. I would prefer to err on the side of caution. I am not alarmed by them (they seem to be mostly members of the same old spoiled brat, cry-baby brigade for the most part and not terribly effective) as things stand now. However, I am concerned by them because I see so many of the same elements coming together that came together in 1917 to bring down the Russian Empire. We see the same groups involved; socialists, anarchists, labor unions, internationalists and anti-war protestors. We see the same complaints about income inequality (which can only be solved by making everyone poor -and even that’s never happened, a new elite simply replaces the old), we see the same cries of unfairness and inequality and we see again a diverse collection of subversive groups pushing for some vague “change” in the hope that they can cause enough chaos and confusion to emerge as the victors when the dust finally settles. So far the protestors have not caused much of a problem, which is a little disappointing for me as it prevents me from indulging my first wish that the Governors would deploy the National Guard against them with a clear conscience. So, in the absence of tear gas and rubber bullets we have to take a more cerebral approach to this problem.

The basic problem is one of mentality. These people are, largely, not the poor, working masses but educated (read indoctrinated) college graduates who have been taught a bunch of impossible, ideological nonsense based on the mistaken belief that it is possible to get something for nothing. They see the State as Santa Claus, able to produce “gifts” in some magic workshop completely out of thin air. They demand “free” college education, “free” healthcare and the forgiveness of debts. They fail to comprehend the fact that the government produces nothing and can only provide money for certain projects by confiscating it from others. As a prominent local Belgian-Texan once said about the public school system, “If anyone thinks there is such a thing as free primary education they should have a look at my land taxes”. As for the forgiveness of debts, were they to carry out such a thing every bank in the country would go out of business and they would be totally unable to obtain any loans -which is something else they are complaining about. They display a complete ignorance of basic economics. They scream about how much corporate executives are paid, oblivious to the fact that corporations only stay in business because people buy their products. If they are really upset about the bonuses paid to executives in businesses bailed out by the government they should direct their anger at the government since, if they had not been bailed out and had been forced to go bankrupt, all of their bonus contracts would have been voided. By being bailed out the government had to underwrite those contracts and abide by them. Yet, many of the same politicians who supported the bail outs now support the protestors.

That is also why these protests, at least in this country, will accomplish nothing or make things worse or both. As much as they may feign outrage at “the administration” they all know perfectly well they are going to vote for Obama or else not vote at all. If then we have a President Romney leading the next administration they will become even more furious and encourage the Democrats to be even more partisan and radically leftist. Then we shall see the Democrats be just as obstructionist and uncompromising as the Republicans are now being. And that perfectly illustrates why I do not consider “secession” to be an ugly or unthinkable word. The United States is every day more divided between two radically opposed and irreconcilable ideas with one side thinking the government should control almost everything and the other thinking the government should control almost nothing. Neither can ever get all they want and neither will give in. Because of that, neither idea is ever fully implemented and therefore neither can ever be concretely proven correct or totally ruinous. So, the two sides remain trapped in this loveless marriage that is the Union, accomplishing nothing, never proven right, never proven wrong but only becoming ever more and more entrenched in their own ideologies. In the earliest days when the President was expected to be above parties this was something he would handle but today this is not the case and such an idea is painfully absurd. In order to have something like that we would have to have a chief of state who was completely impartial, totally above party and faction and would therefore have to be immune to popularity tests and the democratic process, chosen by a completely non-political process but at the same time have a vested interest in the success of the country and sufficient power to enact good policy or at least block bad policy. And we all know that is never going to happen. We got rid of that nonsense once and for all in 1776. Oh…

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monarch Profile: King Francesco II of the Two-Sicilies

The man who would be the last King of the Two-Sicilies represents a quandary that comes up for monarchists from time to time. King Francis II was a man of strong faith, deep convictions and firm principles. He also presided over the destruction and collapse of his kingdom, partly because of those very attributes which make him so admirable. This problem has arisen more than once in the history of fallen monarchies; is it better to stand firm and uncompromising, going down in honorable defeat or is it best to adapt, change and compromise in order to survive? The question will probably never be settled to the satisfaction of all. The future last monarch was born Francesco d’Assisi Maria Leopoldo on January 16, 1836 the only son of King Ferdinand II by his first wife Queen Maria Christina of Savoy (the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia) who died only a few days after Francis was born.

As his mother died so young, Francis was most influenced by his father and his stepmother Maria Theresa of Austria. His father had been rather moderate but grew increasingly authoritarian in reaction to rebellion. His stepmother, perhaps, was an even greater influence. The two were very close, she considering Francis her son and he considering her his mother. She was a rather reclusive figure and, from start to finish, a staunch conservative who always adamantly defended the absolute monarchy. Francis grew up as an intensely religious and intensely reactionary character (both good things). However, the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies was not the impoverished backwater many would later try to portray it as. The majority of people lived quite modest lives to be sure but Naples was a booming and modern city. The Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies was home to the first railway in the Italian peninsula, there were great institutions of learning and even telegraph communication between Naples and the city of Palermo on Sicily.

Francis had no real problem with technical innovations but he was never in doubt that his royal duty would be to maintain the absolute power of the monarchy and the privileged place of the Catholic Church. On February 3, 1859 Francis married Duchess Maria Sophia in Bavaria in Bari. The marriage would not be without problems. Francis was very shy and could seem stand-offish and it would be many years for the marriage was consummated due to a medical problem on the part of the King. There were also extremely pressing problems for Francis to deal with as he became King Francis II of the Two-Sicilies only a few months after his wedding on May 22, 1859. He inherited a kingdom under threat from rebels within who wanted limited, constitutional government and without by professional revolutionaries and the expanding Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia which offered what the discontented educated elites most wanted.

One of his first acts was to appoint as prime minister the moderate Carlo Filangieri, a loyal man but one who supported the granting of a constitution and that the best way to gain security was to accept the offered alliance from the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. However, Francis II resisted both suggestions and was most concerned with the rumors of rebellion running through the country. A critical moment came very quickly, on June 7, when the Swiss Guard mutinied, demanding a number of concessions from their new employer. The King tried to assuage them with promises of redress while at the same time calling up troops under General Alessandro Nunziante who then marched in, surrounded the Swiss and massacred them. What was viewed as a deadly threat against the absolute authority of the monarch had been bloodily ended, however, in doing so, the King had cut down the body that was the elite corps of his armed forces which would leave him vulnerable in the future to enemies who wanted a great deal more than higher pay and better working conditions.

By this time, Piedmont-Sardinia had consolidated Savoy rule over the area north of Rome (what would soon be the Kingdom of Italy) and another offer of alliance was put forward to Naples. They would divide the Papal States between them, with the northern half of the Italian peninsula being ruled from Turin and the southern half from Naples, each supporting the other. Especially in light of what had already happened, Filangieri urged the King to accept the offer. He, and others, viewed the Papal States as doomed and reasoned that it was better to have Piedmont-Sardinia as a friend rather than an enemy. If they embraced Turin, the Piedmontese could not strike them and if a serious rebellion broke out Turin would be legally obliged to aid in defending the Two-Sicilies. In political terms it made perfect sense but King Francis II could not abide the thought of in any way participating in the partition of the Papal States and robbing the Pope of his political power. The Papal theocracy had ruled central Italy for a thousand years and Francis II viewed any action taken against the Papal States as sacrilegious. Filangieri also advocated giving the people a constitution, something else the King would not countenance. Again, the offer of alliance was refused and Filangieri, sensing the coming disaster, resigned when his advice on the alliance and the constitution was not taken.

With pious bravery, King Francis II prayed, trusting in God to deliver his realm from danger. The Papal States were absorbed along with the central Italian duchies by Piedmont-Sardinia and, with many feeling a shift in the wind, revolutionary plots became common in the Two-Sicilies which even the King’s secret operatives were powerless to stamp out. Many were executed but many also escaped or hid themselves until the professional revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi arrived, with Piedmontese (and covert British) support, to invade Sicily. In May of 1860 Garibaldi and his thousand red shirts conquered Sicily with relative ease and, ignoring advice to the contrary, quickly planned to move to the peninsula. King Francis II, alarmed that the situation had become so critical, announced he was granting a constitution but, by that time, it was too little, too late and as Garibaldi and his forces invaded the government and the army began to fall apart with many officials and army officers deserting to the enemy. The King tried to arrange a peace or even a truce but it was to no avail and as Garibaldi approached he and the Queen fled Naples for the coastal fortress city of Gaeta.

It was there that King Francis II became a legend. His demeanor was no longer seen as shy and aloof but calm and courageous, cool under fire as he moved among his soldiers defending the walls. The French navy defended them by sea and Gaeta proved a tough nut to crack. However, the French finally withdrew their ships and Piedmont-Sardinia dropped all pretenses and formally joined the conflict, defeating the Neapolitan army (or what was left of it) and moving in to besiege Gaeta as well. It was a bitter pill for King Francis. Victor Emmanuel II (soon to be the first King of Italy) was his blood relative after all. However, the Piedmontese felt no compunctions about their involvement. As they saw it, multiple times they had extended the hand of friendship to the Two-Sicilies only to have it slapped away. Refusing to be their friend, King Francis would have to be their enemy. This he did with a quiet heroism that made his relative handful of troops defending Gaeta all but worship him. Like his stepmother he had always been somewhat withdrawn and never the populist sort of monarch but at this final crisis he showed, at least those in the besieged city, what his true colors were and they adored and admired him for it. He looked after the welfare of the people in the city and shared the danger with his soldiers defending the parapets. However, it was a hopeless struggle and eventually he was obliged to surrender to the forces of Victor Emmanuel II.

A monarch without a country, King Francis II and Queen Maria Sophia went to Rome where they were sheltered by Pope Pius IX and established a court-in-exile. At the outset many nations still recognized Francis II as the lawful King of the Two-Sicilies and the Pope was very gracious toward the gallant fallen monarch, perfectly aware of the fact that, to a degree at least, his misfortunes were the result of his refusal to take part in the partition of the Papal states. However, his time in Rome was not happy nor did it last for very long. The other nations of Europe may have sympathized with Francis II but many also viewed him as the author of his own problems and none were willing to provide actual assistance. As the Kingdom of Italy was consolidated even diplomatic recognition began to fall away. The Queen also began having an affair with a member of the Papal military corps, unknown to the King, and finally had to be spirited away when she became pregnant by the man. When the last foreign troops were withdrawn from the Italian peninsula Rome was occupied and made the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy. The Pope shut himself up in the Vatican and refused to come out while Francis II had to look for a new place of exile. France, Austria and Bavaria were all temporary homes.

The Queen, after having her baby and giving the child away confessed her affair to her husband. King Francis, perhaps not surprisingly, forgave the woman and finally took it upon himself to endure the operation that would correct the problem that kept him from performing his marital duties. It was a success and finally the two were able to live together fully as man and wife and soon a daughter was born to the exiled King and Queen in 1869. They were both overjoyed but this soon turned to despair when the baby girl, named Maria Cristina Pia, died only a few months later. It seemed that nothing had been spared the last King of the Two-Sicilies. The Queen became increasingly depressed and, for the most part, the King had only his still firm Catholic faith to give him comfort. He never ceased praying that God would effect a miracle and somehow turn his tragedy into a triumph but it was not to be, not in this life anyway. On December 27, 1894 at the age of only 54 King Francis II of the Two Sicilies died in Austria-Hungary.

Views of the last King of the Two Sicilies vary greatly as partisans on both sides of the unification issue exaggerate their conflicting accusations. The image that Francis II was an authoritarian tyrant who terrorized his poor, suffering people is positively false. He had not a bad bone in his body and indeed was a very charitable and compassionate man. What is true is that he seemed better suited to a seminary than the throne of a country in crisis. Nor was he a flawless and pristine saint, he made plenty of mistakes, many of which were recognized at the time. The fact that Italy became a unitary state rather than a confederation of local royal states can be, in part, laid at his door as he refused to support such an idea even if it would have made him the first King of Italy. However, as disastrous as this proved to be, setting himself against the irresistible tide of history, his reasons for refusing were noble; he would not violate the territory of the Papal States for any reason whatsoever.

What is less clear was his failure to personally take immediate action against the invasion of Garibaldi. Maintaining an absolute monarchy in the wild country of southern Italy where rebels were numerous required a great deal of armed force. The Two Sicilies actually had the largest standing army on the Italian peninsula and Garibaldi, though famous as a revolutionary soldier, did not really have all that great of a record of success behind him. Additionally, he had only about a thousand volunteers, most of them northern Italians (some not Italians at all but like-minded foreigners) unfamiliar and unaccustomed to conditions in Sicily and who often had more zeal than military experience or ability. We know from his performance at Gaeta that King Francis II could be an inspirational military leader and it seems hard to deny that if he had immediately mobilized his army and led them himself against Garibaldi his much larger army could have easily destroyed the red shirted revolutionaries. This may not have saved his kingdom in the long run, but it is at least possible that it would have made Turin think twice about messing with Naples and left the Two Sicilies alone and contented themselves with the rest of Italy.

Francis may have thought that his last minute agreement to enact a constitution would save his throne but, if so, this was a naïve hope. Frankly, by that time, no one was buying it anymore. In the face of revolution two of his predecessors, Ferdinand I and Ferdinand II, had both granted constitutions but both later revoked them once they again had the upper hand militarily. Francis had refused a constitution and when he finally agreed to have one, no one really believed the offer was sincere. The people had learned that they could use force to get what they wanted and they had learned not to trust their monarchs. Shooting all of the Swiss Guards was probably a mistake as well, although we can understand the mentality behind such a move, it was probably short-sighted and robbed the King of the backbone of his military strength. So, the man made mistakes. However, it must also be remembered that he was only 25 when he lost his throne and his behavior at the end was so gallant and heroic that even his enemies had to admire him. In death he left behind a legacy as a brave monarch and a pious son the Church of Rome and it was always that which was most important to him anyway. The propagandists of the victors made a great deal of sport of him after his defeat, which was not only wrong but unworthy. Regardless of the political opinions one might have, Francesco II, last King of the Two Sicilies, should not be ridiculed but revered.
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