Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Crown Prince Leka of Albania 1939-2011

HRH Crown Prince Leka I Zogu died today at 7:40 at the Mother Theresa Hospital in Tirana at the age of 72 due to heart and lung trouble according to a spokesman for the Albanian Royal Family. He was the only son of Zog I, Prime Minister turned President turned King and was born only days before the Italian occupation (and eventually annexation) of Albania in 1939. He grew up in exile, first in London and then in Egypt as the guest of King Farouk (the Egyptian Royal Family being of Albanian origin) before moving on to other countries. After the end of German occupation in World War II the Soviets imposed a communist regime on Albania and forbid the return of the former Royal Family. In 1961 the Albanian government-in-exile proclaimed the prince King Leka I Zogu of the Albanians after the death of his father. He married an Australian school teacher in 1975 and the couple lived for a time in Spain as friends of King Juan Carlos before diplomatic problems with the Albanian government forced their departure. They moved on to Rhodesia and later South Africa. After the fall of communism he was able to return to the land of his birth in 1993 to visit. After the 1997 rebellion in Albania he returned again, still claiming the title of "King" but promised to accept the status of a private citizen if a referendum were held on restoring the monarchy and the Albanians decided against it. The referendum was held, the Crown Prince lost and of course there are doubts about how fair a vote it was. He left Albania again, was tried and convicted of sedition in absentia against the Albanian government but was pardoned in 2002. He returned and campaigned for his own political party though due to his royal status refused to vote. He retired from public life in 2006. The Crown Prince is succeeded by his son, Prince Leka II, who was born in South Africa in 1982. He is a student of international relations, has served in the Albanian military and made himself somewhat known by supporting the bid for the independence of Kosovo recently. He is currently working in the Interior Ministry of Albania. The Mad Monarchist sends condolences to the Albanian Royal Family and all Albanian monarchists on this sad occasion.

The Economic Crisis and the Failure of Democratic Absolutism

The supposedly healthy, wealthy and wise modern world is in a state of near apoplexy over the current economic crisis. If a downturn like this is enough to make people call for government takeover of banks and insurance companies and make the former President of Brazil point fingers at a conspiracy of White people with blue eyes one wonders how the people of today would have dealt with something as bad as the actual Great Depression. So far, despite all the complaining, things are not nearly that bad. Today we stand in line to buy the latest ipod whereas in the Great Depression people were standing in soup lines. However, gloomy Gus types need not fear for the Obama administration is trying to get us to the Great Depression as quickly as they can. His many broken promises, blatant lies and utter incompetence is too tiresome to go into in detail at this point but in many ways he is simply proving himself to be the best example of the worst stereotype of the politician.

What we are seeing around the world today is really the result of a failure in the system of absolute democracy so many have put their faith in. In the United States, and things are even worse in some other places, the vast majority of taxes are paid by a tiny minority of the population. The least noble amongst us who have no stake in the success or failure of the economy have consistently voted for whatever politician will promise them the most with no cost to themselves. Government gets bigger, social welfare becomes more prevalent and the rich and middle class (but especially the rich) are taxed more and more to pay for it all. Socialism is now creeping in and even becoming somewhat acceptable or at least thinkable here in the United States as it has been for some time in Europe. Looking at the big picture this can only spell doom for our civilization and all of our most ancient traditions. We are seeing the rise of mob rule, a sort of neo-version of the French Revolution except that most people today are too apathetic to take in hand operating the guillotine themselves.

Western civilization is approaching death and it will be, I have come to believe, death by democracy. I am reminded of the 1939 movie “Juarez” in which a fictional conservation takes place between General Porfirio Diaz and Emperor Maximilian of Mexico on the subject of government. Maximilian agrees that, in theory, democracy is the ideal system but states that, in practice, the rule of the majority frequently becomes the rule of a mob that will follow whatever demagogue promises them the most. That is why, he states, that a monarch is necessary to stand above factions and parties and rule impartially in the best interests of his people because a monarch has a sacred duty to his ancestors and to posterity. In a subsequent scene President Benito Juarez has to re-educate Diaz about how wrong Maximilian is. Juarez states that democracy is not about freedom because Maximilian offers them freedom but is about self-rule because that is what a monarch would withhold from them. He states, quite absurdly, that since no man rules himself into oppression freedom flows from democracy as naturally as a stream. What is really almost hypocritical about this exchange is that Mexico is an ideal example of how the people will, and frequently do, rule themselves into oppression and Diaz himself later became one of the more infamous Mexican dictators.

People will rule themselves into oppression because they frequently turn to insidious politicians to help them get something for nothing. They want more benefits but no new taxes. This means that a politician must deliver the benefits but always tax someone else, the wealthy minority being an easy target. Consider how the government went after the AIG executives who were given the bonuses they were contractually entitled to. The very same party which demanded that AIG be given government money and which wrote the bill that allowed these bonuses to be paid put on a great show of mock indignation at these evil, greedy, rich people on behalf of their struggling, working class constituents (pay no attention to the fact that many of these same guys got hefty donations from AIG and others like them). The fanatical leftist activist group ACORN (for which Obama formerly worked) even drove protestors to the homes of these evil rich people to shout abuse at them. Keep in mind that none of these greedy AIG executives broke any law and most have more or less been browbeaten into giving back money that they had been promised in their contract when they first went to work for the company. This is class warfare at its lowest. This is Marie Antoinette and the whole cake fabrication all over again.

Democracy has gotten the western world into this mess and the politicians, mostly liberal but who can tell the difference any more, are forced to resort to class warfare in order to shield their failed god of popular democracy. They cannot actually go on national TV and tell the voting public that this mess is to a great extent their own fault. Who would have the courage to say that this is exactly what happens when people spend money they do not have and elect representatives to government to spend tax dollars that they do not have and keep robbing Peter to pay Paul to keep all of the government freebies flowing? Democracy gave power to the people and the people have ruled themselves into slavery; absolute dependence on the government and a total lack of real freedom which is what independence is. This great lie can be traced back almost as far as anyone would wish to pursue it but a favorite example of mine is the farcical trial and tragic regicide of the noble King Charles I of Great Britain.

Out of protest the noble Stuart monarch did not speak much at his trial for he refused to recognize that any court was competent to judge him. It was just as well for he was a dead man as soon as he fell into the hands of his enemies. However, when he did finally speak what he said was as profound as it would be unpopular for modern audiences. The part that no one will like is that he said government was the business of kings and had nothing to do with the common people sharing in it. I know, I know, most today would cut his head off for that alone (unless of course he was the leader of a communist country the rest of the world depended on for trade and cheap labor). However, what I think is too often forgotten is what the noble King said after that about what exactly it was he had been fighting for. He said, if I may paraphrase, that in defending his own rights as King he was defending the rights of every person in the land to what was truly their own. The Crown and his powers were his by legitimate, legal and ancient hereditary right. If the government could take that from him then they could take anything from anyone. So it is today.

When you boil it down, there really is no dispute over what the Greek collapse was caused by. People voted themselves money until they ran out of money at which point they borrowed money and now their bills are coming due. It is obvious and yet no one, on either side of the mainstream political spectrum, seems to understand it. We still have young idiots camping outside Wall Street demanding “free” college and forgiveness of debts and even on the right, notice how the Republicans are still terrified of admitting that social security is broke. All the senior citizens marching with the “Tea Party” shout for budget cuts and smaller government until it comes to the programs they themselves are entitled to. In Great Britain the National Health Service is the biggest economic drain in the history of the British Isles yet, because of democratic absolutism, even those politicians smart enough to realize the obvious dare not say so or make a single move against the NHS because they would be promptly voted out of office for taking away “free” healthcare from the people. No, they will reduce the army to a palace guard, scrap the royal yacht and share a navy with France before they will suggest that the people actually pay for their own healthcare themselves.

The truly maddening thing about all of this is that it is so painfully obvious and was figured out thousands of years ago. The ancient Greeks and Romans understood this. Democracy means the ‘have nots’ can vote themselves the property of the ‘haves’ until there are no more ‘haves’ and everyone is a ‘have not’ and the nation tears itself to pieces. Which is usually when the dictator steps forward and everyone had better pray he is a benevolent one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Off Topic Tuesday: Eurozone Crisis

The downward spiral of the European Union continues. I don’t think any long-time readers will be surprised to know what a low opinion I have of the European Union. The farthest I will go is to say that some of the original founders may have had good intentions but the whole idea of Europe as one country frankly disgusts me. I know, there are those who say, and they have said to me, “but Archduke Otto favored European unity” so it must be pretty good right? I have the utmost respect for the late Archduke but, “European unity” is a pretty broad, vague thing to be in favor of and for all those who list off all the royals, aristocrats or even popes who, they say, favor a united Europe my only response is that guys like Adolf Hitler and Oswald Mosley favored a united Europe too. If one wants to argue that the “concept” is a good one, we can have that argument, but there is no doubt in my mind that what actually exists today in those hideous buildings in Brussels is absolutely something to oppose every step of the way. Anytime the EU finds itself falling on hard times I feel like standing up and cheering.

That being said, I cannot be completely upbeat about the current crisis in Europe because it is proving that your average European is just as dumb as your average American in that *they just don't get it*. Just like your majority, apathetic, mainstream Americans, your average Europe has not gotten the message: Socialism Doesn't Work! You cannot get something for nothing, you cannot run up debts and expect future generations to cover the bill (especially when you cannot be bothered to actually produce a future generation) and punishing success and rewarding failure is not the way to create a successful economy. These are not difficult concepts to grasp, yet precious few today seem able to. The austerity measures (such as they are) did not happen in Greece because people suddenly saw the error of their ways. They only happened because Greece ran out of money, couldn't pay back their debts, couldn't get anymore loans and so the Greek borrower became the slave of the EU lender. That is my biggest concern with the current crisis; that, as I see it now, no one seems to be learning from their mistakes but throw an infantile fit at the government gravy train being cut off and turning their anger on whatever unfortunate party or coalition just happens to be in power.

In Spain, for example, recent elections turned out the socialists and brought the 'very, very slightly right-of-center leaning' party to power. I was certainly glad to see the socialists go, it turned my stomach every time King Juan Carlos had to meet with that crowd, but while I don't want to ignore those people who voted them out for the right reasons, most did not. I don't think most Spaniards voted against the socialists because they realize they're wrong (on social as well as economic issues) but simply voted them out because they happened to be in power when the house of cards collapsed. In Italy it was the 'very, very slightly right-of-center' Berlusconi who was tossed out, again, not because of scandals or anything that concrete, but mostly because he happened to be the one in power at the time. He certainly did not create the current disaster that is the Italian economy all by himself since becoming prime minister in 2008. So there was some public outcry but, most importantly, the EU wanted him gone (they had never liked him much anyway). The EU has imposed new leadership on Greece, in Italy (surprise, surprise) the new PM Mario Monti is a long-time EU-supporter and one who actually did help Italy get to where she is now by helping arrange the massive loans to keep up the fools paradise illusion while the country was going broke.

The people though, so far, are not so upset with the EU establishing dictatorial power over the member states, not so upset with the policies that have driven them into bankruptcy and not so upset that the EU has had to go to China (perhaps making all of Europe the slave of the Chinese lender) for more bailout money. No, they are upset because they are being told that cannot continue to get all the freebies from the government they have grown acustomed to. As glad as I am to see the EU in crisis, that simple fact still depresses me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Grand Old British Empire

The British Empire has many detractors these days, at times it can seem like most can be found in Britain itself. However, I have always and will always count myself among those who defend the British Empire and the legacy of that historic entity today. It is quite beyond my powers of comprehension how anyone in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or even the English-speaking world could fail to look back on the British Empire without a surge of pride. It was, after all, the largest empire in the history of the world, one of the longest lasting and certainly one of the most influential. Today, the legacy of the British Empire is often attacked as many try to either minimize or ignore it or, when it is acknowledged, regard it as having a purely negative impact on the world. They paint the history of the British Empire in the blackest of terms and do their best to make even modern day Britons suffer or at least feel ashamed of the alleged “crimes” of the British Empire and their colonial or imperialist ancestors. Even the word “empire” or the word “imperialist” is today, virtually everywhere, regarded as purely and inarguably negative. I take a very different view, both of such a context and of the British Empire itself.

First of all, the word “empire” should have no negative connotations. It comes down to us from ancient Rome, predating even the Roman Empire. The word “imperium” was used even by the Roman Republic simply to express legal authority. The Roman Imperium was wherever Roman law held sway. There should be nothing inherently positive or negative about it. Today the word “empire” has become so widespread as simply a negative label to apply to things we don’t like that it has really become a word without a real meaning at all. In the good old days of the British Empire, of course, things were a little more straightforward. The British Empire was that part of the world united by the authority of the British Crown. It started with the plantations in Ireland, put down roots on the east coast of North America, spread to the Caribbean, Africa, India and Asia and Australia. The great figures of history are today often looked upon scornfully as being greedy, cruel and ruthless whereas in the past they were celebrated as ambitious, bold adventurers who accomplished great deeds which benefited not only themselves but almost everyone around them to one degree or another.

Of course, none of these men were perfect from Raleigh to Clive to Rhodes. Neither was every page of British imperial history a proud one. Individuals will always be fallible, some policies were benevolent and some were rather horrible; such is the history of human beings. The eradication of the Thugee cult in India, for example, was a great service to the subcontinent. The Opium Wars, on the other hand, were a terrible injustice (not perpetrated by Britain alone) and quite a shameful episode on the whole. However, the relatively few ugly incidents should not blind us from the immense good that was accomplished by the British Empire nor intimidate proud Britons from defending their exceptional place in history. Were it not for the British Empire the world today would be a very, very different place and, I happen to think, were it still around it would be a better place for a great many people in the world.

The British Empire was so large, so successful and so long-lasting because it worked. Simple as that. It was, generally, well administered, pragmatic, moderate and profitable. The British Empire brought prosperity to many areas of the world, brought the benefits of civilization, modern technology and genuine progress to many corners of the globe that had previously known only darkness, and isolated stagnation. Because of the British Empire, huge masses of people, whole populations which had been living in poverty, unhealthy conditions and ignorance received the benefits of schools, modern medicine, electricity, clean water, modern hygiene and eventually automobiles, trains and all the benefits of modern civilization. The exchange of goods, services, ideas and innovative methods caused areas which had once known only the harshest struggles of survival to improve their livelihoods, produce surpluses and thus a way out of the cycle of poverty. Local people, that is native people and not simply British colonists, gained an education and employment in the colonial administration. Nor is it true that the history of the British Empire is one of an endless succession of cruelty. In fact, the British Empire was one of the most humane in history, they were simply quite adept (though not perfect) at knowing when to be firm or even harsh and when to be compassionate and tolerant.

For example, when the British took over the French territory of Canada, early indications were that British rule would be harsh and intolerant. However, the British won the loyalty of the local population by recognizing French law, granting toleration to Catholicism and removing references to Protestantism in the oath of allegiance. It was a winning policy as in the American Revolution that followed later, not only did Canada remain loyal but French Canadian leaders and bishops zealously supported the royal cause. South Africa was another example. The war against the Dutch settlers had been bitter and ferocious (even seeing the first use of the concentration camp) but once Britain was victorious they did not treat the Boers as a conquered enemy but made them partners in the British Empire, ensuring the staunch support of the South Africans in both World Wars that followed. Ultimately the former enemies worked together to make South Africa the most advanced and prosperous country on the African continent. In India, where Britain has been much criticized, the fact remains that local traditions, customs and religions were maintained under British rule. Intolerance and wars of religion only emerged after independence. The extent to which the British were able to work well in cooperation with the native population is seen in the fact that such a relatively small island, half-way around the world, was able to administer an entire sub-continent with fewer troops than the French republic garrisoned in Indochina alone.

There were times and places, of course, when British rule was much less admirable than it should have been. However, in almost every case these mistakes were, in time, recognized and corrected while still within the British Empire. This would not have happened if the British people had not been a generally moral and upright people. The slave trade and slavery itself was ended in the British Empire, not by brute force or outside intervention but because the British people themselves came to recognize it as an unjust and inhumane practice, abolishing it long before much of the rest of the world. During the early days of the colonization of America and over the course of conflicts with France, Britain had employed quite harsh tactics against the American Indians and yet, they changed and later championed their rights. In the American Revolution, most sided with the British and even over a century later, American Indians who were under threat risked life and limb to reach the Dominion of Canada where they knew they would be better treated and their rights respected. The British Empire, despite mistakes in some areas at some times, was a beacon of civilization, justice and peace for the most part.

However, at the end of the day, the best, most concrete and pragmatic evidence for the British Empire as, overall, a force for good in the world, is a simple look at the world today, decades after the dissolution of it. The fact remains that if you look at the world today, the countries in which people enjoy the most personal freedom, the most stable governments, which are the most prosperous and enjoy the highest standards of living are, for the most part, countries which were once a part of the British Empire. If you look beyond Europe, in almost every corner of the world, the most successful nations are children of the British Empire; whether one considers Canada and the United States in North America, South Africa on the African continent, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand in Asia and the Pacific. If you look at the GDP per capita of nations outside Europe, topping the list are the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan along with former Japanese possessions such as Taiwan and South Korea (and observing that one cannot help but note the degree to which Japan had taken the British Empire as its role model early on) it would be hard to downplay the significant and positive impact of the British Empire on world history. Everyone of every nationality who played a part in it should feel a sense of righteous pride about the British Empire.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Royal News Roundup

The far north was ‘Down Under’ this week as Danish Crown Prince Frederick accompanied his wife Crown Princess Mary to a visit to her native Australia. The almost week-long trip, their first since 2008, was to promote Danish-made “green technology” in the Commonwealth of Australia. Their 10-month old twins accompanied them on the visit, starting in Sydney where the couple first met in 2000 during the Olympic games. Australia underwent a Danish craze after it was announced later that one of their own would be marrying the future King of Denmark. There were smiles only at the many events the royals attended, including a meeting with the Prime Minister and leader of the opposition in Canberra. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway was also overseas, visiting Nepal as part of a UN mission and to check on AIDS charity work and the treatment of “sexual minorities”. Yes, the future King of Norway was welcomed by a group of cross-dressing transgender dancers as he inspected the program of a group dedicated to championing the cause of “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender” persons. He also met with one of the first openly gay politicians in the new republic of Nepal. An honor I’m sure. On Sunday, Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway was in Miami, Florida opening a new Seaman’s Church named in her honor. Meanwhile, Princess Madeleine of Sweden was in Communist China, inspecting work done by the World Childhood Foundation in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (where the population is now mostly Chinese, don’t let the name fool you).

In the United Kingdom, HM the Queen and Prince Philip welcomed the President and First Lady of Turkey to the country this week. On Wednesday HRH the Duke of Edinburgh was at Admiralty House in London where, on orders from his wife, he was officially given the rank of Lord High Admiral of the Navy as a special form of recognition on the occasion of his recent 90th birthday in honor of his many years of naval service. He graduated from Dartmouth at the top of his class in 1940 and served throughout World War II, protecting Australian troop ships in the Indian Ocean, serving against the Japanese off Ceylon and then winning distinction in the Mediterranean after being transferred there for the invasion of Greece. He saved his ship from enemy attack during the invasion of Sicily before going on to serve in the Pacific where he witnessed the final surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay. Also on Wednesday, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall met with the newlywed King and Queen of Bhutan on a visit to Britain. The King completed his education at the University of Oxford (after studying in the United States) so this was something of a homecoming for him.

In Low Country royal news, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg visited the United Arab Emirates this week. Aside from the usual economic talks, the heir to the throne was there to open the first Luxembourg embassy in the UAE in Abu Dhabi. Previously Luxembourg diplomatic business was conducted through either the Dutch or Belgian embassies. There were trade talks before the Hereditary Grand Duke moved on to Dubai and then to Ras Al-Khaimah for more of the same. He will also visit Qatar before returning home to Luxembourg. In Belgium, Crown Prince Philip honored Belgian veterans of the Libyan campaign in a special ceremony while King Albert II continues to try to prod the squabbling politicians into forming a government. Flamboyant Walloon socialist Elio Di Rupo had resigned from the task of trying to work out a compromise but the King asked him to keep trying. After thinking it over, he has agreed. As unimpressed as I would be with having a gay Italian socialist as Prime Minister of Belgium, I hope he succeeds for the sake of the survival of the kingdom. And, in the Netherlands, HM Queen Beatrix has been keeping busy, visiting a nuclear reactor, an art exhibition and attending the festivities for the 50th anniversary of the University of Twente.

The Prince and Princess of the Asturias traveled to the South American nation of Chile this week, arriving on Tuesday for a three day visit. They laid a wreath at the monument to Chilean Libertador Don Bernardo O’Higgins before meeting with the President and First Lady for a reception and informal talks at La Moneda Palace, home of the President of Chile and formerly a mint for the colonial government during the glory days of the Spanish empire. They then opened the Forum of Investment and Business Meeting of Chile and Spain before visiting Congress and attending a formal dinner in their honor. There was an art exhibit to be opened (aren’t there always) and an audience for the Chile-Spain Foundation. The couple later visited an observatory and some other areas before returning to Spain. Also in Spain this week was HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco who toured the St Sebastian Aquarium (calling it an “emotional” experience). Before signing the guest book the Sovereign Prince laid a wreath at a special portrait of his great-great grandfather Prince Albert I of Monaco, a famous champion of oceanography.

In Africa, Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco presided over a special awards ceremony in Rabat for the National Day Against Cancer. Also this week, HM King Mohammad VI presided over the signing of a special tourism investment agreement on Thursday with the Emir of Qatar, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Foreign Minister of Kuwait. On the other end of the continent in the always controversial Kingdom of Swaziland, royal officials are denying reports that Queen Dube (one of the many wives of King Mswati III) had been evicted from her palace for having an affair and attacking a guard with pepper spray. They said she is simply away visiting her grandmother -that’s their story and they’re sticking to it. For now at least. Unfortunately, this is not the first such story to come out of Swaziland and I doubt it will be the last.

And finally, in the Far East, members of the Imperial Household Agency have met with the Prime Minister of Japan seeking some adjustments to the laws governing the imperial succession. Yes, you read that right. Not to worry, it is nothing so earth-shattering as jumping on the ‘gender equality’ bandwagon though some, of course, cling to the hope that such a change may come out of this. Right now, all the IHA has suggested is allowing Japanese princesses who marry commoners (as most royals around the world do these days) to be able to keep their titles and for their children to have rights of succession. As the law stands now, a princess of the Japanese Imperial Family who marries a commoner becomes a part of the family of her husband and thus becomes a commoner herself, losing her title and any children are not legally part of the Imperial Family and not in the line of succession. Given the scarcity of male heirs recently it is hoped that this change will allow new branches of the Imperial Family to spring up that can provide greater security for the succession as well as provide the Imperial Family with sufficient manpower to fulfill their many duties throughout the country. And to end on a high note, in the Kingdom of Thailand a man who threatened and made particularly reprehensible slurs against HM Queen Sirikit has been sentenced to 20-years in prison. The man is a 61-year old former truck driver who spread the comments via text message. Royal officials say the messages, “indicated intent to harm” which would be enough to get anyone in trouble in almost any country.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why I Don't "Do" Thanksgiving

On the occasion of the Thanksgiving holiday (which I choose to pass on myself) it is an appropriate time to talk a little about some of the many misconceptions people have about the famous Pilgrim Fathers who landed on Plymouth Rock and established the first foothold of what became the New England colony in North America. The usual, casual narrative is that the pilgrims were people who believed in religious liberty who were forced to leave the British Isles because of the oppression of the Stuart King James I and the established Church of England. They came to the New World to escape this persecution and establish a free society, planting the seeds for what eventually became the United States of America. This is, however, not entirely true. For example, the pilgrims did not actually flee a religiously intolerant monarchy for the untamed wilderness of North America. They actually fled a very religiously tolerant republic for the untamed wilderness of North America. This is no secret, you can find it in almost any history book, yet few people know about it.

The pilgrims were upset with their life in England. They disliked the Anglican church, regarding it as too “Catholic” for their taste and for the pilgrims the Catholics were absolute evil. Even as Puritans went, these were the most extreme. Not only did they few Anglicans and Presbyterians as “too Catholic”, even their fellow Puritans were insufficiently puritanical from their point of view. King James I, when it came to religion, was a fairly tolerant monarch. However, he did not want religion causing divisions and strife in his kingdoms and so restrictions were placed on the pilgrims. Disliking this state of affairs, they decided to move over to the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Even those many centuries ago the Dutch had the reputation of being very tolerant and libertarian amongst the nations of Europe. In matters of faith, in the Netherlands there was pretty much complete religious freedom for anyone (except for the Catholics of course on whom there were some restrictions) of any Protestant Christian denomination as well as for Jews.

However, the pilgrims ultimately found life in Holland unsatisfactory. They complained about the lack of tolerance they endured in England, yet in the Netherlands they complained that there was too much tolerance. They feared the numerous religious groups around them would corrupt them and their children and they disliked the licentiousness of those who adhered to no real religion at all. So England was not free enough and Holland was too free, so they decided to go to America. They hopped on the Mayflower and sailed west. For government, the leaders all signed the famous Mayflower Compact, remembered ever since as one of the earliest founding documents of what became the United States centuries later. There are a few things about the Mayflower Compact that many people may not know. The Mayflower Compact was actually a very royalist document, the very first words being a tribute to, “our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith etc”. The document also stressed their loyalty to the King and the hope that their undertaking would do the King and their country honor. Were they sincere? That’s another matter.

At the time (pre-civil war England) royal authority was fairly well accepted as a given. Even the republics of the time such as Venice, Genoa or even the Dutch republic still had royal or at least regal leadership. However, it is hard to imagine that the pilgrims who so loathed the Church of England could have much sincere faith and allegiance for the King was the “Supreme Governor” of that denomination. For those who rejected the Church of England it was not a great leap to at least be lukewarm in their submission to the monarch, especially given how paramount the place of the King was to Anglicans. Although it is mostly ignored today, that is a situation still around today as Anglican canon law still recognizes the Queen as, “the highest power under God in this kingdom, and has supreme authority over all persons in all causes, as well ecclesiastical as civil”. At the very least the pilgrims would have objected to the “ecclesiastical” bit, if nothing else.

Long after Massachusetts became a well established English colony it continued to be the favored place for Puritans to flee to and this increased dramatically during the reign of King Charles I who favored a very traditional, elaborate and, some would say “Catholic” style for the Church of England. Needless to say, although the American colonies played no really significant role in the English Civil War, there were divisions and Massachusetts, because of their Puritan foundation and population, was definitely on the side of Oliver Cromwell. Puritan Massachusetts had opposed the Elizabethan uniformity effort, the Bishops War of King James I and they certainly opposed the direction religion in the British Isles took under King Charles. In fact, after the King was martyred, after the long years of tyranny under Oliver Cromwell and after the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles II, Massachusetts showed how anti-royalist it was by being the very last English colony in America to recognize the Stuart monarch as their rightful King, not doing so until August of 1661.

Successive British monarchs likewise found out how troublesome Massachusetts could be, even as religion was eclipsed by politics as the primary vehicle for the old Puritan hostility toward the Crown. As everyone knows, the colony would finally become the greatest hotbed of revolutionary activity and eventually lead the continent into the American War for Independence against King George III. So, to bring it all back, that is one of the primary reasons I don’t “do” Thanksgiving. That, and I’m not a big fan of the first President to make it a national holiday. We have also discussed here before how the real first thanksgiving was actually celebrated in Texas long before those dour pilgrims ever set foot in New England. So, be assured it is not an issue of ingratitude which prompts me to sit this one out. You may also rest assured I pass no judgment or think any less of those who do celebrate the day as I know most do it for the right reasons (unlike some other holidays). For all who are joining in, I wish you a happy day and I hope you all know that I am thankful for all you, members, subscribers, lurkers and casual readers, who keep up with The Mad Monarchist. I do appreciate you all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

China and the Heavenly Mandate

The Mandate of Heaven or Tian Ming was the divine authorization to rule upon which rested the power of most Chinese emperors throughout their very long history as well as influencing the political systems of neighboring countries as well. The idea first developed prior to the unification of China in the Kingdom of Zhou and was early on most associated with the Zhou kings who were the first to call themselves the ‘Sons of Heaven’ and to claim to exercise power by holding the heavenly mandate to do so. However, today most associate the heavenly mandate with the political teachings of later philosophers such as Mencius and, of course, the great Confucius. Confucian scholars elaborated on the idea of the Mandate of Heaven and it first began to be a major influence with the rise of the Han dynasty in China. The rise of Emperor Gaodi, first monarch of the western Han after the downfall of the Qin dynasty, was pointed to by Confucian scholars as an example of the mandate of heaven passing from one dynasty to another in the traditional way. Western minds have tried for a long time to understand and explain the concept of the Mandate of Heaven, comparing it to everything from the Divine Right of Kings to the social contract of the Enlightenment era. In truth, it is both and neither, like so much else in the history and culture of the Far East.

The principle behind the heavenly mandate is that anyone can attain virtue, that virtuous leadership will cause a country to prosper and a prosperous country will be secure and content with such happiness and contentment serving as proof that the leader in question had obtained the heavenly mandate to rule. This principle can, and has, been stretched pretty far on certain occasions. However, the idea was never supposed to be about simply the ability to take and maintain power (though at times it became that and we cannot deny that) nor was it traditionally about popularity with the people. The Emperor, who the Chinese traditionally recognized as the legitimate ruler of the world, not simply China, even if other barbarian nations were too backward to recognize it, was to govern with moderation and virtue, not to be popular, but because this was his moral duty toward Heaven and as a pious believer in Confucian morality. He also had religious duties to perform that went along with the heavenly mandate, as the Emperor was the “Son of Heaven”; the pontiff between the Middle Kingdom and the Kingdom of Heaven. The most important of these came at the Winter Solstice when the Emperor would go to the Altar of Heaven to present offerings and pray on behalf of his people and to, as we might say, give Heaven a progress report on the reign of his dynasty.

Obviously, since the Mandate of Heaven is based on character rather than ancestry, anyone can theoretically “obtain” it by proving themselves worthy by their virtue and, usually, success in overthrowing the previous ruler and taking power for himself. The founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, for example, was a common peasant before leading the popular uprising that brought down the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. The fact that an Emperor has the mandate and rules as the ‘Son of Heaven’ means that those who rebel against him are traitors of the worst kind, even heretics to use a western point of reference. That is, of course, if the rebellion is unsuccessful. If a rebellion succeeds then it is taken as proof that the heavenly mandate had passed from the old dynasty to the rebels who would institute a new dynasty. Rebellion could be brought about by a lack of moral character on the part of an Emperor but, as often if not more so, by economic hardship, poverty, natural disasters, famines or plagues that were taken as signs that the heavenly mandate had passed from the ruling dynasty.

When the Ming dynasty was overthrown by the Manchu coalition of forces, establishing the Qing dynasty, it was accepted that the Ming had lost the Mandate of Heaven and that the Manchu Emperor had acquired it. This was reinforced by the extent to which the Manchus adopted Chinese traditions and emphasized Confucian ethics and social order. Over the centuries, the heavenly mandate of the Qing began to be questioned as rebellions became more serious and foreign nations gained stronger footholds in China. The wave of nationalist, republican revolutionaries rejected the whole concept of the Mandate of Heaven, officially, while unofficially arguing that if such a thing did exist the Qing had lost it anyway. When the Qing dynasty was overtaken by the 1911 Revolution the act of abdication which brought an end to the ancient imperial system stated that the dynasty was bowing to, “the Mandate of Heaven as expressed through the will of the people” which was quite a novel concept in and of itself. Since that time, the successive nationalist and communist regimes have been a little uncomfortable dealing with the principle of the Mandate of Heaven. Again, they officially scoff at such a traditional belief but also would like to use it to legitimize their own positions. So, most effectively say that, one shouldn’t believe in the mandate but, if you do, believe that they hold it.

Some have tried to make the argument that Chairman Mao and the Communist Party, by defeating the nationalists and establishing the People’s Republic of China, demonstrated that they obtained the heavenly mandate to rule. They do not claim this as the source of their legitimacy of course, but the argument is still put out by some to encourage the more traditionally minded to support the Red regime. This sort of thinking is what I like to call, “crap”. The communists cannot legitimately claim something which they do not acknowledge to even exist. I am sure some might try to explain this away by arguing that it exists whether they acknowledge it or not but that holds no water either. The Communist Party is officially atheist and if they do not believe in Heaven they cannot very well even pretend to claim the heavenly mandate. Nor can this be something they simply believe privately as one of, if not the, most paramount duties of the emperor as the “Son of Heaven” was performing the rites on behalf of the Middle Kingdom at the Altar of Heaven, something which no Communist dictator has ever done. The last time these rites were performed was in 1915 by President Yuan Shihkai of the Republic of China who wanted to become the Emperor of China and founder of his own dynasty (which didn’t work out well).

Given the number of natural disasters that have befallen China in recent years, some might suggest that this be taken as evidence that the CCP has lost the heavenly mandate and therefore that rebellion against them is justified. As stated, I think rebellion has always been justified because they never even claimed the mandate in the first place nor have they ever shown the slightest interest in ruling according to Confucian morality. This is the same regime, after all, that even in its youth enacted programs which caused the deaths of tens of millions of people and even as millions were dying Chairman Mao took it as no great tragedy, seeing it simply as so many less mouths to feed. If one wanted to argue the case, I am sure the communist sympathizers would in any event point to the higher levels of public education, the growing power of China and the burgeoning middle class (which only emerged after they started to wise up and cut back on the communist economic policies) as “proof” that, now more than ever, they hold the mandate.

The basic fact is though that the communist regime is illegitimate and has been from day one. No one else needs to make the case that they represent a total rejection of traditional Chinese government and a firm break with the previous thousands of years of Chinese history. They have made that a boast from the very beginning of their existence. Today, becoming more “establishment” at home and accepted abroad, they might not be as stridently opposed to the Confucian order as they once were but, make no mistake about it, they are still opposed to it. One can no more apply the principle of the Mandate of Heaven to the current bandit government in Peking than one could apply it to the republic in Paris or the Castro regime in Cuba. The communist government in China has just as much about it that is “Chinese” as any of those governments, which is to say; none at all. Regardless of how far they have moved away in practice, at their core, they are a government based on the radical, utopian ravings of a self-hating German-Jew of Nineteenth Century Europe. It is totally foreign to China (and all of Asia for that matter) in every possible way and therefore traditional Chinese perspectives cannot be applied to it; it is totally alien.

In my view (though of course they can not claim it now even if they wanted to) the heavenly mandate still rests with the Qing dynasty by default, simply as the last traditional dynasty to have held it. This has always been my position, both because of my admiration for the culture of the Qing Empire as well as the unalterable fact that no one since has even claimed the Mandate of Heaven. From the fall of the Qing the history of modern China has been unprecedented in every way. Yes, I readily admit, it could be argued (obviously, given the disasters that overtook them and the fact that they were forced to renounce power) that the Qing lost the mandate but, as I see it, if so, it remains right where they left it. Certainly no government that came immediately after could claim the mandate, the country fell into utter chaos and ruin. Whether the communists desire to or not, they could never claim to hold it as that would undermine their very foundation. Will the Qing be restored? The lessons of history say “no” (though they had some very real opportunities in the past). That is why I say the mandate resides with the Qing only by default, waiting to be picked up again or claimed by another. Obviously, I very much hope that day will come and come soon, but the China of today is a totally different animal from the China of history. They have imported something formerly unknown; mass politics and ideological fanaticism, into China and that alone, even without all the power they have accumulated recently, is sufficient to mean that any future change in “dynasty” will likely be a very, very traumatic and violent affair.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Off Topic Tuesday: Super Committee Failure

The “Super Committee”, surprise, surprise, turned out to be a super-failure. The media is covering this like it is big news but no one really expected anything different. It was a cop-out when they first formed it, it was never serious and neither side really wants to solve anything. You know it isn’t serious when their goal was to cut, at most, about a whopping 3% from the “budget” when the USA is now over $15 trillion in debt. The biggest expense, far and away, is entitlement spending and the Democrats made it very clear that they would not even consider cutting that back at all. They are not serious. Of course, the Democrats claim that the Republicans are the problem because they won’t consider any tax increases on those horrible rich people but, honestly, that is campaign fodder and nothing more because everyone knows that even if the wealthiest 1% were taxed *totally* -I mean if the government took every last dime they had, it would fund the United States for a grand total of about six months. The Republicans are right on this one -the USA has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. That is a fact.

It is also true that the Democrat war on the rich to increase revenues is simply campaign fodder because they were offered a deal that would close tax loopholes (used almost exclusively by the very wealthy) which would increase revenues to the government while not actually raising taxes. They refused it. One would think they would want to close these loopholes anyway, deal or no deal, but of course not. In case anyone thinks I am being unfair, let me assure you that I still don’t believe the Republicans, by and large, are being sincere in their sudden concern with the national debt. Where was this concern when George W. Bush was President for eight years and spending money like there was no tomorrow? I don’t buy it. They don’t get it either and when I look at the crop of GOP presidential candidates I am only further convinced that the Republicans still just don’t get it. They just sound a little better lately because the Democrats keep doing things that are blatantly retarded. Voting against a balanced budget amendment, for example, because it is just a “Republican ploy”. Really, how on earth, when the country is $15 trillion in debt, do you argue that balancing the budget is a bad idea?

President Obama never wanted this “Super Committee” to accomplish anything because he wants the narrative of his reelection campaign to be, “Things suck, but blame the ‘do-nothing’ Congress, don’t blame me”. The Republicans don’t really want an agreement either because they want the campaign narrative to be, “Things suck, fire Obama and elect Governor Romney” (who looks like the dad in the ‘came with the frame’ family at Sears). Obama keeps whining that the Republicans are “putting party before country” but let’s be adult about this. They both put party before country and this is not anything new. This is business as usual. Obama’s problem, and one reason why he has had to whip up the class warfare rhetoric to the point that there is riot police in the streets, is because he purposely allowed himself to be way, way over-sold. Expectations for George W. Bush were so low, any time he managed to string together a coherent sentence people were impressed. Obama, on the other hand, came to power as the great leader who would unite the country, rebuild Washington, save the planet, save the economy, make our enemies love us, make the oceans recede and lions sleep next to lambs. Obama has had some pretty dramatic successes (by his way of thinking) as President, yet everything that is bad seems ten times worse because he sold himself as being the super-man who could be all things to all people and solve every problem with no fuss or trouble.

Even if I were to give the Super Committee the benefit of the doubt as to their sincerity, the fact of the matter is that in the United States today the opposing sides have virtually nothing in common anymore. Take someone from east Massachusetts and someone from east Texas; they may as well be from different planets. The people of the red state/blue state divide agree on absolutely nothing, not on morals or values, not on economics, not on foreign policy, not on the proper role of government, not on the environment, not on the constitution. They fundamentally disagree on what the United States itself is or should be about. Nor can I hold out much hope for compromise. They don’t agree on the most basic judgments of “right” and “wrong” so how can you compromise on any moral or social issues? Pragmatism doesn’t come in to it. You have one side pushing for European social democracy when you can look over to Europe and see the failure of social democracy with your own eyes, yet still they push for it so, obviously, pragmatism is out of the question.

What do I think will happen? Search me, I’m no prophet. I can say I don’t think it beyond the realm of possibility that the USA begins to break up. When low tax, business friendly states start to have to foot the bill to bail out high tax, welfare states America could start down the path Belgium is on. It may also be, as Ron Paul has warned before, that the US dollar will become worthless and states will start to simply ignore the federal government and go their own way. Compromise seems even more unlikely to me as I notice the recent rise of the libertarian movement. For the uninitiated these are basically conservatives who have given up on social issues (they are pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro-legalized drugs) but hard-line on upholding capitalism and keeping the government out of economics. More and more conservatives seem to be going this way as they basically give up on the social issues because they don’t like being the “bad guy” who opposes gay marriage. Yet, they are absolutely opposed to any of the limits to capitalism that past conservative governments have made. As the Democrats drift more toward socialism and the Republicans drift more toward absolute capitalism, moral issues will no longer be an issue and there will be no room for any compromise or concessions at all between these two diametrically opposed world views.

It’s not a rosy picture, but then I’ve never been accused of being all sweetness and light.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monarch Profile: King Manuel I of Portugal

In the Kingdom of Portugal, an era associated with a “Golden Age” for the country, with the establishment of a vast, global trade empire, scientific discoveries and the flowering of Portuguese art is the reign of King Manuel I. He is known to history as “Manuel the Fortunate” because he reaped the benefits of decisions made by a number of his predecessors who laid the foundations for the great Portuguese civilization that solidified and flourished under his reign. It was under King Manuel I that Portugal, a small country with a relatively scant population on the very edge of Christendom, became one of the most prosperous, influential and leading European powers in the world. He was born on May 31, 1469 at Alcochete to the Infante Ferdinand Duke of Viseu and his wife the Infanta Beatrice of Portugal. By his mother he was the great-grandson of King John I of Portugal and by his father he was the grandson of King Edward and the nephew of King Afonso V. His predecessor was his first cousin and brother-in-law King John II who had promoted numerous voyages of discovery as well as breaking the nobility and concentrating authority in the hands of the King.

This was a time when conspiracy, exile and assassination were not uncommon in the halls of power in Portugal due to the in-fighting between the Crown and the nobility as well as within the Royal Family itself so Manuel grew up well aware that power brought with it many dangers as well as opportunities. He had plenty of reason to worry when he was summoned by King John II, fearing perhaps that he would be killed as his older brother had been. Happily, however, Manuel was spared such a fate and was instead named heir to the throne. John’s own son had died earlier and his only other heir was illegitimate and thus unable to succeed so the duty to carry on the dynasty fell to Manuel and it was then that he first became known as “Manuel the Fortunate” (or lucky). On October 25, 1495 he succeeded his brother-in-law and became the 14th King of Portugal and the Algarves. He carried on the commitment to exploration and commerce initiated by his predecessors and presided over the establishment of the first truly global empire. This effort brought immense benefits to Portugal very quickly.

In 1498 the intrepid Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama found the sea route to India, the first European to reach the subcontinent by ship and who later became the first Viceroy of Portuguese India. The rich lands of eternal Asia were opened to European markets because of this, via Portugal, and in quick order King Manuel I became one of the wealthiest monarchs in Christendom. More advances followed quickly. In 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered the immense South American nation of Brazil, setting into motion the establishment of what would be the largest colony of Portugal and, in time, the most populous Portuguese-speaking nation in the world. However, based on treaties signed with Spain and the Holy See, the focus on Portuguese exploration and investment was concentrated more on Africa and Asia and in 1505 King Manuel I appointed Francisco de Almeida the first Viceroy of India and from 1503 to 1515 the Portuguese Admiral Afonso de Albuquerque made advances in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean that led to the establishment of Portuguese monopolies on maritime trade in those lucrative sea lanes which ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity in the Kingdom of Portugal.
King Manuel I was the envy of many of the crowned heads of Europe because of all of this, but he did not forget his Christian duty either. In 1514 he sent a large and lavish embassy to Rome where his representatives presented the tribute of India to Pope Leo X. They also carried a message from King Manuel I urging the Pontiff to enact reforms in the Church (the hope of many to head-off the outbreak of the Protestant movement) and to organize a league of Christian forces to renew the crusade against the Turks. This did not happen but the Pope greatly honored King Manuel I, granting him a number of special rights over the Church in his domain and recognized him as patron and protector of the Church in what is now Ethiopia which, for the time being at least, was united to Roman Christendom. King Manuel I was able to take a global view of the problems in Europe because of the discoveries of his explorers. He had bypassed the Turkish-held Middle East to reach Persia, India and the Far East. The King also used much of his new merchant wealth to encourage the spread of Christianity by sponsoring missionary work in his new colonies, the fruits of which are still felt to this day. For his devotion to the Church, the Pope sent him the Golden Rose -twice (one from Julius II and one from Leo X), the first monarch in history to be so honored.

The wealth King Manuel accumulated attracted the best and brightest of the era to Portugal which became known as the preeminent nation in almost every field of endeavor. Great scientists, mathematicians, architects, artists and the most bold adventurers all flocked to Portugal as center of learning and progress. New discoveries came in constantly. Economic and diplomatic relations were established with the great dynasties of Asia, the Persian Empire and the Chinese Empire and King Manuel I sponsored architectural wonders, erecting new buildings and majestic monuments to befit an imperial capital. Some of the greatest of these, however, were not symbols of pride but of devotion; monasteries, convents and houses of worship. Portugal under Manuel I was a very Catholic absolute monarchy where the parliament in Lisbon was called only three times, yet, the Portuguese people had never known such success, prosperity and academic freedom. King Manuel reformed the judicial system and the system of taxation, making each more fair.

Only one group did not fare well during the reign of Manuel I and that was the Jewish minority. The King had tried numerous times through marriage to gain for himself a dominant position in Spain. It was a condition of his first marriage to the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile that he expel the Jews and Muslim Moors from the Kingdom of Portugal. Past Portuguese monarchs had tolerated and protected the Jews, advancing many of them to high office and often relying on them. Some warned the King against the expulsion of the Jews but more supported their eviction. Their money-lending (a practice banned or at least frowned-upon in most Christian nations at the time) stirred up jealousy and hatred against them. So, King Manuel I ordered the Jews to either convert or leave the country. Many falsely converted in order to stay and this would prove a source of problems and endless controversy for the Holy Office of the Inquisition in the future. However, the King was not a hateful man and when mob violence resulted in the murder of a number of Jews he had the perpetrators put to death for the crime.

King Manuel did marry Isabella (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella) but she died in childbirth in 1498 and their only child, Miguel, who was heir to both Portugal and Spain died a few years later. In 1501 Manuel married Maria of Aragon by whom he had 10 children including the future King John III of Portugal, the Cardinal-King Henry and consorts for the Holy Roman Emperor and the Duke of Savoy. Maria died in 1517 and the following year Manuel married, for the last time, to Eleanor of Austria, daughter of the King and Queen of Castile and sister to the future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. They had one son, Carlos, before King Manuel I died on December 13, 1521, of plague, in Lisbon at the age of 52. He was succeeded by his son, King John III, who tried to continue his policies. The Golden Age of Portugal went on for a time but a variety of problems began to cause the wave of success to recede somewhat. All subsequent historians would always look back to the reign of King Manuel I as the zenith of Portuguese glory and greatness around the world.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Christ the King Day!

A happy Christ the King day to all Christian readers. Today, in countries at least where Christianity is still considered, and the political left and right squabble over "What Would Jesus Do?" it is worth pointing this feast day out, particularly that it is the Feast of Christ the King rather than Christ the "President". A significant distinction as true authority is not gained by a popularity contest, nor by the bomb or billy club, not by slick advertisements or piles of cash. Power may be gained in such ways, but not true authority. Christ (the anointed) is King (not President) because His position is based on birth (no one elected Him to be the Son of God) on divine authority and does not rest on popular opinion. His orders are not voted on, cannot be vetoed and (as much as some today may like to) He cannot be voted out of office because that "office" exists for the people but is not of or by the people. It is a divine position, not a popular one, something handed down from Heaven, rather than being set up from earth. There are, of course, those Christians today who try to have it both ways (with the best of intentions we must assume) and who will say that they recognize the authority of Christ the King but of none other. "No King but Jesus" was once the popular slogan. Yet, they do the Christ a disservice in saying that, for truly he was called the "King of kings" which would neccessarily imply that there are other kings beneath him and these we are called to obey, rendering unto Caesar as well as unto God. Moreover, the spirit of pride inherent in that phrase is not one, upon closer reflection, I think most sincere Christians should be able to be comfortable with.

So, if I may offer a little suggestion to the subjects of Christ the King today, take a moment to reflect, not only on worldly politics (we have the rest of the year to devote to that) but to the centrality of kingship to the Christian narrative. The foretelling of the coming of Christ was bound up in kingship. The prophecy was that He would be of royal blood, born of the House of David and born to be King. It was because of His royal blood that, even as a newborn, He was hunted and persecuted. The ministry of Christ was the ministry of the King who came to serve rather than to be served, in all things doing the will of the King of Heaven and finally, it was because of His royal blood, ultimately, that it was prevailed upon the Romans to put Him to death with the "crime" nailed over His head being "King of the Jews", wrapped in a purple cloak, holding a reed for a sceptre and wearing a crown of thorns. The kingship of Christ is absolutely central to the Christian story and it is an aspect that should not be ignored, especially in times such as we live in today.

So ends the 'sermon' and may the King of Heaven bless you all.

MM Video: Gustavus Adolphus

MM Video: Emperor Pedro I of Brazil

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Royal News Roundup

Starting with Asia, in the Land of the Rising Sun, the Emperor is still dealing with a persistent cough so HIH Crown Prince Naruhito stepped in to welcome Their Majesties the newlywed King and Queen of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan on Tuesday. The visit is to mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Bhutan. The King also met with the Prime Minister and is set to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Keio and will address the Japanese parliament.

In the Middle East, HM King Abdullah II of Jordan has responded to the unrest and killings in nearby Syria by calling on the dictator President Bashar Assad to relinquish power and step down. This came at the same time that the powerful Arab League voted to suspend the membership of Syria. On Tuesday the Jordanian monarch was in London where he visited Buckingham Palace and met with HM the Queen.

In the Low Countries, HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, on Thursday, was at the 16th Foundation Ballet Gala of the Dancers ‘79 at Amsterdam Music Theater. The event is to benefit the art of dance, encouraging young people especially to take it up. King Albert II of the Belgians underwent surgery as an out-patient this week to remove a bit of skin cancer from his nose. Doctors said it was nothing too serious, that the operations went perfectly well and the King is now recovering. Tuesday was King’s Day in Belgium with several ceremonies to mark the occasion, though as per tradition the King himself does not attend these. There was a special Te Deum and a military parade attended by the other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Laurent who has been on the ‘naughty list’ lately and not seen at many official events. In Luxembourg, Grand Duchess Maria Theresa and daughter-in-law Princess Tessy and her two sons attended the Red Cross Bazaar to benefit that organization.

In southern Europe, Monaco is in full party mode for National Day today, marking the accession of HSH Prince Albert II. More on the events of today (probably more coverage tomorrow) can be found at Mad for Monaco. In Spain, HM King Juan Carlos met with representatives of the country’s leading Catholic charity, “Caritas” at Zarzuela Palace along with several other dignitaries this week. On Thursday HRH the Prince of the Asturias donned his naval uniform to visit the ‘Strategic Project Ship’ (sort of a cheaper substitute for an aircraft carrier) “Juan Carlos I” with the commanding Admiral of the Spanish navy as his tour guide. The ship will be able to carry soldiers, troop transports, landing craft and up to thirty aircraft for strategic operations. Spain may not be the naval superpower that it once was but the new state-of-the-art ship shows that the proud naval tradition in Spain continues. The “Juan Carlos I” was commissioned last year and is the second aircraft carrying vessel in the Spanish navy, the first being, appropriately, the flagship carrier “Prince of Asturias”.

In the north, on Wednesday HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark attended the special Queen’s Parade in Copenhagen on honor of the Danish Royal Guard who were drawn up in all their blue and bearskin glory. Events are building up for the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s accession in January. Also, very soon, Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary are set to visit her native land of Australia. In Norway, tomorrow, a new documentary will begin airing on Crown Princess Mette-Marit. In Sweden, on Tuesday, Prince Daniel handed out the “2011 Leader of the Year Award” in Stockholm, the winner this year being Johan Malmquist, ceo of Getinge AB.

Finally, in Great Britain, the Royal Family was out in force for the official commemorations for Armistice Day/Veterans Day. The only top-tier royal not present was Prince Harry who is still training in Arizona and attended a special ceremony with his comrades there to mark the occasion. On Wednesday the Queen, Prince Philip and the Prince of Wales were at Westminster Abbey to mark the 400th anniversary of that jewel of English literature the Authorized King James Bible which, until fairly recently, was the standard Bible for almost all Protestant Christians in the English speaking world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Maximilian, Last Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia

In February of 1857 Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian was appointed by his elder brother, the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph, Viceroy of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, that part of the Italian peninsula directly under Austrian rule. It was not an appointment he really wanted to make as he feared Max was too liberal to be entrusted with a great deal of political power. However, it was done, in large measure, to appease King Leopold I of the Belgians whose beloved daughter Charlotte had recently married the Archduke. The Belgian monarch wanted his daughter to be more highly placed than simply being the wife of the commander of the Austrian navy -Austria being less than a major naval power, and the King of the Belgians, by his reputation across Europe and his influence with his niece, Queen Victoria of Great Britain, was a man whose goodwill was important to have. So, the Austrian Emperor made the appointment, entrusting, in name at least, two of the five most important cities in the Hapsburg realm; Milan and Venice, to Maximilian.

Maximilian was greatly pleased with the appointment, seeing a chance to finally do some good, to show that his ideas of a liberal, benevolent monarchy would prove the successful pattern for the future. The new Vicereine Charlotte was also enthusiastic about the position and, being the studious young lady she was, immediately began teaching herself everything possible about the history of the Italian peninsula, the workings of the government of Lombardy-Venetia and learning the Italian language. The handsome young couple entered Milan on September 6, 1857, only six weeks after their marriage in Brussels. They had first traveled about their new domain in a rather low-key style, observing the region and gathering what information they could, but for their formal entry into Milan they donned their best Hapsburg imperial finery and entered in a sumptuous carriage. Rows of Austrian soldiers in their white coats were drawn up at attention, artillery thundered out a welcoming salute and the bands struck up, in turn, the Austrian and Belgian national anthems. It was a glittering and magnificent affair as they greeted everyone and took up their formal residence in the palace at Monza. Charlotte wrote to a friend about how beautiful and sunny Italy was and how happy she was, both in Milan and with her new husband saying, “Max is perfection in every way”.

However, trouble had been brewing in Lombardy-Venetia for quite some time. All across the Italian peninsula the national sentiment was coming to boil as more and more people became focused on uniting the Italian states and driving out the foreign armies that occupied Italian soil. Some of this was political, some academic but there were also the secret societies who would not hesitate to use violence to see their goal of a single Italian nation achieved. The area had been engulfed in rebellion during the Revolutions of 1848 and the Emperor Francis Joseph was worried about how his little brother would handle that section of the populace who were very much the unwilling subjects of the Hapsburg Crown. Archduke Maximilian had made no secret of the fact that he had long favored granting greater freedom and self-government to the two most significant non-German populations of the Austrian Empire; the Hungarians and the Italians. For the Emperor, who took his example from the very conservative Emperor Francis I, change was to be avoided at almost any cost. For the new Viceroy, change was essential and he thought himself just the man for the job.

Maximilian hoped to change the reputation of the Austrians in Italy by displays of trust and good will. It was a tall order as many in Italy associated Austria only with repression, bayonets, floggings and executions. Archduke Maximilian, however, was not a militarist of any kind and he walked among his new people alone and without an escort, greeting them and talking to them personally. His handsome face and charming smile won people over and, according to letters written by Charlotte at least, the people began to be won over by his good faith and trust. It was not easy though for one man to change attitudes set in place by years of history and conflict. An often told story was that when Emperor Francis Joseph and Empress Sissi had visited the region earlier troops had to force crowds out onto the streets to greet them and when ordered to cheer for the Imperial couple coming in the third carriage, responded by shouting, “Long live the third carriage!”. At Venice few people attended the imperial reception as crowds gathered to spit and curse at those who did. It was not an easy position Maximilian and Charlotte had been placed in for certain.

The new Viceroy did everything right. He gave to the poor, generously, went personally to help with the seasonal flooding and organized a lottery to benefit the displaced. He did his best to reclaim land, provide more reliable clean water to the cities, improve education and to beautify Milan and Venice. The Viceregal couple attended every local celebration and the people began to respond positively. No one who met them failed to be impressed by them and soon, in their young and idealistic way, Maximilian and Charlotte began to envision a grand future for themselves with their Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia not being an obstacle to Italian unity but the leader of it and that they might one day become King and Queen of an enlightened united Italy. However, that dream would most certainly never be realized. Many of the people, perhaps even most of the people, truly liked their handsome Austrian Viceroy and his beautiful Belgian wife and appreciated their kindness. However, that personal affection did not extend to political approval. They were still foreigners and in the rising nationalism of the time, that made a difference. Lovely as they might be, they were not Italian and Italy would belong to the Italians and none other. The couple could also expect no cooperation from Vienna in obtaining any greater autonomy for themselves or their kingdom.

Soon, the limitations of their personal popularity became apparent. When parties were thrown at the palace, hardly anyone would show up as those who did would be treated as outcasts or even traitors by their fellow Italians. The aristocracy shunned the Viceregal couple. Undeterred, they tried turned to the middle class for support but again, they would not associate with them. To do so would cause their countrymen to boycott their businesses. The educated class had never wanted anything to do with them since, as usual, it was the university professors who had long been the most adamantly liberal and opposed to Austrian rule. Things finally became so bad that when Maximilian and Charlotte ventured out, such as to the theater or opera, news of their arrival would precede them and the house would be all but empty when they arrived. When there continued to be student protests for Italian unity or when the Piedmontese flag appeared or articles calling for national unity were printed in newspapers, Emperor Francis Joseph in Vienna determined that, as he expected, his brother was being too lenient and firm measures would have to be taken.

Maximilian, of course, resisted this, reasserting that patience and goodwill were necessary to truly win over the public. He also had the audacity to ask for what amounted to autonomy for his kingdom with its own military, governmental, educational and taxation systems. This, Maximilian argued, was the only way to keep Lombardy-Venetia united to the Hapsburg Crown. The Emperor refused and instead encouraged his brother to rely more on the army and police and even went so far as appointing the long-time Austrian army commander in the region, General Count Gyulai, something of a co-Viceroy alongside Maximilian and who would have to co-sign all major decisions. Of course, the Archduke was outraged by this and became more and more depressed with his position. He tried to get around the move by asking to have control of the army himself so that military and civil matters would be united in the office of the Viceroy but the Emperor refused. Maximilian and Charlotte even went to Vienna to argue in person on behalf of their unwilling subjects but they gained not a single concession.

When they returned, things had only grown worse. The Italians still liked the couple but viewed them, not entirely unfairly it must be said, as powerless tools in the hands of those in Vienna they viewed as enemies. It was fair enough as Vienna viewed the Italians as enemies as well. Maximilian was deeply depressed and sent Charlotte to visit her family in Belgian while he remained alone in the palace surrounded only by his soldiers. Soon, in 1859, war clouds gathered between France and Piedmont-Sardinia on one side and Austria on the other. In such a crisis, the Emperor did not feel he could trust his high-minded brother and on April 21, General Count Gyulai arrived with a letter from Vienna informing Archduke Maximilian of his dismissal. Two days later, to the horror of many, including the elder statesman Prince von Metternich, Francis Joseph ordered a general mobilization. In the short Second War for Italian Independence, Lombardy-Venetia was annexed by Piedmont-Sardinia, coming under the reign of the House of Savoy, according to the Treaty of Zurich. In 1866, by the Treaty of Prague, Venice was ceded as well. Archduke Maximilian and Archduchess Charlotte again found themselves with nothing to do, at least until some elegant Latin aristocrats and French officials arrived from Paris sounding out their opinions on the idea of an empire in Mexico…

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Consort Profile: Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria

The saying that, ‘behind every great man is a great woman’ was never more true in this case. King Albert I of the Belgians was a great man in every way and the great woman behind him was Elisabeth of Bavaria. She was the greatest support to her husband and the backbone of the Belgian Royal Family in what would be the darkest hour of their history up to that time. She was born Elisabeth Gabriele Valerie Marie, Duchess in Bavaria, at Possenhofen Castle in Bavaria and was named after her aunt, the famous Empress of Austria. She grew up in Bavaria as a very well rounded young lady; intelligent, curious, loving art and music (passions she would retain throughout her life) at home outdoors and utterly fearless. She was small, refined, very delicate looking, lacking, perhaps, the dazzling beauty of her famous aunt but graceful, with refined features and a rather statuesque appearance. Her appearance and her love of painting, sculpting and music (encouraged by her father who was also the artistic type) would make some consider her fragile, but she could climb the rugged hills and mountains of the Bavarian Alps with the best of them and she did not shy away from unpleasant sights while serving in the eye-clinic established by her father Duke Karl Theodor who was a noted ophthalmologist.

On October 2, 1900, in Munich, she married HRH Prince Albert of Belgium, then second in line to the throne after his father following the death of Prince Baudouin. The two would become one of the most perfectly wedded royal couples of their time. They were devoted to each other, anxious to be of service, devoutly religious and shared many interests. In 1905 Prince Albert’s father died and he was suddenly heir to the throne and Princess Elisabeth was set to become the next Queen of the Belgians. Her gracious manners, charm and petite figure were tailor-made to win over the public but the Bavarian princess was made of tough stuff. It would take some time for the world to realize that, but those around her learned right away. She carried herself in such a way as to command respect and even the formidable King Leopold II watched his language when in her presence. A disapproving glare was all Elisabeth required to make her feelings known and, in 1909 when her husband became King Albert I of the Belgians and she became Queen, she set a new moral tone for the Royal Family. No longer would the court be the focus of scandals, business deals and public relations battles. Queen Elisabeth made the court a center of charity, artistic appreciation and Catholic morality.

It was a happy period for the couple. Elisabeth loved Albert intensely and had from the very start. She was the most supportive, comforting and affectionate wife a King could ask for. Children had come quickly with the future King Leopold III born in 1901, Prince Charles Theodore born in 1903 and Princess Marie Jose born in 1906, destined to be the last Queen of Italy. She was a devoted and caring mother, doting especially on her eldest. This is seen, perhaps best, in the care she took for the education, secular and religious, for her children. They were a very close family and it was largely to the credit of the virtuous Queen Elisabeth that the reputation of the Belgian monarchy improved dramatically as people saw the little group as the ideal Royal Family. There is no such thing as perfection in this life, however, and soon their domestic bliss was shattered by the outbreak of World War I. The Imperial German Army, the most powerful military force in the world, was soon knocking at the door of “gallant little Belgium” and King Albert I famously refused their demand for passage through his kingdom. The Germans might conquer Belgium but they were going to have to fight for every last foot of ground of it. This was even more painful for the Queen as some of the men leading the Bavarian regiments of the German army were her own family. Yet, there was never the slightest question about where her loyalties rested.

As per the constitution, King Albert was thrust into the role of field commander of the Belgian army and it was a colossal strain. Outmatched in every way, after the Germans brought up specialized, Austrian heavy artillery, the main Belgian forts were knocked out and the King made his stand at Antwerp. When that city could no longer be defended they carried out a fighting retreat down the coast before finally stopping the Germans at the Yser River, just inside the Belgian border on a tiny patch of waterlogged Flemish farmland. Queen Elisabeth supported her husband every step of the way and who can say what would have happened had she not been there to do so. Everyone did their part. The King managed the war effort, the young Crown Prince Leopold joined the infantry and went to the front and Queen Elisabeth began working as a nurse, a job well suited to her. She established a hospital to care for the wounded Belgian soldiers, worked there herself and was responsible for a great deal of the relief effort in caring for civilians and soldiers alike. Despite her intense sorrow at the horrors surrounding her, she remained strong, confident and optimistic. Generals down to common soldiers praised her for her care in the titanic task she undertook. And, fearless as always, the Queen did not hesitate to join her husband in going up to the front lines.

In those hard, terrible days of World War I, in Flanders on the western front, the whole world saw what the Belgian Queen was made of; she was not so delicate as she appeared. The Queen set an example for everyone around her, enduring enemy shelling, trips to the trenches and all the hardships of war without flinching but always looking for what more she could do. Part of this included her establishment of an orphanage for the children suffering from the war. No one met her who was not impressed by her. When the nightmare finally passed, when Belgium was finally liberated, she rode alongside the King in their triumphant return to Brussels. The following year, in 1919, she accompanied her husband to the United States where the American people cheered them as the first heroes of a war they had been late to enter. In 1928 and again in 1932 the Queen accompanied her husband on tours of the Belgian Congo where the city of Elisabethville was named in her honor. She was just as close and supporting a wife as she had always been and shared with the King a desire to see the vast Belgian colony improved, reformed and modernized. However, only a few years later in 1934 King Albert I died in a mountain climbing accident. Queen Elisabeth was crushed by the loss and would never be quite the same again.

As Queen mother, Elisabeth continued to encourage the arts and sciences (befriending Albert Einstein among other prominent thinkers). During World War II she used what connections she still had in Germany to help save the lives of numerous Jewish children. She never changed. However, after 1934 it was as if she was only counting the days until she could be reunited with her beloved husband. Still, she remained devoted to her causes, her family and her country, going her own way even when it caused controversy until she finally went to join her beloved husband on November 23, 1965 in Brussels. Queen Elizabeth was, at times, unorthodox but she was also the ideal consort by every measure. She adored her husband and was his strongest support in his most difficult days, she was a devoted mother, provided well for the succession and she was fearless in her care for her adopted country. She was, in every way, a great Queen.
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