touched on before) and this is relevant to readers here because of the extent to which the Sacred Heart has been adopted as the symbol of a great many royalist, monarchist and/or counterrevolutionary movements throughout history. To this day it remains a favorite emblem for traditionalist causes, in the Catholic world at least. Why is this? I cannot say with certainty. The Sacred Heart represents many things to many people but, I suppose, a general way of defining what it is supposed to represent is the enduring love and sacrifice of Christ for humanity. This applies to everyone, of course, and still does not quite explain why monarchists in particular would be attached to it, but perhaps other aspects of historical context will. For myself, I cannot help but think it has something to do with the Sacred Heart coming to be associated with “lost causes” (as some might have guessed from the image of it I have on the right-hand sidebar). The movements that first come to mind when I think of royalists or traditionalists who adopted the Sacred Heart as a badge are the French counterrevolutionaries of the Vendee, the Carlists of Spain and the Cristeros of Mexico. Two out of the three were overtly royalist but one thing they do all have in common is that all of them were, ultimately, unsuccessful. I am sure some may argue that point but I mean only that they did not win a smashing battlefield victory, make their enemies beg for mercy and hold triumphs in Paris, Madrid or Mexico City.
Although the devotion had long existed it was the visions of St Margaret Marie Alacoque, in France, that caused it to become much more widespread. The story goes that the saint urged King Louis XIV (at divine request) to put the image of the Sacred Heart on his royal coat of arms which the “Sun King” declined to do. That may, in part, explain why French royalists, after the outbreak of the Revolution and the horrors that went with that, adopted the Sacred Heart as their badge. For the royalist counterrevolutionaries, the Sacred Heart badge was usually the closest thing they had to a “uniform” as it was so widespread. No doubt the French royalists carrying flags with the Sacred Heart and wearing Sacred Heart badges on their clothes went a long way to making it a religious symbol closely associated with the idea of restoring the monarchy and, in particular, a traditional Catholic monarchy which might have been somewhat different than the way it had been under the martyred King Louis XVI or even much farther back. The ties are not direct or even all that strong but one can see a slight connection in the principles that many dissident monarchist groups were fighting for.
The Carlists, originally (before being pulled in every possible direction by various factions and claimants) consisted of the supporters of the only recently renounced absolute monarchy of Spain, so something similar to the “divine right” concept while also including a great many that we might today call “regionalists”. They too wanted greater government at the local level rather than in Madrid with the local regions of Spain being governed by their own laws and customs and their previous special favors. In effect, this meant going back more to the way things had been in Spain under the House of Hapsburg prior to the War of Spanish Succession, doing away with the centralization that had taken effect under the House of Bourbon which tended to concentrate power, following the example of the great Louis XIV in France. The similarities between what the Jacobites and the Carlists were wanting are striking and the Carlists did what the Bourbon monarch in France had refused to do and displayed the Sacred Heart on the royal coat of arms. One can easily tell a flag used by the Carlists for the Sacred Heart featuring in the center of the arms. The Carlists also sewed Sacred Heart badges onto their uniforms and the symbol persisted even into the Twentieth Century. One can find photos from the Spanish Civil War of the Carlists fighting for Franco and the nationalists with the Sacred Heart painted on their trucks or scratched into the stocks of their rifles.
Mexico, like the rest of the Spanish colonial empire, had been rather decentralized under the Hapsburgs. The Bourbons centralized things more but in either case the Church was always on the side of God, Country and King (as the Carlists would say). When independence came, the Church was on the side of Iturbide and after his brief hold on power the Catholic Church was mostly (not entirely) on the same side as the aristocrats and military men who supported centralization over states’ rights (centralists versus federalists they were called then). Sometimes this was because Church leaders saw it as necessary at the time, and many of the political leaders had been monarchists (Bustamante) or flirted with the idea (Santa Anna) and sometimes it was simply because the federalists were anti-clerical and the centralists were not. Naturally one would support the side that means you the least harm. Later on, after the Cristero war (la Cristiada) and the Revolution, things became a bit more clear-cut for the discerning Mexican Catholic with the emergence of the National Synarchist Union in direct opposition to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (which is back in power again) and which consciously drew on the struggle of the Cristeros while advocating for a more Catholic, more hierarchical Mexico organized according to natural, traditional groups rather than the class distinctions favored by both the socialists and (to a lesser extent) the capitalists (not because of any greater righteousness on their part but simply because labor and ownership hating each other is bad for business). Will this group be successful? The current trend of Mexican politics would seem to say “no”. Like others they have divided and may not even be a token force on the political scene anymore.