Thursday, February 28, 2013
The introduction of constitutional monarchy could almost be seen as the replacement of one royal family by another. For example, Prime Minister Rainiharo obtained that office, as well as that of Commander-in-Chief, by marrying Queen Ranavalona I in 1833. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by his son Rainivoninahitriniony (hope I spelled that right) who was an attempted regicide and coup leader but that did not stop his brother Rainilaiarivony from succeeding him as Prime Minister. He first married his cousin and had 16 children but then also married Queen Rasoherina (the widow of the King his own brother had plotted to kill and who the new PM purged from the list of kings -even making it illegal to speak his name). In due course he married each of the last three Queens of Madagascar; Ranavalona II and Ranavalona III in their turn. He was complicit in a number of coup attempts and was responsible for the new constitution that drastically limited the power of the monarchy and in effect made him king in all but name.
The French, for their part, had no initial desire to bring down the monarchy in Madagascar. Oddly enough, even in republican France, many recognized the value of monarchy in foreign countries and French colonies. Sometimes they were quite beneficial to colonial monarchies and at other times, even when the French were detrimental it was inadvertent. French concern about the British was not unfounded. British influence was growing in Madagascar, particularly through British missionary Bible societies to the extent that the Queen and Prime Minister became Protestant Christians, ordered their court to do the same and “encouraged” the public to be baptized out of patriotic love for the Queen. Alcohol was banned, work on Sunday was banned and a few Catholics were persecuted to show how truly Protestant Madagascar had become. In fact, most continued with their native beliefs with a dash of Christianity thrown into the mix.
In a way, this was a liberating moment for the young monarch. Though, the innocent young woman was a little nervous when the French said she would need a new Prime Minister and she immediately chose French General Jacques Duchesne who had led the recent campaign. The worry arose from her assumption that she would have to marry him and the Queen was relieved when told that such was no longer to be the case. Unfortunately, once it was too late, the native population did begin to rise up against the French presence as well as the Christian missionaries (Catholic or Protestant) and all other foreign influences. Members of the royal court and royal family were implicated in this and, from that point on, many in France began to see the monarchy as being more trouble than it was worth. The rebellion was put down and a hard military man, General Joseph Gallieni (who would go on to considerable fame in World War I) was put in charge of things in Madagascar. Not long after arriving he had the royal properties seized, placed the Queen under house arrest and finally, on February 27, 1897, abolished the monarchy and sent the Queen into exile on Reunion Island, later being moved to Algeria.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Those who responded had a variety of motivations. Aside from the pull of King and Country, there were local tensions to be considered. Since there settlement more and more people had started to move into the Piedmont area and these people tended to be of the Whig/Patriot persuasion and clashed with the more established residents of the area. Even those Scots not inclined to great adoration for King George III were often willing to fight for his side simply to stop the influx of colonists intruding on what had previously been their exclusive domain. For the Jacobites among them, there was also the memory that they had fought for something more than simply fidelity to the House of Stuart, as fervent as that was and as deeply felt as their personal loyalty to the “King across the water” had always been. Part of what was at the core of all of that was the idea that legitimate authority comes from God and so the idea of a democratic republic was unthinkable and downright wicked. King George III may not have been the monarch they would have most preferred, but better a Hanoverian king than a revolutionary republic and regardless of who was on the throne it was important that the ties between America and Britain (including Scotland) not be broken.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Monday, February 25, 2013
Religious matters would dominate a great deal of his reign and one of the first problems he had to address was the growing controversy over a certain man named Martin Luther. At the famous Diet of Worms the Emperor met Luther face to face and listened to him make his case. Needless to say, the Emperor was not impressed and gave a quite eloquent response based on history and tradition, saying, “For it is certain that a single monk must err if he stands against the opinion of all Christendom. Otherwise Christendom itself would have erred for more than a thousand years”. Luther, we now know, did not actually say, “Here I stand, I can do no other” but, in any event, he refused to recant his beliefs and the Emperor refused to break his word and have him arrested on the spot. So, Luther was free to go and continued to spread his new religious ideas, which would ultimately lead to the creation of the Lutheran church, the Protestant movement and the further splitting of Christendom. This was, obviously, a major concern for Charles V who, as Emperor, saw himself as the chief guardian of Christendom and while he did not try to rule everyone directly, he would take swift action against any threat to his authority. The spread of Protestantism was definitely such a threat and he wanted the Church to do something about it.
In 1522 pro-Lutheran nobles rose up in the Knights’ War which Charles V had to put down, followed by the even nastier Peasants’ Revolt in 1524 which even Luther was horrified by. To make matters worse, as far as the Emperor was concerned anyway, while Protestant rebellions were becoming a major problem in Germany, the Catholic south was coming under renewed attack by the Ottoman Turks who were never more effective than at that time under the skilled leadership of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. In 1522 they launched a massive attack on the island of Rhodes, defended by the Knights of St John. The island fell and Emperor Charles allowed the Knights to relocate to Malta. On land, by 1526 the Turkish armies had penetrated far into Europe, wiping out the Hungarian army and killing King Louis of Hungary at the battle of Mohacs. And if that was not enough bad news for Charles V, German possessions in northern Italy were attacked by the French under King Francis I in 1524. The Emperor moved to meet this threat in person, aware of the fact that Pope Clement VII had allied with the King of France in an effort to prevent the German domination of Italy. The result was the battle of Pavia which was a smashing success for Emperor Charles V who totally defeated the French army and took Francis I prisoner. He gave up claims to imperial territories while in captivity but, after being released, said he was not bound by agreements signed while he was a prisoner and renewed his campaign against Charles V in alliance with the Pope.
The result was the horrific “sack of Rome” in which the Swiss Guard were wiped out, fighting to the last man to defend the Pope, who was himself nearly killed. Clement VII barricaded himself inside Castel Sant Angelo with as many Roman refugees as could be fit in while the imperial troops went on the rampage, committing acts of destruction, pillage, murder and sacrilege that are truly too terrible to repeat. It was worse than anything the barbarian invaders of Imperial Rome had ever done and a witness who was a veteran of the wars against the Muslims remarked that no Muslim was ever so cruel or vicious toward an enemy as the imperial troops were toward the helpless Romans. It was sadism and bloodlust run rampant. Now, to be fair, it must be said that Charles V could not have known that such an infamy would have happened, he certainly did not order it and he was horrified in the aftermath when he learned of the details. However, as it was he who sent the army to conquer Rome in the first place, he must accept the ultimate and theoretic responsibility for that. Still, he was aghast at what happened but still enough of a man of the world to use it to his advantage and in the aftermath of such an atrocity Pope Clement VII agreed to all of his demands and was then released from captivity by the end of the year. His power was unquestioned but, that being so, he was able to be magnanimous and restored the Papal States to Clement VII and Florence to the Medici family. Some may say it was largely symbolic but it was something a vindictive man would never have done and something he did not have to do in light of his victory.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Friday, February 22, 2013
|Confederates in Mexico|
As always, the conflict on the border had a style all its own. On one side was General Mejia with 3,000 imperial troops, including about 300 French and Austrian soldiers. Their army was harassed constantly by the regular and bandit forces of Benito Juarez as well as the bandits of the local border chieftain Juan Cortina who switched allegiances several times. In the summer of 1865 General Mejia embarked on an offensive toward Camargo that cleared out the republican bandits and Juaristas. Consolidation was able to take place and the city of Matamoros was cleaned up and work even got underway by a Belgian company to build an opera house in anticipation of a visit by the Emperor and Empress.
Eventually, Cortina drove the imperialistas out of Camargo but he was in turn dealt severe defeats in an attempted raid on an imperial supply train and an imperialista attack on his own encampment. The situation soon degenerated into a no-holds-barred guerilla war. The French and Mexican imperialists decided to fight fire with fire and turned to the flamboyant and vicious Colonel Charles Dupin, leader of the contra-guerillas who struck the republican forces with such ferocity and cruelty that he was nicknamed the “hyena of Tamaulipas” and his men, the “Red Devils”. However, both sides were equally brutal no doubt about it.
|General Tomas Mejia|
The attack on Matamoros went on for sixteen days until an imperial cavalry patrol discovered that the Juaristas had abandoned their lines and retreated on November 9. Total losses for the Juaristas amounted to five hundred dead or wounded and fifty-eight taken prisoner while General Mejia had lost fewer than twelve. Yet, as long as the republicans remained in the area the fight went on with Juarista raiders attacking French and Imperialista detachments. In December, General Escobedo even managed to take Monterrey though it was quickly taken back by only seven hundred imperial cavalry. The town of Bagdad also came under attack, first by American land pirates and again in January of 1866 by forces allied with the scheming U.S. General Lew Wallace. Lt. Colonel J.D. Davis commanding the 118th Colored Troops (the official designation for African-Americans serving in the U.S. Army at the time) at Clarksville, Texas also allowed the invaders to pass and many of his troops even joined the expedition. The raiders overcame the guards at Bagdad on January 5, surprised and captured the guard commander and murdered the imperialist mayor. The town was seized and plundered by the American forces.
|Austrian troops in Matamoros|
Thursday, February 21, 2013
I will explain why in my usual, frustrating, way. One of the names that I have heard tossed around is the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, a native of Lombardy and former Patriarch of Venice. I don’t know much about him but I have heard that some at least think that he is a favorite of Benedict XVI. As far as I’m concerned, I would be positive about Cardinal Scola simply for being an Italian. Why does that matter? It should not, but here is why; I have been rather alarmed at some of what I have heard about another so-called front runner for the papacy in Cardinal Peter Turkson yet he is often talked about because he is from Ghana and everyone in the media (possibly due to a case of Obama-fever?) is excited about having a Black Pope -and they don’t mean the guy in charge of the Jesuits either. I do hope we have not become that race-obsessed. There have been popes from Africa before and they might have been Black for all we know. But it is not only that. We also have people talking about the possibility of the first Canadian Pope, who would also be the first “North American Pope”, some have suggested the Archbishop Dolan of New York as a potential first American Pope and, given the numerical dominance of the population in the Catholic Church, many people are saying “it is time” for the first Latino Pope.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
One of the lasting legacies of Princess Antoinette was the purchase, with her dowry, of the Château de Marchais which has remained in the Grimaldi family ever since and was the favorite country retreat of many generations including Prince Rainier III, Princess Grace and their children. The money she brought to Monaco also helped in the establishment and improvement of the Monte Carlo casino which soon proved to be a very beneficial investment, bringing hordes of wealthy tourists to the gaming tables and solving the financial problems of the principality.
Prince Charles III and Princess Antoinette had a very happy marriage and Charles depended greatly on his hard-working wife, whom he called his “Angel”. Charles was already suffering from poor health and failing eyesight when Princess Antoinette was diagnosed with cancer in 1862. Nonetheless, she took attentive care of her husband, ignoring her own terminal illness, in the most selfless fashion. Even when her worsening condition forced her to leave Monaco and retire to Marchais for the benefit of the country air she wrote constantly her husband, inquiring after his health and that of her mother-in-law, warning that the devoted old woman should not put her own health in danger by doing too much to help Charles III.
Princess Antoinette seemed out of her element if she could not be helping others and despite her condition she could stand to be away no longer and returned to Monaco to look after her husband and mother-in-law. With a doctor and two maids she made the journey back to the Princely Palace, a trip which took a toll on the rapidly worsening condition the Princess herself was suffering. Only three months later HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco passed away on February 10, 1864. Prince Charles III was devastated by her loss and was forced to rely ever more on those around him, mostly his mother at first, as he became more infirm and withdrawn, rarely leaving the Princely Palace in his final years. Princess Antoinette is not as much talked about as some other Princesses of Monaco, but she was an exemplary consort in every way. Few others were ever as devoted, selfless and caring as the Belgian Princess of Monaco.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Some people, I know, get bent out of shape when I refer to these (officially "internment camps") as "concentration camps" as that tends to bring to mind what were actually "death camps" operated by the Nazis. Well, it's not my fault that the majority cannot be bothered to be correct in their language. There were no gas chambers, no massacres and no torture-experiments at these American concentration camps but they were not vacation resorts either. Given the background of those placed there, I cannot help but imagine how easily some of my own relatives might have been among them had they been in the wrong place at the wrong time. People were grabbed by military forces from their homes, sometimes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and placed in these camps, surrounded by barbed wire and where stepping outside the fence got more than a few shot. They endured freezing cold, boiling heat and, perhaps most harshly, the bewildering ignorance of not knowing if or when they would ever be released. And, again, most of these were U.S.-born American citizens like anyone else, they just happened to belong to the wrong race or ethnic group so that, even without doing anything wrong or suspicious, their loyalty was called into question.
I have said it before and I will say it again, because the above is a perfect illustration of the fact, no matter how idealistic the political ideologue might be, true justice, freedom and security is not to be found in any piece of paper. No document, law or constitution can ever cover everything and even the one republic that has worked probably the best overall was still one where an injustice like this could happen. Democracy and elections are not a cure-all and choosing a head of state by popular majority does not ensure that tyranny and oppression cannot happen. I wonder how many of the Japanese, German and Italian-American sent to these concentration camps had voted for President Roosevelt?
Monday, February 18, 2013
|San Fernando III|
Ferdinand and Isabella were determined that Spain would be Catholic and VERY Catholic. Toward that end the (now unnecessarily) notorious Spanish Inquisition was set up, mostly to seek out false converts. The reputation of the Spanish Inquisition has been grossly exaggerated and that is now a matter of documented fact. It should also be kept in mind that Spain had just gone through the longest war in history, which naturally hardened feelings on both sides of the religious divide, and which started off with people of another religion giving aid to an invasion by their co-religionists and the King and Queen were quite naturally determined that such a thing would never happen again. It should also be remembered that, while the Spanish Inquisition was certainly the most “zealous” in Christendom, when you look at all the bloodshed caused by the Wars of Religion in France and the Thirty Years War and Peasants Revolt in Germany and so on and so forth, the Inquisition spared Spain from such horrors and in the end probably saved a great many lives in the long run. Today, modern sensibilities would consider it terribly oppressive, but Spain had tried the tolerance game and got burned because of it. Keep that in mind.
|King Felipe II|
The Hapsburgs were also hampered by a bad quality bloodline and when King Carlos II died without an heir the War of the Spanish Succession was the result. This ushered in phase four: Bourbon Spain. Just like the Bourbon King Louis XIV of France (who was anxious to extend dynastic power into Spain) the Bourbon King Philip V of Spain began centralizing power in a clear break from the de-centralized Spain that had existed before. Some improvements were made but corruption in the lower ranks of civil officials continued to cause economic problems. The “Enlightenment” also brought some benefits but on the whole more problems to Spain. Under King Carlos III Spain was able to regain some previous losses (though Gibraltar remained in British hands) but under Carlos IV the situation grew worse, particularly because of the influence of Manuel de Godoy who was as corrupt as he was incompetent. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars saw Spain conquered by France and cut off from her colonies where movements for independence began to sprout. Eventually things were restored under King Fernando VII but the Spanish empire began to crumble (cheered on by Britain and the United States it must be said).
|Queen Isabella II|
Queen Isabella II was too conservative for many of the liberals and the Carlist conservatives would not have had anything to do with her had she been perfect in every way, which she was not. Unrest, infighting and still the occasionally war with the Carlists became standard procedure for Spain and all industry and economic activity practically ground to a halt. The most genuine monarchists were largely in the Carlist camp and they had not only a large portion of Spain but increasingly most of the European community against them, as most modern-minded people considered that a Carlist victory, a return to royal absolutism and the Inquisition, would be a bad thing. On the liberal side the constant wars over the throne made more and more turn against monarchy itself and embrace republicanism.
|King Amadeo I|
Only a year later things were so bad that even many republicans willing declared for the son of Queen Isabella II when he returned to Spain from exile as King Alfonso XII. The Carlists were defeated, a system of constitutional monarchy with liberal and conservative cooperation was established that worked fairly well, at least compared to the anarchy that preceded it and Spain under King Alfonso XII seemed to be on the road to recovery. But, then the King died, the United States declared war on Spain to liberate Cuba and grab what was left of the Spanish empire (Puerto Rico, The Philippines, etc) and the stress of World War I, the Great Depression and so on caused on already bare-bones Spanish economy to practically collapse. In 1931 the second Spanish Republic was declared with King Alfonso XIII forced into exile but never abdicating. What followed was a horrific bloodbath as radical leftist, anti-clerical forces preyed upon everything and everyone associated with traditional Spain. Churches were desecrated, the religious were massacred and, though few realize it, more people were killed in the first months under the republic than during three centuries of the Spanish Inquisition -just to provide a comparison.
Generalissimo Franco restored the monarchy, at least on paper, and named Prince Juan Carlos as his heir to take up the throne after his death. That came in 1975 when King Juan Carlos I was formally sworn in, marking the full and official restoration of the Spanish monarchy. In the aftermath, King Juan Carlos led the transition of Spain from dictatorship to constitutional monarchy, restoring full civil rights, multi-party democracy and even removing the ban on parties known to be hostile to the monarchy. When nationalist elements in the military attempted a coup, the King used his authority as Captain-General to suppress it. In the years that followed, this policy paid huge dividends for King Juan Carlos and the monarchy with the Spanish people from most every background grateful to their monarch for giving them their freedom. Everyone seemed to respect and admire the King and the monarchy seemed to be a safely permanent fixture with the prestige of the King allowing him to exercise considerable influence in spite of the constitutional limitations to his actual power.
|King Juan Carlos I & Queen Sofia|