Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Little Things

In these days when limited, constitutional monarchies are the rule (outside of Swaziland and the Islamic world) some ardent monarchists are often frustrated by monarchs going along with social trends most of the traditional mindset view negatively. However, this is often due to wildly unrealistic expectations and a disconnect from the reality of how fragile the position of most constitutional monarchs is (outside of Monaco and Liechtenstein perhaps). Take, for example, the recent legalization of “gay marriage” in the United Kingdom. Many defenders of traditional marriage were extremely upset by this and some expressed anger that Queen Elizabeth II would sign it into law (though she doesn’t actually sign such things anymore, it being considered more of a formality that is taken for granted). However, this is to ignore the opinion of the vast majority of the British public and not just on the subject of the bill in question but on the position of the monarchy in general. If, hypothetically, the Queen had refused Royal Assent to the bill, there would have been an immediate backlash and no doubt calls in the House of Commons for the abolition of the monarchy and cries of “tyranny” from many quarters. The most likely outcome of this would be the total removal of the Crown from any part in government at all or the abolition of the monarchy immediately or almost certainly upon the death of the Queen. So, the end result would be that the bill becomes law anyway and the monarchy is lost as well all for a futile gesture.

Expecting such a thing to happen is simply unrealistic and not at all desirable if one cherishes tradition as the end result is the loss of a traditional institution (the monarchy) as well as the erosion of another (marriage). Even under the best of circumstances it would likely turn every homosexual in Britain and the Commonwealth Realms into an instant republican along with all those who sympathize with their agenda. When one is monarch over such an array of countries and peoples of vastly different backgrounds, beliefs and opinions, such dramatic gestures are simply not possible anymore. However, what many fail to notice is the little things. The life of a constitutional monarch is a highly regulated and constrained thing. Every action, every word is scrutinized, every speech written out by the government ahead of time and every day meticulously planned in advance down to the last minute. Modern constitutional monarchs have about as little personal freedom as the least free people in the world these days. This, again, is why we must look to the little things, the small gestures, for a glimpse of what is really going on in the exclusive world of reigning royalty. We should also take notice of the fact that when a monarch does step out on their own, one small phrase can mean much more than most realize.

A modern, constitutional monarch is not going to make any grand gestures or remarks that go contrary to public opinion when their very existence as royals depends on public support preventing the politicians from legislating them out of official existence; because there is not a politician in this world, be he a senator or a local town council member who does not see a president when they look in the mirror each morning. Instead of expecting them to do things they cannot do, it is important to look at what they can do. So, this makes the little things stand out all the more if we care to notice them. For example, although there were still plenty of cheering crowds when he was alive, after Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was safely in the ground, it became clear just how much the public had turned against him. In the first post-Franco elections, his supporters received just 9% of the vote with even the formerly banned communists gaining more public support. Streets and buildings named in his honor were re-named to what they had been called before, his statues have come down and legislation was even passed banning any public official from speaking about the Generalissimo or his regime. Yet, in spite of all that, in spite of how widely unpopular the memory of Franco is in today’s Spain and how being anti-Franco is all the rage and bashing him is a quick and easy way to gain popularity, it is widely known that HM King Juan Carlos I would never permit anyone to speak ill of the late Caudillo in his presence.

King Juan Carlos I & Generalissimo Franco
Certainly, this seems like a little thing but few consider the implications of it. The King could not get involved in public debates and certainly doing so would have meant the early death of the restored Spanish monarchy. However, certainly no one would have stopped the King from joining in with the Franco-bashing chorus which undoubtedly would have boosted his popularity in many quarters and which would have been helpful to him since so many held it against the monarch that he came to the throne in the first place because the dictator designated him as his heir. Yet, not only did King Juan Carlos refuse to do this, he would not tolerate anyone slandering or disrespecting Franco when he was present. It may not seem like much, but it was all he could do and for those who care to notice, gives an indication that the King did not see the Generalissimo as the horror so many do in Spain today. Another subtle hint at the sentiments of the former King of Spain was his recurring presence at the bullring. This was something encouraged during the Franco years as a national pastime and of Spanish tradition. Many separatists seized on it for that reason as something to detest and they had plenty of support from animal rights activists and those people who for some reason (God knows how) consider football more exciting than a fight to the death between man and beast. It would have gained the King a great deal of popularity to jump on the anti-bullfighting bandwagon but he refused (and Queen Sofia is not a fan either, though I don’t think she supports banning it). Instead, he has remained a familiar figure at the bullring and even threatened to take Spain out of the European Union if that body ever tried to ban it.

As far as remarks go, none were probably so famous as when King Juan Carlos asked Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, “Why don’t you shut up?” when he continuously interrupted the Spanish prime minister to insult his predecessor at the job. That got all the headlines but more significant was the subtle facts about where the King was. It was the Ibero-American Summit, a meeting of the heads of state and governments from basically what was once the Spanish and Portuguese empires. He also served (as does his son currently) as President of the Ibero-American States Organization and has basically done all that it is in his power to do to foster unity between the countries of the former Spanish empire, strengthen their ties with Spain and thus with their former monarchy. The OEI was founded before the Spanish monarchy was restored but the fact that the King of Spain has become hereditary president of the organization says something about what the King was able to accomplish, in small, subtle ways, in bringing the Spanish monarchy back into a position of prominence and leadership, even if only in a ceremonial way, in the Spanish-speaking world.

King Baudouin
Next, to talk about Great Britain, we must first talk about Belgium. For a man seen by so many as shy and reserved, King Baudouin of the Belgians had some moments of quite surprising public statements and dramatic gestures. Truth be told, he was not quite as he often appeared in public, as a shy, somewhat sad, quiet figure. In private he was quite firm and decisive and could even show a little temper on occasion. He did cause quite a stir, for example, when he praised his relative and predecessor King Leopold II at the ceremony granting independence to the Congo but he is most remembered for his refusal to grant Royal Assent to a bill legalizing abortion -something no Belgian monarch had ever done before. We all know what happened. There was a slight panic among the politicians, worries of a constitutional crisis and finally the King was declared unfit to rule, the bill was signed into law by the government without him and the next day he was declared fit to rule again. That was a pretty dramatic gesture to be sure, so why do I bring it up? To talk about his funeral (hang in there, I am going somewhere with this).

When King Baudouin passed away, everyone was shocked and his funeral was one of the major events in modern royal history. The crowned heads of Europe were out in full force, the head of almost every non-reigning royal house was present and even His Majesty the Emperor of Japan flew in to attend. That was rather remarkable by itself. Also remarkable was the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As anyone who knows anything about the British monarchy can tell you, the Queen (and other British monarchs before her) does not attend royal events on the continent. The Queen does not attend weddings, she does not attend funerals but sends other members of the Royal Family to represent her on these occasions. Also keep in mind that when her beloved father, the last King-Emperor George VI passed away, King Baudouin did not attend his funeral because of lingering bad feelings over how the British had treated his own father King Leopold III. Obviously, things had improved since then, but many were rather surprised that the Queen would attend a royal funeral in Europe when she never did such things and in particular for the funeral of a man who had refused to attend the funeral of her own father. Why did it happen? Who can say? This is purely my own opinion but I cannot help but think that this was all a very quiet, subtle gesture on the part of the crowned heads of Europe to show their solidarity with a fellow monarch who had defied his ministers and popular opinion. It did not really accomplish anything, but the King had done all that it was in his power to do. All he could do was to sign or not to sign and he refused to sign. I cannot help but think that the unprecedented attendance at his funeral was a way monarchs, like Queen Elizabeth II, had of showing their special support for a king who had done what many of them would like to be able to do but cannot.

Queen Elizabeth II
When it comes to Queen Elizabeth II there are many little things one could point to but my favorite was her interaction with a republican politician. There was a member of an incoming government who was an avowed republican and made it known publicly that he would not bow to the Queen. Everyone waited for the inevitable confrontation when all the new members would be introduced to the Queen. They were all gathered, the Queen entered the room and went down the line, each bowing his head as the Queen greeted him. All eyes were on the republican to see if he would make good on his promise. The Queen approached and he did not move but then Her Majesty mumbled something rather low and the man bent forward to put his ear a little closer to the royal person and said, “Pardon?” -at which point the Queen simply glided on to the next in line. Only then did the befuddled traitor realize what had just happened. His sovereign lady had just “tricked” him into bowing his head in spite of himself. How wonderfully, brilliantly devious! There have also been many subtle gestures from the Queen that, while her public acts may be dictated by the government, she has held firm to her power over her private life, whether that means refusing to wear a seatbelt, refusing to put up “No Smoking” signs in Buckingham Palace or the occasion when, in the wake of a hunting party, the Queen came across a wounded pheasant. The Queen asked for a gun and put the poor animal out of its misery which, of course, caused an uproar among the bleeding-heart types. The Queen refused to be intimidated and showed what she thought of this intrusion on her private life by showing up to church the following Sunday wearing pheasant feathers in her hat. God Save the Queen!

It could also be pointed out how, after the despicable overthrow of King Constantine II of Greece, the Queen continued to treat him with all of the privileges of rank normally accorded to a King during his exile in London. He had not abdicated, after all, and this was a subtle way for the Queen to express her own opinion without actually doing so. Similarly, one might consider the immense royal turnout for the funeral of the exiled King Umberto II of Italy. Again, this is my own interpretation and some may disagree, but I think the immense royal presence, including a great many monarchs, was a subtle, silent way of making a statement. Umberto II, after all, had been King of Italy only for a very short time and a great many of the mourners came from countries which the Kingdom of Italy had been in conflict with during World War II, all of which would make some think that the funeral of Umberto II should have been a more low-key affair. The fact that it was not and was so well-attended by the crowned heads of Europe makes me believe that they were all making a quiet, subtle gesture that King Umberto II was ‘one of the club’ who had been unjustly and illegally deprived of his throne and who, despite his long years of exile, they still viewed as the true King of Italy.

King Umberto II
On the subject of Italy, one might also mention the Roman Pontiffs. It can be very frustrating these days when Catholic bishops will speak up about foreign policy, welfare policy, immigration policy, environmental policy, healthcare policy and even agricultural policy but refrain from speaking up in favor of monarchy because that would be “political”. However, when the issue last touched Rome itself, there were a number of subtle gestures from Pope Pius XII which showed his own opinions on the subject. This is all the more significant when one considers that Pius XII was an aristocrat from the “Black Nobility” that had zealously shunned the monarchy until the Lateran Treaty was brokered between Pius XI and Mussolini. Nonetheless, the Vatican belatedly came to the view that the monarchy was an essential barricade against a communist takeover at the time of the republican referendum and King Umberto II warned (rightly as it turned out in the long-run) that an Italian republic would be anti-clerical. The Pope made no official statement on the issue but the British representative at the Vatican saw no ambiguity about the papal position favoring the monarchy saying, “all the pains of Hell are predicted for those who vote for democratic parties of the Left”. It is also telling that for the duration of his reign, after the downfall of the monarchy, he refused to receive any of the Presidents of Italy and was quite wary of Christian Democrat leader Alcide de Gasperi despite his having worked for more than a decade in the Vatican library. For those who paid attention, there was little doubt that papal sympathies were with the monarchy.

Another remark, not extreme but a simple one which raised quite a few eyebrows was spoken by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. The Queen of Denmark is one monarch in Europe who has more freedom than most in the remarks she makes and it caused a bit of s stir when she spoke with moderate caution about the program of multiculturalism going on across Western Europe. This was in the wake of the uproar over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed that sparked riots and numerous acts of violence in the Islamic world. The Queen made a simple remark about the need to stand firm and not compromise western values and not to shy away from taking appropriate measures for fear of being called racists. It was in no way an extreme thing that she said and yet it was something that, for someone in her position, took considerable courage. To understand, one need look no further than the criticism that heaped on Queen Sofia of Spain when it was reported in a book, quite unsurprisingly, that she opposed “gay marriage” and her remarks in opposition to abortion caused outrage in the usual quarters. Many, even of those in sympathy with such positions, will not be impressed by such words. For them, nothing short of unrealistic, impossible, autocratic measures will ever be enough. However, even mere remarks arouse great anger from those opposed to them and that should make it all the more remarkable when royals make them.

Prince Alois
Consider, for example, how much uproar there was across Europe when the Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein announced he would use his veto if he had to in order to stop a bill legalizing abortion. For the pro-abortion crowd, what difference could this possibly make to them? Why should they care if abortion is banned in one tiny valley between Switzerland and Austria? It is not as though it has much of an impact but, nonetheless, it caused outrage across the continent because they want abortion legal in all places and in all times under any circumstances. One would think that the pro-life advocates would be just as zealous then in praising the Prince for his action. Yet, such is not often the case. Prince Rainier III of Monaco banned abortion for any reason in his tiny country, yet was never praised for it. There was, however, some criticism of his son when, under EU pressure, Monaco legalized abortion in cases of rape, severe fetal illness or when the life of the mother is imperiled. It still remains banned in most cases obviously and Prince Albert II has supported funding for adult stem-cell research that avoids the killing of human embryos yet, again, is seldom accorded any praise from the pro-life community for that. In fact, few seem to think of Monaco at all for what it is; one of the few officially Catholic monarchies remaining in the world.

The point of all these examples is that, in this day and age, when monarchs are so restricted in most of the world, one must look to the little things for hope and encouragement and to see where the true sentiments of the royals are. All too often these things go by with only minor, temporary notice or no notice at all. Especially for monarchists, it should be second-nature to give monarchs the benefit of the doubt and to be quicker to praise rather than to criticize, which so many seem to enjoy doing. In different times there would be different circumstances, but this is the world we live in and the royals, the same as the vast majority of their peoples, have grown up in an atmosphere not conducive to the types of values most traditional monarchists hold dear. No longer taught privately at home, they go to the same schools that teach the same anti-traditional drivel as everyone else. It is not surprising then that they do not hold the same opinions as their ancestors. Yet, that is all the more reason to stand firmly in support of them in such difficult times and give them all due credit when they risk the popularity their place and that of their family and all future generations depend on, to say something the public may not approve of.

4 comments:

  1. What frightens me is the possibility that it is no longer a monarchial issue, but a generational one.
    While the older generations, including those with republican propensities are simply unable to openly resist the will of this contemporary degenerate zeitgeist, the next generations of Monarchs and leaders (generation x, y, z) will actually become parts of that zeitgeist.
    They will have no qualm in totally annihilating the last traces of tradition, simply because they aren’t its believers anymore.
    My fear is, this abomination will become the preferred absolute truth, then the next status quo, and finally the new conservative. The bastions of the old traditions and religions, on the other hand will be the new pariahs, and labelled as “the modern heretics” or even terrorists / extremists.

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  2. It's a pretty picture you paint. It's somewhat heartening but also unfathomably depressing that monarchs might feel the same way we do: powerless.

    I suppose using the, "I'm just a crazed violent reactionary," defense is a two-edged sword on a blog like this. But for my own part my own experience with history is that force is not only power, but the guarantor of power. As much as I can fathom from my own experience, the vast majority of the British Army is full of monarchists to some degree - maybe not like us, but loyal to their monarch. In fact many of the high-ranking positions in the military are still held by members of the aristocracy or royal family. In fact the regimental rivalry between two of the regiments that make up the bodyguards for the Royal Family (the Grenadiers and the Coldstreamers) revolves solely around the fact that one was always loyal to the monarchy and the other was not. Hypothetically, if the politicians tried removing the British Monarchy, I think that it would not end exactly how many republicans would like to think it would. Exactly how much of the army would side with the monarchy over parliament? Quite a few. Again, I speak only from my own observations, understanding, and personal experience with members of the British Armed Forces. I might well be incorrect in this assumption.

    I've had a theory for quite some time: the reason liberals are winning and we are not is that they are not afraid to be forceful, even violent, to get their message across. We, on the other hand - and being a Traditionalist Monarchist of a Catholic bent this makes no sense to me - cower in our own corners of the world, even where we have the upper hand, for fear of sallying forth only to be defeated again. The liberals have no such qualms. They are willing to take risks and get down in the trenches. We seem unwilling to leave our parlors and change into our battle dress, when we are in the right and as far as I'm concerned there's no reason to not prosecute a just war unless justice can be equally done through peace or some negotiation. But maybe I'm just being an armchair radical. But I can't help but feel that if those few monarchs left could see us out in the streets meeting those already there calling for their deaths without fear and full loyalty to our sovereigns, they'd be a little bolder and more encouraged.

    But again, maybe that's simply not our reality. All the same, you paint an interesting reality where our monarchs feel exactly how we do. It at once gives me a sense of unspoken comradery with them and yet fills me with an inexplicable sense of dread and oppression.

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  3. European Monarchs would need a strong, loyal power base to draw on if they were ever going to do anything about the ruin of their countries and the destruction of Christendom. Furthermore, they would need a defining event to galvanize those supporters. The problem is that other than possibly the Royals themselves, there is no power base for us Reactionaries. We might have what Burke termed "little platoons" here and there, scattered and demoralized in the face of the advancing hosts of liberalism, but we cannot do much more than pick at that host's edges and hope it eventually gets tired and goes home of its own accord. Furthermore, these little platoons often seem to spend more time firing shots at each other than fighting the common foe.

    For the United Kingdom, I think this issue might eventually come down to the European Union if the politicians continue to refuse a referendum and UKIP continues its successful run through the next GE. I could see a constitutional crisis of some sort if the Tories and Labour attempt to shut an insurgent UKIP out of government. Somehow, I doubt Her Majesty likes being a Citizen of Europe, and with the EU getting more unpopular by the day, she might have a real opportunity to assert her authority and refuse to appoint a government that would not provide an honest referendum on the subject. That is, if there is a clearly broad enough coalition in the public that she would not have to appear overly partisan in asserting that authority. Or maybe at that point everyone will hate the EU so much, they'd be willing to approve even of an outright endorsement of the anti-EU position. I can dream, can't I?

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  4. British readers will be interested to know that the republican referred to in your bowing anecdote was none other than John Prescott, who would go on to become Deputy Prime Minister in Tony Blair's Labour government. The story was actually told by his lovely wife, a committed monarchist. Widely derided as a hypocritical thug and buffoon, and a lifelong perpetuator of the victimhood of the working classes, John Prescott apparently experienced no socialist guilt when it came to accepting a peerage for himself upon retirement.

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