Friday, April 30, 2010

Camarón Day and the French in Mexico

It was on this day in 1863 that the 3rd Company of the 1st French Foreign Legion Regiment fought its most famous and heroic battle at the Hacienda of Camarón (read more about the battle in this post). It is the official holiday of the Foreign Legion and a day to remember the courage of the foreign regiment; an occasion of great pride for France. Of course, in Mexico, the French are seen as the "bad guys" and in a few days Mexico (and even moreso the Mexican population of the U.S. these days) will celebrate the Mexican republican victory over the French at the battle of Puebla on the 5th of May. As has often been mentioned here, the "accepted version" of Mexican history in regard to the French intervention and the establishment of the empire is firmly cemented in place and not likely to be changed without a very, very long and difficult process of questioning, critical thinking and reeducation.

However, if the truth is to be served we must point out that there was more to the French intervention than the negative aspects that are so often harped about. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that good government (or at least better government) would follow in the footsteps of the Foreign Legion. It is no exaggeration, it is a matter of simple fact that the arrival of the French Imperial Army in Mexico brought with it benefits that many in Mexico had not known virtually since independence. In only a few short months and years French forces suppressed banditry, brought stability, improved the infrastructure, trade and communications throughout Mexico in all the areas under their control.

The French built the first railroad along the coast to move supplies and trade to the port of Veracruz. French engineers rebuilt and improved roads that had been in decay since the end of Spanish rule. They built new roads, new bridges and put up the first telegraph system in Mexico. Even more remarkable than this was that they kept it in operation; kept the lines up and protected them from republican raiders. Mexico had been plagued by bandits for so long they had become almost a part of the landscape, part of the popular culture and many of those who claimed to be fighting for the republican President Benito Juarez were simply bandits going about their usual business but wrapped in the republican flag as a cover of patriotism. The French smashed them and Mexican people in remote villages, for the first time in their lives for many of them, experienced life without the threat of roadside robbery and extortion.

Despite the popular perception in Mexico today, at the time many were supportive, appreciative and deeply grateful for the sacrifices of the French forces in their country. In fact, when the French began to constrict and pull out many Mexicans were thrown into a panic, knowing well that when they left the situation would revert to its normal state. One local village leader went to the closest French outpost and begged that just a small detachment of French troops be left behind. When he was told that this was impossible he asked if only a single French lieutenant could be posted to his village as simply the sight of the man in the blue tunic and red trousers would cause the bands of robbers in the countryside to avoid his village. That was the extent of the impact of the French Imperial forces and their benefits to the people and country of Mexico.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Happy Showa Day

Today is Showa Day in Japan, marking the birthday of HIM Emperor Hirohito.

Monarch Profile: Kaiser Wilhelm II

One of the monarchs who still stirs extreme emotions from the last century today is the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, better known to the English-speaking world as “Kaiser Bill”. A somewhat mysterious man who often seemed contradictory much of his inconsistent behavior has been attributed to his family background to the extent that he could at times be seen as a stereotypical Englishman and a stereotypical Prussian. Born on January 27, 1859 he was the eldest child of Prussian Crown Prince Friedrich III and the British Princess Royal Victoria. His traumatic birth left him with a stunted and all but useless left arm, deaf in his left ear and unbalanced because of that. His parents were rather unimpressed with him from the start and would remain so and in his early years methods were employed in an effort to correct his disabilities that were almost torturous. However, from an early age his upbringing was supervised by Prince Bismarck and his grandfather Kaiser Wilhelm I who distrusted the liberal tendencies of his parents.

As a result Wilhelm II grew up with a very reactionary mindset. He believed in nationalism, military dominance and the Divine Right of Kings. To compensate for his disability he went out of his way to act the part of the Prussian warrior king and to sound as bombastic as possible. However, he was also always in awe of his British grandmother Queen Victoria and looked upon the massive British Empire with a mixture of admiration and envy. He wanted Germany to have colonies too and he wanted Germany to have a powerful navy too. Upon coming to the throne in 1888 he said he wanted to put no one in the shade but demanded for Germany her own “place in the sun”. The British took this as a challenge to their global dominance and likewise felt threatened by the increasing economic strength of Germany. As a result, the Kaiser shifted back and forth from adoring to despising Great Britain.

When the Kaiser dismissed Bismarck as Chancellor there followed a succession of statesmen who were largely dominated by Wilhelm II. He tried to walk a line between being a traditional autocrat and a modern people’s prince. Largely popular in Germany, his comments on foreign affairs often led to controversy. When he voiced support for the British in the Boer War the German public was angered and when he congratulated Paul Kruger on a Boer victory the British people were angered. A visit to Morocco during calls for independence angered France though the Kaiser had not thought the trip a good idea. In later years his enemies could point to a number of comments to portray the Kaiser as an aggressive militarist. Probably most famous was his comments to German troops leaving for the international expedition against the Boxer rebels in China in which he advised them to bear themselves as the Huns of Attila. Yet, he never fought an actual war during his reign until 1914 and even then was very hesitant about taking action. He liked seeing his army parade, dressing up in uniform and going out on maneuvers but the last thing he wanted was to risk his army in actual combat. He was even more protective of his navy.

When the Great War did come the Kaiser was slowly sidelined. He blamed the conflict on a conspiracy against him started by King Edward VII with the alliance with France and, given his tendency to view things in personal terms, considered it a betrayal on the part of his cousins George V of Great Britain and Nicholas II of Russia. During the war he was reduced to settling disputes between generals and finally to almost purely figurehead status as the team of Hindenburg and Ludendorff came to dominate and could have their way on almost anything by threatening to resign. His advice and warnings were often ignored and when the Allies made it clear that the presence of the Kaiser was a block to ending the war he was forced to abdicate and go into exile in the Netherlands. It was a decision the Kaiser wrestled with and he always held a little anger on Hindenburg for failing to try to use the army to maintain his throne.

Exiled in Holland, Wilhelm II lived the life of a country gentleman and though he thought a restoration highly unlikely he never completely lost hope in an eventual return. Always a very religious man this only increased during his exile. The Nazis flirted with him, and the Kaiser extended some courtesies but he quickly realized they were no friends of his and he came to despise them. When World War II broke out he turned down an offer of rescue from the British and, it must be said, he took some joy in seeing France defeated and German troops marching triumphantly through Paris. The Kaiser died on June 4, 1941 and in his will forbid the display of any swastikas at his funeral and also refused to be buried in Germany so long as it was not a monarchy. This prevented Hitler from making a spectacle of his passing and despite a ban from the Nazi leader many high-ranking German officers and officials attended. His remains rest to this day at House Doorn in the Netherlands.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Favorite Royal Images: Mother and Son

HIM Empress Nam Phuong of Viet-Nam and her newborn son HIH Prince Imperiale Bao Long. The late Vietnamese Empress was a known beauty but I don't think she ever took a better picture than this one.

History's Most Famous Mutiny

It was on this day in 1789 that the most famous mutiny in naval history broke out aboard His Majesty's Armed Vessel, the "Bounty".

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Personal Request

Some followers might recall mention of my right-hand-man "Teapot", from whose abode I have blogged in the past. We've been close as long as we've been alive and have always been there for each other when the chips are down. He's taken the heat for me in the past, we've seen each other through a number of rough patches, I was best man at his wedding and it's no exaggeration to say I would take a bullet for the guy. Well, he's having a hard time right now. Just as he and the wife have been seeing some progress in their efforts to start a family he has been hit with a crippling, constant sort of super-migraine. The last time this happened I was with him in the hospital for a week and looked after him at his home for about a month afterward. There are theories as to the underlying cause but so far the docs have been fairly baffled and they are running out of more powerful pain-killers to hit him with. It's torment for him and frustrating for the rest of us who cannot really help. That being so, and being only too familiar myself with the limits of medical science, I would greatly appreciate anyone who could spare a moment to say a prayer for him that everything will turn out alright. Thank you.

MM Video: Belgian Pride

HM King Albert II has finally been forced to accept the resignation of Leterme's government. The King is now trying to come up with an acceptable compromise to keep things functioning to avoid an early election.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Consort Profile: Empress Wan Jung

Empress Wan Jung (also known as Empress Wan Rong, Empress Xiao Ke Min and Empress Elizabeth) has the distinction of being the last Empress of China yet relatively little is really known about her. Most know her only in connection to her husband and most of what people generally know about her comes from only a very few sources, most of which are hard to accept as completely reliable. Part of the Daur Mongol ethnic group of Manchuria she was born on November 13, 1906 into one of the most prominent Manchu families. Her father, Rong Yuan, was the Minister of Internal Affairs under the Qing Empire. She was named Gobulo Wan Rong or “Beautiful Countenance” which most thought deserved.

Wan Jung was educated in an American missionary school in Tianjin and privately by the American tutor Isabel Ingram. The two became very close and even exchanged clothes and tried to dress alike. It was her western education that recommended her to the young former Emperor of China. She was 17 when she was chosen (after simply viewing a collection of photographs) to be the wife of the last Emperor. His first choice had been the Princess Wen Xiu but the courtiers thought her insufficiently attractive and so chose Princess Wan Jung for the role of wife and empress and assigned Wen Xiu the part of secondary consort. A year older than her husband, the two seemed to get along well but without great attraction to each other. In his memoirs the Emperor said he left his wife alone on their wedding night as he preferred the Mind Nurture Palace to the Palace of Earthly Peace.

In his memoirs (written under the eye of the communist party it must be remembered) the Emperor does not paint a very flattering picture of his first wife, describing her as a lavish spender and obsessed with social rank and her status as empress. Especially after they were turned out of the Forbidden City and took up residence in the Quiet Garden at Tianjin her expenditures were much commented on. She also began using opium, which the Emperor despised but without which she could find little peace. According to the Emperor it was only her attachment to her status as Empress which kept her from divorcing him as Princess Wen Xiu did but again, that view should not be taken as absolute fact. Most agree that she did not like the Japanese who became more involved with their lives after the move to the Quiet Garden and she opposed going to Manchuria for the establishment of Manchukuo.

Princess Eastern Jewel (Kawashima Yoshiko) was dispatched to befriend the Empress and help get her to Manchuria one way or another though by that time she and the Emperor were for all intents and purposes separated even if living under the same roof. Her opium use increased, she chain smoked and ate very little thus making her health worse and worse. The increase in her opium abuse is generally attributed to the strain of life in Manchukuo with all of the pressures of rank, none of the freedoms and under constant Japanese scrutiny. It is widely held that the Empress became pregnant in 1940 by the Emperor’s chauffeur and that the baby (a girl) was killed by the Japanese just after birth. This has been repeated often enough to be generally believed, and may well be true, but it should be stressed that this was always only a rumor and has never been proven one way or another.

In any event, her drug use increased even more to the point where she was almost constantly in an opium-induced stupor and her mental faculties began to fail her. This put the Emperor off, and he also seems to have blamed her for the loss of Princess Wen Xiu and eventually he was prompted by the Japanese to take another consort. He did say, however, that the Empress joined him in his increasing religious devotion during their time in Manchuria and others commented that it was only the hope of an eventual return to the Qing Empire and the Forbidden City that sustained the Empress. Others, however, maintain that she had no attachment to her old life at all and wanted nothing more than to live a modern, western-style life as exiles in Monte Carlo. Both possibilities came to nothing though with the end of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. Empress Wan Jung, consort Li Yuqin and Princess Hiro Saga left by train for Korea trying to get to Japan but were captured by Chinese communists. They were finally moved to Yanji Prison where the Empress died of starvation and opium withdrawl on June 20, 1946. She was only 39-years-old. In October of 2006 a younger brother, Gobulo Runqi, just a year before his own death, had a tomb built for his sister at the Western Qing Tombs complex near Yixian.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Swedish Wedding Called Off

It has been made official. Princess Madeleine of Sweden and lawyer Jonas Bergstrom have broken off their engagement according to the palace. Rumors of an impending breakup have been swirling for some time; Princess Madeleine moved out of the couple's apartment, there were rumors of infidelity on Bergstrom's part and an admission that the wedding would not happen this year. However, only a few days ago the palace said the two were still an item and asked the media to leave it at that. However, once again, the tabloids seem to have been right as the engagement has been called off and the palace has said the two have gone their different ways. Hopefully the press will not make this difficult situation even worse and the Mad Monarchist wishes Princess Madeleine all the best and hopes she will find a husband worthy of her someday.

Can the King Save Belgium?

Once again, the news media is howling that the end may be at hand for the Kingdom of Belgium. Prime Minister Yves Leterme presented his letter of resignation to HM King Albert II after the Flemish party, Open VLD, left the coalition government leaving only French-speaking Walloon members and no Dutch-speaking Flemish representation. The break came after disputes involving the re-drawing of electoral boundaries around Brussels. So far, King Albert II has not accepted the resignation of the Prime Minister, fearing that giving up on the coalition could spell disaster during the current economic crisis and the upcoming EU-presidency for Belgium. The King of the Belgians has been working hard the last few days trying to convince the Flemish party to come to the government and for the two sides to work out a compromise. The Flemish have held out some hope but so far no agreement has been reached. The media was quick to pounce (yet again) saying that this could be the end of the Belgian monarchy, that the country does not "make sense" and that the will to exist seems to be gone.

All of that is frustrating enough, moreso since we have heard this same song and dance before every time there is a political stand-off. It does wear on the nerves but it also cannot be easily dismissed. The whole issue frankly baffles me. Europe would simply not be the same without the Kingdom of Belgium and it seems incredible to me that after a history longer than many other countries around today, after going through so many trials, tragedies and triumphs and so on that the Belgian people could be so divided as to 'give up' on their country. We can only hope that this disaster is avoided as it has been in the past and give some deserved credit to the King, both Albert II and his predecessors, who have done more than any others in keeping the country together throughout threats of "divorce" in the past.

Papal Profile: Pope Julius II

The “Renaissance Papacy” is not often fondly remembered. I have, however, never been among the critics of the ‘Renaissance Popes’, many of whom were far from saintly but just as often were quite impressive monarchs; able administrators, diplomats, statesmen and men of great culture. They had their moral failings often enough but they at least did not try to deny the sinfulness of their actions or re-write the rules of morality to suit their own taste as many today. One of my favorites, who in many ways best embodied the “Renaissance Man” of the era was Pope Julius II, often known as “the Warrior Pope” or “Julius the Terrible” -though it should be pointed out that back then the word ‘terrible’ was used more like ‘awesome’ would be today. Like the stereotypical “Renaissance Man” Julius II was a man who could speak expertly on religion, politics, warfare, art, love and life.

He was born December 5, 1453 as Giuliano della Rovere. Originally from a humble background, as was common at that time, he came up in the world by virtue of having Pope Sixtus IV as an uncle. He had entered the Franciscan order and was given the red hat by Sixtus IV when he was 18. He served as a legate for his uncle but fell into disfavor with the election of Pope Alexander VI -the two were bitter enemies. However, after the 27-day papacy of the short-lived Pius III it was Giuliano Cardinal della Rovere who was elected Supreme Pontiff after a conclave that lasted only a few hours. In a break with tradition the new Pope kept his given name and was known as Pope Julius II. His reign would be dominated by trying to undo the political changes of Alexander VI, defending the Papacy from secular control and building up and embellishing the Eternal City of Rome.

Pope Julius II faced these challenges head-on. He strapped on his armor, grabbed his sword, mounted his war horse and rode off to battle with a train of grumbling courtiers following behind him. A skilled and tenacious warrior, who had no problem living rough in the field with his troops, Pope Julius II defeated Cesare Borgia (the illegitimate son of Alexander VI) and drove him out of Italy, regained the cities and provinces previously lost to Rome, defeated Venice and then joined them in an alliance with Spain against the encroaching power of France. He dreamed of forging a united Italy under Papal direction, which was not to be, but the “Holy League” he formed was successful in defeating the French and driving them out of Italy.

These military campaigns cost a great deal, and the Church had been in pretty poor financial shape when Julius II came to the Throne of Peter. Pope Julius did all he could to save money and raise money in any way possible, some methods were rather unsavory and would be condemned later, such as selling indulgences, but in the end Julius II was one of those rare popes of the period who left the Church treasury full when he had found it empty. He also managed this while being a great patron of the arts, employing some of the most famous names in the Italian Renaissance. All could not be listed here, but he employed Bramante in designing St Peter’s Basilica and the Belvedere courtyard, he employed Raphael in decorating the papal apartments and most famously he commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (which had been built by his uncle).

Pope Julius II died on February 21, 1513 after calling the 18th General Council of the Church. Although he had the faults of other “Renaissance Popes” such as selling indulgences and admitting he fathered an illegitimate daughter earlier in his life, Pope Julius II was a great success overall, securing the independence and safety of the Church, removing the threat of foreign domination, putting the Church on safer financial ground and greatly beautifying the city of Rome.

Friday, April 23, 2010

British Leaders Debate

Having watched the second British leaders debate I admit to being unimpressed to say the very least. Televised debates are something new for the UK and it seemed to me one reason it was shown on this side of the pond was the evident glee that British politics had gone "American style" in having the candidates duke it out in front of the cameras. However, as much as I dislike how similar the Democrats and Republicans seem in the US, that problem seems to be more advanced in the UK. From all I saw last night it looked as though Britain has only to choose from a liberal party, a radical liberal party and a moderate liberal party.

The Liberal Democrats would seem the worst choice to me, having previously heard that they only just decided against putting it in their platform to abolish the monarchy and institute a republic. From the debate they also seemed the most enthusiastically pro-EU which puts them in no better standing with me. They also all sounded like they were trying to out-Obama each other in being the party of 'hope & change' with even Gordon Brown trying to make the same sales pitch while still holding himself up as the candidate of experience and pressing the need for continuity. Brown was, of course, also very pro-EU. In fact there seemed to be very few, despite their protestations, substantial differences between the three. Brown also made mention of his recent call to make the House of Lords fully elective and his opposition to putting major EU measures up for referendum. So, in other words, he does not want the public to vote on giving more power to the institutions where most decisions are now made but he does want to let the public vote on choosing the members of a House his party has effectively made irrelevant.

David Cameron of the Conservative Party expressed the most skepticism about the EU but still did not call for Britain to leave that body nor did he hold out much hope for those who would like to see Britain more independent of Europe as they used to be. He also stressed that his was the party of values and of families yet he sounded to me as if he supported most if not all of the recent policy changes I would regard as immoral. So, they are all basically accepting of Britain being simply one more member state of the EU, all accepted the basic current foreign policy track, all accepted the need to take measures to stop "climate change" (yes, believe them -politicians can control the weather!) and I heard no one talk about doing anything to really change the current welfare state that is dragging Britain and most of the rest of Europe down to financial ruin. If these are the best leaders Britain has to offer all I can say is God save the Queen from ministers such as these.

MM Video: Netherlands Empire

Shameless Plug

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Monarchist Profile: Patrick Sarsfield

General Patrick Sarsfield was possibly the greatest Irish Jacobite hero in the War of English Succession. Despite the great span of time that has passed the war between the Stuart King James II and his son-in-law William of Orange the passions of the adherents to the two factions remains fierce. Yet, no matter to what side one gives his allegiance, few would doubt that Sarsfield was an admirable figure being a brilliant soldier, a loyal son of Ireland, loyal to his religion and loyal to the man who was first his King. Patrick Sarsfield was born at Lucan in County Dublin probably around 1650, the second son of Patrick Sarsfield and Anne O’Moore. Patrick came from Anglo-Norman stock but his mother was a daughter of Rory O’Moore who had organized the Rebellion of 1641 so he had solid roots of devotion to Irish freedom. As he grew older he went to school at a French Military College and in 1678 went to England to take up his appointment as a captain in the infantry regiment under Colonel Dungan.

His star was on the rise and in 1685 he transferred to Hamilton’s Dragoons and the following year was promoted to lieutenant colonel of Dover’s Horse regiment. He served in France with the regiments King Charles II sent to assist Louis XIV. In 1686 Sarsfield was promoted to full colonel, a position he held when things began to go awry for King James II. A Catholic convert, the efforts of James II to enact religious toleration met with great opposition in Parliament but it was his family life that sealed his political fate. The fateful moment came when his beautiful and devout Italian wife, Mary of Modena, gave him a son and heir in 1688. The Protestants of England were not about to allow the possibility of another Catholic monarch and called on the Dutch Prince of Orange, who was the son-in-law of James II and a Protestant, to invade England, depose James and take the throne.

William and his Dutch army landed on November 5 and King James II went to meet him. However, anti-Catholic riots broke out in London and even his supposedly loyal English generals, most crucially Churchill, turned against him in favor of William. Ireland, however, was a different story. Irish Catholics had seen their first glimpse of religious freedom since Protestantism became the state religion in England and they remained loyal to James and none moreso than Patrick Sarsfield. He raised a cavalry regiment of which he was made colonel and was quickly promoted to brigadier general. He assisted the Catholic Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Tyrconnel, who King James had made commander in chief, in reorganizing and training the Irish army. Sarsfield soon came to England with a body of Irish troops requested by King James to try to save the situation, but with the English army turning against him in favor of William, there was little that could be done. After seeing first to the safety of his family he was forced to go into exile in France, accompanied by his loyal Irish general Pat Sarsfield.

King James II, however, had not given up on reclaiming his throne and Ireland was chosen as the place to begin his restoration as it had a large Catholic population whose loyalty could be relied on. Of course, James II was as imperfect as all men are bound to be and he made mistakes, one of which was not making better use of General Sarsfield. Nonetheless, he knew that Ireland was his safest stronghold and the following year he returned to the Emerald Isle, declared independence for the Kingdom of Ireland and launched his bid to restore the Stuart reign.

Despite being underutilized, Sarsfield was busy in 1689, on and off the battlefield. He found the time to marry Honora De Burgo, daughter of the Earl of Clainricarde, at Portumna Castle in Galway and was elected MP for Dublin in May. However, it was the war that was to dominate his mind in these years and it was certainly to be that once William of Orange landed in Ireland with his army, only a minority of which was British, most being Dutch troops and foreign mercenaries whose loyalty could be most relied upon. Sarsfield secured Connaught for the Jacobites (those being the people loyal to James II) and guarded against a possible Orange attack. He was known during his military career as a strict disciplinarian but a commander who was much loved by the soldiers who fought under him. His devotion to Ireland was second to none and over his life he fought a number of duels over the honor of Ireland, and was once badly wounded, for Sarsfield would not suffer his homeland to be insulted. Unfortunately, it took him some time to be used to his full potential as the King and some of those around him believed that, while he was certainly brave and loyal, that he lacked the overall head for a top command because he was always so willing to jump right into the thick of the fight. Time would prove how incorrect that opinion was.

However, that was certainly not to say that the abilities of Sarsfield went unappreciated by the King himself. In fact, in 1690 King James II created him Baron Roseberry, Viscount of Tully and Earl of Lucan as well as being appointed Colonel of the Lifeguards. On two occasions in 1691 he was to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the Jacobite forces in Ireland. Nonetheless, it was his misfortune to be uninvolved in the most decisive actions of the conflict while the King himself was still in Ireland. It was also the misfortune of the King himself who could certainly have used the talents of Sarsfield. This was certainly true at the battle of the Boyne, which is now viewed as the decisive battle of the entire war, though it need not have been as the Jacobite defeat was not as total or as disastrous as it is often made to seem. It did, however, break the will of King James II (whose father had been beheaded by traitors lest we forget) and afterwards he returned to exile in France. However, the war went on in Ireland in his name for some time after, thanks largely to the leadership of Sarsfield.

At the battle of Aughrim, Sarsfield was again underutilized but nonetheless earned great admiration for the way his well ordered cavalry kept a defeat from turning into a total disaster and saving the lives of a great many Irish soldiers. This was one occasion of many when the discipline he instilled in his troops paid off handsomely. It was a seemingly hopeless fight the Irish faced. They were poorly equipped, poorly supplied, poorly armed and faced by a much more numerous army of well stocked professional soldiers. Nonetheless, Sarsfield faced this challenge with his usual zeal and proved his full worth at the epic siege of Limerick. Besieged by a vastly superior enemy the city of Limerick refused to open its gates to King William III and refused to surrender. In a bold and brilliant move, General Sarsfield slipped out of the city with a few of his cavalry, rode all through the night and captured the enemy supply train, blowing up a huge quantity of Orange ammunition and gunpowder.

Soon thereafter, 10,000 Dutch and British soldiers launched an assault on the city of Limerick. William brought up huge siege guns to blast a breach in the city walls and sent his men charging in. For three desperate hours the Irish infantry fought them off before being pushed back. As the Orange forces pushed their way into the city the Irish troops fought them in hand to hand combat. Orange losses were heavy but they pressed on through the streets where they were met by a hostile population. As the soldiers fought on Irish civilians, men and women alike, hurled rocks and bottles down at the attackers. With casualties mounting ever higher in this slow, painful advance, the Irish cavalry then rode around and attacked the Orange forces from the rear. This proved to be the last straw and William III ordered a retreat. The city of Limerick was saved and they had inflicted 3,000 casualties on their enemies while sustaining less than 500 of their own. It was a great victory for the Irish Jacobites and a demoralizing blow for William who then decided that he had had enough of Ireland and went home, leaving the English General John Churchill in command to subdue the island.

Like Sarsfield, the skill and courage of King William and John Churchill after him, could not be doubted and there were other victories for the Orange forces and soon the war settled down to a stalemate typical of Irish history. The British were too powerful to defeat entirely, but the Irish resistance was so effective that they could never be decisively defeated either. Churchill, however, had every material advantage. It became clear to General Sarsfield that while he could continue the war he also could not win it with his exhausted army and to try to do so would only be to waste the lives of his beloved soldiers. In October of 1691 he agreed to discuss terms of peace with William of Orange. To his surprise the British offered a generous peace. Irish Catholics would be free to practice their religion, have full, equal rights like all other citizens and were guaranteed protection from all persecution and harassment. It was more than many Irish leaders had dreamed possible and Sarsfield willingly signed it on the Treaty Stone at Limerick.

This might have been the start of a new and better relationship between Protestant Britain and Catholic Ireland, but it was not. The Treaty Stone still sits in the town square of Limerick but as a reminder of deception rather than goodwill. Once the war was over the Parliament in London passed the Penal Laws which made things worse for Irish Catholics than they had ever been. While religious freedom for all Protestant dissenters was upheld (that is those Protestants outside the Church of England) Irish Catholics were forbidden to practice their religion, not allowed to be educated, not allowed to hold office, not allowed to conduct business or commerce of any kind, they were not allowed to purchase land, not allowed to rent land worth more than 30 shillings a year nor were they allowed to profit from any land already held.

As for Patrick Sarsfield, he left Ireland in December, to follow his defeated king back into exile once again with 12 ships and about 2,600 others escaping Orange rule. Once back in France King James II made him captain of the second troop of Irish Life Guards in 1692. This was the start of the second flight of the Wild Geese as thousands of young Irishmen were forced to go into their exile, many joining Irish units in the militaries of foreign nations. Patrick Sarsfield continued his loyal service until he was mortally wounded leading French troops against his old enemies at the battle of Landen in Flanders in 1693. He died of his wounds three days later in Huy, Belgium with his last words being, as his life slipped away, “If this was only for Ireland”.

Oh Patrick Sarsfield, Irelands Wonder,
Who fought in the fields like any thunder,
One of King James’ chief commanders,
Now lies the food of crows in Flanders.
Och hone, Och hone.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monarchist Victory in New Zealand!

The New Zealand Herald reports that HM Queen Elizabeth II was given a special victory from New Zealand when monarchists won a victory in that South Sea realm when the Parliament defeated a bill put forward to hold a referendum on the future of the New Zealand monarchy. More women favored keeping the monarchy than men but overall republican sympathy was way down from where it had been only a few years ago. The heads of the republican-traitor camp are giving the credit to the dashing young Prince William who recently visited New Zealand and caused quite a favorable impression. This reaffirms my belief (and I'm sure that of many others) that the Commonwealth realms need more royal visits! A great birthday present for Her Majesty, as this monarchist victory has been called, and reason for a cheerful shout of God Save the Queen of New Zealand! However, before monarchists get too comfortable, keep in mind that the ruling party has said that a republic is bound to happen sooner or later and the head republican tyrant has said that they expect to have their republic once the Prince of Wales succeeds to the throne. So, carry on the fight Kiwi loyalists!

Happy Birthday to Her Majesty!

Today Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and her other Commonwealths celebrates her 84th birthday. It is unfortunate that her reign had to coincide with the continued downfall of the British Empire, however, the Queen herself has been the great tower of strength amidst all the turmoil and the decline in British power and influence around the world. She has faced a number of difficult situations as monarch and personally but she has survived them all and by her character, her devotion to duty and the matchless way she has continued to symbolize British tradition and represent what is best of British history she has single-handedly been the death of republicanism on the island of Britain with even the most dastardly republican traitors being forced to admit that while Elizabeth II is Queen their cause is hopeless. Such is all the more reason for the Mad Monarchist and all others to wish Her Majesty a happy birthday with many, many more to come and to join all in a hearty shout of GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

San Jacinto Day

It was on this day in 1836 that the Republic of Texas won its independence from the Republic of Mexico at the battle of San Jacinto. The Mexican President, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had abandoned his army and tried to escape disguised as a common soldier. However, when he was later captured the salutes of his men gave him away and he was brought before General Sam Houston. The Texas army wanted to hang Santa Anna for his cruelty at the Alamo and his order to massacre the Texas army at Goliad but Sam Houston offered clemency in return for the President's recognition of Texas independence. Even in this frontier fight between adherents of republicanism, there were still some monarchist ties. The man who interpreted between Houston and Santa Anna was Colonel Juan Almonte, leader of the regency junta that later invited Archduke Maximilian to become Emperor of Mexico; and the doctor who tended the wounded General Houston was Nicholas Descomps Labadie, a native of Windsor, Ontario in Her Majesty's Dominion of Canada.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How About a Little Intolerance?

Controversial Catholic priest Father Michael Pfleger was recently honored with an award from the Archdiocese of Chicago for his work on behalf of minorities and race relations. That struck me as rather odd considering that, from what I've seen of the man, he seems to engage mostly in stirring up racial hatred rather than fostering peace between the races. He was also recently honored at an event alongside Protestant Pastor Jeremiah Wright (you know, the anti-Semitic G**damn America guy) and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (the group that says non-Black races are "less evolved", that Blacks are the original and 'pure' human beings and that Whites are inferior). Pfleger was also once arrested alongside Jesse Jackson (shown above), another religious leader and racial activist who had to 'take a break' for a while when it was found he had cheated on his wife, fathered an illegitimate daughter and filched money from his followers to pay for them, while protesting gun laws in Chicago.

All of that would be enough for me to write-off Father Pfleger from the status of a genuine religious leader but, hey, the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago must see things differently. Recently however, on Divine Mercy Sunday, Father Pfleger openly called for women priests, women bishops and women cardinals -something which clearly puts him at odds with the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Many Christians would see nothing wrong with that, but Pfleger is a *Catholic* priest and the Catholic Church is against such a thing and all clerics are supposed to take a vow of obedience to the Church and their religious superiors. So, my question is, why does Pfleger still have a job? Given all the Catholic Church has gone through lately I'm really begining to wonder if there is some kind of secretive trade union for priests that makes it near impossible to fire them. I have always been told that this was one of the benefits of having a hierarchy. Well, it doesn't seem to be doing much good lately. Has, perhaps, the culture of "tolerance" gotten out of hand? It seems simple enough to me -if a priest does something wicked you get rid of him and put in someone else. If a priest opposes the Church you get rid of him and put in someone else. If the bishop won't do it -here's an idea- get rid of the bishop and put in someone else. But then, what do I know? I'm just a Mad Monarchist mourning the crumbling of religion and the sense of the sacred around the world...

Cinematic Royal: Vivien Leigh

“Caesar and Cleopatra” was made in 1945, based on the work of George Bernard Shaw and starring Claude Rains as Caesar and Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra. Shaw was reportedly quite dissatisfied with how Leigh played the part of the Egyptian queen, but I thought it a rather refreshing departure from the usual way it is done in this historic story that has captivated audiences for literally thousands of years. It is not, to be sure, historically accurate and will probably seem dated to most if not all modern audiences but it is still one of my favorites. Though I am a big Claude Rains fan it was Vivien Leigh who stole the show for me and her being positively stunning does not hurt either.

The film is a combination of political drama and odd comedy, often quite funny, and Leigh’s Cleopatra commands most attention simply for being the character that grows and changes in the most dramatic fashion. When Caesar first meets Cleopatra she does not know his identity and he finds her a very superstitious, innocent, naïve, childlike girl, conscious that she is a Queen but quite unfamiliar with power; a “palace kitten”. He takes it upon himself to make a monarch out of her, telling the fearful young Queen that if Caesar detects any hint of weakness he will eat her alive -as it is well known in Egypt that the Romans are barbaric cannibals.

The scenes in the desert palace are undoubtedly my favorite. Caesar sees to it that Cleopatra gets a taste of power and she thrives on it. We see her grasp the position and authority that are hers and we see her grow more scheming, ruthless and mature in wielding it. We also see Caesar realize that rather than simply create a worthy conquest he has created a rival. What is perhaps most odd about this piece is that there really is no romance between the two title characters. Caesar is, perhaps a bit smitten, but never possessive and Cleopatra only has eyes for the absent Marc Antony whom she remembers from childhood.

I was a little skeptical about Rains playing Caesar (no one attempting it ever seems “big” enough for the part to me) but he manages to pull it off. Vivien Leigh is sometimes criticized for this performance but I thought she was superb, convincing in each stage of the evolution of her character but all the while still retaining some of her childlike core all throughout. She is simple and childish, she is frightened, she is shocked to maturity and finally driven and ambitious while all the while looking good enough to make the audience believe she could have brought two Roman conquerors to their knees.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monarch Profile: Empress Wu Zetian of China

Wu Zetian is one of the most remarkable figures in Chinese Imperial history and is the only woman to have ever ruled the empire in her own right. Her rise to power was hard and fraught with trouble but in the end she emerged successful. Born in 662 as Li Dan, she first came to prominence during the reign of Emperor Gaozong. With the name Wu Zhao she served as a secondary consort having previously been one of the concubines of his father Emperor Taizong. Ambitious from the very start she first secured the downfall of Gaozong’s wife Wang by suffocating her newborn daughter and framing Wang for the crime. With Wang out of the way she became Empress in her place.

Empress Wu Zetian quickly consolidated her power by using her influence to place her own supporters in positions of power. Her place was further strengthened in 660 when Emperor Gaozong suffered a stroke that left him nearly blind and paralyzed and all the more dependent on his domineering wife. She launched military campaigns of expansion that brought Chinese power to the widest extent ever up to that point, moving far enough west to meet up with Arab powers and conquering Korea in the east though Tibet remained defiant. Before the death of her husband she had the Crown Prince Li Hong poisoned and secured the succession of her own son Li Zhe whom she could dominate.

Li Zhe, who reigned as Emperor Zhongzong, was dominated by his wife rather than his mother and after only 6 weeks was accused to treason and Empress Wu Zetian replaced him by his younger brother Emperor Ruizong, who was totally her puppet and everyone knew it. In 690 Emperor Ruizong abdicated and Wu Zetian became to rule as Empress in her own right. Described as attractive, intelligent, politically savvy and an excellent judge of those around her, she proved a formidable monarch. She brutally eliminated possible rivals at court and put down all opposition with swift ferocity until her power was absolute and unquestioned.

Something of an early feminist of a sort (quite something in Confucian China) she commissioned a collection of biographies of great women and raised her late mother to the rank of dowager empress. However, for someone who could be so ruthless she secured a base of popular support through common sense efforts to ease tax burdens, increase salaries and diversify the bureaucracy. She also downplayed the importance of Confucianism by giving lavish support to the Daoists and especially the Buddhists whose beliefs attached more importance to the role of women. She had new temples built, her own images enshrined in them and finally went to such lengths as to have herself named “Holy and Divine Emperor” of a new dynasty.

For half a century Empress Wu Zetian dominated China but as she grew aged her previous good judgment began to fail her. Her male favorites became arrogant and increasingly corrupt, bullying the officials. Spending spiraled out of control and bribes and corruption became rampant. The public turned against her and when the bhavior of her two favorites (brothers) became so outrageous that a clique of courtiers had them murdered the Empress was powerless to act. Seeing by this that her time was truly up she abdicated the following day in 705. She died later that year and the Tang dynasty reverted back to the normal state of affairs.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

MM Video: White Russians

Consort Profile: Queen Sofia of Spain

Queen Sofia, consort of HM King Juan Carlos of Spain, is another particular favorite of mine. She was born HRH Princess Sophia Margaret Victoria Frederica of Greece and Denmark on November 2, 1938 in Athens, Greece, the eldest child of HM King Paul I and Queen Frederica of the Hellenes. Princess Sophia belongs to that generation of European royalty that was forced to spend some of her early years in exile due to World War II, in her case mostly in Egypt and South Africa. After returning home she was sent to boarding school in Germany and finished her education in Athens where she studied music, childcare and archaeology. Not surprisingly for the sister of Greek King Constantine II, Princess Sophia has long had a love of the sea and she represented Greece in the sailing competition at the 1960 Olympic games.

The big day came on May 14, 1962 when Princess Sofia (changing the spelling of her name to the Spanish style) married Infante Don Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon in Athens at the Church of St Dennis. The paid had met on a cruise of the Greek islands in 1954 and hit it off right away. Part of the marriage included the renunciation of her Greek royal titles and her conversion from the Greek Orthodox to the Roman Catholic Church, which was no mere formality for someone like Princess Sofia who has long been a very sincere and deeply religious woman. Nonetheless she embraced her faith and her new family and country whole-heartedly. Her charm and friendly style helped Juan Carlos make the transition from the camp of his father and royal heir Prince Don Juan, to that of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

It was Princess Sofia who suggested to Franco that her husband be named a Prince of Spain in 1969 in preparation for his accession to the throne upon the passing of the caudillo. When that day came in 1975 her husband became King Juan Carlos I and she became Queen Sofia of Spain. During their years of marriage King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia have had three children; Infanta Elena (1963), Infanta Cristina (1965) and Prince Felipe of the Asturias (1968). Over the years Queen Sofia has been known for her many charitable activities, her compassionate soul and not sharing in her husband’s love of bullfighting (nobody’s perfect).

She established the Queen Sofia Foundation which has contributed to many humanitarian causes around the world and she has shown particular concern in her many charitable activities for the disabled and the victims of addiction. She has also shown leadership in the fight against child slavery and prostitution as well as promoting economic development on the most local and personal levels in Third World countries. She has received a number of honorary degrees from around the world and given her background (being related to most of the crowned heads of Europe) it is not surprising that she is fluent in Greek, Spanish, English, French and German.

Unfortunately, the controversialists have not left the Queen of Spain untouched either. A minor uproar was caused when it was put out that the Queen could not understand the concept of “gay pride”, that she did not consider homosexual unions marriage and that she was opposed to abortion and euthanasia. This prompted feigned outrage of those supportive of these agendas and induced the palace to release an assurance that the Queen opposed all forms of discrimination. It also led to gay activists taking on a more openly republican stance. Why this would come as a surprise to anyone, considering that the Queen is a deeply committed Catholic woman (the Catholic Church having always opposed the gay lifestyle, redefining marriage, abortion and euthanasia) was never explained by those determined to cause controversy and weaken the Spanish monarchy at any cost. Her opposition to Spanish military involvement in Afghanistan was also seized on by republican groups even though they were at the forefront of opposing Spanish military operations.

Nonetheless, Queen Sofia has shown herself to be made of tough stuff and has displayed a remarkable ability to adapt to changing circumstances while never losing her regal dignity and her moral principles. She has been a source of strength and support for her husband, an involved mother, a supporter of Spanish pride and unity and a friend to less fortunate people all around the world. Queen Sofia has been, and will remain, a credit to the Kingdom of Spain and the Bourbon monarchy. Viva la Reina!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Favorite Royal Images: Little Teck Royals

Princess Mary, Princess Helena and Prince Frederick of Teck

Monarchist Profile: Jose Maria de Salas

Jose Mariano de Salas was born on May 11, 1797 and joined the Royal Spanish Army in Mexico (then New Spain) in 1813 as a cadet in the Puebla Infantry Regiment and he saw his first action with the royalists putting down anti-Spanish rebels. Later he fought alongside Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the capture of Jalapa in Veracruz. In 1821, when General Agustin de Iturbide issued his Plan of Iguala calling for an independent Mexican Empire, Salas enthusiastically embraced the cause. During the rebellion that arose after the Plan of Montano was issued in 1827 he fought in defense of President Guadalupe Victoria and two years later he fought to repel the invasion of Spanish General Isidro Barradas at Tampico.

Through all of this Salas was becoming aware of how chaotic republican rule could be and like many he began to support the idea that it would take a strong-man to keep order. The most prominent candidate on-hand was General Santa Anna. In 1832 Salas was promoted to lieutenant colonel and he supported Santa Anna as President of Mexico. When Texas rose in rebellion against Santa Anna, Salas joined his Army of Operations in Texas to put down the rebels and was given command of the Permanente Jimenez Battalion. When Santa Anna attacked the Texan forces at the Alamo on March 6, 1836 Salas was second-in-command of the third assault column of about 400 men from the Jimenez, Matamoros and San Luis battalions under Colonel Jose Maria Romero that attacked the mission from the east. Salas later fought against the Texan forces of Colonel Fannin near Goliad and after the epic Mexican defeat at San Jacinto he helped cover the retreat of the army back to Matamoros.

A few years later, in 1840, Salas helped put down a mutiny at the National Palace and in 1844 he was exiled from Mexico for his continued loyalty and support of the recently-deposed dictator General Santa Anna. De Salas soon returned, however, and in a switch for him led an uprising in 1846 in Mexico City to restore the government regime that had favored states’ rights over centralized control. From August 5 to December 23, 1846 Salas was President of Mexico and he restored the states rights constitution of 1824 (the original republican constitution and ironically the one the Texans at the Alamo had been fighting for prior to the declaration of independence). He called Congress back into session and given his experience he knew that war was all but inevitable with the United States and he ordered the enlargement of the militia and the raising of addition war funds to prepare for this eventuality.

In December Salas handed the presidency over to his old chief General Santa Anna and the following year was promoted to General of Division. When war with the United States did come Salas was deputy commander of the northern army and he was taken prisoner by the Americans at the battle of Contreras on August 20, 1847. Ultimately, Mexico lost the war and following the peace agreement Salas was released and named military governor of the state of Queretaro. During the Reform Wars he briefly served as President of Mexico again, holding power until the return of the conservative leader Miguel Miramon. One Miramon returned Salas effectively acted as his vice-president and was the commander of the Mexico City garrison during the war.

All of this trouble had convinced many Mexicans that a monarchy was needed, one led by an impartial outsider with no ties to the existing power struggles. With the intervention of the French the opportunity for such a change presented itself. In the summer of 1863 a regency for the Mexican Empire and General Salas, General Juan Almonte and Archbishop Antonio de Labastida were chosen to hold power while a monarch was chosen. It was this triumvirate that sent the delegation to Miramar to offer the Mexican throne to Archduke Maximilian of Austria. The Archduke accepted and on June 12, 1864 Maximilian and Carlota entered Mexico City as Emperor and Empress. Emperor Maximilian made Jose Mariano de Salas one of his generals in the Imperial Mexican Army but, by that time, the veteran soldier was too old for service in the field. Salas died on December 24, 1867 after seeing his Emperor executed and the empire he had fought so long and hard for collapse and Mexico return to the political chaos of squabbling presidents and dictators.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bring on the Pageantry!

That's what I like to see -royal gatherings with someone in a hussar uniform! The pomp and pageantry has been on full display in Europe's oldest monarchy for the birthday celebrations of HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Those attending include Crown Prince Frederick, Crown Princess Mary, Prince Joachim and Princess Mary (seen above), Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, Crown Princess Victoria, fiance Daniel Westling and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Theresa of Luxembourg, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, Princess Nathalie and fiance Alexander Johannsmann and a host of other political and society elites with more to arrive later all to pay their respects to the beloved Queen of Denmark for her 70th birthday.

Multiple Birthday Wishes

April 16 seems to be an eventful day for birthdays amongst the royal families and crowned heads of Europe. It was on this day in 1927 that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was born and it was on this day in 1940 that Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was born. In 1955 on this day His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg was born, the same day as his young son Prince Sebastian in 1992 (18 already, it's hard to believe). Finally, it was on this day just a short time ago in 2008 that Her Royal Highness Princess Eleonore of Belgium was born. The Mad Monarchist wishes His Holiness, Her Majesty and Their Royal Highnesses all a very happy birthday with many more to come.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Girl Who Got Around

Read about the rather 'vivid' life of Hortense Mancini, Duchess Mazarin at my blog-on-the-side Mad for Monaco. Her uncle was a cardinal, her boyfriends (and girlfriends) were numerous and she prompted a King of England and Prince of Monaco to feud over her.

Cinematic Royal: David Niven

It was many years ago that I came across the movie “Bonnie Prince Charlie” starring David Niven in the title role. Unsuspecting innocent that I was, I thought, ‘what a great story for a movie, David Niven is a good actor, oh and look, Jack Hawkins is in it too and he’s been a lot of great movies, this must be a sure winner’. And as I bought it and walked out the store not one clerk was good enough to warn me that I had bought one of the most infamous stinkers in the history of British cinema (which is really saying something). I soon found out that “Bonnie Prince Charlie” is a ponderous, preachy, uneventful film full of actors I could barely understand and with all of the really important stuff happening off-screen. This is a movie about the 1745 uprising that manages to show only about a minute of one actual battle (Prestonpans I think). Even the climactic battle of Culloden is not shown -happens off screen.

Pretty much every character in this movie has no depth to them. Even the really good actors have nothing to work with to make their characters come alive. David Niven is a great actor, I’ve seen him in movies he was superb in, but he is totally miscast here as romantic royal hero. He’s too polite, too soft-spoken and too stiff. More importantly, he smiles too much. Way too much. So, my Dad is sending me to Scotland to launch a rebellion against the House of Hanover -smile. So the King of France didn’t send the troops and all I have is seven grizzled highland chiefs -smile. We’re fighting bloody battles with people being shot, stabbed, bayoneted and cut open with those massive Scottish claymores -smile. I’m on the run for my life with a bunch of bloodthirsty Germans on my trail -smile. It’s too much! Campaigns are being planned, battles fought or at least pondered and matters of life and death are dealt with and all the while Niven’s grinning like an idiot. I don’t know what they were going for but it just looks silly and unrealistic.

Refraining from comments on the overall movie is hard but with Niven’s portrayal of Prince Charles, it is simply impossible to get emotionally involved in his character when all he does is grin and go into the occasional wooden sad mood. It is hard to get emotional about the uprising when we never see battles being fought and it is hard to get too involved in his flight from persecution when we never really see any persecution. There were great cruelties visited on the Scots by the Duke of Cumberland in the aftermath of the ‘45 but all we ever see is occasional Hanoverian rudeness. The movie, is very much, a movie about the idealistic vision of the Bonnie Prince Charlie. Most know he was far from being a saintly, inspirational figure all the time, but even given what the film is and the effort to make the prince as sympathetic as possible the audience simply cannot conjure up much emotion for a character who does not show much emotion himself.

This film was made in the aftermath of World War II and the “bad guys” are pretty much German rather than British, still I doubt many Hanoverian sympathizers will appreciate it. They are portrayed as the enemy and yet are not even given the satisfaction of watching the final Jacobite defeat with the only portion of a battle being shown being, naturally, a Jacobite victory. Die-hard Jacobites may find the film at least tolerable since it is very much from the Stuart point of view but despite the great costumes, stunning locations and so on it is simply a dud of a movie and the portrayal of Prince Charles is so remote and almost other-worldly that one does not feel to have any better understanding of him after watching the movie. Perhaps one day a film will be made that is worthy of the dramatic story of the last Jacobite rising but, unfortunately, this is definitely not it and thankfully the part of Bonnie Prince Charlie will not be the role David Niven is most remembered for.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

STAR WARS: Republican Incompetence in Space

A number of people have asked me to comment on this subject but I must admit it is a chore. The primary reason is that the recent ‘prequel’ Star Wars movies are just bad -brain meltingly bad with only occasional entertainment value based on making fun of them. However, after being repeatedly asked to look at the Star Wars movies in terms of the republic vs. the empire I have decided to give it a shot. First of all though, I have to point out that the republic in Star Wars is not much like any republic most people today would recognize. It seems like a cross between the UN and an African country like Uganda. After all, despite being a republic we do see characters that are “knights” and we have people with names like Princess Laid-ya, Count Doodoo and Queen Dalai Lama -so it is a republic with some monarchial elements at least. However, that being said, it seems to me the republic in Star Wars was a huge, embarrassing failure and not really the sort of thing most would consider worth fighting to restore. The empire, on the other hand, did a much better job if one can get past the occasional planet being blown up.

I don’t recall much important stuff happening in the “Phantom Menace” movie but I do recall that it involved some sort of giant union called the Trade Federation that put a blockade around this planet and this caused a crisis (what exactly that planet needed from outer space that was so vital to their existence was never explained) and this in itself demonstrates how dysfunctional this sci-fi republic was. This would be like a union in a country becoming powerful enough to blockade an entire state -let’s say Hawaii even though I don’t recall any explanation given as to why a trade federation would be trying to stop trade but oh well. If the U.S. government could not stop someone like SEIU from blockading Hawaii, I would say that the government had become so impotent as to be worthless. And what sort of government would allow a trade union to become so powerful it had its own army and navy? Would you trust Andy Stern with his own military?

What is worse, when these SEIU guys invade the planet the Senate wants to send in like the FBI or something to see if it really happened. How ineffectual is your government if someone can invade Hawaii and Washington DC knows nothing about it? Never happened with the empire -they were on top of things. Even when the rebels were on a remote ice planet, killing endangered species, exploiting animals and probably causing global warming with all their spaceships and stuff the empire found them right away and sent their military in to take care of business. Not the republic; one of their planets is invaded without the government even being aware of it and they want to send a committee. It seems that the word of the noble police-knights they sent to settle the whole problem was not to be believed by the government. You would think if they were that important they could have taken their word for it. The empire got a partial message from a robot about the rebels on Dairy Queen and they immediately took action.

Another important thing I remember is that the great guardians of this republic, the noble Jedi knights did not seem all that noble and, as the movies progressed, seemed more and more creepy to me. How would you feel if the elite law enforcement agency in the universe was made up of a bunch of celibate monks with supernatural powers who could read your mind, manipulate your thoughts, influence your actions and who were all apparently given over to this life by their parents by the time they could barely walk. Seems a little weird to me. Moreover we see the knight ‘We Got Gin’ guy telling lies and using his psychic powers to cheat a native chieftain out of a spaceship, cheat a bug-alien out of flying saucer parts and cheat at a game of chance he has a wager on. The empire on the other hand paid the bounty hunter that found Hand Solo just as promised and even offered to pay compensation if the guy died. The only guy they cheated was Rambo Calcium who was cheating them the whole time anyway. And how come if these knights were such good guys they didn’t go back to sand planet to buy the slave mother of little orphan Annie her freedom?

This brings up another point. If the republic was so great and benevolent and all, how come slavery is legal?! I assume it is legal and not just some hidden little secret because they found out about the slave mother and son, won the freedom of the son (or paid for him I don’t remember) but never went back for the mother or even reported to the authorities that there was a flying bug-alien that was keeping slaves. They also treat their robots like slaves, and that may sound unfair but when you consider that these robots think, worry, can be happy, sad and form emotional attachments to friends and be afraid of their enemies, buying and selling them as property certainly sounds like slavery to me. Then at the end of the movie we see something that we will see again in Star Wars: the republicans using a primitive native people fighting with sticks and stones, slings and catapults, as canon fodder against a massive modern army with ray guns. Can I be the only one who finds that a little callous? How is that whole “we’re peaceful and have no weapons or armies” philosophy working out for you?

The first and perhaps most paramount duty of any government is to defend its people, yet no one in the republic seems to have a professional army except the SEIU guys who use it to terrorize people. The republic has no army, the Booboo planet has no army, in the original Star Wars movie the planet that the “Happy Fun Star” blows up has no weapons -I mean, at some point isn’t that just asking for trouble? At some point trying to be peaceful crosses the line into criminal neglect and incompetence. Then they have to recruit rabbit people or little teddy bears to get shot full of lasers while they go handle some secret mission. How many rabbit people and teddy bears died because the republic was too self-righteous to provide for the common defense of its own people? It seems rather heinous to me, especially when you consider that the empire did not seem to be harming or in any way bothering with the little teddy bear people in “Return of the Gemini” until the rebels convinced them to be their human shields and fight the empire (that has huge ray guns that can blow up whole planets) with little sticks and stones. Aside from hiring a handful of mercenaries once you never see the empire getting primitive native people to do their dirty work for them. They’ve taken care of the whole national defense thing and can generally deal with any crisis.

In all of these movies, ‘Phantom Furnace’ and ‘Attack of the Clowns’ and so on we see some evidence as to why the republic is so ineffective. Apparently there are no rules for choosing a senator. Evidently anyone can be a senator from queens, to body doubles to a retarded rabbit alien who can’t even speak proper English. We are given to believe that the chancellor is elected and they are really bummed when he is voted emergency powers but, again, if they had taken even the most basic responsibility for the defense of their republic none of it could have ever happened. This also leads to why the empire in Star Wars is not a traditional empire either; more like a Napoleonic empire. The Emperor was elected, not born to rule and if they had been a monarchy instead of a republic to begin with the whole crisis never would have happened. One of the benefits of a monarchy over a republic is that you cannot cheat your way into the top job; you’re either born a prince or you’re not. And for all the implications about freedom in tyranny it seems it was the republic that was so totalitarian as to make laws against romance (no love for Gemini knights or senators) while the empire didn’t seem to have any problem with it.

So, lets recap what we have learned about the Star Wars republic. It is governed by a massive, top heavy talking shop that has no idea whole secret armies are being built, blockading and invading a planet nor do they have any means of dealing with the problem. Senators and security personnel are not allowed to love. Their elite security force is a bunch of knights with mutant DNA or something who use psychic powers to steal and cheat at dice, slavery is legal and when one of their planets is invaded all they can do is form a committee and then use a bunch of rabbit people with sling-shots as bait while they take out Andy Stern. And we’re all supposed to believe that the fall of the chancellor was a bad thing because the evil future emperor will take his place. Call me mad if you like but if all that stuff was going on under the very nose of the government -sounds like he was a pretty crap chancellor anyway who should have been replaced. I had expected to go on, but I think that the point has been well made by the above. The chin-less wonder (George Lucas) doesn’t seem to know anymore about politics than he does about things like story and plot when it comes to filmmaking these days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Monarch Profile: The Fifth Dalai Lama

The Great Fifth, as he is known in history, Lobsang Gyatso was born as Kunga Nyingpo in 1617 in Lhoka Chingwar Taktse, south of Lhasa, into a very old and noble Tibetan family. He was discovered by Sonam Choephel, chief attendant of the Fourth Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the late ruler. He passed the traditional tests but his presence was kept secret owing to the political turmoil embroiling Tibet at the time. Once this passed he was taken to Drepung Monastery and ordained as a Buddhist monk by Lobsang Chogyal, the Third Panchen Lama, and given the name Lobsang Gyatso. Peace had come to Tibet thanks to the intervention of Gushir Khan, a Khoshut Prince of the Oirat Mongols whose intervention had been requested by the ruling regent.

In 1642 Lobsang Gyatso was formally enthroned as ‘the Buddha of Compassion, the Wish-Fulfilling Jewel, the Fifth Dalai Lama of Tibet’. In 1645 he began the process of constructing the Potala Palace on the Red Hill in Lhasa. One of the most significant political meetings in East Asian history occurred in 1649 when the Dalai Lama was invited to Peking by the Great Qing Emperor Shunzhi. The Emperor sent 3,000 Manchu cavalry to the border to escort the Dalai Lama, traveled in person to meet him at Kothor and then journeyed on to Peking where the Tibetan monarch was housed in the Yellow Palace which the Emperor had built especially for the occasion. Both leaders treated each other with great respect and the Qing Emperor officially conferred on the Tibetan ruler the title, “Dalai Lama, Overseer of the Buddhist Faith on Earth Under the Great Benevolent Self-subsisting Buddha of the Western Paradise”. As a result of this meeting there was a Buddhist revival throughout the Qing Empire and all successive Dalai Lamas were regarded as the highest spiritual authorities by all the Manchu emperors.
After about two months the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet in 1653. In the years that followed the Khan, prime minister, Emperor and Panchen Lama all died, bringing in a whole new leadership. The Fifth Dalai Lama, being the only constant amongst all these changes, greatly increased his authority, becoming the first Dalai Lama to effectively rule Tibet both temporally and spiritually. He made Lhasa the capital city and was an accomplished scholar and author writing a number of books and great pieces of poetry. He established systems to educate secular officials and monks and insisted that they learn Mongolian, Sanskrit, astrology, poetry and administration. He was extremely well respected as a man of wisdom far beyond the borders of Tibet. He died in 1682 at the age of 65 but because he was such a colossal figure, and the threat of instability still existed, his death was kept a closely guarded secret for quite a few years afterward so reliant were the people and international stability on his presence. For his strong leadership, wisdom in diplomacy, politics as well as the Buddhist religion he became known to Tibetans as the Great Fifth.
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