Saturday, July 31, 2010

Passing of a Great King

Member "Matterhorn" of the magnificent blog "The Cross of Laeken" reminds us that today is the anniversary of the passing of H.M. King Baudouin of the Belgians in 1993, one of my absolute favorite monarchs of recent years. He died unexpectedly of heart failure while on holiday in Spain at the age of 62. May he rest in peace and may his spirit and example continue to guide his country in the future.

Royal News Roundup

On the Scandinavian front Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg (niece of HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, daughter of Princess Benedikte) and her husband Sir Alexander Johannsmann welcomed their first child into the world Saturday in Germany. The baby is a boy and in good health. Congratulations to them! The Crown Prince and Princess of Norway have gotten out of the livestock business, selling the cows kept at their country house outside of Oslo. The Crown Prince was sad to see them go but said it no longer made economic sense to keep them. Norwegian farmers were not happy to see the heir leaving their ranks. It is believed the pasturage will be put up for rent. On Wednesday the Crown Princely couple participated in the Olav Festival in Trondheim where they participated in a conference of sorts on “faith, hope and love” at Nidaros Cathedral. The Crown Princess said that spiritual issues were a big part of Norwegian culture and something they all needed to talk about, though most of her comments seemed to involve our relationships with others rather than God. Also on Wednesday the Danish Royal Family gathered for their summer photographing session at GrĂ¥sten Castle. On hand were Queen Margrethe II, Prince Henrik, their sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Princess Benedikte, her husband and grandchildren also attended. Pictures can be seen here. A beautiful family if ever there was one.

In southern Europe, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain attended mass in honor of St James, patron of Spain on Sunday. The King prayed for unity among the disgruntled regions of Spain, calling on the bonds of national family, and also prayed for an end to the economic suffering Spain has been enduring. In the U.S. Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark, youngest daughter of King Constantine II, was the guest of honor at the Academy of Couture in Los Angeles on Saturday. She has been making a career of acting for some time now under the name “Theodora Greece”. On Friday Prince Albert II and Princess Stephanie of Monaco attended the annual Red Cross Ball at Monte Carlo. More coverage of the event can be found at Mad for Monaco.

In Middle Eastern royal news King Abdullah II of Jordan met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday to discuss the peace process. The meeting lasted about 2 hours and involved the potential for peace via the “two state” solution. After returning to Israel Netanyahu complimented the King and said he welcomed any assistance from the monarch in ending the long-standing conflict. Jordan and Egypt are the only two countries in the Middle East that maintain diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. Princess Haya of Dubai was in Moscow on Thursday to sign a memorandum on the development of equestrian sports in the region. The Princess is president of the International Equestrian Federation. This latest endeavor will encourage equestrian sports in Russia, the Baltic states and other former Soviet republics. From Wednesday to Friday King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The visit to Lebanon was especially significant and was said to be an effort to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation there.

Southern Africa does not usually make much royal news but this week it has and, unfortunately, it is not good news. To sum it up, roughly half of all the remaining sub-national monarchies in South Africa are being abolished. Thursday, President Jacob Zuma announced that 6 of the 13 remaining tribal monarchies in South Africa will be dissolved simply on the grounds that they were created during the era of segregation. He claims these were invented at the expense of “legitimate” tribal monarchies but nothing was said of restoring any of those alluded to. Instead all six monarchies will be dissolved when their current king dies. The Xhosa and Zulu kingdoms are the only two of the area in question that will not be effected.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Monarchist Profile: Ben Thompson

Benjamin Thompson, destined to become one of the most famous gunslingers of the old west, was born in England in 1842 and moved to Texas with his family in 1851. He attended a private school and when he was 15 took a job as a typesetter for an Austin newspaper. As he grew up he became handy with a six gun and a knife. While in New Orleans in 1860 he was taking a bus to work when a Frenchman started making nasty comments to a nearby girl. When Ben Thompson, full of English and Texan chivalry, ordered the man to stop harassing the girl the Frenchman punched him. That was all the provocation Ben needed and he quickly pulled a dagger and stabbed the Frenchman. He worked as a bindery in New Orleans and only a few weeks after the stabbing incident he shot a thief who had broken into his office. Wanting no more trouble he returned to Texas but trouble was never far from Ben Thompson.

In 1861 the War Between the States broke out and Ben joined up with the rough and rowdy Cavalry of the West in the Confederate army under the command of the famous Texas Ranger Colonel John S. RIP Ford. He fought at the southern victory at Galveston, Texas on January 1, 1863 and was later dispatched to the border to keep Confederate trade routes open to Mexico, but not before marrying his sweetheart Catherine Moore who he had known since childhood. In 1864 Thompson and some of his buddies were on leave in the wild border town of Laredo where he and his brother Billy Thompson were playing cards with a group of Mexican mercenaries. As often happens in card games an argument broke out which soon turned violent and Ben shot down two of the Mexicans. Once back with their regiment, Colonel Ford promoted Thompson to lieutenant and dispatched him to Austin to recruit more men for Confederate service. While in Austin Ben was arrested for shooting the local bully, a man named John Coombs. Because of the nature of the fight and his valuable service to the Confederacy Ben was quickly released.

When the war ended in 1865 with defeat for the Confederacy Texas was occupied by Union forces. They accused Lieutenant Thompson of shooting some Union troops near Austin. Seeing what justice he could expect from the federal authorities, Thompson decided to make a run for the border. Another war was going on in Mexico and many former Confederate soldiers were relocating there. Using his gift for persuasion Thompson bribed his federal guards and even took a couple of them along with him as he headed for Mexico. Once south of the Rio Grande Thompson joined up with the hard pressed army of the Mexican Emperor Maximilian. His previous service made him valuable and he was given the rank of major in the Imperial Mexican army. However, following the pullout of the French forces supporting him, Emperor Maximilian was soon overthrown by the forces of President Benito Juarez. Thompson, a foreigner in the service of an Emperor who Juarez quickly had shot, could count on facing a firing squad himself and was forced to leave Mexico and return to Texas.

Ben found himself still unwelcome by the occupying Union forces. Looking for any excuse to lock up the noted gunfighter, the federals arrested Ben for shooting the town bully John Coombs during the war. However, they could not change the facts of the matter and Thompson had acted in self defense so the court had no choice but to find him not-guilty and release him. Thompson finally settled down with his beloved wife in Austin where he shot his brother-in-law James Moore during an argument in 1868. Ben was sentenced to five years at hard labor in the notorious Texas prison at Huntsville. Two years later, in 1870, Thompson was pardoned and he teamed up with his friend Phil Coe and rode north to Abilene, Kansas. There the two opened up the Bull’s Head Saloon which soon became a thriving business. Unfortunately, Ben had not lost his inability to get along with lawmen and the friends from Texas ran afoul of the marshal of Abilene, none other than the deadly gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok.

Despite the tensions, Thompson was determined to make a fresh start in Abilene and with his business established and running well he sent for his family to come and join him. He met his wife and son in Kansas City but disaster struck when Catherine was thrown from the carriage when they hit a pothole. She had to have her arm amputated and more bad news came when, following her recovery and while on their way back to Texas Ben got word that Wild Bill had shot his friend Phil Coe. Ben packed up his marbles and moved to Ellsworth, Kansas with his brother Bill Thompson. Billy had fought with Ben in the Confederate army and was even more of a wild card than his brother. Trouble found the Thompson brothers on August 15, 1873 when Ben got into another fight over a card game. The argument turned into a fight which was taken to the street where the shooting began. In a typical wild west shootout Billy Thompson shot the local sheriff, Chauncey Whitney. The two men were arrested by another legendary gunfighter, Marshal Wyatt Earp, but luckily, the trial ruled that the shooting had been an accident and the Thompson brothers were released. Ben decided he had had enough of Kansas and returned to Texas and his old hometown of Austin.

On Christmas Day Ben was at the Capital Theater when the bartender and the manager picked a fight with him. One of the downsides about becoming a famous gunslinger is all the other folks who want to gain their fame by doing you in. Thompson shot both of them dead and was duly acquitted at his trial in 1877 because, once again, the shootings had been in self defense. After this incident Ben got itching feet again and moved back to Kansas where he wandered into the now famous little town of Dodge City where he became good friends with another legendary gunfighter, Bat Masterson. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad hired Ben and Bat as mercenary gunmen during their feud with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad over rights of passage through Royal Gorge, Colorado. For his services in this private, little war Ben was paid $5,000 which he used to open up a number of gambling parlors around the city of Austin. Soon, Ben became one of the most successful men in the Texas capital gaining wealth and political influence.

People admired and respected Ben Thompson, but it still must have seemed rather ironic to some when, on November 7, 1881, Ben was elected City Marshal of Austin, Texas. The man so long hounded by the law had finally become a lawman himself. Needless to say he was extremely successful. The crime rate in Austin hit an all time low as no one in their right mind wanted to tangle with the famous gunslinger Ben Thompson. He also kept up his private business, running the Iron Front Saloon gambling parlor which was very successful. He owned a grand mansion at 2009 University Avenue, and had a chauffeur. Because he and Catherine only had one son, and since he had more than he needed and was still a gallant English gentleman at heart, Ben took in orphans as well. It might have seemed strange for such a deadly gunfighter, but he and his handicapped wife loved children and were glad to house, provide for and raise as many as they could.

On July 11, 1882 Ben took some of his children on a little excursion to San Antonio. When a man named Jack Harris heard that Thompson was in town he decided to challenge him as Ben had thrashed a friend of his, Joe Foster, two years earlier in an argument over a card game. Harris and Foster were both partners in a local theater. Harris waited at the theater which Ben frequented for a chance to kill the marshal of Austin. Ben dropped his children off with friends and headed for the theater. As he approached the building Harris called out from a window for Ben to come inside where they could have it out but Ben never gave him the chance. Taking aim at the figure standing behind the Venetian blinds, Ben shot Harris dead right through the window. Once again Thompson was brought to trial but once again was found not-guilty. Harris had other friends though and they vowed to take revenge on Ben Thompson for the killing.

A few years later, on March 11, 1884, the famous deputy sheriff of Uvalde County, King Fisher, invited Ben to go to San Antonio for a little gambling. They came into town on the train at about eight in the evening and headed for the same variety vaudeville theater where Ben had killed Jack Harris. There he met up with Joe Foster, part owner, and the man whose altercation with Ben had first started the trouble with Harris. An argument ensued and Ben stuck his gun in the mouth of Joe Foster at one point. Billy Sim, another part owner, and one of their workers named Jacob Coy rushed to the scene and pulled their guns. In the ensuing shootout both Ben Thompson and King Fisher were shot dead; hit by more than twenty four bullets. It was later discovered that King Fisher had plotted with Foster to get Thompson into town to assassinate him but Fisher had been killed in the confusion.

When the body of Ben Thompson was returned to Austin for burial, his funeral was the largest in the history of the city up to that time with a procession of 62 vehicles following the hearse. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, mourned by his wife, son and the many adopted children they had taken and cared for as their own. That was the end of the gunslinger Benjamin Thompson; English immigrant, typesetter, binder, Confederate officer, Imperial Mexican officer, gunfighter, lawman, gambler, businessman and humanitarian family man. Amongst all those Texans of colorful life and background, his certainly stands out as one of the most colorful of all.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mad Rant: Battling for Bullfighting

As most regular readers know I am a big fan of the ancient sporting spectacle of the traditional Spanish bullfight. Although unable recently, this was the only draw for me to visit Mexico in recent years (where thankfully the sport seems safe enough for now) but it is obviously a sport most associated with Spain. So, it was with great sadness that I heard the (expected) news that the local government of Catalonia has become the first region in Spain to abolish the corrida de toros. There is probably nothing more culturally associated with the Kingdom of Spain than the image of the fierce fighting bull and the fearless, elegant matador. His Catholic Majesty King Juan Carlos is a proud supporter of bullfighting (as is HRH the Infanta Elena) and he once threatened to take Spain out of the EU if Brussels ever attempted to ban the sport. I suppose it never occurred to His Catholic Majesty that a Spanish government would beat the EU bureaucrats to the job.

Let me say, opponents of bullfighting should read no more -you will not like this and I am not trying to have a ‘discussion’ about it. I know it is not for everyone and I do not demand everyone to be a fan. I simply object to those opposed to it trying to ruin it for everyone else. Some people will never like bullfighting and I would not encourage just anyone to go see a match. Every time is different but, let there be no confusion, it is a blood sport. Bulls will be injured, they will bleed and they will die. There is always a chance a human will as well but that never seems to matter to anyone. Every match is different and I have seen some get pretty gruesome -I will leave it at that. So, this is certainly not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ as they say. I can certainly understand that. For those people my seemingly simple advice is; do not go, do not watch, do not give them your ticket money. Do not try to ruin the experience of others and destroy a centuries old tradition just because of your own personal squeamishness.

That being said, I am absolutely a fan. To me there is no greater ‘spectator sport’ in the world. The whole atmosphere of a bullring is impossible to describe. I love everything about it; the heat, the dust, the blazing sun, the blaring trumpets, the roar of the crowd and the outlandishly dressed bullfighters strutting the ring before facing down over a thousand pounds of charging death. The bullfighters (not just the matadors) are all men of great courage and agility (though I have seen some portly picadores but they are not really required to be agile in their job). As has long been said, bullfighting is not so much the test of a man and a bull but a test of a man and his courage. To me it is a beautiful thing, poetry in motion, the ultimate combination of strength, stamina, grace, agility, showmanship, quick reflexes and nerves of steel. I have never been a participant of course, but growing up on a ranch I have tangled with plenty of huge, angry bulls and I can tell you that standing perfectly still in the face of the business end of a charging bull is no small trick. Try it sometime.

Of course, the objections come from animal “rights” activists who deplore the cruelty and brutality of it all. Personally I think that, in itself, is a rather simplistic and barbaric way of looking at such an ancient and awesome ritual. Even in the style of bullfights wherein the bull is not killed in the ring, they are still killed afterward. Cattle are not exactly an endangered species and I sometimes wonder if these people are all militant vegans or if they just never stopped to consider where their hamburgers, meatballs or steak & eggs came from. I know the answer would be that it is the method that is the problem, but I for one find it far more grand and dignified for the bull to die in the ring, where he has at least a fighting chance, with the crowd applauding his strength and ferocity; going down in a blaze of glory rather than simply being bashed in the head with a hammer in an assembly-line style execution.

A Spain without bullfighting would be like a Spain without a monarchy - that is no Spain at all anyone would recognize. This is as much a part of Spanish culture as fox hunting and tea time is to the English -or at least was. Cultural globalization and the uniformity constantly being pushed by the people with “I love diversity” bumper stickers has already meant that bullfights are not nearly as common in Spain as they once were. Even in Catalonia where the ban was passed there was only one bullring still in operation. Even without the animal “rights” fundamentalists the grand sport and spectacle of Spain would still be endangered simply by the encroaching, crushing, bland, modern mono-culture that is descending on the world. And it all makes me an extremely, *extremely*… Mad Monarchist.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Killing the Executioner

It was on this day in 1794 that the French revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre, the primary driving force behind the regicide of His Most Christian Majesty King Louis XVI, was sent to the guillotine to be executed at the Place de la Revolution by his own former comrades grown weary if his tyranny and paranoid bloodlust. Couldn't have happened to a nicer fella. Vive l'France! On this occasion justice truly was served.

My Habitat

These were taken about half a mile west of my house, looking southward, about where my great-grandparents house once stood. Especially after a rain you can still find the occasional tool or arrowhead from the Coahuiltecan and Lepan Apache peoples who once inhabited the region long, long ago. The tall trees you can just see on the horizon to the right of center marks the headquarters of the neighboring ranch to the south. It's full of thorny bushes, cactus, scorpions, tarantulas, coyotes, rattlesnakes and other unsavory characters, but it's home sweet home to me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Passing of the Shah

The Radical Royalist marks the passing of Iran's last great ruler before the fundamentalist "Islamic Republic" takeover. His Majesty Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, King of kings and Light of the Aryans, came to the throne in a time of great uncertainty but led his country to its peak of prestige, power and prosperity and done while keeping peaceful relations with the major powers of the world. His overthrow was a disaster of the first order and marked the first time that terrorists of the stripe we have come to know too well were able to take control of an entire country. Iranian society was never so free and open as when he was on the throne and if he could at times be harsh we can see only too clearly today exactly why the enemies he was dealing with were worthy of such treatment. May he rest in peace and may his memory be one day vindicated.

Free Iran!

MM Video: Imperial India


Monday, July 26, 2010

Pope Innocent IV

Ever wonder why Pope Innocent IV was featured on a postage stamp from the Principality of Monaco, despite reigning before the principality even existed? Find out what made Innocent IV something of an accidental "founding-father" at Mad for Monaco.

Pretender Profile: King James VIII & III

Ordinarily the birth of an heir to the throne is an occasion of great joy; the hope of stability and the future of a dynasty. However, the birth of Prince James Edward Francis Stuart, first son King James II of Britain and Queen Mary of Modena, brought about war, upheaval and the effective fall of a dynasty that had reigned in Britain since 1371. The prince, who would become known as “The Old Chevalier” and “The Old Pretender” was born at St James Palace on June 10, 1688 and was soon thereafter baptized into the Roman Catholic Church of his parents and this was the “problem” with the newborn prince. He represented the potential of a Catholic British dynasty and this was something that those with power in the country were not willing to tolerate. First, his legitimacy was called into question and the King even ordered a formal investigation to remove all doubt but it was all rather pointless. William of Orange soon landed with a Dutch army and the Protestant elites rushed to his banner. The Queen and Prince James were sent to safety in France while the King struggled (unsuccessfully) to maintain his throne.

The Prince was brought up in France and upon the death of his father in 1701 was recognized by British Jacobites as King James VIII of Scotland and III of England. The King of France, the King of Spain, the Pope and the little Italian Duchy of Modena also recognized him as the legitimate monarch of the ‘three kingdoms’. As a result of this he was declared a criminal by his half-sister and brother-in-law in London, King William III and Queen Mary II, who declared him a traitor the following year. As a boy ‘King James III’ had been prepared by his father for the one paramount goal of restoring the House of Stuart to the British throne and holding fast to their Catholic faith. Not all Jacobites were Catholic and some Protestant Tories pointed out to James that as William of Orange was not terribly popular he would greatly increase his chances of success in restoring the Stuarts if he would reject Catholicism and become an Anglican. This, he adamantly refused to do. His father had only become more religious during his years in exile and although James III made it clear he stood for religious toleration, he would never abandon the Catholic Church no matter how much it might benefit him politically.

In 1708 James III made his first effort to restore himself to the British throne and King Louis XIV of France made a major commitment to supporting him. James sailed from Dunkirk with a considerable French fleet and some 6,000 French troops however, the British Royal Navy (loyal to Queen Anne, successor of William III, daughter of James II and thus half-sister to James III) intercepted the fleet and hounded it all the way around Scotland and back to France. Still, he did not lose hope. When his sister Queen Anne died in 1714 the government had to go looking quite far to find a suitably Protestant prince to take the throne, finally settling on Prince George, Elector of Hanover. In the past Protestants had often stirred up xenophobic support by associating Catholicism with being “foreign” (unlike the homemade Church of England). Now, that same devotion to Protestantism had brought a rather reluctant distant German cousin to the throne in preference to the son of a born and bred British king.

James thought, with the fairly unpopular German King George I in power in London, the British public might be willing to rise in his favor if he could mount a comeback. However, it would not be easy. Only the year before France and Spain had been forced to make peace with the British and part of the peace was a British demand that James III be expelled from France (having him next door was too big a worry). In many ways it seemed like this was the last chance he would have to claim the throne of his father. In 1715 he wrote to the Earl of Mar who rallied the chieftains of the highland clans in Scotland and proclaimed James their king. They secured the highlands fairly quickly, occupied Perth and attracted an army of about 8,000 men. However, the Duke of Argyll opposed them and the government in London began arresting anyone whose loyalty was the least bit suspect which squashed potential risings in other parts of Britain before they could get off the ground.

Fighting raged off and on in Scotland to little effect. When James arrived at Peterhead via a French ship he found the rising going nowhere and he himself was suffering from illness and unable to take a decisive leadership role. The Jacobites were ultimately defeated and James was forced to retreat to Montrose where he boarded a ship bound for the continent; he had rolled the dice and lost. Back in Europe Pope Innocent XIII gave James a palace in Rome and a pension to support him while in Britain sparks of hope lingered. During “the ‘15” many Scots had opposed James III but in the aftermath the government crackdown in Scotland caused opposition to George of Hanover to grow and nostalgia for the Stuarts to increase. In 1719 Spain gave support to another effort at a Jacobite uprising but it failed as well.

That same year James III married Maria Clementina Sobieska, granddaughter of King John III of Poland by whom he would eventually have two sons; Charles and Henry. Like his father before him James spent his time in prayer and preparing his son and heir Charles to restore the Stuarts. In time this developed into the Jacobite uprising of 1745 when the young Prince Charles landed in Scotland after a storm scattered the French ships meant to support him and a worrisome King of France withdrew his promise of military support. Nonetheless, Charles raised the Stuart standard and proclaimed his father king once again. Most of the highland clans rallied to him, Edinburgh was occupied and a stunning victory was won at Prestonpans. Fortunes seemed to be turning.

This time the Jacobites marched south into England, reaching as far as Derby before the chieftains lost their nerve and turned back. The Jacobites won another victory at Falkirk but continued to retreat. In 1746 at the battle of Culloden they were decisively defeated and Prince Charles only narrowly escaped back to Europe. James was disheartened though he always held out at least some hope that the Stuarts could one day be restored. French plans for another restoration attempt in Ireland were made but never got far beyond the drawing board. The Old Pretender, King James VIII of Scotland and III of England to his loyal Jacobites, died in Rome on New Year’s day 1766. He was buried in the crypt at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Was the "Mad Baron" a Nazi?

Wave the flag of anti-Semitism and a flag with a swastika on it and the first thing to come to mind is Hitler and the Nazi Party. With his rather unsavory reputation, accusations of anti-Semitism and the presence of the swastika symbol among his army many writers have been unable to resist the urge to link Baron Ungern von Sternberg with the Nazis and to portray him as a sort of proto-Hitler. Is there any truth at all to these allegations? As with most of the sensationalism surrounding this man the short answer is -no. However, let us take a look at this step by step.

First, there is anti-Semitism. I will say from the outset that the commonly held belief and the most widespread popular view is that the Baron was violently anti-Semitic. There is probably a reason for that, true or not. However, I will add, there are reports (in the minority but they do exist) that one of the Baron’s top subordinate commanders was Jewish, that he employed Jewish agents across the Far East and was not really anti-Semitic at all. That would seem slightly hard to believe but the fact remains that this is yet another “fact” about the Baron that is not as solid as is often believed.

However, even if we are to allow that the Baron was an anti-Semite, it would have to be kept in context with his time and place. He was coming out of the period of the late Russian Empire and the Civil War; an environment in which anti-Semitism was widespread. The White Russian movement, not entirely fairly, is well known for this today. However, it was not, unlike Hitler, racial in origin. It was based on the information they had (some accurate, some famously forged) about who the leading enemies of Tsarist Russia were. The infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” may be held to be a forgery today, but it was widely believed at the time and while that work can be counted false there was a significant number of Jews involved in the anti-Tsarist, Bolshevik revolutionary movement. That does not justify blanket cruelty but it is important to understand where such hatred was coming from.

It must also be pointed out that, while you could find swastikas displayed among the ranks of the Baron’s motley army, it had absolutely nothing to do with anti-Semitism in any way. Although it never seems to matter regardless of how often it is pointed out, the swastika was a very common symbol, found all over the world, long before Hitler ever adopted it as his own and it is especially prevalent among the Buddhists of the Far East and Mongolia is no exception. Some have said the Baron had a swastika flag. This is possible, but I have never seen it. The only flags of the Baron forces I have seen was one bearing a large “U” and another bearing the Romanov crown and initial of Grand Duke Mikhail on one side and the face of Christ on the other. However, I have seen pieces of uniform, shoulder straps, from the Baron’s army which displayed the swastika. These were probably worn by the Mongolian troops as the various nationalities had distinct uniforms. When present the symbol was present as a Buddhist religious symbol and nothing more.

This leads to the biggest difference between the Baron and Hitler and the one that matters most because it has become the one most defining aspect of Hitler and the Nazi Party and that is racism. Plain and simply the Baron was as far from being a racist as is possible. Not only did he lack racial prejudice, he lacked ethnic or religious prejudice as well. He was a Baltic German whose loyalty was absolute an unquestioning concerning the predominately Slavic Russian Empire. He was raised a Lutheran amidst a majority of Russian Orthodox Christians and was as comfortable with them as he was with Tibetan Buddhists and Mongol animists. He admired Asian culture immensely, even when they had been the enemies of his country as was the case with the Japanese.

The Baron adopted Mongol dress, learned their language and even married a Chinese woman (Manchurian to be precise). His army included Russians, Mongols, Tibetans, Manchus, Japanese and others. In fact, his Russian soldiers sometimes complained that he favored the Mongol soldiers over those of his own race. The Baron had a vision, insanely horrific to some -but a vision all the same, and that vision was all that mattered to him, not differences of race or ethnic background which he would certainly have viewed as absurd and unimportant. He was also, quite unlike Hitler, not someone who sought power for himself. The primary goal in his life was to restore monarchies, which he did in Mongolia and hoped to do in China and Russia. He was always adamant that he was simply a military commander and that it was the Bogd Khan who ruled the country and had final say on all political matters.

To illustrate this difference, can anyone imagine Adolf Hitler bowing down before a half-blind Tibetan monk? Religious devotion was also another major difference even though some try to paint this as something the Baron had in common with the Nazis. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Baron was an extremely religious man (though what that religion was has been at times debated) whereas Hitler was not. He could reference “Providence” in speeches when necessary and he indulged the occult obsessions of men like Himmler, but Hitler was not religious at all and never took even the neo-paganism pushed by some in the Nazi Party seriously. Hitler himself was the only god he recognized whereas the Baron viewed nothing as supremely significant as religion and monarchy; two things Hitler generally despised. Far from being the same or having much in common the two men were actually about as opposite as any two individuals could be.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Royal News Roundup

Scandinavia has had a busy royal week. Crown Princess Mette-Marit was in Vienna, Austria for a number of events aimed at combating AIDS, attending the UNAIDS conference and the Life Ball fund raiser for AIDS; the largest such event in Europe. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was also at the event. The Crown Princess was the guest of honor at the Life Ball and since 2006 has been a special representative for UNAIDS. On Tuesday she was back home to celebrate the 37th birthday of her husband Crown Prince Haakon of Norway. As has become customary a photo-shoot was held to mark the occasion though the Crown Princess’ son by a previous relationship did not attend, being on holiday with his father.

As has been reported here already, on July 21 the Kingdom of Belgium celebrated its National Day marking 180 years of independence since King Leopold I was sworn in as the first King of the Belgians. All the royal family were in attendance for the major events, the King and Queen, Crown Prince and Princess, Prince Lorenz and Princess Astrid, Prince Laurent and Princess Claire and Dowager Queen Fabiola. Farther to the south in Monaco HSH Prince Albert II announced the official date for his marriage to Charlene Wittstock. The event will be held next year with the civil ceremony taking place on July 8 (presumably at the palace) and the religious ceremony taking place on July 9 (presumably at St Nicholas Cathedral).

In the Far East rumor has it that little Princess Aiko, daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, will be sent to boarding school in either Australia or Switzerland after still dealing with nervous problems due to bullying at Gakushuin school which has been attending. Not surprisingly the Imperial Household has not made any statements on the subject. The new parliament in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan recently passed a law against forced religious conversions, the wording of which is rather vague, and which the small Christian minority fear could lead to further restrictions against them and punishment if they so much as give aid to any of their Buddhist countrymen. Religious freedom is the law in Bhutan but the government has never given Christians official recognition and their worship is confined to their own homes. Most are Nepali converts.

On Thursday HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip attended the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace to recognize a varied and diverse group of individuals for their civic contributions. Earlier this week HRH the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were in France to pay tribute to the fallen troops of the Commonwealth of Australia in World War I. The Governor-General of Australia was also on hand for the event. The Prince of Wales later paid tribute to the fallen soldiers of the former Empire of India. The Prince of Wales was apparently disturbed at the lack of recognition given to non-European forces in British Imperial service and wanted to highlight their contribution. More coverage and photos of these events can be found on the weblog of member The Radical Royalist.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Monarch Profile: King Charles I of Britain

It often seems that when it comes to anti-monarchial revolutions it is the best monarchs who end up losing their lives. It was the case with Czar Nicholas II of Russia and King Louis XVI of France, both very good, decent, God-fearing men and so it was with King Charles I of Great Britain; one of the most upright, noble and principled men to sit on the throne of the three kingdoms. He was born in Scotland, the second son of King James (VI of Scotland, I of England) and his queen Anne of Denmark on November 19, 1600. He was frail and sickly as a child but very intelligent and gifted when it came to languages. In 1612 his brother Prince Henry died and young Charles became the heir to the throne, becoming Prince of Wales in 1616. He was very short but polite, dignified and possessing a very regal bearing for his 5ft 4in.

On March 27, 1625 with the passing of his father he became Charles I, King of England, Scotland, Ireland and (nominally) France. Two months later he married Princess Henrietta Maria of France, the very religious sister of King Louis XIII. It was not love at first sight but in time they would grow to be as devoted to each other as any couple could be even though religion divided them. He sent the cohort of priests who came with her back to France and she refused to attend his formal coronation on the grounds that it was Protestant ceremony. However, in time their religious differences would grow less and less pronounced as King Charles I became known for his adherence to “High Church” Anglicanism which put more emphasis on free will and more elaborate, beautiful styles of worship which Catholics viewed as moving in the right direction at the very least.

From the outset Charles I was troubled by financial issues. Inflation had been steadily growing in England for a very long time and fixed incomes began to suffer, including the King. This, along with a combination of other factors and simple mismanagement meant that Charles I did not have the money to meet the obligations, particularly national defense, for which he was responsible. This drove the King to all sorts of inventive, but perfectly legal, means of collecting money such as cashing in the dowry of his wife, borrowing money from the wealthy elites of the country and spreading “ship money” (taxes collected in coastal areas for the navy) nationwide. Parliament, dominated of course by the wealthy elites, began to grumble more and more, especially when the wars being waged were not victorious. Greed and ambition combined with a growing religious fanaticism to create a ’perfect storm’ directed against the British Crown.

King Charles, despite his reputation, was not a rigid, intolerant man and he conceded on many of the points Parliament insisted on. When they demanded still more he dissolved Parliament and ruled alone for the next eleven years in peace and harmony. However, efforts to enforce his religious style in Scotland led to war, which did not go well, and forced him to recall Parliament. The new members refused to get down to business without first re-stating their old grievances. Charles dissolved them again but unfortunately his forces in Scotland were soundly defeated, bringing him back to square one.

Parliament was even more unreasonable than before and more religiously intolerant with not only Catholics but Anglicans and High Church Anglicans in particular being attacked as ‘insufficiently Protestant’. Again, though this often ignored, King Charles I was willing to negotiate and gave in to almost all of the demands of Parliament for the sake of peace in the realm. However, like all liberal revolutionaries, give them an inch and they demand a mile. Charles agreed to all but two of the demands of Parliament; that he should effectively stop being the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and that he give up control of the militia. On these two issues Charles I refused to negotiate but that was not enough for the radicals in Parliament who demanded all or nothing.

After failing to gain Scottish support Charles I attempted to arrest the Parliamentary ringleaders but this too came to nothing and both sides prepared for war. The start is usually dated August 22, 1642 when the Royal Standard was raised at Nottingham. With the Parliamentarians (or Roundheads) controlling the majority of the wealth of the country and the most vital areas the odds were greatly stacked against the Royalists (or Cavaliers), however, they fought extremely well and King Charles himself proved that, while he may not have been a military genius, he was certainly a competent and worthy military commander with a good grasp of tactics. His strategic judgment has often been criticized, but in truth this was simply a result of his humanity. Charles I did not want to wage a ‘total war’. Opportunities were often lost because the King hated having to fight his own people, was convinced that most had simply been led astray by wicked men and that he simply needed to sting them to bring them to their senses and return them to loyalty.

In short, the Roundheads were out to destroy the King but the Cavaliers were not out to destroy anyone. Despite coming fairly close to success in 1643 the tide turned against the King who sought support in Scotland. The Scots turned him over to the Roundheads but Charles escaped, was recaptured, Scotland reconsidered and attacked the Parliamentarians but in the end Charles was captured for good, the Scots and English royalists were defeated, Edinburgh was occupied and King Charles was hauled before a rump “parliament” (no House of Lords) to be tried for “treason”. With great dignity and composure he refused to recognize the authority of the court (which made a farce of justice, refusing to allow anyone even suspected of favoring the King from taking their seat and silencing anyone who spoke in his favor) and did not speak much at all until his final statement at the time of his condemnation.

On January 30, 1649 King Charles I was executed by beheading at Whitehall Palace -and Britain would never be the same again. The gallant monarch was buried, secretly and in haste, at Windsor Castle and the Puritan military commander Oliver Cromwell became dictator of Britain and Ireland for the only period in British history without a monarch on the throne. Ruling in tyrannical fashion and bringing gruesome persecution down on the people of Ireland, the British Isles were a gloomy place before the death of Cromwell allowed King Charles II to claim his father’s throne.

The Church of England eventually recognized King Charles I as a saint, a martyr for Anglicanism. However, the victory of the Parliamentary forces could not be undone, even though the monarchy was finally restored. Ever since tension has existed between Crown and Parliament, which has even been enshrined in the ceremonies of the British Parliament to this day. It would take a while longer to be fully put in place but with the defeat of the heroic King Charles I, Great Britain set out on the path toward a system effectively dominated by Parliament. Looking down from his “incorruptible crown”, what would the late Stuart King things of his countries today?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Enemy: Benito Juarez

(I apologize for the length but this is the edited down version -I have *real* issues with this guy, which made it all the more ironic when I recently got a load of "fan mail" from two supposedly monarchist Mexicans)

Probably no other President of Mexico has been so celebrated and deified to such an extent as Benito Juarez. To be politically correct in modern Mexico is to hold Juarez sacrosanct and anyone who questions his preeminence should be prepared to be considered a traitor. In his own time he was called (by northern Americans) the “Abraham Lincoln of Mexico” and that comparison endures to this day. However, as is often the case with celebrated republican leaders, the facts do not match the propaganda. In truth, Juarez was a duplicitous, anti-clerical, power hungry hypocrite who, despite being hailed as a champion of democracy, was never fairly elected by the majority of Mexicans and who frequently flouted his own constitution when it pleased him. Despite being upheld as the champion of Mexican sovereignty against foreign intervention he sold out the sovereignty of his country in a treaty that would be considered the most reprehensible in Mexican history if anyone bothered to remember it.

Born in Oaxaca, he first came to notoriety for his opposition to the shifty, vain, long-time strong man and frequent dictator of Mexico Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. He helped forge the plan and movement that brought down Santa Anna and he was the driving force behind a new constitution that favored liberal goals. This was completed and implemented in 1857 under the rule of President Ignacio Comonfort who Juarez served as Chief Justice in the newly created Supreme Court. Obviously, the constitution drew heavily on the American model. It also aimed at weakening the Mexican army and the Roman Catholic Church as well as to “modernize” the country which meant becoming a capitalist, federal republic on the model of the USA, quite apart from the more corporatist pattern favored by the conservatives which preserved the traditional laws and privileges inherited from Spain. Courts martial for soldiers and canon law courts for clerics were abolished to make all subject to the liberal-dominated government courts.

The government no longer recognized titles of nobility, hereditary honors, it removed the Church from education, secularized marriage, did away with religious holidays, prohibited government officials from attending Church, confiscated vast amounts of property from the Church and the traditional nobility, removed all official support for the Church, removed its status as the state church of Mexico, abolished the death penalty and forbid the president to succeed himself once his term was over. Civil war broke out with the conservatives naming their own president and the overwhelmed Comonfort resigned, leaving the liberal presidency to Juarez. He did so and vigorously pursued the war against the conservative opposition. Therefore, though hailed as the champion of democracy, Juarez came to the presidency without election and fighting for power just as his conservative opponent had.

As Juarez was using military force to stamp out all conservative opposition to his rule, and amassing huge debts in the process, he assumed vast powers on the basis of a national emergency. He sold out to the United States by signing the often overlooked McLane-Ocampo Treaty which stipulated that the USA would pay Juarez $4million in return for perpetual rights of transit across the isthmus of Tehuantepec, protected trade routes in certain areas and ports on both coasts, the right of the US to intervene militarily at the request of Mexico if trade were threatened or even without the request or permission of Mexico if there was an “emergency”. Juarez also gave the US the right to send in military forces on this transit routes as the US saw fit, Juarez promised that no other nation would be given the same preferential treatment and Mexico would effectively be under the protection of the United States. The American plan at the time was to eventually construct a railroad across Tehuantepec or a canal and thus make vast amounts of money on the lucrative trade with and through Central America (a sort of forerunner of the Panama Canal idea). The extent of this treaty was never completely formalized but it nonetheless demonstrates something which would shock any patriotic Mexican; that is that Benito Juarez was willing to totally sell out the sovereignty of his country to the USA for $4million to ensure victory in a war he was waging for his own power against his own people.

Thus is it not surprising that the US government always supported Juarez against his conservative rivals and the Emperor Maximilian. Juarez occupied Mexico City in January of 1861 and then claimed to be the properly elected president after an election which was conveniently held under the constitution of 1852 and which was done after the conservatives had been defeated in battle and all of their leaders killed, imprisoned, forced into hiding or chased into exile; still not exactly a fair example of democracy in action. He then defaulted on the debts Mexico owed which prompted the French intervention. The conservatives allied with them and the result was, eventually, the coronation of Emperor Maximilian. One of the main supporters of intervention was the Empress Eugenie of France who supported intervention on behalf of the Catholics of Mexico of whom Juarez was an avowed enemy. Not only was Juarez a mason who had secularized the country and nationalized Church property, at one point he even attempted to set up his own government ruled church in Mexico with a pliant bishop as the national “pope” but his plan was thwarted when Pope Pius IX refused to ordain the man and forbid any Catholic to go along with such a move and even among those most inclined toward the liberals the common people were overwhelming Catholic and would not go along with outright break with Rome. Thus Mexico was soon at war again between Juarez and his liberal republicans on one side and the French and conservative Mexicans on the other.

Juarez and his forces were soon defeated by the French, but before fleeing, however, the liberal controlled Congress granted Juarez dictatorial powers for the duration of the national emergency. To the unbiased eye in might seem rather odd for the self-proclaimed champion of democracy and republicanism to be granted absolute power for the second time in an over extended presidency to which he was never fairly elected by a majority of all people. However, an even more significant action by Juarez had already taken place when he issued an order in 1862 that any foreigner taken in arms in Mexico would be shot, any Mexican opposing his regime taken prisoner armed would be shot and any Mexican citizen who gave any aid to any of these people would also be shot. Today history still condemns Emperor Maximilian for his "Black Decree" of October 1864 (which was rarely enforced as Maximilian was constantly granting pardon to captured rebels) which stated that any rebel taken in arms would be shot within 24 hours. However, very few historians are honest enough to relate that Juarez had issued a far worse decree years earlier, which violated his own constitution and which meant death not only for all prisoners of war but even for any citizen who so much as gave them food or water! This is the side of the Juarez regime that is never talked about.

Defeated, driven from his capital, Juarez fled to the barren deserts of the Mexican frontier, as close as possible to the United States. He still claimed power but he held sway only where his “government on wheels” passed and he was forced to order his troops to stop fighting pitched battles and to focus only on harassing actions to the point that the republican armies became little more than scattered groups of bandits. He appealed to the US for help but with a civil war north of the border nothing could be done for the moment. The US Congress did vote a unanimous condemnation of the French presence in Mexico and the establishment of the monarchy under Maximilian. President Lincoln also supported the formation of “republican clubs” across the northern US to raise money for Juarez and his bandit government. Juarez also spurned all offers of clemency, pardon and peace from Emperor Maximilian to end the war and reconcile the country. He even offered him the post of prime minister but Juarez refused, still claiming to be president of the whole country and unwilling to accept any lesser office.

On November 8, 1864 in yet another trampling of his own democratic propaganda, Juarez had his term in office extended because of the continuing war, even though that war had basically been reduced to raids by irregular forces and self-serving civilian bandits and brigands who merely paid lip service to the republican cause. He was, once again, violating the terms of his own constitution. Fortunately for Juarez, time was on his side as his friends in Washington DC were on the cusp of victory over their own southern enemies. 1865 was one of the darkest years for Juarez but by the spring he had the greatest victory his cause would ever have. Oddly enough, it did not take place in Mexico but in southern Virginia at a little town called Appomattox Court House where the primary Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses Grant; effectively ending the American Civil War. By 1866 the United States used strong-arm diplomacy to block the Emperor of Austria from sending his brother additional troops and demanded that the French withdraw their forces as well. With a massive US army dispatched to the south Texas border for the intimidation factor and with problems in Europe mounting, Emperor Napoleon III felt he had no choice but to cut his losses and abandon Mexico.

So it was that just as the French were pulling out their forces from Mexico, Juarez was gaining more support than ever that same year from the United States. Officially, of course, the US was neutral but went to little effort to hide their favoritism toward Benito Juarez. Tens of thousands of rifles and artillery pieces were sent to Mexico including the most modern Henry repeating rifles and parrot rifled artillery so that the northern republican army had every advantage over their imperial enemies. Uniforms, equipment and supplies of every kind were sent to Juarez so that many of his troops were fighting in complete Union blue US Army uniforms with US stamped buckles, belts, ammo boxes and so on. Even troops were sent over, unofficially. These were men who would often be given leaves of absence on the understanding that they would go to Mexico to fight for Juarez. Others were listed as deserters who would return when the war was over and who were never punished. In all, it is estimated that some 3,000 Union army veterans served with the forces of Juarez against Maximilian. In a study undertaken by the United States roughly 109,000 US soldiers expressed their willingness to fight in Mexico if needed to ensure the victory of Benito Juarez. Surely such numbers should give any proud Mexican pause.

With all of this support, having Emperor Maximilian outmatched in every way thanks to his big brother north of the border, Juarez defeated the imperial forces at Queretaro on May 15, 1867. As we all know, soon thereafter Juarez had Emperor Maximilian executed by firing squad along with his top generals Miguel Miramon and Tomas Mejia. It is worth remembering at this point that this was yet another violation of the very constitution Juarez had enacted which had abolished the death penalty. However, just as he had continuously violated his own rules to stay in power and keep his dictatorial powers he did so again to eliminate Maximilian and his loyalists.
Of course, the brief unity enjoyed by Juarez while the Emperor lived was also cut down with the crack of rifle fire on the Hill of Bells at Queretaro and President Juarez immediately had to deal with internal rebellions with reared their head again almost as soon as Maximilian was dead. After numerous other Mexican monarchists were killed, again, all in violation of the very constitution Juarez had enacted, factions amongst the republicans began to battle for power in states as well as on the national level when General Jesus Gonzalez Ortega rose up to challenge Juarez for the presidency which he continued to hold in spite of numerous violations to his term limit.

Juarez used the dictatorial powers he still held to crush the rebellion as well as to ensure his success in a certainly unfair reelection in 1867. His former general Porfirio Diaz rose in rebellion later to challenge him for the leadership of Mexico but Juarez had already been so deified as to be almost impossible to oppose and this first bid for power by Diaz was crushed, though he would be seen again in the years to come. In 1871 Juarez was elected president again, yet another example of his violating his own constitutional term limit as well as the prohibition against a president succeeding himself which he himself had pushed to get put into law. That point cannot be stressed enough. In the end, all together, Juarez had served FIVE terms as president according to his own liberal followers who did not recognize the conservative opposition governments and the monarchy of Maximilian set up during that same period. It was all done under the authority of a constitution which Juarez himself had enacted and which said that the president was limited to one term only. In all, Benito Juarez was the professed President of Mexico for a span of 15 years.

During many of those years his power was contested and the vast majority of those years (by any legal stretch) his administration was absolutely unconstitutional according to his own constitution. Furthermore, throughout many of those years he held absolute, dictatorial power with absolutely no checks on his authority in any area under his control at the time. Does this sound like the record of a champion of democracy, republicanism and the rule of law? Looking at the entire life and career of Benito Juarez it would extremely difficult if not impossible for any dispassionate observer to conclude that he was anything other than yet another case in the long history of Mexico of a president who clawed his way to the top, assumed power at the point of lances and bayonets and who did whatever was necessary to remain in power for as long as possible. In this, he was at least more successful than most Mexican potentates in that Juarez held power until his own death in July of 1872 by a heart attack still at his desk in the National Palace in Mexico City.

Looking at the whole of his career we certainly do not see that of a great statesman. We see someone who came to power by succession and conquest rather than fair election. We see someone who nationalized private property, who championed the government taking over lands, education, marriage and even tried to assert government control of religion by his attempt to set up his own anti-pope in Mexico. We see a man who ruled absolutely to stay in power, who sold out the sovereignty of his country to the United States to stay in power, who violated his own rules to extend his term of office when it suited him, who violated his own abolition of the death penalty to kill off his political enemies and who violated his own term limits to remain in power as long as he lived. In short, Juarez was far from being a great statesman and certainly not worthy of the adulation and deification he continues to receive to this day. If there was a leader of Mexico truly worthy of such acclaim it would much more justly be applied to Emperor Maximilian rather than Benito Juarez.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

National Day in Belgium

Today is National Day in the Kingdom of Belgium, a holiday which commemorates the day in 1831 that Leopold I took his oath as the first King of the Belgians. One of our blog members posted the video of the King's address to the nation and it sounded pretty good to me. Any support for a return to 'economic sanity' is a good thing and I was glad to hear the King say what a warm reception he and the Queen were given on their recent visit to the Congo. A happy national day to all the Belgians and long live the King!

Mad Rant: Fighting Fat Kids

Traditionally, the First Ladies of the United States have been far more popular than their husbands, mostly because they tend to stay out of politics and focus mostly on humanitarian causes that everyone can get behind. Not unlike most constitutional monarchs today for that matter. Michelle Obama has caused a little more controversy, even since the campaign of her husband, and her primary pet project is one that really gets under my skin. That is, her declaration of war against fat children. I will state from the outset that, once I lost all my baby fat at least, I have been skinny as a rail my whole life and never very sympathetic toward the overweight. You control what you eat and how much and the amount of physical activity you do. So, being overweight is something, justly or not, I’ve always seen as an issue of self-discipline more than anything else.

However, Michelle Obama’s campaign against “childhood obesity” really gets on my nerves. For one thing, I do not see it as a non-political issue for her. One of the biggest goals of her husband has been socialized healthcare and that makes the personal choices of everyone the business of everyone else and the government as well. I totally reject the idea that it is any damn business of the government or anyone else how much or how little I eat or what my dietary choices are. And with all of the celebrity worship and emphasis on physical perfection these days, do not the fat kids have it hard enough already? I’m sure they get teased and bullied and called names for their size and that is probably more than enough motivation to change if motivation is the issue. If a person is overweight that is their business and not the government’s. If a child is overweight it is the business of their parents, again, NOT the government.

More than that though, the amount of attention, laws and government regulations regarding this issue really infuriates me. They are banning salt, taxing fatty foods, getting rid of soda pop and so on because it is a ‘national crisis’ that so many children are overweight. Well, call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first) but how about we all thank God for fat children?! How about we thank God Almighty that are children have too much to eat rather than not enough? What must the children, and adults, of third world countries struggling to survive think when they see the people of America crying and moaning and claiming a national emergency because our population is so well off that we have chubby kids? This blows my damaged mind! Having too much food, too many people living too well, too many people having more than enough -IS A PROBLEM?! I must have moved to CrazyTown and Michelle Obama is the mayor. We do not need laws we just need responsible parenting and that is something no government program can provide. If you think fat children are a problem go visit Chad, the Congo, Burundi or Ethiopia or any of the other countries were children are dropping dead every five seconds from hunger and perhaps reevaluate you perspective. I absolutely despise celebrities who act like fame is such a burden or super-rich people who complain that wealth is such a burden and when I hear people fortunate to live in a land of plenty demanding government action because our children have plenty to eat, it makes me a very, very … Mad Monarchist.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Consort Profile: Empress Michiko

The current Empress consort of Japan has been a groundbreaking figure in many ways. She was the first commoner to ever marry into the Japanese Imperial Family and has easily been the most visible, prominent and widely traveled of any consort in Japanese history. Her life has not always been easy but she has proven to be exactly what Japan, in this day and age, expects of an empress consort. She was born on October 20, 1934 in Tokyo, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and flour mill tycoon. Her education in Tokyo was interrupted by the American bombing campaign during World War II but she returned after the war was over and attended a prominent private Catholic school. Over the years this has been the focus of some trumped up controversy with rumors spread that the Empress is privately a Catholic.

She also started her higher education in a Catholic institution, graduating from Tokyo’s Sacred Heart University in 1957 with a literature degree. She later attended Harvard in the US and Oxford in the UK where, aside from her formal studies, she gained a good grasp of the English language. It has been alleged by certain writers that during this time there was an attempt to arrange a marriage between Michiko and the now famous reactionary writer Yukio Mishima. If so, nothing came of it and in August of 1957 she met the man who was to become her husband, the then Crown Prince Akihito of Japan at a tennis match in Karuizawa. The two hit it off and by the end of the next year the Imperial Household Agency formally approved and announced their engagement.

The marriage of a common-born girl, even a wealthy one, to the heir to the Chrysanthemum throne came as a great surprise to the Japanese public. Some hard-line traditionalists were outraged by the match but, considering all of the drastic changes Japan had recently been through, most took it as it came and soon came to love the pretty and intelligent young lady their crown prince had chosen. On April 10, 1959 the two were married, despite the rumored opposition of the Empress Kojun. This objection on the part of Michiko’s mother-in-law went rather extreme at one point, depending on who one chooses to believe, but it is all rumors as the Japanese monarchy has always been very good about keeping any private troubles private.

In 1960 the Imperial couple welcomed their fist child into the world, Prince Naruhito, ensuring the succession for the immediate future, followed by Prince Akishino in 1965 and Princess Nori in 1969. Contrary to established tradition, the Crown Princely couple insisted on raising their children themselves to try to establish a more close and warm family bond. In 1989 their status was raised with the passing of the Showa Emperor at which point Akihito and Michiko officially became the Emperor and Empress of Japan. It was an immense responsibility to undertake and the IHA even admitted that Empress Michiko was having some health issues related to stress.

In the following years ever since Empress Michiko has been a devoted mother and a great source of strength to the Emperor, going on almost all of his trips and foreign tours making her, by far, the most widely traveled consort in Japanese history. She has shown herself to be a remarkably strong woman, adjusting to the immense difficulties of imperial life and succeeding brilliantly, becoming a beloved member of the Imperial Family and setting an example of what the Japanese ideal for a wife and mother should be while at the same time being a more modern woman than past consorts, very well educated and as adept at discussing history and literature as she is expert at playing the piano. She remains a very busy Empress attending hundreds of meetings every year on charitable and cultural topics, visiting areas all across Japan and assisting her husband in his official receptions and religious duties.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Emperor's Library (VI): Emperor Septimius Severus

The future Emperor Septimius Severus, who would be the first Emperor of Rome of African origins, was born Lucius Septimius Severus on the coast of what is now Libya on April 11, 145 AD to Publius Septimius Geta. His family was a provincial one with no immediate relatives holding very high positions and Severus grew up to marry a local girl. He showed talent fairly early on and when he first came to Rome at the age of 18 the Emperor Marcus Aurelius appointed him senator. Other offices came after, helped in part by the commander of the Praetorian Guard who was also from North Africa. He was serving as governor of Upper Pannonia (the general area of modern Austria) when word reached him of the death of the Emperor Commodus and his hour of destiny was upon him.

Two other emperors rose and fell while the Danube legions hailed Septimius Severus as emperor and he marched on Rome. Most came to his side or at least made way for him and when he arrived at the Eternal City the senate quickly recognized which way the wind was blowing and formally bestowed the offices and powers of Emperor of Rome on him in 193. He executed all those who had been involved in the murder of Emperor Pertinax (the successor of Commodus) and the rest were evicted from Rome. In this way he was able to rid himself of the questionable loyalties of the Praetorian Guard and replace them with soldiers he knew he could count on. The following year he marched against Syria where the eastern legions had proclaimed a rival emperor. He dealt with them swiftly and forcefully, smashed them and then in 195 led a punitive expedition against the Parthians for their support of the Syrian governor who had opposed him.

The Emperor was then free to move against his next most serious opposition which came from Clodius Albinus, ironically also from North Africa, who was the governor of Britain. Severus had named him “Caesar” to get him on side during the Syrian rebellion but once that was suppressed he named the seven-year-old boy Caracalla “Caesar” and his future successor in a show of continuation from the Antonine dynasty. Albinus was less than impressed and invaded Gaul with 40,000 men based around the three British legions. Once his war was underway the Germania legion in Spain also declared in support of him. While Septimius Severus was in Rome securing his throne and dealing with legislative issues Albinus continued his rampage, made Lyons his headquarters and came close to taking the Rhineland throughout 196.

By the next year Severus was prepared to respond and marched his legions into Gaul where he met Albinus outside Lyons on February 19, 197. The fighting was fierce and at one point Severus thought defeat was certain and stripped himself of any outward signs of his rank. However, just in time, his cavalry came charging to the rescue, turned the tide and utterly defeated Albinus who shortly thereafter killed himself rather than be captured. Severus showed no mercy to his defeated rival, disgracing his body, sending his head to Rome as a trophy and throwing the corpse into the river along with his wife and children. This is not surprising as Severus had a reputation for being a zealous monarch, not highly educated but certainly intelligent, very generous towards his friends (never forgetting a favor) but ruthless to enemies.

He showed as little mercy to his political enemies back in Rome, systematically eradicating anyone linked to the rebel forces. Because of this the senate feared and distrusted him. The army, on the other hand, adored him as he allowed them much greater freedom (giving them the right to marry and have families), raised their pay and improved their standard of living. He held lavish celebrations to win over the populace but he was soon off to war again with Rome’s longtime rival in the east; the Parthians. He ultimately fought two wars against them following Parthian interference in the affairs of Roman-allied states along the border. The first resulted in a loss of territory which became a Roman province but the second was more thorough and Septimius Severus captured the Parthian capital and absorbed Mesopotamia into the empire. The victory was crushing, total and severe.

After this victory the Emperor went on a little sight-seeing tour, going to Egypt to visit the tomb of Alexander the Great and the pyramids. His age was beginning to show and sickness becoming more frequent yet he could not take life easy. Some years after returning to Rome and devoting himself to civil legislation a group of centurions came forward with information that the commander of the Praetorian Guard, Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, was planning to kill the Emperor and his heir Caracalla to seize power for himself. Was the plot real or engineered? This has been debated ever since but it was especially alarming to Septimius Severus because Plautianus had been his close friend. He had even forced Caracalla to marry Plautianus’ daughter though he had no affection for the girl or her father. The result, in any event, was the swift execution of Plautianus and the exile of his daughter.

Caracalla was glad to be rid of both of them but it was a painful ordeal for the Emperor who, as his health continued to decline, had to watch the peace of Rome be upset by the growing feud between Caracalla and his brother Geta. Each had factions loyal to them, minor troubles were constant, and it seemed everyone in Rome was either for Geta or Caracalla. When trouble broke out in Britain Septimius Severus took the opportunity to bring both brothers with him as he set out on campaign once again with his legions. Yet, by this time the Emperor was so ill and riddled with gout that he had to be carried in a litter. To deal with the British problem Severus determined to start from scratch, reconquering the whole island. Geta was put in charge of the civil administration and Caracalla was dispatched across Hadrian’s Wall into Scotland with the army.

The campaign was going well when the long suffering Emperor Septimius Severus finally died at York on February 4, 211. Abandoning the conquest of Scotland, his sons cremated the Emperor and carried his ashes back to Rome for burial in the Mausoleum of Hadrian. The senate promptly voted him divine status. He was remembered as a great warrior, a generous and attentive friend but an unforgiving and merciless foe. He was tolerant, not overly sensitive of criticism, and as Cassius Dio said, “a man of few words, though of many ideas”. He left behind many monuments and magnificent buildings (few of which sadly remain) and the reputation of a strong and shrewd monarch. Herodian said of him, “No one had ever before been so successful in civil wars against rivals or in foreign wars against the barbarians. For eighteen years he ruled, before making way for his young sons to succeed, bequeathing to them greater wealth than any previous emperor and an invincible army”.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Royal News Roundup

The World Cup was occupying many royals and monarchists last week. The Prince and Princess of Orange and the Prince and Princess of the Asturias as well as Queen Sofia of Spain were on hand in South Africa to cheer on their teams in the final round. Of course it was Spain that emerged victorious, their first such win, and the team was welcomed home by a meeting with King Juan Carlos who complemented their ability, team work and congratulated them on their accomplishment and bringing all Spaniards together. In the Netherlands the second-place Dutch team met with Queen Beatrix who was just as pleased with their performance. The head coach was decorated with the Order of Orange-Nassau by the Dutch Prime Minister.

On July 14 Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden celebrated her 33rd birthday in absentia. Still on honeymoon with beloved Prince Daniel the festivities were presided over by the King and Queen who welcomed crowds of well-wishing Swedes on the happy occasion. On the other side of the world HM Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei celebrated his 64th birthday. The day was marked by parades, a military review and a flyover by the Brunei air force. In the Middle East the Dowager Queen Noor of Jordan opened the Arab Children’s Congress which seeks ways to address the issues facing young people around the world. The King of the Gulf state of Bahrain, HM Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifah, traveled to the UK and met with PM David Cameron at #10 to discuss relations and economic cooperation between the two monarchies.

The future Princess of Monaco, Charlene Wittstock, gave an interview with the newspaper Nice-Matin of France. Charlene spoke of her love for Monaco, how impressed she is with their generosity as a country as well as the diversity, traditions and history of Monaco. She talked about how supportive the Sovereign Prince has been and mentioned her work giving swimming lessons to under privileged children in South Africa as an indication of where her charity work might lead her as Princess of Monaco. Also, on Friday evening, HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco welcomed her brother and future sister-in-law to the annual gala dinner of her foundation Fight AIDS Monaco. For the full interview and coverage of the gala check Mad for Monaco.

In Lhasa, Tibet the reincarnation of the 5th Living Buddha Dezhub was chosen by the state approved ‘lottery’ method early this month. The choice fell on Losang Doje, a 4-year-old, in a ceremony at the Jokhang Temple supervised by the State Administration for Religious Affairs. Drawing the lots were the Vice-President of the Buddhist Association of China and the Communist Party supported “Panchen Lama” who is not the legitimate candidate recognized by the XIV Dalai Lama. The choice was later approved by the “people’s government of Tibet”. The previous Living Buddha Dezhub had been a loyal supporter of the Chinese Communist Party.

I also cannot help but mention a meeting held in Nevada, mostly involving Jewish and Hindu leaders, calling on international organizations to put pressure on the island nation of Malta to repeal the laws there supportive of the Catholic Church. Catholicism is the official religion of Malta and it is one of the most conservative countries in Europe, the only one in which abortion is totally banned for any reason at any time. Laws remain on the books which make it illegal to publicly insult the Catholic Church which, this group says, discriminate against Jews, Hindus, Muslims, pagans, Wiccans and atheists. Once again, I can only be baffled as to why any Hindus feel they should be moving to Malta just as I would be rather confused by any Catholics wishing to move to Nepal. In any event, none of that should matter. They can invoke the EU all they like but I doubt they will ever be able to convince me that it is somehow necessary for them to have the “right” to insult the Catholic Church, the religion of the vast majority of the Maltese people and one that has been woven into their history and traditions for many hundreds of years.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Tragic Anniversary

It was on this day in 1918 that Their Imperial Majesties Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, their children and family doctor were brutally murdered by the Bolshevik captors on orders from the communist dictator Vladimir Lenin. This was one of the most unspeakable crimes in history and is made all the more painful by virtue of the fact that, unlike other royal martyrs, we have a great deal of information about every family member, we have photos of them and even a few moving pictures. We are able to more greatly feel like we know them. They also endured their suffering and death as a family. There simply are not words for me to express what an unspeakable horror this was and is one of the few historical events that never fails to make me emotional. May all of them rest in peace.

Favorite Royal Images: Two Asian Emperors

HIM Emperor Showa (Hirohito) of Japan and HIM Emperor Kang Teh (Pu-Yi) of Manchukuo during a formal visit to Tokyo to cement the Japanese-Manchu alliance.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Papal Profile: Pope Boniface VIII

When considering some of the most controversial popes in Catholic history one name that invariably comes up is that of H.H. Pope Boniface VIII. This great pontiff has, perhaps unfortunately, perhaps not, had his entire pontificate overshadowed by a single papal bull, and particularly, only one final sentence out of that bull, however, that one sentence has made him public enemy #1 on the lists of many. One thing is certain, Boniface VIII was a rather 'plain talking' pope who was as far from the famously vague Vatican statements most today would be familiar with as is possible.

Boniface VIII was born Benedetto Caetani in Anagni around 1235. Like many pontiffs, he came from an aristocratic background, joined the priesthood and became a highly skilled canon lawyer. He was raised to the rank of cardinal and was elected to the Apostolic See on Christmas Eve, 1294 at the age of 59. His reign began immediately following an unprecedented event in Church history: the abdication of a Pope. In fact, due to his expertise in canon law, Cardinal Caetani had advised the pontiff in question, the reluctant Pope Celestine V, exactly how this could be done.
One of the first issues with which Boniface VIII had to deal was the problem of King Charles II of Sicily, who had so dominated Celestine V and caused many of his creatures to take high office. Pope Boniface VIII took firm measures, dismissing anyone from office whose first loyalty was not to Mother Holy Church. However, he still supported Charles in his efforts to regain Sicily, which had been seized by Santiago II of Aragon and was being ruled by the regency of his brother Frederick. The new Pope also went to great efforts to encourage art and learning. He was the first to have the Vatican library catalogued and reorganized the archives in addition to founding the University of Rome in 1303. He acted as patron to numerous artists and sculptors during his reign.

Still, he was to face many trials, first as a result of his dealings with Sicily, which earned him the wrath of the Colonna family. They attacked the legitimacy of Boniface's election by calling into question the legality of Celestine's abdication. The move can easily be proven to be nothing but politically motivated. The Colonna's supporters in the College of Cardinals had voted for Boniface and the new Pope had been the guest of the family at Zagarolo after he was crowned. This threat, and the fact that Celestine V had such a reputation for being easily influenced was enough for Pope Boniface to bring Celestine closer to Rome. The Colonnas reacted by stealing from the Pope and continuing to question his legitimacy in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Ultimately, Boniface VIII excommunicated them and called for a crusade against the family, which was threatening the earthly head of the Church. They were defeated, but escaped to the protection of France in 1298.

This was the Pope's other major challenge: King Philip IV of France. Tensions first flared when the Pope tried to bring peace in the endless war between France and England, but the situation improved after Boniface VIII canonized King St Louis IX in 1297. However, Philip continued to levy heavy taxes against the Church in France and tried to make himself its ultimate ruler. Boniface naturally took action against this, and the two sides exchanged written decrees on papal and royal authority aimed against each other. This culminated in the Pope's 1302 bull Unam sanctam which included, at the end, this most famous and controversial line: "Therefore, We declare, affirm and define as a truth necessary for salvation that every human being is subject to the Roman pontiff". From this point, as far as Boniface VIII was concerned, 'Roma locuta est, causa finite est'.

However, the Pope's efforts at reconciliation were thwarted by the French minister Guillaume de Nogaret, who attacked the Pope using outrageous information supplied by the Colonna family. At Anagni, in September 1303 Minister de Nogaret and Don Sciarra Colonna came in person to demand the Pope's resignation and physically attacked him when he refused. However, the two came into conflict themselves, allowing the Pope to escape to Rome where he found out that a rescue operation had been in the works. The incident had badly shaken the Pope however, and he died on October 11 after reigning 8 years, 9 months and 19 days.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...