Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Passing of a Princess

It was thirteen years ago today (rather hard to believe) that Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, left this mortal coil after a car wreck in Paris. I remember very well, I was laying on the living room floor watching 'Saturday Night Live' when the news broke in to say that Diana had been in a car wreck in Paris, shortly thereafter giving word that she had passed away. I was never a huge Diana "fan" though many in my family were and even in this remote area with no historical connection to Britain at all her passing was felt. She was not perfect by any means but she did do alot of good for alot of people. May she rest in peace.

MM Video: Saxon Monarchs


Monday, August 30, 2010

Pretender Profile: Christina of Denmark

Probably not many have heard of Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan, but she was certainly a celebrity-royal in her own time. She was born in Nyborg, Denmark in 1522 to Christian II of Denmark and Norway and Isabella of Austria. Through her mother she was the niece of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Only the following year after she was born her father Christian II was deposed after trying to implement expansive reforms and Christine spent her childhood in the Low Countries. When she was only fourteen she was married to Francesco II Sforza, Duke of Milan but he died shortly thereafter in 1535. After this setback she returned to her childhood home in Belgium where her aunt the Dowager Queen Mary of Hungary, Governor of the Netherlands, held court. There she waited for the next marriage opportunity to come along and enjoyed the active social life of the area.

During this time King Henry VIII of England was looking for another victim, er, wife and the teenage widow was suggested as a possibility. The Duchess of Milan was renowned across Europe for her beauty and Henry sent Holbein to Brussels to paint her portrait which he was much impressed with. However, the Duchess had no desire to marry the King, famously saying that she would be willing if she had to heads to put one at his disposal, nor was Emperor Charles V too impressed with the suggestion given Henry’s treatment of his aunt, Queen Catherine. Instead, in 1541 she married Duke Francis of Bar who, in 1544, became Duke of Lorraine. It was then, as Duchess of Lorraine, that Christine began to be known as more than just a pretty face. She largely dominated her husband until his death only a year later which left Christine as regent, a position she held until the King Henri II of France invaded in 1552, removed her from power and took her son hostage.

Once again, Duchess Christina returned to Belgium where she hoped to succeed her aunt as regent of the Hapsburg Netherlands. However, the position went to Margaret of Parma and Christina returned to Lorraine where she advised her released son and acted as regent during his absences. However, her native homeland of Denmark was never far from her thoughts either. After the death of her deposed father Christina claimed the title of monarch of the Kalmar Union; Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. This was neither a nominal claim as Duchess Christina gathered an assortment of exiles and mercenaries around her to plan to restore herself to the Scandinavian thrones, then being held by her cousin King Frederick II of Denmark. Military adventures were discussed as were less warlike strategies such as arranging a marriage between Christina’s daughter, Princess Renata first to her cousin Frederick II and later to King Eric XIV of Sweden. However, one circumstance or another prevented any of these plans from being carried out.

Christina, Duchess of Milan, Duchess of Lorraine and claimant to the thrones of Denmark, Norway and Sweden passed away in 1590 in Tortona, Italy a possession left to her by her first husband and where she had lived since 1578 with a great deal of sadness after the failure to restore the throne of her father. However, in a way, her cause was finally successful since her daughter Renata was eventually married to Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria and from whom the royal families of Denmark, Norway and Sweden descend.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Monarchist Music: Vers l'Avenir

Another one of my favorites and probably the only French language patriotic-monarchist song that I can sing.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Royal News Roundup

Last Saturday the Swedish Royal Family gathered to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the reign of the House of Bernadotte over the Kingdom of Sweden. The Royal Family attended Church at Örebro after which they visited the Iron Market where HM King Carl XVI Gustaf gave a speech about the last two centuries of the Bernadotte family in Sweden. That evening the family attended a dinner with the governor and local dignitaries. The current Swedish Royal Family goes back to 1810 when Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, one of Napoleon’s marshals, was elected heir to the Swedish throne. The embittered Marshal of France accepted, becoming King Carl XIV Johan of Sweden and later led Sweden into war alongside the Allies against his former Emperor.

The big royal news this week was definitely the marriage of HRH Prince Nikolaus, second son of Their Majesties King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, and Tatiana Blatnik on the Greek island of Spetses. The wedding was held Wednesday and was witnessed by royal guests from across Europe including HM Queen Sofia of Spain, the Prince and Princess of the Asturias, Infanta Cristina and Infanta Elena of Spain; the Prince and Princess of Orange, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Queen Margrethe II, Crown Princess Mary, Prince Joachim and Princess Marie of Denmark; Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden, Princess Madeleine and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden; Princess Rosario of Bulgaria, Empress Farah of Iran and of course the Greek Royal Family. Everything seemed to go off without a hitch and The Mad Monarchist wishes the new couple a lifetime of happiness.

In the Middle East, HM King Abdullah II of Jordan visited Saudi Arabia to meet with his royal counterpart there and participate in a pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Umrah. Back in Jordan the King and Queen Rania toured an orphanage in Amman where he announced a new order to his government to develop strategies to best care for orphans throughout the country. Queen Rania also spent time this week inspecting a number of the works underway by her various charities particularly the Jordan River Foundation which exists to provide opportunities for women and children. King Abdullah II also accepted the invitation of U.S. President Barrack Obama to attend the peace conference next year to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Kingdom of Jordan and Egypt are the only neighboring countries which currently maintain diplomatic ties to the State of Israel.

In the Far East, the Republic of Korea marked 65 years of independence from the Empire of Japan by unveiling the newly restored Gwanghwamun gate of the Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul after a four year long project costing over $25 million. It was through this gate that the King (for a short time Emperor) of Korea would pass during formal ceremonies at the royal palace, parades and so on. It is common in the region for the main central gate to a palace to be reserved for the monarch only with others passing through smaller side-gates. The gate has been destroyed and rebuilt many times throughout the troubled history of Korea, by the Japanese in ages past, again by the Japanese during the colonial period and most recently as a result of the Korean conflict of 1950-53. Thousands of Koreans attended the ceremony presided over by the President of the republic.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mad Rant: Totalitarianism

It is the back to school season around here and parents here in the “land of the free” are being treated to some new intrusion from government, yet another European import, and that is a BMI report to be sent home with every child. Yes, now the government will tell you if your child is too fat. Odd, when I was in school the students seemed able to figure out on their own which of their peers were too fat or too thin to warrant ridicule. This comes on the heels of a story from Britain in which a girl with an athletic build was deemed overweight by her school and is now starving herself. I must ask again what business it is of any politician or appointed bureaucrat how much children other than their own weigh? Unless the child is so grossly fat that there is suspected danger of a deranged parent force feeding them to the point that their life is in danger then I say the government should butt out!

This points to a larger and, I think, more serious problem -certainly more serious than chubby children. That is the totalitarian nature of modern “democratic” and “liberal” governments. The state today has broader and more far-reaching powers than the most absolute monarchs in western history ever dreamed of having. In many cases even more totalitarian power than the likes of Hitler or Stalin ever had. Even in the United States we now have the government telling you what you can eat, what you can drink, how much you can feed your children, in California the government wants to tell you what color car you can drive or what temperature you can keep your house! In Europe the government tells you what kind of TV you can own, what shape your vegetables must be and how you make chocolate. Stop and consider just how much of our lives are regulated by the government! Is this the society of freedom we were promised? Personally, I doubt King Louis XIV in all his glory ever gave one thought to how much water people used on their lawn or what kind of feed they gave their horses.

When the government can fine you for grilling meat too close to your porch, for using too much water in your toilette, shooting an animal on your own property or, as in Germany, make it illegal for you to teach your own children -government has gotten out of control! They try to cover it all up by saying it was all done democratically and all done for our own good but none of their liberal slogans can cover up the fact that we are losing more and more control over our own lives and that more and more of society, government and all that that entails is being controlled by an ever-shrinking elite of politicians who care nothing for their people, their countries or anyone or anything save their own cronies and their own agenda. Revolutions all over the world claimed to be fighting for “freedom” -well freedom is not something they can deliver. Real freedom comes from independence and that is what these revolutionaries have robbed us of. It makes me a very, very … Mad Monarchist.

Ferdinand the Brave Bull

My latest addition. This poor little guy of mine was found after two weeks of being unable to feed from his mother. After bringing him home to bottle feed I did not at first think he would pull through. Thankfully, he has improved quite a bit and is eating well. He's also the most tame calf I have ever seen. Before I put him in the pen he was following me around everywhere like a puppy -even tried to come in the house. This picture was taken yesterday right after his breakfast.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Congo’s Colonial Past: A Critical Reflection

I was very impressed with this fair and dispassionate look at the history of Belgian colonialism in the Congo over at the very grand website The Royal Universe. Those interested in the subject should have a look.

Favorite Royal Images: King and Priest

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V announcing the capture of Tunis to Pope Paul III in 1535, a meeting of the preeminent temporal and spiritual monarchs of old Christendom.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monarch Profile: Attila the Hun

Today the name of Attila the Hun is synonymous with cruelty and barbarity. Most people know nothing about him other than that he was a “bad guy”. He was one of, though certainly the most infamous, of the pagan, barbarian enemies of the late Roman Empire, known as the “Scourge of God”. In reality, he was a much more complex man though he was certainly a brutal and ruthless warrior king in the tradition of the marauding tribes of the Eurasian steppe. In warfare and politics he was merciless but he was known by his own people as a wise and just ruler, one appreciative of ability, a man of vision and even a cosmopolitan man in a way. Born around 406 AD to a Hun leader named Mundzuk he succeeded to the kingship of the Huns in 434 AD alongside his brother Bleda after the death of their uncle King Ruga. At this time the Huns were a powerful but separated confederation of tribes that subsisted primarily through raiding.

Although nomadic and covering a large area throughout eastern Europe to Central Asia the primary home of the Huns was in what is now Hungary and after daring to launch raids against the East Roman Empire they began to receive tribute and trade with Constantinople as Emperor Theodosius II thought it more practical to treat with them rather than engage them militarily -though he did take the precaution of shoring up his own defenses in case war ever came. With no major enemies close to home Attila and Bleda turned toward Asia and the Caucasus leading an attack on the Sassanids but this invasion was not successful as the Huns were defeated in Armenia and so by 440 they were back to threaten the borders of the Roman Empire. The Huns were able to raid freely along the Danube as the bulk of Roman forces had been transferred to fight the Vandal invasion of Carthage. This allowed Bleda and Attila to sack cities all the way to what is now Belgrade.

Legions were recalled from Sicily but the Hun threat only grew more dangerous as they discovered modern siege engines and put them to good use, continuing their rampage south all the way to Gallipoli. Finally, the Romans came to terms with them once again and paid tribute at triple the previous rate. It was around this time (445) that Bleda died in a hunting accident, presumably arranged by Attila who thus became the sole King of the Huns. In 447 he renewed his offensive against the East Roman Empire reaching as far south as Thermopylae in Greece before withdrawing rather than attack Constantinople itself as he lacked the resources to breach the formidable city walls that had recently been strengthened. Attila had gained an admiration for the Roman Empire and a sense of its weakness. He was a new kind of Hun leader that no one had seen before. Rather than the chieftain of a disparate confederation of raiding tribes Attila the Hun created a unified fighting force and began to take and hold vast territories rather than plundering them and moving on. Soon, his Hunnish Empire stood as a vast and deadly rival to Christian Rome.

As he turned his gaze west Attila made an alliance with the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III to make war on the Visigoths. However, he soon turned on the Romans when Princess Honoria, the rebellious sister of Valentinian III, asked him for help after Valentinian imprisoned her for conspiring with her lover to assassinate him. Attila took this as a proposal of marriage (though he already had many wives) and claimed half the western empire as his dowry. Soon he gathered a massive army from the member peoples of his empire and rode west arriving in Belgium in 451 with an army estimated at the time to number up to half a million. The Romans sent their best general, Flavius Aetius, to handle the situation. He had experience with the Huns, living among them as a child hostage, and he took his meager Roman forces and gathered local Celts and Franks to assemble an army that Rome hoped could stand a chance against the seemingly unstoppable Attila. The Romans even made an alliance with their old enemy King Theodoric of the Visigoths in their desperate effort to stop the Huns.

The result was the epic battle of Chalons-sur-Marne aka the Catalaunian Fields widely considered one of the most important battles in world history. Historians have speculated that this battle decided whether the Christian Roman Empire or the pagan Hunnish Empire would be the dominant influence on the rest of western history. It was a fierce and bloody battle and one the Romans looked to be losing. King Theodoric was killed but the Roman legions held firm and the enraged Goths helped turn the tide against the Huns and Attila suffered his most stunning defeat. Still, the Romans had suffered greatly as well and so did not press on to pursue their victory. Despite this setback, Attila was still very much a danger to the Romans and not lacking in ambition. To the Romans he remained the ultimate bogey man.

In the Roman world, with some justification, Attila was the most terrifying image of pagan-barbarian brutality. The appearance and the habits of the Huns were unlike anything the Romans had seen before. However, among his own people and even the conquered people of his empire Attila was known for the great care he took of his subjects and his great justice in settling disputes. He chose his top commanders based on merit with no favoritism and his entourage included people of various nationalities and religions. In fact, one of his most trusted subordinates was a Christian who would one day make his son the last Emperor of Rome in the west. However, Attila had not given up on making that empire his own and in 452 he struck back with an invasion of Italy itself. Several cities in northern Italy (including Venice) can trace their origins back to refugees fleeing Attila. By this time there were no legions nearby and Rome seemed doomed.

Desperate to halt the invasion, Emperor Valentinian III sent a delegation to meet with Attila led by Pope Leo I. What happened next is interesting. Christian tradition says that when the Pope met with Attila and warned him to withdraw he saw a vision of Saints Peter and Paul with swords drawn hovering over the pontiff and thus withdrew his attack. Others say it was gold and a plague that had broken out in his army but, whatever the cause, Attila inexplicably withdrew just as he was on the cusp of victory and returned to his own territory. Rome was safe and would never be threatened by the Huns again. Shortly after, in 453, King Attila was celebrated a new marriage when he suffered a nosebleed and drowned in his own blood. His death was greatly mourned by the Huns and though he was succeeded by one of his sons they immediately began fighting amongst themselves and the Hunnish empire dissolved shortly thereafter. Attila had been the driving force, the skilled statesman and brutal warrior who had made their success possible and without his leadership they withered away.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Website of Would-Be Khan

Here at the southern compound, keeping an eye on my lovely little neices, I came across a website (of which I was previously unaware) for the Ninth Jetsun Dhampa or Bogd Gegen, spiritual heir of the last Emperor of Mongolia. Jetsundhampa

MM Movie Review: The Messenger

Good monarchist movies are hard to find, very few are done and even fewer are done well. Alas the 1999 Luc Besson film, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” is no exception to this generality. It was to be expected but, at the time, I had no idea that this movie about one of the most famous monarchists in history and a Christian saint revered by millions was directed by an avowed atheist. In my ignorance I was excited when “The Messenger” came out and eager to see the life of Joan of Arc brought to the screen with more money, more filmmaking wizardry and so on than was available in past attempts. Oh, how disappointed I was. Overall it is actually soul-crushingly bad. Painful bad. Horrid. More than that it is downright insulting to virtually every group connected with the story portrayed. However, I am getting ahead of myself and should try to start by saying something kind.

As is usual with Hollywood (yes, a French-made movie but I think you know what I mean) these days, the technical side of the movie is great. Some have complained about it but I thought the look, the sets, the battle scenes, the special effects and so on were good or at least good enough. Granted, there was only one really big battle portrayed in the movie (lifting the siege of Orleans). Also, unlike some others, I thought the actors all did a pretty good job, even Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc. That is not to say that the part was good but I will get to that in a minute. One thing I did like was the greater realism than seen in other films (though this has more to do with when the film was made) and that carried to Jovovich’s Joan of Arc. I liked the level of emotion on display. I never could imagine St Joan riding serenely through the butchery of battle, untouched by the chaos around her. That is certainly not the case with this movie. Joan gets frustrated, she gets inspired, ecstatic, angry and anguished. She is very emotionally involved to say the least. Again, on the whole, I thought the acting was good and it was certainly not a list of no-names on the bill of players.

However, that being said, the big, huge, gargantuan, behemoth problem with this movie is how history was cut to ribbons to pursue an agenda. The word “inaccurate” does not begin to describe it. Spiteful, libelous, atrocious, insulting and even downright blasphemous would not be going too far. From the very start the Joan in this movie is portrayed as suffering from some sort of obsessive-religious disorder. She is not shown as anything that could be described as devout by any stretch but as a compulsively religious maniac, swept up in ecstatic religious visions one moment and then terrified to the point of paranoia the next over divine judgment. Then enter the English. Since the filmmakers seem incapable of believing that someone could go off on a mission to liberate their country and restore their rightful king based purely on religious devotion and pious patriotism they have to give Joan a motive. In this case it is watching in horror while her older sister is killed and raped (yes, in that order) by an English soldier. It is possibly the most disgusting scene of the entire movie and seems to serve no other purpose than to rob Joan of pure motives in her quest but to hold on in her mind to be brought up in the end that it was all about hatred and a thirst for revenge on her part tied to feelings of guilt that her sister had died after giving up her hiding place to Joan.

This ends up being rather central to the story as Dustin Hoffman (my least favorites character by far) appears at the end listed in the credits as “the conscience” and basically relates that Joan had been driven by vengeance, vanity and that her visions were nothing more than delusions she chose to interpret as divine instructions to serve her own ends. That overall theme is the largest insult of the movie but it is certainly not the only one. No opportunity is lost to take cheap shots at virtually anything Joan of Arc or the people of her time held dear. Further, these were all completely needless insults that did nothing to advance the story but simply serve to make the viewer feel worse and destroy any possibility of anyone in this movie coming away with a good reputation. There was Yolanda of Aragon replacing the Holy Oil of Clovis that had “run out” and calling it a “miracle”, the scene of that same Queen Yolanda and her son King Charles VII deliberately betraying Joan to the Burgundians and the (thankfully unseen) rape of Joan in prison.

Absolutely no one comes away looking good in this movie and it is a common problem with spiteful, bleeding-heart liberal filmmakers of today. Everyone is bad, everyone has wicked motives, Joan of Arc is a phony, the French are a bunch of sniveling, back-stabbers, the churchmen are all corrupt and self-serving and the English are crude, sadistic barbarians. Not surprisingly the reviews for this movie when it was released were predominately bad. There is no hero, no one for the uninformed audience to root for and if you do the director ensures you will feel guilty for doing so by the time it is all over. It is a movie that brings audiences down plain and simple. What frustrates me the most is the obvious talent that is on display. This could have been a great movie, it easily could have been the quintessential bio-epic of St Joan of Arc. The historical narrative is one tailor-made to thrill, uplift and inspire audiences. That this movie could have done that but the filmmakers chose to do the opposite infuriates me more than anything else. They had everything needed to make a magnificent film about Joan of Arc, and you even get glimpses of it now and then, but they simply chose not to. They chose to insult and slander.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Monarchist Music: There'll Always Be an England

One of my favorites -though it is a little sad these days seeing how much of that spirit is gone. ('the empire too -guess we really couldn't depend on you...')

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Royal News Roundup

Starting at the first of this last week in the Low Countries, HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was at the Hague on Sunday at the Dutch East Indies Monument to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the surrender of the Japanese who, in the course of World War II, conquered most of the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) but not without heroic resistance by the Dutch colonial army and Royal Netherlands Navy (the small Dutch submarine flotilla actually sank more Japanese shipping than the U.S. sub fleet in those early days). Mention was made of the 13,000 people that died in the war and the 100,000 Dutch subjects sent to internment camps by the Japanese. In Belgium King Albert II is still meeting with party leaders who have still failed to form a government, talks having stalled over the issue of how to divide state funds between the two regions. French news has reported that, while the nationalists won a majority in Flanders, feelings are growing harsher in Wallonia as well with 67% being opposed to any concessions to the Flemish and 32% of Walloons saying they would prefer to join France if the country divides.

In Scandinavia Princess Marie of Denmark spoke at a conference on Monday related to childhood poverty and social exclusion. On Thursday Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway, daughter of the Crown Prince and Princess and the future Queen of Norway since the end of primogeniture, attended her first day of school. In Russia a rather comical lawsuit has been filed by Valery Kubarev, a descendant of the Rurik family and self-styled “Grand Prince of All Russia”. He is claiming that the Kremlin in Moscow is rightfully his own property along with a few other ancient historical sites in Russia. The authorities have not been inclined to take this seriously, despite the warning from Mr. Kubarev that his family is descended from the ancient pagan gods of Russia who will, he warned, deliver supernatural vengeance on those who mock him.

In the U.K. HRH Prince Harry of Wales has again caused some eyes to roll by agreeing to participate in a reality show for BBC2. The show will take the form of a talent search with the finale being the choosing of a winner to perform at Buckingham Palace with Prince Harry as the guest of honor. A royal aide assured the press that no one will be ‘voted off’ or laughed at and explained it as a way to encourage and mentor musical achievement, also adding that Prince Harry is a fan of “reality TV”. Royals participating in television programs in the past have not been too well received with many regarding it as beneath the dignity of the Royal Family. You can add The Mad Monarchist to that camp. I’m sure Prince Harry has nothing but the best of intentions in doing this but it seems to me he could find a much better way to spend his free time and encourage musicians in Great Britain than this. Also in Great Britain, on Wednesday, was Their Majesties the King and Queen of Jordan who were at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland to watch the annual Military Tattoo in which some Jordanian bands are participating in this 60th anniversary year. The Jordanian military has a very British style to it as Jordan was formerly a British mandate. Like many in the Royal Jordanian Army the King himself is a graduate of Sandhurst.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Consort Profile: Alexandra of Denmark

One of the most beloved consorts of the recent British monarchs was surely Alexandra of Denmark, the Queen consort of King Edward VII. She had everything going for her as a royal bride. She was beautiful, opinionated but not intrusive, dutiful, fertile and compassionate. The people adored her and yet it is easy to ignore or gloss over the amount of hardship she had to endure in her marriage because she handled it all in the most time honored, stiff upper lip, aristocratic fashion. It may have been easier for others to think that if it did not bother the queen it should not bother them. However, Alexandra was the sort who, even if it bothered her terribly (as it surely did) she never would have showed it. She was born HRH Princess Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gluecksburg at the Yellow Palace in Copenhagen on December 1, 1844 to Prince Christian of Denmark and Princess Louise von Hessen-Kassel. They had a happy but not lavish life (their only income was her father’s army salary) though not every child could boast of having Hans Christian Andersen reading them bedtime stories.

Princess Alexandra had to share a very modest attic bedroom with her sister Princess Dagmar (future Tsarina of Russia) and she had to make her own clothes. She had an English chaplain and grew up to be a very religious young lady with noticeably “high church” sympathies. When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Great Britain began looking for a suitable bride for the Prince of Wales amongst the princesses of Germany they came up empty-handed. Somewhat reluctantly they then turned to Denmark and the lovely young Princess “Alix”. In 1862 Prince Albert Edward (who already had the reputation of something of a playboy) proposed to Alexandra at Laeken Castle, the home of his great-uncle King Leopold I of the Belgians. The next year the couple were married at Windsor Castle. Within the next year Alexandra’s father had become King of Denmark, her brother George became King of Greece and her sister Dagmar became Crown Princess of Russia. Prussia and her German allies also invaded Denmark which set in Alexandra a lifelong dislike of Germany and the Prussian royal house in particular.

Alexandra, Princess of Wales, also did her royal duty by giving the British monarchy a future heir, Prince Albert Victor, in 1864 with five more children to follow. Giving birth was not easy for Alexandra, all were born premature and her youngest, Prince John, was born handicapped and did not live long. Still, she was a devoted mother and was happiest when taking care of her children. She also enjoyed dancing, ice skating, riding and hunting. Queen Victoria disapproved of these pursuits for a Princess of Wales just as she disapproved of her hostility toward the Germans. Yet, as formidable a presence as the Queen could be she never managed to change Alexandra. Those who knew her had nothing but praise for the Princess of Wales who was regal and dignified in public and very affectionate, warm and friendly in private. Along with her husband she traveled extensively visiting Austria, Egypt, Greece the Crimea and had the distinction of being the woman to have dinner with the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. She seemed the ideal royal wife and was much beloved by the public but behind the glittering façade she had many burdens to bear.

While Alexandra was faithful and quite religious, the Prince of Wales never changed his colorful lifestyle and took a succession of mistresses. None of this was a secret to Alexandra but she chose to ignore it rather than make a scene or cause further scandal. In 1867 rheumatic fever left her moderately crippled and she walked with a limp thereafter. Otosclerosis, a bone growth of the middle ear, caused her to slowly lose her hearing and brought an end to the social life she so enjoyed though she was certainly happy to spend more time with her children. Although never shown in public she was naturally distressed by the neglect of her husband during her worst bouts of illness and his frequent adultery. Eventually they lived fairly separate lives for the most part. The Prince stopped taking her with him on his foreign tours and Alix spent more time with her own relatives. She did accompany him to Russia in the aftermath of the regicide of Alexander II to comfort her sister (the new Tsarina) and as Queen Victoria became less able to get about Princess Alexandra was called upon to take up the slack. When Tsar Alexander III died the Princess of Wales again went to comfort her sister who depended greatly on her immense patience and compassion.

In 1901 Alexandra became Queen-empress as her husband became King Edward VII and the two were crowned the next year. Her life did not change very much and she was often called upon to look after her grandchildren, something she always enjoyed. At times she has been accused of trying to meddle in foreign affairs (one area where the King was most prominent) but this is really not the case. Naturally she favored the cause of her native Denmark and she never lost her hostility toward the Germans, particularly her nephew-by-marriage Kaiser Wilhelm II. However, this had no real bearing on foreign policy or the King who disliked his nephew in any event regardless of what his wife thought. She warned against trading Heligoland to Germany (probably a wise warning) and we know she disapproved of the bill aimed at revoking the veto power of the House of Lords. However, there is no indication that her views influenced any decision-making. She was in Greece when word came that Edward VII was near death and she rushed home to care for him in his last day of life.

Now Queen Mother, Alexandra was always supportive of her son King George V, even when she disagreed with the actions he took. When World War I came there was no more ardent patriot that Queen Alexandra who felt her previous warning about the Germans being the “enemy” had been vindicated. The revolution in Russia was naturally deeply distressing to her and after the war her health, already rather frail, declined rapidly. Toward the end she was partially blind, could no longer speak clearly and suffered a failing memory. She died on November 20, 1925 at Sandringham as a result of a heart attack. Remembered for her picturesque appearance, regal fortitude and fashion sense (she was something of a trend-setter) Queen Alexandra was also much more. She endured a great many personal hardships, she was dutiful, generous to a fault and never backed down on her convictions. She was, in many ways, an ideal queen consort who had a less than ideal life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Forgotten Imperial Outpost

In 1902, during the reign of the ambitious King Leopold II, Belgium obtained a concession in Tianjin, China. It was the smallest of all the international concessions and the Belgian government never invested in the property to the same extent as those of the other powers. The building and development that did go on was nowhere near as extensive as those of their neighbors and sadly no buildings remain from the era of Belgian rule. In 1904 a contract was agreed to by Belgium, the Chinese Empire and the Compagnie de Tramways et d’Eclairage de Tientsin which gave that body a monopoly on providing electricity in the Belgian concession. This led, in 1906, to the creation of a tramway system by the company which extended throughout all the foreign concessions in Tianjin which made that city the first in all of China to have a modern transportation network, Shanghai only having a similar system two years later.

Belgium produced the carriages for this system though the electrical equipment came from Germany. The provision of electricity and the trolley system proved extremely profitable for the original Belgian investors. In 1937 the Japanese army confiscated the property of the company. Japan took complete control in 1943 and the Belgian workers along with their families were taken captive by the Japanese and sent to prison camps. After World War II ended the Japanese, knowing their control was lost, offered control of the company to the Republic of China. This was done and the owners of the company, in Brussels, tried by legal means to obtain compensation from the Chinese for their lost property by the success of the communists put an end to all such efforts. The Belgian trolley network was later expanded and continued in operation until 1972.

MM Video: Royals at the Bullring

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Passing of a Prince of Parma

Today in Barcelona, HRH Duke Carlos Hugo de Bourbon-Parma, died at the age of 80 after a long strggle with cancer. A funeral mass will be held in Barcelona after which, initial reports say, his remains will be taken to the Netherlands before final burial in the family crypt in Parma, Italy. The Prince of Bourbon-Parma, a Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne, was previously married to Princess Irene of the Netherlands, sister of HM Queen Beatrix -which caused no small amount of controversy. The couple divorced in 1981. Prince Carlos Hugo, a descendant of King Philip V of Spain, led the Carlist faction in the 1970's but in 1978 renounced his claim to the Spanish throne. The Mad Monarchist send condolences to the family and the loyalists of Parma on this sad occasion. R.I.P.

Anniversary of Royalist Victory

197 years ago today the largest battle ever fought on Texas soil took place and it was a battle between republicans and royalists in which, happily, the royalist side was victorious, securing the continued reign of His Catholic Majesty King Fernando VII of Spain. The Mad Monarchist fondly remembers The Battle of Medina.

Flagrant Treason in Australia

It is getting close to election time in Australia and, like politicians the world over, the slime is rising to the top. Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the Australian Labor Party recently said, just days before Australians head to the polls, that she is a republican and it is her deepest wish that HM Queen Elizabeth II of Australia be the last Australian monarch. Yes, yes it is political controversialism that happens all the time, but it is nonetheless *outrageous*! To repeat, Miss Gillard is the PM, Her Majesty's Prime Minister for the Commonwealth of Australia. She, upon taking office as an MP, swore an oath that she would, "be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God!" How in the hell is she keeping her word when she embraces republicanism?! How is anyone who votes for her continued political career now anything less than a traitor to their sovereign and country? This is something few to no republics in the world would *ever* tolerate and something monarchies, back when they were more traditional and had a little righteous pride, would ever have tolerated either.

Of course, the Prime Traitor says she likes the Queen and wishes her a long life and is resigned to the fact that Australians would never become a republic while she remains on the throne. But, after Her Majesty's passing, the time would come to make Australia just another republic. Like THAT makes it better?! Sorry Miss Gillard, but the oath you swore did include the phrase, "Her heirs and successors". You might think that being the first female Prime Minister of Australia might have given Miss Gillard a little more appreciation for one of the longest-serving, most experienced and most globally respected women leaders of our time. But no, the liberal revolutionary ideology trumps all with these rats. And her pretended respect for the Queen is downright insulting. If she admits the Queen is much loved by the Australian people one would have to ask why she would deny the Prince of Wales and Prince William in turn the chance to earn that same affection from their Australian brethren? It is a lie from a leftist revolutionary republican of the most common variety.

Australia does not need a republic, it does not need another vote on the subject. What the country does need is some action taken to stop subversives from clawing their way into high office. Miss Gillard is a perfect example of the radical, revolutionary, republican foot soldier. She was secretary of the Socialist Forum, she fought to grant special status to people based on their race, gender and sexual orientation, has been an advocate for degrading the borders of Australia on immigration issues and has been radically pro-abortion. Go down the list of revolutionary republican leftists around the world and she has done everything one is supposed to do, going as radical as possible while still being able to remain in the socialist rather than Marxist camp. Readers here, of course, know that socialism is simple Marxism for slow learners. This woman has no business being PM, nor having any place in the government of the Commonwealth of Australia whatsoever. She is a traitor whose positions, on the monarchy and a number of other issues, would, if successful, mean nothing less than the death of Australia as we know it. This is treason -pure and simple.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Papal Profile: Pope Pius VI

It seems that Pius VI will not go down in history as a great pope, due to both certain actions and inactions, however, he was a man who did his duty and was much more aware of the consequences of events around him than many people recognize or give him credit for. While it is true that the Church and papal influence reached one of its lowest points during his reign, it is also true that he had a series of problems to deal with which few other world or Church leaders could possibly do much better with. He is also remembered for having the longest reign of any pope after St Peter himself up to that time at 24 years, 6 months and 12 days.

The future pontiff was born Giovanni Angelo Braschi on December 25, 1717. He became a priest and cardinal before being elected to the chair of Peter on February 15, 1775. At the outset of his pontificate the major issue the Holy See had to deal with was the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. This was certainly not an easy issue as Joseph II was a member of the new breed of so-called "Enlightened Despots", of which, in fact, the Emperor was the only one who was truly humane and benevolent, yet ironically the only one denied the title of "the Great". In person he was a very devout and virtuous man, yet he came to champion a new idea which came to be known as "Josephism". This idea argued, among other things, that the Church was not a monarchy, that the Papacy had taken powers not granted to them by Christ and that the Bishop of Rome had no more authority than any other bishop.

This mentality set a dangerous precedent, particularly by coming from the Holy Roman Emperor, of Catholic governments ruling over Catholic populations to try to take power away from the Pope and give the last word to the government. Pius VI was able to deal fairly well with this issue, but no sooner than the clouds began to clear the French Revolution erupted, opening a murderous wound in the Eldest Daughter of the Church. Trying, like many pontiffs before and since, to be moderate and reasonable, Pius VI did not take strong action when the French state first began to turn the clergy into government employees. However, when things got worse, when the oath of loyalty was drawn up and the King and Queen murdered, Pope Pius VI took strong action.

The Pope condemned the actions of the revolutionary government and denounced the regicide of the "most Christian King Louis XVI" as the result of an "impious conspiracy" against the legitimate French authority. By now however, France had been thrown into such a frenzy of murder and violence, no words from the Pope were enough to stop it. The situation grew worse in 1796 when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Italy with the intention of creating a new Roman Republic. The Papal military could do little to resist and Pius VI was forced to make humiliating concessions to Napoleon in return for peace. Naturally, Napoleon soon broke his word and invaded the Papal States anyway. Pope Pius VI was deposed with the establishment of the republic and forced to go into exile in Florence.

Pius VI continued to oppose the revolution and refused to bend to the will of France. He was taken by force from place to place as Napoleon had enough respect for the prestige of the Pope to realize what a dangerous symbol of resistance he could be. The Pope finally died, a prisoner in Valence, on August 29, 1799 much to the rejoicing of the revolutionary radicals. Many ignorantly crowed that the end of the Catholic Church was at hand, one Paris newspaper even saying that "The death of Pius VI has, as it were, placed a seal on the glory of philosophy in modern times". The trials of the Church were certainly not over, but of course the Church and her rock, the Papacy, survived long after Napoleon and the first French Republic were dead and buried.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Emperor's Library (VII): Emperor Caracalla

The death of Emperor Septimius Severus in 211 saw the Roman imperial throne pass to two brothers, his feuding sons; Caracalla and Geta. Popular history has usually condemned Caracalla to the ranks of the “bad” emperors of Rome, a listing which has not always been entirely accurate. To some extent the same may be said of Emperor Caracalla whose reputation has often suffered at the expense of the glorification of his short-lived brother Geta even though there is no real evidence of him being any more worthy of praise than his brother Caracalla was of condemnation. The death of Geta has allowed contemporaries and successive generations to paint him in whatever idealistic fashion they desire while Caracalla lived on to make hard decisions, stirring opposition as well as support and earning enemies along the way.

He was born in Lyons on April 4, 188 AD as Lucius Septimius Bassianus. After his family adopted itself into that of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius his named changed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caesar. The nickname “Caracalla” came from a long hooded cloak of the prince’s design, modified from a style worn by the Celts or Germans, known as a “caracallus”. He had been on campaign with his father when Severus died and he was always a warrior monarch. Septimius Severus had told his sons, “Agree with each other, give money to the soldiers, and scorn all other men”. This was fairly practical advice given how vital the military had become to the Roman Empire though it was fairly naïve of him to think Caracalla and Geta would ever be able to agree on anything. During the final years of the late emperor the two brothers had already begun a rivalry and had attracted their own fiercely competitive respective followers.

Upon the death of Septimius Severus it was, not surprisingly, Emperor Caracalla who first tried to gain sole rule of the empire. Although often criticized for this since there is every indication to believe his father had intended it that way as he had granted Caracalla the title of “Augustus” quite a long time before extending the same honor to Geta. However, Roman mothers could be fairly formidable and the Empress Julia Domna took the side of her younger son and insisted that power be shared. So it was that joint-sovereigns, Emperor Caracalla and Emperor Geta, both returned from Britain with the ashes of their late father to the Eternal City of Rome. Such a system could never hope to be successful and one wonders how anyone could have ever thought it would be. They divided their palace on the Palatine Hill between them, walling themselves off from each other, but that was no real solution. Finally they seized on the idea of dividing the empire between them; Geta taking the east and Caracalla the west but their mother would have none of it.

Not surprisingly, 10 months into their joint reign Geta was dead, supposedly murdered by Caracalla himself in the very presence of their mother. Caracalla told the Praetorian Guard (who he gave a considerable increase in pay) and later the Senate that Geta had tried to murder him and he had only acted in self-defense. Some believed him but the many and powerful supporters of his brother certainly did not and to maintain himself on the throne Caracalla carried out an old-fashioned purge with some estimates as high as 20,000 as the number killed for being partisans of Geta or suspected of sympathy toward him. There was really no way around this sort of thing, it had happened before and was regarded as a necessary evil in such situations. However, relations with the Senate would never be smooth because of this if nothing else and the reign of Caracalla would forever have a somewhat sinister flavor because of the murder of Geta and its aftermath.

To escape this atmosphere of intrigue and resentment in Rome, in 213 Emperor Caracalla set off on a grand tour of the Roman Empire, first visiting the German frontier. He never forgot the advice of his father and was always comfortable in military surroundings. He took good care of his soldiers and his soldiers always adored him for it. Moreover, he impressed them with his own sort of humility. True, his rule was absolute and unquestioned and he would obviously tolerate no dissent from any quarter, but he did not live a pampered lifestyle. He marched on foot alongside his men, he ate the same coarse local food as they did and would even grind his own flour. There was a noticeable morale boost and in the summer of that year the Roman legions won a number of victories against the Germans in several areas, prompting the Senate (which was not of a temperament to heap undue praise on their emperor) to vote Caracalla the title “Germanicus Maximus”.

As he traveled east the Emperor became more and more obsessed with the figure of Alexander the Great, adopting him as his personal hero and role model. Caracalla even obtained some elephants to accompany him and became very harshly disposed toward the disciples of Aristotle after hearing that the philosopher may have been involved in the death of his hero. Beyond this though Emperor Caracalla had an appreciation for Greek history and culture in general and he enjoyed visiting the scenes of great events in Greek history and commemorating Greek heroes. Yet, this tour was not without controversy. The highlight, certainly for Caracalla, was visiting Alexandria where he went to pay his respects at the tomb of Alexander the Great, leaving his purple robe and imperial regalia as tribute to the revered conqueror. However, for some reason lost to history an incident was provoked that led to the Roman troops carrying out a massacre in Alexandria resulting in thousands of deaths. The cause will never be known but the most popular theory again goes back to Emperor Geta and that it was some criticism or accusation concerning the death of Geta that aroused Caracalla’s fury against the people of Alexandria. Whether true or a story invented later to fit pre-established prejudice we may never know.

In any event, while the Emperor was in the neighborhood of the east it would hardly be fitting not to carry on the tradition of waging a war against the Parthians. It had become almost a job requirement (I take power, II eliminate rivals, III celebrate, IV fight the Parthians…) and a recent civil war had left them particularly vulnerable. Emperor Caracalla took the side of one of the factions then turned against them and laid waste to the region east of the Tigris. After returning to northern Iraq and planning further campaigns disaster struck. A plot against the Emperor had been hatched but he could not be warned in time. Suffering from an upset stomach Emperor Caracalla had a rest stop on his way from Edessa to Carrhae on April 8, 217 when one of his guards, the disgruntled Julius Martialis, killed him with a thrust of his sword. The assassin was himself immediately killed and the 29-year-old emperor was cremated and his ashes taken back to Rome and placed in the Mausoleum of Hadrian by his mother. After her death both Empress Julia Domna and Emperor Caracalla were deified by the Emperor Elagabalus.

Today Emperor Caracalla is generally not thought very well of. Reasons why are easy to point to yet it all stems from one misdeed; the death of his brother and to be fair it must be said that so much would not have flowed from that if not for the fact that Caracalla felt so terribly guilty about it which a heartless man would not have done. It is also often forgotten that he was, personality aside, a good emperor. He always took time to hear appeals for justice, he reformed the currency and in the Antonine Constitution of 212 was the first emperor to extend Roman citizenship to all free men across the empire. Rome thus became less a collection of countries ruled by one favored people and more of a commonwealth based on shared laws and loyalties. His most lasting legacy, however, was undoubtedly his building programs and if any average person today recognizes the name of the late emperor it is probably because of the ruins of the magnificent Baths of Caracalla that remain standing to this day.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Royal News Roundup

It has been a fairly mixed week for the royals of the world. As most know last weekend King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain met U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha on the resort island of Mallorca. It was the last day of a lavish vacation by the First Lady and daughter and the only “official” event of the trip. Mrs. Obama has attracted a fair amount of criticism for taking so extravagant a trip to foreign shores during a time when the U.S. is enduring, in the words of her husband, the worst economy since the Great Depression. Her next two shortly upcoming vacations will be restricted to the United States. As parting gifts Queen Sofia presented the First Lady with some local arts & crafts while King Juan Carlos gave some seeds for the First Lady’s much publicized White House garden.

To the north in Luxembourg the former Grand Duke Jean toured an exhibit on Thursday dedicated to the memory of his late mother the Grand Duchess Charlotte. Last Saturday HRH the Prince of Wales was in Scotland to attend the highland games. This Saturday HRH the Princess Royal Anne celebrates her 60th birthday. One of the most unsung heroes of the British monarchy and one of the hardest working royals in Europe the Mad Monarchist wishes the Princess Royal a very happy birthday.

In northern Europe continued excite over the coming royal twins in Denmark is balanced by new royal-bashing in Sweden. The lovely Princess Marie of Denmark was on Funen island where she visited a rose festival and had one flower named in her honor. When asked about the pregnancy of her sister-in-law Crown Princess Mary she was very supportive but when asked when she would be having more children Princess Marie said, though it would be nice, it will not be happening right away. Crown Princess Mary herself said recently that, though more tired lately than usual, she and the Crown Prince have been “unusually happy” with the coming double-birth. Little Prince Christian and Princess Isabella are also very well aware that two more siblings are on their way.

Across the Baltic in Sweden, however, things have been a little rough for the newly wed Crown Princess Victoria who has been accused in the gutter-press of taking bribes after accepting some rather lavish wedding gifts from wealthy friends. A Swedish billionaire (Bertil Hult) lent the use of his plane, yacht and Colorado vacation home for their honeymoon. Controversy-mongers say this was done with some future favors being expected in return. It is, of course, all rather ridiculous and the palace has been visibly annoyed in their response. Considering that the role of the Swedish monarchy is purely ceremonial it seems ridiculous that wedding gifts, no matter how costly or who they are from, could be considered a form of bribery.

Royals across the Middle East have been marking the start of Ramadan. In honor of this the King and Queen of Jordan announced Tuesday that they will be covering the educational expenses for some 200 Jordanian orphans. The expenses covered will include accommodations, books, tuition, stationary and medical insurance. Across the border in Saudi Arabia King Abdullah II has raised some eyebrows, yet again, amongst more conservative Muslims for declaring, in his role as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, that, temporarily at least, only senior Muslim scholars (part of a council of 20 appointed by the King) will have the right to issue fatwas. All those who violate the order will face stiff penalties. King Abdullah has caused a fair bit of controversy lately for implementing changes many of the “old guard” do not approve of including the recent appointment of a woman to a government post.

In the Far East the Japanese Imperial Family; the Emperor, Empress, Crown Prince and (surprisingly) Crown Princess all attended a memorial concert at Toukagakudo in honor of the late Empress Kojun, mother of the Emperor and consort of the late Emperor Showa (Hirohito) the longest-serving consort in Japanese history. Afterward 130 guests joined the Imperial Family for tea though the Crown Princess did not attend this final event.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Monarchist Profile: Baron von Knyphausen

Wilhelm Reichsfreiherr zu Innhausen und Knyphausen was born in Lützberg on November 4, 1716 and was destined from birth for a military career. Most famous for his command of the German mercenaries fighting with the British in the American War for Independence, the ties between the family of von Knyphausen and Great Britain go back much farther as his father had been the colonel of a regiment that had fought alongside the great Lord Marlborough. Wilhelm von Knyphausen joined the Royal Prussian Army in 1735 and eventually, in 1775, attained the rank of lieutenant general, a rank he kept in the army of Hesse-Kassel. When the American War erupted and Britain, as in times past, employed Hessian soldiers to supplement their own forces von Knyphausen was already a veteran of 42 years of military service and of rather advanced age for the time as was his immediate commander Lt. General Leopold Philip von Heister.

Coming to America in 1776 with the second division of German soldiers largely, but certainly not exclusively, from the Hessian states. He led his forces with skill and bravery at the battles of White Plains, Fort Washington, Brandywine, Germantown, Springfield and Monmouth all but one of which were British victories. The first real action he saw in America was at the storming of Fort Washington where he displayed considerable zeal and energy for a man of 60-years-old. Afterwards he was put in command of the Crown forces occupying New York City, a post he held between 1779 and 1780. When General von Heister had a falling out with British General Sir William Howe and went home to Germany in 1777 Lt. General von Knyphausen replaced him as supreme commander of all German forces in America. The German troops (collectively known as Hessians regardless of their origins) were always treated as a separate allied military force commanded by their own officers. Still, British officers were given dormant commissions to ensure that the top command remained in British hands and never fell to von Knyphausen.

Unlike his predecessor, von Knyphausen had a good working relationship with the British who trusted him for his skill and considerable experience at least to the extent they were capable for a foreign soldier. In the assault on Fort Washington the Hessians faced the most difficult sector of the battle but despite the danger, and his years, General von Knyphausen led by example, leading his men in person from the front and tearing at the obstructions with his bare hands and his men struggled up the approach. He and his men were ordered to garrison Trenton, New Jersey the site of one of the more celebrated little victories of the Continental Army and one that greatly demoralized von Heister. General von Knyphausen had sent a word of advice to the commander at Trenton, Colonel Johann Rall to fortify the town in case of attack but his advice went unheeded with disastrous results for the Hessians. Yet, at the battle of Brandywine he held the right flank of the British line, successfully demonstrating to divert rebel attention away from the main British attack.

Knyphausen commanded the vanguard out of Philadelphia for the battle of Monmouth and later was assigned to garrison duty on upper Manhattan Island, holding command of that area when Sir Henry Clinton was engaged elsewhere. However, von Knyphausen suffered a terrible loss the same year as the battle of Monmouth, 1778, the death of his beloved wife. With the British army going more on the defensive, his health deteriorating and suffering the simple effects of old age including creeping blindness from an eye cataract General von Knyphausen finally left America in 1782 having, he said, achieved neither glory nor advancement; a rather humble estimation considering the numerous victories he participated in. He spent his final years as military governor in Kassel where he died on December 7, 1800 respected by his troops and well regarded by his contemporaries.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pretender Profile: Bonnie Prince Charlie

There is probably no more famous royal pretender in history than “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, son of the “Old Chevalier” and grandson of King James II of Britain. His story has become the stuff of legend and he has been as unjustly vilified by the Hanoverians as he has been romanticized by Jacobites. However, as with any question of this sort in western monarchy, the cause was more important than personality and for Jacobites it was that cause; royal legitimacy, that was really what was being venerated in song and story. The romantic image of the “Young Pretender” was never meant to be an accurate depiction of the man but rather the symbol of a struggle, an icon to which could be attached various ideals from pristine, divinely ordained monarchy to the struggle against the centralization of power in Britain to Scottish nationalism. In all of that it would be easy for the prince to be lost.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart was born in Rome on December 31, 1720 and grew up in Rome and Bologna. His family life could be tumultuous but it was affectionate and like his father before him he was raised with the expectation of one day restoring the House of Stuart to the British throne. Toward this end he was given military training from an early age and first saw battle at the siege of Gaeta in 1734. He was sent to France in 1744 to lead a French army in an invasion of Britain but the plan fell through. The year before Prince Charles had been named regent by his father to give him the authority to act in his name to pursue the restoration. Plans were constantly being made which seemed more urgent the longer the German House of Hanover consolidated itself on the British throne. Finally, in 1745 the gamble was made and Charles set sail for Scotland, the home of his ancestors and where he could expect the most support.

Unfortunately for him the French fleet that was to accompany him was scattered by bad weather and he was left to fend for himself. Undeterred, he landed in the northern islands and proceeded to Glenfinnan where he rallied the highland clans (which were mostly Jacobite in sympathy regardless of religion) and raised the Stuart royal standard proclaiming his father King. However, not all of Scotland was with him. Some of the highland clans refused to join what seemed a hopeless cause and most of the lowlands were firmly loyal to the House of Hanover. Still, after enlisting the eminent soldier Lord George Murray the Prince marched on Edinburgh, capturing it without a struggle. Later, in a shocking turn of events, his Jacobite army, armed for the most part with swords rather than muskets, surprised and soundly defeated the British army of Sir John Cope at Prestonpans.

Buoyed by this victory Prince Charles, with 6,000 men, marched south into England. He hoped to rally the public to his side (King George II being far from universally popular) but aside from a few hundred English volunteers (mostly Catholic) the population either took the side of the House of Hanover or chose to sit by the sidelines to see which side would win. Prince Charles reached as far south as Derby and George II was making plans to evacuate London and return to his native Germany if the situation deteriorated. However, the government had a man in the Jacobite camp, a double agent, who assured the Scots that George II had tens of thousands of troops converging on their position. Prince Charles, having beaten the odds already in coming so far, wanted to throw caution to the wind and press on. Lord Murray and the highland chieftains, however, overruled him and ordered a retreat back to Scotland. In fact, the situation was not as hopeless as it had seemed but disaster had been averted for King George II and henceforth the winds of fortune would blow in his favor.

Prince Charles was demoralized marching north but his small army of rough warriors was still formidable. At Falkirk in January of 1746 the Jacobites won another stunning victory over the pursuing government forces of General Henry Hawley. Prince Charles wanted to take the initiative and renew the offensive after this victory but was again overruled. The efficient and ruthless Duke of Cumberland, son of George II, took over the pursuit and chased the Jacobite army from pillar to post across Scotland until they made their final stand in the far north at Culloden Moor. The battle was heroic, it was glorious and it was an utter disaster for the Jacobites. Absolutely every advantage was held by Cumberland but with bagpipes wailing and swords held high the Jacobites made one last great ‘highland charge’ and were all but annihilated. Cumberland showed no mercy and the aftermath of the battle was a scene of horrific butchery.

His spirit crushed, Prince Charles fled to the outer islands. Despite a huge bounty placed on his head by George II no one betrayed him and he made his escape with many legends, stories and songs told ever since about his harrowing flight. Picked up by a frigate he was returned to France. Charles had a daughter by a mistress he had met in Scotland during his ill-fated adventure but after the defeat at Culloden he was a broken man in every way, plagued by depression and began to drink heavily. During the Seven Years War (known in America as the French & Indian War) he was summoned to Paris to discuss his participation in a French invasion of Britain. Intoxicated and spiteful he did not react well to the grand promises of the French minister. He had heard it all before and saw what such promises were worth. France would not deal further with him and, as might have been expected, their planned 100,000-man invasion, never came off.

In 1766 his father died and the faithful few Jacobites proclaimed the prince King Charles III. However, this time there was no recognition of his title from the Pope. Most of the major powers in Europe viewed the Jacobite cause as lost and it was no longer in their interests to maintain recognition. In 1772 Charles married a Belgian princess with whom he moved to Italy. She began having an affair with an Italian artist and left the prince in 1780, claiming he had been abusive. The discarded, defeated and dispirited would-be King finally came to the end of his sad life in Rome on January 31, 1788. His remains are today buried in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican alongside his father and brother. Jacobite remnants continued on after his death but for all intents and purposes their struggle had been decided on the cold, damp ground at Culloden and it was the hope represented in the 1745 rising and the romantic image of the young prince come to reclaim the throne of his ancestors that captured public imagination. It is also, for obvious reasons, that image which most prefer to remember rather than the tragic fate of the man himself once known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie”.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Monarch Profile: Emperor Bao Dai of Vietnam

The last Emperor of Vietnam was born Prince Nguyen-Phuc Vinh Thuy on October 22, 1913 to the soon-to-be Emperor Khai Dinh, a man who was brought to the throne after an attempted royal coup by his predecessor. Khai Dinh pursued a policy of peaceful cooperation with the French colonial authorities and his young son had hopes placed in him, in Indochina and Europe, to be the future ideal monarch who would embody the best of Franco-Vietnamese partnership. At the age of 9, after a traditional education in the palace, he was sent to France to attend school and learn according to modern, western standards. In 1926 his father died and the teenage royal was hurriedly shipped back to Vietnam for his formal enthronement as emperor, taking the name Bao Dai meaning “keeper of greatness”. Once done he promptly returned to France to finish his education.

He stayed away longer than was required though the French authorities and the young monarch himself were in agreement on the issue. The conservative mandarins at court were not and worried that their “Son of Heaven” was being corrupted by western influences. While in France Bao Dai picked up a love for western sports, fast cars, gambling and French girls. When he did return to take up his royal duties he quickly annoyed the traditionalist mandarins and consorts by declaring the start of a new era of reform. He abolished kowtowing, wore western clothes most of the time and announced that rather than keep a harem he would have only one wife to cut down on the intrigues and power struggles that had originated in that area in the past. He also carried out what some termed a coup, getting rid of the ‘old guard’ at court and bringing in a new cabinet of modern-minded nationalists.

However, his effort at reform and modernization, first welcomed by the French, was soon frustrated by them. He found that he was to be given no real authority to govern his country as he saw fit and, denied power, many of his new government resigned in disgust; notably the pro-independence Catholic mandarin Ngo Dinh Diem. Disheartened by this, Emperor Bao Dai devoted his time to hunting trips, parties and enjoying himself, living, he said, like an exile in his own country. He also married the beautiful and devoutly Catholic daughter of a southern family; Empress Nam Phuong. The marriage was somewhat problematic due to the religious differences and was not always happy as it soon became clear that while the Emperor might restrict himself to having only one wife that did not mean he had adopted a truly monogamous life. Still, he secured the succession by having 2 sons and 3 daughters by his wife.

During World War II the French government in Vichy granted Japan permission to occupy Vietnam without so much as informing Emperor Bao Dai. Returning to the Forbidden City to find Japanese soldiers on guard he was faced with an accomplished fact and to remain on his throne required a level of cooperation with the Japanese. In 1945 the Japanese carried out a coup against the French colonial forces and at their urging Emperor Bao Dai formally repudiated all past treaties with France and declared the independence of the Empire of Vietnam as part of Japan’s “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”. Yet, the Rising Sun of Japan was rapidly setting by that time and after only a few months a communist organized revolution had broken out in the north in August. The communist leader Ho Chi Minh declared the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi, easily sweeping aside adherents of the recently established Empire of Vietnam which still existed almost exclusively on paper.

Emperor Bao Dai warned the French that the colonial era was over and their rule would never be restored and he desperately tried to obtain foreign recognition for his struggling monarchy but none was forthcoming. The fact that the communists were the only major force to oppose the Japanese gave them considerable prestige with the Allies and Bao Dai was assured that his association with the Japanese had made him ‘untouchable’. After the reds had effectively taken over all of north and central Vietnam anyway an ultimatum was delivered to Bao Dai calling upon him to abdicate. Remembering his French education he had no desire to end up like King Louis XVI and knew any opposition to the revolution would be futile. His own imperial guards had stood silently while communists tore down the yellow dragon flag and raised the red banner in its place right in front of the Forbidden City. Bao Dai quickly arranged a formal ceremony, donned his imperial robes and solemnly handed over his sword and seal to the representatives of the new government. In the eyes of many this occasion marked the passing of the Mandate of Heaven from the Nguyen dynasty to the regime of Ho Chi Minh.

At first Bao Dai, then officially known as “Citizen Vinh Thuy” went to Hanoi to serve as an advisor to the new regime which at that stage still claimed to be nationalist but which was communist dominated. Although Ho was very respectful the former Emperor soon saw what was really going on and left the country, going into exile in Hong Kong. Around this same time the French began trying to reestablish their colonial rule in Indochina, not recognizing either of the “independent” governments that had been proclaimed since their overthrow by the Japanese. The French had dealt with uprisings before and were, at first, not too concerned. However, they soon realized they were going to have a major war on their hands if they were going to reestablish colonial rule or even any sphere of influence in Indochina. The world (dominated by the USA and USSR after World War II) had turned against the idea of colonial empires and France needed someone they could trust to lead an opposition government against the communist regime of Ho Chi Minh.

The former Emperor Bao Dai was the logical choice. Although distrusted by many he did have close ties to France, was supported by monarchists and regardless of his abdication at least had some status of legitimacy. Thus in 1949 he was installed (not officially restored as emperor) as the “Chief of State” of the State of Vietnam based out of Saigon. However, total independence, often promised, was not completely delivered and the former emperor was soon back in the south of France leaving affairs of state in the hands of the French and his ministers. The communist regime denounced him as a traitor and even sentenced him to death in absentia. The U.S. was bankrolling the French war effort against the communist VietMinh and despite sending $4 million a year to Bao Dai himself never fully supported his regime or held out much hope for its success. The primary U.S. agent in South Vietnam, OSS (later CIA) Colonel Edward Lansdale had no use for the former emperor and was eager to see Ngo Dinh Diem in charge of Vietnam.

As the French war came to a close Bao Dai was forced to name Diem prime minister in the hope that this would ensure continued U.S. support for South Vietnam. Diem had long monarchist and nationalist credentials but despite his pledges of loyalty soon came into conflict with the Chief of State. The austere Catholic Diem was as far from Bao Dai in character as two men could be and the pair were often referred to as the ‘monk and the playboy’. Aside from his rather indulgent lifestyle Diem disapproved of the rather loose governing style of the former emperor who based his power on a coalition of autonomous local powers allowing groups like the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao religious sects, the Binh Xuyen in Cholon and others to manage their own affairs so long as they fought the communists and paid tribute to the former emperor. When Diem tried to crack down on these groups and centralize power the appeals went out to Bao Dai in France who attempted to recall Diem.

Knowing he would be dismissed, in 1955 Diem (on the advice of Lansdale) arranged a referendum that would put the choice to the public: retain the former emperor or make Diem president of a new Republic of Vietnam. With his own men in charge of the polling places and Bao Dai unable to campaign on his own behalf there was to be no doubt about the outcome of the “vote”. Bao Dai protested but could do more and when a ridiculously large majority came back in favor of Diem he resigned once again and formally ended, for good this time, his political role in Vietnam. His former wife, the beloved Empress Nam Phuong, having died Bao Dai married again in 1972 to a French girl, Monique Baudot, converted to Catholicism and settled down to a quiet life in exile. He tested the waters of the expatriate community once or twice over the succeeding years but found little support for the monarchy since every regime since agreed on vilifying the Nguyen and the emperor himself even if they agreed on absolutely nothing else. He died in Paris in 1997 passing his legacy on to his eldest son the Prince Imperiale Bao Long.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Michelle Obama is no Marie Antoinette

Most have, by now, probably heard about Michelle Obama being accused of behaving like Queen Marie Antoinette due to her lavish vacation to the shores of Spain. Although I take a somewhat more critical view of the First Lady (who should spend her money here in such times as these) Elena Maria Vidal of Tea at Trianon explains in detail how Michelle Obama is NOT behaving like the martyred Queen of France and why the frustratingly persistent reputation of Marie Antoinette is totally undeserved. In fact, our First Lady would do well to *try* to be much more like the compassionate Queen of France. It would be an immense improvement.
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