Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Monarch Profile: Prince Vlad III of Wallachia

He was known, especially among the Ottoman Turks, as Vlad the Impaler though today he known mostly by the name he used himself. His father, Prince Vlad II, joined the Order of the Dragon and so became known as Vlad Dracul or “the dragon”. Thus (as I’m sure everyone knows), his son Vlad III was known as the ‘son of the dragon’ or Vlad Dracula. No, he was not an undead, blood drinking phantom but he was the inspiration for the famous novel by Bram Stoker. Vlad Dracula was born in Transylvania in 1431. His father joined the Order of the Dragon just after Vlad Dracula was born and when the boy was only five years old he was also made a member. This order, though it may sound sinister today, was instituted by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund when he was King of Hungary as a chivalric order for the defense of Christianity from the Muslim Turks who were sweeping all before them in the Balkans. When his father brought him to the capital of Wallachia Vlad Dracula was given an impressive education by Greek scholars sent from Constantinople.

In 1442 Vlad II Dracul fell prey to infighting among the Hungarian nobles and made an alliance with the Ottomans to regain his throne. He sent two of his sons, including Dracula, to the Turks as hostages. While there he gained a reputation for being a headstrong and impertinent youth for which he was often beaten. His brother, Prince Radu, took the opposite approach and converted to Islam, went to the Ottoman court and eventually served the Sultan Mehmed II “the Conqueror”. Because of this young Dracula came to have an immense hatred of the Turks, his brother who had joined them and even his father for betraying their order by dealing with the Turks. Yet, during this time the Turks also taught him Turkish, Persian, the art of warfare and even gave him instruction in the Quran. His father was eventually restored with Turkish help but the famous Hungarian Janos Hunyadi, the “White Knight” led forces against him, overthrew him again, killing Vlad Dracul and his oldest son.

Not wanting Wallachia ruled by the Hungarians, Ottoman forces invaded and placed Vlad Dracula on the throne, thinking they would perhaps have some influence on him, but he was soon driven out by Hunyadi as well. Dracula went to Moldavia and later Hungary where his obvious hatred of the Turks and his knowledge of them as well as the local countryside induced Hunyadi to make him his advisor. The time for unity had definitely come as the new Sultan Mehmed II had succeeded in the long-sought Turkish goal of conquering Constantinople, finally bringing the last remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire to an end and the Ottomans were pushing north rapidly. Hunyadi led his troops toward Belgrade while Dracula organized his own army to march on his ancestral home of Wallachia. He restored himself to power and immediately set about restoring his homeland which had been plundered so many times by so many enemies in the preceding years. He built new villages, encouraged greater agriculture and established trade ties with neighboring countries. He also set about taking revenge on all those who had betrayed him, wiping out enemies and raising up his allies.

War was never very distant and after reestablishing his authority and prosperity to his people Vlad Dracula launched minor campaigns into Transylvania before joining King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary in a new war against the Ottoman Turks. Dracula led a brutal campaign across the Danube, devastating the enemy and by his own accounts massacring Turks, Bulgars and others, beheading them, burning them and so on with only the Christian population being spared. The Sultan tried to lure him into a trap to capture him but Dracula was tipped off and wiped out the force sent to bring him in. When Sultan Mehmed II raised an army for a punitive campaign against Dracula he was allegedly met, as he entered his territory, by a forest of his previous military force impaled on large spikes as a warning of the fate that awaited them. It was the supposed fondness Vlad Dracula had for impaling his enemies that led to infamous nickname among the Turks, “Vlad the Impaler”. Nonetheless, the Turks came on and in a daring series of attacks Dracula completely destroyed their army with his victory cheered across the Balkans and even as far as Rome and Genoa.

Dracula won many other victories, even against his own brother Radu who was fighting for the Sultan. However, many of the boyars he had punished before began to turn against him, even if it meant alliance with the Ottomans, and surrounded by enemies on all sides Dracula was worn down by attrition and forced to go to his overlord, the King of Hungary, for help. Rather than receiving assistance Matthias Corvinus charged him with treason and put him in prison. This was based on a forged letter showing an proposed alliance between Dracula and the Sultan; which most anyone would know was false given the ferocious level of hatred Dracula had shown toward the Turks. It is also telling that Dracula was not executed even though treason was obviously an offense usually punished by death. In time Dracula and Matthias Corvinus were reconciled and Dracula even married a cousin of the King and around 1465 she bore him two sons. In November of 1476 the Hungarian High Council agreed to the restoration of Prince Dracula and he led Hungarian forces into Wallachia to retake his homeland and his throne. However, only two months after reestablishing himself, with the war still raging, he was killed in battle with the Turks near Bucharest.

Prince Vlad Dracula obviously has one of the most dark and horrible reputations among royal ranks, today due in large part to the fictitious vampire that bore his name. However, it is difficult to know just how many of the lurid tales about his murders, executions and multitude of people he had impaled, are actually true. As can be seen, he was surrounded by enemies within his own family, the Hungarian nobility, certainly the Turks and many of these stories may have been fabricated or at least exaggerated to justify their own dishonorable actions. The only place where the name of Prince Dracula does not have negative connotations is in Romania where he is remembered fondly as a national hero; a hard man, even a brutal man to be sure, but who lived in brutal times and who fought against their domination at the hands of the invading Ottomans. Even his connection with the famous vampire is often accepted with good humor by modern Romanians who are glad to welcome vampire obsessed tourists to Transylvania to see the stomping grounds of the original, real Dracula.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Royal News Roundup

In Great Britain some possible good news for the monarchy has been hidden in the coverage of discontent over government budget cuts. There are still some hurdles to overcome but the conservative government has proposed giving the Queen at least a portion of the income generated by the Crown Estates, the profits of which every monarch since George III has handed over to the government in exchange for the Civil List. With that lately proving inadequate and no one wanting to increase the amount of tax money going to support the monarchy the idea is to allow the Queen 15% of the income generated from her properties. Since this amount has consistently gone up over the years this could be a very helpful way of ending the financial woes of the monarchy. If anyone doubts that this is good news for monarchists one need only check the reaction of the republican traitor crowd which is outraged that the Queen could be allowed to keep any percentage of the income from her own properties. A spokesman for the traitors called it equivalent to giving the Queen a “blank check”, which does not hold much of a sting when one considers it is coming from Her Majesty’s own check book -not that of the public.

In other Windsor news (though there is nothing much “new” about it) speculation is on the rise yet again that an engagement announcement between Prince William and longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton is imminent. Much of this speculation is due to the Royal Mint preparing a commemorative coin for the assumed future wedding. Also this week, the Queen, Prince Philip, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall welcomed HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, Emir of Qatar, and his wife Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned who are on a state visit to the U.K. The Emirate of Qatar had invested heavily in Great Britain in recent years and the Emir is looking for new investments on this trip. Gifts were exchanged, a formal dinner held and a tour of the Olympic stadium was also on the agenda for the visiting royals.

The King and Queen of Norway are themselves on a state visit to the Republic of Slovakia. Business and cultural ties between the two countries were discussed and the royal couple were given tours of some of the art, architecture and history of the Slovak capital. King Harald V opened a seminar on corporate responsibility while the Queen toured schools and charitable facilities for the disabled. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince and Princess are on an official visit to New York City where both attended a dinner celebrating the 99th anniversary of the American-Scandinavian Foundation.

The Low Countries have been the center of some rather distressing royal news this week. Controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders of the PVV announced in Parliament that his party wants the Queen removed as the official head of government. This is a largely symbolic status by which the Queen presides over meetings of the highest government officials though of course she has no power to override the elected ministers. Wilders asserted that his party is pro-monarchy and not at all republican but that having Queen Beatrix as head of state and (nominal) head of government was going too far. Fortunately, for this to happen, it would require a constitutional change which is hard to achieve and not very likely given the current status of the Dutch government. Of course nothing was said as to why the current constitutional arrangement is unsatisfactory in the eyes of the PVV or what benefit they think will come from having the Queen removed from the governing process. The very fact that this is coming from the PVV displays how impartial the Queen is since opposition to the Orange monarchy has usually been limited to the most far left socialist parties.

Also, to the south, royal spokesman Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw at Laeken Palace in Belgium addressed the story first raised by the Flemish newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ that King Albert II of the Belgians had intended to abdicate in favor of his son Crown Prince Philippe but that the current government (or lack thereof) crisis forced him to put off the move. The palace said the issue was “not on the agenda” and would say no more. An abdication would be rather unusual for the Belgian monarchy (it has only happened once and not under very pleasant circumstances) though given his work at mediating between the feuding parties who still have not come to an agreement on forming a government the King may well have wished the job belonged to someone else on occasion. It should also be noted that while King Albert II is seen as a non-partisan figure, some parties in Belgium have wished to remove the royal role in government altogether before the next reign due to statements Crown Prince Philippe has made in favor of a federal Belgium.

In the Far East, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand made a rare excursion from Siriraj Hospital on Saturday to honor the memory of his grandfather, the “Great Beloved King” Chulalongkorn on the one hundredth anniversary of his death. Together with his daughter Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn the beloved King laid flowers before a statue of his famous grandfather and said prayers for him, his mother and other members of the Royal Family. Large crowds lined the streets cheering “Long live the King!” as he passed. The King also briefly visited the pier, at the hospital, on the Chao Phraya River to witness the evidence of the recent flooding Bangkok has endured. The Thai monarch remains hospitalized undergoing physical therapy.

Shameless Plug

Monarchy Profile: Lesotho

Name: The Kingdom of Lesotho
Reigning Monarch: His Majesty King Letsie III
Reigning Family: House of Seeiso
Status: The country of Lesotho was founded as a result of the many African tribes driven off their lands by the victorious campaigns of King Shaka of the Zulus. A group finding refuge on the Qiloane plateau and led by their chief Moshoeshoe became what is now Lesotho. A British protectorate for over a hundred years at times there was a danger of Lesotho being absorbed by South Africa which totally surrounds it. However, in 1966 Lesotho became a completely independent kingdom and a constitutional monarchy with their paramount chief becoming King Moshoeshoe II. Originally the monarch had considerable powers but despite being widely popular amongst the people the King was opposed by many elites and had a very troubled reign. In 1990 the King was deposed again and replaced by his son Letsie III. The first elections were held in 1993 but by 1995 Moeshoeshoe II was back on the throne only to die in a car crash less than a year later. King Letsie III has determined to be a strictly constitutional monarch and has refrained from intervening in politics even when the public have demanded it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Monarchy Profile: Liechtenstein

Name: The Principality of Liechtenstein
Reigning Monarch: His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II
Reigning Family: House of Liechtenstein
Status: One of the oldest polities and ruling houses in Europe Liechtenstein was formerly part of the Holy Roman Empire as an Imperial Principality, then a member of the Confederation of the Rhine and then the German Confederation before becoming totally independent in 1866 under Prince Johan II. Originally an absolute monarchy, Liechtenstein adopted its first constitution in 1921 though according to that constitution the Prince retained considerable powers and a central role in government. The Prince could veto bills, call referendums, propose bills and dissolve parliament. To the consternation of many in Europe in 2003 a national referendum endorsed a new constitution which was widely seen as increasing the already considerable powers of the monarch with the Prince threatening to abdicate if the new constitution was not passed. The Prince retained the power to veto any bill, could dissolve the government at any time and dismiss any minister. The monarchy is extremely popular in Liechtenstein and, rather like the Principality of Monaco, although technically a constitutional monarchy, Liechtenstein is effectively an absolute monarchy in all but name.

Mad Rant: Obama's No King

Recently, in an interview with Univision aimed at getting Hispanics to vote for Democrats in the upcoming mid-term elections Obama reminded us all that he is not a king. Frankly Mr. President, I don’t think being mistaken for royalty is a big problem for you. Some very illustrative evidence of this is that interview itself along with another interview done just prior on the radio show of Al Sharpton aimed at getting Blacks to vote for Democrats. Of course, the fact that Obama feels the need to address these two usually very loyal Democrat voting blocs tells you something about the state of his administration but that’s another story. To get back to the point; why does Obama feel it necessary to remind the people that he is not a monarch or lament the fact that he is a mere president rather than a king? Let’s have a look shall we…

The Democrats and probably a great many Republics see Hispanics in the U.S. as single-issue voters. They call it “immigration reform” but the honest truth is that they mean amnesty for illegal aliens. They want no penalties for crossing the border illegally, no one penalized or deported for breaking immigration laws and for all those currently in the country illegally to become full citizens, which would make it easier for them to vote Democrat. That is just the truth, they think that is the only thing Hispanics care about and they assume voting trends will not change. If you think voting trends have nothing to do with it you are kidding yourself. If most Mexican-Americans (the largest immigrant community by far) were voting Republican the Democrats would have the Great Wall of China built across the southern border and Republicans would be calling them “undocumented” immigrants instead of Democrats. When he was running for office, as usual, Obama tried to have it both ways. He said he was against amnesty but favored “comprehensive immigration reform” -which means amnesty. Many Republicans have used the same double-talk. However, half-way through his term Obama has yet to lift a finger on the border/immigration issue and his only explanation to Hispanic voters was that he is not a king and cannot do whatever he wants. In other words, if only he had total dictatorial power he could keep all his promises but he is being thwarted by the limitations on his authority.

One thing this shows the persistent image of royal prestige. Despite the fact that there are few kings left in the world and most of them have little to no power at all the symbol of a king, the very title itself, still seems to connote power and authority. That, in itself, says something about the symbolic importance of monarchy. However, even in the modern sense, Obama is still correct: he is no king. The interviews he has been giving prove that as did his subsequent words in that same interview in which he urged Hispanics to vote for Democrats in order to reward their friends and “punish” their “enemies”. Can anyone imagine the Kings of Spain, Norway, Sweden or the Belgians speaking in such terms? A king is supposed to stand for national unity, the shared history and values of a nation and, though they certainly do not have the power of Louis XIV, be the personification of their countries. Obama, the most prominent president in the world, is doing the exact opposite. Giving separate messages to ethnic and racial communities, dividing the country between certain groups of Americans and calling other Americans the enemy.

Do such feelings exist in monarchies today? Certainly, that is a sad truth but a truth nonetheless. Does the King of the Belgians tend to be more popular in one part of the country than in another? Yes. Are there areas in Spain where King Juan Carlos is more unpopular than in the rest of the country? Yes. As we have recently seen, amongst the subjects of Queen Elizabeth II in Northern Ireland there is one group that is quite fond of her and another group that largely opposes her. These are facts and will tend to be the case in any country that has at least some level of diversity or historical differences. Is the Queen as popular in Quebec as she is in other parts of Canada? Obviously not. However, when the Queen last visited Canada she spoke French as well as English in her official speeches (and she speaks French quite well). Does the King of Spain refer to the more troublesome parts of Spain as ‘the enemy’? Of course he does not because he sees himself, as he must, as the King of all of Spain and for all Spaniards and not just certain parts. In Belgium such an attitude would be unthinkable and for those who do regard their fellow countrymen as enemies the King will not even deal with them.

Obama, by his actions, has inadvertently provided us with a very valuable lesson about the benefits of having a king rather than a president. Modern kings and queens, in the west certainly, hold themselves aloof from politics for this very reason; to avoid partisanship, to take no sides and to represent the nation as a whole rather than one party, faction or school of thought. However, even in the past when kings held actual political power they did not view their subjects in such a way. As has often been discussed here, monarchs view their people as extensions of their family with the king and queen as father and mother of the national family. As such, even when factions disagreed with them or even outright opposed them they were usually not inclined to view them as enemies. Even monarchs like King Charles I of Britain or King Louis XVI who were attacked by their own people did not seek their destruction but preferred to bring them to their senses as easily as possible. Even after his downfall, Tsar Nicholas II still considered the Russian communists as his own people. Politicians, on the other hand, thrive on division, disunity and playing one faction off against another. It is why republics are fundamentally unhealthy and another reason for being a ... Mad Monarchist.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monarchist Profile: Colonel Tye

The role of Black Americans in the War for Independence is not much dwelt upon and when it is the coverage usually falls into one of two categories; the glorification of those who supported the revolution (usually implying dishonestly that these were the majority) or simply categorizing them all as victims, powerless slaves who stayed out of a war of Whites as all were their oppressors. As usual, however, this sort of coverage leaves out many of the facts including the fascinating story of the Black American loyalists who certainly understood what was going on, what it was all about and where their interests were best served. They chose to stand for King and Country and probably knew better than most what all of the talk of liberty on the part of wealthy slave-owners in the colonies was really worth. At times you do hear about Black Loyalists, particularly in conjunction with Lord Dunmore but you rarely hear about Black loyalist leaders. Most assume there were none, on either side. However, there was a very famous Black leader among the loyalists and his story is worth telling. He became famous as “Colonel Tye” of the elusive Black Brigade.

His real name was Titus Cornelius and he was born sometime around 1753 into slavery in New Jersey. Not much is known about his origins, only that he was a slave, the child of slaves and so on, who had been sent over from Africa at some point. His owner was a wealthy Quaker named John Corlies of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The Quakers were not very fond of slavery and usually freed them at age 21 after teaching them to read and write. Corlies, however, was no ordinary Quaker and was a notoriously cruel master, more fond of the whip than was usual even for that time. Obviously, Titus Cornelius was less than pleased with the state he found himself in under such circumstances. His chance to remedy that situation came in November of 1775 when Lord John Murray, Fourth Earl of Dunmore and Royal Governor of Virginia decided to try to enlist the slaves of America on the side of the British Crown.

The embattled Lord Dunmore issued a proclamation directed toward all slaves and indentured servants promising them their freedom if they would rise up against their rebellious masters and join his loyalist militia in the fight to restore royal authority across the country. Today most believe that relatively few slaves answered this call, that most were complacent or even content with their lot and took in the war as bystanders. On the contrary, thousands of slaves took the opportunity to run away and at least attempt to join the British army. Obviously, this was not entirely to the benefit of the British cause as it was condemned by American slave owners as a dastardly plot to incite insurrection (which it was) and spark a race war. Many of the planter class were thus pushed into the “patriot” camp. However, Lord Dunmore got his volunteers though it was difficult for all those who wished to reach him but many did and Titus Cornelius was among them. After escaping from Corlies he had posed as a freeman and supported himself by selling his own goods as he moved down the Virginia coast toward the British. Corlies offered a reward for his capture, describing him as “about 21 years old, not very black and about six feet high”.

Lord Dunmore organized some 500 slaves, mostly from Virginia but the New Jersey native Titus among them as well, into the Royal Ethiopian Regiment. There was little to equip them with, they were armed with pikes for the most part and had sashes calling for the emancipation of slaves across their uniforms. Lord Dunmore and his small army met with disaster in December 1775 at Great Bridge but Tye (the name Titus went by in British service) may have missed out on that disaster. The first battle in which we know he took part was the battle of Monmouth in June 1778 where he captured an American captain. By that time Tye had risen to the rank of captain in the Ethiopian Regiment but also came to lead his own unit known as the Black Brigade. This was a group of roughly 25 mixed race (but predominately Black) loyalists who specialized in what would later be known as guerilla warfare. They came to great fame operating in New Jersey and that vicinity where Colonel Tye, as he was now known, was very familiar with the lay of the land and the local families.

Although he was known as Colonel Tye, he never actually held the King’s commission but this title was applied to him by his men and later others as a mark of respect and a recognition of his leadership abilities. The British paid Colonel Tye and his raiders to wreak havoc on the region, mostly around Monmouth County. Like Colonel Tye, many of his men were slaves who had escaped from this area and they often took the opportunity to exact revenge on their former masters and their families, sometimes gruesomely but few today would say without justification. Colonel Tye became feared and loathed by the American revolutionaries but, being so few and knowing the terrain so well they were extremely hard to catch. Particularly in the summer of 1779 Colonel Tye and his Black Brigade devastated the region, plundering farms and plantations, capturing rebel supplies, emancipating slaves and striking terror into the hearts of the disloyal populace. By winter they joined forces with the Queen’s Rangers (a rather elite unit also made up of American loyalists) and aided in the British defense of New York.

Colonel Tye and his men fought on as they had before into 1780 becoming widely known for tactics most would describe as ruthless, partly because they were known for assassinating several leading American “patriots” such as Joseph Murray (who himself was known for executing loyalists). In fact it was while pursuing American Captain Joshua Huddy that Colonel Tye was wounded in the wrist by a musket ball. Tetanus and gangrene later set in and some time later Colonel Tye died. Although not much remembered today, Colonel Tye was a master of irregular warfare and his raids were a great help to the British war effort. As little known as he is now he was positively infamous in his own time among his enemies. Even among the British his methods made him something of an unsavory character to some but, rest assured, it was not his tactics that cause him to be ignored by most history books today but simply the side for which he fought; King, country and his case -emancipation.

Monarchy Profile: Luxembourg

Name: The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Reigning Monarch: His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henri
Reigning Family: House of Luxembourg-Nassau
Status: Although Luxembourg has a very long history the current monarchy and grand ducal line date from 1890 when King Willem III of the Netherlands died with no male heir at which time Luxembourg (Salic law being in effect) separated from the Netherlands and the throne passed to Duke Adolf of Nassau. Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy and according to the constitution, “The Grand Duke is the head of state, symbol of its unity and guarantor of national independence. He exercises executive power in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of the country”. The monarch had an active role in government but that began to change with Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde whose involvement made her the subject of many unfair criticisms and finally forced her to abdicate and retire to a convent. A new constitution was adopted and the public affirmed their wish to remain a monarchy. Since then monarchs have remained outside of politics though the assent of the Grand Duke (or Duchess) was still required to make bills law. However, in 2008 Grand Duke Henri announced that his conscience would not allow him to sign a bill into law legalizing euthanasia. At that point the constitution was amended so as to remove the Grand Duke completely from the legislative process.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

News Flash: Gerry Adams Against Monarchy

In the British Isles some slight dust up has been made concerning the Thursday-Friday visit of HM Queen Elizabeth II to Northern Ireland, her eighteenth such visit. Obviously that is nothing all that unusual but there had also been speculation that Her Majesty might cross the border to visit Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. That would be a bit unprecedented as no reigning British monarch has set foot in the Irish republic since the end of British rule. Not surprisingly Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is against the idea, calling it “premature”. Pointing to a lack of delivery on the part of the peace process and a lack of real reconciliation and harmony in Northern Ireland Adams thinks this is the wrong time for a royal visit to Dublin. My favorite part was when Adams said, “I’m saying none of this to be provocative to unionist sensitivities [which means he is about to seriously provoke unionist sensitivities]. But I am not a supporter of any monarchy. It’s just a concept beyond me.” I may have to check again but does not Mr. Adams at least claim to be a Roman Catholic? Surely then there should be at least *one* monarchy he should be a supporter of.

However, to give Gerry his due he did go on to hit on the real crux of the issue saying, “This island is partitioned and despite all the advances that have been made, the English still claim sovereignty in this part of it [he was speaking in Belfast], so I wouldn’t make the English queen welcome at any point until that is resolved in any part of the island”. All of that is perfectly true and one reason why I never held out much hope for the current peace process as a long-term solution because nothing at all has been resolved. Clear away all the clutter and the fact of the matter is that so long as the north remains a part of the United Kingdom the nationalists will not be satisfied (and even then some will not) and the unionists will never agree to anything that separates them from Great Britain -so there you are. I can only marvel at the fact that Gerry Adams and company do not yet realize or do not admit that the Queen is not the problem and nothing to do with the difficulties the Irish face. She is not or should not be seen as his enemy.

Who might that be then? Forget the Queen Gerry, forget London. Your enemies are the unionists (no big surprise there) and more importantly Dublin. Most of the British people (and for quite some time now) would like nothing better than to be shed of the problem that is Northern Ireland. England ruled Ireland longer than any other country, that era is over, Ireland is independent, it’s done and dusted and the British people have, for the most part, moved on. They would like to wash their hands of the matter, having pretty much given up entirely on the whole idea of what was the British Empire (just as they would like to wash their hands of Gibraltar and some other possessions) but the unionists will not allow it and London will not force the issue. Now, I say Dublin is a problem, perhaps even the biggest problem, for Irish nationalists because they have been pushing a campaign of dishonesty for a very long time. In public all the major parties say they stand for a united Ireland yet they are not prepared to do anything about it and, when not in public, do not really want the problem that is Northern Ireland dumped in their lap.

After all, the Republic of Ireland could take advantage of some incident (they happen often enough) and just invade Ulster and annex the place. Does anyone seriously believe that the British would fight them for it? Does anyone seriously believe that the international community would let them fight for it if they wanted to? After all, the British government has openly admitted now that when it comes to military action they can no longer operate independently. However, Dublin does not really want Northern Ireland no matter what their official public line is. Because, if the Republic of Ireland finally achieved national unity they would find the tables turned on them. Unionist militants go positively fanatic and instead of the British government having an IRA problem the Irish government would inherit a UDA problem. In short, Gerry Adams, misguided though he is, has said at least one thing right. True harmony and reconciliation remains elusive in Northern Ireland and that does not seem likely to change. Right now the problem belongs to Britain and, despite what they may claim, Dublin is perfectly fine with it remaining their problem.
*Additional Note* Gerry Adams should perhaps study the history of his own party before speaking so slightingly of monarchy. Though few today would guess it, Sinn Fein was actually founded as a monarchist party. Their original platform was independence from Britain but within a dual-monarchy under a shared crown along the lines of Austria-Hungary. Not that a socialist republican would care much about history...

Monarchy Profile: Malaysia

Name: The Kingdom of Malaysia
Reigning Monarch: His Majesty Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan, Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia
Reigning Family: electoral office
Status: Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy which consists of 13 states and 3 federal territories. The King or Agong (head) is elected from among the sultans of the 9 Malay states known as the Majlis Raja-Raja or Conference of Rulers and the governors of the four other states. Only the nine sultans may vote and only one of their own can be chosen for the position of head of state. At the same meeting a deputy king is also chosen. Although the office is an electoral one, in effect it works on a system of rotation with each sultan being elected in turn. The term for each king is five years. The King is a constitutional monarch who acts in most areas on the advice of his ministers though he does have some discretionary powers. Formerly part of the British Empire the elected government follows the Westminster parliamentary model to a large extent. Despite being legally limited in their powers the state monarchs have considerable influence in the religious and political spheres. Malaysia is a member of the British Commonwealth and retains many British imperial traditions such as the Trooping of the Colour. Soldiers from Malaysia have also taken their turn standing guard at Buckingham Palace in London.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

America in Rebellion

It was on this day in 1775 that His Majesty King George III of Great Britain and Ireland went before Parliament to declare the British colonies in North America to be in open rebellion against the Crown and to call for Parliament to pass measures to take swift military action to suppress said rebellion including the raising of troops, the enforcement of a naval blockade and the employment of such foreign mercenaries as may be necessary to restore law and order in the colonies. This is usually pointed to as the action which finally pushed the rebel colonists toward that point of no return -the Declaration of Independence. However, what exactly was King George III supposed to do given the events that had transpired?

Act after act that had been legally and democratically passed by Parliament to which the Whig colonists objected was left un-enforced or swiftly repealed. On issue after issue the British government had given in, letting the colonists have their way in order to keep the peace. However, that peace never lasted due largely to the actions of the professional revolutionaries and rabble rousers such as Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. Crown officials had been assaulted, private property destroyed, British troops attacked by riotous mobs and, after April 19, 1775, the King’s soldiers had been attacked by armed militia. What would any other government at any point in history or even today do in response to such actions? Most governments would have taken far harsher measures much earlier on. Contrary to the image most often presented today, in 1775 the United Kingdom was one of the most liberal and democratic governments in the world.

How did it all come about? Well, there were the Navigation Acts which the colonists routinely ignored which led to a thriving black market and smuggling as a way of life. There was the 1763 Royal Proclamation which reserved the lands west of the Appalachian mountains for the American Indians. The land-hungry colonists did not like that, many having already claimed vast tracts of the territory for themselves in spite of the fact that the colonists already had far more land than they possibly needed for their relatively low population. There was the Sugar Act, which was repealed. There was the Currency Act which was amended out of existence when the colonies protested. There was the Stamp Act, which was repealed, there were the Townshend Acts, which were repealed and there was the Quebec Act which allowed the French Canadians to keep their own legal system and freely practice their Catholic faith. Naturally the colonists were outraged by all this; recognizing the rights of the American Indians to their own land, granting freedom of religion, asking the colonists to pay taxes to help fund their own defense, I mean, how outrageous is that?

The Whig howling about taxes also became very tiresome very fast in Great Britain. Taxes in Britain were something like twenty-five times higher than in America. Americans were generally wealthier, had a higher standard of living, paid almost no taxes and routinely ignored laws that were inconvenient. Naturally British subjects in the home islands were not too impressed with colonial whining over a miniscule tax on tea. After all, weren’t the taxes designed to offset the cost of the French and Indian War? The war had been fought on behalf of the colonies and it had been won thanks to the large numbers of regular soldiers sent over from Great Britain to eliminate the French presence in North America. Of course, presented with these facts the colonists would reply that it was not exactly the taxes that were the problem but the principle of “no taxation without representation”. That, of course, was a total red herring. It was a propaganda slogan pure and simple. When Ben Franklin was sent to London as the unofficial envoy of the colonies he was told in no uncertain terms that he should NEVER agree to any deal that would provide the colonies with representation in the British Parliament because they knew full well, even as they howled about having no representation, that if they were represented they would easily be out-voted due to the population disparity and they would lose both the argument and their very powerful slogan.

Finally, although the historians still like to be cute and say that no one knows who fired that famous first shot at Lexington, there is really no doubt about it. Only the colonists stood to benefit from war, starting a fight was simply not in the British interests. So, again, given all of that, what else was King George to do? Again and again the colonists had gotten their way through bad behavior but on this day in 1775 King George III finally said enough is enough. British law would be enforced, the Crown would be respected, criminals would be punished and duly enacted laws would be obeyed -like them or not. As the much-maligned monarch famously said, “The dye is now cast, the colonies must either triumph or submit…”

Shameless Plug

Monarchy Profile: Monaco

Name: The Principality of Monaco
Reigning Monarch: His Serene Highness Prince Albert II
Reigning Family: House of Grimaldi
Status: The Grimaldi family have ruled Monaco for 700 years, since 1297. In 1612 the ruler of Monaco officially became a prince during the reign of Honore II when Monaco also began its long history as a protectorate of France. Monaco was an absolute monarchy until 1911 when Prince Albert I enacted the first constitution. However, only a few years later the constitution was suspended during World War I. Prince Louis II, son of Albert I, suspended it during World War II and his grandson and successor Prince Rainier III suspended the constitution in 1959 during which some significant changes were made to it and enacted in 1962. The Prince shares legislative power with the National Council and the Minister of State is head of government. However, bills do not require the consent of the Prince to become law but he can stop any bill should he wish. Though the judiciary is independent the justices are appointed by the Prince and serve at his pleasure. Both the National Council and the Prince must agree to pass legislation but the Prince may dissolve the council at any time. Although it is not the image Monaco wishes to display these days the country is, in fact if not in name, effectively still an absolute monarchy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Did the Shah Predict Our Current Crisis?

Monarchist Profile: The Comte d'Estaing

One monarchist even the most staunch American republicans should honor is Jean Baptiste Charles Henri Hector, comte d’Estaing. He was born on November 24, 1729 in Auvergne to the Marquis de Saillant, then a lieutenant general in the French army, and his wife Marie-Henriette Colbert de Maulevrier. Although he would later gain fame on the high seas the young Charles Hector began his military career in the army, obtaining a place as colonel in the French infantry. He showed great promise and in 1757 was promoted to brigadier general and was dispatched to the East Indies with the famous comte de Lally (a French general who was the son of an Irish Jacobite). He served in India against the British at Madras where he was taken prisoner by the British after the siege that lifted that city from French control but he was later paroled. Prior to being exchanged he entered the service of the French East Indian Company and got his first taste of naval service, destroying British factories and property in Sumatra and the Persian Gulf in command of two company ships.

However, the future comte d’Estaing was again captured by the British while on his way back to France in 1760. After doing some time in prison at Portsmouth he was released and in 1763 was promoted in his service to the French navy and by 1777 had obtained the rank of vice-admiral. Of course, by this time the American War for Independence was raging in the British North American colonies and France saw an opportunity to exact revenge on their old enemies for past defeats. In 1778 d’Estaing was sent with 12 ships-of-the-line and 14 frigates from Toulon to American waters to aid the rebels there against the British. By the middle of July he was on station off New York harbor, bottling up the British forces of the Howe brothers but fearing his larger vessels would run aground he refrained from pursuing them into shallower waters to give battle.

The comte d’Estaing later participated in planning a combined Franco-American attack on Newport, Rhode Island but when he put to sea to engage the fleet of Admiral Howe a sudden storm scattered both armadas and the French had to return to Boston for repairs. However, the threat of the attack did succeed in scaring the British to scuttling some of their precious warships that were in Newport for fear that they would be taken. Once his repairs were complete the admiral sailed to the West Indies in early November and succeeded in capturing the British islands of St Vincent and Grenada. The following year, on July 6, 1779 the comte d’Estaing defeated the British under Admiral Byron at Grenada before going on to Savannah, Georgia where he joined in an American effort to take the port city which ended in utter failure. On that low note the count sailed back to France in 1780 and saw no further action in the War for American Independence.

With a fairly mixed record much blame was attached to the admiral at court for failing to win more decisive victories. Some of his own officers joined in the chorus of criticism against him and d’Estaing was fairly unpopular at Versailles as a result. Still, as an experienced commander with some victories under his belt he was chosen to command a joint Franco-Spanish fleet that was to take on the British but the war ended before they could see action. It is not often remembered that, while the U.S. succeeded in winning its independence, it did so by a separate treaty, abandoning their former allies and the British ultimately won the wider war against France and Spain. The comte d’Estaing must have made a favorable impression in Madrid for he was awarded the rank of a Grandee of Spain, nonetheless he left the naval service and went into politics in France being elected to the Assembly of Notables in 1787.

Given how he viewed at court it is, perhaps, not surprising that when the French Revolution began to erupt the comte d’Estaing favored some of the initial reforms during the transition to constitutional monarchy. Some leading revolutionaries thought enough of him to put him in command of the National Guard at Versailles and in 1789 he was restored to the rank of admiral by the Assembly. However, despite his problems with the court in the past and his support of early reforms d’Estaing would not forsake his loyalty to the King and Queen. He was outraged by their treatment and when Queen Marie Antoinette went on trial in 1793 he committed political suicide by testifying on her behalf.

With that the comte d’Estaing immediately became very unpopular with the revolutionaries who began plotting his destruction. They found some letters the admiral and the Queen had exchanged which they produced as proof that the count was an enemy of the revolution. The veteran warrior was hauled into court as a reactionary and enemy of the people and quickly condemned to death. On April 28, 1794 Jean Baptiste comte d’Estaing was sent to the guillotine and beheaded. Before his death the old admiral famously said, “After my head falls off, send it to the British, they will pay a good deal for it!”

Monarchy Profile: Morocco

Name: The Kingdom of Morocco
Reigning Monarch: His Majesty King Muhammad VI
Reigning Family: Alaouite dynasty
Status: Morocco gained independence from France in 1956 and is a constitutional monarchy. Theoretically the King holds extensive civil and religious powers including the right to dismiss any government minister, dissolve the parliament, suspend the constitution and rule by decree the last time any of these powers were actually used by the monarch was in 1965. Morocco is a multi-party parliamentary democracy which, in 1998, was even led by a socialist in a coalition government. Recent monarchs and the current king in particular have enacted unprecedented changes in allowing more democracy, greater civil rights and the extension of these rights to women. The King appoints the prime minister but, like other constitutional monarchies, only after the democratic process has taken place and he appoints ministers on the advice of his prime minister. Opposition groups still claim that the King has too much influence in the government though all agree that civil rights have consistently increased in recent years. Religious freedom is allowed though laws remain in place against proselytizing and Muslims may not renounce their faith. The Prime Minister is head of government and the judiciary is independent.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Monarchist Music: Qing Imperial Anthem

Solidify our golden empire,
Underneath the aegis of heaven,
All of civilization will cease to toil,
United in happiness and mirth,
As long as the Qing rules.
Our empire is emblazoned by light,
And our boundaries are vast and preserved.
The expanse stretches infinitely,
The sea brims with turbulence.

Monarchy Profile: The Netherlands

Name: The Kingdom of the Netherlands
Reigning Monarch: His Majesty King Willem-Alexander
Reigning Family: House of Orange-Nassau
Status: Upon gaining independence the Netherlands was a princely republic under the House of Orange though a pro-monarchy faction (or Orange Party) existed from early on. The current Kingdom was established after the defeat of France in the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Originally the Dutch monarchs held considerable and extensive powers, being effectively an absolute monarchy with the States-General having only an advisory role. When revolutions broke out in other countries King Willem II tried to prevent such an occurrence in the Netherlands by willingly giving up much of his power and making the country a constitutional monarchy. More liberal changes came later and during the reign of Willem III there were many clashes between the monarchy and the elected government. His death and the regency in place during the minority of Queen Wilhelmina was used as a way for the political class to take almost all power from the monarch. Queen Wilhelmina tried to reverse this, and was partially successful due to her own strength of personality, but the overall authority of the monarchy has only declined. The monarch signs bills into law but by convention no longer proposes legislation or takes any role in the legislative process. The government is responsible for all laws and advice.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the Far East the spotlight has been on the upstanding and long-serving Empress of Japan. Early in the week she had to cancel some of her appointments due to an eye hemorrhage. However, she was soon back at work alongside her husband anyway, soldiering on as she always has, welcoming the President of Botswana with the Emperor at the Imperial Palace. On Wednesday Her Imperial Majesty celebrated her 76th birthday at which time she issued a statement to the public in which she talked about feeling the effects of her age, such as being unable to find things but taking it all with her customary good humor. She also talked about her family and the concern they all have over Princess Aiko and Crown Princess Masako due to their school and health troubles. The Empress has not always had an easy time of it over the years but she has proven to be made of tough stuff and is a Japanese national treasure. The Mad Monarchist wishes Her Imperial Majesty a very happy birthday with many more to come.

In Europe, the most admirable non-reigning royal Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia is trying to convince the Serbian government to open their pockets for improvements and upkeep to the royal palace, the funds for which have been considerably cut back recently. The Crown Prince said that keeping the place in top condition will help to impress visitors, leaving them with a favorable view of Serbia and encourage investment. Crown Princess Mathilde of Belgium has been in Liberia on behalf of UNICEF and UNAIDS promoting education to benefit women and children in that country and across Africa. In Italy HRH the Princess of Hanover was in Florence for a charity gala to benefit the fight against cancer, looking refreshed and at her vivacious best. Down the road in Rome His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI handed out a new batch of red hats this week and canonized some new saints, including St Mary of the Cross, the first native-born Australian saint in the Catholic Church. Up north, Crown Princess Mette-Marit spent a day in Lillehammer before she and the Crown Prince took their children to visit a new exhibit at the Nobel Prize Center in Oslo geared toward their age group. Across the border in Sweden Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel visited the western province of Västergötland of which they are the duke and duchess. They were given an enthusiastic welcome from everyone they met and the Crown Princess lamented that should couldn’t spend more time with each one they were so gracious and welcoming.

HRH the Prince of Wales spoke out recently in favor of a greater use of Gaelic in Scotland, which has caused at least a little bit of murmuring. The Highland Council recently advocated bilingual road signs in Scotland which is opposed in some quarters. Gaelic is the official language in Ireland, though English is still as widely if not more widely spoken still. This was important to early nationalists who wanted to revive Celtic traditions in Ireland, something which some oppose in Scotland which is not exclusively Celtic (of course no country is exclusively anything). I would be interested to hear other thoughts on this subject. I have a great deal of nostalgia for the Celtic, Gaelic speaking Highlands of Scotland but I also have reservations about the growing gulf between Scotland and England. Is the Prince right on this one? The Prince of Wales also caused a little controversy by saying that the slums in Bombay, India were an example the west could learn from since they make their homes out of discarded materials -a form of recycling.

Monarchy Profile: Norway

Name: The Kingdom of Norway
Reigning Monarch: His Majesty King Harald V
Reigning Family: House of Glücksburg
Status: Although the current form of the Kingdom of Norway came about in 1905 after the dissolution of the union with Sweden, the royal traditions of Norway are thousands of years old. Once a land of numerous small Norse kingdoms, Norway was united but spent much of the last few centuries united with either Sweden or Denmark. Norway is a constitutional monarchy with the monarch holding considerable powers on paper. Effectively, however, these powers are exercised by the Council of State in the name of the monarch. The reserve powers of the Crown are maintained as a security failsafe but the monarch today is effectively ceremonial. The monarch ratifies laws, dispatches and receives envoys and serves as a symbol of national unity. The King has sovereign immunity and the Council of State is responsible for his actions with other members of the royal family answerable only to the King. The King has the power to veto bills to prevent them becoming law but his veto can be overridden and in any event no modern King of Norway has ever tried to veto a bill. As with most European monarchies his powers are exercised exclusively by members of the sitting government.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mad Rant: Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

No, not just a song, but a legitimate question. Where have all the cowboys gone? Not my fellow cattlemen of course, but the good guy heroes of our culture? Where is Gary Cooper, wearing a white hat, defending the innocent and taking down the town bully? Where is John Wayne and the US Cavalry riding to the rescue of embattled settlers? For a more Old World example, where is the lone knight defending the honor of his beloved lady? Where is the God fearing hero with the strong arm and loyal heart ready to charge into the barbarian hordes for his king and country? We are told over and over again that the modern masses are too sophisticated for such figures, who (we are reassured) never really existed anyway. However, it seems to me, particularly in that dominant media of modern pop culture -cinema- the public still loves its traditional, good guy heroes.

For example, “Braveheart” was a hugely successful film and I will submit that, to a large extent, this was because it was an historical epic with really bad history. William Wallace was a good guy, about as close to a traditional hero as modern film seems capable of producing, struggling against King Edward I who was portrayed, in a simplistic and historically inaccurate way, as the blackest of Hollywood villains. And it worked, it was stirring, it was moving and people loved it. Contrast this with other historical films like “Kingdom of Heaven” or “The Alamo” (the latest version) in which traditional heroes are cut down and everyone on every side, be they ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ are portrayed as having positive and negative aspects and so on. Unlike “Braveheart” both of these movies were major box office bombs. Surprisingly, people want heroes and villains in movies and they do not like to see traditional heroes denigrated no matter the justification.

Would a movie about George Washington that was exactly accurate really be a big success? Do Americans want to see their revered founder marrying money, driving slaves, cussing out his own soldiers after their constant defeats, blaming his men for lack of success or whining endlessly about how unappreciated he is? Of course not! The fact that it is all perfectly true makes no difference, that is not what people want to hear even if they know it to be true. Now, if a movie did this, it still could work (at least in some countries) if this was contrasted to a heroic portrayal of King George III, but we all know that is not going to happen. A movie might be made that tore down George Washington but it would invariably tear down King George as well. It would not be inspiring, it would not motivate anyone to see it and would basically leave those who did feeling rather down. Another example covered here was the St Joan of Arc film “The Messenger” which certainly did not make the English look good but made the French look just as bad and portrayed Joan as a lunatic. Audiences want someone to root for and more often than not these days they are not getting it.

I tend to be of the opinion, whether with movies or some other such media, that history should be taught with a point behind it. Naturally, I do not mean to change or revise the facts of what have happened, but in the telling of any story we always emphasize some things over others. However, there should be a moral to a story and some benefit to the telling of it. Once upon a time history was viewed as learning from the past so as to avoid mistakes in the future. A noble enough goal. However, if we are to follow the current trend of ‘everyone was bad and no one was better than anyone else’ I have to ask what lesson can we possibly learn from that? Call it what you like, moral relativism seeping into pop culture or simply bad filmmaking but it makes for some pretty mad “entertainment” and a very … Mad Monarchist.

Monarchy Profile: Oman

Name: The Sultanate of Oman
Reigning Monarch: His Majesty Sultan Quaboos bin Said Al Said
Reigning Family: Abu Sa’id dynasty
Status: Once partly held by the Portuguese and later part of the British sphere of influence, Oman was once a powerful state that dominated the southern Arabian peninsula and parts of eastern Africa. In recent years rebellions, internal strife and communist subversion have been problematic. Oman is an Islamic absolute monarchy with key decisions made by the Sultan and his appointed cabinet. In the 1990’s an electoral advisory council was established though universal suffrage was only established in 2003. Today women can vote and hold public office. Political parties are banned and all elected officials have only advisory and consultative powers with the Sultan holding final authority over the legislative and judicial process. Rather than being strictly hereditary, new monarchs are chosen by the agreement of the royal family after the death of the previous sultan.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Favorite Royal Images: The Commander-in-Chief

Monarchy Profile: Qatar

Name: The State of Qatar
Reigning Monarch: His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar
Reigning Family: Al Thani dynasty
Status: The small Gulf State of Qatar is ruled by a family descended from the Tamim tribe originally from the interior of the Arabian peninsula. Previously a protectorate of the British Empire the State of Qatar became independent in 1971 when extensive mineral wealth was discovered in the country. Qatar is an absolute monarchy and the emir is the chief of state and head of government. There is Islamic and civil law codes with Islamic law usually prevailing. However, Qatar has modernized a great deal recently with press censorship being reduced recently. Commercial ties are maintained with Israel and Iran and women in Qatar are able to vote and hold public office since 2003. The reigning family is extremely wealthy and Qatar is known for having the population with the highest per capita income in the world. Only municipal officials are elected, the national assembly is appointed and political parties are banned.

Shameless Plug

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Orange Website

For those who speak Nederlands or have a good translator there is an excellent new website on the history of the Royal House of Orange-Nassau that has come to my attention. Have a look at the Historical Society of Orange-Nassau.

Papal Profile: Pope Callixtus III

Pope Callixtus III was the first member of the now notorious Borgia family of Spain to come to the throne of St Peter. Born in 1378 in Valencia he was first a lawyer and then later a diplomat for the King of Aragon. After entering the Church he was raised to the rank of cardinal for negotiating a reconciliation between King Alfonso V of Aragon and Pope Eugene IV. In 1455 the aging Cardinal Borgia was elected to the See of Peter as a compromise candidate, no one expecting him to live very long or do very much to rock the boat as they say. As usual, popular opinion was wrong. Taking the name Callixtus III he proved to be a very active and zealous pontiff despite his age and the one overriding goal of his reign was the dream of retaking the city of Constantinople for Christendom. He proved himself willing to sacrifice as much as necessary, to bear any burden to further the cause of this hoped for crusade.

Known as a pious man and an idealistic cleric he also gained a reputation for austerity born out of his drive to retake the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The extensive building programs under way in Rome were cancelled and the money funneled toward the crusade. Artists were dismissed as unnecessary at the moment, the papal treasury was emptied and Callixtus even stripped his own Apostolic Palace, selling his silver and gold to raise money for Constantinople. He said, the Pope could eat off the same plates as the peasants used as easily as silver or gold. However, despite his sacrifices and urgent calls for action on the part of the crowned heads of Europe most had no interest in renewing the fight against the formidable Turks. Some zealous souls did answer and waged an on-going war in the Balkans and the Aegean Sea but the powerful Sultan was hardly bothered by these and Constantinople was never in danger of falling.

The taxes, penny-pinching, and badgering for armies to assemble from the Pope meant that Callixtus III was not too popular in the capitals of Europe. Sadly, he was not terribly appreciated in his own either. The Romans, not too fond of foreigners to begin with since the whole Avignon affair, were unhappy with the appearance of so many new Spanish officials and two new Spanish Borgia cardinals as well as being rather disgruntled about the Pope halting the building projects that cost a great deal but had provided employment to many Romans. The noble aspirations of the Pope did not get him very far with the man on the street though his actual accomplishments include some very good but often overlooked things. For example, he officially rescinded the declaration of heresy leveled against (future saint) Joan of Arc, correcting one of the grossest miscarriages of justice of the Middle Ages. The crusade, such as it was, did have at least one notable success in lifting the Muslim siege of Belgrade for which the Pope declared August 6 the Feast of the Transfiguration. He also entrusted the military Order of Christ to Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal, the country on the cutting edge of global exploration.

It was the misfortune of Callixtus III that virtually every power in Europe was busy fighting their own enemies (England and France, Germany and Hungary, Aragon and Genoa etc) to join forces in retaking Constantinople. Today he is also rather tainted, unfairly, by his family name and accused of the usual range of corruption and nepotism. However, all of this is quite unfair. He never attempted to enrich himself as is proven by the large sum of money left in the treasury at the end of his life and compared to most others his elevation of two nephews as cardinals is a poor basis for a charge of nepotism. He earnestly tried to end the petty squabbling across Europe and unite the Christian princes for the common defense and he should be given some credit for that. It is, perhaps, fitting that he died on August 6, 1458, the very day he previously ordered celebrated in honor of the victory at Belgrade.

Monarchy Profile: Saudi Arabia

Name: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Reigning Monarch: His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Reigning Family: Al Saud dynasty
Status: The modern country of Saudi Arabia was formed in 1932 by King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud). The country is an absolute monarchy and an Islamic state with the national motto being the Islamic profession of faith and Islamic law being the law of the land. The King holds final authority over all areas, appoints all government officials and most high officials are usually princes of the extremely large royal family. Royals are given a religious education within the palace but also often spend a few years living with Bedouins in the desert to learn traditional Arab ways and better appreciate the customs and heritage of their culture. The preservation of Arab customs and values are very important to the Royal Family and the country as a whole to understand where they, as a people, come from; an important aspect of any monarchy. As an absolute monarchy and an Islamic state, Saudi Arabia is frequently criticized for lacking democracy, personal freedoms and civil rights. There is no sizeable opposition within the country as any dissent is swiftly suppressed. Abroad the criticism has been harsh at times but the dependence of the more liberal democracies of the west on the oil Saudi Arabia produces means that such opposition has never gone beyond words.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MM Video: Consorts of Portugal

The consorts of the Kingdom of Portugal from the Burgundy, Avis, Hapsburg and Braganza dynasties.

Monarchy Profile: Spain

Name: The Kingdom of Spain
Reigning Monarch: His Majesty King Felipe VI
Reigning Family: House of Bourbon
Status: The Kingdom of Spain in its current form grew out of the regime of General Francisco Franco who ruled Spain for 30 years. Two days after his death, in accordance with his wishes, Prince Juan Carlos became King of Spain in 1975. At once he set about implementing the transition from dictatorship to parliamentary democracy. This outraged Franco loyalists but changes went ahead with the first elections held in 1977. In 1978 a new constitution was enacted, recognizing the historic right of Juan Carlos to the throne (not simply as the choice of Franco) and the King relinquished his absolute power and became a constitutional monarch. Still, the respect the King commanded and the popularity he won by making Spain a democracy meant that the King had a great deal of influence despite relatively few powers in law. This was tested in 1981 when a military coup was launched in an effort to restore the old regime. King Juan Carlos suppressed it when most of the army obeyed his orders which won him even greater popularity. However, since that time his influence has declined somewhat, particular with the rise of regional separatists and the increasing dominance of socialist politicians opposed to the monarchy. Laws require royal assent but the King is not allowed to refuse to give it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Soldier of Monarchy: Carl Gustaf Mannerheim

If there is any one man who could be called the “father” of modern Finland it is Carl Gustaf Mannerheim. Born in 1867 to noble Swedish-Finnish family that had lost its fortune, Mannerheim grew up as an impetuous and somewhat rebellious youth. Discipline problems scratched his plans to join the local Finnish army and so he opted for the Imperial Russian Army (Finland being, at the time, a Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire). He married but later separated from his wife and seemed to have little prospect of advancement until the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War. Volunteering for service in the Far East Mannerheim proved his skill and courage quickly and was promoted to colonel for his actions at the battle of Mukden in Manchuria. After attending the last meeting of the Finnish Diet he was sent on a secret intelligence gathering mission through Turkestan to Peking. The “Great Game” between Russia and Britain was still lingering on and the Russian high command wanted to know what the prospects of a Russian invasion of western China would be and how much the Qing Imperial Army had modernized.

Mannerheim undertook the mission with considerable zeal, carrying on even after setbacks that would have discouraged most others. He reported on the attitudes of the ethnic minorities toward the Han Chinese, noted the anger in Inner Mongolia over Han encroachment and met with the “Great Thirteenth” Dalai Lama of Tibet. After reaching Peking and reporting on military, social and educational advancements that were underway as well as the increasing interest of Japan in the region after which he returned home via the Trans-Siberian railway. Resuming his military duties he was posted to Poland and then to the court of Tsar Nicholas II. When World War I broke out he again gave valuable and gallant service to the Russian Empire during the campaigns in Hungary and Romania. For his service he earned the Cross of St George, of which he was justly proud, and promoted to command a cavalry division.

However, for Mannerheim as with many others, the outbreak of the Russian Revolution changed the course of his life forever. Disgusted by the Bolsheviks he was determined to fight them to the last and was part of the “White Russian” opposition. However, he was also torn by his nationalist desire to see his beloved Finland independent and his loyalty to the Tsar whom he had so faithfully served. That little dilemma took care of itself when the Romanov dynasty was overthrown and the choice of an independent Finland or a communist-dominated one was easy for Mannerheim to make. Returning to his homeland he organized White forces to beat back the Bolshevik onslaught while Finnish patriots organized an independent government. Aside from the communists, who were always a minority among the Finns, there was division between those who favored a republic and those who favored a monarchy. The German Empire was supportive of the Finns and the choice of a German prince as King of Finland would ensure German favor while the western Allies would oppose such a move.

Mannerheim was a military man from the start, not a politician, and there has been some debate as to which side; the republicans or the monarchists, that he truly favored. For most it should be clear that Mannerheim favored a monarchy but I shall let Mannerheim speak for himself. As commander of the Finnish White Guards he said, “The army considers it their duty to openly state their wish that there will be guarantees to avoid the recurrence of those conditions (conditions leading to the Civil War), by creating a form of society and government that will forever protect us from a similar period of terror that our country has just escaped. The army regards as the only guarantee that the navigation of the state ship of Finland is entrusted in firm hands, which cannot be touched by party disputes and need not submit to compromises, sell power at bargain prices.” It certainly sounds as though a monarchy was what Mannerheim considered ideal.

However, as Germany was crumbling away in defeat toward the end of 1918 the monarchist position gave way as everyone knew the Allies would be against such a thing considering that it was a German prince, Frederick Charles of Hesse-Kassel (the Kaiser’s brother-in-law no less) who had been chosen to be King of Finland. Some in the army and White Guards especially wanted to make the hero Mannerheim King but nothing ever came of that idea though he did maintain order as regent until a government, now republican, could be organized. He obtained recognition of Finnish independence from Great Britain and America and organized food relief to be sent in to avoid starvation. The United States would later gratefully point to Finland as the only country to repay the war debts to America on time. When a government was organized Mannerheim stepped aside though he was already being attacked by liberals (socialists) for his staunch opposition to the communists. Mannerheim himself was less than impressed with the government, holding a rather low opinion of all politicians as creatures who stirred up divisions amongst the populace simply to further their own careers and increase their own power. Imagine that.

Mannerheim knew that Finland was not in the clear yet. His experience fighting the Bolsheviks gave him a clear understanding of their goals and he knew that, no matter how much they despised Imperial Russia, they would do all in their power to retain and retake every inch of what had formerly been the Tsar’s empire. As usual, Mannerheim was right and soon the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after luring them to a conference to discuss political issues. He continued to support the conservatives in Finland but he spurned the suggestion of some on the radical right that he become dictator. Nonetheless, Finland was soon forced to turn to him for help in their greatest crisis since becoming independent. In 1939 the USSR summoned Finland to a conference just as they had the Baltic states and made extensive territorial demands. The Finns refused to surrender their territory and Mannerheim returned to duty as Field Marshal of the Finnish army to face the threat of a Soviet invasion.

It was a seemingly impossible task that faced the battle-hardened aristocrat but he went to work with care and vigor. Plans were drawn up to protect the populace, preparations were made for land, sea and air attacks and defenses were erected including a fortified line across the Karelian isthmus known as the Mannerheim Line. When the Red Army invaded the Soviets claimed they were only defending themselves (which became quite a joke in the international community) and commissars told the Russian soldiers that the oppressed Finns would welcome them with open arms. To say that Moscow, and the world, were stunned by what happened next would be an understatement. The over-confident communists walked into a firestorm of fierce Finnish resistance. Using hit-and-run tactics, concealed fortifications, ambushes and their knowledge of the terrain the Finns decimated the Soviet Red Army. Again and again the communists walked into Finnish traps, their situation not being helped by the fact that many of their troops were raw conscripts and their officer corps had recently been thinned of talented leaders by a massive military purge carried out by Joseph Stalin.

Mannerheim, it seemed, had thought of everything and though pushed to the breaking point his clever tactics and tenacious soldiers inflicted ruinous losses on the enemy. Yet, they knew they could not hold out forever against the Soviet hordes and, aside from some brave volunteers from Sweden and Norway and the like, no help was forthcoming for Finland. Adolf Hitler did offer to send a considerable number of expert German troops to help but Marshal Mannerheim rejected the offer. Naturally he did not wish to offend the only world leader willing to help but neither did he want to become a satellite of the Nazi regime. The Finns fought on alone to the bitter end when the Soviets, shaken to their senses, called in hordes of reinforcements to overwhelm the gallant Finns. A peace was negotiated with Finland losing extensive territories to the Soviet Union but, unlike the Baltic states, they kept their independence and could hope to retake what they had lost some day.

Mannerheim was the national hero of Finland and when the Axis forces invaded the USSR in World War II he took his troops into battle once again. In 1942 Hitler had met with Mannerheim but it was a less than cordial visit. Mannerheim would not receive him in any way that would make it appear to be an official visit or an endorsement of the Nazi leader and the assembled company gasped when Mannerheim boldly lit up his cigar in front of the notoriously anti-smoking Nazi dictator. Finland did go to war again against the USSR in conjunction with the Axis invasion but with very limited war aims that were in any event lost when the tide turned in favor of the Allies. After World War II ended in defeat for the Axis the Republic of Finland was the only country bordering the Soviet Union to retain its independence and a great deal of the credit for that must go to Marshal Mannerheim, particularly for the sound thrashing he gave the Red Army in the Winter War, known in Moscow as the “grave of the Russian field army”.

No less a figure than Stalin said that were it not for Marshal Mannerheim Finland would have been a Soviet satellite. After the war Mannerheim briefly served as President of Finland but politics was never to his liking and viewed his time in office as he had his military service; a duty that was imposed on him rather than something he sought for himself. He was never comfortable dealing with parliament and at his age was often ill and unable to devote his full time to his presidential duties. Mannerheim died on January 27, 1951 after a lifetime of service to his country. Widely celebrated around the world he still considered the greatest and most honored national hero in Finland today.
(For more information and fascinating stories on Marshal Mannerheim there is a wealth of information at the excellent blog The Sword and the Sea.)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...