Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Enemy of Monarchy: Pol Pot

The man known to history as Pol Pot was born Saloth Sar in or around 1928 to a relatively prosperous middle class family. As a boy his family sent him to high school in Phnom Penh where his cousin was a dancer at the royal ballet. It is important to note that with the young Saloth Sar his hatred of monarchy came first and all of his later revolutionary, genocidal policies grew out of his anti-monarchism. Because of his cousin he saw the royal court and developed a very negative view of the Cambodian monarchy. Disregarding all of the circumstances the embittered youth did not see a beautiful cultural, historical institution that had been the political and spiritual heart of Cambodia for centuries (as well as providing work and an artistic outlet for people like his cousin) and instead chose to see only corrupt and idle royals doing the bidding of their French colonial masters. It was a point of view he would never really lose throughout his long life.

Saloth Sar got together with other young revolutionary enemies of the monarchy and was later sent to continue his education in France where he joined the colonial wing of the French communist party. Saloth Sar wrote his first piece of propaganda as a communist against the Cambodian monarchy, calling it a “malodorous running sore”. However, his education in Paris was a total failure and, finally giving up, he returned to Cambodia in 1954 to be a history teacher. However, he lost none of his political ardor and soon joined the Vietnamese-led Indochinese Communist Party. However, he soon became suspicious of the Vietnamese Communists who he believed (correctly) wished to unite all of French Indochina under their rule. He split off with his own faction and when France granted independence it was done through King Norodom Sihanouk; only increasing the hatred of the monarchy already held by Saloth Sar who started going under the name Pol Pot.

The organization Pol Pot led was very communist, very paranoid and thus very secretive. The people who knew of the leadership knew them only by their code names. Pol Pot was simply “Brother #1”, for most a faceless, ghost-like voice giving orders over a radio set. He envisioned a utopian society which he would create by wiping out absolutely all inequalities, destroying all foreign influences, emptying the cities and returning the entire population to the simple agrarian life of the villages. Yet, his communist propaganda earned him fairly few followers. An economic upturn and good crops brought a period of prosperity and the people gave the credit to the semi-divine intervention of their king; Norodom Sihanouk, whom Pol Pot hated more with each passing day. The King played the feuding parties against each other and tried to juggle neutrality with maintaining good relations with both the western democracies and the communist bloc. He was not entirely successful.

When U.S. forces intervened in Cambodia to wipe out communist Vietnamese bases, which King Sihanouk had unofficially allowed to be established, the Cold War came to Cambodia. King Sihanouk went off to make friends with Communist China, North Korea and the USSR and in his absence the U.S. supported a coup by General Lon Nol against him. This was a golden opportunity for Pol Pot. He now had a foreign-backed capitalist regime to wage his revolution against and a sure source of popular support in the person of the deposed monarch who had no other ally to turn to. In a blatant lie he promised Sihanouk he would restore him to his throne once his forces were victorious. Sihanouk backed the Khmer Rouge (though not Pol Pot who he never met and indeed had no idea was the one actually running the organization) and urged the people to go to the jungles and join the communist guerillas. The king’s godlike status among the faithful peasantry ensured the success of the Khmer Rouge.

Following the U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam the republican regime in Cambodia lost its primary support and quickly collapsed. On April 17, 1975 the Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh. Pol Pot declared it “Year Zero”, the start of a new era and renamed Cambodia “Democratic Kampuchea”. Despite his promise he did not restore King Norodom Sihanouk but instead placed him under house arrest. Unlike other communist dictators, there was no cult of personality around Pol Pot. Most still had no idea who he was and in the initial government organization he made one of his subordinates ‘head of state’ while taking the post of prime minister for himself. He also played no favorites, some of his closest relatives had been brutalized in vicious labor camps before seeing a photo or poster and realizing that their new dictator was their own Saloth Sar.

King Sihanouk was placed under house arrest, a number of the royal family were killed and Pol Pot unleashed a reign of terror unsurpassed even amongst the most brutal of communists dictators around the world. Anyone with any foreign ties was killed, anyone displaying overt religious devotion was killed. The disabled were killed. Anyone with any ties to a previous government was killed. Everyone was made absolutely equal and any deviation from the new norm was punishable by death. Families were abolished since words like “mother” and “father” were hierarchical and considered superior to children so everyone became “brother” and “sister”. Anyone who referred to their parents as such were killed, a woman who referred to her husband as such was killed, anyone who used any traditional form of address was liable to be killed. The educated class was wiped out, since they would be held as superior to the uneducated and even those wearing glasses would be killed as this was taken as a symbol of intellectualism. Currency was abolished and the cities were emptied as everyone was sent to work on the communal rice fields; essentially vast slave labor camps where many city dwellers who had no experience growing their own food quickly died. Hordes of people died of starvation and hundreds of thousands were executed.

Over the years Pol Pot became more paranoid and had many of his own allies, even lifelong supporters put to death as well. The notorious prison, essentially a massive torture chamber, S-21 or Tuol Sleng was set up for anyone accused of being an enemy of the regime or an agent of the CIA. People were tortured, often by electrocution, to give up names of accomplices, most of whom had never heard of the CIA or had the slightest idea what the initials meant. However, people would give any number of names to make the torture stop and these people then were arrested and given similar treatment. To save bullets most of those executed were taken to the countryside, beaten to death and buried in mass graves. It is estimated that as many as 2 million Cambodians died during Pol Pot’s reign of terror. The rest of the world was outraged at the reports that emerged from the secretive, nightmarish hell on earth that was “Democratic Kampuchea”. However, many governments in the west gave subtle support to the regime of Pol Pot and even King Sihanouk, despite being constantly kicked around by the Khmer Rouge, stuck up for them in the UN.

This was, again, all about Vietnam at the end of the day. Pol Pot had originally been part of the Vietnamese-organized “Indochinese Communist Party” but he left because he was very paranoid about the Vietnamese, even the Reds, wanting to dominate Cambodia. In this he happened to be mostly right. Vietnam’s original communist dictator, Ho Chi Minh, made no secret of the fact that his long-term goal was a communist Indochina that would include Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. So the Khmer Rouge was quick to ally with China against the Vietnamese. The reason people like King Sihanouk and governments like the United States gave some tacit support to Pol Pot was because they viewed him as the only thing stopping Cambodia from being dominated by the Vietnamese. Just after the United States pulled out of Southeast Asia the Red Chinese even invaded North Vietnam because of their antagonism with Cambodia. However, the Vietnamese gave the People’s Liberation Army a bloody nose after which they declared “mission accomplished” and beat a hasty retreat back to China, leaving Vietnam free to deal with Cambodia.

Pol Pot made his greatest political blunder when he jumped the gun and attacked the Vietnamese. This was all the excuse Hanoi needed. In 1976 they forced a treaty on the communist regime in Laos which effectively put the country under Vietnamese domination and after increasing hostilities between the two countries the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1978. The Cambodian army was soundly beaten, Pol Pot fled to the Thai border and Vietnam set up their own puppet administration. By 1979 the Vietnamese had totally driven the Khmer Rouge from power and forced them to retreat into remote strongholds in the jungle where they were mostly ineffective. The international community refused to recognize the Vietnamese imposed government and this eventually led to the United Nations taking control of the situation and this finally resulted in the restoration of King Norodom Sihanouk in a constitutional monarchy but with Hun Sen (who was supported by Vietnam) as the prime minister. Hun Sen has remained in power ever since.

His regime destroyed and country lost Pol Pot fled to Thailand where he lived for six years. When the Vietnamese army withdrew in 1989 the Khmer Rouge could set up new strongholds and Pol Pot returned home, refusing to recognize any of the succeeding administrations and nominally presiding over the guerilla war his forces continued to wage in the jungles against the ruling government. When his life-long deputy and designated successor, Son Sen, tried to negotiate a settlement with the government Pol Pot had him executed along with eleven members of his family. Some things never change. Khmer Rouge military commander Ta Mok arrested Pol Pot for this, held a show trial for him and placed him under house arrest. He died in his bed on April 15, 1998. Like most genocidal communist dictators he had escaped justice for his innumerable crimes but his memory haunts Cambodia to this day. Even alongside the likes of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, in terms of the size of the Cambodian population, Pol Pot surpasses them all. By some estimates his rule led to the death of one third of the entire population of his country.

Remember that all of this started with the obsessive anti-royalist sentiment of Pol Pot. In many ways he was the ideal communist and his case should be looked to by anyone wanting to see the true face of what revolutionary communism is all about. What others only talked about doing eventually Pol Pot actually put into effect, there was no build-up, no step-by-step process, it was full, complete communism all at once. It grew out of his class-hatred and his original, life-long opposition to the Cambodian monarchy. There are still many, many people and regimes around the world that advocate the same basic principles that the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot advocated. They should look to his example to see the unwashed, horrific truth of what those principles cause when taken to their full, logical conclusion.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monarch Profile: King Edward I of England

HRH Prince Edward, who would go on to great fame as King Edward I of England, was born to King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence at Westminster Palace on June 17, 1239. When he was just fifteen years old his mother took him to Spain where he was married to the daughter of King Fernando III of Castile and Leon, the Infanta Leonor (Eleanor). Their marriage was to be a very happy one with the great devotion each spouse felt for the other never diminishing over the years. Yet, Edward also knew the hardships of life early on as well and grew up fighting in support of his father for royal rights against the barons, emboldened by the Magna Carta. In 1270, in an act of courage and religious devotion he left England to join the Crusades. His wife actually accompanied him and it was on the island of Sicily on their way back from the Middle East that he learned of the death of his father.

On August 19, 1274 King Edward I and Queen Eleanor were crowned together as King and Queen of England at Westminster Abbey; the first such coronation of a husband and wife since the Norman conquest. As a monarch King Edward I was exemplary; intelligent, bold, practical and hard working with no time for frivolity. He first set about a considerable reorganization of the government, strengthening the royal authority that had been so weakened in all the quarrels leading up to his reign. Many new, sweeping statutes were issued dealing with everything from property rights to trade to law and justice. King Edward proved an adept statesman as well as a warrior king and the call to war came quickly. Skirmishing with the Welsh had been going on for some time and there had been internal troubles in Wales between the local prince and his brother. When Prince Llewellyn refused to do homage to Edward I as his feudal overlord, as past Welsh rulers had done, Edward I invaded Wales. The fighting was hard but by 1283 Wales was pacified and in the face of further minor rebellions against English rule King Edward had a series of great castles built across the country and in 1301 he named his son, the future King Edward II, Prince of Wales, beginning the tradition of that title being given to the English heir.

King Edward I, a former crusader, never gave up hope of leading another great crusade to retake the Holy Land and it was toward this end that he worked to negotiate a peace between France and Aragon who were at war over competing aims in the Mediterranean. However, the peace he arranged proved short-lived and disaster struck in 1291 when the Mamlukes captured the Christian stronghold of Acre. To make matters worse, in 1294 King Philip IV of France seized Edward’s lands in Gascony. Edward I made an alliance with several other princes but these were defeated prior to his arrival while he was dealing with problems at home. By the time he landed in Flanders there was no help from Germany and the war ground to a halt with Edward forced to make peace with France. The issue that had distracted Edward came from Scotland and, thanks to one highly successful and very moving but grossly historically inaccurate movie, it is now his war with the Scots for which Edward is probably best known.

King Edward I became involved in Scotland after the country was split by a succession crisis and Edward, given his reputation as an astute statesman and as prior Scottish kings had paid him homage as their feudal overlord. Edward then stepped in and chose one John Baliol as the King of Scots, whom he very much viewed as ‘his man’ in Scotland. This did not sit well with the Scots nor did his call for Scotland to contribute soldiers to his war with France. Instead, the Scots made an alliance with France and launched an attack on Carlisle in northwest England. So, in 1296 an outraged King Edward invaded Scotland, crushed all opposition, carried off the Scottish coronation stone, hauled John Baliol off to the Tower of London and assigned English governors to rule Scotland. These campaigns in Wales, France and Scotland caused a money crunch for Edward and his efforts to solve his financial problem has caused controversy in light of recent attitudes. King Edward I took a direct and straightforward view of the situation.

The King looked at the economic state of affairs and noticed that money transactions were disproportionately in the hands of the Jewish minority, mostly brought in with the branches of banks from the Italian city-state republics. The Jewish population had grown quite wealthy through money lending (loaning with interest being forbidden to Christians) and their riches stood out all the more as the rest of the country became poorer. At first, King Edward simply tried to redress the imbalance by confiscating the earnings made from high interest loans to Christians by the Jewish minority and later to forbid money-lending for Jews but none of this solved the problem completely. Finally, King Edward I ordered the expulsion of the Jews from England and banned them from ever returning. Of course, they could avoid this by converting to Catholicism and King Edward tried his best to get them to do this by forcing them to attend sermons by Dominican priests. It did not work. Finally, in 1290 King Edward formally expelled all Jews from England. They would not be allowed back in until the overthrow of the monarchy when Oliver Cromwell agreed to lift the ban in exchange for large loans from Jewish bankers on the continent. After so much trouble with money lending, King Edward tried to raise money on his own and this led to the establishment of much of the original system of parliamentary government that we know today. Particularly, the right of the members of Parliament to vote taxes. For the first time commoners sat in Parliament (originally knights) with full power to vote. This was the start of the House of Commons in England and, combined with his other administrative reforms, earned King Edward I the nickname of “the English Justinian”.

The tall, short-tempered but intelligent and admired King of England was beginning to show his age when rebellion broke out again in Scotland, led by the dynamic Scottish hero William Wallace. In a stunning upset Wallace led a small Scots army to victory over a much larger English force at the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 using innovative tactics and the terrain to their advantage. The following year Edward I led a large English army and met Wallace at the battle of Falkirk, soundly defeating him, after which he returned home. However, though the Scots had been defeated the country had not been pacified and there were further campaigns into Scotland but the Scots simply concentrated on harassing tactics and refused open combat against the English forces. Yet, in 1305 Wallace was captured, taken to London and executed for treason after which English rule over Scotland was solidified. But, again, the trouble began again with the rise of Robert the Bruce who led a new wave of Scottish resistance. In 1307 the old and ailing Edward I took to the field again determined to lead his armies on another campaign to finally and forever subdue Scotland. However, while still in northern England King Edward took a turn for the worse and died just south of the Scottish border on July 7, 1307.

To summarize, King Edward I is frequently ranked among the greatest of English monarchs and there is ample evidence to support this. In every way that a successful sovereign of his era is defined, Edward I measures up. He was a devoted husband if a rather short-tempered father (his son Edward II being as unlike him as possible), he was a capable administrator and adept at government and he was a talented and courageous military leader. More to the point on that score he was a quite successful military leader at a time when warrior kings were not just a romantic ideal but something that was expected of royal leaders. Many rank him as the most successful King of England of the Middle Ages. This makes it all the more unusual that his tomb in Westminster Abbey is completely unadorned. He did, however, fare better in death than his second wife, Queen Margaret, whose monument was sold by the Lord Mayor of London for 50 pounds during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Brief Reflection on Christ the King

When His Holiness Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King it was remarked on at the time as a very odd thing to do. Since the revolutionary period and certainly since World War I the title of “king” had become a rather unpopular one throughout the world and yet the Pope chose this aspect of Christ to emphasize. It made many people uncomfortable. Jesus as a prophet, as a teacher, a healer and Jesus the meek servant was perfectly acceptable but Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, a figure of authority, a judge and the dispenser of divine justice; that was not the image of Jesus most at the time, and most still today, preferred to consider. However, the Pope looked at the world of 1925 and saw this aspect of Christ as one that needed to be remembered and not only remembered by emphasized every year in the Church calendar.

Up to this point Pope Pius XI had seen Christians persecuted for their faith by secularist governments around the world with particular atrocities being carried out by the forerunners of the PRI in Mexico, by the leftist republicans in Spain and by the communists of the Soviet Union. Secularism was spreading and this threat so concerned Pius XI that he devoted his first papal encyclical to the subject. As he saw it the world needed a reminder that Christ was the King of kings. The communists and egalitarians on the left needed to know that the divine order was hierarchical, that there was a King in Heaven that ruled all, like it or not, and could not be overthrown. Likewise, the nationalists on the left and the right needed to know that Christ was King of all and that His reign was for all nations and all times. Christ the King was above any one nation and above any state no matter how totalitarian.

It was also an obvious shot across the bow at the whole revolutionary, republican mentality that had been growing so consistently. The kingship of Christ was to symbolize that Christianity is an all-encompassing religion and that no part of the life of any Christian, whether their private behavior, their public institutions or how they order their life and their society, is beyond the rule of Christ the King, their divine sovereign in Heaven. This was a message the world needed to hear in 1925 and as much, if not more so, still today. In our growing secularism, egalitarianism and internationalist centralization today the message conveyed by the symbolism of Christ the King remains crucial.

MM Video: Imperial Family of Japan

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Royal News Roundup

This week celebrations in Cambodia were marred by tragedy in the long suffering kingdom. HM King Norodom Sihamoni presided over the water festival, held for centuries to commemorate the victory of King Jayvarman VII in the 12th century. Everything started out normally for the 3-day event with prayers over the rice harvest, boat races and the King pardoning 558 prisoners. However, on Monday, the last day of celebration, a canon shot to warn the public to clear a bridge near the royal palace caused a stampede that resulted in the deaths of more than 330 people. Prime Minister Hun Sen called it the greatest tragedy Cambodia has suffered since the end of the Khmer Rouge regime.

In the Middle East, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia slipped a disc and suffered a blood clot that left him hospitalized and forced to pass some royal duties to his son. Later this week the King and a large retinue traveled to New York for medical treatment leaving national affairs in the hands of his brother Crown Prince Sultan who has also suffered a number of health problems recently. The 86-year-old monarch has reportedly been suffering increasingly lately from physical ailments and the ravages of old age leaving many nervous about the succession and the future of the Saudi monarchy. Rumors have been rampant lately of discontent among the 7,000 princes of the Saudi Royal Family as well as increasing criticism from the fundamentalist clerics who have opposed many of the recent reforms enacted by King Abdullah.

Monday marked the 35th anniversary of the proclamation by the Cortes of “Don Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon” as King Juan Carlos I of Spain upon the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. This act also marked the beginning of the transition of Spain from an authoritarian state to a parliamentary democracy. Congratulations to HM Juan Carlos on this occasion (royal restorations being a rather rare thing). Viva el Rey! Also this week the Prince and Princess of the Asturias traveled to the South American republic of Peru for a visit to strengthen ties between the two countries. In Rome a media frenzy was unleashed when the Vatican newspaper leaked a quote from a new book of a German reporter interviewing HH Pope Benedict XVI which was heralded as a reversal of the official Catholic position against the use of condoms. Of course, the Pontiff had done no such thing and the piece quoted was of a hypothetical situation judging, more or less, the lesser of two evils. The Pope went on to stress that condom use was no solution to the real problem of a disordered view of sexuality. Last Saturday HRH Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Parma, son of Princess Irene of the Netherlands and Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma, held his religious wedding in Brussels to Annemarie Van Weezel. The Prince, as Carlos V, is heir to the former Italian Duchy of Parma.

In Great Britain HRH Prince William and fiancé Catherine Middleton have announced the time and date for their wedding next year which will be held on Friday, April 29 at the historic Westminster Abbey. The House of Windsor and the Middleton family will be covering the expense of the wedding with the government responsible only for security (and remember that these policemen would be on duty anyway if there was no wedding so this is not an “extra” expense). They have also set up a lottery system by which members of the general public will be chosen at random to receive an invitation to the royal wedding in order to include as diverse an array of guests as possible. HM the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh also undertook a trip this week to the United Arab Emirates to strengthen ties between the two countries. Also in northern Europe, in Sweden a poll taken by the newspaper Expressen showed increased support for HM King Carl XVI Gustaf who has had to deal with some bad press as of late. The survey found 69% of Swedes in favor of the monarchy, an increase from the 63% who gave the same answer earlier this year.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Monarchist Military: The Chetniks

One of the monarchist organizations I have the greatest respect for were the Chetniks of Serbia. Unfortunately, to many today that is, itself, a controversial statement. The Chetniks, after all, were Axis collaborators who cooperated with the Nazi and fascist occupiers of the Balkans we are constantly told. Let me say up front that it is a fact which I will in no way dispute that Chetniks cooperated with the Axis forces. However, I detest the fact that this is all many people seem to remember about them and, as with virtually any issue involving the Balkans, the situation was not so simple as many make it out to be. To a large extent the Chetniks who fought with the Axis were forced to do so by circumstances imposed by others. It was not a choice they made freely or out of any conviction to what the Axis was fighting for. The same could be said about many countries and peoples who found themselves on the same “side” as the Axis powers from Finland to Inner Mongolia.

The organization most think of when they refer to the Chetniks was the “Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland”. The image many have of them is grossly inaccurate with many seeing them as villainous, bearded bandits fighting for whatever side served their current interest. This is absolutely false. The Chetniks were a disciplined, highly dedicated fighting force determined to restore the former Yugoslavia and their beloved ideal of a “Greater Serbia”. They were also staunchly royalist and the beards many wore was a traditional sign of mourning in the Orthodox Church and they were mourning for the loss of their king. “For King and Fatherland” was their battle cry and that was the only thing they were fighting for, plain and simple, and having nothing whatever to do with the war aims of the Axis. This is proved by the fact that all the way up to 1943 the Chetniks fought the Germans and Italians who were occupying the carved up remnants of the former Yugoslavia. It was the desire of the Chetniks to restore the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and to resist any power which occupied any part of Yugoslav territory.

However, Serbians also had an internal conflict to deal with. Quite apart from the various ethnic groups that had been lumped together by the Allies after World War I into Yugoslavia who were only too willing to cooperate with anyone for the chance of their own independence, amongst the Serbs themselves there was a division of the fighting forces between the royalist Chetniks, loyal to their King and country, and the communist Partisans of Josef Broz (aka Tito) who reprehensibly took advantage of the downfall of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to the Axis forces to assert their own control of the country to turn it into a communist dictatorship. Because of this they were obviously strongly supported by the Soviet Union from the very beginning and the Partisans were fanatical in their opposition to the Chetniks as well as to the Axis who were also the sworn enemies of the success of communism. Even while the Chetniks were still fighting the Axis forces they came to regard the communists as possibly a greater threat to what they stood for simply because no foreign occupation was bound to last for very long whereas the communists were a home-grown threat. It should also be noted that whereas the vast majority of Chetniks were Serbs and Orthodox they were not completely uniform and other nationalities including Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians who favored the restoration of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia also fought as Chetniks.

The key factor in keeping the Chetniks fighting the Axis and the communists simultaneously was the support they received from the western Allied powers. In the United States and the British Empire the Chetniks were originally applauded for their heroism and tenacity as the most active and well organized guerillas in occupied Europe fighting for freedom. The Chetniks received money and supplies from the Allies during these years while the Nazis exacted brutal retaliation for their attacks and offered huge sums of money as rewards for Chetnik leaders. The Chetniks carried out a number of spectacularly successful raids on both the Axis forces and the communists but of course they also shed no tears when the Germans attacked the communist Partisans. Some cooperated in these offensives, others did not but it was finally the Allied powers which forced most Chetniks into the Axis camp. Allied leaders agreed that Eastern Europe would be under the control of the Soviet Union after the war and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the decision to stop supporting the royalist Chetniks and shift all Allied assistance to the communist Partisans. That was really the key factor.

The Soviets had always supported their fellow communists, when the western democracies dropped the Chetniks and supported the reds as well the royalist Serbs were left with no other choice but to turn to the Axis for help in carrying on their fight to salvage something of their long-cherished dream of a Greater Serbian kingdom. It was then that the Chetniks joined the Axis in fighting the communists (and only the communists) and this was only after the western Allies had betrayed them and left them to their fate. With no other option, no other friends, their only possible choice for survival was to make common cause with the Axis. This is important to remember because it was a matter of necessity, forced upon them and not any sort of political sympathy that drove the Chetniks into the Nazi camp. Churchill also pushed for the monstrously absurd Treaty of Vis between the Serb royal government-in-exile and the communist partisans which effectively killed any hope that a Serbian or Yugoslav kingdom would be restored after the war in the event of an Allied victory and placed all power in communist hands.

In the summer of 1944 the most bitter blow of all came when the dedicated Chetnik leader, General “Draza” Mihailovic was dismissed by King Peter II as chief-of-staff of the Yugoslav army and replaced by the communist Marshal “Tito”. The Chetniks had officially been abandoned by everyone. It is to their credit, and very telling of their character and true motives, that even after this time, up until the very end of the war, the Chetniks continued to rescue Allied (mostly American) pilots who were shot down over Serbian territory. Of course, after being betrayed by the Allies the Chetniks were doomed. Aid to the Partisans only increased while the sole source of aid to the Chetniks, the Germans, dwindled away as the Axis went down in defeat and by 1945 the Chetniks were wiped out by the communist Partisans and their Soviet allies. Scattered groups continued to resist communist domination but they were eliminated one by one and their leaders executed, aided by the fact that their own government-in-exile had turned against them so that the communists could hit them with a double charge of “treason” against both their government and the royal government they had been fighting for.

This is why I am, and will remain, and ardent defender of the Chetniks. There is no denying that they made alliances with unsavory characters, but such moves were forced on them by circumstances beyond their control. There were many sad events that occurred, unfortunate and even scandalous actions. Accusations abound of massacres and ethnic cleansing and, in all honesty, some have merit. It was a very confused situation and a very brutal war with little mercy shown or expected by any of the forces on either side. However, the bottom line is that the Chetniks were fighting for the very soul of their nation against the worst enemy imaginable and in such circumstances no one should expect soft behavior. They were in the right, fighting for righteous principles and the real scandal is how they were stabbed in the back by their original allies. Which is also all the more reason why their sacrifices should be honored, their memory preserved and their legacy defended.

За краља и отаџбину!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Real "First Thanksgiving"

When most people think of the first Thanksgiving in North America they usually think of dour, grim-faced Puritans in New England, the revolutionary general George Washington or President Lincoln ordering a day of thanks for the victories of the Union armies in the Civil War. However, Texans know that it was actually our country which was home to the first Thanksgiving, carried out by missionaries and conquistadors rather than Puritans, all loyal forces of His Catholic Majesty the King of Spain. It was on April 30, 1598 near what is now the West Texas city of El Paso and the man responsible was Juan de Oñate. He came from a well regarded family long known for their loyal service to the Spanish crown. His father had discovered and developed the mining industry in Zacatecas, Mexico and Juan de Oñate opened the mines in San Luis Potosi and carried out numerous duties for the King of Spain. However, he had itching feet as the old timers would say and longed to make a name for himself as an intrepid explorer. Monarchists may also be interested to know that Juan de Oñate was married to Isabel de Tolosa, the granddaughter of Fernando Cortes and Isabel Montezuma who was herself one of the many children of the famous Aztec Emperor Montezuma II.

Juan de Oñate was given a land grant in the unexplored lands of the northern Rio Grande Valley among the Pueblo Indians by the Spanish Viceroy. However, when that post changed hands the plans for an expedition were put on hold until final approval came in 1597. That summer Juan de Oñate send Vicente de Zaldivar to blaze a trail from Santa Barbara in southern Chihuahua along a route north that would have available food and water. Poor Zaldivar had a rough time of it, suffering a great deal from the elements, privation and even being captured for a time by hostile Indians but he persevered in his duty. Today this original route is now the main highway between Chihuahua, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. In early March of 1598 Juan de Oñate set out on his expedition with 500-600 Spanish soldiers, colonists (women and children included) and about 7,000 head of livestock. They endured immense hardships as they tramped north over 50 miles of rough terrain. By the last five days they had run out of water and were scrounging for roots and cactus and all were nearly dead from dehydration before they reached water.

After reaching the Rio Grande at or about San Elizario the column rested for ten days after which time Oñate ordered a special feast of thanksgiving to God for their survival. Wild game was shot, fish was provided by local Indians and everything was set for a traditional Spanish fiesta. First a special mass of thanks to God was said by the Franciscan missionaries who accompanied the expedition and Juan de Oñate also took the occasion to formally claim possession of the lands drained by the Rio Grande for Almighty God and King Philip II of Spain. Everyone feasted and celebrated around a great bonfire. A member of the expedition wrote, “We were happy that our trials were over; as happy as were the passengers in the Ark when they saw the dove returning with the olive branch in his beak, bringing tidings that the deluge had subsided”. Once the thanksgiving feast was over Oñate and his intrepid band continued north to settle near what is now Santa Fé, New Mexico.

So, for all of you who have not heard about this before, consider yourself enlightened as to the real “first” thanksgiving in North America. Instead of Pilgrims in black hats and white collars picture brown-robed Franciscans and Spaniards in comb-morion helmets. Instead of George Washington in 1789 or Abraham Lincoln in 1863 picture King Philip II in 1598. Now, to be fair, monarchists are correct to point out that the New England pilgrims did begin their famous “Mayflower Compact” with a declaration of loyalty to King James I of Britain, but given their adamant religious dissent, their flight to Holland and then to America, I do not think any would take the Pilgrims for ardent royalists and, indeed, in the English Civil War of later years the Puritan area of New England was the most firmly anti-royalist region of all the English colonies in America. For that reason, not only as a proud Texan but a monarchist as well (and there are other reasons) I prefer to remember the actual ‘first thanksgiving’ on the Rio Grande rather than the Puritan affair of New England.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Consort Profile: Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

One of the most significant consorts in the history of the British monarchy was Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert. He was born on August 26, 1819 in the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Saxony, the son of Duke Ernst III. Coincidentally, the same midwife who delivered Albert shortly thereafter also delivered his future bride Victoria. When Albert was still only a boy a re-shuffling in the ducal family made his father Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Family life was not exactly ideal for the young prince with his parents separating and his mother finally being banished from the country. Still, Albert grew up as normally as one could expect and as a young man went to the University of Bonn. He excelled in a wide variety of academic subjects and sports and began to form his opinions which were rather liberal for the time. In 1836 Albert became a subject of interest as a potential husband for his cousin Victoria who was set to inherit the British throne from her uncle King William IV.

Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold I of the Belgians, thought Albert would make a good husband and arranged a meeting. King William IV, however, wanted Victoria to marry a son of the Dutch King Willem II. However, Victoria herself found Albert the much more attractive choice. In 1837 Victoria became Queen and already had her heart set on marrying Albert, however, it was not until 1839 that the couple were formally engaged and they married in 1840. His initial reception in Britain was a cold one. The public were not impressed with a German marrying their Queen and Parliament voted him the smallest allowance ever given to a consort, would not hear of making him “King consort” and even refused to grant him a title in the peerage. Prince Albert shrugged off these snubs, happy enough with his own title, and content with the love of his wife who was absolutely devoted to him. It was not until 1857 that he was formally given the title of “Prince consort”.

This all reveals the extent to which Prince Albert was charting new waters in his role of husband to the Queen. Dealing with the spouse of a Queen regnant was not something the British had a great deal of experience with. It says a lot that their most beloved Queen regnant never married. Prince Albert was happy enough but early on felt rather bored and unused. Still, the succession was secured for the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Queen Victoria was pregnant within the first two years of her marriage and ultimately the couple would have nine children. The Queen’s total devotion to Albert and his own displays of competence and liberal views finally began to win over those in power in Great Britain and his influence grew. He was a great source of strength to the Queen at a time when it was needed. There were several attempts on her life and, though few realize it today, the historic height of British republicanism was actually during the Victorian era.

Prince Albert had a vision of royalty as being involved in government but furthering “enlightenment” principles. He was a champion of the rights of workers, improvements in education, social welfare, the abolition of slavery and so on. It was in part because of his often stated point of view that the royals and high-born of society had a duty to help the poor and downtrodden that helped Britain avoid major upheavals during the revolutions of 1848. He helped in modernizing the army and tried to encourage a diplomatic solution to the problems between Russia and the Ottoman Empire though this effort was unsuccessful and Britain ultimately joined what became known as the Crimean War. The public image of Prince Albert suffered because of this perceived hesitancy to fight. He also helped calm relations with the United States in 1861 when the two countries were on the bring of war.

Ruffling feathers was nothing new for Prince Albert and it did not bother him. He was a very idealistic man who felt obligated to do what he could to advance those ideals. He arranged the marriage of the Princess Royal Victoria to Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia (the future Kaiser Friedrich III) specifically to try to encourage the spread of liberalism in conservative, militant Prussia. His promotion of education and educational reforms were widely applauded but he also encouraged religious opposition when he extended this support to new ideas that called the reality of God into question. His proposal that Charles Darwin be knighted was not well received. However, Albert’s own confrontation with mortality was not far off.

By the time Prince Albert was helping diffuse a possible war with America in 1861 he was already gravely ill with typhoid fever. On December 14 in Windsor Castle he passed away with Queen Victoria and five of their children around him. Queen Victoria was devastated by his loss and probably no other consort in Great Britain has had the lasting impact of Prince Albert. Monuments and memorials to him abound and in many ways he set the trend that subsequent generations of the British Royal Family would follow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who Would Hate a Happy Couple?

I find it rather outrageous that anyone could react with anger, disdain or hostility over the announcement of an engagement of any two people. An impending marriage should be viewed as a happy occasion and met with best wishes from all. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case these days even with the British and Commonwealth Royal Family. Again, I find it distasteful that anyone, from any country, would take such an occasion to be negative but I was even more disturbed to find such attitudes exhibited, not only by British and Commonwealth subjects, but even those who are actually in the employ of the Crown! Two cases stand out as particularly outrageous because of their origins.

A bishop of the Church of England, Pete Broadbent of Willesden, compared the young couple to “shallow celebrities”, bemoaned the potential cost of a royal wedding to the British public and sneered that the House of Windsor was full of “broken marriages and philanderers”. He said that when a date for the wedding was announced he would take a republican holiday to France. To rub further salt into the wound he predicted the marriage would fail after seven years. What a “Christian” attitude for a bishop to take! This makes my blood boil and I am not comforted in the least by the comment from Lambeth Palace that the bishop is “entitled to his views”. My response to that would be, “the Hell he is!” This man (I use the term lightly) is a bishop of the Church of England, the established church of his country. I wonder if he has forgotten that it was a philandering royal with a string of “broken marriages” to his credit that is responsible for there being a Church of England in the first place.

This reveals how far the Church of England has fallen from the pedestal of its foundation. From its inception the Anglican church was based on Christianity and non-resistance to the royal power. Today we see that not only has Christianity been fairly well eradicated from the Church of England but alarming progress has been made in eradicating monarchism from it as well. For a church founded by a king, based on non-resistance to royal power and which still maintains Her Majesty the Queen as Supreme Governor of the Church of England I can think of no better evidence of the fact that the Anglican communion will very soon be reduced to dust and the Church of England disestablished and left to die a lonely death. Quite apart from the religious issues this treasonous tirade by an Anglican bishop serves as quite stunning evidence of how completely the Church of England has abandoned its own roots, turned against its core principles and effectively cut its own throat. When this disgrace of a bishop goes to France for his republican holiday he would do well to recall the horrific bloodlust that came with republicanism and the French Revolution, a Reign of Terror that the British kingdoms were spared from.

The bishop has since apologized for his remarks (made on Facebook) both for their content and the public forum in which they were made but it is noticeable that he did not apologize for the content -something public figures have become quite good at in recent days; uttering meaningless apologies for offending without actually admitting they were wrong about anything. He wished the couple success in their marriage and said he would be praying for them. Oh, spare me your public piety Pharisee! The fact that an Anglican bishop would even think of saying such a thing is outrageous and says a lot about his church and his own character as does the dismissal of the issue by Lambeth Palace which evidently has also lost track of why they hold a place of privilege to begin with and which side of their bread is buttered.

So much for the clergy, what about the political class? A member of the Mad Monarchist Brain Trust drew my attention to the treasonous remarks of Greater Manchester senior councillor Mike Connolly who referred to Prince William and his bride-to-be as “multi-millionaire parasites” in comments posted on his Facebook account. Following a public outcry he issued an apology for his words but nonetheless retracted none of the sentiment behind it, expressing his hopes that the Royal Family would pay for the upcoming wedding rather than the British public. His only given reasoning for this was that the “local people and hardworking families” he knew had to pay for their own weddings and so the royals should do the same. Of course, by that same logic royals should be able to travel as they wish, speak out on any issue with any opinion they wish, lobby the government and exercise all of the other rights and privileges enjoyed by “local people” but denied to members of the Royal Family. Somehow I doubt Mr Connolly would hold this same opinion if a member of the Royal Family came to help organize opposition to his reelection and campaign for his challenger.

More striking to me than this, though, is that this man who refers to the royals as “multi-millionaire parasites” is himself, as a politician, a parasite on the body of the British taxpaying public. This basic truth seems lost on the entire republican population. They also are willingly ignorant of the fact that the private income surrendered by the Queen in return for a public allowance is far greater than the amount the Queen receives from the British taxpayer. This, of course, is an old argument and not one monarchists are likely to gain much ground with so long as the prevailing media in Britain and around the world continues its stubborn refusal to state the facts about royal finances and the Crown Estates. However, all of that seems to me to be a less frightening fact of life than the basic lack of national pride, the free allowance of such ardent opposition to the fundamental basis of British life and government which these individuals reflect. The fact that anyone serving in public office in Great Britain would voice such vile opposition to the very foundation of their country and their government says a great deal about the state to which the western world today has fallen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monarchist Profile: Baron de Charette

The future Church hero and French baron, Athanase Charles Marie Charette de la Contrie, was born on September 3, 1832. He was a great nephew of the famous and heroic General Charette of the Catholic and Royal Army that rose in the Vendee to oppose the French Revolution and who was executed at Nantes on March 29, 1795; the same city where the young Charette was born. As such, he came from very conservative, royalist, traditional and Catholic roots, from a family that did not shirk in the face of danger or even martyrdom in the cause of Christendom. Yet, he also had illustrious roots on the maternal side of his family. His mother, Louise, Countess de Vierzon, was the daughter of the Duc de Berry and Amy Brown, which was yet again a very conservative, legitimist-royalist family.

It was, because of these very roots, that Charette became the man he did, but also because of these roots he was born ‘on the run’ in a rebellious, resistance movement that stood opposed to the standing government in his native France just as his great uncle had in the French Revolution. As such, his birth was kept secret and shortly thereafter he was spirited out of the city and his birth documents were later falsified to protect him. As he grew up, in keeping with his family tradition, Charette desired a military career. However, as the son of adherents of King Charles X, he was totally unwilling to serve in the French army of the so-called “Citizen King” Louis Philippe. As a result he went Italian and in 1846 began studying at the military academy of the Kingdom of Piedmont Sardinia in Turin. Unfortunately, this was one of, if not the, most liberal Italian states and in the liberal revolutionary year of 1848 he left Turin for the Austrian allied Duchy of Modena.

Charette was well placed to prosper in Modena as the Duke was the brother in law of the Comte de Chambord, the legitimate King of France, and he saw to it that in 1852 Charette was given a commission as a second lieutenant in the Austrian Imperial army, specifically one of the regiments stationed in Modena. Here was the fulfillment of the army career Charette had long worked for, yet, it was to be a very short assignment due to the outbreak of war between Austria and France in northern Italy. Opposed as Charette might have been to the French government, he could not bring himself to take up arms against his own people and his own country and so was forced to resign his commission in 1859 and look for an opportunity to serve in a worthy cause against a wicked enemy. Unfortunately there were plenty of enemies to be found for a young, conservative, traditional Catholic royalist like Charette; especially in Italy.
For some time the Italian states had been harassed by radical, liberal revolutionaries and nationalists who sought to create a united Italian nation state by overthrowing the local Italian princes, destroying their countries and, for good measure, tearing down the Catholic Church as the source of all evil in their warped, ultra-liberal viewpoint. One of the places where this conflict was most intense was in the very conservative Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Charrette had two brothers who opted to defend the Sicilian King Francis II and his lovely and heroic wife Queen Maria Sophia. This was a noble endeavor, but Charette himself opted instead to join in the defense of the Papal States and Blessed Pope Pius IX in May of 1860. As the Papal States had come under attack from the liberal Italian nationalists Pius IX was forced to organize a military defense. He appointed Monsignor Xavier de Merode Minister of War and General Christophe de Lamoriciere as commander of the papal armed forces. The army was an international one with volunteers from Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland and Canada. Charette was commissioned captain in the first company of French and Belgian troops known a year later as the Pontifical Zouaves.

Charette was certainly in good company as a great many of his comrades in the papal army were legitimist French royalists to the extent that one of their Italian enemies remarked that the officers of the papal army could easily have been a list of guests at the court of King Louis XIV. It was a truly heroic army with men like Charrette and his comrades, with very little pay, few supplies and hopelessly outnumbered fighting for the Church and the sovereignty of the Pope against a vastly superior enemy. He was following in the same grand tradition of his great uncle, the martyr of the Vendee counterrevolution. He served in the forces of Colonel Georges Marquis de Pimodan at the battle of Castelfidaro in September of 1860 where the papal army was outnumbered 6 to 1. Charette was wounded and Pimodan was killed. The Papal States were taken and much of the papal army disbanded as only the City of Rome remained under the control of Pius IX and that was due solely to the presence of French forces sent by Emperor Napoleon III rather than his own meager defense force.

Lamoriciere was succeeded by the Swiss General Hermann von Kanzler who presided over the mostly symbolic resistance against the combined Italian nationalist forces which attacked Rome in 1870 after the French forces were withdrawn to fight in the war against Prussia and her allies. The papal army was disbanded but Charette and many of his men were still eager to fight. Since the French Empire had aided the Pope and since it was the Prussian invasion of France which ruined the whole situation it was easy for Charette to see the justice in fighting for Catholic France against Protestant Prussia. He soon began negotiations to take his former Papal Zouaves together into the French Imperial military. This was finally agreed to, due mostly to the desperate situation in France as Emperor Napoleon III had always been fearful of the French legitimist officers in the papal army and feared importing an armed force of Catholic royalists who considered him nothing more than a glorified peasant usurper.

This continued and intensified the great adventure Charette first embarked on when he joined the papal army. He styled his zouaves as the "Volunteers of the West" and took them to France where he gallantly led them into battle against the Germans. Charette and his men represented, in the French army or any other, a truly unique and remarkable military unit. During the war against the Papal States the great English cleric Cardinal Manning referred to the papal troops as modern day Crusaders fighting for the Kingdom of God on earth. In the case of Charette and his Papal Zouaves, this was certainly true. Here was a group of men, all devout Catholics and supporters of the “papal monarchy” as it had long been known, also French legitimist royalists, fighting against those they considered enemies of God and man and basing their allegiance largely, not totally, on religious principle rather than on money or blind nationalist loyalty. And they were committed!

Charette was wounded at the battle of Loigny and was taken prisoner on December 2, 1870 as part of the Army of the Loire by the Prussians after having previously beaten the Bavarians there. However, with typical dash, Charette managed to escape and was thereafter promoted to general by the French provisional government on January 14, 1870 (Emperor Napoleon III having abdicated following his defeat at Sedan). In the chaotic period following the fall of the Second French Empire there were numerous ideas about what sort of government would succeed it; everything from a traditional royal restoration to a secular, socialist republican model. Charette was even elected to the National Assembly by the Department of Bouches-du-Rhone but he never took his seat; republican politics being quite against his taste. He, as well as his men, was still as committed as ever to legitimate monarchism.

The first President of the Third French Republic, Louis-Adolphe Thiers, even broached the subject of Charette and his zouaves permanently integrating into the French army. However, Charette rejected this suggestion, both because he had no desire to fight for a secular, republican France and also because he and his men still saw themselves as papal soldiers and wished to remain ready to rush to the defense of the Pontiff whenever he called on them. As a result his men were mustered out of the French army on August 15, 1871 and for the first time in a long time Charette returned to civilian life. Blessed Pope Pius IX was, by this time, a prisoner in the Vatican and there was no possibility of him or any future pope having a separate and militarily viable fighting force. Nonetheless, Charette remained at the disposal of the Church and continued to practice his devout Catholicism for the rest of his life as well as supporting the cause of a restoration of the legitimate Bourbon monarchy in France, which also never happened.
Charette died on October 9, 1911 having been a valiant soldier for God but one who never knew victory on the battlefield. Both in Italy and in France the crowns for which he fought, that of the Pope and the Emperor, both lost their respective wars. Yet, Charette was in a unique position due to his family ties with the Vendee counterrevolution so that success or failure on the battlefield and the political arena was not finally the point. Those the world might consider failures are quite often venerated as martyrs by the people of God, God having said that He would use the weak to confound the mighty. Charette left a perfect example of a zealous and devout soldier who looked for what was just and righteous in the world and then fought for it against all odds no matter what the circumstances. Whether he won or lost did matter to him, like any he did want to win, but the right was more sacred than the victory for Charette and it is for that reason that he should be honored as a hero by the French and all Catholics in the world.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Royal News Roundup

What news happened this week? Well, in case you haven’t heard Prince William announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton -that’s been rather a big story around the world. The future King of Great Britain and the Commonwealths popped the question in October while vacationing in Africa and presented his bride-to-be with his late mother’s engagement ring after getting the approval of Kate’s father. No official word yet on an exact time or place for the wedding next year (so far Westminster Abbey seems to be the odds-on favorite). After looking after some details the Prince was back to Wales to resume his duties as a rescue pilot with the RAF while Kate has been at Buckingham Palace spending some time with her future grandmother-in-law, the Queen. The wedding promises to be a huge affair, already garnering a frenzy of media activity from the United States to Australia. Spring or summer of 2011 is the closest we have yet to a date. Once again, The Mad Monarchist sends congratulations to the happy young couple and best wishes that their marriage will be a happy, life-long one.

On the continent, newlyweds of the past five months Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden finally moved into a place of their own; the Haga Palace, childhood home of the Swedish king and his sisters. In Spain HM King Juan Carlos donned his uniform to review and congratulate some 46,000 Spanish military forces, veterans of the 18-year Spanish peace-keeping presence in the troubled Balkan state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The King of Spain congratulated the soldiers, sailors and airmen for their service and noted that the hard earned experience these forces gained in Bosnia will prove invaluable in the other areas of the world in which Spanish forces are deployed, from Lebanon to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Queen Sofia of Spain has spent the last few days in New York visiting the Spanish Institute which promotes Spanish culture in the Americas. On Monday the Belgian Royal Family, sans-the King and Queen, were on hand to celebrate “King’s Day” in which the people pay tribute to their monarch. Starting with a special Church service in which the Archbishop of Brussels prayed for national unity, a meeting at Parliament followed and finally there was a march past the palace for the King to take the salute of his military forces in a pledge of loyalty to the Crown. Yesterday the Principality of Monaco celebrated its national day, honoring the five year anniversary of the reign of Prince Albert II. This was the first time Princess of Monaco-to be Charlene Wittstock appeared on the balcony with the Princely Family alongside the Sovereign Prince. You can review the day-long coverage of this event at Mad for Monaco.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Monarch Profile: King Afonso V of Portugal

Prince Afonso of Portugal was born in Sintra on January 15, 1432, the son and heir of King Edward of Portugal and his consort Eleanor of Aragon. He did not have much of a childhood, being only six years old in 1438 when he was called upon to succeed his father as King Afonso V of Portugal and the Algarves. Who might have guessed at that time that the young boy would become one of the most famous warrior kings in Portuguese history. During his minority Afonso had been acted for by, first, his mother and then his uncle Infante Pedro, Duke of Coimbra but the favorite of the King was the first Duke of Braganza, the most powerful noble in the country and one of the most wealthy men in all of Europe. Once he took up his powers as King in 1448, Afonso V nullified the laws passed during the regency and this, along with some accusations taken as fact, led to Pedro of Coimbra being declared a traitor. At the battle of Alfarrobeira north of Lisbon Pedro and his forces were defeated by King Afonso V, the duke himself being killed in the fighting. It was an ugly episode, especially considering that in 1447 Pedro had given King Afonso V his daughter Isabella as his first wife (she died in 1455, possibly from poisoning).

That bit of unpleasantness done, King Afonso V turned his attention to the traditional enemy of Portugal; the Moors of North Africa. Ceuta (today a Spanish enclave) on the north African coast had been seized by previously by King João I and this provided a foothold for further campaigns by Afonso V. With the blessing of Pope Nicholas V the King set out and captured Alcácer Ceguer (today Ksar-el-Kebir) in what is now Morocco in 1458. The city would remain in Portuguese hands for the next forty-two years. Turning back north with his army Afonso V captured Tangiers in 1460 though that city proved very difficult to hold and for about four years Tangiers changed hands as the Moors recaptured it only to have Afonso capture it yet again before Portuguese control was firmly secured. In 1471 the King captured Arzila, securing Portuguese rule over northern Morocco. This string of hard-won victories earned Afonso V his lasting nickname “Afonso the African”. It was also during this time that ‘Prince Henry the Navigator’ was making important contributions toward the exploration of the Atlantic. Afonso V supported these efforts, further exploration of the African coast being a potential way of outflanking his enemies, but he pursued the issue no further on his own after the death of Prince Henry in 1460.

In 1475 Afonso V married again, without papal recognition, to Juana of Castile in an effort to take advantage of internal problems in the Kingdom of Castile. Juana was the only child of King Henrique IV but her legitimacy was considered questionable. Because of this, the half-aunt of Juana, the future Isabella the Catholic, was recognized as heir to the throne. However, after his marriage to Juana, King Afonso V claimed the throne of Castile on behalf of his wife when Henrique IV died. This was also a matter of protecting the honor of the Portuguese Royal Family as Afonso was Juana’s uncle (her mother being his sister) and so accusations that she was illegitimate cast her mother, Queen Juana of Portugal, Afonso’s sister, in a very negative light. King Afonso invaded Castile to enforce this claim but he was defeated at the battle of Toro in 1476 by King Fernando II of Aragon, husband of Isabella of Castile. The Portuguese forces were scattered and forced to surrender. King Afonso returned to Portugal and his wife went into retirement in a convent.

After so much previous success on the battlefield the lost war with Castile was a severe blow to the morale of Afonso V, a situation made worse after a failed effort to enlist the assistance of King Louis XI of France. In 1477 Afonso V abdicated in favor of his son, João II, and retired to a monastery in Sintra where he passed his final years in religious seclusion until his death in 1481. His campaigns had gained great glory for the Kingdom of Portugal, though they had been costly. His son would carry on his work, revitalize the country and lead the Portuguese to further victories and expansion through exploration.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Request to Readers

Yesterday on the radio listeners across central and south Texas as well as internet listeners around the world on a certain station heard a tirade against Prince William and Kate Middleton as well as the House of Windsor in general from a certain right-wing bomb thrower. He spent the first segment of his show talking about how stupid it was to talk about William & Kate as most news did the previous morning. That would be absurd enough but he then had to go on a tirade about how all the royals are cousins (William and Kate in his head too) and heaping insults on all the royals, calling them inbred morons, calling Prince Harry a "butt-face" and saying that Kate and William were going to have ugly children and on and on and on. I fired off an email to complain about his rude behavior toward one of America's closest allies and he seemed shocked that anyone would actually be offended by his insults.

I hate to do this but I would like to ask all readers to do the same. I'm sure not everyone will but if just half of the people who read this blog would take a minute to email their displeasure at such insulting behavior it would be significant. I did not, and I would advise others not to expound on the benefits of monarchism -that would be a waste of time in this case and I do not wish to "give that which is holy unto the dogs" but I would really like it if as many of you who read this (I would think readers from the UK, Canada and Australia would be especially motivated) would let your feelings be known that such rude and un-called for insults toward a happy young couple I think it would definitely have an impact and let this guy know that his brand of "humor" is not funny, not appreciated and is offensive to many, many people. I'm sure not everyone will do this (though I would love it if all would) but I make the request because even if only half of the people who follow and read this blog every day would take a minute to send an email it would be a blow against this kind of offensive behavior.

So, if you would like to do something to defend the British monarchy and the future King and Queen of the U.K. and Commonwealth realms send your email to joepags@woai.com
Thank You.
The (very) Mad Monarchist

The Elizabethan Era

It was on November 17, 1558 that Elizabeth I, of the House of Tudor, became “Queen of England, Ireland and France”. There was a time, years ago, when I was a struggling university student pepped up on classes in British literature, Tudor history and the like that my admiration for “Good Queen Bess” was so complete as be approaching idolatry. Because of some personal changes and deeper studies my opinion has certainly modified since then. “Good Queen Bess” was not all that good to certain peoples and segments of society nor was she responsible for most of the great achievements of the Elizabethan Era. In fact, she was a quite indecisive ruler who tended to put things off until they resolved themselves or someone else resolved it for her. She was also quite irresponsible as a monarch in many ways, particularly in her refusal to secure the succession by either marrying and having children or naming an heir to the throne. There was also the execution of Mary Queen of Scots which I, as a monarchist, have a huge problem with and the trial and execution of one sovereign monarch by another is not something I am going to ever get past. Trust me.

Now, having said all of that, Queen Elizabeth I still must stand out as one of the most significant, effective and success monarchs of England. She was a woman of great political instincts, great determination and was one of the greatest monarchs ever, in my opinion, when it came to mastering the public image of monarchy. If the almost divine image of the “Virgin Queen” is not completely accurate the Queen still deserves a great deal of credit for putting that best possible image forward and making it stick. If every monarch were so talented in the area of public relations republicans would positively be an endangered species if they exist at all. Some have attributed this to post-Elizabethan writers embellishing the accomplishments and popularity of Elizabeth I, and that may be true to some extent, but it is certainly not the whole truth. The abilities and accomplishments of Elizabeth I were widely recognized in her own time and even by her enemies. The Pope famously said that if only Elizabeth I were Catholic she would be their “most beloved daughter” and noted that while ruling only half an island she had made herself feared by France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. She was evidently doing something right.

Above all, Queen Elizabeth I was a very pragmatic ruler. On the religious question she was not known for firm convictions. Before coming to the throne she had declared herself a Protestant and a Catholic depending on who held power. She was always opposed to the more extreme Protestants yet she recognized that it was the anti-Catholics who were her base of power and so she was certainly never going to be friendly toward the Catholic Church. There were terrible persecution of Catholics though it was not as bad as it could have been. In the area of politics she was also more practical than principled. She supported Protestant rebels in Scotland to keep the pro-French regent and queen there in check, she supported the Dutch against the Spanish to keep Philip II occupied and supported the Protestants in France for the same reason. Her support for the ‘English Sea Dogs’ against Spanish shipping also helped thwart a powerful enemy without a direct confrontation. The defeat of the Armada was a pivotal event in English history and while she may not have been directly responsible for that, in as much as she would be blamed if the Armada had succeeded she deserves credit for its defeat. She opened trade with the Muslim world, sending arms to Morocco, as a way to support their war against Spain and she sent the first English ambassador to the Ottoman Empire who were at that time almost constantly at war with the Empire. For a time she even considered a military alliance with the Turks against the Spanish but nothing ever came of it.

It was during the reign of Elizabeth I that there also first came to be complaints over various methods of the Crown for obtaining funds without the support of Parliament which led to some problems. However, the Queen was very adept at dealing with this problem with a speech to Parliament that played on emotions, protesting her ignorance of the corruptions that existed and of her boundless love for her people and her country. This was no long-term solution and as we know the problem would arise again and again after Elizabeth was gone, coming to a head under Charles I. This, in a way, relates to the only negative aspect of the Queen’s mastery of public image and public relations. The devotion was to her personally, Gloriana, the iconic embodiment of England and English greatness and as happens this meant that such loyalty was not focused on the monarchy and would not carry over to her successor. This was exacerbated by the fact that there was no Royal Family to speak of and the only potential successor was the King of Scots at a time when suspicion of all foreigners had been purposely aroused. The precedent set by the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots would also have severe repercussions later on as well.

Again, I have serious “issues” with Queen Elizabeth I and yet her significance cannot be denied and regardless of how one feels about her, Elizabeth I was obviously a queen of exceptional talent. Under her reign England again became a country that mattered after years of decline since the latter years of Henry VIII. Under her England mastered the sea, undermined Spanish power in such a way that Spain would decline and England would rise on the world stage as well as gaining a valuable lead on the French by playing off factions against each other. Her enemies could not help but admire her and even many of those she had executed went to their deaths pledging their loyalty to her. She embodied her country in such a way that her Protestant subjects all but worshipped her and even her Catholic subjects rallied to her against the Armada. She left England, if not the monarchy, stronger than she found it and left a legacy that no other British monarch has ever matched.

Tibetan Anniversary

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the XIV Dalai Lama officially taking up his duties as the temporal monarch of Tibet. His accession came earlier than usual due to the crisis with China.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Favorite Royal Images: Brother and Sister

The future King Baudouin of the Belgians and his sister the future Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte of Luxembourg

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It Is Official!

Even in the staunchly republican United States every morning news show has gleefully reported the big news from Great Britain: HRH Prince William is officially engaged to marry longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton in London next year. Palace officials stated that Prince William proposed to Kate while on vacation in Kenya in October but informed only the Royal Family and of course Kate's family with whom the Prince is very close. The Prince also kept to tradition by asking Kate's father for his permission to marry his daughter. Prince William presented his beloved with his late mother Diana's engagement ring, in an effort, he said, to include her in this grand occasion. So far no further details have been released as to exact date and location but those answers have been promised to come "in due course". The Mad Monarchist joins all the loyal subjects of Great Britain and the Commonwealth realms in sending heartfelt congratulations to the young couple, the future King and Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland etc on the occasion of this happy event. May Prince William and the soon-to-be Princess Catherine have a lifetime of happiness together. God Save the Queen!

Was Austria-Hungary Doomed?

It frequently happens in history that the odd remark, even addressing a situation truthfully, can be repeated so often over the years that it is blown out of all proportion to historic reality. To some extent this has been the case with the Dual-Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Because it was not the most powerful nation in Europe and because her military was not the most efficient or cohesive, Austria-Hungary is often portrayed as a decaying, weak, decrepit power that was doomed to fall, war or no war. Yet, if one takes an objective look at Austro-Hungarian society, the economy and even the military and their war record, a rather different picture reveals itself. Austria-Hungary had its problems certainly and probably more than her share due to the rise of nationalist sentiment in the multi-national Hapsburg lands but had it not been for the war there is at least some evidence that Austria-Hungary could have survived and that the Hapsburg Empire was not, in fact, a doomed ghost of a bygone era.

First, one area in which Austria-Hungary was positively thriving was in the artistic and scientific segment of her society. This was the country of architects like Frederick Schmidt, Theophil Hansen and Karl Hasenauer. Inside their magnificent buildings one could find great composers of the period like Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, Brahms, Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss. For the less grand there was pieces known as light operas by Johann Strauss, Karl Millocker and Franz Lehar. There were poets like Hugo von Hofmannsthal, painters like Hans Makart, Gustav Klimt, Franz von Stuck and Kolo Moser. There were writers like Adalbert Stifter, Franz Kafka and Arthur Schnitzler. The medical department of the University of Vienna was renowned as probably the best in the world and produced such famous names in medicine as Theodor Billroth in antiseptic surgery, Theodor Meynert in brain surgery and Sigmund Freud in psychiatry. In other fields of study Vienna gave the world the philosopher Ernst Mach, the economist Carl Menger, the war historian Heinrich Friedjung, the legal experts Rudolf von Ihering and Joseph Unger, and the anthropologist Rudolf Poech. Does this sound like the product of a doomed and decaying society? For some, their theories are still hotly debated, for the artistic types their work is subject to individual taste, but no one can deny the wealth of talent represented in these products of late Imperial Austria. This certainly does not look like a society on the verge of collapse considering it had one of the greatest concentrations of artistic and scientific talent then in the world.

Secondly, there is the economic arena. While it is true that Austria-Hungary labored behind countries like Germany, France and Britain in the area of modernization and industrialization, significant economic progress was being made right up to the start of the First World War and the people of Austria-Hungary were nowhere close to being among the most impoverished or over-burdened in Europe to say nothing of the wider world. Industry was growing, railroad networks were expanding and between 1870 and 1913 per capita GNP in Austria-Hungary actually grew at a slightly higher rate than in Britain, France or Germany. The Austrian Empire was more developed than other areas but the Kingdom of Hungary, before World War I, was a major source of food exports to the rest of Europe and had a thriving agricultural industry. As the Twentieth Century dawned the Austro-Hungarian economy was growing by leaps and bounds. The rapid expansion of railways, particularly after the government sold much of these to private investors, greatly increased trade and economic opportunities across the empire. Still, as stated, Austria-Hungary was by no means the economic powerhouse of Europe but nor was it poor or backward and the economy was growing faster than in most other countries.

Finally we come to the way most powers at the time judged their national strength and that was, of course, the military. It is true that Austria-Hungary did not have the best military in the world or the best military in Europe. They were hampered by the basic fact that Austria had never been a militaristic country. If you wanted a country that lived by the sword you went to Prussia. Austria was always more famous for its music, art, grand buildings and glamorous society than it was for its military and battlefield successes. Additionally, the Austro-Hungarian military was hampered by the fact that most of the officers spoke German but relatively few of the soldiers understood the language. The dizzying array of languages and ethnic differences made the sort of rigid unit cohesion present in other armies virtually impossible in the Imperial-Royal military. However, all of that being said, the Austro-Hungarian armed forces were nothing to sneer at. They were a formidable fighting force, among the largest in the world with some excellent units and some brilliant commanders. They also had a record that included a number of often over-looked victories as well as their much talked about defeats.

The driving force behind the Imperial-Royal Army was Field Marshal Conrad von Hoetzendorf. He, like the empire he served, has suffered from a great deal of bad press in recent histories (regarding his ability and not his personality and opinions -in that regard he was certainly among the most vociferous and aggressive). Yet, it must be kept in mind that at the time of the outbreak of war the Field Marshal was widely respected, around the world, and considered by contemporaries to be the most brilliant strategic mind in Central Europe. He should also be given credit for his efforts to modernize the army and keep up to date with technological innovations which was always a struggle since Vienna was constantly cutting the military budget in preference for other things. The campaigns in the east that the Germans are given so much credit for winning were all based on the original strategies put down by Hoetzendorf. The disabilities of the army may have tainted the results but few would deny that grand strategy of Hoetzendorf was the work of a military genius and were ultimately successful. And, despite the disabilities of the army it was a formidable force and upon mobilization was able to field over three million well armed men with some of the biggest and best artillery in Europe, guns of such superior quality that they were imported by the Germans to level the Belgian fortresses that gave them so much trouble.

When it came to actually fighting there is no doubt that the initial campaign against Serbia was a disaster for Austria-Hungary and much is often made of this, however, it happened because of some crucial and unavoidable reasons. First, the Austrian-Hungarians had to weaken their forces for the drive on Serbia because of the need to concentrate the bulk of their forces to meet the Russian threat to the east. Second, the Serbs had the advantage of fighting a defensive war on their own ground -and that is a very rugged part of the world and perhaps most importantly the Serbs were simply extremely tenacious, tough and determined fighters, much more so than anyone at the time gave them credit for. However, working alone or in conjunction with the Germans, the Austro-Hungarian forces won numerous victories against the Russians, Romanians, finally did conquer the Serbs and when Italy joined the war the forces of Austria-Hungary performed magnificently. To the very end of the conflict they held off superior Italian forces, made daring counter-attacks and even forced the French and British to divert troops to help the Italians to keep them in the war. It is also true, though not widely known, that Austria-Hungary sent small forces to aid Germany on the western front and even to the Middle East to support the faltering Ottoman Turks toward the end of the war.

On the naval front, Austria-Hungary was far from helpless as well. Simply their presence prevented Allied forces operating with impunity due to their fear of an all-out battle with the formidable Austrian fleet. Large surface ships were mostly confined to the Adriatic because of this stand-off but the Imperial-Royal Navy did launch a number of damaging raids against the Allied blockading squadrons. Likewise, on the undersea front, for her small size the Austrian u-boat fleet proved extremely effective. In fact, the Austrian u-boats actually had a higher ratio of hits versus torpedoes fired than even the legendary German submarine force did. Another interesting fact is that the top scoring Austrian sub captain was none other than Georg Ritter von Trapp of “The Sound of Music” fame. Similarly, the Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops, despite working under severe hardships, proved themselves extremely capable with about 20 flying “aces” which included such pilots as Julius Arigi with 32 confirmed victories and Godwin Brumowski with 35 confirmed victories.

Considering all of this, it seems quite clear to me that, despite some considerable problems, Austria-Hungary was not an empire destined to collapse in any event. This is not something that should be seen as an inevitable event that would have happened with or without the war. Austria-Hungary had a vibrant social, scientific and artistic life, a growing economy and a respectable military. Of course no one can say for sure what would have happened but I think it is clear that it is at least very possible that without the war Austria-Hungary could have survived, it could have instituted the changes favored by many for “trialism” or a “United States of Greater Austria” and could have carried on very well. All the proper ingredients were there and in the person of either Archduke Franz Ferdinand or Emperor Charles I significant political changes would have been made. Austria-Hungary was not doomed, its collapse was not inevitable and people should not think that it was.
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