Saturday, February 26, 2011

Royal News Roundup

Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa is still topping the news this week and it is still largely troubling. In Jordan several people were injured in clashes between pro- and anti-government forces. HM King Abdullah II urged his government to adopt reforms (as he has done before) with greater urgency and also stressed that neither he, nor the people, would allow anyone to spread disunity and discord in Jordan. Across the border in Saudi Arabia their King returned home after a three-month absence following surgery in New York City. Protests have also been planned for Saudi Arabia were the dissidents have included among their demands an elected national leadership. The King of Bahrain, also engulfed in unrest recently, was on hand to greet the Saudi monarch who has been particularly concerned with the riots in Bahrain, a Shia majority country ruled by a Sunni Royal Family, worried that the discord to spread to the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia where Shia Islam is also dominant. The King had been recovering in the North African Kingdom of Morocco where trouble has also broken out. Mobs took the streets Sunday demanding that King Muhammad VI give up most of his powers, dissolve the government and crackdown on corruption. Of course, one must wonder how much the King can be expected to do to combat corruption if his powers are curtailed. Fortunately these protests have not, as yet, taken on a republican tone with most saying they want to retain the monarchy but reduce the royal role in government, saying they want something like Spain or Great Britain.

Also, in Libya, the violence continues as the arch-traitor and dictator Colonel Muammar Gadaffi tries to cling to power. In many parts of the country the old royal flag of the short-lived Kingdom of Libya is being carried by protestors and flown from many buildings, some people carrying pictures of King Idris, the first and last King of Libya. For a little background, Libya had been associated with the Ottoman Empire. After a lost war on the part of the Turks Libya became a colony of the Kingdom of Italy. After World War II the Italians were forced to give Libya independence and the country became a monarchy under King Idris from 1951 to 1969 when he was overthrown in a military coup led by Gadaffi.

In the Far East, HIH Crown Prince Naruhito celebrated his 51st birthday on Wednesday. The Crown Prince hinted that he might be taking up more official duties in the future as the Emperor cuts back his schedule. The Emperor was recently diagnosed with hardening arteries and is on medication for the problem. The Crown Prince was tight-lipped when asked about his daughter and gave the same line we have heard for many years now regarding the emotionally fragile Crown Princess Masako saying that she was “recovering steadily”. The Mad Monarchist wishes His Imperial Highness a very happy birthday and all the best for his family. It also came out this week that Princess Aiko is still having some trouble in school and is not yet attending all of her classes or taking lunch with her fellow students. She was pulled out for a time due to what was only described as “rowdy behavior” by some boys and returned only with her mother taking her to and from school and sitting in with her classes. This really makes me wonder, and worry. It certainly does nothing to allay the fears of those who think the Crown Princess has some serious nervous or mental disorder and has passed that on to her daughter. Some normalcy would be nice.

Also in the lands of Eternal Asia, a leading member of the Chinese Communist Party central committee has called for a renewed campaign against HH XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet. Mention was not made as to why this is needed (the PRC has long attacked and slandered the Dalai Lama and bullied any nations that deal with him) but it may be proof that the exiled god-king’s influence in his homeland is more extensive than the Red Chinese have wanted to admit. The leadership also said, however, that the Communist Party needed to take more care about religious issues and economic concerns so as not to provoke yet another uprising of the Tibetan people. For me, this was a bit of good news. Not that more attacks are being called for of course, but that the Dalai Lama is still able to so infuriate the CCP. Makes me warm inside. Pro-commie sources have tried to defend the regime by pointing out that half of the Tibetan people have been lifted out of “absolute poverty” in the last five years because of Red Chinese investment. Knowing the difference between “poverty” and “absolute poverty” might be helpful in that instance, but they also neglect to mention that the overall Tibetan population has been reduced almost as much due to all of the Han Chinese immigration that has accompanied the CCP’s “investment”.

In Russia, on Monday, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, head of the Romanov dynasty, visited the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in Moscow. The Grand Duchess met with the Chairman of the Court Vyacheslav Lebedev and other judges and court officials. She stressed that the legal rehabilitation of Tsar Nicholas II and his family as a sign that Russia had made peace with her past, accepted the facts and could move forward without fearing the truth. She also stated again that the Romanov dynasty has no demands to make for the restoration of family property seized by the state in the past and stated that the Romanovs have a unique historical position to fill to serve Russia through charity and social and cultural events. The Grand Duchess also stressed again that the House of Romanov will not interfere in politics in any way and that if the monarchy is restored it will be strictly limited and totally removed from political decisions. However, she also stated again that such a restoration is totally up to the will of the people and that her primary goal is not to restore the monarchy but to serve the Russia in any way that is necessary. This week the King and Queen of Spain also arrived in Russia, where they have met with the President of the Russian Federation to inaugurate the Spain-Russia Dual Year that will focus on strengthening ties between the two countries.

In Scandinavia, on Monday His Majesty King Harald V of Norway turned 74-years-old. The world does not seem to hear much about the King of Norway but I will submit that such is a good thing and to his credit. The only times monarchs really make the news in a big way is when there is some scandal involved. Not the case with the Norwegian monarch who goes about doing his duty, quietly and professionally with no fuss or drama. The Mad Monarchist wishes His Majesty a happy birthday with many more to come. In other Norwegian royal news the Royal Family was out in force in Oslo for the Nordic World Ski Championships and they will be involved with the event for its duration. The Queen of Denmark is also expected to visit. Also on the Danish front, on Friday the first official photographs of the new royal twins were released, to the joy of many impatient royal watchers.

In Great Britain more news has been released regarding the upcoming royal wedding. Invitations have gone out to 1,900 guests for the occasion including 200 government officials, MP’s and diplomats, 60 governors-general and PM’s from across the Commonwealth and 30 members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. The royal guest list includes crowned heads, princes and princesses from across Europe, the Middle East, Thailand, Tonga, Malaysia and Japan. It has also been announced that the first foreign visit by the royal newly weds will be to Her Majesty’s Dominion of Canada. In the meantime, Miss Middleton and Prince William carried out their first royal function together in Wales, not far from the RAF base where the Prince serves, to christen a new lifeboat. Prince William spoke at the event, partly in Welsh and also mentioned the horrific earthquake which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand. Kate was given the honor of actually ‘baptizing’ the new craft.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Monarchist Profile: General Edmund Fanning

Edmund Fanning, an American loyalist who made of himself a great success in the service of the British Empire, came from a somewhat mysterious background. He was born on April 24, 1739 on Long Island, New York. Some sources say his family were Irish Protestants from Ulster, others that his parents were Captain James Fanning and Hannah Smith. In any event, he proved a bright boy and was given a good education, graduating from Yale in 1757 and going on to study law in New York. In 1761 he moved to North Carolina and there was admitted to the bar and began taking an interest in politics. Reputedly the most educated man in the colony, he was able to work closely with the Royal Governor of North Carolina William Tryon. He occupied a number of relatively minor administrative positions before coming to greater attention during the War of the Regulation. This arose out of claims that Fanning and another lawyer were guilty of extortion, a crime for which he was fined. However, the locals did not think the fine sufficient punishment and violence soon broke out which Governor Tryon was able to suppress at the head of the North Carolina militia at the battle of Great Alamance Creek on May 16, 1771.

Due to this trouble Fanning was more than happy to accompany Tyron when he was subsequently posted to New York as his private secretary. He later served as surrogate of New York City and was appointed surveyor general of the colony in 1774. In the summer of that year he was also awarded a doctorate of the civil laws by the University of Oxford. However, as rebellion brewed in New England, Fanning’s position as a Crown official, as well as his history in North Carolina, ensured that he would be singled out for particularly harsh treatment by the “Patriots”. Rebel gangs chased him from his house and he had to take shelter in New York harbor onboard HMS Asia. Sufficiently outraged he endeavored to take an active role in punishing the rebels and suppressing the revolution in America. Lt. General William Howe, British commander in North America, commissioned him colonel and he raised his own regiment of loyalist infantry known as the King’s American Regiment. Also known as the “Associated Refugees” the King’s American Regiment, under Colonel Fanning, gained quite a reputation during the war, both for their fighting prowess and their rather rough treatment of all rebels.

However, lest any think that Colonel Fanning was truly the barbarian that revolutionary propaganda made him out to be, it was he who intervened with the British forces to prevent the burning of Yale College, a fact for which, long after the war, the grateful institution granted him an honorary degree. Nor was he some soft political appointee who remained far from the fighting; in fact he was wounded twice in combat during the course of his service. The reputation with which Fanning was saddled by the American press was totally undeserved. Much of it was built on the ‘original sin’ of his conduct in North Carolina. However, most serious scholars now admit that Fanning was likely simply a scapegoat for popular discontent but this was built upon by the revolutionaries to portray Fanning as the epitome of the corrupt Crown official, exploiting the populace and then making merciless war on them once the fighting had begun.

When the war ended in defeat for the British, Colonel Edmund Fanning was forced to flee, along with other loyalists, to Nova Scotia in 1783. He became lieutenant governor and in 1785 he married and later had a son and three daughters. In 1786 he accepted what he thought was a temporary post as lieutenant governor of St John’s Island (today Prince Edward Island). His accommodations on the island were less than ideal but he persisted and in 1808 was promoted to general in the British army. He finally retired and moved to London where he died on February 28, 1818, remembered as one of the most successful loyalist governors of British North America and a leading figure in the early history of Canada.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The 23-F Coup in Spain

It was yesterday, February 23, in 1981 that His Majesty King Juan Carlos I firmly made Spain a constitutional monarchy. He had, of course, officially made Spain a democratic, constitutional monarchy already, overseeing the transition away from the authoritarian regime of General Francisco Franco (may he rest in peace) but it was not until the events of 23 February 1981 and immediately thereafter that it was certain that the changes would be permanent. In the absence of the imposing figure of the late generalissimo Spain had become slightly chaotic. The instability caused business to pull out, unemployment shot up and separatist rebels thought they then had a chance to achieve their nefarious ends and began causing all sorts of trouble. Many in the military were unhappy, seeing their previous pride of place being lost to a gaggle of squabbling politicians and the restrictions on opposition parties being lifted. Some decided that the time had come to use force to restore military rule and a real or apparent royal authoritarian state. They expected the King to side with them. To their surprise, he did not.

On 23 February Lt. Colonel Antonio Tejero with 200 men of the Civil Guard, all brandishing weapons, firing machine guns into the air, stormed into the Spanish Congress of Deputies while a new prime minister (Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo) was being elected. Long known for his opposition to the Basque separatists, Tejero held the deputies hostage and announced that the military was taking control of the government. In Valencia another army captain declared martial law and tanks were soon rolling down the streets. It was their hope that King Juan Carlos would take charge of this state of emergency to assume absolute power and rule Spain through the military ringleaders of the coup. On the contrary, however, the King was horrified by what had happened and immediately got in contact with senior military officers, trying to determine who could be trusted, get a handle on the situation and organize forces to put down the attempted rebellion. The problem was that so many in the military especially and to a lesser extent the public at large, assumed that the King would support the coup and that there was therefore nothing to be done.

To counter this, King Juan Carlos decided to make a public address to the nation. Purposely wearing his full uniform as captain-general of the Spanish armed forces, he broadcast by television his opposition to the coup and called on all sections of Spanish society to stand together to maintain law and order and uphold the new constitution of the Kingdom of Spain. His influence was certainly the deciding factor as most of the military, bound by their oath of loyalty to the King, sided with Juan Carlos I against the attempted coup. Units rallied to commanders loyal to the King, rebel forces were disarmed and the congress surrounded. The next day, 24 February, the ringleaders surrendered and the coup collapsed. All the hostages were released and no one had been killed or seriously injured. The result was a huge wave of popular support for King Juan Carlos and the projection of the monarchy as the guarantor of both stability and democracy in Spain. No matter what the political orientation of individuals, almost everyone became a monarchist at that point and support for the monarchy became mainstream and bi-partisan.

However, since that time, some have been rather critical of King Juan Carlos for his actions, embracing democracy and rejecting the opportunity to restore absolute power. Those holding this sentiment have been, in a way, reinforced by the decline in support for the Spanish monarchy as more time elapses and the public take their freedoms for granted. Today most Spaniards still support the King but the monarchy as a whole remains on less firm ground with many wondering if “Juan Carlos the First” will be “Juan Carlos the Only”. By nature I would be inclined to support the King maintaining final authority over the government and when even parties adamantly opposed to the very existence of Spain or the monarchy (such as separatists and communists etc) are legalized I can only be disgusted. Yet, in all fairness, I can also recognize that it would have been very difficult for the Spain of Franco to continue on under King Juan Carlos given the direction Western Europe was going. Likewise, the widespread popular opposition to the coup and the huge wave of support the King gained by opposing it shows how much the Spanish people wanted the democratic changes and greater freedoms that came out of the new constitution. If the King had instead stood against that, who can say if he or the monarchy would have long survived? Even the most authoritarian governments (as we are seeing now) must have some level of popular support no matter how un-democratic and dictatorial they may be. There is only so much any government can do to force people to do the right thing (if you see it as the right thing) and if all the decades of rule by Franco could not do it I cannot see King Juan Carlos being any more successful had he opposed the constitutional changes. It is simply unfortunate that since that time so many have used their new freedoms to make bad choices, morally and politically.

King Juan Carlos was, I think, doing what he felt was right and with the best of intentions. Whether it was the right decision can and will be argued but if it was King Juan Carlos I should be applauded for bringing freedom to his people, and defending that freedom. If it was the wrong decision the changes that opponents wish for will only be possible when the opinions and values of the public change. Effort should be put in to changing that rather than trying to change the form of government. I would like to see Spain reject socialism, return to their religious roots, take pride in the glorious history of the Kingdom of Spain and I would like it to happen while maintaining the Spanish monarchy. Viva Juan Carlos! Viva EspaƱa!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Alamo: The Siege Begins

It was on this day in 1836 that the Mexican Army of Operations in Texas, led by the Presidential dictator and traitor to his emperor Generalissimo Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna arrived in San Antonio, Texas and besieged the tiny force of Texan volunteers who had taken refuge in the Alamo, a crumbling old Franciscan mission from the Spanish era. Upon arrival Santa Anna sent the Alamo a demand for unconditional surrender, otherwise the old rules would apply and his forces would give no quarter. Alamo co-commander Lt. Colonel William B. Travis answered this demand with a shot from his largest canon (an 18pdr) and a rebel yell. Properly annoyed, Santa Anna dispatched troops to raise a blood-red flag over San Fernando Church (the highest point in town at the time) to send an unmistakable message to the Texan forces. There would be no mercy, he would take no prisoners. This would be a fight to the death. Determined to hold as long as possible, Travis sent messages to the Anglo colonies imploring them for assistance. "Send me help, oh my country". Mexican artillery was brought forward and began their first night of bombardment. The most famous and infamous battle in Texas history had begun.

Mad Rant: Bad Presidents

The United States recently celebrated Presidents Day, a holiday to honor all presidents which grew out of lumping together the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, widely considered to be the best American presidents. It will not surprise readers of this weblog to know that I disapprove of both of these individuals though it may surprise some to know that I have a much better opinion of the “revolutionary” George Washington than I do of the first Republican Party President Abraham Lincoln. I actually think George Washington was a pretty decent American president. Not stellar by any means but he kept the country on an even keel, had a pretty conservative attitude on things and resolved to stay out of world affairs and have the USA mind its own business. Where I offend the “Yankee Doodle” crowd is when I point out that Washington was a military idiot. So sorry to offend the honor of your “god” Yankee doodles, but that is simply a fact.

George Washington, aside from the whole “traitor” thing, had flaws that were mostly personal and nothing to do with his presidency. He was stuck-up, vindictive, quick to take offense and good at trying to blame others for his own mistakes. He pulled the teeth out of his own slaves when he was in need of some and cursed his soldiers after losing a battle. And he lost plenty of them. The British basically thrashed him from one end of New England to the other with the only battles he ever won basically being minor skirmishes in which he had the enemy grossly outnumbered (such as the time he famously crossed the Delaware to capture a handful of drunk Germans). The only ability he ever seemed to show was in retreating and the best he ever achieved was in not-being-destroyed by the British army. And don’t talk to me about Yorktown either for everyone knows that the French won that battle, not George Washington. However, his side did win the war and he deserves credit for that (the presidency was a fitting reward) since he surely would have been blamed had they lost.

Abraham Lincoln, however, is an entirely different story. He is often rated even above Washington as the greatest president in American history and if you don’t believe me about the lengths to which this goes just take a little trip to Washington DC where his colossal image is enthroned in his very own Greco-Roman temple. I am, frankly, completely at a loss to explain how this is possible. I am bewildered by the praise heaped on this tyrant of a man for things which he actually did the very opposite of. Admirers will say that he “kept the United States together”. Umm, no, in fact it was his election that drove half of the country into open rebellion against him. Admirers will say that he “freed the slaves”. How is that possible when the law that abolished slavery was passed after Lincoln was dead as Julius Caesar? Well, but, but, his admirers will say that he was an honest, God fearing and decent man. You are talking about Lincoln, right? The same man who said at his inauguration that there could be no war between the states without the south being the aggressors and then called for tens of thousands of troops to invade the south? The same man who promised that he had no plans to interfere with slavery where it legally existed only to then say he had made a promise to God to eradicate slavery when issuing the “Emancipation Proclamation” (which actually freed practically no one as it applied only to areas not under Union control)? “Honest Abe” my aching…

As for the “God fearing man” part, Lincoln is actually the only American president who was never a member of any church nor did he have any religious affiliation. And as for the decent part, I am sorry Lincoln worshippers, but the man purposely killed more Americans than any foreign nation or potentate in history. Whatever you think of the righteousness of the cause of the war, Lincoln is the only American president to ever fight a full-scale war against Americans. His troops killed American civilians, looted and burned American towns, starved American children and devastated entire regions of the country we call America. He used U.S. soldiers to break up properly elected state governments (Maryland) as well as to arrest anyone who exercised their freedom of speech to voice disapproval of the war he was fighting. “Honest Abe” tried to justify this by saying that secession was illegal yet he engineered the secession of the western counties from Virginia to form the new state of West Virginia to gain more representatives in Congress. Honest someone said?

Now I know that the hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, trampled rights and tyrannical rule will still be excused by many as being justified means to the end of abolishing slavery. In the first place, I find that just a tad disturbing as it is, and in the second place I do not see how that can possibly be true. Great Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Brazil all ended slavery without a horrific bloodbath. The Tsar of Russia ended serfdom without butchering his own people by the hundreds of thousands. Are people really arguing that the only way the greatest President of the United States in American history could end slavery was by brute military force that utterly devastated half the country and killed nearly 700,000 people? Were he one of the greatest statesmen to ever walk the earth, could he not have found a better way? It simply baffles me that the man hailed by so many as the greatest American President is the same one who trampled on the constitution, suspended civil rights, arrested thousands without warrant or hope of a trial simply for speaking against his actions, waged war against his own people and, after his death, had most of his actions denounced by the U.S. Supreme Court as totally illegal and unconstitutional. It utterly baffles me and I doubt I will ever understand this odd sort of republican logic, but, I suppose, that is why I am … The Mad Monarchist.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reagan on the Shah of Iran

MM Movie Review: Gladiator

The 2000 Ridley Scott film “Gladiator” was a box office success that is widely credited with reviving the “sword and sandal” historical epics (though given some that came later one might be tempted to use the word “blame” rather than “credit” sometimes). What is the story? Well, as with so many movies these days “Gladiator” is a little light on story. It pretty much boils down to a quest for revenge though they try to spice it up with some other plot points but they really make no sense. Russell Crowe stars as General Maximus Decimus Meridius who we meet in the opening scenes leading his armies to victory over some German barbarians. I don’t know how accurate the battle sequence is, but it is certainly impressive. In almost any Roman-era movie the “barbarians”, be they Germans, Celts or anyone else are all portrayed the same way: very hairy, very primitive and wearing lots of animal skins. The battle is won by Maximus under the watchful eyes of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (played by veteran actor Richard Harris). His son and daughter arrive just as the fighting is over and we move on to my first really (*really*) big problem with this movie.

The great Emperor Marcus Aurelius, an old man about to die, says that he’s really not a fan of the whole “empire” thing and wants Rome to go back to being the ideal, virtuous republic that it once was. Yes, this tired line again. You know, that glorious Roman Republic ruled by a handful of feuding elite politicians which spent its last hundred years killing its own people in civil wars driven by men with more ego than brains and more vanity than patriotism…yes, that one. Of course that was so much better than the peace, prosperity and cultural revival that came with the establishment of the monarchy by Emperor Augustus. Now, considering the fact that Marcus Aurelius is a very old man by this time, one is tempted to ask why, if he so detested the empire, did he not immediately abdicate all his powers to the Senate long ago? Why wait till now when you know you are about to die and must know that this is going to cause sufficient upheaval that you want your best general to step in as military dictator to oversee the transition? Such questions are never answered. Roman film fans will remember that this was the set-up for the epic movie, “The Fall of the Roman Empire” which was also based around Marcus Aurelius wanting to deny the throne to his son in favor of handing power over to a trusted general. Were the makers of “Gladiator” really at such a loss for ideas that they had to rip off the falsities of past films?

So, Emperor Marcus Aurelius wants to be the last Roman Emperor and he wants Maximus to take charge in Rome during the transition back to being a republic. He says that his own son, Commodus, is pretty much an evil jerk and cannot be allowed to assume power. Maximus, humble and un-ambitious of course as all heroes are expected to be, does not want to take power but the Emperor tells him that is precisely why he is the only man for the job. Forgive me, but this really takes dramatic license way, way too far. Contrary to what they say, Rome was not “founded as a republic”. It had originally been a monarchy. That monarchy was overthrown and Rome became a republic. I am a fan of Roman civilization in general and I don’t like to bash the Roman Republic but I really get tired of the constant over-romanticism of the republic at the expense of the empire. The Roman Republic fell because it failed, it could no longer function and the Romans, who were a very practical people, by and large understood that when one thing doesn’t work you try something else. They also, even after the elevation of Augustus, considered themselves a republic -just a republic with an Emperor who held final authority. Moreover, we know that Marcus Aurelius was not the last Roman Emperor and that the Empire went on for a very long time after him so, who are they trying to fool? Additionally, not only did Marcus Aurelius not want to exclude his son from power he actually made Commodus a sort of partner alongside him some time before he died. The real Marcus Aurelius actually went above and beyond to make it known that his son would succeed him and that the succession would be peaceful.

Well, not in this movie, which in this early scene immediately takes on a decidedly anti-monarchist tone (which is a shame because it is such a well made, entertaining film for the most part). Marcus Aurelius is the “good Emperor” only because he doesn’t want to be Emperor at all (yet he kept the job all these years) and the goal is to see the monarchy abolished and senatorial rule restored. However, when he announces to his son Commodus (played with villainous excellence by Joaquin Phoenix) that he will not be emperor but instead his general will take charge and turn power over to the Senate, believe it or not, Commodus is rather unhappy with the news. In a fit of rage he kills his father and assumes power. Which, we know of course, is pure myth as in actual history Marcus Aurelius died of sickness. In any event, it is done here and other commanders are loyal to Commodus and Maximus is arrested and soldiers are sent to kill his wife and children. The general escapes but is captured by slave traders bound for Africa.

Maximus is bought by Proximo (played by the late great Oliver Reed) who makes him a gladiator, eventually instilling in him a will to live and to use his status as a gladiator to rise to fame, earn his way to fight in Rome and get close to the Emperor. In the meantime, Commodus returns triumphantly to Rome and promptly angers the Senate. He would like to do away with them entirely but his sister, Princess Lucilla (played marvelously by Danish actress Connie Nielsen) dissuades him on the grounds that the people need their traditions. Just to reiterate what a bad guy Commodus is we are quickly shown that he’d like nothing better than to crush his sister’s smokes (yep, a time-honored insult for Roman emperors if ever there was one -incest is best, everything’s relative! Oh boy…) and she also fears angering her brother for the sake of her son Lucius. Commodus decides to overcome the opposition of the Senate by winning over the public which he does with a campaign of generosity and 150 days of gladiatorial games in the Coliseum. I will add here that the soundtrack on the movie is pretty spectacular but my favorite musical note was the fanfare when the Emperor arrives in the ‘royal box’. And, although I couldn’t swear as to the accuracy, the costumes all look magnificent to me. I thought Rome itself was done well though I know some have complained about the CGI. All I can say to that is, if you think the CGI in this movie is terrible -I can only envy you as I have seen much, much, much worse.

Maximus (known as “the Spaniard” in gladiatorial circles) finally arrives in Rome but, being the proper, virtuous republican that he is, cannot resist denouncing the spectacle of blood sports. He says that Marcus Aurelius had a vision of Rome and that the blood sport of the coliseum was “not it”. Well, sorry to burst your bubble there general but gladiatorial combat had been going on in Rome for a very, very long time before Marcus Aurelius was ever a twinkle in his father’s eye. Just as with his condemnation of the empire and glorification of the idyllic republic that never existed, I say again, if the Emperor had a problem with gladiators fighting to the death he could have just stopped it. He was the Emperor. He would have been seen as a wussy, puritanical kill-joy by the Roman people but he could have done it. There are few things that turn me off more than people, real or fictitious, who gripe and moan about things that they have every power to change but for some reason never do so. For a real life example witness Thomas Jefferson and his numerous and vociferous condemnations of slavery and keep in mind that this man owned hundreds of slaves and never gave any of them their freedom. Sorry to digress, but that sort of thing just really annoys me.

Maximus triumphs in the arena against all odds and finally comes face to face with the Emperor. Commodus is shocked and horrified to find him alive but Maximus had won the crowd over and so the Emperor cannot kill him without angering the mob. Maximus, meanwhile, enters into a conspiracy with Lucilla and some senators to have the Emperor assassinated after which time Maximus will be able to carry out his last order and have his revenge against Commodus all at the same time. A great plan right? Well, it would have been except that for some reason some idiot seems to have let the little boy Lucius in on their plan to have Maximus “save” Rome and overthrow his uncle who just happens to be the most powerful man on earth and holds all of their lives in the palm of his hand. Again, Emperor Commodus is rather upset by this and in a very chilling scene lets his sister know that he is on to them and that if she does anything to displease him her son will be the first to die. Well done to whoever told the kid, brilliant move there.

The only other problem I have with this is that we are just supposed to take for granted that Emperor Commodus is an unpopular and terrible tyrant. Yet, we never actually see him do anything to the people to warrant that judgment. We see him be perfectly evil of course but only to his own family and to Maximus who was standing in the way of his inheritance and knew the truth about the fictional last wishes of his father. We never see him tyrannizing the people, being cruel to them or advancing himself in any undue way. The real Commodus was considered more odd than anything else, more of a nut job than anything else, naming months after himself and walking around wearing a lion skin and carrying a club -totally unlike the Commodus in this movie. On the contrary, as far as the Roman people are concerned all we ever see is the Emperor being good to them, feeding them, entertaining them and worrying over how well the people love him. From what we see on screen, so long as you did not cross him or were not related to him you would probably think he was a pretty great monarch. But that doesn’t seem to matter. He is the bad guy, Maximus is the good guy and Commodus has to find some way of getting rid of him without just executing him which would upset the public.

Finally, Emperor Commodus decides that the only way to deal with Maximus is to kill him himself in the arena in gladiatorial combat (after stabbing him in the side of course to ensure his victory). A wounded, bleeding to death Maximus against the wicked Emperor Commodus, yes, we all know how that is going to end. That’s right, they both die. Maximus kills the Emperor, has his revenge and then promptly drops dead. The Praetorian Guard does nothing, the crowd does not react -nothing. One would think this sort of thing happened every day. Someone just killed the Emperor of Rome in front of thousands of witnesses and absolutely no action is taken. Maximus is given all the honors of death while the Emperor is just left to lay there in the dirt. Did I miss something? Seriously, THAT was the end? That is what we have been building toward all this time; they both die, end of story, roll credits? Huh?!?

At the end of the day I could not figure out just exactly what the point of “Gladiator” was supposed to be. The hero does not really ‘win’ other than accomplishing the fact of killing the ‘bad guy’. However, as we have already seen, we never see the ‘bad guy’ do anything that bad in the grand scheme of things beyond how he ruined the lives of a few individuals. I know we are led to believe that the farcical last wish of Marcus Aurelius was fulfilled and the Roman Republic was restored -but we all know that did not happen. The Roman Empire marched on for a long, long time to come after the actual death of the real Emperor Commodus. So, again, I wonder what really was the point of it all? What is this movie supposed to be telling us? The only moral I could find was that if someone does you wrong, don’t give up, just be patient and wait until the time is right to take your revenge and even if it kills you it will still be worth it if your enemy dies with you. Not exactly uplifting I suppose. However, I will say again though that the movie is very entertaining, the fight scenes are realistic and exciting, I thought it looked spectacular, the actors all gave first rate performances (I loved the announcer by the way), the sound was good and it was pretty well paced. It was, on the other hand, very inaccurate, rather absurd at times regarding the story and did not really have any depth to it. That and it was very anti-monarchist from where I was sitting.

Favorite Royal Images: Blessed by Christ

Tsar Alexander III of Russia and family blessed by Christ

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Royal News Roundup

The wave of uprisings sweeping the Arab world continues with violent demonstrations breaking out in the Kingdom of Bahrain accompanied by calls for the overthrow of the monarchy. The government has cracked down on the protestors and the U.S. has been particularly concerned given that the tiny gulf kingdom is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, cornerstone of the American military presence in the region. Two people have been killed and King Hamad has promised that the government will investigate the deaths. Bahrain has undergone progressive reforms in recent years but they have not satisfied the majority Shia population (the royal family are Sunni Muslims) and it is feared that Shia control of Bahrain would give Iran undue influence in the gulf state. Over in Jordan Queen Rania, who has been the subject of criticism in the protests in that country, expressed her best wishes for the people of Egypt where she had been a university student and for the first time since the unrest began made a public appearance visiting madrasas in Amman. Violence has also broken out in Libya with calls for the overthrow of the tyrant and arch-traitor Muammar Gaddafi. However, there have also been rumors that Gadaffi, who engineered the overthrow of King Idris as a young army officer, may be contemplating a restoration of the Libyan monarchy, possibly in conjunction with his own retirement. It seems unlikely but in recent years Gadaffi has returned some of the properties previously confiscated from the former Libyan Royal family.

In Europe, where the President of France recently joined the German chancellor and British Prime Minister in denouncing multi-culturalism, Queen Beatrix and Prince Friso of the Netherlands opened a new multi-religious cultural center in Amsterdam last Friday. In Belgium, controversial the Prince Laurent had his drivers license suspended for two weeks due to excessive speeding. The palace has made no excuses for the prince but the humorless press did not respond well to the outspoken Prince’s joke that there should be a special license for those with fast cars. But there is happier news in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg where the lovely Princess Alexandra had her twentieth birthday on Thursday. I have always been a fan of the Princess who has been studying at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio which is also impressive as it is a very small and conservative Catholic university one would not expect to see a European royal choose to attend. The Mad Monarchist wishes the lovely Luxembourger a very happy birthday with many, many more to come.

On the Scandinavian royal front there is some slightly troubling news out of Denmark where one of the newborn twins of Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary (the little girl -as yet unnamed) has been taken to the hospital. The baby, only a month old, seems to be suffering simply from a cold but, given her tender age the Crown Princely couple wisely decided to take every precaution. The twins are set to be baptized and have their names announced in April. In Italy Princess Martha Louise of Norway has appeared on television to talk about her latest book “Meet Your Guardian Angel” which has been a big hit in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries, success which may make the book more available in other languages. The Princess has taken a lot of criticism for her beliefs, generically referred to as “New Age” type ideas as well as the usual accusation anytime a royal does anything for themselves in the private sector; using her title to gain an unfair advantage. Yawn. I am certainly not in agreement with all that Princess Martha Louise believes but I very much agree with Siv Ellen Kraft who said, “There are a lot worse things she could have found to believe in than angels”. Just so.

In the British Isles it was recently announced that U.S. President and First Lady Obama will go on an official state visit to the U.K. from May 24-26. According to the President accepted an invitation from the Queen for a state visit which will be the first since 2003. However, this has also brought up renewed talk about the Obamas not being invited to the royal wedding this summer. Speculation that this invitation was a consolation prize for not being invited to the wedding was to be expected, especially given that First Lady Michelle Obama stated on television this last week that she was not going to the wedding because she had not been invited. The Palace has maintained that this was due simply to the fact that the wedding is not a state occasion and has nothing to do with the noticeable deterioration of Anglo-American relations under the Obama administration.

Secession Talk in Texas

Last night a local station in San Antonio (which recently passed Dallas to become the second largest city in Texas) ran a story about the Texas Nationalist Movement, probably the most high-profile group in the state calling for secession and the restoration of the independent Republic of Texas. The spokesmen for TNM they spoke to pointed to some recent polls which indicated at least a growing support in Texas for the *principle* of secession and the right for Texas to become independent again. The membership director for TNM said that over six million registered voters actually favored Texas independence. Groups such as this have been around a long time, one of the more outlandish being the “Republic of Texas” militia group that was involved in an armed siege with government troops at their compound in the Davis Mountains. However, the Texas Nationalist Movement is completely peaceful and political and, although they mourn the fact that it cannot be as easy as holding a referendum, they are determined to use the existing political establishment to bring about independence.

According to the report, the TNM has passed from “phase one”, which was all about education and distribution information, to “phase two” which is direct lobbying of the politicians in Austin. They are hoping that by such measures or sufficient public pressure they can persuade elected officials to amend the constitution or introduce legislation calling for the secession of Texas from the United States. In the old days there were historical arguments, civil rights arguments, immigration and border arguments, and all of those are still around, but the economy has overtaken all others on the list of reasons the group gives for supporting independence. Cary Wise, TNM membership director, said, “Sooner or later our economy, to some extent, is going to collapse. And when it does, it’s going to take Texas with it,” and that is why secession is needed. This echoed similar sentiments expressed by Congressman Ron Paul who warned that states would secede when the dollar collapses and the federal government becomes totally ineffective.

Talk about secession, as regular readers will know, has been around for a long time and never fails to cause a firestorm of controversy whenever a major political official such as Congressman Ron Paul or Governor Rick Perry so much as speaks of secession as a legitimate possibility. I have always been rather skeptical of the chances of success, simply because so many are living off of the federal government these days and because so many non-Texans are moving in from other states and other countries. However, given what is happening in Wisconsin and the impending economic collapse of California, many more Texans may start to consider secession when all the states in the Union are called upon to bail out those who have lived for decades beyond their means and refuse to exercise economic discipline.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Royal Flags in Texas

First we have the ensign of the Spanish Empire which probably flew over Texas longer than any other covering the centuries during which Texas was part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain based out of Mexico City. This Spanish flag is often flown wherever the famous Six Flags of Texas are displayed, though sometimes the ignorant mistakenly fly the modern Spanish flag because it is so similar. This version was the Spanish flag from 1785 to 1843 but was revived later as well. This was the last European flag to fly over Texas soil.

This, rather historic, Spanish flag is also often seen in Texas where the Six Flags of Texas are displayed. If the Imperial Spanish flag is not seen it is usually this flag, the flag of the combined kingdoms of Leon and Castile, which is flown. For some it may be the flag most associated with the Spanish period even though it was probably not seen much if at all in Texas during that time since it was rather out of date by the time the Spanish started getting serious about moving in to Texas to settle and establish missions and presidios and so on. However, it is fairly well recognized and widely available in Texas flag stores.

The Cross of Burgundy, used as something like a battle flag by Spanish royal forces, was certainly used during the era of Spanish rule. A version of this flag was used as the flag of New Spain of which Texas was a part. It is not, however, that well known or widely available, though I was able to get one at my usual flag store. The only place I recall seeing one flying was at one of the historic Spanish missions in San Antonio, I think Mission San Jose which is the largest of all of them.

Probably the most commonly seen French flag in Texas is the white Bourbon flag of the Kingdom of France which is commonly flown wherever the Six Flags of Texas are displayed. It is delightful to me that one can travel all over Texas and see French flags all over the place but never a tricolor among them. Because it is so often used in displays of the Six Flags it is readily available at Texas flag stores and I have one myself and make a point to fly it on Bastille Day.

Besides the white flag the most common French flag seen in Texas is the blue flag with three lilies. Again, it can often be seen representing France among the Six Flags of Texas though in my experience I would say it is slightly less common than the white flag. Any shop that sells historic flags in Texas (and most flag stores do) will have one. As readers will know, the famous French explorer La Salle established a fort on the Texas coast for a brief time and part of north Texas was claimed as part of the Louisiana Territory which eventually led to border disputes between the United States and the Kingdom of Spain.

This flag, unfortunately, you will not see in Texas nor will you ever find one on sale. However, this flag, the flag of the first Mexican Empire (the monarchy of Agustin de Iturbide) was the national flag of Mexico, of which Texas was then part, from the time of independence from Spain in 1821 until the downfall of Iturbide in 1823. It was during the final days of the first Mexican Empire that the first Anglo colonies in Texas were being established. This brief period is, sadly, forgotten, in both Texas and Mexico to large extent and the usual Mexican flag displayed, even in historical sets, is the flag of the modern United Mexican States.

Perhaps the most surprising monarchial flag one can find in Texas is the yellow dragon flag of the Great Qing Empire, the Manchu dynasty of Imperial China, which flies at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio to represent the Chinese-Texan community. It is believed that this is the only place in the world where the Qing Imperial flag is still flown to represent a modern Chinese community.

A very common flag in Texas, at least in certain areas, is the flag of South Vietnam but most do not recognize it as a monarchial flag which, I suppose it could be argued, technically was not -but very technically. The flag was based on a design used by the short-lived Empire of Vietnam during World War II which was itself based on early Nguyen Dynasty royal flags. This version was adopted by the last Emperor Bao Dai when he was Chief of State of the State of Vietnam which was the predecessor of the Republic of Vietnam. All Vietnamese communities fly this flag (and react with righteous indignation to any display of the communist flag) and it is widely available at flag stores.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Monarch Profile: Emperor Ham Nghi of Vietnam

The story of the eighth Vietnamese emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty is a real “rags to riches” story. 1883 had been the “Year of Three Kings” in Vietnam in which a group of powerful mandarins, feuding with each other and the rising power of the French in Vietnam had raised up and torn down three monarchs in succession after the death of the long-reigning Emperor Tu Duc. All of this confusion and turmoil allowed the French to gain a firmer foothold and following the death of Emperor Kien Phuc (who was probably assassinated) the French thought that a younger candidate for the throne would be in their best interest and so officials were dispatched to find the younger brother of Kien Phuc; Nguyen-Phuc Ung Lich. He had been born on July 22, 1872 in the Forbidden City in Hue, but there had never been any thought of him becoming emperor. His mother was a commoner and he lived, as a child, with her in relative poverty in the suburbs around Hue.

When officials from the palace came and took the child in 1884 his mother was frantic, thinking he would be killed. Of course, he was not, and they washed him up, dressed him in yellow silk robes and enthroned him as the Emperor of Vietnam, the Son of Heaven. Despite his lack of a traditional education as princes normally were given the new boy-Emperor Ham Nghi was noted for his intelligence. Although he was too young to know everything that was going on he quickly came to understand that it was the French who were the new, real powers in the country. This was reinforced by certain officials around him, particularly the old regents Nguyen Van Tuong and Ton That Thuyet who were anxious to destroy the French presence to restore their own power. All this time they were secretly planning an uprising, fortifying a remote mountain stronghold to be their base and planning an attack on the French headquarters in Hue. They brought artillery into the Forbidden City and aimed their guns at the French garrison.

In reaction to this, the French stepped up their military patrols and kept an ever closer eye on the court officials and the young emperor which only increased his discontent at their presence. Finally, on the night of July 4, 1885 the regents launched their attack, which failed, but they broke into the imperial apartments, grabbed the little emperor and as many members of the family as they could and fled the Forbidden City to escape French retaliation. Not far from Hue most members of the family decided to go back to Hue and make their peace with the French, fearing that the rebels would not win and that the regents were not really fighting for the dynasty but for their own power. The regents issued their famous “Can Vuong” or “Save the King” decree, calling on the people to rise up against the French and rally to their young monarch in a war against the foreign presence in the country. Little Emperor Ham Nghi endorsed this but he really had very little to do with it, having been taken by force, but he was the figurehead for this massive revolt.

Back in Hue, with most of the Nguyen Dynasty around them, the French invoked the ancient law that Vietnam could not be one day without a king and they enthroned another prince as Emperor Dong Khanh. In his name a war was launched against the rebels under the nominal leadership of the rival Emperor Ham Nghi. Operating out of a base in the mountainous jungles near the Laos border the revolt became a guerilla war against the French colonial presence and, sadly in many cases, also a war against any foreign presence at all with many missionaries and Vietnamese Christians being killed. Some who fought in the name of Emperor Ham Nghi were simply vicious bandits but others, like the mandarin Phan Dinh Phung, were very upright, patriotic and loyal men who commanded very disciplined and well organized military forces. Ultimately, however, they were no match for the Vietnamese loyal to Emperor Dong Khanh and the superior military forces of France.

With the war going badly the young emperor was abandoned by the regents and had only Ton That Thiep (son of Ton That Thuyet) and a few servants in a small house near the Nai River with some Muong guards. One of these betrayed him to the French and he was captured and turned over to the colonial authorities on November 2, 1888 after many years of conflict. He refused to betray any of those who had fought for him and some wanted him killed, but, the French reasoned that this might cause further violence and he might prove useful in the future. So, the former Emperor Ham Nghi was exiled to Algeria on December 12, 1888 and he spent most of the rest of his life there. On November 4, 1904 he married a French lady named Marcelle Laloe by whom he had three children; Prince Minh Duc, Princess Nhu May and Princess Nhu Ly. Later, when the officials of another boy-emperor tried to launch a rebellion against the French in World War I there was some talk of restoring Ham Nghi to the throne, but nothing came of it. He died on January 14, 1943 and was buried in France. In 2000 Vietnamese Communist officials approached the last surviving daughter about moving his remains back to Vietnam but permission was evidently refused.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mad Motivation

Consort Profile: Maria Carolina of Austria

One of those royals who was famously converted to conservatism after being confronted with the harsh realities of revolution was Maria Carolina of Austria who was the Queen of Naples. She was born Archduchess Maria Carolina in Vienna, the thirteenth child of the prolific power couple Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. Her godfather was King Louis XV of France and she was said to look the most like her mother who was a very formidable and outstanding woman. Her favorite sibling was her ill-fated sister Marie Antoinette and the two girls got up to such mischief that their mother had to separate them because they were always causing trouble. Empress Maria Theresa, who was a very astute stateswoman, wanted a marriage alliance with the Bourbon Royal Family of southern Italy (the Spanish branch that ruled Naples & Sicily) to keep Austria and Spain allied. Originally it was Archduchess Maria Josepha who was supposed to marry King Ferdinand IV of Naples but when she died of smallpox the duty fell on young Maria Carolina because the only other choice was considered too old.

Maria Carolina was not too happy about this and threw a fit, saying that no good ever came to those who married into the House of Naples. Personal preference, of course, did not come into these things and Maria Carolina and Ferdinand IV were married by proxy on April 7, 1768. When husband and wife met they seemed quite different. Ferdinand was a rather simple man, more comfortable talking to a workingman on the street than elites in the palace. Queen Maria Carolina on the other hand was a very complex and complicated person. She was very kind, very intelligent, curious, generous and compassionate but she could also be imperious and ruthless toward enemies and she knew how to hold a grudge. However, in spite of their problems, the new King and Queen of Naples had 18 children so Maria Carolina was made of tough stuff, though not all of them survived, an army nonetheless. Many people sympathized with her, thinking the king rather crude and it was true that Maria Carolina was often unhappy but she did her duty like the professional royal she was, no matter how upset she would get at her husband eating spaghetti with his fingers in the royal box at the opera.

Particularly after the birth of her son Francis she became extremely influential in Naples and ran the place to large extent. She kept an eye on being a help to Austria but she was also much taken with the fashionable trend of the liberalism of the “Enlightenment”. She employed the Englishman John Acton in reforming the Neapolitan army, finances and he finally became prime minister all amidst gossip that Acton and the Queen were having an affair. She supported the work of many liberal thinkers, artists and so on and even when trouble began brewing in France she was originally supportive of many of the ideals of the revolutionaries. However, that all changed of course when the monarchy was abolished and seeing the results of the ideas she had once championed, she totally reversed herself. It became worse when poor Marie Antoinette was executed and forever after Maria Carolina carried a portrait of her sister with her and vowed to avenge her death. It was due to her influence that her husband put the Kingdom of Naples in the First Coalition of European powers against the French republic.

Of course, things did not go so well and in the wake of hostilities the local revolutionaries in Naples tried to overthrow their monarchy, which they did on the mainland at least, establishing a republic while the King and Queen Maria Carolina had to escape to Sicily to continue their opposition to the revolutionaries. The British Royal Navy helped protect them there and finally the royalist forces were able to retake Naples and Queen Maria Carolina took a leading role in bringing down the republic and meting out strict punishments to the revolutionaries. About 1,000 were charged with treason and 100 ringleaders were hanged or beheaded for their betrayal. Later, under the more able leadership of Napoleon, the French invaded the Kingdom of Naples and once again the King and Queen sailed to Sicily. In 1812 King Ferdinand abdicated, passing the throne to Francis under a regent and Queen Maria Carolina had no more influence and went home to Austria. She died there on September 8, 1814 unable to see the final defeat of France she so desired.

Queen Maria Carolina is an example of many of the “Enlightenment” characters who were shocked to their senses by the French Revolution. They imagined liberal progress occurring under the guidance of wise monarchs and the educated elite of society (such as the Freemasons which she allowed back in Naples after they had been banned before) but of course once the fire was lit nothing could stop it burning out of control and bringing down the world as they knew it. As a result she became as ardent a counterrevolutionary as one could find. She is also an example of what a real royal thoroughbred was expected to be. She never found much personal happiness but it was her duty to be the Queen of Naples and she was a zealous queen just as she did her duty in securing the succession by having plenty of children. She did her job, putting duty first and personal happiness second.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monarchist Quote

"Constitutions become the ultimate tyranny. They're organized power on such a scale as to be overwhelming. The constitution is social power mobilized and it has no conscience. It can crush the highest and the lowest, removing all dignity and individuality. It has an unstable balance point and no limitations. I, however, have limitations. In my desire to provide an ultimate protection for my people, I forbid a constitution." -From Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Favorite Royal Images: Jacobus II

Britain's King James II in classic pose.
I do love portraits done in the 'Roman' style -and rather fitting for this king in particular.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

MM Video: Baudouin and Fabiola: The Dawn

A video of one of my very favorite recent royal couples: King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of the Belgians.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

An Old Favorite

I used to be a regular listener of "The Latin Lover" on Vatican Radio and in one of my favorite episodes former papal latinist Father Reginald Foster (with whose opinions I am certainly not always in agreement) was asked about the much-maligned Roman Emperor Tiberius. On this point I agree with Father Foster who defended the Caesar at the time of Christ as "a hard man". I was very glad to see that these old shows have been collected and saved. For an informative and entertaining look back at Rome's second Emperor listen to Father Foster on Tiberius.

Mad Motivation

Royal News Roundup

The Arab world remained dominant in the news this week. In Jordan, AFP reported that native tribal leaders had openly voiced criticism of Queen Rania, portraying her as living a lavish lifestyle during hard times and being more concerned with the approval of the elites of America and Europe than the Jordanian people. After several days of silence the Royal court issued a strong denouncement of the report, saying it was completely false and accusing those who spoke of being frauds. King Abdullah II is reportedly considering suing AFP over the story. It is hard for me to imagine anyone disliking Queen Rania (and it has been speculated whether or not this was simply a way to criticize the monarchy without criticizing the King which is not allowed). However, not all of their complaints are without justification and all royals could learn a lesson from this. I cannot imagine the Bedouins of Jordan being terribly impressed with her many appearances on the “Today” show, Oprah Winfrey or getting awards from Sarah Brown, Arianna Huffington and Microsoft. Similarly, the Dowager Queen Noor recently raised eyebrows in the U.S. by defending the Muslim Brotherhood on CNN. This might be popular with some elements in Jordan but I doubt it will be enough to convince those same elements that such remarks are more important to the Queen than attending the Cannes Film Festival to promote a movie about the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Many royals support causes with are fashionable these days and sound perfectly noble and benevolent but result in very little practical benefit for their own people. If you live in a country where things are generally prosperous that can work out just fine but if things are not going so well (as in Jordan and some other countries) it is not surprising that people begin to question the practical value of what their royals are doing. Nuclear disarmament may be a very noble goal, but honestly, it is not about to happen and whether the US, Russia or China have nuclear weapons does not have an impact on the Jordanian with no work and little money. Queen Rania can exchange praise with everyone at the Clinton Global Initiative but of what real value is that to a Bedouin in the Jordanian desert? That is also not to say that the Queen has not championed causes that have provided real results for Jordan but when hard times hit those that do not tend to out-weigh those that do. People also tend to be rather possessive of their royals and no one I am sure in Jordan wants to feel that they are less important than the celebrities of Europe and America -whether that is actually the case or not.

On a similar note, the Prince of Wales made some eyes roll with a rather rare visit to the European Parliament in Brussels where he urged European officials not to be so distracted by the economic crisis that has been causing such havoc that they neglect to focus on “climate change” and environmental issues. Again, saving the planet sounds quite necessary but all of these environmentalist programs always seem to have quite a hefty price tag attached to them and governments spending more money than they are taking in has been at least one of the major causes of the economic crisis.

There was also a temporary spike in oil prices when rumors began to spread that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia passed away from a heart attack in Morocco after a heated telephone exchange with President Barack Obama over the fate of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Saudi embassy quickly released a statement saying that such rumors were totally false and the reports of the King’s death, like those of Mark Twain, were greatly exaggerated.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Monarchist Profile: Bishop Samuel Seabury

Samuel Seabury was born in Groton, Connecticut on November 30, 1729. His father had started out as Congregationalist preacher but ended up becoming a deacon and later priest of the Church of England, which was the path his son would follow as well. Young Samuel went to Yale University, studied theology and graduated in 1748. For a time he went to Scotland and studied medicine at Edinburgh for a year before being ordained a deacon by the bishop of Lincoln and later a priest by the bishop of Carlisle in 1753. For a time he was the rector of a church in New Jersey but spent most of his clerical career in New York. When political tensions between the Crown and the colonies started coming to a boil he pointed to the words of St Paul and advised Christians to avoid any sort of controversy. He stressed that it was the duty of Christians not to strive but to accept what God hands down for them. In time he became quite a controversial figure (certainly for someone who preached avoiding it) simply because he became so identified with the loyalist position.

Drawn more and more into the political fray by events surrounding him, one of the points he was particularly opposed to was the sudden springing up of all sorts of committees, congresses and other representative bodies (all dissident) which claimed governmental authority over the areas in which they resided. In April of 1775 Reverend Seabury was among the signers of the White Plains protest which voiced strong disapproval of these representative bodies which had no legal validity but provided some illusion at least of legality for the fomenting of rebellion. Throughout 1774 and 1775 he engaged in a ‘war of letters’ with Alexander Hamilton, largely over the legality and authority of these bodies as well as the Continental Congress which came to be the preeminent one. One of the things that certainly touched on Seabury, and which is often ignored, is the level of hatred and the vitriol that was leveled against the clergy and the Church of England in general by the “patriot” faction. It was only natural that he would see the cause of the Anglican Church, at the top of whose hierarchy sat the King, and the cause of the Crown as one and the same.

All of these exchanges established Seabury as a masterful writer but it also made him hated and despised by the revolutionary party and in November of 1775 local patriots arrested him (though kidnapping would be a better term as they had no legal authority) and kept him in prison in Connecticut for six weeks. Unable to produce any evidence of criminal activity and not really wanting a full-blown conflict on the religious as well as political fronts the rebels finally released him but ensured that he did not write or preach any of his pro-monarchy sentiments. Finally, Seabury was able to reach Long Island and moved to New York City which was much more loyalist in overall sympathy. The British occupied New York early in the war and held it throughout and this enabled Seabury to continue his ministry without fear of arrest or imprisonment. In 1778 the British recognized him by appointing him chaplain to the King’s American Regiment. When the war finally ended in a British withdrawal Seabury did not go to England or Canada like most loyalists but stayed behind, moving back to his home state of Connecticut and, now that the issue had been decided, professed himself loyal to the new government of the United States.

In 1783 Seabury was elected bishop by a council of ten Anglican clergymen in Connecticut. However, with no Anglican bishops in America, he could not be consecrated. He went to London to get the job done but no bishop there would consecrate him because his American citizenship precluded him taking an oath of loyalty to King George III (and the Church of England was a little more hard nosed about such things back then). So, the following year he went to Scotland and was ordained bishop in Aberdeen as numerous bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church did not recognize the authority of King George III either (and would not until the death of Prince Charles Edward Stuart) on the condition that he would adopt the Scottish rite for communion in America rather than the English rite of 1662. This actually prompted the Church of England to make provision for ordaining bishops outside of the British Empire since the ordination of Seabury caused Parliament to fear that the Anglican church in America would become an entirely Jacobite entity.

More bishops were ordained later and the relationship between the Church of England in America and in England was normalized thanks in no small part to Bishop Seabury who also can be credited with much of the liturgy and organization of the American Episcopal Church. In addition to being the first bishop of said church he was also chosen the second Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Faithful to his promise, he continued to show favor to Scottish styles and this led the Episcopal Church to have a liturgy slightly more old fashioned or even Roman Catholic and Orthodox than the Church of England of the time. Unusually for Protestant churches at the time he advocated receiving communion every week and wrote about the benefits of frequent communion. He remained a very talented administrator and organizer as well as a fairly conservative and traditional churchman, quite respected by the time of his death on February 25, 1796.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

MM Movie Review: The Patriot

The 2000 film “The Patriot” starring Mel Gibson is one of those movies I like to categorize as a very beautiful, very moving, very well made utter piece of crap. There are so many problems with this movie it is hard to know where to start so I’ll try to begin on a positive note. The movie “looks” fantastic -and since this is a movie and not a radio program that’s important. It is shot well, it really looks like a painting brought to life and there was obviously a great deal of attention to detail. The acting is good all around, though sometimes the players are forced to make the best of very two-dimensional characters. It is moving in a way but is written in so ham-fisted a fashion you feel as though you’re being forced to feel a certain way rather than naturally being caught up in the story and characters. Once again, the characters are almost entirely flat. I know I am getting negative there but I am really having to scrape to find something good to say about this, though, again, the “look” of the movie is fantastic and that goes a long way.

My problems with this cinematic propaganda piece begins with the title. It is called “The Patriot” and yet the main character, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) never does anything out of patriotism. He is a single father when the American Revolution begins and as South Carolina votes on joining the conflict he more or less takes the side of the loyalists. Though his claims to have political leanings toward the patriots he does not think that the grievances of the colonies warrant going to war and he votes against it. During the debate he speaks the famous quote of Mather Byles, asking why they should trade 1 tyrant 3,000 miles away for 3,000 tyrants 1 mile away and he wisely warns that an elected assembly can trample on the rights of a man as easily as any king. That would have been an interesting piece to explore but, of course, we cannot do that because our hero must be a revolutionary, albeit a reluctant one so as not to appear as a warmonger. No, his sulky, rebellious son (Heath Ledger) defies his father to join the Continental Army and Martin resolves to remain neutral and sit out the conflict.

Well, we cannot have that and so to get Martin into the war the British have to murder one of his children. That duty falls on the villainous Colonel William Tavington (a fictionalized version of the historic Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton). He leads the “Green Dragoons” who, despite their name, wear red uniforms because the filmmakers think we are all idiots who will be confused out of our puny little minds if we see British troops wearing anything other than red (in fact there were Crown forces in the war who wore red, green and blue uniforms). Tavington callously shoots one of the Martin children at which point Benjamin drops his “too proud to fight” attitude and totally goes Rambo on the British, enlisting his remaining pre-pubescent little boys to help him ambush a British column, slaughtering them to the last man with Martin taking a tomahawk to the last survivor in a fashion that Attila the Hun would have called gruesome and over-the-top. I would like to say that this was an isolated incident but it is not and Tavington must continue to slaughter the loved ones of our hero in order to keep him in the war.

This is, of course, entirely unrealistic but that is far from the only aspect that is. What else is there? Well, there is Benjamin Martin who is a plantation owner in colonial South Carolina who owns no slaves. No, all the Africans working for him are happy free men who are forced by the dastardly British into their own ranks. I find it almost comical that it is okay to make the hero of the movie a homicidal maniac who is either totally non-violent or chopping up men like firewood but they cannot show him owning slaves because, historically accurate or not, that would just be unforgivable. In reality, of course, most slaves fought for the British but we cannot mention that. Then of course there is the British troops who shoot little boys and have churches burned to the ground full of women, children and the elderly. That never happened and claiming dramatic license for so horrendous an atrocity really does not begin to excuse it.

Also, considering the aforementioned attention to detail this film was obviously capable of, I find it impossible to excuse the glaring historical inaccuracies and even blatantly impossible absurdities. We are led to believe that Martin and his band of volunteer fighters turn the tide of the war in the south and ultimately defeat the British army of Lord Cornwallis. That, of course, never happened. Lord Cornwallis was never defeated in any battle he fought throughout the campaign in the south until his final surrender at Yorktown. However, the two incidents that really make me slap my head and scream WTF at the screen involve the use of firearms. First, less seriously, there is the pistols. In one scene in which Tavington surprises Martin and his little band we see the British colonel draw his pistol and shoot down a fleeing rebel on a horse at what looks to be easily several hundred yards distance. Now, keep in mind that even a long musket at the time had an effective range of only about 75 yards and pistols could only be anywhere close to accurate at very close range. Were I feeling charitable I could overlook that but the next I could not -it was just insulting. In one scene we see Martin and his militiamen ambush a British column and decimate them with musket fire -IN THE RAIN! Let me repeat that: they ambushed the British with FLINTLOCK muskets in the RAIN! Forget historical advisors, were the filmmakers just retarded?! Had anyone on this whole crew ever fired a flintlock musket before? I have and I can assure you that you cannot fire a flintlock in the damn rain! You will have trouble getting off a shot even if the humidity is too high. It doesn’t take a freaking rocket scientist to understand that a flintlock cannot fire when WET! I really can’t say more about that or I’ll pull something.

Finally, there is the climatic battle which is supposed to be a take on the patriot victory at Cowpens. Again, it is totally inaccurate as Lord Cornwallis was not present at that battle, it was not a very significant affair nor did Colonel Tarleton die in it. Tavington must though because, by that time he had killed two of the Martin children and terrorized the rest so Rambo-Mel must have his vengeance. If it is possible for a battle scene to be over-acted this accomplishes it. You have probably all seen similar efforts; battles in which everyone seems to agree that the victory will go to whoever can scream the loudest. In a hyper-patriotic Yankee-Doodle orgasm Benjamin Martin actually grabs the Stars & Stripes and races across the battlefield like he’s running for a touchdown and impales a horse with Old Glory. Yeah, damn right! Cuz this is ‘Merica! The battle is won, we flash forward to the British surrender at Yorktown and we see everyone set to live happily ever after in this make-believe America. Black and White Americans working happily side by side and Martin ready to settle down to marital bliss with his sister-in-law (yeah, wish I was joking there but, afraid not).

To give credit where credit is due it is at least mentioned (and briefly shown) that the final victory was due to the timely arrival of the French. It isn’t much, but it is something. I also liked the token French character. They made him brusque and rude of course but he was not as stereotyped as I was expecting, being a very rough and tough character. Considering how hyper-nationalistic the movie was and how the British were portrayed as monsters or stiff, tantrum-throwing sissies I was fully prepared for any Frenchman in the film to get the ‘arrogant surrender-monkey’ treatment. Thankfully, the worst excesses in that regard were avoided. However, that does not detract from the fact that anyone hailing from the British Isles will find this movie highly offensive -and rightly so. Again, it “looks” fantastic, absolutely fantastic and that counts for a great deal. However, the characters are flat and unrealistic, just like the story. The British are baby-killing Nazis and the “hero” is not a patriot; just a guy out for revenge against the side who hurt his family. One can completely believe that if a sadistic American officer had killed his son Martin would have just as easily joined the British army and been just as bloodthirsty as those he fought. On the whole, a very grand looking and colorful failure.
(I wanted to end with a catchy war phrase like, ‘Keep your powder dry!’ but if anyone involved in the film happened to read this, that would obviously just confuse them)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...