Friday, September 30, 2011

Consort Profile: Queen Bona Sforza

One of the fascinating figures in Polish history is Bona Sforza, as one might tell, not a Polish lady but an Italian one who by marriage became Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania and a consort that had quite an impact. Those familiar with the tumultuous political history of Renaissance Italy will recognize the Sforza family name, a powerhouse in Milan and a long-time force in Italian politics. As the rulers of Milan the Sforza family had at one time or another Lord Jean I of Monaco and Leonardo da Vinci and eventually had marriage times with numerous royal and papal families. Bona Sforza was born on February 2, 1494 the third child out of four of Gian Galeazzo Sforza (sixth Duke of Milan) and his wife Isabella of Naples (daughter of King Alfonso II) -thought by some to be the inspiration for the Mona Lisa. The real power at the time though was her great uncle Ludovico Sforza, a patron of the arts and Renaissance man responsible for starting the Italian Wars and who later got himself into a great deal of trouble with the King of France for trying to assassinate Jean II of Monaco. Despite such powerful family ties, Bona Sforza had a rather tragic youth, being the only one of her siblings to survive childhood.

For any high-born girl of her day the subject of marriage was never far away. However, the tendency of her great uncle to make enemies made it difficult for Isabella to secure a marriage alliance for her daughter. Ludovico had set himself against the Pope and the King of France so options in Italy, Spain or France were pretty scarce. However, he had, by the marriage of another niece, secured an alliance with the grand and powerful Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. It was the House of Hapsburg which helped arrange the marriage of Bona Sforza to another Austrian ally, the widowed King Sigismund I of Poland. She was about 24, not extremely young by the standards of the day, but her husband, known as “King Sigismund the Old” was 51. The two were married and Bona was crowned Queen of Poland in Krakow on April 18, 1518. The may have looked the odd couple; the delicate Milanese young lady and the rugged, bearded Polish king, but both were made of tough stuff and Bona was determined to succeed as Queen consort. She possessed admirable qualities for the job, having been taught by a member of the powerful Colonna family of the Roman nobility and she was perceptive, resourceful and never wasteful or frivolous.

The Queen built her own base of support, winning allies among the powerful Polish nobility and gaining favorable clerical appointments from the Medici Pope Leo X. Her position was also strengthened in 1524, when her mother died, as Bona became Princess of Rossano and Duchess of Bari in her own right as well as the holder of the Brienne claim to the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. She was also kept fairly busy in the bedroom and gave the King six children; 1 son and 4 daughters surviving. All went on to illustrious titles when they grew up; Queen Isabella of Hungary, King Sigismund II Augustus of Poland, Duchess Sophia of Brunswick-Lüneberg, Queen Anna I of Poland and Queen Catherine of Sweden, Duchess of Finland. As Queen of Poland she sought to support her husband who, like most Polish monarchs, was constantly having to fight to maintain his position. Frugal by nature, the rise of her own family in Italy had taught her that power comes from independence and independence comes from wealth. With that in mind she set herself to expanding the fortune of the Jagiellon dynasty as much as she could.

The mortgaged estates of the Polish Crown were redeemed but the nobility proved intransigent on submitting to permanent taxation or to a standing army which would have increased the power of the monarchy and been a help to the King in his constant struggles against Wallachia, the Russians and the Tatars. Making the Polish monarchy, and the Jagiellon dynasty, as strong as possible was the overriding goal of Queen Bona and the acquisition of new territories in Lithuania helped, gaining the King of Poland the additional title of Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1536-1546. This brought in a good deal of revenue but having more than one heir would have helped as well but this was not possible. The Queen lost her sixth child after falling off a horse and was never able to have any more children so securing the succession of her son Sigismund II Augustus was her top priority. The boy was created Grand Duke of Lithuania and finally crowned King of Poland in 1529 alongside his father which greatly upset some of the Polish nobles who demanded that no successor to the boy-king be chosen without their consent.

When it came to dealing with enemy nobles and foreign relations, Queen Bona was no push-over, this woman did come out of Renaissance Italy after all and she was not untouched by rumors of having some enemies poisoned, though, there is of course no evidence for such accusations. On the European stage, despite them being responsible for her marriage, the Queen opposed the Hapsburgs and favored an alliance with France. She viewed the Hapsburgs as a threat to Poland and was willing to be friendly with any power that would keep their attention elsewhere. So, she supported the Hungarians against the Hapsburgs and even corresponded with the famous Roxelana, wife of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. She offered to give up the titles she had inherited from her mother in return for Silesia but the King opposed this and the negotiations collapsed. It was during this time that Protestantism began to arrive in Poland. The Teutonic Knights secularized but Prussia remained symbolically subordinate to the Polish King. Queen Bona took actions against Protestants for heresy but was not an intolerant person and had no problem with Protestant views being discussed. In any event, Protestantism was never able to take root in Poland.

Queen Bona did have some problems with her husband, clashing over a potential bride for the boy (a famously gorgeous Lithuanian Calvinist being the choice the Queen opposed) and his being sent to Lithuania which lessened her influence at court. However, that all came to an end in 1548 when King Sigismund died, leaving his son as sole King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. When his lovely Lithuanian consort, Queen Barbara, died many suspected the Queen mother of being involved since she had always opposed the marriage and it definitely led to an even cooler relationship between mother and son. The Queen finally retired to her Duchy of Bari where she died under somewhat suspicious circumstances on November 19, 1557.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Monarchist Profile: Luís Alves de Lima e Silva

One of the great defenders of the Brazilian Empire was Luís Alves de Lima e Silva, Duke of Caxias. He was born on August 25, 1803 in the captaincy of Rio de Janeiro in a town now named Duque de Caxias in his honor. He came from a very old military tradition in his family and so it was no surprise when, as a teenager, he joined the Portuguese colonial army in Brazil. His family gained a place in the aristocracy for their service during the wars of expansion led by Portuguese King João VI which led to the annexation of Cisplatina (what is now Uruguay) and French Guiana. Luís Alves was only five-years old when he began his military education in 1808 as a cadet of the First Rio de Janeiro Infantry Regiment. He later went on to the military academy, taking additional classes than what was required but he dropped out in 1821 to join the First Fusilier Battalion in the movement for Brazilian independence from Portugal. In 1823 he was chosen by Emperor Pedro I of Brazil himself to be a member of his elite “Emperor’s Battalion”. He earned high praise for his courageous heroism in his successful attacks on Portuguese positions.

If there was any doubt about the monarchist fervor of Lima e Silva or his loyalty to his Emperor, such doubts were dispelled in 1831 when revolutionary riots broke out in Rio de Janeiro against Emperor Pedro I. Some military units mutinied and joined the rebels and Luís Alves’ own father was among them. He had danced with the dissidents before but had been forgiven by Dom Pedro I and even advanced by him for his past service but finally joined the rebellion against the Emperor. Dom Pedro I offered Luís Alves the position of commander of the loyal troops organizing to put down the rebellion and he willing accepted, putting his loyalty to his country and his sworn allegiance to his monarch above all. Later he distanced himself somewhat from the policies in question but nonetheless was not sorry for the course he took saying that as a loyal soldier of his Emperor, his first duty was to the Brazilian Empire. In the end, his father was chosen to sit on the regency council after Pedro I abdicated in favor of his young son Emperor Pedro II. When the regency reduced the Brazilian army in favor of the national militia and Luís Alves took a post in the Municipal Guard in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1833 Luís Alves de Lima e Silva married a daughter of the Brazilian aristocracy, the start of a long and happy marriage that would produce three children. He was also employed to teach the young Emperor horsemanship and how to handle a sword. The pupil-teacher relationship developed over time to a close personal friendship between the soldier and Dom Pedro II. The young Emperor admired him for his good manners, kindness and especially his honesty, always forthright with his true opinions rather than the flattery or deception that always came from the politicians. In his military role Luís Alves continued to keep busy combating the numerous minor rebellions and attempted coups that cropped up at regular intervals, which was far from uncommon at the time in Latin America. He restored law and order and was so successful that he was appointed President and military governor of Maranhão in the north of the country where rebellion and banditry had brought the region to the brink of anarchy. Luís Alves responded with his usual zeal and good sense and in time brought the area firmly under government control. In recognition of this victory the Emperor awarded him the title of Baron of Caxias.

Not long after returning from this campaign, fractious political squabbles led to an outbreak of rebellion in São Paulo and other areas in 1842. As ever, Caxias dutifully put down these challenges to the Emperor and law and order. At the same time civil war had broken out in Rio Grande do Sul as that area attempted to break away from Brazil over economic policies which they felt favored Uruguay and Argentina at their expense. This was also where the professional Italian revolutionary Garibaldi first saw combat as the conflagration spread. Eventually Caxias was sent in to settle things, which he did through a combination of military victories and compassionate outreach to bring about reconciliation. These rebels were republicans it is important to note and if anything the Empire was too lenient toward them but, thankfully, the crisis was ended.

In 1851 Caxias led a Brazilian military column into battle again in the Platine War, a climactic conflict between Brazil and Argentina and their respective allies over control of the River Plate region. His men entered Uruguay and occupied Montevideo. In the end, the independence of Uruguay and Paraguay were secured, Argentina was confined to its present borders, the Brazilian monarchy was strengthened and internal and external enemies were suppressed. The Empire of Brazil, as only one outcome of this conflict that was one of the most pivotal wars of South American history, became a proud beacon of stability and order at a time when countries all over Latin America (all of them republics) were stagnating as a result of numerous civil wars, breakdown in law and order and various shades of revolutionaries struggling for power. Brazil was spared all of this thank in part to the contributions of the Baron Caxias who was as adept at winning friends as he was defeating enemies.

Nonetheless, political disputes remained and when the liberals began to lose popular support the Emperor turned to Marquis Caxias (his title had been twice upgraded) to lead a new conservative government in 1861. Despite his best efforts, a coalition was worked out between the Liberals and the moderate conservatives that left Caxias and his government without a majority. He resigned his post but was quickly named Marshal of the Imperial Brazilian Army, the highest military rank next to the Emperor. Soon after, in 1864, Paraguay invaded Brazil (starting the War of the Triple Alliance) and Dom Pedro II rushed to the front with Caxias with him but also some of his liberal government ministers who were bitter enemies of the marquis. The marquis, a proud old man by this time, was offended when the Emperor listened to others over him. Nonetheless, in 1866 the Emperor appointed him to command all Brazilian forces in Paraguay. He led his forces to victory even as his enemies in the government constantly attacked him in the press. Despite his age, he led his troops in person with great courage and eventually the war was won for Brazil. For his meritorious service he was raised to the status of Duke of Caxias.

The Duke was later made President of the government again but his status was largely ceremonial. He was increasingly frail and infirm and dismayed at the growing liberalism of the Emperor and the liberal trend in society. He was greatly distressed by the stand-off between the Emperor and the Catholic Church over the crackdown on Freemasonry. Practically an invalid he retired to his farm and died on May 7, 1880, an ardent defender of Brazil and a loyal servant of his Emperor from first to last. He is still remembered today as a towering monarchist and the first great military hero of Brazil.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rome Reports: Royal Families and Their Religion

Happy Birthday Confucius

Today is the official day of celebration to mark the birthday of the “Great Sage” and teacher Confucius. Today, and this is a sign that the revolutionaries have become the establishment, the Communist government in Peking (which would really rather not talk too much about Mao and the “Cultural Revolution” these days) has officially rehabilitated Confucius and is extending official endorsement to his teachings. I would assume this is mostly an effort to encourage loyalty and obedience from a long-established Chinese source. However, make no mistake about it, Confucius would be appalled by the current regime, he was a monarchist through and through. His teachings about the five relationships, honesty, sincerity, virtue and leading by example on the part of the benevolent emperor had a lasting impact on China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan and other neighboring countries to varying degrees. His philosophy was the backbone of the imperial system in China, Korea and Vietnam before it was destroyed by the revolutionaries (inspired by communist and non-communist western philosophies) which has resulted in a Far East dominated by corrupt dictatorships. Even in his own time, Confucius was clear that his teachings were no innovation but simply an effort to restore and pass on values that were old even in his own time. The principles he emphasized, most famously “do not do to others what you would not wish done to yourself” have many parallels in the traditional, pre-revolutionary values of the west which goes to show that to a large degree what is “right” is right and what is “wrong” is wrong no matter where in the world you go. I would welcome any rediscovery, any study and genuine understanding of the values of Confucius which could help, one day, foster the eventual restoration of the traditional imperial systems in East Asia.

(photo from the magnificent Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam)

Monarchist Military: The Polish Winged Hussars

Poland has long been famous for their cavalry. In the last couple centuries it was the Polish lancers, with their flat-topped Czapka headgear, that were copied by militaries far and wide. Before that though, no Polish horsemen were so famous as the fearsome “Winged Hussars”. The Hussars have long been famous as the elite light cavalry of the Kingdom of Hungary and they too have been widely copied around the world. Poland was influenced as well and in the XVI Century developed their own hussars, heavily armored and adding some uniquely Polish innovations. Originally these were modeled after the Serbian and Hungarian heavy hussars who fought in the employ of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the dominant Eastern European power of their day. It was HM Stephan Bathory, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania who reformed the Polish hussars and made them the preeminent elite unit of the Polish-Lithuanian army, first as part of his royal guard and then expanding them further throughout the army.

Their most famous attribute was their “wings”, wooden frames affixed first to their saddles and later to the back of their armor and decorated with feathers. These gave the Polish cavalry a very distinctive appearance and they quickly gained a great deal of notoriety, both by their appearance and their heroic record of success, proving critical in one victorious battle after another. Aside from the psychological impact of their intimidating appearance, the “wings” had a more practical benefit. When a mass of cavalry charged the “wings” would cause a loud clattering noise that caused the enemy to exaggerate their number and thus, combined with their appearance, greatly lowered the morale of their enemies. In battle after battle the Winged Hussars proved so successful, often defeating superior enemy forces, that the cavalry became the backbone of the Polish-Lithuanian army, outnumbered the less costly infantry by a considerable margin. Probably their most famous engagement was at the siege of Vienna when the Polish army arrived, the Winged Hussars leading the way, descending on the battlefield like a heavenly host to break the seemingly invincible Ottoman siege and probably saving Europe from Turkish domination.

The Polish hussars were heavily armored and carried a lance (the only equipment provided by the King), a stabbing sword, a traditional cavalry saber and sometimes firearms. Their primary tactic was, of course, the charge, starting in a rather open formation (which helped cut down casualties to enemy projectiles) and then concentrating as they approached the enemy line to strengthen their impact when they came crashing through. Their horses were a special breed, mixing Polish and eastern bloodlines to create a very sturdy and nimble animal and they were very practical in their equipment, adopting what worked best from any source. Eventually, the day of armored cavalry came to an end but, as stated earlier, Polish lancers continued to be the standard by which other cavalry forces were judged and the legacy of the Winged Hussars remained strong, even being used as the symbol for the First Polish Armored Division of World War II. They remain a source of pride for the Polish people, and justly so.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Bishop!

It was today in 1627 that Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet was born. One of the greatest preachers of his day and one of the great Catholic defenders of Christian monarchy. If only there were someone like him around today (if only France had someone like King Louis XIV to employ him).

Favorite Royal Images: The Sun King

Off Topic Tuesday: The Mier Expedition

The life of the Republic of Texas was seldom peaceful. The Mexican general turned dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna held a considerable grudge after his humiliating defeat and capture at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 and the Texans were just as determined to take and occupy the lands ceded to them by the Treaty of Velasco as the Mexicans were to retake all of Texas for themselves. A series of attacks and counterattacks ensued, especially under the aggressive Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar. He organized the Santa Fe expedition which enraged the Mexican government and led to a massive counter invasion of Texas in 1842. Texas was hard pressed to defend itself with men and money for only a small army called upon to defend a country that sprawled from the Sabine River halfway to the Pacific Ocean and the Rio Grande halfway to Canada. Moreover, Santa Anna was once again ruling Mexico and he was determined to strike back. So it was that the French General Adrian Woll, with 1,400 Mexican troops marched north and occupied San Antonio on September 11, 1842.

As a colonel, Woll had been quartermaster general of the Mexican Army of Operations in Texas during the War for Independence. His advance came on the heels of an earlier foray north in March under General Rafael Vasquez which had prompted a Declaration of War from the Texas Congress.
However, Lamar was now out of office and Sam Houston was President of the Lone Star Republic and he refused to fight Mexico again. Nonetheless, when Woll took San Antonio, now the second time the city had been occupied, albeit briefly, since independence, the Texans responded with combative determination. A volunteer force of some 225 militia under Captain Nicholas Dawson and Captain Matthew Caldwell converged on the Alamo City. Dawson and his 52 men were intercepted by a Mexican force of some 400 soldiers at Salado Creek before they could join forces with Caldwell. Outnumbered and surrounded Dawson and his men made a gallant stand as they were cut to pieces by Mexican artillery. Although Dawson finally attempted to surrender, the Mexican cavalry charged in and slaughtered Dawson and 35 of his men. This became known as the Dawson Massacre and further enraged the Texans who, under Caldwell, managed to defeat the main Mexican army and send General Woll retreating back to Mexico as more Texan volunteers poured in.

This time, the Texans were determined to respond and press on after their victory with or without government approval. Texas General Alexander Somervell and his troops launched a counteroffensive toward Laredo, taking the Gateway City and advancing into Mexico itself to capture Guerrero. However, General Woll was long gone and with no hope of catching up to the Mexican army, General Somervell abandoned the expedition on December 19, 1842 and returned to Texas before Mexican troops could converge on him. Yet, most of the rough and tumble Texans refused to go back. Some 189 followed Somervell back to Texas with around 300 staying behind, determined to continue the offensive under the leadership of William F. Fisher. A plan was devised, on the Texan side of the border, for an attack on the Mexican town of Mier. Fisher sent men out to infiltrate the area and report back and on Christmas day Fisher and 261 Texans attacked Mier, which was defended by General Pedro Ampudia.

The Texans were outnumbered 10 to 1 but proved to be more than a match for their enemies. In the firefight that ensued the Mexicans suffered 600 casualties while the Texans lost only about 30 men. Yet, despite their tenacity, the Texans were in an impossible position. Although they had won the battle, successful tactics cannot overcome a poor strategy. Alone in enemy country with no support, the Texans were soon out of food, water and ammunition. Ultimately, after talking with the Mexican commander, they agreed to surrender, but their troubles were far from over. They were marched to Camargo, then to Reynosa, then to Matamoras and then to Monterrey, all the while receiving the most brutal treatment. They were paraded before the local citizens to be mocked and insulted and were forced to eat dogs they captured along the way.

Unable to bear this captivity, at Hacienda Salado the Texans made an escape attempt. They rushed the guards, fought the remaining Mexicans over the arms that were stacked nearby with their bare hands and when these were taken the remaining soldiers fled in a panic. Five Texans had been killed, but they had taken all of the Mexicans guns, ammunition, horses and mules. However, they still had very little supplies and to avoid enemy patrols they avoided the main roads, dooming them to wander in a desolate wilderness. Privation forced them to begin eating their captured horses, but water was their most urgent need and many died of exhaustion and dehydration. They only finally found water when they accidentally stumbled into a Mexican army camp. Weakened almost to the point of death most were easily captured once again. About 13 managed to escape but of these, only 3 survived the brutal conditions in the desolate mountains. The rest were marched back to Hacienda Salado.

These 176 Texans faced a grim fate. President Santa Anna, who had never forgot his humiliation by the Texas army in 1836, ordered that all of them be put to death. Fortunately, this resulted in an outcry by the foreign envoys in Mexico and the Governor of Coahuila, Francisco Mexia, refused to obey the ghastly order. So, Santa Anna modified his decision, at least somewhat, and ordered every tenth man to be executed and the rest would be spared. To determine who would live and who would die, the Texans were to draw beans from a pot. A white bean meant life and a black bean meant death. Colonel Dominic Huerta, the Texans' jailer, chained them in pairs and blindfolded them. The officers were to draw first and there was no officer the Mexicans wanted dead more than the Scottish Texan Captain Ewan Cameron. It was no wonder why.

At the battle of Mier, Cameron had emptied a number of rifles into the charging Mexicans, then held them off by throwing rocks until he could reload. He had urged the Texans to fight on as long as possible and was the last to give up, breaking his sword rather than surrendering it to the enemy. To ensure his quick demise the Mexicans put the black beans on top and forced Captain Cameron to draw first. However, some of his men guessed the trick and told Cameron, "Dig deep Captain!" He did so, and to the disappointment of the Mexicans, drew a white bean. The rest drew their beans in alphabetical order. When a black bean was drawn, the Mexicans would mockingly comment, "better luck next time". One of the last to draw was the legendary Texas Ranger Bigfoot Wallace. He thought the black beans were a little larger than the white ones and felt a couple before picking the smaller of the two. Fortunately for him, it was white.

All those who drew black beans were to be shot the following morning. One of them was Henry Whalen who accepted his fate with defiance saying, "Well, they don't make much off me, anyhow, for I know I have killed 25 of the yellow-bellies". He also asked for a substantial last meal with the comment, "I do not wish to starve and be shot too". To the surprise of many, the Mexicans agreed and gave him a double ration. Then, at 6:30 in the evening of March 25, 1843 nine of the Texans were chained together and shot. After them, the final eight were also massacred in the same way. The executions lasted only 11 minutes but Henry Whalen had to be shot 15 times before he finally died. James L. Shepherd, who was only 17 years old, had been wounded but pretended to be dead until he had a chance to escape. Sadly, he was recaptured at Saltillo three days later and shot. In their thirst for vengeance the rules of the executions were not enough to save Captain Cameron either. Despite drawing a white bean, after the remaining prisoners began the march to Mexico City the brave Texan was shot on the morning of March 25 at Huehuetoca on orders from President Santa Anna.

Once in Mexico City, the Texans were used as forced labor to build a road to Santa Anna's palace. The dictator took great delight in tormenting Texas President Sam Houston, the man who had beaten him at San Jacinto, by promising to return the prisoners on a number of occasions only to go back on his word every time. Liberation did not come until September 12, 1844 when Santa Anna ordered their release. Of the 261 Texans that had fought at Mier, 84 died, 35 escaped and 142 were left alive to be returned home. Three of those who made it back were Thomas Jefferson Green, who became a major general in the California militia after the Mexican-American War and Bigfoot Wallace and Samuel Walker who both became living legends in the Texas Rangers.

During the Mexican-American War, Texas troops found the graves of their comrades at Hacienda Salado and returned them to Texas after the war. The bodies of those killed in the Dawson Massacre were moved with them to LaGrange where, on September 18, 1848, the sixth anniversary of the Dawson Massacre, they were buried with full military honors with numerous dignitaries, including Sam Houston, looking on. The Mier Expedition and the subsequent black bean incident have been remembered by Texans ever since as an example of Texas heroism and Mexican brutality along with the Dawson and Goliad Massacres and the desperate defense of the Alamo. May they never be forgotten.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mad Rant: The So-Called Far Right

Something the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously said was, “Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?” I fully agree with that sentiment, especially when it comes to monarchy. You are either for it or against it, speak up and say so. Be one thing or the other. Lately I’ve been asked about some of the allegedly right-wing groups gaining in popularity in Europe and am most especially concerned about those in the remaining monarchies on the continent. I say “allegedly right-wing” because these groups often pose as or are labeled as hard core conservatives, traditionalists or right-wing. I am here to warn you that, in many if not most cases, they are not products of the political right at all and are certainly not worthy of the support of traditional monarchists even if they do try to sing an enticing song now and then.

In some cases, they make no secret of their true intentions, for others they try to be more subtle. Let me state at the outset that some of these parties have elements of their platforms that I would support and the really unfortunate thing is that sometimes they are the only ones addressing such issues because the more mainstream parties prefer to bury their heads in the sand rather than confronting difficult, long-term problems. However, again, were I voting on the far side of the pond, my first test would be where they stand on monarchy (and religion as I view the issues as inseparable but this is not primarily a religious blog so we’ll stick with monarchy for the time being). If they do not support their monarchy then I would never support them, no matter how many other issues I might agree with them on. The monarchy is one sure way to tell the difference between the revolutionaries and the counter-revolutionaries. What is needed is counter-revolution and I will NOT support any revolutionaries regardless of whether the media classifies them as left wing or right wing revolutionaries. A revolutionary is a revolutionary pure and simple and they are all poison to me.

Let me list a few examples. Probably the most infamous in the English-speaking world is the BNP or British National Party which has generated some populist support in reaction to the screams of Islamic radicals in London for the government to be overthrown and Islamic law enforced. Strident BNP opposition to this and their calls for curbs to immigration appealed to some people (and I can understand why) but they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They decry capitalism as loudly as any socialists and their economic platform includes direct attacks on private property (say goodbye to the aristocracy), all in the name of nationalism of course, but including many of the same big government solutions the socialists have used to ruin most of Europe. Their leader has said openly that he is a republican and they have clearly shown that the monarchy means nothing to them. Christianity is treated in the same way, given no real support but simply used as a political football when convenient to have something to throw back at the Muslims. Their leadership (originally and much evidence says currently) voice support for Adolf Hitler and we all know what an avowed anti-aristocracy, anti-monarchist and anti-Christian revolutionary he was -and if you don’t believe me just read his book, he established that right away.

I will not address the Scandinavian monarchies since I know very little about their politics and based on what I do know there seems to be very little diversity of political thought. So, moving on to the Low Countries we have the most problematic in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is in the grand, old Netherlands that we have the figure of Geert Wilders who won many conservative plaudits for his strident opposition to Islam and multiculturalism. However, do not be fooled, this man is no traditional conservative either. Raised Catholic, he abandoned the Church as a young man and is an agnostic. I don’t think many people are aware of this, at least in America, who only know him from things like his appearance on the late Glenn Beck program. The man is no Christian, he is an atheist who dislikes Christianity only slightly less than he dislikes Islam. He does not fear Islam replacing Christianity in the Netherlands, he fears it replacing his beloved leftist, secular society. He is an expansionist who has called for the annexation of Flanders, greater direct democracy (something the BNP also favors -as did the likes of Mussolini before he grabbed power), numerous socialist policies, he is pro-homosexual, wants to abolish the Dutch Senate and has tried to remove the Queen of the Netherlands completely from any role in government. The “Party for Freedom” is not a monarchist party!

Moving down to Belgium things are somewhat better and somewhat worse. The worse part is that the anti-monarchists are stronger in Belgium but the better part is that the Belgians cannot agree on anything these days so until they at least manage to form a government the monarchy seems safe. The New Flemish Alliance, led by Bart De Wever, and all Flemish nationalist parties I have ever even heard of have all been anti-monarchy, either blatantly so or at least by virtue of the fact that they are anti-Belgium. Make no mistake about it, Flemish nationalists who support the monarchy *do not exist*. Period. They are also descended from a political heritage that collaborated with the Nazis and was very much the Flemish version of the German Nazi Party. They would despise the Belgian Royal Family if for no other reason than that they tend to speak French better than Dutch. They are a real and immediate threat to the Kingdom of Belgium and, to make things worse, they have been increasingly embraced by more respectable groups outside the country lately. The closest thing to a nationalist party in the French-speaking half of the country is the National Front, the Belgian version of the French party made famous by the Le Pen family. They purport to be all about national unity but when I posted a question on their Facebook page asking them to clarify their support for the monarchy, not only did they refuse to answer but erased the question. They also seem quite friendly with other groups that are frankly Nazis with a name change. However, the up side is that they seem to have almost no popular support at all.

Spain I don’t think is worth going into as we have been over most of that ground before. The die-hard Falangists oppose the King because he ruined their beloved dictatorship by making Spain a constitutional monarchy. Moreover, that group, before Franco took over leadership, was pretty much republican anyway. As for the Carlists, they don’t agree with anyone on anything, even each other, and the few who remain are ignored. It should also be pointed out, again, all of the Spanish separatist groups are adamantly republican and no monarchists do or could support them. Besides which, the way things are going now, the policies of the revolutionary left will be the ruin of Spain long before the revolutionary right ever gets their act together. However, this brings up an important point, an important theme running through this little rant, I’ve touched on it before, but it never ceases to infuriate me. Groups such as these that are lumped together as “conservative” or “right wing extremists” are nothing of the sort and have nothing to do with the traditional political “right” in any way whatsoever! They are largely modern-day Nazis with a nose job and, make no mistake about it, Hitler was every bit as much of a revolutionary as Robespierre, Lenin or Chairman Mao.

You don’t have to take my word for that, read what guys like Hitler, Mussolini or any of the modern political leaders mentioned above have said on the subject of aristocracy, Christianity or monarchy and you will see that they have all been vehemently opposed to all of it. I will repeat, whether they are “left wing” revolutionaries or “right wing” revolutionaries, a revolutionary is a revolutionary and the world does not need any more of that. Counterrevolution (in a big way) is what we need. Hitler was virulently anti-monarchist, he despised the Hapsburgs in particular. From his book it sounds as though it all boils down to a grudge he held since he was a young man shoveling snow at a party the Hapsburgs attended and none bothered to bring the little wuss a cup of coffee. He held the typical Marxist class hatred for those born better off than he was and as the “old guard” he had to overcome to achieve power. Mussolini called a truce with the monarchy when it served his purpose but later his true republican colors rose to the surface as he lamented the fact that his “fascist revolution” had stopped at the throne and that he had not overthrown the King when he had the chance.

True, Hitler tried sucking up to the Kaiser when he was trying to get the real conservatives on his side but once the Kaiser made it clear that he wasn’t buying the load of crap Hitler was peddling, he dropped him and banned all royals from front-line service, placed most of them under surveillance and even sent a few to the concentration camps. He famously boasted of his contempt for the aristocracy and that in his “New Germany” all class distinctions would be abolished. Likewise, Mussolini endured the King so long as he did not oppose him but once he was dismissed immediately reverted back to his socialist, anti-royal, anti-religion roots as dictator of his puppet “Salo Republic”. Just because these people were against democracy does not mean they were not revolutionaries. Just as the Communists championed the “dictatorship of the working class” they championed the dictatorship of themselves, and they happened to be commoners, and like all revolutionary movements the focus was still on “the people” rather than God, tradition or the monarch. History has shown that movements that claim to be “for the people” also tend to be the most destructive toward “the people” whether one looks at the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution or revolutionary leftists like the Brown Shirts or the Black Shirts. And if you don’t believe they were leftists, just take a look at their original party platforms, they would fit right in with most leftists today for the most part.

Nationalism can be dangerous when taken to extremes. Yet, like some, I favor nationalism rather than internationalism. However, as much as you might be inclined to agree with some of what the likes of Griffin, Wilders or De Wever might say do not be taken in by them. They are no more friends of the “Old Order” than the avowed leftists who most denounce them are. The sad fact is that in modern Europe true servants of the traditional order are few and far between. Some may reason that in times of great crisis one might have to ‘cut cards with the devil’ but I would advise extreme caution and I certainly would not regard any of those mentioned as being worth the risk. Remember that kingdoms have been lost before, and not a few, because they thought they could sup with the devil and found out in the end that their spoon was not long enough. Remember the story about the coyote and the scorpion? It is in the nature of all revolutionaries to destroy rather than restore and they will ultimately revert to their own nature. The fact that some continue to be taken in by them makes me a very … Mad Monarchist.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Politics and Bullfights

I have always thought that one can learn a great deal from watching a bull fight. You can even learn a great deal about republican politics from a bull fight. Consider this: imagine a traditional Spanish bullfight. The bull is rather like “the people”, strong, powerful, ignorant, easily annoyed and easily fooled. The matador and his assistants are rather like “the government”. They poke and prod and infuriate the beast (the people) with lances and darts we call taxes, regulations, limitations to your personal freedom and laws restricting your daily lives. The red cape is what we might call “democracy”, the brightly colored attractive looking thing that the government waves in front of the charging mob to distract them and direct their anger away from the government itself. In order to keep “the government” safe, “democracy” is always waved about as the answer to every problem, the thing we should blame for our injuries and yet also the answer to all of our problems. However, whenever the people charge toward it, “democracy” simply sweeps over them and disappears. But, eventually, “the people” become so weak, exhausted and submissive that they are no longer of any value. And we all know what happens then…

Just a word of friendly warning to all who put their faith in politicians from - The Mad Monarchist.

MM Video: Paul I of Russia

MM Video: The Last King of Laos

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Some History from Monaco

For those not keeping close track of things over at Mad for Monaco here are some articles of an historical nature that may be of interest, such as:
The Republic of Genoa
The Magician of Monte Carlo
King Carlo Alberto and Monaco
When the British Invaded Monaco

Royal News Roundup

Once again, we start with the Middle East which has been the center of controversy due to the effort of the Palestinians to unilaterally declare statehood via the UN. In New York, speaking at the UN, was HM King Abdullah II of Jordan. I was not in love with what he has to say as it seems to me that he is still intimidated by the “Arab Spring” unrest and is desperately trying to stay in front of it. He said that Jordan would become a model of democracy in the Middle East, that he wants to strengthen the middle class (no problem with that) and that he wants to make the political leaders accountable to the people rather than to the King as, in his words, “There is a tendency by a lot of officials to hide behind the King”. Which sounds to this observer like someone saying, “blame them, don’t blame me, I’m not responsible”. I would prefer the King’s ministers to feel themselves responsible to the King and not the shifting moods of the mob -but that’s just me. He also said the monarchy his son inherits will not be the same as the one he inherits -and in my experience looking at the history of monarchy, when that happens, it is usually not a good thing. For some better news, HRH Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia has released documents, including his passports, to prove that he was not anywhere near the woman who claims she was raped by the prince at the time she says it happened. The Prince and his wife have stated they have plenty of evidence and witnesses that he was in Cannes in the south of France when the alleged incident occurred.

One other area that should be a cause for monarchist concern in this (rather slow) news week is the Low Countries. Tuesday was Prinjesdag in the Netherlands, when the House of Orange puts on all the pomp and ceremony they can muster, Queen Beatrix formally opens parliament and outlines the budget and policies of her government in the new legislative year. This year, however, has been particularly difficult. A gaffe by some state bureaucrat saw the Queen’s speech leaked out days in advance and due to the current economic crisis in Europe budget cuts were on the agenda and, as the Queen said, “The economic and social uncertainties are putting our stamina to the test”. As we have talked about before there are also now calls from the “far right” in the Dutch parliament to reduce or even totally do away with any role for the Queen in government. You will hear more about this in a subsequent rant about the status of those in Europe labeled as the “far right”. Also, in Belgium, where there is still no government, a recent compromise reached by the feuding political parties called for the removal of the right of the children of the King to have a seat in the Belgian senate, a practice which dates back to the founding of the kingdom. Even at a time when it should be so obvious that the monarchy is about the only thing holding Belgium together the agenda of those who wish to further reduce and diminish the role of the monarchy is continuing unabated. I think monarchists should be very concerned about these events.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Concerning Congressman Paul

As a politician, Texas Congressman Ron Paul is really one-of-a-kind. He possesses many qualities almost unrecognizable amongst his fellow politicians. For one thing, he is consistent (a positive phenomenon amongst the political class). He was saying the exact same things about the Constitution, the Federal Reserve, states’ rights and foreign policy thirty years ago that he is saying now. After all of that time he is the only politician who, I would say, truly and sincerely believes the things he talks about and the principles he advocates. Ron Paul is also the only one who has been telling the truth about the Federal Reserve system, he saw the current crisis coming a very long time ago and he is the one politician who I would put my money on being sincerely devoted to the Constitution above all else. Part of the reason his sincerity can be believed is that he has held to his principles and said things that are, frankly, politically suicidal and widely unpopular. This includes his statement that federal integration laws were unconstitutional all the way to his assertion that there should be no federal laws against drug use. He is one-of-a-kind.

Naturally, a politician is still a politician and because Ron Paul is such a rarity many people tend to forget this. Most of those who like Ron Paul positively worship him and react with extreme emotion to any criticism or even any insufficiently effusive praise of the man. However, I will risk that to point out what those of us in Texas have long known. He is not perfect. I know it will not matter to his worshippers but I will say nonetheless that he is probably as close as any politician I have ever seen to being perfectly sincere and honest but, I am sorry, he is not totally pristine. For example, Ron Paul proudly says that he has never voted for any “pork barrel” projects or earmarks or that sort of stuff. As far as I know, he is being honest in saying that. Technically. However, he is being a bit disingenuous as he has inserted pork barrel projects into bills, knowing they would pass in any event and then vote against them so that his district will get their share of government goodies, thanks to him, while “technically” his hands remain clean since he voted against it. He is by no means the only politician to pull this trick but when he is otherwise so honest and consistent it stands out with him all the more.

The problem, though, is that as much as I like most of what Ron Paul says and as far and above the rest of the denizens of Congress I think he is, the fact is that he could never be elected President of the United States nor could he ever win a Republican Party primary. There are a number of reasons for this, and I am not saying it is right or fair or anything like that, I am simply pointing out the facts of the matter. There are simply too many voting blocks that would never vote for him. There is a reason why most politicians are not like Ron Paul, they have learned that you have to be a little dishonest and inconsistent to get ahead. You have to say things you don’t believe or change what you “believe” in order to appeal to different groups. That is why they win and Ron Paul does not. This is unfortunate because in some cases (but not all) it is the very things I like best about Ron Paul that would prevent him from ever winning national office or even the chance of running for that office. Let us take a look at a few examples of this.

African-Americans will never vote for Ron Paul. That should be no great surprise. For decades almost the entire African-American population has voted overwhelming for the Democrat Party and will not consider ever voting for anyone else. In the last few decades African-American loyalty to the Democrat Party has been a consistent 80-90%. There are also more African-Americans on some form of government assistance than any other group and Ron Paul wants to get rid of all such programs. So, African-Americans will *never* vote for Ron Paul. Similarly, Hispanics have been pretty loyal Democrat voters, not to the extent of some others, but they would never cross the aisle to vote for Ron Paul either. Ron Paul wants to pull American troops out of their bases around the world and deploy them to the U.S.-Mexican border, he wants to cut off all aid and assistance going to illegal aliens (predominately from Mexico) and end other programs that would ensure Hispanics would never vote for Ron Paul. He has also said secession is something that should not be taboo and that really upsets Hispanics these days, especially when it concerns Texas.

Moving on, Jewish-Americans would never support Ron Paul. This is not often talked about but it is the State of Israel that receives more foreign aid from the United States than any other foreign power and Ron Paul wants to cut off all foreign aid. The Jewish-American population is not going to like that idea nor would they ever vote for someone who thinks it is okay for Iran to have nuclear weapons and is opposed to the United States intervening militarily in the Middle East (or any other part of the world). Jews would never vote for Ron Paul. Also on the religious front, conservative Christians would never vote for Ron Paul. Although he shares many of their values, he does not believe the government has any place in regulating morality. Ron Paul has said, because of his strict interpretation of the Constitution and states’ rights, if the states want to legalize drugs, prostitution or gay marriage he would do nothing to oppose them. He has stated on many occasions that the government should not be about enforcing any sort of public morality and conservative Christians would never vote for someone who is okay with narcotics and prostitution being legal, no matter what the reason is. Those are mostly Protestants but likewise the Catholic Bishops would never support a candidate who wanted to put troops on the border and end social welfare programs as well as opposing the regulating of values issue. Christian conservatives would never vote for Ron Paul.

The people who pride themselves on being the knowledgeable ones concerning the economy and foreign policy would, likewise, never vote for Ron Paul. On the economic front, there are many people on Wall Street, the economic think tanks and the like, who would never vote for someone who wants to tie the economy to the gold standard. No matter how much sense it might make, they would never agree to limiting the growth of the U.S. economy to the amount of gold the country could acquire. They would probably also wet their pants over the abolition of the Federal Reserve and most federal economic regulations. Then there is the issue of foreign policy wherein Paul breaks ranks with most of his fellow GOP members. Their disagreement usually stems from their contradictory point of view. They think it would be injurious to American security and American interests for the U.S. to pull out from her many bases around the world and effectively adopt an isolationist foreign policy. Ron Paul believes that this would ultimately make the United States safer, that Islamic terrorists would not attack the U.S. if we did not maintain bases in their countries and ally with foreign leaders they oppose. Switzerland is often held up as an example; they engage in no foreign alliances and no one bothers them.

One may agree or disagree with Ron Paul on that point (the majority would disagree as the U.S. has never really been isolationist) but the actual practicality of it is never discussed. To some extent, I agree with Ron Paul on this issue, but only to an extent. However, I have never heard him address it beyond the talking points of the “military-industrial complex”, “bring our troops home” and ending the “American empire”. Agree or disagree, the fact is that the U.S. has signed many treaties and alliances with foreign powers and those are not things America could easily walk away from. My problem when it comes to blaming American intervention for anything in general is that one never knows where to neatly begin or they never address the myriad different possible scenarios in which things could have gone worse rather than better without American involvement. But not of that matters now. Right now the U.S. has obligations to numerous countries around the world and if America were to withdraw support from so many different countries, whether it was Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia or any other there would be dramatic and immediate consequences.

The United States is now a nation of minorities, more multicultural than at any other time in her history, and for every nation that would be affected by American isolationism there would be at least one ethnic group that would not be voting for Ron Paul. In the past such might not have been the case, but it is now. Personally, I would have no qualms about telling Europe to start footing the bill for their own security or to tell any nation that opposes American interests they can no longer count on American foreign aid or American forces to save their hides when they get in trouble. I would feel bad about leaving Japan in the lurch since the U.S. is the one that nuked the fighting spirit out of the Japanese almost completely but, even then, many already see the wind shifting and are speaking out in favor of being the ally of Red China rather than the unreliable Americans. That points to the problem of who would fill the vacuum left by an American withdrawal around the world. It would certainly not be the old colonial powers of Great Britain or France but would be Red China and perhaps some coalition of Muslim theocracies led by Iran on one side and a new “Islamic Republic of Arabia” on the other.

Good or bad, right or wrong, all of these are reasons why Ron Paul has never been elected to national office and will never be elected to national office. He simply doesn’t fit the current political system. At times he is also too honest such as when he said it was wrong for the U.S. to have killed Osama bin Laden. He made a very high-sounding argument to back that up, but when I heard it my eyes rolled in my head and I said, ‘there goes his chance of ever getting elected’. Even if another politician felt that way (and many Democrats do) they would certainly never say so publicly, especially so close to the ten year anniversary of 9-11. So, Ron Paul is a rare bird indeed, one of the most admirable politicians in the American government today and one of the painfully few who is consistent, principled and sincere. I have often stated that I would like to see him be President of the Republic of Texas but he has about as much chance of achieving that as he does of becoming President of the United States.

Papal Profile: Pope Clement V

Pope Clement V is one of those historical figures who has gained a rather unsavory reputation that he does not entirely deserve. He will forever be remembered, with distaste, as the Pope he started what became known (first solely by the Italians) as the "Babylonian Captivity"; the era in which the Holy See moved from Rome to Avignon in southern France. This was a period of just over seventy years and although unfortunate it is understandable. Although it is easy to judge, we should keep in mind to what horrible depths the city of Rome had sunk by the time of the death of Pope Benedict XI in 1304. When the conclave elected Bertrand de Got, the Archbishop of Bordeaux (after an astounding 11 months) the new pontiff in fact never went to Rome at all, but immediately began searching for someplace more healthy, peaceful and secure from which to rule. His choice was ultimately the French city of Avignon, residing first in a Dominican monastery.

Another reason for the move was the on-going Hundred Years War between England and France which the Pope hoped to bring to an end. Given the subsequent actions of Clement V, it is understandable that he would be seen as partisan in this, but the facts are not so simple. As Archbishop of Bordeaux he had been an English subject, and throughout the infamous clash between the King of France and Pope Boniface VIII he had remained faithful to the Pope despite being friendly with Philip the Fair as the French king was called. Some could say he had bad omens from the start of his papacy. Crowned in Lyons with King Philip looking on, a crashing wall caused him to fall from his horse during the procession, his brother was killed and the papal tiara was destroyed. Nevertheless, by being present in France Clement V was bound to be influenced by King Philip.

The driving force behind the French monarchy was his thirst for vengeance against the late Pope Boniface VIII, which Clement tried to placate without dishonoring his papal predecessor. Nevertheless, Philip persisted, Clement tried to put him off by saying that only a formal council could rule on the actions of Boniface VIII, but the King refused to abandon his quest for long and eventually succeeded in brow-beating Clement into calling for a formal trial. The Pope reiterated his belief in the complete innocence of Boniface VIII, and eventually the difficulty of the trial process and Clement's pronouncements that France still held an honored place in the Church, assuring the dignity and authority of the King, seemed to bring the matter to a close.

To be fair to Clement V, it must also be remembered that throughout this time he was suffering terrible pain from the cancer which would eventually take his life. This undoubtedly made Clement even weaker when dealing with the overbearing monarch. The biggest disaster and scandal of his reign however was over the suppression of the Knights Templar, again under pressure from King Philip. Long jealous of the power and prestige of the knights, the French arrested every Templar they could get their hands on, including their leader Jacques de Molay who had just submitted plans to Clement V for a new crusade. The knights confessed to a number of crimes under torture which Philip used to press the Church to take action against the Templars. The order was dragged through the legal mud until 1314, with no evidence sticking and the Pope was willing to simply give some penance and let the matter drop, but again Philip refused to relent. He pressed on in persecuting the order until Clement V finally buckled under pressure and ordered the Templars to be dissolved in 1312 after the Council of Vienne. The Pope tried to ensure their property when to other military orders, but most was ultimately taken by the French anyway. Clement V has thus been saddled with the reputation of a puppet-pope.

However, considering the circumstances around him, this is mostly unfair and in other matters Clement showed himself willing to stand up to the secular powers. He nominated Henry of Luxembourg to be Holy Roman Emperor and re-emphasized Papal Supremacy over the Emperor in Pastoralis cura. He also founded a number of universities, encouraged learning and earned quite a bit of displeasure from Scotland when he excommunicated their hero Robert the Bruce for his role in the murder of John Comyn during mass. It is, therefore, easy to see that Pope Clement V was an upright man, who understood and applied the full authority of the Papacy when it was at all possible. Even when dealing with the French king, under whose thumb he rested, he tried his best every time to divert and discourage or at least soften the blow of his demands. He died on April 20, 1314 at Roquemaure after reigning for 8 years, 10 months and 14 days.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monarch Profile: Emperor Pedro I of Brazil

The story of the first Emperor of Brazil is rather unique amongst those of other founding monarchs. Born under one flag, leader of what was effectively a secessionist movement against his own country, monarch of that, then foreign, country and finally monarch of the country he started out in to begin with. A unique story to say the least, but regardless of the various politicians that are held up today, let there be no misunderstanding that what we know as Brazil would not exist without the man who became the first of her two emperors. He was born on October 12, 1798 in Lisbon, first city of the Kingdom of Portugal, a country which had fallen on hard times but which still possessed an impressive global empire (the first in the world as we know). He was born Dom Pedro de Alcântara Francisco António João Carlos Xavier de Paula Miguel Rafael Joaquim José Gonzaga Pascoal Cipriano Serafim of the House of Braganza. His father was the regent of Portugal, due to become King João VI of Portugal and his mother was the Infanta Carlota Joaquina, daughter of His Catholic Majesty King Carlos IV of Spain. His father ruled as regent on behalf of little Pedro’s grandmother (one of my favorites) the very pious and seemingly quite mad Queen Maria I of Portugal. Pedro was not the first born son but became heir upon the early death of his older brother.

Dom Pedro did not see much of his parents as a child, which was normal for the time and place, and he was only nine when, in 1807, the Portuguese Royal Family was forced to flee the country ahead of the invading French army of Napoleon. The French marched into Lisbon just in time to see them sailing away, bound for the largest and most prized Portuguese colony: Brazil. Being so young when he arrived in Rio de Janeiro it was, perhaps, inevitable that Dom Pedro would be more influenced by the people and atmosphere of Brazil than any other. In fact, it could be argued that, despite the place of his birth, he was a more a product of Brazil than he was of Portugal. While Brazil became a co-kingdom and Rio de Janeiro was elevated to the status of capital of the Portuguese colonial empire due to the presence of the Royal Family and the occupation of Portugal, young Dom Pedro spent his days exploring his new environment, soaking up the local culture, playing with the other children he met and coming to understand their ways until he considered himself one of them. Some have made snide remarks about the detriment this was to his formal education (his parents obviously had other, pressing matters to deal with) but, in a way, associating with what we might call ’street urchins’ gave Pedro a unique perspective on life. His playmates would take him to their homes, where the people, ignorant of who he was, welcomed him with the casual friendliness Brazil has long been known for, and he was able to observe and learn things he never could from a book.

As he grew up, Dom Pedro was known for his military flair, love of horses, music, art and poetry. He was also fond of the ladies though his adventures in this area have, perhaps, been overblown. In 1817, in the usual effort at a royal alliance, he was married to HIH Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. As an arranged marriage, Pedro was never quite so fond of his wife as she was of him but that is not to say he was not fond of her. She was always a trusted and respected confidant and she was much loved by the common people and, like her husband, came to adore the people of Brazil and considered herself finally to be a Brazilian above all. Finally, in 1821, with Napoleon safely defeated and hauled off to exile, King João VI returned to Portugal, leaving Dom Pedro as regent in Rio de Janeiro. However, having tasted ‘first place’ the Brazilians were rather hesitant to return to the subordinate status of a colony. Revolution was spreading across Latin America and it was also in 1821 that Mexico became independent after the King of Spain had refused to consider independence in a personal union.

Seeing Brazilian independence as all but inevitable, it was actually King João VI who advised his son to take the lead in that direction. After all, it would be better for Brazil to become an independent monarchy, staying within the family of the House of Braganza, that to fall victim to some revolutionary dictator. When political troubles arose in Portugal Dom Pedro famously refused to return to the land of his birth and accepted leadership of the independence faction in Brazil. On his birthday, October 12, 1822, he was formally declared Emperor Pedro I of Brazil and on December 1 celebrated his formal coronation as the first Emperor of Brazil. In the establishment of the new country, Emperor Pedro I was somewhat torn between his own liberal personality and the need for strong monarchial leadership to hold the country together and maintain order in the face of extremists from both sides of the political spectrum. In the end, it took stern measures and a more authoritative role than Pedro was comfortable with, to produce the constitution which served throughout the life of the Brazilian Empire. Dom Pedro I was also influenced in this direction by the fate of other countries in South America which were, from the very start, torn by rebellions and civil wars that prevented almost any social stability to say nothing of advancement or strides toward greatness.

There were still problems with rebels and dissidents, but Pedro I was able to prevail against them and further consolidated his position by seeking foreign recognition which came first from the United States (which was always eager to see ties severed between European kingdoms and their American colonies) but also, significantly, from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland which proved to be a valuable support and trading partner for the new Empire of Brazil. This, however, did anger some Brazilian merchants as did the call by Emperor Pedro I to abolish slavery within three years. Many elites began to oppose the Emperor in the north and in the south there was a costly war with Argentina which resulted in the creation of the Republic of Uruguay. National morale was lowered further with the death of Empress Maria Leopoldina in 1826. Because she was so popular, republican enemies of the Emperor tried to blame Dom Pedro for her death in very ugly and outrageously false propaganda pamphlets they circulated. In March of that same year, King João VI died which made the Emperor of Brazil simultaneously King Pedro IV of Portugal. A couple of months later he abdicated in favor of his young daughter, Queen Maria II, and appointed Dom Miguel regent on the agreement that the two would eventually marry.

However, Dom Miguel claimed his brother had no right to the throne of Portugal for having broken from the mother country and he deposed his niece and proclaimed himself King. Emperor Pedro had earlier put forward a more liberal constitution for Portugal and this add to the civil war as liberals embraced the cause of the little Queen Maria II and conservatives pledged allegiance to Dom Miguel. So it was that, aside from governing Brazil, Emperor Pedro I had to take in hand the issue of getting his daughter restored to the Portuguese throne. Naturally, his enemies in Brazil used this against him as well. Still, the Emperor pressed ahead and in 1829 married Princess Amélie de Beauharnais von Leuchtenberg, granddaughter of the late French Empress Josephine. Pedro I tried to keep a hold on things in Brazil while pressing forward with the fight against his brother on behalf of his daughter but growing economic hardship and increasingly anti-Portuguese feelings finally forced the Emperor to make a choice. With even his support amongst the army wavering he felt he had no choice and on April 7, 1831 he abdicated in favor of his 5-year-old son who became Emperor Pedro II of Brazil. Reverting to the title of Duke of Braganza, Dom Pedro returned to Portugal to devote his entire focus to defeating his brother.

In the war, Dom Pedro proved victorious and was supported by Britain and France which viewed the civil war in Portugal in the same light as that of the Carlist war in Spain, agreeing to banish both the Portuguese Dom Miguel and the Spanish Don Carlos. Dom Miguel was finally defeated and forced to capitulate, which he did, renouncing his rights to the Portuguese throne and accepting exile. Dom Pedro had, at long last, prevailed and his daughter Maria II was formally restored as Queen of Portugal. However, he did not live long to savor his victory as his life was cut short at the young age of 35 when, at the very palace he was born in, Dom Pedro, the first Emperor of Brazil and, for a short time, King of Portugal, died of tuberculosis on September 24, 1834. It was not until 1972 that his remains were finally returned to the country he most felt his own and interred at the Museu Paulista in São Paulo, Brazil near where he had first declared the independence of the Brazilian Empire.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Consort Profile: Joséphine de Beauharnais

Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first Empress of the French, had a life, in many ways, as tumultuous as her famous husband, Napoleon Bonaparte. She made many friends, many enemies and was able to inspire intense feelings of devotion and anger in the “Little Corporal”. Despite their many ups and downs, probably no other woman ever held the affection of the parvenu emperor in quite the same way as his beloved Joséphine. A product of the colonial empire of the Kingdom of France, she was born Marie Joséphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie on the Caribbean island of Martinique on June 23, 1763. Her father was an officer in the Troupes de Marine and after a hurricane devastated the family sugar plantation a profitable marriage was sought for Joséphine in an effort to change the fortunes of the family. As a result, on December 13, 1779 Joséphine was married to Alexandre Vicomte de Beauharnais but, despite the birth of a son and daughter in subsequent years, the marriage was not a happy one.

When the Revolution broke out the Vicomte de Beauharnais was arrested by the “Committee of Public Salvation” as a counter-revolutionary. Only a few days later Joséphine was arrested as well but freed following the overthrow of Robespierre five days after her husband was sent to the guillotine for being insufficiently zealous in his support of the republic. After recovering the family fortune, Joséphine regained her status somewhat as a leading society figure and known, aside from her bad teeth, as a famous beauty. In 1795 she first met the up and coming General Napoleon Bonaparte, six years younger than her but who was nonetheless smitten by the glamorous widow. Joséphine was more amused by Napoleon than in love with him but, given that her lavish lifestyle had mostly eaten up her fortune, still became his mistress as a means of preserving the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. Napoleon was underestimated by many at that time as something of a country bumpkin, a disheveled Corsican who had become the flavor of the month, whose time would soon pass and who lacked the manners and deportment of fashionable society. Joséphine soon had Napoleon eating out of her hand and as far as he was concerned, the world revolved around his beloved Joséphine.

Things changed, however, when Napoleon went off on campaign and Joséphine began an affair with a young army officer. Napoleon was positively devastated when the rumors reached him that his beloved wife was being unfaithful and he reacted with sorrow and immense anger. It may not have been so bad had he not placed Joséphine on such a lofty pedestal. While on his famous campaign in Egypt to cut off the British from India, Napoleon took the first of what would be many mistresses. However, as seems to often be the case, it was after Napoleon had been shattered by Joséphine that she became the most devoted to him, begging his forgiveness and never (best as we can tell) having another affair again. However, the magic was lost and Napoleon would continue his womanizing for the rest of his career. Yet, no other woman ever held is heart the way Joséphine did. His wandering ways did seem to give Joséphine a taste of the betrayal Napoleon had felt and when she once caught him with one of her ladies-in-waiting there was a dramatic scene and the first threats of a divorce but the two were finally reconciled. Joséphine stood by her husband at his supreme moment of glory in 1804 when he crowned himself Emperor of the French at Notre Dame cathedral with the blessing of Pope Pius VII. Napoleon himself crowned Joséphine his Empress.

However, Empress Joséphine proved lacking in the one area most vital to a royal consort: producing an heir to the throne. She had children before marrying Napoleon, whom the Emperor had adopted as his own, and Napoleon had children by his mistresses (he acknowledged two, both sons) but none were forthcoming from Empress Joséphine. Although it hurt her deeply, Joséphine accepted that Napoleon had to have an heir and so agreed to a divorce so that he might marry a younger woman, hopefully fertile, and preferably of established royal blood. On January 10, 1810 the couple divorced and Napoleon later married Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria of the venerable House of Hapsburg-Lorraine and who gave him his son, Napoleon II. Joséphine managed to see the baby boy, at least once, but lived mostly apart from the court in her chateau near Paris. She and her ex-husband remained friendly with each other, Napoleon saying once that his only annoyance on her part was having to take care of her debts as she never did learn to manage money.

Although she had been replaced as Empress, Joséphine was still a star in her own way and entertained the most prestigious foreign guests from time to time. The pneumonia that finally took her life came on after walking in the cold during a visit by HIM Tsar Alexander I of Russia. She died on May 29, 1814 at the age of 50. When the former Emperor himself finally died in his lonely exile on St Helena in the South Atlantic, the very last words on his lips as he passed away was “Joséphine”. Her time as Empress consort had not been long yet, through the children Napoleon adopted she was to have many royal descendants across the globe including members of the royal families of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece and Brazil.
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