Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mad Rant: Monarchists and Italy

Alright, it is time for me to upset a bunch of people, but if I don’t get this out my head is going to explode. I will address the unification of Italy -again. Readers may have noticed a slight increase in Italian topics; that is no accident but was part of an effort on my part to mark the anniversary of unification this year. However, a number of people do not like that, and I mean they do not like the House of Savoy, current or historic, they do not like Italian unification and still call for the country to be dissolved, broken up into one of the pre-1861 sets of smaller states and are basically carrying on a grudge that is now 150 years old. Well, I am going to be more blunt than I normally am with my fellow monarchist sympathizers (but certainly less so than the republicans) and say three little words my mother often repeated to me whenever I complained too much about something: “Get over it!” Now, I am sorry if that little phrase gives anyone the ‘vapors’ but…seriously…it has been 150 years, it is about time to get over it.

I know perfectly well why some monarchists feel the way they do, and in the historical context, I completely sympathize. However, we are not living in the past and my primary goal is not to win arguments or change the mind of anyone on subjects of history over a century and a half behind us; my goal is to defend existing monarchies and restore monarchies that have fallen -including the Kingdom of Italy. Now, there may be some monarchists (who have the vapors at the moment) who are wondering why they should have to ‘get over’ the unification of Italy but not other historical injustices (and I certainly agree there were injustices aplenty that went along with unification). Well, it all depends on where the cause of monarchy resides in the modern context of the politics of the country in question. For example, the French Revolution -I have not gotten over it and I never will. The Revolution of 1688 on the other hand, which in the historical context I absolutely oppose, I have gotten over. Great Britain, in that case, at least remained a monarchy and the only options now are the monarchy and royal house that exists or a republic and I will take the Windsors over a republic any day.

Where Italy is concerned, these are the facts: unification happened and there is no great support for breaking up the country. What minor support there is for secession is all in the north (most of which originally belonged to the House of Savoy) and their politics range from Marxist to Fascist with nary a monarchist group among them. Considering that this argument is 150 years old, most Italians have only a passing awareness in the pre-unification states and when they do they regard them as foreign and not at all desirable. The heirs to these former states likewise accept the political reality, made their peace with the united Italy long ago and are not in any way seeking restoration and the dissolution of Italy. To continuously argue for that makes as little sense as arguing for the Duke of Bavaria to be the King of Great Britain. I could even go so far as to say that he IS the legitimate King of Great Britain but the fact remains that the ACTUAL Queen of Great Britain is HM Elizabeth II and the Duke of Bavaria has zero desire to even attempt to replace her. And, by the way, if he did, patriotic Brits would be adamantly opposed to such a foreign monarch. He is a foreigner and a Catholic and if you think Brits are not likely to fuss over such details just ask any Englishman in any local pub about Queen Mary I or the Spanish Armada. It may not be right, it may not be just or fair but it is a fact of life.

In the same way, not only do the heirs of the pre-unification Italian states not desire restoration, most would agree with the Italian people that they themselves are not Italian and they do not really go to very great lengths to change that perception. The heirs of the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies and the Duchy of Parma have each taken a greater interest in their place in the Spanish royal house than their heritage as heirs to minor Italian states that existed over a century ago. The heir to the Duchy of Modena is, to most of the world, considered an Austrian or even a Belgian but very few would consider him an Italian of any sort. None of the titular Grand Dukes of Tuscany have lived in Italy since unification nor done anything other than be good and loyal Austrians. The current heir, in fact, was raised by his mother in Uruguay (after his parents divorced) and now resides in Scotland. Then, of course, there is the Pope, the one case I have studied more than any other in the unification of Italy.

Let me say at the outset that what happened to the Papal States was unjust any way you look at it. Aggression is aggression, conquest is conquest. Let me also say that, on the whole, I consider Pope Pius IX one of the greatest pontiffs the Church has produced in the post-revolutionary era. That he was the victim of armed aggression is a fact. It is (and this may hurt) also a fact that he sent out a huge amount of “mixed signals” leading up to the occupation and annexation of the Papal States. These included voicing his own support for the “Italian nation”, his support for Italian unity, letting the revolutionaries out of prison and appointing a known supporter of unification from the army of the House of Savoy to command his own military forces during one of the wars the Savoy fought against Austria (General Giovanni Durando). When these forces took part in battles against the Austrians the Pope was shocked and the rest of Italy was shocked that he was shocked. The Pope had a legitimate change in his political thinking but by that time, he had, so to speak, already let the genie out of the bottle and nationalist sentiment could not be contained lacking the intervention of an army of Frenchmen sent by the Bonaparte Emperor Napoleon III.

Again, however, the most important thing to my mind is that, after refusing to accept the reality of the Italian nation longer than any other of the former states, in 1929 the Holy See did make peace with the Kingdom of Italy, each recognizing the rights of the other. I suppose I find it a little hard to understand how some people can still carry a grudge against the House of Savoy and the whole nation of Italy on behalf of the Pope when the Pope himself no longer has a problem with either of them. In fact, when unification was achieved, the Pope was offered (and refused) a larger territory and greater benefits than what was eventually accepted in 1929. However, what really makes my head ache when thinking about this is just what monarchists actually hope to accomplish by their attitude. Have any even considered, realistically, what would result from the Pope having his own country again? I have given it no small amount of thought and, given the way things are, as much as I love the old Papal States, I cannot see how it could be anything but a disaster.

Just imagine for a moment, the Church being judged by foreign powers according to the voluminous amount of advice and criticism on political issues that has come from the bishops and the Holy See. Imagine the Pope, as a ruling monarch, having to deal with union strikes, a social welfare system, crime and punishment and political refugees and Islamic immigrants. Either clerical rule would be upheld and the spiritual leaders of the Church would be judged for their political success or failure or else there would be no clerical rule, the place would be a papal constitutional monarchy and a lay government could pass all sorts of laws that would make a mockery of the Church and the Sovereign Pontiff. If papal rule did not turn out well, people left central Italy or became poor, discontented and angry -which would be a huge embarrassment to the Church and the papacy- or it would all work out well, be prosperous and then attract every immigrant and asylum seeker be they Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu and dealing with that would be an embarrassment. Does no one who calls for these things think them through?

Perhaps not. Perhaps there is no reason behind it all, simply holding on to a grudge over a hundred years old on behalf of someone who decided to forgive and forget 82 years ago. All I can say to that is that such people deserve some sort of prize for holding on to their bitterness with all the tenacity of a steel trap. But, whether the subject is Great Britain, Spain, Belgium or any other monarchy which many who call themselves monarchists still oppose, what really chaps my hide, what really makes me angry is the weakening effect on the effort of actual monarchists to accomplish anything. You will have noticed that I have made mention of nationalist sentiment quite a few times. It may not be right, you may not like it (I don’t like it myself) but it is a fact of history that nationalism tends to trump all. Even when it comes to something as deeply felt as religion, when people have been forced to choose between their nation and their church they have invariably chosen their nation. Hence, most people have realized the best thing to do is to try to avoid being forced to make such a choice.

As I have said, there is no great mass of people in Italy today who want to see their country broken up. The vast majority of Italians love their country and the few who do wish for secession are not in Rome, not in the south but are in the north and are as far away from being monarchists as one can possibly get. What really kills me is that these arguments are being constantly floated around, invariably by non-Italians, usually with snide accompanying remarks. My paramount goal is the defense of existing monarchies and the restoration of fallen ones. These useless arguments and centuries old grudges do nothing to help that cause. Your average, modern Italian is not going to be very favorably inclined to consider monarchy as a viable form of government if every time he tries to look up the subject on-line he finds constant calls by monarchists for the total dismemberment of his country. Moreover, every actual Italian monarchist I know or have ever met (and I mean ones actually carrying on the struggle in Italy) loves their country, loves the House of Savoy (even if not every current member) and it makes me, if not angry, at least quite sad that they would ever feel isolated by the wider monarchist community. They are on the ground, in their homeland, doing their best to restore their lost monarchy and yet many people outside Italy, who should be their Allies, are wishing not only for the failure of their monarchy to be restored but for the destruction of their very country.

And all of that suffices to make me a very … Mad Monarchist

Additional Note: Get real, get active or get out of the way
I am not playing a game here and my monarchist sentiments are not about some abstract theory or historical scenario. My goal is actual monarchial preservation and actual monarchial restorations, here in the real world, not in the past and not on some ideal, imaginary plain. It is for that reason that I refuse to sacrifice the preferable in pursuit of the perfect and why I grit my teeth and do my best to make an argument for even the most limited, ceremonial of monarchies. Monarchies today are an endangered species and nothing, positively *nothing*, is going to be accomplished by trying to re-fight battles hundreds of years in their graves that only serve to divide monarchists and alienate potential political converts. Again, I truly understand the historical arguments. I would have been on the side of the Pope in 1860, I would have been a Jacobite in 1688 and I would have been a Tory in 1776 but those battles have been fought, the outcomes decided and we have to move on, learn from them what we can and face reality as it exists today. Weakened as the cause of monarchy has been in the last century, the monarchist cause is already hard enough, we don’t need to make it totally impossible by dividing ourselves, alienating compatriots and fighting enemies long dead instead of those existing.


  1. Dear Mad Monarchist,

    I'm a frequent reader of your blog and always enjoy your works - while I've something of a legitimatist tendency within me, I can see what you're getting at.

    I run a political organisation in London called The Counter-Democratic League, which has no other ideology than to combat democracy and replace it with a more sane system of government. As such, we've a lot of sympathy for monarchy and monarchists in general.

    We would be honoured if you would write an article against democracy for our blog, or allow us to post one which you've already written. We give political talks once a month on non-democratic governments and governance, but it would be good if we could have something interesting to read from a well-known face such as your own in the mean time.

    Yours sincerely,
    Leader of the Counter-Democratic League

  2. Well done, Mad One, a true Mad Rant.
    And this is one of the reasons why I support a Bonapartist candidate to the French throne over a Royal one. More Frenchmen would be likely to support it, giving it a greater chance of success.

    As for the Papal States, I think that in the long run, it was for the best. The Church has always had more than enough problems to deal with, and while the Papal States will forever be an object of historical nostalgia for me, they no longer exist. The Church has returned to its purely spiritual role.

  3. I intended to write something about democracy in general but I'm overloaded at the moment and it will be a while before I can get to that project.

    As for France, I'm sure you know the situation better than I do. I've never given the Bonapartes much consideration, it was my understanding they had embraced the republic and were not even seeking restoration. I would regard a third empire as an improvement over the republic but it is not something I would wish for. Given that, the royalists have done themselves no favor with their constant infighting and readiness to accept the republic rather than a royalist victory by the *other* side. The Bonapartists don't like the Legitimists, the Legitimists don't like the Orleanists and the Orleanists don't even like each other. What a mess!

  4. Interesting read. I hold the same exact opinion as you do; preserve the existing monarchies and restore the fallen ones. Are people seriously considering dividing Italy? Yeah, bring back the great old days with bloody politicians and feuding families all up against each others' throats for power. One of the Italian kings (Umberto II or Victor Emmanuel III I think) said something like "Nothing suits the Italians more than a monarchy"... and he's right. As a republic, Italy is already divided due to their partisan government and the divisions among the North and the South, since the Northerners think of the Southerners as outsiders or something. I will admit I probably wouldn't have been a Jacobite, but only because I am a Protestant and not Catholic, not because I am personally against James II. That... and I'd be living on the other side of the world (Korea). But I don't support the July Monarchy either since they kicked out the guy who would have restored France to her original state.

    France, however, is a problem. If I remember correctly, the current heir of the Bonapartes (not Jean-Christophe, his father) was disinherited by the last head because of his republican sentiments. It doesn't even look like they're fighting for restoration either. And there's very little information on his son too, so I have no idea. The one thing I really admire about Napoleon III was his perseverance to become the French Emperor, and he actually managed, and I know it'll sound terrible to monarchists in general, but he is one of my favourite French monarchs. Not my absolute favourite, but I don't think he was bad. The Bonaparte house right now doesn't seem to be active politically, but I don't know enough.

    The Orleanists, if I remember correctly, started to defect to the republican party when the Third French Republic was formed. Due to their rather opportunist attitudes, I can't say I'm a fan of them; the current heir doesn't seem that great either. At least the Legitimists stood firm to their monarchist sentiments (they wouldn't be Legitimists if they weren't). So yeah, I'm leaning towards Legitimist claims of Louis XX, even though there is no direct heir of Charles XX unfortunately.

    But in any way or shape, any monarchy would do better than this moral relativist culture the French republic has brought in; it's a shame one of the noblest nations of the Western World has fallen like this. They used to be the most powerful in European military power too (until 1870) and now what are they? The surrender party! Seriously...

    Oops look at my digressing like a certain mad person!

  5. I hope this wasn't partially directed at me, since I basically agree with you. I realize I made one mildly anti-unification comment recently on a mutual friend's page at Facebook, but I was speaking purely theoretically. For the record, while not a huge fan of Crown Prince Victor Emanuel, I support the House of Savoy and was very happy about the marriage of Prince Aimone and Princess Olga of Greece and the birth of their son Umberto, with whom the future of the ancient dynasty probably rests. I honestly find it hard to be optimistic regarding any sort of royal restoration in Italy, unified or otherwise, but would certainly welcome a return of the Kingdom of Italy.

  6. I don't know anyone, in or out of Italy, who is a huge fan of Victor Emanuel. As one of the volunteer sentinels at the Pantheon said, he did not approve of the Crown Prince but he remained loyal to the Royal Family for their role in the creation of Italy. There are only one or two countries in the world where I could be even close to "optimistic" about a restoration, but Italy is not the most hopeless case either. They have monarchist organizations that are working hard, they have had members elected to government and while the most prominent of the competing pretenders has not said he is pursuing the throne (almost none do) he did recently (and to my surprise really) state that he prefers monarchy and listed its benefits over a republic. I quoted that interview in a news post when it was made. So, that is more than many suffering republics have going for them.

  7. Le Petit Prince, you are referring to one of my favorite royal quotes, spoken by HM King Vittorio Emanuele III who said, "In Italy they are already speaking about a republic, but keep in mind that there is nothing less suited to Italians...... The Italians are individualists and a republic will become the cause of confusion and disorder. Certainly of corruption. I have no doubt of it. When all this comes to pass who will profit from it?"

  8. Ewww. Did I just write Charles XX? I meant Charles X... holy moly. That's what happens when one is in a rush.

    And yes, that is the quote right there! Thank you. And I believe Italy does have a chance for restoration, however rare restorations be. Italy did not unite to become another yet larger divided entity. She would prefer being a monarchy.

    I had an Italian professor for a course called Modern Italy where he talked briefly about Umberto II's exile and he said the punishment of exile and never returning was much too harsh. I think he also said most people wanted to keep their king, so what in the world was that referendum about?

  9. The referendum was highly fraudulent to say the least of it. The only real support for a republic came from the north which had a strong communist presence as well as a large number of fascists do to that being the base of the RSI. Most of the military was not allowed to vote, many people in the poor areas of the south who could not read but where monarchist sympathy was strong were lied to and told the ballots for the republic were for the monarchy, some were lied to about the whole nature of the vote and many were intimidated into voting for the republic and there was fraud in counting the vote with the result being declared before many strongly monarchist areas had even been counted. It was a complete farce.

  10. And here is the quote I mentioned from Prince Emanuele Filiberto:

    “Royal families are on top of political parties. So they’re not interested in right, left, up, down, black, white. They’re really interested in the good of their people and their country. It’s important to have someone who’s on top of the parties who really loves the country and doesn’t need to be elected by the people so he doesn’t need to compromise between right and left.”

  11. These are very good and wise words.Many people who met Prince Emanuele Filiberto said Beside being cute and handsome ,he has realy good insight and not superfacial as some of his behavoirs seam.

    1. I was one of those. Hearing his words about monarchy and his moderate and impartial answer to a question about Berlusconi made me think alot more of him.

  12. I couldn't more agree with you. All your articles make sense and are persuasive, at least in my eyes. I see the biggest threat to italian monarchism is the split within the Savoia dynasty.


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