Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The Economic Crisis and the Failure of Democratic Absolutism
What we are seeing around the world today is really the result of a failure in the system of absolute democracy so many have put their faith in. In the United States, and things are even worse in some other places, the vast majority of taxes are paid by a tiny minority of the population. The least noble amongst us who have no stake in the success or failure of the economy have consistently voted for whatever politician will promise them the most with no cost to themselves. Government gets bigger, social welfare becomes more prevalent and the rich and middle class (but especially the rich) are taxed more and more to pay for it all. Socialism is now creeping in and even becoming somewhat acceptable or at least thinkable here in the United States as it has been for some time in Europe. Looking at the big picture this can only spell doom for our civilization and all of our most ancient traditions. We are seeing the rise of mob rule, a sort of neo-version of the French Revolution except that most people today are too apathetic to take in hand operating the guillotine themselves.
People will rule themselves into oppression because they frequently turn to insidious politicians to help them get something for nothing. They want more benefits but no new taxes. This means that a politician must deliver the benefits but always tax someone else, the wealthy minority being an easy target. Consider how the government went after the AIG executives who were given the bonuses they were contractually entitled to. The very same party which demanded that AIG be given government money and which wrote the bill that allowed these bonuses to be paid put on a great show of mock indignation at these evil, greedy, rich people on behalf of their struggling, working class constituents (pay no attention to the fact that many of these same guys got hefty donations from AIG and others like them). The fanatical leftist activist group ACORN (for which Obama formerly worked) even drove protestors to the homes of these evil rich people to shout abuse at them. Keep in mind that none of these greedy AIG executives broke any law and most have more or less been browbeaten into giving back money that they had been promised in their contract when they first went to work for the company. This is class warfare at its lowest. This is Marie Antoinette and the whole cake fabrication all over again.
Out of protest the noble Stuart monarch did not speak much at his trial for he refused to recognize that any court was competent to judge him. It was just as well for he was a dead man as soon as he fell into the hands of his enemies. However, when he did finally speak what he said was as profound as it would be unpopular for modern audiences. The part that no one will like is that he said government was the business of kings and had nothing to do with the common people sharing in it. I know, I know, most today would cut his head off for that alone (unless of course he was the leader of a communist country the rest of the world depended on for trade and cheap labor). However, what I think is too often forgotten is what the noble King said after that about what exactly it was he had been fighting for. He said, if I may paraphrase, that in defending his own rights as King he was defending the rights of every person in the land to what was truly their own. The Crown and his powers were his by legitimate, legal and ancient hereditary right. If the government could take that from him then they could take anything from anyone. So it is today.
When you boil it down, there really is no dispute over what the Greek collapse was caused by. People voted themselves money until they ran out of money at which point they borrowed money and now their bills are coming due. It is obvious and yet no one, on either side of the mainstream political spectrum, seems to understand it. We still have young idiots camping outside Wall Street demanding “free” college and forgiveness of debts and even on the right, notice how the Republicans are still terrified of admitting that social security is broke. All the senior citizens marching with the “Tea Party” shout for budget cuts and smaller government until it comes to the programs they themselves are entitled to. In Great Britain the National Health Service is the biggest economic drain in the history of the British Isles yet, because of democratic absolutism, even those politicians smart enough to realize the obvious dare not say so or make a single move against the NHS because they would be promptly voted out of office for taking away “free” healthcare from the people. No, they will reduce the army to a palace guard, scrap the royal yacht and share a navy with France before they will suggest that the people actually pay for their own healthcare themselves.
The truly maddening thing about all of this is that it is so painfully obvious and was figured out thousands of years ago. The ancient Greeks and Romans understood this. Democracy means the ‘have nots’ can vote themselves the property of the ‘haves’ until there are no more ‘haves’ and everyone is a ‘have not’ and the nation tears itself to pieces. Which is usually when the dictator steps forward and everyone had better pray he is a benevolent one.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Off Topic Tuesday: Eurozone Crisis
That being said, I cannot be completely upbeat about the current crisis in Europe because it is proving that your average European is just as dumb as your average American in that *they just don't get it*. Just like your majority, apathetic, mainstream Americans, your average Europe has not gotten the message: Socialism Doesn't Work! You cannot get something for nothing, you cannot run up debts and expect future generations to cover the bill (especially when you cannot be bothered to actually produce a future generation) and punishing success and rewarding failure is not the way to create a successful economy. These are not difficult concepts to grasp, yet precious few today seem able to. The austerity measures (such as they are) did not happen in Greece because people suddenly saw the error of their ways. They only happened because Greece ran out of money, couldn't pay back their debts, couldn't get anymore loans and so the Greek borrower became the slave of the EU lender. That is my biggest concern with the current crisis; that, as I see it now, no one seems to be learning from their mistakes but throw an infantile fit at the government gravy train being cut off and turning their anger on whatever unfortunate party or coalition just happens to be in power.
In Spain, for example, recent elections turned out the socialists and brought the 'very, very slightly right-of-center leaning' party to power. I was certainly glad to see the socialists go, it turned my stomach every time King Juan Carlos had to meet with that crowd, but while I don't want to ignore those people who voted them out for the right reasons, most did not. I don't think most Spaniards voted against the socialists because they realize they're wrong (on social as well as economic issues) but simply voted them out because they happened to be in power when the house of cards collapsed. In Italy it was the 'very, very slightly right-of-center' Berlusconi who was tossed out, again, not because of scandals or anything that concrete, but mostly because he happened to be the one in power at the time. He certainly did not create the current disaster that is the Italian economy all by himself since becoming prime minister in 2008. So there was some public outcry but, most importantly, the EU wanted him gone (they had never liked him much anyway). The EU has imposed new leadership on Greece, in Italy (surprise, surprise) the new PM Mario Monti is a long-time EU-supporter and one who actually did help Italy get to where she is now by helping arrange the massive loans to keep up the fools paradise illusion while the country was going broke.
The people though, so far, are not so upset with the EU establishing dictatorial power over the member states, not so upset with the policies that have driven them into bankruptcy and not so upset that the EU has had to go to China (perhaps making all of Europe the slave of the Chinese lender) for more bailout money. No, they are upset because they are being told that cannot continue to get all the freebies from the government they have grown acustomed to. As glad as I am to see the EU in crisis, that simple fact still depresses me.
Monday, November 28, 2011
The Grand Old British Empire
Of course, none of these men were perfect from Raleigh to Clive to Rhodes. Neither was every page of British imperial history a proud one. Individuals will always be fallible, some policies were benevolent and some were rather horrible; such is the history of human beings. The eradication of the Thugee cult in India, for example, was a great service to the subcontinent. The Opium Wars, on the other hand, were a terrible injustice (not perpetrated by Britain alone) and quite a shameful episode on the whole. However, the relatively few ugly incidents should not blind us from the immense good that was accomplished by the British Empire nor intimidate proud Britons from defending their exceptional place in history. Were it not for the British Empire the world today would be a very, very different place and, I happen to think, were it still around it would be a better place for a great many people in the world.
For example, when the British took over the French territory of Canada, early indications were that British rule would be harsh and intolerant. However, the British won the loyalty of the local population by recognizing French law, granting toleration to Catholicism and removing references to Protestantism in the oath of allegiance. It was a winning policy as in the American Revolution that followed later, not only did Canada remain loyal but French Canadian leaders and bishops zealously supported the royal cause. South Africa was another example. The war against the Dutch settlers had been bitter and ferocious (even seeing the first use of the concentration camp) but once Britain was victorious they did not treat the Boers as a conquered enemy but made them partners in the British Empire, ensuring the staunch support of the South Africans in both World Wars that followed. Ultimately the former enemies worked together to make South Africa the most advanced and prosperous country on the African continent. In India, where Britain has been much criticized, the fact remains that local traditions, customs and religions were maintained under British rule. Intolerance and wars of religion only emerged after independence. The extent to which the British were able to work well in cooperation with the native population is seen in the fact that such a relatively small island, half-way around the world, was able to administer an entire sub-continent with fewer troops than the French republic garrisoned in Indochina alone.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Royal News Roundup
Friday, November 25, 2011
Italian Unification - The Characters
The Kings of Italy:King Vittorio Emanuele II
King Umberto I
King Vittorio Emanuele III
King Umberto II
The last, pre-unification:
Viceroy Maximilian of Lombardy-Venetia
Duke Francis V of Modena
King Francis II of the Two-Sicilies
Pope Pius IX
Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany
1861-2011 Remember Your Roots!
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Why I Don't "Do" Thanksgiving
The pilgrims were upset with their life in England. They disliked the Anglican church, regarding it as too “Catholic” for their taste and for the pilgrims the Catholics were absolute evil. Even as Puritans went, these were the most extreme. Not only did they few Anglicans and Presbyterians as “too Catholic”, even their fellow Puritans were insufficiently puritanical from their point of view. King James I, when it came to religion, was a fairly tolerant monarch. However, he did not want religion causing divisions and strife in his kingdoms and so restrictions were placed on the pilgrims. Disliking this state of affairs, they decided to move over to the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Even those many centuries ago the Dutch had the reputation of being very tolerant and libertarian amongst the nations of Europe. In matters of faith, in the Netherlands there was pretty much complete religious freedom for anyone (except for the Catholics of course on whom there were some restrictions) of any Protestant Christian denomination as well as for Jews.
However, the pilgrims ultimately found life in Holland unsatisfactory. They complained about the lack of tolerance they endured in England, yet in the Netherlands they complained that there was too much tolerance. They feared the numerous religious groups around them would corrupt them and their children and they disliked the licentiousness of those who adhered to no real religion at all. So England was not free enough and Holland was too free, so they decided to go to America. They hopped on the Mayflower and sailed west. For government, the leaders all signed the famous Mayflower Compact, remembered ever since as one of the earliest founding documents of what became the United States centuries later. There are a few things about the Mayflower Compact that many people may not know. The Mayflower Compact was actually a very royalist document, the very first words being a tribute to, “our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith etc”. The document also stressed their loyalty to the King and the hope that their undertaking would do the King and their country honor. Were they sincere? That’s another matter.
At the time (pre-civil war England) royal authority was fairly well accepted as a given. Even the republics of the time such as Venice, Genoa or even the Dutch republic still had royal or at least regal leadership. However, it is hard to imagine that the pilgrims who so loathed the Church of England could have much sincere faith and allegiance for the King was the “Supreme Governor” of that denomination. For those who rejected the Church of England it was not a great leap to at least be lukewarm in their submission to the monarch, especially given how paramount the place of the King was to Anglicans. Although it is mostly ignored today, that is a situation still around today as Anglican canon law still recognizes the Queen as, “the highest power under God in this kingdom, and has supreme authority over all persons in all causes, as well ecclesiastical as civil”. At the very least the pilgrims would have objected to the “ecclesiastical” bit, if nothing else.
Long after Massachusetts became a well established English colony it continued to be the favored place for Puritans to flee to and this increased dramatically during the reign of King Charles I who favored a very traditional, elaborate and, some would say “Catholic” style for the Church of England. Needless to say, although the American colonies played no really significant role in the English Civil War, there were divisions and Massachusetts, because of their Puritan foundation and population, was definitely on the side of Oliver Cromwell. Puritan Massachusetts had opposed the Elizabethan uniformity effort, the Bishops War of King James I and they certainly opposed the direction religion in the British Isles took under King Charles. In fact, after the King was martyred, after the long years of tyranny under Oliver Cromwell and after the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles II, Massachusetts showed how anti-royalist it was by being the very last English colony in America to recognize the Stuart monarch as their rightful King, not doing so until August of 1661.
Successive British monarchs likewise found out how troublesome Massachusetts could be, even as religion was eclipsed by politics as the primary vehicle for the old Puritan hostility toward the Crown. As everyone knows, the colony would finally become the greatest hotbed of revolutionary activity and eventually lead the continent into the American War for Independence against King George III. So, to bring it all back, that is one of the primary reasons I don’t “do” Thanksgiving. That, and I’m not a big fan of the first President to make it a national holiday. We have also discussed here before how the real first thanksgiving was actually celebrated in Texas long before those dour pilgrims ever set foot in New England. So, be assured it is not an issue of ingratitude which prompts me to sit this one out. You may also rest assured I pass no judgment or think any less of those who do celebrate the day as I know most do it for the right reasons (unlike some other holidays). For all who are joining in, I wish you a happy day and I hope you all know that I am thankful for all you, members, subscribers, lurkers and casual readers, who keep up with The Mad Monarchist. I do appreciate you all.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
China and the Heavenly Mandate
The principle behind the heavenly mandate is that anyone can attain virtue, that virtuous leadership will cause a country to prosper and a prosperous country will be secure and content with such happiness and contentment serving as proof that the leader in question had obtained the heavenly mandate to rule. This principle can, and has, been stretched pretty far on certain occasions. However, the idea was never supposed to be about simply the ability to take and maintain power (though at times it became that and we cannot deny that) nor was it traditionally about popularity with the people. The Emperor, who the Chinese traditionally recognized as the legitimate ruler of the world, not simply China, even if other barbarian nations were too backward to recognize it, was to govern with moderation and virtue, not to be popular, but because this was his moral duty toward Heaven and as a pious believer in Confucian morality. He also had religious duties to perform that went along with the heavenly mandate, as the Emperor was the “Son of Heaven”; the pontiff between the Middle Kingdom and the Kingdom of Heaven. The most important of these came at the Winter Solstice when the Emperor would go to the Altar of Heaven to present offerings and pray on behalf of his people and to, as we might say, give Heaven a progress report on the reign of his dynasty.
When the Ming dynasty was overthrown by the Manchu coalition of forces, establishing the Qing dynasty, it was accepted that the Ming had lost the Mandate of Heaven and that the Manchu Emperor had acquired it. This was reinforced by the extent to which the Manchus adopted Chinese traditions and emphasized Confucian ethics and social order. Over the centuries, the heavenly mandate of the Qing began to be questioned as rebellions became more serious and foreign nations gained stronger footholds in China. The wave of nationalist, republican revolutionaries rejected the whole concept of the Mandate of Heaven, officially, while unofficially arguing that if such a thing did exist the Qing had lost it anyway. When the Qing dynasty was overtaken by the 1911 Revolution the act of abdication which brought an end to the ancient imperial system stated that the dynasty was bowing to, “the Mandate of Heaven as expressed through the will of the people” which was quite a novel concept in and of itself. Since that time, the successive nationalist and communist regimes have been a little uncomfortable dealing with the principle of the Mandate of Heaven. Again, they officially scoff at such a traditional belief but also would like to use it to legitimize their own positions. So, most effectively say that, one shouldn’t believe in the mandate but, if you do, believe that they hold it.
Given the number of natural disasters that have befallen China in recent years, some might suggest that this be taken as evidence that the CCP has lost the heavenly mandate and therefore that rebellion against them is justified. As stated, I think rebellion has always been justified because they never even claimed the mandate in the first place nor have they ever shown the slightest interest in ruling according to Confucian morality. This is the same regime, after all, that even in its youth enacted programs which caused the deaths of tens of millions of people and even as millions were dying Chairman Mao took it as no great tragedy, seeing it simply as so many less mouths to feed. If one wanted to argue the case, I am sure the communist sympathizers would in any event point to the higher levels of public education, the growing power of China and the burgeoning middle class (which only emerged after they started to wise up and cut back on the communist economic policies) as “proof” that, now more than ever, they hold the mandate.
In my view (though of course they can not claim it now even if they wanted to) the heavenly mandate still rests with the Qing dynasty by default, simply as the last traditional dynasty to have held it. This has always been my position, both because of my admiration for the culture of the Qing Empire as well as the unalterable fact that no one since has even claimed the Mandate of Heaven. From the fall of the Qing the history of modern China has been unprecedented in every way. Yes, I readily admit, it could be argued (obviously, given the disasters that overtook them and the fact that they were forced to renounce power) that the Qing lost the mandate but, as I see it, if so, it remains right where they left it. Certainly no government that came immediately after could claim the mandate, the country fell into utter chaos and ruin. Whether the communists desire to or not, they could never claim to hold it as that would undermine their very foundation. Will the Qing be restored? The lessons of history say “no” (though they had some very real opportunities in the past). That is why I say the mandate resides with the Qing only by default, waiting to be picked up again or claimed by another. Obviously, I very much hope that day will come and come soon, but the China of today is a totally different animal from the China of history. They have imported something formerly unknown; mass politics and ideological fanaticism, into China and that alone, even without all the power they have accumulated recently, is sufficient to mean that any future change in “dynasty” will likely be a very, very traumatic and violent affair.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Off Topic Tuesday: Super Committee Failure
It is also true that the Democrat war on the rich to increase revenues is simply campaign fodder because they were offered a deal that would close tax loopholes (used almost exclusively by the very wealthy) which would increase revenues to the government while not actually raising taxes. They refused it. One would think they would want to close these loopholes anyway, deal or no deal, but of course not. In case anyone thinks I am being unfair, let me assure you that I still don’t believe the Republicans, by and large, are being sincere in their sudden concern with the national debt. Where was this concern when George W. Bush was President for eight years and spending money like there was no tomorrow? I don’t buy it. They don’t get it either and when I look at the crop of GOP presidential candidates I am only further convinced that the Republicans still just don’t get it. They just sound a little better lately because the Democrats keep doing things that are blatantly retarded. Voting against a balanced budget amendment, for example, because it is just a “Republican ploy”. Really, how on earth, when the country is $15 trillion in debt, do you argue that balancing the budget is a bad idea?
President Obama never wanted this “Super Committee” to accomplish anything because he wants the narrative of his reelection campaign to be, “Things suck, but blame the ‘do-nothing’ Congress, don’t blame me”. The Republicans don’t really want an agreement either because they want the campaign narrative to be, “Things suck, fire Obama and elect Governor Romney” (who looks like the dad in the ‘came with the frame’ family at Sears). Obama keeps whining that the Republicans are “putting party before country” but let’s be adult about this. They both put party before country and this is not anything new. This is business as usual. Obama’s problem, and one reason why he has had to whip up the class warfare rhetoric to the point that there is riot police in the streets, is because he purposely allowed himself to be way, way over-sold. Expectations for George W. Bush were so low, any time he managed to string together a coherent sentence people were impressed. Obama, on the other hand, came to power as the great leader who would unite the country, rebuild Washington, save the planet, save the economy, make our enemies love us, make the oceans recede and lions sleep next to lambs. Obama has had some pretty dramatic successes (by his way of thinking) as President, yet everything that is bad seems ten times worse because he sold himself as being the super-man who could be all things to all people and solve every problem with no fuss or trouble.
Even if I were to give the Super Committee the benefit of the doubt as to their sincerity, the fact of the matter is that in the United States today the opposing sides have virtually nothing in common anymore. Take someone from east Massachusetts and someone from east Texas; they may as well be from different planets. The people of the red state/blue state divide agree on absolutely nothing, not on morals or values, not on economics, not on foreign policy, not on the proper role of government, not on the environment, not on the constitution. They fundamentally disagree on what the United States itself is or should be about. Nor can I hold out much hope for compromise. They don’t agree on the most basic judgments of “right” and “wrong” so how can you compromise on any moral or social issues? Pragmatism doesn’t come in to it. You have one side pushing for European social democracy when you can look over to Europe and see the failure of social democracy with your own eyes, yet still they push for it so, obviously, pragmatism is out of the question.
What do I think will happen? Search me, I’m no prophet. I can say I don’t think it beyond the realm of possibility that the USA begins to break up. When low tax, business friendly states start to have to foot the bill to bail out high tax, welfare states America could start down the path Belgium is on. It may also be, as Ron Paul has warned before, that the US dollar will become worthless and states will start to simply ignore the federal government and go their own way. Compromise seems even more unlikely to me as I notice the recent rise of the libertarian movement. For the uninitiated these are basically conservatives who have given up on social issues (they are pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro-legalized drugs) but hard-line on upholding capitalism and keeping the government out of economics. More and more conservatives seem to be going this way as they basically give up on the social issues because they don’t like being the “bad guy” who opposes gay marriage. Yet, they are absolutely opposed to any of the limits to capitalism that past conservative governments have made. As the Democrats drift more toward socialism and the Republicans drift more toward absolute capitalism, moral issues will no longer be an issue and there will be no room for any compromise or concessions at all between these two diametrically opposed world views.
It’s not a rosy picture, but then I’ve never been accused of being all sweetness and light.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Monarch Profile: King Manuel I of Portugal
In 1498 the intrepid Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama found the sea route to India, the first European to reach the subcontinent by ship and who later became the first Viceroy of Portuguese India. The rich lands of eternal Asia were opened to European markets because of this, via Portugal, and in quick order King Manuel I became one of the wealthiest monarchs in Christendom. More advances followed quickly. In 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered the immense South American nation of Brazil, setting into motion the establishment of what would be the largest colony of Portugal and, in time, the most populous Portuguese-speaking nation in the world. However, based on treaties signed with Spain and the Holy See, the focus on Portuguese exploration and investment was concentrated more on Africa and Asia and in 1505 King Manuel I appointed Francisco de Almeida the first Viceroy of India and from 1503 to 1515 the Portuguese Admiral Afonso de Albuquerque made advances in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean that led to the establishment of Portuguese monopolies on maritime trade in those lucrative sea lanes which ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity in the Kingdom of Portugal.
The wealth King Manuel accumulated attracted the best and brightest of the era to Portugal which became known as the preeminent nation in almost every field of endeavor. Great scientists, mathematicians, architects, artists and the most bold adventurers all flocked to Portugal as center of learning and progress. New discoveries came in constantly. Economic and diplomatic relations were established with the great dynasties of Asia, the Persian Empire and the Chinese Empire and King Manuel I sponsored architectural wonders, erecting new buildings and majestic monuments to befit an imperial capital. Some of the greatest of these, however, were not symbols of pride but of devotion; monasteries, convents and houses of worship. Portugal under Manuel I was a very Catholic absolute monarchy where the parliament in Lisbon was called only three times, yet, the Portuguese people had never known such success, prosperity and academic freedom. King Manuel reformed the judicial system and the system of taxation, making each more fair.
Only one group did not fare well during the reign of Manuel I and that was the Jewish minority. The King had tried numerous times through marriage to gain for himself a dominant position in Spain. It was a condition of his first marriage to the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile that he expel the Jews and Muslim Moors from the Kingdom of Portugal. Past Portuguese monarchs had tolerated and protected the Jews, advancing many of them to high office and often relying on them. Some warned the King against the expulsion of the Jews but more supported their eviction. Their money-lending (a practice banned or at least frowned-upon in most Christian nations at the time) stirred up jealousy and hatred against them. So, King Manuel I ordered the Jews to either convert or leave the country. Many falsely converted in order to stay and this would prove a source of problems and endless controversy for the Holy Office of the Inquisition in the future. However, the King was not a hateful man and when mob violence resulted in the murder of a number of Jews he had the perpetrators put to death for the crime.
King Manuel did marry Isabella (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella) but she died in childbirth in 1498 and their only child, Miguel, who was heir to both Portugal and Spain died a few years later. In 1501 Manuel married Maria of Aragon by whom he had 10 children including the future King John III of Portugal, the Cardinal-King Henry and consorts for the Holy Roman Emperor and the Duke of Savoy. Maria died in 1517 and the following year Manuel married, for the last time, to Eleanor of Austria, daughter of the King and Queen of Castile and sister to the future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. They had one son, Carlos, before King Manuel I died on December 13, 1521, of plague, in Lisbon at the age of 52. He was succeeded by his son, King John III, who tried to continue his policies. The Golden Age of Portugal went on for a time but a variety of problems began to cause the wave of success to recede somewhat. All subsequent historians would always look back to the reign of King Manuel I as the zenith of Portuguese glory and greatness around the world.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Happy Christ the King Day!
A happy Christ the King day to all Christian readers. Today, in countries at least where Christianity is still considered, and the political left and right squabble over "What Would Jesus Do?" it is worth pointing this feast day out, particularly that it is the Feast of Christ the King rather than Christ the "President". A significant distinction as true authority is not gained by a popularity contest, nor by the bomb or billy club, not by slick advertisements or piles of cash. Power may be gained in such ways, but not true authority. Christ (the anointed) is King (not President) because His position is based on birth (no one elected Him to be the Son of God) on divine authority and does not rest on popular opinion. His orders are not voted on, cannot be vetoed and (as much as some today may like to) He cannot be voted out of office because that "office" exists for the people but is not of or by the people. It is a divine position, not a popular one, something handed down from Heaven, rather than being set up from earth. There are, of course, those Christians today who try to have it both ways (with the best of intentions we must assume) and who will say that they recognize the authority of Christ the King but of none other. "No King but Jesus" was once the popular slogan. Yet, they do the Christ a disservice in saying that, for truly he was called the "King of kings" which would neccessarily imply that there are other kings beneath him and these we are called to obey, rendering unto Caesar as well as unto God. Moreover, the spirit of pride inherent in that phrase is not one, upon closer reflection, I think most sincere Christians should be able to be comfortable with.
So, if I may offer a little suggestion to the subjects of Christ the King today, take a moment to reflect, not only on worldly politics (we have the rest of the year to devote to that) but to the centrality of kingship to the Christian narrative. The foretelling of the coming of Christ was bound up in kingship. The prophecy was that He would be of royal blood, born of the House of David and born to be King. It was because of His royal blood that, even as a newborn, He was hunted and persecuted. The ministry of Christ was the ministry of the King who came to serve rather than to be served, in all things doing the will of the King of Heaven and finally, it was because of His royal blood, ultimately, that it was prevailed upon the Romans to put Him to death with the "crime" nailed over His head being "King of the Jews", wrapped in a purple cloak, holding a reed for a sceptre and wearing a crown of thorns. The kingship of Christ is absolutely central to the Christian story and it is an aspect that should not be ignored, especially in times such as we live in today.
So ends the 'sermon' and may the King of Heaven bless you all.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Royal News Roundup
Starting with Asia, in the Land of the Rising Sun, the Emperor is still dealing with a persistent cough so HIH Crown Prince Naruhito stepped in to welcome Their Majesties the newlywed King and Queen of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan on Tuesday. The visit is to mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Bhutan. The King also met with the Prime Minister and is set to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Keio and will address the Japanese parliament.
In the Middle East, HM King Abdullah II of Jordan has responded to the unrest and killings in nearby Syria by calling on the dictator President Bashar Assad to relinquish power and step down. This came at the same time that the powerful Arab League voted to suspend the membership of Syria. On Tuesday the Jordanian monarch was in London where he visited Buckingham Palace and met with HM the Queen.
In the Low Countries, HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, on Thursday, was at the 16th Foundation Ballet Gala of the Dancers ‘79 at Amsterdam Music Theater. The event is to benefit the art of dance, encouraging young people especially to take it up. King Albert II of the Belgians underwent surgery as an out-patient this week to remove a bit of skin cancer from his nose. Doctors said it was nothing too serious, that the operations went perfectly well and the King is now recovering. Tuesday was King’s Day in Belgium with several ceremonies to mark the occasion, though as per tradition the King himself does not attend these. There was a special Te Deum and a military parade attended by the other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Laurent who has been on the ‘naughty list’ lately and not seen at many official events. In Luxembourg, Grand Duchess Maria Theresa and daughter-in-law Princess Tessy and her two sons attended the Red Cross Bazaar to benefit that organization.
In southern Europe, Monaco is in full party mode for National Day today, marking the accession of HSH Prince Albert II. More on the events of today (probably more coverage tomorrow) can be found at Mad for Monaco. In Spain, HM King Juan Carlos met with representatives of the country’s leading Catholic charity, “Caritas” at Zarzuela Palace along with several other dignitaries this week. On Thursday HRH the Prince of the Asturias donned his naval uniform to visit the ‘Strategic Project Ship’ (sort of a cheaper substitute for an aircraft carrier) “Juan Carlos I” with the commanding Admiral of the Spanish navy as his tour guide. The ship will be able to carry soldiers, troop transports, landing craft and up to thirty aircraft for strategic operations. Spain may not be the naval superpower that it once was but the new state-of-the-art ship shows that the proud naval tradition in Spain continues. The “Juan Carlos I” was commissioned last year and is the second aircraft carrying vessel in the Spanish navy, the first being, appropriately, the flagship carrier “Prince of Asturias”.
In the north, on Wednesday HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark attended the special Queen’s Parade in Copenhagen on honor of the Danish Royal Guard who were drawn up in all their blue and bearskin glory. Events are building up for the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s accession in January. Also, very soon, Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary are set to visit her native land of Australia. In Norway, tomorrow, a new documentary will begin airing on Crown Princess Mette-Marit. In Sweden, on Tuesday, Prince Daniel handed out the “2011 Leader of the Year Award” in Stockholm, the winner this year being Johan Malmquist, ceo of Getinge AB.
Finally, in Great Britain, the Royal Family was out in force for the official commemorations for Armistice Day/Veterans Day. The only top-tier royal not present was Prince Harry who is still training in Arizona and attended a special ceremony with his comrades there to mark the occasion. On Wednesday the Queen, Prince Philip and the Prince of Wales were at Westminster Abbey to mark the 400th anniversary of that jewel of English literature the Authorized King James Bible which, until fairly recently, was the standard Bible for almost all Protestant Christians in the English speaking world.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Maximilian, Last Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia
However, trouble had been brewing in Lombardy-Venetia for quite some time. All across the Italian peninsula the national sentiment was coming to boil as more and more people became focused on uniting the Italian states and driving out the foreign armies that occupied Italian soil. Some of this was political, some academic but there were also the secret societies who would not hesitate to use violence to see their goal of a single Italian nation achieved. The area had been engulfed in rebellion during the Revolutions of 1848 and the Emperor Francis Joseph was worried about how his little brother would handle that section of the populace who were very much the unwilling subjects of the Hapsburg Crown. Archduke Maximilian had made no secret of the fact that he had long favored granting greater freedom and self-government to the two most significant non-German populations of the Austrian Empire; the Hungarians and the Italians. For the Emperor, who took his example from the very conservative Emperor Francis I, change was to be avoided at almost any cost. For the new Viceroy, change was essential and he thought himself just the man for the job.
The new Viceroy did everything right. He gave to the poor, generously, went personally to help with the seasonal flooding and organized a lottery to benefit the displaced. He did his best to reclaim land, provide more reliable clean water to the cities, improve education and to beautify Milan and Venice. The Viceregal couple attended every local celebration and the people began to respond positively. No one who met them failed to be impressed by them and soon, in their young and idealistic way, Maximilian and Charlotte began to envision a grand future for themselves with their Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia not being an obstacle to Italian unity but the leader of it and that they might one day become King and Queen of an enlightened united Italy. However, that dream would most certainly never be realized. Many of the people, perhaps even most of the people, truly liked their handsome Austrian Viceroy and his beautiful Belgian wife and appreciated their kindness. However, that personal affection did not extend to political approval. They were still foreigners and in the rising nationalism of the time, that made a difference. Lovely as they might be, they were not Italian and Italy would belong to the Italians and none other. The couple could also expect no cooperation from Vienna in obtaining any greater autonomy for themselves or their kingdom.
Maximilian, of course, resisted this, reasserting that patience and goodwill were necessary to truly win over the public. He also had the audacity to ask for what amounted to autonomy for his kingdom with its own military, governmental, educational and taxation systems. This, Maximilian argued, was the only way to keep Lombardy-Venetia united to the Hapsburg Crown. The Emperor refused and instead encouraged his brother to rely more on the army and police and even went so far as appointing the long-time Austrian army commander in the region, General Count Gyulai, something of a co-Viceroy alongside Maximilian and who would have to co-sign all major decisions. Of course, the Archduke was outraged by this and became more and more depressed with his position. He tried to get around the move by asking to have control of the army himself so that military and civil matters would be united in the office of the Viceroy but the Emperor refused. Maximilian and Charlotte even went to Vienna to argue in person on behalf of their unwilling subjects but they gained not a single concession.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Consort Profile: Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria
As Queen mother, Elisabeth continued to encourage the arts and sciences (befriending Albert Einstein among other prominent thinkers). During World War II she used what connections she still had in Germany to help save the lives of numerous Jewish children. She never changed. However, after 1934 it was as if she was only counting the days until she could be reunited with her beloved husband. Still, she remained devoted to her causes, her family and her country, going her own way even when it caused controversy until she finally went to join her beloved husband on November 23, 1965 in Brussels. Queen Elizabeth was, at times, unorthodox but she was also the ideal consort by every measure. She adored her husband and was his strongest support in his most difficult days, she was a devoted mother, provided well for the succession and she was fearless in her care for her adopted country. She was, in every way, a great Queen.
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