Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 The Year in Review

What sort of year has 2011 been for the world of monarchy? Overall, I am pleased to say, I think it has been a good year. That is not to say, of course, that there were no problems, but on the whole it seems as though the good news has outnumbered the bad. The biggest royal domination in the news has been in the field of romance; one of the few things these days everyone still mostly agrees to be a good thing. We saw pomp and pageantry on display (by the monarchy that tends to do it best) with the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. One would be hard pressed to find almost anyone in the world who missed that event. And from the biggest monarchy in the world we say another wedding in just about the smallest monarchy in the world when Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco were married in an event that was very Monegasque -small but stylish. We also saw the marriage of the heir to the Prussian and German thrones, Prince Georg Friedrich to Princess Sophie von Isenberg, and there were flags, gongs and Buddhist dancers galore out in force for the wedding of the King of Bhutan. And, after their own wonderful wedding, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden announced the upcoming birth of a new heir to the Swedish throne. All very happy occasions and all generally well received by the public.

There were, sadly, some unfortunate royal events as well. At the top of that list would have to be the passing of His Imperial Royal Highness Archduke Otto of Austria, heir to the thrones of Hungary, Bohemia etc and a long-time force in European politics. He was followed in death later in the year by his brother, Archduke Felix, the last surviving child of Emperor Charles I and Empress Zita of Austria-Hungary. This year also saw the passing of Princess Antoinette of Monaco, Baroness of Massy, the 90-year-old sister of the late Prince Rainier III. Also leaving this life was Leka Zogu, son and heir of the self-proclaimed King of Albania from 1928 to 1939. Although a republic, Albania allowed a state funeral for the occasion. In May, Tran Le Xuan, better known as Madame Nhu, former unofficial First Lady of South Vietnam and a great-granddaughter of Emperor Dong Khanh (and thus a cousin of the last Vietnamese Emperor) passed away in Rome on Easter Sunday at the age of 86. Princess Bui Mong Diep, one of the concubines of the last Vietnamese Emperor also died this year. In perhaps the most tragic loss, in January Prince Ali-Reza of Iran killed himself at his home in Boston after a long struggle with depression. And yet, other royal figures reached milestones of longevity in 2011. King Michael I of Romania and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, both turned 90-years-old.

There have also been some royal scandals that have been rather painful, Sweden has been particularly hard hit this year with the father of the Queen being accused of having Nazi connections (disproven) and King Carl XVI Gustaf was implicated in some rather unsavory activities that have significantly lowered the public approval of the Swedish monarchy. In Spain, King Juan Carlos underwent knee surgery and later surgery on his heel, which slowed him down a bit though the Queen put to rest any ideas of a potential abdication. However, corruption allegations surrounding the Duke of Palma, husband of Infanta Cristina, caused a PR-problem for the monarchy in Spain, exacerbated no doubt by the debt crisis, which has caused a drop in popular approval for the monarchy though personal support for the King remains high. The always controversial King of Swaziland in southern Africa had to deal with accusations of holding a wife captive (again) and is still criticized for living too well in a poor country while complaining that Swaziland deserves a bailout from the international community.

In the wider cause of monarchy as a whole there have been some troubling issues but no great disasters and some cause for hope. The Italian Royal Family was front-and-center at a number of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, unfortunately none of them were “official” government events -rather odd considering the event they were celebrating would not have happened without the Savoy royals. Sultan Abdul Halim became King of Malaysia for the second time in another royal transition for that country. In the Netherlands some politicians began calling for a reduction in the role of the Queen in the Dutch government, which is troubling, yet Queen Beatrix and her son and heir the Prince of Orange made a very successful tour of the Dutch Caribbean islands. At a meeting for the heads of government of the (British) Commonwealth of Nations, UK Prime Minister “Call Me Dave” Cameron announced changes in the royal succession to do away with male preference and the ban against marrying Catholics. As part of the so-called “Arab Spring” the treasonous tyrant Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, who had seized power in a coup against King Idris, was overthrown and killed, opening up at least some hope for a royal restoration there. The King of Jordan began championing democracy and the Kingdom of Morocco became a more limited monarchy. The small, often forgotten Balkan nation of Montenegro even extended official recognition to their former Royal Family, coming about as close as one can to a restoration of the monarchy without actually taking the plunge.

And yet, royal influence could still be felt in some of the most unexpected places. In the Principality of Monaco an over-intoxicated Frenchman was sentenced to six days in jail for insulting Prince Albert II. Prince Alois of Liechtenstein stood up for life and threatened to use the princely veto against efforts to legalize abortion in his tiny country. And showing how vital even limited constitutional monarchs can be, King Albert II of the Belgians managed to shepherd his feuding people through the longest stretch of time any country has gone without a government which was finally ended when Walloon socialist Elio Di Rupo became Prime Minister of Belgium. Overall though, it is pleasing that royal romance has been the dominant theme of 2011 and that all of the marriages have been, on the whole, so well received. The biggest, in terms of both media attention and sheer splendor was, of course, the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The joining of a dashing young prince and a blushing bride gorgeous enough to cause traffic accidents was made-to-order for a country and a commonwealth which had otherwise had nothing to focus on but looming debts, economic disaster and the occasional riot. The popularity of the handsome young couple has caused many republicans to throw up their hands in despair. And that is just the sort of thing we like to see.

Here is hoping that 2012 will be a year of more birthdays, and given the recent number of royal weddings, perhaps the year of a royal baby boom. Naturally, we also hope 2012 sees some royal restorations. Montenegro now seems a likely candidate, Serbia continues to keep me on the edge of my seat, Portugal has all the right ingredients and although I was hopeful for a time about Russia, I am becoming somewhat less so. Putin seems willing to take monarchists to the ball, but reluctant to ask them to dance. Perhaps some other country will give us a pleasant surprise. I would also like to thank everyone who has followed along here in 2011. This year we passed 360 members, 2,000+ subscribers and have around 2,000 people a day checking in to have a look around (the madness continues to spread). I hope everyone comes along in 2012, that you all had a good 2011 and will have an even better New Year.

Thanks again, to you all,
Your resident mad man,
The Mad Monarchist

MM Video: Royals We Lost in 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

The 2011 Mad Monarchist Awards

Yes, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for (just play along); the announcement of the winners (and losers as the case may be) of the Monarchist Madness Awards for 2011. I’m still recovering from the after-party for the Monaco Madness Awards so let’s get down to business shall we:

The Nick and Nora Charles Award for cutest couple goes to TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for being as adorable as a toddler holding a kitten in one hand and a puppy in the other. This was an easy one, especially after that trip to Calgary when the newlyweds donned their jeans and Stetsons -in that moment I could almost imagine Texas having a monarchy.

The King Louis XIV Award for epic royal absolutism goes to Prince-Regent Alois of Liechtenstein for crushing the effort to legalize abortion with the simple threat of a royal veto. That, my friends, is royal authority being used in the best way. Congrats!

The Foster Brooks Award for appreciation of over-indulging in adult beverages goes to HRH Prince Harry for visiting the “Sin City” of Las Vegas and being most impressed by the fact casinos offer free drinks as long as you keep gambling. Bottoms up!

The Tammy Wynette Award goes to Princess Claire of Belgium for standing by her man, which is not easy when your man is the gaffe-prone Prince Laurent. Kudos to you Princess Claire, God bless you.

The Bonnie Prince Charlie Award for the most active royal pretender goes, once again, to Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia for working with the public, civil and religious officials to not only express his willingness to be King but advocating for constitutional monarchy as a better government than a republic. God bless him.

The Kelly Grace Award goes to Princess Theodora of Greece for being a real-life princess who became a professional actress officially since joining the cast of a soap opera out in Hollywood. We wish her all due success in her chosen profession.

King Albert prepares to bulldoze the parliament
The Job Award, not the most sought after, for extreme royal patience and devotion to duty in difficult times goes to King Albert II of the Belgians for presiding over a country where it often seems that each half hates the other half and who set a new record for a country going without a permanent government. Perhaps in no other country but Belgium is the monarchy more clearly and immediately necessary.

We have a Double Take Award for Crown Prince Haakon of Norway who went to Nepal on behalf of the UN to check up on how they are advancing the cause of “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” rights and who was “treated” to a dance by cross-dressing transgender natives. What a job.

The Good King Wenceslaus Award for royal popularity goes this year to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark for presiding over a lack of scandals, displaying steady leadership and making the Danish monarchy the most popular in Europe. Denmark is just awesome -everything runs so smoothly you sometimes forget they’re there. And, once again, the Queen of Denmark also takes home the King Zog Award for royal smoking, regardless of what the healthy people say. Daisy must have a bit of a libertarian streak in her.

The Princess Stephanie Rhythm Award goes to Princess Caroline of Hanover and Charlotte Caisraghi for bopping out on the balcony to the song “Africa” on Monaco’s National Day. Who knew the Grimaldi girls were Toto fans?

The Caligula Award for being a royal embarrassment goes to King Mswati III of Swaziland for holding wives prisoner, setting a bad example in times of poverty and then crying when he doesn’t get more bailout money. You’re doing yourself and your country no favors. I don’t like saying this to royalty but --shape up!

Finally we have the Barney Fife Award which goes to King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden for shooting himself in the foot -so to speak and greatly lowering the prestige of the monarchy all because he couldn’t keep better company. Not good Majesty. Not good.

And now, the last prize of the evening, the presentation of the Mad Monarchist Medal which recognizes, as a way of showing our appreciation, the monarchist blog or website which sent the most visitors to The Mad Monarchist. And the award goes to (drum roll please) … the blog Royal World which sent more than twice as much traffic our way than the next highest contender. The Mad Monarchist Medal goes to Royal World, and its purveyor and readers of course, along with our sincere thanks and gratitude. Wear it in good health.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Birthday of the Mad Baron

It was today in 1885 that our blog mascot, my deranged hero, Baron Roman Fyodorovich Ungern von Sternberg was born. Readers are invited to take a look back on the many past posts dealing with the White Russian crusader and Mad Monarchist of Mongolia. And how is this for raising an eyebrow or two: it was also on this day in 1911 that Mongolia first declared independence from China as a theocratic Buddhist monarchy under the Bogd Khan -whom the Baron would one day liberate from Chinese captivity and restore to his throne. This declaration of independence was done in conjunction with the "Great 13th" Dalai Lama of Tibet as the Qing Empire was collapsing in China. But, getting back to the 'man of the hour' the Baron was born in Graz, in what was then the Dual Empire of Austria-Hungary. He was an ethnic German (as were many in the Baltic where his family was from and where he grew up) but of course was also an ardent defender of Imperial Russia and who would one day command an army made up mostly of Asians. His aim? Far-fetched but oh so glorious, to force a pan-monarchist coalition that would stretch across Eurasia, covering all the lands of the great Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan to create an imperial, religious-monarchist bulwark against the revolutionary tide. Here is something like what he had in mind:
Ultimately, it didn't quite work out, but what a glorious vision it was...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Off Topic Tuesday: The Case of Captain Wirz

(this is a very old little article of mine I dug up - please forgive)

I am an admitted sucker for hard-luck cases, and the case of Confederate Captain Henry Wirz, commandant of the interior of the Civil War military prison at Andersonville, Georgia is one of the hardest of all. Unhappy in his native Switzerland, he came to the southern United States at a time when Americans distrusted most foreigners. His first language was German, which made it even worse, and he was a convert to the Roman Catholic Church at a time when many in America were militantly anti-Catholic. He worked as a doctor before joining a Louisiana infantry regiment at the start of the American Civil War. At the battle of Seven Pines he was wounded by artillery shrapnel which left his right arm paralyzed and in constant pain.

As a sergeant, Wirz served on the staff of Brigadier General John H. Winder, the officer in charge of all prisoners of war taken by Confederate armies. He proved so effective that he was later commissioned as an officer and, due to his European origin and ability to speak English, French and German, was sent to Europe by the southern government on a diplomatic mission, though records of his actions or goals are scarce. Nonetheless, after coming home on a blockade runner he was placed in charge of the stockade at the newly built prison camp at Andersonville.

An important point, which many post-war northerners refused to take into consideration, is that the job Wirz had of commanding the interior of the prison was a very difficult one in which he had a great deal of responsibility, but almost no power to take any action. Supreme authority rested with General Winder as the officer in charge of all POW's, while the command of the post, or Camp Sumter as was the official name, went to his son Richard Winder and all regiments and canon batteries on guard duty had their own officers, most of whom outranked Henry Wirz and did not take kindly to a lowly captain making demands on how their troops were to be used. The only direct power Captain Wirz had was over the interior of the prison and whatever guards were on watch around the stockade. This job therefore meant that Wirz was the one most often seen by the prisoners as "boss", and the one who was subsequently blamed for their every misfortune, while he actually had almost no power to make any major changes to their welfare.

Throughout the rest of the war, when given the opportunity, Wirz proved that, while he certainly had no love for the yankees, he did what he could to improve conditions in the prison. This included such things as moving the hospital outside the stockade, establishing a more efficient method of organization, and numerous attempts to improve sanitation and provide some form of housing for the prisoners. However, in areas such as this, Wirz was constantly hampered by a lack of proper materials. Andersonville, it must be remembered, operated during the last half of the war, at a time when the southern states were in a situation of extreme poverty. When massive numbers of Confederate soldiers and civilians were enduring poverty and starvation, it is hardly surprising that captured enemy soldiers would often be forced to do without as well.

After the war, Captain Wirz would be forced to stand trial for every misery endured by the Union prisoners, and indeed many which were total fabrications, whereas it is easy to see that, in fact, most of the privations these men were forced to endure was the fault of their own government. The first general culprit was the Union blockade, which choked off all imports to the south. The south had almost no industry of any kind, and the majority of crops grown were tobacco and cotton, so when it came to basic necessities the south depended on imports for almost everything. Finally, there was the refusal of U.S. General Ulysses Grant to continue the program of exchanging northern prisoners for southern ones in U.S. prison camps. Grant knew that the north had a huge manpower advantage over the south, and so decided to fight a war of attrition. Unfortunately, this meant that Andersonville would at one point hold around 33,000 prisoners when it was built with the intention of holding only 8,000.

During their captivity many of the northern troops became extremely disgusted with their leaders who seemed to care so little about their horrific suffering. They even sent a petition with thousands of names to Washington D.C. demanding that the exchange program be re-opened. During the trial of Captain Wirz, his lawyer attempted to have this admitted as evidence, but was denied on the grounds that it made the late President Lincoln seem uncaring(?!). Much the same unfairness was shown at the end of the war when Wirz was held prisoner and put on trial for war crimes. Favorable witnesses were threatened with the loss of their pardons if they spoke on his behalf, any sort of rumor or allegation was admitted so long as it was against Captain Wirz. By this time, Lincoln was dead and the north wanted blood. Captain Wirz, commandant of an infamous prison, a foreigner and a Catholic seemed the ideal target. Shortly after the trial he was hanged in the courtyard of old Capital prison; the only man to be executed for war crimes during the Civil War. In recent years the Daughters of the Confederacy erected a small monument in honor of the maligned Captain Wirz at Andersonville, Ga.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Happy Christmas to All

A Happy Christmas to all from The Mad Monarchist.
On this day special to all Christian monarchists, marking the birth of the King of kings, everyone should, of course, take a step back from all the commercialism and consumerist headaches and reflect on that. Around here we particularly note (if few other Christians do these days) that the birth of Christ was considered a matter of royal prophecy. It was foretold that a *King* would be born, of the royal house of David, in the city of that great King of Israel. We should also recall how the pagan powers were pivotal in making the prophecy come true as it was due to the order of the Emperor Augustus Caesar that the Holy Family came to be in the place foretold and that it was because of his royal bloodline and the royal prophecy surrounding the birth of Christ that the infant King was hunted and persecuted, forcing the flight to Egypt. As was written, "on this day, a King is born". A happy Christmas to all and my thanks to everyone for coming along.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Emperor's Birthday

Today the people of Japan celebrate the Emperor's birthday (天長節) as it was on this day in 1933 that His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito was born. We wish His Majesty a happy birthday and a happy holiday to all the people of Japan. Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!

My Apologies

My apologies to all but it may be fairly slim pickings here at the Mad Monarchist for a while. With everyone else on Christmas vacation around here, I'm having to work overtime and have had little time to make much progress on the blog. I have exhausted my 'ready to post' articles, which I try to have done ahead of time to allow for the occasional hiccup, so while I will try to do what I can, with all of the extra demands on my time (and a few minor family disasters) it might take until after the holiday break for things to get back to normal. I am sorry if this disappoints anyone and I appreciate everyone for your attention and your understanding.
-The Mad Monarchist

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Case for Monarchy: Portugal

In few other cases can the argument for monarchy be better made than in Portugal and the only argument needed is the historical argument. As a kingdom, Portugal was once the envy of Europe, the little country on the edge of the continent that was on the cutting edge of progress and innovation. As a republic, Portugal has known tumult, in-fighting and gained notice only for being one of the most poor European nations. Even when that trend started to be reversed, it was based on borrowed prosperity and has led to Portugal being known as a debtor country. The contrast could not be more stark. Of course, the history of the Kingdom of Portugal was not one of uninterrupted success. There were certainly low periods. However, under the monarchy the Portuguese showed what they were truly capable of and they achieved truly awesome heights of prestige and prosperity. Under the republic, the low periods have remained but the successes of the monarchy have never even come close to being matched to say nothing of being surpassed.

Portugal was born and came into being as a monarchy. The Portuguese kings led their people in the struggle against Islamic domination, creating their own independent country and then leading it to further success on the world stage. The Kingdom of Portugal was a center of science and learning, Portuguese explorers in the employ of the King blazed a trail that the other nations of western Europe would follow. They built the first global maritime empire, and one based on commerce and industry rather than conquering vast territories and subjugating populations. They carried the Portuguese language and the light of Christianity to the jungles of Brazil, the farthest, untouched corners of Africa, the subcontinent of India and the islands and great civilizations of the Far East. The Kingdom of Portugal introduced Europe to the world and established business contacts and trade routes that made Portugal the most prosperous country in Christendom and yet also maintained their reputation as one of the most faithful and devoutly religious.

Ask anyone to name the greatest figures of Portuguese history and they will most likely come up with names like King Manuel I, Henry the Navigator or any of the number of great explorers from the golden age of Portuguese history. In short, they will name people from the era of the Kingdom of Portugal. Ask them to name some great or even significant Portuguese figure from the era of the republics and you will be answered with deafening silence. It is not to say that no one from Portugal has done anything significant since then, but that is one of the things that comes with the loss of monarchy. Everything seems altogether more ordinary and mundane compared to countries that are part of the club of royalty. For instance, more people know about Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese Queen consort of Great Britain, wife of King Charles II, who brought part of India as her dowry and who introduced the custom of drinking tea to England than any of the “first ladies” of even any Portuguese republican official to say nothing of foreign leaders. Even when the Kingdom of Portugal had fallen on hard times in the years prior to the revolution, Portugal was still a country that mattered to the other great powers of Europe because it was a royal country, worthy of consideration for marriage alliances because of their lofty rank. Since the republic, Portugal has been largely ignored on the world stage until recently when her mountainous debts have threatened to cause economic hardship for others.

The kingdom may have had its problems at certain points but the leadership of the republic have set new depths to which the standards of corruption, dishonesty and graft have sunk to. In any debate about the Portuguese monarchy and its overthrow, mention will usually be made of the country going bankrupt (twice) during the reign of King Carlos I, the last Portuguese monarch but one. Yet, this was not necessarily an entirely bad thing as modern events should prove. The current government in Portugal should have gone bankrupt long ago, on multiple occasions, but because the politicians who have been breaking the country are able to hide behind the veil of democratic republicanism, their crimes went unnoticed. They artificially kept the country floating on borrowed money, turning Portugal into a debtor nation when a bankruptcy or two when it should have happened might have shocked the public back to their senses and encouraged them to throw out the current lot and install someone better, perhaps even an altogether better system such as a constitutional monarchy in which the King would be available to keep a reviewing eye on the political class who have been juggling the books.

It is truly heartbreaking to see the state of Portugal today. Heartbreaking because it was not necessary, it was avoidable and because a simple look at any history book in the world will show that Portugal is a better country than this and the Portuguese are better people than this. Alleviating the problems in Portugal today should be a very simple matter of checking the historical record. Portugal was once prosperous, vastly wealthy even, with a population known for their hard work, ingenuity and abundance of faith rather than their abundance of debts. All one need do is take a look at the historical record, see when Portugal was at her best and then simply do what they did back then (with some modifications to suit modern times of course). If reform is to start at the top, the first change that should be made is in the highest level of national leadership. If Portugal was greatest when she was a monarchy then she should be a monarchy again. It would not solve every problem instantly of course, but a restored King of Portugal could provide the sort of moral leadership Portugal needs so that the people can be inspired again, united and motivated to help each other and, as in the old days, find new ways to grow and prosper. Only a figure like a monarch could lead such a movement, lead Portugal in restoring her faith, her pride and her pursuit of excellence. And that is why the Portuguese monarchy should be restored in quick order.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monarch Profile: Emperor GuangXu of China

One of the great “might have been” figures of late Imperial China was the weak but romantic and high-minded Emperor Guangxu, the last monarch but one of the Qing Imperial Dynasty. He was born Prince Aisin-Gioro Zaitian on August 14, 1871 to Yixuan, the first Prince Chun (son of Emperor Daoguang) and Yehenara Wanzhen who was a younger sister of the formidable Empress Dowager Cixi. He had little time for a normal childhood when Emperor Tongzhi died in 1875. Empress Dowager Ci’an (second empress consort of Emperor Xianfeng) first suggested the family of Prince Gong to carry on the family line but Empress Dowager Cixi blocked that idea and instead put forward her nephew Zaitian for the job. The Imperial Family agreed, Empress Cixi adopted her nephew as her own son and on February 25, 1874 the four-year-old boy formally became Guangxu (“The Glorious Succession”), “Great Emperor of the Great Qing Dynasty, Grand Khan of Tartary, the Son of Heaven and Lord of 10,000 Years”. For the sake of tradition he was legally declared the successor of Emperor Xianfeng rather than Emperor Tongzhi but “Holy Mother Empress Dowager Cixi” continued to rule herself as regent.

As a child, Emperor Guangxu was terrified by the Empress Dowager and remained intimidated by her throughout his life. However, he had a good relationship with his tutor (later the Minister of Revenue) Weng Tonghe, a Confucian scholar who had previously been tutor to Emperor Tongzhi. As he grew up there was no escaping the fact that Imperial China was being overtaken as the preeminent power in East Asia. The British had moved into Burma, France was in control of Indochina, Russia was taking a greater interest in the region, Japan was rapidly modernizing and China seemed to be standing still. As he grew into adulthood, Emperor Guangxu became more concerned with this situation and finding a way out of the downward spiral China seemed to be in. His tutor, Weng Tonghe, suggested a reform-minded mandarin named Kang Youwei who, in turn, recommended to the Emperor others who were committed to reforming Chinese society. Empress-Dowager Cixi retired to the Summer Palace, leaving politics behind (or at least so she claimed) which put Emperor Guangxu in actual control of China for the first time. With the support of men like Kang Youwei and Liang Qiqao, in June of 1898 Emperor Guangxu began what is now known as the One Hundred Days Reform.

Emperor Guangxu, and his entourage of like-minded mandarins, issued a veritable flood of imperial edicts aimed at reforming virtually every segment of Chinese society. The idea was to remake the Qing Empire along lines inspired by western countries and particularly the Empire of Japan. Just like the Japanese they hoped to create a modern infrastructure, economy, military, educational system and even a constitutional government with representative assemblies but doing it all within the traditional imperial system and with the Emperor retaining final authority. However, while Japan had modernized at breathtaking speed, Emperor Guangxu was trying to go even faster and Chinese society reeled from the impact of all the proposed changes. It also upset the old order which went looking for help at the door of Empress-Dowager Cixi. These included many officials Emperor Guangxu dismissed for being incompetent at worst or opposed to his reforms or reform schedule at best. There were also those who stood to lose power or position as a result of the reforms. Some were also genuinely concerned that foreign powers stood to take advantage of China through the flood of reforms, gaining influence in details of the mountain of edicts Emperor Guangxu put his seal on.

Empress Dowager Cixi and her supporters gathered military support with the aim of effectively deposing Emperor Guangxu to put a stop to all the drastic changes. A key figure was General Yuan Shihkai who was put in charge of the primary defensive force around the Emperor. However, at a key moment, he threw his support behind the Empress-Dowager whose own military forces, led by General Guwalgiya Ronglu. His troops surrounded the Forbidden City, took Guangxu prisoner and this was followed by an edict from the Empress-Dowager which effectively declared the Emperor unfit to rule. He was placed under house arrest, deprived of all rights and privileges and was under constant surveillance. Some wished to depose him formally while other traditionalists recoiled at this and wished him to remain powerless but still nominally emperor.

Some of his supporters were executed by the Empress-Dowager, others punished in lesser ways and some, like Kang Youwei, fled the country and founded the “Protect the Emperor Society” to advocate for a constitutional monarchy for China. Those who viewed Emperor Guangxu as being duped by foreign powers felt their prejudice confirmed when he opposed the Empress-Dowager declaring war on the great powers of Europe and the United States in support of the Boxer Rebellion. He could not influence events at all of course and was eventually proven correct when the Boxers and regular Chinese forces were defeated by the Eight Nation Alliance (Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, the United States and Japan) which saw the foreign armies take Peking, even the Forbidden City and ransacking the place. Emperor Guangxu was persuaded by his favorite consort (the tragic “Pearl Concubine”) to treat with the foreigners himself but before he could do so the Empress-Dowager had the concubine thrown down a well by her eunuchs and when she fled the Forbidden City in disguise ahead of the foreign armies, she took the Emperor with her. She was greatly offended when the foreign officials stated that any agreement had to be made, at least nominally, with Emperor Guangxu rather than herself since he was, legally, still the chief-of-state.

Once the foreigners withdrew from Peking the Emperor was returned to the Forbidden City where he was still kept isolated and confined, indulging his childhood interest of tinkering with clocks and assorted gadgetry. It seems he still had hopes of putting China on the path he thought best once the increasingly old and frail Empress-Dowager passed away. He still had loyal supporters outside of China, and a few within the country, who might rally to him and restore him to power on that occasion. However, the most widely accepted version of events is that the Empress-Dowager was not allowed to run the risk of that happening and so, when she was herself on her deathbed, ordered Emperor Guangxu to be poisoned. Whatever the case may be, he died suddenly on November 14, 1908, only one day before the Empress-Dowager, at the age of 37. His successor, Aisin-Gioro Puyi, later said that he had been told that Yuan Shihkai had employed a eunuch to murder the Emperor and then had the eunuch murdered to cover his tracks for fear that he would be executed for treason if Guangxu ever returned to power.

The funeral for Emperor Guangxu was the last such ceremony China would ever see. The Republic of China, which came into being after 1911, funded the building of his mausoleum in the Western Qing Tombs as part of an agreement made with the late dynasty. Republican leader Dr. Sun Yat-sen even managed to praise Emperor Guangxu for his open-mindedness and commitment to reform and even post-civil war communist historians have been less inclined to be harsh toward him. His efforts at widespread reform may have been rushed and not handled in the proper way yet many still point to his reign as a great opportunity lost. One cannot help but speculate about what might have been if he had been allowed to see things through as he wished. Might Imperial China have become a modern, constitutional monarchy, enjoying the advances of modern innovation while remaining faithful to long-held traditions? We can, of course, never know but it does provide a precedent which can be pointed to as an alternative for monarchists in China to this day. If China were to ever become the modern monarchy he envisioned, Emperor Guangxu would finally be vindicated in his vision for the future.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Off Topic Tuesday: Picking On Ron Paul

Lord help me, I’m going to say something nice about Ron Paul. First, let me get some preliminaries out of the way: as I have already detailed in the past, Congressman Paul cannot win the GOP primary and he could never be elected President of the United States. We don’t elect people from the House of Representatives to the presidency, the pro-war crowd would never support him, the big business lobby would never support him (he’s too capitalist for them, believe it or not), the Jewish lobby would never support him, none of the racial minorities would support him, the university liberals would never support him and the religious right would never support him -and that’s pretty much everyone aside from the Libertarians. However, I cannot help but feel for the man due to the way he is constantly singled out and picked on, by the Right more than the Left (only because the Left know he’s unelectable and he serves to divide the Right) when, agree with him or not, he has been probably the most principled and consistent politician in office in the last few decades. He does not deserve to be treated with the ridicule he often is and, as I have also said before, he is also right on quite a few things.

Right now, as it is primary season when the contest is ‘who is conservative enough’, the one issue he is picked on the most is foreign policy. His stated position on foreign policy is one of non-intervention. Frankly, I disagree with that, however, I don’t think Ron Paul is as far off the reservation as he is portrayed as in the media. I have heard people say they are afraid of Ron Paul because he would never take us to war, even if it was necessary. But, that is not exactly true. Ron Paul would say that NO president should ever take us to war because the Constitution says it is the Congress that has the power to declare war and conclude peace. So, just because Ron Paul was President of the United States does not mean that the USA would never go to war, only that it would have to be done (as in the old days) by a vote of Congress. However, let us get right down to the nub of the issue and that is Iran. The big issue at the heart of all the controversy around Ron Paul in the GOP primary is that he refuses to say he would go to war with or bomb Iran and he does not believe that Iran is a threat, he does not believe they are close to having the bomb and yet he also says he wouldn’t really blame them or be concerned if they did get the bomb.

In the name of full disclosure let me say that I am in favor of bombing the Islamic Republic of Iran just on general principle. I regard them as a criminal, horrific and illegitimate regime that the world would be better without. That is all there is to it. However, here again, I think Ron Paul is being treated unfairly. The truth is that none of the candidates are anxious to go to war with or bomb Iran. They just like to talk tough and pretend that they are. When pressed on the subject they all say that the military option should “remain on the table” but that it should always be the last resort and they get very, very evasive when a reporter tries to pin them down on exactly what circumstances would prompt them to take military action. All of them (aside from Ron Paul) basically advocate doing the same thing the US has been doing to Iran for years but all to no avail. So, I really don’t think there is such a vast gulf between what Ron Paul and the other candidates, realistically, would do regarding Iran, he’s simply honest in saying what he thinks and too principled to go against his belief in non-interventionism just because that is what the primary voters would want to hear.

Congressman Paul (and I almost hate to say this) is also correct when he says that Iran is simply not a threat to the United States. Even if they had the bomb they have no missiles they could stick it on that could possibly reach North America. The only way Iran could pose a threat to the national security of the United States is if they smuggled a weapon into the country with a person carrying it. Which, by the way, is something that hardly anyone seems concerned with guarding against. The World Trade Center was not destroyed by missiles launched from Afghanistan. If the U.S. had occupied Afghanistan in 1999 or 2000, that would not have stopped 9-11. What would have prevented it would be keeping dangerous and unauthorized people out of the country and that is something the US is still not doing and shows no real interest in ever doing. Blowing up Iran (satisfying as I would find it) would not make America safer, secure borders and ports of entry and keeping a close eye on foreign nationals inside the country actually would. Whether Paul would do that or not, I don’t know, but I do know he is technically correct when he says that Iran is not a threat to the United States of America. A threat to Israel? Certainly. A threat to Europe? Possibly. And Ron Paul would have no problem with those countries doing whatever they pleased to protect themselves. He would say it is none of our business what Iran or Israel or Europe does.

The whole issue is a fraud. I say that as someone who is not an unqualified supporter of Ron Paul. He loves to describe the United States as an “American Empire”, and I totally disagree with that. He thinks that if the U.S. were more like Switzerland we would have no enemies. I totally disagree with that, experience having proven that the U.S. is just as often criticized for not getting involved as it is for getting involved. For me, World War I is the best example of this. The Allies begged and begged and manipulated and cajoled the U.S. into coming into the war and then, once America did and the war was won, promptly blamed every ill-effect of it on America getting involved, even for the Versailles Treaty which the U.S. never signed. Where I will agree with Ron Paul is that so much, perhaps even the majority, of U.S. intervention and the U.S. military presence overseas does not serve any practical value in terms of American national security. How is America safer because of the 50,000 troops in Germany or the 30,000 troops in South Korea? After all, if North Korea ever got a wild hair and decided to invade South Korea those 30,000 American troops would not make any difference at all. Thirty thousand men between two Koreas with armies numbering in the millions is not a drop in the bucket. I don’t see how the United States itself is any safer because of our bases in Afghanistan, Thisistan or Thatistan. Enemies of the U.S. are extending their influence into Central and South America and the eyes of Washington DC are on the Middle East and Central Asia.

I do not share the foreign policy outlook of Ron Paul but I see no point in doing favors for people who don’t like the U.S. and I see no sense in offending foreign powers we have no problem with in order to smack down some petty dictator who is no threat to American security in the first place. For instance, how does it benefit the United States to have bases in Central Asia that (evidently) terrifies the Russians? Everyone knows the U.S. has no intention, will or desire to actually fight the Russians -ever. So, why maintain these bases that frighten them so? Because of Afghanistan we are told. But why do we need to be in Afghanistan? The Taliban was removed from power, Osama bin Laden is dead and now feeding the fish at the bottom of the ocean. So, what is the point of our continued presence in Afghanistan? Well, if we leave now, we are told, the Taliban will come back and take over again. By that logic we should never leave any country (though I sometimes wonder if that is not a reality as we still have thousands of troops in Germany, Italy and Japan). And, though I don’t want to sound heartless, but if we leave and the Taliban does come back … who cares? The Taliban did not attack us, they were no threat to us and they could do us no harm, again, unless we allowed them into the United States and then failed to keep track of them -a problem no one wants to address.

Ron Paul also makes a valid point that is never considered. When he gives it, interviewers usually ignore it and carry on as if he had never said it. The point Ron Paul makes with Iran is that U.S. forces are or have been established in both Iraq and Afghanistan, putting them on the eastern and western borders of Iran. How would the U.S. react to an enemy invading and occupying Canada and Mexico? Of course, the U.S. would never tolerate such a thing. Since at least the American Civil War the United States has quite frequently displayed behavior she would never tolerate on the part of any other power. This has often caused confusion and anger on the part of foreign powers. For example, the Japanese raised no fuss when the U.S. took the Philippines from Spain and so were rather annoyed that the U.S. would make such a fuss over Japan taking Manchuria from China. I’m sure, in 1914, there were some Germans who found it odd that the U.S. which had so recently sent troops into Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean was so outraged at their own soldiers being sent into Belgium.

I was never fond of the “Monroe Doctrine”. It seemed to me like little more than the U.S. claiming all of North, Central and South America as a “republics only” club. This was the doctrine which the U.S. invoked in pressuring France to pull out of Mexico, leaving Emperor Maximilian high and dry and ensuring his defeat at the hands of the loyal American ally Benito Juarez. Yet, how many times has the U.S. done, in other parts of the world, pretty much the same thing France did in Mexico. The U.S. would not tolerate any other power “interfering” in the Americas, what the U.S. claimed as its exclusive sphere of influence, yet the U.S. seems perplexed that other countries would be upset at all over American interference in their own sphere of influence. Many would argue that it is the character of the regimes in question that we are dealing with that makes all the difference. It sounds nice and all, but that’s really an absurd line of reasoning as the U.S. (like any other country) deals openly and sometimes in a very friendly fashion with regimes many would regard as terrible dictatorships. That is all a matter of opinion, who is “untouchable” and who is not. Paul has mentioned before the absurdity of the U.S. trading with Red China while still maintaining an embargo on Cuba. I think it is absurd as well, though I do so as one who doesn’t think we should be trading with China, but it is a double standard nonetheless.

Again, I certainly don’t agree with Ron Paul on everything, and he doesn’t have a prayer of getting elected President in this day and age or even winning a primary in either major party. However, it seems wrong to belittle or dismiss him. He has ideas worth considering, he has been proven correct in many of his economic predictions and he is presenting a challenge to the American people and the political establishment that, frankly, I love to see. Unlike many of my countrymen, including Ron Paul, I do not hold the Founding Fathers and the system of government they established as being “divinely inspired” or somehow sacrosanct (I would have been one of those horrible Tories had I been in New England in 1776). At the heart of all of his positions, Ron Paul is simply challenging people today to practice what they preach in terms of upholding the Constitution of the United States. If they really believe the Founders were so brilliant and the Constitution such a sacred document, they should have no problem in strictly adhering to it. That means no government interference in the economy, no entangling alliances, no military adventures or treating people as POW’s without a declaration of war and no cradle to grave welfare.

Additional note: one reason I cannot unequivocally support isolationism is the case of Iran itself. Ron Paul bemoans U.S. assistance in restoring the late Shah to power in Iran. I have no problem with that and one of (if not the) biggest complaints I have against Jimmy Carter was his failure to intervene and assist the Shah against the revolution that brought him down and elevated the current, horrific, regime to power.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Case for Monarchy: France

The Kingdom of France holds a special place in the heart of most western monarchists because so much of the subsequent dominance of republicanism and the idealization of revolution stems from its downfall. Even today it would not be totally untrue to assert, as past republican figures have done, that France IS the Revolution. Because the French Revolution assumed such a place of worshipful devotion it has been necessary for subsequent republican leaders to glorify the leaders of that horrific event and to blacken the name of the old Kingdom of France and in this they have, sadly, been mostly successful. For most people, the colors of blue-white-red, the French national anthem and even the guillotine evoke things like patriotism, the struggle for liberty, equality and fraternity, the overthrow of oppression and so on. Likewise, for most people, the Kingdom of France is often viewed as a terrible period of absolutism, exploitation, impoverished peasants being preyed upon by corrupt, distance aristocrats clustered around a hedonistic court presided over by power-mad monarchs and hypocritical clerics. Like most pieces of propaganda this is the result of ignoring unpleasant facts, facts that do not fit the narrative, and greatly exaggerating real problems to the point of inventing falsehoods.

France can be seen as revolutionary in one way. For almost as long as it has existed as a recognizable nation it has known a series of rises and falls. There was the rise of the empire of Charlemagne (though it is still a matter of bitter dispute among some whether this was a French or German accomplishment) which dominated western Europe before dividing and going into decline. Then there was the rise of France as the great right-arm of Christendom with French knights subduing enemies and rivals across Europe, from Sicily to the Balkans and who made up the bulk of the crusader armies that held out against the powerful forces of Islam in the Middle East. Then there was division, the Hundred Years War with England and a long period of relative weakness. However, France rose up again, briefly, before being submerged for a time in religious turmoil only to rise again and become the single most dominant power in western Europe. French explorers reached Canada and the Mississippi, France was the center of art, science and philosophy. During the reign of King Louis XIV it is no exaggeration to say that everything revolved around France as almost everything done by any nation at that time was a reaction to some action by King Louis. Yet, not long after, came a number of setbacks and finally the Revolution.

It is important to note that the only subsequent major French accomplishments on the world stage were achieved by, on one or two occasions, when the Kingdom of France was briefly restored, or during the two periods of the French Empire. Napoleon I dominated Europe for a time (not necessarily a positive accomplishment but definitely an accomplishment nonetheless), King Charles X extended French influence into North Africa, Emperor Napoleon III briefly extended French influence in the Americas, established the first real presence in Indochina and made France at least a major player in events in the Middle East, the Balkans, Italy and Africa. The French republic, any of the five, have, by comparison, accomplished very little and what they have managed to achieve was done with significant help from other powers and was usually simply building on the foundations already established by their monarchial predecessors. However, the royal period in France had high and low points as well. In any given time there is no doubt that the French have proven themselves capable of great things when they set their mind to it. Government can only help or hinder in this regard. The monarchs usually helped, the republic has, without exception, always hindered.

For the French, the real question is; what sort of France do they want to be? During all of the ups and downs of French history, there is an ample selection to choose from. It would be unfair to present the choice as being between the finest examples of the Kingdom of France and the most horrid examples of revolutionary republicanism. There is not much of a comparison between St Louis and Robespierre after all. At least for humane and civilized people. The problem is that the adherents of the republic often romanticize and justify what most French monarchists would consider the most wicked and terrible pages of their history. Republicans would justify things like the Reign of Terror and the Paris Commune and those who scorn the history of Catholic France in favor of secularism (and there are plenty of them) do see the likes of Robespierre or even Marat as more admirable figures than St Louis or St Joan of Arc. And, just for further consideration, there are those like Napoleon I, King Louis Philippe or Napoleon III who tried to combine the two.

Revolutionary republicans also tend to take the “Whig” vision of history; that progress means moving ever forward and that there is no time better than the present. Given that, one could point to even the grandest heights of royal France and fairly compare it to today. Is the France of today truly representative of the best the French are capable of? A monarchist would certainly say “no”. One can also look at the French Revolutionaries and their own ideals to judge how well they have lived up to them. Originally, they were quite nationalistic, as was seen in the vilification of the once beloved Queen Marie Antoinette as the hated foreigner, the Austrian and so on. Yet, at no time in history has France been less ethnically French than it is today. There are large numbers of non-French Europeans in France, a huge and rapidly growing Arab and African Muslim population and even the most prominent couple in France, the President and First Lady, are an ethnic Hungarian and an Italian. So much for the republic being more “French”. Of course, the Kingdom of France (and even the French Empire to an extent) were cosmopolitan places with their own sort of diversity but it was never enforced in such a way as to water down the distinct native population. A Frenchman was a Frenchman, a German was a German and a Spaniard was a Spaniard. Able to get along, but certainly not the same thing and definitely not interchangeable. Fraternity has been a failure.

What about liberty? Surely the republic has improved in that area over the old days of the monarchy? An objective observer would have to say, again, say “no”. The King was unelected and (theoretically) unaccountable to the people and yet much of French life today is regulated by the bureaucrats of the European Union in Brussels who are, likewise, unelected and unaccountable. And, unlike the kings of old, they do not even have the welfare of France as their top priority. Assuming their first concern is not themselves, they are expected to act in the interests of the EU as a whole rather than in those of a single country. If the republic has been such a blessing to France, so democratic, so accountable and such a champion of liberty, one would be forced to ask why they have had to have so many of them. For about a thousand years the Kingdom of France operated, in good times and bad, with the occasional change in the Royal Family line, on the same basic principles of a Catholic monarchy. Yet, just since the Revolution (just a little over two centuries ago) France has gone through a directory, a couple restorations, two empires, one “State” and a grand total of five different republics. In fact, many of the low points in the recent history of France can be attributed simply to political instability. Furthermore, for those who uphold the present state of affairs as ideal, one could hardly credit the Revolution for this level of liberty since plenty of other countries have almost identical rights and freedoms that never went through a revolution at all.

As for the goal of equality, that can be easily dismissed since no society has ever achieved it, nor are any ever likely to. A simple look at France today will show that there is still an elite, still those who have power, positions and privileges which others do not and who are treated better, even put somewhat above the law, just because of who they are. In short, like most modern supposedly egalitarian societies, they still have all of the failings of a titled nobility but none of the benefits. It should be clear to anyone by now, simply by observing, that an upper class will always exist. You can either admit it and expect a level of responsibility and noblesse oblige from that upper class or you can hypocritically ignore it and have it exist as an unofficial elite based more often than not on the negative aspects of self-advancement.

So, again, France must make a choice. What sort of France do the French want to have; the Catholic French monarchy that was the “Eldest Daughter of the Church”, the vanguard of Christendom and the most respected source of culture and civilization for centuries (recalling a time when even English and German monarchs spoke French almost exclusively) or the France of the Revolution, the Reign of Terror, anti-clerical genocide, a guillotine in every town, constant turmoil and instability and a country being sold-out by professional politicians and bureaucrats with no connection to the land or people at all? In the past few centuries the French have seen every alternative firsthand, the kingdom, the republic or something in between. All that remains is to make the choice. Of course, if monarchy is chosen there will still, sadly, be another choice to be made afterwards, but nonetheless, we can take this one step at a time. For my part, I look at France today and see a nation that has proven it can be so much more, so much greater and yet clings to what is easy and familiar even if it is mediocre at best and harmful at worst. The French have every right to aspire to greatness, to be a noble, righteous and chivalrous example to the world as they have been before. That is the example that should be embraced and that is why the whole culture of the revolution should be looked at for the horror it is, totally and finally rejected and the monarchy restored.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Royal News Roundup

The big royal news in the Far East has been the royal transition in the Kingdom of Malaysia. HM King Mizan Zainal Abidin ended his 5-year term on Monday as the thirteenth King, or more precisely as Yang di-Pertuan Agong or “He Who Is Made Lord” of Malaysia. The Prime Minister congratulated the out-going monarch (who of course remains Sultan of Terengganu, don’t panic) on his able leadership, smooth and steady reign and his personality humility and good character. On Tuesday the formal installation ceremonies were held for his successor, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah of Kedah, who now has the unprecedented honor of being the King of Malaysia for the second time in his lifetime. His is 84-years-old, making him the oldest King Malaysia has ever had, and he’s a Sinatra fan. Also in Asia, this week the King and Queen of Bhutan attended the start of a new tradition, the Dochula Druk Wangyel festival, which honors the fourth King of Bhutan and the Bhutanese army for defending the country. There were traditional dances and special prayers were sung which had been written by the King.

On the southern European front, Spain was hit by a royal scandal. Iñaki Urdangarin, Duke of Palma, husband of HRH Infanta Cristina, had been accused of embezzlement in his role as head of a non-profit organization from 2004-2006. The Duke said that he regrets the trouble this has caused the King and Royal Family who had nothing to do with his activities in that regard. The Duke maintains his innocence but has been excluded from any formal royal duties because of his connection to the scandal, which has caused particular outrage in Spain which is deeply in debt and has a huge unemployment problem. The scandal and the class warfare (for lack of a better term) being stirred up have caused the Spanish monarchy considerable harm. So far, King Juan Carlos himself is still respected (as he consistently has been throughout his reign) but support for the monarchy overall has dropped recently. Yet, the royal duties continue. On Tuesday, the King and Queen attended the opening of a new exhibition at the National Library of Spain and on Thursday Queen Sofia was on her own attending the ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Special Operations Command of the Spanish military. HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover was honored for her humanitarian work on Monday in Germany. Meanwhile, her eldest son, Andrea Casiraghi, was inducted into the Order of the Golden Tankard by his uncle Prince Albert II, patron of the group, and the other members of the beer appreciation club at the Hotel de Paris. Prince Albert and Princess Charlene later carried on another time-honored tradition in Monaco by handing out Christmas presents to Monegasque children at the Princely Palace.

In the Low Countries the biggest news this week was the tragic mass murder in Liege, Belgium. Five were killed and dozens wounded on Tuesday when Nordine Amrani, a Moroccan Belgian and ex-con, went on a killing spree before taking his own life. Authorities are still trying to determine a motive for the tragedy and have stated it was not an act of political terrorism and that Amrani was not a practicing Muslim who didn’t even speak Arabic. The King and Queen visited Liege that very evening to meet with survivors and the families of the victims. On Wednesday TRH Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde traveled to Liege University Hospital to also visit the victims recovering there and sign the book of condolences. The monarchs of Luxembourg and the Netherlands as well as a number of other government leaders in Europe sent message of sympathy to the Kingdom of Belgium over the tragedy.

In Scandinavia the big royal event was the Nobel Prize awards. On Saturday, in Oslo, the King, Queen, Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway met with the three ladies who won the Nobel Peace Prize before attending the award ceremony. The winners this year were President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia along with Tawakkul Karman, a journalist and political activist from Yemen. The rest of the prizes were given out in Sweden. The awards presentation was attended by the King and Queen, Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip, as well as the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg who were there to congratulate one of the winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine, a Frenchman born in Luxembourg. On a different note, HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark visited London this week to take care of her Christmas shopping and enjoy a little private time away from it all. Other than shopping the Queen took in a performance of “Richard II” at Covent Garden.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...