Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Monarch Profile: Emperor Musa I of Mali
According to Arab historians, Musa I was the great-nephew of the founder of the Malian Empire; Mari Djata I (or Sundiata Keita). He served in the position of a ‘deputy-king’ to his predecessor who was lost while trying to find the furthest reaches of the Atlantic Ocean in a flotilla of small boats. Musa I had accompanied one such expedition but returned after the boats sank in a whirlpool at which point the Emperor determined to go himself, making Musa I regent in his absence. The Emperor never returned and Musa I finally took his place as ruler of Mali. Then as now Mali was an Islamic country but which also contained numerous animistic minorities. Emperor Musa I did his best to make his empire as purely Islamic as possible, both because he was personally devout in his faith and because he viewed the Muslim civilization, particularly that centered on the eastern Mediterranean, as the greatest and most advanced in the world and wished the same for his own people. This was important since, although Musa I was one of the most fabulously wealthy monarchs in the world, his realm was not as developed as one might expect. Nonetheless, he was undisputed as the most powerful figure in all of west Africa.
Inflation was out of control and to address the problem the Emperor had to buy up all the gold in the area, borrowing at extremely high interest rates, to try to reset the system. However, although the locals might have been upset by all this economic instability, back at home, even in his absence, the empire of Mali continued to expand and strengthen. While still on pilgrimage he learned that his forces had captured Gao, itself the seat of an old and formidable trading empire, and he diverted to the city to visit two sons of the Gao king who had been taken as hostages. The boys would later be educated at his court. During his epic pilgrimage Musa I also brought back to Mali numerous Arab scholars, engineers, architects and so on to develop and embellish his realm. It was during this time that many of the most famous mosques and madrasahs of Gao and Timbuktu were built including the Sankore Madrasah as well as the Hall of Audience which was attached to his royal palace. Visitors from around the world marveled at what was being established. The Italian scholar Sergio Domian remarked, “Thus was laid the foundation of an urban civilization. At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated”.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Favorite Royal Images: A Hashemite Queen
Monday, February 27, 2012
My Favorite Savoy Kings
II - King Charles Emmanuel IV: A favorite of mine mostly for his own qualities rather than any great accomplishments on his part, which was no fault of his own but due to the fact that he reigned at a time when Revolutionary France was on the rampage and all neighboring states had been occupied. He spent most of his reign in exile in Sardinia and Rome. He was a dutiful man who never gave up the struggle to return Savoy rule to Turin and he was also a very kind and religious man. He had an arranged marriage to a French princess who was mocked in her own country for being overweight and unattractive and she was never able to give the King any children, yet Charles Emmanuel IV loved her and her alone as long as she lived. He did so, not out of duty, not with any hint of sacrifice (indeed he had nothing but praise for his wife) but because they both shared the same deep, sincere faith. He saw the “inner beauty” of her devout soul and felt himself fortunate to have her. When she died he was absolutely distraught and decided to give himself entirely to the service of God, joining the Society of Jesus for the remainder of his years. In terms of character and spiritual devotion, Charles Emmanuel IV was a great man.
III - King Charles Felix: As someone who is proudly reactionary, I cannot help but admire King Charles Felix. He came to the throne in the midst of a revolutionary uprising during which a more liberal relative (future King Charles Albert) granted a constitution. Well, King Charles Felix was having none of that silliness. He returned to Turin, put a royal smack-down on the dissidents and did away with all of that constitution nonsense. King Charles Felix stands out, even among the Savoy, as an ardent and sincere believer in the sacred nature of monarchy. Memories of the French Revolution still lingered and he was determined to remove every last trace of the imposed revolutionary regime from Piedmont -and he was not kidding about that, he really meant every, single, last trace of it. My favorite illustration of this was the restoration of the aristocratic posts at court. When this resulted in “pageboys” including a number of middle-aged men among the usual early teenagers it made no difference to Charles Felix. Everyone entitled to a place would have it back! He was also a patron of the arts, music and theatre and sent a punitive expedition to Tunisia in 1825, strengthening the future Italian claim to the area.
IV - King Umberto I: Although he was a far from perfect man, King Umberto I took a number of actions that earns him high marks with me. He was a very monarchist monarch, joining in the Triple Alliance with Germany and Italy’s traditional enemy of Austria because of efforts by the French republic to export their kingless form of government to Italy. The French seizure of Tunisia also infuriated the court in Rome. Although more realistic than his father, Umberto I nonetheless had high aspirations for the Kingdom of Italy and supported the policies of his Prime Minister, Francesco Crispi, which saw the establishment of the first Italian colony in East Africa in Eritrea. Hopes for further expansion were dashed by the defeat at Adowa but King Umberto responded well, defending his unjustly maligned general and secretly using his own funds to pay the victorious Africans the money they demanded and to release their Italian prisoners. He had no compunction about swatting socialist revolutionaries and was generous and helpful toward his people. The fact that he was assassinated by a socialist revolutionary also makes me view him as something of a political martyr.
V - King Victor Emmanuel III: The most controversial of course, King Victor Emmanuel III was an imperfect man who certainly made mistakes, however, I have always had a soft spot for him. I detest people who make an issue of his size (as I do with those who do the same for Charles I of Britain and other ‘vertically challenged’ royals) and I detest those who ridicule his decisions without ever proposing alternatives or considering the consequences of those alternatives. Despite the sad ending, his reign accomplished many things his predecessors had long sought but never achieved; return of Italian-populated lands in the northeast, Italian dominance in East Africa, a foothold on the opposite shore of the Adriatic, restored friendship with the Church and greater strides in terms of national development. Circumstances aside, Italy reached her zenith of power under his reign with, for the first time in many, many centuries, Rome again becoming an imperial capital. He was also a good man, a devoted husband and was usually on the right side of issues even if few followed his advice when it mattered most. He usually did the right thing but suffered the consequences of often being a little late in doing so.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Royal News Roundup
Friday, February 24, 2012
Consort Profile: Maria Leopoldina of Austria
Not long after Leopoldina’s father-in-law, King Joao VI, returned to Portugal along with most of the royal family. Dom Pedro, however, remained in Brazil (a country he loved and had grown up in) to act as regent for his father. Dom Pedro was happy to stay behind (though the King was initially upset by it) but life was not so entirely happy for Princess Leopoldina. Her husband neglected her (probably an ancestress of Adriana Lima is to blame) and she was extremely worried about the political situation and the future of her family, both in Europe and her own children. Her anguish increased with the death of Prince Joao in 1822 and even the birth of another daughter could not fully lift the spirits of the mourning parents. Dom Pedro was beginning to worry about his brother Dom Miguel replacing him and a son of his own was sorely needed. Unfortunately, when Princess Leopoldina next gave birth in 1823 it was to a third girl, Princess Paula Mariana.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Obama Says No Monarchy
It's Another Queen for Sweden
Mad Rant: Republican Uniformity
This trickles down to the populations at large who, for the most part, wear the same fashions in Argentina, South Africa, China, New Zealand and the United States. In what bizzaro world is this considered diversity? Likewise gone are the days when changes in national leadership were unique and colorful. Here, many monarchies have fallen in line as well (tsk, tsk, tsk) but I still blame the dominance of republics and republican attitudes. All around the world you get a guy in a business suit standing up, usually holding up one hand, swearing an oath of office and that’s it. Gone are the days of the high coronation mass of the Holy Roman Emperors, the King of Hungary sitting on a horse and pointing his sword to the four corners of the compass or the rows of kowtowing mandarins before the enthroned “Son of Heaven” in Vietnam. Nope, we get a pinky-swear from some moron in a suit the world over. Add to that the fact that these world leaders, all with the same titles, have mostly the same organization around them as well with secretaries or ministers for defense, education, the interior and so on. All around the world it is all the same. The same, the same, the same -it’s maddening! They don’t even try to be different. At least the Emperor of Japan puts on a kimono for his enthronement ceremony. Every U.S. President since Kennedy has not even bothered to put on formal wear for his inauguration.
The trouble is the pursuit of ever-elusive equality. Personally, as most long-time readers probably know, I put “equality” up there with Santa Claus, leprechauns and the tooth fairy. That does not mean we should just accept things like sexism and racism as inevitable, malicious impulses can and should be always struggled against. It means that no two people on this earth, not even two people of the same gender or the same race, can or ever will be equal. No two plants or animals are ever equal either. However, modern man, to varying degrees, has decided to pursue the revolutionary goal of liberty, equality and stupidity but they never can obtain it because (shock of shocks) people are different. And since as long as every individual is different from every other they are forced to make everyone the same. There is simply no way around it. The only way everyone will be seen the same, be treated the same and live the same is if everyone is forced to be the same. Everything must be uniform. So, we end up with people preaching multiculturalism and driving around with “I Heart Diversity” bumper-stickers while really knowing nothing about any other cultures (or even their own) and pushing for a world where everyone lives in a republic, everyone has a president, everyone has the same rights, has the same material possessions, the same income, the same “values” (or lack thereof), the same rights, wears the same clothes and enjoys the same entertainment. Call it what you will … I call it Hell.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The Battle of Isandlwana
However, in their haste, the British had set off during the rainy season and this bogged down the columns, slowing their advance and gave the Zulus amble time to react. The British had hoped the Zulus would be dispersed harvesting their crops but the invasion happened to coincide with a routine muster of the army so that it was possible for the Zulus to react immediately to the oncoming threat. King Cetshwayo was alerted to the British presence and dispatched an army of about 24,000 warriors to intercept them. The Zulu warriors, led by Ntshigwayo kaMahole, greatly outpaced the British and undertook careful screening measures to ensure that they were not sighted by their enemy. In no time at all they were within striking distance of the British column under Lord Chelmsford which had pitched camp at Isandlwana on January 20. Greatly overconfident, the British failed to entrench or take any precautions for an attack. Lord Chelmsford was more concerned with the logistical problem of supplying his army in a vast wilderness than he was with defense.
In contrast, the Zulu princes were quick to recognize that they had caught their enemy at an extreme disadvantage and immediately seized the initiative and gave orders for an attack using classic Zulu tactics. On January 22, 1879 the Zulus came forward using about 10,000 to 15,000 men of their total strength of about 20,000. Colonel Pulleine deployed his few troops into a thin semi-circle to meet the on-rushing Zulus. Some British units, such as the rocket battery, were taken by surprise and overrun almost immediately. The Zulus fanned out in their classic “buffalo” formation and their center was held off for a time, taking considerable casualties due to the rapid, disciplined volley-fire of the British regulars with their modern rifles. However, the “left horn” of the Zulu “buffalo” made a determined and tenacious attack and soon had the British right flank crumbling away. Colonel Anthony Durnford and his men on the right flank had been the first to come under attack and finally his men were forced to retreat in the face of the Zulu onslaught. This allowed the African warriors to get around the fire of other nearby units and overwhelm them. Colonel Pulleine finally ordered his men to fall back to their camp, which the regulars at least accomplished in good order.
Lord Chelmsford and his force, alerted to the battle, returned late in the day but found nothing left and proceeded on to the mission station at Rorke’s Drift. The battle of Isandlwana was a stunning blow to the pride of the British Empire. The invasion of Zululand was totally defeated and had to be given up entirely. The Zulus had won a great victory and successfully defended their homeland. However, being so isolated, the victory gave them no long-term strategic advantage. It would be only a matter of time before the British attacked again, with more men, more caution and a greater determination to have their revenge. For a time though, after news of the epic Zulu victory spread, British positions throughout South Africa fell into near-panic at the fear that the Zulus might follow-up their success with a large-scale invasion south. However, King Cetshwayo was no fool and gave strict orders to his army against crossing the border. He wanted it made clear that they were fighting a defensive war only and would remain on their own territory. He hoped to avoid a full-scale war with Britain but, though the Disraeli government in London fell, that hope was in vain. The British high command feared that if the defeat at Isandlwana did not go unanswered it might encourage native wars and rebellions in other parts of the British Empire.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Favorite Royal Images: Monegasque Couple
Monday, February 20, 2012
France Claims Texas
Greece: Burning, Not Learning
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Royal News Roundup
Friday, February 17, 2012
Monarchist Profile: Charles Sapinaud de la Rairie
Sapinaud was greatly disturbed by the outbreak of the Revolution and particularly the increasingly radical and anti-clerical course it was taking. When the Vendée counterrevolution broke out in March of 1793 he willing joined the royalist ranks. Although he did not have such extensive military experience as some, he had more than others and the counterrevolutionaries were desperate for leadership. It is often forgotten (probably intentionally) that the uprising in the Vendée was a spontaneous act of popular rebellion against the Revolution, it was not something organized by aristocrats. It was the common people who rose up and then demanded that their local nobles and people with military experience take leadership. Initially, Sapinaud served under his uncle, Charles Sapinaud de La Verrie who was part of the “Catholic and Royal Army of the Center” under General Charles de Royrand in the eastern Vendée. When his uncle was killed on July 25, 1793 at the battle of Chantonnay Sapinaud succeeded to command his division. A couple months later Sapinaud led his men in the Virée de Galerne campaign through Brittany and Normandy. Overall, the campaign was a disaster for the royalists and the counterrevolutionary army was routed at the battle of Le mans on December 13, 1793 in the course of which Sapinaud was separated from his men and lost. However, he made it back to the Vendée and, like most, was as determined as ever to try again.
|Battle of Le Mans|
All of this is added to the brutal truth that the war was not going well for the royalists, for numerous reasons. They were isolated, outnumbered, lacking weapons, lacking in training and discipline and everything else one would expect from an army of peasant soldiers who would often have to leave the army and go home to look after their farms. Finally on February 17, 1795 Charette and Sapinaud sign the Treaty of La Jaunaye with the republicans, putting into effect a cessation of hostilities by which terms the property of the counterrevolutionaries and their freedom of worship was guaranteed. Although far from ideal, the fact that the republicans agreed to the terms that they did shows how successful the counterrevolutionaries had been. Nonetheless, not everyone would agree as many, understandably, refused to come to terms with the republic under any circumstances (particularly after the “infernal columns” had butchered tens of thousands of people). Scattered fighting broke out anew a few months later and Sapinaud was quick to rejoin the fight on October 3, 1795.
Napoleon, not wishing to waste resources diverting men to suppressing royalists in France, lays out peace terms. They cannot have the king back of course, but he was willing to respect their rights, their freedom of religion and exempt them from conscription so that they will not be forced to fight for a cause they do not believe in. Sapinaud decided that it would be wiser to come to terms with Napoleon and he accepts the proposal, signing on to the agreement on January 18, 1800. He watches as a spectator while Napoleon launched his grand campaign of conquest across the continent only to ultimately be defeated by the combined forces of the great powers. To his great joy, after Napoleon was defeated in 1814, the Bourbon monarchy was restored. In appreciation for his service with the counterrevolutionary army, King Louis XVIII commissions Sapinaud a lieutenant general in the revived royal army. When Napoleon returned from exile and restored himself (briefly) to power as Emperor, Sapinaud again took to the field in rebellion in favor of the King in 1815.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Enemy of Monarchy: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
Santa Anna was absolutely effusive in his praise and protestations of loyalty to the first Emperor at this time. Most saw him as one of Iturbide’s top men. At times, there is no doubt that Santa Anna could display considerable military ability and in 1821 he captured the Spanish held port city of Veracruz, a remarkable accomplishment and one for which Iturbide promoted him to the rank of General. Not long after pledging his absolute allegiance and loyalty unto death to Emperor Agustin though, Santa Anna became upset when Iturbide refused to take his side in a personal dispute with another officer. Sensing another wind shift, he changed his coat again and joined the ranks of the liberal supporters of the Plan of Casa Mata to oust the Emperor and make Mexico a republic. In fact, Santa Anna and Guadalupe Victoria (soon to be famous as Mexico’s first President) were the key originators of the plan. However, though both had originally supported Iturbide, Victoria was known to be a republican whereas the betrayal of Santa Anna was more spontaneous and self-serving.
Not surprisingly, Santa Anna was no more faithful to his new found republican principles than he had been to the idea of monarchy once the Emperor was out of the picture as he was involved in the coups which overthrew President Vicente Guerrero and President Manuel Pedraza as well. However, he still kept up a good public image, winning his greatest fame when Spain attempted to “re-conquer” Mexico with 2,600 soldiers whom Santa Anna defeated at Tampico in 1829. In actuality, Spain could have never made much progress in Mexico with so few troops, and though they did have Santa Anna outnumbered, most of the Spanish soldiers were incapacitated by yellow fever. Nonetheless, the battle was celebrated as a great victory with a medal struck to honor it and Santa Anna rose to the level of a national hero by glorifying himself as the "Hero of Tampico" and the "Savior of Mexico".
General and President Santa Anna crushed these rebellions in San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Durango, Guanajuato, Michoacan, the Yucatan and Jalisco. The most serious was the rebellion in Zacatecas led by Francisco Garcia who commanded a well armed and organized militia. Santa Anna suppressed them with considerable brutality, defeating them on May 12, 1835, massacring those who surrendered and allowing his troops to pillage the city of Zacatecas for 48 hours. It was also in 1835 that the most significant rebellion, and one of the most crucial events of his life, broke out in the northern province of Texas. Texas rebels had taken control of all the major posts in the region and had defeated and forced the surrender of the Mexican garrison in San Antonio commanded by General Martin Perfecto de Cos, who was the brother-in-law of Santa Anna. The President and Generalissimo was not prepared to let this stain on his family honor go unpunished and he soon set out on an expedition to crush the rebellion, restore Mexican rule and annihilate or drive out all of the Anglo population of Texas.
So far, his forces had been everywhere successful and the vain Generalissimo, who liked to call himself the "Napoleon of the West" became overconfident and sloppy. Allowing himself to be separated from his main army, he camped in an easily isolated area with the enemy out of sight. Texas General Sam Houston seized the opportunity and surprised Santa Anna with a sudden attack at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 which smashed the Mexican army which had been relaxing without so much as a single sentry posted to keep watch for an attack. Santa Anna had been dallying with a local mulatto girl when the Texan attack came. In cowardly fashion, Santa Anna abandoned the field, fleeing for his life and when captured tried to pass himself off as a common soldier before the salutes of his own men gave him away. In exchange for his own life Santa Anna ordered the rest of his army to withdraw from Texas and later signed the Treaty of Velasco which recognized the independence of the Republic of Texas, after which he was released and went to the United States. The government in Mexico, however, declared Santa Anna deposed and refused to recognize the treaty he had signed.
The following year Santa Anna returned to Mexico and was able to recover his reputation when he lost a leg in the 1838 Pastry War with France. Cashing in on his injury he once again overthrew Anastasio Bustamante to become President of Mexico, acting as usual more as a dictator than a democratic executive. Those who went along with him thought a dictatorship would at least solve the problem of chronic instability that had stagnated all progress in Mexico virtually since independence. However, Santa Anna was never a stabilizing force. His harsh policies and high taxes led to the establishment of the Yucatan republic (which was aided by the Republic of Texas Navy and Marine Corps) as well as the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande based in Laredo, Texas in a region which was still claimed by both countries. Having seen the loss of Texas when Santa Anna had been in power before, opposition rallied as the fear grew that more losses were coming. The duplicitous dictator was forced out of power once again, Santa Anna was captured and went into exile in Venezuela and later Cuba.
In 1846, following the American annexation of Texas which prompted the U.S.-Mexican War, Santa Anna offered his services to his homeland and promised that he had no political aspirations. It was a lie of course, and the government should have known better as the sitting president was Gomez Farias who Santa Anna had already betrayed once. However, with the war going badly, Santa Anna was allowed to return though unbeknownst to the Mexican people, the duplicitous Santa Anna was simultaneously negotiating with the United States as well, promising to give up vast tracts of Mexican territory in exchange for a considerable bribe. Loyal to no one, once Santa Anna was allowed through the U.S. blockade and given command of Mexican troops by his own government, he declared himself President of Mexico again and began fighting the United States as hard as he could. It was to no avail however and the Mexican forces were steadily pushed back and defeated until the United States occupied Mexico City itself. Santa Anna was overthrown, the southwest was sold to the United States and in 1851 the old Caudillo went into exile again.
Always a survivor, in 1853 Santa Anna was back again as part of a rebellion by Mexican conservatives which restored him to power. Santa Anna, as usual, spent most of his time feathering his own nest and sold additional territory to the United States. He tried to keep favor with the conservatives by showing favor to the Church, restoring some relics from the imperial past but also making himself dictator with the title of "His Most Serene Highness". Even he seemed to possibly realize that political instability was ruining Mexico. Even simple relations with foreign governments were often impossible since by the time diplomats arrived in Europe the government which had sent them had usually been overthrown. Many began to seek a change in the form of government rather than simply the occupants of the National Palace.
Santa Anna was in exile in Cuba during the confrontation between the radical liberals and the pro-Church party as well as the ultimate liberal victory which saw Benito Juarez become President of Mexico and enact a new constitution. However, Gutierrez de Estrada had gone on with his mission even after Santa Anna was overthrown, as he personally believed nothing but a monarchy would save Mexico. With Spain having frittered away the opportunity, he turned to France and was finally able to obtain the support of Emperor Napoleon III. He was also joined by some of the most respected generals who had served with Santa Anna in the war with Texas such as Adrian Woll and Juan Almonte. As we know, with the backing of France, they ultimately offered the Crown of Mexico to HIRH Archduke Maximilian of Austria.
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