Saturday, June 30, 2012

Royal News Roundup

In the Far East, HIH Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan visited the southeast Asian Kingdom of Thailand this week. The Crown Prince met with TM King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, the Prime Minister and visited an ancient Japanese community in the former Thai capital city of Ayutthaya. It was a sad week in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan where, over the weekend, the four-hundred year old Wangdue Phodrang Dzong burned to the ground. The young Bhutanese King and Queen rushed to the area immediately to oversee the fire-fighting effort and to give moral support to their people. The fortress was home to several temples and the local government offices of the area. It is believed that a wiring problem sparked the blaze that engulfed the historic structure. On a more celebratory note, Prince Azim of Brunei held an extravagant party in honor of his thirtieth birthday (next month) at The Dorchester in London. The multi-billionaire prince is third in line to the throne of Brunei and his special invited guests included the likes of Faye Dunaway, Lizzie Jagger, Stephanie Beacham, Jerry Hall, Mariah Carey, Raquel Welch, Marisa Tomei and Pamela Anderson among others.

Over in the Middle East, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has, for the first time, announced that they will allow women to compete at the upcoming London Olympic Games. Public sporting events for women are banned in Saudi Arabia as being immodest. HM King Abdullah reportedly pushed for the change but put off announcing the new policy due to the recent death of the Crown Prince. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei are the only countries which have never allowed women to compete at the Olympics but all three are now sending women to the games in London this year. Brunei will send one, Qatar three and Saudi Arabia (probably) one.

On the European front, the King and Queen of Sweden, as well as the Prince of Monaco, joined other world leaders at the Rio+20 UN sustainability conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil talking about the environment and all of that terribly important stuff. In Luxembourg the Grand Ducal Family was out in full force to celebrate Luxembourg National Day last Saturday, the day set aside to celebrate the birthday of the reigning Grand Duke. There were walkabouts, military parades, a church service and waving from the balcony all in true, understated, stylish Luxembourg fashion. Meanwhile, up in The Netherlands, HRH Princess Alexia, second daughter of the Crown Prince and Princess, celebrated her seventh birthday on Tuesday. We hope the diminutive Dutch darling had a dandy of a day and many more.

In the United Kingdom, there has been an historic name change as “Big Ben” (officially St Stephen’s Tower -though actually it is the bell that was called “Big Ben”) at the Palace of Westminster has, by act of Parliament, officially been renamed “Elizabeth Tower” in honor of the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II. The Victoria Tower at the west end of the palace was named in honor of Queen Victoria when she celebrated her diamond jubilee. Most, however, admit that it will probably always be referred to as “Big Ben” simply out of force of habit. As we have discussed previously the Queen and Prince Philip also visited Northern Ireland this week, meeting with local officials including deputy first minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, a former commander in the Irish Republican Army. All went well, the Queen even riding in an open car in a display of how secure and stable Northern Ireland is. The odd bits of anti-monarchy graffiti did nothing to dampen the occasion. The following day the Queen unveiled a new memorial to the Bomber Command in Portland which honors those who flew bombing missions against Germany during World War II.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mad Rant: A British Senate?

As you have probably heard, “Call Me Dave” Cameron, the so-called conservative Prime Minister of the U.K. (surely at the behest of Deputy Fuhrer Nick Cleggy) have announced their intention to effectively demolish the House of Lords and put a British Senate in place of it. I am sure that while Great Britain is drowning in a sea of foreigners, crippled by unemployment, choked with regulations and bureaucracy and deeper in debt than Greece that the vast majority of British people are in the streets demanding that something be done about the House of Lords! They are not, of course, because what has lately been called the House of Lords was already as near to being totally useless as any government body could be. The House of Commons is where the action is and the House of Lords is largely ignored. It’s rather like a really large political discussion group for former politicians. The British people, I am sure, have other priorities. But not the Deputy Fuhrer and his Liberal Democrats. They are on a mission to seek out and destroy anything remotely “British” in Great Britain and grind it beneath their egalitarian, socialistic, EU-loving boot heel.

This, honestly, does not upset quite as much as some might suppose. Rest assured this is only because of the simple fact that, at the very least since the Blair government, I don’t care what they call that gutted, toothless, glorified talking shop but it is most certainly NOT the House of Peers. The traditional upper house of the British Parliament has been so mutilated, so perverted and so twisted into the current monstrosity that putting it down seems almost an act of mercy. Almost. I say that only because once something is totally and officially removed it is historically all but impossible to ever get it back and so long as there was still something called a House of Lords that carried on, at least in name, the tradition, there remained something to work with to restore it to the proper function it once had. What is going on now is clearly disastrous and to be opposed absolutely, however, it is only the culmination of an act of destruction that began a long time ago when the House of Lords was first subject to manipulation in order to accommodate the House of Commons and when the House of Lords lost the ability to actually stop any legislation and when that ridiculous farce of a “life peer” first entered the British lexicon.

I could do my best to stomach all the previous wounding of the upper house but the introduction of “life peers” as the expulsion of the hereditary peers was, to me, effectively the end of the House of Lords anyway. What is being proposed now is simply the final nail in the coffin but that is one nail that is still worth opposing. Compounded stupidity is still stupidity after all. As the British parliamentary system was originally established, the House of Peers served an important and practical function. It consisted of men who had a vested interest in the long-term success of Great Britain, men who had a stake in the country and who had a lifetime of diverse, “real world” experience from which to draw on in their deliberations on the bills passed by the Commons. They were non-political and beyond the influence of the passing trends of popular opinion. They were also guardians of the most time-honored traditions of England and later the United Kingdom. Their ancestry and the hereditary nature of the house meant that they could take a broad view, unconcerned with elections and political pandering, to do what was in the best interests of the country as a whole and the British legacy. What shall replace it?

A British Senate if the current government has its way. They will be elected which means they will be representative, in theory at least, of their constituents. Granted, this may seem to make more sense than the current, ridiculous set up of government-appointed “life peers” (I mean, really, was there ever a more absurd notion?) but it is certainly no improvement. What is the point of an elected senate? In the United States, before that vile visionary Woodrow Wilson screwed things up, the Senate represented the states of the Union. The House of Representatives represented the interests of the people who elected them but the Senate (often appointed by Governors or state legislatures) was to represent the interests of the states. Who or what are British senators supposed to represent? There are no states in the U.K. and regions such as Wales, Scotland and even Northern Ireland already have their own local assemblies. They would, we assume, represent the people who vote them into office. Yet, Britain already has such a body, and has had for really quite some time, called the House of Commons. In a way, this is not any sort of reform at all but rather is the destruction of the ancient bicameral legislature of the United Kingdom by abolishing the House of Lords and simply vastly expanding the House of Commons.

This will do Great Britain no good whatsoever. All this will do is add another layer of the same sort of confused, incompetent leadership that has made the House of Commons the center of so much derision. Which is not to say that the House of Lords was not in need of some authentic reform. It was too loosely organized, too large and made the British Parliament rather top-heavy, though -I hasten to add- this was mostly a result of the way the House of Peers was tweaked and tortured into assuring the outcome desired by the Commons. If I had my way the House would have been reformed by restoring the hereditary peers, restoring the powers of the House but cutting down on the number of those given seats which could be done by granting seats to those peers who hold the senior most title in their general area. Just an idea. Instead, since the Blair government has thrown out the baby, the Cameron government is adding more bathwater. Again, it is possible to overstate the calamity of this because so much of the damage had already been done. Many factors have certainly been at play over the years but, I cannot help but note, that when the House of Peers operated in the traditional fashion the United Kingdom was one of the most successful and dynamic countries in the world and the center of the largest maritime empire in history. Since the U.K. started down the road of a unicameral legislature, just how has Great Britain fared? Is Britain greater or poorer now and what does the answer to that say about the direction the country is going in? A simple question, posed by the simple, and damaged, mind of … The Mad Monarchist.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Taking Economic Advice from Monaco

Can the rest of the world learn anything from the famously prosperous Principality of Monaco? I tend to think so, and not just because I am admittedly partial to the Grimaldi fiefdom. A case can be made for the low-taxation, pro-investment policies of the Monegasque, and these are reviewed in Taking Economic Advice from Monaco over at my sister-blog Mad for Monaco. Read and reflect if you please.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Queen in Northern Ireland - No Cause for Alarm

Today is the day that HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh will visit Northern Ireland as part of the U.K.-wide Diamond Jubilee tour. That, in itself, is rather newsworthy as previous royal visits to Northern Ireland were never announced ahead of time for fear that republican terrorists would launch an attack on the Royal Family. It says a great deal about the peace of that region that this is now being done. What really made the headlines, of course, was that the Queen would meet with, even for just a moment, with Martin McGuinness, a leader of Sinn Fein, deputy first minister of the power-sharing government of Northern Ireland and a former member of the Irish Republican Army. This weighs heavily particularly in light of the murder of the Earl Mountbatten of Burma in a bombing by the Provisional IRA in 1979. Last year when HM the Queen visited the Republic of Ireland in a historic state visit the leadership of Sinn Fein (long regarded as the political arm of the IRA) said no to any meeting with the British monarch by any of their members because, in their words, it was still too soon since the infamous “Troubles” which shook the British Isles decades ago.

The decision was taken, apparently, by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams who said, “it’s good for Ireland” and added that it will cause difficulties with his own members, at least the most staunchly republican among them. The context of this is a charitable meeting with members of Co-operation Ireland which fosters a coming together between the Catholic and Protestant communities which McGuinness will attend and which the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will be visiting. Nothing earth-shattering in and of itself but even a momentary meeting of just a few seconds in a place still so sensitive and where so many hard feelings still remain it is extremely symbolic. Yet, because of this atmosphere and the way in which such extreme sensitivity prevails, it can be easy to overlook just how things have developed since the Good Friday Agreement and the ensuing peace. When one considers the basic facts, one can only view this as something of a triumph for the United Kingdom over those who have challenged the sovereignty of the Queen over Northern Ireland.

When Irish independence became a real possibility and later, for the Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) a reality all of the major Irish parties asserted their support for the unity of the entire island of Ireland and an end to the partition. This was not forthcoming and the IRA began their guerilla campaign against the British and Protestant-Unionist forces in Northern Ireland in an effort to force the British out of Northern Ireland and unite the counties with the Republic of Ireland. They consistently refused to recognize the sovereignty of the Queen over Northern Ireland and those who were captured by British authorities claimed to be political prisoners rather than common criminals or terrorists (as of course they were held to be in London). Yet, since that time, the Republic of Ireland has made no effort to reclaim the north and has accepted partition in fact if not always in name. The IRA at last agreed to lay down their arms and Sinn Fein now sits in a coalition government with the Unionists to administer Northern Ireland under the British Crown. The public has shown itself to be tired of conflict and ready to accept things as they are to go on with their lives in peace and no longer regard their disagreements or their situation as worth fighting about.

In short, the United Kingdom won and the Irish republicans lost, whether they are inclined to admit it or not. British sovereignty over Northern Ireland was challenged, that challenge was defeated, those opposing it have, in their deeds if not their words, accepted the “rule” of the Queen over Northern Ireland and while Sinn Fein was given a cold shoulder when they stood for election in the Republic of Ireland, Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley was given a seat in the House of Lords by former British Prime Minister Gordon (is alive) Brown. The Republic of Ireland accepts British sovereignty over Northern Ireland as do the majority of Catholics in Northern Ireland now, even though they might not be enthusiastic about, they are not willing to challenge it. Of course, some still make trouble as some probably always will but these IRA fringe groups are few and far between with virtually no popular support behind them and whose actions are denounced by both Catholic and Protestant communities in Ulster.

As soon as the news of this brief meeting (and even “meeting” is probably too strong a word, for the most part they will simply be in the same room for a few minutes) I have seen a great deal of British outrage over it. There may be just as much Irish republican outrage but I have not heard it (we do tend to move in rather different circles as they say). However, while I understand why anyone would be upset that the Queen would ever come into contact with someone who was ever in the IRA, I would like to tell all loyal Britons to just take a deep breath, relax and don’t get all worked up over this. It’s really not that important and Britons, and the whole Unionist-Protestant crowd, have the least reason to be upset over any of this since, as we have seen, they have relatively little to be upset about. If I could say anything to the British who are upset over this it would be simply, “Relax! You’ve won!” Northern Ireland is still under the British Crown, it is not part of the Republic of Ireland and even Dublin doesn’t really want it to be and even Sinn Fein have, by their actions, accepted British sovereignty over Northern Ireland and (in fact if not in name) recognized the authority of HM the Queen over Northern Ireland. There’s no real reason for Britain or Ulster loyalists to be upset about this. The Irish republicans have more cause to be upset (they lost their fight) but even most of them, it seems, have exhausted their reserves of anger and have just accepted the situation as it is. The fact that this meeting can happen only goes to show how Irish partition is a non-issue for the vast majority of people in both countries. The Crown was challenged and the Crown prevailed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monarchist Profile: General Sir Henry Clinton

One of the leading British commanders of the American War for Independence, Sir Henry Clinton was one of the most capable generals of that conflict but also one of the most difficult. He was born on April 16, 1730 to Admiral George Clinton and Anne Carle. There is a little ambiguity about the place of his birth, but according to some at least he was a North American, a Canadian, being born in Newfoundland. His family was a very old one with a long history of royal service behind it when he first entered the armed forces in New York in 1745. His father, at the time, was serving as the Royal Governor of New York. One year later he was a captain serving in the fortress of Louisbourg only recently captured from the French. Later on, this background would serve Clinton well as he had considerable experience with North America when the Revolutionary War broke out. Over the next few years he moved to Great Britain and was commissioned as a captain in the elite Coldstream Guards. He rose fairly rapidly in the British army, serving in some of the most famous formations. By 1758 he was a lieutenant colonel in the First Foot Guards (better known as the Grenadier Guards today). During the Seven Years War (the French and Indian War in America) he served under the Duke of Brunswick in Germany. During his war service he met many of the men he would later serve with and against when revolution came to the American colonies.

Clinton gave good service, made profitable friendships, married a member of the landed gentry and even gained as a patron the Duke of Gloucester, the brother of the new King George III. After serving in Gibraltar for a time Clinton was promoted to major general in 1772 and was elected to a seat in the House of Commons. He also gained further military experience touring installations of the Imperial Russian Army in the Balkans, witnessed some clashes with the formidable Ottoman Empire (even met some Turkish envoys who he described as “very civil”) and had an audience in Vienna with Emperor Joseph II. It was upon his return to England that he learned about the outbreak of rebellion in America and was ordered by King George III to proceed there along with his fellow major generals William Howe and John Burgoyne to bring a quick end to this challenge to the authority of the Crown. Their immediate goal was to relieve the besieged British forces in Boston under General Thomas Gage. The result was the first major clash of the war, the battle of Bunker Hill.

General Clinton always displayed a more sober and realistic appreciation of the fighting qualities of the Americans and was pessimistic about the situation at Bunker Hill and broke his orders to tend to the wounded after the first two failed assaults on Breed’s Hill. The third assault succeeded, winning the battle for the British but at a heavy loss of life which made Clinton describe the victory as nearly ruinous. Gage was replaced by Howe in the aftermath of the battle and Clinton was promoted to the local rank of lieutenant general and was chief deputy to General Howe. In that role he often provided brilliant plans but his character proved problematic and Clinton was, by most accounts, extremely hard to work with and was invariably critical of his superiors. This mitigated his value at times but, nonetheless, Clinton often made invaluable contributions to the war effort. During the Long Island campaign it was General Clinton who suggested the flanking march that proved a master stroke and went a long way in securing a massive victory for the British forces in which George Washington and his entire Continental Army came close to being totally wiped out.

There was no doubt that Clinton was an extremely capable military commander but his own personality often worked against him. This was especially true following the death of his wife when Clinton became noticeably more difficult. He had also earlier been dispatched by General Howe to lead the campaign in the southern colonies but a delay suffered by the Royal Navy and bad weather helped turn the expedition into a dismal failure, a soft spot for General Clinton who did not respond well to criticism (who does?). He returned to New England where he captured Newport, Rhode Island after which he went back to Great Britain in early 1777. When Burgoyne was chosen by the King and Lord Germain to lead the northern offensive coming down from Canada Clinton tried to resign but was refused. He was knighted and returned to New York to resume his post as Howe’s deputy, though neither man was happy about it.

Not surprisingly, General Clinton was totally opposed to the plan for Howe to advance north while Burgoyne marched south, hopefully cutting off New England and crushing the rebellion between them. Clinton predicted that Burgoyne would be isolated in the wilderness of upper New York and could easily be surrounded and destroyed. Of course, this is exactly what transpired with Burgoyne being forced to surrender after the battle of Saratoga, a victory credited with securing French recognition of the fledgling United States. During the Saratoga campaign Clinton had also managed a successful raid into the Hudson Highlands in a vain effort to rescue Burgoyne and his intrepid army. Early the following year though things changed for Clinton. Despite winning numerous victories, General Howe had failed to suppress the rebellion in the colonies in 1777 and he resigned his position. So, in February of 1778 Lt. General Sir Henry Clinton became commander-in-chief of all Crown forces in North America. His constant advice and criticism of his predecessor meant that much was expected of Clinton but with France joining the war as an ally of the rebels the British government had to redeploy limited forces to defend colonies all over the world. As a result, Clinton would be expected to accomplish what Howe had not but with even fewer troops to work with.

General Clinton also faced a Continental Army that had become much more disciplined and well trained than the one he and Howe had chased from pillar to post in New York. Clinton was thus forced to adopt a generally defensive strategy with British forces concentrating on holding key strategic ports, with supply and mobility dependent on the Royal Navy, rather than undertaking any grand offensives to wipe out the Continental Army. Clinton, who had seemed so daring as a subordinate, found himself to be a very cautious commander, which even he realized, referring to himself on one occasion as “a shy bitch”. Still, he executed a brilliant march to New York during which time Washington tried to win a decisive victory over him at the bloody battle of Monmouth. Usually dismissed as a stalemate, it is hard to see how this should not be considered a victory for Clinton even if a less than decisive one. Even though Washington caught the rear of the British army, Clinton fended off his attacks, losing less men than Washington while still managing to complete his movement to New York as planned while the rebel goal of destroying his army had failed. It would be the last major battle in the northern theatre as attention turned toward the southern colonies where Lord Cornwallis was dispatched to restore Crown authority and rather the many loyalists of the region.

Unfortunately, just as Clinton had clashed with Howe, he was often upset with his subordinate Cornwallis. Part of this was due to rank as Cornwallis had been given a “dormant commission” which Clinton took as an affront but which was actually done simply to ensure that if anything happened to him the senior commander in America would be Cornwallis rather than a Hessian mercenary. However, aside from the usual problems of ego, this added another difficulty as it made Clinton hesitant about issuing direct orders to Cornwallis and he instead preferred to make suggestions and as a result his instructions were often vague and easily misunderstood. Clinton, upset with what he saw as being placed in a ‘no-win’ situation tried to resign again but was again refused. He spent most of 1779 holding his ground and sending raiding parties against the rebel forces as well as issuing a proclamation promising emancipation to any slaves who could escape their bondage and enlist in the Crown forces.

In 1780, after British forces captured Savannah, Georgia General Clinton led another attack on Charleston, South Carolina. He more than made up for his earlier defeat there and after a successful siege operation forced the surrender of the city and the entire 5,000-man garrison. It was a stupendous victory for the British and the costliest defeat the American rebels would suffer in the entire war. With such a great success under his belt, Clinton left Cornwallis to command the southern campaign while he returned to New York to direct overall operations on the continent. Lord Cornwallis won a string of victories but tensions between him and Clinton only increased. Cornwallis blamed Clinton for indecisiveness while Clinton accused Cornwallis of insubordination and trying to run his own war. When a French naval victory ultimately bottled up Cornwallis at Yorktown the end was at hand. Clinton organized a rescue operation but was too late to save his subordinate who surrendered in 1782, effectively ending the war. Clinton offered his resignation again and it was finally accepted, turning command over to General Sir Guy Carleton. Unfortunately, despite being blamed for the defeat at Yorktown, Clinton was not allowed a court martial to clear his name.

Upon returning to Britain, General Clinton again served in Parliament, was promoted to full general in 1793 and ended his life as Governor of Gibraltar. As a commander, General Clinton still receives less respect than he is due. True, he was difficult, could be overcautious, tended to blame others and inflate his own successes but though he would win no personality contests, he was an extremely skillful commander. Among the top British generals of the American war he was probably the best strategist and the most effective planner of all of them. He understood that a formal conquest of the continent would be impossible, that permanent garrisons were needed to win and keep the support of the loyalists who were the key to ultimate victory. He also understood the need for close cooperation with the navy, unfortunately he was robbed of the benefit of one of the best British naval commanders of the day, Admiral Richard Howe, by the intervention of France. He was not as colorful as Burgoyne, as likeable as Howe or as daring as Cornwallis but, perhaps because of his North American background, possessed an overall understanding of the strategic situation in the colonies that few others had.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Top-Heavy Italian Republic

The financial woes of the Italian Republic are now, thanks to the E.U. and global finance, a matter of international concern. It is a crisis that has been a long time in coming and definitely puts the lie to those who claim that monarchy is financially burdensome while a republic is some sort of bargain. Surely, in economic terms, there is no greater example than modern Italy of what a poor return on public money a republic can be. That the monarchy was inordinately expensive is an argument only the foolish or truly ignorant could ever accept. Why is that? Because, one could certainly point to the grandeur of the royal residences, the glittering pomp and ceremony and the splendor of royal progresses to make the ignorant believe that the monarchy must have been a huge drain on the public purse. However, most of this came from the private accounts of the House of Savoy from money raised by their own properties and not from the public trough. Even then, in times of economic hardship, the King of Italy drastically renounced his income, cut back expenses and handed over valuable and extensive properties to the state. Has any of his republican successors done likewise? Certainly not and quite the contrary in fact. What has been done is to replace the monarchy with one of the most expensive and top-heavy republics in the world.

How many people, in or outside of Italy, are truly aware of this? How many of those who have loaned money to the safekeeping of the free-spending republican politicians are aware of this? How many are aware that the Italian Chamber of Deputies actually has far more members than the House of Representatives in the United States (which, for those unfamiliar with geography) is very many times larger than the Italian Republic? Not only is the government bigger, which means that there are more politicians to pay, but they are paid quite a few times more than their American counterparts as well (and rest assured that American Congressmen are in no danger of going hungry). In fact, Italian politicians are amongst the most highly paid and lavishly compensated in the entire world! So, what do Italians today have to administer their country? A republican government that is bigger than most, more expensive than most and more ineffctive than most as well. Bigger is not better and for as much as they cost the Italian taxpayer the government has clearly not provided value for money. Further, despite the promises of democratic republicans, they are by no means more accountable. When the people vote to cut the pay of their politicians, their votes are ignored and, of course, presiding over it all now is Prime Minister Mario Monti, an EU financial bureaucrat who was never elected to any office in Italy ever!

In addition, the tax-and-spend policies of the republican government have been digging Italy into a deep financial pit for decades. It was under the socialist prime minister (no surprise there) Bettino Craxi that the Italian national debt rose to be greater than the entire gross national product of the country -and that was in the 1980's! Things have hardly improved since as the current state of affairs clearly demonstrates. Recently, the European Union mandated that Italy would have to give help in the bail-out of Spanish banks and loan money to Spain at 3% interest. However, due to the fact that Italy herself is quite broke, Italy will have to borrow money to give that loan at 7% interest! What sort of economic and mathematical idiot thought up that "brilliant" plan? With leaders like that, is it any wonder that Italy finds herself on the brink of economic ruin? Probably not, considering that even the largely ceremonial office of President is currently held by a former member of the Communist Party, an ideology not known for creating economic prosperity around the world to say the least.

Italy would be better off to rid themselves of the lot of these overpaid, under-performing members of the political class, restore the lire, restore the monarchy, trash the tangle of regulations that strangle growth and incentive, leave the EU and pursue again a policy of "sacred self-interest" in which only those policies are pursued which will be to the benefit of the Italian nation. As things stand now, the people are disenchanted with their government, over taxed, over regulated and rapidly growing frustrated and divided. No country or government is ever without fault and certainly the Kingdom of Italy was not free from error. However, the Kingdom of Italy was brought down by intrigue and betrayal at the end of a world war while the Italian Republic is being brought to its knees simply by corruption, idiotic policies and carelessness, all of which amount to "business as usual" in the realm of the republicans.

MM Video: William of Orange

MM Video: Denmark at War

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Images Page

Just a notice, as promised, that I will soon be changing out the new "Images" page which, for little more than a week now, has had a Hungarian flavor to it. No one commented on the premier of this new addition so I don't know if anyone particularly likes it or not but, for the time being anyway, I will keep it up. The change out will probably happen on Tuesday since I still find myself trying to fill the void left by "Off-Topic Tuesday" which caused so much trouble. However, simple pictures have been known to cause trouble too (at least for me) and the upcoming change may prompt some eye rolls as the current batch of Hapsburgs in Hungarian regalia will be replaced by the always controversial House of Bonaparte. As Veronica used to say, mind the change of pace and tone!

Royal News Roundup

In the Middle East, following the death of Crown Prince Nayef of Saudi Arabia, Prince Salman was named the new heir-to-the-throne by King Abdullah. Crown Prince Nayef was laid to rest in Mecca. In Kuwait, due to a political standoff that has set the opposition in Parliament against the government, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait, has suspended Parliament for one month. A short time later the top court in Kuwait nullified the Parliament and reinstated the previous pro-government parliament. Their decision cannot be challenged.

Over in Europe, the Prince of Wales is still very concerned about the environment and is very much afraid that human beings are going to destroy the world through negligence. In a taped message to the UN sustainability conference in Brazil, the Prince of Wales warned of the ‘catastrophic’ consequences of climate change. The Queen also gave her son and heir a promotion this week, elevating HRH to the ranks of Field Marshal in the army, Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy and Marshal of the Royal Air Force. HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and HRH the Duke of Kent hold similar ranks, the Queen, of course, is commander-in-chief of all armed forces. The Prince consort was also back in the spotlight this week alongside the Queen at the Trooping of the Color, the official celebration of the royal birthday. The Duke of Cambridge was there as well and Prince William is apparently very upset over the illicit trade in rhino horns saying, “It makes me very angry” and described the poaching as “ignorant and selfish”. The Duke warned that rhinos could become extinct if greater measures are not taken to protect the massive animals. The Duke of Cambridge also, upon turning 30, inherited some 10 million pounds from his late mother.

Also in London this week HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall met with HH the XIV Dalai Lama, the Prince being a long-time supporter of the exiled Tibetan monk-monarch. Meanwhile, over in Denmark, HM Queen Margrethe II hosted a garden party at the royal palace for the members of Volunteer Denmark along with other members of the Danish Royal Family. In Norway, TM King Harald V and Queen Sonja visited Andebu and Tonsberg in Vestfold County. In the Low Countries, HM Queen Beatrix received the credentials of some new ambassadors, in Brussels HM King Albert II received the Secretary of State for the Fight Against Social and Tax Fraud and in Luxembourg the Grand Ducal court released their first schedules of the upcoming wedding of the Hereditary Grand Duke. In Grimaldi news, Prince Albert II attended the Rio+20 conference on the environment, Princess Charlene handed out diplomas to the graduating class of 2012 from the International School of Monaco and later joined her brother and his girlfriend in an informal visit to Los Angeles, California.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mad Rant: Corporal Punishment

Readers from the United States will likely have heard by now about the case of the woman in New York, working as a school bus monitor, who was verbally abused and threatened to the point of tears by a bunch of middle school delinquents. It seems odd to me that in this day and age when fewer people are having children and of those an ever smaller number of children that children are often so over-romanticized. Make no mistake about it, children can be positively heartless, cruel, vindictive and totally lacking in any empathy at all. This is likely worse today when, in our society, we have deluded the young with false self-esteem, pampered them, spoiled them and bred a gross mentality of entitlement out of all proportion to what is actually achievable. I will even risk greater condemnation and say that girls are worse than boys. Boys might punch each other in the eye but girls emotionally destroy each other, which seems far more cruel and insidious to me. In any event, this latest episode is just one more, albeit extremely ugly, example of the lack of discipline in school, the lack of proper behavior among children and a total absence on their part of any respect for their elders.

Aside from the children themselves, it is the parents of these vicious little spawn that are ultimately to blame for raising no better than to think that such behavior is acceptable. Even in my teenage years when I was at my most insolent and rebellious I would have never, ever even thought for instant of speaking to a 60+ year old woman in such a way. That’s entirely to the credit of my parents and not to myself. The parents of every one of those little demon-seed should be held accountable for the behavior of their children. However, the school itself is also to blame. The children behave in such a manner because they know they can, they know they can get away with it and that there will be no consequences. However, again, schools answer to school boards who must answer to the parents on election day so we are back to them again. I was not always the best student but one thing I was consistently cited for was being well behaved. When I was in kindergarten, for the only time in my student years, I was sent to the principal for writing on my desk. The principal took his blue wooden paddle to my backside and I never got sent to the principal’s office ever again. Once was enough.

That was at a private school but, even at public school where corporal punishment was not allowed, I never gave any problems because I knew that whatever they could do to me would pale in comparison to what my dear old papa would do to me when I got home. Because if I did anything wrong or even if I was present when others did something wrong and did not stop them, if pop found out I would get a good dusting by a big leather strap of some variety. I’d come out of it feeling very low, with a collection of red welts across my backside and be sore for a while afterward but, of course, no real damage was ever done. A good thrashing is by no means the same as child abuse. My skin was never broken, I was never left covered in bruises and I never had any bones broken or anything like that but my old man did a good enough job that whatever I had done wrong, I sure as the world would never, ever do it again. Now, I know there are those who say that they happen to have some special kind of youngster that a whipping or a spanking just has no effect on them. I’ve never believed it. Anyone who says that is simply not applying sufficient force. I don’t care what kind of a child you have, if you smack them hard enough you WILL change their behavior. I guarantee it. Of course, as with any kind of punishment, it must always be fairly and consistently applied.

I don’t have children and don’t plan to ever have children but I have long said I could solve all the disciplinary problems in any school in two days with only a rule book, a leather strap and a free hand. Here is how it works: you make sure every student is well aware of the rules and that no infraction will be tolerated. When someone breaks the rules (and here is the important part), you don’t send them to the office. You wait until recess or lunch break and you assemble the whole student body on the playground. You take the guilty party into the middle of the playground where everyone can see and there you announce what they did wrong, how they will be punished and then start bringing the tears to their eyes. I know, I know, that sounds horribly cruel to the modern mind but, I assure you, once that is done and everyone sees it being done, it will very, very rarely (if ever) have to be done again. Once they know it can happen and will happen they will not risk the pain and, more so, the humiliation that comes from breaking the rules. I welcome anyone who would wish to test this theory -I guarantee immediate results. You do not cause any damage to the body, you leave no scars or anything but simply apply sufficient force to make it really, really hurt and let these bullies be seen crying like a baby and no one will risk breaking the rules again.

I am dead serious about this and just to show that I do not commit age discrimination allow me to say that I think corporal punishment should be revived for adults as well. Some people think only slaves used to be beaten but, on the contrary, in those days corporal punishment was common for free men as well and no city, town or village was complete without a whipping post. Personally, I have most wished for this option when dealing with grown-up bullies and by that I mean men who beat their wives or beat up any woman or who abuse their children. It would give me great satisfaction to see some of these creeps who get drunk and end up putting their wife or child in the hospital, stripped to the waist, tied to a post and have a big, brawny fellow come with a big whip and flog them to the bone. Give them a taste of their own poison and see how eager they are to inflict such pain on those weaker than them in the future. I think it would do a world of good, both for the offender and for all those who witness such punishment.

Will this ever happen? No, surely not, we’ve gone far too soft for anything like that anymore. But this sort of stuff did NOT happen in the old days and, again, I guarantee you it would work. I won’t quote what was said to the poor woman in question, I assume most know or can easily find out but if it were in my power every one of those little punks would take a thrashing for that and then I’d have their folks whipped too for raising such a heartless little pack of barbarians. This is yet further proof to me that the Whig version of history is totally wrong. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Whatever the opposite of evolution is, we are going through it. Any halfway decent child would have been raised better than to talk to even their schoolmates that way to say nothing of a little, old lady. It makes me positively disgusted with our modern society and a very … Mad Monarchist.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Soldier of Monarchy: General Giulio Douhet

General Giulio Douhet, aerial warfare visionary and the prophet of strategic bombing was a military innovator and the first great airpower theorist in history. His thinking was decades ahead of his time as he foresaw the day, even at the turn of the last century, when air power would become the dominant offensive weapon of the future, capable of winning wars all on its own long before anyone else saw control of the skies as vital or, indeed, saw hardly any military value in aircraft at all. He was born in Caserta on May 30, 1869 into a family with a long tradition of military service and, in keeping with that tradition, attended the Italian military academy and graduated at the top of his class, earning a commission in the artillery in 1892. He was an innovator from the very start of his career who immediately saw the potential in making the Italian army a mechanized army. He commanded a battalion of the elite bersaglieri light infantry when these were mounted on motorcycles for the first time, giving them added speed and mobility. When Wilbur Wright visited the Kingdom of Italy in 1909 he met the American inventor-aviator and at once saw the potential for the military use of aircraft and became an early and tireless advocate for it.

His foresight was first proven in the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-12 when he was given command of the first ever aviation battalion in Italian military history. Under Douhet, Italy broke new ground by becoming the first power to successfully carry off air-to-ground attacks with the bombing of Turkish outposts in Libya. This was all the proof Douhet required and he immediately saw a brilliant future for military aircraft. Drawing on his wartime experiences, after the conflict he wrote and published the first manual on the doctrines of air combat entitled “Rules of the Use of Airplanes in War” in 1913. Thanks to Douhet, the Kingdom of Italy had taken an early lead as the first world power to take aerial warfare seriously. However, being a ground-breaking thinker is rarely easy. When Italy entered World War I, Douhet was first posted as chief of staff of an infantry division but given his talent and experience was soon transferred to command the army aviation division. He called for Italy to devote huge resources to the air arm and to launch a campaign of saturation bombing against Austria. However, very little was done before his criticisms of the supreme command earned him the wrath of General Luigi Cadorna who had him arrested and court-martialed.

Sadly, this was not out of the ordinary and should not at all reflect poorly on Colonel Douhet as an officer. By 1917 General Cadorna had sacked a total of 216 generals, 255 colonels and 355 battalion commanders who he blamed for one thing or another or who simply disagreed with his handling of the army, over a time when Italian losses had been heavy and territorial gains extremely modest. However, Colonel Douhet used his time well. As he sat in confinement he continued to write about his ideas for the future of war in the air and to further refine his theories on military aviation. Today many remember the bombing raids of the German and Allied armies on the western front but few realize they had only recently discovered the strategy that Douhet had been advocating for years. In 1917, after the disastrous battle of Caporetto, Douhet and the other critics of General Cadorna were proven correct and the top general was replaced and Douhet was released, restored to his rank and put back in command of the new Central Aeronautic Bureau. In 1921 he published his most famous work, “The Command of the Air”. He held a post in the government of Mussolini for a very short time before retiring from the army with the rank of major general in 1923. He died in Rome on February 15, 1930 at 60 years old.

Why, at the end of it all, was General Douhet such a visionary who we should still remember today? What were his great ideas and theories? He was the first to call for an independent air force, separate from the army and the navy (eventually realized in the Regia Aeronautica) and the first to call for versatile fighter planes, what he termed a “battle plane”, that would be capable of air-to-air combat and ground attack missions. Douhet believed that massive fleets of bombers could be used as the ultimate strategic military weapon. He envisioned ground forces being used solely in a defensive role, guarding Italian territory, while the air force was the primary offensive arm of the military and would devastate enemy countries and armies, destroying their infrastructure and forcing them to capitulate. This, he argued, he would be more cost effective, save lives that would otherwise be wasted in human-wave attacks and would make warfare more swift and decisive.

Not everyone in Italy appreciated the ideas of General Douhet or saw his work as applying to them since other countries (such as Germany, France and Britain) had such larger air forces. However, the use of air power was central to Italian victories in Libya against the rebel Islamic forces, in Abyssinia and was absolutely vital in defeating the communist forces in Spain. However, despite a greater emphasis being put on air power in Italy after his time, the country was never in a position, industrially, to fully implement his ideas. Nonetheless, all of the great aerial warfare leaders from Germany, France, Britain and America read his books and were well studied in his theories. These were, to varying degrees, adopted during World War II particularly by the U.S. Army Air Corps and the British Royal Air Force which carried out large-scale strategic bombing, which were key factors in the ultimate Allied victory. Some more recent military historians have at times downplayed the foresight of General Douhet, arguing that no country has ever won a war through the sole use of air power. However, none have fully adopted the strategies he envisioned to carry this out and even in more recent years there are examples in places such as Kosovo and most recently in Libya which prove just how far-sighted Douhet was. In any event, his influence is enormous simply by being the first to imagine a great and central role for air power in warfare. The development of air forces all over the world owe a debt of gratitude to General Giulio Douhet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Monarch Profile: Tsar Paul I of Russia

I will admit, I have a soft spot for Tsar Paul I, often referred to as the “Mad Tsar”. He was a monarch of very monarchist sensibilities, a dedicated sovereign and a man with a great sense of imagination and adventure. The popular image of him as an unsavory, authoritarian lunatic was, it must be remembered, an image spread by those who murdered him and who tried to portray him in the most negative light possible to justify their heinous crime. He was certainly not flawless, but his faults have been grossly distorted and he possessed many admirable qualities. He was born on September 20, 1754 to the future Tsar Peter III (then a Grand Duke) and his formidable wife who would become known as Catherine the Great in St Petersburg. His mother, however, would later cast doubts on his legitimacy, showing little regard for the future stability of the Russian Empire but all of that involves speculation. Soon after he was born the Empress Elizabeth removed the little prince from his parents and as he grew up he would hold a grudge against his mother for the murder of his father and the subsequent coup that made Catherine Empress of Russia. His education was entrusted to Nikita Ivanovich Panin who was to teach him to be an “enlightened” monarch but he was also surrounded by the quiet example of many pious women as well as the Empress Elizabeth who was a devoted daughter of the Russian Orthodox Church in the best, traditional, fashion.

According to his critics, Paul was trouble from the start, obstinate, obsessive, moody and temperamental. In fact, these are distortions of some of his best qualities, exaggerated later by those wishing to ruin his reputation. He was unbending in his defense of traditional principles, a man of restless energy and a man capable of changing direction when he could see something was not working; all fine things that can easily be cast in a negative light. He did have a temper on him but this was far from unusual amongst the ranks of the Romanovs. One of his religious instructors, the future Metropolitan of Moscow, instilled in him a devotion to the Church and said of the future Tsar that, “Fortunately, my high-born student always had a leaning towards godliness, and also enjoyed discussions and conversations about God and the faith”. His strong faith in God would sustain him through the difficult years of his life. Catherine the Great kept him always at a distance, frustrating his desire to serve Mother Russia and give vent to his restless energy. At times he often felt like a prisoner in his own country but was finally given a ray of light when his mother determined it was time for him to marry. She asked her friend Frederick the Great of Prussia to suggest a suitable candidate and he dispatched three young Hessian princesses for the Grand Duke to consider.

Contrary to those who have portrayed Paul as cold and unfeeling, he was immediately taken by the Princess Wilhelmina, a beautiful, pleasant and outgoing young lady who won over everyone. It took only two days for Paul to determine that she was the one for him and on September 29, 1773 the two were married, the princess converted to Orthodoxy and was thereafter known as Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna of Russia. She supported her husband but soon rumors were running thick of an affair between the Grand Duchess and her husband’s best friend. Paul remained blissfully ignorant of this talk and was extremely distraught in 1776 when Grand Duchess Natalia died after giving birth to a stillborn son. Paul was crushed and blamed the doctors for the death of his wife. There was little time for mourning, however, as Empress Catherine quickly arranged another marriage for her son with Princess Sophia Dorothea of Wuerttemberg, later known as Maria Feodorovna. Paul gave his wife a detailed set of instructions which show how well he knew his own shortcomings, keeping his entire day strictly regimented so that not a minute was lost to idle frivolity. In their years together Maria Feodorovna gave Paul four sons and six daughters.

Naturally, with so much bad blood between the Grand Duke and his mother there were talks of doing to the Empress what she had done to her own husband. Paul would have none of it. When the plan was amended to spare the life of the Empress and simply have a coup for Paul to take power he still would not allow anything of the sort. As much as he opposed his mother and her way of life, he would not dishonor himself by resorting to rebellion. By refusing to go along with the plan, the plotters feared he would betray them and had him poisoned. Paul managed to survive but retained several maladies for the rest of his life as a consequence of his unbending loyalty. He was not well liked at court, a fact which is often mentioned, but this was not necessarily a bad thing. He disliked most of those at court as well as disapproved of the ostentatious style of Catherine the Great and the immorality that prevailed there. He was often cheered wildly by the common people and when on a European tour with his wife was described in glowing terms by Emperor Joseph II (a man not known for being free with his praise) who wrote to his brother about what good parents Paul and Maria were, how interested they were in learning, particularly about charitable and educational subjects to benefit their people. Leopold of Tuscany was equally impressed, describing them as possessing “a great deal of spirit, talent and thoughtfulness”.

Still deprived of a role in government, when the couple returned to Russia the Grand Duke set up his own model estate at Gatchina Palace where luxury and decadence were forbidden in favor simplicity, military discipline and pursuits which expanded the mind. He was fond of playing chess and of drilling his soldiers which he did in the Prussian style, being greatly impressed by the stunning victories of Frederick the Great. The serfs on his estate were mostly Finns and Grand Duke Paul took good care of them, tolerating their Lutheran faith, always sharing with them the latest advances in agriculture and lending them money when they were in need. He built a free hospital for them as well as schools for the local peasant children. These facts are often left out of the accounts which like to portray the estates of Paul as nothing more than an armed camp presided over by a militaristic martinet. The army was always important to him but he was far from being no more than a heartless drillmaster as he is often portrayed. His only chance to see battle himself was during the war with Sweden of 1788-90 during which he did come under enemy fire, though the Swedes later apologized for having shot at him.

As Catherine the Great began to fail in health there was talk that she would pass over her son and leave the Russian crown to her grandson Alexander. If there was such a plan, it was not able to be put into effect and in 1796 Tsar Paul I became Emperor of Russia without opposition. He had his father reburied alongside Catherine II at Peter and Paul Cathedral and the following year decreed a new law to regularize the succession, basing it on male primogeniture and adherence to the Russian Orthodox faith. Almost at once he began abolishing those policies of his mother he disapproved of, called off the war against Persia, released from jail those Catherine had imprisoned and clamped down on the spread of subversive ideas and activities. He also set about immediately to reform the army, based on the Prussian model. Not all of these changes were popular but, as Paul I said, “I prefer to be hated for a rightful cause than loved for a wrong one.” The lives of the regular soldiers were much improved, government spending was reduced and the first ministers were established. While not trampling on traditional rights, he urged landowners to exempt serfs from work on Sundays, forbid the breaking up of families and advised that serfs should work on the land of their masters no more than three days a week.

Far from being a harsh authoritarian, Tsar Paul I made everyone more equal under the law, which not everyone in the nobility appreciated. Under his rule, nobles would pay taxes and if they committed crimes would be subject to the same corporal punishment given to the common people. Which is not to say that Paul I was any sort of revolutionary. Quite the contrary. Because of the spread of revolutionary ideas from France, in 1800 Tsar Paul I cut off all imports of books and music and even forbid the use of such words as “citizen” and “society”, which was to his credit. He believed absolutely in divinely ordained monarchy, legitimate authority and was totally opposed to revolution on principle. It was because of his devotion to these ideals that he joined Great Britain, Naples and Austria in the Second Coalition against revolutionary France. Russia was, at that point, under no threat whatsoever, but Paul I would oppose revolution and defend legitimate monarchs wherever and whenever they were threatened. His goal was to see the lawful monarchs restored to their thrones in Italy and he was particularly outraged by the French occupation of Malta in 1798. The Knights of Malta had fascinated him since he was a boy and in that year he secured his election as their Grand Master. It was his greatest wish to see Russia liberate Malta and restore the island to the Knights.

In his drive to remove the French from the eastern Mediterranean where they could menace Russian trade on the Black Sea, Paul made peace with Ottoman Turkey and joined them in seizing the Ionian Islands from France which were then occupied by Russia. The Russian troops under the famous General Suvorov fought well in Italy and even when forced to retreat fought a brilliant delaying action through the Alps. The fact that Tsar Paul made and dropped alliances in turn has often been cited as proof of his madness but, in actuality, it was all due to his devotion to the cause of legitimate authority. He withdrew from the coalition when it became clear that rather than restoring the prior monarchs, Austria intended to keep the Italian territories they conquered for themselves. When Napoleon came to power in France, the Tsar hoped this might be a sort of counter-revolution and attempted to come to terms with “the Little Corporal” but Napoleon refused to agree to Paul’s demands that the pre-revolutionary regimes in Germany, Italy and on Malta be restored. When Great Britain occupied Malta and retained it rather than restoring it to the Knights as well as going along with the Austrian conquests in Italy, Paul I broke with Great Britain and even considered an offensive to drive the British out of India.

Through it all, the Tsar never forgot his people and he was meticulous in looking out for their welfare. He wanted to be the accessible Tsar and indeed he was. One of the things he is remembered for was putting in what we would today call a “suggestion box” at the Winter Palace where any Russian could leave him letters, making suggestions, reporting problems or ask for assistance. This was no meaningless charade either as the Tsar collected and read these letters himself every day and answered every single one. He was known to spend whole nights on his knees in prayer and wrote of government that, “The object of every society is the happiness of each and all”. He rose at five o’clock every morning and remained constantly busy until his head touched the pillow at night. Many have described him as being paranoid but this seems an odd accusation to make considering the tragic end of Tsar Paul I. As has often been said, it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you. So it was with Paul I. A plot was hatched with the knowledge of his son and heir Alexander, though Alexander had no idea that the plot included regicide. Count Peter Pahlen, military governor of St Petersburg, was the chief architect of the coup. On the night of March 11-12, 1801 the conspirators infiltrated the Tsar’s residence, Mikhailovsky Zamok, and found Paul I in his bedroom. The Tsar was attacked, fought back, was brutally beaten and finally strangled to death with a sash. The murderers quickly announced that the Tsar had died of an apoplexy but the truth spread quickly.

This meant that some new justification for the coup had to be found and the madness of Tsar Paul I was quickly seized upon. If the Tsar had been murdered, so be it, but the murderers tried to argue that they had only done what was necessary in ridding Russia of an emperor who had gone hopelessly insane. It was not true of course but the story became widespread with some real eccentricities being exaggerated out of all proportion to support the story. In any event, Tsar Paul I was gone and his son took his place, who would himself become a beloved figure in Russian history. Still, Tsar Paul I deserves to be remembered for what he was. He was a devoted son of the Church, a man who believed in an orderly world of legitimate monarchs, a monarch who looked after the least of his subjects before the most prominent and the ruler who established the framework for how the Russian Empire was to operate for most of the rest of its history. He was a good man really who had legitimate reasons for everything he did and who did the best he could for Russia and the cause of Godly government around the world.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Consort Profile: Queen Maria Luisa of Savoy

Queen Maria Luisa of Savoy was consort to the first Bourbon King of Spain and also showed herself to be not only a popular and beloved consort but a talented and confident woman who would have been perfectly capable of ruling a country herself, as she did on occasion when her husband was out of town. She was born in Turin on August 17, 1688, the third daughter of Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy and Princess Anne Marie of Orleans (daughter of the Duke of Orleans and Princess Henrietta of England). She was a bright, playful and happy child but it was a childhood that did not last long since, as with so many princesses, she had to grow up quite rapidly for the sake of a political marriage. It was not as much a case of her own parents seeking a match for her but her husband-to-be who sought her out for political reasons. Over in Spain the House of Hapsburg had died out with King Carlos II and the grandson of King Louis XIV of France was set to be imported as the new King of Spain, the first of the dynasty that continues to the present day. Only 16-years-old at the time, the French and Spanish governments came to an agreement and the teenage Duke of Anjou became King Felipe V of Spain.

However, although Spain and France were in agreement, there were few doubts that the spread of Bourbon influence to the Iberian Peninsula would arouse opposition amongst the other great powers of Europe, particularly in Great Britain and Austria. War seemed inevitable and the marriage of the young Felipe V would be used to secure his claim to the Spanish throne by linking him with the House of Savoy which also had marriage ties with the Kingdom of France and even a possible claim on the Spanish throne by way of the dowry of the great-grandmother of Duke Victor Amadeus II (Infanta Catherine Michelle) which had gone unpaid. In this way the choice fell on the 13-year-old Savoy princess and the marriage was arranged by the Duke of Savoy and King Louis XIV with proxy wedding ceremonies taking place in both Turin and Versailles. By her marriage in 1701 she became Queen consort of Spain before she had ever set foot in the country or even met her husband face-to-face. Nonetheless, the Savoy princesses had a reputation for putting duty first and the well educated, fun loving new Queen set out for Spain. While passing through Nice she met Pope Clement XI who showed his favor by presenting her with a Papal Golden Rose, an honor still given out today but since the reign of Pius XII only to religious places rather than individual people.

Happily, when Queen Maria Luisa arrived in Barcelona and met her young husband King Felipe V she was not disappointed. Despite the circumstances of their union the two had a successful marriage and a genuine romance. As she settled in to life in Spain her most constant guide and companion was the formidable Princess des Ursins who became head of the Queen’s household and, unofficially, the most powerful woman in Spain. It had to be a difficult time for her as the War of Spanish Succession broke out which placed her father, the Duke of Savoy, on the side of Great Britain, Austria and others in opposition to France and Spain. As fighting raged from northern France and the Low Countries to the Italian peninsula, King Felipe V had to leave Spain to defend family territory in Naples. This left Queen Maria Luisa in Madrid as regent for her husband for quite some time but she proved herself to be more than up to the challenge. She was extremely thorough in her work, listening to all sides, investigating every complaint and checking all reports herself. She helped to reorganize the government and rallied the Spanish people to unite in support of the war effort. The patriotism she displayed and the care she showed toward the people made her popularity soar and the population adored her, affectionately calling her “La Savoyana”.

Although the Queen was very young, and of course depended on the assistance of more experienced ministers, everyone was impressed by how she rose to the occasion and devoted herself totally to her husband and her new country. Her prestige was unmatched and her authority unquestioned. The war ended with her husband secure on the Spanish throne and some may have wondered how the couple would behave once the King returned to Madrid. He had been forced to leave so early in their marriage and with the Queen so beloved and respected and the King having been so long distant, it would have been natural to wonder if Queen Maria Luisa would easily step into the background and leave the center stage to Felipe V. Fortunately, there were no problems. She was thrilled to simply have him back, the royal couple just as in love as ever and from being a ruling monarch in all but name Queen Maria Luisa willingly and happily devoted herself to being a consort once again.

The only problem for the Queen was her long-time ‘right arm’ Princess des Ursins who, one year after the King returned, was forced to leave the court because of pressure from King Louis XIV. This was mostly due to the fact that she had strongly advised the King and Queen to keep the French at a distance and surround themselves with Spaniards to make sure there was no mistaking that the new Bourbon monarchy would be Spanish and not simply an extension of France. Queen Maria Luisa was extremely distraught to see the Princess go who she had come to depend on so much. However, it was only temporary and to the great delight of the Queen the princess was able to return in 1705. Two years later the Savoy queen did her duty for the Spanish succession and gave birth to a son and heir, the future King Luis I. Two years later another baby boy followed but, sadly, did not live out the year. In 1712 the Queen gave birth to another son, who greatly resembled his mother. However, like the rest, his health was not robust (usually attributed to the degree of relation between the King and Queen) and he would die at only seven years old. In 1713 the Queen presented her husband with another son, the future King Fernando VI, who would thankfully have a long life and go on to enact many reforms in Spain and across the Spanish empire.

Queen Maria Luisa, despite the difficulty she often had with the health of her children, had a happy life with her two sons and a husband she was devoted to and who was devoted to her. She was talented, compassionate and adored by the Spanish people. It was thus very worrying when, not long after the birth of her last child, the Queen fell ill with tuberculosis. There was some hope that she would recover but complications eventually set in and, sadly, she passed away on February 14, 1714 at the age of only 25. She was buried in El Escorial, deeply mourned by her husband, her sons and all the people of Spain. From start to finish she had been an exemplary Queen consort, a star in the royal history of Spain and a credit to the House of Savoy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Royal News Roundup

Starting with the House of Windsor, royal granddaughter Zara Phillips earned a place on the British Olympic equestrian team after a lot of hard work. Congrats to her. HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (one of my very favorite royals) celebrated his ninety-first birthday. HRH is out of the hospital and seems to be doing fine. All the best to the Duke on this exceptional milestone. TRH the Earl and Countess of Wessex visited Gibraltar as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, complete with a giant light show on the side of the famous “rock” and, as usual, the Spanish were none too happy about it and voiced their disapproval, as they have whenever there has been a royal visit to the disputed British foothold in Spain. Nothing unexpected there. What some might consider unexpected: the Prince of Wales as a fashion icon. It’s true, the Prince of Wales penned an article for GQ on his opening of the first ever British Fashion Council’s Men’s Collection in London this week. Quite the dapper Dan.

On the continent, HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark hosted a state visit by President Hu Jintao of the People’s Republic of China to strengthen Sino-Danish ties. Oddly enough I could find no stories about people protesting this visit. Since pro-democracy groups in Britain protested the King of Bahrain and the King of Swaziland having lunch at Windsor Castle a few weeks ago, I was just certain there would be an even bigger uproar of the leader of a single-party dictatorship with nuclear weapons and a million-man army being treated as an honored guest. Oh, wait, that wouldn’t happen because the EU needs money from China. What was I thinking? Also looking to strengthen ties, HM Queen Beatrix began a state visit to Turkey this week. The Netherlands and Turkey have had cordial diplomatic relations dating back to 1611. And, down in sunny Monte Carlo, TSH Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco rubbed elbows with stars of the small screen at the 52nd Monte Carlo Television Festival. Meanwhile, in Sweden, the King was insulted in a novel way; by an inscription on a counterfeit coin (accusing the monarch of having low moral fiber). Republicans in Sweden obviously have too much time on their hands.

In the Far East, TM the Emperor and Empress of Japan as well as TIH the Crown Prince, Crown Princess and other members of the Imperial Family attended the funeral ceremonies for HIH Prince Tomohito of Mikasa on Thursday. Down in the Kingdom of Malaysia the loyal people of Johor came out in droves to show their support for their Sultan who was criticized for spending a substantial amount of money to bid for the WWW1 car registration plate. He announced his victory in the bidding via Twitter. The Sultan used his own money to buy the plate and not a cent from his taxpayer-funded allowance which is used for social welfare projects and his foundations. Sultan Ibrahim was moved by the show of support from his people and addressed those who first criticized him by saying, “Engage your brain before shooting your mouth”. Truer words were never spoken. In the Middle East, 500 college students are set to benefit from a new initiative set up by Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa which will provide financial assistance to Bahraini students short on funds for their education. Finally, in Saudi Arabia, a petition is being circulated to ask King Abdullah to lift the ban on women driving cars. They also thanked the King for all the restrictions he has removed against women so far in his reign (I thought that was nice) but so far, less than 600 have signed the petition.
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