Thursday, January 31, 2013

Monarch Profile: Sultan Ali Shah of Terengganu

One of the more controversial and tragic royal figures of Malaysia in the last century was Sultan Ali Shah Ibni Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah of Terengganu. He was born at Tepi Bukit, Kuala Terengganu on January 24, 1914 as the eldest son and heir of HH Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah, Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan Besar of the State of Terengganu Dar al-Iman, the thirteenth sultan and his wife Tengku Ampuan Besar. He received the best education possible, attending the Sultan Sulaiman School in Kuala Terengganu, St Andrew’s School in Sussex, England and finally Oxford University, giving a balanced background of learning from the east and the west to prepare him for his future role as monarch. However, his future would be drastically different than what was expected because of the intervention of World War II. In December of 1941 the first Japanese forces landed in Malaysia and pushed back the defending British Indian Army. Under the command of Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita (later known as “the Tiger of Malaya) the Japanese forces pushed the British out of Malaysia in early 1942, the campaign culminating in the fall of Singapore in the largest surrender of British forces in history.

On September 25, 1942 HH Sultan Sulaiman died of blood poisoning and the Japanese military authorities oversaw the succession of his son Ali Shah as the Sultan of Terengganu. Later, much controversy was raised by his succession but when one cuts through all the legal nonsense there really is no reason for it. The situation was that the Japanese authorities had suspended the Council of Regency which was the body that was charged with proclaiming each new sultan according to the 1911 constitution. Because of that, Sultan Ali Shah was initially proclaimed “Regent” rather than monarch but later he was officially re-titled Sultan by the supreme Japanese commander in Malaysia. However, the bottom line is that, regardless of all the constitutional red tape, there was no denying that Sultan Ali Shah was the eldest son and heir of the previous monarch and fully entitled to succeed to the throne and had always been intended to do so. He was the legitimate heir and would have become Sultan of Terengganu just the same if the Japanese had never set foot in Malaysia and the British were still in charge.

At the time, however, with the inevitable difficulties of war, the reign of Sultan Ali Shah went forward with ‘business as usual’ as much as possible. The only major change came on October 18, 1943 when the administration of Terengganu was transferred, in name at least, to the Kingdom of Thailand. This was due to the treaty negotiated between the Empire of Japan and the Thai government of Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram by which Thailand cooperated with the Japanese campaign in Southeast Asia in exchange for four border regions, including Terengganu, from Malaysia. This was, of course, significant, but it is possible to make too much of it. It was mostly a shifting of legal responsibility from the Japanese authorities to those of Thailand, however, in Terengganu very little changed. Japan and Thailand were both in agreement that Sultan Ali Shah was the legitimate monarch and he would continue to govern his own people to the same extent as he had before and it is not as though the area had been totally independent previously. In effect, it was simply that instead of the King of Malaysia (or even the King of Great Britain) the area would be under the jurisdiction of the King of Thailand.

Overall, the status of Malaysia was far from being decided. There were a number of influential people, for instance, who, in the event of a Japanese victory, wanted Malaysia and Brunei to be united with the former Dutch East Indies to create a massive “Greater Indonesia”. However, such speculations became irrelevant following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the surrender of all Japanese forces. With that, the British colonial authorities returned to Malaysia and they were quick to take action against any Malaysians who has supported or actively or passively cooperated with the Japanese. As such, they refused to recognize Sultan Ali Shah as the legitimate monarch of Terengganu. It was clear almost immediately that the Sultan would be removed by the British but the reasons and justification for this would be the subject of no small amount of controversy.

On November 5, 1945 the 13-member State Council, with British backing, declared Sultan Ali Shah deposed and named Tengku Ismail as the new Sultan of Terengganu as Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah though he was not formally enthroned until 1949. Officially, the British said this was because of the cooperation of Sultan Ali Shah with the Japanese. The British army also expressed their official disapproval of his divorce of his wife (the daughter of the Sultan of Abu Bakar of Pahang) and remarriage to a woman of dubious background. Rumors also spread of the debts and poor character of the Sultan, which he denounced as simply a campaign to blacken his reputation. It is true that not every royal who cooperated with the Japanese was so punished and Sultan Ali Shah always maintained that it was his refusal to sign the Malayan Union treaty that motivated the British to get rid of him. The legality of how he came to the throne during the Japanese occupation was also brought up, however, once again, this was a rather shaky justification given that there was no doubt that Ali Shah had always been the legitimate and designated heir of his father. However, little could be done as Britain was back in charge again and they clearly did not want Ali Shah on the throne. Nonetheless, he disputed his removal and continued to argue the injustice of the case for the rest of his life.

The former Sultan Ali Shah died on May 17, 1996 still insisting that he should have been the legitimate monarch. He had, in fact, outlived his replacement, Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah, who died in 1979 (even serving a term as King of Malaysia) but it was his royal line which carried on and which continues to reign over Terengganu to this day.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Today, again, we “remember” the regicide of the sainted royal martyr King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland on this day in 1649. As he stated so eloquently at his farce of a show-trial, the King fought and ultimately gave his life for a principle; not simply the principle of monarchy and royal legitimacy but the principle that no one could take what legally belonged to another. He fought for the idea that neither his rights as King nor the rights of any of his subjects should be able to be trampled on simply by brute force. King Charles I fought a noble fight, for the protection of all of his subjects, for effective government and respect for religion. In this day and age especially, when republicanism is fashionable amongst the leftist elites in Britain and where treason is tolerated, it is worth remembering that it was the King who fought for his people, who worked to bring the three kingdoms together and who wanted peace with foreign powers while it was Oliver Cromwell, the only republican leader Britain has ever had, who conquered England, Scotland and Ireland, placed everyone under military rule, held power as a dictator and carried out some of the most brutal massacres in the history of the British Isles.

This is what can be very infuriating for monarchists. Republicans (and any monarchist has encountered this, I certainly have often enough) love to speak in hypothetical terms. They invariably begin their arguments with phrases like, “what if…” and then go on to paint every monarchy as being only one breath away from being under the arbitrary rule of a drooling imbecile. However, monarchists have actual facts on our side. Britain actually did become a republic and it was a horrible, blood-soaked tyranny. That is not hypothetical, that was what really happened. We do not have to imagine anything, it is a fact of history, Britain went through it and the lesson should have been well learned. It certainly was by those who actually experienced it and so enthusiastically welcomed King Charles II home for the restoration of the monarchy. The life and death of King Charles I should not be forgotten or avoided by monarchists but proudly cited as solid evidence of what not only could happen but which actually did happen when the British monarchy was abolished.

Monarch Profile: King Charles I
The Trial and Regicide of Charles I
King Charles the Martyr

Favorite Royal Images: Queen of The Netherlands

The Mad Monarchist salutes HM Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands for more than thirty years of dedicated service to her people and her country. Lang Leve de Koningin!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Consort Profile: Queen Lakshmibai of Jhansi

Although little known outside of India, Lakshmibai, Rani (or Queen) of Jhansi was one of the leading figures in the Indian Mutiny of 1857, aka the First Indian War of Independence or the Sepoy Rebellion. She was born Manikarnika on November 19, 1828 in Kasi (Varanasi) into a family of the Brahmin class. Originally known as Manu, she was only four years old when her mother died and her upbringing was left solely to her father. Perhaps as a result of that she was trained in horsemanship, shooting and swordsmanship as well as the usual scholarly subjects of a traditional education. It was a system she would maintain all throughout her life. In 1842 she was married to Gangadhar Rao the Maharaja of Jhansi and became known officially as Maharani Laksmi Bai of Jhansi. In 1851 she gave birth to a son but, sadly, the baby died within three months. After this tragedy, the royal couple adopted a child but ran into trouble with the growing influence of the British in India who did not recognize the adoptee as a legitimate heir. Not surprisingly, this did not incline the Rani to have very positive feelings about the British East India Company, yet it never rose to the level of prejudice. Still, she remained wary of the growing British influence throughout the neighboring states of India.

Not long after, on November 21, 1853, the Maharaja died leaving Rani Lakshmibai a widow at the age of 18. It was then up to her to defend Jhansi alone but she proved more than up to the task and rejected all offers the British made to her. Yet, over time, as with all the other states one by one, Jhansi did come, effectively, under British control. After the death of the Maharaja the British East India Company did not recognize his adopted son as the new monarch and annexed Jhansi to their territories. The Rani was given a pension and ordered to leave her palace. Yet, Rani Lakshmibai did not change her strict daily routine though, which included regular religious observances, martial arts practice and charitable giving to the poor. She accepted things she could not change and determined to continue forward and live as she always had. Despite her difficulties with the Company, when the mutiny of 1857 broke out there was no certainty about what Rani Lakshmibai would do. Certainly she sympathized with the idea of Indian self-rule but not all of the rebel forces were in agreement or had the same aims and motives in mind.

The Rani was not anxious for trouble and had no desire to see bloodshed in her country but all the same she came to be viewed as an enemy of the British early on after a group of mutineers massacred those at a British post, including the women and children, for which the Rani was assumed to be responsible (though this was a mistaken assumption as she actually had nothing to do with it). Further complicating things was the fact that some of the mutineers tried to take advantage of the war to seize control of Jhansi for themselves. This was not an uncommon problem in the course of this early conflict which had begun spontaneously with no central leader or strategy. However, Rani Lakshmibai was able to overcome them, Jhansi was won back and the Rani restored it to some of its former glory and even assembled an army of women warriors to fight alongside the male army. Given that, it should not be considered shocking that she had first presented herself as an ally of the British because of how the rebels had treated her and her country but the British rejected her hand of friendship due to the misplaced blame placed on her for the earlier massacre.

In 1858 a powerful British force under Sir Hugh Rose marched on Jhansi and demanded the Rani surrender, promising total destruction if he was refused. Rani Lakshmibai famously replied,
“We fight for independence. In the words of Lord Krishna, we will if we are victorious, enjoy the fruits of victory, if defeated and killed on the field of battle, we shall surely earn eternal glory and salvation”. Enduring a siege, bombardment and final attack, she and her forces offered heroic and determined resistance to the British onslaught before the fight became clearly hopeless. As her forces were being overrun the Rani finally determined that she would have to escape the palace and attempt to join with other rebel groups to continue the struggle. Wearing a disguise, she took her son and a few guards and slipped out on horseback in a harrowing escape. She managed to find other compatriots and they made their next stand at Kalpi where the Rani again played a leading role in the defense of the place before again being overcome by the attacking British army. Still, once again, she and the other leaders managed to escape again and regrouped at Gwalior. However, while the other leaders concerned themselves with politics they ignored the urging of Rani Lakshmibai to prepare to defend the place from the inexorable advance of the British. Finally determined to leave the area, the Rani was in the process of leaving when the British caught up with her, including the cavalry of the Eighth King‘s Royal Irish Hussars. She dressed as a sowar and charged the enemy, going down fighting on June 18, 1858.

Monday, January 28, 2013

MM Movie Review: Anna and the King

“Anna and the King” is a 1999 film directed by Andy Tennant and (very loosely) based on the 1944 novel “Anna and the King of Siam” about the relationship between the British tutor Anna Leonowens and HM King Mongkut of Siam (Thailand). The film stars Jodie Foster (as Anna) and Chow Yun-fat (as the King). The original plan had been to shoot it in Thailand but the government, after reviewing the script, refused to allow this and it was shot, instead, in neighboring Malaysia. It is a fairly entertaining movie and certainly a very beautiful looking piece but I can certainly understand the objections of the Thai government to it as it basically takes a very dubious piece of source material and runs wild with it and, as a result, comes off as very condescending toward the Kingdom of Thailand. People who get their history from movies would come away thinking that Thailand owes everything from each step of “social progress” to its very independence to a British schoolteacher who arrived to save everyone and show them the error of their ways. Of course, having said that, it is impossible to address this subject without just a word on the facts of the actual Anna Leonowens upon whose life this movie (and many other works of art on the page, stage and screen) was based on.

Anna Leonowens was, of course, a real woman, an English widow who arrived from India to take a job as tutor at the royal court in Bangkok on the sole condition that she would not include anything about Christianity in her lessons. She did do that job just as she was hired to do, however, in her own writings about her life in Siam she greatly exaggerated her influence and, frankly, made up a great many stories that have since been proven to be totally false. To hear the story as she told it, one would have the impression that she found Siam a backward and barbaric country and, by her own charm, intelligence and influence with the King, set the process into motion for turning the kingdom into a more humane and civilized country. In fact, she was, for the most part, simply a tutor and nothing more and did not have any sort of special relationship or influence on King Mongkut at all. In her own writings and the subsequent works based on them, including “Anna and the King” she would try to take credit for everything from ending slavery to promoting equal rights for women to saving the very independence of Siam itself. Rest assured that is nothing more than some pretty shameless self-promotion and has no basis in actual fact. That should be kept firmly in mind by anyone watching this movie; it is a work of fiction, it is not how things really happened, it’s just for entertainment.

So, to the movie, Anna, her son Louis and her Indian servants arrive in Siam to teach the royal children and immediately causes a stir by (gasp) standing upright in the presence of men and refusing to prostrate herself before the King. Fairly early on we also get the beginnings of the main conflict for the movie which is that the Burmese (a British possession) are colluding with the minister of war to launch a coup to overthrow King Mongkut with the aim of making the country a British colony (none of which actually happened in real life). We do get some liberal-progressive lines from Jodie Foster (and I say that as it sounds more like the words of a left-wing Hollywood actress than a daughter of the British Empire) scolding the Brits for thinking that one country or culture could be superior to another. That’s all fine and dandy except that it goes against her actions throughout most of the entire movie. She is the one, for example, who teaches the little crown prince (future King Chulalongkorn) that slavery is wrong by having him read the American novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, to the displeasure of his father. It is Anna who arranges a reception for the British officials, getting everyone to dress in European clothes, eat with a knife and fork and to stop falling prostrate whenever the King comes into the room. It is Anna who stands up for the tragic Juliet-figure of Tuptim (Bai Ling) who is forced into the royal harem despite being in love with another man -which ends in tragedy.

In the climax of the film, as the King goes out to meet a Burmese invasion force, it is also Anna who uses bugle calls and fireworks to frighten the enemy away just when they are on the cusp of victory. So, despite her earlier words, the movie is filled with examples of how it took the arrival of this English woman to show the Siamese the error of their ways and to adopt the customs and values of her own people. Given that, it is certainly not surprising (or at least shouldn’t be) that the Thai authorities refused to allow the film to be shown in their own country. Overall, it is pretty blatantly condescending, even if it does make the British look bad as well. In fact, almost every main character comes off in a rather poor light other than Anna herself who is not always successful (she couldn’t save Tuptim) but who is always “right” from the standpoint of the audience with modern liberal values. It becomes, at some points, rather absurd, particularly the ending, which makes the Southeast Asians, whether Burmese or Siamese, seem like particularly inept simpletons, easily fooled by the last-minute trickery of an English woman and her little boy. The film also makes Anna seem to be credited with all of the great works of the future reign of King Chulalongkorn the Great. He is a rather arrogant, petulant little brat when Anna first arrives but her firmness and instruction makes him a compassionate liberal who will one day abolish slavery in Siam when he becomes king. Such arrogance.

However, the film is also not without some positive elements. Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-fat are both acting pros and turn in great performances. It is beautifully shot and really succeeds in putting the viewer in the correct time and place. The palaces are gorgeous, the scenery is breathtaking and, for many people I think, the visuals alone would be worth the price of the rental (or however people are seeing movies these days). The King, although not always a “nice” guy is portrayed pretty positively and he is shown as a man who is genuinely struggling to do the right thing. There are also some fairly funny moments from time to time, such as the look the Indian servants silently exchange when Anna tells her son that “India is British Louis, that’s what being colonized is all about” or Louis, in their house surrounded by chanting Buddhist monks, says he feels like they’re living “in a beehive”. The sets, the costumes and the overall “look” of the movie was, to me, the strongest aspect of it and, as film is a visual medium, that goes a long way. It is no surprise that it received two Academy Award nominations for Art Direction and Costume Design but, overall, was not a very successful film, losing money domestically and only making a minor profit internationally.

I cannot say enough good things about the “look” of this movie but, the problem is, that is about the only consistently good thing there is to say about it at all. The plot is not very clear, it doesn’t move along very well (seems to drag at times) and the level of condescension toward Thai history and culture is just crushing. The film could have been paced much better if it did not have to stop every few minutes to go off on another subplot so that Anna could teach the backward locals about everything from civil rights to gender equality. Of course, there was the usual controversy when it was banned in Thailand about “freedom of speech” but, honestly, I cannot imagine anyone in Thailand liking this movie if they have an ounce of national pride in them at all. There are, of course, worse movies to see from a monarchist perspective alone. There are no cheap-shots at the institution itself and the finger-wagging is all about cultures rather than governments; which is to say that Siam is shown as backward and the British are shown as meanies (aside from Anna of course). I could give it an unenthusiastic recommendation for the visuals but, on the whole, it is not one I would recommend just for itself.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

MM Sunday Scripture

Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upheld by mercy.

-Proverbs 20:28

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the Far East, HM Queen Jetsun of Bhutan launched a new book titled “Jewel in the Crown” which features paintings of her wedding to the King of the Land of the Thunder Dragon in 2011. Later, on Wednesday, TM the King and Queen of Bhutan started a seven day official state visit to India. Meanwhile this week, in the Kingdom of Thailand, a magazine editor and political activist aligned with the red-shirt movement that caused so much trouble in the past was sentenced to a 10-years in prison for two articles deemed insulting to the monarchy. The man in question has launched a petition drive against the laws protecting the monarchy. Of course, international groups have made a fuss about it but, at least, with other similar cases recently in addition to this one, the mask of the red short movement has clearly come off. The movement is bankrolled by the exiled former PM and business mogul Thaksin Shinawatra who was found guilty of corruption. Also, this weekend, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will visit Singapore. This week the royals of Brunei turned out to welcome HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and other Dutch royals as part of a delegation to strengthen bilateral relations.

In the Middle East, HM the King of Bahrain has invited opposition parties to return to talks on Monday in an effort to end the political deadlock that has plagued the small country which has been beset for some time by “Arab Spring” unrest. In Jordan, Queen Rania has been speaking about “sustainability” and King Abdullah II has promised that after the next elections Jordanians will have their first popularly elected prime minister. However, worries remain as analysts say that most do not expect any real changes. Jordan has been rocked by protests since the start of the “Arab Spring” and these have been growing worse and increasingly hostile to the monarchy as the mostly urban democracy-advocates have been joined by the Islamic Brotherhood and many tribal leaders, formerly the bedrock of support for the monarchy, who are upset with what they perceive as a too lavish and western lifestyle of the Royal Family, particularly the Queen. And, of course, all are upset by the lackluster economic situation.

European royal news was, thankfully, mostly happy this week. At the top of the list of good news was the birth of two new Prussian princes in Germany on Sunday when Princess Sophie, wife of Prince Georg Friedrich, gave birth to twins; Prince Carl Friedrich and Prince Louis Ferdinand. We send our heartfelt congratulations to the Prussian Royal couple on this most happy occasion. In Serbia it was a belated homecoming for HM King Peter II, the last King of Yugoslavia whose remains were returned to his native land on Tuesday after being originally buried in Illinois due to the Royal Family being forced into exile by World War II and the subsequent communist takeover. In the Principality of Monaco the Princely Family was out in force for the annual International Circus festival with HSH Princess Stephanie taking center stage. In Sweden it was a busy week of visits and meetings for the Royal Family with the King meeting the head of the Public Employment Service, visiting the Institute for Evaluation of the Labor Market and meeting with the National Criminal Police. Also this week Prince Daniel officially launched the Prince Daniel’s Fellowship which aims at inspiring young people to become entrepreneurs. And in the United Kingdom it was a happy homecoming for Prince Harry who finished his latest four-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. For some reason I have noticed that his phrase “take a life to save a life” got a great deal of attention with headlines about the prince admitting he had “killed people” and the like. Perhaps British newspaper editors have lived their whole lives in total ignorance of just what it is that soldiers do…

Friday, January 25, 2013

Abortion and Why a Monarch is not a Messiah

In the United States at least, January is “Pro-Life Month” due to the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that ruled state laws prohibiting abortion to be unconstitutional; effectively making the barbaric practice legal nationwide. Today it is legal throughout almost every country in the western world, which says a great deal about not only how far we have fallen from traditional moral values but also the extent to which western civilization seems intent on eradicating itself. Being a quite reactionary sort there is much about modern society that displeases me but I do not think there is anything so widely accepted that is more blatantly immoral than abortion. It is a disgusting act of the most horrific cruelty and, even as bad as things are, it astounds me that anyone could ever think it to be acceptable. When I see people actually cheering the legality of abortion and the fact that it is so widely available, I cannot help but think of my sisters. They were two beautiful twin baby girls who were sadly stillborn. They had death certificates but no birth certificates. I think of them because, according to the pro-abortion crowd, they were not ever even considered human. I cannot comprehend that, especially seeing the pain my parents carry with them to this day over the loss of my sisters, even after several decades have elapsed. The hurt is real and it has never gone away.

My parents have had to bury three of their five children and that is something no legitimate human being would ever want anyone on earth to experience. Yet, it seems to me that a great many do not seem capable of understanding such suffering. The pro-abortion crowd, again, would say that my sisters never really existed. I never got to see them myself but I can see them in my mind, I can see their grave with their shared headstone with the phrase, “Budded on earth to bloom in glory” and it never fails to make me emotional. I do not see how any person could not understand this. I miss them. I never laid eyes on them, but I miss them more than I could say, just as I so badly miss my older brother who has crossed over that river, so badly that thoughts of him still bring tears to my eyes. I miss my sisters growing up with me, I miss not knowing what they would have done with their lives. There is a hole in me and in my family because of their absence. I wonder what they would be doing now, would they be married, would they have children of their own? The fact that they died in the womb makes absolutely no difference. I miss them. They were real and the pain is real because they are not here. Whenever I think of a child being aborted, I think of them and I think that there is one more child, just like my identical twin sisters who never got a chance and without whom the world is a poorer place. How on earth can anyone celebrate such a thing or try to wrap such cruelty in a cloak of righteousness?

It seems utterly perverse to me that an act as heinous as killing your own children, purposely inflicting the sort of pain my parents, I know, would have given their own lives to avoid, is considered a “human right” by so many people. I cannot understand it and I know I never will. It makes me admire all the more the monarchs like HM King Baudouin of the Belgians (RIP) and HSH Prince Alois of Liechtenstein who took a stand against such barbarism. However, those names seem rather lonely even among the greatly thinned ranks of the crowned heads of Europe. True enough, the queens of Britain, The Netherlands and Denmark and the kings of Spain, Norway, Sweden and even Belgium have all seen pro-abortion laws passed in their countries. Many traditionally minded people, even monarchists, have, I know, been outraged by this. I am saddened by it but not outraged, at least not so far as the monarchs are concerned. Abortion is only one (though perhaps the worst) symptom of a vastly more widespread disease. It is evidence of a sick, irresponsible, selfish and also self-hating culture. After all, it is not as though Spain, for example, was as solidly and devoutly Catholic as during the reign of Felipe II when the Cortes one day passed a law legalizing abortion and foisted it on the people. No, the public as a whole aided or allowed those who would do such a thing to be given power and approved of the decision because their traditional morals were lost, little by little, over time.

Yet, some still blame the King, just as some blame the monarchs in other countries. Even in the case of Belgium, though it astounds me, some still blame the King for not doing more because, unlike in Liechtenstein, the opposition of the monarch was not enough to stop abortion from becoming legal. I say, what more could he have done? When a bill is presented to the King, all he can do is sign or not sign and King Baudouin refused to sign. Even in Liechtenstein, things would be quite different if the public favored abortion or considered the principle of that to be of greater value than their monarchy. If the public there had been of the same mind as the Belgians, abortion would be legal there too but, I would think, it would also be a republic as the Princely Family would either be voted out or leave voluntarily if not allowed to rule as they please. Holding a monarch responsible for this would be like holding a parent responsible for their grown child committing suicide. At some point, people have to answer for their own decisions and we cannot expect a mere monarch to be a messiah and save us from our own wickedness. Even the absolute monarchs of eras past were not so powerful as to be able to control the hearts and souls of all.

How can any one person be expected to change the morals of an entire country? The case of St Joan of Arc comes to mind. Personally, I believe that young girl was touched by the hand of God for a specific purpose. To my mind, nothing else could possibly explain her remarkable life and the fact that a near illiterate peasant girl was able to defeat the magnificent power of the armies of England. Yet, even then, Joan of Arc could not have accomplished her mission were it not for the fact that those around her made a conscious decision to follow her and fight for her. She alone could not have forced the French knights to charge the English works at Orleans against their will. No government, no matter how democratic or tyrannical, can function if a majority of the people do not support it or at least accept it. A single monarch cannot turn a population of upright and moral people into a nation of murderers and a single monarch cannot turn an entire society that has turned away from God and traditional morality back to righteousness. That is expecting far too much of them, yet that is what some seem to expect.

Consider, for a moment, what those are saying who would hold their monarch responsible for the sad state of western civilization. The people vote into power the governments which propose laws that are totally repugnant to basic human decency and then some still blame the monarch for not stopping them from doing what they were elected to do. In effect, these people are saying that it is the monarch who should save the public from their own wickedness. A constitutional monarch is quite limited and yet some seem to still mistake them for God. Perhaps even more as even the Almighty gave humanity free will and did not force people to do the right thing. In a Christian context, this would be like blaming God for our original sin because He did nothing to stop Adam and Eve from eating the apple beyond warning them not to. He told them not to eat it but they exercised their own free will and ate the infamous fruit which resulted in very real consequences.

As I hope I have made clear, I will take second place to no one in my abhorrence of abortion, and there are other issues I could cite as well but that seems the most grievous to me, so I do not want anyone thinking I am trying to give a pass to monarchs who have assented to such laws because I do not consider the issue to be all that serious. However, I have to say, those who would heap blame on monarchs for these things seem rather hypocritical or lazy to me. It seems to me that they are really expecting their monarch to save them from actually having to do the work of changing the culture by converting those around them to traditional moral values. Are all of those who blame and accuse really doing everything in their power to convince those around them of the error of their ways, to build support for a government that would be better or are they simply cutting themselves off from the wicked world and blaming their monarch for not doing their job for them?

It is a hard job and it can certainly seem unfair that we have to bear the punishment for the decisions taken by those generations of long ago. However, we were not promised a life of ease and comfort and the struggle to stay on the path of righteousness is the most arduous and unending struggle of human existence. We have to do our part just as our monarchs must do their own as well. However, how they do is for the Almighty to judge and there seems something just slightly republican to me about those who would sit in judgment of their own sovereign and rule on whether or not they have done their duty to your satisfaction. Let God be the judge of princes and let each of us focus on our own duty, stop worrying about whether the King or Queen did all they could do and worry about whether we have done all we can do to restore our countries to the straight and narrow path. I will not condemn a reigning monarch for not being able to drag people into the temple of God but I will point to the example of those like the Prince of Liechtenstein and the late King of the Belgians and applaud them for their moral courage in standing up to an insidious evil. And though my own health seems to be worsening, so long as I am able, I will keep trying to convince people to return to traditional values and traditional authority until, if God has mercy on me, I am reunited with my departed loved ones. Until that day I shall remain … The Mad Monarchist.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Monarchist Profile: Yukio Mishima

Today, most people remember Yukio Mishima as perhaps the most significant Japanese novelist of the last century. They remember his many, many written works, perhaps some of his dramatic photographs and usually something about his rather unusual demise; unusual in that it was done in keeping with an ancient tradition most thought had been consigned to the past. He remains a controversial figure, both for his own life and his political opinions which most separate from his writing which is almost universally praised. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times and was a prolific artist, producing forty novels, twenty books of essays, twenty books of short stories, eighteen plays, one libretto and one motion picture. That is all well known and widely celebrated. Perhaps less well known is the fact that he was a staunch monarchist though in a way very unique to his own culture and background and he held to a style of monarchism that was bound up in his artistic view of beauty and the timeless, sacred aspects of existence that mankind cannot fully grasp, and would only destroy if he tried. He was a complex individual but his priorities can be clearly seen in the manner in which he exited this life, calling for a full restoration of the Emperor in the traditional style.

Yukio Mishima was born on January 14, 1925 in Kimitake Hiraoka, outside Tokyo to a mid-level government employee. He was largely raised by his grandmother, however, who had a profound impact on his life. She influenced his love of theatrics and also his appreciation for the traditional and aristocratic values of old Japan as she had grown up in the household of Prince Arisugawa Taruhito. She also would not allow him to indulge in most recreational activities for boys, fearing he would get hurt, and his father finally took him back for fear that he was being surrounded by too many feminine influences. In school he began writing and studying the styles of noted authors from both Japan and abroad, though he often had to do so secretly as his father disapproved of such a pastime. He began writing poetry and had his first short stories published in a school magazine. His teachers encouraged him and also gave him the nom-de-plume “Yukio Mishima” so that he could pursue his talent anonymously and avoid any unpleasantness from his father or the other boys in school. During World War II he received his draft notice for the Imperial Army but was sick at the time of his physical examination and was rejected. Instead, he went to the University of Tokyo and continued writing in his spare time.

After graduation his first job was with the Ministry of Finance but he found it frustrating and exhausting and soon quit to focus on his literary career. His work began to gain notice, soon around the world and by the age of 24 he had received his first nomination for the Nobel Prize and was able to travel around the world. His literary work is not our focus here but there are some common themes throughout which illustrate his broader world view. His conception of beauty is one such theme. In “Spring Snow”, for example, he wrote, “Dreams, memories, the sacred--they are all alike in that they are beyond our grasp. Once we are even marginally separated from what we can touch, the object is sanctified; it acquires the beauty of the unattainable, the quality of the miraculous. Everything, really, has this quality of sacredness, but we can desecrate it at a touch. How strange man is! His touch defiles and yet he contains the source of miracles.” He often wrote of perfect beauty as a terrible, destructive force, though not always in the negative way most would assume. As he grew older he also became rather frustrated at the young people around him and their disconnect from the values and culture of their own past. In “After the Banquet” he wrote, “Young people get the foolish idea that what is new for them must be new for everybody else too. No matter how unconventional they get, they’re just repeating what others before them have done.”

As many fans as he gained by his writing, Yukio Mishima began to attract criticism for his political views. He joined the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force and began calling for constitutional reform in Japan, the restoration of the military, a stronger foreign policy and a return to a righteous nationalism focused on the Emperor as the living embodiment of the country. This did not mean that he agreed with everything the actual Emperor did and once stated that the Showa Emperor should have abdicated rather than give in to the demands of the United States that he renounce his traditional position in Japanese life. As controversial as these views were to some, he was allowed to form his own paramilitary force, Tatenokai or the “Shield Society”, recruited mostly from among college students and which was given special permission to train with the Ground Self-Defense Force. He married during this time and had a daughter, never losing touch with his artistic interests but becoming ever more known for his emphasis on physical fitness, the martial arts and the bushido code of the Samurai; something which had rather fallen out of favor after the war. Simultaneously, in the 60’s he worked as a model and began appearing in motion pictures.

Mishima was very alarmed by the growing leftist and communist movement in the universities of his time, which sought to destroy the traditional Japanese spirit (as they do all such national traditions everywhere) and he did not shy away from stating that the war in Manchuria in the 30’s was an example of how actively anti-communist Japan had been. He deplored how outside influences in the culture were overriding traditional values, ideals and even works of art but he was never a simple reactionary but rather favored a fusion of the old and the new in a way that could be seen as very in keeping with what Japan had been through in the past. Mishima wanted a return of, if not the warrior spirit as it had been before the war, at least a proper respect and appreciation for it as he felt like the denial of this by the post-war pacifists was not only harmful but not even genuine. He greatly admired the old samurai image of the warrior that was, at once, brutal and elegant. Heads were also turned when he spoke with admiration of the old custom of ritual suicide of hara-kiri or seppuku and said rather dejectedly that there was no such thing as a heroic death in the world anymore.

The final act in the life of Yukio Mishima was surely the most outlandish. Overall, the official intent was to stage a sort of military coup that would restore the Emperor to power. However, there has always been a debate over whether Mishima actually believed there was even the slightest chance of this working or, as seems more likely, it was simply a dramatic gesture that would allow him to end his life on his own terms for the cause he believed in. On November 25, 1970 Yukio Mishima and four other members of the Shield Society entered the headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Self-Defense Force, Ichigaya Camp, in Tokyo. They tied up the commander in his office, presented the manifesto of their political beliefs and Mishima came out on the balcony, making a rousing speech to the troops gathered below. He called upon them to rise up and overthrow the government and restore the Emperor but he was met only with jeers and mockery. After delivering his speech, Mishima went back inside and performed the traditional ritual of seppuku. The ineptitude of his second made it a rather ugly affair but all was carried out and Mishima had left special provision for the legal defense of those who remained. It was a traditional and dramatic end to the life of a man who had been both of those things.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Battlefield Royal: Prince Eugene of Savoy

In terms of nationality, categorizing Prince Eugene of Savoy can be a little complicated. He was an Italian by blood, born in France who gained a place in history as a general for the Hapsburgs of Austria. He was born in Paris on October 18, 1663 to Olympia Mancini (a niece of Cardinal Mazarin) and Eugene Maurice, Count of Soissons, Count of Dreux and Prince of Savoy (a grandson of Duke Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy) and son of the Prince of Carignano. At the time this was a collateral branch of the House of Savoy but it would eventually become the line that would make up the Kings of Italy. Eugene was the youngest of five sons who, along with their three sisters, saw little of their parents. His father was a dutiful soldier, usually off on campaign, and his mother was wrapped up in the petty politics of the French court surrounding King Louis XIV. Prince Eugene was not very old when his father died and scandal forced his mother to flee France across the Belgian border, then the territory of the House of Hapsburg. Prince Eugene, as a younger son, was expected to have a clerical occupation but the life of a priest did not appeal to the young Prince Eugene and he applied to King Louis XIV for a commission in the French army. Unfortunately (for France at least) the King refused, being rather unfavorable towards the family of the Prince and not terribly impressed by his, perhaps, over-confident attitude.

So it was that the Kingdom of France lost the chance to have as one of their own a man who would prove to be one of the greatest military leaders in history and certainly the most renowned captain of his age. Of course, throughout his childhood, no one expected Prince Eugene to pursue a military career at all. Considered to be something of a weakling and not at all attractive, the grandmother who mostly raised him pushed toward the Church but, as time would tell, the priesthood was not his calling. He went to Austria and joined the army of the Hapsburg Emperor, rising rapidly through the ranks, establishing his reputation early in the war to liberate Hungary from the Turks and the War of the Grand Alliance. His rise was based purely on merit; he won battles and was rewarded with promotion after each success so that by the time he was thirty he had already attained the position of field marshal.

Certain tactics would define the career of Prince Eugene of Savoy and win battle after battle for him; speed, mobility and clever use of the terrain to his own advantage. At these, Prince Eugene was a master and they proved a winning combination for him. During the War of the Spanish Succession he defeated the French at Carpi in 1701, joined with the British forces of the great Marlborough to defeat the French and Bavarians at Blenheim in 1704 and two years later led a victorious campaign that drove the French out of Italy. In 1708 he besieged and finally captured the French fortress at Lille, designed by the brilliant French military engineer Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban, which had previously been considered totally impregnable. That same year the Prince joined forced with Marlborough again to administer another victory over France in Flanders. Throughout his career, the Prince often made the supposedly impossible seem almost easy as he won battle after battle and campaign after campaign, rapidly gaining the reputation of one of the greatest military leaders of his time. Given that so many of his victories were over the armies of France, one cannot help but wonder if anyone in Paris cursed the seemingly inconsequential decision of King Louis XIV not to enlist the young Savoy in the French army as he had originally intended. One cannot help but wonder how history might have been changed if he had done so and if the Prince of Savoy had fought under the golden lilies instead of the double eagle.

Already a living legend in western Europe, Prince Eugene ended his career where he had first started it, fighting in the east against the Ottoman Turks. He fought his last major campaign in 1716 which saw a battle any observer would have expected to be his last. The Prince found himself totally surrounded by a massive Turkish army of 200,000 men with only a quarter as many in his own ranks. Anyone would have thought his fate was sealed. However, still true to character, the Prince kept his cool and would not even consider conceding the field and attempting to retreat. Instead, he targeted the Turkish artillery and launched a daring bayonet charge on the guns in the middle of the night, capturing the enemy position, throwing their army into confusion and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The entire situation was reversed and in the aftermath the Hapsburg armies marched triumphantly to liberate the city of Belgrade. After this campaign, the Prince retired from active duty in the field but continued to serve as a military advisor to Emperor Charles VI. Still, the Prince had always been drawn to the active and adventurous life of the soldier and that never went away so that he found it extremely difficult to remain behind a desk in Vienna. He could not resist joining the Austrian army in the field in the Rhine valley during the War of the Polish Succession. He died in Vienna two years later on April 21, 1736.

Still today Prince Eugene of Savoy stands as one of the most brilliant military leaders Europe has ever produced. He was a master at quick movements, assessing a situation and turning it to his advantage and he was never lacking in courage. In fact, he sustained many serious wounds throughout his career due to his habit of always leading from the front. He worked well with his allies and never seemed to have any prejudices against anyone other than the French against whom he remained quite bitter throughout his life. He abolished the custom of purchasing commissions in his army and promoted men based solely on their ability and his fondness for cavalry in scouting enemy positions and fighting in both mounted and dismounted roles would influence the Hapsburg armed forces for centuries. He also took great care to establish forward supply bases to keep his troops well fed and well equipped, proving the point that, as the old saying goes, ‘amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics’. His campaigns were brilliant and secured the place of Austria as the dominant power in the German-speaking world. Today he might not be as well remembered as some of the other great captains of history but the Comte de Saxe, Frederick the Great and Napoleon all studied his career and adopted his innovations. It says something that Napoleon, Emperor of the French, considered Prince Eugene of Savoy one of the most gifted and influential military leaders of all time. One cannot help but wonder what the Prince would have thought of such a compliment coming from such a quarter.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monarch Profile: King Otto of Bavaria

The penultimate King of Bavaria was born Otto Wilhelm Luitpold Adalbert Waldemar von Wittelsbach in Munich on April 27, 1848 to King Maximilian II and Queen Marie of Prussia, their second son. At his baptism, King Otto I of Greece (his uncle) stood as his godfather. It was a tumultuous time for Bavaria, a year of revolutions across Europe and only one month before Maximilian II succeeded to the Bavarian throne, first going along with the liberal nationalists but then, upon seeing the direction they wished to take, reverting back to being a staunch ally of the Austrian Empire. During these years, Prince Otto and his elder brother, Crown Prince Ludwig, spent most of their time living with their private tutors, though for about 10 years after 1853 they were able to enjoy summers with their family all together at Berchtesgaden. His brother had only just turned 18 when Maximilian II died and the Crown Prince became King Ludwig II in 1864. Just the year before Prince Otto began his service in the Bavarian army and the same year his brother came to the throne became a commissioned officer, in keeping with family tradition. However, he had been born two month premature and there were some concerns about his health.

These concerns increased somewhat the following year when some began to notice that Prince Otto was behaving rather oddly. However, none of it seemed too serious and in 1866 he was promoted to captain and began active service with the Royal Bavarian Infantry Guards as well as being admitted to the Order of St George. In 1866 he served in the Austro-Prussian War, on the side of Austria, but the defeat forced Bavaria into an alliance with Prussia and so, by then promoted to colonel, Prince Otto served alongside the Prussians during the 1870 war with France. When the King of Prussia was proclaimed German Kaiser by the assembled German princes at the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles it was Prince Otto, along with his uncle, who represented the Kingdom of Bavaria. The second German Empire was born but Prince Otto, nor his brother, were extremely enthusiastic about it and the Prince found the Prussians just a bit too proud and triumphalistic. There were obviously some mixed feelings about this turn of events in Bavaria, a still largely rural Catholic monarchy more closely connected to Austria than the more urban-dominated and Protestant Kingdom of Prussia. However, Prince Otto would soon become of interest to the Prussians, specifically Chancellor Bismarck, not because of his political views but the state of his mental health.

Soon after the war Prince Otto began displaying even more behavior that was considered strange (though not to me). He became very reclusive and suspicious about other people, especially strangers and did not like the public staring at him. He stopped shaving and seemed to have trouble remembering things (again, none of which seems odd to me) and concerns eventually reached all the way to Berlin. It probably did not help that his older brother was also coming to be considered as suffering from depression and other vague psychiatric disorders (they usually are). In 1872 he was officially diagnosed as being mentally ill, specialists were called in and the following year a noted expert in the field confirmed the diagnosis. Given that, I have to say here again that an “expert” in the field of psychiatry is a little misleading given how little, even today, medical science actually understands about the workings of the human mind. The royal handlers tried to keep Prince Otto out of public view but there were still incidents that caused shock, such as when he rushed into a church in his hunting clothes and asked the bishop to forgive his sins. Okay, maybe the timing could have been better but, isn’t that what a bishop is supposed to do for a penitent sinner? Still doesn’t seem that crazy to me.

Prince Otto was kept under constant supervision for the most part after that and stayed at palaces in the country outside of Munich, far away from public view. King Ludwig II would visit him occasionally and gave strict instructions that he not be mistreated or manhandled. After 1883 he was kept at a specially converted palace (Fuerstenried) outside Munich for the rest of his life. Much of this remained a mystery to the general public but matters came to a head in 1886 when King Ludwig II was declared mentally unfit and Prince Luitpold was appointed regent to handle all royal duties. However, shortly thereafter Ludwig II died under mysterious circumstances and so, legally anyway, Prince Otto became King of Bavaria on June 13, 1886. No one was about to entrust him with the powers of this office though and so Prince Luitpold continued as regent with the explanation that King Otto was suffering from acute melancholy.

So, Prince Luitpold went on being essentially the King of Bavaria in all but name while King Otto remained in his country estate, dressing in black, chain-smoking, ignoring people and other such “crazy” things. Of course, I am the last person who would ever try to make light of the mentally ill but it is simply that so many of the things cited as evidence of his unbalanced mental state are so ridiculous and I am well aware that a great many things psychiatric experts point to as “insane” behavior are often things plenty of people do who are never considered insane. Once a person has been painted with the brush of madness, nearly every little even slightly odd thing they may do seems “crazy” to outside observers while if someone else were to do the exact same thing that person would simply be shrugged off as a little eccentric. For example, King Otto insisted that all doors at his palace be kept open at all times and would fly into a rage if he found one closed. I know people who may not start shouting and banging on every closed door they find but who obsessively insist on keeping all their doors open. These people have never been diagnosed with any mental illness while yours truly (who medical science says there is a great deal wrong with) am a bit compulsive about keeping all doors shut. What does it prove?

This situation remained constant for most of the rest of the life of King Otto. Prince Luitpold served as regent until 1912 when he died and was succeeded by his son Prince Ludwig (his second son, Prince Leopold, would go on to be commander of all German forces on the Eastern Front in World War I). Some wanted Prince Ludwig to give up all pretenses and become King of Bavaria himself at once, however, that would have amounted to a coup against King Otto and the illegality of it would have caused problems. Therefore he had to wait until 1913 when the Bavarian parliament next came into session and they then amended the constitution to allow for a regent to take the crown if the monarch was incapacitated for ten years with no hope for recovery. On November 5, 1913 King Otto was, therefore, legally deposed and replaced by then King Ludwig III of Bavaria. However, due to his condition and the amount of public sympathy for him, King Otto did not lose his title or royal status but continued to live and be treated as he always had and so, for a few years, Bavaria was a kingdom with two kings.

King Otto died, to the surprise of everyone, from a bowel obstruction on October 11, 1916. As Germany was then in the middle of a world war, it was not quite the momentous event the death of a king usually is. He was buried in St Michael’s Church in Munich, a monarch who spent his entire reign as King in name only and who few people knew or had ever even seen. His is a rather sad case and though there are suspicions regarding the removal of his brother, the case of King Otto can be seen as an example to refute those willfully ignorant republicans who seem to think that a monarchy means total power is handed to the next person in line even if they are a raving lunatic. King Otto was certainly not that but he was, according to the experts of his time, not of sound mind and judgment. Therefore, with no fuss or uproar, had his legal powers taken up by a regent until he was finally replaced to live out the rest of his life under the care of his doctors and attendants.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

MM Sunday Scripture

Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor. Servants be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.

-I Peter 2:17-18

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Royal News Roundup

In the lands of eternal Asia this week, on Wednesday, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan as well as HIH the Crown Prince and other Imperial Family members, attended the 2013 New Year Poetry Reading Ceremony which was held at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. HM the Emperor read a poem of his own about Okinawa. Down south in the Kingdom of Cambodia, 135 policemen are rehearsing for the part they will have in the funeral procession next month for the late “King-Father” Norodom Sihanouk. Across the border in Thailand, a special exhibition will be held from January 18 to February 26 at the Queen’s Gallery featuring works by the “elusive” artist HSH Princess Marsi Sukhumbhand Paribatra. On the other side of the continent, in Saudi Arabia, the “Red Prince” Talal bin Abdul Aziz is still calling for greater democracy and rights for women while at the same time leading Islamic clerics have been criticizing HM King Abdullah (brother of the ‘Red Prince’) for appointing 30 women to the Shura Council, allowing women to vote and run for political office. Same old story, too much for some, not enough for others. And, across the border in Jordan, where the monarchy faces growing criticism, HM Queen Rania spoke at “Sustainability Week” in Abu Dhabi this week about “energy poverty” reminding attendees that 1 in 5 people in the world lack access to grid electricity.

Over in Europe, HM the Dowager Queen Fabiola of the Belgians has come under criticism over the establishment of a foundation to provide for her nieces and nephews, for a limited time, should any of them fall on hard times. Hardly seems outrageous to me but, sadly, there are those in Belgium who will seize on anything to attack the monarchy and the Dowager Queen has been accused of trying to avoid taxes. Personally, I find it ridiculous the Dowager Queen should have to pay taxes at all. In any event, reductions in the royal allowance has been scheduled for this summer and Elio Di Rupo, the Belgian PM (and homosexual Francophone socialist) has said he wants the allowance to the Dowager Queen cut by half a million euro, despite the fact that, as the Queen herself said, her allowance goes almost entirely to maintaining her home and mostly for the salary and benefits of her staff. All this proposed reduction would do, realistically, is put people out of a job. In better news, HRH Crown Princess Mathilde celebrates her 40th birthday on Sunday and she still looks great and continues to do a great job. We wish HRH a happy birthday and hope for many, many more to come.

In the sunny Principality of Monaco there has been legal to report this week. After a high court ruling in his favor, HSH Prince Albert II is set to receive 300,000 pounds plus legal expenses from the Sunday Times newspaper over unsupported and scandalous articles they printed about the Prince and Princess of Monaco just prior to their wedding. The Sunday Times also had to read out a formal apology in court. The articles included a slew of slanderous gossip and, hopefully, this ruling will make papers think twice about taking the word of professional charlatans. How about just printing verifiable facts from now on? The House of Grimaldi also recently released a statement distancing themselves from the upcoming film “Grace of Monaco”. Although previously supportive, the statement put out by Prince Albert II, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie stated that the film is not a true biopic of their mother and contains many inaccuracies which they brought to the attention of the filmmakers but which they refused to redress. The film covers a particularly tense moment in Franco-Monegasque history and stars Nichole Kidman as Princess Grace and Tim Roth as Prince Rainier III.

For the House of Windsor this week, it was announced that the new addition to the family of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is due to arrive in July. Good news for them, and good news for the Prince of Wales whose organic food label is doing very well but, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Prince and Princess of Kent who have taken a hard financial hit in their own business since the recession. Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie have also been enlisted in trying to encourage trade and help British business. However, perhaps the biggest news this week involved the Queen and that dusty, old, legal formality called “Royal Assent”. It has been common knowledge for ages that no British monarch since Queen Anne has refused Royal Assent to a bill but, not so claim certain Mps and investigators from “The Guardian” (yes, I know…) who claim that the Queen has vetoed bills at least three times in her reign; in 1964 over a titles abolition bill, in 1969 over the independence of Rhodesia and in 1999 over military action in Iraq. A statement from the Palace only reiterated that the Queen takes no action on any bill without the advice of the ministers and, so far, most of the outrage is directed at Tony Blair and other of his predecessors for using the Crown to get them out of a tight spot. However, this could be used as a wedge issue to remove the role of the Crown in the legislative process entirely.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Papal Profile: Pope Clement XIII

Pope Clement XIII is another of the often-overlooked Pontiffs, coming at a time when the papacy had becoming increasingly irrelevant in the political arena of Europe and just before the reign of the oft-derided Clement XIV. However, everyone who is a fan of the Jesuits and criticizes Clement XIV for their suppression should show equal zeal in praising his predecessor Clement XIII for his stalwart defense of the order. He was born on March 7, 1693 as Carlo della Torre Rezzonico to a well-to-do family of merchants from the Republic of Venice. He entered the Church and worked his way up through the ranks, serving as Bishop of Padua before being accorded the status of cardinal priest which included him in the conclave of 1758 to choose a new Pontiff following the death of Pope Benedict XIV. He had conceded a great deal of political muscle to restore good relations with the major Catholic powers of Europe but still managed to alienate many of the same, particularly Austria, so there was some lingering acrimony when the time came for the next election and, indeed, the cardinal priest from Venice was not the first choice. That man, however, was vetoed by the Kingdom of France and so Torre Rezzonico was chosen next as a compromise candidate, being elected on July 6, 1758 at the age of 65 and taking the name of Pope Clement XIII.

Whereas his immediate predecessor had been somewhat critical of the Society of Jesus, reprimanding some of them to stick to spiritual matters and stay out of politics, the Jesuits found a devoted champion in the person of Pope Clement XIII. It was an issue that came quickly to the forefront as within two months of his election King Joseph I of Portugal banished all members of the society from his kingdom on the belief that they had been behind an attempt on his life. Of course, as was common in these cases, more than the King it was his first minister, the Marquis of Pombal, who was most forceful in having the Jesuits expelled and they were gathered up from across Portugal, crammed onto ships and then dropped off at Civitavecchia (the main port of the Papal States) with the sarcastic quip that these were a “gift” for the Pontiff. Clement XIII, of course, protested this action and in retaliation the Papal nuncio was sent packing from Portugal as well, the Portuguese ambassador in Rome was recalled and diplomatic relations were effectively broken off between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Portugal, one of the most devotedly Catholic countries in the world. It was a terrible state of affairs by any measure.

In reaction to the outrage over this, pamphlets were printed up and spread around accusing the Jesuits of all sorts of misdeeds, particularly of being cruel to the natives of South America where they were accused of trying to set up their own little fiefdom on the backs of the natives. All of this was, needless to say, totally false as it was the liberal officials of the so-called “Enlightenment” who were actually the ones enslaving the South American natives whereas the Jesuits had educated them, taught them valuable skills and had mostly made their lives a great deal better. Unfortunately, it was the “Enlightened” class which had the money and the motivation to spread their version of events and so it was the story that came to be the most widely believed. This increasing anti-Jesuit hysteria was then seized upon in the Kingdom of France and the order was banished from that country as well later in 1764. Again, however, it was not really because of anything the Jesuits had done but was more due to the spread of Jansenism in France which Pope Clement XIII (and others on the Throne of St Peter) had been trying to combat. The Pope vociferously defended the Society of Jesus from these increasing attacks but few seemed to be listening.

Next it was the Kingdom of Spain which began to eye the order suspiciously as King Carlos III began to fear that the Society of Jesus was out to depose him, a paranoia no doubt encouraged by the “Enlightened” faction at court. On April 2, 1767 the King of Spain had some 6,000 Jesuits hurriedly arrested and likewise shipped to Italy where most ended up in misery as the Papal States simply did not have the resource to keep dealing with these huge shipments of people. And it did not stop there as Naples and Parma next expelled the Jesuits, some of whom attempted to settle on the island of Corsica but they were soon driven out of there as well and most, invariably, ended up on the doorstep of the Pope. Here again though it was not so much the monarch (the Duke of Parma) that was behind it all as it was his liberal “Enlightened” minister Guillaume du Tillot.

This led to a breach between Parma and the Papal States which the “Enlightened” class in France was quick to take advantage of by grabbing such papal territories as Avignon, Benevento and Pontecorvo. Pope Clement XIII was in an impossible position with almost all of the major Catholic powers aligned against him over his defense of the Society of Jesus. The Kingdoms of Portugal, Spain and France all wanted the order dissolved and when the Austrian Empire (nominally the Holy Roman Empire of Germany still) agreed to go along with the push there was very little the Pope could do but agree to at least discuss the matter. In both word and letter he had spent most of his reign arguing the case for the Society of Jesus, defending them from attack and protesting their treatment. However, given the state of Europe at the time, if Portugal, Spain, France, Austria and their Italian satellites united in their opposition to the Jesuits, he could hardly afford to defy them all. So, in 1769 Pope Clement XIII very reluctantly agreed to call a consistory to address the matter, however, he did not live to see it happen as he died not long after on February 2 of that year. It is hardly surprising that the anti-Jesuit faction immediately declared that he had been poisoned by the order for moving against them. Not surprising, but no less silly. It would be impossible to believe that after ten years of defending the order Clement XIII would have just given in and thrown them to the wolves and no evidence of any wrongdoing was ever found. The Pope was 75 years old which was, at that time, a ripe old age. His death was due to nothing more sinister than a heart attack.

An important thing to remember about Pope Clement XIII and his struggles on behalf of the Society of Jesus is the historical context of it all. Undoubtedly there were Jesuits who were guilty of one thing or another, the law of averages would demand that such would be the case. However, there is not and never was any concrete evidence of massive wrongdoing as was being alleged. The important thing is to look at who were making the accusations; not the monarchs but the liberal ministers of the “Enlightenment” crowd. These were the group of people who represented a new way of thinking that was profoundly arrogant, that tended to regard religion in general as superstitious nonsense and it was this same way of thinking that would, in the not too distant future, lead to the outbreak of the French Revolution, the upheaval of Europe and really what was the practical end of Christendom. In defending the Jesuits, Pope Clement XIII was not simply defending one religious order but also fighting to prevent that calamity from befalling humanity.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mad Rant: The Lie of Equality

Whenever republicans try to argue against monarchy, they will invariably bring up the issue of “equality”. Everyone should be treated equally they say, because we are all equal even though that is complete and utter nonsense. It is a shame that this way of thinking has become so pervasive around the world because, not only is it a complete lie, but because it is actually harmful as well. We see it everywhere, in monarchies as well as republics such as in the recent trend to make monarchy more “fair” by getting rid of male primogeniture. What makes that particularly ridiculous is that it simply replaced gender discrimination with age discrimination. Why does it make sense to claim that the old way implied boys were of greater value than girls and that this can only be corrected by asserting that a first born is of greater value than a second or third born? Makes no sense to me, but that is equality for you; nonsense in a nutshell. It is a farce and always has been. The whole equality bandwagon really got going after the French and American Revolutions. And, as we all know, even in the beginning, it was painfully obvious that it was a farce. The French were crying, “Liberty, equality and fraternity” while chopping off the heads of their countrymen in the tens of thousands and it was not lost on the loyalists of the English-speaking world that many Americans who claimed that “all men are created equal” considered Black people to be “property”.

The fact is, of course, that no two things in the whole of creation are equal. No two people who ever drew breath have been equal or had an equal chance. It is an idea that does not, has not and will never exist. Furthermore, despite what republicans like to think, equality does not exist in republics either. Take the United States for example (not to pick on America, but it is the republic I am most familiar with) and no, I am not talking about the days when slavery was legal and women could not vote. Look at it today. There is no monarch, no hereditary titles and according to the law, all Americans are supposed to be “equal”. However, suppose you are a Native American. You get benefits from the government that no one else does, just because of who your ancestors are. Those ancestors were treated terribly unfairly but then so were the ancestors of African-Americans and an immigrant who just moved to America from the Ukraine or Somalia or India has to pay, in taxes, for crimes their ancestors had nothing to do with, to people who have actually suffered no such misfortune themselves. How is that treating everyone equally? All races or ethnic groups are certainly not treated absolutely equal.

Beyond that, does anyone think for a moment that it is mere coincidence that so many members of the House and Senate of the United States hold the same seats their fathers and sometimes grandfathers held before them? And this hold true in the private sector as well as the public. Look at the media; does anyone honestly believe that Jenna Bush Hager would be on the “Today” show if she were not the daughter of a President? Does anyone honestly believe that Gayle King would be on “CBS This Morning” or that anyone would even know who she is were she not Oprah’s best friend? Would Hillary Clinton, a rather lackluster lawyer from Arkansas have become a Senator for New York, presidential candidate and Secretary of State had she not been married to Bill Clinton (and gained widespread sympathy for his philandering)? Can anyone honestly say that the children of Donald Trump are treated equally and have equal opportunities as the children of, say, a garbage man from Haarlem? Were the political careers of Jeb and George W. Bush based solely on their own merits and not their last name -at all? Of course no one would dream of such a ridiculous notion. Then there are other attributes. Just speaking generally, in almost any field, a man who happens to be born looking like Brad Pitt is probably going to have an easier time than one born looking like Rodney Dangerfield just as a woman will probably have a much easier time in life if she looks like Ashley Green than if she looked like Eleanor Roosevelt.

No matter what the law says about equality, a girl who looks like she stepped off the pages of Sports Illustrated is not going to be treated the same as an overweight girl with stringy hair and a bad complexion. Governments do not and cannot change that simple fact. Even in the Soviet Union, if you were a member of the upper echelons of the Communist Party, your life was going to be a great deal better than if you were a factory worker. The ordinary people lived in dilapidated, cramped apartments and stood in bread lines. Members of the ruling elite had cars, fancy houses and vacationed on the Crimea. And that was supposed to be a regime dedicated to making everything equal and no one having more than anyone else (feel free to chuckle at that ridiculous notion). Even when people have the best of intentions (and those in the USSR certainly did not) it is evident that efforts to enforce equality only make things worse, because, again, equality does not exist and no government program or policy can enact the impossible. So, efforts to enforce equality in terms of race usually end up just making things more unfair for different races and efforts to enforce equality in terms of gender have, in many western countries today, simply made life harder for males by favoring females. Efforts to enforce income equality robs the productive to reward the unproductive and the only thing that is accomplished is that productivity goes down.

Old fashioned monarchies and aristocracies were better because they recognized the simple fact that inequality is a fact of life and so decided to just be open and honest about who was an aristocrat and who was a commoner. Again, republics all over the world have and have always had these same divisions, they are just dishonest about it and try to pretend otherwise. Massachusetts could have named the late Senator Ted Kennedy the Earl of Hyannis Port, entitled to a lifetime seat in the upper house and it would have been just the same as in actuality. I am sure some will say that, taking the Kennedy family as an example, that they started out as poor Irish immigrants and worked their way up to elite status. Which is true, mostly through black market liquor smuggling, but, yes, they started low and reached great heights. However, you could say the same for the modern Earl Nelson in Great Britain whose ancestor Horatio Nelson, the son of a preacher who entered the Royal Navy as an ordinary seaman and was raised to the peerage for something a little more remarkable than bootlegging; namely defeating the combined navies of Spain and France during the Napoleonic Wars. Surely his was the more hard earned and well deserved.

This points to one of the most often-swallowed lies of the revolutionary republicans; that monarchies with their established aristocracies were places where society was totally stagnant, where no one could advance themselves, improve their lives or rise above the station in life they were born into. This is often believed by the willfully ignorant because it is so obviously untrue. Certainly, your ancestry could be a help or a hindrance, but rising by determination and success was never totally impossible and much of this often varied a great deal based on time and circumstances and the country in question. In Renaissance Europe the Popes may have been known for their nepotism but this was also the time that the son of a butcher rose to be chancellor of England. In the Ottoman Empire, the son of an Italian doctor became Grand Vizier, in Imperial China a man born as a poor peasant became the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, readers will also recall the subject of a recent article here who rose from being a servant carrying the sandals of his lord to be the political ruler of all Japan. True, it was always difficult for someone to start out at the very bottom of society and work their way to the top, but could anyone say it is “easy” to do so today?

In a republic like the United States or France, you can start out with very little in life and eventually become President, but the odds are a million-to-one against you and your chances of making it will not be the same as someone whose father was a congressman, senator or former president. There are also many people who have observed that those who start from the bottom and claw their way to fame and fortune who are often the most arrogant, snobbish and insufferable; far more than those born to such a position, and who are most likely to begrudge others from achieving what they have. That comes to mind whenever I hear wealthy liberals calling for higher taxes on people who are rich, “like them”. They, of course, will be fine, but they are perfectly willing to make it even harder for anyone else to have what they have and live the lifestyle they enjoy. Royals and aristocrats are much more likely to view their status as a duty, at times even a burden, which they did not choose or desire but which they must fulfill. Revolutionaries view status as something to steal from those who have it and then prevent others from taking away once they themselves have it.

In traditional monarchies, hereditary privilege usually originated in some form of merit, usually some form of service and that is a major difference from today, even where monarchies still exist. In England, for example, in the old days you might gain a hereditary title for defending your country, whereas later on such titles came to be given out in large numbers simply to gain a majority for a particular party in the House of Lords. Not at all a happy development in my book. However, the traditional view had always been one of privilege going hand in hand with service and this was once quite normal in cultures all over the world. The English word “knight”, for example, originates from the German word “knecht” which meant ‘servant’ just as, on the opposite side of the world, the Japanese word “samurai” meant ‘servant’. Those entrusted with military training were expected to be honest, upright, loyal and to protect the weak and the innocent just as noble lords were expected to protect their people, both from harm and from injustice. Yet, the same people who cry the most for changes in pursuit of their impossible dream of “equality” are the same ones who have robbed traditional elites, not only of their privileges, but also of their responsibilities to those lower down on the social hierarchy. It just never works out.

The bottom line is simply this; no two people in the whole of creation are equal just as no two things anywhere in nature are equal or have an equal chance. Any two people of the same or different genders, races, social status or income will be superior to the other in some ways and inferior in others and nothing can ever change that simple fact of life. Everyone is different and equality requires everyone and everything to be the same, something that is not possible and never can be made so. Trying to do so only results in making things worse for everyone in the long-run. Those of more traditional times had a better way; a way developed over centuries of learning by experience, to accept the inequalities of life, to recognize and “legitimize” them so as to ensure that strong will have a duty to protect the weak and so on so that a more balanced and stable society might be maintained. In our modern, chaotic and uncertain times, we would do well to remember that. However, I cannot be too optimistic at present given how easy it is for the pro-”equality” crowd to use envy to stir up the masses for their own, limited benefit. To my mind, simple equality under the law would be a more worthy and somewhat more obtainable goal, yet even that seems a hopelessly distant ideal that very few people these days are even interested in pursuing. But, maybe it’s just me … The Mad Monarchist
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