Thursday, February 28, 2013

Downfall of the Monarchy of Madagascar

It was on this day in 1897 that the Kingdom of Madagascar officially ceased to exist after the last queen was deposed by the forces of the French Third Republic. It was a sad day for the downcast monarch, Queen Ranavalona III, and for Madagascar as a whole but the French were also not quite the villains they are often portrayed as. In cases like these there does tend to be a habit of exaggerating things. When it came to the great colonial race, France was anxious to expand, not simply for the sake of expansion, but also to block British colonial expansion. Whether Africa or Asia the French thinking was that if they did not take control of an area the British certainly would and then they would be shut out. And, considering how hugely successful the British Empire was, it is not an outrageous mentality to have. One could hardly swing a dead cat anywhere in the world without hitting a British colony. It might just be one little rock(all) in the middle of the ocean, but look away for a second and there would be a Union Jack flying over it.

There is also no denying the fact that the Kingdom of Madagascar was in less than ideal shape. The Queen, and Madagascar had a succession of female monarchs, did not count for much anymore. She devoted her time to playing games, doing needlework and collecting the latest fashions from Paris and was a rather naïve woman. Some time previously Madagascar had officially become a constitutional monarchy and, while many sources speak of this as an achievement in the march of progress, in effect it meant that the monarch was overthrown in all but name. Officially, the Queen was supposed to share power with her Prime Minister (which itself had become an office dominated by one family) but the standard procedure was for the PM to be married to the monarch (imagine the consequences such a policy would have in other monarchies!) and in a country where women were definitely second-class and polygamy was more common than not, in fact if not in name it was the Prime Minister who ruled Madagascar while the Queen kept herself busy with hobbies.

The introduction of constitutional monarchy could almost be seen as the replacement of one royal family by another. For example, Prime Minister Rainiharo obtained that office, as well as that of Commander-in-Chief, by marrying Queen Ranavalona I in 1833. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by his son Rainivoninahitriniony (hope I spelled that right) who was an attempted regicide and coup leader but that did not stop his brother Rainilaiarivony from succeeding him as Prime Minister. He first married his cousin and had 16 children but then also married Queen Rasoherina (the widow of the King his own brother had plotted to kill and who the new PM purged from the list of kings -even making it illegal to speak his name). In due course he married each of the last three Queens of Madagascar; Ranavalona II and Ranavalona III in their turn. He was complicit in a number of coup attempts and was responsible for the new constitution that drastically limited the power of the monarchy and in effect made him king in all but name.

The French, for their part, had no initial desire to bring down the monarchy in Madagascar. Oddly enough, even in republican France, many recognized the value of monarchy in foreign countries and French colonies. Sometimes they were quite beneficial to colonial monarchies and at other times, even when the French were detrimental it was inadvertent. French concern about the British was not unfounded. British influence was growing in Madagascar, particularly through British missionary Bible societies to the extent that the Queen and Prime Minister became Protestant Christians, ordered their court to do the same and “encouraged” the public to be baptized out of patriotic love for the Queen. Alcohol was banned, work on Sunday was banned and a few Catholics were persecuted to show how truly Protestant Madagascar had become. In fact, most continued with their native beliefs with a dash of Christianity thrown into the mix.

The last King of Madagascar, Radama II (the one the PM’s brother had knocked off) had made some concessions to France that the subsequent native authorities refused to honor, sparking the first unpleasantness between France and Madagascar. France gained a port on the north shore and the promise of 50 million francs in reparations. The treaty also effectively made Madagascar a protectorate but left local affairs to the locals. However, as often happened, the two sides disagreed on what exactly had been agreed to, Madagascar pulled out of the agreement, sought foreign assistance and France sent the troops in once again. That time the royal palace was the target and the future of the monarchy would not be so certain. According to some sources, Queen Ranavalona III was in favor of the French incursion as a way to rid herself of her old and domineering husband (he was more than 30 years older than the poor girl). The local populace did nothing to hinder the French advance and the native military was swept aside with little difficulty. After a few shots at the palace the PM surrendered and the next day the Queen recognized France as the protecting power of Madagascar. Her husband was removed from office and exiled to Algeria (where he actually became quite the Francophile himself) but Queen Ranavalona III was allowed to retain her throne.

In a way, this was a liberating moment for the young monarch. Though, the innocent young woman was a little nervous when the French said she would need a new Prime Minister and she immediately chose French General Jacques Duchesne who had led the recent campaign. The worry arose from her assumption that she would have to marry him and the Queen was relieved when told that such was no longer to be the case. Unfortunately, once it was too late, the native population did begin to rise up against the French presence as well as the Christian missionaries (Catholic or Protestant) and all other foreign influences. Members of the royal court and royal family were implicated in this and, from that point on, many in France began to see the monarchy as being more trouble than it was worth. The rebellion was put down and a hard military man, General Joseph Gallieni (who would go on to considerable fame in World War I) was put in charge of things in Madagascar. Not long after arriving he had the royal properties seized, placed the Queen under house arrest and finally, on February 27, 1897, abolished the monarchy and sent the Queen into exile on Reunion Island, later being moved to Algeria.

The former Queen visited France several times in the following years where she was a big hit and which she adored. She had become a bit of a Francophile as well, just like her former husband/PM (who actually wrote an open letter to the rebels in Madagascar, saying they should stop their attacks and be grateful to the French). She died on May 23, 1917 up to the last working for the Algerian Red Cross to show her solidarity with France during the Great War. In the absence of the monarchy, less than ideal though it might have been, Madagascar has not prospered. In 1960 the island nation regained its independence from France and in the short span of time since then has already gone through four republics, coups and power struggles remain commonplace and most of the populace lives in poverty. Yet another example of the horrible results of abolishing a perfectly good monarchy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Highland Charge in America

It was on this day in 1776 that the battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge was fought near Wilmington, North Carolina. Unfortunately a victory for the republican side, it was nonetheless a display of great courage and heroism on the part of the loyal royalists and, as far as I am aware, the last example of a traditional “highland charge” in North America. The Revolutionary War had still not taken hold completely in the southern colonies prior to the battle and the Royal Governor of North Caroline, Josiah Martin, was, like others, convinced that with only a modest force of Redcoats the loyalists of his colony could be rallied to the cause of King and Country, subdue the rebels and restore the place to loyal obedience; and not only North Carolina but the whole of the south. These expectations proved to be rather overly optimistic as when the two sides met at Widow Moore’s Creek bridge, it was the loyalists who were outnumbered by the equally hastily organized rebel militia by a few hundred men. Perhaps the most memorable thing about the battle, and what our focus today will be, was that the loyalist side was made up almost totally of Scottish highlanders and, it is noteworthy, a great many Jacobites.

Governor Martin
After the glorious disaster known as the ‘45 Jacobite Uprising, many highland Scots had left the rather unpleasant atmosphere of Scotland for the New World and settled in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. Some today would probably not expect these men to have been likely sympathizers with the cause of King George III, however, not long after the troubles in America began, the Scotsman Allan Maclean obtained permission from the King to recruit loyal fellow Scots in North America to fight for the Crown in the Royal Highland Emigrants Regiment. Some of these men were long-time veterans of the British army but others had previously fought against it. For example, in North Carolina, to of the leading officers employed by Maclean in gathering Scotsman for the Royal Emigrants were Donald MacLeod and Donald MacDonald both of whom were veterans of the Battle of Bunker Hill. However, also recruiting for the cause of King George III was Allan MacDonald, a noted loyalist and the husband of the Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald who had saved the life of “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and aided his escape to Skye. She supported the Crown as well and Allan MacDonald was appointed brigadier-general by the governor and rode himself across the colony from town house to country cabin urging people to take up arms for the King and in opposition to the rebels.

Those who responded had a variety of motivations. Aside from the pull of King and Country, there were local tensions to be considered. Since there settlement more and more people had started to move into the Piedmont area and these people tended to be of the Whig/Patriot persuasion and clashed with the more established residents of the area. Even those Scots not inclined to great adoration for King George III were often willing to fight for his side simply to stop the influx of colonists intruding on what had previously been their exclusive domain. For the Jacobites among them, there was also the memory that they had fought for something more than simply fidelity to the House of Stuart, as fervent as that was and as deeply felt as their personal loyalty to the “King across the water” had always been. Part of what was at the core of all of that was the idea that legitimate authority comes from God and so the idea of a democratic republic was unthinkable and downright wicked. King George III may not have been the monarch they would have most preferred, but better a Hanoverian king than a revolutionary republic and regardless of who was on the throne it was important that the ties between America and Britain (including Scotland) not be broken.

By 1776 Anglo-Scottish tensions had also eased considerably and it is a fact as well that even in the ‘45 at least as many Scots as supported Prince Charles just as fervently supported King George II. For many, it took the outbreak of republicanism in North America to reconcile the two sides in the common defense of the principle of monarchy. When they set out to confront the rebels they expected some assistance from Britain but the expedition intended to reinforce them was delayed by bad weather in Ireland and did not arrive. Neighboring Virginia had also known disaster was a hastily organized loyalist force with little support was overwhelmed by rebel forces and it was to be the same for North Carolina. Donald MacDonald, Donald McLeod and John Campbell led a little over 700 men into the fight at Widow Moore’s Creek where they were met by more than a thousand rebels. It was an awesome sight, coming on as they were in the ‘grand old style’ many in full highland dress and with bagpipes wailing away. At one point, Captain Campbell picked a group to charge across the bridge, which they did brandishing their claymores and shouting “King George and Broadswords!” only to be cut to pieces by withering rebel fire.

The aftermath was pretty bad for the cause of the Crown with loyalists being hunted down and taken prisoner or simply dispatched out of hand but, of course, it was only the beginning of the revolutionary war in the south and by no means the end. Today, however, I would suggest that monarchists take inspiration from those highland Scots who charged the rebel lines at Widow Moore’s Creek and the Jacobites in particular. Certainly it is an example of great bravery but from a somewhat unexpected quarter. Therefore it can also serve as something of a lesson for monarchists today, particularly those die-hard Jacobites who linger about the on-line world of theoretical monarchism. Far from sitting comfortably from a safe distance, pouring scorn on the existing authorities of the time, some of these men had actually suffered at the hands of Hanoverian troops, men who had shed blood and had their own blood shed in the cause of the House of Stuart and yet they put that past aside, never forgetting it and never ceasing to honor it, but in order to come together for the cause of kingship and traditional authority in opposition to revolutionary republicanism. That is an example that we would all do well to emulate.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monarch Profile: Holy Roman Emperor Charles V

Emperor Charles V is an historical figure somewhat difficult to approach. His background was so diverse; a Spanish King and German Emperor born in Belgium of an Austrian family with Swiss roots and one could go on. He is a colossal figure in European history and a man with a rather colorful life story. Charles V was reflective of the Renaissance in his knowledge and tastes, he could discuss religion or art with the best of them. Charles V had several mistresses and a few illegitimate children, yet is still seen today as the Catholic champion of Europe. Hailed ever after as the most ardent defender of Christendom, he nonetheless made peace with the Protestants and waged war against the Pope. His was the first empire upon which it was said that “the sun never set”. In World War II he was featured on a special postage stamp by the Nazi SS as a German historical figure who dominated so much of the world and yet, at the end of his life, he willingly gave up his power and saw to it that no one member of the House of Hapsburg would hold such vast territories again. Charles V is a fascinating individual, probably not as well known in the English-speaking world as he should be, but throughout most of his lifetime practically every major event in Europe happened because of or in reaction to him. Emperor Charles V was, and is, a giant figure on the pages of history.

He was the son of Philip the Handsome and Joanna the Mad, born on February 24, 1500 in Ghent, Belgium and, given the rather tragic fate of his parents, he was brought up in the “Low Countries” to a large extent, looked after by his aunt Margaret in Burgundy. It was only 1506 when he inherited the Burgundian lands of his father and this, combined with the upbringing of his aunt, impressed upon him the terrible responsibilities of power. Throughout his life, especially for a man of the Renaissance, he would have a very Medieval view of government and monarchy with limitations on power, important decisions made by councils and keeping power on the local level where possible. He had to grow up very fast as he was still only a youth when he began to inherit his most lofty crowns. On January 23, 1516 he became King of Spain and on June 28 1519 he became Holy Roman Emperor of the German nation. He had his German coronation at Aachen on October 26, 1520; was crowned King of Italy on February 22, 1530 in Bologna and on February 24, 1530 was crowned Emperor of the Romans by the Pope making him the last German Emperor to be crowned by the Pope and thus officially “Holy Roman Emperor” rather than “Holy Roman Emperor-Elect” as most actually were.

Religious matters would dominate a great deal of his reign and one of the first problems he had to address was the growing controversy over a certain man named Martin Luther. At the famous Diet of Worms the Emperor met Luther face to face and listened to him make his case. Needless to say, the Emperor was not impressed and gave a quite eloquent response based on history and tradition, saying, “For it is certain that a single monk must err if he stands against the opinion of all Christendom. Otherwise Christendom itself would have erred for more than a thousand years”. Luther, we now know, did not actually say, “Here I stand, I can do no other” but, in any event, he refused to recant his beliefs and the Emperor refused to break his word and have him arrested on the spot. So, Luther was free to go and continued to spread his new religious ideas, which would ultimately lead to the creation of the Lutheran church, the Protestant movement and the further splitting of Christendom. This was, obviously, a major concern for Charles V who, as Emperor, saw himself as the chief guardian of Christendom and while he did not try to rule everyone directly, he would take swift action against any threat to his authority. The spread of Protestantism was definitely such a threat and he wanted the Church to do something about it.

The problem with that was that the Catholic Church, which had been around for a while, had seen or thought they had seen people like Martin Luther before. They would rise up, preaching some novelty but eventually fade away and be forgotten. But Luther could point to very real problems and corruptions in the Church with simony, absentee bishops, the selling of indulgences and so on which were having a real impact. This was particularly true in Germany where nationalism was a useful tool as well. It was often easy to convince people to support a German church founded by a German man rather than to pay tithes to an Italian prince far away in Rome. To head-off this problem, Emperor Charles V wanted the Pope to call a council to sort these problems out. Today it seems obvious, especially in light of what happened later at the Council of Trent, and the Popes seem criminally uncaring or lazy not to heed the advice of the King of Spain and German Emperor. However, to be fair to the Pontiffs, history is always close at hand in Rome and throughout the history of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, when an Emperor started calling for a council of bishops it was usually intended to end in the forced removal of the Pope in favor of a more pliable candidate. After this happened several times, the Popes became rather reluctant to call councils together, especially when a German Emperor was the one pushing for it. It was certainly a mistake for the Catholic Church overall that the Emperor was not listened to but one can see why the Popes would have been inclined to put him off and wait for Lutheranism to fade away.

In 1522 pro-Lutheran nobles rose up in the Knights’ War which Charles V had to put down, followed by the even nastier Peasants’ Revolt in 1524 which even Luther was horrified by. To make matters worse, as far as the Emperor was concerned anyway, while Protestant rebellions were becoming a major problem in Germany, the Catholic south was coming under renewed attack by the Ottoman Turks who were never more effective than at that time under the skilled leadership of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. In 1522 they launched a massive attack on the island of Rhodes, defended by the Knights of St John. The island fell and Emperor Charles allowed the Knights to relocate to Malta. On land, by 1526 the Turkish armies had penetrated far into Europe, wiping out the Hungarian army and killing King Louis of Hungary at the battle of Mohacs. And if that was not enough bad news for Charles V, German possessions in northern Italy were attacked by the French under King Francis I in 1524. The Emperor moved to meet this threat in person, aware of the fact that Pope Clement VII had allied with the King of France in an effort to prevent the German domination of Italy. The result was the battle of Pavia which was a smashing success for Emperor Charles V who totally defeated the French army and took Francis I prisoner. He gave up claims to imperial territories while in captivity but, after being released, said he was not bound by agreements signed while he was a prisoner and renewed his campaign against Charles V in alliance with the Pope.

In 1526 Charles married Isabella of Portugal, daughter of King Manuel I, whom he loved and adored and had many children with. He was not a flawless man when it came to women but the illegitimate children he had were born before his marriage or after the death of Isabella who passed away after giving birth to their sixth child. The birth of Don John of Austria notwithstanding, Charles V was greatly saddened by her death and wore black for the rest of his life thereafter. However, all of that would come later. In 1527, only a year after his marriage, Charles V launched the invasion that would result in what must be the one really shameful mark on his reign, a horror almost unsurpassed in history. Gathering a motley force of Spanish and German troops (many of whom were Lutheran Protestants), Charles V launched an invasion of Italy aimed at destroying the alliance arranged by Pope Clement VII and bringing papal Rome firmly under his control. The Pope had counted on the King of France to come to his rescue but that did not happen and soon his other allies abandoned him as well. On the other side, because of the seemingly endless wars and the many rebellions in Germany, the Emperor was cash-strapped and when his troops approached Rome they were tired, hungry, impoverished and angry.

The result was the horrific “sack of Rome” in which the Swiss Guard were wiped out, fighting to the last man to defend the Pope, who was himself nearly killed. Clement VII barricaded himself inside Castel Sant Angelo with as many Roman refugees as could be fit in while the imperial troops went on the rampage, committing acts of destruction, pillage, murder and sacrilege that are truly too terrible to repeat. It was worse than anything the barbarian invaders of Imperial Rome had ever done and a witness who was a veteran of the wars against the Muslims remarked that no Muslim was ever so cruel or vicious toward an enemy as the imperial troops were toward the helpless Romans. It was sadism and bloodlust run rampant. Now, to be fair, it must be said that Charles V could not have known that such an infamy would have happened, he certainly did not order it and he was horrified in the aftermath when he learned of the details. However, as it was he who sent the army to conquer Rome in the first place, he must accept the ultimate and theoretic responsibility for that. Still, he was aghast at what happened but still enough of a man of the world to use it to his advantage and in the aftermath of such an atrocity Pope Clement VII agreed to all of his demands and was then released from captivity by the end of the year. His power was unquestioned but, that being so, he was able to be magnanimous and restored the Papal States to Clement VII and Florence to the Medici family. Some may say it was largely symbolic but it was something a vindictive man would never have done and something he did not have to do in light of his victory.

In the aftermath, things continued to go well for Charles V. He worked to make peace with the Protestants in Germany, ending finally in 1532 with the Peace of Nurnberg that granted freedom of religion to the Protestants. In 1535 the Emperor led an attack on the Muslim forces in North Africa, capturing Tunis and the following year defeating French forces in Italy and repelling a French attack on the Low Countries. And, in the meantime, the Emperor reformed the legal system, financed Ferdinand Magellan in his voyage to circumnavigate the globe and saw the Spanish empire in the Americas continue to expand. However, the religious divide in Germany continued to be a problem with war flaring up again in 1547. The Emperor was again victorious but allowed the Protestants to keep what lands they had gained and to continue their religious practices in the peace that followed. It was a short-lived peace though as rebellion broke out again under the leadership of Maurice of Saxony. After more fighting Charles V decided the best way to restore order would be to enact a new law called the Peace of Augsburg which stated that the land and people would adopt the religion of their local noble lord. If he were Catholic, his people would be Catholic and if Protestant the people would be Protestant.

With peace again secured in Germany in 1555, by the following year Charles V was weary of his crowns and decided to abdicate. However, rather than leave everything to his heir to carry on as he had done, Charles V decided to divide the responsibilities and left his German crown to his brother Ferdinand and his Spanish crown (including the Low Countries) to his son Philip. In giving up power, he advised his son to trust God, maintain the Catholic faith and to respect the rights of his subjects. That done, the most powerful man in the western world walked away from it all and retired to a palace-monastery in Spain, devoting himself to prayer and reflection, where he lived the rest of his life, passing away a few years later in 1558. To his son and heir King Philip II, he apologized for not being able to do better and handing him a Europe that was torn by division, however, were it not for his stamina and determination, Europe would have looked considerably different. He had faced constant threats on almost every side and while not always totally successfully (especially in Germany) he could at least say that he had never been totally defeated. Through victory on the battlefield or negotiated concessions, he had maintained all he had inherited, even expanded it a little and left behind a Spain that was riding high, expanding in the New World, allied to England and a Germany that, while divided, was still at peace, dominant in Italy and which had seen the Turkish threat driven back from the gates of Vienna. Truly, Emperor Charles V had left a mark on the pages of history that few others, before or since, could hope to match.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

MM Sunday Scripture

Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:

-Proverbs 25:6

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting in East Asia, a tense, supposedly royal-related standoff has developed between Malaysian authorities and a group of gunmen from The Philippines. Last Tuesday some 200 people, including ‘dozens’ of armed men from The Philippines landed by boat on the Malaysian coast near the town of Lahad Datu on the island of Borneo claiming to be followers of the heir of the former Muslim sultanate of Sulu, a former monarchy based out of The Philippines that once ruled parts of Borneo. Malaysian army and police forces have moved in and isolated the area and have been in contact with the group. On Saturday the Filipino government called for a peaceful solution to the standoff and the local police chief of Sabah has said that his goal to see the group returned The Philippines. Hopefully this situation will be ended without bloodshed. There has been better news out of Japan where His Majesty the Emperor is reported to be steadily recuperating from his surgery last year. Doctors have said that the Emperor is “largely in good health” on Sunday with no need for any changes to his official duties. We wish the Emperor continued good health and long life. The news is, unfortunately, not so good in the former Kingdom of Nepal where Crown Prince Paras is reportedly in critical but stable condition in Bangkok, Thailand after suffering a cardiac arrest. We wish HRH a speedy recovery. And, lastly, the very popular King and Queen of Bhutan made a visit this week to Bangladesh.

In Europe, starting in the south, the Kingdom of Spain remains in a great deal of trouble due to the ridiculously trumped-up bad press the Royal Family has been enduring in recent months. The Duke of Palma is to be questioned today in a case over millions of euros siphoned off from a charity organization the Duke was connected with. It has become so bad that when HM King Juan Carlos I recently attended a basketball game he was actually heckled from the crowd, something that would have been unheard of in the past when the King was universally adored as the man who brought freedom and democracy to Spain. A poll taken last month showed public approval for the King at an all-time low, down to about 50% which would still be considered good for most public officials but not for the King who was previously so revered. The city of Palma also recently renamed the street previously named after the Duke and Duchess, the Duchess being the King’s daughter the Infanta Cristina. In other Iberian-related royal news, across the Atlantic the corpses of Emperor Pedro I and Empress Leopoldina of Brazil were exhumed for study with permission from the Brazilian Imperial Family. The study showed that the Emperor suffered some broken ribs which may have caused breathing problems that helped bring on his death from tuberculosis and that the Empress had no broken bones at all -putting to rest the rumor that her health was broken by being pushed down some stairs.

Moving north, the Belgian Royal Family were out in full force for a Remembrance Day Mass but this week was also a difficult one for the member of the family who frequently seems to find himself in trouble. Prince Laurent, youngest son of HM King Albert II, evidently collided with someone while skiing in the Austrian Tyrol and had to be air-lifted to the hospital but his matchless wife Princess Claire has said that the Prince is doing “well”. He reportedly suffered a number of injuries but no one is being very specific about it. After being released from the hospital the Prince is scheduled to be returning to Belgium today. Meanwhile, even farther north, HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden was recently interviewed about his 40 years on the Swedish throne. The King talked about the changes he made to make the monarchy more accessible and transparent but also, perhaps with a little nervous laughter, noted that he has not always done a good job at being careful as to who he associates with. Yeah, no kidding. The first details were also released about the upcoming wedding of Princess Madeleine to playboy financier Chris O’Neill. These included the venue, guests and bridesmaids for the June 8 wedding. Of course, we wish the Princess nothing but the best, though personally I think she could have done better (I usually do).

In Britain this week there was a great deal of chatter about the Duchess of Cambridge (and I really, REALLY wish people would STOP calling her Kate Middleton -I know it’s not because they didn’t hear about the wedding that happened!) being seen in public for the first time with a barely noticeable “baby bump”. However, what really set the presses to humming was a speech by novelist Hilary Mantel, stumping for her book which basically amounts to a feminist tirade against monarchy, in which she demeaned, de-humanized, belittled and insulted the Duchess of Cambridge. Of course the traitor-crowd was quick to come rushing to her defense when a few somewhat loyal types got a little upset at her remarks. “The Guardian” seemed to think Hilary was being brilliant. Thankfully, fellow author Alison Weir, who knows something about the Royal Family and the history of the monarchy, gave a more eloquent defense of the Duchess than the attack Mantel mounted, saying that not only has the Duchess done an excellent job but also rebuking Mantel for her haughty smears at the monarchy and those who consider it important. Mantel also made mention of the tragic Queen Marie Antoinette and Alison Weir also pointed out that while Mantel criticizes Duchess Catherine for being too thin, the fashion rags would condemn her to pieces if she were too heavy and says that, just as Marie Antoinette was ridiculed for her sumptuous gowns and, to quote, “Like Marie Antoinette, criticized for dressing simply like a shepherdess, Kate can’t win.” Before all of this I had never heard of this Mantel woman but, after seeing a picture of her, it seems her outside matches her inside and if she is going to judge the Duchess of Cambridge without knowing her, I feel no hesitation in saying about Hilary Mantel that I suspect she is one of those women who hates any female younger and more attractive than she is because she is shallow through and through and filled with nothing but contempt for everyone and everything around her. Period.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Struggle for Monarchy on the U.S.-Mexican Border

Throughout most of the 1860’s war was raging on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. North of the Rio Grande American fought American and south of the Rio Grande Mexican fought Mexican with outside assistance for each. It was inevitable that the two would overlap but few today are aware of the struggle between republicans and monarchists that was going on right in the backyard of Texas. At the end of the American Civil War roughly eight to ten thousand Confederates fled to Mexico (then the [second] Mexican Empire) rather than live under Union rule. The Mexicans called them los Confederados and some of the more notable ones included Texas governors Edward Clark and Pendleton Murrah as well as generals such as Edmund Kirby Smith, Sterling Price, John B. Magruder and Joseph O. Shelby. For some, the war in Mexico was quick to greet them such as when Missouri General Mosley Monroe Parsons along with his officers and their families were robbed and then massacred by republican bandits. Others made the trip safely and offered their support to the embattled Emperor Maximilian.

Confederates in Mexico
The welcome given to the Confederates in Mexico did not help the already tense relations between the United States and the Empire of Mexico. General Tomas Mejia of the Imperial Mexican Army was wary of the increasing number of U.S. troops being sent to the south Texas border. The U.S. had been openly antagonistic about the French intervention in Mexico and never recognized the government of Emperor Maximilian. The largely African-American force of U.S. soldiers on the border were sympathetic to the fugitive Mexican president, Benito Juarez, with only some of the more devoutly Catholic Irish-American U.S. soldiers speaking favorably of Maximilian because of his greater respect for the Church compared to the notoriously anti-clerical Juarez. In time, both the Mexican imperial and republican armies on the border would come to include former U.S. and Confederate soldiers. The Confederates naturally took the side of Emperor Maximilian for the most part, due to his closeness with Imperial France which had been somewhat friendly toward the Confederacy. Most of the Union soldiers sided with Juarez and the republicans. Some still serving with the U.S. Army were allowed and even encouraged to “desert”, cross the border and join the forces of Benito Juarez. Despite orders from Washington to the contrary, Union officers provided large amounts of supplies, uniforms, guns and ammunition to the Juaristas.

As always, the conflict on the border had a style all its own. On one side was General Mejia with 3,000 imperial troops, including about 300 French and Austrian soldiers. Their army was harassed constantly by the regular and bandit forces of Benito Juarez as well as the bandits of the local border chieftain Juan Cortina who switched allegiances several times. In the summer of 1865 General Mejia embarked on an offensive toward Camargo that cleared out the republican bandits and Juaristas. Consolidation was able to take place and the city of Matamoros was cleaned up and work even got underway by a Belgian company to build an opera house in anticipation of a visit by the Emperor and Empress.

Juan Cortina
The bandit-chief Cortina continued to be very problematic though. On May 1, 1865 he joined with Juarista General Miguel Negrete for a three-day attack on Matamoros. The Imperial Army of General Mejia defeated them and sent the Juaristas packing but Cortina stayed behind. U.S. forces even allowed the Cortinistas to recruit new men in Brownsville, Texas across the river, to use U.S. Army camps on the Texas side of the border and to buy U.S. guns and ammunition. The French, naturally, protested this blatant violation of American neutrality but the U.S. effectively ignored them. Cortina was even employed in trying to track down the Confederates entering Mexico but with little effectiveness.

Eventually, Cortina drove the imperialistas out of Camargo but he was in turn dealt severe defeats in an attempted raid on an imperial supply train and an imperialista attack on his own encampment. The situation soon degenerated into a no-holds-barred guerilla war. The French and Mexican imperialists decided to fight fire with fire and turned to the flamboyant and vicious Colonel Charles Dupin, leader of the contra-guerillas who struck the republican forces with such ferocity and cruelty that he was nicknamed the “hyena of Tamaulipas” and his men, the “Red Devils”. However, both sides were equally brutal no doubt about it.

General Tomas Mejia
The primary goal of the republican forces on the border was to drive the Imperialistas out of Matamoros. Toward this goal, U.S. General Lew Wallace (future author of “Ben-Hur”) and Mexican rebel Jose Maria Jesus Carbajal collected men, money and weapons for an ‘Army of the North’ to attack the city. The effort began in October of 1865 with an attack by Juarista General Mariano Escobedo. General Mejia met the challenge bravely, at one point personally leading a charge with five hundred cavalry to drive out Juaristas who had broken through his defenses. Supporting fire came from the French gunboat “Paisano” on the Rio Grande which shelled the Juaristas from the river. Another French gunboat, the “Antonia”, was actually openly fired upon by U.S. troops on the Texas side of the river. In fact, Escobedo’s republican army included many U.S. soldiers on “leaves of absence” to participate in the battle and help ensure a Juarista victory. Cortina’s men were also involved and harassed the French marines from the safety of U.S. soil. Of course, General Mejia and the local French naval commander in the Gulf of Mexico protested such blatant violations of American neutrality and, of course, it did them no good whatsoever.

The attack on Matamoros went on for sixteen days until an imperial cavalry patrol discovered that the Juaristas had abandoned their lines and retreated on November 9. Total losses for the Juaristas amounted to five hundred dead or wounded and fifty-eight taken prisoner while General Mejia had lost fewer than twelve. Yet, as long as the republicans remained in the area the fight went on with Juarista raiders attacking French and Imperialista detachments. In December, General Escobedo even managed to take Monterrey though it was quickly taken back by only seven hundred imperial cavalry. The town of Bagdad also came under attack, first by American land pirates and again in January of 1866 by forces allied with the scheming U.S. General Lew Wallace. Lt. Colonel J.D. Davis commanding the 118th Colored Troops (the official designation for African-Americans serving in the U.S. Army at the time) at Clarksville, Texas also allowed the invaders to pass and many of his troops even joined the expedition. The raiders overcame the guards at Bagdad on January 5, surprised and captured the guard commander and murdered the imperialist mayor. The town was seized and plundered by the American forces.

Austrian troops in Matamoros
With all sides taken by surprise, soldiers of the 2nd U.S. Colored Troops entered Mexico and took possession of Bagdad. Pressure from local merchants and leading citizens of the area forced a U.S. investigation but naturally no American officers were punished for what amounted to an unauthorized (presumably) U.S. invasion of a foreign country with which the U.S. was not at war. The Americans naturally allowed the republicans to take over, but these forces evacuated on the 24th and monarchist rule was restored though it took threats of a French blockade of Brazos de Santiago to see even a fraction of what was looted returned to Mexico. In the end, it was of little consequence because, with the U.S. again in control of the Texas side of the border, the Mexican Imperial forces could not hold out for long. Already the U.S. had applied diplomatic pressure to stop Austria-Hungary sending reinforcements to their volunteers in Mexico and equal pressure was being put on Napoleon III to get the French out before a massive American army invaded to push them out. With republican bandits to their south and unfriendly U.S. forces across the river to the north, supplies soon grew scarce for the imperialistas in Matamoros.

Emperor Maximilian
As spring turned to summer in 1866 the tide of war began to turn irreversibly against the forces of Emperor Maximilian on the northern frontier of Mexico. Throughout the summer of 1866 republican forces re-took Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Tampico, Acapulco, Monterrey, Saltillo and even Matamoros as the French pulled out of Mexico and U.S. aid to the republicans, in men and materials, increased. On the border, Matamoros was the key position and Mejia and his imperial forces were in a precarious position. As a change in the wind was felt by all, Mexican units formerly loyal to the Emperor began to waver and the key battle came on June 14, 1866. A large imperialista column, already brought near to ruin by thirst and lack of supplies, was ambushed by a massive republican army at the battle of Santa Gertrudis, known thereafter as the ‘Waterloo of the Mexican Empire’. During the grueling fight the equivalent of two whole battalions of Mexican troops deserted to the Juarista side, leaving their former comrades to their fate. Much of the cavalry abandoned the fight to save themselves while the Austrian contingent decided to go out in a blaze of glory, fixed their bayonets and launched a last, suicidal charge into the republican lines. The most unfortunate were the contra-guerillas who, whether armed or not, wounded or not, were immediately shot by the republicans. Millions of dollars worth of supplies, equipment and war materials were captured and in the aftermath, after learning of the disaster, General Mejia had no choice but to abandon Matamoros and retreat south. It marked the end of the conflict on the border and the beginning of the end for the cause of the noble Emperor Maximilian.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Birthday King Harald

The Mad Monarchist joins all of the good, loyal folks of the Kingdom of Norway and fans around the world in wishing a very happy birthday today to HM King Harald V who, since 1991, has reigned over the Norwegian kingdom with honesty, dignity and honor, always devoted to his duty and responsibilities. The Norwegian people are fortunate to have him, both at home and abroad as the King has always kept a close connection to Norwegian communities around the world. We wish him many more birthdays to come.

Electing a Pope

As the days slip by we are approaching ever closer to the end of the month when the resignation (as it has been officially termed) of Pope Benedict XVI will officially take effect, leaving the Holy See vacant until the end of the next conclave. One of the problems I have with this is illustrated by the specific choice of the term “resign” rather than “abdicate”. As I have said before, I am not very wild about monarchs abdicating in general for the very reasons, often enough, that are usually offered to justify it. One of my worries is that if such a thing becomes the norm, with pope resigning once they reach a certain age or level of physical weakness, it makes the See of Peter seem more like “just a job” rather than the sacred, dreadful calling that I had always thought the position of Sovereign Pontiff to be. With secular monarchs it is a little bit different because the hereditary succession will always make them stand apart. However, if papal resignations become standard operating procedure, taken together with the fact that the pope is elected and that the papal coronation has been done away with (probably permanently, though I hope such is not the case) and it seems to me that the risk is taken of the papacy being seen as a much more earthly and ordinary occupation than it should be. I prefer a matrimonial view of monarchy (and the papacy) as a commitment to the throne ‘till death do you part’. A husband or wife should not separate or divorce just because they are no longer physically able to perform their “marital duties” after all.

So far, I seem to be the odd man out on this score though, which is probably for the best. I actually received more criticism of the Queen of The Netherlands abdicating than I have of the Pope “resigning”. Surprised me. I hardly expected the very vocal internet-champions of tradition to be so positive about such an un-traditional move. However, even under the normal circumstances, papal elections are never a good time for me. Not because of anything the Church necessarily does but by the way the media invariably covers it. Everything seems to take on a very political, secular and just rather dirty and unsavory atmosphere when these things happen. Who is ahead? Who has said or done things likely to disqualify them? To what extent has the last Pope “packed the college”? What countries will have the most influence? It all seems very degrading to what is supposed to be a very solemn, sacred and ancient duty. Of course, I could be wrong, as so far most seem to have no problem with the papal resignation, most seem very positive about it and maybe I have just always held an incorrect view of what the papacy is supposed to be. Wouldn’t be the first time, but until I find out otherwise, I can only go on from here and I still don’t like the way people behave concerning the election and, compared to the recent past at least, it seems to me to be getting worse.

I will explain why in my usual, frustrating, way. One of the names that I have heard tossed around is the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, a native of Lombardy and former Patriarch of Venice. I don’t know much about him but I have heard that some at least think that he is a favorite of Benedict XVI. As far as I’m concerned, I would be positive about Cardinal Scola simply for being an Italian. Why does that matter? It should not, but here is why; I have been rather alarmed at some of what I have heard about another so-called front runner for the papacy in Cardinal Peter Turkson yet he is often talked about because he is from Ghana and everyone in the media (possibly due to a case of Obama-fever?) is excited about having a Black Pope -and they don’t mean the guy in charge of the Jesuits either. I do hope we have not become that race-obsessed. There have been popes from Africa before and they might have been Black for all we know. But it is not only that. We also have people talking about the possibility of the first Canadian Pope, who would also be the first “North American Pope”, some have suggested the Archbishop Dolan of New York as a potential first American Pope and, given the numerical dominance of the population in the Catholic Church, many people are saying “it is time” for the first Latino Pope.

Now, call me crazy (it’s true), but on that front, haven’t the vast majority of popes throughout history been Latinos? I know it is not what they mean, but if we are being accurate here, would not the Italians be considered the original Latinos? This whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth and it makes me long for the days when it was just taken for granted that the Roman Pontiff would almost invariably be an Italian and everyone accepted that. It hardly seems unreasonable given that his primary “office” is being Bishop of Rome, but I am certainly not saying the Italians are any more capable than anyone else; indeed, given Italian predominance in the Curia, many consider it a handicap after the state of things there, but the election of a Polish pope, followed by a German pope seems to have made many think that the centuries of Italians being the norm are over and now everyone is dividing up along national or racial lines to push for a pope who is one of “their” people. Again, I may be out of step on this subject, but it seems in terribly bad taste to me and displays a totally incorrect attitude for someone to say that “it is time” that “we” had a Black, Latino or American Bishop of Rome. And, again, this, combined with my (hopefully unfounded) fear that resignations will become more common now, just makes the Throne of St Peter seem more like just another job which I would think most people should be able to see (regardless of their religious background) that it is not.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Consort Profile: Princess Antoinette de Merode-Westerloo

Antoinette Ghislaine, Comtesse de Mérode-Westerloo was born on September 28, 1828 in Brussels, Belgium to Count Werner de Mérode and his wife Victoire de Spangen-d’Uyternesse. It was on her eighteenth birthday in 1846 that she married HSH Hereditary Prince Charles of Monaco, son of Prince Florestan I and Princess Caroline of Monaco in Brussels. Some thought it had taken Charles longer than necessary to marry, he was handsome, wealthy and heir to the throne of Monaco after all, but most agreed that his new Belgian bride was worth the wait. Described as blonde, beautiful, kind and also quite wealthy, the two made an attractive couple and Antoinette brought a considerable dowry to the Grimaldi family with her. She came from an illustrious family whose ranks included many Belgian national heroes and her uncle was the famous prelate Monseigneur Frédéric-François-Xavier Ghislain de Mérode who held many important posts under King Leopold I of the Belgians and was later Minister of War to Blessed Pope Pius IX.

After their marriage Prince Charles and Princess Antoinette went to Monaco where, despite the rising problems that would eventually lead to the loss of more than half the national territory, the Monegasque people gave them an enthusiastic welcome, falling instantly in love with the handsome young couple. Later, like most of their predecessors, Charles and Antoinette set up house in Paris and it was there, on November 13, 1848 that their son, Prince Albert, was born, thus securing the Grimaldi succession for another generation. Princess Antoinette was a little out of her element in the glamorous high-society of Imperial France but her mother-in-law Princess Caroline took her in hand, showing her the ropes so to speak, and the beautiful young Belgian Princess of Monaco was such a success that she was soon a favorite in the court of Empress Eugenie; a fact which was prestigious but also brought with it a great deal of expense.

One of the lasting legacies of Princess Antoinette was the purchase, with her dowry, of the Château de Marchais which has remained in the Grimaldi family ever since and was the favorite country retreat of many generations including Prince Rainier III, Princess Grace and their children. The money she brought to Monaco also helped in the establishment and improvement of the Monte Carlo casino which soon proved to be a very beneficial investment, bringing hordes of wealthy tourists to the gaming tables and solving the financial problems of the principality.

In 1855 Versailles was the site of one of the major social events of the time when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Great Britain paid a royal visit to Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie and a grand ball was held in their honor which Prince Charles and Princess Antoinette were invited to attend. Princess Antoinette was greatly impressed by the event and made up her mind then that her goal was to see her son Prince Albert married to a member of the British Royal Family (a cause her mother-in-law was to zealously take up in her absence).

Prince Charles III and Princess Antoinette had a very happy marriage and Charles depended greatly on his hard-working wife, whom he called his “Angel”. Charles was already suffering from poor health and failing eyesight when Princess Antoinette was diagnosed with cancer in 1862. Nonetheless, she took attentive care of her husband, ignoring her own terminal illness, in the most selfless fashion. Even when her worsening condition forced her to leave Monaco and retire to Marchais for the benefit of the country air she wrote constantly her husband, inquiring after his health and that of her mother-in-law, warning that the devoted old woman should not put her own health in danger by doing too much to help Charles III.

Princess Antoinette seemed out of her element if she could not be helping others and despite her condition she could stand to be away no longer and returned to Monaco to look after her husband and mother-in-law. With a doctor and two maids she made the journey back to the Princely Palace, a trip which took a toll on the rapidly worsening condition the Princess herself was suffering. Only three months later HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco passed away on February 10, 1864. Prince Charles III was devastated by her loss and was forced to rely ever more on those around him, mostly his mother at first, as he became more infirm and withdrawn, rarely leaving the Princely Palace in his final years. Princess Antoinette is not as much talked about as some other Princesses of Monaco, but she was an exemplary consort in every way. Few others were ever as devoted, selfless and caring as the Belgian Princess of Monaco.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Anniversary of Injustice

It was on this day in 1942 that the (thoroughly reprehensible) President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed the infamous Executive Order 9066 which authorized the forced internment of Japanese-Americans (as well as a lesser number of German and Italian-Americans) in concentration camps scattered in remote areas of the interior of the country. The one pictured above was not far from where yours truly lives. Today there is nothing left but an empty lot and a small marker but the memory of what happened to these people, most of whom were U.S.-born American citizens who had done nothing wrong, committed no crime and were never charged with any crime nor given any sort of trial or hearing or due process should remind everyone of the uncomfortable truth, especially those who would put the idea of the democratic republic up on a lofty pedestal, that "rights" are imaginary things which any government can suspend at their whim. I don't want anyone to think I am beating up on the United States by mentioning this as it is specifically because the USA has done better than most republics in the world that such gross injustice stands out all the more. Given the U.S. Constitution (to which so many pay lip-service) and the Bill of Rights, it is not unnatural that people expected better when it came to America. However, this is but one example of tyranny of the FDR administration which shows that the "rights" of the individual are seldom in so great a peril as when a leftist-socialist-progressive is in charge.

Some people, I know, get bent out of shape when I refer to these (officially "internment camps") as "concentration camps" as that tends to bring to mind what were actually "death camps" operated by the Nazis. Well, it's not my fault that the majority cannot be bothered to be correct in their language. There were no gas chambers, no massacres and no torture-experiments at these American concentration camps but they were not vacation resorts either. Given the background of those placed there, I cannot help but imagine how easily some of my own relatives might have been among them had they been in the wrong place at the wrong time. People were grabbed by military forces from their homes, sometimes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and placed in these camps, surrounded by barbed wire and where stepping outside the fence got more than a few shot. They endured freezing cold, boiling heat and, perhaps most harshly, the bewildering ignorance of not knowing if or when they would ever be released. And, again, most of these were U.S.-born American citizens like anyone else, they just happened to belong to the wrong race or ethnic group so that, even without doing anything wrong or suspicious, their loyalty was called into question.

I have said it before and I will say it again, because the above is a perfect illustration of the fact, no matter how idealistic the political ideologue might be, true justice, freedom and security is not to be found in any piece of paper. No document, law or constitution can ever cover everything and even the one republic that has worked probably the best overall was still one where an injustice like this could happen. Democracy and elections are not a cure-all and choosing a head of state by popular majority does not ensure that tyranny and oppression cannot happen. I wonder how many of the Japanese, German and Italian-American sent to these concentration camps had voted for President Roosevelt?

Favorite Royal Images: Sweet Caroline

HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover
(at the time, HSH Princess Caroline of Monaco)

Monarchist Quote

"If government is in the hands of the few, they will tyrannize the many; if in the hands of the many, they will tyrannize over the few. It ought to be in the hands of both, and be separated…they will need a mutual check. This check is a monarch."
-Alexander Hamilton

Monday, February 18, 2013

Story of Monarchy: The Phases of Spain

Hailing from a far-flung corner of the empire, in an area that was under the authority of the Spanish Crown longer than any of the five other authorities that have held sway (so far) I have always had a special attachment to the Kingdom of Spain. Yet, many in the English-speaking world are generally unfamiliar with the long and colorful history of Spain or the background of the current Spanish Royal Family. To correct this, and give just a brief overview of a very long story, the history of Spain can be broken up into a number of more manageable phases. As is easiest with most European countries, we can start with the Roman Empire of which Hispania was part. Apart from that, we have the first phase which we will call Visigothic Spain. The Goths, suffice it to say, really got around and as Rome collapsed in the west the Romanized Visigoths entered the Iberian peninsula and eventually took over the place for the most part. This was a Christian kingdom (contested between Catholics and Arians) but was fairly tolerant and included considerable populations of Jews and eventually a sizeable Muslim minority. That would have made the ACLU smile but, in the end, it came back to bite the Visigothic kings as in the fateful year of 711 AD the Muslims of North Africa invaded under the powerful Umayyad Caliphate.

San Fernando III
This marks the beginning of the second (and longest) phase; La Reconquista or “the re-conquest” of Christian Spain from the Muslims. The start of this, the longest war in history, is generally dated around 722 when a Visigothic nobleman named Don Pelayo won the battle of Covadonga and established the Christian Kingdom of Asturias. It was during this long period of nearly continuous conflict that some of the greatest heroes of Spanish history made their names such as St Fernando III of Castile and probably the most famous, “El Cid”. A number of Christian kingdoms rose up and fought each other when not fighting the Moors until finally there stood only Castile and Aragon. These two came together by the marriage of the “Catholic Monarchs” Fernando of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. In 1492 they successfully completed the re-conquest with the capture of the last Muslim stronghold in Granada. That same year, as most know, Christopher Columbus was dispatched on his epic voyage that planted the seeds for what became the vast Spanish colonial empire in the Americas. With Ferdinand and Isabella ruling Spain this also marks the beginning of the united, Catholic Kingdom of Spain (though it was still spoken of in the plural form with local autonomy preserved) which is not without controversy.

Ferdinand and Isabella were determined that Spain would be Catholic and VERY Catholic. Toward that end the (now unnecessarily) notorious Spanish Inquisition was set up, mostly to seek out false converts. The reputation of the Spanish Inquisition has been grossly exaggerated and that is now a matter of documented fact. It should also be kept in mind that Spain had just gone through the longest war in history, which naturally hardened feelings on both sides of the religious divide, and which started off with people of another religion giving aid to an invasion by their co-religionists and the King and Queen were quite naturally determined that such a thing would never happen again. It should also be remembered that, while the Spanish Inquisition was certainly the most “zealous” in Christendom, when you look at all the bloodshed caused by the Wars of Religion in France and the Thirty Years War and Peasants Revolt in Germany and so on and so forth, the Inquisition spared Spain from such horrors and in the end probably saved a great many lives in the long run. Today, modern sensibilities would consider it terribly oppressive, but Spain had tried the tolerance game and got burned because of it. Keep that in mind.

King Felipe II
This brings us to the third phase; Hapsburg Spain -which was pretty sweet. After the reign of the unfortunate Queen Joanna the Mad (Juana la Loca) the Spanish throne passed to King Carlos I, better known as the German Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of the House of Hapsburg. During his reign and, after his abdication, that of his son King Philip II, Spain reached her peak of wealth, power and prestige and was indisputably the most powerful country in Europe. The Spanish empire continued to expand, victories were won in the Mediterranean, France and the Low Countries and while not every enterprise was a success (like the Spanish Armada -ouch!) there was still not much that could really compare with Spain under Philip II. And, contrary to what you may have heard, King Philip II was a good man and a good monarch, one of the greatest Spanish kings without question. Unfortunately, Spain reached the top with his reign and began to go down, not dramatically but noticeably nonetheless. It was actually under King Philip IV that Spain reached its zenith in terms of sheer imperial size but economic problems persisted and in general the decline continued.

The Hapsburgs were also hampered by a bad quality bloodline and when King Carlos II died without an heir the War of the Spanish Succession was the result. This ushered in phase four: Bourbon Spain. Just like the Bourbon King Louis XIV of France (who was anxious to extend dynastic power into Spain) the Bourbon King Philip V of Spain began centralizing power in a clear break from the de-centralized Spain that had existed before. Some improvements were made but corruption in the lower ranks of civil officials continued to cause economic problems. The “Enlightenment” also brought some benefits but on the whole more problems to Spain. Under King Carlos III Spain was able to regain some previous losses (though Gibraltar remained in British hands) but under Carlos IV the situation grew worse, particularly because of the influence of Manuel de Godoy who was as corrupt as he was incompetent. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars saw Spain conquered by France and cut off from her colonies where movements for independence began to sprout. Eventually things were restored under King Fernando VII but the Spanish empire began to crumble (cheered on by Britain and the United States it must be said).

Queen Isabella II
This brings us to phase five which can be summed up in a single word: disintegration. Fernando VII was determined that his daughter, Queen Isabella II should succeed him, and did not bother about trying to carry this out legally. There was also the Queen, Maria Cristina, who acted as regent for Isabella II when the King died. The King’s brother, Don Carlos, was supported by the conservatives as the rightful monarch and they had the law, tradition and the Church on their side. The result was the first in a series of conflicts called the Carlist Wars which were essentially struggles between the traditionalists of Don Carlos and the liberal absolutists of the Queen Mother Maria Cristina. At a time of great crisis for the Spanish empire, Spain itself was embroiled in civil war which ensured the near total collapse of the empire. The liberals were ultimately victorious but the conflict caused damage that was irreversible. Additionally, the very ideas they championed would prove to be their own undoing. The Carlists (who were on the right side in the opinion of this author) can be commended for never giving in but at the same time must bear their share of the burden for being willing to see Spain wiped out as a great power rather than make amends and move forward. They eventually fragmented but the liberals came apart even faster.

Queen Isabella II was too conservative for many of the liberals and the Carlist conservatives would not have had anything to do with her had she been perfect in every way, which she was not. Unrest, infighting and still the occasionally war with the Carlists became standard procedure for Spain and all industry and economic activity practically ground to a halt. The most genuine monarchists were largely in the Carlist camp and they had not only a large portion of Spain but increasingly most of the European community against them, as most modern-minded people considered that a Carlist victory, a return to royal absolutism and the Inquisition, would be a bad thing. On the liberal side the constant wars over the throne made more and more turn against monarchy itself and embrace republicanism.

King Amadeo I
Ultimately, Queen Isabella II was deposed by her own side and the liberals decided to give monarchy one last chance and start fresh by inviting the second son of the King of Italy to assume the Spanish throne. Reluctantly, he did so as King Amadeo I but by that time Spain was divided between liberal monarchists, Carlist monarchists and republicans with none strong enough to defeat the other two. As the liberal camp fell into further division Spain was in a state of near constant anarchy and it did not take long for King Amadeo I to throw up his hands, declare the country ungovernable and return to Italy. The exit of the Savoy dynasty from Spain brings us to phase six: republicanism. It was 1873 when a mutiny and opposition from almost every side forced out King Amadeo and the first Spanish Republic was declared, consisting mostly of liberals who had formerly been at least nominal monarchists but who had grown disgusted with the institution and more concerned with fighting each other over power than anything else. The Carlists rose in rebellion again but so did more radical leftists who thought the republic did not go far enough. Fortunately, the first effort at a republic for Spain did not last long, though the damage had been done.

Only a year later things were so bad that even many republicans willing declared for the son of Queen Isabella II when he returned to Spain from exile as King Alfonso XII. The Carlists were defeated, a system of constitutional monarchy with liberal and conservative cooperation was established that worked fairly well, at least compared to the anarchy that preceded it and Spain under King Alfonso XII seemed to be on the road to recovery. But, then the King died, the United States declared war on Spain to liberate Cuba and grab what was left of the Spanish empire (Puerto Rico, The Philippines, etc) and the stress of World War I, the Great Depression and so on caused on already bare-bones Spanish economy to practically collapse. In 1931 the second Spanish Republic was declared with King Alfonso XIII forced into exile but never abdicating. What followed was a horrific bloodbath as radical leftist, anti-clerical forces preyed upon everything and everyone associated with traditional Spain. Churches were desecrated, the religious were massacred and, though few realize it, more people were killed in the first months under the republic than during three centuries of the Spanish Inquisition -just to provide a comparison.

Generalissimo Franco
By 1936 a full blown civil war had broken out between the republicans on one side (backed up by the Soviet Union and socialist and communist volunteers from around the world) and the nationalists on the other led by General Francisco Franco. It was a bloody affair with many people involved from outside of Spain. Cruelty was commonplace. Adolf Hitler (in a move he later regretted) sent air support to the nationalists but it was Benito Mussolini who provided the most support with air, naval and considerable ground assistance. In the end, Franco, with his coalition of fascists, Phalangists, Carlists and other monarchists as well as republican nationalists, was victorious. From 1936 to 1975 Generalissimo Francisco Franco was dictator of Spain and this marked the start of phase seven, the last, which can be summed up as “restoration”. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, one government, one law (and in this case, one man) was in total control of the whole of Spain. That fact alone, that Spain was united, at peace and the Spanish were not constantly killing each other caused some immediate improvement. After World War II when the threat of Soviet communism became more evident (as it should have been all along) things improved even more.

Generalissimo Franco restored the monarchy, at least on paper, and named Prince Juan Carlos as his heir to take up the throne after his death. That came in 1975 when King Juan Carlos I was formally sworn in, marking the full and official restoration of the Spanish monarchy. In the aftermath, King Juan Carlos led the transition of Spain from dictatorship to constitutional monarchy, restoring full civil rights, multi-party democracy and even removing the ban on parties known to be hostile to the monarchy. When nationalist elements in the military attempted a coup, the King used his authority as Captain-General to suppress it. In the years that followed, this policy paid huge dividends for King Juan Carlos and the monarchy with the Spanish people from most every background grateful to their monarch for giving them their freedom. Everyone seemed to respect and admire the King and the monarchy seemed to be a safely permanent fixture with the prestige of the King allowing him to exercise considerable influence in spite of the constitutional limitations to his actual power.

King Juan Carlos I & Queen Sofia
That brings us to today. Unfortunately, the liberation that came with the return of the monarchy is increasingly taken for granted. Socialist and republican groups have grown stronger, religious influences have grown weaker, regionalism threatens Spanish unity and even the King and Royal Family are no longer held in universally high regard. When Spain joined the European Union, the influx of easy money caused a boom which, recently, was followed by a collapse. All the evils of modern, secular, leftist Europe hit Spain suddenly and very hard. Street marches and protests now regularly display republican flags, forgetting what horrors (and gross incompetence) the two previous attempts at a republic brought to Spain while the younger generation in particular increasingly uses the very freedoms they enjoy only because of the King to attack the monarchy. It is enough to make one wonder if King Juan Carlos has ever had second thoughts about his bold action in putting down the attempted coup. So far, Spain has accomplished the near impossible of seeing a monarchy that was lost restored to its proper place. It remains to be seen if the public can reconnect with their traditions and a proper loyal love of King and country or turn toward further decline and ruin. In terms of the monarchy, most are now looking at the end of the reign of King Juan Carlos as the ultimate test. He brought the monarchy back to Spain, we can only hope that the institution is strong enough to outlive him.
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