Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The New King and Queen

The Kingdom of The Netherlands has a new sovereign. The Mad Monarchist sends congratulations to the new royal couple; Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander I and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands as well as congratulations to a job well done and best wishes for a happy retirement to now Princess Beatrix and, of course, all our best to all the people of The Netherlands, the ABC islands and all loyal Dutch people around the world. Long live the King!

And while I admit, I think it's atrocious, if one is so inclined, join in singing the "King's Song". It wouldn't have been my choice but it's the choice that was made...

Favorite Royal Images: A German Princess

Princess Alexandra von Hohenlohe-Langenburg

A Shameless Plug

Monday, April 29, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of England (Part V)

The Yorkists

King Edward IV: It would be hard for anyone not to admire Edward IV. He was a tall, handsome man, a smart dresser, a veteran warrior, an able administrator and a good businessman. He was adept enough on the battlefield and at winning support that he won the crown for himself, then took it back once it was lost and he managed to win the support of Parliament. He was though a horrible womanizer and that would ultimately cause him some problems. His constant affairs with married women as often as single ones makes it hard to have a completely positive opinion of the man. He was certainly very good at his “job” but his private life left much to be desired. His secret marriage to the widow of a Lancastrian brought new intrigues and stopped a reconciliation effort with France. Still, as far as the House of York is concerned, Edward IV was nothing if not thorough, seeing the Lancastrians almost completely wiped out with the exception of Henry Tudor who was out of the country anyway. He collected a large library and was still trying to take to the field up to his death.

King Edward V: I cannot have much of an opinion on Edward V as the poor boy barely had a chance. He was only nominally the king for a few months and, I have noticed, many lists of English monarchs omit him entirely. A coronation was planned but was repeatedly put off until the boy was deposed and presumably murdered.

King Richard III: Many people have asked my opinion of Richard III and seemed surprised that I don’t have more to say. He certainly wasn’t successful, spending his reign fighting rebellions against him by both friend and foe alike. As for his guilt or innocence in the murder of Edward V, there may not be enough hard evidence to hold up in a modern court but the circumstantial evidence is fairly overwhelming. No matter how kind one tries to be, Richard III will usually come off looking pretty villainous no matter how you cut it. He certainly had some talent and early in his life was fairly well regarded but he was also undoubtedly vindictive yet it is also true that he had enemies ranging themselves against him before he ever came to power and that would tend to make one rather peevish. I give him credit for going down fighting but it just doesn’t seem that there is much to recommend the man.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

MM Sunday Scripture

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD.

-Ezekiel 45:9

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the Middle East this week, things are still far from settled in the monarchies of the region. In the embattled Gulf state of Bahrain a Formula One race was beset by problems with protestors who nonetheless failed to have an impact on the event. Clashes between police and mostly student protestors have become fairly common. The protestors claim to want democracy, the government claims they simply want to soil the reputation of Bahrain on the world stage. Crown Prince Salman told reporters at the race, “What I would like to say is let’s focus on what’s positive, let’s build upon the platform that we have, and let’s celebrate this event with Bahrainis who are really passionate”. Very sound advice in my opinion. There have been similar problems in Kuwait where a notorious opposition politician was released on bail Monday after being arrested for insulting the ruling emir. This sparked a considerable backlash and, of course, the dissidents are trumpeting his release as a great victory for their cause. At the White House in Washington on Tuesday President Barack Obama met with HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Emir of Qatar on the subject of the ongoing crisis in Syria. Also this week the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia received the director of UNICEF who praised the Saudi kingdom for their humanitarian support to the United Nations. The King of Saudi Arabia, in response to the terrorist attack in Boston recently, said in no uncertain terms that those who mislead youth deserve severe punishment. Well said. Also this week HM the King of Jordan was in the United States where he met with Jewish-American leaders and the Jordanian-U.S. Business Council. Finally, it was reported this week that HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi has given more than Dh121 million in the last two years to provide impoverished children around the world with vaccines. A worthy endeavor indeed.

In southern Europe, the Italian Republic continues to be plagued with political instability and has sought a familiar face to provide a source of calm and continuity. Sounds like the ideal job for a monarch but, of course that was not the case. Instead, after failing to agree on a worthy candidate, Italian lawmakers begged outgoing President Giorgio Napolitano (87 years old and a former member of the communist party) to stand for reelection, which he did and won handily. President Napolitano, often referred to as ‘King George’ will be the first Italian president to serve more than one term. As HRH Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Venice and Piedmont said, “we exchanged one monarchy for another”. The prince also noted that, ‘As long as Italy has no responsible political leaders there is no need to vote’ and that in this entire process, no political leader has kept his word, including President Napolitano. Which is, of course, perfectly true. Across the border in Monaco, Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene took in some tennis, watching Serbia win the Monte Carlo Masters along with, of course, princely cousin Baroness Elisabeth-Ann de Massy. And in Spain, the courtroom pain continues with stories coming out that HRH the Infanta Cristina was reluctant to sign papers on the purchase of a new mansion, not seeing how it could be affordable; that her husband tried to take advantage of the friendship between the King and the last President of Mexico for his own purposes and, worst of all, a new law is set to go into effect that will make public every financial transaction on the part of the monarchy. AS IF THE MONARCHY IS WHAT PUT SPAIN IN DEBT!!!! Sorry, it just really, really, *really* annoys me…

Moving up to the Low Countries, the Grand Ducal Palace announced this week the date of the upcoming wedding of Prince Felix of Luxembourg to his German fiancĂ© Claire Lademacher. A statement on Monday said the civil wedding will be on September 17, in Koenigstein near Frankfurt followed, a few days later, by a religious ceremony as the Sainte Marie-Madeleine de Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume basilica in the south of France. We wish them all the best. Up in The Netherlands, everything keeps rolling forward for the impending abdication of the Queen and inauguration of ‘King Willem-Alexander I’ (and I really wish it was “King Willem IV” but, oh well…) with HM Queen Beatrix receiving the last credentials from foreign representatives this week. The strangest story of the week involved the “King’s Song” which is to be sung by the entire population at 7:30 PM on April 30. The piece was written by Anglo-Dutch composer John Ewbank but within just a few days the song attracted considerable scorn. More than 37,000 signed a petition asking to have their citizenship revoked rather than sing the song and a Facebook page apologizing for the song attracted (as of this writing) 94,605 “likes”. After some talk of withdrawing the song, the commission in charge of finding a new piece instead defended the existing work and said it will be kept as it is. Personally, I think it’s terrible but according to most people my taste in music is deplorable and from what the King-to-be says he wants his “new” monarchy to be all about, the odd combination of crooning, hymn singing and rapping may symbolize the new reign perfectly. Yeah … I’m trying to be positive darn it!

In the U.K. there was a 41-gun salute to mark the birthday of HM the Queen on Sunday (love those), HRH the Duchess of Cambridge celebrating scouting at a special ceremony at Windsor Castle which is good, but the bill messing with the succession is in its final stages and that’s bad (in my opinion anyway). I have yet to hear any rational explanation as to why age discrimination is any less unfair than gender discrimination. Neither one can be helped after all and I just find it extremely absurd to try to inject “fairness” into monarchy. In fact, I’m pretty sick of “fairness” period anymore. Life isn’t fair, never has been, never will be, and, as my sister is fond of saying, you can either get over it or die with the problem. Anyway, in better news, two have been charged in the outrage over the photos taken of the Duchess of Cambridge and I hope justice is swift and severe. I would say I’d like for pictures of those people in their ‘natural state’ to be published all over the world to be mocked and laughed at but, that would really be punishing the public more than the culprits so we won’t do that. Up in Scotland, three groups within the Church of Scotland has called for the Prince of Wales to have two coronations if Scotland votes for independence in the referendum being called for by the Scottish National Party. If that happens, the Prince will be the first British monarch since King Charles II to be crowned in both England and Scotland. The move is expected to cause some problems for the SNP which has claimed to support the monarchy so as not to alienate more loyal Scottish voters even while their leadership remains heavily dominated by republicans.

On the Scandinavian front there was not much major news this week, though there were some adorable photos released of Princess Isabella of Denmark who turned 6-years old and is quite the little cutie pie. However, one story did stand out from the Kingdom of Sweden where a group of republican traitors have launched a new campaign claiming to want to “liberate” royal children from their life of duty and obligations. Moderate MP Andreas Norlen responded to the group, led by Peter Althin, saying that Princess Estelle is too young to respond to such a claim and criticizing the republican group for targeting her because of that. According to Norlen, the Princess would probably not be singled out if she were old enough to respond because she might not respond the way the Republican Association wishes. She would probably, for example, take exception to them claiming to know what is best for her and saying that she freely chooses to devote her life to her people and country to serve them as a princess, crown princess and queen. Very true and shame on these despicable traitors for trying to use children as political pawns in their own power-grab.

There was also not much happening in the Far East this week. HM the Emperor of Japan did make a bit of news for being among the co-authors of a new book set “Fishes of Japan with Pictorial Keys to the Species” published by Tokai University. HM the Emperor is a member of the Ichthyological Society of Japan and authored all 350 pages on the “Suborder Gobiodei” or the goby species of Japan and the section includes discussion on the species that HM the Emperor himself discovered. In the broader news of the region, tensions between Japan and mainland China have been on the increase over the new Chinese claim to the Senkaku Islands after eight Chinese ships sailed into the area after which Japanese PM Abe warned that Japan would respond with force to resist any foreign landings on the islands. Tensions also increased over a disputed area of natural gas development in the East China Sea with Japan proposing a joint-development plan with both countries participating and China proposing a cooperative-development plan with Japanese investing in the Chinese exploitation of the area, saying that the area is in their “Exclusive Economic Zone” and that China has total sovereignty over that area of the sea and all its resources.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Word of Thanks to the Czechs

As some of you may know, there was recently a terrible catastrophe in central Texas (nowhere too near your humble blogger -it’s a big country) when a fertilizer plant in the small town of West exploded, killing at least fourteen people and wounding over a hundred. Coming so soon after the despicable terrorist bombing in Boston, there were, naturally, fears that this may have been part of some wider plot. Thankfully, though much costlier in terms of lives lost than Boston, the massive explosion in West was simply a tragic accident. Nonetheless, it has been a traumatic event for the area, with much of the area all around the plant being totally devastated. During such a time though, Texans pull together and look out for one another, being the tough, soft-hearted sort of people we are. A memorial ceremony was recently held in the nearby town of Waco, attended by President Obama, and we even managed to graciously accept his words of praise and comfort, even though the President is very, very far from being a popular man in central Texas. However, at times like this, people are usually expected to come together, lend a hand and be a little kinder than usual. That does not happen everywhere, but I would like to think it is more common than the reverse would be. In Texas it is certainly expected. Still, there was one aspect of this disaster that did take me by surprise and pleasantly so.

Not long after the full extent of the explosion and the terrible loss of life and property became known all around the world, reports came in that assistance was being sent to the area from, of all places, that former corner of the Hapsburg lands currently known as the Czech Republic. The Czech Ambassador to the United States, Petr Gandalovic, was quick to visit the area and the Foreign Ministry has said that it plans to donate four million koruna (or about $200,000) to the small Texas town to aid in local recovery. Obviously, this is a much greater amount in the Czech Republic than it is in Texas, but the amount is not the point. The point is that even in the midst of considerable economic troubles of their own, the Czech people are extending a helping hand to their brothers and sisters in the Lone Star State in their time of need. Czech flags still dot the central Texas countryside and the small town of West is made up predominately of the descendants of settlers from Bohemia and Moravia who immigrated in the late 1800's. That was, at the time of course, part of the "Dual-Monarchy" of Austria-Hungary and it reminds me of the more distant history of Texas when both Texas and the Czech lands were both under the reign of a Hapsburg monarch.

It is a rather slim historical tie, but there nonetheless. The area of Texas was, however nominally, under the reign of the Hapsburg King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, after whom of course the Hapsburg lands were divided between the Spanish and German dominions. Colonization mostly got underway toward the end of the Hapsburg era in Spain and during the reign of the Bourbon dynasty. However, there are places, such as at the old Spanish Royal Governor's Palace in San Antonio, where the Hapsburg double eagle can still be seen, despite the fact that it was completed under the Bourbon dynasty. That connection is important to me, if to few others and it illustrates the extent to which the Hapsburg empire was a truly global entity, grouping together an extremely diverse range of peoples.

My primary point here though is simply to express my thanks to the Czech people for their generosity and compassion on this occasion as well as my admiration for the Czech people in looking out for each other even over such a large span of both time and area. It speaks well for them and I would hope would serve as an example to other peoples to show solidarity with those of their blood when in difficult times. It speaks well for them indeed and from one Texan to the Czech people back in their homeland; thank you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of England (Part IV)

The Lancastrians

King Henry IV: The House of Lancaster came to power with Henry IV, shortly before the deposed Richard II was starved to death. He spent most of his reign putting down rebellions but does have the distinction of being the only English king to entertain a visiting Byzantine Emperor. Like Shakespeare, I cannot help but view his many misfortunes as divine punishment for usurping the throne of Richard II. Still, Henry IV was an accomplished soldier and he always managed to prove equal to the tasks that confronted him. He really was a decisive, brave and talented monarch, attentive to religion and the Church and he defeated all of his enemies as they appeared but he seemed perpetually unlucky, plagued by constant civil unrest and terribly poor health, leading to his demise at a relatively young age.

King Henry V: With the second Lancastrian monarch, we have again another top contender for the list of greatest English kings of all time. To say he displayed heroic courage doesn’t begin to describe it. As a very young man he fought his first battle, carrying on until victory was won despite having been shot in the face with an arrow. He proved a capable administrator, he appreciated the necessity of a strong economy as a matter of national security and he was a very devoted son of the Church, dispatching heretics with the same zeal as he showed dispatching Frenchmen. And, that, of course, is what he is most famous for, renewing the Hundred Years War and invading France. As a battlefield commander, Henry V was second to none and his string of victories were hard fought, spectacular achievements. It is impossible for me to think of Henry V without the stirring words of Shakespeare ringing in my head. Most astounding was his great victory at Agincourt where, despite having every disadvantage, his longbows decimated the charging French knights, dealing a blow to the French nobility that was truly devastating. I fail to see how anyone with an ounce of English blood in their veins cannot experience a surge of pride when thinking about King Henry V on the field of Agincourt. He conquered Normandy, making a victorious peace and forcing the French king to recognize him as his heir. His reign was an unbroken string of masterful successes gallantly won.

King Henry VI: Another monarch with an impossibly tough act to follow, Henry VI is not often thought well of but I have a bit of a soft spot for the poor man. Only nine months old when he inherited the crown, he remains the youngest monarch to ever sit on the throne of England. During his reign most of the gains of his father were taken back, in large part due to a certain French girl from Domremy. Even when he was older his reign was not successful with reverses in France and the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses at home, but I cannot have a very negative opinion of King Henry VI. He simply lacked the personality to meet the crisis at hand, being the shy and compassionate sort. But he should not be criticized too much for these qualities. He founded Eton and King’s College but was not up to the task of dealing with disasters abroad and a continuously feuding court. The disasters were not his fault, he simply inherited them. He was also a very good man, very religious, devoutly so, generous to those around him and it says something that he has been accused of being both saintly and insane.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mad Rant: The Perpetual Apology of Japan

A few days ago, in some of my usual perusing of historic dates, I noticed that it was on April 22, 2005 that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi apologized for the actions of his country during World War II. There should be nothing remarkable about that, except that, wait for any crisis or international dispute to come along, particularly any involving the (four) republican governments of Korea and China and one will invariably hear calls to this day for Japan to “apologize” for what happened during the Pacific War. Those unfamiliar with this little ritual might wonder how this could be as my opening sentence made mention of the Japanese prime minister apologizing in 2005, but wait, it gets better. Japanese prime ministers, various other government ministers and officials have apologized for the war literally dozens of times (if not more) from 1945 to today. The Showa Emperor even offered to apologize immediately after the war to the Allied supreme commander Douglas MacArthur but was refused. It doesn’t take a great deal of scholarly research to find all of this out. A simple internet search will show a number of (long) lists of all the apologies for the war made by the prime ministers of Japan. Yet, for some people, this is not enough and even in Japan it is becoming increasingly clear that it never will be enough.

The reasons “why” all the past apologies are deemed insufficient range from the verbally pedantic to the downright hysterical. Some say the wording has been wrong (yes, every time) even though, one would think, after so many apologies over so many years, each worded differently, the law of averages would compel one to have struck the right note at least once by now. Another is that the prime ministers have apologized personally but not “officially” as in, on behalf of Japan at large. This makes little sense because the prime ministers have stated that their apology was “official” at the time but also because the prime minister is the elected leader of the Japanese government. He occupies his position only because the country at large voted his party and/or the allies of it into power. Some have argued that any apology by the prime minister is insufficient but that it is HM the Emperor who should apologize, which is really ridiculous coming from countries that are all republics and who claim that a hereditary monarch can never be a legitimate representative of “the people” in the first place. Similarly, I have no doubt that if HM the Emperor did issue another formal apology (which has been offered, to Korea at least, if it would be accepted) the same crowd would probably say that His Majesty doesn’t represent the people or start arguing about the Emperor not “really” being the head of state and thus any apology from His Majesty is meaningless.

Another often cited reason is that, aside from the various leaders making the apologies, “the Japanese” themselves, “don’t really mean it”. This is where we start encountering hysteria. Yes, they actually claim to know what everyone in a given country is *thinking*! It sounds absurd, but no less so than the “evidence” cited for this. They point to the bombastic talk of the (miniscule) radical fringe or, more frequently, visits by state officials to the Yasukuni Shrine. This one really, really annoys me. One would think, from listening to the complaints from her republican neighbors, that Japan built the Yasukuni Shrine specifically to venerate war criminals. It is simply untrue as anyone should be able to see if they give it more than a mere second of serious thought. In the first place, I would object to any foreign country, government or even individual granting themselves power to decide where others can, in western terms, go to church. The spiritual beliefs and religious practices of Japanese prime ministers or any individual is the business of no one but themselves and that should be the end of it. In the case of Japan, however, it certainly is not and countries (like the bandit government in Peking) who pride themselves on their supposed non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries take a great interest in it.

In fact, just reflect on that for a moment; the same government which gets very, very touchy about anyone bringing up the massacres in Tibet or Tiananmen Square, because these were “internal matters” that are of no concern to foreigners does think that it is their business where the prime minister of Japan ‘goes to church’. Yasukuni Shrine, of course, is not a place that glorifies war criminals, it is a place to honor all of the deceased of Japan from all the wars the country has fought (or at least since the Meiji era). It is a place to remember all those who gave their lives for the Emperor. Yes, among those whose names have been listed there are a handful of men who were declared War Criminals by the Allied powers. That does not mean that every person who goes there is going there to honor those few people. That would be like saying that every time the President of the United States visits Arlington National Cemetery he is honoring U.S. generals buried there who slaughtered American Indians, Filipino rebels or who fought on the wrong side in the Civil War. I doubt anyone would believe that when President Obama goes to Arlington he is going to honor the memory of former Confederate General Joseph Wheeler who is buried there. It is an absurd line of thinking.

This does, however, point to another glaring inconsistency in the argument of the critics of Japan who like to seize on the visits by certain politicians to Yasukuni Shrine. Remember that many of these same critics say that no apology from any prime minister will be good enough, because they are not the head of state but that only an apology from HM the Emperor will do. Well, no reigning Emperor has ever visited Yasukuni Shrine since World War II. Why is it that a prime minister is too insignificant when making an apology but is suddenly extremely significant when he visits Yasukuni Shrine? However, as has been displayed numerous times, it does not take even so lofty a personage as the prime minister to set the critical lips to flapping. Certain prime ministers have practically begged all government officials not to visit the shrine but, Japan being a free country, anyone has a right to and all it takes is one minor functionary to enter Yasukuni Shrine for the apology brigade to fly into a foaming frenzy. It a perfect issue for them because, so long as freedom of worship exists in Japan, the government cannot stop people from visiting the shrine and so they have a natural spring for outrage that will never run dry and which can always be turned to at the necessary time.

There is, of course, a need that is served by these endless demands for perpetual apology from Japan. One is a never-ending demand for more money. Since the end of World War II, Japan has paid many, many billions of dollars (I would not be surprised if it were in the trillions by now) to the former Allies, to the families of Allied POW’s and civilians, to the countries of southeast Asia, Korea and China. There are still, of course, plenty of people who will say (honestly) that they never saw a penny but that is because of their own governments rather than the one in Tokyo. Vast sums in direct reparations and in “financial assistance” has been paid out by Japan over the years, but, of course, it never seems to be enough to comfort those countries demanding more apologies (invariably accompanied by a monetary donation as well). I also cannot help but notice that these countries, or those within them anyway, who claim to be so hurt and offended and outraged by Japanese attitudes are never quite so disgusted as to cut off trade with Japan or have their own economies hurt by refusing to do business with the island nation. Odd that. In the case of the Republic of China and the Republic of Korea the governments agreed to dismiss individual cases of reparations in return for lump sums of cash paid directly to them (China wanted it to fight the communists) which Japan agreed to only to have subsequent governments refuse to honor the agreements of their predecessors and demand more.

The ritual was performed again only recently (I saw it Monday, which set me off) when no less a figure than the Foreign Minister of the PRC criticized the Japanese government because a few officials had gone to the Yasukuni Shrine and because Prime Minister Abe donated some money to the shrine. She said that things would never be normal until Japan “faced up” to its history of aggression. This is so disgustingly infuriating, especially when being espoused in self-righteous tones by a member of the same political party whose dictatorship has cost the lives of tens of millions of people (more than all Japanese “war criminals” combined in fact, even if going by the astronomical numbers the Chinese themselves cite). The “great” thing about saying Japan has to “face up” to its past actions is that no one can measure such a vague demand. No one can ever say when that has been accomplished. In other words, no matter what Japan does, the PRC can still say it isn’t enough. And, of course, it never will be enough because it is far too useful to the bandit government in Peking to use as a tool of distraction, as a way of rallying national unity behind the dictatorship and to isolate Japan on the world stage by portraying them as the perpetual villains and China as the perpetual victim. Yes, according to the Red Chinese, the country that actually has it written into their constitution that they can never go to war, is the bully and the country with an army of millions, the largest air force on earth and a huge nuclear arsenal is the innocent, put upon victim. Rich. And so the lies go on. In the same broadcast I watched on CCTV they actually said that Yasukuni Shrine was a place that honored war criminals -and I’m sure plenty of morons out there in TV zombie-land believed them.

Japan, of course, should put a stop to all apologies immediately. Personally, I think they should scrap their constitution and write a totally new one (themselves), re-arm and even develop their own nuclear arsenal since China and North Korea do but, don’t be alarmed, that is not about to happen. Contrary to what so many hysterical people seem to think Japan is nowhere near being a belligerent or “far-right” country. Far-right political parties have an electoral record ranging from zero to miniscule and the country is so politically correct even flying the national flag or singing the national anthem is considered controversial because it might offend the neighbors. However, it should be obvious to everyone by now (or at least those who choose to use their brains) that no apology and no amount of money in reparations will ever be enough for the critics. For crying out loud, they’re even starting to complain about Japanese textbooks! When foreign countries are able to tell you where you can and cannot worship and what you can and cannot teach your children, what part of your land belongs to them and what bits belong to you and what you can and cannot do to defend yourselves -that is when you know you are not an independent country. I never hear Japan complaining about Chinese textbooks (or “book” as they have one official curriculum for the whole country) that portray the mass murdering dictator Mao as a great hero.

The disgusting double-standard toward Japan on the part of her republican neighbors has to stop. The only thing more infuriating is the disgustingly large number of people who go along with such a transparent work of manipulation! Japan needs to stop apologizing, stop trying to appease and become a strong, independent country again with a healthy national pride. And there are a number of other countries in Europe and North America in particular that could stand to do the same. An apology never solved anything and no amount of money can ever undo what has already been done. Putting aside the complex situation prior to the war, all generations since the war have done nothing to anyone. They have been as peaceful as lambs and it is wrong to continue to vilify people and force them to pay for the actions of others. Personally, I never understood what good comes from an apology anyway. Japan should stand up for itself, stop offering apologies that are never going to be accepted and move forward. If the communists cannot get over the past, that is their problem and no one else’s. I am sick of the bullying that successful countries put up with from backward and savage regimes, I’m sick of the internal nitpicking and self-loathing that has crippled so many once proud nations and I am a very … Mad Monarchist.

Monday, April 22, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of England (Part III)

The Plantaganets

King Henry III: After the disastrous reign of King John, a recovery was called for but Henry III would not be the monarch to lead it. He was not as bad as his predecessor it is true, but he wasn’t much to write home about either. His efforts to centralize power alienated the nobles, the country was awash with mostly French exiles looking to make a quick buck and Henry III had little luck on the battlefield and ended up renouncing vast territories in France. Defeated at home by Simon de Montfort, Henry had the shame of seeing the first parliament called during his reign by the man who had bested him. Today that means Simon de Montfort is a celebrated forefather of representative government but it mostly makes me annoyed with Henry III for being unable to stop him and allowing things to get to that point. He did finally escape rebel clutches and led the royalist forces to victory, which I give him credit for, but he died not long after, not a terrible king but far from successful.

King Edward I: Now we are getting back on the right track. Scotland may still hate his guts (and they should) but Edward I was one of the greatest English kings ever. He was a brave man, a shrewd statesman, a clever military commander and just an overall inspiring figure. He improved the law code so much that he became known as the “English Justinian”, conquered Wales and subdued Scotland. When William Wallace led the Scots in revolt, Edward I crushed them and had the troublesome Scot executed. That will always make him controversial, as does his expulsion of the Jews from England (Oliver Cromwell let them back in) but from the point of view of England alone, Edward I was everything one could hope for in a monarch. Harshness in his direction regarding Scotland should be tempered by the fact that his initial involvement came at the request of the Scots themselves (again, always a bad idea) and when it came to the basic things that kings of his time were expected to do; be strong, provide decisive leadership, win victory on the battlefield, expand the kingdom and secure the succession, he did them all. He was awesome.

King Edward II: Perhaps the only thing England can fault Edward I with was fathering so lackluster a monarch as Edward II. Thankfully, his reign was merely an unfortunate interval between two of the best kings the Plantaganets had to offer. What can be said of Eddie the second? I’ll admit it is tempting to just say “colossal puff” and move on, but I tend to be suspicious of gossip be it contemporary or of Medieval vintage. He lacked all of the drive, ambition and strength of his father, seemed to care little for anything other than parties, sports and his friends. The Scots gave him a sound thrashing, undoing the victories of his father, then suffered the indignity of being defeated by his own rebellious nobles. In the end, he was brought down by his formidable wife, Queen Isabella of France, who was a much more fascinating character than her husband. Advised to abdicate, Edward II predictably cried and then did the best thing of his reign and handed the crown over to his son.

King Edward III: After the embarrassing reign of his father, Edward III was just what the doctor ordered and one of my favorite English monarchs of all time. King Edward III was like a force of nature, he started the Hundred Years War by laying claim to the French throne, led his knights into victory after victory, defeating French forces far larger than his own and even taking the French king, Jean II, prisoner. He may not have been the best administrator but his victories make up for it. His success on the battlefield was so total and so brilliant that the English army came to be seen as the premier military force of the time. He also made English the official language at court for the first time, created the Most Noble Order of the Garter and was the one who divided Parliament into the two houses of commons and peers. He had the misfortune to reign during the Black Death and were it not for that his achievements might have been greater still. Contemporaries hailed him as the greatest monarch since King Arthur and with good reason. Even if he had done nothing else, the battle of Crecy alone would warrant him being considered one of the greatest of English kings and that was one victory among many. In every way one could measure a great Medieval monarch, Edward III more than measures up.

King Richard II: Perhaps no other English king had a tougher act to follow than Richard II and it is inevitable that he fails to measure up to the lofty standard set by his father. He is blamed for being a bad ruler and even for setting the stage for the disastrous Wars of the Roses but I tend to be a little less harsh toward Richard II than most people. He won early credit with me for his courage in standing up to the Peasant’s Revolt even though he was practically a boy at the time but he dealt with those rebels solidly enough. Still, he was not very adept at keeping calm and unity in the kingdom and has been accused of tyranny then as now. However, my impression is that it is not so much what King Richard II did but how he did it that proved to be his downfall. He was not a “people person”, he bided his time, built a considerable private army (wearing a white heart as a badge, I remember that) and then struck back at his enemies after most had come to see him as a pleasure-loving weakling. Still, Richard II will probably always be remembered as a schemer rather than a leader and he was finally abandoned by most of his men and defeated.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Happy Birthday

The Mad Monarchist wishes HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and etc a very happy birthday today, which happily is on a date which ensures someone from my part of the world will never forget it. May Her Majesty enjoy many more. God Save the Queen!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Royal News Roundup

It was an especially rough week for the Spanish Royal Family, starting out with protests in the streets against the monarchy, marking the birth of the second republic and calling for a return to that late Soviet puppet-state. All of this in a country where respect for the King was once universal and even the media never spoke of the King or Royal Family in anything but respectful tones. Where the sort of bad jokes commonly directed at the royals in Britain was totally unheard of. How things have changed, and just when the politicians and their years of failed socialist policies really need a good distraction. To make things worse, the Spanish treasury has been ordered to turn over the tax returns of the Infanta Cristina in the continued effort to taint as many royals as possible with the scandal of one member by marriage who (everyone seems to forget) has not himself been found guilty of any crime as of yet. Recent polls have shown nearly half the population now favor the abdication of the King in favor of the Prince of the Asturias and of course none of this has hurt the cause of the hardcore republicans who would like to see the whole monarchy brought down. It only shows how effective the media-political alliance of elites are at directing public opinion. The King of Spain has been nothing but a dutiful constitutional monarch and every true and loyal Spaniard should rally to his support.

Elsewhere on the continent, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg celebrated his 58th birthday this week, though there was little actual time for it as the Grand Ducal couple have been on a busy state visit to the illegitimate Austrian republic, talking culture, encouraging business and economic ties and mentioning the long history between Luxembourg and Austria. The same Tuesday, the Grand Ducal couple's youngest, Prince Sebastien, also turned 21. We send our congratulations to them both. In the Netherlands, republican traitors have been calling for their soon-to-be King Willem-Alexander to take a pay cut. I can only wonder how anyone would take anything they say seriously. When your stated goal is to end the monarchy entirely, how can you have an objective opinion on anything royal-related? However, it seems the monarch to be is not entirely without taint by the republican mentality himself. In a recent interview the Prince of Orange said that when he is King he will not be addressed as "Your Majesty" and has promised a more informal monarchy and indicated that he will be a "hands-off" monarch who sticks to a ceremonial role and will not be as involved in government as HM Queen Beatrix. And if he thinks that will make a difference I'm not going to try to argue with him.

On the Scandinavian front, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway have been enjoying a ski vacation with their little family. The King and Queen of Sweden had a busy week of receptions, visits and audiences. Prince Carl Philip opened a new Neonatal Couplet Care Unit and Prince Daniel visited the "belly of the beast" at the European Union in Brussels. And, in Denmark, our beloved Daisy celebrated her birthday this week. On Tuesday HM Queen Margrethe II turned 73-years old though most of the crowd below the palace balcony thought that the royal grandchildren stole the show, winning a great deal of cheers and applause from the public. The great affection Danes have for their Queen and the oldest monarchy in Europe is a testament to how HM Margrethe II and her family have handled themselves over the years, the great job they have done and the integrity they have always displayed. The presence of so many grandchildren also presents a hopeful future for the oldest European monarchy which seems as popular and secure as any on the continent. We wish the Queen a happy birthday, congratulations on a remarkable reign and a fervent hope that she may reign over Denmark for many more years to come.

In Great Britain, the Duke of Kent made his first public appearance on Sunday since suffering a stroke. As part of Regimental Remembrance Day the Duke paraded with the Scots Guards down London's Mall. The Duke of Kent, a 1955 graduate of Sandhurst with over two decades of military service, is colonel of the Scots Guards. Of course, a more solemn occasion was the funeral for the late former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh attended the event, carried out with great dignity at St Paul's Cathedral. For some reason, someone also thought it would be okay to invite the Duchess of York and, of course, the cameras did not fail to catch her being embarrassing. It was also announced this week that Prince Edward will be in Nashville, Tennessee next month for the presentation of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Prince Edward and Countess Sophie will also be attending the upcoming wedding of Princess Madeleine of Sweden, representing the British monarchy. In a new twist on an old story, it was announced this week that adventurous Prince Harry will be taking part in a race to the South Pole. As before, it will be in the company of wounded British servicemen and women and will benefit their cause. We wish them all the best in the enterprise (and hope they don't freeze to death).

Finally, in the Far East, some stunning news out of Japan. HIH Crown Princess Masako is set to make her first official overseas visit in almost eleven years in order to attend, along with HIH Crown Prince Naruhito of course, the inauguration of the new King of the Netherlands. The last overseas visit by the Imperial Crown Prince and Princess was in August of 2002 when TIH visited Australia and New Zealand.  They are good friends with the Dutch Royal Family and HM Queen Beatrix invited the couple to The Netherlands on a private retreat in 2006, two years after HIH the Crown Princess was diagnosed with what has been termed an "adjustment disorder". In all subsequent overseas royal engagements HIH the Crown Prince has represented Japan and HM the Emperor on his own. This may indicate a sudden improvement in the Crown Princess' condition as, in 2009, the Crown Prince spoke of his wife's condition saying that, "It is necessary to make a cautious decision looking at travel distances, the period of stay and the events to attend". There was also a surprising but touching sight in Tokyo this week when TM the Emperor and Empress danced together in public for the first time in 20 years at a charitable gathering. TM remain as handsome a couple as ever.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Monarch Profile: Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria

Although he may not have been what the world would consider a “successful” monarch, I have always had a soft spot for the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I. He was, undoubtedly, handicapped but probably not so disabled as most people think and he was a very kind man, a devoutly religious man and a monarch who did the best he could for as long as he could. He was born on April 19, 1793, the first son of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II and his consort Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. Unfortunately, because the two were so closely related (being double first cousins), Ferdinand was born with some severe disabilities. The Emperor was overjoyed with the birth of his little boy, looking with his heart rather than his head, and hurriedly announced the arrival of a “healthy” baby which was certainly not the case. Medical staff had to work hard to keep him alive and it was evident from his unusually large head that he had severe problems. Among his ailments were water on the brain, soft bones and severe epilepsy, causing him to have as many as twenty seizures a day. There were also other neurological problems that became evident as he grew older. He was, for example, very slow in learning to talk and when he did, suffered from a considerable speech impediment. 

His health was always fragile and, unlike most Hapsburg heirs, his formative years were spent only with feminine attendants, being six years old before he was given a male tutor. Because of his disabilities, learning was difficult but not impossible, though it often seemed his education was not appropriate to his position. Still, he enjoyed studying heraldry and was fascinated with new technologies and farming. His mother had always kept him rather hidden from public view but things changed following her death (when Ferdinand was only 14) when he was given a new stepmother in the person of Maria Ludovika of Modena. She dismissed his old tutors, considering their regimen unhealthy, and appointed a new staff that would push him toward a more “normal” life. He became more independent, was taught how to read and write, how to ride a horse, to dance, fence and was even given piano lessons. He enjoyed drawing and the Empress encouraged this but after a problem with his tutor, his education was declared sufficient and he was moved on to study military theory, science and the like. Despite being handicapped, he kept a regular diary and was capable of making good sense, even becoming known for his sharp eye and witty remarks. By the time he was 36-years old in 1829 he was sitting in on State Council meetings to prepare him for his future role as emperor.  

The following year, in 1830, at the insistence of his father, the heir was formally crowned King Ferdinand V of Hungary on September 28 in Pressburg (modern-day Bratislava). The Hungarian elite presented him with a gift of 50,000 ducats which he donated to the poor of Hungary. As this marked Ferdinand coming more into his own, it was necessary for him to marry and, as usual for the time, the Imperial Family and government took up the matter with Ferdinand having little say. The choice they agreed on was Princess Maria Anna of Savoy, daughter of King Victor Emanuel I. Obviously, the disabled crown prince was not the sort of man a young girl dreams of marrying and the Italian princess reportedly burst into tears when told of her fate. However, with the selfless dedication of so many daughters of her house, she carried on and did her duty. The two were married and, happily, became a touchingly devoted couple. Despite his repeated best efforts, Ferdinand’s seizures made it impossible for him to ever consummate their marriage but he loved his wife and she took great care of her rather infirm husband throughout his life with never a word of complaint. She looked beyond his disabilities to see the sweet natured, good man underneath. Of course, not everyone displayed such a Christian attitude and not long after the crown prince narrowly survived an assassination attempt in 1832, an occupational hazard the House of Hapsburg was all too familiar with. The good nature of Ferdinand was displayed again at his wedding when he donated his wedding gifts to build a new waterworks for the city of Vienna.

On March 2, 1835 Emperor Francis passed away and his son succeeded him as Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, as well as, of course, King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia and King of Lombardy-Venetia among his long list of titles. Emperor Ferdinand was, in fact, the last to be crowned King of Bohemia and the last to be crowned with the sacred Iron Crown of Lombardy (he would be crowned King of Lombardy-Venetia in 1838 and crowned King of Bohemia with the Crown of St Wenceslas in 1836). Obviously, because of his disabilities, public appearances could be problematic and the new Emperor needed a great deal of assistance in governing the Austrian Empire. Because of that, the effective running of the multi-nation state was left to a three-man regency council led by the veteran statesman Prince Metternich. However, it must be remembered (though all too often it is not) that Emperor Ferdinand was never declared to be incapacitated, he was able to perform many physical activities from riding to fencing to shooting, was conversant in five languages and could play two musical instruments. The idea that he was some sort of mental vegetable is completely untrue and unfounded.

It was during the reign of Emperor Ferdinand that industrialization took off with great speed in the Austrian Empire and his time on the throne was particularly known for the boom in railroad construction. He also saw the establishment of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Emperor took a great interest in all of these areas. It is also untrue that, despite the popular perception, Emperor Ferdinand I never had to deal with any major problems and folded at the first crisis to come along. There was, for example, a rebellion in Poland in 1846 which was put down by Austrian troops and paved the way for the annexation of Cracow to the Austrian Empire. However, undoubtedly, Emperor Ferdinand was a peaceful man who preferred compassion to military confrontation. Some felt he was often too kind such as when, in the aftermath of his coronation as King of Lombardy-Venetia, he granted a general amnesty that released many Italian nationalists and revolutionaries who would continue on with their goal to see the Austrians driven out of Italy. Still, his disabilities, while they should not be exaggerated, certainly cannot be ignored. It is, however, unfortunate that all many people seem to remember about Emperor Ferdinand is the story of his supposedly only coherent command  being, “I am the Emperor and I want dumplings!”

Emperor Ferdinand was not helpless nor an imbecile as he is so often portrayed. In fact, he should be credited for having the intelligence to know his own limitations and those limitations were reached with the outbreak of the Revolutions of 1848. In seemed to take no time at all for nearly the whole of Europe to be thrown into rebellion and turmoil. It was a monumental crisis and Emperor Ferdinand realized as much as anyone that he was simply not up to the job. Even the formidable Prince Metternich fled the country as riots broke out in Vienna. When viewing the mob from a palace window, the benign and somewhat perplexed Emperor turned to an attendant to ask, “But, are they allowed to do that?” The Imperial court was forced to leave Vienna for the safety of Innsbruck and there began to plan the counter-revolution to take back the capital and restore order to the empire. To command this campaign, a younger, healthy monarch was needed and Archduchess Sophie, a formidable woman without question, was quick to point to her son Francis Joseph (her husband being both less capable and less willing to assume the throne). Emperor Ferdinand could easily see that this was the best course of action, he had the advice of the able statesman Prince Felix von Schwarzenberg, and abdicated in favor of his nephew, handing power over to him and pledging his own allegiance. 

When the 18-year old new monarch thanked his former emperor, Ferdinand replied, “Don’t mention it, Franzl, it was a real pleasure”. During his reign (especially in Bohemia) he had been known as “Ferdinand the Good” but after his abdication the wittier members of the rebellious mob dubbed him “Goodinand the Finished”. No doubt they were less glib after a taste of the determination of the new monarch and the fire of marshals Radetzky and Windisch-Graetz. For his part, Emperor Ferdinand, who referred to his change in status as a ‘transfer of government’ rather than an abdication, retired with his beloved wife to Prague Castle. He and his wife devoted much time to the Church, both being devoutly religious people, and (to the surprise of the misinformed) he actually showed himself to be a quite competent businessman, dealing in local Bohemian goods, increasing the trade and profits of the region, in the process amassing a considerable fortune for himself which made up much of the wealth of Emperor Francis Joseph following the death of his uncle. Emperor Ferdinand I died in Prague on June 29, 1875 at the age of 82 and was buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna with his predecessors.

It is unfortunate that all too often Emperor Ferdinand I is remembered only for odd sayings and portrayed as someone who barely comprehended the world around him. He is the sort, rare though such cases are, upheld by revolutionaries as an example of the “danger” of monarchy and hereditary authority. The truth, of course, is that Emperor Ferdinand, while certainly disabled (through no fault of his own) was much more capable than he is usually given credit for. He was a good man, a devoted husband and a faithful and pious son of the Church. Slightly slow, perhaps, but still more intelligent than a great many perfectly healthy people and he was a man who knew his own limitations. His abdication (or “transfer of government”) was based on his sense of duty to the Austrian Empire and that sense of duty had guided his life. Despite his limitations, he worked hard to do the best job he could for his countries and all his peoples. Far from being an example of the “danger” of monarchy, the case of Emperor Ferdinand shows that just because a monarch is handicapped, things do not fall apart. The outbreak of revolution in Austria cannot be attributed to his disabilities as such unrest broke out in France and Germany with perfectly healthy rulers. When it was realized that he was not up to the challenge, Ferdinand I accepted that the best thing for his house and his empire was to step down in favor of another. It was all handled “in house”, quickly, smoothly and to the benefit of all. That is how Emperor Ferdinand should be remembered; as a good, faithful man and monarch who persisted in spite of adversity to do the best for his empire.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Monarchist Quote

“The Imperial Household, as represented by the Emperor, has been praying for the welfare of the people while nurturing harmonious relationship with them. Based on the people’s respect and adoration for the Emperor, the Japanese people have stayed united. That is the essence of Japan’s national heritage, I believe.”

-Yoshiko Sakurai

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of England (Part II)

The Angevins

King Henry II: Today, especially among Church circles, Henry II has a pretty bad reputation because of the Becket affair and that is certainly legitimate. However, I cannot have a low opinion of Henry II. He made his mistakes, sure, with most pointing to the fate of poor Becket and his invasion of Ireland. However, his Irish invasion came at local request (bad move there) and as for Becket, he didn’t actually order the murder and he did some considerable penance afterwards, something which it is impossible to imagine any modern national leader lowering themselves to do. Taken as a whole though, he was an extremely successful monarch who forged an Angevin empire that made England the most powerful country in Western Europe at the time. During the height of his reign all of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and western France (if not more) were either directly or indirectly under his control. No small achievement that.

King Richard I: Richard the Lionhearted is one of those traditional heroes it is popular to downplay these days. Yes, he spoke French almost exclusively, yes he spent most of his reign outside of England, but the popular image of Richard I is just too good to pass up. I cling to that image because it is so compelling and have no time for the naysayers, even if they have some facts on their side (pesky, annoying things). As a crusader, he didn’t manage to retake Jerusalem but considering the odds against him, Richard did very well and the mutual respect he and Saladin had for each other may have become legendary but it is backed up by actual history. His main failing was in being too kind and indulgent with his brother John, but it is hard to fault him too much for that. Riding into the thick of the fight, swinging his Danish battle axe it is easy to see why he became such an iconic, chivalrous figure. He did regain some of the Holy Land for Christendom, undid much of the damage that was done in his absence and died in battle, again, a great way for such a famous warrior-king to go. I cannot dislike Richard I, I’m all for him.

King John: England has been fortunate in having mostly good to great monarchs but, every now and then, just to keep the English humble, a King John comes along. Despite my best efforts over the years to find a bright side, he really was pretty much as bad as his reputation attests. He betrayed his own family, conspired with the King of France, failed at doing wrong as much as doing right (if he ever tried), brought down excommunication on himself from Pope Innocent III (who was not the tolerant sort) and ended up turning the nobility of England against him. Failing again, as usual, he was forced to sign the Magna Carta so even for fans of the “Great Charter” King John cannot be given much credit for it since it was done basically under duress. He was not bad at administration but even there his tendency to micromanage won him few friends. By the time all was said and done no one respected him and worse no one could trust him. I have to go with the crowd on this one; King John was just not good.

Monday, April 15, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of England (Part I)

The Normans

King William I: Surprisingly, I often find myself having a higher opinion of William the Conqueror than most Englishmen, I assume because of nostalgia for Saxon England, but I tend to at least entertain the possibility that he may have been the chosen heir as he claimed, he did have the full blessing of Pope Alexander II (which mattered back then) and it wasn’t all cakes and ale in Saxon England before the Norman conquest of 1066. He seems to have been a very talented warrior, not the most upright or likeable guy in the world, but his harshness in England was provoked rather than planned. I think he would have preferred to have everyone cooperate with him but when anyone did not -they were destroyed totally. He was a harsh man who lived in harsh times, sure not to ever be a favorite, he was capable and died in battle which is usually good for a king to do.

King William II: I think better of his father than I do of “Rufus” who was still at least competent, seemed well liked by his soldiers (which was very important in those days) but whereas his father took religion seriously (even if he didn’t always live it) and enacted beneficial reforms, the court of William II was reportedly a little on the licentious side and he didn’t have much time for the Church. That does not endear me to him, nor his reputation for being heavy on the flash but light on the substance. He did not marry and never had any children which English monarchs often seem to be applauded for but which I tend to take as a dereliction of one of the most basic royal duties. I remember he died in a hunting accident (if I’m not mistaken) which might not have been entirely accidental.

King Henry I: No very strong feelings are stirred in me by Henry I. His reign, as I recall, was dominated with reconquering Normandy and the “investiture dispute” with the Catholic Church. In the final settlement he sacrificed form in favor of substance so that it was still basically the King who picked the bishops and opinion of him will be divided over whether or not one thinks that was a good thing. Personally, when it comes to choosing bishops I have not been impressed with the record of royals or popes. King Henry I doesn’t stand out much to me but sometimes some of the best monarchs are those who seem unimportant simply because they were so good at keeping the peace and maintaining calm and contented countries.

King Stephen: King Stephen “of Blah” as I like to call him, spent his reign locked in battle with Empress Matilda for control of England and he suffers in my view simply from being a less interesting character than his archrival. He stopped a Scottish invasion by negotiation rather than victory and based on how troubled his reign was King Stephen doesn’t seem to have been terribly strong or effective as a national leader. His buying off of enemies and lavish lifestyle laid the foundation for some financial problems and accompanying discontent which certainly did him no favors. About the best I can say about him was that things could have been worse and most of his rule seems to be a succession of minimizing disasters as much as possible.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

MM Sunday Scripture

Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, the LORD is righteous.

-II Chronicles 12:6

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the UK this week, the big story of course was the passing of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Contrary to what some have said, the former PM will not receive a state funeral but it will be an appropriately ceremonious affair, along the lines of the funerals for Lady Diana or HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. It has been reported that HM the Queen will attend the ceremony, which is rarely done and a mark of the respect Her Majesty has for the late PM. Sources say the decision was taken by the Queen herself with no prompting from any quarter. Add that to the list of evidence against the silly notion that the Queen disliked her former first minister. In other news, on Tuesday the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary privately. Duchess Camilla, once a source of considerable public opposition, has over the years won over most of the British public, showing herself as a dedicated, humorous and approachable member of the Royal Family and reportedly a great source of support to the young Duchess of Cambridge as she learns the ropes of royal life. And speaking of the Duchess of Cambridge, she is set to officially name a new cruise ship in Southampton in June, only a few weeks before the due date of the newest member of the family.

On the continent, Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, described as a “former party girl and single mother” has come under criticism by a sociologist and college professor for her newly found “jet-set” lifestyle and example as a role model. In quite a stretch she makes the Crown Princess the ‘poster girl’ for the nouveau riche lifestyle of Norway which has been embraced at the expense of “traditional” Norwegian values. This sociologist, of course, does not mean “traditional” in the traditional sense. She does not mean, for example, the traditional morals of Lutheran Christianity or old Norse values of marital fidelity, valor, hard work and national pride. She criticizes the Crown Princess for having no career of her own, lacking a college education and for basically being a wife and mother before all else. She claims that the Crown Princess has reverted to being a woman of the 1950’s. Now, perhaps things in Norway were drastically different, but I certainly don’t look at the Crown Princess who was a single mother, who lived with the Crown Prince prior to their marriage, who has shown strong support for the homosexual community as being reminiscent of a woman of the 1950’s. This, of course, is a blatantly obvious baseless attack by someone desperate to attract attention and nothing more. If anything, I think too much “changing with the times” has been the problem, not too little.

In other continental royal news, the King of Sweden has been touring the country, visiting with people on the local level. In The Netherlands, HM Queen Beatrix hosted a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to commemorate Russo-Dutch cultural cooperation (whatever that means) and in the little Principality of Liechtenstein, more transparency in the banking business is on the horizon. HSH Prince Hans-Adam II said in a visit to neighboring Austria, “I think that we are moving in the direction of automatic data transfer. The pressure is growing ever greater,” as the European Union has been pushing for the automatic transfer of banking data as a way to fight tax evasion. Yes, no one in Brussels will rest so long as people continue to try to keep their own money. We won’t stand for that! In Italy HRH Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Venice and Piedmont appeared in a TV commercial for a brand of e-cigarrette, which I am sure is another example of why so many monarchists prefer the Duke of Aosta over the eldest grandson of the last king but which I am equally sure is also why most Italians know the prince and have no idea who the Duke of Aosta is. Finally, there is Spain, which I really don’t feel like going into at length. It’s just too frustrating for me. Suffice it to say that more and more baseless accusations and unjustified investigations keep being tossed at the King and the Royal Family in an obvious effort by the ruling elite and their media lapdogs to keep public attention and public anger away from those who actually put Spain in such a deplorable condition.

Finally, in the Far East, HIH Prince Hisahito of Akishino, who will hopefully become Emperor of Japan one day, started his first day of elementary school this week to a great deal of media attention. This is because the little prince will not be attending the Gakushuin Primary School as has been customary for children of the Imperial Family for generations. Instead, he will be moving on with his classmates to an affiliate elementary school of Ochanomizu University. He had previously attended a nursery school affiliated with the same university. He will be called by his own name, will not use any title and will be given no special treatment. A spokesman for the Imperial Household Agency said, “Akishino and his wife think that it will be an important experience for the future Emperor to learn with children in various environments to understand the public’s thoughts”. I’m not wild about this and I’ve never been very fond of royals attending regular schools. Even more than private schools, I was always perfectly fine with the old method of private tutors in the palace. In the first place, I think private, at home, individually tailored education is best for anyone but I also object to the idea of princes and princesses going amongst the masses to be treated “just like everyone else” -because they’re not just like everyone else. In some ways it seems almost cruel to give royal children a taste of a life that can never be their own and, certainly in Europe, it seems to often lead to scandals where young royals think they can behave just like their classmates which inevitably gets them into trouble. It would be impossible to imagine such a thing happening in Japan, but still, I find it hard to view this as a positive. Still, we wish Prince Hisahito all the best in his studies.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Abdication Chatter the World Over

Abdication seems to be in the air these days. HM Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands announced her upcoming abdication first (now rapidly approaching), which was no great surprise. Then, Pope Benedict XVI surprised everyone by his sudden abdication and now talk of abdication seems to be all the rage from one side of the world to the other. One case, and surely the most problematic, is in the troubled Kingdom of Spain. Chatter has been increasing as of late that HM King Juan Carlos I should abdicate in favor of the Prince of the Asturias, with some going so far as to suggest that the survival of the monarchy may depend on it. I hope that is not the case, but the way things have been going lately, I cannot help but be rather nervous about the subject. It seems incredible, at least to me, that the image of the King of Spain could have fallen so far, so fast over what seems (again, to me at least) something so trivial. It started with the safari in Africa and that greatly offended me. Not that the King might have dispatched a ponderous pachyderm but that the peevish public should pout so over that rather than their elderly monarch breaking his hip.

We are told that it was not just that the King might have shot an elephant but that he was vacationing while Spain is in the grip of a disastrous economic crisis and is faced with “harsh” austerity measures. Sorry, I don’t buy it. His Catholic Majesty’s little hunting trip did not cost the Spanish taxpayers a single euro and I see no reason why the King should suffer for the poor economy caused by the idiotic politicians that the Spanish public voted into office. It was the people, not the King, who voted for the men who spent money Spain did not have and it was they who kept voting for more spending, more borrowing and on and on until doubts began to surface about the ability of Spain to make good on such a vast debt. Then came the scandal involving the King’s son-in-law and lately the Infanta Cristina which is almost as ridiculous. Overnight it seemed that Spain became a completely different country. A public that once adored their monarch for giving them democracy suddenly became angry and demanded apologies (which they got). How about every Spaniard who voted for the last couple of decades apologize to the King for ruining his country and to their children (the few that have any) for sacrificing their future for their own immediate comfort?

When he came to power, King Juan Carlos gave the Spanish people the right to choose. It should be obvious to all by now that they chose wrongly and now they are mad at the King who made it possible for them to have a choice. I see behind all of this a simple but tried and tested political tactic of distraction. The politicians do not want to be blamed of course, even though they drew up the bills, voted on them and passed them into law. The public, likewise, does not want to accept responsibility for their own short-sighted decisions and so the King and Royal Family make for very convenient targets for public anger and frustration. Spain did not fall into financial crisis because the King went on safari or even because of any of the allegedly creative means of saving money devised by his son-in-law. Spain fell into financial crisis because of the voters, the politicians they elected and the decisions they made. Yet, in the end, it may be the King of Spain himself, the one innocent party in the whole of the Spanish government, who is the only one to lose his job because of the mess the country is in.

And so, the issue of abdication is being put about. Will it happen? I hope not and not just because I like the King personally. It would set a dangerous precedent in a country which has not had the most stable monarchy in the world to say the very least of it. If His Catholic Majesty himself has spoken on the subject, I have not heard about it. Some time ago, I do recall HM Queen Sofia saying that abdication was never going to happen. I hope she is right, even though I have no doubt that Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia will make an excellent King and Queen when their time comes. However, Queen Sofia herself is an example of how radically Spain has changed in recent years. Once, no one would have dreamed of saying an unkind word about her. Then, everyone blinked one day and suddenly she was being attacked in the media for being opposed to gay “marriage”. Yeah, imagine that, the *Queen of Spain* supporting the position of the Catholic Church on marriage. Go figure, huh?

Recently, far away from the Spains on the other side of the world, the subject of abdication has also been brought up and this one seems not quite so simple. The “where” is Japan, “Land of the Rising Sun” but the “who” is not the Emperor but rather HIH Crown Prince Naruhito. 81-year-old religious studies scholar Tetsuo Yamaori recently wrote an article suggesting that the Crown Prince should abdicate his position as heir to the throne for the sake of his family. There was talk about a new face for the monarchy, a new style and all that usual nonsense (at least as I see it) but the bottom line was one that, I have to admit, had at least somewhat of a ring of truth to it. The abdication was really suggested not so much for the sake of the imperial heir himself but for his wife Crown Princess Masako. Yamaori pointed out, quite correctly, that it has been ten years since the Crown Princess had her nervous breakdown (for lack of a better word) and has been kept out of the limelight, staying away from usual “royal” duties. Further, all of the medical reports on her for the last ten years have sounded very much the same, talk of progress but no end or full recovery in sight.

The basic proposition, in so many words, was that the Crown Princess is just not up to the “job” of being Crown Princess or, one day, Empress consort. If she is unable, is it perhaps best for her to make room for someone who can? That is where the idea of abdication comes in. Yamaori suggests that the time is at hand for the Crown Prince to make a choice and perhaps the best choice for his wife and daughter would be to renounce their positions in favor of his younger brother and sister-in-law whose son, according to the current rules of succession, is set to become Emperor of Japan in the future anyway. I have to admit, as much as I dislike abdications in general, this seemed to make some sense to me. The ardent fans of Crown Princess Masako may take it as a slight against her, but it certainly is not as far as I am concerned. She seems like a very kind and lovely woman and I have nothing but the fondest feelings for her. However, I have been annoyed by the way some people have seized on her case as a way of being critical of the monarchy, as though she is the poor, suffering victim of “the establishment” in much the same way that some did regarding Lady Diana in the UK. If they still held such a view, would it not be best to free her from her gilded cage? Personally, I do not take such a view, nor have I ever viewed the Imperial Household Agency as the bogey man that so many others seem to. However, it does seem fairly clear that Crown Princess Masako is simply not up to the task of fulfilling her duties. This little hiatus has been going on for a decade now.

I always like to see monarchy pass from father to son regardless of the circumstances but is it possible that, perhaps, the more moral thing for the Crown Prince to do would be to look to his own family first and, if the current arrangement is one they cannot thrive in, to remove them from it? Again, little Prince Hisahito is set to become emperor someday anyway, so stepping aside in favor of Prince Fumihito of Akishino would only mean that the line would go from father to son to grandson rather than from father to son to nephew. It is in my nature that I never like to see things changed, but could this perhaps be for the best? Of Spain I have no doubt but concerning Japan I am less sure. In an interview, Yamaori asserted that when the balance between religious authority and political power is upset the country invariably falls into disaster. I would tend to agree and might even suggest that, on the other side of the world, Spain is proving the point.

Feel free to share your thoughts; to abdicate or not to abdicate -that is the question.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...