Saturday, June 29, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the Far East, on Thursday the Imperial Household Agency announced that Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress will be visiting Iwate Prefecture on July 4 & 5 to meet with and encourage the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. It will be the second time the Imperial couple have visited Iwate since the disaster. The schedule released says Their Majesties will visit temporary housing units in Tono on July 4, meet with evacuees, support staff and workers and will then visit the devastated coastal cities of Ofunato and Rikuzentakata on July 5. In Ofunato they will tour a plan which uses debris from the disaster to make cement used in repair work and in Rikuzentakata Their Majesties will meet with Mayor Futoshi Toba to hear his report on the progress of recovery work as well as visiting a temporary housing complex set up on the grounds of the local junior high school. Later in the month the Imperial couple may visit Fukushima Prefecture as well but no definite decision has been made according to the IHA. Further to the south in Malaysia, the King has urged the people to accept the results of the recent thirteenth general election and to support all newly elected members of parliament in working for the greater good of the whole country. The recent election has been marked by quite a few disturbances and complaints that the ruling party used some rather under-handed tactics in the voting process. And, moving west, in India the unofficial King of Manipur, HH LeishembaSanajaoba, has gone on a hunger strike to protest the decision by the state cabinet to take over his royal palace in Imphal. Demonstrators have been guarding the palace and protesting the decision, which is not the first time the government has tried to seize the Manipur royal palace. Of course, we wish the King every success in retaining his palace and salute his defense of the rights of kings and the private property rights of all people.

The biggest royal news this week came out of the Middle East where the Emir of Qatar officially abdicated and handed power over to his son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. It is certainly different from what happened in 1995 when Sheikh Hamad (the now former Emir) overthrew his own father to take the throne which he has held until now. The new Emir of Qatar is British educated, a graduate of Sandhurst (for American readers that’s basically the British version of West Point) and some have pointed to this change of monarch as part of the ongoing “Arab Spring” movement which has swept North Africa and the Middle East. Many monarchies in the region supported the “Arab Spring” in other countries but resisted any outbreak of similar movement in their own countries. Qatar is not expected to turn wildly democratic anytime soon, however, Qatar has been a major supporter of the rebel forces fighting in Syria to overthrow the ruling dictator Bashar al-Assad. Observers are now waiting to see if the new Emir will continue the policies of his father or take Qatar in a new direction. Meanwhile, at a conference on boring things where important people talk excessively, HM King Abdullah II of Jordan took time out from world economics to warn about the danger of the Syrian civil war sparking a wider sectarian war in the Middle East unless outside forces intervened to set up peace talks as well as warning that Palestine could erupt in an “Arab Spring” type revolt if Israel did not make concessions soon. He welcomed the latest call by the Obama administration to resume peace talks but warned that time was running out for Israel to stop building settlements.

In Europe, things were fairly quiet this week. One item that I cannot avoid commenting on though is the recent outrageous behavior directed at HM Queen Sofia of Spain. Queen Sofia, as most probably know, is a big fan of classical music and this week attended the International Music Day concert at the Royal Theatre in Madrid. Unfortunately, when she appeared there were jeers and shouting from hecklers in the crowd and this is not the first time the Queen has had to deal with booing and hissing from a crowd lately. Nor is she the only one as HM King Juan Carlos and TRH the Prince and Princess of the Asturias have received similar treatment. That is what I find most alarming. The anti-royal sentiment that has been aroused (an an intentional effort to draw attention away from the political elite and their policies that have ruined the Spanish economy I am convinced) is now apparently approaching the point of mindless hysteria. After all, not too many years ago any disrespect toward the King would have been unthinkable but that is not the case anymore. The vast majority once had all the respect and sympathy in the world for the Queen, then she started to be criticized for her Orthodox-Catholic values and now she is even being jeered at in public. Still, that being done, we were told not to panic because the Prince and Princess of the Asturias were untouched by all the current unpleasantness and are the popular, beloved face of the future Spanish monarchy. Well, they have not been immune from rude treatment either and it seems that more people are choosing to turn off their brains and be hateful at the most prominent targets available. All monarchists should take care of this change in the wind because such ignorant acting out is one of the unfailing symptoms of a mob mentality.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Monarch Profile: King Louis Philippe I of the French

Even amongst the most ardent royalists, few French monarchs remain so controversial as King Louis Philippe I who reigned as “King of the French” from 1830 to 1848 and who was often referred to as the “Citizen King” because of his efforts to reconcile the traditional Kingdom of France with the Revolution that first brought it to ruin. This was ultimately an unsuccessful effort and it does provoke just the slightest amount of sympathy to see a monarch becoming so equally reviled by both royalists and republicans. Like many others have done, he tried to please everyone and ended up pleasing no one. By his actions it can, perhaps, be said that in spite of all the experience he gained in his lifetime, he never fully understood the underlying principles of either the ancien regime or the Revolution. He was born on October 6, 1773 to the Duke of Chartres, later the Duke of Orleans, Louis Philippe II and Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon in the Orleans family home in Paris. From an early age he was given an education that was very liberal and very much in-line with the “Enlightenment” philosophy that was quite fashionable at the time amongst the idle rich of the western world. Even in this we can see the seeds of future misfortune as these “enlightened” thinkers themselves never seemed to realize the ramifications of the ideas they were setting loose on the world.

His family was so very liberal that when the French Revolution first began to appear on the horizon the young Duke of Chartres (succeeding his father to the title in 1785) cut his teeth in the business of rebellion by helping break into a prison and the Paris home of the Duke of Orleans became a regular meeting ground for revolutionary types. The Duke himself would come to be known as “Philippe Egalite” for his pro-revolutionary stance. So, the Duke of Chartres was not being very rebellious at all but simply following the example of his elders when he joined the Jacobin Club with the full support of his father. Still, as a royal, he had other duties to perform and in 1791 took up his hereditary position as a colonel of dragoons in the French army in which he showed himself to be a quite brave, competent and conscientious officer. During his service he gained praise in some quarters and condemnation for others for personally saving two priests from an angry revolutionary mob and more universal acclaim for personally saving an engineer from drowning. There was certainly no doubting his courage. Later, when war broke out between revolutionary France and her neighbors, the Duke again showed his battlefield courage and was promoted to command a cavalry brigade in the Army of the North where he served alongside several men who would rise to the rank of Marshal of France under Napoleon.

In his service at the front the Duke further distinguished himself, earning the command of a division and later promotion to lieutenant general. However, he also began to become at least somewhat disillusioned with the direction the revolution was taking. He even considered leaving the country when the revolutionary leadership voted to execute King Louis XVI. The Duke found this rather unsettling even though his own father, the Duke of Orleans, voted in favor of the regicide. Still, ever loyal to the army, he decided to stay until the outbreak of the Reign of Terror convinced him that the revolution had gone out of control. He first attempted to leave the country for Austrian territory but was stopped by Colonel Louis Nicolas Davout (who would go on to great fame under Napoleon). There was a brief effort to rally the troops in favor of overthrowing the National Convention and restoring the 1791 constitutional monarchy but that failed and the Duke finally left France.

Back in Paris, the Duke of Orleans denounced his own 19-year-old son and left few doubting that he would execute his own heir for turning against the revolution. Still, he was tainted by association and soon the Duke of Orleans was arrested and later sent to the guillotine. Young Louis Philippe had a difficult time even in exile though as he was already being considered a traitor by both the royalists and the revolutionaries. He fled across Switzerland, alone and penniless before finally getting a job teaching school under an assumed name in Austria. After some unpleasantness involving an illegitimate child he fathered with a local girl, Louis Philippe left Austria and wandered around Scandinavia and even traveled to the United States, teaching French in Boston for a time and seeing much of the country. He was quite impressed by the young American republic and later tried to adapt some of the aspects of the U.S. government in France when his time came. He later went to Cuba, the Bahamas, Canada and finally to England.

In 1808 he proposed to Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King George III, but though the Princess was quite taken with the dashing Frenchman she refused because of the opposition of her parents to marrying a Catholic. A year later he married Princess Maria Amalia of the Two-Sicilies, daughter of King Ferdinand IV, with whom he fathered ten children. Among these many offspring, one would marry a Spanish princess, one a Duke of Wurttemberg, one a Princess of Brazil and one would become a Queen consort as wife to the first King of the Belgians. While in exile he was able to make peace with the rest of the Royal Family who, not surprisingly, considered the entire Orleans branch of the family a collection of traitors. There was likely still some lingering resentment (and not unjustly so given all the family had been through) when the Bourbon monarchy was restored to France in the person of King Louis XVIII. Still, Louis Philippe was again to be found in the liberal opposition to the government, as much because of his own personal antipathy for Louis XVIII as for his still very liberal ideas. To be fair to Louis Philippe, one can understand why he would bristle at any slight from Louis XVIII considering that the King himself had not exactly been the most reliable champion of the monarchy in the past but was more than willing to emphasize his filial piety after the fact.

With other people, Louis Philippe was perfectly affable and got along well with King Charles X who succeeded to the throne in 1824, though Charles X was an ardent reactionary and as far from Louis Philippe politically as one could be. Again, despite their good relations, Louis Philippe was something of a problem for the King of France. All problems came to a head in 1830 when revolution broke out again and King Charles X, who refused to be a ceremonial monarch, abdicated in favor of his grandson with Louis Philippe entrusted with overseeing the transition. This, however, did not happen as the ringleaders thought to capitalize on the popularity of Louis Philippe the known liberal and proclaimed him king. The famous Marquis de Lafayette had been key in this movement, starting with his allying with the radicals but, though opposed to the traditional monarchy of Catholic France, they were afraid that another effort at a republic might bring on another Reign of Terror and so opted instead for a limited, “popular monarchy” under Louis Philippe. So it was that on August 9, 1830 Louis Philippe became “King of the French” in a liberal, popular monarchy, rather than “King of France and Navarre” in the traditional fashion. This meant that this was an effort to be something of a new type of monarchy, one which based its right on the support of the people rather than the sacred right of royal blood as in the past. There was little other option of course, as according to the traditional rules of succession Louis Philippe had no right to be king at all.

King Louis Philippe wanted to preserve some part to play in government for the monarchy but also wanted to reconcile with the liberalism of the revolution. The result was a sort of republican-kingdom of France with Louis Philippe being known as the “Citizen-King” and the revolutionary tricolor replacing the traditional Bourbon white flag with the golden lilies. The Bourbon flag would never fly over France again in an official capacity. To emphasize this new direction, King Louis Philippe lived an explicitly modest lifestyle, doing away with most of the old pomp and ceremony associated with the French monarchy. His primary support came from the upper middle class and the wealthy emerging businessmen of the country who wanted enough monarchy to keep order and stability but also enough liberalism to allow them a considerable voice in government.

At first, King Louis Philippe was fairly popular but his every effort to bring about greater unity only seemed to remind everyone of what he was not. Republicans would look to the odd sight of the revolutionary tricolor blowing in the breeze while a king still ruled in Paris. Monarchists saw a monarch trying to direct national affairs while basing his rule on popularity rather than the blessing of God and Louis Philippe was a monarch chosen by the people (at least some of them) rather than God as he had not been born to the position. Even when Louis Philippe tried to reconcile with the imperialists by having the remains of Napoleon returned to France for burial, the Bonapartists were certainly grateful but, as usual, only noted how Napoleon had led them to glorious conquest whereas the Citizen-King simply tried to keep his balance. To his credit, King Louis Philippe tried to do good, to at least do as he thought best. He had proven himself to be a very successful businessman in private life and many in the middle class looked to him as an example to be emulated. As such, many in the socialist opposition began referring to him as the “Bourgeois Monarch”. Royalists and republicans alike condemned his close association with bankers and industrialists and even landowners (many old families that were royalist having lost much of their property by this point in history).

Eventually, even many Orleanists (as the constitutional monarchists who supported the House of Orleans were called) began to turn against the King because of the opposition they perceived on his part to representative government. In truth, King Louis Philippe was still liberal enough to be a strong supporter of representative government but he also supported the restriction of democracy based on income so that only those who owned property, and thus had an actual, tangible interest in the country, could vote. Because of this, the percentage of the population eligible to vote in the “popular monarchy” of France became quite small and opposition to the King increased more and more. It was a shift mostly from the left. The traditional royalists were not a very large group and showed little growth but their opposition was entrenched and irreconcilable. The left, on the other hand, was split between the liberal monarchists and the republicans. As time went on, more and more of the liberal monarchists began to join the republican camp. The expansion of the franchise became the rallying issue and when some hard times resulted in minor uprisings that were suppressed by the army, cries of royal tyranny began to be taken up by the professional rabble-rousers.

In effect, the middle class had begun to turn on King Louis Philippe and with most of the rest of the country supporting either the legitimist royal claimant or a return to the revolutionary republic, it all but sealed his fate. In February of 1848 revolution broke out in France yet again and, once again, in culminated in the abdication of a monarch. King Louis Philippe, wanting no repeat of the fate that befell Louis XVI (inflicted in part by his own father), abdicated in favor of his grandson, the 9-year-old Count of Paris, and left Paris in disguise, eventually going into exile in England. The government was at first willing to continue the popular monarchy but the mob would not stand for it. So, the second French Republic was proclaimed with the presidency soon going to one Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of the former emperor who had imperial aspirations of his own. King Louis Philippe I, the last member of the House of Bourbon to reign over France and the last French ruler to ever hold the title of “King” lived a quiet life in exile in England until his death on August 26, 1850. He was buried there until his remains were removed to the family resting place in France in 1876.

King Louis Philippe remains a monarch that even most monarchists would rather not talk about. He was certainly on the wrong side of things in the revolution but, given that he was only a teenager at the time, this can be attributed to his upbringing more than anything else. He was often on the wrong side and yet he was never a bad man as so many at the time were, certainly amongst the villainous creatures who brought about the revolution. What drove him apart from the revolution was the fact that he could not go along with their cruelty and inhumanity. Like many, in his youth he was more idealistic than realistic and when he came to the throne it was inevitable that he stirred up strong opposition. The simple fact was that he had no right to the Crown of France in the first place. Still, to be fair, it was not a position he actively sought or intrigued and plotted to obtain. It was effectively dumped in his lap and he had two choices; stand on principle and go down with the ship, ending the monarchy and joining Charles X in exile, or to try to make the best of a bad situation. That is basically what he did. That he was unsuccessful is not surprising as he was trying to, on some level at least, reconcile the traditional monarchy with the revolution and these two things are inherently irreconcilable and represent diametrically opposed worldviews.

King Louis Philippe is not a monarch to my taste, nor can I wrap my mind around the idea of the sort of Kingdom of France he was trying to forge. It was neither a pure monarchy nor a pure republic. The monarchy was tainted by republicanism just as the republic was tainted by monarchism. However, unlike most who hold such a view, I cannot bring myself to hate the man himself. I do think he was trying to do the right thing in the midst of political circumstances that were far from ideal. For those inclined to hold anger against him for accepting the throne he had no right to, I can only ask that you consider what other options there were. Had he not done so it would have only meant that the second republic would have come sooner rather than later. Had he tried to restore the traditional monarchy once in place I might have more admiration for his change of heart but it surely would not have brought about anything but his own downfall as his later moves to the right ultimately did. His case is also one monarchists today should consider and familiarize themselves with because, in effect, virtually every monarch in the western world that still reigns today is in a very similar position to King Louis Philippe. They did not come to the throne in the same way of course, but all are trying to manage that same balancing act; representing an institution that is inherently opposed to the principles being espoused by every government, nearly every population and even almost every religious institution in the western world today. It is not an enviable position. They need our support and for King Louis Philippe, even if you oppose him on principle as I do, perhaps if you looked into the subject a bit more, you might find in him a prince to be pitied rather than pilloried.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Monarchist Quote

"I hate rebels, I hate traitors, I hate tyranny come from where it will. I have seen much of the world, and I have learnt from experience to hate and detest republics. There is nothing but tyranny & oppression, I have never known a good act done by a Republican, it is contrary to his character under the mask of Liberty. He is a tyrant, a many headed monster that devours your happiness and property. Nothing is free from this monster's grasp. A republic has no affection for its subjects. A King may be ill advised and act wrong, a Republic never acts right, for a knot of villains support each other, and together they do what no single person dare attempt."

-Lord Horatio Nelson
A great man and one of the greatest naval commanders in world history and, like the proprietor of The Royal World, The Mad Monarchist completely agrees with his sentiments above.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Royal Regalia: England

St Edward's Crown
When it comes to royal regalia England and Great Britain have a great deal to cover. The most significant pieces, however, are probably the St Edward’s Crown, the Imperial State Crown, the orb, sceptre and sword. The most prized is almost certainly St Edward’s Crown. It was made in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II and is the official coronation crown of British monarchs. The name comes from the gold used to make the crown being left from the remains of the original crown of King St Edward the Confessor. Some debate remains about when exactly this crown was lost, some believing it to have been destroyed by Oliver Cromwell while others hold it to have disappeared earlier. However, it was recreated for the coronation of King Charles II and, so tradition goes, some of the materials used in the creation of the crown in the time of St Edward were left over from a crown used by King Alfred the Great. King James II and King William III were both crowned with the piece. It has not, however, been used at every subsequent coronation. The Hanoverian monarchs used a new crown made for King George I and since monarchs like Queen Victoria and King Edward VII found it too heavy and impractical, they did not use it either. However, it was the coronation crown used by King George V, King George VI (Edward VIII never having a coronation, George VI stepping in to the ceremony planned for him before his abdication) and Queen Elizabeth II. By order of Queen Elizabeth II the St Edward Crown replaced the Tudor Crown as the official symbol of the monarchy used on badges, coats of arms and the various insignia of servants of the Crown. So, it could be said that, despite being rarely used, the St Edward’s Crown is effectively “the” crown of the U.K. and Commonwealth Realms.

Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown was made in 1937 to replace the crown made for Queen Victoria in 1838. It is an exact duplicate of the older crown but has been adjusted to be a better fit for Queen Elizabeth II. It incorporates two pearls once worn by Queen Elizabeth I, the Black Prince’s Ruby (which once belonged to Prince Edward of Woodstock) and the famous Cullinan II diamond or “Lesser Star of Africa”, the fourth largest polished diamond in the world. The crown is worn by the monarch after the coronation when leaving Westminster Abbey and is most often seen being worn by the monarch for the State Opening of Parliament. The Cullinan I diamond or “Great Star of Africa” is on the Sceptre with the Cross, one of two sceptres used by the British monarch at the coronation. It was made in 1661, redesigned a bit in 1910 and is carried in the right hand of the monarch during the coronation. In their left hand, he or she hold the Sceptre with the Dove, also made in 1661, representing the Holy Spirit. The Sovereign’s Orb, made in 1661, is a gold sphere bound by jewels around the center and another row across the top in the center of which is a cross to symbolize the rule of Christ over the world and the role of the British monarch as “Defender of the Faith”. It is held in the left hand when leaving Westminster Abbey.

When it comes to “the” sword, there are actually five that are used in the coronation ceremony. The one most think of as being “the” sword is probably the Great Sword of State which is carried by the Lord Great Chamberlain at the coronation and the State Opening of Parliament. It is the largest ceremonial sword of the British Crown jewels and is decorated with symbols of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. The sword that is actually presented to the monarch during the coronation is the Jewelled Sword of Offering. It was made for the coronation of King George IV in 1821 and, as befitted that most grand and opulent of all British coronations, is reputed to be the most valuable sword on earth being covered in rubies, diamonds, sapphires and other precious stones. It is presented to the new monarch by the Archbishop of Canterbury to symbolize the royal power being used in the service of the church and true religion. Other swords used in the coronation are the Sword of Spiritual Justice, the Sword of Temporal Justice and the Sword of Mercy.

Tudor Crown (reproduction)
Another crown which is probably worth mentioning is the Tudor Crown, also called the Imperial Crown or King’s Crown. Most likely made for King Henry VII, the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty, it was used by King Henry VIII and was the coronation crown for King Edward VI, Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I, King James I and King Charles I. Especially after the reign of James I, it came to be regarded as an almost sacred object. As an aside, the original Crown of St Edward was certainly regarded as such and was treated almost as a holy relic. Unfortunately, after the regicide of King Charles I in 1649 the republican potentate Oliver Cromwell had the crown destroyed, broken up and melted down as part of his eradication of all royal symbols. This was truly a great loss to the cultural legacy and history of England and Great Britain. However, because the crown had been so meticulously depicted in the many paintings of the Stuart reign (such as royal portraits) and because records still remained from the time of King Henry VIII of the jewels used in the crown, last year experts in Britain were able to recreate the crown exactly. The cost of this was paid by the HRP (Historic Royal Places) and it is now on display at the royal pew of the Chapel Royal in Hampton Court Palace.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Royal News Roundup

As mentioned a bit last week, HIH Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan made an official visit to the Kingdom of Spain to mark 400 years of Spanish-Japanese diplomatic relations. HIH the Crown Prince planted a cherry tree in Coria del Rio next to a statue of the samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga overlooking the Guadalquivir River marking the spot where the Japanese delegation first arrived on Spanish soil. Later, HIH the Crown Prince paid tribute to the Catholic roots of Spain by visiting Santiago de Compostela, one of the most famous centers of Christian pilgrimage in the world and the resting place of St James the Greater. In other Spanish royal news, the Infanta Cristina has had some much deserved vindication lately after lawyers tried to drag her into the controversy around her husband concerning a number of properties worth over a million euros. Despite earlier claims by the AEAT tax agency, the College of Land Registrars has confirmed that none of the 13 different properties listed belonged to the Infanta or were in any way connected to her, neither have they ever belonged to her. The tax agency now says the report was simply a mistake, though personally, I would have my doubts that 13 different properties could all be attributed to one person who had no connection whatsoever to them “by mistake”. Luckily for them, the Infanta is more forgiving than most and her ‘people’ said that they would not be taking any legal action over the matter.

Moving north to the Low Countries, it has not been a pleasant week for the King of the Belgians. The well-known sculptor Delphine Boel, for some time now widely considered to be the illegitimate daughter of HM King Albert II, is going to court to obtain a legal order for DNA samples to prove her relationship to the King. The Royal Court has confirmed that the 45-year old who does resemble the Belgian monarch has filed a lawsuit calling for the King, Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Astrid to appear in court in Brussels over the issue. Her mother, a Baroness, had an affair with Albert II before he became king sometime in the 1960s according to a 1999 book and the King admitted to having a “crisis” in his marriage at that time so, given that, and the appearance of the woman, most have assumed that it is true and she is the King’s natural daughter. The question is why now decide to start demanding legal recognition? Is she after some royal inheritance? Perhaps, but she should hardly be in need as her legal father, Jaqcues Boel, step-father and mother are all from very wealthy families. She is now 45 and, according to her, was told that the King was her real father in 1986, so, again, the question is; why now? Personally, I cannot help but wonder if some enemies of the Belgian monarchy (and there are plenty of them, God knows) are putting her up to this or at least assisting her in some way. It is a shame anyway, to bring up the subject again after all this time given that the King and Queen managed to endure it, get past it and did not give up on their marriage when so many others these days would have.

The big news in Britain this week was HM the Queen’s birthday celebration, marked by the Trooping of the Colour which the Queen attended alongside her cousin the Duke of Kent, filling in for Prince Philip who is still recovering from exploratory surgery. This is only the third time in all his many years that the Prince consort has had to miss the ceremony. The Duchess of Cambridge attended, riding in a carriage alongside the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry. It is believed that this will be her last public engagement prior to the birth of the Cambridge couple’s first child. After the ceremony the Queen visited Prince Philip in the hospital. The Prince of Wales, after a similar visit, reported that the Prince consort was doing well and recovering nicely, which is good to hear. Prince Philip was finally released from the hospital on Monday and spent his time in recovery reading a scholarly tome on the British victory over France in North America during the French & Indian War. The book was “The Crucible of War” by Fred Anderson. Continuing a week of great pomp and ceremony, the Queen and other members of the Royal Family attended the Order of the Garter ceremony; the Order of the Garter being the oldest and most prestigious English knighthood, founded by King Edward III in 1348. The Queen was also joined by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall for the ride to opening day at Ascot with the Duke of York and his two daughters following close behind. Over the years, 20 of the winning horses at Royal Ascot have been owned by the Queen who is an avid racing fan. The Queen’s horse ‘Estimate’ took the Gold Cup this year, the same as last year.

Finally, it was a tense week for royals in the Middle East, mostly due to the on-going civil war in the failed republic of Syria. As U.S. and Jordanian forces performed joint exercises on the Syrian border King Abdullah II of Jordan said that his armed forces were fully prepared if the fighting should spill over. The King also saluted the troops who have been giving aid to the many Syrian refugees seeking safety in Jordan. The Patriot missile batteries the U.S. recently deployed to Syria has angered Russia (a longtime Syrian ally) which has bolstered fears in Jordan that the conflict could spread. The King of Saudi Arabia recently returned home, cutting short his stay in Morocco where he was recovering from back surgery. His return came on the heels of U.S. reports that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons in the civil war after which President Obama announced the U.S. would provide small arms to the rebels. Saudi Arabia has long supported the rebels and the 90-year-old King blamed the destabilization in the region on interference from outside forces; presumably referring to the Islamic Republic of Iran which has long been the strongest backer of the Syrian government. News also came this week that the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is preparing to abdicate in favor of his son as part of a total reorganization of the government, possibly also including the replacement of the powerful prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani. Sheikh Tamim is the crown prince, the second son of the emir and his second wife Sheikha Mozah. Qatar has been supportive of the “Arab Spring” movement and also a supporter of the rebel forces in Syria.

Friday, June 21, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of Prussia (Part III)

Kaiser Wilhelm I: Another solid conservative monarch, Wilhelm I was pretty good, at least when he wasn’t crying -which he did a lot. He wasn’t cowardly, he had proven himself to be very courageous fighting against Napoleon, but he was rather on the emotional side. He took a more “hands-off” attitude toward government than his brother FW4 but was always careful to guard the powers and prestige of the monarchy. He made it very clear that ministers were responsible to him rather than the parliament. Of course, in politics, the field was dominated by Otto von Bismarck who at least was a staunch monarchist. Bismarck was more driven that Wilhelm I when it came to German unification but Bismarck would usually get his way by throwing a fit until the King broke down in tears and gave in to him. However, though calling him “Wilhelm the Great” seems a stretch as he certainly had very little in common with “Frederick the Great”, Wilhelm I presided over an unbroken string of great Prussian victories. Denmark was defeated, then Austria (which Wilhelm I wanted to pursue all the way to Vienna but was dissuaded by Bismarck) and finally the decisive victory over France in 1870. At Versailles the German princes united and hailed Wilhelm I as “German Emperor” which Wilhelm I accepted (after some persuasion) though he insisted on “German Emperor” rather than “Emperor of Germany”. He was not an ideal husband but he was frugal, a steady monarch and an inveterate enemy of the socialists. All in all, a good, solid monarch.

Kaiser Friedrich III: I have a bit of a hard time with Friedrich III because he was such a good man yet one who often seemed inclined towards political movements not to my taste at all. His father Wilhelm I worried a great deal about his liberal tendencies and the influence his wife (Princess Royal Victoria) had on him. Like her, he was inclined toward limited, constitutional monarchy, watched over rather than ruled by an equal husband and wife team. Yet, he was as devoted to the army as any Prussian king and was quite the German nationalist, certainly much more than his predecessors. He wanted a united Germany, without a powerful Reichskanzler like Bismarck, with ministers responsible to parliament and a parliament that was more democratic. It would certainly be far removed from the Germany created by Moltke, Roon and Bismarck. Would it have endured though? He lived to reign only 99 days and his vision for the future died with him but it has always tantalized historians as to whether his more liberal, more middle class, more democratic Germany would have survived a calamity like the First World War. I cannot fault Friedrich III for his idealism but, I tend to doubt it. It would have meant putting trust in those who, in the course of German history, proved themselves untrustworthy and German success would have still engendered the envy of Great Britain, France would have still been seeking revenge for 1870 and so on. A good man but rather too idealistic for me.

Kaiser Wilhelm II: Finally we come to my old friend, “Kaiser Bill”, one of the first monarchs I ever really studied in depth. In fairness that should be kept in mind when I say that a great deal of what has been written about him is, in my view, utter nonsense. He certainly made his share of mistakes and could be too free with his opinions, however, he was not a bad man, he was not a warmonger (though he tried to sound like one at times) and while he could be aggravating he was certainly no villain. Like his grandfather rather than his father, he believed in absolute monarchy, detested parliaments but, like his father, was an upstanding family man. The devout Christian faith of Wilhelm II is something very seldom remembered. His bombast was intended to distract from what was really an inferiority complex and it has often been said that he talked like an autocrat but never ruled as one. That is misleading though as, despite the big talk, Wilhelm II did not like being flattered or lied to and knew what his own limitations were. He was a very monarchist monarch who recognized the danger of republicanism and was astounded that brother monarchs would make common cause with them. He may have been a bit on the racist side when it came to Asians but he was certainly no anti-Semite, despite what some have tried to say by blowing the odd remark out of proportion. He was not responsible for the First World War, did his best to see it fought honorably, warned of the danger in making use of Lenin in Russia, refused to recognize the Weimar Republic and he never trusted Hitler. Not a perfect man, of course, but a good man, a dutiful monarch, a man with a plethora of interests, forward thinking but also reverent of past traditions and a man of considerably more common sense than he is often given credit for.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thoughts on the Boxers

It was on this day in 1900 that the dramatic, epic and heroic 55-day siege of the foreign legation in Peking, China began during the Boxer Rebellion. It is an event, the overall rebellion, about which I have very mixed emotions. Not mixed opinions mind you but very mixed emotions. That the tiny international force, through courage and determination seldom seen, managed to survive and hold out against the overwhelming hordes of the Boxer rebels and eventually the Chinese Imperial Army is a feat not short of astounding. They were fighting, not only for their own lives, but for the lives of a great many civilians (sometimes their own families in a few cases) from Europe, America and Japan but also a great many Chinese, mostly Christian converts, who faced a brutal death at the hands of the Boxers. Truly this can only be seen as heroism at its finest. It also says something about the state of the world in 1900 that of all the countries represented in the 55-day siege, only two of them were republics (France and the United States of America). How the world has changed since 1900, and certainly not always for the better. That is at least partly why I have mixed feelings about the Boxer Rebellion. The righteous cause and courage of the European, American and Japanese defenders is undeniable (or at least should be), yet there is, as always, more to the story than that. In some ways, the Boxer Rebellion was a case of China doing the wrong thing for the right reason.

A great deal of the luster had gone from the “Great Qing Empire” by the year 1900. China was in pretty bad shape, not entirely through her own fault, and the Qing Dynasty was in a precarious position. It is also true that the foreign powers had taken advantage of China to a great extent, enforced unequal treaties on the Qing Empire and generally treated the Chinese extremely unfairly. The Grand Empress Dowager could justly look at the situation China found itself in and wish, like the Boxers, she could simply drive all the “foreign devils” out of China and back to where they came from. It reminds me of a line from the famous 1963 film “55 Days at Peking” in which the Empress Dowager (played by Flora Robson -who also played Queen Elizabeth I in “The Sea Hawk”) says that even if they should fight a war and lose it, there was not much more that the foreign powers had not already taken. It is essentially true what she tells the British representative, “The boxer bandits will be dealt with, but the anger of the Chinese people cannot be quieted so easily. The Germans have seized Kiaochow, the Russians have seized Port Arthur, the French have obtained concessions in Yunnan, Kwan See and Kwantang. In all, 13 of the 18 provinces of China are under foreign control. Foreign warships occupy our harbors, foreign armies occupy our forts, foreign merchants administer our banks, foreign gods disturb the spirits of our ancestors. Is it surprising that our people are aroused?” All of that was perfectly true but so was the response of Sir Arthur Robertson (played by David Niven), “Your Majesty, if you permit me to observe, the violence of the Boxers will not redress the grievances of China”.

China had every reason to be upset, every reason to be angry and every reason to wish the foreign powers to be gone from Chinese soil. Already the Qing Dynasty had come close to the brink of disaster during the Taiping Rebellion and the traditional loyalty felt by the people for the imperial throne, and the belief that the Manchu dynasty still firmly held the Mandate of Heaven were starting to weaken. In the Boxer Rebellion, the Empress-Dowager (after a great deal of equivocation) believed was the last chance for the Qing Dynasty to get out in front of a crisis before the mass of popular opinion turned against them. After all, because of all of the grievances China had suffered at the hands of the foreign powers, the Boxers had immense popular support throughout the country. Some historians have even argued that the Boxer Rebellion was the last time that the whole of China was firmly united in a common cause in loyalty to the monarchy. The problem was that the Boxers, as the more modern-minded Chinese officials argued, were a poor foundation on which to build such a movement for victory and national rejuvenation.

The Boxers, like so many of the secret (and not-so-secret) societies that sprang up throughout Chinese history, always seemed to me to be of rather dubious loyalty. Their battle cry of “Support the Qing! Destroy the foreigner!” sounds admirably patriotic (given that the foreigners were in their country) but it does not hold up to a great deal of scrutiny. Boxer forces attacked and looted the property of those Qing officials who did not support their movement and I am of the opinion that if the Empress-Dowager had not decided to finally back them, they would have turned their anger against the dynasty as well. It did finally happen in the course of Chinese history that, when the revolution broke out, the cry was still to “destroy the foreigner” but, in 1911, the “foreigners” were the Manchus. And, of course, there was the Boxer brutality against the missionaries who were singled out for particular cruelty and against those Chinese who had converted to Christianity. True enough, not all missionaries always behaved well whether in China or in other countries around the world, but cruelty is cruelty. That the Chinese traditionalists were upset at a foreign religion making gains in preference to their own beliefs is understandable, however, mass slaughter should never have been the solution. Those who had been guilty of crimes, as is often the way, usually seemed to be the ones to find a way to save their own skins while the truly innocent amongst them and the converted Chinese Christians were the ones who suffered the most.

That being said, wrong is wrong must apply to the other side as well and in the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion, many of the foreign powers behaved atrociously. Even in the western world it caused quite a controversy when reports came in of the murder, rape and pillaging done by European and American forces. Depending on the country doing the reporting it was always some other country that was worse of course. American General Adna Chaffee, for example, seemed to imply that the eastern powers were the worst offenders, accusing the Russians of the worst acts of rapine and the Japanese for cutting off heads of many innocent along with the guilty. Western powers were better in his estimation, but not by much, with the British and French mostly restricting themselves to looting. He fails to emphasize the crimes of the American forces under his command of course. He banned looting by American troops but his order was ignored and no one seems to have tried very hard to punish the perpetrators. There is no doubt that what happened after the Boxer rebellion was put down was an outrageous stain on the civilization of those involved, just as the crimes of the Boxers were a stain on the civilization of Imperial China. It was all bad. Aside from being wrong in and of itself, however, there is also the fact that it did not serve the foreign powers well moving forward.

Just as the Chinese officials should have known that a horde of backward peasants armed with spears and magic spells were no match for modern armies (and some did) the foreign powers should have known that to brutalize China in such a way would only make nationalist sentiment stronger and undermine the already shaky structure that was the late Qing Empire. In the past, the foreign powers had tended to support the Qing Dynasty in times of peril because they feared the chaos that would accompany its collapse. This, of course, is exactly what played out in the remainder of Chinese imperial history. The dynasty never recovered from the failure of the Boxer Rebellion, the nationalist/anti-foreign movement only became stronger and grew to include Manchurians and in the end the Qing Dynasty collapsed and China disintegrated into a collection of bandit states ruled by warlords under a totally ineffective and ever-changing republican government. My ultimate support will have to be for the besieged forces in the foreign legation at Peking in 1900 but it is a terrible thing that it ever came to that and neither side emerged from the ordeal with clean hands or a clean conscience. In many ways it was also the beginning of the end of the Great Qing Empire and that was a disaster not only for the dynasty but for all of China and, ultimately, for the world at large. The consequences are with us still.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of Prussia (Part II)

King Friedrich Wilhelm II: Frederick the Great had considerable misgivings about his successor and, indeed, FW2 immediately set about undoing much of what “Old Fritz” had done before him. He repealed taxes, cut duties to encourage commerce and free trade and ended state monopolies -all good things for those inclined toward capitalism. He cut back on the previous policy of religious tolerance, even setting up a Protestant version of the Inquisition. Most damaging though was his relegating of military responsibility to a committee -never a good idea and the quality of the once famous Prussian army declined considerably. He can be applauded for coming to the defense of the Orange party in The Netherlands and he allied with Austria to declare war on revolutionary France. However, he was easily distracted and his military policies meant that no great victories were to follow. Worst of all, this resulted in the disgraceful act of a peace treaty with the vile republicans which his brother monarchs rightly condemned. He did gain more territory for Prussia with the third partition of Poland but it was little compared to the immense reverses Prussia was to suffer in the years ahead. FW2 was not a bad man, he was an accomplished cellist, devoutly religious and thoughtful but, on the whole, he was limited in his thinking and not a very successful monarch.

King Friedrich Wilhelm III: If there was a great ‘turnaround’ story in Prussian history it was the reign of FW3. A serious and well-meaning man, he started on the right foot by cutting back royal expenses which had gotten a little out of hand under FW2. He set a new, higher moral tone for the court in Berlin and had the good sense to marry an attractive, courageous and all around awesome wife in Queen Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. It was the queen who persuaded FW3 to abandon neutrality and join the forces allied against France. The result was a costly defeat at the hands of Napoleon which is often unjustly attributed to FW3 being too fatalistic and indecisive. I say he was just calm in a crisis and, in any event, it snapped Prussia out of its funk. The army was reformed to be super-tough fighting force it used to be and the population was rallied together in a patriotic fervor the likes of which had never been seen before. If FW3 is to be blamed for the previous disasters he must also be credited with the great victories that followed. He ended up being a successful monarch in every way, enlarging Prussian territory, defeating her enemies and securing the succession. The country was rebuilt and soon again joined the ranks of the major European powers. Many view him as a lackluster monarch but, to my mind, he was one of the good ones who made the right call when it mattered.

King Friedrich Wilhelm IV: Despite some drawbacks, FW4 was my kind of monarch; a reactionary one. Anyone who was such a fan of the Middle Ages also cannot be all that bad in my book. He was a great builder and left behind many magnificent buildings and when the pan-German movement began to take off he was careful to not be dismissive but also to work with the nobility and his brother monarchs rather than putting faith in popular assemblies. During the Revolutions of 1848 he was offered the German crown by the Frankfurt Assembly but, famously, refused to accept “a crown from the gutter”. He favored German unity but wanted to see it accomplished as a union of monarchs under the House of Hapsburg as in the days of the old Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. It was only when Austria stood opposed to German unification that he accepted Prussian leadership in the movement, resulting in the German Confederation which was still under the presidency of the Hapsburgs. He gave Prussia a constitution but with a government dominated by the nobility with representation in the lower house based on taxation. It was really a pretty fair set-up. The more you paid in taxes to the state, the more powerful your voice was when it came to making state policy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Favorite Royal Images: Hashemite Princess

HRH Princess Haya of Jordan
Daughter of King Hussein and Queen Alia of Jordan
junior wife of Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Sacred Heart and the Cause

The month of June, in the Catholic Church, is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (as we have touched on before) and this is relevant to readers here because of the extent to which the Sacred Heart has been adopted as the symbol of a great many royalist, monarchist and/or counterrevolutionary movements throughout history. To this day it remains a favorite emblem for traditionalist causes, in the Catholic world at least. Why is this? I cannot say with certainty. The Sacred Heart represents many things to many people but, I suppose, a general way of defining what it is supposed to represent is the enduring love and sacrifice of Christ for humanity. This applies to everyone, of course, and still does not quite explain why monarchists in particular would be attached to it, but perhaps other aspects of historical context will. For myself, I cannot help but think it has something to do with the Sacred Heart coming to be associated with “lost causes” (as some might have guessed from the image of it I have on the right-hand sidebar). The movements that first come to mind when I think of royalists or traditionalists who adopted the Sacred Heart as a badge are the French counterrevolutionaries of the Vendee, the Carlists of Spain and the Cristeros of Mexico. Two out of the three were overtly royalist but one thing they do all have in common is that all of them were, ultimately, unsuccessful. I am sure some may argue that point but I mean only that they did not win a smashing battlefield victory, make their enemies beg for mercy and hold triumphs in Paris, Madrid or Mexico City.

Perhaps then the attachment comes from an acknowledgement that earthly success seems a remote possibility but the cause is sacred and the struggle more important than the outcome itself. Devotion to the Sacred Heart, while long encouraged by the Jesuits, was particularly emphasized after the fall of Papal Rome when the Pope had shut himself up in the Vatican and refused to come out. If one were to look at the number of parish churches named “Sacred Heart” many, possibly most of them, were founded during that period when the Pope called himself the “Prisoner of the Vatican” which may have gone a long way to encouraging the association of the Sacred Heart with traditionalism as well as the “lost cause”. It was certainly strong for a great many Catholic monarchists as the defense of the political power of the Pope was very much dominated by French royalists, though there were the occasional republican-minded papal volunteer just as there were monarchists and republicans on the opposing side but certainly not the same as the mindset that predominated amongst the papal forces and the “Black Nobility”. It was also Pope Pius IX who made the Feast of the Sacred Heart obligatory for the whole Catholic Church (doing so when he still ruled Rome politically). Even then it was already something of a royalist symbol but a more specifically French one when compared to other countries.

Although the devotion had long existed it was the visions of St Margaret Marie Alacoque, in France, that caused it to become much more widespread. The story goes that the saint urged King Louis XIV (at divine request) to put the image of the Sacred Heart on his royal coat of arms which the “Sun King” declined to do. That may, in part, explain why French royalists, after the outbreak of the Revolution and the horrors that went with that, adopted the Sacred Heart as their badge. For the royalist counterrevolutionaries, the Sacred Heart badge was usually the closest thing they had to a “uniform” as it was so widespread. No doubt the French royalists carrying flags with the Sacred Heart and wearing Sacred Heart badges on their clothes went a long way to making it a religious symbol closely associated with the idea of restoring the monarchy and, in particular, a traditional Catholic monarchy which might have been somewhat different than the way it had been under the martyred King Louis XVI or even much farther back. The ties are not direct or even all that strong but one can see a slight connection in the principles that many dissident monarchist groups were fighting for.

One does not often think of the Jacobites in connection with the Sacred Heart, yet there may have been a few who took to it. One devotee of the Sacred Heart was the Jesuit priest St Claude de la Colombiere who, for a time, was the personal chaplain to the future Queen Mary of Modena, wife of the Duke of York who later became King James II for whom the Jacobite cause first sprang into being. The Jacobites endorsed the idea of a strong monarchy in a decentralized state (or states), believing in the “divine right of kings” while also rejecting the Act of Union (passed by a monarch they held to be illegitimate) that bound England, Scotland and Ireland together under one government. They did not advocate the division of the three kingdoms exactly but rather wanted England, Scotland and Ireland to be governed separately according to their own laws and customs under one shared monarch. The Sacred Heart may not be much associated with the Jacobites (their most famous symbol probably being the white rose) but given that the movement was not exclusively Catholic (though it increasingly became largely so) this is not surprising. However, given what they believed in, we can see many parallels with another traditionalist, monarchist dissident group that certainly did take up the Sacred Heart symbol in a big way. That, of course, was the Carlists of Spain.

The Carlists, originally (before being pulled in every possible direction by various factions and claimants) consisted of the supporters of the only recently renounced absolute monarchy of Spain, so something similar to the “divine right” concept while also including a great many that we might today call “regionalists”. They too wanted greater government at the local level rather than in Madrid with the local regions of Spain being governed by their own laws and customs and their previous special favors. In effect, this meant going back more to the way things had been in Spain under the House of Hapsburg prior to the War of Spanish Succession, doing away with the centralization that had taken effect under the House of Bourbon which tended to concentrate power, following the example of the great Louis XIV in France. The similarities between what the Jacobites and the Carlists were wanting are striking and the Carlists did what the Bourbon monarch in France had refused to do and displayed the Sacred Heart on the royal coat of arms. One can easily tell a flag used by the Carlists for the Sacred Heart featuring in the center of the arms. The Carlists also sewed Sacred Heart badges onto their uniforms and the symbol persisted even into the Twentieth Century. One can find photos from the Spanish Civil War of the Carlists fighting for Franco and the nationalists with the Sacred Heart painted on their trucks or scratched into the stocks of their rifles.

The French royalists, at least at the time of the counterrevolution in the Vendee, did not have any sort of political program as the Jacobites and the Carlists had. Even with those groups, it took some time to develop. However, I tend to think they would have come up with something similar, perhaps rolling back some of the Bourbon centralization that had been seen at least since the time of Louis XIII, combined with a sacred view of the monarchy and perhaps a more corporatist model of political and economic representation along the lines put forward by Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI. In Mexico the Cristeros likewise did not, themselves, have a very well developed political program, being more concerned with simply stopping the government from exterminating them. However, later Catholic groups would take up much the same cause minus any reference to monarchy. That being said, there did exist a minority group that desired closer ties with Spain (and by extension the Spanish monarchy) as part of greater solidarity (not exactly unity) throughout the Spanish-speaking world across Latin America, Spain and even The Philippines. At the very least it would represent a more traditional way of governing in the context of Mexican history though, depending on the circumstances, the Catholic Church had been on both sides of several issues, centralization of power being a good example.

Mexico, like the rest of the Spanish colonial empire, had been rather decentralized under the Hapsburgs. The Bourbons centralized things more but in either case the Church was always on the side of God, Country and King (as the Carlists would say). When independence came, the Church was on the side of Iturbide and after his brief hold on power the Catholic Church was mostly (not entirely) on the same side as the aristocrats and military men who supported centralization over states’ rights (centralists versus federalists they were called then). Sometimes this was because Church leaders saw it as necessary at the time, and many of the political leaders had been monarchists (Bustamante) or flirted with the idea (Santa Anna) and sometimes it was simply because the federalists were anti-clerical and the centralists were not. Naturally one would support the side that means you the least harm. Later on, after the Cristero war (la Cristiada) and the Revolution, things became a bit more clear-cut for the discerning Mexican Catholic with the emergence of the National Synarchist Union in direct opposition to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (which is back in power again) and which consciously drew on the struggle of the Cristeros while advocating for a more Catholic, more hierarchical Mexico organized according to natural, traditional groups rather than the class distinctions favored by both the socialists and (to a lesser extent) the capitalists (not because of any greater righteousness on their part but simply because labor and ownership hating each other is bad for business). Will this group be successful? The current trend of Mexican politics would seem to say “no”. Like others they have divided and may not even be a token force on the political scene anymore.

However, that may make the symbolism of the Sacred Heart all the more valid for all of these groups. As I have said before, I admire the roots of all of these groups even while being dismayed at what they later became and I have no time for anyone who claims to be a monarchist while not supporting their monarch. For many it has become no more than a justification for moaning and groaning and denigrating reigning monarchs in the imaginary world of the internet. It is time wasted as it will accomplish nothing and, many times, what these types want cannot be achieved. The world will never be exactly the same as it was. However, rather than aiding the republicans by withholding support or heaping scorn on existing monarchies and causing division amongst monarchists, I would urge all like-minded people to instead focus on the values these groups had in common. Values they, evidently, thought well represented by the Sacred Heart. You can make the case for greater respect to the monarchy, decentralized power and an organic organization of society without calling for a change of dynasty. Work on converting your fellow man and you may find that everything else will fall into place on its own. As I have said here in the past many times, institutions and rulers usually reflect the values and priorities of their people -and this was true even before “democratic” representative government. Abortion became legal in Belgium in spite of the King refusing to give assent to the bill. Why? Because the public wished it. King Baudouin was a perfectly fine and admirable monarch. He did not need changing, the electorate did. Work on changing that, spreading the values of monarchy, faith and fatherland and you may find that your complaints about the dynasty have evaporated.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Royal News Roundup

The biggest royal news this week was certainly the royal wedding in Sweden on Saturday afternoon at the Palace Chapel in Stockholm. The elites of Swedish society, along with members of high society from the investment districts of London and New York City rubbed elbows with the likes of the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Princess Charlene of Monaco, HIH Princess Takamado of Japan and the children of the King of Greece, among others. Little Princess Estelle turned quite a few heads when she arrived with her parents Prince Daniel and Crown Princess Victoria (who was wearing Princess Lillian’s laurel wreath tiara) so that, for once, the King and Queen were most certainly not the center of attention. Princess Madeleine wore a very lovely Italian-designed wedding dress with lots of Chantilly lace topped by the ‘Modern Fringe Tiara’ while Chris O’Neill, who turned down being a prince, was not too big to turn down some jewelry, wearing the badge of a Knight Commander of the Order of the Polar Star which HM King Carl XVI Gustaf bestowed on him a couple days before the wedding. He was awarded the knighthood for showing great courage and heroism in marrying the King’s daughter (I guess). Surprisingly enough, most of the ceremony was conducted in English by the Chief Court Chaplain, a Bishop Emeritus (no, not that one) and the Court Chaplain. The King and Queen hosted a private reception at the palace afterwards where the guests partied all night, some not leaving until five o’clock Sunday morning.

So, everything went off without a hitch, the bride was radiant and the Swedes gave a good display of support for their monarchy and the Royal Family which has not had the easiest time of late. As most regular readers know, I am not a big fan of Chris O’Neill, his background, his attitude and all of that. However, I do send the new couple my sincere congratulations and best wishes for a happy life going forward. Princess Madeleine has not had an easy time when it comes to romance, part of my own worries stemming from her vulnerability after her last ill-fated attempt to make it to the altar. The Kingdom of Sweden may not be seeing much of the couple after this but I do hope all goes well. The monarchy could a period of uninterrupted good news and not only for their own sake. Things have been somewhat tempestuous in Sweden in general lately, there are a great many problems in the country and the monarchy, to my mind, is the last bastion of tradition and, dare I say, sanity amidst a myriad of problems surrounding disagreements over what values, if any, the country will embrace and what it means in this day and age to be “Swedish”. It is certainly a far cry from the Sweden that was once the powerhouse of Scandinavia and which made the Baltic Sea a Swedish lake. However, as much as things have changed, the monarchy remains as the last living link with that traditional Sweden of days gone by and every Swede and every sincere monarchist should wish them success, happiness and every blessing in the years to come.

Moving on, across the North Sea in Great Britain, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh celebrated his 92nd birthday this week, though unfortunately he did so while in hospital for exploratory surgery on his abdomen. HM the Queen came to visit her beloved consort on his special day and, during his time in hospital, there have been a virtual parade of royal visitors as members of the family have come to check on the Prince who is “comfortable and in good spirits”. We are told that the surgery was not serious, though I would think any surgery for someone of ninety-two years is nothing to take lightly. However, we all send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to the Duke of Edinburgh and congratulations on turning 92 with hopes for many more birthdays to come. Prince Philip is possibly my favorite member of the British Royal Family, for his devotion to Queen and country, his tireless work ethic, common sense and great sense of humor. The Duke has taken a great deal of criticism in the press over the years for what are termed “verbal gaffes” but I cheer him for them. I have yet to come across one that was a genuine gaffe, they have invariably been simply cases of the over-sensitive PC media displaying their own lack of humor. So, all the best to Prince Philip, he’s tops.

On the continent, another one of my favorite royals celebrated a birthday this week, that being the Dowager Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, widow of the saintly and beloved King Baudouin. Her Majesty celebrated her 85th birthday on Tuesday. From a Spanish noble family, she had originally considered becoming a nun but, thanks to some matchmaking clergymen, ended up marrying the King of the Belgians on December 15, 1960. Since his death in 1993 the Queen has withdrawn from public life but is still a regular feature of family events. A great lady, a great queen and a woman of great faith and kindness, we wish her a happy birthday and many more to come. Over in the neighboring Netherlands, controversy continues to be dug up from the happy occasion of “inauguration day” (or whatever they are choosing to call it), this time concerning the always controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders. It seems some are now saying that he was snubbed at the big royal event, not being given a position appropriate for someone who has served as long in government as he has. Was it simply an oversight? Possibly, but even if it was not, Mr. Wilders should not be that surprised. His anti-immigrant stance has earned him few friends in the halls of power and I am sure the Dutch Royal Family had little sympathy for him even before his calls for the former Queen Beatrix to be totally excluded from any role in government. One should not take up an adversarial position with the monarchy and still expect to be treated as though nothing happened. However, to be clear, the Royal Family had nothing to do with the order of precedence he or others on his behalf are complaining about. Personally, I have no problem with his stance on immigration. Any country should be able to control who enters their borders. I do have a big problem with his other, radically leftist positions, and the antagonistic attitude he has taken toward the monarchy.

Finally, in the Kingdom of Spain this week, TM King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia along with TRH the Prince and Princess of the Asturias and the Infanta Cristina welcomed, in grand style, HIH Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan. HIH Crown Princess Masako was invited by the Spanish as well of course but did not make the trip due to her ongoing ‘stress illness’. Those in attendance, however, were all smiles and the Spanish monarchy put on a grand display of pomp and ceremony. The visit was timed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Spanish-Japanese relations going back to 1613 when the daimyo Date Masamune sent a Japanese mission from Sendai to Spain. As it happens, the daimyo (known as the “one-eyed dragon”) was also a brilliant military leader and a protector of the rights of Christians in his domain who at one point also sent a diplomatic mission to the Pope. HIH the Crown Prince exchanged antique coins with the Prince of the Asturias and also attended a Spanish-Japanese Business Cooperation meeting.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Blog Warning

I just wanted to let everyone know, now that I have the opportunity to for the moment, that the MM compound is in the middle of some pretty rough thunderstorms and internet access has been unreliable today. Sympathy is not required -we really need the rain. Right now (obviously) it's on again, but in case it goes out again and nothing can be posted for tomorrow, I just wanted to let everyone know why while I had the chance.

Stay mad my friends

Mad Rant: Monarchy Value for Money

In this day and age of republican dominance there is a great deal to annoy the average monarchist. Clich├ęs, all of them negative toward monarchy, seem to have the gift of immortality. At the same time, the drawbacks of republicanism are often commented on and agreed to but never seem to shift public opinion. Every serious historian, for instance, knows that Queen Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake” and yet it continues to be endlessly repeated over and over again. Everyone with any knowledge of the world around them knows that, with the exception of the little principalities of Monaco and Liechtenstein, European monarchs have virtually no political power at all and yet the word “king” remains synonymous with someone wielding absolute power. A politician who oversteps the limits of his constitutional authority is always said to be behaving like a king or like royalty when, in fact, there are far more republican tyrants all around the world today than there are absolute monarchs, all of whom are confined to the Islamic world save for little Swaziland in Africa. It seems this is a double standard we will never be rid of. Yet, tiresome as it may be, falsehoods must be refuted with facts, as often as they arise, regardless of the circumstances. The world at large could really use a good education when it comes to the idea of monarchy.

Today, one of my biggest aggravations is the constant association of royalty with idleness, luxury and extravagance. Both sides of the political spectrum like to make use of accusations of “royal” behavior to condemn their opponents. In the past, the overreach of President George W. Bush in the United States, along with the fact that he is the first son of a President to become President himself since John Quincy Adams, led many Democrats to dub him “King George” -and they didn’t mean it as a compliment. Not to be outdone, when First Lady Michelle Obama took lavish vacations the Republicans compared her to Queen Marie Antoinette and when Obama holds lavish parties, goes golfing with celebrities or has his annual Christmas in Hawaii at taxpayer expense, his political enemies complain about Obama presiding over an “imperial presidency”. Do any of these people have any idea what they are talking about? No, of course they don’t. The odd misstatement here or there could be attributed to simply being unable to pass up a damaging analogy but at this point it really does begin to look like sheer ignorance. It is that ignorance combined with a gross misconception about monarchy that leads to this ridiculous analogies and that can be illustrated with a few examples and monarchists should point these out.

First, to be fair, we can certainly understand why the images of opulence exist in the popular imagination. One of the things most monarchists love about monarchy is the pomp and splendor that (traditionally anyway) goes along with the institution. Royals live in palaces, ride in gilded carriages attended by liveried footmen and wear magnificent jewels. It certainly looks pretty lavish, doesn’t it? Even the famously bicycling royals of The Netherlands don an ermine robe when it comes to swearing-in day. However, the fact remains that those magnificent jewels and robes are very old family heirlooms, bought and paid for many years ago (in some cases centuries ago) and their continued use costs the taxpayer nothing. In Great Britain, the Queen is known for being exceptionally frugal, using the same car until it practically falls apart. In fact, in a recent year, the travel expenses for the entire British Royal Family was considerably less than the travel expenses for President Obama and his small crew. The Queen would never dream of spending so much as the American president nor would any British government allow such a thing for ‘mere’ royals. Yet, when the average republican thinks of royalty, they think of big expenses for taxpayers. They do not think of the Prince of Liechtenstein whose subjects pay him nothing at all. In fact, he gives from his own private funds to help the government run smoothly.

The comparisons of Michelle Obama to Queen Marie Antoinette over lavish vacations seems particularly ridiculous considering that the ill-fated French Queen never went on even a single foreign vacation in her life. Bundled off to France as a very young lady she never left the country again and, indeed, seldom ventured far beyond the confines of Paris and Versailles. Royal travel has traditionally been extremely limited. In Britain, no monarch from King Charles II to King George IV ever even made it over the border to Scotland. Yet, when people think of Marie Antoinette, they think lavishness and frivolity, they do not think of a woman who gave large amounts to charity, who broke down social barriers at court and who invited poor children to eat with her own royal offspring at Versailles. When it comes to royal children for that matter, it may surprise some to know how much more luxuriously the children of a President of the United States live compared to royal or even imperial offspring.

All of those who talk of Obama having an “imperial presidency” should consider two of the great, old empires of Europe. The Romanov Archduchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, for example, had to sleep on camp beds and take cold baths. Their educational schedule was positively Spartan with dawn till dark studies and exercises. The White House may not be the Winter Palace but you can be sure the Obama daughters are taking hot baths at night. Similarly, when one thinks of an Emperor one doesn’t usually think of someone like Emperor Francis Joseph who slept on an army cot and wore clothes until they were worn out -and then patched them and wore them some more! One of his contemporaries, German Emperor Wilhelm I, was also notoriously frugal. He was known to sit down at a small table with his grandson (future Wilhelm II) for a glass of wine. After their glasses were poured, the emperor would mark the level of the wine with a pencil on the side of the bottle to make sure no one was pinching any when he wasn’t looking. In Russia, Emperor Alexander III preferred the simple meals of his servants to the delicacies of the banquets thrown by the upper class and his idea of recreation was a simple walk in the Russian wilderness with some sausage and a piece of bread for his lunch. These imperial leaders were hardly men of lavish, wasteful luxury and indulgence.

Of course, not every monarch was known for being frugal. Neither has such a trait always been considered positive. Indeed, even as far back as the Roman Empire, certain Caesars were criticized for being miserly. However, these examples should be pointed out, and there were plenty of others (such as King George VI putting the palace and Royal Family on the ration system in World War II). Even today, the spending habits of some monarchs are no doubt troublesome. The King of Swaziland, for instance, does himself no favors in that regard. However, the fact remains that monarchy remains a much better value for money than the average republic even if not every one is like the Emperor of Japan, growing his own rice. Monarchs, especially today, are much more thrifty than politicians if for no other reason than that they are scrutinized to such a vastly greater extent than any elected official. There is also the fact that much of what people see as the lavish and glamorous side of royalty comes at the private expense of the royals and not from the public trough which is, again, something rarely seen in a republic. Furthermore, most of the expense comparisons between monarchies and republics do not even usually take into consideration the immense costs of elections and election campaigns, held with great frequency even if they never seem to actually change anything.

It is a struggle to change such entrenched popular misconceptions and, naturally, the republican crowd will never allow for a fair and honest exchange if they possibly help it, but the effort should be made. It pains me to think of someone like Emperor Franz Joseph being thought of as extravagant simply for being of imperial status. Plenty of monarchs were quite thrifty and plenty of royals and royal children lived far less pampered lives than many of their republican opposites. However, even for those monarchs who were rather lavish, such as King Louis XIV of France, I would take that lavishness any day over the republican politicians in power today. At least the lavishness of someone like Louis XIV served a higher purpose (whether he intended it to or not is irrelevant) to raise the status of his country, the glory of his country and make it a land to be marveled at from people all over the world and for generations to come. Given how many people still go to visit Versailles, filled with awe and wonder at the magnificence, I would say it was worth every penny.

But, of course, I would; I am … The Mad Monarchist
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