Saturday, August 31, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the British Isles, it seems complaints about minimum wage standards are costing jobs on both sides of the pond this week. Advertisements had previously gone out for a maid to be employed at the Queen’s residence in Scotland only to have the offer withdrawn after “social justice” types complained that the position only paid minimum wage (the perk of getting to live in a palace must not have impressed them). Buckingham Palace officials have said that the initial advertisement was a mistake. Meanwhile, rumors were swirling this week that the Duke and Duchess of York may be becoming an item again (MM rolling his eyes). HRH the Duchess of Cambridge was spotted for the first time in public since the birth of Prince George, doing a little grocery shopping. The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry will be joining forces next month for a charity party in London’s Canary Wharf to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. And, in reference to the special report last week, Britain’s elite SAS is launching an investigation into who said what concerning the accusations that they were involved in the death of the late Princess of Wales. British army commander General Sir Peter Wall is reportedly furious that the elite special forces unit has had its reputation attacked in this way.

As to royals from the continent, HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover and family have been relaxing on St Tropez, perhaps resting up for the approaching wedding of Andrea Casiraghi and Tatiana Santo Domingo. Daughter Charlotte Casiraghi was also on hand and, from the photos taken, the rumors of her pregnancy have definitely been confirmed. In Luxembourg, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stephanie have departed for a visit to Germany to mark the anniversary of the Weilburg Militia which was founded in 1813 to mark the wedding of two ancestors of the Luxembourg Royal Family. In the Kingdom of Sweden TM the King and Queen visited Norrbotten County this week and Prince Carl Philip presented the racing cup that has his name on it to the winners of the Lidkoeping Open karting competition. And, in Bulgaria, the former monarch is drawing criticism from the political right over accusations that he “sold out” to the leftist government in return for their giving him back confiscated royal properties. The criticism came from the minor “Order, Law and Justice party” after King Simeon took to his website to condemn the protests against the government. The party accused the King of supporting the government (a coalition of the leftist Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a party of ethnic Turks) in exchange for a promise to restore royal property. A party spokesman referred to King Simeon as the “Red Tsar” and called him an advocate for former communists.

In the Middle East the threat of U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war got most of the headlines this week. Just to re-cap, the Arab monarchies are all pretty unanimous in wanting the Assad regime to go but are not prepared to go beyond funding the rebels or at least the rebel faction of their choice. Assad is not and never has been to their taste, though they are almost all concerned with any civil unrest as it has proven a rather contagious problem. In the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan protestors took to the street to voice their opposition to the American intervention President Obama is still thinking about. The top royals were not in Jordan at the time though as TM King Abdullah II and Queen Rania visited Rome this week where they met with HH Pope Francis. Meanwhile, unnamed members of the Saudi Royal Family have, we are told, been holding somewhat secretive meetings with the Russians in an effort to gain some assurance that Russia will not decide to take any action if the United States intervenes against their Syrian allies for the significant reason that if American intervention goes forward and Vladimir Putin so much as snorts in the direction of an American ship or plane then Obama would soil himself. And this week the Emir of Qatar signed a new border accord with Saudi Arabia but, with everything going on in Syria, I doubt many people noticed.

Finally, in the lands of Eternal Asia, TM the King and Queen of Bhutan attended the graduation ceremonies at the Royal Institute of Management this week. The King told the graduating class that they had a responsibility to use the knowledge and experience they have gained to serve the country and that by strengthening the rule of law they could contribute to maintaining the security and sovereignty of Bhutan. Great. The King also said they all had to work on strengthening democracy. Yawn. Meanwhile, in the Land of the Rising Sun, a new generation have suddenly became aware of the fact (long known to many of us) that HM the Empress is pretty cool man, she’s pretty with-it and all that. While on a visit to the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo HM the Empress saw an exhibit on the virtual pop star sensation Hatsune Miku and pointed her out saying, “Ah, I suppose this is Miku-chan, isn’t it?” At which point young people all over Japan dropped their jaws in amazement that HM the Empress actually recognized a pop culture figure and seems to be up on what is ‘hip and cool’ with the kids these days. Personally, ever since I found out what a big sumo fan HM the Empress is, nothing surprises me. So, yes, young people, congratulations on finding out what we all already knew: the Empress is awesome. In other news, TM the Emperor and Empress visited another museum in Nagano prefecture this week before taking a little time off for a friendly game of tennis.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Denmark in the Napoleonic Wars

The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars occurred during the reign of King Christian VII of Denmark (and Norway) who, unfortunately, seems to have been stark, raving mad. Because of his incapacity, the Crown Prince (later King Frederick VI) had more influence as did Andreas Bernstorff who managed foreign affairs from 1773-1778 and 1784-1797. Earlier, the King’s physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee, held considerable influence and set Denmark on a very liberal, progressive course. This moved Denmark so far to the left of the political spectrum that when the French Revolution broke out, other European powers worried that the disease of Jacobinism might have already taken hold of Denmark. However, Russia still had a great deal of influence in Scandinavia at that time and Tsar Paul I helped to push Denmark a little more to the right in 1799. Yet, it was the close relationship with the Tsar of Russia that ultimately brought down an Allied attack on Denmark. It was at Russian insistence that the Kingdom of Denmark joined the second “Armed Neutrality” groups that endeavored to stop all trade with Great Britain. Sweden and Prussia also joined as this was after the Tsar had fallen out with Britain over their conduct of the war against France. The British were not prepared to tolerate this and soon took military action against Denmark with a raid against the powerful Danish fleet at Copenhagen.

Admiral Fischer
In April 1801 a British fleet commanded by the great Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed to Copenhagen and devastated the Danish fleet led by Admiral Olfert Fischer. It was a victory for Britain that ultimately took Denmark out of the league of Armed Neutrality, however, while a Danish defeat, it was a glorious one nonetheless. The Danes had offered heroic and determined resistance against incredible odds and Lord Nelson himself later admitted that the battle against the Danes had been the most fiercely fought battle of his entire naval career. The Kingdom of Denmark could still hold its head high. With the death of Tsar Paul the international situation changed and though the peace enforced by Britain was not a very beneficial one for Denmark, things were set to get worse. The Kingdom of Denmark was obliged to remain neutral until 1807 when, again, Britain moved against Denmark. The British were determined to take over the Danish fleet for fear that Napoleon might conquer Denmark and grab the valuable warships himself. British and German troops came in and besieged Copenhagen, led by General Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) after brushing aside a small force of Danish militia.

General Ernst Peymann commanded the defending Danish troops while at sea a British fleet under Admiral James Gambier pressed in to close the ring. The Danes refused the British summons to surrender and Gambier began to bombard Copenhagen. Some 2,000 civilians were killed before General Peymann agreed to surrender. The British demanded that all Danish naval forces be turned over to them, which was agreed to, though Crown Prince Frederick secretly ordered Paymann to have all the ships burned. This, however, was not done and the Danish fleet passed into the hands of the British. One can certainly understand the concern of Great Britain over the possibility of the French being able to turn the powerful Danish navy against them but the whole episode was an unfortunate affair. The Danes really had no great love for Napoleon and had intended to resist the French like most everyone else in Europe. However, the British attack on Copenhagen and the seizure of their proud fleet soured all feelings against Britain. The Kingdom of Denmark, therefore, entered into an alliance with Imperial France under King Frederick VI who came to the Danish throne in 1808.

King Frederick VI
Danish forces saw rather limited action in the ensuing period of warfare, restricted mostly to supporting the French and French-aligned forces in northern Germany. For a time though, with the many brilliant victories of Napoleon, it seemed that King Frederick VI might have backed the right horse and Danish power and influence would be on the rise. Very early in his reign it seemed that the Kingdom of Sweden would soon be in need of a monarch and, as a descendent of the Swedish King Gustav I, Frederick VI thought he might have a chance of being elected King of Sweden as well as being King of Denmark and Norway. Were this to have happened, all of Scandinavia would have (once again) been united in the person of the King of Denmark. However, as we know, it did not come to pass as the Swedes chose another, actually King Frederick’s brother-in-law, before ultimately giving the throne to Marshal of France Bernadotte.

The battle of Copenhagen
Coincidentally, it was Marshal Bernadotte who was to command the French invasion force against Denmark if the Danes had not gone to war against Britain. Effectively, both Britain and France had forced Denmark to choose one side over the other and the Danish government felt it had no choice but to choose France. As we know, they had picked the side that would ultimately lose. In retribution, when the war was over, Denmark was forced to hand Norway over to Sweden which had come in on the Allied side when Marshal Bernadotte turned on his former French master. That being said, it should be kept in mind that Norway had always been a distinct, separate kingdom in its own right. It only happened that, prior to the war, the King of Denmark had also been the King of Norway while after the war the King of Sweden would also be the King of Norway which remained a separate, legal entity. Although Denmark would eventually recover, the loss of the Danish fleet and the loss of Norway had a fairly devastating impact on Danish strength and the Danish economy. The status of Denmark would never quite be the same afterwards. Still, despite not being on the same level as France, Britain or Austria at the start of the war, the Kingdom of Denmark could not be discounted. The Danish army was small but determined and efficient with many highly professional officers. There was also the Norwegian contingent which, even in those days, had units of ski-born troops. Most significant though was the Danish navy which was quite formidable with 38 ships-of-the-line and a tenacity that was proven at Copenhagen.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Attempted Kingdom of Finland

The story of the short-lived, largely nominal, Kingdom of Finland goes back to 1809. It was then, during the Napoleonic Wars, that the Grand Principality of Finland, whose Grand Prince (Grand Duke) had previously been the King of Sweden, was taken by Russia. For the next century Finland was an autonomous region of the Russian Empire and, at first, relations between Finland and Russia were quite good and beneficial to both sides. The Finns demonstrated their loyalty to the Russian Tsar and, in return, Finland was granted a greater degree of independence than other areas. Finland was given its own government and there was something of a national revival. However, later efforts to enforce greater uniformity, integrate Finns into the Russian Imperial Army and bring Finland into line with the rest of the Russian Empire caused some discontent. Still, the problems were not too serious and Finland remained a part of the Russian Empire until the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II. Many, having considered Finland to have been in what amounted to a personal union with the Russian emperor, now felt Finland was completely independent. However, the Russian Provisional Government continued to view Finland as a part of Russia and soon the divisions in Russia swept over Finland as well. When civil war broke out in Russia between the Red and White factions, Finland declared independence but the conflict soon spread to Finland as well.

Finnish White Guards
At the start, the ever-troublesome Social Democrats held the most seats in the Finnish parliament. Soon the Finns were divided between the socialists who wanted to stay close to the emerging Soviet Russia and the various non-socialists who wanted complete independence. Red and White Finns were soon battling in their own country, along with, at times, their Russian counterparts. Faced with the threat of Finland being swallowed up by the emerging socialist dictatorship in Russia, some began to turn for help to their former enemies in Imperial Germany. 1917 and 1918 were busy years for the Baltic region. The Germans still had considerable military force in the area and were able to lend support to the White Finns against the Reds. The Reds were also undercut by the loss of Soviet support as the Russian Reds withdrew to concentrate on their own civil war. Germany saw an opportunity to support an independent Finland and so secure their own influence in the region, saving it from socialist republicanism and also serving as a convenient buffer state between the Soviets and the weakening German Empire. The Germans were also acting in a similar fashion in the Baltic states, helping establish independent monarchies (the Kingdom of Lithuania and United Baltic Duchy) under German princes.

Prince Friedrich Karl
It was only natural that Germany would have considerable influence on the newly independent Finland. Later, during World War II, the Finns would say that Germany was “the only ally left to us” and in those closing days of World War I, the Germans were simply the only ones to extend a hand and give real support to the forces of Finnish independence. They trained White Finnish military forces, supported them with supplies and war materials and even troops to help them see the Russians out of their country and defeat the Red faction. Had it not been for German assistance, Finland might never have been independent at all but become another member state of the U.S.S.R. from the beginning. Given that, it was not unexpected that Finland would become a monarchy and choose for the throne a German royal. The favorite candidate was Prince Friedrich Karl von Hesse-Kassel, officially Friedrich Karl Prinz und Landgraf von Hessen-Kassel. He was married to Princess Margarete of Prussia, the sister of German Kaiser Wilhelm II. One Finnish member of parliament suggested that the new potential monarch reign as “King Charles I of Finland and Karelia, Duke of Aland, Grand Duke of Lapland, Lord of Kaleva and the North”. With the Social Democrats dealt with, on October 9, 1918 the Hessian prince was formally elected King of Finland.

Crown of Finland
Naysayer republicans tend to portray this as effectively a German takeover of Finland or that, rather than being independent, Finland was simply becoming a German protectorate. However, that is not the case and the choice of the Hessian Prince Friedrich Karl was actually a very smart move for the new country. Because the King would be a German, the Germans could be confident enough to let Finland govern itself without worrying that Finland would ever be a threat to their interests. Had Finland chosen a leader who was hostile or even seen as being hostile to Germany, the country would immediately lose their primary foreign ally and, had things gone different on the warfront, Finland might have been occupied and annexed outright. However, as it was, Germany could be comfortable with an independent, self-governing Finland knowing that the monarch was bound by family ties to their own Kaiser and, as a result, Finland could count on German support in international disputes that were bound to arise with neighboring countries like Russia or Sweden. It was also a case of being realistic. Finland, like the Baltic states, knew they were in a vulnerable position between Germany and Russia. They could never oppose both and so would have to take the side of one or the other. Especially with the Bolsheviks taking power in Russia and even then massacring people, this was an easy choice. A simple look at who was chosen as regent of the new kingdom, the famous Finnish soldier Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, will show that there is no doubt about the commitment to independence on the part of the Kingdom of Finland.

Mannerheim, in fact, had been chosen as regent in spite of the fact that he had been less than enthusiastic about offering the throne to Prince Friedrich Karl specifically because of the reaction this would provoke among the Allies. Unfortunately, he was proven correct and with the defeat of Germany the cause of monarchy in Finland was instantly doomed, even before the nominal King had been able to take up his throne. The Allies made it clear that they did not approve of the Hessian Prince becoming King of Finland and the Finnish Prime Minister, Lauri Ingman (a monarchist), was obliged to request that Prince Friedrich Karl renounce the throne. If he did not, Finland feared that the Allies would not recognize their independence. So, on December 14, 1918 Prince Friedrich Karl formally gave up the Finnish throne, before he had ever even actually taken up the position, and in the subsequent parliamentary elections in Finland the republicans won the majority of seats. When the new constitution was voted on and enacted it was, of course, a republican constitution and Finland has remained a republic ever since.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Monarch Profile: King Olav V of Norway

HRH Prince Alexander Edward Christian Frederik of Denmark was born on July 2, 1903 in Flitcham, England to Prince Carl of Denmark (younger son of King Frederick VIII of Denmark) and Princess Maud (daughter of the British King Edward VII). So, a Danish prince who would become King of Norway was born in England. Only a few years later his father was elected King of Norway, taking the name of Haakon VII. The Kingdom of Norway had previously been in a personal union with the Kingdom of Sweden and when total independence became the popular trend the Norwegian people were given a choice between a republic or a constitutional monarchy. They wisely opted for a monarchy and the choice of monarch fell on Prince Carl of Denmark; Norway having had a long history of close ties with Denmark prior to the union with Sweden. King Haakon VII, while taking the name of past Norwegian monarchs, gave his son the Norwegian name of Crown Prince Olav. Queen Maud, on the other hand, was British through and through and would always remain so but she certainly cared for her new country and saw to it that her son was raised to be totally Norwegian. That he certainly was as, coming to the country at such a young age, Norway was the only homeland he ever knew.

As he grew up, Crown Prince Olav decided not to follow in the footsteps of his very naval father and instead opted for the army as his national service. It proved to be a good choice as he was soon shown to be an exceptional soldier. After finishing school he attended the Norwegian Military Academy and graduated fourth in his class in 1924 after which he went on to study law and economics in Britain in preparation for his future role as monarch. He did not, however, neglect the navy and was an accomplished sailor as well, winning a gold medal in sailing at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. He trained as a naval cadet and was also an avid skier, his mother encouraging him in the pursuit of that very Norwegian pastime. Crown Prince Olav advanced in rank in both the army and navy, participated in many athletic competitions and became very popular both for his achievements and his winning personality. When it came time to think about marriage he had little trouble there. In 1929, in a ceremony in Oslo he married his cousin Princess Martha of Sweden, a very striking young lady who quickly won over the Norwegian people.

Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha had a very happy and devoted marriage. The couple were alike in many ways; friendly, humble, approachable and compassionate. The pair were very down-to-earth with the Crown Princess making clothes for her children by hand. Those children were Princess Ragnhild, born in 1930; Princess Astrid, born in 1932 and finally the future King Harald V born in 1937. For Crown Prince Olav these were years of great happiness and contentment. Yet, there was also growing concern about the increasing belligerency of Germany to the south. By then a colonel in the Norwegian army, Crown Prince Olav was well aware of how unprepared Norway was for any military conflict. Despite the best efforts of the King, working behind the scenes, to increase Norwegian military preparedness, the political leaders of the country put their faith in neutrality as the only protection for the Kingdom of Norway. Because of the ties between the Royal Families, Norway was most adamant about not coming into conflict with Great Britain. However, as World War II spread, it became clear that Norwegian neutrality would be violated by either Britain or Germany. The only question was who would make the first move.

Crown Prince Olav was in a uniquely strong position for the coming crisis. Probably no one in the government was as well aware of Norwegian military capabilities as he was, having participated in military exercises as well as being well trained in the land and sea armed forces. The Crown Prince had also visited the United States and had already formed a friendship with American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1939 he was promoted to the rank of general in the army and admiral in the navy. Things came to a head in 1940 when the British began putting into effect a plan for the invasion of Norway as a means of cutting off supplies from Scandinavia going to the Germans. However, after mining Norwegian waters, the British put off their invasion and Hitler seized the opportunity to launch his own attack, first on Denmark and then on Norway. The Danes were powerless to resist and, for the most part, didn’t and Denmark was occupied in one day. The conquest of Norway would take longer, one Norwegian remarking, “We are a longer country”.

When the Germans invaded, Crown Prince Olav stood firmly beside his father the King in a firm resolve to resist the attack as long as possible. He advised both civilian and military officials in reacting to the crisis and the Norwegian troops offered fierce resistance to the German attackers. The Germans hoped that the Norwegian Royal Family could be captured but the Norwegian royal guards offered heroic resistance to prevent this, earning the grudging respect of the Germans who nicknamed them the “black devils” because of their dark uniforms. Norway was conquered and occupied but the government and Royal Family were able to escape to Great Britain. Crown Prince Olav wanted to stay in Norway with his people but the government would not allow this and he went into exile as well. Still, the war was not over and the Crown Prince continued to assist the government-in-exile and the Norwegian troops who had been evacuated and the new Norwegian forces recruited in exile. He visited Norwegian forces in the UK, US and Canada during the war and earned the respect of the British and American military leadership for his talent and grasp of the situation. In 1944 he was made Chief of Defense for Norway and helped to coordinate with the Allies on any issue involving Norway or Norwegian forces. When victory came and Norway was liberated it was the Crown Prince who oversaw the disarmament of the German occupation army.

In the aftermath of World War II, Norway rebuilt and established closer ties with her Scandinavian neighbors partly due to increased concern over the Soviet Union. In 1957 there was immense public sadness when King Haakon VII passed away. He was the first independent King of Norway in modern times and was the one who led his people through their greatest crisis in memory, yet, his son was popular and respected enough to ensure that there was a smooth and confident transition. It was an extremely difficult and heartbreaking time for the new monarch. Not only had he lost his father but only a few years before his beloved wife, Crown Princess Martha, had died of cancer in 1954. An extremely talented and accomplished woman, she would be the greatest queen Norway never had. However, putting his own paid aside and putting duty first, the former Crown Prince became King Olav V and his was to be a more approachable style of monarchy. In no time at all Olav V became known as the “people’s king” because of his friendly and open attitude as well as his humility. He would drive his own car, in the public lanes along with everyone else, and go out without an escort. When questioned about this the King famously replied that the four million people of Norway were all his bodyguards. He carried out all of his constitutional duties meticulously and his winning personality gave Norway an advantage when it came to diplomatic relations with other countries. Everyone knew and respect King Olav. In the decades after his reign, Norway experienced an economic revival and increased prosperity, especially after the discovery and exploitation of the extensive oil resources of the country. Of course, measures were taken to protect the environment as well as King Olav V never lost his athletic nature or love of the outdoors.

As an example of that, in 1968 he won the Holmenkollen Medal, the highest Norwegian award for skiing skill. The King loved to ski and this led to another incident which showed both his love for the sport and his down-to-earth style. During the 1973 energy crisis travel was banned on certain weekends. The King did not want to miss a good ski weekend and, though as the King he certainly could have made himself an exception, to set a good example for the rest of his people he traveled on the train with everyone else. Throughout his reign he continued to support winter sports, sailing, scouting, international relations (he was the first Norwegian monarch to travel abroad extensively) and he kept up his interest in the military, never taking national security for granted. He always kept himself well informed on national issues and policy while strictly respecting the constitutional limits to his position. Olav V was, in every way, a model constitutional monarch, attentive to his duties and combining a deep sense of history with a great sense of humor. Admired by people of Norwegian descent around the world the King also supported charitable ethnic organizations of Norwegians living abroad.

The first signs of possible health problems for King Olav V began to be noticed in 1989 and 1990. Because of his nature, however, he had long been seen as robust and invulnerable but time was taking a toll on the man who was, at the time, the oldest monarch in Europe. Late on January 17, 1991 King Olav V suffered a myocardial infarction and passed away, leaving the throne to his son King Harald V. The Kingdom of Norway mourned as it probably never had before for a King who was as loved as he was respected. With his military background, strength and grasp of world affairs, Olav V was a man to admire. Yet, at the same time, his winning personality made him more than just a father figure to his country but rather more like the friend of every Norwegian in the world.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Soldier of Monarchy: Field Marshal Lennart Torstensson

From the French Revolutionary Wars to both World Wars, the one land-based weapon that did more damage than any other was artillery. Atheist dictator Joseph Stalin called it the god of modern war. Frederick the Great of Prussia said it was the most respectable argument for the rights of kings. The French Emperor Napoleon was of the opinion that all the best generals were artillerymen as he himself had been. Before all of them though was the “father of field artillery”; the Swedish general Lennart Torstensson. Not only was he one of the great military leaders of his time, serving under one of the greatest warrior monarchs Sweden has ever produced, Marshal Torstensson has proven to be one of the most influential military commanders in history because of his innovations in the field of artillery in particular. Outside of that domain alone he also proved himself an overall great general and played a key role in the rise of the Kingdom of Sweden as a major power in Europe with a number of key victories in the Thirty Years War.

Lennart Torstensson was the son of an army officer, born on August 17, 1603 in Torstena, Västergötland. At the age of fifteen he gained the position of a page to the great King Gustavus Adolphus. From 1621 to 1623 he accompanied his king in the campaigns in Livonia on the other side of the Baltic and it was King Gustavus Adolphus who first impressed upon him at an early age the importance of artillery on the battlefield. He learned even more when he was subsequently sent to study at the Holland Military School under another of the great captains of history, the Dutch Prince Maurits van Nassau. When he returned to Sweden he fought for three years in the campaigns against Prussia, seeing action in such engagements as the battle of Wallhof in 1626. The King was greatly impressed by his skill and promoted him to colonel at the age of 26, giving him command of the first artillery regiment in military history. He wasted no time in proving himself worthy of such a position and by the following year he had earned promotion to general and his title of the “father of field artillery”.

Torstensson basically took the innovations of the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus and the Dutch Prince Maurits van Nassau concerning artillery, refined them and built upon them to increase the mobility of the artillery. His fame as the “father of field artillery” comes from the fact that, before his time, artillery tended to be seen mostly as a weapon of static, siege warfare. Torstensson made it something more mobile that would be capable of supporting the infantry and cavalry on the battlefield. Previously, the only light cannon had been rather dangerous guns with a copper core wrapped in leather. Torstensson came up with a new cast-iron cannon that was powerful enough to be a major force on the battlefield but which could still be moved by as few as four men or two horses. He also led the way in getting away from cannon balls to more advanced artillery “shells” which combined powder and shot inside a wooden container. He also worked out a drill routine that so increased the efficiency of the Swedish artillerymen that they were able to load and fire their cannon faster than the infantry could load and fire their muskets. On September 17, 1631 at the battle of Breitenfeld his innovations were put to the test and Torstensson was fully vindicated. His guns fired at three times the rate of the Catholic forces opposing them and accompanied the infantry and cavalry to help secure a decisive Swedish victory.

Where they had Torstensson and his guns to back them up, the Swedish forces prevailed but artillery was not always the only determining factor, nor could it always be used to full effect. In an attack on Alte Veste in the summer of 1632 Torstensson had to leave his guns and fought beside his King in a brave but doomed assault. In the end, the Swedes were defeated and Torstensson was taken prisoner. By the time he was exchanged a year later the great King Gustavus Adolphus was dead but Torstensson resumed command of the artillery under Johan Banér who had taken charge of the Swedish army after the death of the King. Again he played a key role in the Swedish victory at the battle of Wittstock in 1636. By 1641 the strength of the Swedish forces was almost exhausted and Torstensson was hardly in the best shape of his life, nonetheless, when Banér died he was chosen to take command of the Swedish army. In a remarkable turnaround, Torstensson restored the morale and discipline of the army and with new fighting spirit he led the Swedish forces to another great victory at the battle of Leipzig. By 1642 the Swedes dominated the whole of Saxony.

Pressing on after this victory, Torstensson and his Swedish army marched into Bohemia and Moravia. He turned away to pursue a threatening Danish army and defeated a Bavarian army to sent to the aid of the Danes. The battle of Jankau in 1645 was his last great victory, won over the Bavarians, after which the great general was obliged to resign because of his worsening health and return home to Sweden. He held a few political posts before his death in Stockholm on April 7, 1651 at the age of only 47. Were it not for the great and influential victories of King Gustavus Adolphus himself, Marshal Torstensson would probably be remembered as the greatest Swedish military mind of his age. Nonetheless, alongside the great king, he was responsible for securing the victories that made Sweden a major military power, he was a competent and successful battlefield commander and as an innovator his influence on artillery has been immense in military history, putting artillery for the first time on an equal footing with the infantry and cavalry as one of the indispensable tools of modern warfare.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Saintly Royals Sunday

Charlemagne, King of the Franks and Lombards and Emperor of the Romans, the first emperor in the west since Romulus Augustulus was deposed. Beatified locally his caused was advanced when he was canonized by Anti-Pope Paschal III which, of course, the Church never recognized. However, his beatification was confirmed by Pope Benedict XIV and his feast is celebrated in France and Germany.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Royal News Special Report: Digging Up Diana

This week, the royal news that grabbed the headlines more than any other was yet another of the tired, disgraceful conspiracy theories concerning the death of Princess Diana. Never letting a total lack of evidence get in the way of a good, traumatic story, the media ran with what should have been dismissed immediately as an obvious lie. Unfortunately, the media was given cover by the fact that the British police made a statement that they were looking into the matter. This allowed all of the scandal-hungry talking heads to blather on and on about it because, after all, if the police are taking it seriously then maybe there might be some truth to it. Spare me. Simply the source of the new “information” should have been enough to discount it from the outset. It all comes down to the in-laws of a former British soldier. During a rather messy divorce they suddenly remembered, all these many years after the fact, that this soldier once boasted that the death of Princess Diana had all been arranged and that the British special forces carried it out. Did he really say such a thing? Who knows? How drunk was he at the time if he had? Who knows? Yet, for some reason that escapes me the authorities said they would look into these obviously ridiculous allegations and that gave a green flag to the media to run wild with the story and bring up all the old conspiracy theories just for good measure.

I am sure everyone has heard at least some of these stories, one of the most popular themes being that Princess Diana was pregnant with Dodi Al-Fayed’s baby and that the Royal Family (sometimes HRH the Duke of Edinburgh is singled out) had Mi6 or the SAS kill her off to avoid a scandal. Yeah, because a scandal involving Diana would have been unthinkable. Unfortunately, this whole tidal wave of conspiracy theories was partly supported by Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed who, as far as I am concerned, is scum of the lowest order. Fabulously wealthy scum, but scum nonetheless. He seems to be to be someone who was able to buy his way to the top of society but became bitter because he could never buy his way up to the level of the royals and so petulantly decided to wage his own propaganda war against the monarchy. The people who spread these wild stories or give them any time at all are deluded at best and treasonous at worst. Contrary to what many think, they are no real friends or admirers of Princess Diana either. They are doing her memory no favors and are besmirching the good name of both the Royal Family and the British armed forces in the process.

On that subject, let me say that I have not been a big fan of Princess Diana ever since she decided to go public with her marital problems. Before that, I had a favorable view of her. What she did was wrong and it does not matter to me in the least that the Prince of Wales was doing wrong as well or who did wrong first. I am certainly not saying the Prince was or is or should be free from all blame but what should have been a private, family trauma was made into a public scandal by Diana and that I do not approve of. What was going through her mind, no one can say. However, it allowed many people to use her situation as a way to further their own agendas and to attack the monarchy. I was further turned off by the long-running hero worship of Diana and the way so many seized on her as the one “pure” royal who was being mistreated by the “wicked” forces of the monarchy. She is not the only royal figure to have ever become the focus of such sentiments and, sadly, she will probably not be the last. In life and now in death Princess Diana is being used by unscrupulous people as a tool with which to attack the foundational institution of the United Kingdom and its commonwealths. Regardless of what these people may think, they are no true friends or admirers of the late Princess.

Having given my opinion of Diana, let me also say that I do not hold the anger against her that some others do. I was genuinely sad at her untimely death and I applaud her for the good work she did throughout her life. She made mistakes and did plenty that I disapprove of but it also cannot be denied that she also did a great deal of good for a great many people around the world. Those, however, who used and who continue to use her memory as a way of attacking the monarchy are doing Diana no favors. They certainly have not the slightest care or compassion for the only thing left of her in this world, namely her children. Imagine how completely horrible it must be to have tabloids and talking heads pattering on about the idea that your grandfather had your mother killed. It is unspeakably atrocious and even less than that, just the effort to draw divisions within the personal lives of Princes William and Harry between their mother and father, their mother and grandparents, all people they love as much as any other person loves their own parents and grandparents. These stupid, ignorant stories and allegations do no one any good, they only harm and hurt. The only people who benefit are those who manage to enrich themselves at the expense of the ignorant and gullible.

There should be no doubt about this. Princess Diana was killed primarily because she was traveling in a car being driven by a man who was dangerously intoxicated, more than three times over the legal limit. More than anything else, even more than the rightfully despised paparazzi (who certainly played a part), the tragedy was the fault of a drunk driver. It is sad, it is unfortunate, but it happens to people every day all over the world. That should be the end of it and I hope, I really, sincerely hope, that one day Princess Diana will be allowed to rest in peace and that her children will not have to keep being traumatized by these ridiculous and hateful tales from the media.

Friday, August 23, 2013

On War and Peace

Want a more peaceful world? Humanity would do well to return to the idea of monarchy. This may be unlikely though since we little human beings have an unparalleled ability never allow ourselves to be confused by facts (don’t worry though, the modern world is hard at work to make sure that the very idea of “facts” will soon be erased from existence) since most continue to view the more monarchist past as a time of barbarity and bloodshed. However, this requires some pretty willful self-deception since the basic statistics do not lie. Sure, Attila the Hun was a pretty rough customer, Genghis Khan was not exactly forgiving toward his enemies and there were more than a few massacres perpetrated by Viking raiders. There was no Geneva Convention or rules governing war in those days but, even since such things have existed, they are frequently ignored. After all, it has been pretty well established that you only have to worry about breaking international law if your side loses the war. Getting back to the statistics, as violent as the Dark Ages might have been, there is no denying that the Twentieth Century was the most violent in all of human history. Warfare was never so terrible as when it became “popular”.

Sir Winston Churchill famously said, “Democracy is more vindictive than Cabinets. The wars of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings”. True words and easily proven so. In those backward, reactionary times of royal rule, wars tended to be fought for some specific aim. Enemies could meet on the field of battle while their rulers still held mutual respect for each other. Wars tended to end by negotiation. Capital cities were rarely taken and the physical destruction that accompanied war was limited to the battlefields themselves and the actual ground armies marched over. Compare that to the wars of the Twentieth Century in which whole cities, hundreds of miles from the front lines, were bombed to rubble. Sometimes even cities in neutral countries were bombed by mistake. Oops. In the past, when a negotiated peace was the aim of a war, it was usually necessary to have someone to negotiate with. After the wars of peoples took hold, in order to motivate an entire population to war, politicians had to enflame peoples against each other and nothing less than the total annihilation of the enemy and their government would suffice.

In the time of the wars of kings, not many national leaders met their end because of a war and those who did usually only lost power rather than their lives. In more modern times, even when a negotiated settlement is a possibility, it is made a very unattractive prospect due to the fact that the loser is usually brought before some sort of court or tribunal and then executed. In World War II the Allies actually did the Nazi Party a great favor by openly announcing that only an unconditional surrender would be accepted. The Germans had seen what happened when they were left at the mercy of their enemies and many who had wanted to get out of the war suddenly had Nazi propagandists saying, “I told you so” as the only options left to them were victory or death. Looking at the primary Axis powers, it took royal leadership to spare their peoples from total annihilation. Under Hitler, Germany was drowned in a sea of blood. In the Kingdom of Italy, on the other hand, when the Allies invaded Sicily, the King finally said enough was enough and that Mussolini had to go. Had the Allied handled things better, that might have been the end of the war on the Italian peninsula. Likewise, in Japan, the militarists were determined to fight on to the bitter end until the Emperor stepped forward and declared that the end had come.

World War I is an even better example though and I am sure some will already be thinking that there was only the second bloodiest war in the history of humanity and it came when the world was still a largely monarchist place. The truth, however, is not that simple. Among the major powers in Europe in August of 1914 there was not a single monarch that wanted war. Not one. Even the few who thought it might be necessary were certainly not pleased or enthusiastic about it. The Great War was a war of peoples rather than a war of kings, no doubt about it. The Tsar of Russia was extremely reluctant to get involved, the Emperor of Austria had to actually be lied to in order to get him to go to war and the German Kaiser actually ordered his troops to stand down at the last minute only to be defied by his top general. The British monarch had very little to say in the matter at all. Yet, despite this, not one monarch of the Central Powers was to maintain his throne when all was said and done. Given what came twenty years later, that certainly did not make the world a safer place.

Even after the French Revolution gave the world the concept of the “nation in arms” we can still see how monarchist forces handled the aftermath of a conflict so much better than republican forces. After the Napoleonic Wars, rather than the farce of a trial, the enemy was shipped off into exile and the statesmen of Europe gathered to put the continent back together again. Talleyrand, former the Foreign Minister of Napoleon, was on hand to take part in the negotiations. Imagine that; France was actually included in the negotiations over what was to become of France. The end result was a period of peace in Europe. Compare this to the aftermath of the First World War in which the defeated nations were given no part at all in the peace process. They were simply informed of how they were to be carved up by the victors and expected to like it. The fates of Germany and Austria-Hungary were decided without a single German, Austrian or Hungarian taking part in the negotiations. The result was a brief respite of a couple of decades before an even more terrible and more widespread war devastated mankind. Even then, the aftermath was handled no better and the world might have seen a similar result yet again were it not for the fact that former enemies were forced together out of the shared threat of the Soviet Union in Europe and Asia.

World War II, the most devastating war in history and the biggest war of peoples ever fought, also ended with a great deal of what was simply shameful. Consider the case of Romania. It was on this day in 1944 that the young King Michael of Romania launched the coup that took his country out of the Axis camp and into the Allied camp. How was he rewarded? By having his country handed over to the Soviets to become one of their slave states. There was also the betrayal of the Chetniks in Serbia or the many crimes of the Soviets, who, by the way, were complicit in the “original sin” of the Nazi invasion of Poland. When the Bolsheviks took Berlin, any man with blonde hair was considered to have been in the SS and executed. Most men and boys of any kind were butchered and practically every German woman the communist forces could get their hands on was raped, often repeatedly. There was the enslavement of the Baltic states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and a last-minute stab in the back of Japan. The Japanese had honored the non-aggression pact with the Soviets meticulously, even when their German and Italian allies were fighting on the Russian steppes and yet, when Japan was already devastated and had just had two atomic bombs dropped on her, the Soviets broke their word to grab what they could. And, in a way, the other Allies played a part in making the conditions for these outrages to happen and were also directly responsible for turning over anti-communist Russians, Cossacks and other minorities to the Soviet authorities, knowing full well they would be butchered.

The world had never been more violent and bloody than when the supposed champions and representatives of “the people” took power from the kings and princes. Even today, what peace prevails is mostly the peace of people who cannot be bothered to go to war over anything. Wars, in our democratic, republican age, have become a tool of politicians rather than a continuation of politics. We still fight, we still kill and bomb and destroy but we don’t call it “war”. We do so for vague reasons, against vague enemies and end up with vague outcomes. Wars no longer have a beginning and an end. Instead, we have interventions, escalations and they just go on and on until the public loses interest. But, we are ruled by politicians rather than monarchs so everyone thinks it is all okay. And that is the mentality that has produced the undeniable fact that no regimes in human history have been so oppressive and blood-soaked as those that have “people’s” or “democratic” in their names. Humanity would do well to consider that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Empire of the Danes

It may come as a surprise to some people that the Kingdom of Denmark was once an imperial power. Sure, today Denmark is just a quiet, unassuming little country in northern Europe, but, once upon a time, the Danes were large and in charge. Denmark managed to not only gain mastery of all of Scandinavia but also to branch out and establish colonial outposts all over the world. The history of Danish conquests goes back quite a long way, though the farther back one goes, naturally, the facts become a bit harder to nail down. However, it seems that King Harald Bluetooth who united the Danes and under whose reign Christianity was first introduced, managed to conquer southern Sweden and Norway, such as it was at the time. His son, King Sven Forkbeard took on the considerable task of conquering England, which was accomplished by 1014. Conquering England was difficult but still proved easier than ruling England and the Vikings of Denmark were eventually forced out with King St Canute IV being the last Danish monarch to attack English shores. England and Denmark went their separate ways by 1035 but, after a time, Denmark came roaring back to be a major contender for power in the Baltic Sea region with the Danes conquering parts of northern Germany and Estonia though only briefly.

Queen Margaret I
Real prestige and what amounted to imperial power for Denmark came during the reign of Queen Margaret I. Through her marriage and offspring the Kalmar Union was formed which united all of Scandinavia under the Danish crown. Married to the King of Norway, who was also a relative of the soon to be late King of Sweden, and Sweden at that time ruling Finland, Queen Margaret I of Denmark was mistress of the whole of far northern Europe. On paper this was a political union and not a case of Norway, Sweden and Finland all being ruled by Denmark but (especially if you were to ask the Norwegians, Swedes and Finns at the time) it was the Danes who dominated and really called the shots. Well done Denmark, but, of course, this state of affairs was also partly why the Kalmar Union did not last for very long. The Swedes, traditionally a very independent people, proved to be the most discontented and the most formidable in seeing Danish influence pushed back inside their own borders. Sweden finally went its own separate way but Norway, while distinct from Denmark, remained solidly united under the Danish crown until the Napoleonic Wars when the Allies chastised Denmark for siding with France and took Norway away from the King of Denmark and gave it to the King of Sweden to offset the loss of Finland to the Tsar of Russia.

The religious disputes that followed the spread of Protestantism caused a setback for Danish power but new alliances were made and in time Denmark was back to being the most prosperous and powerful of the Scandinavian countries. They took a sting in the Thirty Years War and then a rather serious drubbing from Sweden. A number of subsequent wars failed to restore Danish supremacy over the region or to break Swedish power which grew considerably thanks to a number of very gifted military leaders. However, you cannot keep a good Dane down and in time Denmark was again a model of prosperity, confident enough to start looking beyond Europe for opportunities to grow. Thanks to the union with Norway the Danish Crown already held Iceland and Greenland as well as some other smaller islands in the North Sea but under King Christian IV, Denmark began looking to plant the oldest national flag in Europe on warmer shores. In 1620 the Kingdom of Denmark established its first official overseas colony in India, the subcontinent that was so attractive the Portuguese, Dutch, British and French were all competing to make claims. The Danish foothold was established at Tranquebar (now called Tharangambadi) which remained a Danish possession until 1845 when it was sold to Britain.

Ft Christiansborg in Africa
In 1671 the Danes gained their first colony in the New World with the acquisition of St Thomas island in the Caribbean, having first seized the island from the Dutch in 1666. Even before that though the Danish West India Company had an outpost there and after Danish rule became official and was extended over the whole island, development expanded rapidly. Sugar cane plantations were the primary industry as they also were on the island of St John (Sankt Jan) which was first settled by Danes in 1718. In 1733 the Danish West Indies were expanded further when Denmark purchased the island of Saint Croix from France. Of course, unpleasant as the subject is, sugar plantations in those days did not operate without widespread use of slave labor and if you were going to have sugar plantations in the Caribbean, and have them produce any profit, you were going to need slaves and this necessitated Danish colonial expansion in Africa. In 1661 Denmark purchased a fortress or castle from the Swedes on the Gold Coast of West Africa and in the following years Danish influence in the region expanded. Denmark established several other forts in the area, mostly in what is now Ghana, and the region became unofficially known as the Danish Gold Coast. In fact, one former Danish fort, Ft Christiansborg, is still used today as the residence of the President of Ghana.

Efforts were made to establish plantations in Africa but these were not successful and eventually the interior was seized by African powers hostile to Denmark and as public sentiment was eventually turning against the idea of slavery the Kingdom of Denmark withdrew from Africa and sold its forts to Great Britain in 1850. They served no purpose by that time as the slave trade had long been mostly suppressed thanks to the British and in 1848 the Kingdom of Denmark abolished the use of slave labor. The Danes had already seen that slavery could prove detrimental to the masters as well as to the slaves when there was a massive slave rebellion on the island of St John, where African slaves outnumbers Danish colonists by 5 to 1, which was only suppressed with the help of France. However, though Denmark was congratulated for the abolition of slavery this also meant that most of the plantations in the Danish West Indies went out of business and the local economy went downhill fast. Rather than being self-sufficient or profitable, the islands became a drain on the Kingdom of Denmark. So, in 1916 (when the Danish economy itself was in trouble due to World War I) there was little regret when Denmark sold the islands to the United States who wanted to use them to establish naval bases to guard against those troublesome German submarines. The following year the former Danish West Indies became the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Queen Margaret II in the Faroe Islands
This really ended the Danish colonial empire though the Crown of Denmark still reigned over Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Danish power had been on the decline for a while by that point, having lost territory to Prussia in 1864. Norway was lost to Sweden at the end of the Napoleonic Wars but in 1905 voted to break away from the Swedish Crown and reestablish its own monarchy, electing Prince Carl of Denmark to become King Haakon VII of Norway, so Danes could probably smile on that occasion. During World War II the Kingdom of Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany (though Danish defiance rather spoiled the German wish to showcase Denmark as the ‘model protectorate’) and in 1944 Iceland took the opportunity to break away from the Danish Crown and become an independent republic. Under the circumstances there was practically nothing Denmark could do about it, especially as the Allies were supportive simply to secure their own influence on the island. The timing seemed disgraceful and any objective observer would say it was not necessary considering that Iceland had already become virtually independent by that time anyway with the establishment of the Kingdom of Iceland in 1918 in personal union with the Crown of Denmark. Not long after the war, in 1948, the Faroe Islands were granted almost complete autonomy. Still, the islands remain under the reign of the Danish monarch as does the massive island of Greenland which was granted home rule in 1979.

With Iceland going republican, Greenland and Faroe Islands remain the only vestiges of the Danish colonial empire and these are each self-governing, autonomous members of the “Danish Realm”. In fairness it should also be pointed out that these islands were originally Norwegian possessions which came under the Danish Crown during the union of Denmark and Norway via the Treaty of Kiel of 1814. However, unassuming as the Kingdom of Denmark may appear today, there was a time when the Danes were the dominant force in far north Europe and at various times the rule of the Danish monarchy stretched across Finland, Sweden, Norway, England, northern Germany, Latvia, the North Atlantic, down to the Caribbean Sea, the Gold Coast of Africa, southern India and as far east as the Nicobar Islands in the Sea of Bengal (sold to Britain in 1869). Although today the Danish colonial empire may not be as well remembered as the more extensive realms of other colonial powers, for a time it was one that had to be taken into account with the Danish flag flying over parts of America, Africa and Asia.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Monarch Profile: Ismail the Magnificent, Khedive of Egypt

Ismail Pasha may not have been the most successful Egyptian monarch in history but it certainly was not for lack of trying. His reign was a period of great aspirations, big ideas and grand ambition. His goals were not always reached but he cannot be faulted for thinking small. Ismail Pasha did his best to usher in a new era of power and prestige for Egypt and even hoped to make Egypt a great power again, at least on the regional level. Out with the old and in with the new might have been his motto, modernization, development and expansion were his hopes. Ismail Pasha was born on December 31, 1830 at the Al Musafir Khana Palace in Cairo, the second of the three sons of Ibrahim Pasha, the grandson of the Albanian general Muhammad Ali who was the founder of the Egyptian royal dynasty. His mother was Hoshiar, third wife of Ibrahim Pasha who was said to have been the sister-in-law of the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II. Ibrahim Pasha was a celebrated national hero in Egypt for his many remarkable military victories and his role, under his father Muhammad Ali, in extending Egyptian rule over a wider area from Syria to Crete. Ibrahim Pasha had also traveled in Europe and during some of his campaigns had a French officer as his chief aide. As such, it is not surprising that he gave his son Ismail a more European education.

From an early age it was impressed on Ismail Pasha that Egypt would have to embrace new ideas, learn new methods of addressing old problems and adopt at least some of the knowledge of Europe if the country was to thrive and prosper. That being so, Ismail was sent to France for his higher education, attending the Ecole d’etat-major in Paris. After finishing his education he returned to Egypt and, following the death of his elder brother by drowning, became heir to the throne of his uncle Muhammad Said Pasha. It was Said of Egypt who built the first railroad in Egypt and who sent a battalion of Sudanese troops to aid the embattled Emperor Maximilian of Mexico at the request of the French. Ismail, however, was kept busy as an envoy representing Egypt in foreign courts such as to the Emperor Napoleon III in Paris, the Pope in Rome and the Sultan in Constantinople. He was not without accomplishment in his native lands though as in 1861 his uncle entrusted him with the command of a column of 18,000 troops sent to put down an uprising in the Sudan. He was then quite accomplished in diplomacy and military affairs when he succeeded his uncle on the Egyptian throne on January 19, 1863.

One of his accomplishments (though it took some time) was to obtain Ottoman recognition of his title as Khedive of Egypt. He and his predecessors had used the title for some time in Egypt but the Ottoman Sultan still only recognized them as basically provincial governors. However, Egypt was already effectively independent of Turkish rule but there was still a desire to maintain titular links to the Ottoman Empire and of course the religious links with the Sultan who was the Caliph of Islam. In 1867, in return for greater tribute payments, the Sultan finally recognized Ismail Pasha as Khedive of Egypt. Further, the Sultan authorized a change in the rules of succession to allow the throne to pass from father to son rather than brother to brother which Khedive Ismail hoped would bring greater stability to the country. In 1873 the Ottoman Sultan also recognized the full autonomy of Egypt from the government in Constantinople, giving official sanction to what had already been the actual state of affairs for some time. From a distance, it may seem rather trivial but these were important steps in maintaining peace between Ottoman Turkey and Egypt, achieving all but a recognition of Egyptian independence on the part of Turkey while maintaining the country as a nominal part of the wider Ottoman Empire. This recognition also helped Egypt in diplomacy with other foreign powers.

All of this was also part of an overall agenda by Khedive Ismail to bring Egypt more ’up to date’ as it were. He was determined to see Egypt restored to some of her old, former glory as a modern, advanced and prosperous country. If possible, he also wished to see Egypt become a significant regional power. The Khedive launched a massive and ambitious program to build up the infrastructure of Egypt, improving internal communications, promoting business and commerce as well as giving patronage to the arts. Egypt obtained its first theatre and opera, new industries sprang up, cities were expanded, ports improved, palaces were built and railroad construction expanded at a feverish pace. In 1866 the Khedive established the first representative body in the history of Egyptian government; an advisor body of local leaders from across the country which, not surprisingly, over time began to take on more and more the look of a national parliament. He also tried to improve the public image of Egypt around the world by cracking down on the slave trade that was still going on, particularly in southern Sudan. Business was booming in Egypt thanks to all these changes and foreign investment increased considerably. In less than ten years on the throne Khedive Ismail had brought about remarkable and beneficial progress in Egypt. With the domestic front doing so well, the Khedive began to turn his attention to foreign relations and international achievements.

The new industries growing up in Egypt brought with them a need for natural resources and this, combined with a desire to assert regional supremacy and gain greater respect on the world stage, prompted Khedive Ismail to embark on a campaign of expansion to the south. His goal was to extend Egyptian control up the entire length of the Nile and to dominate the entire Red Sea coast. Many of these areas had, in the past, been claimed by the Ottoman Empire at the height of Turkish expansion and, as Egypt was still nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, this gave Egypt at least some grounds for moving south. In preparation, the Khedive had also endeavored to build up the Egyptian army and hire veteran soldiers from foreign countries to modernize the military. Many of those who were brought in were Americans fresh from the Civil War. General Thaddeus P. Mott, a veteran of the Union army and numerous conflicts around the world, gained rank in the Ottoman army and was enlisted by Khedive Ismail to recruit American military experts for service in Egypt. A number of officers were enlisted with recommendations from none other than Union General William T. Sherman and those Americans (from both Union and Confederate armies) included such men as Generals Charles P. Stone (another Union army veteran) and Henry H. Sibley and William W. Loring (former Confederate generals). Coastal defenses and the artillery were improved a great deal.

The Egyptian forces pushed south, annexing what is today the southern Sudan, and in 1875 marched into territory claimed by the “King of Kings” of Ethiopia. One of the Americans, General William L. Loring, had been promised command of this expedition but, unfortunately, the position went to Ratib Pasha who had previously been the slave of the former viceroy of Egypt and who had relatively little military experience. The result was disorganized and badly coordinated advance that met with a crushing defeat at the hands of Emperor Yohannes IV of Ethiopia. Initial setbacks were hushed up but a second effort met with a similar fate. The Egyptians who had marched into disaster blamed the Americans the Khedive had imported and most were sent home though in large part due to the great expense of the war and the fact that the Khedive needed to cut costs to make up for this. It was an embarrassing ordeal but proved to be only one dark spot on an otherwise glorious reign.

He impressed foreign monarchs, saw the completion of the Suez Canal and made Egypt a focus of world attention. Unfortunately, his ambitious programs of modernization, rejuvenation, industrialization and expansion all put Egypt heavily in debt. This gave foreign powers an excuse to intervene in Egyptian politics and, at the end of his life, Khedive Ismail was forced to effectively become a constitutional monarch. Most of the effects of this were to be felt by his successors. The monarch known as Khedive Ismail the Magnificent died on March 2, 1895 and was buried in Cairo. Even after the downfall of the Egyptian monarchy and a great deal of negative and unfair coverage, he remains one of the most admired Egyptian royals of the Muhammad Ali dynasty.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happy National Day to Hungary

Today is St Stephen's Day, the National Day of Hungary, a fine occasion to reflect on the contribution of the Hungarian nation throughout history and on the necessity of restoring the Kingdom of Hungary!

Favorite Royal Images: Still Causing Controversy

Diana, Princess of Wales
I do hope one day the mother of the future British monarch will be able to rest in peace. 
Unfortunately, that day has not yet come.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Irish Jacobites in the 45

It was on this day in 1745 that the son of the Stuart claimant to the British throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, raised the royal standard at Glenfinnan in Scotland, an event which is often used to mark the official start of the 1745 Jacobite Uprising; that attempt to send King George II back to his ancestral land of Hanover and restore the Stuarts to the British throne. Today, most still look at the 45 rising as a clash between England and Scotland, some painting it in more national terms as the last effort to save Scottish independence from English domination. Of course, that is not entirely true. There were at least a few hundred English Jacobites who fought for “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and there were many more still who at least did not view him any more unfavorably than they did the very German King George II who was not exactly a ‘people person’. One of the famous “Seven Men of Moidart” was English. As far as Scotland goes, there were actually probably more Scots fighting against the Stuarts than fighting for them. The lowland areas of Scotland were predominately loyal to the House of Hanover and had a rather low opinion of their highland brethren. Even among the highland Scots there were those who were ardent Hanoverians and even fought alongside the redcoats against their fellow highlanders. It was a variety of civil war for the British Isles and that includes the island of Ireland which has sometimes been overlooked in this context.

King James II
Because of the rise of the republican, nationalist, independence movement in Ireland much of this history is not stressed as much as it might be. Whereas the loyalists of today still celebrate their Hanoverian past and, of course, the earlier Prince of Orange, Irish opposition to these groups certainly do not celebrate the Stuart royals their own ancestors supported and fought for. However, what some have called the Wars of English Succession started, of course, in Ireland with the struggle by King James II to retake his three kingdoms from his son-in-law William of Orange. In a way, what eventually became the Jacobite political agenda started in Ireland as well with the declaration of independence. Ultimately the Jacobites would advocate a program for the three kingdoms to be governed separately, united only by their common monarch. By 1745 Prince James Francis Edward Stuart had already issued a formal denunciation of the political union enacted in the reign of Queen Anne. Although it may not be much remembered today, at the time Jacobite sympathy was as much a concern for the London government in Ireland as it was in Scotland. There may not have been an uprising in 1745 at all were it not for the support of a number of prominent Irish Jacobites.

One of those who helped Prince Charles actually get to Scotland was Lord Charles O’Brien, Viscount Clare. A Jacobite with a long record of service in the French army he would eventually attain the rank of Marshal of France and be made a knight of the Holy Spirit. It was Lord Clare who put Prince Charles in touch with the Irish shipping magnates who helped arranged the gathering of the men, material and funds the Prince would need to launch his expedition. At the time, Lord Clare was the commander of the Irish Brigade in the army of His Most Christian Majesty King Louis XV. This was a unit originally formed for French service in exchange for a larger contingent of French troops that were sent to Ireland to fight for King James II. When Prince Charles finally set out for Scotland he was accompanied by the “Seven Men of Moidart” of whom four were Irishmen; Sir Thomas Sheridan, Parson George Kelly, Sir John Macdonald and Sir John William O’Sullivan. Sheridan had been the tutor of Prince Charles and was over seventy when the expedition launched. His age would have made campaigning difficult and he was soon sent back to Rome to keep Prince James informed of the progress of the uprising. Parson George Kelly, likewise, did not remain too long in Scotland as he was sent back to France after the battle of Prestonpans to spread the word of the stunning Jacobite victory.

Sir John Macdonald was involved throughout the war, though in a fairly nominal capacity. He was a veteran officer of the French cavalry and Prince Charles appointed Sir John “Instructor of Cavalry” in the Jacobite army. However, since the Jacobites had so few cavalry as to be little better off than if they had none at all, there was very little for Macdonald to do. Still, he was involved in all the top-level activities of the Jacobite camp and kept a journal that has proved invaluable to historians. Taken prisoner at the battle of Culloden he escaped execution by virtue of his French commission and was so was ultimately released in a prisoner exchange for English troops being held in France. Sir John O’Sullivan was the most involved and most highly placed of the Irishmen fighting for “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and probably one of the most controversial as well. To this day some go so far as to blame much of the failure of the uprising on O’Sullivan while those inclined to trust the judgment of Prince Charles usually have a more sympathetic view of the man and his contribution.

Sir John William O’Sullivan was born in County Kerry, sometime around 1700, and was trained for the priesthood in Rome and Paris. However, when his father died, he returned to Ireland to take over the family estates. Unfortunately, he ran afoul of the Penal Laws and forfeited his ancestral lands, returning to France and joining the army. His time as a tutor in a French military household likely gave him the notion to take up a career in the army. O’Sullivan showed considerable talent and rose rapidly in rank, finally becoming a colonel. He served in Corsica and on the Rhine where he gained a high reputation for irregular warfare. It seems most likely that it was his record as an accomplished guerilla fighter that brought O’Sullivan to the attention of Prince Charles and, in any event, the two became very close and lasting friends. When the Prince set out for his effort to restore his house in Britain he named O’Sullivan his adjutant and quartermaster-general. From the time of their landing until the bitter end O’Sullivan never left the Prince’s side.

The ship which carried Prince Charles and his compatriots to Scotland was largely crewed by troops of the Irish Brigade and from the troops of the Irish Brigade of the French army, a special detachment was created for service in Scotland. These Irishmen had never forgotten the reason for their being in the French army in the first place and were eager to get back to “their” war. This special corps consisted of a battalion of Irish infantry drawn from all the regiments of the Irish Brigade known as the “Irish Picquets” as well as one squadron of Irish cavalry. They gave good and solid service all throughout the campaign. Whether the same could be said for Quartermaster-General O’Sullivan remains a debatable point. He was very close to Prince Charles and the young royal took his advice very seriously, very rarely ever disregarding it. Some historians think he should have, though a balanced, accurate view is hard to come by since many seem to think either everything Prince Charles did was wrong or everything he did was right.

As Quartermaster-general, O’Sullivan had the difficult and unenviable task of keeping the Jacobite forces fed and armed. Many ardent Jacobites professed that he gave good service in this position but O’Sullivan (like the Prince) was constantly at odds with Lord George Murray and the partisans of Murray tend to lay much of the blame for the Jacobite failure at the door of O’Sullivan if not the Prince himself. At the last battle at Culloden Moor, once again, Lord Murray did not want to fight, insisting that the ground was too soft and their position less than ideal. Prince Charles, however, was determined to have at the enemy at least one more time, regardless of the circumstances, before admitting defeat. Colonel O’Sullivan, as usual, agreed with the Prince and many have since placed at least some of the blame for the lost battle on O’Sullivan for choosing such poor ground to fight on. Whatever the case, O’Sullivan has also been credited with helping to arrange the safe escape of Prince Charles back into exile. The colonel himself escaped on a French frigate (which also had an Irish captain) and was later knighted by Prince James (King James III to the Jacobites) for his part in saving the life of his son. He married well and died sometime in the early 1760’s.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart
The Irish troops who fought for Prince Charles fought on until the final defeat at Culloden but, because they were legally considered French soldiers, were fortunate enough to escape the brutal treatment meted out to most other Jacobites. They were allowed to surrender and were treated as prisoners-of-war until properly exchanged and shipped back to France. The troops of the Irish Brigade continued to give valiant service to the King of France until the French Revolution when the foreign units of the French army were all dissolved. By that time, however, Jacobite sympathy among the Irish had started to decline. Many nationalist, pro-independence secret societies in Ireland continued to support the Jacobite cause and the eventual restoration of the Stuarts to the Irish (and British) thrones but this began to fade after France was obliged to withdraw recognition of the Stuart claimant. When the Pope likewise finally recognized King George III as the legitimate British monarch, most viewed Jacobitism to be over and done with. The French Revolution also brought a new, and horrific, republican ideology to Ireland to be used as a new “cause” against monarchist Great Britain, replacing the old adherence to the principles and values of the Jacobites. However, one thing that is certain is that the Jacobite cause would never have gotten off the ground in the first place had it not been for Irish support and there continued to be strong Irish support, on and off the battlefield, until the bitter end. Their contribution deserves to be remembered.
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