Monday, September 30, 2013

Royal News Roundup

We begin this week in the Far East where Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Crown Princess visited disaster evacuees in Fukushima. Red China has recently expressed environmental and public health concerns over the defunct nuclear plant in Fukushima, you know, the Red China that has air you can see and rivers full of dead pigs -yeah, they’re concerned Japan may be hurting the environment. In news that really isn’t news, last Monday HM King Norodom Sihamoni appointed Prime Minister Hun Sen to another five-year term in office after opening the national parliament to a fairly sparse crowd. Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party was the only group of lawmakers in attendance as the opposition boycotted the opening on the grounds that Hun Sen winning every election since the invading Vietnamese first put him in power smells a bit of fraud. The Cambodia National Rescue Party led by Sam Rainsy called it the “one-party parliament” and asserted that it does not represent the Cambodian people as a whole. Also some sad news in southeast Asia as on September 16, 2013 Dona Martina Kinena Ximenes da Silva, daughter of the late King of Sikka in Indonesia passed away. She was married to the Raja of Larantuka, Raja Don Lorenzo III, enthroned in 1941 and a center of Catholicism in Indonesia. She was thus the last Queen from the era when the royals held official status in Indonesia. She will be missed.

On the near eastern front, the Ottoman Empire made the news last week as researchers in Hungary, searching for the tomb of the celebrated Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent found the remains of an entire town near the village of Turbek. In events of more recent concern, analysts are saying that the Emirate of Qatar is losing influence these days after the abdication of their monarch on June 25 and with Saudi Arabia emerging as the primary backer of the anti-Assad forces in Syria. The Paris-based Observatory of Arab Countries marks the ousting of the Islamic Brotherhood from power in Egypt by the military as the start of the decline in influence for oil-rich Qatar. The state, known for its Al-Jazeera television network and considerable support for the Muslim Brotherhood helped bring down Gaddafi in Libya and has been supporting the rebels in Syria only to see that not everyone is buying what the Brotherhood is selling and the Saudis taking on a bigger role in Syria. However, Qatar still supports Islamist movements in many areas, including Syria, where the current government of republican Turkey is also assisting in the support for Islamist rebels against the Ba’athist dictatorship. And, over at the United Nations, King Abdullah II of Jordan has asked for more foreign assistance in handling the crisis being caused by the huge numbers of Syrian refugees seeking safety in the peace and stability of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The King told the General Assembly, “…I say here and now that my people cannot be asked to shoulder the burden of what is a regional and global challenge”. Outside the UN, rather than the King, it was his glamorous Queen Rania who attracted the attention of photographers. Later, at the Clinton Global Initiative, the style Queen of Jordan presented an award for leadership to Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban militia for promoting the idea of education for girls in New York City (that is, the award was given in NYC, no one was shot there for trying to educate girls -with the public education system in NYC neither girls or boys are educated).

In Africa there has been a bit of royal news making the headlines. In the Kingdom of Swaziland, the last absolute monarchy in Africa, a pro-democracy activist won a seat in the national parliament for the first time despite an African Union mission complaining that certain political parties were barred from participation. Jan Sithole, president of the Swaziland Democratic Party won a seat and said that others of his party did as well but he refused to name names. Their participation was criticized by some who wished for pro-democracy groups to boycott the process entirely. As it stands now the King appoints two-thirds of the upper house as well as the prime minister. Others are elected from amongst candidates chosen by hand-picked chiefs loyal to the King -something the pro-democracy crowd is not happy about. Also, not far away, in the neighboring Kingdom of Lesotho, Britain’s Prince Harry has teamed up with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho to help herd boys in that small country. And, at the other end of the continent, journalist Ali Anouzla was arrested in the Kingdom of Morocco on the charge of defending and inciting terrorism after posting a link to an Al-Qaeda video on his news website. The free press people are complaining but, really, an Al-Qaeda video; what was he thinking?

In Europe, moving from south to north, HM the King of Spain kept busy with official duties in the days running up to another hip surgery. It comes at a bad time as the Royal Palace has been trying to improve the public image of the King by highlighting how hard he works, his many engagements and obligations only to have to keep postponing things because of medical problems, all the while trying to tramp down speculations about the King abdicating in favor of HRH the Prince of Asturias. In any event, the Royal Family rallied around the monarch to support him in this difficult time and, fortunately, the surgery seemed to go well with the King reportedly “stable, comfortable and in good spirits”. The hospital manager called the monarch’s recovery, “highly satisfactory”. We wish His Catholic Majesty a swift recovery and for many more productive years on the Spanish throne. Farther up the Mediterranean in Monaco, the Princely couple were absent having lots to do at the UN. Prince Albert II called for reinforcing the UN’s emergency relief office and Princess Charlene was welcomed to the Big Apple by First Lady Michelle Obama. Closer to home the newlyweds Andrea and Tatiana Casiraghi made their first post-nuptial public appearance last week.

The Low Countries were a mix of good and bad news this week. First, the good news, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg gained a new royal with the wedding of Prince Felix and Claire Lademacher, now Princess Claire, at the Basilique Sainte Marie-Madeleine. A very happy and handsome couple, we send our congratulations and wish them all the best and a lifetime of wedded bliss. Less pleasant was the not surprising but still infuriating display of treason mixed with plain rudeness by republicans in the neighboring Kingdom of Belgium. It was to be expected that there would be problems when the new King Philip and Queen Mathilde, as part of their tour of the provinces, visited the notoriously rowdy city of Antwerp in Flanders. Several hundred loyal people showed up to cheer and display proper, warm Flemish hospitality but just as many traitors showed up to boo and heckle the new King and Queen, among other things shouting, “Death to Belgium”. What refined, civilized people republicans are. All other “joyous entries” have been just that, Antwerp has the dubious dishonor of being the only city to display such vile behavior to the new King and Queen. Finally, in the Kingdom of The Netherlands, some unfortunate news as well. Princess Beatrix (the royal formerly known as Queen) had a fall at home and broke her cheekbone, requiring surgery. The 75-year old former monarch was operated on Sunday. We wish her a speedy recovery.

Forging ahead, things were busy but not necessarily earth-shattering for the Scandinavian royals recently. The Crown Princess of Norway was talking about AIDS in New York at the Clinton Global Initiative, Queen Sonja teamed up with the Duchess of Cornwall to tour a cancer center in Scotland and King Harald V had an area on the eastern part of the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard named “King Harald V Land” in his honor. The Norwegian King and Queen are also being urged to call off a trip to the Republic of Turkey because of the record of that country when it comes to the media and freedom of the press. Currently Turkey has more journalists in prison than any other country. Across the border in Sweden, the King said goodbye to the ambassadors from Japan and the bandit government in Peking and opened a new tourism office in Stockholm. Prince Daniel visited Lund with Prince Daniel’s Fellowship and down in Denmark, a special story was done by “The Australian Women’s Weekly” called “A day in the life of Crown Princess Mary”. She’s still a pretty big deal in her native land (Down Under) and she’s pretty big in Denmark too of course; biggest thing in Denmark since Reptilicus (maybe).

Finally we finish up with the royals of the British Isles (and apologies, I did not plan on this being the longest royal news report ever) where little Prince George of Cambridge got his passport for his upcoming trip to Australia, commemorative coins released for his christening and his Duke and Duchess mom and dad got a new “married” coat of arms approved by HM the Queen. The Richard III Society has withdrawn funds pledged for the late King’s tomb beside they thought the design was terrible and a petition for a parliamentary debate on where to bury the Yorkist king failed to garner anywhere near the 100,000 signatures necessary. There just never seems to be any good news related to King Richard III. We were though very pleased to hear that the Duke of Edinburgh was back at the barbeque in Balmoral (hurrah for Prince Philip!) but we were much less impressed to see uncouth busy-bodies lashing out at the Earl of Wessex simply for wearing a necktie that included scenes of the great, glorious and beautiful traditional Spanish sport of bullfighting. Meanwhile the Duke of York visited the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and met with the chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung on strengthening economic ties between Vietnam and Great Britain. The Prince of Wales has kept very busy, among other things by promoting environmentally friendly cabinets. I don’t really have anything to say about that one.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Bad weather is causing some problems here at MM HQ so this will be a rather stark post. I wanted to let everyone know that I've decided to see if I can get away with slacking off on posting on the weekends but I plan to still do the news report on Mondays. I will see how it goes as ordinarily I only hear about what people do not like and have to guess at what is popular. Also, if any are interested, posts that will be coming up will include another mad rant (sure to upset some people so be prepared for outrage), some of my favorite Kings of Sweden and we will be taking a look at the story of the monarchy of Liechtenstein. I hope you will all look forward to that. Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions the comment box below is always open.


A King After My Own Heart

"A man with all the algebra in the world is often only an ass when he knows nothing else. Perhaps in ten years society may derive advantage from the curves which these visionary algebraists will have laboriously squared. I congratulate posterity beforehand. But to tell you the truth, I see nothing but a scientific extravagance in all these calculations. That which is neither useful nor agreeable is worthless. And as for useful things, they have all been discovered; and to those which are agreeable, I hope that good taste will not admit algebra among them."
-Frederick the Great, King of Prussia

Friday, September 27, 2013

Island Disputes Part II: The Senkaku Islands

Recently, tensions have been raised dramatically between the State of Japan and the People’s Republic of China (as well as the Republic of China on Taiwan to a lesser extent) over a small group of rocky, uninhabited islands known in Japan as the Senkaku islands and as the Diaoyu islands in China. Unlike the previously discussed dispute over the Falkland Islands, the Senkakus only recently became a controversial issue and, fortunately, one does not have to go back so far in history to trace the origins of the dispute. That, in itself, however, is something worth giving a moment of consideration. Certainly in Japan it is not seen as merely coincidence that the two Chinese republics only decided to lay claim to these minor islands after evidence of mineral resources was found in their vicinity, and after Japan had adopted a constitution that embraced pacifism and after the American occupation of Japan had ended. In other words, China only “discovered” that the Senkaku islands had “always” belonged to China after they learned they might be worth something and after the point when their claim would have meant a dispute with the United States rather than an officially pacifist Japan. As with the earlier case looked at, it should be made clear at the outset that the Chinese claim is blatantly ridiculous and there should be no doubt that the Senkaku islands are Japanese sovereign territory. So, how did this dispute come to be? Let us take a look at some history first.

Almost every territorial dispute involving Japan essentially comes down to an effort by the neighboring republics to change historical events that were disadvantageous to them following the defeat of Japan in World War II. For the most part, the Chinese claim that the Senkakus were a part of the Great Ming Empire, arguing that they were either a part of Taiwan or a part of the Okinawa-based Ryukyu kingdom which was a vassal of China (and a vassal of a Japanese daimyo at much the same time). One should keep in mind that Red China has used a similar argument to lay claim to other foreign, non-Chinese lands in the past. For example, because Tibet and Mongolia were vassals of the Manchu emperors, communist China claimed Tibet and Mongolia to be “Chinese”. Tibet was occupied and no doubt Mongolia would have been as well were it not already a part of the Soviet Union in all but name at the time. However, what is seldom mentioned is that China refused to deal with any foreign power unless they took the position, at least formally, of being a tributary of the Emperor of China. By that logic, Korea and Vietnam, for example, could both be claimed as “Chinese” territory. However, in the case of the Senkaku islands this is particularly absurd since the islands are unoccupied, have always been unoccupied and China nor Taiwan nor the Ryukyu kingdom never made any effort to formally claim them. They were simply rocks in the ocean that belonged to no one.

The first formal claim on the islands came in 1895 when the Empire of Japan formally incorporated the islands and installed markers on them to clearly show them as being Japanese territory. No other power had ever even attempted to do something similar at any point in the past. In fact, Chinese records dating back to the Ming dynasty clearly show the islands being labeled as non-Chinese territory and more recent Chinese maps and documents list them as belonging to Japan and label them with the Japanese rather than the Chinese names for them. The best China can do is to point to some “discovered” historical maps which show the islands labeled in Chinese. However, these merely prove that the Chinese knew of their existence, not that they were Chinese territory. Furthermore, words alone have never been deemed enough to lay claim to a territory. One can claim to own anything in the world but unless some effort is made to actually possess such a territory, the claim is meaningless. Recently, the Chinese republics have become quite adept at finding historical maps that show just about everything around them as belonging to China. Thankfully, these are all meaningless to the current dispute as they do not take into account the many international agreements and treaties made in the intervening centuries. After all, there are historical maps which show Florida belonging to Spain, most of France belonging to England or Poland belonging to Russia yet they have no bearing on the current legal status of any of these places.

Realistically, the Chinese are forced to deal with this fact and so tend to argue their case based on the Treaty of San Francisco which a defeated Japan was forced to sign by the victorious Allies after World War II. In this treaty Japan was forced to renounce Taiwan and all the islands belonging to it, basically undoing the Treaty of Shimonoseki in which Taiwan became a Japanese colony following the Japanese defeating China in the First Sino-Japanese War. However, as stated above, the Senkakus had never belonged to Taiwan and so were not part of the lands handed over to China according to the Treaty of San Francisco. In fact, by that same treaty, the Senkakus were clearly designated as a part of Japan and thus came under the jurisdiction of the occupying forces of the United States, grouped as part of the Ryukyu Islands and the Chinese never objected or protested at all to this assertion at the time. This is significant, because the Chinese did make other objections to the treaty concerning territory they wished to claim. China was not represented at the San Francisco meeting because there was a civil war going on and no one could decide which side to invite; the United States wanted to invite the nationalists and the United Kingdom wanted to invite the communists so neither side ended up attending. The Chinese protested, however, claiming the Paracel, Spratly and Pratas island groups as their own but said nothing about the Senkakus.

In fact, as late as 1969 officially Chinese documents still listed the Senkakus as Japanese territory. During the American occupation, U.S. forces even used a couple of the islands as a bombing range for American aircraft and yet, during all that time, China raised no protest. Surely, if they truly believed these islands were Chinese territory, they would have at least raised their voices slightly when they were being bombed by American aircraft, but, not a sound was heard. The situation only began to change in 1969 (the same year the Chinese still say the Senkakus belong to Japan) when the UN identified potential oil and natural gas reserves in the area surrounding the Senkaku Islands. Suddenly, as if by a miracle, the bandit government in Peking became interested. Yet, they still said nothing until 1972. What happened in 1972? Purely by coincidence I am sure, this is when the United States ended its occupation of the Ryukyu Islands, including the Senkakus, handing them back over to Japan (the Allied occupation of Japan having ended in 1952). So it was only then, once oil and natural gas had been discovered and after the United States was no longer responsible for the area, that the Chinese republics suddenly announced to the world that the Senkaku Islands had “always” been Chinese.

The idea that anyone at all could be taken in by such blatantly dishonest and self-serving tactics is, frankly, astounding. Regardless of what any historical Chinese maps label the islands, the facts are these: the only country to ever actually make a physical claim on the Senkaku Islands is Japan, the only country to ever actually occupy the Senkaku Islands (in a short-lived business venture) was Japan and before the UN discovered potential oil and gas reserves in the area there was no disagreement at all that the Senkaku Islands belonged to anyone other than Japan. The fact that these were Japanese islands and did not belong to China (or Taiwan) was made clear by their being included in the U.S. occupation of Japan and in subsequent defensive treaties between the United States of America and the State of Japan, the Senkaku Islands were clearly included as Japanese sovereign territory just as Chinese official records show the islands as belonging to Japan right up until China thought they might be worth something. One would also be foolish not to view this dispute in context since Red China has similar disputes with many other neighbors, particularly in the Southeast Asia area concerning islands in the South China Sea, all of which China suddenly took an interest in when oil and/or natural gas deposits were found to be in the area. Similar disputes involve the Chinese republics with The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei all because China has discovered mineral deposits in certain areas. Communist China, ironically enough, has no other motive than the profit motive when it comes to their sudden claim on the Senkaku Islands.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Island Disputes Part I: The Falklands

Most people are probably aware that the south Atlantic islands known in Britain as The Falkland Islands are at the center of a long-standing dispute between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Argentina (which calls the islands Las Malvinas). In 1982 this dispute sparked a brief war between the UK and Argentina when the Argentine regime of General Leopoldo Galtieri (acting president of the military junta then ruling Argentina) invaded and occupied the islands before being soundly beaten in a British counter-attack ordered by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that removed the Argentine military presence and inflicted a defeat on Argentina that brought down the military regime. Fewer people, however, may be aware of why these islands, seemingly insignificant, continue to cause tensions and how the dispute over their sovereignty came to be. First of all, it is important to remember that this is a sovereignty dispute, which means that both Britain and Argentina claim to hold sovereignty over them. It is not, for example, the same thing as the tensions between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Spain over Gibraltar. The status of Gibraltar is not really in dispute; Gibraltar is British and the Spanish are not happy about it. With the Falklands, it is not a case of Argentina simply being disgruntled or upset that the islands, for some reason, should have been given to them and have not. They claim that they have always belonged to them and rightly still do. This makes sovereignty disputes particularly troublesome because, at any time and for any reason, a conflict like that seen in 1982 could break out.

Captain John Byron
The claim by Argentina that the Falklands belong to them is, it should be made clear at the outset, obviously ridiculous given that ownership of the islands pre-dates the founding of the country of Argentina by centuries. The first people to land on the islands were British sailors in 1690 when Captain John Strong sailed through the area and named the islands for the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Viscount of Falkland. The British planned to settle the islands but were beaten to the punch by the Kingdom of France (yes, France is involved in this too) when Louis Antoine de Bougainville planted a small French colony in East Falkland in 1764. Then, in 1765, the British returned when Captain John Byron landed on another nearby island, Saunders Island, and claimed the whole island group for Great Britain. The French settlement in East Falkland was not even noticed. The British did not find out about the French presence until the next year in 1766 which was also the year that France sold their claim on the islands to Spain with the understanding that the Spanish would keep the British out of the neighborhood. Spain claimed the islands based, rather shakily, on the Treaty of Tordesillas which was a refinement of a papal bull issued by Pope Alexander VI which divided the world between Spain and Portugal (Spain got the Americas and Portugal got Africa and Asia). Because of this treaty the Spanish, or at least some of them, claimed that the Falklands should belong to them. However, the islands were not mentioned in the treaty nor did Britain or France (or any other powers) recognize the authority of the Pope to divide up the unexplored lands of the earth (hence all the non-Spanish and non-Portuguese colonies all over the Americas, Africa, India and East Asia).

In 1766 another British expedition landed and established a British fort on Saunders Island named Port Egmont. The Spanish never knew of this outpost until 1770 at which time they found out and the Spanish authorities in Buenos Aires sent a military expedition to Port Egmont which forced the British to withdraw though they still maintained their claim on the islands. They had arrived first and none of the treaties invoked by Spain (the Treaty of Tordesillas or the Treaty of Utrecht) to back up their claim applied to the Falkland Islands. Nonetheless, for the time being, Spain was in control of them. When the Spanish empire in the Americas began to fall apart, British entrepreneurs endeavored to settle the islands again in the 1820’s. By this time, the British presence was protested by the revolutionary government of the “United Provinces of the River Plate” or the “United Provinces of South America” which was the rebel government that had broken from Spain and taken control of what had formerly been the Spanish Viceroyalty of the River Plate (Rio de la Plata) and which presided over territory that would eventually become the northernmost reaches of the Republic of Argentina.

Luis Vernet
In 1833 the British returned, forced out the meager Spanish/Argentine military presence on the islands and established British control over the islands once again. Today, some in Argentina trace their claim back to Luis Vernet. He tried twice to colonize the islands, failing each time, before establishing a minor presence. However, he reported to the British consul at every step and though the government in Buenos Aires declared him to be governor on their behalf, the political situation on the South American mainland was far from settled and Vernet himself even requested permission to make his colony a British protectorate if the British were to resume their colonization of the islands. The British reestablished control of the islands and protected the existing settlement though most eventually left, despite British efforts to persuade them to stay. The islands, aside from that brief period in 1982, have remained in British hands and occupied by British settlers ever since that time. Argentina, however, usually asserts their claim based on the actions of an American mercenary sea captain sailing in the employ of the United Provinces of the River Plate named Colonel David Jewett who, in 1820, raised the United Provinces flag over the islands. The problem, or at least one of them, is that the very status of the United Provinces was unclear at the time as is the connection it holds to the country of Argentina today.

The United Provinces were formed, usurping authority from the Spanish Viceroy, in 1810 and were not recognized by any major foreign powers. Moreover, they did not actually declare independence from Spain until 1816. Britain, for example, did not recognize Argentine independence until 1823, a year after the Jewett episode. The Kingdom of Spain did not recognize Argentine independence until 1857! Furthermore, though modern Argentina claims descent from the United Provinces, it was certainly not the same political entity that exists today. Bolivia and Paraguay broke away and the United Provinces were succeeded by the Argentine Confederation of 1831-1861 which was itself succeeded by the rival Republic of Argentina and State of Buenos Aires. Obviously, the claim of the modern country of Argentina to the real or imagined territories of past revolutionary governments that were always in a state of transition, is extremely tenuous at best. What makes the modern-day claim of Argentina to sovereignty over the Falklands really rich is that it is based on someone planting a flag on them and occupying them, all the while claiming that when the British did the same thing that this should be considered illegal and should not count as a way of determining sovereignty. Because a government which they claim as a predecessor of their own held possession of the islands, very briefly, Argentina asserts that this negates the British holding possession of the islands for centuries.

God Save the Queen!
The bottom line is this: it is a matter of historical fact that the British were the first to set foot on the Falkland Islands. Their claim predates all others and that is a fact. The Spanish based their claim on the islands on the Treaty of Utrecht which stated that all territories formerly held by Spain, prior to the War of the Spanish Succession, should be returned to them. However, the Falkland Islands were not named in the treaty nor did Spain hold the islands prior to the War of Spanish Succession as stipulated in the treaty. The earliest claims by any government with any connection to modern Argentina were made by a government that neither Britain nor Spain recognized and which was basing its very existence on the usurpation by force of Spanish territory (it being a revolutionary war for independence). A successful revolution can seize power from a legitimate monarch and can even obtain the recognition of that monarch of their authority over a given territory. However, they cannot claim what they did not have, what “their” government had never held and which they failed to take. The British right to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands is as legally sound as can be possible and the fact of the matter is, even if the British were to renounce their sovereignty over the Falklands, they would rightly belong to the Kingdom of Spain and not the Republic of Argentina.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

International Monarchist Conspiracy Against Texas?

It sounds absurd to be sure and, in this case, it certainly was. However, it says something about how paranoid early Americans were about monarchs and the monarchies in Europe. The time was January 10, 1836 in the middle of the Texas War for Independence. The source of this conspiracy theory was Colonel Francis W. Johnson, one of the four (yes, four) men claiming to be commander-in-chief of the Texas army. This was after the main Mexican garrison of Texas in San Antonio had surrendered and paroled back to Mexico. Many Texans hopefully thought the war was over but one audacious Scotsman named Dr. James Grant had rallied support, mostly among the aggressive and impetuous volunteers newly arrived from the United States, to make a (rather ridiculous) assault on the Mexican city of Matamoros across the Rio Grande. Colonel Johnson went along with this plan by his co-commander-in-chief Grant as did commander-in-chief General Sam Houston, at least so long as he thought he would be in charge of it. When he found out otherwise, Houston turned into an opponent of the hair-brained Matamoros expedition. He spoke out against it and tried to influence the volunteers to abandon the enterprise and remain in Goliad with their commander-in-chief Colonel James Walker Fannin Jr. Keeping up? Well, suffice it to say that with an undisciplined army of volunteers, raised on the most overblown and romanticized tales of the American War for Independence and the War of 1812, Colonel Johnson decided to try to win the volunteers over to the attack on Matamoros by waving the threat of a monarchial conspiracy. He said (and please forgive my inability to refrain from commenting):

To arms! then, Americans [note: not Texans -MM], to aid in sustaining the principles of 1776 [note: not 1824 -MM], in this western hemisphere. To arms! native Mexicans, in driving tyranny from your homes, intolerance from your altars [note: a swipe at Catholicism, the at least nominal faith of many Texan leaders -MM], and the tyrant from your country. In this very hour the crowned despots of Europe have met in unholy conclave, to devise the means of crushing liberal principles [if only that were true -MM]. Louis Philippe of France, faithless to his oath, now sits side by side with the monarchs of Russia, and Austria, and Prussia, and Spain, and the minister of Santa Anna is seen among them. Before this, it is more than probable that the freedom of Mexicans has been sold to the tyrants, that European force is to sustain the diadem on the head of the traitor Santa Anna [and he was a traitor, to the King of Spain, which would make one wonder why Spain would wish to help him -MM]. Not only Texas and Mexico, but the genius of liberty, demands that every man do his duty to his country [look out there Frank, you’re starting to sound like that great monarchist Lord Nelson there -MM], and leave the consequences to God. Our first attack will be upon Matamoros; our next, if Heaven decrees, wherever tyranny shall raise its malignant form [bringing democracy to the world, even in 1836 folks -MM].

Colonel Frank Johnson (later in life)
Now, lest anyone here become so outraged as to direct their vitriol against the whole of the great state of Texas, let me say that Texas Governor Henry Smith, who was also against the whole hair-brained Matamoros scheme, was no less outraged himself at this shockingly aggressive and dangerously jingoistic pronouncement by Colonel Johnson. In fact, so opposed to the whole expedition was he that Governor Smith soon lost his job, though he denied the right of the provisional government to do that to him. This led to Texas having two rival governments and four rival commanders of the army at the same time (yet they still managed to win the war thanks to years of rampant republican incompetence in Mexico -imagine that). It should go without saying that there was not a word of truth to anything that Johnson said. Of course there was no conspiracy of European monarchs to stamp out “liberty” in the Americas. Expecting that level of solidarity between the monarchs of France, Spain, Prussia, Austria and Russia was definitely expecting too much. Oddly enough, given the memories and callbacks to 1812 and 1776 it seems that Great Britain was the only major European monarchy not included in this ‘vast, right-wing conspiracy’.

It seems also particularly unfair that, among all of these crowned heads of Europe, the only one Colonel Johnson singled out by name was the hapless French King Louis Philippe. In fact, after the Republic of Texas won independence from Mexico at the pivotal battle of San Jacinto in April of that year, King Louis Philippe was among the first foreign leaders to recognize the Republic of Texas and establish friendly, diplomatic relations (one can even still visit the old embassy of the Kingdom of France in Austin). One also cannot help but wonder how someone like Colonel Johnson, in the wilds of northern Mexico, commanding a ragtag army of, well, probably tens of men at that point, was so well informed about the secret conclaves of European monarchs? However, as it happened, and as we have discussed before, Santa Anna did, in fact, send a delegate to Europe to see about importing a royal to Mexico but this was around six years after Colonel Johnson made the above declaration and, even then, one cannot help but be cynical as to the sincerity of the man who had betrayed King Fernando VII of Spain, Emperor Agustin I of Mexico and was then hailed as a hero for thwarting the Spanish attempt to retake Mexico at the siege of Tampico (and it should also be remembered that this Spanish expedition stood no chance at all of conquering Mexico and was defeated by coastal illness rather than Santa Anna).

King Louis Philippe, actually a friend of Texas
What is clear from this is just how much anti-monarchy paranoia there was in the American psyche of that time. This was the era of American presidents like Andrew Jackson who gloried in their humble origins and congressmen like Davy Crockett who boasted that in all the time he served as a magistrate he had never read one page of any law book. We can see from such attitudes how the class hatred first incited by men like Thomas Paine had worked out. Monarchy and aristocracy were so vilified and the common man so glorified that the result was a ‘race to the bottom’ in which everyone seemed determined to out-do each other in their crudity, origins in poverty and ignorance. Unfortunately, such attitudes remain alive and well in many quarters of America today and in many other countries around the world. At the time, thankfully, this little outburst by Colonel Johnson was generally treated with the seriousness it deserved; which was very little. The expedition never made it anywhere near Matamoros and the scattered remnants were defeated by the Mexican column of General Jose Urrea though, as we know, the Texans eventually won the war (thank God). And, just to show how absurd the above rant by Colonel Johnson was, the Kingdoms of France, Belgium and The Netherlands established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Texas. The United Kingdom did as well, at least in fact but not in name for fear of offending Mexico (it was rather like the situation with Taiwan and Red China today when it comes to foreign diplomatic relations). The British were even pleased with the Republic of Texas as a potential third power in North America that would balance out the growing United States and for that reason even tried to work out a deal for the Mexican recognition of Texas independence in exchange for Texas staying out of the United States though, alas, the Mexicans rejected such a proposal.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Time for Sadness

There has been a devastating loss in the family and your humble correspondent will be taking some time off for solitude, prayer and mourning. I thank you all for your patience and understanding.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Royal Profile: Prince Victor Emmanuel, Count of Turin

Prince Victor Emmanuel, Count of Turin was born in Turin on November 24, 1870 to Prince Amadeo of Savoy, Duke of Aosta and Maria Victoria al Pozzo della Cisterna. King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy was his grandfather. Shortly before his birth the Duke of Aosta had been elected King Amadeo I of Spain and shortly after his arrival the family departed for Madrid where the little prince was given the title of Infante of Spain. That, as we know, did not last long and the vision of his grandfather the King of Italy to place royals of the House of Savoy on as many Mediterranean thrones as possible came to nothing when the (rather reluctant) King Amadeo I declared Spain to be ungovernable and abdicated, after which the First Spanish Republic was established (Boo! Hiss!). Being only a baby at the time, it is doubtful these major world events made much of an impression on the little former Infante of Spain. Back home in Italy with his family, he had a relatively normal childhood for a prince of the House of Savoy. As was usual, he was given an education that took for granted a military career and which emphasized dynastic duty and the long history and past glories of the House of Savoy.

The Count of Savoy took all of that very much to heart and grew into a dashing young man who determined to become a cavalry officer. Toward that end, he studied at the Military Academy of Modena, graduating in 1889 with the rank of second lieutenant. He was first assigned to the Nice Cavalry regiment of the Royal Italian Army and then served as a lieutenant in the “Piemonte Reale Cavalleria”. The Italians, as most know, have a reputation for being a proud and somewhat emotional people and the Count of Turin certainly seems to have inherited those traits, combined with his education about his family history and the role of the Savoy as the guardians of Italian honor. All of this set the stage for the incident in his life he was to become most famous for. It all came about in France where Prince Henri of Orleans, son of the Duke of Chartres had written a number of articles in “Le Figaro” concerning the recent Italo-Abyssinian War and the devastating Italian loss at the battle of Adowa. A little background is in order.

During this battle, unfamiliarity with the terrain and misinformation provided by guides in the pay of the enemy, led a small Italian colonial column of 18,000 troops (mostly African natives with Italian officers) to become separated and then attacked piecemeal and overwhelmed by a massive Ethiopian army of well over 100,000. In the aftermath, many of the survivors on the Italian side were massacred and/or tortured and mutilated. Those who were taken prisoner were not released at the close of hostilities but held for ransom (which was paid secretly by King Umberto I of Italy to the Ethiopian Emperor). It horrified public opinion in Italy and brought down the government of the long-time political powerhouse Francesco Crispi (a proud and ambitious veteran of “The Thousand”). Now, enter Prince Henri of Orleans. Throughout his life Prince Henri had proven himself to be a bold and intrepid traveler as well as a condescending man. He was most known for being an inveterate Anglophobe, writing and uttering many a diatribe insulting and condemning Great Britain in the harshest terms. Yet, oddly enough, the British seemed to celebrate him in spite of that. He would learn that Italians responded quite differently to being insulted.

In his articles about the Italo-Abyssinian War and its aftermath, particularly regarding the Italians who had been taken prisoner, Prince Henri essentially dismissed them all as being so many cowards. In doing so he also, probably inadvertently, insulted the Ethiopians as well by taking the attitude that only inept cowards could have possibly lost a battle to Africans, no matter how vastly outnumbered they were. The Count of Turin happened to read these rather explosive articles and was thoroughly outraged. The honor of Italian soldiers had been thoroughly insulted by this French prince and if no one else was prepared to do anything about it; he would. The British might have tolerated this sort of thing, but the Count of Turin would not and accepted the role of champion on the part of Italian soldiers everywhere. He demanded satisfaction and demanded Prince Henri retract his insults and apologize. The proud Frenchman of course refused and the Count of Turin immediately challenged him to a good, old fashioned duel.

The time and place were decided; August 15, 1897 in Vaucresson at Versailles. The weapon chosen was the sword since, even though the French preferred to duel with pistols, the Italians felt this unworthy of princes deciding a matter of honor. In Italy, pistols were used by cuckolded husbands while nobles and the high born settled differences with the saber. So, at five o’clock in the morning, it began with the duel being supervised by Count Leontieff and Count Avogadro in the Bois de Marchechaux. The two had at each other and after five reprises the Count of Turin was victorious, inflicting a wound on Prince Henri’s abdomen that the doctors of both parties deemed serious enough to put the Prince at a disadvantage and so the match was awarded to the Count of Turin. All of Europe was rather enthralled by this showdown that seemed like a throwback to centuries past. In Italy, however, the Count of Turin became a national hero instantly and was celebrated across the country for his victory and for standing up for Italian honor. When he returned to his homeland he was met in Turin by King Umberto I who said, “I want to be the first to congratulate you with all my heart on the example you set and the success you scored.”

Prince Victor Emmanuel would be a celebrity for the rest of his life thanks to that famous duel but, of course, it was not the sort of thing he made a habit of. The famous Italian poet and scholar Giovanni Pascoli even penned a little poem about the contest. The following year the Count of Turin went on a world tour, visiting New York in the United States, presenting the silver cup to the winner of the Count of Turin golf tournament at the Newport Country Club and went on to visit the Empire of Japan and the Qing Empire of China. He also continued in his military career, eventually rising to the position of commander-in-chief of all Italian cavalry. He commanded the Italian cavalry in World War I, which was rather the ‘last hurrah’ for that particular branch of service and, ironically enough, when it was over was awarded the Croix de guerre by the French Republic. Later, he retired from active duty and left Italy after the monarchy was abolished following World War II. He died in Brussels, four months after the proclamation of the Italian Republic, on November 24, 1946 at the age of 76. He had accomplished a lot in his life but he will always be most remembered as the Savoy royal who fought a duel in 1897 for the honor of the Italian army.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Saintly Royals Sunday

King Charles the Martyr of Great Britain
a saint in the Anglican communion, a martyr for the cause of monarchy 
and his staunch defense of the Church of England

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting, again, this week in the British Isles, HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh attended the highland games in Scotland while back at Buckingham Palace HRH the Duke of York was challenged by security who failed to notice that he had returned from an engagement early and went for a walk in the garden. The Palace seems to be having a problem with security lately. A visit to Ireland by the Queen was canceled due to concerns over a bomb threat (please lets not start that again), Prince William, amidst dreams of Africa and hopes that little Prince George will be devoted to conservation, announced that after his current tour of duty is up he will be devoting his time to royal duties and his charitable causes (as well as being a parent) instead of his current occupation as a rescue-pilot. Prince Harry and Prince William also teamed up to raise considerable amounts of money for disabled children and a 9-11 charity event. HRH the Prince of Wales thanked veterans of the epic “Battle of Britain” this week (there are fewer and fewer left these days) and rightly so. Were it not for the brave pilots and men and women on the ground in those days, Britain might have faced a German invasion. Thanks are in order. Princess Eugenie of York will also be moving soon to New York in the USA to take a job at a prestigious auction house in the Big Apple.

On the continent, HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco donned Monegasque native dress for the annual Monegasque “family” picnic at Antoinette park in Monaco, also attended by the Sovereign Prince, Princess Caroline, Baroness de Massy and daughter Melanie.

Also in New York, at UN headquarters, HM Queen Sofia accepted, on behalf of Spain, the FDR International Disability Rights Award. A very worthy cause even if it is named after one of the worst presidents in American history.

In Belgium, a spokesman for Prince Laurent was asked if he will give a DNA sample for the paternity lawsuit against his father and he said, “If asked, he will consider it. He’s not against it as a matter of principle. He’s very open to the notion. This doesn’t reflect on his possible decision.” Representatives of the former monarch himself have given the impression that King Albert II will not be cooperating in any way with this latest legal case. In happier news, King Philip and Queen made their “joyous entry” into Wavre, the capital of Walloon Brabant, meeting with local officials and the public on a walk about town. This is the second such visit for the new King and Queen who will have visited every Belgian province by the end of October.

Prince Felix and his future Princess
Across the border it was announced that photographer Erwin Olaf will design the new euro coin featuring the new Dutch monarch King Willem-Alexander and, in the opposite direction, excitement over the royal wedding coming up a week from now in Luxembourg is clearly building. Prince Felix is set to marry his German girlfriend Claire Lademacher next week and a very handsome couple the two make. Congratulations to them.

On the Scandinavian front, HRH Crown Princess Victoria attended the Sustainable Seas seminar this week (everyone seems very keen to conserve and sustain things these days) where she probably had more fun that her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who had an audience this week with US President Obama on his way to the G-8 summit in Russia. And, down in Paris, France, HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway was guest of honor at the opening of the Norwegian stand at the international art fair at the Grand Palais, proudly showing off what Norway has to offer.

King Sihamoni
In the royals of eternal Asia, it was a case of gain one, lose one for the family of the Aga Khan recently. Only last week you saw it here that his eldest son Prince Rahim Aga Khan married his American girlfriend Kendra Spears, now Princess Salwa. This week, however, the word is out that his younger son Prince Hussein has divorced his American wife Kristin White, known as Princess Khaliya after her conversion to Islam and marriage. The two met at Columbia University and were married in 2006. Meanwhile, in southeast Asia, HM King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia is set to go ahead with opening parliament in spite of the fact that the opposition party is set to boycott the proceedings as they demand an independent probe into voter fraud on the part of the Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen who has ruled the country ever since being placed in power by the communist Vietnamese forces who invaded Cambodia and destroyed the nightmarish regime of Pol Pot. CPP officials have argued that the King is required to convene parliament whether the opposition thinks they cheated or not. In neighboring Thailand, a man held for almost a year on charges of defaming the beloved King has been acquitted and released. His arrest was deemed the result of a false charge made by his brother. Apparently the two have a history of being at odds with each other. And in the former Middle Kingdom this week, archaeologists believe they have unearthed the tomb of a powerful female official who was a trusted aid to Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang dynasty, the first empress to rule China in her own right.

Finally, I wanted to talk about some stories this week that really disturbed your humble correspondent the most. First to come to my attention was a collection of drawings done by children in the Republic of Korea, very small children by the look of them, which carried the theme of hatred for Japan. These included drawings showing Japan being bombed, the islands in flames, Japanese flags being burned and trampled on among other disgraceful things. Sadly, this is not an unusual attitude amongst the republican neighbors of Japan. Red China has for years included in the education program by the bandit government in Peking indoctrination lessons to teach children to always hate Japan (the only remaining monarchy in northeast Asia) and lest anyone think North Korea is an exception, this is the same country that has said that if South Korea attacks them -they will attack Tokyo. As little sense as that makes to anyone with a working brain. This is all the more disgraceful because children are not born holding such hateful feelings. No group of children, on their own, just decide to draw pictures of a neighboring country being bombed or engulfed in flames; this is a hatred they were taught. Given attitudes like this, is it any wonder that more people in Japan are talking about revising Article 9 of their constitution? I hate to see cases like this in particular because I like South Korea and would like to see more friendly solidarity between the non-communist countries of Asia in opposition to the expanding power of Red China.

Unfortunately, mindless republican hatred of an island monarchy is not directed only at Japan. Great Britain, as well, should be able to sympathize. This last week, under the pretext of a British presence at an Olympics committee meeting in Argentina, saw a couple hundred leftist, republican thugs in that country take to the streets to chant anti-British slogans, call for the conquest of the Falkland Islands and generally vent their extreme anti-British hatred. Just to really offend monarchist sensibilities they burned an effigy of HM the Queen. There were also very real concerns for the safety of HRH the Princess Royal Anne who was attending the meeting and who the Argentine republican thugs labeled the “pirate princess”. These types of people, these vile, disgusting, republican cretins are just the sort of people those little children drawing the pictures in Korea are going to grow up to be like. In both cases you have disputed islands at issue between a monarchy on one side and a mainland full of republics on the other. One difference is that, when it comes to the Falklands, there are people on some of those islands and the U.K. needs to think long and hard about their continuous gutting of the British armed forces in light of protests like that seen in Argentina. What would happen to the people on the Falklands if the likes of those street vermin ever gained power in Argentina or pushed a faltering republican government to take action? Again, I would like to see Britain and Argentina have friendly relations but one should always be prepared. My advice to both HM the Queen and HM the Emperor; keep calm and expand the navy.

(as an aside, Sept 8 marked the 400th anniversary of relations between Britain and Japan when gifts were exchanged by King James I and the Tokugawa Shogun)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Monarchism and the Corporate State in Portugal

Having been asked to talk more about Portugal (which I have covered in the past and will again in the future certainly), I thought I would take this opportunity to get out of the way a subject over which I know many Portuguese, even monarchists, will disagree with me on. Be that as it may, I will take this opportunity to at least get it out of the way and perhaps give pause to those who would prompt me to revisit a subject about which they may not like what I have to say. So, let us begin:

One of the last occasions in which many monarchists had realistic reasons to hope for a restoration of the Portuguese monarchy was during the era of the “New State”. This was the corporatist regime, presided over by Prime Minister Antonio Salazar, lasting from 1932 to 1974 when the corporate state was brought down by the so-called ‘Carnation Revolution’ which was basically a military coup in Lisbon by leftist army officers. Portugal had, of course, been in a great deal of trouble ever since 1910 when the monarchy was overthrown, King Manuel II was driven into exile and revolutionary, anti-clerical republic was established. Things were unsurprisingly chaotic in the ensuing years until Salazar came to power, ruling effectively as a dictator, and setting up his corporatist state. In the years since the Carnation Revolution, Salazar has been officially on the “naughty list” and is usually described as a right-wing, fascist, Catholic dictator. I am sure I will offend not a few when I say that I consider Antonio Salazar not to have been a “bad guy” at all. On the contrary, I think he did a great deal of good for Portugal and in his campaigns to suppress communist subversion at home and in the colonies by his struggle to maintain the Portuguese empire, I think he was fighting the good fight. Again, I know many people and even many monarchists will disagree with me on that.

Allow me to say that, in broad terms, many of the accusations coming from the critics of Salazar are perfectly true. He was “right-wing” in that he was a man of traditional values and opinions. He was not a fascist exactly but he was a corporatist which many people take to be the same thing. One must keep in mind that today anyone who is not a communist is in danger of being labeled a fascist. It is unfortunate that today the word “fascist” is often seen as being synonymous with the word “Nazi” or, in other words, being a national socialist. We should be clear; Salazar certainly was a corporatist but he was most definitely not a national socialist, viewing the Nazis as so many pagan barbarians and he actually took harsh measures to ensure that Nazism did not gain a foothold in Portugal. He was also, effectively, a dictator in that, while never holding the top position of President, he ran the government and was able to act as he saw fit. He was not too dissimilar from his neighbor Generalissimo Francisco Franco in Spain. Both were rather traditional types, staunch Catholics and anti-communists. However, obviously, one was succeeded by a restored monarchy and one was not. Of course, there were reasons.

Salazar restored the Church to her place of preeminence which she had lost after 1910, established corporations to represent all major industries (both labor and ownership) and he revived the traditional, small-time fishing, farming and artisan industries. The Portuguese economy actually began to recover and improved steadily up until the outbreak of communist revolutions in the colonies messed things up by necessitating large expenditures on the military before Portugal was really fit to handle such an undertaking. It was also in the colonies that the corporatist regime came into disagreement with the heir to the Portuguese throne. Antonio Salazar had won the support of most monarchists early on and had said that he would restore the Kingdom of Portugal when the time was right. Unfortunately, Salazar would depart this earth before deeming that time to have come. He earned monarchist support by giving the deposed King Manuel II a full state funeral when he died in 1932 as well as removing the ban on members of the Royal Family coming to Portugal and restoring properties the republican government had previously confiscated (stole) from them. When President Oscar Carmona died in 1951 Salazar seriously considered restoring the monarchy but had enough doubts to refrain from doing so.

During much of this period, unfortunately, the monarchists did themselves few favors, particularly if they wished to win the support of a man like Salazar. The succession had been disputed and though Portugal had not been troubled too much by it, an observer needed only to look at the sorry depths to which Spain had fallen because of such a division to be reminded of how damaging a feud between monarchists could be for a country. Some had also tried to raise doubts about the place and conditions of the birth of Dom Duarte Nuno, Duke of Braganza in order to at least give some pause over his legal standing to succeed to the throne. For a leader who was always concerned with eliminating harmful divisions in his country, to a large extent, the issue of the monarchy seemed to present a great many problems that no one wanted to have to risk dealing with. Dom Duarte Pio, son of Duarte Nuno and current Duke of Braganza, also got on the wrong side of the corporatist regime in 1972 (after the death of Salazar) by his political activities in Angola. The prime minister, Marcelo Caetano, who expelled him from Portugal was the last PM of the corporatist regime as he was overthrown in the Carnation Revolution only a short time later in 1974. The politics of Dom Duarte Pio could be revealed in the message he made public at that time calling the revolution a great moment for the country and offering his full support to the military; basically a way of showing his support for a return to direct democracy.

Whether this reflection of the political views of Dom Duarte gave the corporatist regime pause or if they considered him too influenced by liberal elements, I do not know but certainly those in power did not consider the royal heir a close friend and ally. This is a major divergence from what happened across the border in neighboring Spain. Like Salazar, Generalissimo Franco made it clear that his desire was to see the Kingdom of Spain restored. Pro-monarchy steps were taken in both countries and yet in Spain the monarchy was restored and in Portugal it was not. What were the reasons for this? One possibility is the difference between Dom Duarte Pio and HM King Juan Carlos in their relationship to the powers ruling Spain and Portugal. Whether anyone likes it or not or considers it to have been sincere or not, one thing is certain; Juan Carlos won the approval of Generalissimo Franco and gave every indication of being exactly in lock step with his views and positions. Generalissimo Franco trusted him, entrusted the state to him, and willed that the monarchy be restored after his death. This could never have happened in Portugal if the heir to the throne took an even moderately antagonistic attitude toward Salazar and the ruling corporatist regime. Why would they restore or order the future restoration of the monarchy if they had any inclination that the “New State” they had built would be dissolved as a consequence?

However, it must quickly be made clear that, even if Dom Duarte had done as his Spanish counterpart did and win the absolute trust and friendship of the ruler of the country, there is still no guarantee that Portugal would have a monarchy today. After all, another major difference between the examples of Spain and Portugal is that the regime of Franco died a ‘natural death’ as it were. The regime of Salazar did not, it was overthrown in a military coup. It is entirely possible that, if Salazar had restored the monarchy in 1951 or even later after the Royal Family demonstrated their total support for him and the corporatist regime, that when the Carnation Revolution broke out the monarchy would have been seen as tainted and overthrown yet again along with the “New State”. Even as things were, with Dom Duarte Pio expressing support, the leftist officers who dismantled the corporatist regime were certainly still not favorably inclined towards the idea of returning Portugal to the status of a traditional, Catholic monarchy as she had been in the past. Based on the voting record since that time, we can see that the same self-destructive trends have swept over the Portuguese like almost every other country in the western world, and they have not seen fit to restore the monarchy. Obviously, based on that same voting record, there is little desire to un-do what was done in the Carnation Revolution.

As stated at the outset, I am coming from the unpopular position of one who did not think the “New State” was bad at all (as republics go) and, although there have been few genuine efforts at it, it seems to me that the corporatist model might be a good way of providing representative government in a way that could be done without the horribly divisive pure poison that is political parties. Given that, I would have liked to have seen the Portuguese Royal Family draw closer to Salazar and been more supportive of his regime. And, it should go without saying, I would then have liked for the monarchy to have been restored in similar fashion to what happened in Spain (though with the system of government being maintained afterwards). I realize it is entirely possible that the Carnation Revolution might have then brought down both the corporatist regime and the monarchy but that is what I would have preferred, not what I think would have been realistically viable in the long-term. The rightful king was not, and so far has not, been restored by casting his lot with the forces of democracy and, as can also be seen in Spain these days, even King Juan Carlos might be having second thoughts about his decisions after coming to power.

Finally, one thing that the current state of both Spain and Portugal should show us is that the supposedly harsh and totalitarian regimes of both Salazar and Franco were not nearly so crushing and oppressive as their critics claim. Were they so, these countries would not today be so far in the opposite direction. Compare this to leftist, socialist, Marxist dictatorships around the world which endure to this very day, their founding dictators still revered as beloved, godlike figures. Even in countries where these dictatorships have fallen, see how strong the legacy of the brainwashing that went on remains. Major political parties still hold power advocating the same policies in many if not most of them and in Russia the Soviet flags still fly (mostly in the military) and a former KGB officer is president. All that being said though, no one should construe what I have said as being intended as any undue criticism of HRH the Duke of Braganza. Today we can only play the cards we have been dealt and the Portuguese monarchy can, at this point, only be restored by gaining popular support. The Duke has been doing an admirable job, and can only continue, doing all he can do which is to make the case to the public for restoring the monarchy. Given the glories Portugal achieved as a kingdom and the low state it has sunk to under the republic, particularly in the economic sphere, it should be a compelling case.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ethiopian Mistake

It was on September 12, 1974 that the last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, was overthrown in a Soviet-backed military coup that brought his more than fifty-year reign to an end. Not surprisingly, given the Bolshevik way of doing things in any country, the former Emperor was soon dead, probably murdered by the new government (they had already carried out a massacre of top imperial officials as soon as they took power). How could such a thing have happened? It comes down, as with many such events, to a combination of mistakes on the part of the self-made monarch and outside events that were totally beyond his control. No matter what policies the emperor enacted, for example, there was nothing he could do about the oil crisis or the treason of disloyal officers. Yet, looking over his reign, it can often seem that Haile Selassie, with the best of intentions, made every mistake that European monarchies made over a span of centuries over a span of just a few decades or even a few years. This includes taking power from and so incurring the resentment of the nobility and clergy at home as well as adopting an ambivalent foreign policy that left him with few real friends but many bitter enemies. The lesson should be learned as to what went wrong but the lesson is also even more clear and obvious that the real Ethiopian mistake was not anything the emperor did but was rather his removal.

One of the most baffling things that characterize the post-World War II reign of Haile Selassie (who was placed back on his throne by the allied British, French, Belgian and Ethiopian troops who drove out the Italians and their native forces) was his commitment to the idea of “collective security” and his unbounded admiration for the United Nations. One would think that, of any national leader in the world, Haile Selassie would be the last one to put his faith in collective security which had failed to prevent his country from being conquered by the Italians in 1936. Nonetheless, he had nothing but glowing remarks for the UN, the same organization which gave a security council seat to the country (USSR) that would ultimately bring about his downfall. A major problem with this, as would become only too clear later, is that the UN care nothing for legitimacy. An example of this was when the security council seat originally held by the Republic of China was handed over to Communist China. However, the same could be said for the international community as a whole, at least since World War I (the Paris peace conference was certainly no Congress of Vienna). The emperor might have recalled that the international community had eventually recognized the Italian conquest of Ethiopia and Haile Selassie was restored, not because of legitimacy, but because Italy was a member of the Axis and the Allies were the side that won.

Moving on, traditionally, in most countries, the twin pillars of support for monarchy have been the aristocracy and religious institutions. Haile Selassie had long had a contentious relationship with the Ethiopian aristocracy over his efforts, throughout his reign, to centralize power. There were, of course, reasons for this. Battles between feuding nobles had long troubled Ethiopia. This was partly how Haile Selassie himself had come to power, leading a rebellion of nobles in deposing the emperor in 1916, after which he was able to consolidate power further and ultimately the empress handed power over to him. Haile Selassie wanted to end all of that and was likely concerned that internal strife could be taken advantage of by foreign powers with designs on the country. As far as the Ethiopian Church was concerned, although they always remained largely supportive of the monarchy, tensions were certainly raised when the emperor made Church lands subject to taxation and claimed the right of the government to judge clerics whereas previously a cleric could only be judged by a church court. They, however, could be dealt with, but the nobles remained problematic, especially when they offered staunch opposition to his effort to enact progressive taxation in Ethiopia.

On the international front, Haile Selassie was an outspoken critic of European colonialism and supported anti-colonial movements across Africa. Again, this is not surprising but it also meant that the emperor sacrificed the support of the very foreign countries which had restored him to his throne; namely Britain, France and Belgium. This policy also failed to take into account the fact that in almost all of these anti-colonial movements the rebel factions were supported by either the Soviet Union or the United States, neither of which had a favorable view of monarchy in general. As these anti-colonial movements gained strength so did the influence of the Soviet Union on the continent of Africa. All of this was, of course, an outgrowth of the Cold War and Haile Selassie was determined to have nothing to do with that conflict. Most monarchies in the world took the side of the United States which, while certainly never pro-monarchy, was nowhere near as stridently anti-monarchy as the forces of international communism. By placing himself solidly in the non-aligned group, the emperor could expect little assistance from the United States but it in no way moved the Soviet Union to see him as anything other than an “enemy of the people”. His denunciation of the war against communism in Vietnam won him praise from the anti-war movement but, again, did not make the Soviet Union view him as anything less than an enemy of their entire world view.

It did not take long for the poison of communism to begin to take root in Ethiopia and when natural disasters, the oil crisis or famines caused immense suffering in Ethiopia the communists were quick to seize on each crisis as an excuse for turning people against the emperor even though, obviously, all of these things were quite beyond his control. The Soviet Union made Ethiopia something of a priority and turned out massive amounts of propaganda in an effort to turn the Ethiopian people against their monarch. This was the same country that had, in World War II, been allied with Haile Selassie and which had awarded him the military Order of Suvarov in 1959 (just as they gave King Michael I of Romania the Order of Victory shortly before deposing him). Realizing too late the danger of communist infiltration and communist subversion, the emperor tried to move against them but this, as usual, was seized upon by the communists and their fellow travelers as “proof” of what a harsh, reactionary autocrat the emperor was. Mutiny broke out in the army, led by leftist officers of course, and the emperor tried to placate them with land grants and higher salaries but, as usual, this did not work. Any effort to negotiate with communists goes the same way; you give them what they demand and they promptly demand more. In 1974 a small clique of army officers seized power and arrested the emperor, deposing him and, the following year, announced his death.

This military clique, known as the Derg, took absolute control of the country and was, of course, backed the whole time by the Soviet Union and their masters in Moscow. The emperor had certainly made mistakes which hurt his cause, however, he certainly cannot be held responsible for the treason of others and the issues they seized on in order to take power were almost invariably due to things far beyond the ability of the emperor to control (unless one assumes the King of kings should be able to control the weather or global oil prices). The mistakes he made shrink in insignificance compared to the mistake of his overthrow and the dismantling of the monarchy which was the only government Ethiopia had ever known in its entire, ancient history. Why was this so? A simple look at the subsequent history of the country proves it beyond all doubt. How did Ethiopia fare without a monarch? Well, there was one coup after another in this communist dictatorship that couldn’t even manage to agree on a single dictator. There were numerous rebellions, all of them bloodily suppressed, there was drought, famine, massive starvation and soon Ethiopians were fleeing their homeland in record numbers. Part of the country was even conquered by the Somalis and the Somali incursion was only beaten back with massive assistance from the rest of the communist bloc. I do not wish to sound too offensive here but, when you need the help of the Soviet Union, East Germany, North Korea and Cuba to defeat a country like Somalia -you are not doing very well.

The man in charge of all of this, the man who had taken the place of Emperor Haile Selassie, was Mengistu Haile Mariam. Remember that name. What Stalin was to Russia, what Choibalsan was to Mongolia, what Mao was to China, Mengistu was to Ethiopia. He instituted a reign of terror in Ethiopia on a scale that made even the French revolutionaries look like slackers. Hundreds of thousands of people were massacred, hundreds of thousands were arrested and tortured and hundreds of thousands more were starved to death. All told, even by conservative estimates, Mengistu caused the deaths of more than two million of his fellow Ethiopians. Some believe he may have killed his former emperor personally and given what a vicious, hateful man he is, it is not beyond the realm of possibility. The Ethiopian people experienced a level of suffering under his rule that none of them had ever known before. No emperor, nor even any foreign conqueror, was so brutal and barbaric toward the Ethiopian people as Mengistu was. He intentionally murdered people by slow starvation and if there was one constant throughout his decades in power it was probably widespread starvation, some of it purposely inflicted and much of it the result of his idiotic, Marxist policies. He remains one of the most despicable villains in African history.

Now, most histories will tell you that the nightmare of Mengistu and his communist tyranny ended in 1991. Do not be fooled. The nightmare has not ended and will not until traditional government, the monarchy, is restored to Ethiopia. As the Soviet Union began to fold, the primary source of aid to Mengistu dried up and his regime was toppled. He fled to Zimbabwe and the open arms of his friend and fellow tyrant Robert Mugabe where he remains to this day, despite being indicted by an Ethiopian court for genocide. However, the party that replaced Mengistu was the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, a democratic socialist party. In other words, communism for slow learners. Unfortunately, this is not unique to Ethiopia as we have seen the same all over the world. When communist regimes fall, the party renames itself the social democrats or democratic socialists and continues on just as they did before. They took power and held on to it, giving the world some show-elections just to make everyone happy while continuing on the tradition of corruption, wars and poverty that characterized the preceding regime. It is still a country of starvation and repression with a government that continues to denigrate the monarchy that went before it.

None of these facts are in dispute. The important thing to remember is this; Emperor Haile Selassie may have made some mistakes that hurt his own cause. His overthrow (and probable murder) was a mistake that hurt every last Ethiopian man, woman and child in the entire country, and many in surrounding countries for that matter. The loss of the monarchy brought about a nightmarish era of murder, starvation and misery. Since 1991 things have improved somewhat but actually quite little. There is still no real freedom, no prosperity and no true connection with the ancient history of Ethiopia which can only happen when the monarchy is restored and sacred, traditional authority resumes its rightful place.
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