Monday, April 28, 2014

Popes, To Canonize or Not to Canonize?

Sunday, there was a dual canonization held at the Vatican with Pope Francis recognizing his predecessors Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII as saints. This was fairly groundbreaking in a number of ways though, perhaps, it is easy to miss it considering that breaking with the established rules and long-held traditions has become rather commonplace in the reign of Pope Francis. For one thing, at no other time in Christian history have there been two popes present for the canonization of two other popes; speaking of course of Pope Francis and “Pope Emeritus” Benedict XVI. That Pope Benedict XVI stepped down (abdicated, resigned or whatever one chooses to call it) was, in itself, something that had not been done in centuries and even then, was nothing like previous papal abdications had been because, it was almost as though it was only a partial-abdication or some sort of half-way measure. He is still known as Benedict XVI and not Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he still wears white, is still addressed as “Holiness” and still uses the keys of St Peter on his coat of arms. He is not exactly “the” Pope anymore but he certainly didn’t go back to being a cardinal. Furthermore, his replacement, Pope Francis, doesn’t seem terribly attached to the idea of being Pope himself. He prefers to call himself Bishop of Rome rather than Supreme Pontiff (does not add “PP” after his name, which he writes in Italian rather than the customary Latin), has been reticent to don the traditional garb of the Pope and while under Benedict XVI the Papal Tiara disappeared from the coat of arms (replacing it with a modified miter), but added a pallium at the bottom to signify his special position, Pope Francis has deleted both the tiara and the pallium. So, he was elected pope, accepted the office of pope but doesn’t want to call himself pope, doesn’t like dressing like a pope and doesn’t want to live in the palace of the popes. I suppose it makes sense to somebody.

Pope John XXIII
The canonizations themselves are also rather unusual, given how speedily they were carried out. Traditionally, it takes a very long time for someone to be canonized in the Catholic Church with some candidates not being recognized as saints for centuries; even martyrs. Yet, Pope John XXIII is declared a saint 51 years after his death and John Paul II a mere 9 years. What is also rather interesting is the fact that Pope John XXIII was beatified (declared ‘Blessed John XXIII’) alongside Pope Pius IX, yet he is being canonized alongside Pope John Paul II. So what happened to Pope Pius IX? A good question. Pope John XXIII was “fast-tracked” for canonization by Pope Francis because he opened the Second Vatican Council. In fact, his feast day is to be celebrated, not on the anniversary of his death as is traditional, but on the anniversary of the start of Vatican II. Aside from the streamlining for all canonizations enacted by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II (and John Paul II streamlined things considerably) this “fast-tracking” means that Pope John XXIII is being recognized as a saint with only one miracle attributed to his intercession rather than two as the rules of the day require. Some might ask exactly how opening a council is grounds for accelerated sainthood (and I would regard that as a valid question) but it still does not explain why John XXIII is given this favor and not Pius IX. After all, Pius IX opened the First Vatican Council and under considerably more stressful circumstances than the opening of the Second Vatican Council. If opening Vatican II was grounds for “fast-tracking” John XXIII, why is opening Vatican I not grounds for “fast-tracking” Pius IX? This gives the appearance that the council is more important than the pope/potential saint under discussion.

This stands out all the more when one considers the causes for canonization for former popes related to Vatican II. During and after Vatican II the Catholic Church has had four Pontiffs who have gone to their reward; John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II. Now consider that two of those have already been declared saints, Paul VI has been declared a “Servant of God” and last year had a miracle attributed to him, clearing the way for him to be beatified and John Paul I also has a cause underway, has also been named a “Servant of God” and has a miracle under examination by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In other words, every single deceased Pope since Vatican II has been or is in the process of being declared a saint. This sudden flood of saintly pontiffs seems, rightly or wrongly, all the more out of the ordinary given that, during this period of history, the Catholic Church has diminished greatly, both in influence and in the number of clerics and adherents. Skillful leadership is not a requirement for saintliness but, again, it does seem rather odd that such a succession of saintly leaders would preside over such a decline in a religious organization. What qualities exactly have these men demonstrated that their pre-Vatican II predecessors did not that would warrant this? Were Pius XII, Pius XI or Benedict XV any less saintly?

Pope Pius IX
In any event, I do not want to stray too far from Pope Pius IX here because it does seem, to me at least, to be the most obvious question. John XXIII and Pius IX were beatified at the same time, why are they not being canonized at the same time? Why did Pope Francis choose to “fast-track” the one but not the other? Some might speculate that political considerations played a part and that is a perfectly valid argument. John XXIII is remembered as the “good” Pope while Pius IX is remembered as the Pope who said “no”. John XXIII is seen as the Pope who stopped using the plural “we” to refer to himself, who visited the sick and the imprisoned, who was friendly and jovial. Pius IX is seen as the Pope who maintained his rule over Rome by a French army, the last Pope to have people executed, the Pope who said “no” to modernity and whose funeral procession was attacked by an angry mob. That is the perception, and all of it is true but it does not give a complete picture of either man. Perceptions change after all and the perception of Pope Pius IX, perhaps most famous for his (masterful) “Syllabus of Errors” is perceived in a negative light mostly because all the errors he enumerated in that document have been embraced by the modern world and accepted as good things, even by many, if not most, in the Church itself. Oddly enough, one is more apt to find Catholics who will defend the (often contradictory) political maneuverings of Pius IX than any who will defend, without equivocation, his “Syllabus of Errors”. And, it should be pointed out, that syllabus contained nothing but a restatement of what the Catholic Church had always condemned anyway.

Certainly, one can make the argument that the canonization of Pius IX should be delayed because it might give people the wrong impression; the idea that such a step implies a ringing endorsement of his every action. Pius IX is, and certainly was even in his own time, a rather divisive figure. To some degree, he had only himself to blame for that, presenting himself as a reformer and an Italian patriot only to later (come to his senses and) become a reactionary and force Italians to choose between their country and their Church. That is a painful thing and most people do not want to have to make such a choice, which is invariably bad for the Church since history shows, from England to Germany, if forced to decide, the majority tend to choose their country. However, and this is my own opinion I must emphasize, it does not seem to me that his politics is really the issue. Yes, he was the last Pope to wage war, he was the last Pope to send people to the guillotine and today we know that the Popes are against all wars and oppose the death penalty. But it is not uncommon, in my experience, to find Catholics who will defend those actions, who will point out the context of the situation and the principles that motivated Pope Pius IX in his rule as the last “Pope-King”. What is far from common is to find anyone defending the “Syllabus of Errors” and I cannot help but think that, rather than his political decisions, it is the syllabus that causes Pius IX to be pushed aside by those in the Vatican today. Anyone who would defend the “Syllabus of Errors” is probably a hopelessly outdated reactionary, probably a monarchist and quite possibly mad (and probably has a portrait of Pius IX on his wall simply for being so ardently opposed to “progress” -not that we’re talking about anyone specific here).

Pope John Paul II
After all, even more “fast-tracked” that John XXIII is Pope John Paul II and the Vatican authorities have been quite clear that his canonization is in regard to his personal piety and is not to be taken as a statement on his pontificate as a whole. After all, there was the whole problem of the sexual-abuse scandal during the reign of John Paul II and the, frankly disgraceful, sheltering of clerics of questionable morality such as Bernard Cardinal Law who was found to have covered up reports of sexual abuse only to be reassigned to Rome beyond the reach of the American justice system. Why wasn’t something done to punish those responsible for these crimes in the Church? Why was nothing done to the deplorable Mexican priest Father Marcial Maciel (who was removed from active ministry but only after the election of Benedict XVI)? What about the case of the reprehensible Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles? Famous for his homosexual outreach, a priest praised Cardinal Mahony for never “rebuking those gays and lesbians who are not celibate”. He himself even said a special mass for homosexual Catholics during “Gay Pride Week” in Los Angeles. Doesn’t that run counter to the official teaching of the Catholic Church? How is it that someone like Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated for disobedience but Cardinal Mahony was not (and today lives happily in retirement devoting his time to campaigning on behalf of illegal immigrants)? I bring these examples up not to disparage the late John Paul II in any way. I think he was a good man and a sincere Christian, he was an inspirational public figure but just not a very good administrator. However, if his reign can be set aside in preference to his personal piety, why can the same not be done for Pius IX? And given the fact that those questions have not been answered, it would seem at least prudent, for the sake of the good name of the Church if nothing else, to have delayed the canonization of John Paul II until they could be answered.

Pope Pius IX
Again, there is plenty of negative things that could be said about Pope Pius IX and his administration of the Catholic Church and his political decisions as ruler of the Papal States, but why is that grounds for delaying his canonization while all of the above does not stop the “fast-tracking” of Pope John Paul II? This is my opinion alone, as I have mentioned before, but I cannot help but think this involves the “Spirit of Vatican II” and that the primary impediment to the canonization of Pius IX is not his administration of the Church, his political decisions, the ghettos or the papal military but is rather best summarized by the Syllabus of Errors which so unequivocally condemned things like socialism, the separation of Church and state, communism, and perhaps most importantly these days, the idea that “The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with, progress, liberalism and modern civilization.” I don’t think they have a problem with his personal behavior, I don’t even think they have a problem with his willingness to fight to defend his rule over central Italy but I am beginning to have a hard time coming to any other conclusion than that they have a very big problem with his refusal to change or to even accept the mentality that the Church or the Pope should ever change. I could, of course, be wrong and I would be glad to hear explanations from any who care to comment on exactly why John XXIII and Pius IX were beatified together but have not been canonized together. Has there been an upswing in the personal piety of pontiffs since Vatican II or is there a prejudice against the more princely pontiffs of old? You tell me.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Japan: After Obama

I want to direct these comments specifically to the people of a monarchy near and dear to my heart: 日本 (Japan). President of the United States Barack Obama just visited the “Land of the Rising Sun” and I’m sure everyone is still exhilarated in the afterglow of such a brush with celebrity, especially when, for the first time ever, the President of the United States actually stated specifically that the Senkaku Islands were covered by the treaty which requires the United States to fight in defense of Japan if Japanese territory is ever attacked by a foreign power. First of all, I do not mean to diminish such a statement. I am certainly glad that it was made and can only say it should have been made much sooner but, better late than never as the saying goes. There is nothing I want more than for the United States and Japan to be fast friends and close allies. The assurance from Obama means that if the People’s Kleptomaniac Republic of Chinese Sweatshop Workers tries to seize the Senkaku Islands, the United States will assist Japan in defending and/or recovering that part of Japanese sovereign territory. Well, almost, that is to say, more or less because President Obama also said that the United States does not take a position on the issue of the sovereignty dispute over the islands between Japan and Red China. After all, the last thing you want to do is make your banker angry with you.

Wait a minute, WHAT?! So, everyone is all excited because President Obama, almost in the same breath, said that the Senkakus are included in the U.S.-Japanese defense treaty but that the United States does not take sides in the dispute over who actually holds sovereignty over those islands? Surely this must be some mistake! Surely, our brilliant, Harvard-educated President did not just pledge to go to war on behalf of a few islands without first being sure where he stands on who exactly is the rightful owner of said islands -right? You see, Japan, this is why it doesn’t do to get too excited over President Obama. Again, I am glad he gave an assurance on support in the Senkakus issue, it is certainly better if he had given none at all. However, his assurance rings rather hollow when he cannot even say that the United States, under his administration, is taking the side of its ally Japan over Maoist China in regards to the dispute that is at the heart of the matter. Remember, this is the same man who had Chairman Mao’s face emblazoned on his Christmas tree ornaments. This is the man whose former communications director was Anita Dunn who said that Chairman Mao was one of the two people she admired most. This is the President who named Ron Bloom his “manufacturing czar” who said that, “We kind of agree with Mao that political power comes largely from the barrel of a gun”. Be happy, but do not be too trusting of this President.

Just for a little parallel, remember how excited everyone was when President Obama named Caroline Kennedy the U.S. Ambassador to Japan? Sure, she didn’t have any diplomatic experience, had never lived in Japan and has no understanding of the Japanese language but, it’s CAROLINE KENNEDY! Her dad was President! Remember all the crowds cheering and waving when she arrived, all the excited people singing “Sweet Caroline” as she went to the Imperial Palace to present her credentials? Yes, that was fun, but how did that work out? Ambassador Kennedy said her top priority was to promote more feminism in Japan because there are not enough women serving in the Japanese government (and trust me, she did not mean that she wished Madame Yuko Tojo had been elected) as if that is any of her business and as if her job was not to represent the President of the United States in Japan but to spread American-style feminist “equality” amongst the less “progressive” Japanese! But that was just the beginning. She then went on to be the first U.S. Ambassador to express “disappointment” at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, again, as if it is any of her business or that of her country or any other country where the political leader of Japan goes to pray. Later she stuck her nose in local matters again by calling the traditional dolphin hunt in Taiji as an example of “inhumaneness” and later still she had her embassy staff release an official statement condemning the comments made by the new governors of the NHK. What do all of these have in common? They all were none of her business and had nothing to do with the United States or American-Japanese relations, yet she decided to sit in judgment of the people of Japan on every one of them.

She still gets the celebrity treatment of course and maybe, having no diplomatic experience, she just didn’t understand that these were things she should not have done. Then again, maybe this is all some passive-aggressive way of taking revenge on the Japanese for sinking her father’s PT Boat in World War II -I don’t know. The point is that the Obama administration should not be gushed over in regards to its relationship with Japan. President Obama has something of a track record when it comes to traditional American allies and it is not one to inspire a great deal of confidence. This is the President who told the State of Israel that it should return to its pre-1967 borders, who sided with the pro-Hugo Chavez socialist dictator of Honduras in his seizure of power, who shook hands with Chavez while spurning traditional allies like Colombia and Honduras, who took down the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic (which they agreed to at considerable risk to themselves) in order to placate Mr. Putin in Russia (didn’t work out so good did it?) signed on the anniversary of the invasion of Poland no less. And, this is the man who handed over the serial numbers for the British Trident missiles to the Russians, selling out the United Kingdom which had been the closest ally the United States has had in recent years.

I bring this up not to cast doubt on Japanese-American friendship, that is the last thing I would want to do. In a survey last year, 81% of Americans had a positive view of Japan and 69% of Japanese people have a favorable view of the United States (which is considerable given that foreign countries as well as elements on both the far-left and right in Japan often try to spread division between Japan and America). The two countries have a good relationship and I want that to continue. I bring this up only because one must take politics into consideration and differentiate between the American people and the American government (something difficult for all peoples around the world to do most of the time) and because I don’t want Japan to get too carried away by any reassurances of support from President Obama. Just because Obama said that the Senkaku Islands are included in the Japan-US security pact does not mean that Japan should not continue to persevere in the campaign to amend Article 9. The American public (if not the government) is leaning more and more heavily these days back in the direction of isolation and the best thing Japan can do for the sake of security is to be grateful and appreciative for any American support but to strengthen itself and build-up the Japanese Self-Defense forces as if no such agreement existed. In the event of any trouble, I hope the United States would be there to help and it probably will be but one should always hope for the best and prepare for the worst and no country should depend exclusively on the protection of another. Governments change, politicians come and go and what one administration does, another can un-do.

Numerous Presidents of the United States promised their staunch support for South Vietnam in the fight against communist aggression in Southeast Asia. The last to do so was Republican President Nixon in 1972. Yet, only the following year, in June 1973, after the Democrats had taken control of Congress, the Case-Church Amendment was passed with sufficient votes to override a veto by the Republican President, and all military assistance to South Vietnam was cut off. The Americans went home and the communists rolled into Saigon not long after. There are other examples that could be cited but the overriding point is that, in any crisis, nothing should be taken for granted. Happily (and honestly, somewhat to my surprise) the Obama administration has been positive about Japan taking a more direct role in its own national security matters. So, I say take that ball and run with it! Amend Article 9, strengthen the country and restore a strong and proud Japan that would be happy to have American assistance but hopefully, would not require it.

Again, it was better than nothing, but the statement could have been much stronger and less ambiguous. Americans, and particularly the men and women of the American military, should be much more upset by this. Look at it from their perspective; their commander-in-chief just said that they might be called upon to fight and die for a cause that he will not even take a solid stand on! When Obama says he takes no side in the sovereignty dispute, one would not be unjustified in asking how on earth he could expect the military to put their lives on the line for the issue. What he is saying is that, Japan might be right but then again China might be right too. That seems a pretty flimsy position to potentially go to war over and I am surprised the reaction to this sort of double-talk has not been stronger. As I have covered before, in my opinion there should be no dispute at all, the islands clearly belong to Japan and the United States government should come out and say that with no equivocation. If troubles do arise, with the treaty in place and generally good relations prevailing between Washington and Tokyo, I trust that the United States would be prepared to assist. My ideal scenario, however, would be for Japan to be strong enough and assertive enough to tell America in such a crisis, “Thanks, but we got this”.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Of Baby Kings and Child Monarchs

'Homage to Clovis II'
I do not think I have addressed this here before so now seemed as good a time as any. I have a special fondness for child monarchs and, particularly for monarchies with very long histories, this is something many countries have experience with. First of all, let me address something of a religious nature (because there will be considerable religious issues discussed here) which is Ecclesiastes 10:16. That verse says, “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!” Aside from the strange warning against royals eating breakfast, let me say that I understand and totally accept and agree with this passage. It is clearly meant as a practical warning of the reality that a baby king will not be able to be an ideal ruler in the same way that a man of maturity and experience can be. There is no argument there and one can find other passages in the Bible mentioning how it is less than ideal to have children in positions of authority (or women though that would certainly be considered controversial at best today). I am certainly not attempting to argue that, in practical terms, it is ideal to have a child monarch. Children are, of course, incapable of ruling countries and so, in such circumstances, a regent or regents must act for them and this has often proven troublesome.

That being said, there are childlike qualities that we would all do well to emulate and Christian teaching verifies this. Jesus Christ Himself said, “Let the little children come unto Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”. Christ also said, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name, receives Me”. Jesus Christ, of course, came to the world as a child and was able to teach us things as a child and nothing needs to be added to stress the importance of what has been said. Many devotions have come from that, one in particular being the Infant of Prague which illustrates Christ not only as a child but also as a King and in doing so shows us how things like age and outward appearance and physical weakness can go hand in hand with supreme power and authority, just in a different way. It is the image of the child monarch that I most admire and which, I think, can even be beneficial to monarchists in coming to an understanding of what monarchy is all about.

The infant or child monarchs of history have long fascinated me, originally just because of the imagery of it and, in time, because of a deeper understanding of what was on display. Many of you will remember the colorful scene in the film “The Last Emperor” in which the 3-year-old child emperor is enthroned as the Son of Heaven and Lord of 10,000 Years. He scrambles down from the throne, plays with the lifting yellow canopy and then, whips crack and the master of ceremonies cries out as the ranks of mandarins kowtow to their new sovereign. I’m sure to most modern people the image of endless rows of aged men bowing before a child would be one of absurdity. However, although it is not ideal for a country to have an infant monarch (since they cannot fill their role at such a young age) I have nevertheless considered child royals to be a wonderful example of what is important about monarchy. With their tiny frame they convey the message that in a monarchy it is the institution, not the individual, which is most important. The Crown would just be an impractical piece of jewelry were it not for what it represents. It is not how old or how strong or how handsome a king is but what they embody which is special.

King Louis XV
A child monarch cannot defeat challengers in single combat. He cannot lead troops into battle and win victories for his country. He cannot balance a budget (of course, neither can most adult politicians these days either) but a child monarch can represent the faith of a people in their monarchy, the strength of the institution that allows a helpless babe to sit in the highest seat of the land as well as being a hope for the future. In much popular fiction and other parts of the media, child monarchs or young royals are often depicted as, basically, spoiled brats; haughty, conceited and condescending. However, in reality, there is something very humbling about the image of a baby king because it illustrates quite vividly that a monarch is chosen by birth, by legitimate hereditary right and not because he was the fastest or the strongest or the most popular. There is a feeling of great nobility or perhaps chivalry that accompanies the image of a child king who is protected by older, adult men and who stand guard over their tiny sovereign with all the seriousness and dignity of an adult king because age or physical strength does not matter. What matters is that he is the king -and that is it.

Emp. Duy Tan of Vietnam
And, in truth, there are many ways in which children in general are far above the rest of society. That is what Jesus meant when He commanded all of us to be as little children; we must strive to adopt the qualities they already have. The German writer Schiller said that children are what we all once were and also what we should all be again. I cannot really explain why this is true, unless it is that these little people are “fresh” from Heaven and have yet to be corrupted by the wicked world. It may be simply anecdotal, but I have seen evidence of this both from very small children and those at the end of their lives; the barriers between this world and the next are thin. My great-grandfather, on his deathbed, described seeing a little girl sitting at the foot of his bed and his description exactly fit my niece who was born many years after his death and who lived in his same house. Likewise, that same niece recognized the pictures of her great-great grandparents who had both died long before she was born. Children have such faith, they believe all things are possible; they have such great trust, depending on their parents without a care or worry in their tiny heads. They do not doubt, despair or worry about tomorrow. They are totally innocent. Some may find it hard to believe, but we are all children to God. Compared with Him, we are just as helpless, which I believe is one reason why God is so distressed when we do not first come to Him for help. When we are nothing and He is everything it must be rather insulting when we think He cannot help us with our little problems.

Tsar Ivan VI
Children also have an almost inherent understanding of monarchy. Try to explain the intricacies of electoral politics to a child and you will have an exercise in futility but a King, Queen, prince, princess are all things they understand easily. A monarch is like a father or mother to a country or, for the very young, like a grandparent. They can understand that, and child royals especially reach them because in them children can see someone like themselves. It provides a connection to the young that no republic ever could. Young royals have often been tasked with having a special concern for those their own age, one example that springs to mind is youth groups like the Boy or Girl Scouts. Young royals from Belgium to Vietnam have taken up such duties in the past. Queen Elizabeth II was in the Girl Guides when she was young (starting at age 11) and many others have had similar experiences with young royals being called upon to set an example for children across the nation in good times or difficult times. Even in the recent visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to New Zealand and Australia we have seen what an impact even a tiny infant like Prince George can have on both young and old alike.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World War I: The Fate of Monarchy

As most know, prior to the First World War, the world was a much more monarchist place. Some seemingly timeless monarchies had fallen before the war (such as in China and Portugal) and more would actually fall in the aftermath of World War II rather than World War I. However, there was a very definite shift away from monarchy after the First World War, particularly in Europe, as well as a shift away from liberal democracy, capitalism and traditional religion as all of these ideas, as well as monarchy, were seen as having “failed” to prevent the catastrophe that was the First World War and the bungled aftermath of it which, rather than preventing future disasters, simply paved the way for an even more destructive conflict to come over an even greater portion of the world. So, what were the fates of those monarchies involved in the First World War? Here is a brief summary:

The Allied Nations:

The U.K. & British Empire: Survived the war and came away with a lot of new territory. However, there was a big upswing in socialism and anti-monarchy sentiment toward the end, led in large part by the trade unions, that was the cause of great concern for King George V and which was partly behind the refusal of sanctuary to the Romanovs. It also placed Britain heavily in debt to the United States which did not bode well for the future and caused Britain to abandon her traditional aloofness from the continent of Europe to become more involved in European affairs.

The Russian Empire: Completely destroyed before the war was finished. The Romanovs were ultimately massacred by the Soviets, Russia suffered extensive territorial losses (which were only partly recovered with the ultimate Allied victory) and fell into civil war after it was over. To make matters worse, the good guys lost and the Soviet Union was established as a major power and helped to bring down monarchy in Mongolia in 1921, the first instance of many monarchies that would fall prey to communist aggression and become Soviet puppet-states.

The Kingdom of Italy: Although it came close to disaster, the Italians recovered and came back to deliver the death-blow to Austria-Hungary. The King was cheered as the champion of the Italian soldier and possibly the most powerful monarch in Europe after World War I (much of the competition had been eliminated). However, while some territory was added to the Italian frontier, promised gains were not delivered and communist revolution seemed imminent.

The Kingdom of Serbia: Despite being totally conquered and having their army driven into the sea, the Serbs emerged as one of the biggest winners of World War I with extensive territorial gains at the expense of Austria-Hungary. The “Greater Serbia” that Serb nationalists had long dreamed of was realized with the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918 later to be known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia under the rule of the Serbian Royal Family. However, this saddled Serbia with many of the same problems that had plagued Austria-Hungary and the region has continued to know precious little peace and friendliness.

The Kingdom of Montenegro: Despite not being on the best terms with the Serb Royal Family, the King of Montenegro was the first to rush to their defense against Austria-Hungary. His reward was to see his country conquered by the Austrians and, after the war, handed over to Serbia as part of the new Yugoslavia. King Nicholas I never accepted this and spent the rest of his life in exile in France. His grandson would later reconcile with Yugoslavia.

The Kingdom of Romania: Again, despite being conquered by the combined forces of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, the Romanians ended up doing quite well, being rewarded with vast amounts of mostly Hungarian territory. Romania became “Greater Romania” by the stroke of a pen. It ended up twice as large but with bitter neighbors and many spiteful minorities to deal with. Nearly 30% of the population was non-Romanian and the divisions this caused helped bring about a greater shift toward authoritarian politics.

The Empire of Japan: The Japanese bore the brunt of the fighting against the German presence in Asia, escorted British imperial convoys to Europe and helped put down a mutiny against the British in Singapore. Japan gained some German islands in the Pacific, benefited from the loss of Russian competition in Manchuria but was angered by American efforts to deny them any spoils at all as well as being offended by the Allied refusal to include a clause asserting racial equality in the Versailles Treaty. An economic downturn and Britain breaking off the Anglo-Japanese alliance worked with these events to encourage a more belligerent, anti-western attitude.

The Kingdom of Belgium: Few others emerged from the Great War with so much world-wide admiration as the Belgian King Albert I. His prestige was immense for leading his little country in a seemingly hopeless stand against German might, fighting on throughout the war on the last unoccupied (and soggy) patch of Belgian soil. Belgium gained some minor territory from Germany and Rwanda and Burundi in Africa and despite liberating a country in ruins, the country recovered fairly quickly. What could not be easily recovered was the question concerning whether true Belgian security was served by alliances or a return to traditional neutrality.

The Kingdom of Greece: The Greek King wanted to stay out of the war but he seemed to be the only one. The Allies invaded, rebels and royalists clashed in the streets and King Constantine was forced to abdicate. He later came back but this caused Allied support for the Greeks to collapse after the First World War was over and the Turkish territory promised to Greece was lost. The Turks even conquered some Greek territory in the aftermath, forcing the Greek populations to flee. It was an ugly end to a war that matched the unsavory way the country had first entered the conflict; divided and fighting amongst itself. Anti-royalist forces went on a rampage and a second republic was proclaimed in 1924.

The Kingdom of Siam: Although the Thai contribution to the war was minor, Siam (Thailand) did send a small expeditionary force to the western front and declared war on the Central Powers both to gain the appreciation of Britain and France and to strengthen Thai unity and a sense of nationalism. This was a long-term goal of the reign of King Vajiravudh and, at first, it seemed to work, rescuing the monarchy from a low point and restoring prestige. However, no concrete gains were made by the war and the ensuing financial disaster hit Thailand hard so that, in the end, the monarchy was no better off and the next king became the only Siamese monarch in history to ever abdicate the throne.

The Central Powers:

The Empire of Austria-Hungary: The war had started with Austria-Hungary and it was Austria-Hungary that was to suffer more than any other of the defeated Central Powers as it completely ceased to exist as a result. The Hapsburgs were driven into exile, Austria and Hungary were separated and reduced to small states surrounded by new and often less than friendly countries. Centuries of Hapsburg rule in central Europe had come to an end and the feuding ethnicities and nationalities that the Austrian Emperors had tried to keep under control were set free. Communist forces almost took over in both countries but were eventually stopped by the rise of a regency in Hungary (who nonetheless refused to restore the monarchy) and the so-called “Austro-Fascist” state in Vienna.

The German Empire: Despite the absurdity of it, Germany was held to blame for the entire conflict and suffered extensive territorial losses. The empire was destroyed, all the monarchies were overthrown in a wave of leftist, Marxist agitation that was only suppressed with great brutality by returning war veterans. All German colonies were lost and territory was lost to almost every neighbor but particularly France and Poland. The Kaiser went into exile in the Netherlands and was almost put on trial as a war criminal but the Dutch Queen refused to allow his extradition. The republic that agreed to the terms of Versailles was doomed to failure.

The Kingdom of Bulgaria: The only monarchy of the Central Powers to survive the war was Bulgaria but it was a very close run thing. Rebellion had spread throughout the country and the army with some leaders even proclaiming a republic. However, it was finally enough that Tsar Ferdinand III abdicated in favor of his child son Boris III. Bulgaria surrendered, lost all territorial gains and the access to the Aegean Sea it had gained before the war to Greece. Sadly, the Bulgarian monarchy would not be lucky a second time when the next world war came to an end.

The Ottoman Empire: Most people had counted out the Ottoman Empire at the start of the war and not a few were surprised by the several stunning victories won by Ottoman forces. The wartime Sultan Mehmed V died in the summer of 1918 and it was left to Sultan Mehmed VI to preside over the total dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The Arab lands were partitioned between Britain and France and the nationalists denounced the Sultan for agreeing to the Allied terms. A new government was set up and in 1922 the monarchy was abolished and the last Sultan was exiled from Constantinople.

Neutral Monarchies:

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: Although occupied by Germany, Luxembourg did not offer resistance nor ever officially join the Allies though eventually the German plan was to annex Luxembourg in the event of a Central Powers victory. Most monarchists know that Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide was eventually forced to abdicate for having been seen as being too friendly toward the Germans but not many know that there was a real danger of Luxembourg being annexed by either France or Belgium and that Luxembourg radicals almost brought down the monarchy. The socialists actually declared a republic and order under the existing government was only restored by the intervention of French troops. For not having been officially involved, the Luxembourg monarchy was very nearly lost because of World War I.

Potential Monarchies:

The United Baltic Duchy: This was part of the effort by Germany to create a buffer between the German heartland and Soviet Russia as well as, in the words of Hindenburg, to have a place to anchor the left flank of the German army in the next war against the communists. The idea was to combine Estonia and Latvia into a monarchy called the United Baltic Duchy that would be in personal union with the Kingdom of Prussia. In charge of the duchy was to have been Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin but, of course, the Allied victory meant the idea never came to fruition.

The Kingdom of Lithuania: For much of 1918 the German forces in Lithuania presided over a short-lived independent monarchy after Lithuania was detached from Russia. Duke Wilhelm of Urach was chosen in the summer to become King Mindaugas II of Lithuania but he never visited the country and after the collapse of Germany the Lithuanians took back the offer to make him their king.

The Kingdom of Finland: When the Russian Empire collapsed into revolution, the Germans gave aid to the White faction and royalist Finns resisting a Soviet takeover. The result was the short-lived Kingdom of Finland or at least the attempt at such. It was to be reigned over by Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse, however the downfall of Germany and the victory of the Allies caused the Finns to scrap the idea of monarchy and adopt a republican form of government.

The Kingdom of Poland: After driving out the Russians, Germany and Austria-Hungary recognized a nominal Kingdom of Poland under a regency of pro-German officials. Austria-Hungary had first wanted Poland partitioned and later there were disagreements between Germany and Austria-Hungary over who should be the new King of Poland with each side proposing more than one candidate. In the end, the Allies were victorious and the idea of a monarchy collapsed before a monarch could be decided on.

The Hetmanate of Ukraine: Also known simply as the Ukrainian State, this was the short-lived effort in 1918 to create an independent Ukraine that was friendly to the Central Powers. Officially it was more like a Cossack military dictatorship than an actual monarchy, but based on the subsequent history of the family, it was essentially to be a monarchial state with the office of Hetman being hereditary. The Austrians had wanted a Hapsburg as King of Ukraine but the Germans favored the Hetman, Pavlo Skoropadskyi, who had deep family ties in the Ukraine. In the end, the Hetman was overthrown by the socialists and Ukraine was absorbed by the Soviet Union. An independent Belarus was also declared under German occupation but it was, from the outset, republican.

The Principality of Albania: The status of Albania was ambiguous throughout World War I. The original independent leader of Albania, Prince Wilhelm, was driven out of the country shortly before the war started. He wished to regain his throne, Austria-Hungary wished to absorb Albania and many local Muslims wished to reunite with Ottoman Turkey. In the end, the Allies agreed to partition Albania with most becoming an Italian protectorate. Eventually, a Kingdom of Albania was established after the war by President Ahmed Zogu.

The Dervish State: This was a nominal Islamic monarchy which claimed sovereignty over parts of Italian and British Somalia and the Empire of Ethiopia led by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, the so-called “Mad Mullah”. Recognized by the German and Ottoman Empires it was part of an effort by the Germans and Turks to bring the Horn of Africa under Central Powers control, mostly in the name of Ottoman Turkey. It was defeated by Italo-British colonial forces and Somalis loyal to Italy.

German Intrigues:

Ireland: During World War I the German Empire sent weapons and support to the Irish by submarine in an effort to encourage rebellion against Great Britain. This resulted in the failed Easter Rising of 1916 which, although considered a sort of birthday of the Irish republic, also had a monarchist element to it. Because success was seen to depend on the victory and goodwill of the Germans, some backed the idea of making Ireland a monarchy with the Kaiser’s son Prince Joachim as King.

China: There was plenty of monarchist activity in China while World War I was raging. In 1916 the General-turned-President Yuan Shihkai declared himself “Emperor of China” only to face an immediate backlash and his hasty retreat a few months later. When the Republic of China voted to declare war on Germany, one of the reasons given was supposed German support for a restoration of the monarchy under the old Manchu dynasty. In 1917 the last Qing Emperor was restored by a monarchist general but this lasted less than 2 weeks before republican forces crushed the effort.

There were, of course, numerous other German intrigues, from efforts to encourage a rebellion in India to the proposal to have Mexico declare war on the United States and persuade Japan to betray the Allies and join the Central Powers. However, other schemes did not involve monarchies or efforts to restore monarchies but were republican in nature.

In the end, it is hard to see any real gain for the cause of monarchy by the First World War. Some monarchs came out of it with great prestige (like King Albert in Belgium) but the benefits were often illusory. Many monarchies were lost and even those that survived were left in a position of being overstretched, almost broke and beholden to foreign powers. Others emerged victorious but embittered that their meager gains did not match their extensive losses. For some, their victory caused them to have an exaggerated sense of strength and importance that did not serve them well in the long run. In short, for the cause of monarchy as well as the cause of the world in general, the Great War was disaster that left both victor and vanquished in a terrible position; it would just take the victors longer to realize it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MM Video: The Politically Incorrect Truth About the French Revolution

(sorry about the buzzing in the background, after so many complaints of previous videos being hard to hear I turned everything up all the way and that was the result, so -hard to hear or buzzing appear to be the options)

Part I: King Louis XVI

Part II: Queen Marie Antoinette

Part III: The Revolution Itself

Monday, April 21, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Obviously, the biggest royal news story this week was the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Australia where little Prince George continues to derail the republican traitor agenda with his offensive of adorable. A special salute also goes out to the Australian Monarchist League whose members were working hard in connection with the visit, organizing things, talking to people and handing out flags (a good way of also defending the Australian colors from those who wish to replace them). It all seems to be working. The Duke, Duchess and little Prince George have been very warmly received and the republicans are left looking like the pathetic, hateful bunch that they are for trying to deny this lovely family their place in Australian life. Support for the monarchy has been slightly above the halfway mark recently but it may be that this is simply the result of bitter lefties stuck in their hippy past because, among Australians aged 18 to 24, the monarchy enjoys a whopping 60% approval rating. The royal couple talked with average Australians, Prince William met with the Prime Minister and many sights have been seen. In Great Britain, the Queen prepared for the Easter holiday by handing out the traditional Maundy Thursday money. Zara Phillips was back in the saddle again and Prince Harry gave a pre-recorded speech for the opening of the London Marathon of which he is patron but was unable to attend.

In Scandinavia the Swedish royal court announced that Princess Leonore will be christened on June 8 as her parents, Princess Madeleine and Chris, celebrate their first anniversary. Crown Princess Victoria visited Tensta, King Carl XVI Gustaf handed out the Vega Medal and Gold Wahlberg Medal (presumably not named for Marky Mark), the Queen was awarded Der Friedenstein prize in recognition of her World Childhood Foundation and both hosted the Global Child Forum at the royal palace. The King also visited the City of Stockholm before joining the Queen for a visit to The Netherlands. Nearby in Europe’s oldest monarchy the Danish Royal Family gathered together to celebrate the 74th birthday of Queen Margrethe II (as all should because she’s super). It is great to see the Danish Royal Family, particularly with so many young children nowadays and they seem to get more attention than the Queen with their rambunctiousness on the balcony (little Prince Vincent tried to climb over the rail). Thousands of loyal Danes turned out to cheer for their beloved Queen. Further to the south in Belgium, King Philip granted noble titles to several industrial leaders, making steel wire manufacturer Paul Buysse a count, the president of BNP Paribas Fortis Herman Daems a baronet and Electrabel chief Jean-Pierre Hanssen a baronet. However, always looking for something to criticize, some have taken issue with the King making Belgian-New Zealand industrialist George Forrest a Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown, pointing to UN criticism of his business practices in the Congo. Frankly, the idea that the UN has the nerve to criticize anyone for anything in Africa is astounding given their atrocious record on that continent.

A double birthday was celebrated in Luxembourg with Prince Sebastien turning 22 (he is at university in the United States) and Grand Duke Henri turning 59. In Spain, the Royal Family turned out for Easter mass after King Juan Carlos spent time this week trying to encourage investment in the Kingdom of Spain by assuring officials from the United Arab Emirates that the recession was over. The King also traveled to Kuwait to sign a transportation infrastructure cooperation agreement. In Rome, Pope Francis caused a slight stir on Holy Thursday with the traditional washing of feet, having women and non-Catholics (even non-Christians) included in the line-up being rather not traditional. He did the same thing last year with much the same response; widespread popular approval with some voices from the sidelines pointing out that doing such a thing is against the rules the Pope is supposed to uphold. As usual this is being upheld as a symbol of service to the poor, not exactly the same as was originally intended, a carrying on of the tradition of Christ washing the feet of his apostles who were, of course, all men and all (obviously) Christians. At Easter mass Pope Francis prayed for peace in Syria and Ukraine. Preparations are also underway for an upcoming Papal visit to the Holy Land where the Pontiff will meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

In North Africa, King Mohammed VI of Morocco made a rare visit to the Western Sahara ahead of a UN Security Council vote on the status of the disputed territory. Morocco wishes the UN to make no changes concerning the Western Sahara. The region was formerly a Spanish colony, Spain renounced control of it in favor of a joint administration by Morocco and Mauritania and later Morocco annexed the region but sovereignty over it is disputed by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic which operates in exile from neighboring Algeria. In the Middle East, the head of Saudi intelligence Prince Bandar bin Sultan stepped down last week and will have a non-royal replacement. He was a prominent backer of the Syrian rebels which drew criticism over accusations of supporting radical fundamentalists in the process. Some have speculated that there was pressure from the United States for him to step down as the Obama administration has opposed providing weapons to the Syrian rebels and because of the close ties between Prince Bandar and former President Bush. Also in Saudi Arabia last week the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council met to reaffirm their shared goals and principles in spite of the actions of member states; an effort to smooth over tensions caused by anger at the support by Qatar for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

"He is not here, He is risen"
A happy Easter to all from The Mad Monarchist

Friday, April 18, 2014

Empire in the Americas

The mid to late 1860’s were certainly the high water mark of monarchy in the New World. During those crucial years, a time of extreme violence and hardship, the future was forged which determined whether the Americas would be dominated by monarchy or republicanism, at least in terms of numbers. Of course, the Americas had been dominated by monarchy since the time of the first European exploration but these extensions of European monarchies had faded away considerably by the middle of the Nineteenth Century. By 1783 the rebel colonies of Great Britain had broken away from the reign of King George III and formed the United States of America. The last French monarchial foothold was lost with the sale of the Louisiana Territory to President Thomas Jefferson of the United States by the Emperor Napoleon and following the Napoleonic Wars, piece by piece, the Spanish colonies had broken from their empire to form a patchwork of independent republics, most with the support of the United States and Great Britain. A short-lived effort to establish a monarchy in Mexico, formerly New Spain, in 1821 ended in failure and was so short-lived it often escapes notice. Following the slave revolt in Haiti several leaders claimed monarchial, even imperial, status for themselves but none lasted very long with the self-proclaimed Emperor Faustin I being deposed in 1859.

However, there was one, big exception to this trend and that was to be found in Brazil. 1822 saw the emergence of the Empire of Brazil, breaking away from the Kingdom of Portugal and the wider Portuguese colonial empire, to establish itself as an independent country. The first emperor, Dom Pedro I, eventually returned to Portugal to take up the throne there (both countries still shared the same Royal Family) and in the aftermath there was some confusion and some growing pains. However, under the reign Dom Pedro II, from 1831-1889, the Empire of Brazil became a stable and extremely significant South American power. It also managed, from the start, to stay on relatively good terms with the large and expanding United States in North America. The United States was the first to recognize Brazilian independence and was always quick to encourage independence movements in the Americas as a way of supplanting European influence in the hemisphere. On that score, however, the Empire of Brazil and the United States did not always see eye-to-eye and Brazil (along with other countries such as Argentina) resisted some of America’s more ambitious plans for pan-American cooperation in opposing Europe because these countries had closer and friendlier ties with European countries. Certainly, they had broken ties with their former motherlands and there was often no love lost between them, but after the publication of the Monroe Doctrine, not a few viewed the United States next door as a greater potential threat to their independence than the European countries across the Atlantic.

One high-born European visitor to the Empire of Brazil was the idealistic Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, younger brother of Emperor Francis Joseph. A lover of nature and romanticism, the Archduke was positively intoxicated by the Empire of Brazil which seemed like a tropical paradise, full of nothing but promise and he was no doubt greatly impressed by the rule of Dom Pedro II, a very liberal minded monarch, whose values so closely resembled his own. Eventually, he would be in a similar position, though he could never have imagined it at the time. Where others had worked hard for years to spread republicanism throughout Latin America, on both sides of the Atlantic truth be known, there was one man who tried to revive the idea of monarchy in the New World and that man was Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, since 1852 Emperor Napoleon III of the French. He envisioned building a canal across Central America, perhaps across Mexico, perhaps further south, that would open up new avenues of trade and he also envisioned a new generation of monarchies from Mexico down to the Andes that would be part of a new French-friendly bloc of nations. He allied with Mexican conservatives, sent in his army and in no time at all had occupied Mexico City. In 1864 the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was crowned Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. The French Emperor also began exploring the possibility of a pro-French monarchy for Ecuador but that dream was to remain unfulfilled.

Emperor Maximilian, despite the continuing troubles which beset his Mexican Empire from day one, was not without a grand vision of his own. His dream was for a Mexican Empire that would become a major scientific, artistic and military power with a navy that would dominate the Gulf of Mexico and which would expand into Central America, reclaiming those republics which had briefly been part of the original Mexican Empire. He also continued to have the greatest admiration for the Empire of Brazil and envisioned Mexico and Brazil becoming close partners in Latin America, being the twin pillars of a new age of “enlightened” monarchy in the Americas. He even entertained some hope of the two empires being joined by marriage. Maximilian put the idea to his brother, Emperor Francis Joseph, for the marriage of their younger brother, Archduke Ludwig, to one of the daughters of Emperor Pedro II of Brazil. This would unite Mexico and Brazil alongside Austria in the bonds of Hapsburg matrimony and create a sort of Hapsburg Byzantine Empire, sitting astride of the primary artery of trade which the Emperor of the French planned to build across Central America. Aside from these grand, dynastic aspirations, he was also quite convinced that Dom Pedro II was just the sort of good example and guiding influence Archduke Ludwig needed to set him on the right path in life. However, as we know, this was not to be. Still, a partnership with Imperial Brazil was never far from the thoughts of the Emperor of Mexico and he foresaw a New World that would be dominated by three great powers: the United States of America in the north, the Empire of Brazil in the south and the Mexican Empire in the middle.

The primary obstacle to that grand vision was, of course, the United States which refused to recognize the Mexican Empire and worked diligently to thwart any European powers from supporting it and to aid the republican rebels fighting against Maximilian. It was made perfectly clear from day one that the United States would not tolerate any monarchy on American soil and that it was only because the Confederate States of America blocked U.S. access to the Mexican border that military action was not taken immediately against Maximilian and the French army. The War Between the States/American Civil War was raging north of the Rio Grande and ultimately the fate of the Mexican Empire rested on the death or survival of the Confederacy. There was also no hope of any sort of close cooperation with Imperial Brazil as Dom Pedro II was also at war with Paraguay and relations between the United States and the Empire of Brazil were not too friendly at that time either. A major incident occurred that threatened a major break when a U.S. warship violated Brazilian neutrality by attacking a Confederate vessel, the commerce raider CSS Florida, in Bahia Harbor and seizing it. Brazil angrily protested but, being engaged in a bitter war already could do little about it. The United States also wished to focus on “one war at a time” (as Lincoln famously said about a similar problem with Britain) and so court martialed the officer responsible but never carried out his punishment and ended up promoting him to captain. They did agree to hand the captured Confederate vessel over to Brazil but it sunk, supposedly by accident, during transfer and that was basically the end of it.

The year 1867 was to be the last year in which two empires would stand on American soil. The Civil War having ended in a Union victory in 1865, the United States put pressure on Napoleon III to withdraw French troops from the country and to prevent Austria from sending any reinforcements. Then, support in men, money, guns and war material of every kind poured in to the republican rebels of Benito Juarez who succeeded in demolishing the Mexican Empire and (against the wishes of the United States) having Emperor Maximilian and all his top generals shot. All the grand dreams of both Maximilian and Napoleon III had come to a sudden end. Only the Empire of Brazil persevered. Under Dom Pedro II it became the most advanced and prosperous country in Latin America. Yet, it was also in 1867 that Dom Pedro II made the speech that would prove to be the beginning of the end of his empire.

In the Speech from the Throne that year, Dom Pedro II announced his wish to gradually and peacefully, but certainly irrevocably, abolish slavery in Brazil. It was a slower process than was seen in the United States certainly but it also did not rip the country in two and cost over 600,000 lives. When slavery was finally abolished in 1888, however, it did cost Brazil its monarchy. Disgruntled elites and junior army officers embraced republicanism and launched a coup that abolished the monarchy and declared Brazil a republic on November 15, 1889. Dom Pedro II certainly fared better than the tragic Maximilian but both were alike in that they were, in many ways, too good for their own good. With the loss of the Empire of Brazil, republicanism has remained the dominant form of government in the New World to the present day. With an angry proclamation in Brazil and a hail of gunfire in Mexico, the dream of a liberal monarchist Latin America had vanished and all countries involved would be the worse off because of it. What should also be emphasized is that, despite what short-sighted leaders thought at the time, the demise of the Mexican and Brazilian Empires was ultimately bad for the United States as well. When one considers the problems of human trafficking, drug smuggling, illegal immigration, bloody revolutions and Marxist dictatorships which the United States has been obliged to deal with over so many decades; all of these could have been avoided if the dream of Maximilian for monarchy in the Americas had become a reality. A prosperous and stable neighbor is always to be preferred to a poor and chaotic one but if this lesson was ever learned, it was learned too late.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

MM Video: The Politically Incorrect Truth About Japan in World War II, Part III, War with America

(turn your speakers all the way up for this one, I'm told it's the hardest to hear -MM)

Mythical Monarchial Figures: Prince Bellerophon

Once again, we look back through the mists of time to the mythic origins of western civilization, of distant Greece long before even Hercules was a twinkle in his divine, philandering dad’s eye. One of the greatest heroes of Greek mythology, and a famous monster-killer, like most of them Bellerophon was a member of royalty. His father was King Claucus of Corinth so Prince Bellerophon was a big shot, strutting around Corinth like a boss. But he wasn’t the only son and, of course, there was drama. The ancient myth makers couldn’t seem to get their story straight exactly but many if not most say that one day the fraternal feuding flamed fabulously followed fast by the flight of the famous figure from the frightening form of his former fratello and the filial fury of their father. In other words, Bellerophon killed his brother and split the scene. Rather than join the circus or the foreign legion, he ran away to be the servant of King Proetus of Argos and Tiryns. It worked out alright since Proetus, being a king, absolved Bellerophon of murder and took him on as an employee with great benefits, vacation time and a generous dental plan. Everything seemed to have worked out for Prince Bellerophon.

However, he soon got into trouble again as the sight of this strapping young warrior-prince threw the King’s wife into a frenzy of lust. She went into full cougar mode and put the moves on Bellerophon but, knowing that doing the nasty with the Queen would be a bad career move, he resisted her romantic rampage. This resulted in rage! She ran to the Rex to report a rape (sorry, that’s habit forming). Her womanly ego having been bruised, the Queen told her husband that Bellerophon had tried to get her on to the nearest pin-ball machine and the King was properly infuriated. However, since he had pardoned the plucky prince (sorry), he didn’t want to execute him personally. Instead, he sent Bellerophon to his father-in-law with a sealed message basically telling daddy that ‘the bearer of this tablet tried to get freaky with your daughter -please kill him’. However, when Bellerophon had arrived, the royal father-in-law, King Iobates, really put on the dog and didn’t want to get dead prince all over his new carpets so he didn’t really want to kill him either. Instead, he came up with a brilliant plan; he would dispatch Bellerophon to kill the Chimera, a lion-goat-snake that breathed fire and which was becoming quite a nuisance. Sure, it seems fantastic, but in those days you really couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting some fearsome mutant hell-beast, the whole Mediterranean area was practically infested with them.

So, Prince Bellerophon was dispatched to save the hapless inhabitants of Caria from the Chimera and, the King hoped, get himself killed in the process. First, of course, Bellerophon went to see a fortune-teller because you didn’t do anything without consulting a fortune-teller in those days. Perhaps the seer intended to dissuade Bellerophon from his wild adventure because he told him that, you know, to kill such a beast as the Chimera, you would need, like, a flying horse. So, oh well, best to just go home and sleep it off. Fire breathing lion-goat-snake my aching… Aha! But there was such a creature; the flying stallion Pegasus which, as we discussed last time, had sprang from the gorgon Medusa whose head was cut off by Prince Perseus. And really, who wouldn’t know that to kill a fire-breathing lion-goat-snake you need a flying horse? It’s just common sense. So, Bellerophon took a nap in the temple of Athena and the goddess appeared to him in a dream, giving him a golden bridle to control the horse. He took it, snuck over to Pegasus’ favorite watering hole and grabbed the flying beast when he came to get a drink. All ready to go, he flew off to find the Chimera -which doesn’t seem as though it would be that difficult but, like I said, mutant hell-beasts were a dime a dozen in those days.

Prince Bellerophon found the Chimera but had a hard time even getting close to it because of the whole fire-breathing thing. Finally, he managed to ram a hunk of lead down the Chimera’s throat. Rather than try to cough it up like most cats would, the Chimera tried to breath fire which then melted the lead and choked the monster to death. So, mission accomplished! Bursting with the pride of the conquering hero, he returned to King Iobates and informed him that he had ridden a flying horse to find the fire-breathing lion-goat-snake which he then chocked to death by stuffing lead down his throat. Shockingly enough, the King didn’t believe him. So, he decided to send him on some more suicidal missions but that darn Prince Bellerophon just kept on winning. He fought off a nest of pirates, a barbarian tribe, defeated the Amazons by dropping rocks on them from his flying horse in the first aerial bombing raid in history. Desperate, the King sent his Royal Guard to just kill him already but, again, Bellerophon survived by calling on the sea god Poseidon (Neptune) who flooded the land around him and was only dissuaded when the ladies at court came rushing out, exposing their naughty bits and “bravely” offering to “sacrifice” their virtue to the noble hero if he would relent. He blushed and called off the rising water but it was clear that King Iobates had been thwarted. He finally came clean with Bellerophon, apologized and even gave the Prince his daughter and half his kingdom in thanks for all his daring deeds.

So, Prince Bellerophon was on top of the world. He had a hot wife, half a kingdom all his own and soon a house full of sons. However, even in Greco-Roman mythology, pride goes before a fall and Bellerophon got seriously too proud and had a major, major fall. With all of his glories and victories, the once modest and humble prince became a major egomaniac. Emperor Nero on his most bizarre day couldn’t compete with Bellerophon. He decided that he was worthy to be a god and should not have to stay in the company of mere humans like his wife and children so he saddled up his trusty flying steed and set off to fly to the top of Mount Olympus where the gods hung out. This did not go over well with the King of the gods Zeus (Jupiter) who decided to teach the upstart a lesson. He sent a tiny little fly to bite Pegasus on the rump which caused him to buck (somehow -not sure how that works when you’re flying) and throw Bellerophon back to earth. Ouch. Plus, he landed on a thorny bush. Major ouch. That was the figurative and literal “fall from grace” for Bellerophon who, because of his pride, then had to live out the rest of his life as a poor, blind cripple, isolated from the rest of humanity.
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