Saturday, May 31, 2014

Today in Canadian History

On this day in 1866 Irish republicans of the Fenian Brotherhood crossed over from New York to invade Canada. Most of these men were veterans of the Union Army, fresh from victory in the American Civil War in which Irish immigrants fought for the northern side in large numbers. Some American authorities were content to look the other way because of the lingering antagonism between Britain and America over the War Between the States in which many in the north viewed the British Empire as favoring the Confederates. The amount of sympathy for the south in Britain was probably exaggerated in the minds of many northerners but it did make them less than vigilant in trying to stop what was, effectively, a private, criminal enterprise from attacking a neighboring country. There were actually a series of attacks over a wide area and a number of years, known as the "Fenian Raids". The goal of the Fenians (and these were the first to use the name 'Irish Republican Army'*) was to effectively hold Canada hostage, or at least some part of it, in order to force Great Britain to grant independence to Ireland. Obviously, it was quite a far-fetched plan and none of the raids came anywhere close to success. Despite the presence of many hardened veterans and some that were very well equipped (many even wearing full US Army uniform) the republicans proved no match for the British regulars and Canadian militia. In fact, this was something of a preview of things to come as many of the Canadian militia opposing the Fenians were Protestant "Orangemen" from Northern Ireland who had a special disdain for the Catholic nationalists. American authorities also did finally take action to stop the attacks on the south side of the border and the Fenian raids came to nothing.

*Additional note: It should be remembered that, unlike the republican terrorists who later adopted the name of the IRA, these were men who clearly identified themselves, wore uniforms and fought in open battle against armed soldiers and were not cowards who hid their faces and planted bombs to kill helpless civilians. Even in terms of republicans, some are much better than others.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sailor of Monarchy: Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere

In the annals of submarine warfare there are certain names that have become legendary around the world, regardless of national origin. Names such as Sir Max Horton and George Hunt of Great Britain, “Mush” Morton, Sam Dealy and Richard O’Kane of the United States, Gianfranco Gazzana-Priaroggia of Italy and men like Otto Kretschmer, Wolfgang Luth and Erich Topp of Germany. However, even amongst the best of the best the one name spoken by all submariners with awe and respect is that of Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere. He is not known so much for any tactical innovation or brilliant maneuver but for his character and his record which has never been broken and in all probability never will be. Captain Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere of the Imperial German Navy is, quite simply, the most successful submarine commander in history. Probably no other man in the entirety of naval warfare sent so many enemy ships to the bottom of the sea than he did and he did it all while upholding the most strict standards of humane and chivalrous conduct to the credit of his own honor and the reputation of the German Kaiser’s navy. He may have seemed an unassuming man but in every way to measure a military hero, he more than fits the bill. In his conduct at sea and the results he delivered, he was simply the best there was and probably the best there ever will be.

Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere was born on March 18, 1886 in Posen, in what is now Poland but which was then part of the Kingdom of Prussia. Unlike your usual Prussian aristocrat, as his name implies, his family was of French origin. His great-great-grandfather had fought a duel with a Bourbon prince and fled his homeland to join the Prussian army of King Frederick the Great. Lothar was the second child of Eugen Emil Alexander Valentin von Arnauld de la Periere and Bertha Muller. His father was a civil servant but the family was of aristocratic lineage which ensured Lothar would have a place at the cadet school of Wahlstatt. Finishing there he then attended Gross-Lichterfelde and joined the Kaiserliche Marine (German Imperial Navy) in 1903. He first went to sea on the battleship SMS Kurfurst Friedrich Wilhelm which was later sold to the Ottoman Empire and was sunk in World War I by the famous British submariner Sir Martin Dunbar-Naismith of HMS E-11. Later he served on the battleships Schlesien and Schleswig-Holstein before becoming torpedo officer on the light cruiser SMS Emden until 1913 (which went on to fame as a raider in the Indian Ocean). This was good experience for his future in submarines.

When the Great War broke out in 1914, von Arnauld de la Periere did not see action initially. His duties were confined to staff positions which, while important, were certainly not very thrilling. That all changed in 1915 when he volunteered for a transfer to the submarine force. After training in Pola he was given command of the Type-31 submarine U-35 (the Type-31 was the most successful sub class of the war). In the fourteen cruises Kapitanleutnant Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere undertook at the helm of U-35 he cut a path through Allied shipping lanes the likes of which had never been seen before and would never be seen again. His most successful area of operations was the Mediterranean. Awards and promotions followed; the Iron Cross second class, first class, the Hohenzollern House Order and elevation to Korvettenkapitan. In just one month he sent 54 ships to the bottom of the sea, accounting for 91,000 tons and while expending just four torpedoes. That was one of the unusual things about this submarine ace, he very rarely, in fact almost never, attacked while actually submerged. Some may also have found it odd that the crew enjoyed something of a ‘family’ atmosphere and even had a pet monkey onboard, the official mascot of the U-boat named Fipps.

One of the things that set Captain Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere apart from the rest was his insistence on following the established rules for war at sea, even when his government told him it was not necessary to do so. He fought his war in a very honorable and gentlemanly fashion. Almost without exception he would target a ship, surface, inspect the cargo and then evacuate the crew safely to their lifeboats and then sink the target with his deck gun, always anxious to save precious torpedoes whenever possible. In fact, his gallantry even went far above and beyond the call of duty as, if he sunk a ship too far out at sea, he would tow the lifeboats with his submarine close enough for them to row safely ashore. At other times he even risked giving away the position of his own boat by radioing the enemy to let them know where there were survivors who needed to be picked up. To the modest Prussian sailor, however, he found his exploits quite dull and uneventful.

Some may have considered his humanitarian consideration for the enemy too dangerous for his own boat and crew but no one could argue with his results. Decorated by the Ottoman and Austrian Empires he was finally awarded the highest German honor the Pour le Merite (“Blue Max”) for his astounding record. He sank well over a hundred ships at the helm of U-35 and went on to further his record after being transferred to command the U-139 in May of 1918 at which post he finished out the war. By the time all was said and done Captain Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere had sunk over 200 enemy ships, including two warships, for an astounding total of 453,716 tons of enemy shipping destroyed, nearly half a million tons! And, whereas a number of other U-boat captains had (usually unfair) accusations made against them for being pirates or committing war crimes, no one could have ever leveled such charges against von Arnauld who always acted with the highest standards of personal conduct. The only unarmed vessel he ever sank without warning was a troopship in which, unfortunately, the “cargo” that had to be destroyed was the people on board. Other than that, he always did his best and often went to extreme lengths to save lives and bring no one to unnecessary harm. He was an officer and a gentleman in every sense.

With his matchless war record he was one of the relative few retained for service in the vastly downsized post-war navy of the Weimar Republic. He served as the navigation officer on a couple of old dreadnaughts and later commanded the light cruiser Emden (not the one he had served on before obviously as it was sunk in 1914). From 1932 to 1938 he took a teaching position with the Turkish navy but after the Nazi Party came to power in Germany and began shedding the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty naval officers were needed once again and he returned home. When World War II broke out his rank was reactivated and von Arnauld was given command of the port of Danzig and a promotion to Konteradmiral in the new Kriegsmarine. Later he was made naval commander of the Netherlands and Belgium and eventually, following the conquest of France, of the entire French coast. He held the rank of Vice Admiral, South, when he was killed in a plane crash while attempting to take off from Le Bourget Airport near Paris on February 24, 1941. He was buried with all appropriate honors at the Invalids’ Cemetery in Berlin.

During World War II, of course, Germany would produce many more great submarine commanders, the famous names associated with the ‘Wolf Packs’ of the North Atlantic; Erich Topp, Gunther Prien, Joachim Schepke and of course the top scoring “Silent Otto” Kretschmer. However, even in their much more advanced U-Boats, none of them ever managed to beat the record of the Prussian captain in the white sweater with the Gallic name from the Great War. With all of the advances in weapons and technology, the top spot will probably always be held by that sailor of the Kaiser’s navy who sent most of his victims to the bottom with a few well-placed rounds from his deck gun after safely evacuating the crew, perhaps with a small monkey sitting on his shoulder just to complete the curious picture. However, one cannot argue with statistics and numbers do not lie. When it comes to submarine warfare, Captain Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere of the Kaiser’s navy remains the undisputed champion, the greatest that has ever been.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Monarch Profile: King Tomislav II of Croatia

Ever since the end of World War II, during which it was created, lived and died, everything about the Independent State of Croatia is subject to controversy and that has extended to the nominal King of the newly freed Croatia; the Italian Duke of Spoleto who was, on paper at least, His Majesty Tomislav II. He has been accused of being a puppet for puppets, a fascist (what a surprise) and probably more than anything else that he was an uninterested playboy who was a never a real king. However, because he is not often remembered, and when he is it is mostly as the nominal King of Croatia during World War II, it is easy to allow opinion to overtake the facts and much of what is assumed about the last King of the Croats may not be anywhere near the truth at all. He was born Prince Aimone Roberto Margherita Maria Giuseppe Torino of the Italian royal house of Savoy on March 9, 1900 in Turin. He was the second son of Prince Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta and Princess Helene. His paternal grandparents were the controversial King Amadeus I of Spain and Princess Maria Vittoria and his maternal grandparents were Prince Philippe of Orleans and the Infanta Maria Isabel of Spain. King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy was his great grandfather and, as such, on September 22, 1904 he was given the title of Duke of Spoleto to be held for the rest of his life.

An avid outdoorsman, the Duke of Spoleto made the news when he tried to climb K2 in Karakorum in the Himalayas, the second highest mountain on earth in 1929. His uncle, the Duke of the Abruzzi had tried twenty years before and Prince Aimone decided to focus his efforts purely on scientific research rather than a race for the top. He also became known, in his adulthood, as something of a ladies man. The tall, handsome prince was considered quite a prize by most women and there were numerous rumors about him, especially concerning a relationship with the daughter of King Alfonso XIII of Spain the Infanta Beatriz. However, he did finally settle down when he married Princess Irene of Greece on July 1, 1939 in Florence. This brought about some new family connections for the House of Savoy as Princess Irene was the daughter of the Greek King Constantine I and Princess Sophie of the German Imperial Family of Prussia. The couple eventually had one son, Prince Amedeo, who was born on September 27, 1942. Little did he know on his wedding day in 1939 that in a few years he would be declared the reigning monarch of a new country.

In April of 1941 the Axis forces of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy invaded and conquered the Serbian dominated Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Of the many minority nationalities who had been handed over to Serbia after the Allied victory in World War I none were so eager for liberation as the Croatians and they quickly set up the Independent State of Croatia under the leadership of the Ustashe party of Head Man Ante Pavelic. A new government was quickly established under Italian supervision as southern Europe was considered by the Axis to be within the sphere of the Kingdom of Italy and the new Roman Empire Benito Mussolini dreamed of creating around the Mediterranean. The following month Ante Pavelic went to the Quirinal Palace in Rome to meet with His Majesty Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy, Albania and Emperor of Ethiopia, to request that he appoint a member of the House of Savoy to be the king over the new Croatian State recently established. On May 18, 1941 the ceremony was held in which the Italian monarch named his cousin Prince Aimone as the new King over Croatia, which also included what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This is where the story becomes really interesting since many enemies of Croatia, especially enemies of the Ustashe but really enemies of a free Croatia period, like to state that Aimone was never really a true Croatian monarch. However, that argument is obviously false and these people contradict their claim by their own arguments as we shall see. The ancient Crown of Zvonimir was solemnly given to Prince Aimone who took as his reigning name King Tomislav II in honor of the heroic Tomislav who was the first King of an independent Croatia in ancient times. This in itself shows that Aimone or Tomislav II was serious about his new position. Enemies like to repeat the story that when Aimone first heard of the appointment he thought his cousin the King was playing a joke on him, implying that he never considered the job anything more than that himself, but such an implication is obviously false. By taking the name of an honored hero from Croatian history Tomislav II was obviously making an effort to adopt the culture of his land and illustrate that a new period of greatness was upon them again and that free Croatia had been reborn.

The enemies of Tomislav II and Croatia also like to point out that the reigning monarch never actually set foot in Croatia, trying to make the case that his reign was never more than a matter of titles which he nor anyone else gave the slightest thought to. This is an argument that is a lot like rat poison; mostly good food but just enough strychnine to kill you. It is true that Tomislav II never resided in Croatia yet it was specifically because he took his job so seriously and was committed to being a truly Croatian monarch for his people and not simply an Axis puppet for Italy. Everything was set up for him to be given a formal Catholic coronation in Duvansko Polje in Bosnia but he refused to do so out of protest to the seizure of certain coastal areas of Dalmatia by Italy. He refused on the grounds of the sovereignty and national integrity of the country over which he was king! Tomislav II stated that this land was never going to be able to be fully integrated into Italy and by the Italian seizure of the territory it only served as an obstacle to better Italian and Croatian friendship. His refusal to enter the country was well thought out and based on a principled stand of putting his new country first, even before Italy.

This was based on agreement by which Mussolini would support Pavelic in restoring Croatian independence, in exchange for which the Italians would receive territorial concessions on the coast, basically consisting of Dalmatia. As compensation, the new Croatia was to include all of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it did. And, actually, Italian and Croatian nationalist collaboration actually had a history behind, united as they were by a shared opposition to Yugoslavia and the extensive territorial concessions to Serbia after World War I. When Gabriele D’Annunzio and his Italian nationalists had seized Fiume, on the Dalmatian coast, they gave their moral support to the Croatian nationalists of the region, encouraging them to rise up against the Serbs to reclaim their independence. It is also true that, in the past, even under the Empire of Austria-Hungary (Croatia being a part of the Kingdom of Hungary) that Dalmatia and Croatia were always identified separately. So, there was certainly grounds for a legitimate difference of opinion over who Dalmatia should belong to. However, King Tomislav II, an Italian by birth and by blood a member of the proud Italian House of Savoy, took his new title seriously and refused to automatically take the Italian point of view and instead insisted that Dalmatia was Croatian and would not just be instantly turned over to Italy.

Enemies of the Croatian King also like to say that Tomislav II was simply a powerless figurehead who had nothing to do with Croatian life, cared nothing about it and was only a symbol of the Ustashe regime of Ante Pavelic which held the real power in the country (and which has the worst reputation). An easy response to that allegation is simple: Well So What?! Was King George VI of the UK and the British Empire no less a real monarch because he reigned while a government ruled in his name? What other monarch in any European country at the time actually ruled his country personally in an absolutist manner during World War II? He reigned but did not rule and this was the accepted practice of all monarchs of his time and still is today. He was, like any monarch then or now, a symbol of Croatian unity and tradition and was never meant to be a political administrator. However, that does not mean he did nothing or took no interest in his country. In the areas for which the monarchy was responsible he was quite active. For instance, while King he granted 60 titles of nobility such as duke, marquis, count, viscount and baron for Croatia; something he certainly would not have done if he considered his position purely honorary and nothing more than an additional title. He had enough of those anyway as one year after becoming King his full title was extended to: His Majesty Tomislav II (or Zvonimir II) King of Croatia, Prince of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Voivode of Dalmatia, Tuzla and Temun, Duke of Aosta, Prince of Cisterna and of Belriguardo, Marquess of Voghera and Count of Ponderano.

The final change came on March 3, 1942 when he inherited the title of Duke of Aosta from his elder brother Prince Amedeo, Third Duke of Aosta who died in Tanzania as a British prisoner of war after having been taken in the fighting in Italian East Africa. His time as King of Croatia came to an end the following year though when the fortunes of war forced the Italians to seek an armistice and King Tomislav II abdicated the throne on July 31, 1943. One of the absurd things about the enemies of the King and Croatia is that they will claim he was never really king and yet know by heart and openly talk about the date of his abdication. They never care to explain how someone who was never really a king can abdicate his throne. In any event, Prince Aimone, now Fourth Duke of Aosta, went on doing his duty as best he could for his native land. Before World War II ended he took command of the important Italian naval base at Taranto however he was soon labeled as “too fascist” by the new powers that be when he expressed his disapproval of the judges who had handed a guilty verdict to General Mario Roatta. The Duke of Aosta, by then a Squadron Admiral in the Royal Italian Navy, was dismissed and at the end of the war pressure forced him to move to South America. He died in Buenos Aires in 1948. As far as Axis military figures go he was mostly forgotten but he is still widely remembered today as the last King of the Croatian people and their first (and so far only) independent monarch of modern times.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What About Scandinavia?

I probably talk about predominately monarchial Scandinavia less than I think I do (wow, three I’s in the first sentence, how solipsistic of the awesome me). It is not because of any lack of respect for the Scandinavian countries, all but one of which are monarchies (unless you count Iceland) which, I assure you, is not the case. For someone who was enthralled with Viking stories as a boy and who had a very colorful aunt who was fond of telling people, “I’m not a damn Jankee, I’m a Norwegian!” I have always had a soft spot for Norway. The Kingdom of Denmark also holds a special place in my heart, as I think it should with all monarchists, as the oldest monarchy in Europe and for being so comparatively revolution-free. I’m also very fond of Queen Margrethe II, though maybe not for the best reasons. I have long admired Sweden, mostly for the great military leaders it produced in centuries past and even republican Finland earned my respect ever since first learning about the valiant defense they offered against the Red Army in the Winter War. One reason you don’t hear much about Scandinavia is because they tend to all be rather orderly countries. What problems they have tend not to be broadcast around the world, they tend to be neutral and they just don’t rock the boat so to speak.

However, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the monarchies of Scandinavia because there do seem to be some misconceptions about them. Especially in the United States, the Scandinavian countries can be quite divisive. People on the left portray them as being absolutely heaven on earth (ignoring the whole monarchy part) where rich people do not exist, everyone is taken care of, Christianity is dead and everyone embraces multiculturalism thanks to a government program encouraging people to show how un-racist they are by having sex with African immigrants (*and no, that is not a joke, they actually did that). On the other hand, people on the right in America tend to view Scandinavia as resting somewhere around the seventh circle of Hell as a region where people are taxed into state dependency, having all their creativity and ambition purged by an oppressive government and where conformity has created a population of wimps who only take pride in how quickly they are dying out and how efficiently they use the corpses of their loved ones as an environmentally friendly energy source (*and no, that is not a joke, that actually happened). So, who is right? Are the Scandinavian countries a utopia that proves socialism works or simply crowned Marxist republics that must be lying about how happy everyone there is?

The truth is really neither one. The Scandinavian countries are not as wonderful as some people think but nor are they as bad as others seem to think. It is true that they are big believers in wealth redistribution so that there is very little income inequality in the Scandinavian countries. Some think that is good, others think that is bad. Society is not so divided by class in these places but that does go with limits to individual rights because it places limitations on success. It is true that crime is very low in these countries, at least compared to some other parts of the world but it is also true that many crimes go unreported because they are concentrated amongst the immigrant community and the authorities prefer to ignore it for fear of being accused of racism if they arrest someone who is not light complexioned. It is true that the monarchies in these countries are totally or effectively ceremonial, however, it is also true that they are widely popular still and are considered by most to be an integral part of the culture and framework of the country. Their populations are, on the whole, quite conformist in that they do tend to hold the same values and opinions on most things but this is not too different from most of the rest of Europe these days and differing points of view do exist. So, let us take them one at a time:

The Kingdom of Sweden is probably the most often singled out as being a socialist success-story (as if such a thing could exist) and being the most nominal monarchy in the world (I would say at least Andorra has them beat on that front). First of all, it is true that Sweden has a tax rate that is nothing short of punitive and they are very free with the government handouts. However, they are certainly not Cuba or North Korea. Socialism does not work, as has been proven all around the world, but Sweden is not so socialist as some might think. First of all, in the old days before the 1960’s the Kingdom of Sweden was one of the most economically free countries on earth. It had very low taxes, very few but quite common-sense government regulations and it had a booming economy and was a major industrial powerhouse. However, as I have often said, one of the biggest problems with capitalism is that it makes countries rich enough to think they can afford socialism and that is basically what happened in Sweden. They got so rich that people started crying about fairness and income inequality and so they went drastically in the socialist direction and, as a result, economic growth ground to a halt, production plummeted and successful people fled the country. However, because of that, Sweden was almost forced to start moderating and moving back in the opposite direction, at least somewhat so that today, although Sweden has the reputation of being very socialistic and the United States has the reputation of being very capitalistic, the amount of regulation and wealth redistribution in Sweden is not that different from the United States.

Now, like the United States, the level of promises made to the people by the government in terms of entitlements is simply not sustainable because these types of socialistic programs depend on an ever increasing number of young workers to pay the tax burden for the sick, the old and the unemployed and the numbers just don’t exist even with Sweden opening its borders to a huge influx of foreigners. These policies cannot carry on indefinitely, the numbers just don’t add up and that will be a big problem in the future. Sweden has never had a huge population, it is simply a country that cannot support one and the native population is practically stagnant while the immigrant population is growing. It’s still not enough to save the future of the welfare state but it does not take a math genius to see that it will ultimately mean that the Swedish population is simply going to be replaced by an ethnically non-Swedish one in the not-too-distant future. It is also true that it is one of the most irreligious countries in the world. However, it is still an officially Christian country, with the Lutheran church as the official state church of Sweden and, of course, it is still a monarchy. The monarch is officially ceremonial with no role in government at all but he does chair the Council of State, opens parliament, appoints the prime minister and all the usual duties so he is at least still able to inform, be informed and give his advice on government matters. He is not totally inconsequential and the majority of the people support the monarchy.

The Kingdom of Norway, the youngest of the Scandinavian countries in terms of its current monarchy, is also a very heavily taxed and heavily regulated country with little income inequality and a generous welfare state. Though, again, it is really not that different from the supposedly hyper-capitalist United States. All of the Scandinavian countries, in fact, have a lower corporate tax rate than the United States so, in a way, they are friendlier to those “evil” big businessmen and corporations than the United States of “Greed is Good” America. What keeps the Norwegian economy in such seemingly good shape in spite of these socialistic policies is the fact that they have a great deal of mineral wealth and I mean, of course, oil. The Norwegian government makes a ton of money from oil and that money is used to fund social welfare programs and so people are going to tell the survey-takers that they are very happy when they get a big oil check from the government on a regular basis. It also helps that they have a very small population in Norway. Like many Middle Eastern countries, when one has huge oil income (in government hands) and a small population (there are far more people -as in several million more- in New York City alone than in the entire Kingdom of Norway), it is easy to have a high standard of living even when the government is wasting money extravagantly.

On the social front, Norway has a higher birth rate than many European countries, but it still is not good, it just is not quite as bad as others. Statistically, Norwegians are still going extinct but they will probably be around to see other European peoples go extinct first. Like Sweden, they are a predominately irreligious country but, again, also still an officially Christian one with the King of Norway titled as the “High Protector of the Church of Norway” which is, of course, Lutheran. However, before one thinks of blaming social ills in Norway on the King because of this, remember that it is not dissimilar from the situation with the Church of England. The King is not a cleric and many of the Lutheran bishops, like so many others in so many other churches, have at times seemed more interested in being relevant and popular than being doctrinally traditional. About 20% of the population are immigrants but their natural growth rate is much higher than that of the native population so, again, it is not difficult to see what those numbers mean for the future of Norway, long-term. Conformity is high but not total and what seems like a population united in shared liberal values can be misleading. The refusal to give a legitimate voice to dissenting views leads to frustration and then violence such as was seen in the mass-shooting of 2011. Many other festering problems are simply being ignored because it would be “politically incorrect” to address them. However, in Norway the King does play a part in government, not being purely ceremonial but more like Britain for example, and Norway has a much greater “independent” streak than many realize. Norway, for example, is a member of the European Economic Area but did not and has not become a member of the European Union and is not a part of the Eurozone which is very much to their credit. So, problems exist, but compared to others, Norway is in a better position to reject bad policies and get back on the right track.

Finally, we have the Kingdom of Denmark, most venerable of the monarchies of the Old World. Here again, I think many people have many misconceptions about Denmark simply because these countries are often lumped together as being part of a uniform, leftist, socialistic, egalitarian Scandinavia which is an over-simplification. The Kingdom of Denmark, for example, is a member of the European Union but is not a member of the Eurozone and still uses the Danish krone as its official currency. It is a typical tax and spend country but it may surprise a great many people to know that on two of the major indexes for measuring economic freedom, the Kingdom of Denmark was ranked higher than that supposed champion of free market capitalism the United States of America. Who would have guessed that? It certainly is not the reputation Denmark has and yet, it is true; Denmark is basically a more economically free country than America. This is due almost entirely to the level of government regulation of the economy. Compared to America, Denmark has a very low level of government regulations while it does have a punitive tax rate and a very generous welfare state. So, the basic difference is that it is actually easier to go out and make money in Denmark than in the United States but, on the other hand, the government will take more of it away from you to give to your unemployed neighbor. As in the other Scandinavian countries, this government generosity with other people’s money attracts many immigrants and while some of that can be regulated, immigration among EU-member states of course cannot so there is a demographic problem similar to that in Norway and Sweden. What is being paid out or is promised to be paid out, compared to what can possibly be taken in by the state just cannot be sustained long-term in Denmark or any of these other countries as things stand.

As elsewhere, the level of irreligion in Denmark is quite high but it is an officially Christian country, no separation of church and state but with freedom of religion. Like the others, it is very egalitarian but I think many would be surprised by how traditional the Danish monarchy remains. Until the middle of the Twentieth Century it had probably the most old fashioned and strict court protocol of any monarchy in Europe and even today, traditional ceremony and protocol are maintained by the Danish court to a degree probably present nowhere else in Europe. The Queen is enthusiastically supported by the people with a roughly 90% approval rating and she retains considerable authority. She presides at meetings and her views are taken seriously. She can even issue laws on her own in an emergency according to clause 23 of the Danish constitution. Some may be surprised that the Danish monarch has a much more free hand than many of her fellow sovereigns. The Queen writes her own speeches and her public messages are much less regulated by the government than in, for example, Great Britain. She is not mere window-dressing and while she certainly shares the overall values of most of her people, she does not bend to fashionable trends either. When people criticized her smoking habit, she told them to butt out; when activists condemned her for wearing fur, she told them to go climb a tree and when multiculturalism led to violence over Danish cartoons the Queen was the only head of state to single out the culprits by name and say that they had to be confronted even if it meant to, “run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance”. If I haven’t said so lately, I think the Queen of Denmark is awesome.

And that, is the overall situation in the monarchies of Scandinavia. Honestly, they are not all that different from the supposedly so much more capitalistic United States when it comes to taxation and wealth redistribution. In truth, most First World countries have adopted fairly similar models of a mixture of socialism and capitalism with governments simply arguing over the degree to which they allow people to keep what they earn. Sweden used to be very economically free, went far to the left, living off the wealth accumulated in the past and since that well ran dry has been moving ever so slightly more to the right in economic terms. Norway is doing pretty good thanks to few people, lots of oil and telling the EU, “no thanks” and Denmark has low regulations, a rather grand monarchy and recently put out a sign saying “Seek asylum elsewhere”. They all have problems to be sure and the basic economic model used by all three (and so many more) is simply not possible to continue in the long-term. However, they still have the tools to correct and rebuild and the monarchies in these countries provide something important, socially and economically even in the cases where they are reduced to only a ceremonial status and that is a sense of unity and stability. Monarchists say that a lot and republicans tend to dismiss it but anyone who follows the stock markets of the world can tell you that the simple perception of stability by people can make a huge difference. Even communist Chinese state-run CCTV once made this point, asking an expert why Japan, with its rapid turnover of governments, does not scare away investment like many other countries do with similar political instability. The expert replied that a big part of it was His Majesty the Emperor who, even while having no part in politics, provides a sense of stability just by being there. Even symbols can be very important and if you don’t believe me, try burning the Stars & Stripes in middle America or wearing a t-shirt with the Dalai Lama on it in downtown Peking. The Scandinavian countries have their problems and they have their positive aspects and their monarchies are definitely positives.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Going to go through the headlines rather fast this week to save time for some commentary on the story getting the most ‘buzz’. In Asia the Sultan of Yogyakarta raised the prospect of running for President of Indonesia. In Thailand the army declared martial law and subsequently assumed control of government functions due to continuing violence and antagonism between the red shirt (bad guys) and yellow shirt (good guys) factions. The trouble goes back to fugitive PM Thaksin Shinawatra who fled the country after being convicted of numerous corruption crimes only to have his red shirt followers elect his sister in his place who then tried to change the law to allow her brother back. The courts finally removed her from office for overstepping her authority and when the temporary government claimed to not be so “temporary” the army stepped in. The red shirts have maintained their hold on power through wealth redistribution programs, effectively buying the support of rural and lower class Thais while the yellow shirts are made up mostly of middle class workers who support the aristocracy playing a larger role in government and greater authority being given to the monarchy.

In Europe, the Norwegian monarchy is enjoying record-high popularity according to a recent study. The King of Sweden met with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Swedish Prince Carl Philip celebrated his 35th birthday. In Belgium, King Philip participated in a 20km foot race and in Spain the Prince and Princess of the Asturias celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary (congratulations to Their Royal Highnesses). King Hamad of Bahrain paid a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican just before the Pope left for the Middle East where he is due to meet the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. His first stop has been in Jordan where he was received by the Hashemite Royal Family. The visit will mark the anniversary of the meeting between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI. Britain’s Prince Harry was also in Italy, visiting the battleground of Monte Cassino and paying tribute to the British troops who fought there. HM the Queen visited HMS Lancaster and a British court ruled that the remains of King Richard III, the last Plantaganet monarch of England, will be buried in Leicester rather than York as his descendants wished. The family is vowing to continue the legal battle.

The story that got the most attention, however, involved the visit of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Her Majesty’s Dominion of Canada where Prince Charles, while speaking to a Polish refugee of World War II, in a “private” conversation that did not stay that way, compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. The diplomatic uproar was almost immediate and Russian diplomats, politicians and the obedient Russian media immediately went on the attack against Prince Charles as well as the British Royal Family as a whole, in one instance highlighting family connections to members of the Nazi Party in Germany and even digging up that old photo of Prince Harry in a Nazi costume at a fancy dress party years ago. All of this is certainly doing Russia no good as it seems an overreaction to one, supposedly private, remark and gives the impression that the Prince must have hit pretty close to the mark to get them so flustered about it. Speaking of Germans, it most reminded me of the comments and marginal notes of Kaiser Wilhelm II who was quite adept at speaking his mind and causing headaches for the Foreign Office in doing so. Was it wrong? No, but it was not very diplomatic and yet, it was a “private conversation” and should not have needed to be. That is partly why the Russian reaction seems so needlessly hysterical. It was not an official speech or something of that sort.

It also seems somewhat hypocritical for the Russians to be so touchy about comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis when that has been their favorite tactic against the new government of Ukraine from day one; calling them fascists and neo-Nazis. I said even back then (and before) that I really, really wish people would just lay off Hitler and the Nazis. Perhaps it is different in other countries but I am *so* sick of these ridiculous comparisons. Clinton compared Slobodan Milosevic to Hitler, Bush compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler, Democrats compared Bush to Hitler, Republicans compare Obama to Hitler, Obama compared Assad to Hitler, China compares Japan to the Nazis, Russia compares Ukraine to the Nazis and now Putin is like Hitler. One would think there have never been any other “bad guys” in the whole of human history! And, just for the record, Putin is nowhere close to being “like Hitler”. So far, he has not started a world war and has not tried to commit genocide against anyone. What he has done is certainly similar to what Hitler did in Austria and Czechoslovakia but those usually do not make the “Top Ten” list of Nazi infamy. It is hard to get too upset about a country absorbing a part of another country that enthusiastically wishes to be absorbed (like the Sudetenland). However, just as it would be unfair to compare Putin to Hitler, it would also be unfair to compare Hitler to Putin. After all, warmongering, genocidal nut he might have been but Hitler never sold out his country to the Chinese Communist Party either.

I have no problem with the Prince of Wales calling a spade a spade in regards to Putin, however I do think the Nazi analogy has been done to death and I really wish everyone would just drop it. Was it diplomatic? No, but it should not have had to have been because it was a private conversation. It only becomes one because of the strange world we live in where we have eschewed the open antagonism of the past for a false fa├žade of friendship with the world. Countries all over the world hate each other but still go out and pretend to be best buddies, usually for economic reasons. That is what brings up what I think is the real problem with what was said about Putin. It makes no sense to say bad things about him while not being prepared to do anything about it. Obama has had the same problem. I hate whiner-countries ever so much. Put up or shut up is what I say. And that’s the problem, Prince Charles can compare Putin to Hitler but, if that were true, shouldn’t someone do something about Putin? No one has any desire to, not in Britain or America or the rest of Western Europe for that matter. It also brings up some issues that would be rather embarrassing for both sides (which is probably why no one will be honest enough to do it). Think about this:

Where the comparison between Putin and Hitler is valid is that both have broken agreements and used military forces to annex what was part of another country. Another good comparison is both were able to get away with it. Where was this righteous defense of the letter of the law and national sovereignty in the past? Britain and France guaranteed to go to war with any country that violated Polish sovereignty. Hitler did so and both declared war on Germany. Two weeks later the Soviet dictator Stalin also violated Polish sovereignty but no one declared war on him. He took over Mongolia and no one seemed to notice (save China and Japan), annexed the Baltic states and no one in the west seemed to care and at the end of World War II the US & UK handed Eastern Europe over to Soviet Russia, totally disregarding the wishes and sovereignty of all those countries. Britain and the Soviets both occupied neutral Iran during the war, to protect their own interests and the Soviet Union was urged (not that they needed any urging) to break their word of honor in the non-aggression treaty to go to war with Japan, with the US & UK even promising territory that was neither British nor American to give away. It was great for the Soviet Union as they were effectively being bribed to do something they wanted to do anyway.

This matters to us today, make no mistake about it, and for proof look at the recent agreement between Russia and Communist China. As they have said many times before, they repeated their desire to stand together to maintain “the post-World War II world order” -keeping in mind that neither of these regimes actually participated in World War II. However, that tells you something about what mistakes were made and who came out ahead in that conflict. Russia and China want to hold on to that world order and their status as “good guys” in comparison to the World War II Axis Powers while the UK is looking for Germany to stand up to Russia and the US is encouraging Japan to strengthen its military and take a more active role in their defense. How things have changed. Does Prince Charles want Britain to do more to oppose Putin? If so, he is probably in the minority. I might also add that Western Europe would not be quite so beholden to Russia and timid in standing up to Putin if they had not embraced global warming alarmism and squelched things like nuclear power and domestic energy production -which is also something the Prince of Wales has been outspoken about.

I don’t have a problem with what the Prince said, I just would have preferred a comparison to Stalin or really anyone besides Hitler (quite the dead horse by now). I always got a chuckle out of the marginal notes of the Kaiser too. Honesty in public life is refreshing. However, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do since the UK does still have to deal with Russia and as President Obama can attest, you really just end up looking worse when you let your mouth write checks your gluteus maximus can’t cash. As for Putin, he can stop pretending to be offended by this and Russia should knock off the whining. After calling the Ukrainians Nazis and Fascists so many times, they really should not cry so much about getting a dose of their own medicine. And can we try to just stop comparing everyone to Hitler? It really is old hat by now.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Monarchist Cooperation - Why Not?

Although certainly never as often as I would like, there have been numerous episodes throughout post-revolutionary history on the part of monarchies to work together in mutual support against the shared threat of radical republicanism. In 1792 the crowned heads of Europe began to come together in support of the beleaguered King Louis XVI, first by the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Toward the end of the year, when King Louis was martyred, monarchist reaction was more swift and widespread and resulted in the War of the First Coalition with the Austrian Empire (still nominally the Holy Roman Empire at that stage), the Kingdom of Prussia, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, the Kingdom of Portugal, the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily and even the Ottoman Empire joining in the struggle against the bloody First French Republic. Originally the aim was to safeguard the Royal Family and restore to the King his rightful powers, later it was to avenge his death and restore the legitimate French monarchy. This was, of course, only the first in a series of wars against revolutionary and later Napoleonic France to restore the monarchial order. It would come to quite a sight to have Britons, Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Germans and Russians all fighting side by side, even alongside French royalists.

League of the Three Emperors
In 1823 when Spanish liberals rose in revolt against King Fernando VII, King Louis XVIII of France sent an army across the Pyrenees to aid Spanish royalists in restoring the authority of the legitimate monarch which was accomplished after the Franco-Spanish royalist victory at the Battle of Trocadero. This had such far-reaching effects that it prompted the United States to issue the Monroe Doctrine for fear that the monarchies of Europe would come together to restore royal rule over their lost colonies in central and South America. In 1848, when the Austrian Empire was beset by rebellions and revolutionary forces on every side, Emperor Francis Joseph called on Tsar Nicholas I of Russia for help and the “Iron Czar”, also known as the “Gendarme of Europe” responded by sending a Russian army to crush the rebels of Hungary and restore Hapsburg authority there. He also gave moral support to the King of Prussia to oppose rebels in northern Germany and offered to send Russian troops to other countries to suppress the revolutionary movement. Unfortunately, as the Nineteenth Century rolled on and certainly into the Twentieth Century, this sort of monarchial solidarity became less and less common. In 1864 the French Second Empire aided Mexican monarchists in restoring the Empire of Mexico and there was some support given by the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Belgium but such aid was limited and quickly withdrawn in the face of American pressure.

Japanese-Manchu friendship
World War I saw some monarchies supporting each other but also saw republics fighting alongside monarchies and monarchies giving aid to radical revolutionaries. The Central Powers were solidly monarchist at least in that all members were monarchies but as staunchly monarchist as the German Empire was, it was not above giving aid to republicans if it served to undermine their enemies. Republican France found itself on the same side as Imperial Russia and in the end those monarchies which emerged victorious on the Allied side did not insist, as their ancestors had, on the restoration or preservation of monarchies which had been in the enemy camp. Between the wars, the Empire of Japan intervened against the Republic of China to restore the Manchu Emperor to his legitimate throne but World War II saw much the same political opportunism as seen in the First World War. Monarchist Britain was the odd man out amongst the other major Allies nations of France, America, China and Russia all of which were republican. They supported the restoration of monarchies which had been overthrown by the Axis powers (Norway, the Netherlands, Ethiopia) but were also willing to sell out other monarchies that had gone the same way such as in Yugoslavia, Romania and Bulgaria. Among the Axis Powers it was Nazi Germany that was the odd man out amongst monarchies like Italy and Japan as well as lesser partners like Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary (nominally at least), Thailand and the restored Manchuria. They varied between monarchist and simply pragmatic in their policies save for Nazi Germany which barely tolerated monarchies under the best of circumstances. The best that can be said of them was that they were not so staunchly anti-monarchy as the Soviets were.

In the aftermath of World War II, there were precious few monarchies left in the world to cooperate on anything and those that did survive had little ability to support one another. There also, frankly, seemed little willingness as monarchy seemed to stop being seen as important, even in monarchies. Whereas the United States defined itself based on its system of democratic republicanism and prided itself on its republican values, monarchies tended to promote much the same while simply ignoring the monarchial aspect of their system of government and their entire histories. Of course, it was in the aftermath of two world wars, almost every monarchy on earth had been devastated by them and the two emerging super-powers were the Soviet Union and the United States, both staunchly republican so, we should perhaps try to be understanding (difficult though it may be) of how so many monarchies seemed to simply give up and take the attitude that, “If you can’t beat them, join them”. Although, in not a few cases they didn’t even try to beat them first. However, that was then, this is now. No one is recovering from a world war anymore, in fact, if one believes the big shots in Brussels, the future of Europe is so bright they have to wear shades.

Now, one thing that has always irritated me, just slightly, is how easily and zealously some monarchists take to anti-Americanism. In some cases it irritates me just as someone who spent years and a great deal of money learning history from some of the finest professorial minds of the east and the west. All too often they grossly exaggerate the influence and/or culpability of the United States in world affairs, especially prior to World War II as well as ignoring the responsibility of those other countries which urged, in some cases all but dragged, America out of her original policy of, more-or-less, isolationism to take a more active part in world affairs. However, the most aggravating part for me is those who take to anti-Americanism because of the record of the United States regarding monarchy around the world. My simple statement, time and again has been: the United States is a republic, in fact the oldest and most successful significant republic in the world -of course they are going to promote republicanism. The United States has to take at least a nominally negative view of monarchy, otherwise the whole justification for the creation of the country in the first place would evaporate and that is asking too much of a people. My question is this: why don’t monarchies show the same pride and zeal in promoting monarchy as America does in promoting republicanism? Instead of bashing America, why not beat them at their own game?

That is the question here: why not? Set aside the past and start with the world as it is now. The United States has organizations, think-tanks and lobby groups, such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that promote democratic republicanism around the world; where is the monarchist equivalent? They don’t even have to give up their beloved liberal ideals but could simply make the case that democracy works most smoothly within a constitutional monarchy. They do not necessarily have to give up their current alliances but simply give an emphasis to supporting other monarchies and promoting the restoration of past monarchies. There were numerous monarchies which took part in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the partial involvement in Libya. They don’t even have to commit themselves to direct action just to simply make the case for monarchy. Why not, aside from the network of alliances and agreements that already exist, can't monarchies of a particular region like New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan stand together to promote the form of government they all share? While the United States makes no secret of its desire for Iran to become a democratic, secular republic, why do the monarchies of the world not make the same case for the restoration of the monarchy?

Many if not most monarchies today, no matter how indebted they may be thanks to their socialist spending programs, give away a great deal of money in foreign aid and overseas charity projects. Why not limit that to fellow monarchies in need or at least give less to those that do not share your form of government than to those which do? It doesn’t have to be gun-boat diplomacy or nation-building, simply send the message that we are willing to be your friend in any event but we would be even friendlier if you would restore your old monarchy in some fashion. I’m doing my best not to make this difficult but I know the initial response to the question of “why not” will be that most of the monarchies of the world no longer believe in monarchy the way republics believe in republicanism. When an American is asked why they are proud of their country, they will say because of the values it represents; the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, equality and justice for all. They believe it is the best system for organizing human endeavor that the world has ever seen. Ask a Canadian why they are proud of their country and they will say something about human rights, social justice and maybe inventing the zipper, in other words, nothing that has to do with the Canadian form of government or Canadian history. Monarchists living under republican rule know what their task is: to restore the monarchy. This, I would say, is the great task for monarchists who have the benefit of living under a monarchy already: restore national pride in your history and form of government. Work on making your countrymen as proud of their country, in its entirety, as Americans or other republicans are of their own. The world can only benefit from the effort.

After all, “why not?”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Monarch Profile: King Charles Felix of Piedmont-Sardinia

His Majesty Charles Felix, Duke of Savoy, Piedmont and Aosta, King of Sardinia is often overshadowed by his dynamic nephew and successor, Charles Albert, famous for giving his kingdom and later Italy its constitution but his reign was one to cheer the heart of any ultra-royalist reactionary. He was born Prince Carlo Felice Giuseppe Maria on April 6, 1765 in Turin, the fifth son and eleventh child of King Victor Amadeus III and Queen Maria Antoinetta of Spain. As the fifth son, no one gave any thought to the idea that he might one day wear the Savoy crown himself and it was expected that he would have a military or religious career as was common for the younger sons of kings. In the case of Prince Charles Felix, most assumed it would be the priesthood for him as, fairly early in life, he seemed most suited for that type of vocation. He spent his childhood at the family castle of Moncalieri, mostly with his sister Princess Maria Carolina (who would go on to marry the Prince-Elector of Saxony) and the Count of Moriana. He was a fairly withdrawn boy, solemn, lonely and austere. As he grew older he developed an exalted view of the monarchy even for a member of the House of Savoy. He held to the monarchy as being a sacred institution, that to reign was a religious duty for the monarch and he seems to have held to the Divine Right of Kings.

It came as a great shock then when French revolutionary forces conquered Piedmont in 1796, forcing the Royal Family to leave Turin and depriving them of the Savoy crown. The Prince lost his own primary title, Duke of Genoa (as it was conquered by the French) but was given the title of Marquis of Susa to make up for it. He formed a clique of ultra-royalists with other members of the family and friends opposed to the concessions which King Charles Emmanuel IV had been obliged to make and which had nothing but contempt for any supporters of the Revolution or, indeed, any who did not oppose them as vociferously as they did. He blamed it on the godlessness of the intellectuals of the ‘chattering class’ which had turned people against their monarch as well as the Church and the nobility which were the ‘Pillars of the Throne’. Prince Charles Felix participated in the Italian campaign against the French, at least as much as he was allowed to but was constantly frustrated by the fact that his brother the King did not keep him or his other brothers very well informed of events. Charles Emmanuel IV and Charles Felix had never been close but their relationship cooled even more as a result of this. When the Royal Family was forced out of Piedmont they officially relocated to Sardinia but most preferred to stay in Rome. In 1802, after the death of his beloved wife, King Charles Emmanuel IV abdicated and his brother succeeded him as King Victor Emmanuel I. It was he who named Prince Charles Felix Viceroy of Sardinia and entrusted him with the government of the island.

This was his first chance to rule and Viceroy Charles Felix proved to be tough but fair. Much of Sardinia had fallen prey to banditry and lawlessness and, of course, the revolutionary poison was present as well. Charles Felix eradicated it with ruthless determination and was not afraid to make extensive use of the death penalty in restoring law and order to the island. He famously wrote to his brother the King, “Kill, kill for the good of mankind”. Of course, some complained that his regime seemed more like a police state and executions were plentiful, however, he got the job done and improved conditions dramatically on the island. His reputation improved when people learned that their Viceroy was not arbitrary but ruled fairly and would show no favoritism to the Piedmontese. He was just as strict toward the feudal lords who failed in their responsibility to their people as he was toward the people who embraced rebellion simply for the sake of rebellion. He also worked to improve agriculture, mining, trade and promoted the cultivation of olive trees in an effort to invigorate the Sardinian economy.

Family matters also came to be a priority due to a lack of sons and the deaths of two royal brothers. With King Victor Emmanuel I having only daughters, Prince Charles Felix became heir to the throne so a marriage was necessary. Although not popular in all quarters, a dynastic arrangement was made and on March 7, 1807 the Prince was married to Princess Maria Cristina of Naples and Sicily, daughter of King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and Queen Maria Carolina of Austria (sister of the martyred Queen Marie Antoinette). They had a happy marriage but it did not solve the problem of the succession as they were unable to have children. King Victor Emmanuel I then began looking to Prince Charles Albert of the Savoy-Carignano line as the hope for the future of the Royal Family. After the final defeat of Napoleon (whom Charles Felix referred to as “the rascal”) in 1814, King Victor Emmanuel I returned in triumph to Turin and Prince Charles Felix followed, leaving his wife to act as Viceroy of Sardinia in his place, which she did until his return. He continued to oversee the government of the island until 1821 when revolution broke out in Turin and his older brother abdicated the throne.

This was the result of the secret society known as the Carbonari (charcoal-burners), some of whom were revolutionary republicans, others of whom were constitutional monarchists but all of whom opposed absolutism and wanted a united, liberal Italy. When four students were arrested on their way to the theatre on suspicion of belonging to the Carbonari there was an uproar, mostly by university professors and students. They protested, soldiers were sent in, they clashed, people were killed and events escalated to a disastrous level. Prince Charles Albert knew some of these people and they intended to use him as their go-between. They had shrewdly waited until Prince Charles Felix was away in Modena and planned to swarm the royal castle and force King Victor Emmanuel I to grant a constitution and declare war on Austria to liberate northern Italy. To his credit, Prince Charles Albert backed out of the scheme and warned his cousin the King what was up. While he tried to decide what to do the situation deteriorated further with rebel forces seizing control of the citadel in Turin. He tried to deal with the rebels, but they had turned their back on Charles Albert and no communication was possible. Not wishing to start shooting down people in the streets, King Victor Emmanuel I abdicated in favor of his brother but, as he was in Modena, named Prince Charles Albert regent in the interim.

Rather out of his depth, the young Prince Charles Albert finally agreed to grant a constitution, similar to the one recently issued in Spain, and began forming a council that would take the place of the old parliament. The new King Charles Felix would have none of it. As soon as he heard, he ordered a halt to everything, remaining in Modena and refused to even accept that he was monarch as he considered his brother to have abdicated under duress and that it was thus invalid. He sent a letter voiding the new constitution and any action taken since the abdication of his brother. Prince Charles Albert carried out his instructions and even, reluctantly, addressed the Emperor of Austria on the possibility of sending troops to aid in suppressing the rebellion. King Charles Felix did not want to be known as one who owed his crown to a rebellion but, with the support of the international community, Victor Emmanuel I insisted that his abdication would stand and so, on April 25, 1821 Charles Felix had his royal status reassured. He appointed Ignazio Thaon di Revel his Lieutenant General of the Realm in his absence and ordered an immediate crack-down on all rebels and revolutionaries. With King Charles Felix it was a case of “no more Mister Nice Guy”. Eventually, simple participants were pardoned but the ringleaders were all brought to justice and executed and all talk of a constitution was silenced.

As monarch, King Charles Felix was fairly “hands-off”. His ideas about the sacred nature of the monarchy and his insistence that royal power was absolute did not translate to the idea that the King had to do everything himself. He was happy to delegate power and did not spend much time in Turin, which he felt to be somewhat tainted by revolutionary sentiment. He could always be expected to show up in ‘theatre season’ as he loved the theatre, music and was a patron of the arts. Ordinarily though, he preferred to reside in Savoy, Nice or Genoa and many complained that the country, under Charles Felix, was dominated by a few stuffy chamberlains, old ladies and a cohort of priests and religious. They were not entirely wrong in that but it should not be stated as though it were a bad thing. King Charles Felix, despite his reputation as a reactionary, did preside over some needed legal reforms. He did away with special courts, enacted regulations that the punishment must fit the crime and, to the surprise of some, resisted papal encroachment on royal authority in his country as well as that from the political class. He also abolished the slave trade and ordered that anyone born on Piedmontese soil or on a ship flying their flag would be free. He improved the infrastructure of the country (yes, roads and bridges), restored the port at Nice and gave a boost to the steel industry and encouraged agriculture as well as manufacturing and trade.

Ever watchful for any hint of revolutionary sentiment, King Charles Felix liked to speculate about expansion but never took any action in that direction, ultimately preferring to focus on building up the economy and preventing any potential unrest. Preserving the Savoy monarchy was his overriding concern. His involvement in foreign affairs was rather minimal. The year he came to the throne he gained a trade treaty with the Ottoman Empire thanks to the mediation of Great Britain and Austria but he could be spurred to action when the situation warranted it. In 1825 the Bey of Tripoli imprisoned some Genoese merchants and the King dispatched two frigates, a corvette and a brig under Captain Francesco Sivori to pressure the Bey into releasing them. When this failed the Italian forces took punitive action and the Bey was at last persuaded to be more merciful. It was the one piece of “action” on the world stage for a monarch better known for building theaters and opera houses than launching military operations. King Charles Felix died on April 27, 1831 in Turin after a reign of ten years, in some ways, the last Savoy monarch of the ‘old school’. At his funeral the Bishop of Annecy reportedly said, “Gentlemen, today we bury the monarchy”. It was undoubtedly a reference to the succession of Prince Charles Albert who was known to have much more liberal tendencies than King Charles Felix. This was something that worried the King in his final days but which he was adamant that he had no power to control. As a believer in the sacred nature of monarchy and a lifelong opponent of any tinkering with the succession, if the throne was to pass to Charles Albert then it must be the will of God and that was all there was to it. King Charles Albert would go in a rather different direction, granting a constitution and, perhaps inadvertently, setting Italy on the road to unification and independence but all the while retaining a powerful monarchy with a strict protocol that King Charles Felix would have found very familiar and very proper.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Today in Spanish Royal History

On this day in 1403 King Enrique III of Castile (grandfather of Queen Isabella the Catholic) dispatched ambassadors to the court of the central Asian conqueror Tamerlane in an effort to arrange a military alliance against the Ottoman Empire. However, though he had clashed with them earlier, nothing was to come of it as Tamerlane was busy attempting to conquer China but would never see the plans carried out as he died only a couple of years later. King Enrique III would last only one year longer, passing away in 1406.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pope Francis and Socialism

On Friday, May 9, 2014 in Vatican City, during a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other UN leaders Pope Francis called for a worldwide effort by government to redistribute wealth to help the poor in a new spirit of “generosity”. This should not be too difficult for governments to do as it is always easy to be generous with the wealth of others and that is all governments have to work with. They generate no wealth on their own and so can only sustain themselves by confiscating the wealth created by others, which is what we call taxation. It is rather perplexing in that regard since very few people feel “generous” on tax day. Generosity, in my obviously out-dated mode of thinking, is the voluntary giving out of a spirit of charity which is rather the exact opposite of governments using the coercion of force to take wealth from one group to give it to another group which is deemed more worthy. This, of course, has led to the word “socialism” being tossed around and it is not the first time Pope Francis has been accused of promoting Marxist/socialistic values in the name, as always, of helping the poor. It immediately called to my mind something else a famous figure once said.

This man spoke of those who “proclaim the absolute equality of all men in rights and duties” and that these are also invariably enemies of the family, of the bond of husband and wife and who are themselves full of greed. He said, “they assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life”. They spread these ideas vigorously in various ways this man said and he even added, “Wherefore, the revered majesty and power of kings has won such fierce hatred from their seditious people that disloyal traitors, impatient of all restraint, have more than once within a short period raised their arms in impious attempt against the lives of their own sovereigns.” This came from a man Pope Francis will no doubt be aware of. These words were from none other than Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical “Quod Apostolici Muneris” of December 28, 1878.

I would recommend any to read this encyclical, not excluding Pope Francis himself, as it may prove enlightening. It is known as the encyclical against socialism and rightly points out that these advocates of egalitarianism (which Pope Leo at least did not consider a beneficial thing) cloak their maliciousness behind the guise of a charitable impulse to help the poor and he could also see, even in 1878, that these were the enemies of the traditional family unit as well as the obvious truth, then as now, that they were also the enemy of the legitimate monarchs of the world. Pope Leo XIII also listed the past Roman Pontiffs who had condemned these same miscreants, or their ideological forefathers, and their reprehensible ideology which is so ruinous to mankind. Nor would he be the last. Faced with appalling examples of socialism in action in places from Mexico to Spain to Russia, Pope Pius XI similarly condemned it on numerous occasions such as in his 1937 encyclical “Divini Redemptoris” “On Atheistic Communism” in which he denounced the entire collectivist mentality that would make of the individual no more than a cog in the wheel of the great, collectivist machine devoted solely to materialism. He also stated famously in “Quadragesimo Anno” that, “No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true socialist”.

However, in a sincere desire to assist Pope Francis, I would recommend sticking close to the example of the aforementioned Pope Leo XIII. Today, Pope Leo XIII is most famous as being the ‘Pope of the worker’ for his encyclical “Rerum Novarum” in which he sanctioned the formation of Catholic trade unions. Even then, however, he warned against the collectivism of the socialists and said, “The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.” He went on to lay out guidelines for a way of bringing ownership and labor together in something along the lines of the corporatism of medieval Italy. Pope Leo XIII has gone down in history as a pontiff who was a champion of the working man, the poor and the marginalized. And yet, his personal style could not be more dissimilar to Pope Francis. Pope Leo XIII was an Italian aristocrat and was quite famous for his strict adherence to traditional court protocol and papal ceremony. He showed that it was not necessary to sacrifice the smallest detail of the majesty of the papal position in order to be a defender of the poor and an advocate for the marginalized. Pope Leo XIII championed the cause of the downtrodden in imperial Roman splendor. I might also add that he openly identified himself as a monarchist. Alas, many today would not consider that a good thing but, on the other hand, he certainly never gave anyone cause to speculate that he might be a Marxist. No one would have ever made that mistake.

Part of the trouble with the enforced redistribution of wealth to help the poor, is that it destroys positive feelings on the part of both parties involved. This is totally different from charity which gives the party making the donation a sense of happiness for being benevolent and makes the receiver grateful that someone would freely choose to help them. It is a gift and is appreciated as such. Wealth redistribution by the state, on the other hand, generates no feeling of happiness because it is done by force. Being forced to do something, even to do good, is not charitable and one can take no satisfaction in it. In fact, it builds resentment among the providers that what they earned was forced from them to be given to someone who did not earn it. Likewise, the one receiving is also poisoned by it. Rather than feeling gratitude at receiving a gift, they expect it as something they are entitled to and when it is ever lessened or stopped altogether they feel themselves “robbed” of something which they never earned in the first place because they were taught to feel themselves entitled to the fruits of another’s labor. The only ones who benefit are the state bureaucrats who handle the transaction, always keeping a tidy sum for themselves in the process, a sort of ‘handling fee’ for the government.

This is something past pontiffs seemed to understand, that socialism was not wrong simply because socialists tend to be anti-clerical and thus ‘bad for business’ but because they are wrong in principle, their motivations are false and their methods do more harm than good. Of course, in the past, pontiffs also openly attested that monarchy was ‘the best of all governments’ (Pius VI) and considered that they themselves held a rather monarchial position all of which was according to the divine commands. As a result, they viewed the socialist championing of egalitarianism as something dangerous and immoral. Today, unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. I would also recommend paying particular attention to Pope Leo XIII, so many years ago, pointing out the link between the socialists and attacks on the family. Today we see the same thing. It is the socialists of the left who are at the forefront of destroying the traditional family and they use the arguments of ‘helping the poor’ and promoting equality to do it, whether it is by encouraging single-parent homes, divorce or redefining marriage altogether. If Pope Leo XIII could see the world, and the Church, now, I wonder what he would say?

*Additional note: Some authors, devout Catholics among them, have warned that this new attitude by Pope Francis could open the Catholic Church up to accusations of hypocrisy since they do not pay taxes, at least in the United States where there is probably the most to be gained if the Church did start having to pay taxes. I would have to say, asking the Pope to practice what he preaches would not be an unreasonable position and would add, just for some context, that when Pope Leo XIII made his remarks, he was the first Pontiff in a very long time who did not have subjects to tax in order to sustain himself. He was living entirely off of charity and still never found the need to give up any of the pomp and ceremony of the papal office (of course, he wasn’t constantly traveling all over the world either, somehow the Church survived quite a few decades without the Pope ever leaving Vatican City). I would not be surprised to hear someone suggest that, because of his support for wealth redistribution by the state, Pope Francis might want to stop accepting the subsidy he receives from Italian taxpayers (which is rather ridiculous considering that the Church in Italy is now taxed, ever since the financial crisis) and let that portion designated for the Church to go to the Italian Republic instead to redistribute to the poor. Of course, I would try to be more helpful and suggest that the Church go back to the much smaller bureaucracy it had before the massive expansion of Vatican II or perhaps stop using the ridiculously named “Pope-mobile” and return to the sedan chair that used no fossil fuels and produced no harmful emissions (since we’re all so environmentally conscience these days). That should help save some money for the poor.

Oh, and another piece of advice: go back to the Apostolic Palace. Not many seem to understand that by taking over the Domus Sanctae Marthae “guesthouse” nothing is actually being saved. The Pope has more space than he had on one floor of the Apostolic Palace and he still uses the Palace, it still has to be heated and cleaned and maintained and all the rest so, despite being portrayed as some sort of humble act of frugality, it just means the Pope is taking up two buildings instead of one. Going back to the old way would save something, even if just a little. But then again, this is rather illustrative in and of itself when it comes to government wealth redistribution programs. The appearance is often quite different from the facts of the matter. It looks like governments are being terribly generous and “charitable” when it fact the poor are worse off as a result and, in the same way, the Pope may have been a much more grand and majestic looking figure in the days of Leo XIII but he actually received less money and spent far less money than the so much more outwardly humble Pope Francis does. It is worth thinking about. -MM

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