Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Belgian Army in World War I

Among the countries involved in the outbreak of the First World War, each must bear some measure of blame for the disaster. That is, all but the Kingdom of Belgium who was guilty of no more than being a victim of geography. Belgium was a neutral country and took that neutrality seriously. Caught between the feuding peoples of France and Germany, the Belgians had no reason to trust one side more than the other. The Germans may have seemed the more intimidating but, in the past, it had been the French who seemed most eager to take Belgium for themselves. The Germans and Belgians had had their differences but their King, Albert I, had also married a Bavarian princess and she was quite popular. In matters of defense, the Belgian government trusted in its scrupulous observation of neutrality to protect the country and was extremely reluctant to spend money on the military. As usual, the Belgian government would have been much wiser to have listened more closely to the advice of their monarchs.

During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 King Leopold II had mobilized the Belgian army as a precaution in case either side violated Belgian sovereignty. Fortunately, neither did but many esteemed military figures, such as General Brialmont, were concerned enough to support King Leopold II in calling for military reforms. The most pressing was the need to do away with the old system of filling the ranks of the army by a lottery and replacing it with national conscription. The politicians saw this as unnecessary but there was finally sufficient support to get the appropriate bill passed which King Leopold II signed into law on his deathbed. Unfortunately, the planned enlargement of the army would not be completed by the time war came in 1914. The new monarch, King Albert I, was just as concerned as his uncle had been and was also just as frequently brushed aside. National defense was something the King naturally took more seriously as Belgian law stipulated that, in the event of war, it was the duty of the King to take command of the army. Also of concern was how rapidly military technology was changing. When the Belgians began building new, impressive fortifications at strategic points throughout the country, particularly the “National Redoubt” of Antwerp, the massive stone fortresses were already obsolete by the time they were completed due to the rapid advance in artillery technology.

In 1914 the Belgian national defense consisted of one field army made up of six divisions as well as garrisons for the fortified zones of Liege, Namur and Antwerp. The military plans in place for Belgium called for the army to fight defensively in these fortified zones and behind the three major rivers until such time as the larger military forces of those powers pledged to defend Belgian neutrality could arrive to turn the tide against the invader. The critical moment came on August 2, 1914 when the German ambassador informed the Belgian government that Luxembourg was being occupied and that German troops would soon be entering Belgium. The Germans pledged to respect Belgian property if no action was taken against them but that if the Belgians resisted that they would be treated as enemies. King Albert I did not hesitate, he would defend his country against any invader no matter how hopeless the situation seemed, famously saying that, “Belgium is a country, not a road”. On August 4, the King informed the British, French and Russians that German forces had crossed the Belgian border and appealed to them to come to the aid of Belgium in resisting the invader. The Belgians braced themselves for the first blow from the most advanced, heavily armed military on earth.

General Leman
The German First and Second Armies that crossed into Belgium expected that the Belgians would either not resist or that, if they did, could be easily pushed aside. Neither assumption was to prove correct. King Albert I deployed his forces as best he could; the 3rd and 4th Divisions were posted on the right along the Meuse River at Liege and Namur, the remaining four divisions would hold the gap between the Gette and Dyle Rivers to block the German advance on Brussels in the center and Antwerp to the north. As the Germans marched into Belgium the first major obstacle they encountered was the fortress of Liege, defended by General Gerard Leman, a tough Belgian soldier who had tutored King Albert I in the art of war. He faced 130,000 German troops with massive artillery support all under the command of General Otto von Emmich. When Leman refused to surrender, von Emmich launched a massive attack, sending nine brigades into the gaps between the Belgian forts. To his shock, every attack was repulsed with such heavy losses for the Germans that several divisions had to be withdrawn back to the Fatherland. There was even some panic in Aachen that the Belgians might counter-attack and invade Germany.

However, the German generals kept their cool, brought in immense numbers of reinforcements and outflanked the Belgians guarding the gaps, forcing them to retire. The forts continued to hold out and fire at the German lines and the Germans proceeded to the frustratingly slow task of reducing these forts one by one with their superior heavy artillery. It was not until August 17 that the last Belgian fort was destroyed. General Leman had been knocked unconscious in the rubble and made it clear that this was the only reason he had been captured and that he had not surrendered. General von Emmich was so impressed by the tenacity of his Belgian foe that he returned the generals’ sword to him and General Gerard Leman became the first bona fide hero of the Great War for the Allies. Fortress Liege had fallen but it had taken precious time that the Germans desperately needed for their plan to conquer France to work and the tenacious Belgian defenders had inflicted 42,712 casualties on the German invaders.

The next area of resistance was the Belgian forces assembled at the Gette River, 20 miles behind the Meuse. For the most part, they kept watch but when the Germans ventured too close the Belgians made them pay for it. The most famous battle in this sector was fought at Haelen in Limburg where four regiments of the German cavalry corps were soundly beaten by the Belgian cavalry division (including one battalion on bicycles) on August 12. It became known as “the Battle of the Silver Helmets” because of the numerous German cavalry helmets that littered the field when the fight was over. Ultimately, however, there could be only one outcome with the Belgians having what amounted to two army corps up against eleven corps for the Germans. Hard-pressed on their front and being encircled on each flank, the Belgians were forced to fall back toward Antwerp or risk being cut off from the “National Redoubt”. Fighting numerous rearguard actions, the Belgians fell back and the Germans marched into Brussels on August 20. That same day the siege of the fortress of Namur began which was isolated by the retreat of the army. Again, the Germans began the methodical task of blasting the Belgian forts to pieces one by one. Outranged by the German and Austrian guns, the Belgians could simply endure. The last fort at Namur was destroyed on August 24.

The Germans, already behind schedule, decided to bypass Antwerp and rush forward, ultimately meeting the British for the first time at Mons. However, they had to leave behind a considerable number of troops to watch the Belgians who had withdrawn behind the stout but outdated fortifications. Again, the Belgians had deprived the Germans of time and men at a crucial moment. King Albert I was not content to sit and wait and, although it cost his army, ordered two raids outside the city walls against the Germans in an effort to support the Allies fighting at the Marne. The Germans were forced to divert three divisions that were supposed to reinforce General Alexander von Kluck’s 1st Army. Once the German plan was finally frustrated at the battle of the Marne, they turned back toward Antwerp to finally deal with the Belgians once and for all. Again, huge guns were brought forward and a massive bombardment began on September 28, 1914.

It was clear immediately that Antwerp could not hold out and what help came from the Allies was too late to make any difference. King Albert gave the order to retreat in order to save his army. The forts would have to hold out to the last man, supported only by some Belgian artillery, British infantry and French marines while the army escaped up the coast toward the French border. The defenders fought like heroes, saving the army and the hope of their country in the process. Finally, on the last patch of unoccupied Belgian soil, King Albert I stopped his army at the Yser River and determined to retreat no more. It was a miserable, soggy place to fight a war. “Trenches” had to be built above ground because digging only uncovered water as little as 2-3 feet below the surface. The Belgian army was tattered, exhausted and disorganized but they fell into line and fought like heroes as the inevitable German attack came. This coincided with the famous “Race to the Sea” as the Germans and Allies tried to outflank each other, moving ever northward, to prevent a stalemate. Thanks in no small part to the tenacious Belgian defenders of the Yser, it was a race the Allies would win. Throughout October the Germans attacked again and again until finally, the Belgians were forced to flood the countryside but ultimately, against all odds, the Belgian army held its ground and the Germans finally gave up and began moving their attack southward toward the British at Ypres.

For the next three years the Belgians stood guard on the Yser, skirmishing with the Germans while rebuilding their army until it was even stronger than it had been before the war. It was a sector of waterlogged misery where perpetual dampness took a heavier toll than the enemy, leaving many men crippled for life. And so the war went on. King Albert I met to discuss strategy with the other Allied commanders, Queen Elizabeth cared for the wounded and Crown Prince Leopold served in the trenches alongside his future subjects. The little Belgian air force made its presence known with the ace Willy Coppens gaining fame with 37 victories and a reputation as the preeminent Allied “balloon buster” of the war (which is a more respectable feat than most realize as observation balloons were heavily guarded). In central Africa the Belgian Force Publique, operating out of the Congo under General Charles Tambeur, drove the Germans out of Rwanda and Burundi and captured the outer capitol of Tabora in German East Africa. In a gesture of solidarity with her allies, Belgium sent a contingent of troops, equipped with armored cars that had first seen action at Antwerp, to the Eastern Front to aid the Russian war effort.

In April of 1918 the Belgian right wing came under attack during the famous “Kaiser’s Offensive” or Operation Michael which was Germany’s last, desperate gamble to win the war at a stroke. Breaking through the point where the French and British lines came together, the Germans pushed outward to expand the breach, eventually making contact with the Belgians. A captured German soldier was found carrying orders which included the optimistic note that, “The Belgians are not used to being attacked in force; success is certain. They will be overthrown before they know we are there.” Once again, the Germans would pay dearly for underestimating the resolve of the Belgian army. On April 17, 1918 the Germans struck; the first Belgian outposts fell quickly, though it took considerable effort and much hand-to-hand fighting to accomplish this. The Germans reached the Belgian support line by mid-day but were halted by heavy Belgian artillery fire. Then, under a moving barrage, the Belgian infantry counter-attacked and began regaining their lost trenches. The Germans were stunned and the attack fell apart, some units retreating and others fighting on in isolated pockets. By nightfall the Belgians had recovered almost all of the lost ground and taken 800 German prisoners.

This engagement surprised observers on both sides as the Allies realized that the Belgians could attack as well as defend. Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme Allied commander, arrived to decorate the Belgian heroes and to confer with King Albert about the coming counter-offensive against the Germans. The Belgian King was made commander of the Flanders Army Group, responsible for the northernmost sector of the Allied advance that would carry on through November of 1918. Aside from the Belgian army, his command included the British II Army and French VI Army. From September 28-30 the Belgian divisions broke through the German lines, at one point advancing up to eleven miles. At the beginning of October, the Belgians attacked again and forced the Germans back another eight miles. The second phase of the Flanders offensive, later known as the battle of Thourout-Thielt was launched by King Albert on October 14, 1918. The engagement saw the Germans pushed out of Flanders for good. Supported by the French on one side and British naval fire from the coast, the Belgians steadily drove the Germans back. By October 17 the Belgians reached Ostend and the outskirts of Bruges.

King Albert I
On the Lys the Germans put up heavy resistance, showing that despite their weakened condition by this time, they were still a formidable foe. The Allied advance stalled but eventually began to gain ground again. After heavy fighting the Belgians gained a foothold on the east bank of the Lys and moved on to meet up with the French at Ghent. It was in that area that the Belgians remained until the Germans agreed to an armistice, ending the war. The Kingdom of Belgium had lost 44,000 men in the war as well as 9,000 civilians, far less than other powers, but a heavy toll for so small a country. However, the Belgian armed forces had done their country proud by their plucky resistance against unspeakable odds. The well-known phrase amongst the Allied countries of “Brave Little Belgium” was certainly well-deserved and no Belgian was more widely respected around the world than King Albert I for his calm, steady and courageous leadership during the greatest crisis his country had faced up to that time. He had been steadfast in the defense of his country and yet never vindictive. In fact, he was the only Allied leader to support the call by the Pope for making peace and had tried to arrange such a peace with Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary, but no avail.

After the war there was talk of Belgium being given Luxembourg or even control of Palestine but, in the end, Belgian territorial acquisitions were modest. In addition to reparations Belgium received mandates of Rwanda-Burundi in central Africa and the addition of the German territories of Eupen, St Vith and Malmedy, adding German as the third official language of the Kingdom of Belgium. Today, many remember the Belgians as some of the most unfortunate victims of the Great War, the small, peaceful country caught between warring powers. This was certainly true but the great accomplishments of the Belgian army should not be ignored. Faced with a hopeless situation, the Belgians mounted a stubborn defense that proved very costly to the Germans, throwing off their timetable and giving the Allies the chance to beat them at the Marne. Again, in the “Race to the Sea” it was Belgian tenacity that ensured the Germans did not gain a strategic advantage by turning the Allied flank. The Belgian army may have been small but it fought with immense courage, endured incredible hardships and played a decisive role in the ultimate Allied victory.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monarchist Monarchs, Part II

Continued from Part I

After the Revolutions of 1848 most monarchs in Europe adopted a hyper-conservative attitude. The last thing they wanted to do was take any unnecessary risks. Those constitutional monarchies which had not undergone the same level of upheaval also became even less sympathetic towards absolute monarchies that got into trouble. Yet, there emerged a rather unlikely champion of monarchy in those days; a former revolutionary and the nephew of the man who had conquered Europe and made the crowned heads quake: Emperor Napoleon III of the French. I confess that he is not one I enjoy including on such a list but he does, I think, warrant inclusion if for no other reason than his sponsorship of the restoration of the Mexican Empire under Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Of the two, Maximilian was the more honorable character but nonetheless it was Louis Napoleon who made the restoration of monarchy in Mexico possible. Did he do a great deal to inadvertently thwart the succession of this operation? Yes. Did he ultimately go back on his word and abandon Mexico to republicanism? Yes. But who did more? Many, many people thought that a good, solid monarchy would be just the thing to deliver Mexico from the chaos of a continuous succession of republican dictators yet no one else was willing to actually pledge the men and the money to bring about such a thing. Napoleon III did it and more than that, had things gone differently, he had planned to do more. He tried to learn from the mistakes of his uncle and he did manage to make himself acceptable as a member of the club of European monarchs. He was on decent terms with Austria and Spain, friendly with Italy and Queen Victoria of Great Britain was charmed by him. Even the Pope could scarcely say a bad word about him as it was only the presence of French troops that maintained papal political control over the city of Rome.

Unlike his uncle, Napoleon III preferred not to risk trying for major territorial expansion in Europe but to focus instead on spreading French influence abroad, which he did from the Americas to Africa and the Middle East to East Asia. This was certainly part of the reasoning behind his push into Mexico but it is also true that there was genuine concern for the Church and the conservatives in Mexico (particularly by Empress Eugenie) and an understanding that monarchy could make Mexico a stable and prosperous country. And who ever did more? What other world leader ever returned to a state after roughly forty years of republicanism and successfully restored a monarchy? It can truthfully and legitimately be argued that Napoleon III didn’t do enough or failed to see it through; but who did more? And his campaign to bring French-friendly monarchies to the New World did not stop at Mexico. He had big plans to bring to life new monarchies in South America as well, on the west coast, under appropriate princes. He had engaged in correspondence with local leaders towards the goal of making a “Kingdom of the Andes” from a base in Ecuador. If other (more legitimate) monarchs had gone to such pains rather than rushing over each other to recognize South American republics, the trend away from monarchy in politics might have died an early death. His biggest problem was that he was often too short-sighted in his foreign policy but he was also the victim of circumstances beyond his control.

While he certainly could have handled things better in regards to Mexico, the bottom line is that he did not just pull out when things got difficult. In fact, he was forced to pull out when his armies were on the cusp of victory. The life or death of the revived Mexican Empire ultimately depended entirely on the outcome of the American Civil War. The United States of America was never going to accept a French-backed monarchy in Mexico and France was simply not strong enough to win in a fight against the Union forces whose armies were vastly more numerous and much better equipped than his own. The only hope for success in the Mexican adventure was if the Confederates succeeded in winning their independence. Napoleon recognized this but knew that his support alone would not be enough to ensure a Confederate victory and while the British came close, they ultimately refused to get involved. Britain and France together might have ensured a Confederate victory and thus secured the safety of the Mexican Empire but as that did not happen, Imperial Mexico was doomed as soon as the Confederates were defeated. Napoleon III did not just retreat from Mexico, he was ordered to withdraw by the victorious Union forces and he had no other choice in the face of the overwhelming force the USA could have deployed against him.

So, in the end, the Mexican Empire fell and the French Empire fell not so long after. This saw the creation of the German Empire which ultimately produced a very monarchist monarch in the much-maligned German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Aside from his paranoid fear of Asians, Kaiser Wilhelm II demonstrated throughout his reign a strident commitment to monarchy and monarchial solidarity. From the earliest days of his reign he was always warning about the danger of republicanism and the need for monarchs to stand together in guarding against it. During the Spanish-American War he urged his fellow European monarchs to come together to aid the Kingdom of Spain and stop American expansion but he was ignored. He was aghast that the Russian Empire would ally with republican France and tried, though perhaps not in the best way, to bring Russia into alliance with the other major continental monarchies; Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. He was always talking about the rights and responsibilities of monarchs and the looming threat of republicanism. While he ended up being blamed for the calamity that was the First World War, the Kaiser himself tended to attribute the disaster to a lack of monarchial unity as demonstrated by his royal cousins the Tsar of Russia and King of Great Britain allying with republican France.

The First World War, as we have discussed here often (this year in particular), was a disaster for all involved and once it began there was no way that it could possibly have ended well. However, we can see that the Central Powers, under the leadership of the Kaiser, was much more intent on seeing the inevitable changes that would come about because of the war be on the side of monarchy. The survival of some monarchies certainly depended on an Allied victory but the Allies were not too concerned if emerging states were monarchies or republics. No such ambivalence existed where Kaiser Wilhelm II was concerned. Where German troops were victorious new monarchies emerged, all with German princes in charge of course. These included the short-lived Kingdom of Finland, the United Baltic Duchy, the Kingdom of Lithuania, the Kingdom of Poland and some sort of monarchy for the Ukraine, whether under a Hetman or an imported German prince or Austrian Archduke. There was even talk of putting one of the Kaiser’s son on the throne of Ireland if the Allies had been defeated. On the other side of the world, the government of the Republic of China in part justified its declaration of war against Germany by claiming that the Germans had supported efforts to restore the last Manchu Emperor to power. It was only because the Allies won that Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland all ended up becoming republics and the Ukraine was, of course, absorbed by the Soviet Union.

That issue, of course, brings up the one black spot on the monarchist record of the Kaiser; allowing the passage of Vladimir Lenin back to Russia. Even there, however, I cannot bring myself to be as critical of the Kaiser as others have been. For one thing, no one could have known how it would end up working out, the Kaiser had grave misgivings about it but Imperial Germany was in a fight for its very survival and it should, perhaps, not be so shocking that they would use any weapon in their arsenal, no matter how distasteful, to help ward off their own immediate destruction. It is also possible that some of the other monarchies, on the Allied side, might have survived a Central Powers victory. There were many who wanted to annex the Kingdom of Belgium and Grand Duchy of Luxembourg but perhaps this might have been avoided or at the very least perhaps they may have survived as a monarchy within the German Empire. The Kaiser was absolutely furious when his cousin the King of Romania entered the war against him and yet, once defeated, the King of Romania lost some territory and resources but not his throne. Likewise, while mostly assume (and probably legitimately so) that Serbia would have been annexed by Austria-Hungary it is at least possible that this might not have happened given how opposed the Hungarians were too it who did not want to see more Slavs in the empire to compete with them for political power. What we do know is that the downfall of the Kaiser meant republics in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and a monarchy without a monarch in Hungary.

The Kaiser was not alone in this of course, Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary (or Kaiser Karl I) was certainly devoted to the cause of monarchy and to seeing new monarchies emerge from the conflict but by the time these issues came up it was clear that it was the Germans who were driving force of the Central Powers war effort. Still, Emperor Charles deserves at the very least an honorable mention for his refusal to abdicate as well as his efforts to restore himself in Hungary. I have always been most impressed by those monarchs, be it the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary or the last Emperor of China, who actively worked for their own restoration. I wish more non-reigning monarchs displayed as much zeal. However, with the end of the First World War there also came an end to the dominance in Europe of traditional monarchies. The next historical period which had immense consequences for the cause of monarchy was World War II and in that conflict, in Europe, monarchs would not play a very prominent role. Asia, however, was a very different story. In Asia, republicanism was an alien and almost totally unknown concept until very recent history. Prior to World War I and the Russian Revolution and the creation of the French Syrian mandate, there was not a single republic on the entire Asian continent. That all began to change with the historically pivotal collapse of the monarchy in China, then came the Soviet victory in the Russian Civil War and the absorption of Outer Mongolia as a Soviet republic in all but name.

Communist expansion and communist subversion in republican China spurred to action the industrious Empire of Japan and during World War II there was no monarch whose forces displayed a greater commitment to the monarchist cause than that of His Majesty the Showa Emperor of Japan (better known as Emperor Hirohito in the west). Given the Japanese tradition, the Showa Emperor could not and did not go around expressing his views on monarchy in the same way that someone like the German Kaiser did. However, the entire imperial institution and the very monarchist culture surrounding the Emperor of Japan helped ensure that, more than any other power in World War II, Japan pursued a very pro-monarchist foreign policy. The biggest and best example of this was the key role of the Japanese in the restoration of the last Qing Emperor to the throne of the revived Manchu Empire (better known as Manchukuo though that is simply “Manchuria” in Chinese). That was not something that Japan really had to do, after the “Mukden Incident” the Japanese were in total control of Manchuria and could have done with it as they pleased but they did the right thing and restored the Manchu Emperor (PuYi) to his legitimate throne. Even more than that though, while some of the more disreputable characters involved did undermine it with their actions, Manchukuo was to represent a sort of “showcase” for monarchy in Asia as an example of righteous royal government and unity of the five races.

During the course of the war, everywhere Japanese forces went, support for monarchy followed wherever possible. China and the Philippines already had republican governments and Indonesia had no single royal heir but Japan restored the Manchu monarchy, allied with the Thai monarchy (though the King was absent at the time, being at school in Switzerland), kept in place the existing Malaysian monarchs other than a couple who were removed so that more legitimate monarchs could be restored and eventually Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were supported in asserting their independence under their traditional monarchies. In Burma there was no royal restoration, merely the declaration of an independent “State of Burma” but it is worth noting that the leader, Dr. Ba Maw, was the son of a staunch Burmese monarchist and was treated with very royalist pomp and ceremony. It is not unthinkable that a restoration might have occurred if Japan had prevailed in the war. According to one reader of this web log, some Japanese offered to make Sukarno the monarch of Indonesia but I have seen no confirmation of that.

We do know that Japan supported the Prince De Wang or Demchukdongrub as leader of an autonomous Inner Mongolia who had pan-Mongol monarchist ambitions and the Mongols were included in the list of titles of the Emperor of Manchukuo (as he was the heir to the title of “Great Khan of the Mongols” as well) so there is no doubt that a Japanese victory would have meant a monarchist revival in Mongolia to some degree (depending on how things developed with the Soviets). Japan did also consider, if it ever became possible (which it didn’t) creating an independent monarchy in Xinjiang (or “East Turkestan”) under an Ottoman prince. That would not technically have been an imported royal ruler either as the area was essentially the ancestral homeland of the Ottoman Turks before they moved west and occupied Anatolia. The farthest west Japanese speculation about monarchist alliances reached was Afghanistan where Japan had intermittent contact with Prince Sardar Mohammed Hashim Khan, uncle of the Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, though other than an exchange of moral support and some economic investment Japan was never able to do anything of any significance as far afield as Afghanistan. Naturally, national interest was involved in all of these moves as it was for France in Mexico and as it was for Germany in Eastern Europe but again, as in those cases, those who would discount these efforts must be asked; who did more? If the Japanese vision for East Asia had prevailed there would have been monarchies in Japan, Korea (though subordinate to Japan), Manchuria, at least Inner and perhaps even Outer Mongolia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, possibly Xinjiang and perhaps even in Burma whereas, the way things actually did work out, we have only monarchies in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia (plus Brunei to both lists) and Cambodia. And, while he was not involved in matters of policy, the devotion to the Showa Emperor was positively at the heart of this pro-monarchy mindset.

Sadly, since the end of World War II, monarchs have ceased to play an active role in foreign policy and the world stage has been dominated by republics. The relatively few monarchies that survived the disastrous Twentieth Century have become noticeably less assertive and virtually all depend on the United States to protect them against such enemies as the Soviet Union or Red China. In Europe, most have submitted to the leadership of the bureaucrats of the EU who have no time for monarchy and, one could argue, have even imperiled them by antagonistic expansion eastward, arousing the anger of a Russia desperate to prove its relevance. In these modern times, in this world setting, most monarchs have not been allowed to show any monarchist tendencies and have been raised up in an environment in which the elites of society and certainly education and media actively despise the institution. Yet, for all the criticism ardent monarchists often spout about their mostly power-less royal heads-of-state, one can still find clues that point to monarchist principles surviving in these frustratingly republican times.

While lacking the freedom and other advantages held by others on this list, one monarch who stands out today as a ‘monarchist monarch’ is none other than HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other Realms and territories. How can this be? Again, one must accept that grand, decisive actions are no longer possible for most monarchs, so subtle things must be looked at; the evidence is there. In areas where the Queen herself has final say, she has acted in various ways to show how monarchist she really is. One has been her treatment of royals who have lost their thrones but found a safe haven in Great Britain. The Queen has been very close and supportive of such former or would-be monarchs as King Michael I of Romania and Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia during their time in exile. Perhaps the best example is the treatment accorded to the deposed King Constantine II of Greece. It caused the British government some slight discomfort when the Greek usurpers in Athens protested so loudly at how the Queen continued to treat King Constantine II as if he were still a reigning monarch. This was most noticeable at Royal Family events in which the guests are seated by rank and at which King Constantine II was seated alongside his fellow monarchs. Yet, despite the protests from Athens, this was something the British government could do nothing about as it was a matter handled by “the Palace” and no one else.

As a devoted constitutional monarch, the Queen has certainly kept within her legal limits but within those limits she has shown herself to be as monarchist as a modern, European monarch can reasonably be. Sometimes this has been illustrated by what she has done and other times by what she had refused to do. When the Church of England started down the path of accommodation with modernity by allowing women into the clergy, the Queen stayed out of the matter but noticeably showed no disfavor toward those royals who could not stomach the changes and sacrificed their birthright by converting to Catholicism. As part of her recent Jubilee celebrations, when almost all the monarchs of the world came to congratulate her, some objected to the presence of certain African or Arab monarchs whose countries are not up to the liberal standards of human rights advocates. Yet, none were shown the door just as no British politician seemed willing to put human rights concerns ahead of good relations with republican dictators from Libya to China. However, I always thought one of the best examples of the monarchist sensibilities of Queen Elizabeth II to be something seldom remarked on, in fact, I have never heard of anyone else making the connection. That would be the funeral of King Baudouin of the Belgians.

The sudden death of who was then the longest-reigning monarch in Europe certainly came as a shock and his funeral was one of the most widely attended events for royalty from all over the world. Yet, aside from being well respected and such a familiar figure, a popular man and an accomplished monarch (his success in unifying a divided country caused King Juan Carlos of Spain to take him as his example), King Baudouin was also known as the only monarch in the post-war era to defy his politicians. A devout Catholic, King Baudouin had adamantly refused to grant his Royal Assent to a bill legalizing abortion in Belgium. Faced with a constitutional crisis, it made headlines all over the world when the government essentially deposed the King of the Belgians for one day in order to sign the bill into law without him. This made him rather unique amongst the crowned heads of Europe. And, when the King of the Belgians was called to his reward, many were rather surprised when Queen Elizabeth II appeared in Brussels for his funeral. Why was this so special you may ask?

To fully understand why this was so significant, a few things need to be kept in mind. For one thing, there had been, several decades before, some tension between the British and Belgian Royal Families. When the Queen’s own father, King George VI, had passed away, King Baudouin had refused to attend the funeral because of how his own father, King Leopold III, had been treated by the British during and immediately after World War II. Things had been improved since then of course, but still, it was there. Combine this with the fact that the Queen herself almost never attends any royal functions on the continent at all, invariably sending some other members of the British Royal Family to weddings, funerals or enthronement ceremonies. Why then did the Queen make an exception for the King of the Belgians? I cannot help but speculate that it had something to do with his willingness to defy his ministers over a cause that was just. King Baudouin was the one monarch who said “No” to the elected representatives of the people and lost his throne for a day because of it. Other monarchs would not do the same, indeed most European monarchs could not do the same, but he did and I believe that the Queen chose to break from her usual routine and attend his funeral, at least in part, as a mark of respect to this monarch who had refused to be a rubber-stamp.

In the past, monarchs had no real need to display overtly monarchist inclinations as monarchy was something so widespread as to be taken for granted. Later, when this was no longer the case, the game of power politics often meant that monarchies acted for short-term gain at the expense of the long-term strength of monarchy in general. Today, most are reduced to simply doing whatever they can to ensure that their own monarchy does not add to the tragically long list of monarchies that have fallen by staying in step with or at least out of the way of current popular ideas and political trends. What monarchists can do to help in the current situation is to be steadfastly loyal for, as kingdoms such as Thailand prove, even a monarch with little legal power can still exercise immense influence if the majority of their people faithfully support them. Real world political situations must also be taken into account to help ensure that the remaining monarchies of the world are revitalized and strengthened to the point that they are not under threat from hostile republics and not reliant on helpful or indifferent republics for their protection. If that can be accomplished, perhaps then we will see more ‘monarchist monarchs’ emerge again to help revive the cause of traditional authority around the world.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Monarchist Monarchs, Part I

I am often asked who my favorite monarch is and my reply is always the same; I could never pick just one favorite monarch and even then, some of those who are my favorites are not necessarily always the best. However, I can say with no fear of causing undue shock that my favorite type of monarchs are the most monarchist monarchs. By that, I mean those who have taken action in various ways to support not only their own monarchy but the cause of monarchy in general, whether by supporting other monarchies beyond their borders or supporting the principle of monarchy beyond the point that it would effect themselves directly. What follows is some favorite examples of such monarchs, though the list is not exhaustive of course and future posts may add to it. It also should be kept in mind that events (fate, the hand of God, time and chance etc) play a role in such things. There doubtlessly were and are monarchs who are just as monarchist as any on this list but who never had the opportunity to show it.

The start and spread of the Protestant Reformation was certainly a painful period for the western world with Christians fighting Christians as never before and thus also Christian monarchies fighting each other as well. Some monarchs embraced Protestantism while others opposed it and some peoples were inspired by it or perhaps simply used it as an ideological shield to actions they wished to undertake in any event, to rise up in rebellion against their princes. Such was the Peasant’s Revolt in Germany and later, encouraged also by economics, the Dutch Revolt in the Netherlands which was, at that time, ruled by the Spanish Hapsburgs. The Dutch rebels embraced republicanism, albeit republicanism of a very unique sort that most today would not recognize, though their greatest leader was a prince and one who came to Protestantism rather late in the game, perhaps as much to attract the support of Protestant powers as religious conviction. The primary enemy of the Dutch republicans was, of course, the man the were rebelling against; King Philip II of Spain. King Philip II of Spain also happened to be a very monarchist monarch.

Given the background just covered, one cannot attribute simplistic motives to the leaders of the time and King Philip II certainly had more than monarchist reasons for doing the things he did, yet monarchist they were nonetheless. A fought the Dutch because the were in rebellion against his royal authority, also because they tended to be Protestant and also because their form of government was scandalous to him. Not every monarch felt the same way such as Queen Elizabeth I of England who sent vital support to the Dutch republicans as a way of bedeviling her Spanish royal rival. King Philip II evened the odds by doing the same to his former sister-in-law by supporting rebels (though not republican ones) in Ireland against the English Queen. Once again, it also mattered that the Irish were Catholic and the English monarch was Protestant. King Philip II always sought to further the cause of Catholicism and to fight against the expansion of both Protestantism and Islam and some may wonder if this was not his sole motivation and any ideas he had about the importance of monarchy had nothing to do with it but the facts do not support such a supposition. As with everything, King Philip regarded Catholicism as inseparable from monarchy anyway.

However, King Philip II was a monarch who took royal power seriously (though he was no arbitrary tyrant as he respected the laws and traditions of his various domains). He was so staunch a Catholic that he considered even Pope St Pius V insufficiently zealous, yet he was himself at odds with the Supreme Pontiff on more than one occasion (though, fortunately he never took it as far as his father had). It is evidence enough that Philip II was a loyal son of the Church even when he was sometimes considered a papal adversary that even today the most zealous Catholics tend to take the side of the King over that of the leader of the Catholic Church. King Philip II was a Catholic champion but he was also a monarch who believed in monarchy and would not allow the Pope to diminish his own legitimate authority or shy away from opposing the Pontiff politically, though such occasions were very much the rare exception.

Political realities, religion and the principle of monarchy came together again when King Philip II sent Spain’s “Invincible Armada” (which turned out to be all too ‘vincible’) against England. There were numerous motivations for this but one was certainly the regicide of Mary Queen of Scots by Queen Elizabeth I of England. Putting a monarch to death was a shocking event and one monarch subjecting another to a trial and execution was perhaps even more so. The Scots Queen was beheaded in 1587 and the Spanish Armada set sail the following year which, as we know, was unsuccessful in its aim of invading England and overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I.

The Dutch, however, were not without monarchist monarchs of their own in several of the Princes of Orange. They were not actually monarchs of course at the time but I always tend to think of them as monarchs who had not yet come into their own. Fairly early on there emerged two factions in Dutch politics; the republican party and the Orange party which was distinctly royalist. Prince Frederik Hendrik began to really make the Dutch republic a monarchy in all but name. He was made a knight of the Garter by King Charles I of Britain and the English Princess Royal was married to the heir of the Prince of Orange, Willem II. It is hard to choose a favorite of the two of them but for monarchist credentials I think I would have to go with Prince Willem II of Orange rather than his father. His father was, of course, a giant figure in Dutch history, a masterful military commander as well as an astute statesman but it was Prince Willem II who actually took to the field to fight for the idea of a Dutch monarchy and a powerful, Calvinist (because he saw himself as a champion of his religion just as Philip II of Spain did) ‘Kingdom of the United Netherlands’. Of course, each side also had their confederates in Britain as the English Civil War was the pivotal monarchy vs. republic contest of the time. Prince Willem II naturally favored the side of his father-in-law and thus there were many close ties between the Orange party in the Netherlands and the royalist Cavaliers in England. Prince Frederik Hendrik had also supported King Charles I in his domestic troubles and had even considered bringing his highly professional and experienced Dutch army to England to help the royalists win their war.

However, it was Prince Willem II who actually went the furthest, even to war before his all-too-short life ended to advance the cause of a Dutch monarchy while also doing all he could to help English royalists. His widow, naturally, also gave aid and shelter to her brothers King Charles II and the future King James II. The English dictator Cromwell even went to war with the Dutch republic and at least some of the motivation behind that was because so many English royalists were harbored there and the House of Orange had been so supportive of the Stuarts (which sound ironic given what would happen later). Also worth mentioning, in connection to the English Civil Wars, was another monarchist monarch very far removed from the British Isles; Tsar Alexis I of Russia. He was only the second Romanov to rule Russia and was a great monarch all around. Tsar Alexis I presided over the last flowering of Muscovite culture before the campaign of westernization, he was a powerful monarch, a devout Orthodox Christian and it was he who took the first steps towards modernization though in a more limited and conservative way than Peter the Great would. He tried to rebuild the Russian economy after a costly war with Poland by promoting trade. Yet, though it certainly was not beneficial to his country, Tsar Alexis put principle before profit and cut off all trade with England after the regicide of King Charles I. The fact that someone so far removed from the issue that he could do practically nothing else about it always impressed me all the more. Tsar Alexis I had no real vital interest in what happened in Great Britain and any actions he took would have little impact (the English Commonwealth certainly did not suffer unduly for lack of trade with Russia) yet, he nonetheless did what was in his power to do to show that he would have nothing to do with a regime which had murdered its legitimate, anointed sovereign.

The one other monarch which probably did more than any other to support the cause of monarchy was the great King Louis XIV of France. As a man who was not above getting his hands dirty if it would advance French interests, his reputation was not so pristine as the Tsar of Russia (he did deal with Cromwell, as did the Dutch but that was the republican faction rather than the Orange party), yet King Louis XIV was certainly a big believer in monarchy and the sacred nature of monarchy which anyone who knows anything at all about him can attest. He also gave support to the British Stuarts in their hour of need but I think what stands out as the most laudable thing he did for the cause of monarchy came after the Stuart restoration. In the end, it was a promise he was never called upon to fulfill but he did promise his support and even a French army should it be necessary to keep King Charles II on his throne and defend the British Crown from republican traitors. It was also thanks to the subsidy King Louis XIV that Charles II had the funds to dissolve Parliament and rule in his own right for the final years of his life. This was not insignificant as it prevented Parliament from being able to force the King, by the power of the purse, to disinherit his brother and place the succession under the control of Parliament. This would have effectively meant that the Crown was in the gift of the Parliament and that the King of England, Scotland and Ireland reigned ‘by the grace of Parliament’ rather than “By the Grace of God” as is right and proper. When King James II was overthrown, Louis XIV gave him shelter and support and finally French troops to aid in his attempted restoration in Ireland, which, as we know, ended in failure at the Boyne. Practical reality finally compelled Louis to come to terms with Britain’s new Dutch monarch but while he was obliged to withdraw most of his support from the exiled James II, he never forced him to leave the country and even tried to find a crown for him in Poland but James refused the offer.

After the English Civil Wars there was not much opportunity for a monarch to prove their monarchist zealousness in the way we are looking at here for quite some time. The next major clash between republicans and royalists came with the American War for Independence and Britain had been riding high for so long that most were not unduly distressed to see Britain humbled. In some ways it seemed as though the crowned heads of the world were eager to embrace the new American republic. The French Revolution was another story but in that regard it is still difficult for individual monarchs to stand out since almost all were united in their opposition to the monstrous French regime. After the rise of Napoleon, almost every monarchy was also forced at some point to come to terms with the new regime in France. It is for that reason that one monarch stands out, to me at least, and that was the much maligned Tsar Paul I of Russia. He was a staunchly monarchist monarch which was even displayed when he did finally come around to recognizing Napoleon. Paul I was a monarchist very much of the legitimist variety and it was this that ultimately led to his falling out with the Allies and why many have accused him of having an erratic foreign policy (often cited amongst the evidence for his being insane).

Naturally, he detested the French revolutionaries and was prepared to give any assistance he could in thwarting them. However, when the struggle was well underway he became disenchanted with his allies, such as Britain and Austria, due to their lack of legitimist principle. For example, when Napoleon conquered northern Italy and destroyed the Republic of Venice (and eventually every ancien regime in Italy) Paul I found it shocking that the Austrian Empire would come to terms with what was then still the First French Republic (which had the blood of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on its hands) to divide the territory of ruined Venice between them. Later, after the French were driven out, Austria kept northern Italy for itself rather than restoring it to its pre-revolutionary Italian rulers. Even more bitter to Paul was the case of Malta as Tsar Paul I had long had a great love and fascination for the Knights of Malta and their heroic exploits. The French had conquered the island and the British had aided the Maltese in overthrowing them but then the British had kept Malta because of its strategic location whereas it was the dream of Tsar Paul to see the island restored to the Knights of St John. Of course, there were also other examples, but these are indicative of why the Russian Tsar fell out with his allies and even pondered sending a Russian army to evict the British from India. It helped him come to see Napoleon as perhaps not that much worse than the other rulers in Western Europe and he reasoned that his elevation to emperor was at least a move back towards monarchy and away from revolutionary republicanism. For all of that, Tsar Paul I has always seemed to me one of the most staunchly monarchist monarchs of the early Revolutionary-Napoleonic period.

Thankfully, in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, there was a somewhat greater degree of monarchial solidarity in Europe as most everyone recognized that it was in their own interest to maintain the principle of monarchy. Since republicanism threatened everyone, it was more common to see monarchs coming to the assistance of each other when they were threatened. Yet, there were also disagreements as to what formula for monarchy was best to preserve the institution. This was on display in civil wars in Spain, Portugal and Italy in particular. As constitutional monarchists battled against absolute monarchists many, particularly the powerful British Empire, tended to favor the constitutional monarchists. Many absolutist-sympathizers of course have very uncharitable views about Britain because of this, yet it should be kept in mind that many people viewed constitutional monarchy (and Britain was the most shining example) were more conducive to stability and the long-term survival of monarchy than absolutism was. This was the view that absolute rule invites rebellion and disorder, possibly resulting in the overthrow of monarchy and the victory of republicanism, while constitutional monarchy was able to give the people enough of what they wanted to keep them peaceful and orderly and to take out their frustrations at the ballot box rather than barricades in the streets. Give them elected representatives, was the idea, so that they have politicians to hold to account rather than blaming their monarch for any misfortune that may come along.

This issue remained at the forefront and particularly came into view with the outbreak of the Revolutions of 1848. In that time of crisis, many monarchs had to fight to maintain their thrones but one monarch stood out as being safe enough at home to champion the cause of monarchy abroad and that was Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. He was certainly a monarchist monarch and an absolute monarchist (and monarch) at that. His political views were illustrated early on by the curtailment of the power of the government in Congress Poland (of which the Russian Emperor was also King). When the Poles protested, favoring a constitutional monarchy, the Tsar sent in Russian troops, dismissed the Polish constitution and from then on ruled Poland as a conquered province rather than an independent country in personal union with the Tsar. Nicholas I also offered to come to the aid of any European monarch who came under threat from republican traitors or even constitutional monarchists whom he tended to view as subversives. None availed themselves of his help until the Revolutions of 1848 when the Austrian Empire came to be in a desperate state. Rebellions by the various ethnicities of the polyglot empire seemed to be breaking out all at once. The Italians were seizing control of northern Italy, riots had broken out in Vienna and the Hungarians were rising up and showing signs of being determined to take Hungary out of the Austrian Empire. The Hapsburg Emperor fought back hard but it seemed doubtful that he had the military strength to suppress both the Italians in the west and the Hungarians in the east at the same time. In 1848 the Austrian Empire really did seem on the brink of collapse.

However, Tsar Nicholas I came riding to the rescue. Even though his country was not under threat and even though one could argue that the break-up of the Austrian Empire would have presented favorable opportunities for Russia, the man known as the “Iron Tsar” and the “Gendarme of Europe” did not care about such things. A monarchy was imperiled and he would lend assistance regardless of the circumstances. He sent a large Russian army into Hungary in 1849 to stamp out rebellion there and this was successfully accomplished with the rule of the House of Hapsburg being restored there. Nicholas I also sent his moral support to the King of Prussia not to give in to those who were demanding a constitution. No one can doubt that the Russian Emperor would have sent his army to Berlin to help prevent such a thing if the King of Prussia had asked it of him. For the Tsar, it was a matter of principle and he had an absolute clarity on the subject. The Revolutions of 1848 ended with most monarchies having been shaken but having survived. The crowned heads of Europe would not feel such nervousness again on such a scale until the outbreak of the First World War. More on that next time.

Continued in Part II

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When the Mad Monarchist Thinks (it is what it sounds like)

I have been thinking a lot recently about the Renaissance. A lot of people are very negative about the Renaissance, but I love it. There was plenty of negative things going on to be sure but it was also a glorious period, a flowering of the High Middle Ages and a high point of western civilization. It had achieved the height of Christendom in the High Middle Ages, then in the Renaissance that flowered into a more total encapsulation of western civilization with the rediscovery of classical history, of glorious ancient Rome and putting the sum total of western civilization altogether in one glorious package. There was good and bad like always, but it was grand and only the good was celebrated while the bad was recognized for what it was and nobody tried to twist it into something good. But I was thinking about the Renaissance and about Tudor England and all the things that happened back then and that forces one to think about King Henry VIII. And Henry VIII is not one of my favorite monarchs, he was not what I would consider ideal because he did not hold fast to the traditions that were handed down to him and many people today who do admire him, though that is a majority of a minority, do so because he set the stage, not because they would have liked the play at the time. It’s because he was a colossus in English history because everything that happened before him was all his creation (it created him not that he created it) and everything that happened after was a result of what he did or what he set in motion and a lot of the people that admire him today admire him because they like what came after, because that became the new normal, the new tradition but if they were alive at the time, with their current mindset and values, they would have criticized King Harry for upsetting everything and being so revolutionary in all the things he did but what he did became the new normal for the conservatives to hold on to. And you can’t get around the fact that a lot of that has to do with religion because that’s when the division in England started between the Catholics and the Protestants so the Protestants have a reason to admire him or at least defend him while the Catholics have a reason to hold anger on him. They have more reason because they were the injured party in that country but they also cannot single the King out alone because the bishops in England, they all went along with it, all but Fisher we know and that really wasn’t unusual. They let him have his way and made him think he could always have his way and most of them went along with whatever way the wind was blowing. Who can say they were entirely wrong? Things might be seen very differently, even by the Catholics, if the Queen had died sooner or even if Queen Mary had had the son she thought she was going to have, it might have all been just a small bump in the road toward an Anglo-Spanish era of domination. Because bishops going along with their king was not new and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it has helped the Catholic Church survive a long time. When the Hundred Years War was going on, the French bishops told their king that God was on his side and the English bishops told their king that God was on his side and they both went to war full of faith and nobody questioned the Church about it. If they had tried to carry out some sort of super-national master plan they would have been seen as suspect and as enemies and the reaction would have been only natural just as it was perfectly natural at the time for clerics to be faithful to God and loyal to their king, no matter what borders they were inside of because they are not other-worldly beings but people too. The Pope made Chalemagne an emperor, gave him the title, and bowed down to him because he was the emperor. And this is part of what monarchy is and why it has lasted so long and why revolutionary republicanism is so fundamentally evil, because it goes against nature. It tries to be beyond nationality and all about legal constructs and not about people, not about the earth or the hole of the pit we were dug out of that we’re supposed to remember, by God’s command. To love your country is perfectly natural and I don’t trust people that don’t love their country. Love your country even if you distrust your government. Thomas More said something like that, the King’s servant as far as that could take him because he was English and that’s what he was supposed to do, that was natural. Of course, being a monarchist in the United States, I get people all the time accusing me of hating my country and nothing could be farther from the truth. I don’t hate my country and I get very frustrated when monarchists start going anti-American just because it’s popular to be against whoever is riding high at the moment, when there’s no reason for it. Right now there’s hardly a monarchy in the world that doesn’t depend on the United States for protection. But if you love your country you’re going to love your king because he is the personification of your country, the land, the history, the traditions, the whole national story are all bound up in that one man or woman and their family, if it’s a long one or a short one. All this republican, internationalism is devilish stuff, super-national, globalism and all, that’s Tower of Babel type chicanery, that’s nothing new and it’s nothing good. Of course, that doesn’t mean being xenophobic, a xenophobic person is a small-minded person, they got a pinched sense of reality, they’re blind to the world around them and they’d cut their own throat if they thought it’d make their neighbor have a bad day. You shouldn’t talk negatively or insulting about countries or nations anyway, individuals is one thing, a government is one thing but not the country, not the people, who are just trying to make their way and follow the path of least resistance. They’re just looking for some peace. But you have to walk that line, that narrow path that isn’t easy between internationalism and the sort of nationalism that’s just xenophobic and self-destructive because the enemy is pushing both ways. They push the internationalism junk openly but they don’t mind the radical, destructive type nationalism either because it is self-destructive and so they know it helps internationalism win in the end and it’s a perfect bogey man for them to scare the great mass of moderate, middle of the road types while they go on herding them in the internationalist direction, trying to tell them that’s the path to salvation and world peace. It’s what caused the world we have, it’s what made the world after the world of the Renaissance was destroyed. Just when western civilization started to reach this new level of learning, of art and religion and all that they started to undermine it and tear it down. Then the bad guys got their big moment of inspiration with the French Revolution. It wasn’t the American Revolution, that was child’s play to these people and those Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917 weren’t singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” marching down the street, they were singing “La Marseillaise” and raise the bloody banner, water the fields with impure blood, the world is against you, so go fight against the world. It’s why Marx said “Workers of the WORLD unite” and why Stalin said he would see the world conquered in his lifetime and why Mao said the “world has stood up” on the heavenly gate of peace. And if love of king and country wasn’t stamped on our DNA they would have done it too but they’re still trying. They have about got people poisoned off on their kings, helped out here and there by those that put their prejudice before even their own self-interest and now they’re going after (and having an easier time of it with the kings all shackled) the countries by going after property, the idea that anyone has a right to own anything, to their own property or their own native soil. It doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to everyone! It belongs to whoever needs it worst. How do we know who needs it worst? The commissar will tell you, don’t worry about that and even your country, that doesn’t belong to you or your people, it belongs to the whole world, because countries are just legal constructs, a border is just a line in the dirt, it’s not like nations are each unique families, their own unit with a father-monarch that embodies them, no, they say, we’re all just alike, we’re all interchangeable and nothing belongs to you, it belongs to everyone. That’s equality and all good, decent people believe in that, they all believe in liberty, equality and brotherhood right? This is what people don’t understand when they tell me that I have to make a better case for monarchy, I have to better show how monarchy can take care of everyone better, do what a revolutionary republic does but do it better and they don’t understand that I don’t even see it that way. You can, it’s a perfectly legitimate way to go if you want to, you can make that case and it’s true because when things are going the way nature intended, it will be better and it will be easier in a way at least, but that’s not my bottom line, that’s not my standard of judgment and people don’t see it when they tell me that you can’t just be critical of republics, you have to show that monarchy is better. I want to shout at them, but I can’t because I’d be doing it over and over again every time until I blow out my throat, that that’s a fine way to go but I don’t feel like I should have to prove that monarchy is better because I don’t believe that’s the standard of judgment. My standard is not fundamentally utilitarian, I say a third time, that’s fine if you want it and it can work like that, but I say you make your life better, that’s not the King’s job to make your life better, it’s not him who is responsible if you’re a failure. I say he is the King and should stay the King because it is his right and no one should have the power to take that away from him. I don’t care if you can run my property better than I can, I don’t care if you think you can make it more profitable than I can, it’s mine and that’s all the reason I need for saying you can’t have it. The King is the king because it’s his birthright and no one should be able to take that away from him. Change things around him all you like if it makes you feel better, you’ll just get burned by it eventually but you have no right to take away his birthright. When you do that, everything else is pointless. Everything reaches but it’s too low to catch, it bottoms out and going from there, you might inch up once in a while, some spots may be a little higher than others but you’re totally playing on the wrong damn field and nothing you do can change that until you get back on the right track and have things based on what they’re supposed to be based on, the way things grew up naturally to make you who you are or what you are, Understand? It’s like God, I’ve probably gone on with this long enough, but a monarch is like God, not in an idolatry kind of way but in that you have to have a monarch to have everything else in order, on the temporal side of things. That’s not clear. Sorry. I say God like God is the number zero. What is zero? It’s a contradiction, it’s the number that isn’t a number, it’s the quantity of nothing, it doesn’t make any sense but if you don’t have zero, if you don’t have that starting place, you can’t have math, you can’t have fractions even, you have to have the number that isn’t a number so you can have actual numbers. Nothing would make sense without it, it’s the starting point and so God is a contradiction, God cannot be explained but without that basis there is nothing and so the monarch is like that for peoples, you just can’t have a country without that natural framework. Even if you have a system, not a system but a tradition that is done a different way like the Chinese Confucian sort of system, you still have to have that basic traditional framework that grew up organically over centuries, even thousands of years, or everything falls apart so that you look at China today, after the Qing were torn down and there’s hardly anything really Chinese about China anymore. You could say the same thing about some colonial countries that went revolutionary and abolished their monarchies and today, looking back, they were more true to themselves when they were ruled by foreign powers than when they are independent because they’ve gotten rid of that anchor, that basic necessary starting point that everything else flowed from. Vietnam was more Vietnamese when the French were there, when the damn French Republic was there, because the soul survived, the spirit was maintained, in a real sense the spirits were maintained so it was okay there was hope there was the foundation. It’s what the patriot Tran Cao Van said right before they cut his head off, “The earth is still below us, Heaven is still above us, the Dynasty is still there, we wish 10,000 years to His Majesty the Emperor”. It’s good, we’ll come through. Now look at it. The spirit is being smothered or they’re doing their best to. Or you look at Mexico, look at Maximilian who took up where his ancestors had left off, he heard a divine calling to save those people, like the Holy Ghost fluttering over the abyss, I know he heard it and when he took his oath it MEANT something to him and when he died, he died like a king, he died with dignity and his generals died like heroes and that’s the first thing the enemy comes for is your dignity, we see that all around us. They come for your dignity first, they set up conditions so people give up their own dignity willingly, so that they shed it like wet clothes, fast as they can, with great enthusiasm just for the mere chance of some reward or just for a few minutes when people will notice them because they’re cutting us off from each other. They cut up the family so we don’t have that support and they cut us off from the king, from that anchor to the ancient and fundamental or they shackle them with so many chains that they can just glimpse us and we can just glimpse them like through that dark glass. We can see them we can see each other but we cannot touch, they want to slowly or quickly however they can do it, tear us away from our roots, from who we are and make us into something else. That’s why I don’t like hateful criticism of those royals we have today with so many limitations on them. I don’t hold anything against them, I can’t, I feel sorry for them because they are suffering too even if they don’t realize it because they’re being torn from us just like we’re being torn from them. It’s happening all over and we can see all over the world the powers that be dragging us in the same direction, some want to go faster, some want to go slower, but almost all of them are going in the same direction or are at least trying to. One side may put the brakes on from time to time but none have the courage or maybe none have the strength to take us back because the villains have managed to make that into something seen as hateful. You can’t go back, is what they tell us, you can only go forward, even if behind you is paradise and before is misery and despair they say it’s only good going forward and you shouldn’t even look back (because they’re afraid of what the people might see) but just take their word for it that it was all horrible behind you and keep going forward even when you see the cliff coming in front of you. This is going to probably be pretty hard to read but, too late now, may as well go on. It’s happening everywhere in one form or another, we just have a hard time keeping it straight, between helping each other out (because they’re all pulling together, at least when it counts they certainly do) while we’re torn between wanting to avoid losing who we are, because it’s because something so precious rare, and falling off into tribal bickering and old hatreds for injustices long past. It’s hard to keep straight and all the while the villains keep trying to pick away at our roots, at our foundations, trying to rip us away from that thing that someone once called the “taproot to Eden”, you know who it was. Some countries have done it quickly, just ripping it off like a bandage, you see this more in Third World countries and they are generally pretty miserable places but even in First World countries, the same thing is happening just more slowly, it’s all part of the same thing and it’s trying to strangle every last shred of decency and grace and glory out of all of us. In the western world I think they started doing that or at least making progress with that around the time of the Renaissance or the end of it, that probably helped end it but the bad guys were assisted by plenty of close-minded people too, there are always collaborators, you can count on that, always collaborators. And that’s not to say no one was trying before, they were always trying but they were not making any real progress because their holes kept getting patched up but just like the fall of Rome, because the Romans did everything in the world two thousand years ago already, eventually the holes became too many and people got lazy about patching them up or maybe made mistakes in which were the most serious but I think you know what I mean. Actually you probably don’t but I may as well stop now as don’t really have a set place to stop because I didn’t really set out with any goal in mind here, just think of it as “thinking out loud” but written down. If you got anything useful out of it, I’ll say it was worth it and if not, I probably won’t have the nerve to put this sort of stuff out here again anyway so maybe next time things will be more familiar.

To end, I’ll just say “Remember”. Always. (monarchists should at least get that one)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Story of Monarchy: Romanian Rise and Fall

The Kingdom of Romania was a monarchy that experienced a meteoric rise followed by an infamous fall. The story of the Kingdom of Romania is rooted in a very long struggle for unity and independence dating back to the Middle Ages when what is now Romania was divided between the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia as well as parts of Transylvania. The whole area was conquered by the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the XV Century and remained so, though there was a brief interlude under Prince Michael the Brave in the XVI Century when Wallachia and Moldavia came together as an independent feudal state of a kind. These two provinces reverted back to Turkish rule after his death with Transylvania being ruled by the Hapsburgs of Austria as part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Bessarabia, on the Moldavian border, was ceded to the Russian Empire by the Turks in 1812 and rightful ownership of the territory has been disputed almost ever since. Russia returned the southern portion after being defeated in the Crimean War but not long after, in 1861, Wallachia and Moldavia came together again as the “United Principality of Romania” under Alexander Ioan Cuza but it was still under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Sultan.

King Carol I
Several years later a liberal and conservative coalition forced Cuza from power and elected the German Prince Karl Eitel von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen to be their Prince. He was from the southern, Catholic branch of the Prussian Royal Family. This was to gain German support for eventual Romanian independence but the Austrians were less than thrilled with this development and Prince Karl had to travel in disguise, using a false passport, to reach Bucharest safely through Austrian territory. He adopted the Romanian form of his name, Carol, and became Domnitor of Romania in 1866. He was not Romanian by blood nor could he speak the language (he tended to speak French which most of the upper class understood) but he impressed everyone with his zeal to be a good monarch and to advance Romanian interests. In time, it became clear that the Romanians had chosen quite a capable monarch for themselves. In 1877 Prince Carol allied with the Russian Empire against the Turks and saved the day for Russia at the battle of Plevna in what is now Bulgaria. It was a decisive defeat for the Turks and in the aftermath Romania received official recognition of her independence at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. However, southern Bessarabia did have to be ceded back to Russia again.

Finally united and independent, in March of 1881 the government in Bucharest declared the country the Kingdom of Romania and Prince Carol crowned himself King Carol I of Romania with the famous “Steel Crown”, so-called because it was made from one of the guns that saw action at the battle of Plevna. The Kingdom of Romania was at last a fact but it would need a strong monarchy with a Royal Family and assurance of an orderly succession to see it thrive and prosper. Toward that end, King Carol I married Elizabeth von Wied (aunt of the Prince Wilhelm who would be Prince of Albania for a time in 1914). She was a literary woman, author of many poetry books under the name of “Carmen Sylva”. However, their only child, Princess Marie, died before her fourth birthday so in order to secure the succession King Carol adopted his nephew Prince Ferdinand von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Prince Ferdinand upset his family by renouncing Catholicism to join the Romanian Orthodox Church but he was just as determined as his uncle to see the Kingdom of Romania persevere and succeed. He learned Romanian and began seriously looking for a bride of his own to secure a stable Romanian royal dynasty. At the court of the German Kaiser he decided on Princess Marie of Edinburgh, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Queen Marie
A granddaughter of Britain’s powerful Queen-Empress, a daughter of German royalty and a descendant of the Russian Emperors by her mother, Princess Marie seemed the ideal candidate to give Romania plenty of friends in high places. However, getting along with the rest of the family proved rather difficult. She was too assertive for the tastes of her father-in-law and was a literary rival to her mother-in-law. However, she did her royal duty and in 1893 produced an heir to the throne who was named Prince Carol, after the King. But, in 1914, King Carol I died just after the outbreak of World War I and so it was the newly crowned King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie who would be called upon to lead Romania through its first great crisis as an independent kingdom. As a Hohenzollern, King Ferdinand tended to sympathize with his German relatives but Queen Marie was even more emphatically on the side of Great Britain and the Allies. The government also tipped the scales in her favor after Britain and France promised Romania vast swathes of Hungarian territory  when the war was over if they would join on the Allied side. It seemed so perfect; the massive Russian Empire promised support, Allied armies were in Greece, the Germans were stretched to the limit by the Somme offensive and Austria-Hungary seemed just about to crumble under the ferocious Brusilov offensive by Russia.

So, at that moment, in the summer of 1916 the Kingdom of Romania declared war on the Central Powers and launched an invasion of Hungary. Unfortunately, things began to go wrong very quickly. The army was not well trained or prepared and German Colonel General Erich von Falkenhayn already had a plan for the conquest of Romania ready to put into effect. The Central Powers were not so crippled as the leaders in Bucharest thought and soon Field Marshal August von Mackensen was leading a massive invasion of Romania with troops from Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. Overwhelmed by this massive counter-attack, Romania was almost completely conquered and even started to destroy their oil facilities to keep them out of German hands. A remnant managed to hang on in the east but the next year, 1917, Russia began to come apart and the Romanians were left with no choice but to concede defeat and sign a treaty giving up border territories to the Central Powers and Germany control over Romanian oil production. Some were amazed that Romania was to survive at all given how furious the German Kaiser Wilhelm II was that a member of his own family would declare war on him. Fortunately for Romania, this humiliation was only temporary.

King Ferdinand
In 1918 the Central Powers began to collapse, the Romanian army reorganized itself and in the end, Romania emerged on the winning side. King Ferdinand had led his people through their darkest hour since becoming an independent country but they had emerged as a more dominant country than ever before. Queen Marie set up camp in Paris when the Versailles Treaty negotiations were underway and she, along with the Romanian delegation, saw to it that Romania got all the spoils promised, primarily the annexation of Transylvania from Hungary (the return of Bessarabia was also confirmed). When all was settled the Kingdom was known as “Greater Romania” as it reached its greatest area of territorial control. The future looked bright but, of course, Romania was to suffer great turmoil as a result of the First World War just like every other country, whether on the winning side or not. Increasingly radical political trends began to sweep the country and inside the monarchy itself there was dissension. Crown Prince Carol was determined to marry the daughter of a Romanian general, Giovanna “Zizi” Lambrino. King Ferdinand did not approve but Prince Carol spirited his sweetheart away to the Ukraine where they were married in secret. Later, a son was born but King Ferdinand had never given permission for the marriage and neither it, nor any children from it, were legitimate in Romanian law.

Crown Prince Carol finally agreed to return and marry the woman his parents chose; his sister-in-law Princess Helena of Greece in 1921. Later that year a son and heir was born to the royal couple; Prince Michael, named in honor of Prince Michael the Brave of Romanian history. However, the Crown Prince already had another mistress in the person of Elena Lupescu which caused quite a scandal. No one could decide what was worse; that she was a commoner, that she was Catholic by religion or that she was Jewish by blood. She converted to Orthodoxy but she had also been married before and divorced so that, for any number of reasons, “Magda” Lupescu was popular with practically no one besides Crown Prince Carol. Finally, in 1925 he was forced to renounce his rights to the throne in favor of his young son Michael. He divorced Helena and lived in France with Magda Lupescu. So it was that when King Ferdinand I died in 1927 he was succeeded by his 6-year-old grandson who officially became King Michael I of Romania.

King Carol II
But, the boy-King’s father was not out of the picture yet. In 1930 the Peasant Party came to power and invited Carol to return as long as he agreed to leave Lupescu and reconcile with Queen Helena (she was titled Queen Mother in 1927 despite her husband never having been King at that point -the two were officially divorced in 1928). He agreed and returned to Bucharest where the national assembly voted to effectively depose King Michael and make his father King Carol II (the liberals dissented but were out-voted). However, Queen Helena refused to reconcile and it was never something Carol II took seriously anyway; Lupescu was his true love and she was soon in Bucharest as well with her own household). King Carol II enacted a new constitution that gave more power to the Crown and formed his own nationalist-royalist paramilitary movement to bolster his regime and try to counteract the other such parties that were gaining strength across the country. He also cracked down on any real or potential opposition such as by arresting the leader of the fascist Legion of the Archangel Michael or Iron Guard, Cornelius Codreanu. In 1938 Queen Marie died, depressed at the situation in her country, and in a visit by King Carol II and Crown Prince Michael to Bavaria, Hitler offered to support the King if he would drop his Jewish mistress and free Codreanu from prison.

King Carol refused and shortly thereafter Codreanu was shot by the police, supposedly while attempting escape though few believed it. As World War II broke out, things got worse for Romania. Hitler was hostile to King Carol II and there was nothing to do but concede when Stalin (at the time in league with Hitler) demanded the return of Bessarabia. Hitler also demanded that Carol II return northern Transylvania to Hungary. All of this was done, and it is hard to see how the King could have done anything else, but it cause a massive uproar in Romania particularly by the Iron Guard and the pro-German supporters of General Ion Antonescu, a former Minister of War. In September of 1940 General Antonescu organized a coup that brought down King Carol II and put King Michael I back on the Romanian throne. However, he was to be a mere figurehead with General Antonescu ruling Romania as dictator. He took the country into the Axis camp and participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. King Michael did not even know his country was at war with Russia until he heard about it on BBC radio. Still, despite the situation, King Michael was able to prevent the hand-over of Romanian Jews to the Nazis and he began to organize his own network of pro-Allied supporters.

King Michael I
The Nazi secret police suspected something was up but General Antonescu shrugged off their warnings, saying that King Michael was “just a kid”. His opinion no doubt changed in 1944 when that “kid” organized a successful coup that removed the dictator from power. King Michael then declared an end to the war with Russia and put Romania into the Allied camp. Unfortunately for Romania, the western Allies had already sold them out. When the King was in secret communication with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the British leader had already agreed that Romania would be in the Soviet sphere of influence in exchange for Greece being put under the protection of Great Britain. When the King sent his troops out to salute the passing Soviet Red Army, the Russians took them all prisoner and began to flood the country with communist agents to rally disloyal elements and intimidate and terrorize the rest into submission.

When the war ended in victory for the Allies, the Soviet stranglehold on Romania became tighter. However, King Michael did all in his power to block them at every turn. Still, he was limited to small things since Romania had been abandoned by the west to the vicious Stalin and his stooges. There were some happier moments though, such as in 1947 when King Michael met Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma in London, the woman who would be the great love of his life. They soon made plans to marry the following year and that was the last sort of spectacle that anyone in Moscow or their lackeys in Bucharest wanted to see. The Romanian communists had hoped the King would have stayed in Britain but he returned home and was determined to never leave his people. The communists had other ideas and when all of their harassment could not induce him to leave, they finally resorted to outright coercion. In December they demanded that King Michael abdicate his throne or else they would begin executing 1,000 students as “subversives”. Of course, the King could not allow such a bloodbath and had no choice but to agree. He signed their document, under duress so it had no validity, and left the country with little more than the clothes on his back as all royal property was confiscated by the communists.

the royal wedding
This was the start of decades of a life in exile for King Michael I of Romania. He married Princess Anne, making her Queen Anne of Romania, organized the Romanian National Committee to keep track of events at home and keep in touch with anti-communist Romanians in exile while working at a number of jobs in Britain, the United States and Switzerland. In Romania itself, a socialist republic was proclaimed, all former supporters of the Axis alliance as well as any royalists they could get their hands on were executed and various communist factions struggled for power. In the end, the man who emerged as dictator was Nicholas Ceausescu, a brutal tyrant who ran what many considered the most “Stalinist” regime in the Soviet bloc from 1965 to 1989. When Ceausescu was finally toppled from power (he escaped but was later apprehended and executed) in a revolution that was quite bloody. However, as with many East European countries, much of the old elite remained in place with former communists simply calling themselves social democrats and carrying on as before. There was no thought given to restoring the legitimate monarch to his throne and the first elected President of Romania, Ion Iliescu, was, not surprisingly, a former communist who ran as a social democrat.

The National Liberal Party did ask King Michael to run for president, which he of course refused and the party won no seats in the election. The King was perfectly willing to return as monarch if the Romanian people so desired it but he had no desire to become a politician. To return to his beloved country was, however, naturally the first thing that King Michael wanted to do but he met opposition from the government. His first effort to return saw the government cancel his visa so the first member of the Royal Family to return was Princess Margarita, his daughter, in December of 1990 on a humanitarian mission. That year she had founded a charitable organization after being moved by the plight of the children in the wretched state orphanages run by Ceausescu. For those not aware, this was probably the greatest horror of the communist regime and what happened to the orphaned children in state care is a story too horrific to relate here. There was starvation, neglect, abuse and even more disgusting crimes that can scarcely be imagined. After bringing up the subject with the prime minister, who did not say the King would not be allowed to return, the King prepared to come home.

The King & Princess Margarita
On Christmas Day, 1990, King Michael I flew into Bucharest on a private plane. The airport officials received them very cordially but government officials were caught off guard. Eventually the party was stopped and forced to leave the country. Their pilot was arrested and many fear something worse might have happened were it not for the media (including a French TV crew) that was following the events. In 1992 he was allowed to return to celebrate Easter and was cheered by a crowd of 200,000 people. Later, a crowd estimated to be a million-strong turned out to see him. This so alarmed the aforementioned President Ion Iliescu that the King was forbidden from returning to Romania for five years. However, in 1997, a new government restored his Romanian citizenship and eventually restored some of his properties and granted him the status of a former head of state. However, while the government has not seen fit to restore King Michael to his legitimate throne, that has not stopped them from making use of him as it was the King who led the public-relations campaign to gain Romania membership in NATO (and thus a war guarantee from the United States to defend Romania if it is ever attacked). In this he proved a great help and Romania became a member of NATO in the fifth enlargement in 2004. Leading political figures in Romania have also spoken favorably of holding a referendum on the subject of restoring the monarchy. It would certainly benefit Romania to restore the monarchy (that should be obvious given all that has occurred) and it would be only just and right to do so in the person of King Michael I, who never should have lost his throne in the first place. However, if that is to happen, with the King being 93-years old, it would have to be done quite soon.
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