Continued from Part I
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.
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.
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.
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.