Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Story of Monarchy: The Kingdom of Portugal

The history of the Kingdom of Portugal dates back to the ‘Reconquista’ of the Iberian Peninsula by the Christians against the Moorish invaders from North Africa. Earlier, the Phoenicians and Carthaginians had visited the country, finding people already there who they named Iberians. The Greeks founded colonies there, one where Lisbon stands today. In the 100’s BC the area was conquered by the Romans and remained part of the Roman Empire until the final days of the Western Roman Empire when the whole peninsula was conquered by the Visigoths. They remained in control until Arab and Moorish forces invaded and subjugated almost the whole of the Iberian Peninsula in the 700’s. In the 1000’s the Christians began to fight back and the longest war in history ensued as the Muslim invaders were slowly driven out. The first area to be liberated was known as Pôrto, formerly Portus, and it is from that that the name of Portugal was derived. In 1094 a French knight, Henri of Burgundy, was rewarded for his service by King Alfonso VI of Castile with the counties of Pôrto and Coimbra, with the title “Count of Portugal”.

Afonso I Henriques
That was the first seed of what would become independent Portugal. The son of Henri of Burgundy, Afonso Henriques, was a champion of the Christian forces and won many hard fought battles against the Moors. His strength and prestige grew and in 1143 he upgraded his title to King of Portugal, claiming independent sovereignty. Within four years he had liberated the city of Lisbon and made it his seat of power. The war dragged on but by the mid-1200’s all of what is now Portugal was finally freed of the invaders and totally under Christian control. In 1383 the reign of the House of Burgundy came to an end when King Ferdinand I died without an heir. There was an interregnum but ultimately the throne was claimed by the illegitimate brother of Ferdinand I, John, the Grand Master of the Order of Aviz, a Portuguese order of knights. In 1385 he succeeded in taking control of the country as King John I, his dynasty being known as the House of Aviz because of its knightly origins. Aviz kings would rule Portugal for the next two hundred years and bring it to great fame and fortune.

King John I was a very successful monarch, maintaining Portuguese independence from Castile, expanding Portuguese territory into north Africa and making an alliance with England that remains in effect to this day, making it the oldest alliance in the world. It was also under the reign of King John that Prince Henry the Navigator explored the African coast. The island groups of the Azores and Madeira were claimed by Portugal and the country became the preeminent power in the western world in the areas of exploration, sailing and cartography. All of this set a trend that was to continue and kept Portugal at the forefront of exploration and discovery of new lands and trade routes. It can be compared to American astronauts landing on the moon in the 1960’s as the Portuguese explorers were truly going “where no man had gone before” and discovered new lands and peoples, originally in Africa, who had never been contacted before. Under King Afonso V, Portuguese forces won further victories in North Africa and later, under King Manuel I, Portugal became a country with truly global influence.

Manuel I
In 1488, under the reign of John II, Bartolomeu Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of Africa, allowing for further explorations into the Indian Ocean and the original sea route to East Asia. King Manuel I came to the Portuguese throne in 1495 and two years later another intrepid Portuguese navigator named Vasco de Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and sailed to India, establishing the first Portuguese presence on the subcontinent. Portugal would maintain holdings in India from that time until 1961. Under King Manuel, the Portuguese established trade routes, gained ports and made commercial agreements with the Persians, numerous Indian princes and even the Emperor of China. Portugal was on the cutting edge of new technologies, new discoveries and international trade. A relatively small country with a small population and few natural resources, the Kingdom of Portugal rapidly became a world power and the wealthiest country in Europe. Other powers could scarcely find any part of the world where the Portuguese had not preceded them. The Kingdom of Portugal was the trailblazer in opening up contact between Europe and all the previously unreached lands of Africa and Asia. In 1500, Pedro Àlvares Cabral discovered Brazil, giving Portugal a foothold in the Americas as well which would eventually grow into the largest and most important Portuguese colony.

Unfortunately, this was the peak period for Portugal and a decline was soon coming. One of the first causes involved the Jews who had previously been tolerated under King Manuel I but, when he married the Infanta Isabella of Aragon (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon and Castile), part of the marriage contract stipulated that the Jews be removed from Portugal as they had been from Spain. After that time, Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism or leave the country and as they had a very large presence in the banking and commercial sectors, the Portuguese economy took a heavy blow with this new policy. There was also a complacency that set in regarding the wealth Portugal was gaining from overseas, whether by the spice trade with Asia or the slave trade in Africa, and many took for granted that this prosperity would last forever while other countries were making serious inroads into all of these areas. There was also about to be a major problem with the Kingdom of Spain. However, mention should also be made of the great faith of Portugal. King Manuel I was a very devout Catholic and the first person to receive the honor of a Golden Rose from the Pope twice in his lifetime. The Portuguese took missionaries, often Jesuits, with them on all their overseas adventures and spread Christianity to vast new lands in Africa, Asia and South America. They were the first westerners to visit Japan and planted Christian seeds in that country that endured fierce persecution and centuries of isolation.

John IV
After the death of King Manuel, King John III abandoned North Africa but expanded Portuguese influence in India and East Asia. His grandson and successor, King Sebastian, died in battle in Morocco and was succeeded by King Henry, a cardinal of the Catholic Church who, of course, had no heirs. When he died King Philip II of Spain claimed the Portuguese throne and sent his troops in. From 1581 to 1640 Portugal would be ruled by the Spanish Hapsburgs. The reign of King Philip II was a high point in the history of Spain but Portugal was drained in the furtherance of Spanish causes that were quite ambitious. The period of Spanish rule also involved Portugal in conflicts with other European powers and the English, French and Dutch all made colonial gains at the expense of the Portuguese empire around the world. This finally came to an end when John II, Duke of Braganza, claimed to be the heir of the Aviz dynasty and led an uprising against the Spanish. The English and French were quick to seize the opportunity to hinder their Spanish rival and backed the cause of Portugal. In 1668 the Spanish finally agreed to recognize Portuguese independence under what became known as the House of Braganza.

King John IV, the original Braganza monarch, was succeeded by the weak and chronically ill King Afonso VI under whom Portuguese fortunes continued to decline and he was ultimately deposed and exiled. The next monarch was King Peter II who allied with Britain and Austria in the War of Spanish Succession and whose forces even captured Madrid in the course of the conflict though the overall campaign was not a success. However, Peter was succeeded by King John V and under his leadership, the fortunes of the Kingdom of Portugal finally turned around. An ambitious man with a grandiose style, he expanded the Portuguese empire and brought wealth and prosperity back to the country through his victories and policies. An extremely pious man, he was also given the title of “Most Faithful Majesty” by the Pope, a title passed on to all subsequent Portuguese monarchs. He chose good ministers for the administration of the country, showed good judgment himself and presided over a flowering of art, architecture and other cultural achievements for Portugal.

John V
Further victories followed the reign of King John V but the country also saw the rise in the political class and religious tensions over the expulsion of the Jesuits. Conflicts and later a major earthquake also put a severe strain on the country’s finances. Corrupt and incompetent officials also caused serious damage and it did not help that Queen Maria I went insane. She was ultimately succeeded by King John VI but the whole situation made it extremely difficult to deal with the rot that had set in within the government and there were a succession of huge foreign catastrophes to handle, all stemming from the French Revolution. Portugal was pushed into an alliance with Spain, against the French and then when the country refused to accede to French demands, was invaded by the forces of Napoleonic France. King John VI and the royal court relocated to Brazil while the British landed troops under the Duke of Wellington who assigned a commander to take in hand the reform of the Portuguese army.

The Anglo-Portuguese forces drove the French out of the country and along with the Spanish proved to be a major irritant to Napoleon. Eventually, the French were driven from the Iberian Peninsula but the region was far from free of conflict. In 1821 King John VI returned to Portugal and found a discontented country. From the beginning there had been those who sympathized with the French and their presence had only increased demands for constitutional government and an end to the absolute monarchy. A liberal constitution was produced in 1822 which greatly restricted royal powers, however, it did not include the colonies and Brazil, its status raised by the recent relocation of the seat of power there, rose up to demand independence. The son of King John VI, Peter, took the lead in this movement and became Emperor Peter (Pedro) I of Brazil. King John VI tried to dispense with the liberal constitution but the stage had already been set for a clash between those who favored constitutional monarchy and the supporters of absolutism.

Peter V
After the death of King John VI, Emperor Peter I of Brazil returned to Portugal to claim the throne as King Peter IV, however, he soon passed the Portuguese throne to his daughter Queen Maria II. She was backed by the constitutional monarchists but she had a rival in the person of her uncle who claimed the throne as King Miguel I, backed by the absolutists. There were also problems from the radical revolutionaries who, first appearing during the French occupation, were to never completely go away. In 1834 King Miguel I was defeated and forced to abdicate, going into exile in Italy, Britain and finally Germany. Queen Maria II and her husband King Ferdinand II ruled until her death in 1853 though the king remained a couple more years as regent for their son King Peter V. The country had come through a difficult period of occupation, war, civil war, dynastic dispute and overall chaos but under King Peter V there finally seemed hope for peace, stability and a period of renewal.

Such hopes were well founded as the young King Peter V, who came to the throne in 1853, was a very intelligent and hard-working monarch. The infrastructure of the country was modernized and improved dramatically. However, there proved to be little time as the handsome young king died in 1861 during a cholera outbreak. Ironically, one of the areas that had most improved during his reign was the public health system. Still, his loss prompted further beneficial changes in that regard, most notably the passage of the Sanitary reforms. In 1878 slavery was abolished throughout the Portuguese colonial empire under King Luis I. He put Portugal at the forefront of oceanographic research but overall the country did not live up to the potential many saw in the time of Peter V. Political instability was a major problem as the liberal reforms had created a class of politicians, often corrupt, always eager to struggle for power and influence. Portugal fell behind other countries and was blocked from further colonial expansion in Africa as more countries became involved in the game.

Manuel II
In 1889 Luis was succeeded by his son King Carlos I but the political situation only grew worse due to bad policies enacted by corrupt officials. Portugal, which had once been the wealthiest country in Europe, fell into poverty and was forced to declare bankruptcy twice. Radical revolutionaries, usually socialists, were also increasing in strength and advocating the overthrow of the monarchy in favor of a republic even though it was their sort of state intervention which had helped wreck the Portuguese economy, something they were only too willing to use to their advantage. Tensions and unrest grew worse and in 1908 King Carlos I was assassinated, an act which was shocking even in an era where such assassinations were not uncommon, due to the fact that the Portuguese royals had generally been well liked and had not known great animosity even in periods of internal dispute. He was succeeded by the 19-year old King Manuel II, a very bright and cultured young man but who could hardly be expected to undue such a long period of government extravagance and foolish policies at such a late date.

Only a couple of years later a military coup sparked a revolution that saw the downfall of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic in 1910. There was little popular support for the upheaval but the King was forced to go into exile in Great Britain. There was one major effort to restore the monarchy but this was ultimately unsuccessful and the fortunes of Portugal likewise continued to sink under republican rule. Chaos and power struggles ensued and the country declined ever farther. Order was only restored after the establishment of the Corporatist State in 1933 after which time the economy slowly began to improve. However, that progress was thwarted by the outbreak of communist-backed anti-colonial wars in Africa. Portugal was essentially forced to fight three wars simultaneously and the strain ultimately led to the so-called “Carnation Revolution” in 1974 after which the Portuguese colonies were abandoned.

Socialists seized power and mostly held it, giving way to more moderate liberals from time to time but still pursuing policies that stymied economic growth to the point that Portugal became one of the poorest countries in Europe, a far cry from the fabulous wealth that had existed in centuries past under the monarchy. This made Portugal all too willing to join in with the “European project” but that only made it easier for the republican government to borrow more and more money, putting the country deeper and deeper into debt and all the more dependent on the ruling elite of the European Union. No lasting solution has yet been found and still today the situation in Portugal remains precarious. However, the history of the Kingdom of Portugal contains all the necessary lessons to turn this situation around. The contrast could not be more stark between the current status of the Portuguese republic as a debtor nation and that of the Kingdom of Portugal which was on the cutting edge of innovation, in business and technology, making it a prosperous country with influence all over the world. That is what Portugal needs to return to.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Royal News Special Report: Thoughts on Brexit

Yesterday, the people of the United Kingdom (or rather the people of England) voted to leave the European Union and reclaim the independence of Great Britain. I must admit, I did not think the British public had it in them any longer but, though it was narrower than I would have liked, the Brits have proven to be made of sterner stuff than I had been giving them credit for. In the face of opposition from basically the entire global ruling class, Britons voted to take back their sovereignty from the meddling bureaucrats and shadowy puppet-masters in Brussels. That is nothing short of historic and it is not because the European Union was some sort of major force in the world. It is basically a continental Ponzi scheme that has been struggling to survive even with extensive assistance. Rather, it is historic because the British voters chose to break with the narrative, to defy the internationalist ruling class of politicians and big business in Washington, London, Brussels and Peking. They defied the ruling class, showed two fingers to “the establishment” and did what all of those with power and influence and celebrity around the world told them NOT to do.

Now, from the monarchist perspective, this was the right decision regardless of the political or economic situation. The United Kingdom, as with any traditional monarchy, is supposed to have *one* sovereign, above which there is no higher, earthly authority. The Queen, represented in law by “the Crown”, is the embodiment of the nation and the source for all government authority. All law, authority and legitimacy comes from the Crown and as such there is to be nothing above the Crown. The Queen, as the embodiment of the nation, appoints the prime minister who governs the country and it is the powers of the Crown which the government exercises. Given all of that, the idea that the Westminster Parliament, the British courts and laws given legitimacy by the authority of the Queen could all be overruled by acts of the European Union is a disgraceful and disjointed state of affairs that any loyalist should have been repelled by on principle. U.K. membership in the E.U. was also a snubbing of the Queen’s other subjects from Canada to Australia in favor of others to which Britain has no ancestral, cultural or historical connection whatsoever. But the bottom line is that the government of Britain is supposed to be the Queen’s government and is supposed to answer to her and not to Brussels.

For myself, the most impressive thing about this outcome was the defiance of the global ruling class. All the celebrities in Britain backed “remain”, Tony Blair, Call Me Dave Cameron, all the leading political figures in Britain backed “remain”. The rulers of the EU of course warned Britain to “remain”, the Japanese wanted Britain to “remain” and President Obama even came to Britain and basically threatened people to vote “remain” and the British had the courage to defy all of these people, to reject their efforts to tell them what to do and also defied the elites of international finance. Yesterday, stocks on Wall Street were up, because everyone expected Britons to vote the way they had been told and this, in my opinion, was also an effort by the financial elites to effect the outcome. As the day went on and into the night (in America) it became clear that the “leave” vote was winning, stocks in Asia and futures in America started to fall. Japan actually shut down the Nikkei for a time for fear there would be a collapse. I don’t think this was based on rationality but rather was an outpouring of petulant anger by the leaders of the global economy for the British people defying their wishes and making things more difficult for them. I applaud Britain for showing these people that they are not as all-powerful as they thought they were.

I do not believe the economic consequences will be as bad as people think, or at least they do not need to be because nothing in Britain has changed and some things will likely get better but that all depends on policy going forward. If things do get worse it will be because the international economic elites are trying to punish Britain for their rejection of their domination. Germans are still going to want to sell goods to Britain and Britain has long had a trade imbalance with the rest of the EU. Likewise, Britain has long been in the top ten of countries that buys the most and sells the most to the United States and a 2015 survey found that 90% of Americans have a favorable view of the British. This vote will not change that just as it does not change the fact that the two biggest financial centers of the western world have long been New York and London. Some of the international finance elites may want to punish Britain for the vote, but people still want to make money so they are still going to want to do business with Great Britain and barring any radical, idiotic changes in policy, that is not going to change no matter what the hysterical people say. They are simply upset that their cozy set-up has been inconvenienced.

Again, what happens going forward will depend on the British government, the policies they pursue and what the British people decide going forward (such as in Scotland and Northern Ireland) but I think this is a great day and it offers up a great deal of new possibilities for the future of Great Britain. I would hope that Britain renews and strengthens economic and military ties with the Commonwealth, I would like to see a stronger relationship between the countries of the Anglosphere and I would hope that the whole rotten edifice of the EU will start to collapse. I would welcome an “exit” vote in The Netherlands and Denmark, I would like to see Spain withdraw and draw closer to Latin America. There are things I would like to see for other European countries but for most of them they need to get a traditional, legitimate form of government back as their first priority. After that, and there would in many cases have to be some pain as they face the reality of their economic situation and make the hard choices that have been put off for far too long but, after that, there are plenty of possibilities for things to get better. Many people have highlighted the similarity between “Brexit” supporters and the rise of Donald Trump in America. There is something to that in as far as nationalism versus globalism goes but I want all of these countries to be “great” again and they can be. We know they can be for the simple reason that they have been before and they didn’t need the European Union to make that happen.

Congratulations to Great Britain and God Save the Queen!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Obama and America's Royal Allies

When Barrack Hussein Obama first ran for and was elected President of the United States, one could be forgiven for thinking that there was even greater pro-Obama hysteria outside of America than here at home. Around the world he was treated like a celebrity, drawing huge crowds in Britain, Germany and even being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize regardless of the minor detail of not having done anything to deserve it. However, now that his two terms in office are almost over most of that gushing adoration has died down and, looking at his administration, we can better evaluate how Obama has done in terms of dealing with the official and un-official allies of the United States. For our purposes here, we will be looking at Obama’s relationship with the monarchies of the world, almost all of which are directly or indirectly allied to the United States. The picture that emerges is, unfortunately, not a pleasant one but not one that most conservatives at least would find at all surprising as they alone seemed interested enough to try to find out what sort of man Obama really is rather than falling in love at first sight with like those on the left, both at home and abroad.

In terms of his dealings with monarchs, one of the first things that grabbed public attention in America was Obama bowing to certain monarchs. If one cares to, one can look back at the archives and see that I stuck up for our president on this occasion, the first instance being when, on a visit to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, he bowed to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, albeit rather awkwardly while simultaneously trying to shake his hand. However, that was not the end of it. Many Americans lapsed into exaggerated hysterics about how it was an offense to republican principles for the President to bow to the Emperor of Japan, while the White House responded to the issue by saying the President was simply following local custom. As I said at the time, I had and have no problem with the President showing proper respect and bowing to the Japanese Emperor but I later came to have a problem with Obama’s inconsistency on this front. Given what has happened since, I sometimes wonder if he was actually intentionally bowing at all or simply bending low to shake the Emperor’s hand, given that the Japanese monarch is considerably shorter than the President.

No, it was not his behavior toward the Emperor of Japan that was a problem for me but rather where things went from there that showed Obama was not simply being fastidious on the issue of protocol. Later, Obama bowed to another monarch, that being the King of Saudi Arabia. He bowed so low in fact that it almost seemed he was about to pick something up off the floor. But, again, no major cause for alarm. However, when he later had formal meetings with other monarchs such as the King of Sweden, the King of Norway or the King of Spain, did he ever bow to any of them? Not that I noticed and Michelle Obama committed a major faux-pas in London by actually putting her hands on the person of Her Majesty the Queen. Obviously, the bowing was not being done in an effort to follow protocol to the last detail. If not, why does it seem that Obama only shows such respect to non-western, non-Christian monarchs? And, the list does not end there as Obama has, in his own behavior and the policies of his administration, done a great deal to show that America’s royal friends are no friends of his.

We might as well begin with the United Kingdom which, while not our oldest, has certainly been our closest and most important ally. Despite being widely celebrated in the UK, with even conservatives like Tory MEP Daniel Hannan voicing support for him, Obama made it clear as soon as he took office that he was no great friend of the British. His first act upon moving into the Oval Office was to remove and send back the bust of Sir Winston Churchill that his presidential predecessor had placed there. In their first exchange of gifts, Obama sent the Queen some off-the-shelf items from the White House gift shop and an iPod loaded with his own speeches in an act which even many on the left thought arrogant and in very poor taste. These acts caused more than a few to recall how Obama had, in the books he enjoys writing about his favorite subject -himself-, related stories of how his grandfather in Kenya was supposedly tortured by British colonial authorities during the Mau Mau terrorist insurgency and whether the President might just have a strong anti-British grudge he is nursing. However, there is much more to it than mere symbolic gestures as those above.

Obama referred to the French as America’s strongest friend and ally which is language usually reserved for the British with the French traditionally, and correctly, being referred to as America’s “oldest” ally. Obama refused five requests for a private meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (the Israeli PM could sympathize on that one) and later, in another appallingly bad exchange of gifts, sent Brown a set of various films on DVD which would have been bad enough but to add insult to injury they were DVDs that cannot be played in Britain. Are we expected to believe that Obama and his White House team that is bursting at the seams with Ivy League graduates, hailed as the smartest administration in American history, has no knowledge or understanding of region coding? He also, after the BP oil spill and conveniently right around election time, made a point of constantly referring to BP as “British Petroleum” as if to make it more sinister and foreign sounding, regardless of the fact that no one else calls it that anymore, the company having some time ago dropped the name and stuck only with the initials to stand for “Beyond Petroleum”.

The most serious issues though, are those that deal with actual foreign policy as it relates to Great Britain. Obama has never wasted an opportunity to show his visceral dislike for the British. His primary cohort in this was his Secretary of State and current favored candidate to succeed him, Hillary Clinton. It was Clinton who pushed for the intervention in Libya only to then adopt the “lead from behind policy” and have Europe do all the heavy lifting involved. When the situation resulted in chaos, Obama was quick to blame the Europeans rather than accepting any responsibility for the actions of his own administration. Likewise, when Obama at least pretended like he wanted to go to war with Syria, he blamed British PM “Call me Dave” Cameron for failing to win a vote in the House of Commons for giving the U.S. Congress an example to follow and thus for every bit of bad news that has come out of Syria since. The one point, though, that I found most outrageous was when Argentina began rattling the saber again over the Falkland Islands in 2010, Obama sent Hillary Clinton to act as mediator and basically take the side of Argentina over Britain. Clinton no doubt agreed as it was her husband, President Bill Clinton, who made Argentina a “major non-NATO ally”, and the only one in all of South America, in spite of the fact that this country has an outstanding territorial dispute with Britain, which is already an ally and which the U.S. is obligated to defend.

Finally, we have Obama’s latest effort to insert himself into the debate over Britain staying in or leaving the European Union with Obama very publicly urging British voters to vote to stay in the European Union. This, of course, is just the sort of behavior that would infuriate Americans on the left and/or the right if it were done by a foreign leader in regard to an American issue. I am a big fan of the U.K. and as much as I wish that the British would feel the same about the U.S. the fact of the matter is that Britain should tell Obama to mind his own bloody business and not try to tell them how to vote. They should be concerned with what is best for Britain, not what is best for America (that is for Americans alone to worry about). Furthermore, I cannot regard this as yet more evidence of simple bad manners since I am very, very much of the opinion that staying in the EU is bad for Britain and so, taken along with his history in office, cannot dismiss the notion that Obama is purposely advocating something that has had and will have a very negative impact on a country he clearly dislikes. It is no surprise that more than one prominent figure in the ‘Brexit’ crowd such as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage (UKIP MEP) have finally been compelled by this to state openly that Obama has been consistently anti-British during his time in office.

Moving beyond Europe, where thanks to the EU national relations between America and individual countries does not count for much anymore as Brussels handles everything, we have the problematic situation in the Middle East where, despite his bowing and scraping, Obama has left the Arab monarchies feeling less than pleased with the United States government. Certainly he has been more attentive to them than to the crowned heads of Europe but for the Arab monarchies there is one overriding issue and that is the Islamic Republic of Iran. For a long time there has been a long-standing tension and recurring open hostilities between Iran and the Arab states over the dominant position in the Middle East (and other than Egypt, the leading Arab states are predominately monarchies; Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman). Now, one can certainly question whether or not these Arab states are genuine allies of the United States (they leave plenty of room for doubt) but the facts on paper are that such is the case and they have been greatly alarmed by the Iranians, who already had a pliant ally in Syria, expanding their influence into Iraq and they have been trying to do the same in Yemen.

This has greatly alarmed the Arabs and never have they expressed more diplomatic outrage at the United States than after Obama’s notorious “deal” concerning the nuclear program in Iran. This called for the release of billions of dollars to Iran, the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran and left little room for doubt that they will inevitably obtain nuclear weapons. Since the agreement, and in spite of it, they have also been buying more and more conventional weapons from the Russians. Of course, when it comes to Iran, the enemy they like to talk about the most is Israel but since the Islamic Revolution they have made it clear that they are the enemies of the Arab Muslims as well, referring to the Sunnis as the “heretics who hold Mecca”. Obama’s deal with Iran and his overall indecisiveness in the region so infuriated the Saudis that they turned down a temporary seat on the UN Security Council on the grounds that, thanks to Obama, it doesn’t matter anyway. By clearing the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, Obama has set the stage for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia and Egypt sure to obtain their own nuclear arsenals to counter that of Iran.

Moving farther to the east, we have the situation with America’s most important ally in the East Asia-Pacific region: Japan. Here, a great many people, including a great many Japanese, have been fooled by Obama’s empty gestures. He gave, as political pay-back, Japan a “celebrity” ambassador in the person of Caroline Kennedy, never mind that she has no diplomatic experience, could not speak Japanese or any such troubling details, she was a Kennedy after all, she is famous and she was given an uproarious welcome when she came to Japan. However, rather than simply representing the United States in Tokyo, Obama’s chosen ambassador said that her primary goal in Japan was to promote greater participation in politics by women in Japan. Because, it seems, that gender roles in the Land of the Rising Sun are still far too traditional for the liberals of the Obama White House. What does it say that a foreign ambassador’s stated goal upon being posted is to interfere in the internal affairs of the host country? To represent the American government is her job, to promote Japanese-American friendship is great, to promote American interests is fine but to try to tell Japanese voters what sort of people they need to elect is, again, none of her business and none of Obama’s business. And one will notice that none of Obama’s ambassadors to countries where women are treated as little more than property ever said anything similar. She has also stuck her nose where it doesn’t belong with her comments critical of fishing practices in Taiji and the Prime Minister visiting the Yasukuni Shrine.

Other countries, particularly China and Korea, have a history of protesting any time any Japanese official chooses to worship at Yasukuni Shrine but the U.S. had previously always said nothing about it, considering it an internal matter and, shocking as this may sound, none of their business where and in what way a Japanese prime minister chooses to exercise his freedom of religion. But, all of that was before Obama and thanks to Kennedy’s expression of “disappointment” other countries which had previously stayed out of the issue, took the occasion to speak up as well, piling on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The idea that someone as far to the left as Obama would find nothing to criticize in a prime minister as far to the right as Shinzo Abe was certainly naïve. What was most outrageous though was something that many in Japan cheered Obama for which was his public statement that the Senkaku Islands, which are Japanese territory but claimed by Communist China, are covered by the Japanese-American security treaty. In other words, if China decides to grab the islands, it will mean big trouble with America.

The Japanese applauded this but it was actually only a re-statement of what was already well established. What many, in all their rejoicing, failed to note was that Obama followed up that comment with the completely asinine statement that the U.S. took no official position on the territorial dispute over the islands between China and Japan. I seem to have been the only one to find this outrageous but I hope I am mistaken in that. Either way you look at it, this was an immensely outrageous thing for Obama to say. By that statement, Obama could only mean one of two things; either he meant that the Senkakus are Japanese territory and we will defend them but that could change at any time depending on how this dispute unfolds, or he just casually announced that he was pledging America’s sons and daughters to possibly give their lives in defense of a cause which he is not even sure is the right one! In any case, it shows that Obama’s attitude toward Japan has been one of tepid support and unfriendly meddling. An aide to Prime Minister Abe went so far as to say that relations were better when there was a Republican in the White House.

Lastly in the region, there is also the case of Obama’s disgraceful record toward the Kingdom of Thailand. The United States and Thailand have been official allies since 1966 but have had friendly relations going back much farther with King Mongkut of Siam famously offering to send President Lincoln a herd of war elephants so he could fight the Civil War properly and illustrated at the worst of times by the United States not responding in kind when Thailand declared war on the United States in World War II. Things began to go wrong when, again, Obama decided to meddle in the affairs of an American ally after the 2014 military coup. Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s successor, John Kerry caused great offense in the halls of power in Bangkok when he issued a statement expressing how “disappointed” he was in the actions of the Royal Thai Army and that, “this act will have negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military”.

The Obama State Department has since then made numerous statements and taken actions which have all offended and aggravated our friends in Thailand and all because the military government is out-of-step with Obama’s liberal worldview of how things should be done. And it cannot be said that this has nothing to do with the King, a great man revered in Thailand who was born in America and supported the United States during the Vietnam conflict. The King officially appointed the Thai general who led the coup to the office of prime minister in 2014, effectively giving it his endorsement and was totally correct to do so. Not only is the meddling of Obama unseemly and uncalled for, it is also putting him on the wrong side. The military took action because of the violent acts of radical leftists who were upset that their favorite government had been brought down, a government that was marked by corruption and criminal behavior on a rampant scale. By being so critical of the current government in Thailand, Obama has offended a long-standing friend and pushed them closer toward Communist China which is ever looking to increase its influence in Southeast Asia, made all the easier since Russia abandoned Vietnam in favor of the Chinese. Thailand is our only solid friend in the region and Obama, in true, holier-than-thou, Wilsonian fashion, has needlessly antagonized them and made things worse for Thailand as well as the United States.

It is not terribly dissimilar from his actions in regard to the republican government in Egypt where Obama pushed for the removal of an official Arab ally because he did not meet his lofty, liberal standards, only to then see the country fall into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood (an organization so radical even Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have labeled it a terrorist organization). If Obama knew anything about Thailand he would know that the occasional coup is not exactly unprecedented and not the harbinger of disaster as it often is in other countries. He would know that the U.S. military and the Royal Thai military have worked closely together for decades and that the leaders of the Royal Thai Army are not power-hungry tyrants-in-waiting but are largely honorable men, loyal to their King, who want the best for their country and took action to save it from the disruptive, even terrorist and disloyal elements that were threatening it.

Then again, perhaps I am being unkind to Mr. Obama. Perhaps he knows the situation better than that. Perhaps he knows what the “red shirts” were all about, perhaps he approved of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his socialist, welfare-state policies, his easy loans and big spending that made Thai farmers dependent on the government, his cronyism, his rampant bribery and the violence and intimidation used by the supporters of the prime minister and his family. Maybe he sees nothing wrong with the extremely dubious loyalty of his crowd to the fundamentals of Thailand. If so, then he is guilty of nothing less than cheering on the ruination of an American ally and is doing the best he can, short of direct intervention, to kill any chance at recovery. However, whether his policy is malicious or simply ignorant, it has certainly been negative for both countries involved and has only served the interests of powers that have only the worst of intentions for both the United States and the Kingdom of Thailand in the long-run.

There are other issues that could be highlighted, such as Obama’s killing of the Keystone XL pipeline, even going so far, as he did with BP, to invoke national bigotry by constantly complaining how the pipeline would primarily be to the benefit of Canada rather than the United States but, then again, that was when Stephen Harper was in office and I’m sure now that little Justin Trudeau has taken over his opinion of Canada has greatly improved. However, I think the case has been well made. President Obama has certainly been bad for this country and his constant habit of “reaching out” to our enemies while snubbing or taking sides against our allies, has certainly been well demonstrated and had negative consequences. The only problem I have in pointing this out is that, while it upsets me a great deal, from numerous on-line comments I see on a daily basis, I am also constantly having to face the dilemma that there is so much mindless anti-Americanism out there as to mean that in this twisted, upside-down world where many people seem to hate their friends and admire those who want to kill them, that maybe Obama’s antagonistic attitude toward our royal allies will have the opposite effect that it otherwise would have. I hope that is not the case and hope that there is a silent majority out there who wants to be friends rather than enemies but, if that is not the case, change may soon be coming with the next presidential election.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Word on the Crisis and Opportunity in Brazil

As most of you probably know, Brazil in the midst of a rather serious political crisis at the moment. The whole issue involves corruption to put it simply, that constant hindrance of good government in republics the world over and to which, it is worth noting, monarchs are almost entirely immune. Last year the Brazilian legislature voting to impeach President Dilma Rousseff and currently her presidential powers have been suspended while all of this is sorted out. This has caused a considerable uproar with a great deal of public anger against not only this president but against the Brazilian government in general. Many people, in many other countries, can certainly sympathize with such a sentiment as very few around the world currently seem to feel that they are getting all that they deserve from their governments. There have been large protests in Brazil and in those crowds the monarchists of Brazil have not been unrepresented. That is certainly good to see.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that I would be glad to see the President of Brazil gone from office but not only this president but rather the presidency itself. One would think that people would really start to question the fundamentals of their political system in these liberal democratic republics all over the world when so many people are so unhappy with the people that they themselves elected to high office. In Brazil as in many other places, people revere the idea of democracy while bemoaning the fact that it seems to be constantly failing them. When this is pointed out, they, in my experience, invariably respond that it is simply that there are no good options, that good people do not run for office and even if they do, they do not stay "good people" for very long after achieving it. Well, that in itself should tell you something about the system. Is the current democratic system really all that wonderful when, yes, you get to choose but only between a pre-selected group of bad options?

For Brazil, the situation is even more stark than it is in many other places. Although the economy has been growing in recent years and it has often been identified as one of the "rising powers" of the world (particularly when contrasted with the decline in Europe), most people live below the economic level of those in other advanced countries. Brazil has an immense wealth of natural resources and yet most people always seem to be barely getting by. Much of that, no doubt, has to do with the policies and the priorities of the various governments but overall, Brazil has not lived up to the promise that it once showed and that is where the monarchists of Brazil have an invaluable tool. It was as the Empire of Brazil that the country achieved its zenith and which set the standard that caused so many around the world to expect great things from the country.

Under the monarchy, Brazilian politics was still a rather rough business with governments coming and going in rather quick succession, however, because of the Emperor, this was done in an orderly way rather than the chaos that often broke out after he was gone. The Emperor gave Brazil stability and people can prosper or at least persevere under some significant challenges if only there is stability. During the reign of Dom Pedro II in particular, Brazil was the place where there seemed to be opportunity, it was growing, it was advancing, it overcame challenges from its neighbors and was establishing itself as the most significant power in South America. At its peak it boasted the fifth largest navy in the world with battleships more formidable than those of even the United States. More than any other in the region, it was the country that the rest of the world was keeping an eye on, expecting it to become even greater still.

After the end of the monarchy, chaos quickly became commonplace and Brazil seemed to start falling into the same pattern of so many of her Latin American neighbors. Sometimes things got better, other times worse until Brazil is at the point it is today. There have been efforts to restore the monarchy before, with Brazilian monarchists even managing to put the issue to a vote which is so rare for former monarchies as to be almost unprecedented. That precedent provides at least more hope than might otherwise exist for the monarchists of Brazil to get another chance. Fortunately, the Brazilian Imperial Family is still around, still well thought of in general and, perhaps most importantly, still involved in Brazilian society. I have been more and more impressed with His Imperial and Royal Highness Prince Bertrand over the years who has set an example that I really wish more non-reigning royals would follow. He has not hesitated to advocate for the restoration of the monarchy and has also shown no hesitation in actually taking a position on issues that matter and I have been very impressed by his views on the state of the Catholic Church, his views on politics and his efforts to educate the people of Brazil on the benefits of private property and free markets. All in all, Brazil could not ask for a better potential emperor and I would consider all Brazilians to be very fortunate to have him.

Whether anything will come of this, I cannot say. I can only say what I would most like to see happen in Brazil and that is for the people to finally shed themselves of this succession of presidents that has so badly failed them, restore the monarchy, make Prince Bertrand the Emperor of Brazil, follow his advice in policy matters and then go on to establish ever closer ties with Portugal (hoping that Lisbon might follow their example) and the other Portuguese-speaking communities around the world to make the Empire of Brazil not just a regional power but a voice of influence on the world stage as well. That is my vision, most may not consider it likely to happen, but I can imagine nothing better. Certainly the current system is unworthy of the honorable history that the empire gave to Brazil and only the empire would be worthy of the glorious future I would like to see for the country. So make it happen Brazil! Declare your independence from self-serving politicians and corrupt presidents. Independência ou Morte!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lies The Iranian Revolutionaries Told You

(Note: This was originally going to be a video for my 'Politically Incorrect Truth About Monarchy' series but the new Windows10 sound recorder is not compatible with the Windows10 movie-making program. Go figure. I only have an outline for those things -because I don't want to sound like I'm just reading things- but I took that and 'fleshed it out' into this piece. Not something I would normally do but since I had already said I was going to do the video, and that is no longer possible, this was the only way to go. -MM)

When it comes to revolutions, many people have an incorrect view of them, an overly romanticized view. However, most manage to get the basic facts across, they simply try to justify the bad points in the name of the greater good of “the revolution”. However, the Islamic Revolution in Iran might just stand alone as being the most dishonest revolution in history. Its story is one of lies from beginning to end. For the sake of convenience I have boiled these down to four big categories of lies that the Iranian revolutionaries have told the world. Unfortunately, as time goes on, more and more people seem to give up and accept their dishonest version of events, though the recent declassification of a great deal of reports and correspondence by the U.S. government has shed new light on some of these lies, even some that were clung to by the Carter administration. So, let’s get started with:

Lie #1: The Shah was forcing western culture on Iran
This is a total lie. The Shah brought more freedom to Iran and rolled back the policies of his father who actually had tried to force Iran to westernize/modernize. It was his father who actually passed laws forcing men to wear bowler hats (no joke) and forbidding women to wear the veil. The last Shah, his son, did away with that and gave people the freedom to adopt western styles if they wanted to. A woman didn’t have to wear a veil, but she could if she wanted to. He also enacted real freedom of religion in Iran, which oddly enough I have even heard some people criticize him for, but remember that the current regime claims to have freedom of religion as well, it is only that everyone knows this is another lie and no one takes it seriously. It should also be remembered that many of the cultural aspects people (especially westerners) associate with Iran is actually not part of Iranian culture at all. Much of it is not really Iranian or Islamic but is simply Arab and dates back to the Arab conquest of the old Sassanid empire.

The Immortals
This is important as, on the cultural front, what really caused the Shah trouble with the radical clerics was NOT that he was making Iran too western but that he was making Iran more Iranian. The Shah worked to revive classical Persian culture in a number of ways, from the military to art and architecture. This was an effort to revive popular awareness of the ancient roots of their country and of the glory days of the Persian Empire when what is now Iran had been the most powerful country in the known world, stretching across three continents. However, the radical clerics despised this effort because it was giving attention to the period in Iranian history before the arrival of Islam and they, like others, preferred to pretend that before Islam there was nothing. They dismissed the Shah’s cultural campaign as praising primitive, pagan fire-worshippers when this early period was the time of the zenith of power and prestige for Iran.

This would be like the Christians trying to stamp out all memory of the Roman Empire because it had been pagan. As we know, Christian Europe achieved its greatest cultural flowering when the classical art and literature of pagan Greece and Rome were rediscovered. The Shah was trying to do the same thing in Iran. As an example, one of things that offended the clerics the most was his adoption of a new calendar. Previously Iran had used the Muslim calendar, imported by the Arabs, which marked time starting from the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. The Shah instituted a new calendar that marked time from the Persian conquest of Babylon (modern Iraq) which was obviously a uniquely Iranian model, focused on the greatest victory in Persian history. The clerics, of course, detested this and his other efforts. However, it is also important to note that, because their accusations were lies, a number of the same policies that the Ayatollah and his kind denounced when enacted by the Shah were quietly retained by the Islamic Republic after they took power. Because many of his modernizations worked and the mullahs all knew that they worked.

Lie #2: The Shah was a puppet of the United States of America
Probably the most widely believed and oft-touted of the lies the revolutionaries tell, mostly because it gains traction the more unpopular the U.S.A. becomes, it is nonetheless untrue. I have long found it very amusing the people who hate America have so much in common with those who worship America. One thinks America does nothing good and the other that America does nothing bad but both believe that America is the center of the world and all life revolves around Washington DC. It is utter nonsense. First of all, this accusation tends to come from the episode in which the Shah was briefly overthrown but was restored to the throne with the assistance of the British and American intelligence agencies. The untold truth here is that the British always had far more interest in Iran than the Americans did. The British had interest in Iran going back a very long time, the British had established most of the oil industry in Iran and it was the British, not the Americans, who were the driving force behind the restoration of the Shah. It is only when British power began to decline and American power began to rise up that the U.S.A. became the great bogeyman.

He who sups with the devil must have a long spoon
The Shah was, of course, friendly with the United States and for the very good reason that he was concerned about the threat of the Soviet Union and the spread of communism. It tends to be forgotten, outside of Iran anyway, that the expansion of the Russian Empire (whose territory was taken over by the Soviets) in the region came at the expense of the old Persian Empire. Even today, while Russia goes on arming the Iranian regime, this is something Iranians have not forgotten. The Shah remembered it and Iranians today do as well, which makes all the assistance they receive from Russia absurdly naïve. The Shah, though friendly with the United States, was often critical of America just as American leaders were often critical of him. He took a great deal of criticism from America over oil prices but it largely depended on which political party was in power in Washington DC. Democrats tended to be very critical of the Shah whereas Republicans were focused on the threat of communism and did not really care how the Shah ruled his country as long as he was on side against the communists.

President Jimmy Carter, for example, stopped the sale of weapons to Iran because he disapproved of the Shah. Also, in a broader context, while Iran was friendly with the U.S. and did recognize the State of Israel, Iran had far more and friendlier relations with the rest of the Islamic community than Iran has today. Under the Shah, Iran was on very good terms with Saudi Arabia and with Egypt (the Shah’s first wife was from the Egyptian Royal Family) both of which today are enemies of Iran. When the Shah was in power, American influence was largely absent from the region as he was the ‘policeman’ of the Persian Gulf and worked to assist royalists against communists in neighboring countries. This was not something that the United States would typically do, usually preferring to back a third option that inevitably failed.

Lie #3: The Ayatollah stood up to the evil Americans
Like the previous lie, the mullahs in Iran have gotten a great deal of mileage out of this lie, particularly as America becomes more unpopular. The Ayatollah Khomeini is portrayed as the courageous man of principle who stood up to the big, bad American wolf. In fact, the Ayatollah was a liar from start to finish who lied to everyone and we now know from recently declassified documents that he actively courted the support of the United States and tried his best to tell American leaders everything they wanted to hear. We also now know that, despite the lies the Carter administration has been telling for years, that they made a conscious decision to abandon the Shah and did not think the Ayatollah would be so bad (which shows how incompetent Carter and crew were, if any more evidence were needed on that front).

The Iranian Imperial Family
Again, it depended on which party was in power in Washington as the Ayatollah knew early on which side was most likely to believe him. We now know that in 1963 he sent a letter of support to President John F. Kennedy (Democrat) but knew better than to waste his time on President Richard Nixon (Republican). The Ayatollah lied, lied and lied again to the American government and, unfortunately, some of them believed him. He said that he wanted MORE of an American presence in Iran, not less, so as to offset the influence of the British and Soviets in the country. We now know that President Carter strongly and bluntly “advised” the Shah to leave the country for a “vacation” and that this would likely mean the end of his regime. They naively hoped for a third option (a familiar song, yes?) between the Shah and the Ayatollah, probably a military figure who would have a new, republican regime with the Ayatollah acting as a sort of pope-like spiritual advisor. Again, the incompetence of the Carter administration staggers the imagination.

For his part, the Ayatollah continued with his lies, telling the Americans he was their friend, promising that he would keep his country “un-aligned” in the Cold War, would continue to do business with America, would keep strong the military ties between the United States and Iran and that he would continue to sell America oil. In fact, he promised to sell oil to everyone with only two exceptions: Israel and South Africa, which is rather interesting. He was most concerned about the Iranian army and the royalist generals who he feared would be able to stop any uprising he could instigate if they really came out in force. However, his Democrat friend in Washington helped him out on this front. As well as condoning the return of the Ayatollah to Iran, the Carter administration passed word to the Ayatollah that most of the Iranian military leadership was not so royalist as everyone believed and that they would likely go along with whoever was able to take power. When the Ayatollah was timid, President Carter gave him the confidence he needed to go ahead.

Lie #4: The Islamic Revolution was a counter-revolution.
This is possibly the most absurd but I have heard it repeated too often, invariably by people on the far-right, not to point it out. This is the lie that claims that the Shah was some sort of radical progressive and that the Islamic Revolution brought things back to normal, made Iran a more traditional and conservative country than had previously been the case. It is hard to even think about it without laughing. This may be a good example of a big lie being more readily believed than a small one because this is a very big lie. The Ayatollah and his crew were revolutionaries plain and simple, in both the political and the religious spheres alike.

Plenty of Ayatollah idolatry
On the religious front, the Ayatollah came late in light to a radically different religious point of view than had ever existed in Shia Islam. As his goal of power came closer, he became more and more megalomaniacal and claimed unprecedented powers for himself. He preached a new brand of religion that even seemed to put himself above Mohammed. The Ayatollah essentially said, particularly after returning to Iran, that he spoke for God and that anyone who went against what he said was an enemy of God. Whereas clerics had always been more important in Shia Islam as compared to Sunni Islam, the Ayatollah and his regime took this to absurd lengths, claiming them to be without sin, spiritually superior beings who had to be obeyed like gods themselves. And, on the political front, the Islamic Revolution actually, in some ways, made Iran more westernized than before. In all their thousands of years of history, Persia/Iran had always been a monarchy, under the Ayatollah they became a republic and they claim (though we know it is a lie) to be democratic, so they got rid of the Shah which was a traditional title unique to Iranian history but retained or brought in political ideas from ancient Greece and Rome.

As mentioned before, they also quietly retained some of the same reforms that the Shah had instituted in their own constitution and which they had previously denounced as being the work of the devil when the Shah did it. These people, or more so their supporters, actually embrace the exaltation of the lie by condemning things the Shah did while praising the regime of the mullahs for claiming to be liberal, democratic, religiously tolerant and respecting of human rights because everyone knows they actually do not. What is more, while the Shah was friendly with the rest of the Islamic world and supported traditional governments, the mullah-regime has made enemies of most Islamic countries and tried to export their radicalism abroad. Which, by the way, is another lie as the Ayatollah specifically promised NOT to do this. He followed the typical revolutionary pattern of waiting for the strong monarch to be removed and then jumping on a liberal, moderate regime which is easily defeated to bring radicalism to power. He lied to the Iranians just as he lied to the Americans and everyone else, it has been nothing but lies from beginning to end.

Theocrat & Atheist, what an odd couple
Finally, what is perhaps most ironic given that the most oft-repeated lie about the last Shah is that he “sold out” his country to the United States, is that the Islamic regime has actually done what they had falsely accused the Shah of doing and even to a far greater extent. The cozy Iranian relationship with Christian Russia may seem bizarre but that is actually the least objectionable. So far, that relationship has been all to the benefit of Iran and the detriment of Russia. They get Russian weapons, they get to sell their oil, driving prices down and hurting the Russian economy and so grow stronger while Russia grows weaker in a region where Iran hopes to regain territory previously lost to the Russians. No, the big sell-out has been to Communist China. How is that for an Islamic Republic, selling-out to an officially atheist regime that persecutes Muslims in Xinjiang.

Chinese oil and gas companies today have far more reach in Iran than the British oil companies ever did. China has been granted billions of dollars worth of extensive contracts over Iranian mineral resources and even, going farther than anyone ever has, over Iranian territory itself. In 2011 Iran agreed to give to China exclusive mineral rights over three large oil and gas fields in Iran. China has total control over these areas, exclusive rights to the energy underground and will do the drilling, bring in Chinese workers to handle things and even have Chinese personnel in charge of security in all of these areas. It was also announced, particularly when there was concern over a U.S. or Israeli attack to take out Iranian nuclear facilities, that these three territories in Iran are considered Chinese and any attack on them would be responded to as an attack on China. Those are the facts. The Shah never “sold-out” Iran but the Ayatollahs and their puppet presidents certainly have. They have sold it out completely and quite literally.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Monarch Profile: King Victor Amadeus III of Piedmont-Sardinia

Prince Victor Amadeus Maria, Duke of Savoy, was born in Turin on June 26, 1726 the son and heir of King Carlo Emmanuel III by his second wife Princess Polyxena of Hesse-Rotenburg. A son from the King’s previous marriage had died the year before so the birth of Victor Amadeus, a new heir to the throne, was widely celebrated in the Savoy lands of Piedmont-Sardinia. His childhood and upbringing were very typical for the house of Savoy and the same descriptions would be used for Italian royal sons right to the last king to ever reign. His private tutor was quite strict and his education stressed military subjects, Catholicism and history, particularly the history of the House of Savoy. The emphasis on the army was doubtless even more so given that, even in the ranks of a family with an extremely long martial history, King Carlo Emmanuel III was most known as a “warrior-king”, earning laurels in the wars over the Polish and Austrian successions. Prince Victor Amadeus had an upbringing that greatly stressed the importance of the army and, like other Savoy royal heirs, he was kept away from politics until the day he actually came to the throne.

However, Prince Victor Amadeus did not waste his time with frivolity but, as a young man, surrounded himself with scholars, statesmen and various, highly esteemed ‘wise men’ whose company he could benefit from. Many of this men would go on to serve him when he became king. A man of very conservative politics and with religious views that were very traditionally Catholic, Victor Amadeus nonetheless fostered an atmosphere of openness around him and was gentleman enough to get along well with people who did not share his views. He was confident in his own positions that he had nothing to fear from hearing all sides of an issue. He was also, of course, expected to marry and secure the future of the royal succession. King Fernando VI of Spain reached out to him to arrange a marriage between the Savoy heir and his sister Infanta Maria Antoinetta, the youngest daughter of King Felipe V, the first Bourbon Spanish monarch. The couple were married in 1750 and they had a very happy marriage with the pair growing quite attached to each other. So attached in fact that they had twelve children, so the future of the Savoy dynasty was safe and sound.

In 1773, with the passing of his father, the Duke of Savoy became King Victor Amadeus III of Piedmont-Sardinia on February 20. From day one the administration of his country and the military were his top priorities but that does not mean that he neglected other areas. Because of his conservative and religious nature he has often been accused of being reactionary to the point of being averse to change of any kind, but this is not so. In fact, he was very keen on improving a number of things that needed it. Beneficial change was never a problem for him but change for the sake of change alone, naturally would not be tolerated. For all of the emphasis he placed on the army, he was also certainly not a warmonger and aimed at ensuring the security of his country by peaceful, diplomatic means first and foremost. His marriage to a member of the Spanish Royal Family was part of this, to secure a marriage alliance with Spain after the two powers had been enemies in the War of Austrian Succession (the Savoy having backed the Hapsburg side).

Similarly, he arranged a marriage for his own son and heir with the sister of King Louis XVI of France and several daughters were also married into the French Royal Family. His second son was married into the Hapsburg family (Austria-Este), another daughter to the Electoral Prince of Saxony and his youngest son married a daughter of the Naples branch of the Spanish Bourbons. As such, Piedmont-Sardinia had strong to ties to all its neighbors and several other lands farther a field and his offspring included three future Kings of Sardinia and one, at least nominal, Queen of France (another would have also been a Queen of France but she died before Charles X came to the throne). Because of this, the army that so many claim was his sole focus, had little to do until the very end of his reign. In other, peaceful pursuits, he improved the bureaucracy of his country, improved the infrastructure with new roads, new dams and upgrades to the port of Nice. He established botanical and agricultural institutions with the aim of making the country more self-sufficient and undertook a number of public works projects.

Overall, he carried on with the changes first set in motion by his grandfather which were aimed at making the aristocracy less corrupt and more socially-minded (a common problem of the time) and encouraging greater social mobility for the common people so that they could lift themselves out of poverty by their own talents. In terms of the army though, he did spend a great deal, carrying on the effort to renovate the Piedmontese military along the lines of that of the Kingdom of Prussia which was the example that all small, resource-poor states naturally wished to follow. Given the events of his reign, some have dismissed this as a failure but that requires taking a very narrow view. In fact, the military “culture” of the country was changed and even as late as World War II, a German general serving in Italy remarked on how similar Piedmont was to Prussia in the emphasis placed on the army and in the many years in between not a few foreign observers would refer to Piedmont as ‘the Prussia of Italy’. The King is also remembered as the founder of the Gold Medal of Military Valor, the highest Italian combat decoration which is still awarded to this day. He also followed this example himself at home by adopted a more Spartan lifestyle so that the British historian Gibbon, on traveling through the area, wrote about how the Savoy royals lived “with decent and splendid economy”.

King Victor Amadeus III would take daily walks, set time aside every Saturday to receive visitors from his humblest subjects and showed his piety when, on every Holy Thursday, he would wash the feet of twelve poor men and then see them off with a gift of money for a fine supper. All in all, life under his rule was good and steadily improving. However, all of it was thrown into the gravest peril by the outbreak of the French Revolution. Being a very traditional, conservative and religious man with several of his children married to French royals, he could not but be appalled by what was happening in neighboring France. Without hesitation he gave safe haven to his sons-in-law the Count of Artois and Count of Provence, fleeing the worsening chaos and repression in their homeland, though this immediately caused cries from the revolutionaries in Paris for retribution against the House of Savoy. Even though the odds against them would be impossibly long, he also did not hesitate to pledge his small, prized army to the royalist cause in 1793, working in cooperation with the Austrians as part of the First Coalition.

The French republicans were quick to attack Piedmont, vowing to make northern Italy a satellite republic, but the Savoyard troops, along with a contingent of Austrians, fought fiercely and succeeded in repelling the initial invasion. The French met a similar fate on other fronts and when they tried to enlist the United States to come in on their side, the American government flatly refused and considered the alliance made with the late King Louis XVI to have died with him. Royalist counter-revolutionaries were also rising up and achieving successes. However, the French responded by ordering the conscription of every adult male in the country and soon they had turned the war situation around, swamping their enemies with what was often simply a huge, armed and radicalized mob.

After four years of fighting off superior forces, in 1796 the Savoyard troops of King Victor Amadeus III finally met a foe they could not defeat in the person of a young, up-and-coming French commander named Napoleon Bonaparte. In the Montenotte campaign the “Little Corporal” was able to outmaneuver his foes, separate the Austrian and Piedmontese armies and eventually defeat them both. The Austrians had positioned themselves at too great a distance from the Piedmontese, despite the urgings of the Italian general Michelangelo Alessandro Colli-Marchi and the result would lead to the domination of northern Italy by republican France. After the Battle of Mondovi on April 21, there was no choice left but capitulation and King Victor Amadeus III, in the most painful moment of his life, was forced to sign the Armistice of Cherasco on April 28, 1796, removing the Savoy domains from the First Coalition. The following month he signed the Treaty of Paris, handing over the key fortresses of the country to France, allowing French troops passage through the country to carry on the Italian campaign and ceding Nice and Savoy to France.

In the wake of this fiasco, King Victor Amadeus III was a broken man and his health and spirits only worsened from that point on. Within a year he had an apoplexy and finally died on October 16, 1796 at Moncalieri. A reign that had began with such promise and which had seen many beneficial reforms, had been reduced to ruin in the final years by the horror and bloodshed that were the fruits of the French Revolution. However, the House of Savoy was down but not out and the next three kings to succeed him would all be sons of Victor Amadeus III and they would ultimately see the French defeated, the Savoy flag raised again over Turin and the monarchy restored completely along with some additional lands. The French revolutionaries had won the first round but the sons of Victor Amadeus III would be the ones returning home in triumph while Allied armies marched down the boulevards of Paris.
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