Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Knights of St Stephen of Tuscany

In the old days of Christendom, there were religious military orders subject to the Roman Pontiff, such as the Templars, as well as religious military orders subject to a particular dynastic house. One of these was the Order of St Stephen of the Italian Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Officially, the “Holy Military Order of St Stephen Pope and Martyr”, it was founded on October 1, 1561 by the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’ Medici with the permission of Pope Pius IV. This could be seen as part of the normalization of the transition in Tuscany to monarchy, away from the city-state Republic of Florence, taking on more of the trappings associated with monarchy as Florence became the seat of power of a hereditary Grand Duke rather than a republican leadership. The order was named for Pope St Stephen the Martyr because his feast day (August 2) corresponded with the victories that Grand Duke Cosimo had won at the Battle of Montemurlo (August 2, 1537) against republican insurgents who wanted to restore the Florentine republic and the Battle of Marciano (August 2, 1554) in which the Medici grand duke had conquered the city-state Republic of Siena.

Cosimo I
Grand Duke Cosimo had actually been trying to establish such an order for some time and more than one attempt was thwarted by Church opposition, largely for political reasons which was typical of the period in which Italy was divided among feuding states. That, however, finally changed with the reign of Pope Pius IV who was a Medici. The primary purpose of the order was to combat the Islamic pirates who were raiding the Mediterranean at will and who had increasingly threatened the Tyrrhenian Sea where Grand Duke Cosimo had built a new, modern port at Livorno. He also wished to demonstrate his support for the cause of Christendom and to unite his people, including the more recently conquered regions such as Siena and Pisa, against a common, non-Italian and non-Christian enemy. The Grand Duke also hoped it would add prestige to his newly established grand duchy, standing alongside other dynastic orders and adding fame to the name of Tuscany and the House of Medici for fighting on the front-lines against the forces harassing Christendom.

Based on the religious rule of St Benedict, the order took as its symbol a red eight-point cross on a white background, incorporating the red and white colors of Florence, with a heraldic lily flower in between the arms of the cross, again using a symbol associated with Florence as well as that of the House of Medici due to their ties with the Royal House of France. Grand Duke Cosimo served as the first Grand Master of the order and, as it was a dynastic order, this would be passed on to every subsequent Grand Duke of Tuscany. The headquarters of the order were originally in Portoferraio but later moved permanently to the city of Pisa where one can still find the magnificent Palazzo dei Cavalieri and the church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri. The knights focused primarily on coastal defense but also took the fight to the enemy in cooperation with larger allies. The first of three, broad “campaigns” that the Knights of St Stephen fought was done in cooperation with the Spanish in their fight against the Ottoman Turks in the Mediterranean.

One of the order's war galleys
The Knights of St Stephen, with their own war galleys, fought alongside the Spanish (and other allied Italian states) at the siege of Malta in 1565 and the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. They also participated in the attack and capture of Annaba in Algeria in 1607 under Admiral Jacopo Inghirami in which the city was devastated. This phase in their campaigning was, such as at Malta and Lepanto, defensive and focused on stopping major Turkish offensives against southern Italy. However, once that was done, low level harassment on the part of Turkish and, more often, Barbary pirates remained a problem and the Order of St Stephen focused its second campaign on dealing with this problem. They also concentrated on areas closer to home with raids on the Turkish-held islands of the Aegean as well as launching attacks on Islamic forces in Dalmatia, Negroponte and the island of Corfu. These were successful enough that offensive military operations by the Knights of St Stephen decreased, their last major campaign, coming around the year 1640, during the reign of Grand Duke Ferdinand II, focused on coastal defense and aiding the Republic of Venice in their on-going struggle against the Ottoman Empire.

Ferdinand III
The year 1719 saw the last time that the Order of St Stephen was used in combat by Grand Duke Cosimo III. Later, in 1737, a major change came when the House of Medici was supplanted by the Austrian dynasty of Hapsburg-Lorraine. The second Hapsburg grand duke, Peter Leopold I, formally ended the military aspect of the order and reorganized it as an order that would focus on education for the elites of Tuscany. It became more a feature of social status and no longer an order focused on war and military defense. The Order of St Stephen lost its fighting capacity under the Hapsburgs but things soon became even worse. In 1791 Emperor Leopold II abdicated the throne of Tuscany in favor of his son Ferdinand III who has the dubious distinction of being the first monarch to recognize the revolutionary First French Republic. However, that was not enough to save him. French expansion continued and the Austrians eventually agreed to hand over control of northern Italy to the French Republic in exchange for half of the territory of neutral Venice. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was occupied by the French, the Grand Duke was forced to abdicate and the Order of St Stephen was suppressed.

Leopold II
Thankfully, that situation did not endure. In due time Napoleon was defeated and the Grand Duke of Tuscany was put back in his place in 1814 and, the following year, the Order of St Stephen was restored. It was, however, restored in its reformed form, not a military order but became more of a sign of favor with the grand ducal family. The French experience also seemed to have an affect on the Italian populace as so many years of division, feuding and foreign rule or foreign occupation prompted the growth and spread of a new Italian nationalism. It was an unfortunate period for the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, who were good men of good motives and intentions but their natural inclination to support their Austrian relatives was not matched by their subjects and many deserted the forces of Tuscany to join the Piedmontese and the Italian national movement in fighting to expel the Austrians from Italian soil. Grand Duke Leopold II, a noble and tragic figure, made the mistake of so many of his contemporaries in granting constitutional government, only to later revoke it and he was forced to abdicate. Grand Duke Ferdinando IV, his successor, ruled for only about a year before he too was forced out in 1859 by the Italian nationalists. In 1860 Tuscany was formally annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.

Neither the Kingdom of Italy nor the current Italian republic officially recognize the Order of St Stephen, though it does still exist but as a purely private organization under the leadership of the Hapsburg-Lorraine heirs of the former grand duchy. Prince Sigismund, Archduke of Austria, is the current Grand Master and the order is considered, by the Catholic Church, as a “public association of the faithful” with historic papal foundations. The Knights of Malta still recognize it but membership is extremely limited, mostly to close friends and family. One must have extensive documented proof of aristocratic ancestry to even be considered for membership and the costs required, as with most such orders today, ensure that only quite wealthy people could ever hope to be invited. Nonetheless, what exists today is a valuable reminder of what a glorious and formidable military-religious order the Knights of St Stephen once were and one can still see their educational facility and naval war college in Pisa, a testament to their past as one of the major forces on the front lines of defending Christendom in the Mediterranean area.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monarch Profile: King Willem I of the Netherlands

It is no exaggeration to say that the reign of King Willem I of the Kingdom of the United Netherlands was the culmination of centuries of struggle, climaxed by the most critical conflict since the Dutch won their independence from Spain and which would remain the most critical until World War II was thrust upon them with the German blitzkrieg in May of 1940. From the start of the Dutch fight for freedom, that fight had been led by the Princes of Orange and, as founded, the independent Netherlands had been a republic but a republic which reserved a special place of leadership for the Princes of Orange. However, a more strident republican faction had emerged that sought to exclude the House of Orange from any position of influence. In response, a royalist faction rose up to counter them, often called the Orange party for the Orange sashes they often wore to show their support for their prince. As the republican faction strove to make the Netherlands more puritanically republican, so too did the Orange party move to do away with republican concessions and make the Prince of Orange their king.

Princes Willem & Frederik
Willem Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Orange-Nassau, was born in The Hague on August 24, 1772 to Prince Willem V of Orange and Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia. The internal struggle that had long troubled the Netherlands was still going strong at the time of his birth, not long before the forces of revolution began to sweep across the western world. In America, British colonists rose in revolt and declared the independence of the United States. Prince Willem V favored the British but the Dutch government allied with the Americans and declared war on Britain. That conflict was eventually settled but a more serious problem arose with the growth of a much more radical revolutionary movement in France. The Dutch republicans saw the French revolutionaries as their natural allies and rose up in a rebellion known as the “Patriot revolt” which was suppressed with help from the Prussians in 1787. Prince Willem and his brother Frederick were both given an education that stressed military matters, both eventually attending a military academy in Brunswick.

While on a visit to Berlin he met Princess Friederike Luise Wilhelmine of Prussia, his cousin, and the two were married in 1791. After finishing his education, the Hereditary Prince was made a general in the Dutch army by his father and given a seat on the Council of State of the Dutch republic. Not long after, the Dutch republicans were to learn that the kinship they felt with the French revolutionaries was not returned when the French National Convention declared war on the Dutch republic in 1793. Prince Willem was given command of the Dutch ‘mobile army’ to meet the attacking French and he was soon leading his troops alongside the armies of other powers in the Flanders campaign. It was hard fighting and the Prince tasted both victory and defeat such as when he captured Landrecies and was later smashed along with his allies at the Battle of Fleurus in 1794. Still, he made enough of a favorable impression that the Emperor Francis II gave him command of the Austrian forces in the region, to be grouped with his own though, in the end, the huge advantage in numbers possessed by the French revolutionaries with their campaign of mass conscription, proved impossible to overcome.

Willem, Prince of Orange
In 1795 Prince Willem V was forced to leave the Netherlands and go into exile in Britain, taking his sons with him as the French and their Dutch republican collaborators proclaimed the birth of the Batavian Republic, effectively a French puppet state. Prince Willem wanted to strike back immediately but his Prussian relatives vetoed the idea but he returned nonetheless in 1799 in an effort to spark a loyalist counter-revolution in cooperation with a joint Anglo-Russian invasion. The whole affair was a fiasco, though much of the navy and some Dutch soldiers did defect to join their prince. These men were formed into the King’s Dutch Brigade which later saw action in Ireland. When the British made peace with the French “First Consul”, Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1802 the cause of the Dutch loyalists seemed lost. Prince Willem felt betrayed by the British, who also went on to conquer a number of far flung Dutch colonies such as the Cape colony in South Africa and Ceylon in the Indian Ocean. Embittered, the Prince left England for Germany.

However, in 1806 Napoleon invaded the German states, the same year that Willem V died and his son officially became Prince Willem VI of Orange, and the Prince fought alongside his Prussian relatives against the French as a divisional commander of the Prussian army at the Battle of Jena. However, the Prussians were defeated and the Prince was forced to surrender the next day. He was given his parole, forced to promise not to fight against the French any more and was granted a pension from France as his country was a vassal of the government in Paris. However, he had no intention of keeping his word to the French and when the Austrian Empire went to war with France, he quickly joined their ranks and was wounded at the Battle of Wagram while serving on the staff of the Austrian commander Archduke Charles. Later, he received a great boost from Czar Alexander I of Russia who promised to help restore Dutch independence and make the Prince of Orange king. Prussia and Britain were both expected to agree. After the defeat of Napoleon at Leipzig, an Orange restoration seemed imminent.

By 1813, republicanism had been hugely reduced in the Netherlands, mostly thanks to the French. After promoting himself to Emperor, Napoleon had abolished the Batavian Republic and recreated the country as a satellite state called the Kingdom of Holland with his brother Louis as monarch. As it happened, King Louis proved rather popular and seemed to take his position seriously and clashed with his brother when French and Dutch interests collided. Napoleon would have none of that and so he sacked his brother and simply annexed the Netherlands to the French Empire. This turned the Dutch completely against the French and Napoleon’s constant wars and increasing demands for more money, more men, more resources brought about a very anti-French attitude amongst practically the entire Dutch population. The period of French rule made everyone long for the return of the Prince of Orange and the idea of a Dutch monarchy was more popular than it had ever been before.

The return of the Prince of Orange
On November 30, 1813 a British warship landed the Prince of Orange at Scheveningen, almost exactly the spot where he had left the country eighteen years before and the local provisional government immediately offered him the title of king. Humbly, the Prince of Orange refused, at least for the time being, calling himself “Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands” and, knowing well enough that the years of French prattle about the “Rights of Man” had to be taken into account, called for “a wise constitution”. He knew what he was doing and would end up in a far stronger position than any of his ancestors could have dreamed of. A new constitution was drawn up but it was a constitution that made Willem an all but absolute monarch. With the agreement of the Emperor in Vienna, he was made Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) and in exchange for the Duchy of Nassau, who he gave to Prussia, he was made Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The allies had all agreed that it was best to have all the Low Countries united under one reliable monarch as a bulwark against any future French offensive into central Europe.

King Willem I inspects the army in the 100 Days Campaign
With the allies gathered at the Council of Vienna, and Napoleon escaping his exile to return to power in France, it was unanimously decided to regularize the situation in the Low Countries by making the “Sovereign Prince” King Willem I of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, covering all of the Dutch and Belgian lands as well as Luxembourg. He was proclaimed king on March 16, 1815 and with French troops marching into Belgium, King Willem I’s son and heir, the Prince of Orange, was made a corps commander in the allies army that definitively defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. It was the hour of triumph for the new King Willem I who had achieved more for his house and country than any would have thought possible. He was practically an absolute monarch over all of the Low Countries with the support of all the major powers, his greatest enemy was defeated and tributes poured in from abroad. The King of Spain awarded him the Order of the Golden Fleece, the King of Great Britain sent him the Order of the Garter, it was as though all of the wildest dreams of the old Orange party had come true at last.

However, there were problems. The Belgians had hoped to gain their own independence from the wars with France and many were not happy about being subject to a Dutch king. Though his son was popular there, King Willem I was not. The Belgians complained of being underrepresented in the new Dutch government. They resented the King pushing everyone to adopt the Dutch language as, in those days, not only did the Walloon population of Belgium speak only French but the elite, the educated and the businessmen of Flanders spoke French as well. The Belgians were also solidly Catholic and they also resented the special favor shown by their Protestant monarch to the Dutch Reformed Church. This is all, of course, completely understandable just as it is understandable that King Willem I wished to have all parts of his kingdom united, wanting one people, one language, one religion under one monarch. It might not have been so bad if Belgian expectations had not been raised previously. It also did not help that the policies which benefited the Dutch population of traders, bankers and businessmen were often less than helpful to the farmers and laborers of Belgium.

King Willem I
In the summer of 1830 the Belgians rose up in revolt, soon declaring the independence of the Kingdom of Belgium and looking around for a monarch of their own. King Willem I responded by sending his sons with the Dutch army to put down the rebellion. The Prince of Orange was quite popular in Belgium, particularly Flanders where the Orange party existed in a new form but whereas the Prince was open to reconciliation, his father was not. King Willem I wanted all rebellion suppressed by force, the ringleaders made example of and that to be an end to it. In a short campaign the Royal Dutch Army was quite successful at scattering the rag-tag Belgian civilian-soldiers. However, when the French King Louis Philippe threatened to intervene, the Dutch were forced to pull back. Pressure was applied by the French, British and Germans to get King Willem I to agree and, failing that, they simply recognized the Kingdom of Belgium anyway. The Dutch army held on for a time in the fortress-port of Antwerp but they were besieged by the French Royal Army and in time were forced to concede and recognize Belgian independence.

This was a particularly bitter pill for King Willem I to swallow as he had been so very proud of his “United Kingdom of the Netherlands” which, after the separation of Belgium, became instead the Kingdom of the Netherlands as it is today though still with the personal union with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Dutch liberals also took advantage of the opportunity that came with amending the constitution to take into account the loss of Belgium to diminish the King’s powers. It was not an immense change but it did mean that the King could no longer do as he pleased entirely and King Willem I was outraged by this. He was also facing mounting anger over his private life as, since the death of his wife in 1837 (after giving him two sons and two daughters) he had taken up with a countess who, to the outrage of the Dutch public, was a Catholic and a Belgian. He wished to marry her but it was clear the Dutch people would not stand for such a thing. So, with King Willem I refusing to accept the constitutional changes, his people refusing to accept his choice of wife and lingering resentment over the loss of Belgium, King Willem I started the tradition of Dutch monarchs abdicating when he gave up his throne on October 7, 1840.

The former king, to make room for his more popular son, left the country for the Kingdom of Prussia, using the title Count of Nassau. He married his beloved Belgian countess and she took good care of him for the rest of his life, which was not long. He died in Berlin in 1843 at the age of 71. The care his wife, Countess Henrietta d’Oultremont, showed to him even softened the hearts of the Dutch government sufficiently for them to grant her a pension and a castle near Aachen, though not enough to have her buried along with her husband and other Dutch royals when she passed away in 1864. So, in the end, King Willem I of the Netherlands had left his country on a less than happy note. He had fought the French for years to regain his country and his triumph in becoming the first King of the Netherlands was the culmination of many, many years of struggle for the House of Orange and their supporters. Yet, the subsequent losses he had to face were more than he could accept. Nonetheless, his reign had still been the most successful of any of his dynasty and his victory gave us the Kingdom of the Netherlands that still exists today.

Looking back at King Willem I, everyone would agree that he was a pivotal figure in Dutch history. Born into the Dutch republic, he presided over the creation of the Dutch kingdom. Today he tends to be viewed though, rather unfairly, in a critical light as a rigid man with a noticeably authoritarian streak. That is not, in itself, that unfair but it should be seen in context. Had he been a little less rigid the Kingdom of the Netherlands might not exist today. He was a man of great tenacity, who was unrelenting in his fight to restore his house and the independence of his country, making common cause with anyone who would help make that dream a reality. It is certainly understandable why the Belgians would have been unhappy with him but subsequent history can also be seen as something of a vindication of his policy given how bitterly divided Belgium has become as a bi-lingual country. In his opposition to the constitutional modifications, it is true that his loss of power was not a great one (real changes in that regard would come under his son) but one must remember the background of King Willem I. He had seen much of and learned even more about all the strife in his country when, as a republic, power was shared with the princes of Orange and he did not want to simply go from being a republic with a prince to a kingdom with a president. He had fought long and hard to finally make good on his family’s dynastic dream to become king and as king, he intended to rule. Willem I may be criticized for that today, but for him to have done otherwise would, for someone like him, seemed a complete betrayal of everything he had spent his life fighting to achieve and all the struggles of generations of his ancestors as well. History should be more kind to him.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Heyday of Hungary

It is well known that the Hungarian republic of today is greatly diminished from the kingdom it once was. After the disastrous First World War, the Kingdom of Hungary lost 71% of its territory and 63% of its population. Yet, even that Kingdom of Hungary, which was in union with the Austrian Empire, would have seemed rather small compared to what the Kingdom of Hungary had been in the XIV Century. Though, as with the period when the House of Hapsburg served as the Royal Family of Hungary, at the time the Kingdom of Hungary reached its peak in terms of size and power was also under a foreign Royal Family, the cadet Anjou branch of the French Royal House of Capet. From 1308 to 1395, four members of this French dynasty ruled over the Kingdom of Hungary and under their reign, the Hungarian nation was more powerful than it had ever been before or would be again to date.

Of course, this was not all the work of the Anjou royals themselves as they were building on the foundations already established by the native House of Arpad (though a number of those kings were not ethnic Hungarians either) but after that line had extinguished, Hungary had a Czech monarch, a German monarch and finally a French monarch with the establishment of Charles Robert of Anjou as King Charles I of Hungary in 1308. He was the son of the Prince of Salerno and his Hapsburg wife and the grandson of the King of Naples where the House of Anjou had previously been established. That grandfather, King Charles II of Naples, was married to Queen Mary of Hungary who claimed the Hungarian throne but later passed it to her son Charles Robert who was later elected King of Hungary in Pest (before Buda and Pest were united) in opposition to the previously mentioned Czech and later Bavarian Kings of Hungary.

King Charles I had the support of Pope Boniface VIII and fought many hard battles to win control of Hungary. One critical victory in Slovakia went a long way to establishing his rule and eventually he was able to gain control of most of the country though Croatia remained autonomous and Wallachia was moving in that direction. It may not have seemed the most auspicious of starts yet, King Charles I was a pivotal figure in Hungarian history as it was during his reign that large gold deposits were discovered in the country and quickly exploited, making the Kingdom of Hungary extremely rich, extremely quickly. Hungary, in fact, became the largest gold producer in all of Europe which made the country very important and certainly helped King Charles I, an absolute monarch who ruled absolutely but also a shrewd man who knew how to ensure loyalty in his officials and who, on one important occasion, acted as a sort of peacemaker between Poland and Bohemia. Most importantly though, the wealth and absolutist monarchy he built up would be wielded to best effect by his son and successor King Louis I, known in Hungarian history as King Louis the Great.

King Louis the Great
Louis the Great represented the zenith of Hungarian power and prestige. He started his reign with a crusade against the Lithuanians (at the time still pagans) and for anyone not sufficiently impressed by that, be aware that Lithuania was a major power in those days, a huge country that stretched across much of Eastern Europe. King Louis restored royal power in Croatia and also made successful war against the Tatars. He fought wars almost constantly and, fortunately for Hungary, was a very successful warrior-king. He took on the Golden Horde and won, invaded southern Italy, holding it for a time but ultimately giving up on it, gained Dalmatia from the Republic of Venice, won victories over the Serbs and forced rulers in Bosnia, Wallachia, Moldavia and parts of Bulgaria to recognize him as their overlord.

As his very pious mother had been a Polish princess, when the King of Poland died, rather than follow the will of the late king and see the country divided, the Polish nobility decided on a personal union with Hungary. As such, in 1370 King Louis the Great of Hungary became King of Poland as well. This represented the peak in terms of the amount of territory that the Hungarian monarch ruled as the country under King Louis the Great was known as the kingdom, “whose shores were washed by three seas” referring to the Baltic Sea in the north, the Adriatic Sea to the southwest and the Black Sea to the east. Louis the Great was not popular with everyone of course, his hired soldiers made many enemies in southern Italy by their brutality and his zealous efforts to convert pagans and Orthodox Christians to Catholicism were resented by many of his subjects but what is hardly disputable is that under his rule the Kingdom of Hungary had become the largest, most powerful and dominant power in Eastern Europe. In his time, pretty much everything east of Germany belonged to or at least answered to Hungary and there was not much beyond that as, at this time, most of Russia was still ruled by Asians.

Hungarian lands (red) and vassal lands (pink)
The legacy of King Louis the Great would cast a long shadow, in the realm of religion as well as politics as he was the father of the famous Queen St Hedwig of Poland (who would forge the union of Poland and Lithuania). When Louis died, the Polish throne went to St Hedwig while the Hungarian and Croatian thrones went to his daughter by Elizabeth of Bosnia, Queen Mary. However, many of the Hungarian nobility were not fond of the idea of having a woman in charge and Queen Mary faced numerous challenges and a rival for the throne in King Charles III of Naples (her cousin) who claimed the Crown as King Charles II of Hungary. The Queen Mother had hoped for a marriage alliance with the King of France but Sigismund of Luxembourg (the House of Luxembourg being extremely powerful in those days) invaded Slovakia and forced Queen Mary to marry him instead. She was deposed, restored, with the Neapolitan King Charles II ruling in the interim but after her marriage to Sigismund, she effectively lost power as he took control of the government and she died in 1385.

That was effectively the end of the Angevin era in Hungary with Sigismund of Luxembourg becoming the real ruler of the country and disaster soon followed with the Ottoman Turks launching a renewed wave of crushing offensives into central Europe. The Hungarians were devastated, vassal states were conquered and the Turkish onslaught was overwhelming. This ultimately resulted in the alliance that brought the Hapsburgs of Austria to the Hungarian throne. However, though the Turks first entered Hungary under Sigismund, the Hungarians fought back fiercely and in time, thanks to the victories of such national heroes as John Hunyadi and Matthias Corvinus, the Turks were expelled and the border of Hungary was stabilized and secure. The Italian Renaissance reached Hungary, bringing about a flowering of cultural achievements and, in time, with the union with Austria, the Turks began to be pushed back and old lands regained.

Nonetheless, the Kingdom of Hungary was never quite so large and powerful as it had been during the reign of King Louis the Great, dominating eastern Europe, made possible it should be remembered, by the great wealth, prosperity and unity established by King Charles I. It would, of course, have been preferable if everyone could have remained united after the death of King Louis, whether it was under an Anjou like Queen Mary, King Charles II or under Sigismund and the House of Luxembourg as, whichever one would have been preferable, it would have made Hungary stronger in the face of the Ottoman hordes invading from the south. There are also a number of lessons which this period of history can teach us about the events in and around the Hungarian nation today. The memory of the Kingdom of Hungary, in total, though we have focused here on the Angevin period, should never be forgotten. Hungarians, hopefully, have not but others should remember as well as it will provide a better understanding of Hungary today.

Looking back on this period, we can see what great things the Hungarian nation is capable of. Anyone who looks at this history can see that the Hungarian republic that exists today is a far cry from what Hungary has been and could be. Of course, a great deal has changed since those days. However, looking back at this era of national greatness, it should be clear why the Hungarians still possess a level of national pride that the elites in the European Union cannot comprehend. We can also see why, given that this period ended with a Muslim invasion, why today the Hungarians have been less willing than others to play the doormat to an influx of largely Muslim people from the Middle East. If you know what happened then, you can understand what is happening now and why many Hungarians do not view things the same way as the bureaucrats in Brussels. The people of Hungary have much to be proud of and have learned some hard lessons in their long and colorful history. Hopefully, the understanding of this will only increase until this spirit is revived in sufficient strength to see the republic abolished, the Kingdom of Hungary restored and thus have a more vital link to that past Hungarian heyday when Hungary had a king and was among the most wealthy and powerful in the western world.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monarch Profile: King George I of Great Britain & Ireland

His Highness Georg Ludwig, Duke of Brunswick-Lueneburg was born on May 28, 1660, the eldest son of Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover and his wife Sophia of the Palatinate. The first son born to the Hanoverian ruling family in some time, he was mostly raised alongside his younger brother and was known as a very serious little boy, responsible and who established himself early on as the leader of his younger siblings. He gained many lofty titles in quick succession as his childless uncles passed away but the grandest title he stood to came originated some distance from his flat, beloved lands of meandering rivers in northern Germany. His mother, known as Sophie of Hanover, was the daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, who was the daughter of King James I of England. As they were Protestants, in 1701 the English Parliament passed a new Act of Succession which stated that, “the most excellent Princess Sophia, Electress and Dowager Duchess of Hanover, daughter of Elizabeth, late Queen of Bohemia, daughter of James I, shall be next in succession to the Crown” after the Stuart Queen Anne.

For the young George, however, that seemed a remote a distant possibility. He was raised entirely with the intention of being Elector of Hanover and no more. His father feared his son would have to fight to keep his inheritance and stressed his military education, taking his teenage son on campaign with him during the Franco-Dutch War in which the German empire backed the Dutch republic against King Louis XIV of France. In 1682 he married his first cousin (another effort to secure the family fortune) Sophia Dorothea of Celle and the following year George and his brother Frederick Augustus fought with the Austrians against the Turks at the Battle of Vienna while his wife gave birth to a son and heir, George Augustus, whom his father would thoroughly despise. Family feuding meant that George spent a great deal of time fighting for and trying to gain favor with the Hapsburg Emperor and powerful figures in Germany as they tried to unite the Hanoverian lands into a single state under his control. In 1692 his father was formally made an Elector of the Holy Roman (German) Empire and this went a long way to securing the position of George due to the previous passage of primogeniture.

After the birth of another child, a daughter, the family life of George fell apart, if it had ever been real in the first place. George took a succession of mistresses but when his wife did the same with a Swedish aristocrat, the man was eventually murdered and George himself did not escape suspicion. Their marriage was dissolved and George had his wife placed under house arrest and was not allowed to see her children, which certainly could not have helped the father-son relationship between George and George Augustus which would become extremely bad. However, in 1698 George’s father passed away and he became the ruler of Hanover and a Prince-Elector of the Empire. He made his court quite an attraction with a palace described as a smaller-scale Versailles and which was frequented by numerous prestigious intellectuals and artistic figures. The security of Hanover was, undoubtedly, George’s top priority but in 1710 he did send an agent to London, Baron von Bothmar, to represent his interests in the matter of the British succession. The idea that he would actually become King of England and Scotland was not really secured until the death of Queen Anne and the work of her minister the Duke of Shrewsbury to put the Act of Settlement into effect.

Contrary to what some still think, the Elector of Hanover was not anxious to take the British throne. Hanover was his home, his first concern and the land he loved most. He delayed going to England and took his time getting there, knowing that, while being King of England was certainly more prestigious than being Elector of Hanover, it would also be a much more complicated undertaking. In Hanover, he was effectively an absolute monarch, military matters were left entirely at his discretion and any expenditure over 12 pounds required his consent. The people were loyal and accepted that government was for the Elector and not their concern. In Britain, on the other hand, there was an entrenched political class, contentious religious divisions, animosity between England, Scotland and Ireland as well as a considerable number of people still loyal to the House of Stuart. Scotland, the English country gentry and many in the Church of England were not pleased at all to see George arrive on English shores, his largest base of support basically being the political class that wanted and needed his favor to maintain themselves. He could hardly speak English at all and caused some reaction when he landed and announced to the assembled people that he had, “come for your goods, I have come for all your goods”.

Becoming King of England and Scotland in August of 1714 (his mother had died earlier in the year), King George I wanted to make it clear from the outset that he asserted his right to the throne on the basis of heredity rather than an act of Parliament, as a way to show that he did not owe his Crown to politicians and to assert that he was not a usurper to the Jacobite supporters of the Stuarts. In truth though, he was only king because of an act of Parliament and if the Stuart heir had, as he was advised, abandoned Catholicism and become an Anglican, there was no doubt that he would have been able to take the throne and would have been head of a much more robust monarchy than George I was handed. However, Britain accepted King George I quietly, without much enthusiasm but also without much serious opposition beyond bitter words and ridicule at his rather scandalous private life. European politics, as well as religion, helped King George I in his cause. As well as being Catholic, the Stuarts were very closely allied with the French whereas King George, as Elector of Hanover, had opposed the French, allied with Britain and others, as commander of the (German) Imperial army on the Rhine during the recent War of Spanish Succession. The Dutch and other European Protestants were united in support of a Protestant monarch in Britain but many Catholics were supportive as well, even if not overtly, due to Austrian and Papal opposition to the power of France.

The first beneficiary of King George I was the Whig party. The Tories had tried to get the Stuarts to embrace Protestantism and thus ensure their own succession, so they were out of favor while the Whigs who rallied to him, along with his trusted German officials, were rewarded with high office. The King also baffled many of his new subjects by his behavior, which was unlike anything they had seen before. He disliked crowds and preferred meals in his private apartments to large state dinners. He lived in only two rooms of the palace and while royal mistresses were nothing new, George’s were known for being absurdly ugly which greatly amused the public. King Charles II had, at least, shown better taste in many mistresses. Most singled out were two German mistresses (they were invariably German), one of whom was extremely thin and the other extremely fat. He distrusted strangers, clever women and had little time for poets or painters though he was a great patron of music.

As King, his first challenge was the Jacobite uprising of 1715. Started by the Earl of Mar who proclaimed the Stuart heir King James VIII of Scotland and III of England and with propaganda support from the exiled Tory leader Henry St John in France, the rebellion had considerable support. Most of Scotland outside Edinburgh favored the Jacobites and there were demonstrations of support in many towns across England. Supporters of King George I described him as calm and solid during this crisis but the truth may well have been that losing the British throne would have made his life easier, allowing him to return permanently to his beloved Hanover. Fortunately for King George, the Jacobite uprising was very poorly coordinated and was soon squashed without undue difficulty. By the time the Stuart heir arrived on British soil, his cause was already effectively lost and a great many aristocrats were put to death in the aftermath, a fact which caused some lack of support for George I in the upper echelons of British society. Tory support for the Stuarts also ensured that the Whig party could enjoy an uncontested hold on power. It also helped that the King spoke English so poorly that he rarely attended council meetings and mostly let them do as they pleased, though he could be counted on to intervene when it concerned Hanover.

Although obliged to spend most of his time in England, the government was considerate enough, or willing enough to be rid of him, that they repealed the law requiring Parliamentary consent for the King to leave the country so that George I was able to take length leaves of absence in Hanover in 1716, 1719, 1720, 1723 and 1725. His son presided over a regency council while he was away and given that the King and his son thoroughly hated each other, government opposition tended to gather around the Prince. Since it often involved Hanover, King George I did take an active interest in foreign affairs and played a leading part in gathering an alliance of the British, Germans, French and Dutch against the Spanish who, in 1719, invaded Scotland and tried to spark their own Jacobite rebellion. However, only a few hundred Spanish troops managed to land successfully and they, along with barely a thousand Jacobites, were easily crushed. The King also saw to it that Hanover benefited by gaining territory at the expense of Sweden in the resolution of the “Great Northern War”, a Russian-backed war to destroy the dominance of the Kingdom of Sweden in northern and eastern Europe.

The last major crisis King George I presided over was the collapse of the so-called “South Sea Bubble”. What happened was that the government-backed South Sea Company was given a monopoly on trade with South America in exchange for buying the British national debt from the government. Despite having no real assets, speculators bid up the price of shares in the company higher and higher so that dozens of “bubble companies” sprang up. When the government passed a law to squash these companies, it sparked the bursting of the South Sea Bubble, causing a stock market crash, forcing the resignation of many government officials and severely undermining faith in the government. The King and his ministers were never more unpopular than after their bungled attempts at controlling the economy had cost so many so much. The public did not know that King George I had hardly been the cause of it all and evidence shows that he lost money in the affair as well. It was not a good situation though for King George’s first minister, Robert Walpole, generally regarded as the first British Prime Minister as people today would recognize it. He was better recognized by sticking to simpler forms of patronage, such as in convincing King George I to revive the Order of the Bath as a way to reward political supporters.

King George I died in Germany on June 11, 1727 which did not provoke a great deal of sorrow in the British Isles. All in all, about the best that can be said for George I, as King of England, is that he was not terrible. He was a very effective Elector of Hanover but as for the British Isles, the best that can be said is that the three kingdoms did not descend into chaos or poverty during his reign. He did have his good qualities. He was a good military leader, courageous on the battlefield, thrifty in economic matters and was fairly astute in political matters. His shyness led to some unfair criticism and he was not an unintelligent man, however he was far from a good man either. His treatment of his family was deplorable, he frankly did not care all that much about Britain and was from start to finish a German more concerned with events in Germany than in the British Isles. Brought to the throne by an act of Parliament rather than by birth, the political class became more entrenched under his reign as he was fairly disinterested in events that did not impact Hanover. The changes put in place in 1688 were not really fully felt until the reign of King George I when the King’s first minister first began to rise in prominence as being the real “leader” of the country, a trend which would (with one interruption named George III) continue and become more pronounced over time.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fascism, fascism and Monarchy

The term “fascist” has been so-overused in modern political discourse that it has become something of a joke, an epithet that is hurled at an enemy rather than a serious accusation. Everyone has probably heard the quip that the modern definition of “fascist” is someone who is winning an argument with a liberal. Few really know what it means, it is simply another way of calling someone evil. The political left is mostly responsible for this, calling anyone who is not a communist a “fascist” but right-of-center liberals have also taken to it, conceding to the left that “fascism” is simply another word for absolute evil and instead arguing that the leftists are the “real” fascists. Referring to radical, Islamic terrorists as “Islamo-fascists” or Jonah Goldberg’s book, “Liberal Fascism” being but two examples of this. Add to this the fact that a standard fascist economic model, corporatism, has been appropriated and re-defined as synonymous with plutocracy and it is no wonder that there is a huge amount of ignorance and confusion on the subject of fascism. So, what is actual fascism and what sort of record does it have regarding traditional authority? First, we must define our terms.

A distinction, first of all, must be made between “Fascism” and “fascism”. There has only ever been one Fascist regime in history and that was the regime of Benito Mussolini, the inventor of Fascism, in Italy; first the National Fascist Party in the Kingdom of Italy and briefly the Republican Fascist Party in the Italian Social Republic in that part of northern Italy Mussolini was allowed to control. Defining Fascism has never been very easy. One can, as I did back in my university days, buy copies of ‘The Communist Manifesto’ by Karl Marx and ‘The Doctrine of Fascism’ by Benito Mussolini and read both (they are very small books). You will likely come away with a very firm understanding of what communism is all about, where they want to go and how they want to get there, how they see the world. On the other hand, you will likely come away with a sort of understanding or sense of what Fascism is about, the spirit that drives it but nothing very concrete. That is because, as Mussolini himself often said, Fascism was more style than substance. It was about “unity” and “action” rather than any specific set of bullet points or a party program. Mussolini famously said once that the Fascists only program was, “to smash the heads of the socialists”.

Critics have long said this was because Mussolini was simply inconsistent, shallow and needed an excuse. Mussolini himself, however, called it being flexible and pragmatic. He often said that action was more important than political dogma, that what works today may fail tomorrow and what failed today may work tomorrow. Fascism rejected the notion that there was some specific political formula that would solve all problems but insisted rather that circumstances change and the State must be able to adapt. In other words, do not make specific promises but lay out a broad vision and do what it takes to get there. Try something and, if it doesn’t work, discard it and try something else until you find what works best and then do more of that. Strength in unity, symbolized by the fasces, was the most important principle but other than that, the most important thing was action, to do rather than to talk, to act rather than to argue, forget the legalism and do what must be done and be limited only in the regard of doing what is proven to work. “The machine, first of all, must run!” as Mussolini once said.

Beyond pragmatism, Mussolini tended to refer to Fascism in almost religious terms, as a spiritual movement as well as a political one, it was about regaining a sense of national pride, cultural preservation and glorification as well as bringing about a unity that included Church and State as well. This came into being with the signing of the Lateran Treaty which resulted in the Holy See, finally, recognizing and endorsing the Kingdom of Italy and Italy becoming an officially Catholic country (in law as well as in practice). This was huge news at the time, a true historical event and Mussolini was hailed as “the man who gave God back to Italy and Italy back to God”. As for the monarchy, Mussolini himself, in socialist days, was adamantly against it, was initially against it after inventing Fascism but later backed the monarchy and urged his supporters to do the same. The “diarchy” of King and Duce prevailed during most of the Fascist Era with Mussolini being supportive of the monarchy in public but often derisive in private. Of course, when the King dismissed him from office in 1943, he reverted back to zealous opposition to the monarchy, which is not surprising.

Looking, more broadly, beyond “Fascism” which is, strictly speaking, limited to Italy, to “fascism” as in those regimes most often identified as fascist, we can see some common themes and some of these explain why Mussolini the Fascist had very different views on church and crown than Mussolini the socialist. Regimes labeled as fascist tend to be very nationalist and that by itself means that they are not all going to be the same but will draw on the unique histories and cultures of the peoples involved. They tend to emphasize ‘fraternity’ but not ‘equality’ and tend to favor traditional values. Unity is almost always paramount and fascists reject democracy, liberalism and any form of civil rights that could be damaging to national cohesion. Religion tends to be respected, though of course, that is usually contingent on it not being a source of division (or, in other words, dissent).

Organization, regimentation and discipline are greatly emphasized by fascist regimes and often an emphasis on the “greater good” of the nationality. The fascist goal of unity also carried over into the economic sphere where the means of production remains largely in private hands but with restrictions in place with the aim of ensuring unity between ownership and labor and the good of the nation. Regimes of this sort tend to organize their economies around industries, forcing workers and owners to unite behind industrial codes, in ways which vary slightly and have different names depending on the country in question, from corporations, national syndicates, vertical trade unions and do on. The broad idea was ending the owner/worker divide, keeping the economy largely private but subject to state regulation in the name of the national interest as well as economic independency and, initially at least, a total rejection of international finance and general dislike of borrowing and lending.

Usually, any description of fascist regimes will include a general tendency to launch wars of aggression and trying to take over the world. It sounds exciting, but it is not true as the number of fascist regimes that ever actually launched a major invasion of another country is actually quite small. Regimes considered fascist in countries such as Austria, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Latvia, Argentina, Brazil and so on never attacked anyone beyond their borders. In this case, as with many, Germany tends to taint the pool as it does with the issue of racism. For most fascist countries, race was not a primary concern, with many not considering it terribly important in their case or only to the extent that they put their own people first and did not make it a matter of policy to scapegoat some other race or nationality.

The NSB in the Netherlands, for example, never made much of an issue of race as they worked hard to enlist support for the Dutch empire which primarily meant the Dutch East Indies where a considerable number of mixed race people lived who supported the empire. Most fascist regimes in Europe had little to no racial minorities other than the Jews and, again, in some instances opposition to the Jews was a central issue of these regimes but in other instances it was not. Even where it was, outside of Germany, this practically never rose to the level of involving claims of racial superiority or inferiority but was, rather, based on the issue of nationalism and national unity. The Jews were considered suspect because they were, for so long and so adamantly, set apart, a “nation within a nation”. This fostered anti-Semitic feelings even while it is no doubt the primary reason why the Jews were able to survive as a distinct people for so long without a homeland of their own.

Additionally, there was also the political aspect. For nationalist regimes, there was no greater ideological enemy than the internationalists of the communist countries. It is an unfortunate fact of history that many people associated Jews with communism for the simple reason that Jews were disproportionately represented in the communist takeover of Russia and in many other countries Jews stood out in the leadership of communist movements such as Bela Kun in Hungary, Rosa Luxembourg and the Frankfurt School in Germany, Ludovic-Oscar Frossard in France, Jacques de Kadt in the Netherlands, Ruth Fischer in Austria or were involved in high-profile acts of communist subversion such as Max Goldstein in Romania, and so on and so forth. Of course, none of this means that all Jews are communists but the fact that many communists were Jews can certainly help explain the rise of anti-Semitism in the wake of the spread of communism after the First World War. Given how small a percentage of the population they represented, it would simply not be reasonable to expect the level of Jewish involvement in the post-war communist movement to go unnoticed or to fail to produce some level of backlash.

Taking action against Jews as part of some wider political movement, is, of course, far different from outright persecution of all Jews simply for being Jews. In Italy, the Fascist Party included quite a few Jewish members before the alliance with Germany and the discovery of Jewish involvement in an anti-Fascist dissident group changed Mussolini’s policy in their regard. In Spain, Generalissimo Franco often denounced the “Judaeo-Masonic conspiracy” but, during World War II, allowed Jews to flee to safety through Spain provided they “left no trace” and it was his regime which repealed the Alhambra Decree which had originally expelled the Jews from Spanish soil back in the days of the Catholic Monarchs. The fascist regime of Salazar in Portugal went so far as to denounce the Nuremberg Laws in Germany and allowed no such discrimination or repression in his own country, provided of course the Jews in question were not involved in some criminal activity or dissident organization. Today, antagonism between Jews and neo-Nazi types in particular remains strong, mostly due to, frankly, the rank hypocrisy of many in both camps that want a nation-state for their own people but oppose the same for the other.

The specifically racial animus against the Jews was almost entirely confined to the National Socialist regime in Germany, which stands apart from most other fascist regimes in that regard, as well as in their incoherent attitude toward Christianity, at times accepting it and at other times denouncing it (the denunciations more often being done away from public view). Their subtle and not-so-subtle at times pushing of pre-Christian paganism was fairly unique from other fascist regimes which, seeking to restore some past period of national greatness, could not fail to notice that their height of power invariably coincided with the triumph of Christianity. This was not the case in Italy, yet even someone from so anti-clerical a background as Mussolini was forced to admit that Italy and Catholicism were inseparable and national unity required an accord with the Church of Rome. Romania’s fascist Iron Guard or Legion of the Archangel Michael was zealously Christian, requiring members to be willing to die for Christ and the German attitude seems rather odd when one considers that the height of German power came in the Christian era, whereas the pagan Germans had been primitive, disunited and frequently beaten. The Germanic barbarians that did ultimately overrun much of the Roman Empire, it is worth pointing out, had previously become Christian. I confess, I’ve often smirked at the thought of some strutting SS officer in the latest Hugo Boss fashion standing before a grizzled Teutonic Knight, explaining to him how Christianity is a source of weakness and how his pagan, cave-dwelling enemies are the real example to follow.

National Socialist Germany also stands apart in its consistently anti-monarchy attitude, though, again, for the sake of national unity this was mostly kept quiet until after they had achieved power. For Hitler, the multicultural, multinational Hapsburg realm was always anathema and he could never forgive the German Kaiser for having lost the war. For most other fascist regimes, this was not the case, though the events of the war and earlier the eclipse of the original Fascist regime in Italy by the Nazis in Germany sometimes caused a change in attitude. In Austria, the “Austrofascists” of Engelbert Dollfuss repealed the anti-Hapsburg laws and restored their property to them but went no farther. After his assassination by the Nazis, Dollfuss’ successor Kurt von Schuschnigg agreed to restore the Hapsburgs to the throne and had the support of Mussolini in Italy. However, that plan was thwarted due to world outrage at the Italian invasion of Ethiopia after which Mussolini allied with Hitler and dropped his support for the independent Austria. Across the Adriatic in Greece, the “August Fourth Regime” is often labeled as fascist and it was led by General Ioannis Metaxas who was a staunch royalist (his support for King Constantine I in staying out of World War I and his refusal to support the Allies brought down the Greek government of Venizelos).

In Romania, there were effectively two fascist movements, one led by King Carol II and the other, more well known, Iron Guard led by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Despite being at odds with the king, it is noteworthy that Codreanu was nevertheless unstinting in his praise of the principle of monarchy and his support for the institution. In Yugoslavia the most ambitious fascist movement was the Ustase which certainly opposed the Serbian monarchy but for which monarchy was never much of an issue, even when they briefly became a nominal one during the war years. Ethnic nationalism and Catholicism were always their top priorities. In Bulgaria, after a coup by a military faction that wanted to unite with Yugoslavia, King Boris III retook power for himself for most of the remaining years leading up to World War II, a period where royals dominating government seemed to be on the rise in the Balkans alongside such examples as King Carol II in Romania and King Alexander I of Yugoslavia (prior to his murder in 1934, leader of the “January Sixth Dictatorship”).

Belgium had both pro- and anti-monarchy fascist type movements, neither of which ever gained power on their own. The Walloon dominated Rexist movement pushed for a Catholic renewal, a corporatist society and Belgian nationalism whereas the Flemish National Union pushed for the abolition of Belgium (doing away with the monarchy in the process of course) in order to join Flanders with the Netherlands. The Rexists also had the benefit of being most influenced by other fascist movements favorable or at least not hostile to monarchy from Italy, France and Spain. This changed during the war when the Rexist leader Leon Degrelle joined with the Germans and adopted a new pan-European worldview in which the continent would basically be a German-dominated mega-state. The NSB in the Netherlands, originally did not make an issue of the monarchy, was originally open to Jewish members and was not racist. Priorities for the NSB were corporatism, ending democracy and enlarging the country and the colonial empire. However, as Nazi Germany rose in power, becoming more fashionable than Fascist Italy, the NSB became more anti-Semitic and, during the war, became very anti-monarchy as they openly collaborated with the Germans in opposition to the royal government-in-exile led by Queen Wilhelmina. They were ultimately undercut by their own patron as the Germans never handed over Flanders to them and were allied with the Japanese who conquered the Dutch East Indies (which they fully intended to keep).

A similar shift was seen in Great Britain where the original fascist movement, led by a woman and including many former suffragettes, was very conservative and very monarchist. “For King and Country” was their motto but they were later superseded by the British Union of Fascists, led by Sir Oswald Mosley who came from a very leftist political background. The BUF was originally most influenced by Fascist Italy but later became more influenced by Nazi Germany, which coincided with a more anti-Semitic attitude (something Mosley later said was a mistake). The BUF wanted to curtail democracy, enact protectionism for the empire, and have a corporatist system, replacing the House of Lords with a Chamber of Corporations. However, they were never anti-monarchy, while certainly never advocating for the restoration of royal powers (which the original British fascists had) but which regarded the monarchy, in its current form, as useful, speaking of it as having its rough edges rounded out by time and the course of history. Other, more minor, more extreme and more explicitly pro-Nazi groups were more radical but never gained anything like the even modest following of the BUF.

Across the Channel in France, a rather unique situation existed in which the most prominent fascist-type organization was overtly royalist, in a country where that would seem least likely and of a type that really went contrary to what one would expect. The group in question was Action Francaise (French Action) and, although less so today, was once regarded as the first proto-fascist party. In any event, it certainly had a great deal of influence on other fascist movements and so is well worth considering. It came to particular prominence in association with Charles Maurras, who was neither the founder nor the leader of the movement but its most adept intellectual spokesman. French Action favored nationalism, Catholicism, monarchy and integralism (a wider view of society of which corporatism was a part) and regarded as suspect such elements as Masons, Jews, Protestants and of course Marxists and radical leftists. It favored restoring the French monarchy though not restoring the King to actual power and favored the Orleanist claim to the French throne, not surprising given that it was the more ‘French’ of the competing factions.

What is odd about French Action is that it favored social and economic positions that were most in line with the legitimist royalists who despised everything in France that was post-Revolution. However the legitimists wished to see the King restored to absolute power whereas French Action did not, yet the Orleanist branch of the Royal Family had traditionally favored liberal economics (capitalism, free markets, etc) which French Action opposed. They were also adamantly opposed to Freemasonry which was, again, more in line with the legitimist than the Orleanist faction and yet they also took a more utilitarian view of religion which was more Orleanist than legitimist. One would think that these many contradictions would be a recipe for disaster or, for that matter, that no nationalist movement in France would wish to go near the issue of the monarchy since, sadly, in France and Spain alike the monarchy had become more a source of division and disunity with factions so adamantly opposed to each other, they would rather the monarchy die than see it live with a monarch from the other camp. Yet, in spite of all this, French Action became increasingly popular, though it must be said that as it did so the emphasis on restoring the monarchy became noticeably weaker.

It seemed that French Action stood a good chance of being politically successful until they were cut down in 1927 by Pope Pius XI in a move that is still seen today as rather inexplicable. The magazine of the movement was the first ever to be placed on the “Index of Forbidden Works” by the Catholic Church and later that year members were forbidden from receiving the sacraments, something which largely gutted the movement as the vast majority of members were practicing Catholics. Why would the Church do this to a movement which called for restoring the monarchy and restoring Catholicism as the official state religion, which condemned freemasonry and Protestantism? All possible explanations seem unsatisfactory.

Some have attributed it to Catholic opposition to nationalism in principle, mostly due to the papal opposition to Italian nationalism, yet, Pope Pius XI himself would, only a few years later, sign the Lateran pacts with Mussolini, belatedly giving its blessing to Italian nationalism that made Catholicism the state religion in Italy. Others have said it was because French Action was Orleanist and the Church would not undercut the legitimists, yet, as has been shown, French Action stood for many of the things that the legitimists, and not the Orleanists, had stood for and the Church had never seemed to be that partisan in the dynastic disputes of France. Today, particularly liberal Catholics have explained it as righteous papal opposition to a movement that spurned democracy and yet, again, the Church and Pope Pius XI himself supported other movements in places such as Italy and Austria that were less than committed to democracy.

The most likely explanation is that the Church simply wished to squash the figure of Charles Maurras, an agnostic who viewed Catholicism as a useful tool of social order and a part of French culture rather than a divinely empowered instrument of salvation, and the loss of French Action was simply collateral damage. If so, this would seem something of an overreaction and still does not quite satisfy as a way of explaining such a strong reaction on the part of the papacy. Maurras was, again, not the founder or the leader of the party, simply the most prominent member and the membership of French Action included a considerable number of priests and religious. Later, after the horrific events in Spain, the next pontiff, Pope Pius XII, repealed the ban on French Action but, by that time, the political current had largely left the movement behind. Other, smaller and less effective but more specifically fascist type movements had left French Action as one, now softer, voice among many. Its fortunes were not helped by the attitude of France after World War II which condemned Maurras and French Action for going along with the Vichy regime, Maurras regarding it as less than ideal but an improvement over the liberal republic.

Across the border in Spain, the situation was also very interesting and, again, not what one would probably expect. The preeminent fascist type party there was the Spanish Falange, founded in 1933 by Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera. It promoted nationalism, national syndicalism (in the same vein as integralism or corporatism) and was initially republican and revolutionary. However, after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, with General Francisco Franco leading the nationalist faction, the Falange effectively came under his control and was merged with the Carlists as part of Franco’s effort to unite all Spanish factions opposed to the leftist republic. Once the nationalists were victorious, Franco became dictator of Spain and the Falange was the only legal political party under his rule (and renamed the “National Movement”). Franco, however, had never been a Falangist ideologue and was more of a traditional conservative. He wanted national unity, opposition to masons and communists, a revival of Spanish heritage and a return to traditional Spanish institutions such as the Catholic Church and the monarchy.

The problem in Spain was that, as in France, the monarchy had become a source of division rather than unity. Franco got around this problem by restoring the monarchy in name fairly early on (1947) but not restoring it in fact until his death. He held off for a number of years (until 1969) in naming who his royal successor would be as a way to keep all royalist factions on side, each hoping ‘their man’ would be the one chosen. It also helped that the royals were firmly on the side of Franco from the start. King Alfonso XIII had backed the nationalists and sent his son, the Count of Barcelona, to join their ranks. The count, however, never got along with Franco, called him a usurper and so it is no surprise he was passed over in favor of his son, Don Juan Carlos, who was very friendly and supportive of Franco and his regime and so it was he who was chosen to take power when Franco died, restoring the monarchy in fact. Franco proved his monarchist bona fides by actually restoring the monarchy.

Since that time, it must be said, things have changed as the Falangists today blame King Juan Carlos for Spain becoming a democracy and increasingly leftist. That is certainly not what Franco intended but in the rush to heap all blame (as fascist types certainly see it) on King Juan Carlos for the shift to democracy, the Falangists conveniently forget their own history. The party had originally been republican and only Franco had made it otherwise and so there was no reason for the King to assume that without Franco they would stick with him through thick and thin. It is also true that the transition to democracy was led by Adolfo, Duke of Suarez, former General-Secretary of the Falangist National Movement, a longtime official under Franco and that the Falangists did themselves no favors by splitting into a number of factions after the death of Franco that diluted their political influence and public support.

Neighboring Portugal had a very different story, with a royal heir who was more openly opposed to the fascist type regime prevailing in his country. That was the corporatist state of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar which stressed, of course, corporatism, nationalism, Catholicism, pride in Portuguese history and the defense of every inch of the Portuguese empire. Salazar originally seemed favorable to the restoration of the monarchy and for the first time since the establishment of the republic, praise for the historic Kingdom of Portugal became commonplace. However, Salazar, while effectively the dictator, was legally only the head of government and not the head of state. President Oscar Carmona had been very powerful in the past, changed positions from time to time and was not someone Salazar probably wished to have an open clash with, nor could he have been expected to go along with a restoration of the monarchy. That changed when the President died in 1951 and Salazar did, at that point, consider doing away with the presidency and restoring the monarchy.

In 1950 the National Assembly had repealed the laws banning the Portuguese Royal Family from the country, the royals returned and the heir to the throne, Royal Prince Duarte Pio, went to school in Portugal and joined the Portuguese military where he fought in the colonial war in Portuguese West Africa (Angola). However, he was not an enthusiastic supporter of the corporatist “New State” and was finally expelled from Angola by the government for organizing a multi-ethnic group of political candidates for office who were not members of the National Union (Salazar’s political party). If this attitude seems contrary to Salazar’s denunciation of German racial policy, there is a difference. In Portugal, to scapegoat or persecute a race simply for being of another race was considered barbaric but the regime still wished to preserve the Portuguese people and organizations such the Portuguese Legion and government positions were open only to whites.

In the end, when the military coup ousted the corporatist regime, Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, celebrated the event and publicly endorsed the junta, perhaps hoping that he might be put on the throne by the new democratic regime. If so, that hope was obviously unfulfilled and one can only speculate if embracing the Salazar regime would have been to his benefit since, had he done so and had he been named successor in the fashion of Franco and Juan Carlos, he might have been quickly ousted as well by the military in the “Carnation Revolution”. Who can say? He has also caused some controversy by other actions such as saying nice things about President Assad in Syria and supposedly reconciling with the freemasons (which I have heard but am a bit skeptical about as it is hard to imagine what possible reason he would have for doing such a thing). In any event, for monarchists, the failure to restore the House of Braganza to the throne leaves most with little nostalgia for the “New State” though Portugal, in that era, will always have my support at least for fighting harder than any other European country, post-World War II, against the forces of international communism in Africa. Portugal was essentially fighting three wars at once with rebel forces backed by the entire communist global community and I don’t think Portugal receives nearly enough credit for that.

In other countries, such as in Latin America, monarchy was never a serious issue for fascist type regimes, for largely historical reasons. As we have seen, there was no uniform position on the subject among the fascists though even that leaves them in better standing with monarchists than their arch-enemies the communists who certainly did have a uniform position of absolute hostility to traditional authority of any kind. Some fascist type parties or movements were pro-monarchy, some were, at best, open to the idea or not stridently opposed but always on the condition that the monarchy did not oppose their own political efforts. In Asia, of course, things were very different as most countries were under colonial rule. The Empire of Japan was the primary exception to this and many have considered the Japanese empire either fascist outright or fascist by association. There, of course, the monarchy was central but, again, that was in a situation wherein the monarch did not actively oppose the government. We can see in the attempted coup when the Showa Emperor decided to surrender that this loyalty was not absolute, though the idea that the militarists would have actually abolished the monarchy is so absurd as to be unthinkable.

As we have mentioned here before (quite some time ago at this point), just looking at the World War II period, 18 of the 25 Axis powers or affiliated states were monarchies (though some only nominally so) and you had fascist type regimes in Spain that did bring back the monarchy, Austria that was in the process of doing so but was stopped and Portugal which came close but ultimately did not. Overall, one does get the impression that these fascist type movements were more favorable toward the idea of monarchy than with monarchy itself. Actual royals tended to cause jealousy and fears of rivalry in public esteem on the part of fascist leaders and having someone, no matter how seemingly ceremonial, ‘above’ the person holding power tends to make them very uncomfortable. Yet, the emphasis on nationalism, a grander form of tribalism, cannot but call to mind the traditional tribal chieftain, the hereditary leader of a people, someone for whom the story of their bloodline is the story of their people, their nation and that is a special bond which cannot be replicated by the mechanics of political machinery.

Finally, taken altogether, despite what the leftists think, who see fascism around every corner, the fact is that there have been relatively few fascist regimes around the world and fewer still that had the chance to live out a normal life as it were, which can make it hard to pass judgment on them in a rational, dispassionate way. From the point of view of one who supports traditional authority, there was nothing in the most basic fascist platform that would preclude one from supporting them. Some fascist types were pro-monarchy and others were not but their basic common themes; a focus on national unity, aversion to multi-party democracy, corporatism, support for traditional values, putting your own nation first, a self-interested foreign policy and a goal of as much economic self-sufficiency as possible, contain nothing inherently opposed to traditional authority.

Personally, the only acceptable form of classical liberalism was that embodied by such conservative thinkers as Edmund Burke. The problem is in maintaining that style as liberalism carries within it the seeds of its own destruction as should be all too clear now. As someone known for having more positive things to say about Mussolini than is considered acceptable in polite society, I will not hesitate to point out again that the liberals today seem intent with their overreaching to prove him right more every day in his assertion that, “The liberal state is a mask behind which there is no face, it is a scaffolding behind which there is no building” or that, essentially, the whole system is a fraud with freedoms for the favored but not for all. The basic liberal system, based to a large extent on idealism, works only in so far as the ground rules are evenly applied and universally adhered to. Such is no longer the case today so that the point of view of the fascists, that every state is essentially totalitarian and the only options are whether it is a totalitarianism that favors your worldview or suppresses it, supports your people or endeavors to destroy them, becomes, I would think, nearly impossible to refute.

For this adherent of traditional authority, one of the biggest roots of our current evils is the existence of political parties. The basic corporatist model has long been one that I think has the potential to rid countries of that pestilence. In that way, to jump to the opposite end of the political spectrum, it is also why I have time for libertarian type ideas about the ‘privatized society’ in that regard. I would not quickly dismiss anything that would offer hope for rendering mass political parties irrelevant and ultimately extinct. If anything, regardless of any one group's view of monarchy (and this could be dangerous) the current trends of society, particularly in the western countries which have the very existence of their people at stake, the public is being forced in a nationalist direction simply as a survival mechanism.
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