Monday, February 27, 2017

Clash of Monarchies: The Imjin War

The Imjin War (one of many names for the conflict, chosen here for its brevity) is not very well known outside of northeast Asia, yet it was a massive and significant conflict in world history. It represented a major challenge to the prevailing world order in East Asia, marked a shift in the history of Japan and the still tense relationship even today between the Japanese and Koreans. It principally involved three powers; the Empire of Japan, the Joseon Kingdom of Korea and the Empire of the Great Ming or China. Had it ended differently, the entire history of Asia would likely have been vastly different and building on that the history of the rest of the world would have unfolded differently as well. Of the three participants, Japan was a newly united country, forged in fierce civil conflicts, proud and ambitious. Korea was under relatively new leadership, still trying to assert its own place in East Asian politics and the Ming Empire of China was at its apex and the beginning of its decline. For the initial background, we must first look to Japan.

Emperor Go-Yozei (left), Emperor Wanli and the standard
of the King of Korea
The reunification of Japan, at the end of the “Warring States Period” is often helpfully described in terms of a house. Oda Nobunaga laid the foundation, Toyotomi Hideyoshi built the house and Ieyasu Tokugawa lived in the house. The famous warrior Oda Nobunaga had made the initial steps towards the reunification of Japan. Following his assassination, his cause was taken up by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a man western historians would later nickname “the Napoleon of Japan”. He succeeded in uniting the warring states under his leadership though, being a self-made man of humble origins, he could never become Shogun. Nevertheless, he was given a title, sometimes translated as “Chancellor” or something similar, and he looked abroad to pursue his destiny. His dream was to conquer China and then India, taking control of the Silk Road and its lucrative trade, leading the Empire of Japan to dominate Asia. If this seems fantastic, remember that this was after Genghis Khan had taken the disparate tribes of Mongolia, united them into a single nation-state and led them to conquer China and then a larger empire that stretched from the Korean peninsula to Eastern Europe. Lord Hideyoshi, an ambitious man with many armies of samurai hardened by fierce battles among themselves, may well have thought to himself that if Genghis Khan of the Mongols could accomplish such a thing, so too could Toyotomi Hideyoshi of the Japanese.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi
For Japan to invade China, the only possible invasion route was the Korean peninsula where, not too long before, the Joseon Dynasty had seized power and had compensated for their lack of ancestral legitimacy by obtaining the recognition of the Ming Emperor in China as a vassal state. For the Chinese, this meant that Korea belonged to them but for the Koreans it meant nothing of the sort. They ruled their own country but, as with other neighbors of China, would pay tribute to the Ming court in exchange for trade and recognition. When the war came, Korea was ruled by King Seonjo, a man who worked to improve education and government in his kingdom. However, a diplomatic exchange of gifts with Hideyoshi gave the Japanese ruler the mistaken impression that the Koreans had voluntarily become vassals of Japan, which had not been the Korean intention. When he prepared to embark on his war against China, he invited and expected the Koreans to join him in this grand enterprise. Hideyoshi would be disappointed on this subject but King Seonjo also had other problems to deal with. Not only were there rival factions at court vying for power but the country was also divided north and south with the north worrying about the gathering strength of the Manchus and the south worrying about the growing power of Japan.

Japanese landing at Busan
On April 13, 1592 the first elements of the Japanese invasion landed at Busan with their commander, Konishi Yukinaga, sending a subordinate ashore first to ask one last time for Korean cooperation in their war with China. He was refused and the war began with the siege of Busan. Having obtained firearms from the Portuguese some time before and with an army of veterans of the fierce fighting of the “Warring States Period” the Japanese forces were far superior to the Korean defenders. Busan, Fort Dadaejin and the city of Dongnae fell to the Japanese in quick succession. More reinforcements followed and, though this is not often remembered, the Japanese invasion of Korea represented the largest amphibious assault in world history up to that time. The other Japanese divisions spread out and soon occupied Gyeongsang Province. The Koreans mobilized to meet the invasion with an army under General Yi Il, however, his archers proved no match for the ranks of Japanese musketeers and he was outmaneuvered as well. The resulting Battle of Sangju was a crushing defeat for the Koreans. They tried to regroup and stop the Japanese at the Battle of Chungju but again, Japanese firepower was devastating and the Koreans were defeated.

Konishi Yukinaga
The only major problem for the Japanese was that their victorious troops were advancing farther and faster than planned, causing some dissent among their commanders who accused the leaders of the initial wave of being glory hounds. King Seonjo fled from the capital of Hanseong (Seoul), which was soon captured by the Japanese and some Korean commanders, such as those charged with defending the Han River, retreated without resistance. The Koreans were forced into a massive retreat, doing their best to simply hamper and delay the Japanese as they fled north. At the Imjin River, which slowed the Japanese advance, the Japanese again called on the Koreans to stop resisting and join them in an attack on China but, once again, the Koreans refused. The King retreated to Pyongyang with the Japanese First Division pushing north behind him while other divisions fanned out to secure control of the rest of the Korean peninsula as they advanced. As city after city fell to Konishi Yukinaga of the First Division, he was joined for his advance on the northern Korean capital by the Third Division under Kuroda Nagamasa.

The Koreans tried to even the odds against them by launching a surprise night attack on the Japanese camp which was initially successful but which also exposed their position, allowing the Japanese to swing around and attack them from the rear. The escapade ended in chaos and as the Koreans retreated, the Japanese paid close attention to how they crossed the Taedong River, so they would know where to take their own forces across. When they made their advance on Pyongyang on July 20, 1592, they found that the King and remaining Korean forces had already retreated, leaving behind huge stockpiles of food and supplies. Meanwhile, the other Japanese divisions consolidated their hold on the Korean provinces, eliminating local resistance and establishing Japanese governors and administrators. Before the year was out, most of Korea had been conquered and the Japanese could look forward to their invasion of China, by way of the Jurchen territory, later known as Manchuria.

Yi Sun-Sin
All in all, 1592 had been a year of swift and decisive victories for Japan on the Korean peninsula. The Japanese armies had totally dominated the battlefield with superior weapons, superior tactics and greater skill. However, the Koreans were not without some victories of their own, it was only that these would not be won on land. Admiral Yi Sun-sin proved to be the most brilliant naval commander of his age in East Asia and in numerous battles totally defeated the Japanese whose ship designs and tactics were not as advanced as the Koreans. This had a major long-term impact on the conflict as it severely complicated the logistical situation for the Japanese armies. Things would, at one point in particular, get very bad for the Korean navy as the force was often cannibalized to make up for losses by the army, however, the Japanese were never able to defeat Admiral Yi Sun-sin. The one thing Admiral Yi Sun-sin is most famous for, certainly beyond Korea where he is a celebrated national hero to this day, is his innovative design known as the “Turtle Ship” (or Geobukseon).

Korean Turtle Ship
Today, any Korean will proudly tell you that the Turtle Ship was the first armored warship in the world. That, however, is an arguable point. The Japanese, namely Oda Nobunaga, had Tekkosen or “iron ships” in his naval arsenal, though these were more like armor plated floating fortresses rather than sea-going naval vessels. Before that, the Italian sailors of the Republic of Venice also had an armor plated flagship for their fleet. However, people can argue over bragging rights all they like but the armor was only one aspect of what made the Turtle Ships unstoppable. They were also completely enclosed and covered with spikes to repel borders. This was something that the Koreans had in common with the English ships who repelled the Spanish Armada. Admiral Yi Sun-sin designed his vessels to fight from a distance with naval cannon whereas other ships in those days were basically floating castles filled with soldiers which would ram each other and allow the warriors to fight for control of the vessel. The Japanese, more experienced at man-to-man combat, excelled at this and so, Admiral Yi Sun-sin wisely appreciated the strength of his enemy and had his ships fight with cannon rather than up close with swords. He would only go in for close combat against the Japanese when he had them severely outnumbered. As a result, the Koreans won battle after battle on the naval front.

Korean fleet
On September 1, 1592 Admiral Yi and his Korean fleet launched a surprise attack on the Japanese at Busan Bay in an effort to completely cut off from the Japanese armies in Korea from their home islands. It was an overwhelming tactical victory for the Koreans but did not change the strategic situation. The Korean fleet could not sustain itself in the area and had to withdraw, leaving Japan still in control of Busan. However, it did mean that the Japanese could not use the waterways to their advantage and this basically eliminated their plan of sending over more men and supplies for a full scale invasion of China and march on Peking. The Koreans also organized a highly effective guerilla warfare movement known as the “Righteous Army” which won a number of tactical victories against the occupying Japanese forces.

By the end of 1592 the Koreans had lost their country and King Seonjo was at the northern border seriously contemplating simply handing his entire kingdom over to China if only they would come to his rescue. The Ming Emperor Wanli, for his part, was rather overwhelmed by the news and shocked that the Japanese, a people the Chinese had always despised and looked down upon, could have conquered Korea so quickly. There had been some local assistance but it was not until January of 1593 that Emperor Wanli dispatched a major army to invade Korea and push the Japanese out. The King of Siam, another tributary of China, offered to attack the Japanese home islands but the Ming court refused the offer, not wanting to complicate the situation. On January 5, 1592 a Ming army of over 40,000, including a Korean contingent, arrived to besiege the 18,000 Japanese warriors garrisoning Pyongyang. Using a massive artillery and rocket bombardment, the Chinese inflicted over a thousand casualties on the Japanese but had purposely neglected to completely encircle the city so as to allow the Japanese the chance to escape rather than fight to the death. Under cover of darkness, the Japanese finally withdrew and Pyongyang was retaken.

Tachibana Muneshige, Japanese commander at
the Battle of Byeokjegwan (1 of 3)
This made the Chinese rather overconfident and they continued their offensive south only to be met with a stinging defeat at the hands of the Japanese at the Battle of Byeokjegwan. Despite having a near 2-to-1 superiority in numbers, the Chinese were defeated and suffered heavy casualties, proving to them for the first time just how formidable a foe the Japanese were and, perhaps, making them understand why the Koreans had had so much trouble. The Japanese tried to follow this up but were themselves defeated by the Koreans at the Battle of Haengju on February 12, 1593. This was significant even if only as a morale-booster for the Koreans, proving, under the leadership of General Kwan Yul, that they could beat the Japanese in a defensive battle with carefully prepared fortifications and the proper weaponry. Later, as the Ming and Korean armies moved, more slowly and cautiously this time, south toward Seoul, a team of saboteurs were sent in who destroyed much of Japan’s military stockpiles in the city. This, combined with Korean naval pressure on their supply lines, convinced the Japanese to withdraw from Seoul and agree to negotiate for peace. The Chinese, after their bloody loss at Byeokjegwan, were also eager to end the war.

Unfortunately, each side thought the other was suing for peace and basically trying to surrender and this, naturally, was not conducive to ending the war. The Chinese thought that the Japanese had agreed to withdraw and submit again to the Ming Emperor as their overlord (Hideyoshi having previously stopped paying tribute to the court in Peking) while Hideyoshi thought that the Chinese were surrendering to him and demanded territorial concessions as well as a Ming princess to be married to the Japanese Emperor Go-Yozei. Neither was true and when each side refused the demands of the other, hostilities resumed after several years of back and forth between the two sides. However, with the resumption of hostilities, the overall strategy and goals of the war, at least for Japan, would be dramatically different than they had been originally. With the huge numbers of Chinese troops moving east, Hideyoshi realized that the conquest of the Ming Empire was hopeless, at least for the moment and so would instead focus on simply retaking and holding the Kingdom of Korea as a Japanese foothold on the Asian mainland, a tributary state and a possible base for future, more ambitious operations.

Kobayakawa Hideaki
This would impact how the war was fought as previously the Japanese had made at least some effort to win over the Koreans to their side. They hoped all along that the Koreans would simply accept Japan as their new overlord and join them in the conquest of China. Now that the conquest of China was off the table and control of Korea was the only immediate goal, Japanese forces became rather less considerate, to put it mildly, toward the Koreans. It also made a difference that during the years of diplomatic exchanges between Japan and China, the Koreans worked feverishly to rebuild and improve their military capabilities. As a result, when the war resumed, the Japanese found them a much more capable opponent and a dangerous enemy is much less likely to receive mercy than an easily beaten foe. Though more limited, the fighting would often be even more intense. Unlike the first invasion force which, though estimates vary, numbered over 200,000 Japanese troops, the second invasion force would number just over 100,000 under the overall command of Kobayakawa Hideaki, the nephew and adopted son of Hideyoshi.

This invasion force, carried by a fleet of 200 ships, landed in southern Korea unopposed in 1597 and began taking control of Gyeongsang Province. The Ming Emperor Wanli gathered a relatively modest force by Chinese standards with naval support to send to Korea under the command of General Yang Hao, who would have a less than upstanding career. Along with his 75,000 Chinese troops, the Koreans would muster about 30,000 in four armies plus the naval forces. The great Admiral Yi Sun-sin was available but his success aroused jealously at court and a smear campaign of sorts was launched against him until he was dismissed by King Seonjo and replaced by Won Gyun. The new admiral immediately sought out the Japanese fleet and attacked them at the Battle of Chilcheollyang. The result was possibly the biggest and most decisive Japanese naval victory of the entire war. Won Gyun was totally defeated, was himself killed in the battle and the Korean flagship was captured. The Japanese won complete mastery of the area and were able to continue landing men and supplies for the invasion force unimpeded.

The Battle of Myeongnyang
Korean morale was wounded by this disaster and their defenses began to crumble as the Japanese launched a determined offensive northward. The fortress of Namwon fell, then Hwangseoksan fortress fell with the defenders retreating almost immediately. Ming Emperor Wanli was furious that the Japanese were again advancing on Seoul, reshuffled his military high command and sent General Yang Hao to take charge of Korea. However, the situation was beginning to turn around. At the Battle of Jiksan on September 7, 1597, although the Japanese won something of a tactical victory, the Ming army was able to block their advance. Also, after the disastrous loss at Chilcheollyang, King Seonjo of Korea stopped listening to the critics and restored Admiral Yi Sun-sin to his old command and the result was a swift turnaround. At the Battle of Myeongnyang he defeated a massive Japanese fleet in what is certainly his most famous and celebrated victory. The scale of the success was incredible and was due almost entirely to the Admiral’s skillful placement of his ships and his knowledge of the local waters.

Attack on Ulsan castle
With their supply lines imperiled and the Ming armies blocking their path north, the Japanese began to fall back, almost always under harassing attacks by Chinese and Korean forces. The Japanese would give battle when necessary and were never beaten in these attacks but were steadily pushed back by them. A really decisive battle seemed in place at the Siege of Ulsan which lasted from December 23, 1597 to January 4, 1598. The Chinese and Korean forces numbered  around 55,500 men whereas the Japanese garrison was only 10,000 with only 13,000 more troops near enough to come to their aid. The Japanese held off these superior forces, despite being nearly starved to death for lack of supplies due to Korean naval dominance of the coast but at the approach of the Japanese reinforcements the Ming General Yang Hao completely lost his nerve and ordered a retreat. Seeing an opportunity, the Japanese forces in Ulsan castle burst out from their fortifications to attack and the result was a humiliating panicked retreat by the Sino-Korean forces. In the disastrous battle the Chinese and Koreans had lost 20,000 men killed while the Japanese dead numbered only a little over 1,000. Later, another Sino-Korean force would try to take Ulsan castle and would again be defeated in September though there was at least no panic and the retreat was orderly.

This resulted in a prolonged period of stalemate and an ‘America in Vietnam’ type situation for Japan. Despite winning the major land battles, their loss at sea meant that supplying men and material for an offensive or even a large defensive force was simply impossible and Japanese forces began to be withdrawn from Korea. A renewed Sino-Korean offensive failed to achieve a major breakthrough but nonetheless kept up an unrelenting pressure on the Japanese whose logistics were extremely strained. At the Battle of Sacheon the Sino-Korean offensive was defeated and the Japanese again launched a successful counter-attack and likewise at the Siege of Suncheon a little under 14,000 Japanese troops under Konishi Yukinaga successfully repelled a Sino-Korean attack by 50,000 men with heavy losses, yet these victories did not change the overall strategic situation. The stalemate simply dragged on until September 18, 1598 when Lord Hideyoshi in Japan died. Everyone knew, despite his efforts to secure the succession of his son to his position, that all the daimyo would soon be fighting for power in Japan and so the ruling council ordered a total withdrawal from Korea while keeping the news of the death of Hideyoshi secret in order to preserve Japanese morale.

Japanese fleet
The only major subsequent engagement was the Battle of Noryang Point which was a tactical victory for Korea but a strategic victory for Japan in that they were still able to continue their evacuation. Worse for Korea was the death of Admiral Yi Sun-sin in this battle along with the Ming commander Deng Zilong. Negotiations for the final peace settlement would drag on for some time, long after the power struggle in Japan had been ended with the famous Tokugawa Ieyasu becoming Shogun and establishing the reign of the Tokugawa shogunate which would survive until the Meiji Restoration. Both sides were so entrenched that it took an act of deception, making the Koreans believe the Japanese had submitted to their demands when, in fact, they had not, to formally end the war and reestablish normal relations between the two countries.

In retrospect, the Imjin War was extremely significant for the course of the history of northeast Asia and beyond. It weakened the Toyotomi clan of Hideyoshi and helped enable the Tokugawa in seizing power in Japan. It solidified the place of Korea as a vassal of China and reaffirmed prejudices against Japan in their regard that would prove disastrously mistaken over the course of history. Had the war gone differently, had Hideyoshi been satisfied in his ambition to conquer the Ming empire, India and control of the Silk Road, the entirety of Asian history would have been drastically changed. All sides came away feeling rather justified in their own sense of accomplishment. The Empire of the Great Ming had retained the Sino-centric status quo of the existing international order. The Koreans had expelled the invaders of their country after a long and bitter struggle and even the Japanese could boast of having dominated their enemies on the land and withdrawn from the conflict without suffering a major, decisive defeat on the battlefield. All of these sentiments would have an impact on how these countries developed in the centuries to come.

Friday, February 24, 2017

MM This Week in Fake News

(Since the mainstream media still seems obsessed with the term and since the previous article like this proved rather popular it is back again but, again, if the reader response is lacking, this will not be a regular feature. For now though, here again is more totally fake news, though, as before, at least one story will be accurate. See if you can spot it.)

Starting in Europe, recent news has again been quite unprecedented. Previous reports were proven correct when, shortly after taking back control of Puerto Rico, the Kingdom of Spain launched an invasion of Cuba with the intention of “liberating the island from the Marxist Castro regime”. Raul Castro vowed to fight the Spanish to the finish though, of course, when asked for comment, U.S. President Trump said, “tell the Cubans not to count on our help this time”. Perhaps seeing which way the wind is blowing, the Dominican Republic, recently cut off from all U.S. foreign aid, announced their willing return to Spanish sovereignty of their own free will. The King of Spain also officially announced the reinstitution of the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of all non-Catholic Spanish citizens from the country. British retirees living in Spain will, according to a government spokesman, not be affected by this decree.

To the north, Iceland, likewise declared itself a kingdom under the Crown of Denmark. Shortly thereafter the, now former, President of Iceland was released from Denmark to return home after taking an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Meanwhile, in Germany, the “March on Berlin” has culminated in what amounts to a military coup. The Bundestag was closed down and Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia issued an official statement saying that the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II had been invalid and all subsequent governments illegitimate and proclaiming himself, by right of inheritance, Kaiser Friedrich IV. He also called for all German princes to be restored and to join him in Berlin for the drawing up of a new German constitution to provide a legal framework for what is already being referred to as the German Empire, though some controversy quickly erupted as to whether it should be regarded as the “third” or “fourth” such empire. Former Chancellor Angela Merkl is, as far as reporters can tell, being held under arrest at some undisclosed location and is facing possible charges of ‘treason against the Germans’ for her actions.

In Rome, following a massive stroke, Pope Francis resigned. In the fastest gathering of the College of Cardinals yet seen, American Cardinal Raymond Burke was elected as the Successor of St Peter, taking the name of Pope Innocent XIV. There appear to be many changes going on behind the walls of the Vatican but we have been told that by next month Pope Innocent XIV will have a coronation to mark the beginning of his pontificate, the first since the coronation of Pope Paul VI in 1963. The new Pontiff has made it clear that he shall be very different from his predecessor but said he intends to be crowned with the Papal Tiara of Pope Francis as “a fitting tribute” to the now former Pontiff. However, pundits are still arguing over whether this is actually meant to honor Francis or a not-so-subtle slap in the face of the previous Bishop of Rome most known for his ostentatious public displays of humility.

A drastic change has also taken place in Sweden where King Carl XVI Gustaf, backed by the Swedish military, dismissed the government after declaring a state of national emergency and ordered the expulsion of all ethnic non-Swedes from the country. He also proposed that tensions with Russia could be eased if Finland, Estonia and Latvia were to join in personal union with Sweden, a neutral country, which would remove remaining NATO forces from the Russian border. Lithuania was excluded from the program on the basis that they may wish to come to an arrangement with Poland. Meanwhile, in Russia itself, President Vladimir Putin has decided that the Romanov dynasty can be restored, provided he is still allowed to run the country. As a sign of goodwill, “God Save the Czar” has officially been restored as the Russian national anthem.

In the Americas, after new revelations of corruption on the part of President Michel Temer, a national referendum was held on the subject of doing away with the presidency entirely and restoring the Empire of Brazil. The result was an overwhelming defeat for supporters of the presidency with Prince Luiz being named as Emperor of Brazil with temporary emergency powers. He said his first order of business will be to eliminate the political class, revive the importance of private property after which he intends to aid his distant relatives in restoring the Kingdom of Portugal. Once that is done he said he has some vague ideas about joining forces with Portugal to liberate the former Portuguese colonies and teach the locals about Austrian economics, perhaps by means of an all Afro-Brazilian Expeditionary Force.

On the North American continent, while forging ahead with his plan to build a wall on the southern border, President Trump was presented with a proposal from friend and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage for the United States of America to join the British Commonwealth of Nations as an “Associate Member” with the Royal Commonwealth Society currently in negotiations concerning the opening a branch office in New York City to work toward that goal. The plan reportedly has the support of Queen Elizabeth II and was undertaken at the present time due to the often-expressed admiration that Donald Trump’s late royalist mother had for the Queen. The White House was, according to Andrew Wigmore, “very positive” about the proposal for the United States to join the Commonwealth, made up almost exclusively of countries formerly part of the British Empire.

In Asian news, following a surprising collaboration of the ruling Democratic Progressives and the Chinese Nationalist Party, the government of Taiwan announced the discovery of a man they claim is the legitimate heir of Zheng Keshuang who is to be enthroned as the King of Tungning. This was immediately denounced by many, particularly on the mainland, as a violation of the “One China Policy” however, the Nationalists were quick to point out that while this was a concession to the independence faction of the DPP that they backed the project because they do not view it as a repudiation of the “One China Policy” but rather a stepping stone to making China truly one again by ultimately restoring the Great Ming Empire on the mainland. At the moment, the new King is keeping a low profile, under tight security inside historic Fort Provintia which has been converted to a private residence for his use. While his enthronement is being planned the government is working to reacquaint the population with the traditional customs of Imperial China. The Communist government in Peking is certainly making angry noises about all of this but so far seem unsure of exactly what they should do about it with some apparently wondering if the government on Taiwan is not pulling an elaborate prank. However, the United States and Japan, which recently scrapped Article IX of their constitution, have pledged their full support for Taiwan in the event of any aggression from the Chinese mainland.

This has been totally Fake News from The Mad Monarchist, all the news from around the world that is completely fake and unfit to print. Unfortunately.

(For those who did not spot it, the one accurate story was the paragraph about the proposal presented to the White House for the United States to join the British Commonwealth. That did actually happen.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The (Very Real) Crisis in Sweden

After one remark by President Trump at a rally for his supporters, everyone is suddenly talking about the Kingdom of Sweden. Trump referred to a huge upsurge in violent crime and sexual assault since the Swedes opened their borders to massive waves of immigrants from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. The Swedish Prime Minister immediately said that this was a total fabrication, indeed, seemed shocked and bewildered that someone would make such an outlandish accusation. However, for those who have been keeping your ear to the ground, this was neither shocking nor anything new. In fact, Trump seemed to go overboard in making it sound like it should be hard to believe, that the peaceful, idyllic Kingdom of Sweden could be so beset by violence and social chaos. However, plenty of people have been pointing this out for quite some time, for about as long as this “refugee” crisis has been going on. Sweden is in a perilous state and the government would not be trying so hard to suppress information and retroactively scrub the statistics if everything was all cakes and ale in the land of the Swedes.

For a country with so small a population as Sweden, the amount of non-Swedish immigrants that have already been taken into the country is well beyond the point that the total extinction of the Swedish people has become inevitable in the long term barring drastic measures that most in modern, Western Europe today seem to view as unthinkably horrific, by which I mean mass-deportation of these people to their actual homelands (yes, I know, “the horror”) and that is something most seem unwilling to countenance. The Swedes, of course, would not be the first people to succumb to death by demographic drowning (see if you can find a Manchurian these days) but they do stand out in being so willing to sacrifice themselves and their descendants to oblivion. No one is forcing Sweden to do this. No one is holding a gun to their head. They are, as things stand, willingly allowing themselves to be displaced in their own homeland, willingly giving the land of their ancestors to the descendents of people from a foreign culture, a foreign religion, even foreign continents. That is rather unprecedented.

Some, I have noticed, seem to have no sympathy for the Swedes because of that, even holding them in contempt because of it. I am certainly not among them. Their plight may be their own fault but it is no less tragic in my mind for that. The majority in Sweden seem to have taken liberalism to its ultimate, unfortunate, conclusion and are embracing death purely for reasons of self-image. They seem to think it makes them morally superior to sacrifice themselves for the less fortunate peoples of other lands. That is not something to hate them for but rather something to pity. The Kingdom of Sweden is a part of the rich tapestry of western civilization and I do not wish to see the kingdom nor the Swedes themselves depart from the world. Evidently, saying that, makes yours truly quite an evil person in the eyes of many but so be it. Sweden is more to me than lines on a map. It is for that reason that the level of crime, while certainly terrible and worth talking about, is not finally the point.

In any talk about immigration or the “migrant crisis” or the “refugee crisis” you will usually hear a great deal about how it would all be okay if only the immigrants would, in this case, learn Swedish and adopt Swedish values and customs and assimilate into Swedish society. For me, that is ultimately irrelevant because Sweden is more to me than a language or a name on the map of Europe. As I have said before about France, Sweden, without Swedish people, would not be Sweden to me. There have been many changes in Sweden since the reign of King Eric the Victorious but the Swedish people have always been Swedish, not Arab or African or Pashtun and that is how I would wish it to stay. Such a sentiment should not be sufficient to warrant the label of “racism”. Has the world changed so much in my lifetime that wishing to preserve a people from extinction is “racist” rather than believing your own people are inherently superior to all others? It seems fantastic but, for many, it seems to be the case. Again, so be it.

There is, of course, little I can do about the matter other than what I already have done which is to make my opinion on the subject known. I have also tried, in the small way I can, and as I have done with others, to remind people of their own glorious past. To remind people, in this case Swedish people, that they are better than this current population of willing victims to demographic suicide. I admire the history and heroes of the Kingdom of Sweden, even if I would have been on opposite sides to some of them, for their great achievements. I have posted here before about King Charles XII, “the Last Viking”, about the Swedish empire overseas, the brilliant Marshal Torstensson, “the father of field artillery”, King Gustavus Adolphus, “the Lion of the North”, the controversial Queen Christina who caused such a splash in her own time, one of only three women to be buried in the crypt beneath St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and King Sigismund III of Poland who dominated Eastern Europe and, for a time, was also King of Sweden. The blood that flows through the veins of Swedes today is no different than that which flowed through the people who dominated northern Europe, made the Baltic a Swedish lake and left their mark on far distant shores.

I hope that the Swedes awake from this nightmare because I don’t want to see the people of Sweden become extinct. The problem is that the longer they wait, the harder it will be to set things right again and it should be of serious concern to people in Sweden that they do not suppress their natural patriotic impulse to the point that drastic solutions become the only possible solutions. That point is rapidly approaching and it is dangerous to ignore it and not, I should add, primarily for the Swedes alone. The only thing more dangerous to them, as a people, is ignoring the problem indefinitely. I want the Swedes to survive, they are a vital part of the tapestry of Europe and western civilization. They are, as I have tried to show in these pages, a great people with a glorious history of fantastic achievements. I do not consider the Swedes expendable or replaceable. It should also go without saying that a key component of this is the Swedish monarchy. Like Sweden itself, I have seen far too many take an ambivalent attitude toward the Swedish monarchy. I am certainly not among them, regardless of the fact that I have no doubt that they would not wish someone so, let us say, ‘politically incorrect’ as myself, as a supporter.

Just as I am unwilling to give up on the Swedes, so too am I unwilling to surrender on the subject of the monarchy. Yes, it would be nice if the Swedish royals themselves were standing up for their people but this is a totally unrealistic expectation. For one thing, as I have said of many other royals, they have been raised to think in much the same way as most people in Sweden have been raised to think. They have no actual political power to effect change, one way or the other, and given how biased and dishonest the mainstream media is, all around the world, they may not even be aware of the full extent of what is going on in their country. If the Swedish royals did speak up in defense of their own people, they would certainly be swiftly denounced and, given current voting patterns, would most likely lose everything they have and all to no effect. Giving up everything in return for nothing is hardly a brilliant move.

I view the Swedish royals as being not far removed from hostages at this point. They are under the power of their captors with a sword of Damocles constantly hanging over their heads. Monarchists who feel no support or sympathy for the Swedish royals because they do not think as you do would be well advised to keep in mind what sort of people you would be making common cause with by opposing them. The Swedish Republican Association, while having some members from what passes for the “conservative” right, is largely dominated by Social Democrats and open-borders globalists. They even considered changing their name in years past for fear of being associated with American Republicans like Sarah Palin. Their Secretary-General, in 2010, Mona Abou-Jeib Broshammar is a native of Lebanon with a Syrian father and Swedish mother. Her father evidently fled Syria for Lebanon and then the family fled Lebanon, due to the war there, for the Kingdom of Sweden. Yet, two failed republics in her own family background has not dissuaded Ms. Broshammar from campaigning to bring republicanism to Sweden.

The Swedish republicans have not hesitated to blast their enemies as racists and to use race  as well as “multiculturalism” as a propaganda tool for their own goal of bringing down the Swedish monarchy, the cornerstone of the traditional cultural heritage of Sweden. When President Obama was elected in the United States, the Swedish republicans seized on his widespread popularity in Western Europe to promote their own cause. They put out an ad campaign changing Obama’s slogan of “Yes We Can” to “No We Can’t”, lamenting that Sweden could never have a Black President like those lucky Americans as long as they have that stuffy, old monarchy with its boring, White Swedish Royal Family. Sweden could, of course, have a Black monarch someday, if the proper choices of spouse are made, but then he wouldn’t really be a “Swedish” monarch anymore than a blue-eyed White guy with sandy brown hair could ever really be a “Japanese” emperor even if by some extremely unprecedented marriage arrangements  such an heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne was produced. But, all of that would take too long anyway. The Swedish republicans were trying to seize on a moment when it seemed so ‘cool’ and so progressive to have a Black Head of State in a majority White country. Their ad campaign no doubt turned a lot of heads but it did not ultimately bring down the Swedish monarchy in favor of an African presidency. Nonetheless, they made it perfectly clear as to where they stand, not only on their opposition to the monarchy but also on their position that Sweden is just too Swedish to be a really ‘great’ country (though they may not want to be great either as I think Trump has tainted that term for them).

We tend to forget but should not, that even though they rarely make anything of it, practically all the leftist parties in Sweden contain in their programs the ultimate abolition of the monarchy and these are the same people of the same parties who are the ones doing their best to replace the native Swedes with a totally foreign population. This is something that should not be allowed and all I can do is to implore the people of Sweden to come back to reality before it is truly too late and there are no more Swedes in Sweden. I want Sweden to survive. I want Swedes to remember who they are and be proud of their great achievements, be proud of their people and history, to carry on so that their culture is not something to be seen only in isolated pockets of the American Midwest or like a carcass on display in a museum. Read some of the past posts linked to above and remember that you have the same blood in your veins as the people who accomplished all of those great deeds. Do not forget who you are, where you came from and what you are capable of. Sverige Vakna!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Royal Regalia: Recent Papal Tiaras

The Roman Pontiffs, because their spiritual position is of greater importance than their political position (though sometimes it hasn’t seemed that way) have never had the sort of accoutrements than secular royals have had, these typically being a sword, a scepter and a crown, at least in western, Christian countries. However, there have still been some items of personal adornment that have distinguished the Bishops of Rome such as the “Fisherman’s Ring” (which is unique to each Pontiff), the red shoes and, most strikingly, the three-tiered crown or Papal Tiara. The oldest sort of unique papal ceremonial headgear dates back to the Dark Ages but there soon developed a sort of crown, originally a bullet or beehive-shaped object with a crown at the base. Later, a second crown was added and, in time, a third which became the traditional norm for hundreds of years. Popes would wear their crown at their coronation, of course, and certain other formal events but, it should be noted, were never liturgical wear other than on one occasion when Pope St. John XXIII wore his tiara at a special joint Catholic-Orthodox service.

The Palatine Tiara
The three crowns on the Papal Tiara can symbolize a number of things, from the triple Christian roles of prophet, priest and king to the Church militant, Church suffering and Church triumphant to the supreme authoritative position of the Pontiff as, “the ruler of the rulers of the world”, a phrase which was formerly used at the papal coronations. Most of the Papal Tiaras were destroyed when the French Revolution came to Italy but a new collection was begun as popes were often donated a Tiara from their home diocese. When Pope Bl. Pius IX lost his political position as ruler of central Italy, Catholic countries seemed to try to compensate for failing to go to war to defend his property by showing how much they still respected his spiritual authority by gifting him a Papal Tiara. He ultimately collected six Papal Tiaras, the most of any Pontiff. For a time, it became tradition to use the 1877 “Palatine Tiara” of Pope Bl. Pius IX at papal coronations. All of his successors were crowned with this Papal Tiara until the coronation of Pope Bl. Paul VI.

Tiara of Bl. Paul VI
Pope Bl. Paul VI was crowned with a very distinctive tiara made for him by his former archdiocese of Milan. However, his would be the last papal coronation to date as, at the end of the Second Vatican Council, Bl. Paul VI gave up his Papal Tiara as a gesture of humility, selling it to benefit the poor. It was bought by the Catholic Church in America and is currently on display in Washington DC at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This was the last Papal Tiara to ever be worn or, at least, the last to ever be worn publicly (who knows what the Popes try on for size behind the walls of the Vatican). However, old traditions do not ordinarily stop so suddenly and, other than the short-lived Pope John Paul I, every one of the Pontiffs since Pope Bl. Paul VI have still been given a Papal Tiara of their own from some group or another. Obviously, though it remains only as a symbol on the Vatican City coat-of-arms, the Papal Tiara is still the one symbol most associated with the papacy.

Tiara of St John Paul II
When elected to the throne of St Peter, Pope St John Paul II remarked on his immediate predecessor not having a coronation. He lamented that the Papal Tiara had come to be viewed in an incorrect way, yet, he made no effort to correct this other than pointing it out on this one occasion. In the same remarks he said that he too would not be having a coronation to mark his installation as Supreme Pontiff. While Pope Paul VI had done away with much of the traditional pomp and ceremony of the papal court, the reign of St. John Paul II saw occasional use of traditional finery but an explosion of extremely novel modes of dress for a Pope. It seemed to be the era of tie-dye vestments. However, though it remained unknown until long after his passing, Pope St. John Paul II did have a Papal Tiara of his own. It was made by unknown persons behind the “Iron Curtain” in Hungary and was smuggled out of the land of the Magyars to Rome. Although simple in style, it is still quite striking. The lack of lappets (representing the Old and New Testaments and traditionally featured on all bishops miters and Papal Tiaras) suggest it may have been made solely as an artistic work and was not intended to be worn at all. Who was responsible for its construction remains a mystery (as far as I know) and photos of it only emerged after the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Whatever faithful Hungarians were responsible, I say God bless them for helping to carry on the tradition of every pope having a crown of his own.

Tiara of Pope Benedict XVI
With the death of St. John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI the era of the tie-dye papacy had certainly come to an end. Benedict XVI took a noticeably more traditional style in his dress and habits, however, unfortunately, that did not extend to the Papal Tiara. Benedict XVI reportedly inquired about having a coronation but was told that it would take too long to organize and come up with a proper ceremony on such short notice so that, effectively, it could not be done. I have no way of verifying that story, just relating what I heard but it seems like a lame excuse. Pope Benedict instead opted for a larger, more old-fashioned style of pallium (the wool band worn about the shoulders by popes and metropolitan archbishops) to be invested with at his inauguration, though it was later replaced with one more like those others wear but still slightly distinctive. However, the Papal Tiara was not only used but even removed from the papal coat-of-arms, replaced with an odd looking miter sporting three, connected, gold bands around it. This was designed by Deacon (now Cardinal) Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo. Pope Benedict XVI was not to end his reign without a tiara of his own though. In 2011, after a General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI was presented with a Papal Tiara by a group of German Catholics with a businessman named Dieter Philippi being behind the project, having employed a Bulgarian firm that makes liturgical headgear for the East Orthodox which makes it more likely than not that this Papal Tiara can actually be worn. Unfortunately, it was not, despite Benedict XVI being known for trying on all sorts of hats and reviving other forms of papal headgear, specifically the camauro, not seen since the days of Pope St John XXIII (though he did only wear it once).

Tiara of Pope Francis
The election of Pope Francis brought about a drastic change from the more traditional style of his predecessor. From the first day of his election, Pope Francis dispensed with traditional papal fashions along with other displays to highlight his humility in contrast to his predecessors such as refusing to live in the papal apartments at the Apostolic Palace and wearing black or brown shoes rather than the traditional red shoes meant to symbolize martyrdom. With the new standard for humility and simplicity set by Pope Francis, papal coronations seem firmly consigned to the history books and, needless to say, the Papal Tiara has remained absent from the papal coat of arms as well. Whether it was his decision to live in the equivalent of the Vatican ‘guest house’ to his preference for a compact car over the dreadfully named “Popemobile” much less the stately Sedia Gestatoria, Pope Francis has been known for his public displays of humility and renunciation of traditional finery. One would think that he would be the last Roman Pontiff who would wish to receive a Papal Tiara of his own, yet, he too has one. In 2016 Pope Francis was presented with a Papal Tiara by the President of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia. It was handmade for him by the nuns of the monastery of Rajcica of Ohrid pearls from a nearby lake. It is quite an exquisite Papal Tiara, obviously made with great care. Pope Francis has never worn it nor would any expect him too. In fact, it was stated at the time that those giving the gift are well aware that Papal Tiaras have become a thing of the past and obviously did not expect their gift to ever be used.

Pope Francis being presented with his tiara
The papacy has, in a very short time, outpaced even the progressive constitutional monarchies of liberal Europe in not only ceasing to have coronations but going so far as to remove their crowns from even symbolic use. Any pope could at any time choose to revive the old traditions, as the pope can generally do as he pleases and is not bound by the actions or words of his predecessors, but the way in which it was done makes this highly unlikely and unfortunately so in my opinion. Pope St John Paul II lamented that the Papal Tiara was, “…an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes” but nonetheless refrained from the use of one and, in that same remark at least seemed to imply that a clash with the virtue of humility was the reason. The portrayal of the abandonment of the Papal Tiara by Pope Paul VI as a symbol of the ‘renunciation of earthly glory’ thus set a standard that it would be very hard for a future Roman Pontiff to undo. By abandoning the Papal Tiara as a gesture of humility, how can any future Pope return to it without appearing vainglorious? It may be hard enough simply to move back in to the Apostolic Palace after the reign of Pope Francis without appearing to show vanity. And that, I think, underscores a more fundamental point about why the renunciation of the Papal Tiara was a mistake. In attempting to show that such “appearances” do not matter, they have, on the contrary, shown the extent to which “appearance” is all that matters.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Story of Monarchy: The Kingdom of Denmark

In all the monarchies of the western world, none can match the longevity of the Danes. The venerable Danish monarchy can boast of having the longest unbroken hereditary succession in the world other than Japan. As such, the history of Denmark stretches back to traceless antiquity. Scientists have found evidence of human habitation in Denmark going back 11,000 years though very little is known about the people that lived there at that time other than that they survived by hunting and fishing. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the onset of the “Dark Ages” things began to become more exciting for the people of Denmark who, under their various chieftains, struck out on Viking raids into neighboring countries. In the 800’s Danish Vikings conquered most of southern England while others conquered and settled on the northern coast of France. Referred to as the “Northmen” or Normans, this area has since been known as Normandy. These Danes were Vikings but eventually adopted French culture, mixed with the local population and converted to Christianity.

Sweyn Forkbeard
About the year 950 AD the Danes were finally united into one country by a chieftain known as Harald Bluetooth. It was his son, Sweyn Forkbeard (and you have to love those Viking names) who led the Danish conquest of England which was completed by 1013. King Sweyn Forkbeard was, in turn, succeeded by his son King Canute the Great who conquered Norway in 1028. This represented a high point in Danish history but it was to be rather short-lived. After the death of King Canute the Great things began to come apart, aided in so small part by the fact that various chieftains battled over the throne. While civil war prevailed at home, Denmark lost control of England and Norway as well as other territorial holdings outside Denmark itself. However, when your history is as long as that of the Kingdom of Denmark, there is time for more than one high point and, in a way that seems rather foreign to people today, the Danes were not deterred by these setbacks and as soon as the domestic problems were settled, began to expand again to build another era of power and glory for their country.

A new Danish empire stretching across the shores of the Baltic Sea was established by two particularly powerful monarchs with the same name; King Valdemar the Great (1131-1182) and King Valdemar the Victorious (1170-1241). Thanks to their successful campaigns, the lands of the Kingdom of Denmark stretched across much of northern Germany, the island of Gotland and east to what is now Estonia. It was also King Valdemar the Victorious who gave Denmark its first legal system known as the “Jutland Code”. This law code was to remain in effect in Denmark until 1683 and influenced subsequent Danish law codes far beyond that. However, the Danish empire built by the two Valdemars eventually met its match with the rise of the German merchant city-states that banded together in the Hanseatic League. Denmark lost most of its continental possessions to the League as well as absorbing an amount of German customs due to proximity and close interaction. But, you can’t keep a good Dane down and as the 1200’s gave way to the 1300’s the Kingdom of Denmark began to rise again.

Queen Margaret I
The island of Iceland became a Danish possession in 1380 and would remain such until the middle of the last century. The late 1300’s also saw the emergence of one of the most famous and formidable characters in Danish royal history; Queen Margaret (1353-1412). During her time on the Danish throne, Queen Margaret was able to unite under her rule all of Denmark, Norway and Sweden by 1397. These countries did not become Danish possessions but retained their own national governments. They were, however, united in personal union with Queen Margaret of Denmark. This union of the Scandinavian countries survived Queen Margaret but not by much. It began to come apart when the Swedish nobility rebelled against King Christian II of Denmark (1481-1559) and the Swedes succeeded in winning their independence from the Danish crown in 1523.

Baptism of Bluetooth
On the religious front, the beginning of Christianity in Denmark dates back to our old friend King Harald Bluetooth. There are conflicting accounts as to how exactly it happened but all agree that King Harald Bluetooth was the first to convert to Christianity and was the first Catholic monarch of Denmark. He even had his father, Gorm the Old, (honored as the originator of the Danish monarchy) removed from the old pagan burial mound and reburied in a church. King Harald Bluetooth helped to spread Christianity though it would take some time before the faith was accepted in Norway and Sweden. However, eventually it was and Denmark was a Catholic country as were Norway and Sweden. So firmly were these lands a part of the wider Christendom that Christian knights from the most distant northern land of Norway even participated in the Crusades to retake the Holy Land from the Muslims. However, by the sixteenth century, religious changes arrived in Denmark and were to change the course of Danish history.

King Christian III
In 1536 King Christian III of Denmark (1503-1559) became a Protestant, adopting Lutheranism and making the Lutheran church the official state religion of the Kingdom of Denmark. Prior to this, as elsewhere, the Catholic Church held extensive properties and assets in Denmark. When King Christian III embraced the Protestant cause, he seized all of these assets for the Crown of Denmark and in so doing greatly increased the wealth and power of the Danish monarchy. This also, of course, separated Denmark from the countries of Catholic Christendom but it did not mean peace and tranquility with the Protestant powers either as this was followed by a long period of conflict with the Kingdom of Sweden which had also become officially Lutheran as well. For most of the next two hundred years Denmark and Sweden were often at war. The Danes were trying to force Sweden back into the personal union with Denmark while the Swedes were growing more powerful and ambitious and wished to secure control of the Baltic shores and to obtain an outlet to the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Denmark and Norway stood in the way of this goal and frequent warfare ensued. The fighting was fierce but between 1649 and 1660 the Swedes succeeded in gaining access to the ocean and expelling the last Danish footholds from the Swedish mainland. Over the next two centuries the Danes would fight to regain the territory lost to Sweden with the situation not really calming down until the Napoleonic Wars.

The defeats at the hands of Sweden were certainly demoralizing but they did prove rather beneficial for the Danish monarchy. The nobility of Denmark had been devastated by the wars with Sweden and this gave rise to the middle classes increasing their power and eliminated the nobility as a major rival for power with the King. The middle classes wanted stability and the opportunity to advance themselves and so joined with the King in opposition to the aristocracy and so it was that in 1660 King Frederick III (1609-1670) made the Kingdom of Denmark an absolute monarchy and, officially, a hereditary monarchy. In the old days, the monarchy was elective but effectively hereditary as the eldest son of the previous monarch was invariably chosen to be the next king but Frederick III made this official. Even modern historians have had to admit that royal absolutism benefited Denmark.

King Frederick VI
Absolute monarchy brought greater stability to Denmark which in turn brought about a flourishing of commerce and, with the increased wealth, also a flourishing of the arts as monarchs sponsored great artists. In 1721 the Danes settled Greenland and in 1788 serfdom was abolished in Denmark by King Christian VII (1749-1808), though as most regarded him as quite insane, it was actually his doctor and later brother and regent who produced these changes. The end of serfdom meant the end of the huge estates which hurt the economy in the short term but eventually led to improvements in farming that benefited the country as a whole. It was under the regent, later King Frederick VI (1768-1839), that the Napoleonic Wars first came to Denmark when the British launched two attacks on Copenhagen, in 1801 and 1807, to stop Denmark from trading with France and frightening Sweden, Prussia and Russia away from the same. A period of hostility between Britain and Denmark ensued with the British taking the view that Denmark was essentially taking the side of France and, as such, when Napoleon was ultimately defeated, Denmark would have to pay a price as well to the victorious allies. In 1814 the Kingdom of Denmark was forced to hand over Norway to the Kingdom of Sweden as their compensation for the Swedes giving Finland to Russia.

Like the country as a whole, King Frederick VI was embittered by this loss and a gloomy mood seemed to hang over Denmark in the aftermath. The King abandoned the tentative liberalism of his youth and turned hard reactionary though he did allow for consultative assemblies on the local level. This, however, produced two problems in the decades that followed; disputes between the Danes and Germans in the Schleswig-Holstein region and increasing demands for even more democracy and representative government in Denmark. The absolute monarchy came to an end in Denmark with King Frederick VII (1808-1863) who signed a new constitution that allowed for the creation of a Danish parliament and made Denmark a constitutional monarchy in 1849. There was also the growing crisis over Schleswig-Holstein to deal with. Did the new constitution apply to these areas? To make matters worse, these lands were becoming of greater interest to the Germans at a time when the Prussians were starting to move to displace the Austrians as the dominant power in the German-speaking community.

Victorious Danish troops
Schleswig was a Danish dependency while Holstein was a German dependency but both were ruled by the Crown of Denmark. The Germans in Holstein wanted not only their own territory but Schleswig as well to be part of the German Confederation (the presidency of which was held by the Austrian House of Habsburg). In 1848 Holstein and southern Schleswig finally rose up in open revolt against Denmark. The Prussians and later the Austrians gave aid to the rebels in their fight against the Danes. The result was the First War of Schleswig of 1848-1851 and later the Second Schleswig War of 1864. In the first war, despite the rebels being aided by the German Confederation (primarily Prussia), the Kingdom of Denmark was victorious. Some people in Norway and Sweden volunteered to fight for Denmark because of their fear of the growing power and expansion of the Germans at the expense of a Nordic neighbor.

Danish attack in the Second Schleswig War
The second war, in 1864, was generally a hopeless fight as both the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire aligned against the Kingdom of Denmark. Not only were the Danes hopelessly outmatched by the relatively new Danish politicians interfered with the army in how to conduct the war, leading to the Danish forces being poorly deployed to repel the German invaders. The Austrian and Prussian invading columns pushed the Danes back where forced to retreat or risk being surrounded. Fighting and retreating February, often in blinding snow, was a bitter and grueling experience. The Danes fought hard and were able to win some engagements but most were delaying actions, stalling the inevitable Austro-Prussian advance. Bismarck also pushed the Austrians to go along with invading Denmark itself, not stopping with the conquest of Schleswig-Holstein. At Heligoland the Danish navy won at least a tactical victory though it would not effect the outcome of the war. Ultimately, King Christian IX of Denmark (1818-1906) was forced to accept an unfavorable peace being totally outmatched by Prussia and Austria while being unsupported by his Scandinavian neighbors. Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg were handed over to the victorious Germans and King Christian IX immediately became a very unpopular monarch for, evidently, not being able to work miracles.

Nonetheless, in the ensuing years, Denmark become more and more prosperous. Industry and trade expanded, new farming methods were devised and cooperative enterprises were developed. The Kingdom remained neutral during World War I and in 1918 granted independence to Iceland though it remained in union with the Crown of Denmark. In 1920 a political shift occur when King Christian X (1870-1947) dismissed his elected cabinet and this brought about a left-wing backlash that further subordinated the Crown to the elected government. Though, that same year, following the collapse of the German Empire, northern Schleswig voted to rejoin the Kingdom of Denmark. However, the era of peace was not to continue indefinitely. With the outbreak of World War II, Denmark and her neighbors thought they could remain neutral but this proved impossible, mostly due to efforts to infiltrate Norway. On April 9, 1940 the Germans invaded Denmark. The government had largely neglected the armed forces and put all of their faith in other countries respecting their neutrality. As a result, Denmark was taken by surprise and was practically helpless in the face of the German attack.

King Christian X
The Danes were thus unable to resist and so, effectively, they didn’t resist and the German occupation of Denmark was completed in a matter of hours. It was a strangely peaceful and swift end to over a thousand years of independence. It is often forgotten that until April of 1940 the Kingdom of Denmark had never been conquered in all of its very long history. Fortunately, the Germans were initially on their best behavior, the Nazi government portraying Denmark as the ‘model protectorate’. In time, however, that relationship began to break down with the Danish underground carrying out acts of sabotage and Danish workers going on strike which resulted in greater German repression of the population. In the summer of 1943 King Christian X was placed under German guard, the Danish army was disbanded and the parliament ceased to function. The Danish navy sank their ships to prevent them being confiscated by the Germans. A “Freedom Council” was organized to coordinate resistance against the Germans and when Jews began to be arrested for deportation the Danes worked to smuggle more than 5,000 into neutral Sweden. In 1944 the Germans even disarmed the Danish police but, as we know, by the following year the war ended and Denmark was liberated from German control.

King Frederick IX (1899-1972) came to the throne in 1947 and presided over Denmark joining the United Nations and abandoning neutrality, which had not proven an effective defense, in favor of joining NATO in 1949. During the war the Allies had occupied Iceland and during that time Iceland severed ties with the Crown of Denmark and became a republic. Themselves under German occupation at the time, Denmark was unable to respond to this. In 1953 a new constitution was adopted which saw Greenland upgraded from a Danish colony to an independent country but still within the Danish Commonwealth in union with the Crown of Denmark. In 1953, following a referendum, the Danish monarchy changed to allow women to succeed to the throne for the first time in the modern history of Denmark and upon the death of King Frederick IX he was succeeded by his eldest daughter Queen Margaret II, the first female Danish monarch since the fourteenth century.

Queen Margaret II
An accomplished artist and sometime translator, Queen Margaret II has presided over a tumultuous period of Danish history with the rise of the European Union, the end of the Soviet Union, NATO participation in the “War on Terror” and an unprecedented rise in immigration to Denmark. The Queen spoke out in 2005 about the rising population of Muslims in Denmark and raised some eyebrows on the left when she said that Danes had to stand more firmly for their principles and culture and be more clear about what immigrants are expected to do when coming to Denmark, regardless of what unkind names Danes may be called for doing so. This was said in the context of a contentious debate in which any who oppose total open borders and unlimited immigration have frequently been labeled “racists”. Quality of life in Denmark has remained consistently high and society remarkably united. Recently, however, parliament did voice objections when it was learned that Danes are now a minority in a number of Danish cities. The Queen is highly respected in the country and her heir, Crown Prince Frederick and his Australian bride Crown Princess Mary, are likewise popular. As it stands now, the oldest monarchy in Europe faces challenges but seems secure for the foreseeable future to carry on their remarkable longevity.
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