Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Confessions of a Creepy Christian

This is an “off topic” post, which I don’t do anymore but, because it is Halloween, I am making an exception, ignore it if you please. Halloween is hands down my favorite holiday and has always been so. It is the one time of the year when I’m considered “festive” and “in the holiday spirit” rather than just being “creepy”. My immediate family always celebrated Halloween but, going to a private, religious school most of the time as a boy, I became aware that some Christians have a problem with it. Not everyone does and no group seemed to be entirely consistent on the subject. At my school, when I was very small, Halloween was okay, to an extent, then later it was banned as being completely evil. There were Protestants who were okay with it, some who opposed it and I can remember one Catholic priest saying it was completely evil only to be replaced by another priest who said it was good and only anti-Catholics thought it was evil. Take your pick. My late mother always said, “it is what you make of it” and whether it was good or bad was entirely up to you.

What always bothered me though was the idea some Christian fundamentalist types have that Halloween is too “dark” to be compatible with Christianity. This bothers me because I want to be Christian but the Christianity of sunshine, light and happiness seemed to exclude me. According to my parents I’ve had my days and nights mixed up since the day I was born, the light hurts my eyes and, well, “happiness” is just a word that no one has ever associated with me. It also struck me as extremely bizarre given my understanding of Christianity. Here you have a religion that has as its symbol a method of execution, a religion based on God becoming man, being killed, having people poke their fingers in his gaping wounds and who commands you to eat His flesh and drink His blood. All of this, and you think **I’M** too “creepy”!? I wonder sometimes if people are reading the same Bible I have because, as I have often said, Christianity is a Lovecraftian death-match, not a hippy religion.

Some of this I have touched on before so I will not go through it all again but it seems to me that authentic Christianity is, to put it mildly, not for the faint of heart. The Bible describes eternal, celestial beings of another plain of existence locked in a cosmic struggle for domination, giant monsters, a witch summoning a ghost, dragons, people and animals being possessed by demons, people being raised from the dead and I could go on at length about the angels, as I have somewhat before on these pages. Some of them do or can look like us, sure, but the description of them in their own habitat is terrifying. Some have bestial bodies, three heads, lots of wings, others are constantly engulfed in flames, some are giant wheels covered with eyeballs and so on, real nightmare fuel. They kill children, slaughter armies by the thousands and, you will notice, even when appearing on a happy occasion, always start by telling the person they are appearing before to stop being afraid. They are not chubby, flying babies folks. If you ever see an angel that is not ‘under cover’ you will most likely drop to your knees in mind-melting terror.

It does not stop with the scriptures either, then you get into the traditions of the early Church and there are plenty of horrifying stories to choose from there. Ever heard the story of St Margaret of Antioch? She was eaten alive by a dragon, used a cross to tear her way out of its stomach, was drowned, survived, burned alive, survived and then finally beheaded. The apostle St Bartholomew was skinned alive, St Christopher became a sort of godly wolf-man, St Denis had his head chopped off and just went on preaching, carrying his cranium around with him and I know someone is thinking, ‘well those are just stories, they cannot possibly be true’. To which I say, is any of it any more impossible to believe than Jesus spitting in the dirt and curing blindness with the mud, raising a man from the dead who was already half rotted away or there being a colossal sea serpent at the bottom of the ocean that God is going to come down and kill with a giant sword at the end of the world? Because all of that stuff is in the Bible and I should think any Christian would have to believe that.

Authentic Christianity, as I understand it, has nothing to do with this modern day collection of churches full of “nice” people who are all about sunshine and social justice, who think demons are just metaphors and God is so loving that He would never actually condemn anybody. Yes, God does love everyone but in a way that is far beyond our understanding. As far as being so loving as to never punish anyone, ever, all I can say is to tell that to the population that drowned in the flood or the parents of all the dead Egyptian children wiped out by an angel because their Pharaoh would not release the Israelites from bondage. God is not your BFF in the sky, God is not your “copilot” and God is not your ‘buddy’. God is beyond our comprehension, God is unfathomable to us and His ways are not our ways. God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-seeing) and omnipresent which, to put it in an unusual way but one which I prefer, is to say that God is so huge that He fills the entire universe and is everywhere at once. God is fair, God is just but if you think he’s too nice to punish you, just remember that when Jesus Christ died on the cross the sun was blacked out because God the Father turned His back on His own Son because he had just taken on the sin of every person to ever exist.

Yet, people who presumably believe in all of that, people who will walk around every day with a tiny image of a dead man nailed to a cross hanging around their neck, will tell me I’m “creepy” or “morbid” or some such thing. It really is incomprehensible to me other than that the vast majority of people do not really believe what they claim to. Perhaps I am totally wrong and it really is just me that does not fit and cannot accept it, however I cannot help but think we must be reading from two completely different playbooks when it comes to the Christian religion. They are in the Christianity of Joel Osteen and I’m in the Christianity of church buildings made out of dead people.

This surely must sound like a rant at this point but, I promise, I am not going off-topic today merely to vent my frustrations. I do have a story to tell which, I have found out lately, does not seem to be very well known even among life-long Christians. Yet, to explain how we get there, I did want to put this background in place and also call to mind a previous explanation I have given on these pages. My late grandfather was in the habit of giving people very distinct nicknames and these nicknames, in my immediate family anyway, tended to impose on us a certain “theme” if you like. My oldest sister, for example, had a nickname which caused the cartoon character of Tweety Bird to become her sort of mascot and over the years she accumulated as gifts just about every imaginable collectible featuring the sharp-tongued yellow canary. My nickname, on the other hand, caused me to accumulate over the years a similar assortment of things like skulls and skeletons and this also came to include items of a religious nature.

Although rare today, once upon a time it was fairly common to see crucifixes with a skull and bones at the bottom of the cross. Eventually, these were, I think, most often used only to place on the coffins of the deceased prior to burial but I doubt they are even used for that anymore. In any event, I have about four or five crucifixes like this and anytime anyone sees one it usually prompts a reaction such as a comment about it seeming morbid or macabre (which, again, I would think the dead deity hanging above it would take the prize for but, apparently that is just me). Today, I admit, it does stand out but this was not always the case but because it has effectively fallen out of use, people do not seem to understand the symbolism of it and the story behind it which, I think, is a beautiful one. There is, of course, the general symbolism of the skull and bones being a symbol of death and being shown at the bottom of a crucifix because the sacrifice of Christ defeated death, He triumphed over death and gave to all the chance of eternal life. That is simple enough to understand but it actually goes deeper than that.

Those of you who have read the Bible will likely be aware that the hill upon which Christ was crucified was called Golgotha and you might also be aware that this name translates as, ‘the place of the skull’. What you may not know, however, is how that hill got such a name. It was called that because the people of that time believed that beneath that hill was buried the skull of Adam, the originator of the human race, the man crafted by God’s own hand. Is this story true? Certainly, I cannot say for sure but I like to believe it as not only do I find it beautiful but I also think it makes a sort of sense. The beauty is that Christ, the perfect man who redeemed humanity, was sacrificed at or near the spot where Adam, the fallen man who condemned humanity, met his ultimate end. There is a sort of completion and perfection in that which I find impossible to resist. Whether the skull of Adam was actually down there or not, I have no idea but I do think the belief that it was is something not ridiculous to believe. After all, it was obviously called that before Christ was crucified there and so it had to have been the Jews who named the hill “the place of the skull” and the Jews would certainly not have invented such a story which would fit so perfectly with Jesus being the Son of God, something which goes against their entire being as they are. If anything, they would have had every reason to re-name the place and suppress such a story.

That is my story for today and I will leave you with this; God is beyond our comprehension and we cannot put the Almighty in a box, we cannot have borderlines around the infinite. Much of what scares us usually comes down to death and as someone who has had to say goodbye to most of my family by now, I can tell you that it is sad but the whole point of Christianity is that it should not be frightening in and of itself. The dark things that so many ‘sunshine and lollipop’ Christians would shun are things which are at least not bad, sometimes quite beneficial and important up to a point to at least teach us that evil exists because the real harm from demonic forces comes when people no longer believe they are real. I would ask you to think on that and, if you ever happen across one of us who prefers candle light and chanting in dead languages to guitars and clapping, be tolerant of the “creepy” Christians that are still out there.

Happy Halloween from
The Mad Monarchist 💀

Photo Gallery of Dead Royalty
Profile of The Real Count Dracula
The Blood Countess
A Macabre Monarchist?
Mad Rant: God Ain't Fuzzy!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Church and Empire

Today, liberals love to talk about the “separation of church and state” as being something great, something which ended religious wars in the western world and which they take sole credit for. The more atheistic liberals think this is good because it prevents the state being dominated by organized religion and the religious liberals like it because it prevents the churches from being dominated by the government. In this regard, the religious liberals have a powerful arsenal to defend their case by pointing to the state churches of northern Europe which preach a pale, so watered down as to barely qualify as Christian form of Christianity and which practically no one attends as opposed to the United States where, while still rapidly declining, church attendance is comparatively robust. However, the problem with both arguments, though the atheistic liberals in particular, is that no separation of church and state really exists in the western world, even in America. To go even further, such a thing has rarely existed even from the beginnings of Christianity.

In virtually every major religion, church and state have almost always been very closely linked if not, in some cases, one and the same. This is true in Confucianism, Shinto in Japan, Buddhism in places from Mongolia and Tibet to Thailand and of course it is also true in Islam. Traditionally, it was true of Judaism, in a way even more so than in Islam as it was a religion, a way of life and a people. For Christianity the proponents of the separation of church and state usually point to Christ’s command to, “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” as some sort of “proof” that Christianity uniquely requires a separation of church and state. Of course, that is both silly and nonsensical as religion tends to be about setting standards for what is right and wrong, what is good and evil and obviously no one is going to be okay with thinking that the way they do things is good but that the way the government does things is evil. In historical terms, Christianity did not remain separate from the state in the slightest for very long at all.

Emperor Constantine the Great
Christianity first became a legal religion, recognized and tolerated by the state, when Emperor Constantine the Great issued the Edict of Milan in 318AD. One only had to wait until 380AD for Christianity to become the official state religion of the Roman Empire by the order of Emperor Theodosius I. Yet, even before that happened and to be a Roman was to be a Christian, church and state were not kept separate at all. Emperor Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, saw Church “interference” in the state with the Emperor changing Roman laws to reflect Christian morality such as by abolishing death by crucifixion, ending gladiatorial games and making Sunday a day of rest. Likewise, the Emperor also intervened in religious matters, most significantly by calling the First Council of Nicaea which famously produced the Nicene Creed which provided a simple definition of what Christianity was and what all Christians were expected to believe. It is also important to remember that all of this was done well before Emperor Constantine had actually been baptized as a Christian himself (something he waited to do until he was on his deathbed).

It is evidence of how far modern Christianity has drifted from its original, traditional, roots that all of this is mostly unknown to modern Christians but the Roman emperor was seen as an extremely significant, even essential, figure for the Christian religion. The early Christians and Medieval Christians certainly understood this which is proven by the long tradition, today almost completely unknown, of prophecies, visions and other miraculous events concerning the Roman emperors. Regular readers will know as I have talked about these before such as the Emperor Augustus being revealed a vision of the birth of Christ, the Emperor Tiberius being moved to forbid any persecution of the Christians or the Emperor Marcus Aurelius putting a halt to such persecutions after witnessing a miracle in battle called down by Christians within his army. There was even a legend in the Middle Ages that Pope St Gregory the Great had momentarily resurrected Emperor Trajan in order to baptize him and spare this model ruler from the torments of Hell.

Emperor Basil I
As I have said before, whether one believes these stories or not is irrelevant to the central point. If you do believe them, obviously the Roman emperors had a spiritual significance for Christians from the very beginning, of both the Roman Empire and the Christian religion. However, even if you do not believe them and think they were invented later, that they were invented still shows just how significant the Christians of the early Church and Middle Ages considered the imperial line to be. The emperors were not seen as purely secular figures with no connection to religious matters. It is worth remembering that, after the Council of Jerusalem, the first seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church were called not by the Pope or some eminent Patriarch but by the Roman Emperor, indeed, all seven were called by the Eastern Roman Emperor. Likewise, the eighth Ecumenical Council was called by Emperor Basil I as well as the Pope, the ninth (Lateran I), called by the Pope after the “Investiture Dispute”, dealt with the imperial role in appointing bishops so that, even when church-state relations had been bad, there was still no getting around the fact that the emperors were major figures in the Christian religion. Lateran I was also attended by the King of France whose position, likewise, was inseparable from the faith of his country.

The fact that the Investiture Dispute happened in the first place is evidence of the fact that church and state were not separate and that no one could imagine them fully being so. This occurred during the imperial reign of the Salian Dynasty but was to come up again, in a way, during the subsequent reign of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty. Emperor Frederick I (Frederick Barbarossa), feeling himself affronted by Pope Alexander III, earned the eternal wrath of the Catholic Church by taking the side of Anti-Pope Victor IV against him. However, he had initially tried to remain neutral, advised the bishops in his lands to do the same and refused to recognize either papal claimant, calling for a council to be summoned to decide the matter. When Alexander III refused on the grounds that the pope cannot be subject to the decisions of a council (and being rather unpopular likely fearful of the outcome), it was only then that Emperor Frederick gave his support to Victor IV. He did this because of the long history, again, going back to Constantine, of the Emperor being so significant a figure in the Church. In his view, if the Church could not sort out its own problems, the Emperor must step in to decide the issue.

The coronation of Charlemagne
This was the root of the problem, however, as the popes did not wish to be subject to a council or any other authority, nor did the emperors wish to agree to the idea that they owed their crown to the pope who could then take it from them if the pope so wished. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, such disputes, were effectively political and not of a religious nature really. In the earlier times when councils were called by the Roman Emperor, and when even the popes were regarded by the eastern emperors as being one of their subjects in secular terms, these councils dealt with heresies or other questions of a religious nature. For the Roman Pontiffs and the German monarchs of the “Holy Roman Empire”, on the other hand, politics was usually at the root of the issue. That being said, any political dispute could always be cast in a religious light even if for no other reason than that it came down to a question of authority and as the pope could always cite that the law of God was above the law of man and that he was the sole arbiter of the law of God, his ruling on any matter at all had to prevail and so he made any issue a religious issue simply by being involved in it.

Although doctrinal disputes certainly exist, it is also true that a major foundational reason for the very existence of two distinct versions of the Christian religion, one eastern and one western, is due to the fact that the Western Roman Emperor was eliminated and only the Pope remained whereas, in the east, the Emperor carried on being the one expected to maintain discipline in the Church, summon councils and so on as had been the case before. When a new version of the empire was revived in the west, with the coronation of Charlemagne, it was initiated by the pope and later disputes arose because what the pope had given, the pope felt entitled to take away, in addition to the fact that he had gained land, subjects and political power and was thus a political player for the first time. The popes, though they tried, could never have the same sort of disputes with the eastern emperors given that their reign extended back to the original Roman Empire, predated the papacy and was not therefore in the gift of the pope to give or to take away. What neither ever did was to presume you could have one or the other and still have traditional Christianity as it had been handed down to them.

Emperor Justinian
Even when Pope Gelasius I (492-6) first tried to define the limits of the two powers, “which govern the world: the sacred authority of the bishops and the imperial power” it was at a time when the western half of the Church was displeased with the eastern half and while this was later used in the Middle Ages to bolster the papal case against the German rather than Byzantine emperors and could be considered a prototype of the ‘separation of the church and state’ argument, the fact which should be most obvious is that the pope was admitting that the imperial authority was a given, that it had its limits as he saw them, but it was there nonetheless and could not be denied or disregarded. Not long after, the issue of imperial authority was at the root of one of the earliest, if not the very first, contested papal elections with one faction more loyal to the Emperor in Constantinople and wanting reconciliation and the other more comfortable with the Gothic kings and wishing to maintain their ground in the east-west dispute. Many of the Roman/Italian nobility wanted to reconcile with the east while the lower classes tended not to. This was all the more noticeable when the Latin and westward-looking Justin came to the throne in 518, followed by his nephew Justinian in 527, who brought back the flavor of the old Roman Empire and served to highlight the Germanic origins and habits of the Gothic kings.

This period, specifically because it was so troubled, inadvertently highlights the importance that the imperial monarchy had for the Church. Whereas the Gothic west had largely fallen under the sway of the Arian heresy, King Theodoric the Great being an Arian, the east remained more solidly of the old faith. Pope John I, though old and frail, was dispatched to Constantinople to persuade the Emperor to stop being so harsh and discriminatory toward the Arians. Imagine that for a moment, the Roman Catholic Pope went to the Byzantine Emperor to plead the case of the Arian heresy! How successful he was seems to be somewhat in dispute, some accounts saying he did get the Emperor to back off the Arians somewhat, others saying Justinian committed to nothing substantial and sent him home. In any event, it did Pope John little good for King Theodoric had him arrested soon after returning, fearing that he had been plotting with the Emperor against him to retake Italy and the frail, old pope died in captivity. Nonetheless, there was some balance, there was recourse if one side got out of line.

Coronation of Emperor Otto the Great
The benefits of this arrangement were certainly seen in the time leading up to and around the year 1000 when the Church, certainly in the west, had become infamous for its corruption and depravity, yet this was also when great monarchs provided an impetus to change. It was the time of High King Brian Boru of Ireland, King St Stephen of Hungary, Emperor Otto the Great of Germany, St Vladimir the Great the Grand Prince of Kiev who converted the Russians, King Canute the Great of Denmark and King St Olaf II of Norway. At a time when the papacy had sunk to its lowest point, it was the pressure of Emperor Otto III which brought a pious and determined man to the Petrine Throne (Sylvester II, also the first French pope). Had it been left solely up to the clerical leadership of the time, Christendom would likely not have survived as so many of them had become far too weak and corrupted. Some may, perhaps, find something familiar about this situation.

I have said before and will go on saying that for the majority of Christian history none of the faithful would have been able to imagine having Christianity without an emperor as an integral part of the picture. I am also firmly convinced that it is no coincidence that Christianity is in such a sad state today when an emperor or even anything of the sort has been absent for so long. The enemies of all I hold dear about western civilization certainly recognized that taking down the imperial power would aid in taking down the spiritual power as well. This is not, however, to say that they are solely responsible. If everything had been working as it should have been, I don’t think they would have stood a chance. In the west, the papacy certainly did a great deal of damage to the traditional hierarchy for the sake of politics only to find that not long after the empire ceased to exist in any way other than a name the papacy itself no longer had much real influence either, having frittered it away by constantly shifting positions. Now the spiritual authority of Christianity is, I think, in real danger of being lost and there is no emperor to come to the rescue as in the days of Otto III.

Emperor Valentinian II
Hopefully, the above will demonstrate one more reason why Christians should take monarchy seriously and not see it as something set apart from religion. Even if your monarch is far from the Christian ideal (as most are these days), rest assured that this is nothing new. Even when Julian “the Apostate” tried to restore Rome to paganism, it did not cause Christians to abandon the idea of having an emperor. Christianity was a product of the Roman Empire, Christ was born in the reign of Augustus, died and was resurrected in the reign of Tiberius, and so it went with His followers. St Paul preferred to appeal to Nero rather than place his fate in the hands of the Jews and, according to Josephus at least, Nero’s wife may have been a Christian. The religion won recognition under Constantine and became the official religion of the empire under Theodosius. For some, reading the funeral oration of St Ambrose of Milan for Emperor Theodosius or Emperor Valentinian II may be enough. We can see there and in numerous other ways that from the beginning, Christianity, born of the empire, was seen as being inseparable from it and the empire inseparable from the faith. If those early Christians were right, it can only then mean that the majority today are very wrong to say otherwise.

More along these lines:
The Tiburtine Sybil & Imperial Prophecy
Christ and the Emperor Tiberius
Christian Empire

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Brief Word on Titles

Today we are quite used to titles being sort of honorary and nothing more, particularly, I think, in the English-speaking world but, certainly after the French Revolution, in most of the west as well. The British monarchs, for example, became fond of awarding titles to victorious generals which reflected their success such as Viscount Allenby of Megiddo (a place in the Middle East) or Baron Napier of Magdala (a place in Ethiopia) in addition to some actual location in the U.K. but while they may have had some traditional privileges associated with the place in the U.K. mentioned in their title, it certainly was not their own to rule as they pleased. In the old days, more so the farther back prior to the French Revolution one chooses to go, this was not the case. A title more often meant that the holder of that title actually controlled and ruled the land in question. William the Conqueror, for example, was the Duke of Normandy and he ruled Normandy. So, in the past, a title could mean there were actual lands and people and those lands that the holder of the title actually controlled, sometimes, even then, it was more in name than in fact.

Coronation of Otto the Great of Germany
One area that often causes confusion is the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”. You will, for the sake of being easily understood, see the ruler of this entity be referred to as the ‘Holy Roman Emperor’ but his actual imperial title was “Emperor of the Romans”. His primary subsidiary titles were “King of the Germans” or “King of Germany” (the one which mattered the most), “King of Italy” and later “King of Burgundy”. Usually the Emperor held these titles prior to or upon becoming “Emperor of the Romans” but this was not always the case. Usually, whoever became King of Germany was confirmed by the Pope and could then be crowned Emperor of the Romans though not many actually were. Eventually, papal-imperial relations became such a touchy subject that this stopped being done which is why every emperor after Charles V were technically only entitled to be called “Emperor-elect” as they did not officially become “Emperor of the Romans” until crowned by the pope and no emperor after Charles V ever was.

This issue of titles can be very confusing but it is rather important in understanding why certain historical events were so important when, on the surface, it may seem as though there should have been no difficulty about them. Even the title at the very top, “Emperor of the Romans” was rather complicated. Technically, a Roman was and is simply a native of the city of Rome, however the title could be seen, and was, to refer to “Romans” in the broader sense of basically all Europeans or at least all Christian Europeans which, eventually, they all were. Maps might show the actual city of Rome as being part of the Holy Roman Empire but the emperors did not usually rule Rome but rather the popes ruled the city of Rome and part of the reason why there was so much ‘storm and stress’ between the popes and the emperors was because, originally, the popes were supposed to be superior to the emperor in their spiritual capacity but subjects of the emperors in the temporal sphere. It did not usually work out this way in practice though as neither wished to be overruled by the other on any issue.

Emperor Romulus surrenders his crown
Similarly, the title of “King of Italy”, falsely regarded by many as an innovation of the Nineteenth Century, was a title which had been in use consistently ever since the fall of the Western Roman Empire when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed by Odoacer who was then proclaimed “King of Italy”. You then had the Ostrogoth kings of Italy, then the Lombard kings of Italy and finally it was the German emperors who came to hold the title and would often be crowned King of Italy, after being crowned King of Germany, while on their way from Germany to Rome to be crowned Emperor of the Romans. However, because the Holy Roman Empire was more like a collection of small countries than one, united, powerful country, this did not mean that the emperors, as kings of Italy, actually ruled Italy.

In the first place, relatively soon after Odoacer became King of Italy, the Eastern Roman Empire invaded and recaptured the southern half of the peninsula and later other conquerors did as well so that different political entities were established there and the King of Italy only actually held even nominal rule over the northern half of the peninsula. Yet, even then, the German emperor who was King of Italy did not usually rule even northern Italy himself because of the nature of the empire. Northern Italy was ruled by people like the Doge of Venice, the Duke of Milan, the Duke of Savoy and so on who may or may not have been loyal to the German emperor and their nominal king depending on the situation. Quite often, to prevent the emperors from ruling Italy, the pope would form a coalition of the rulers of the northern Italian states to band together in opposition to the emperors. Sometimes they succeeded, such as under Pope Alexander III, and sometimes they did not, such as under Pope Clement VII. His defeat, by the way, is what resulted in the victorious Charles V being the last Emperor to be crowned by the Pope himself.

Crown of Prussia
Most of the time, the most significant title of the emperors was their position as King of the Germans as that is where they held the most actual power, though most still had to negotiate with the princes and nobles under them in order to accomplish anything. However, this is why there were supposed to be no other kings within the empire other than the Emperor himself who was King of Germany as that would conflict with his title. This is why it was significant when the Elector of Brandenburg demanded to be ‘upgraded’ to King of Prussia as it was seen as being a challenge to the authority of the Emperor who was King of the Germans. Eventually, because the Prussian heartland was outside the borders of the empire, and the Emperor really needed the help of the Prussians, it was decided to allow the Elector of Brandenburg to be called “King in Prussia” but not “King of Prussia”. Later, under Frederick the Great, all pretense would be dropped and he simply adopted the title “King of Prussia” anyway and there was nothing the Emperor could really do about it.

At the very end of the life of the Holy Roman Empire, this ban on more than one king was thrown completely out the window as the victorious Napoleon Bonaparte began to redraw the map of central Europe as he negotiated a new continental order centered around France. This is when, in addition to the King of Prussia, you suddenly had a King of Saxony, a King of Bavaria and a King of Wurttemberg within the historic lands of Germany and different imperial electors than there had been before. Ultimately, however, none of that really mattered as by then the Empire had become so nominal as to be practically nonexistent anyway. Even before the time of Napoleon, when one spoke of the “Emperor” they actually meant the ruler of Austria as he clearly did not rule the whole of the German nation. In 1804 the Emperor Francis II, wishing to end the charade as well as preventing Napoleon himself from being elected, abolished the Holy Roman Empire of the Germans and declared himself Emperor Francis I of Austria, which later became the “Dual-Monarchy” of Austria-Hungary under Francis Joseph.

Emp. Ferdinand wearing the Crown of Italy
Nonetheless, once someone has a title, they usually want to keep it. As such, those German princes who had been elevated to royal status by Napoleon, were allowed to keep their titles as part of the means of encouraging them to turn against Napoleon and join the Allies. So, after that whole affair, there was no longer a King of Germany but instead kings of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Wurttemberg as well as the Emperor of Austria who was also a king several times over in his own empire. The Kingdom of Burgundy had been broken up centuries before any of this so that left only the Kingdom of Italy. Napoleon had revived the Kingdom of Italy and actually made it a reality, intending it to be his secondary title after Emperor of the French, taking a great interest in it and naming his step-son viceroy. However, after his downfall, the Kingdom of Italy was no more as most of the territory was handed over to the Austrian Empire rather than being restored to its previous rulers. The Crown of Italy was also held by the Habsburgs but they created a new title to use with it, “King of Lombardy-Venetia”. The title King of Italy would not be revived until 1860 with the accomplishment of Italian independence and unification.

The subject can be much more complicated if one chooses to go into all of the details and all of the changes over time but, I hope this little summary will at least give those unfamiliar a better grasp of the titles associated with the Holy Roman Empire and perhaps make certain past (and future) articles easier to understand.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Monarch Profile: King Manuel II of Portugal

The last reigning Portuguese monarch to date, Manuel II, had a very interesting life, with all of the misfortune that statement implies. Coming to the throne of Portugal before his time, he was young, handsome, widely popular and seemed to embody a real sense of hope that the Kingdom of Portugal could be on the verge of a great revival in prestige and prosperity. Yet, after all too short a reign, he became the first major monarch to lose his throne in the Twentieth Century. Predictably, his country suffered as a result and there was every reason to believe that he could have been restored in his own lifetime. Yet, he was not and would live out his remaining years in exile, leaving behind a very problematic succession dispute. His life, in a way, embodies the problem with what we know as “constitutional monarchy” which looks quite reasonable and has worked very well for certain periods of time yet which always seems to go in the same direction. King Manuel II was probably the most “modern” monarch that Portugal had ever had, yet his position meant that he had great responsibility with very little power and fell victim to a powerful republican faction even though most Portuguese thought well of him.

His Royal Highness Infante Manuel Maria Filipe Carlos Amelio Luis Miguel Rafael Gabriel Gonzaga Francisco de Assis Eugenio de Orleans Savoy and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Braganza of Portugal was born on November 15, 1889 at Belem Palace in Lisbon, the second son and third child of King Carlos I of Portugal and Queen Amelie of Orleans, daughter of the Count of Paris. As the younger son he was not expected to succeed to the throne and so was not educated with national leadership in mind though he was still given a first-rate education. Indeed, young Manuel proved to be a brilliant boy, becoming literate and fluent at French at only six years old. He was very much the bookish type, inclined to study with a great interest in literature and the arts, particularly music, having a great appreciation for the classics and becoming quite an adept pianist. Athletic activities were required of course but he preferred to spend his time reading and listening to Beethoven and Wagner, a young man of refined tastes. He seemed tailor-made to serve as in intellectual advisor to his handsome, more athletic and outgoing older brother Luis Felipe, when he eventually became king.

While his brother was trained for the army, Prince Manuel was set to enter the Portuguese Naval Academy for his own military career. However, all of those plans came to ruin on the tragic day of February 1, 1908 when a republican terrorist gang assassinated the King, the heir to the throne and wounded Prince Manuel in the arm. He likely would have been killed as well had it not been for the heroic actions of his mother Queen Amelie, instead, he became King Manuel II of Portugal and the Algarves under the most traumatic of circumstances. Although he confessed to being unprepared for such a position and forced to rely on his loyal ministers for advice, the new, young monarch did take some immediate and decisive action, dismissing the prime minister and his government which had presided over such a disaster and replacing it with a new government led by the distinguished Admiral Francisco Joaquin Ferreira do Amaral. It was hoped that this new government would encourage national unity and, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, it seemed to work. However, the republican conspiracy was found to be more widespread than any had originally realized.

King Manuel II started his reign greatly loved by the vast majority of his people. He was young, handsome and most felt immense sympathy for him due to the circumstances which had brought him to the throne. He also set a tone that he was to be a more “modern” king than his predecessors. He did away with most of the traditional pomp and ceremony of the royal court and, not surprisingly considering the fate which befell his father, declared that he would “reign” but not “rule” and would not be intervening in political matters as King Carlos had done. He also quickly set about trying to build a personal relationship with his subjects, traveling around the country to see and be seen by as many people as possible. He was highly praised for his frank conversations, sincerity and informal style. Unfortunately, none of this had any impact on the blind hatred of the ideologically driven republicans. As the investigation into the assassinations went forward, it was found that the web of these villains was extensive indeed and their hostility would be unremitting. King Manuel II did not remain unaware of this and decided on a way to try to deal with it but it would mean playing with fire.

The plan of the young monarch was to try to tame the socialist party, which, odd as it seems now had never fared well in Portugal, in order to make them a more palatable alternative to the republican party. Of course, being socialists, they were naturally republicans as well but the hope was that they could be made to work within the existing system of constitutional monarchy and that leftist agitators would abandon the cause of the republicans who had no other goal than the ruination of the kingdom. This would be no small trick as it would require two political miracles; making the republicans go over to the socialists and yet not have the socialists simply replace them as the primary threat to the monarchy. King Manuel II hoped that he could weaken the republicans and, perhaps naively, that the socialists could be a force for good in the country. Unfortunately, though perhaps not surprisingly, this never really worked but nor was it given much of a chance to. The situation was deteriorating faster than anyone would have expected. The efforts to modernize and any moderation on the part of the Crown was the scent of blood in the water for the republicans.

In electoral terms, the supporters of the constitutional monarchy did quite well and the republicans won the least number of seats but, hypocrites as they inevitably are, they never intended to take power democratically anyway and from the start were plotting to seize power by force. The King traveled abroad and reaffirmed the historic alliance with Great Britain but disaster struck when King Edward VII died and without him and with a Liberal government in London the Portuguese Royal Family could expect no help from that quarter in their hour of need. It also did not help that the British alliance and the friendship between the British and Portuguese royal houses was still fairly unpopular with a segment of the population in Portugal over the British seizure of the African territory between Portuguese East and West Africa. From the time King Manuel II came to the throne the Kingdom of Portugal would survive for only 33 months. Of that time, Portugal saw the rise and fall of seven different governments in 24 of those months. As was all too often the case, a splintering of the pro-monarchy parties created a power vacuum that the republicans were only too eager to fill.

The King and royal officials knew something was up and on October 3, 1910 put the soldiers of the Lisbon garrison on the alert and took care to stay at a different location than his uncle and heir-to-the throne, Prince Royal Afonso, in case the worse should happen. Rumors of a coup attempt were thick but republican conspirators nonetheless succeeded, with some of their fellow members serving in the army, in sparking a mutiny first in the Sixteenth Infantry and later First Artillery Regiments. Men from other units joined as well along with a few hundred civilians and, after clashing with police and some municipal guard troops along the way, set themselves up behind barricades in Rotunda Square. By the next morning some naval crews had mutinied as well, one group of rebels even seizing the cruiser Dom Carlos I, the situation in the capital was momentarily deadlocked. The rebels had achieved all of their aims and yet there was no mass uprising of the people as they had expected. They controlled a major city square and Alcantara parish, but little more and they could not remain there indefinitely. With no movement on the part of the public, many rebel leaders gave up and went home. Unfortunately, the firebrand Machado Santos stayed and determined to carry on.

The following days, troops from the palace were sent to dislodge the rebels at Rotunda Square but they were attacked as they came up, fought off their attackers and pressed on only to be repulsed at the rebel barricades. They tried to call for reinforcements but telegraph lines had been cut and railroads smashed to hinder if not prevent just such an occurrence. The monarchist units began to crack under the stress, a rebel cruiser shelled government buildings within sight of a Brazilian battleship which was actually carrying the President of Brazil, a former Portuguese colony which had only recently overthrown its own monarch of the same family as King Manuel II (in fact, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil had been present when the last King of Portugal was born). The King was doing his best to appear confident and relaxed by the morning of October 5 but found his phone lines cut when rebels attacked the Palace of Necessidades where he was staying. When the president of the Council of Ministers finally got in touch with him, he advised him to flee, having heard that the palace was to be bombarded but King Manuel II refused, saying he preferred to die at his post.

The palace did come under fire from ships in the harbor but the King kept his cool and contacted the minister president about what forces needed to be sent to reinforce the position. As the attack on Rotunda had already failed, he was advised again that it would be easier to get him out than to get sufficient loyal troops in. The King agreed to evacuate to a military school at Mafra, dispatching many of the soldiers sent to escort him to fight the rebels. However, when he arrived, he found only a small fraction of the soldiers expected and by that time had not many with him either. It was decided to bring the Queen Mother and Dowager Queen Maria Pia of Savoy to Mafra and then they would all go to Porto to make a proper defense and organize a monarchist counter-offensive to take back control of Lisbon. Fighting was still going on there but it came to end in an odd way, all due to a misunderstanding.

A German diplomat had gone out under a white flag to try to arrange a cease-fire to evacuate foreign diplomats. The royalist general on hand agreed, thinking this would also buy him some time for more reinforcements to come in. However, the sight of the white flag and the royal forces holding their fire, caused many to believe that the King’s troops had surrendered and many of the republicans began celebrating. Now the public made itself known as huge crowds took to the streets. This buoyed the republicans and totally demoralized the loyalist forces which soon collapsed, however, many people had no idea what had actually happened. Some were simply celebrating that the shooting had stopped, others assumed that it was the rebels who must have surrendered. However, the rebels wasted no time and proclaimed the First Portuguese Republic. King Manuel II, still at Mafra, was shocked to receive word from the civic officials that his country was now a republic and he was cut off. The arrival of the royal yacht, which had already picked up his uncle, offered the only chance of escape. The King first hoped to take the ship to Porto and carry on the struggle as planned but was advised this would be too risky and, indeed, as it turned out the city would have been in republican hands by the time they arrived. Instead, they had just enough fuel to make it to Gibraltar.

King Manuel II was extremely civil about the whole ordeal. After landing at Gibraltar he even ordered the yacht to return to Portugal on the grounds that it was government property and not his own. He would live out the rest of his life in exile in Great Britain. For a kingdom that dated back to 1139, with roots stretching back even further, it seemed an anticlimactic end, more like the result of a bizarre accident than a successful conspiracy. King Manuel II still regarded himself as King of Portugal, as did the other crowned heads of Europe and, indeed, there was plenty of reason to hope for a restoration as the First Portuguese Republic proved to be an incoherent, anticlerical, monument to political incompetence from start to finish. In 1911 and 1912 there were efforts at a royal restoration, showing considerable public support for the monarchy but each were unsuccessful. In 1913 the King married Princess Augusta Victoria von Hohenzollern but the two never had any children.

In World War I, starting the following year, the King, living in exile in Middlesex, England, supported the British war effort and approved of Portuguese involvement in the conflict on the Allied side. This put him at odds with many of his supporters who hoped for a German-Austrian victory. However, while intervention was a fiasco, the King’s judgment ultimately proved correct. Portugal would have lost their African empire in the event of a German victory and, as it happened, their colonies were saved by being on the winning team while at the same time the war severely discredited the republican government. They had been unable to maintain the Portuguese Expeditionary Force sent to France and ultimately allowed it to be absorbed into the British military because they could not provide support for their own soldiers. It was in light of this that another, very serious, attempt at a restoration of the monarchy occurred in 1919. Alas, once again, the republic managed to just survive.

There were also, unfortunately but not surprisingly, problems which the monarchists created for themselves. Ever since the Liberal Wars of 1828-1834 between the constitutional and absolute monarchists (basically the Portuguese version of the Spanish Carlist Wars) there had been a faction of the Portuguese Royal Family providing a rival claim to the throne in opposition to the victorious constitutional monarchists. At the time of the overthrow of King Manuel II, the absolutist claimant was Miguel, Duke of Braganza and this division doubtless hurt the overall cause of monarchy. It was also all the more pressing given that Manuel II had no heir to continue the constitutionalist line after the death of his uncle in 1920 with no heirs either.

King Manuel II and the Duke of Braganza met shortly after the revolution in Portugal and supposedly the King agreed that the Duke’s line were part of the family but no more than that and even that remains disputed to this day by some. Later, in 1922, another agreement was supposedly reached in France between the two rival claimants that the Duke’s heir, Duarte Nuno, would succeed Manuel II as claimant to the Portuguese Crown. However, the absolutists refused to accept allegiance to a constitutional monarchy and, as the offer by Manuel II depended on this, it was withdrawn. Maybe. Again, the facts on this are seemingly impossible to obtain as each side has a different version of events. Portuguese succession law also proved very problematic and hard to maneuver around, especially since it could no longer be modified and there were still those absolutists who would never accept a constitutional monarchy and constitutional monarchists who would never accept an absolute one.

As it was, Manuel II, the last King of Portugal to date, died of suffocation from a throat problem on July 2, 1932 which made the Miguelist heir Duarte Nuno the ‘last man standing’ and basically the only option for carrying the monarchist cause forward. By this time the First Portuguese Republic had fallen apart and a corporatist “New State” was in place led by Prime Minister Antonio Oliveira de Salazar who had begun to stabilize things and slowly bring the country back toward prosperity. A devout Catholic and inclined to monarchist sympathies, he allowed the remains of King Manuel II to come to Portugal for burial with full state honors. The sad occasion gathered huge crowds, showing again how much popular support the monarchy still had in Portugal. Salazar talked of restoring the monarchy and seriously considered it in 1951 but, perhaps because of the legal disputes and lingering rivalries within the monarchist community, ultimately never did so. When his regime was brought down by a military coup in 1974 the revived Portuguese republic has had basically only liberal or leftist governments ever since which, of course, have little time for any talk of monarchy.

In the end, King Manuel II had been a monarch with much promise. He was very intelligent, very devoted to his country and hoped to bring about a revival of Portugal by reviving the national pride of the Portuguese themselves as a unique people with a glorious history. A king at eighteen he was, nonetheless, inexperienced and was handed a problem on his first day that had been festering for years and proved worse than anyone then knew. He had so little time to prove himself that he can hardly be faulted for how things turned out. The situation which brought about his downfall was so bizarre as to almost defy belief. For the rest of his life he seemed the ideal exiled monarch and always seemed tantalizingly close to restoration only to never have it quite work out. He may not have always made the right moves, but his heart was always in the right place and Portugal only suffered by his absence. He could have done so much more for his country if only he had been allowed the opportunity.

Monday, October 16, 2017

MM Movie Review: The Exception

“The Exception” is a “romantic war drama” from 2016 directed by David Leveaux. Despite its official designation, I would hardly call it any kind of war drama as the war is never really seen and, as for the “romantic” part, I suppose it is though it certainly is not what I would say is typical in that regard. However, that aside, this is going to a positive review. If you are a monarchist, over 18 and do not live in Kansas, I would recommend this film and I am saying that now because, since unlike most movies I talk about, this one is relatively recent and if you want to watch a film which is stolen by a masterful portrayal of the exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II, read no more and do so now because there will be spoilers. That generally goes with the territory with my reviews but, again, I want to put the warning out there since this was released last year and I ordinarily only review films that have been out for a long time and I assume most have seen already.

The film is based on the novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss” by Alan Judd which I have not read and so will not comment on. The main characters of the film are German army captain Stefan Brandt played by Jai Courtney and a house maid name Mieke played by Lily James. However, the film revolves around the exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II played masterfully by veteran actor Christopher Plummer who totally steals the show. I cannot imagine anyone, monarchist or not, watching this movie and not wanting to see more of Plummer playing the Kaiser than anything else. The most surprising thing is that, quite unintentionally I gather from the commentary, it is actually a very fair and even somewhat sympathetic portrayal. Yeah, imagine that. Christopher Plummer even looks eerily similar to the Kaiser at this stage in his life and I would say gives the most convincing portrayal, in appearance and mannerisms, of the last German emperor since Barry Foster in “Fall of Eagles”. Christopher Plummer and his scenes alone make this a film worth watching, in spite of the things it does get wrong.

Our story begins with Captain Brandt having a nightmare about a traumatic war experience he had in Poland after a tryst with some unknown woman. He is called to HQ and told that the German army has just conquered Poland and that he is to be put in charge of the guard posted at House Doorn, residence of the exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Without specifics we are made aware, from his nightmare and the words of his superior, that Brandt evidently witnessed an atrocity in Poland, took some sort of action and got into some trouble over it as his posting, while away from the front, is considered better than he deserves. Brandt goes to Doorn and meets up with the local SS agent for the area, a predictably contemptible character, and is brought before the former German Kaiser after being briefed on the very strict rules that are in place concerning the former monarch. We also meet the Kaiser, who is following the progress of the German army during the westward blitzkrieg and Mieke, a new girl working at the house, who wins over the exiled king with her sweet simplicity.

Mieke later comes to invite Captain Brandt to have dinner with the Kaiser and, despite having set him up as being not such a bad guy, he sort of attempts to rape her and not “attempt” in that he gets fresh and she fends him off but rather that he is unable to complete the act. It is an odd and difficult scene, all the more so because Mieke makes no effort at all to resist and does not seem terribly bothered by it at all. She says nothing about it and at dinner, despite his briefing on what not to talk about, as the Kaiser’s wife, Princess Hermine, asks about the captain’s background, the difficulties of his family stemming from World War I comes up which causes the Kaiser to have an emotional outburst, pained that he is held to blame for everyone’s misfortunes. Brandt said nothing of the sort, though we see from a comment later that he does seem to blame the Kaiser for the war, but it reveals how much the Kaiser himself feels responsible despite recounting how he tried to stop the catastrophe (which is historically accurate) and wondering where were the men like Ludendorff, Bethmann-Hollweg and Tirpitz when the world turned against him. It was one of the most powerful scenes in the film, brilliantly done by Plummer who, in sad frustration, remarks that these men, “lost me the war. They lost me my country”.

After dinner, Brandt returns to his quarters to find Mieke there and she basically turns the tables on him, which he doesn’t seem to mind and the two have a conjugal encounter, something forbidden by the rules of the house. Later, the local SS agent tells Brandt that they have been picking up radio transmissions and believe a British spy is operating in the area and may be targeting the Kaiser. In a somewhat funny scene, when Brandt goes to inform the Kaiser about this, Princess Hermine beats him to it, already aware of this news through some sources of her own. Whether because of this perceived threat or to be closer to Mieke, with whom Brandt is having a full blown affair, he moves into the main house. The Kaiser is unimpressed by the idea of a British spy possibly targeting him, thinking, sadly but not unreasonably, that an old man with no position of power who chops wood and feeds his ducks all day would not be considered a target worthy of assassination. Still, we are left to wonder what this secret agent is up to but we are very quickly left in no doubt as to who that agent is; it is Mieke. She says nothing about this to Brandt but does reveal to him something just as dangerous; she is not simply a Dutch girl but a Jew. However, Brandt does not care about this, only urging her to keep it a secret for the sake of her own safety.

The tension and suspense of the film is mostly based around Brandt following Mieke, slowly suspecting that she is the agent and the Germans who are using her radio broadcasts to slowly zero-in on her exact location. The Kaiser, for his part, is mostly concerned with his desire for a restoration of the monarchy, pointing out that in such a time of crisis, Germany needs a traditional, Christian monarch to unite the country and serve as a moral leader. His wife does not want him to lose hope that this dream could come true and we are made to believe that she was working very hard for it, doing her best to gain the favor of the Nazi high command (again, something generally accurate). Brandt thinks it is only tormenting the Kaiser to have such hopes, knowing from his own experience that the Nazis would never restore the monarchy, being dominated by men from the lowest levels of society who clawed their way to the top and who are extremely resentful of the traditional aristocracy and princes. This, however, leads to one of the biggest historical inaccuracies of the film which, up to this point, had been doing pretty good in that department.

Word arrives that Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, is coming to Doorn to visit the Kaiser. Princess Hermine hopes that such a high profile visit could mean that Hitler is about to offer the Kaiser his throne back. Needless to say, this visit never happened and would have been quite absurd. The Kaiser was visited, before the war, by Air Marshal Hermann Goering and this is mentioned in the film, the Kaiser being less than impressed with the outlandish Nazi. For Himmler to visit the Kaiser, on the other hand, would have been extremely bizarre to say the least. He was a party official after all and, especially after being visited by Goering, to have someone like Himmler come would have been seen as a slight rather than an honor. Himmler was basically a policeman, had been too young for action in World War I and I can only imagine this was put into the story because of the reputation Himmler has today as possibly the most sinister Nazi of all. People today tend to forget that, at the time, Himmler hard made the list of highest-ranking Nazis whereas Hermann Goering was Hitler’s right-hand man, the second most powerful man in the Reich and Hitler’s chosen successor

When Himmler does arrive, following a thorough search of the house which offends the Kaiser, it is extremely awkward on every level. Not that many will be honest enough to say it but, I think they are somewhat unfair to Himmler, at least up to a point, in his behavior during the visit. He is shown to be ignorant of proper protocol and rather rude which I do not think Himmler would have been. Prince Heinrich of Bavaria was his godfather and Himmler’s own father had been a tutor to the Bavarian Royal Family so I am fairly sure Himmler, despite his politics, would have known how to behave in such a situation. Princess Hermine, who had tried to think the best of the Nazis, has her Christian values offended by catching a glimpse of Himmler’s secretary in his room in her underwear as she, again very awkwardly, gives Himmler an envelop full of cash as a gift. She actually did do this but to Goering who did actually visit and while Himmler did carry on an affair with his secretary, it seems very unlikely that he would have been unable to behave himself for one evening in such a situation. He also offends the Kaiser and his Christian values by talking about the studies underway which he has witnessed to most effectively exterminate the Jews.

This is another point that must be addressed, even though I am sure it will offend someone. First of all, the war was well underway before any talk of exterminating the Jews ever came up even behind closed doors among Nazi leaders. The idea that Himmler would have been openly chatting about such a thing in the Netherlands, in front of the former Kaiser, at the beginning of the war is ridiculous. Secondly, Himmler was not that sort of man. By all accounts I have read, Himmler himself only ever witnessed one execution of Jews and it so revolted him that he had to run outside and be sick. So, again, the idea that he would be telling such lurid stories to such an audience is utterly absurd. The point of this whole meeting in terms of the film is to reveal to the Kaiser and his wife, who were both devout Christians, what sort of people the Nazis were. Later that night, the Kaiser reveals privately that Himmler indeed offered to restore him to his throne in Berlin but that, after waiting and hoping for this day for so long, he cannot bring himself to be associated with so monstrous a regime.

Captain Brandt, however, knows that the Kaiser is being tricked. Himmler, in another scene which would never have happened in real life, informs him prior to his meeting with Wilhelm II that he will inform the Kaiser that Hitler will restore his throne but that this is a ruse intended only to flush remaining German royalists out into the open so that they can be dealt with. Brandt does not keep this secret, being already in the midst of a conflict of loyalties concerning his affair with Mieke. Once Himmler has left, Mieke confronts the Kaiser out in the woods while he is chopping wood (which actually was the Kaiser’s primary pastime during his exile) and reveals herself as the British spy. However, she was not ordered to kill him but rather to pass word to him that the British would offer him a safe haven in England and the restoration of his throne after the Allies win the war. The Kaiser can only marvel at the absurdity of the situation; after twenty years of waiting receiving two offers for restoration in a single night, neither of which he can accept.

The last act of this drama plays out though as Mieke is discovered by the SS and Brandt must decide to serve his country or save the woman he loves. He proves Mieke right as she had previously told him that he was “the exception” among the servants of the Nazi regime rather than the rule. In a move that must surely win over some republicans, at least momentarily, the Kaiser, who had collapsed with heart problems, helps Brandt get Mieke to safety under the guise of taking him to the hospital. At the very end, we see that Brandt was not found out for what he did and that Mieke got away to England, carrying his child. Kaiser Wilhelm II, unfortunately, did not long survive the point at which these fictitious events are to have happened but that is not dwelt upon and that is fine. They did end the film with the old Kaiser being counted among the ranks of the “good guys” which is more than most monarchists would likely expect, particularly concerning the rather thorny issue of the last German Kaiser and his attitude toward the Jews.

On the whole, I thought the movie was very good and well worth watching but, personally, almost solely for the purpose of watching Plummer portray the Kaiser which I thought was the most well done, the most accurate and the most interesting. The rest, I could frankly take or leave. The romance just seemed to happen for no reason other than first-sight physical attraction and seemed to go way too far way too fast. It didn’t make sense to me. Likewise, while there was some real suspense to see what would happen, there was certainly no real mystery as to who the spy was and her being Jewish seemed a bit like unnecessary pandering. Doubtless she would have been in just as much danger for being found out as a British spy as she would be for being Jewish. At this early stage of the war, perhaps even more so. The Himmler visit was ridiculous but I suppose I should not complain given that it made the Kaiser and his household look very good in comparison.

It does contain a little naughty language and a couple glimpses of brief nudity so, again, not for the underage of residents of Kansas but I recommend it simply for the very accurate and sympathetic portrayal of the Kaiser, accidental though it was on the part of the filmmakers. I also thought the portrayal of Princess Hermine by Janet McTeer was excellent and pretty historically accurate as well. They showed the Kaiser as a good man, unjustly maligned, haunted by a terrible past that had been laid at his doorstep and who firmly believed in the righteousness of the Christian monarchist cause. They showed the Princess Hermine, likewise, as a good Christian woman of the Prussian aristocracy who had pinned her hopes for her husband on the Nazi regime and who wanted to believe the best about them until coming face to face with the ugly truth in the person of Himmler. Anyone interested in the Kaiser and particularly his time in exile should certainly give it a viewing. I am glad I did.
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