Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Monarchist Hero for Today

Picture in your mind (I doubt it will require much imagination) this scenario which I certainly see. You have a European country, a monarchy, which seems to have had it. The country is being overrun by foreign invaders, the people are demoralized, the religious leaders seem to be as often as not taking the side of the invaders, your monarch does not seem to be much of a monarch, inspires no one and seems more intent on simply securing a comfortable life than saving the country. The populace is divided and many people seem to simply be looking out for their own selfish interests and not for their society, their nation, as a whole. If you see the things that I see, you might think I am talking about any number of countries today. The Kingdom of Sweden might be a good guess. However, I have no doubt some of you already know that I am actually describing the Kingdom of France in or about 1429 AD. It certainly seems highly reminiscent of the present day in a number of ways, though just as certainly radically dissimilar in more.

France was in a state of crisis and a great and ardently monarchist, pious champion stepped forward to save it. That person was, of course, an illiterate, teenage, peasant girl from Domremy in northeastern France. Acting on revelations from God, she went to the French monarch, King Charles VII; though she referred to him as the “Dauphin” because he had not been crowned and was, frankly, not acting very kingly; and told him that she was on a divine mission to see him become a proper King of France and to drive the foreign invaders (the English) from their sacred soil. The two spoke privately and the existence of God and some sort of divine intervention is absolutely the only rational, reasonable answer because, after a short, private, meeting between the two, Charles VII made this illiterate, teenage, peasant girl the commander of the armies of France with his blessing to go forth and meet the enemy, as it happened, the formidable English army besieging the city of Orleans. Joan, known then as the “Maid of Lorraine” or the “Maid of Orleans”, rallied the dispirited French, hurled herself into battle, was grievously wounded in the process, but won a stunning victory, smashing the English army and lifting the siege.

The war turned around, Joan and her army cleared the English from the Loire valley, saw Charles VII properly anointed and crowned in the cathedral at Rheims and then, after hitting a bit of snag at Paris, went on to further battles in the course of which she was captured by the forces of the Duke of Burgundy, sold to the English, put on trial by a Church court, declared a heretic and burned at the stake in 1431. In the aftermath, however, the English-Burgundian alliance collapsed, the Duke of Burgundy switched sides, the English were driven out of France and King Charles VII became the ruler of a united country. None of this would have been possible without Joan of Arc. Few dispute that had she not lifted the siege of Orleans, France would have been doomed. The traditional coronation solidified the loyalty of the people behind Charles VII and more than anything else, Joan of Arc revived the French national spirit which had completely broken down after so many years of fighting, so many internal divisions and a number of humiliating defeats at the hands of England.

All of this is clearly impressive but why does it make Joan a model hero for monarchists today? It seems to me, there are a number of reasons. For one, Joan revived the French national spirit, giving them back their proper sense of themselves as French, identifying with their nation and not simply their village, town or province which might just as easily belong to the English king as the French king of the Duke of Burgundy. She mad the French proud to be French again, made them believe in their unique identity and purpose. This is something, it seems to me, everyone needs more of today in practically every country. That goes for traditionalists, conservatives and right-wingers just as much as those of the liberal, leftist or revolutionary varieties. The left hates their countries for what they were, which is fine as they wish to destroy them anyway. However, the right tends to hate their countries for what they are and this is deliberate for you will hardly have much zeal to fight for the salvation of your country if you do not love it. Joan lived in what was possibly the darkest period in the history of France, she could have easily been discouraged, but she fought for the France that could be, that should be and looked beyond the divided, dispirited country that was.

Also, very much like today, Joan had to confront traditional institutions that were less than ideal. However, she had a quality that made her immune to the damage this could cause. Joan of Arc possessed a type of loyalty that seems exceedingly rare in this day and age, even among many who call themselves monarchists or royalists. The King she fought for was hardly inspiring by most accounts. Was he even the rightful king anyway? Plenty at the time would argue Charles VII had no right to the throne at all, perhaps because they believed in the legality of the claim of the child King Henry VI of England, which was not based on nothing let us not forget, or because they considered Charles VII to be of illegitimate birth. For them, his cousin, the Duke of Orleans (another Charles) was the legitimate heir to the throne. So you had an English child on one side with a treaty signed by the previous king of France that made him heir and on the other side the son of said king who many believed not to be his actual son at all. Joan did not get bogged down in all of that, though she had the benefit of divine revelations.

The primary point though is that Joan was loyal to a king who was, under the best of interpretations, not as loyal to her in return. If you only know the story of Joan of Arc from the numerous films, you would probably be inclined to think Charles VII to be a real villain and regret the fact that Joan had fought so hard to see him placed on the throne. He is often portrayed as outright betraying her to the enemy, selling her out in order to be rid of her. People who have studied Joan of Arc far more than I have do not usually go this far but will say that it remains essentially unknown why Charles VII did not do more to try to save her. Personally, I see no evidence that the King set her up to be captured but neither did he go to great lengths to save her which is why I say he was not as loyal to her as she had been to him. Nonetheless, like the Biblical injunction to “obey not only the good and the gentle but also the harsh”, this did not matter to Joan. She never faltered in her own loyalty, she fought the battles that made it possible for the king to do what he needed to do and she urged him toward the proper course of action but her loyalty did not depend on the King acting as she saw fit or of him reciprocating her commitment.

You could say much the same for the relationship between Joan of Arc and the Roman Catholic Church. She was to her last breath utterly devoted and faithful to the Church which persecuted her, falsely accused her, condemned her and finally sent her to a fiery death. In the years that followed her verdict was overturned by the Church and the bishop who presided at her trial was excommunicated but this was all after the fact (and it still took 500 years to have her canonized, which is rather lengthy even by Catholic standards). It could have been no comfort to Joan at the time and yet, even while surrounded by Catholic clerics and scholars, most presumably in sympathy with the foreign invaders of France that Joan was fighting against, she still maintained her belief in God and the Church of which her beloved country was the “Eldest Daughter”. In an even more perverse way, we often see this today and Joan of Arc sets the example of being faithful even if those charged with upholding that faith are extremely unfaithful.

Joan of Arc had her priorities in order; to restore the king, expel the foreigners, unite the country and obey God. If you believe (and I do) that she was on a divine mission from God, this means that these were also the priorities of the Almighty, which is something anyone claiming to be any sort of Christian should take very seriously. She did not hate the English, she pleaded with them to leave peacefully, even to join with her in fighting heretics and unbelievers, but she was adamant that France belonged to the French and not to the English. The wellbeing of her people was more important to her than the wellbeing of foreigners. She fought for her king, even if he was not the ideal monarch. I am sure it would have been easier to fight for someone like King Louis IX but a St Louis is rare, Charles VII was the man God had placed in her life. She fought for him anyway and if he or the Church did not do what they were supposed to, that was up to God to deal with. All she could do is show them the way and that is exactly what she did. This is important for monarchists today to learn from. If you are not happy with modern monarchs currently reigning or in exile, I sympathize but a King Edward III, Louis IX or Otto the Great are rare and if you are waiting for the ideal king to come along and save civilization for you, I am afraid you will be waiting for a very long time.

Joan of Arc did not wait. She took action. But, you may be saying, she was a saint and had God on her side. True, but who is to say God is not on your side too? God spoke to Joan of Arc, God may be speaking to you too but you just are not LISTENING!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this, indeed I think people are far more willing to just complain than actually win just because the battle is looking bleak. Were this to happen throughout history, humanity would probably not even be civilized in the first place. I will admit it is very discouraging when since WWII ended only two monarchies (Spain and Cambodia) have been restored one the latter doesn't give us a great example to follow, but this is why we need to fight and work to win others to our side and learn history and everything of this nature so we can actually restore the world to something resembling the its rightful state.


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