Monday, December 8, 2014

Anniversary of a Greek Tragedy

On this day in 1974 was held the last referendum on the subject of the Greek monarchy, reaffirming the abolition of the institution which had actually taken place effectively some time before. HM King Constantine II had already been overthrown in a coup and replaced by a military junta which held its own staged referendum to abolish the monarchy as a way of putting a “democratic” face on their treason. However, after the junta was overthrown all of its legal rulings were declared invalid and so, in order to keep up the pretense of democracy, it was necessary for the new ruling elite in Athens to stage another referendum to verify the abolition of the monarchy. The result was, not surprisingly, a considerable majority of a little over 69% voting in favor of the republic that then held power. Was this a “free and fair” expression of the will of the Greek people? Of course not, even if there was no chicanery in the voting process (which is highly unlikely to say the least), both sides were not given a fair hearing by the public. The exiled King Constantine II was not allowed to return to his homeland to make his case and campaign on his own behalf. So, only one side was really allowed to be heard.

In this manner, the vote was reminiscent of the referendum which replaced the former Emperor, Bao Dai, as “Chief of State” of Vietnam with his Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem as the first President of what then became the Republic of (South) Vietnam in 1955. There too a vote was held in which the former monarch was not allowed to make his case to the people and in which the voting process was controlled entirely by one side. Again, in Vietnam, it is no surprise that the result was an overwhelming victory for President Diem with even many of his sympathizers admitting that the referendum was more of an exercise of power than a legitimate reflection of the will of the people. Still, given that the Emperor was known for his past associations with institutions officially on the “naughty list” of respectable world opinion in 1955, such as French colonialism and the Empire of Japan, even many monarchists would, it seems, have to agree with prevailing opinion amongst the republicans that it did not matter too terribly much because Diem would have won the vote anyway, though perhaps by not so ridiculously large a margin, if it had been held absolutely fairly. Can the same be said for Greece though?

After all, unfortunate as it is, Greek kings being overthrown was hardly something new, it had practically become a tradition in itself. The King would be overthrown, the state of affairs in the country would become worse and in the end there would be a referendum and the King would be restored again. It was also rather unusual that the military junta did not legally abolish the monarchy outright. Effectively, they operated as unwanted, un-appointed regents of the absent King across the Adriatic in Rome. He was even paid, though it was a mere pittance as the colonels deducted the cost of maintaining all of the royal properties in spite of the fact that the King was not allowed to use any of them. They held their coup in 1967 and it was not until 1973, one year before their own overthrow, that the junta held the referendum which officially abolished the Greek monarchy and replaced it with the Hellenic republic. King Constantine II had tried to restore himself less than a year after his initial removal but the whole plan was badly botched and came to nothing. After the referendum, also within the year, a group of admirals tried to launch a royalist coup of their own but it too failed and King Constantine himself made no effort to take advantage of it.

One of the problems that arises in judging just how true a reflection of the popular will the referendum was has its roots in determining how effective all of the anti-monarchy propaganda was that was fed to the Greek public. The leader of the military junta, George Papadopoulos, had accused King Constantine of being the worst sort of character imaginable, going to plainly absurd lengths to link him to every sort of crime and every sort of criminal any decent person would naturally despise. If the public believed any of what Papadopoulos told them, they would have thought King Constantine was in league with malevolent foreign powers looking to exploit them, all the way down to plain murderers, traffickers and other criminals. Did anyone actually believe this? It seems impossible to think so, certainly for anyone who had any knowledge of the King and Queen at all.

If anything, perhaps stung by the failed counter-coup of December 67, the King took far too passive a part in the efforts to effect his own restoration. He considered that the changes effected by the junta were all illegal and invalid and that he was still the King of the Hellenes and that he would soon be called back to either resume his reign or at least participate in the campaign ahead of the referendum. However, he was never called and events plowed ahead without him under the leadership of the head of the interim government, former Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis. The case of this one politician is highly illustrative of what things were like “on the ground” in Greece prior to the infamous referendum of 1974. It was widely said that Karamanlis had no opposition to King Constantine II returning to reign again at all but that he did have a very, very strong aversion to his mother Queen Frederika. A popular phrase was that the only thing Karamanlis held against King Constantine was that he was Queen Frederika’s son.

Queen Frederika of Brunswick had first earned a fearsome reputation during the civil war because of her strident anti-communism. Funded generously by wealthy American friends she established the Royal Welfare Institute to care for orphans being created and victimized by the communists. Not content to sit idle, she went out to the front lines herself to rescue these children whose parents had been killed or who had abandoned them to join the communists. Originally, she was quite popular, but by 1967 she had become the female version of the bogey man of the Greek Royal Family. Being from Germany and a fierce anti-communist she was, of course, accused of secretly being a Nazi as well as a tool of exploitation by greedy American capitalists because of her many friendships with people in the United States. She was blamed for anything unpopular with an ill-advised trip by King Paul and herself to Constantinople in 1952 being one well-known example. Again, she had once been very popular but by the late 60’s it was no longer fashionable to be anti-communist or pro-American and Queen Frederika was seen as both as well as having a reputation for being domineering and independent that made those with power suspicious of her. Needless to say, she featured heavily in the campaign propaganda for the republicans, “warning” Greeks that a return of the monarchy would also mean the return of the now vilified Queen Frederika.

It is both sad and disgusting that King Constantine II was pushed by this to practically denounce his own mother, trying to reassure Greeks through his supporters on the ground that the Queen Mother would not be invited to return if the monarchy was restored. He also apologized profusely for any mistakes, real or perceived that were committed during his reign. As we know, it was to no avail and Greece was proclaimed anew a republic. The result was not that dissimilar to what it had been in the vote held by the colonels and this has caused some to judge that it was probably an accurate reflection of the public mood. However, even if that is so, it still does not make it just. The republican side used every sort of disreputable scare-tactics, outright lies and pandering to popular xenophobic and bigoted sentiments to help their cause while the King was not even allowed to set foot in the country to make his case in person. If he had, it seems very likely that the good-natured monarch, his beautiful queen-consort and charming children could have easily won over the public and, though I am loath to say it, perhaps even reassure them that the Queen Mother would stay away given that the government managed to convince them that she rode a broomstick and ate small children. The fact that the junta failed and was overthrown should have been enough to convince reasonable people on its own to go back to the way things were before, just as the sad state of Greece today should be enough to convince people that a real and fundamental change in Greece is necessary and not simply a continuation of the rotating system of political elites into elected office.

The referendum held on this day in 1974 was unjust in a variety of ways. It should be overturned without delay. My friendly, unsolicited, advice to Greece today would be this: toss out the lot of the political establishment in Athens, restore the monarchy, leave the European Union, restore the drachma and start to make investment in Greece attractive again. You might also want to keep an eye on that rather unsavory Erdogan fellow too…

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The USA, Monarchy and America-Bashing

Whenever British royals visit the United States you can count on two things happening; proletarian preaching from the Yankee Doodle dandies about the glories of republicanism and how absurd having royals is (have fun counting down until someone says, “We fought a war to get away from this sort of thing” -someone says it every single time and still thinks they’re oh-so-clever) and then, in reaction to this, you have the other side retaliating with tirades of anti-Americanism, ranting about how the United States is the most terrible country in the world and the greatest plague to the monarchist cause ever. All the while, of course, the royals themselves invariably behave in the most well-mannered and friendly way possible and while the American leadership tries to be good hosts (though certainly not always succeeding). This issue has been brought to my attention more than usual lately and, as I usually do, thinking about it long enough has caused me to consider the side opposite that I would normally take. Is the strident anti-Americanism of so many monarchists really justified? Has the United States really been that bad for monarchy around the world?

In the first place, I would have to say that even while agreeing with much of the content of anti-American complaining from monarchists, I have never, ever been fond of it. Even when it is entirely accurate, it still seems petty and hypocritical. It is, in a way, stooping to the level of the basest American republicans that so many monarchists despise. After all, what that imported Englishman Thomas Paine penned his famous tract, “Common Sense”, he appealed to emotion rather than reason and, lacking any rational, factual justification for their rebellion, the American patriots had no other recourse but to heap blame and point fingers at King George III. Furthermore, as has been pointed out here often enough, the United States would not exist as it is today without the support of monarchies. The Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of Spain were of the most direct assistance, while the Kingdom of Morocco boasts of being the first foreign power to recognize the United States. The Kingdom of Sweden claims to be the first nation to recognize the United States which was not engaged in the conflict that bore it out. Empress Catherine the Great of Russia said that she would sooner commit suicide that recognize American independence if she were King George III but, as she was not, the Russian Empire also made haste to recognize the new republic. King Frederick the Great of Prussia even sent George Washington a ceremonial sword as gift (perhaps he heard that some American monarchists speculated about making his brother King of America).

The strident anti-American would then have to condemn those monarchies which not only helped give birth to the United States but without whose support American independence could not have been won (much as the Yankee Doodle dandies hate to admit it). One should also keep in mind that, for all the radical rhetoric, the so-called American Revolution was hardly revolutionary at all. The firebrand republicans like Thomas Paine were useful to whip up the masses and make the rebellion seem justified but when it came to actual leadership, such rabble-rousers were kept far from the halls of power. Even the most radical of the “Founding Fathers”, Thomas Jefferson, kept in his “Hall of Heroes” at Monticello portraits of King Louis XVI of France and the self-made Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. There were Founding Fathers who were monarchists themselves at heart, the most notable being Alexander Hamilton. Men like George Washington and John Adams, once the war was won, could not hide their lingering attachment to the United Kingdom they had broken away from. The war deprived the British monarch of territory but not of his throne and there was no attempt to remake society in the way of the French or Russian revolutions.

Loyalists had to go of course (and almost all did) but those who were the elite before the war remained the elite after it was over. Also, unlike the French Revolution, there was no immediate urge to export the “American Revolution” abroad. There were those who sympathized with the French Revolution that broke out soon after and those who wanted to renew the war against Great Britain in solidarity with the French republicans but, as we know, that did not happen. In fact, America stopped payment of its debts to France on the grounds that the debt was owed to the King who had aided America and not the French Republic (while simultaneously making a trade agreement with Britain). The resulting French revolutionary outrage sparked The Undeclared War with France on the part of the United States. Clashes did not cease until the French Republic succumbed to the more realistic rule of Napoleon (who was also kind enough to give the USA a good deal on Louisiana). In 1812 there was the totally condemnable effort to conquer Canada but, after a good drubbing, the United States seemed to have learned its lesson even while telling themselves that they had not really lost.

Where America at least seemed to have the most impact on the replacement of monarchial government with republican ones was in Latin America. There was, after all, the Monroe Doctrine and the involvement of American officials (often Freemasons) in conspiracies to bring down the Spanish Crown in the New World. However, as reprehensible as these things are, the simple fact is that the United States did not have the strength to back up one word of the Monroe Doctrine and no amount of republican fervor from US envoys in Latin American countries could have accomplished anything were it not for the republican, revolutionary elements already there. The British Empire supported the Monroe Doctrine and had the Royal Navy to enforce it. Aside from native, revolutionary elements the success of republicanism in Latin America largely came down to official and unofficial support from the British Empire as well as, most significantly, chaos in Spain itself. The royalists had won in Mexico but the rising liberalism in Spain pushed Mexican conservatives into the pro-independence camp. The outbreak of the Carlist Wars also prevented the Spanish from being able to focus their strength on serious efforts to retake colonies that had been lost with the support of Britain which was anxious to break up the Spanish monopoly on trade with Latin America.

The United States was quick to recognize the independence of the Empire of Brazil but was certainly the decisive factor in the failure of the Second Mexican Empire. Yet, that situations presents anti-American monarchists with a unique problem. The rapidly growing power of the United States made it extremely difficult for any one European monarchy to oppose them outright but the one thing that would have broken up that power and saved the Empire of Mexico would have been the victory of the Confederate States of America. Support for the Confederacy is not unknown in monarchist circles but with the “Lost Cause” of Dixie so associated with slavery today, I have rarely seen any monarchists willing to say that Britain and France should have recognized the slave-holding southern states and helped the Confederacy win independence. As we can see, even when America has been wrong, it was rarely alone and seemed to have a way of exploiting situations so that an American triumph would be hard to condemn because so many would see the alternative as being worse or at least necessitating some very unpopular and even distasteful alliances. But, of course, distasteful alliances is what geopolitics tends to be made of. The United States has certainly made more than a few but then so has virtually every monarchy.

After clashing with Britain in 1812, America did not fight a monarchy again until the Spanish-American War. Many European countries did not like this and the German Kaiser even urged concerted action to, more or less, put the Americans in their place. However, none did so because, again, the British Empire decided it was wiser to support America rather than Spain which, still struggling with seemingly endless Carlist Wars, was a rapidly declining power. Around the same time there was also the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by American interests and that is something that Hawaiians certainly have a right to be upset about. Not too many do though as it is a very liberal state and has come to depend on the largesse of the government in Washington. Hawaiians are also a tiny minority in the state and in any democratic decision on the matter would be easily outvoted.

The next time the United States went to war with a monarchy (or monarchies) was in 1917 when America entered the First World War. This is a rather complex situation as President Woodrow Wilson (certainly one of the worst presidents in American history, whether one is a monarchist or not) is a perfect bogey man and many have heaped blame on him and America as a whole for ruining the Europe that was dominated by traditional monarchies prior to 1914. Unfortunately, this is also the beginning of what has become an obsession with the United States by many people beyond its borders. They make common cause with the Yankee Doodle dandies in at least one way; both like to portray the United States as the pivotal world power upon whom everything depends, one side just thinks that this has been good and the other thinks it has been bad. Sadly, I must disappoint both sides and say that the United States, certainly in 1917, was just not that important. In the first place, America was involved only in the last few months of the war and the primary rival to President Wilson in domestic politics, former President Teddy Roosevelt, would not have remained neutral but would have taken America into the conflict much sooner. Moreover, it was France and especially Great Britain which worked the hardest to get the United States involved in the war, helped just across the finish line by Germany with that ludicrous Zimmermann Telegram which no country in the world would have ignored. But, what about America and the monarchies of World War I?

As much fun as many have blaming the loss of every monarchy toppled in 1918 on America, the simple fact is that the USA had practically nothing to do with it. America did not declare war until late in 1917, after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, and by that time Austria-Hungary was already doomed. Britain and France had already made the agreements with the other powers and the ethnic minorities for the carve-up of Austria-Hungary before America was ever part of the picture. The same goes for the Ottoman Empire. In Bulgaria, the monarchy survived and in Germany it was the outbreak of leftist rebellions combined with the Social Democrats seizing the opportunity that brought down the Kaiser. Not one American or other Allied soldier had set foot on German soil when that happened and the greatest pressure put on Imperial Germany by the Allies was the Royal Navy blockade which had been going on since the start of the war. As for what happened at the Versailles Conference, Wilson certainly did his part to help make it the disaster it was but he was only one man among many and the other Allied leaders were perfectly happy to ignore his lofty, unrealistic preaching when it suited them. The Germans actually preferred to make peace based on his “Fourteen Points” but the Allies brushed most of them aside. The United States, lest we forget, was the only major Allied power that neither sought nor was given any territorial concessions and also the only one that did NOT endorse the Versailles Treaty. The idiotic Wilson thought it was swell but, thankfully, the United States Senate did not and refused to ratify it and America made a separate peace with the Central Powers later.

The United States, despite gaining no territory, certainly emerged from the war in a very enviable position. Having stayed out until the very end, it made a great deal of money selling all sorts of necessities to the warring powers and almost all of the Allies were so desperate for American money that they all indebted themselves heavily to the United States. For the British Empire, this situation reached critical mass during World War II. Those who decry how the United States surpassed the British Empire as the preeminent world power must face the fact that it was Britain which put itself in this position by mortgaging the empire to fight a war it could not win on its own. It is not a pleasant thing to ponder but the fact is that the British Empire could, possibly, have survived the First World War but not the Second. As it happened, the British government made the decision that destroying Nazi Germany was worth placing the Empire entirely at the mercy of the United States and President Franklin D. Roosevelt made no secret of his desire to see the British Empire come to an end.

American participation was not always bad for monarchy in World War II. American forces enabled the monarchies in The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and Norway to be restored or liberated. The Greek monarchy was restored (for the time being) and though the Italian monarchy fell it is one, for baffling reasons, which a fair number of monarchists seem ambivalent about. In East Asia, the American victory meant the doom of the restored Manchu monarchy but it seems to have few friends these days anyway. Korea became republican but even most Korean monarchists seem to prefer half an independent republic to a monarchy subordinate to the Empire of Japan. In Japan itself, it was the United States, mostly General Douglas MacArthur himself, which prevented the partition of the country (as the Soviets wanted) and the execution of the Emperor (which many in Washington and even some dissidents in Japan wanted). The monarchies of Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania and Bulgaria were doomed but this was part of a deal worked out as well between Britain and the Soviet Union and one must face the uncomfortable question as to whether Nazi or Communist domination of these countries would have been preferable. To jump back to East Asia for a moment, it is interesting to note that the one other independent monarchy in the region (besides Japan) was the Kingdom of Thailand which declared war on the United States but the United States never declared war on Thailand in return, considering the regime there illegitimate.

After World War II, the world was treated to a state of affairs not conducive to monarchy at all but dominated by a choice between being aligned with the United States or the Soviet Union. One need look no further than the fate of the Romanov dynasty to see that the monarchies of the world made the right decision in choosing the United States. As the era of colonial empires came to an end, there is much for which American policy can be justly criticized, probably the most blatant being the absolutely disgraceful betrayed of the Netherlands over Indonesia. However, of the major colonial powers of Britain, France and Portugal there was only one monarchy among them. In Indochina, the United States did not have clean hands in the fall of the Vietnamese monarchy (or rather the state which amounted to as much) but then, without American support, as was seen, the communists would have won and the monarchy would have fallen anyway. America had a hand in the (temporary) downfall of the Cambodian monarchy but, again, without America the ultimate communist victory would have brought about the same thing. The same goes for Laos where America’s struggle against North Vietnam at least delayed the fall of the monarchy as long as the war continued.

In Burma, it had been the British who deposed the last king and the downfall of the British Empire, while certainly assisted by the United States which was eager to jump on the popular anti-colonialism bandwagon and try to woo peoples away from Soviet Russia, it was the decisions of the British government and British people which made this possible. Britain had sold itself to America to fight World War II and may, perhaps, have forgotten the Biblical warning that “the borrower is slave to the lender”. Yet, even then, Britain may have been able to at least hold on to Africa where it not for the fact that after the war the socialists came to power in a big way in Great Britain and there is simply no way that the United Kingdom could afford an empire AND a social welfare state. It has become clear today that they cannot even afford a military and a social welfare state. The generous entitlements, benefits, welfare (call it what you will) most monarchies have in place today would, by and large, not be possible were it not for the United States protecting all of them and so permitting them to live in peace with only token military forces.

Monarchists who hate the United States today should, perhaps, get over their American obsession and focus their attention on the decisions of their own governments. As it stands today, practically every monarchy in the world has availed itself of the protection of the United States. In a way, all depend on very republican Americans to be the defenders of monarchy in the modern world. The United States, through NATO (in which the USA accounts for the vast majority of NATO‘s military strength), has pledged to defend the monarchies of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and Spain. Japan also has a formal guarantee of American protection and, in fact, the United States is the one and only official ally Japan has in the world (something the radicals on the right and left in Japan like to ignore). In addition, among those listed as “Major non-NATO Allies” of the United States are the monarchies of Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Bahrain, Jordan and Kuwait. The Kingdom of Sweden is noticeably absent from both lists but, rest assured, Sweden has participated in NATO missions anyway and has “secret” agreements (don’t tell Wilson!) to avail itself of American protection in the even of an enemy invasion. Again, there is practically not a single monarchy in the world that is not either defended by America or defended by a country which is defended by America with the US having “defense understandings” even with such unpopular monarchies as Brunei and Saudi Arabia.

When it comes to the post-Cold War era, American actions in regard to monarchy are probably not so terrible as most would think (certainly if one listens to those who blame America for everything). Iran is an interesting case. America is often blamed by monarchists for the fall of the Shah, yet this is more a case of America not helping maintain the Shah as opposed to actively bringing about his downfall. However, there is no doubt that President Carter certainly should feel guilty about his treatment of such a stalwart American ally (-partisan remark about a certain US political party removed-). What does look absurd is that while monarchists blame America for letting the Shah be deposed, anti-monarchists are blaming America for having put the Shah back in power once before, something anti-American monarchists rarely talk about. After Carter, there was President Ronald Reagan who restored the authority of the Crown over Granada. I know, some British experts at anti-Americanism think that was outrageous but I do not see how. The Governor-General, the Queen’s representative on the island, had been taken prisoner so the authority of the Queen had effectively been removed by the communists and this was restored by the intervention of the US Marines. It doesn’t seem like something for a British monarchist to complain about to me.

Under the first President Bush the United States actually led a coalition to war to restore a monarchy, namely the Emir of Kuwait, to the throne he had been deprived of by the republican dictator Saddam Hussein. But, then we had President Clinton, the man who thought it would be a brilliant idea for the United States, which is pledged to defend the United Kingdom from foreign attack, to make as the one and only Major Non-NATO Ally in Latin America the Republic of Argentina. Yeah, …what a genius. Anyway, some have blamed the United States under the second US President in history to be impeached for the lack of royal restorations in the Balkans following the collapse of the Soviet Union. You will not find a greater critic of the Clinton family than myself, but this really seems to be stretching credulity. How was it that the United States actually prevented monarchies from being restored in Romania, Bulgaria or Yugoslavia? Aside from one contemptuous, haughty remark from Clinton’s Secretary of State, I have yet to be shown any real evidence of this.

The United States was certainly not occupying any of these countries, they had been isolated from all American influence for decades behind the “Iron Curtain” and all of their monarchs had been exiled. If there is any evidence of the United States actually taking action to prevent the return of monarchs to these countries and providing some sort of irresistible pressure to prevent restorations I have yet to see it. In most cases, there was no real change in the power elite at all, old communists were simply replaced by new communists who changed their affiliation to Social Democrats. I suppose the United States could have been more supportive or perhaps could have done what it never did throughout the Cold War and launch military invasions of East European countries to forcibly restore monarchs to power but that would seem an odd thing for monarchists to expect from the most preeminent republic in the world while not expecting the same action from actual monarchies. That is something which perplexes me to no end; the number of times I have seen monarchists acting outraged that the very republican United States is not more pro-monarchy than actual monarchies are. I find it baffling. Frankly, I am often amazed America is as friendly toward monarchy as it is given how hyper-egalitarian the American left is and how hyper-republican the American right is.

During the administration of Bush the Younger anti-Americanism became more popular than ever and perhaps, being so often in the minority, monarchists could not help but join in. On at least one issue, I had to change positions myself and drop some previous criticisms I had made against the US government after doing some research. For the Bush years, the two most controversial events were the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Personally, I supported the invasion of Afghanistan (have not supported lingering there for a decade) while viewing the Iraq war as unnecessary. However, for monarchist critics of these events, I fail to understand the complaints. Of course, there are any number of things to criticize about how things were done, the mission, whether it was in the interest of any particular country or how they impacted the politics of the region. However, strictly from a monarchist perspective both Afghanistan and Iraq had monarchist parties operating freely and competing in elections after the invasions where they had been totally suppressed before by the Taliban and Baathist dictatorships. Going from “no chance” of a restoration to at least a “slight chance” of a restoration seems like positive movement to me. In the case of Afghanistan though, many have and continue to repeat the accusation that the United States prevented a restoration of the monarchy when everything was in place for this to happen. I confess to raging about this one myself. However, I was wrong. The simple fact is that the reason the monarchy in Afghanistan was not restored was because the King did not wish it so. The United States had been very friendly with the King in the past and gave a great deal of support to people who claimed to be monarchists in Afghanistan. However, when approached the King said he had no desire to be King of Afghanistan and that was the end of it.

The bottom line is that the United States attracts a great deal of criticism simply for being powerful, just like others that have gone before them. Long-time readers will know that I hate the blame game and believe that in the vast majority of cases we are all the authors of our own misfortunes. Some like to bash America simply because it is an inviting target. Countries complain that they cannot take any action on the world stage without America’s permission, yet, when pressed, they admit they really don’t want to take any action anyway. Many countries complain about America meddling in the affairs while taking for granted American subsidy and military protection. In other words, “shut up and give us your money”. However, all of the monarchies which have to at least take the wishes of America seriously are only in such a position because of past decisions they themselves made and which they go on making today.

I have heard it said that America exerts undue influence on other countries because they are so indebted to the United States. My first reaction to that would be, then don’t borrow so heavily from one country, don’t start wars you cannot finish without having to put your fate entirely in the hands of a foreign power. However, most know that the United States itself is a deeply indebted country, about $17 trillion in the red at least count. Do you know who America owes most of this money to? Nope, WRONG! It is not China, the two biggest sources of borrowed money for Washington DC is the United Kingdom followed by Japan. Does anyone think the British or Japanese are exerting such influence in this way to control the actions of the United States? Are Americans just the helpless puppets of the money-lenders in London and Tokyo? If they are, they have an odd way of showing it. The truth is, no monarchy is being “held back” by the United States. The United States is currently protecting more monarchies than probably any country in history. It would like nothing better than to see these countries shoulder more of that burden, to become more militarily powerful. In regards to Japan, the United States has been urging the Japanese to strengthen their military for decades. For the British, the greatest block on military strength has been the fault of extremely expensive entitlement programs. And for Britain, the idea that the UK is the lapdog of the US, suffering under Yankee rule, is rather disproved by the fact that there have been occasions when the US asked for British help and Britain said, “no”.

Monarchists, in my view, need to be more realistic about the world we live in, a world born out of World War II, a conflict which started in London and Paris and not Washington DC (though Roosevelt certainly took full advantage of it). Currently there is no monarchy that is anywhere near close enough to being able to take a leadership position in the world comparable to the United States, mostly due to past actions in regards to the world wars. If monarchists are unhappy with this state of affairs, then we must ask ourselves who would be most likely to have such a dominant position if not the United States? I doubt anyone would imagine that Communist China would be prepared to give war guarantees to most monarchies in the world. And if none of the alternatives seem preferable then the only solution is not to complain, not to antagonize but to reassess priorities. Make the tough choices to grow the economy, put more money into the military and be more assertive on the world stage once you have the strength to back it up. Blaming America for all and sundry will get you nowhere and being a constant annoyance to the most powerful country in the world is hardly helpful to the monarchist cause. What would be helpful is if more monarchists were just as proud and just as assertive about their own countries and their own system of monarchial government as most Americans are about their own model. Rather than give Americans doubts about the wisdom of standing guard for the monarchies of the world, welcome it and welcome American friendship while using the safety that shield provides to rebuild, reorganize and grow stronger until the great day comes when it is no longer necessary.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Savoy-Bourbon Reconciliation

In response to a question from a concerned reader, I will be addressing here the relationship between the House of Savoy and the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies. Evidently, some anti-Italian, anti-Savoy people have been spreading some misinformation on this subject, suggesting that there was never any reconciliation between the Bourbons and Savoys and that nothing improved for the Bourbon Two-Sicilies family until the unlawful creation of the republic when they (unlike the Savoy) were allowed to return to Italy to promote their interests and the regional history of Sicily and southern Italy. These people then actually make the case that it was better that the republic be forced on the Italian people as they can see no farther than their own narrow interests and not recognize the wider damage to the monarchist cause this did. They seem to be doing this in an effort to carry on a quarrel that no one else is fighting, indeed that no longer exists. I want to be clear about this point because, while such alleged partisans of the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies miss no opportunity to slander and defame the venerable House of Savoy, I will not be responding in kind. I have too much respect and admiration for the Bourbon Two-Sicilies to sink to that level, I do not like monarchists "shooting inside the tent" and because I see no reason to carry on such bitterness. 

This is a point I want to make clear: such vitriol and misinformation is not coming from the actual members of the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies but rather from some of their misguided supporters who seem to want to tear Italy apart and go back to the days of the country being a patchwork of feuding states ruled by foreign powers. Let there be no misunderstanding and no misguided ill-will on this issue: neither of the two royals claiming leadership of the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies have ever called for the break-up of Italy, the secession of the south or the restoration of the pre-1860 Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies. No member of the family alive has ever done such a thing and it is completely untrue that the Bourbon Two-Sicilies only ever recognized Italy after the victory of a republic, in effect, recognizing a united Italy only so they could be free to try to divide it. On the contrary, the Houses of Savoy and Bourbon were reconciled years before the republican ascendency when the country was still the Kingdom of Italy as it had been originally founded.

It was something many had hoped for to further cement national unity, especially at a time when the Kingdom of Italy seemed to be moving up to the top tier of the great powers. Appropriately enough, the reconciliation started with a romance, a romance between a member of the House of Savoy and a child of the head of the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies. The couple in question was HRH Prince Eugenio, Duke of Ancona (son of the Duke of Genoa) and HRH Princess Lucia Maria Raniera of Bourbon Two-Sicilies (daughter of Prince Fernando Pio, Duke of Calabria -the last undisputed head of the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies). The couple obtained the permission of their parents to be married in 1938 in Munich, Germany (the mother of the bride was Bavarian). Prior to this happy occasion, Prince Fernando Pio came to Rome and was received by HM King Vittorio Emanuele III. He recognized the place of the House of Savoy and the authority of the Kingdom of Italy at that time. What did happen later, after the republican victory, was a further show of reconciliation between the two families when, in 1948, HM King Umberto II bestowed on the Duke of Calabria the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation, the oldest and most prestigious chivalric order of the House of Savoy. The Duke later reciprocated by bestowing on the exiled King of Italy the collar of the Constantinian Order. their most prestigious order of chivalry.

Obviously, these are not the actions of a man holding a grudge about things that happened in 1860 or a man who preferred a republic to the Kingdom of Italy. The House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies, under Prince Fernando Pio, Duke of Calabria, recognized the unified Kingdom of Italy, the authority of King Vittorio Emanuele III and later King Umberto II in their exchange of honors. The two families were reconciled and no member of the Bourbon Two-Sicilies family since has called for the break-up of Italy or wished for any internal strife for the Italian nation. That should be remembered by people on both sides of the issue. I hope that these facts will clarify the situation and allow for all Italian monarchists to come together in common cause against the republic that has shackled the Italian people in mediocrity for far too long. The past should be remembered, the past should be honored but it should not be used as a weapon to do damage to the present and future. Viva l'Italia!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Belgian Army in World War I

Among the countries involved in the outbreak of the First World War, each must bear some measure of blame for the disaster. That is, all but the Kingdom of Belgium who was guilty of no more than being a victim of geography. Belgium was a neutral country and took that neutrality seriously. Caught between the feuding peoples of France and Germany, the Belgians had no reason to trust one side more than the other. The Germans may have seemed the more intimidating but, in the past, it had been the French who seemed most eager to take Belgium for themselves. The Germans and Belgians had had their differences but their King, Albert I, had also married a Bavarian princess and she was quite popular. In matters of defense, the Belgian government trusted in its scrupulous observation of neutrality to protect the country and was extremely reluctant to spend money on the military. As usual, the Belgian government would have been much wiser to have listened more closely to the advice of their monarchs.

During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 King Leopold II had mobilized the Belgian army as a precaution in case either side violated Belgian sovereignty. Fortunately, neither did but many esteemed military figures, such as General Brialmont, were concerned enough to support King Leopold II in calling for military reforms. The most pressing was the need to do away with the old system of filling the ranks of the army by a lottery and replacing it with national conscription. The politicians saw this as unnecessary but there was finally sufficient support to get the appropriate bill passed which King Leopold II signed into law on his deathbed. Unfortunately, the planned enlargement of the army would not be completed by the time war came in 1914. The new monarch, King Albert I, was just as concerned as his uncle had been and was also just as frequently brushed aside. National defense was something the King naturally took more seriously as Belgian law stipulated that, in the event of war, it was the duty of the King to take command of the army. Also of concern was how rapidly military technology was changing. When the Belgians began building new, impressive fortifications at strategic points throughout the country, particularly the “National Redoubt” of Antwerp, the massive stone fortresses were already obsolete by the time they were completed due to the rapid advance in artillery technology.

In 1914 the Belgian national defense consisted of one field army made up of six divisions as well as garrisons for the fortified zones of Liege, Namur and Antwerp. The military plans in place for Belgium called for the army to fight defensively in these fortified zones and behind the three major rivers until such time as the larger military forces of those powers pledged to defend Belgian neutrality could arrive to turn the tide against the invader. The critical moment came on August 2, 1914 when the German ambassador informed the Belgian government that Luxembourg was being occupied and that German troops would soon be entering Belgium. The Germans pledged to respect Belgian property if no action was taken against them but that if the Belgians resisted that they would be treated as enemies. King Albert I did not hesitate, he would defend his country against any invader no matter how hopeless the situation seemed, famously saying that, “Belgium is a country, not a road”. On August 4, the King informed the British, French and Russians that German forces had crossed the Belgian border and appealed to them to come to the aid of Belgium in resisting the invader. The Belgians braced themselves for the first blow from the most advanced, heavily armed military on earth.

General Leman
The German First and Second Armies that crossed into Belgium expected that the Belgians would either not resist or that, if they did, could be easily pushed aside. Neither assumption was to prove correct. King Albert I deployed his forces as best he could; the 3rd and 4th Divisions were posted on the right along the Meuse River at Liege and Namur, the remaining four divisions would hold the gap between the Gette and Dyle Rivers to block the German advance on Brussels in the center and Antwerp to the north. As the Germans marched into Belgium the first major obstacle they encountered was the fortress of Liege, defended by General Gerard Leman, a tough Belgian soldier who had tutored King Albert I in the art of war. He faced 130,000 German troops with massive artillery support all under the command of General Otto von Emmich. When Leman refused to surrender, von Emmich launched a massive attack, sending nine brigades into the gaps between the Belgian forts. To his shock, every attack was repulsed with such heavy losses for the Germans that several divisions had to be withdrawn back to the Fatherland. There was even some panic in Aachen that the Belgians might counter-attack and invade Germany.

However, the German generals kept their cool, brought in immense numbers of reinforcements and outflanked the Belgians guarding the gaps, forcing them to retire. The forts continued to hold out and fire at the German lines and the Germans proceeded to the frustratingly slow task of reducing these forts one by one with their superior heavy artillery. It was not until August 17 that the last Belgian fort was destroyed. General Leman had been knocked unconscious in the rubble and made it clear that this was the only reason he had been captured and that he had not surrendered. General von Emmich was so impressed by the tenacity of his Belgian foe that he returned the generals’ sword to him and General Gerard Leman became the first bona fide hero of the Great War for the Allies. Fortress Liege had fallen but it had taken precious time that the Germans desperately needed for their plan to conquer France to work and the tenacious Belgian defenders had inflicted 42,712 casualties on the German invaders.

The next area of resistance was the Belgian forces assembled at the Gette River, 20 miles behind the Meuse. For the most part, they kept watch but when the Germans ventured too close the Belgians made them pay for it. The most famous battle in this sector was fought at Haelen in Limburg where four regiments of the German cavalry corps were soundly beaten by the Belgian cavalry division (including one battalion on bicycles) on August 12. It became known as “the Battle of the Silver Helmets” because of the numerous German cavalry helmets that littered the field when the fight was over. Ultimately, however, there could be only one outcome with the Belgians having what amounted to two army corps up against eleven corps for the Germans. Hard-pressed on their front and being encircled on each flank, the Belgians were forced to fall back toward Antwerp or risk being cut off from the “National Redoubt”. Fighting numerous rearguard actions, the Belgians fell back and the Germans marched into Brussels on August 20. That same day the siege of the fortress of Namur began which was isolated by the retreat of the army. Again, the Germans began the methodical task of blasting the Belgian forts to pieces one by one. Outranged by the German and Austrian guns, the Belgians could simply endure. The last fort at Namur was destroyed on August 24.

The Germans, already behind schedule, decided to bypass Antwerp and rush forward, ultimately meeting the British for the first time at Mons. However, they had to leave behind a considerable number of troops to watch the Belgians who had withdrawn behind the stout but outdated fortifications. Again, the Belgians had deprived the Germans of time and men at a crucial moment. King Albert I was not content to sit and wait and, although it cost his army, ordered two raids outside the city walls against the Germans in an effort to support the Allies fighting at the Marne. The Germans were forced to divert three divisions that were supposed to reinforce General Alexander von Kluck’s 1st Army. Once the German plan was finally frustrated at the battle of the Marne, they turned back toward Antwerp to finally deal with the Belgians once and for all. Again, huge guns were brought forward and a massive bombardment began on September 28, 1914.

It was clear immediately that Antwerp could not hold out and what help came from the Allies was too late to make any difference. King Albert gave the order to retreat in order to save his army. The forts would have to hold out to the last man, supported only by some Belgian artillery, British infantry and French marines while the army escaped up the coast toward the French border. The defenders fought like heroes, saving the army and the hope of their country in the process. Finally, on the last patch of unoccupied Belgian soil, King Albert I stopped his army at the Yser River and determined to retreat no more. It was a miserable, soggy place to fight a war. “Trenches” had to be built above ground because digging only uncovered water as little as 2-3 feet below the surface. The Belgian army was tattered, exhausted and disorganized but they fell into line and fought like heroes as the inevitable German attack came. This coincided with the famous “Race to the Sea” as the Germans and Allies tried to outflank each other, moving ever northward, to prevent a stalemate. Thanks in no small part to the tenacious Belgian defenders of the Yser, it was a race the Allies would win. Throughout October the Germans attacked again and again until finally, the Belgians were forced to flood the countryside but ultimately, against all odds, the Belgian army held its ground and the Germans finally gave up and began moving their attack southward toward the British at Ypres.

For the next three years the Belgians stood guard on the Yser, skirmishing with the Germans while rebuilding their army until it was even stronger than it had been before the war. It was a sector of waterlogged misery where perpetual dampness took a heavier toll than the enemy, leaving many men crippled for life. And so the war went on. King Albert I met to discuss strategy with the other Allied commanders, Queen Elizabeth cared for the wounded and Crown Prince Leopold served in the trenches alongside his future subjects. The little Belgian air force made its presence known with the ace Willy Coppens gaining fame with 37 victories and a reputation as the preeminent Allied “balloon buster” of the war (which is a more respectable feat than most realize as observation balloons were heavily guarded). In central Africa the Belgian Force Publique, operating out of the Congo under General Charles Tambeur, drove the Germans out of Rwanda and Burundi and captured the outer capitol of Tabora in German East Africa. In a gesture of solidarity with her allies, Belgium sent a contingent of troops, equipped with armored cars that had first seen action at Antwerp, to the Eastern Front to aid the Russian war effort.

In April of 1918 the Belgian right wing came under attack during the famous “Kaiser’s Offensive” or Operation Michael which was Germany’s last, desperate gamble to win the war at a stroke. Breaking through the point where the French and British lines came together, the Germans pushed outward to expand the breach, eventually making contact with the Belgians. A captured German soldier was found carrying orders which included the optimistic note that, “The Belgians are not used to being attacked in force; success is certain. They will be overthrown before they know we are there.” Once again, the Germans would pay dearly for underestimating the resolve of the Belgian army. On April 17, 1918 the Germans struck; the first Belgian outposts fell quickly, though it took considerable effort and much hand-to-hand fighting to accomplish this. The Germans reached the Belgian support line by mid-day but were halted by heavy Belgian artillery fire. Then, under a moving barrage, the Belgian infantry counter-attacked and began regaining their lost trenches. The Germans were stunned and the attack fell apart, some units retreating and others fighting on in isolated pockets. By nightfall the Belgians had recovered almost all of the lost ground and taken 800 German prisoners.

This engagement surprised observers on both sides as the Allies realized that the Belgians could attack as well as defend. Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme Allied commander, arrived to decorate the Belgian heroes and to confer with King Albert about the coming counter-offensive against the Germans. The Belgian King was made commander of the Flanders Army Group, responsible for the northernmost sector of the Allied advance that would carry on through November of 1918. Aside from the Belgian army, his command included the British II Army and French VI Army. From September 28-30 the Belgian divisions broke through the German lines, at one point advancing up to eleven miles. At the beginning of October, the Belgians attacked again and forced the Germans back another eight miles. The second phase of the Flanders offensive, later known as the battle of Thourout-Thielt was launched by King Albert on October 14, 1918. The engagement saw the Germans pushed out of Flanders for good. Supported by the French on one side and British naval fire from the coast, the Belgians steadily drove the Germans back. By October 17 the Belgians reached Ostend and the outskirts of Bruges.

King Albert I
On the Lys the Germans put up heavy resistance, showing that despite their weakened condition by this time, they were still a formidable foe. The Allied advance stalled but eventually began to gain ground again. After heavy fighting the Belgians gained a foothold on the east bank of the Lys and moved on to meet up with the French at Ghent. It was in that area that the Belgians remained until the Germans agreed to an armistice, ending the war. The Kingdom of Belgium had lost 44,000 men in the war as well as 9,000 civilians, far less than other powers, but a heavy toll for so small a country. However, the Belgian armed forces had done their country proud by their plucky resistance against unspeakable odds. The well-known phrase amongst the Allied countries of “Brave Little Belgium” was certainly well-deserved and no Belgian was more widely respected around the world than King Albert I for his calm, steady and courageous leadership during the greatest crisis his country had faced up to that time. He had been steadfast in the defense of his country and yet never vindictive. In fact, he was the only Allied leader to support the call by the Pope for making peace and had tried to arrange such a peace with Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary, but no avail.

After the war there was talk of Belgium being given Luxembourg or even control of Palestine but, in the end, Belgian territorial acquisitions were modest. In addition to reparations Belgium received mandates of Rwanda-Burundi in central Africa and the addition of the German territories of Eupen, St Vith and Malmedy, adding German as the third official language of the Kingdom of Belgium. Today, many remember the Belgians as some of the most unfortunate victims of the Great War, the small, peaceful country caught between warring powers. This was certainly true but the great accomplishments of the Belgian army should not be ignored. Faced with a hopeless situation, the Belgians mounted a stubborn defense that proved very costly to the Germans, throwing off their timetable and giving the Allies the chance to beat them at the Marne. Again, in the “Race to the Sea” it was Belgian tenacity that ensured the Germans did not gain a strategic advantage by turning the Allied flank. The Belgian army may have been small but it fought with immense courage, endured incredible hardships and played a decisive role in the ultimate Allied victory.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monarchist Monarchs, Part II

Continued from Part I

After the Revolutions of 1848 most monarchs in Europe adopted a hyper-conservative attitude. The last thing they wanted to do was take any unnecessary risks. Those constitutional monarchies which had not undergone the same level of upheaval also became even less sympathetic towards absolute monarchies that got into trouble. Yet, there emerged a rather unlikely champion of monarchy in those days; a former revolutionary and the nephew of the man who had conquered Europe and made the crowned heads quake: Emperor Napoleon III of the French. I confess that he is not one I enjoy including on such a list but he does, I think, warrant inclusion if for no other reason than his sponsorship of the restoration of the Mexican Empire under Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Of the two, Maximilian was the more honorable character but nonetheless it was Louis Napoleon who made the restoration of monarchy in Mexico possible. Did he do a great deal to inadvertently thwart the succession of this operation? Yes. Did he ultimately go back on his word and abandon Mexico to republicanism? Yes. But who did more? Many, many people thought that a good, solid monarchy would be just the thing to deliver Mexico from the chaos of a continuous succession of republican dictators yet no one else was willing to actually pledge the men and the money to bring about such a thing. Napoleon III did it and more than that, had things gone differently, he had planned to do more. He tried to learn from the mistakes of his uncle and he did manage to make himself acceptable as a member of the club of European monarchs. He was on decent terms with Austria and Spain, friendly with Italy and Queen Victoria of Great Britain was charmed by him. Even the Pope could scarcely say a bad word about him as it was only the presence of French troops that maintained papal political control over the city of Rome.

Unlike his uncle, Napoleon III preferred not to risk trying for major territorial expansion in Europe but to focus instead on spreading French influence abroad, which he did from the Americas to Africa and the Middle East to East Asia. This was certainly part of the reasoning behind his push into Mexico but it is also true that there was genuine concern for the Church and the conservatives in Mexico (particularly by Empress Eugenie) and an understanding that monarchy could make Mexico a stable and prosperous country. And who ever did more? What other world leader ever returned to a state after roughly forty years of republicanism and successfully restored a monarchy? It can truthfully and legitimately be argued that Napoleon III didn’t do enough or failed to see it through; but who did more? And his campaign to bring French-friendly monarchies to the New World did not stop at Mexico. He had big plans to bring to life new monarchies in South America as well, on the west coast, under appropriate princes. He had engaged in correspondence with local leaders towards the goal of making a “Kingdom of the Andes” from a base in Ecuador. If other (more legitimate) monarchs had gone to such pains rather than rushing over each other to recognize South American republics, the trend away from monarchy in politics might have died an early death. His biggest problem was that he was often too short-sighted in his foreign policy but he was also the victim of circumstances beyond his control.

While he certainly could have handled things better in regards to Mexico, the bottom line is that he did not just pull out when things got difficult. In fact, he was forced to pull out when his armies were on the cusp of victory. The life or death of the revived Mexican Empire ultimately depended entirely on the outcome of the American Civil War. The United States of America was never going to accept a French-backed monarchy in Mexico and France was simply not strong enough to win in a fight against the Union forces whose armies were vastly more numerous and much better equipped than his own. The only hope for success in the Mexican adventure was if the Confederates succeeded in winning their independence. Napoleon recognized this but knew that his support alone would not be enough to ensure a Confederate victory and while the British came close, they ultimately refused to get involved. Britain and France together might have ensured a Confederate victory and thus secured the safety of the Mexican Empire but as that did not happen, Imperial Mexico was doomed as soon as the Confederates were defeated. Napoleon III did not just retreat from Mexico, he was ordered to withdraw by the victorious Union forces and he had no other choice in the face of the overwhelming force the USA could have deployed against him.

So, in the end, the Mexican Empire fell and the French Empire fell not so long after. This saw the creation of the German Empire which ultimately produced a very monarchist monarch in the much-maligned German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Aside from his paranoid fear of Asians, Kaiser Wilhelm II demonstrated throughout his reign a strident commitment to monarchy and monarchial solidarity. From the earliest days of his reign he was always warning about the danger of republicanism and the need for monarchs to stand together in guarding against it. During the Spanish-American War he urged his fellow European monarchs to come together to aid the Kingdom of Spain and stop American expansion but he was ignored. He was aghast that the Russian Empire would ally with republican France and tried, though perhaps not in the best way, to bring Russia into alliance with the other major continental monarchies; Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. He was always talking about the rights and responsibilities of monarchs and the looming threat of republicanism. While he ended up being blamed for the calamity that was the First World War, the Kaiser himself tended to attribute the disaster to a lack of monarchial unity as demonstrated by his royal cousins the Tsar of Russia and King of Great Britain allying with republican France.

The First World War, as we have discussed here often (this year in particular), was a disaster for all involved and once it began there was no way that it could possibly have ended well. However, we can see that the Central Powers, under the leadership of the Kaiser, was much more intent on seeing the inevitable changes that would come about because of the war be on the side of monarchy. The survival of some monarchies certainly depended on an Allied victory but the Allies were not too concerned if emerging states were monarchies or republics. No such ambivalence existed where Kaiser Wilhelm II was concerned. Where German troops were victorious new monarchies emerged, all with German princes in charge of course. These included the short-lived Kingdom of Finland, the United Baltic Duchy, the Kingdom of Lithuania, the Kingdom of Poland and some sort of monarchy for the Ukraine, whether under a Hetman or an imported German prince or Austrian Archduke. There was even talk of putting one of the Kaiser’s son on the throne of Ireland if the Allies had been defeated. On the other side of the world, the government of the Republic of China in part justified its declaration of war against Germany by claiming that the Germans had supported efforts to restore the last Manchu Emperor to power. It was only because the Allies won that Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland all ended up becoming republics and the Ukraine was, of course, absorbed by the Soviet Union.

That issue, of course, brings up the one black spot on the monarchist record of the Kaiser; allowing the passage of Vladimir Lenin back to Russia. Even there, however, I cannot bring myself to be as critical of the Kaiser as others have been. For one thing, no one could have known how it would end up working out, the Kaiser had grave misgivings about it but Imperial Germany was in a fight for its very survival and it should, perhaps, not be so shocking that they would use any weapon in their arsenal, no matter how distasteful, to help ward off their own immediate destruction. It is also possible that some of the other monarchies, on the Allied side, might have survived a Central Powers victory. There were many who wanted to annex the Kingdom of Belgium and Grand Duchy of Luxembourg but perhaps this might have been avoided or at the very least perhaps they may have survived as a monarchy within the German Empire. The Kaiser was absolutely furious when his cousin the King of Romania entered the war against him and yet, once defeated, the King of Romania lost some territory and resources but not his throne. Likewise, while mostly assume (and probably legitimately so) that Serbia would have been annexed by Austria-Hungary it is at least possible that this might not have happened given how opposed the Hungarians were too it who did not want to see more Slavs in the empire to compete with them for political power. What we do know is that the downfall of the Kaiser meant republics in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and a monarchy without a monarch in Hungary.

The Kaiser was not alone in this of course, Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary (or Kaiser Karl I) was certainly devoted to the cause of monarchy and to seeing new monarchies emerge from the conflict but by the time these issues came up it was clear that it was the Germans who were driving force of the Central Powers war effort. Still, Emperor Charles deserves at the very least an honorable mention for his refusal to abdicate as well as his efforts to restore himself in Hungary. I have always been most impressed by those monarchs, be it the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary or the last Emperor of China, who actively worked for their own restoration. I wish more non-reigning monarchs displayed as much zeal. However, with the end of the First World War there also came an end to the dominance in Europe of traditional monarchies. The next historical period which had immense consequences for the cause of monarchy was World War II and in that conflict, in Europe, monarchs would not play a very prominent role. Asia, however, was a very different story. In Asia, republicanism was an alien and almost totally unknown concept until very recent history. Prior to World War I and the Russian Revolution and the creation of the French Syrian mandate, there was not a single republic on the entire Asian continent. That all began to change with the historically pivotal collapse of the monarchy in China, then came the Soviet victory in the Russian Civil War and the absorption of Outer Mongolia as a Soviet republic in all but name.

Communist expansion and communist subversion in republican China spurred to action the industrious Empire of Japan and during World War II there was no monarch whose forces displayed a greater commitment to the monarchist cause than that of His Majesty the Showa Emperor of Japan (better known as Emperor Hirohito in the west). Given the Japanese tradition, the Showa Emperor could not and did not go around expressing his views on monarchy in the same way that someone like the German Kaiser did. However, the entire imperial institution and the very monarchist culture surrounding the Emperor of Japan helped ensure that, more than any other power in World War II, Japan pursued a very pro-monarchist foreign policy. The biggest and best example of this was the key role of the Japanese in the restoration of the last Qing Emperor to the throne of the revived Manchu Empire (better known as Manchukuo though that is simply “Manchuria” in Chinese). That was not something that Japan really had to do, after the “Mukden Incident” the Japanese were in total control of Manchuria and could have done with it as they pleased but they did the right thing and restored the Manchu Emperor (PuYi) to his legitimate throne. Even more than that though, while some of the more disreputable characters involved did undermine it with their actions, Manchukuo was to represent a sort of “showcase” for monarchy in Asia as an example of righteous royal government and unity of the five races.

During the course of the war, everywhere Japanese forces went, support for monarchy followed wherever possible. China and the Philippines already had republican governments and Indonesia had no single royal heir but Japan restored the Manchu monarchy, allied with the Thai monarchy (though the King was absent at the time, being at school in Switzerland), kept in place the existing Malaysian monarchs other than a couple who were removed so that more legitimate monarchs could be restored and eventually Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were supported in asserting their independence under their traditional monarchies. In Burma there was no royal restoration, merely the declaration of an independent “State of Burma” but it is worth noting that the leader, Dr. Ba Maw, was the son of a staunch Burmese monarchist and was treated with very royalist pomp and ceremony. It is not unthinkable that a restoration might have occurred if Japan had prevailed in the war. According to one reader of this web log, some Japanese offered to make Sukarno the monarch of Indonesia but I have seen no confirmation of that.

We do know that Japan supported the Prince De Wang or Demchukdongrub as leader of an autonomous Inner Mongolia who had pan-Mongol monarchist ambitions and the Mongols were included in the list of titles of the Emperor of Manchukuo (as he was the heir to the title of “Great Khan of the Mongols” as well) so there is no doubt that a Japanese victory would have meant a monarchist revival in Mongolia to some degree (depending on how things developed with the Soviets). Japan did also consider, if it ever became possible (which it didn’t) creating an independent monarchy in Xinjiang (or “East Turkestan”) under an Ottoman prince. That would not technically have been an imported royal ruler either as the area was essentially the ancestral homeland of the Ottoman Turks before they moved west and occupied Anatolia. The farthest west Japanese speculation about monarchist alliances reached was Afghanistan where Japan had intermittent contact with Prince Sardar Mohammed Hashim Khan, uncle of the Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, though other than an exchange of moral support and some economic investment Japan was never able to do anything of any significance as far afield as Afghanistan. Naturally, national interest was involved in all of these moves as it was for France in Mexico and as it was for Germany in Eastern Europe but again, as in those cases, those who would discount these efforts must be asked; who did more? If the Japanese vision for East Asia had prevailed there would have been monarchies in Japan, Korea (though subordinate to Japan), Manchuria, at least Inner and perhaps even Outer Mongolia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, possibly Xinjiang and perhaps even in Burma whereas, the way things actually did work out, we have only monarchies in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia (plus Brunei to both lists) and Cambodia. And, while he was not involved in matters of policy, the devotion to the Showa Emperor was positively at the heart of this pro-monarchy mindset.

Sadly, since the end of World War II, monarchs have ceased to play an active role in foreign policy and the world stage has been dominated by republics. The relatively few monarchies that survived the disastrous Twentieth Century have become noticeably less assertive and virtually all depend on the United States to protect them against such enemies as the Soviet Union or Red China. In Europe, most have submitted to the leadership of the bureaucrats of the EU who have no time for monarchy and, one could argue, have even imperiled them by antagonistic expansion eastward, arousing the anger of a Russia desperate to prove its relevance. In these modern times, in this world setting, most monarchs have not been allowed to show any monarchist tendencies and have been raised up in an environment in which the elites of society and certainly education and media actively despise the institution. Yet, for all the criticism ardent monarchists often spout about their mostly power-less royal heads-of-state, one can still find clues that point to monarchist principles surviving in these frustratingly republican times.

While lacking the freedom and other advantages held by others on this list, one monarch who stands out today as a ‘monarchist monarch’ is none other than HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other Realms and territories. How can this be? Again, one must accept that grand, decisive actions are no longer possible for most monarchs, so subtle things must be looked at; the evidence is there. In areas where the Queen herself has final say, she has acted in various ways to show how monarchist she really is. One has been her treatment of royals who have lost their thrones but found a safe haven in Great Britain. The Queen has been very close and supportive of such former or would-be monarchs as King Michael I of Romania and Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia during their time in exile. Perhaps the best example is the treatment accorded to the deposed King Constantine II of Greece. It caused the British government some slight discomfort when the Greek usurpers in Athens protested so loudly at how the Queen continued to treat King Constantine II as if he were still a reigning monarch. This was most noticeable at Royal Family events in which the guests are seated by rank and at which King Constantine II was seated alongside his fellow monarchs. Yet, despite the protests from Athens, this was something the British government could do nothing about as it was a matter handled by “the Palace” and no one else.

As a devoted constitutional monarch, the Queen has certainly kept within her legal limits but within those limits she has shown herself to be as monarchist as a modern, European monarch can reasonably be. Sometimes this has been illustrated by what she has done and other times by what she had refused to do. When the Church of England started down the path of accommodation with modernity by allowing women into the clergy, the Queen stayed out of the matter but noticeably showed no disfavor toward those royals who could not stomach the changes and sacrificed their birthright by converting to Catholicism. As part of her recent Jubilee celebrations, when almost all the monarchs of the world came to congratulate her, some objected to the presence of certain African or Arab monarchs whose countries are not up to the liberal standards of human rights advocates. Yet, none were shown the door just as no British politician seemed willing to put human rights concerns ahead of good relations with republican dictators from Libya to China. However, I always thought one of the best examples of the monarchist sensibilities of Queen Elizabeth II to be something seldom remarked on, in fact, I have never heard of anyone else making the connection. That would be the funeral of King Baudouin of the Belgians.

The sudden death of who was then the longest-reigning monarch in Europe certainly came as a shock and his funeral was one of the most widely attended events for royalty from all over the world. Yet, aside from being well respected and such a familiar figure, a popular man and an accomplished monarch (his success in unifying a divided country caused King Juan Carlos of Spain to take him as his example), King Baudouin was also known as the only monarch in the post-war era to defy his politicians. A devout Catholic, King Baudouin had adamantly refused to grant his Royal Assent to a bill legalizing abortion in Belgium. Faced with a constitutional crisis, it made headlines all over the world when the government essentially deposed the King of the Belgians for one day in order to sign the bill into law without him. This made him rather unique amongst the crowned heads of Europe. And, when the King of the Belgians was called to his reward, many were rather surprised when Queen Elizabeth II appeared in Brussels for his funeral. Why was this so special you may ask?

To fully understand why this was so significant, a few things need to be kept in mind. For one thing, there had been, several decades before, some tension between the British and Belgian Royal Families. When the Queen’s own father, King George VI, had passed away, King Baudouin had refused to attend the funeral because of how his own father, King Leopold III, had been treated by the British during and immediately after World War II. Things had been improved since then of course, but still, it was there. Combine this with the fact that the Queen herself almost never attends any royal functions on the continent at all, invariably sending some other members of the British Royal Family to weddings, funerals or enthronement ceremonies. Why then did the Queen make an exception for the King of the Belgians? I cannot help but speculate that it had something to do with his willingness to defy his ministers over a cause that was just. King Baudouin was the one monarch who said “No” to the elected representatives of the people and lost his throne for a day because of it. Other monarchs would not do the same, indeed most European monarchs could not do the same, but he did and I believe that the Queen chose to break from her usual routine and attend his funeral, at least in part, as a mark of respect to this monarch who had refused to be a rubber-stamp.

In the past, monarchs had no real need to display overtly monarchist inclinations as monarchy was something so widespread as to be taken for granted. Later, when this was no longer the case, the game of power politics often meant that monarchies acted for short-term gain at the expense of the long-term strength of monarchy in general. Today, most are reduced to simply doing whatever they can to ensure that their own monarchy does not add to the tragically long list of monarchies that have fallen by staying in step with or at least out of the way of current popular ideas and political trends. What monarchists can do to help in the current situation is to be steadfastly loyal for, as kingdoms such as Thailand prove, even a monarch with little legal power can still exercise immense influence if the majority of their people faithfully support them. Real world political situations must also be taken into account to help ensure that the remaining monarchies of the world are revitalized and strengthened to the point that they are not under threat from hostile republics and not reliant on helpful or indifferent republics for their protection. If that can be accomplished, perhaps then we will see more ‘monarchist monarchs’ emerge again to help revive the cause of traditional authority around the world.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Monarchist Monarchs, Part I

I am often asked who my favorite monarch is and my reply is always the same; I could never pick just one favorite monarch and even then, some of those who are my favorites are not necessarily always the best. However, I can say with no fear of causing undue shock that my favorite type of monarchs are the most monarchist monarchs. By that, I mean those who have taken action in various ways to support not only their own monarchy but the cause of monarchy in general, whether by supporting other monarchies beyond their borders or supporting the principle of monarchy beyond the point that it would effect themselves directly. What follows is some favorite examples of such monarchs, though the list is not exhaustive of course and future posts may add to it. It also should be kept in mind that events (fate, the hand of God, time and chance etc) play a role in such things. There doubtlessly were and are monarchs who are just as monarchist as any on this list but who never had the opportunity to show it.

The start and spread of the Protestant Reformation was certainly a painful period for the western world with Christians fighting Christians as never before and thus also Christian monarchies fighting each other as well. Some monarchs embraced Protestantism while others opposed it and some peoples were inspired by it or perhaps simply used it as an ideological shield to actions they wished to undertake in any event, to rise up in rebellion against their princes. Such was the Peasant’s Revolt in Germany and later, encouraged also by economics, the Dutch Revolt in the Netherlands which was, at that time, ruled by the Spanish Hapsburgs. The Dutch rebels embraced republicanism, albeit republicanism of a very unique sort that most today would not recognize, though their greatest leader was a prince and one who came to Protestantism rather late in the game, perhaps as much to attract the support of Protestant powers as religious conviction. The primary enemy of the Dutch republicans was, of course, the man the were rebelling against; King Philip II of Spain. King Philip II of Spain also happened to be a very monarchist monarch.

Given the background just covered, one cannot attribute simplistic motives to the leaders of the time and King Philip II certainly had more than monarchist reasons for doing the things he did, yet monarchist they were nonetheless. A fought the Dutch because the were in rebellion against his royal authority, also because they tended to be Protestant and also because their form of government was scandalous to him. Not every monarch felt the same way such as Queen Elizabeth I of England who sent vital support to the Dutch republicans as a way of bedeviling her Spanish royal rival. King Philip II evened the odds by doing the same to his former sister-in-law by supporting rebels (though not republican ones) in Ireland against the English Queen. Once again, it also mattered that the Irish were Catholic and the English monarch was Protestant. King Philip II always sought to further the cause of Catholicism and to fight against the expansion of both Protestantism and Islam and some may wonder if this was not his sole motivation and any ideas he had about the importance of monarchy had nothing to do with it but the facts do not support such a supposition. As with everything, King Philip regarded Catholicism as inseparable from monarchy anyway.

However, King Philip II was a monarch who took royal power seriously (though he was no arbitrary tyrant as he respected the laws and traditions of his various domains). He was so staunch a Catholic that he considered even Pope St Pius V insufficiently zealous, yet he was himself at odds with the Supreme Pontiff on more than one occasion (though, fortunately he never took it as far as his father had). It is evidence enough that Philip II was a loyal son of the Church even when he was sometimes considered a papal adversary that even today the most zealous Catholics tend to take the side of the King over that of the leader of the Catholic Church. King Philip II was a Catholic champion but he was also a monarch who believed in monarchy and would not allow the Pope to diminish his own legitimate authority or shy away from opposing the Pontiff politically, though such occasions were very much the rare exception.

Political realities, religion and the principle of monarchy came together again when King Philip II sent Spain’s “Invincible Armada” (which turned out to be all too ‘vincible’) against England. There were numerous motivations for this but one was certainly the regicide of Mary Queen of Scots by Queen Elizabeth I of England. Putting a monarch to death was a shocking event and one monarch subjecting another to a trial and execution was perhaps even more so. The Scots Queen was beheaded in 1587 and the Spanish Armada set sail the following year which, as we know, was unsuccessful in its aim of invading England and overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I.

The Dutch, however, were not without monarchist monarchs of their own in several of the Princes of Orange. They were not actually monarchs of course at the time but I always tend to think of them as monarchs who had not yet come into their own. Fairly early on there emerged two factions in Dutch politics; the republican party and the Orange party which was distinctly royalist. Prince Frederik Hendrik began to really make the Dutch republic a monarchy in all but name. He was made a knight of the Garter by King Charles I of Britain and the English Princess Royal was married to the heir of the Prince of Orange, Willem II. It is hard to choose a favorite of the two of them but for monarchist credentials I think I would have to go with Prince Willem II of Orange rather than his father. His father was, of course, a giant figure in Dutch history, a masterful military commander as well as an astute statesman but it was Prince Willem II who actually took to the field to fight for the idea of a Dutch monarchy and a powerful, Calvinist (because he saw himself as a champion of his religion just as Philip II of Spain did) ‘Kingdom of the United Netherlands’. Of course, each side also had their confederates in Britain as the English Civil War was the pivotal monarchy vs. republic contest of the time. Prince Willem II naturally favored the side of his father-in-law and thus there were many close ties between the Orange party in the Netherlands and the royalist Cavaliers in England. Prince Frederik Hendrik had also supported King Charles I in his domestic troubles and had even considered bringing his highly professional and experienced Dutch army to England to help the royalists win their war.

However, it was Prince Willem II who actually went the furthest, even to war before his all-too-short life ended to advance the cause of a Dutch monarchy while also doing all he could to help English royalists. His widow, naturally, also gave aid and shelter to her brothers King Charles II and the future King James II. The English dictator Cromwell even went to war with the Dutch republic and at least some of the motivation behind that was because so many English royalists were harbored there and the House of Orange had been so supportive of the Stuarts (which sound ironic given what would happen later). Also worth mentioning, in connection to the English Civil Wars, was another monarchist monarch very far removed from the British Isles; Tsar Alexis I of Russia. He was only the second Romanov to rule Russia and was a great monarch all around. Tsar Alexis I presided over the last flowering of Muscovite culture before the campaign of westernization, he was a powerful monarch, a devout Orthodox Christian and it was he who took the first steps towards modernization though in a more limited and conservative way than Peter the Great would. He tried to rebuild the Russian economy after a costly war with Poland by promoting trade. Yet, though it certainly was not beneficial to his country, Tsar Alexis put principle before profit and cut off all trade with England after the regicide of King Charles I. The fact that someone so far removed from the issue that he could do practically nothing else about it always impressed me all the more. Tsar Alexis I had no real vital interest in what happened in Great Britain and any actions he took would have little impact (the English Commonwealth certainly did not suffer unduly for lack of trade with Russia) yet, he nonetheless did what was in his power to do to show that he would have nothing to do with a regime which had murdered its legitimate, anointed sovereign.

The one other monarch which probably did more than any other to support the cause of monarchy was the great King Louis XIV of France. As a man who was not above getting his hands dirty if it would advance French interests, his reputation was not so pristine as the Tsar of Russia (he did deal with Cromwell, as did the Dutch but that was the republican faction rather than the Orange party), yet King Louis XIV was certainly a big believer in monarchy and the sacred nature of monarchy which anyone who knows anything at all about him can attest. He also gave support to the British Stuarts in their hour of need but I think what stands out as the most laudable thing he did for the cause of monarchy came after the Stuart restoration. In the end, it was a promise he was never called upon to fulfill but he did promise his support and even a French army should it be necessary to keep King Charles II on his throne and defend the British Crown from republican traitors. It was also thanks to the subsidy King Louis XIV that Charles II had the funds to dissolve Parliament and rule in his own right for the final years of his life. This was not insignificant as it prevented Parliament from being able to force the King, by the power of the purse, to disinherit his brother and place the succession under the control of Parliament. This would have effectively meant that the Crown was in the gift of the Parliament and that the King of England, Scotland and Ireland reigned ‘by the grace of Parliament’ rather than “By the Grace of God” as is right and proper. When King James II was overthrown, Louis XIV gave him shelter and support and finally French troops to aid in his attempted restoration in Ireland, which, as we know, ended in failure at the Boyne. Practical reality finally compelled Louis to come to terms with Britain’s new Dutch monarch but while he was obliged to withdraw most of his support from the exiled James II, he never forced him to leave the country and even tried to find a crown for him in Poland but James refused the offer.

After the English Civil Wars there was not much opportunity for a monarch to prove their monarchist zealousness in the way we are looking at here for quite some time. The next major clash between republicans and royalists came with the American War for Independence and Britain had been riding high for so long that most were not unduly distressed to see Britain humbled. In some ways it seemed as though the crowned heads of the world were eager to embrace the new American republic. The French Revolution was another story but in that regard it is still difficult for individual monarchs to stand out since almost all were united in their opposition to the monstrous French regime. After the rise of Napoleon, almost every monarchy was also forced at some point to come to terms with the new regime in France. It is for that reason that one monarch stands out, to me at least, and that was the much maligned Tsar Paul I of Russia. He was a staunchly monarchist monarch which was even displayed when he did finally come around to recognizing Napoleon. Paul I was a monarchist very much of the legitimist variety and it was this that ultimately led to his falling out with the Allies and why many have accused him of having an erratic foreign policy (often cited amongst the evidence for his being insane).

Naturally, he detested the French revolutionaries and was prepared to give any assistance he could in thwarting them. However, when the struggle was well underway he became disenchanted with his allies, such as Britain and Austria, due to their lack of legitimist principle. For example, when Napoleon conquered northern Italy and destroyed the Republic of Venice (and eventually every ancien regime in Italy) Paul I found it shocking that the Austrian Empire would come to terms with what was then still the First French Republic (which had the blood of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on its hands) to divide the territory of ruined Venice between them. Later, after the French were driven out, Austria kept northern Italy for itself rather than restoring it to its pre-revolutionary Italian rulers. Even more bitter to Paul was the case of Malta as Tsar Paul I had long had a great love and fascination for the Knights of Malta and their heroic exploits. The French had conquered the island and the British had aided the Maltese in overthrowing them but then the British had kept Malta because of its strategic location whereas it was the dream of Tsar Paul to see the island restored to the Knights of St John. Of course, there were also other examples, but these are indicative of why the Russian Tsar fell out with his allies and even pondered sending a Russian army to evict the British from India. It helped him come to see Napoleon as perhaps not that much worse than the other rulers in Western Europe and he reasoned that his elevation to emperor was at least a move back towards monarchy and away from revolutionary republicanism. For all of that, Tsar Paul I has always seemed to me one of the most staunchly monarchist monarchs of the early Revolutionary-Napoleonic period.

Thankfully, in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, there was a somewhat greater degree of monarchial solidarity in Europe as most everyone recognized that it was in their own interest to maintain the principle of monarchy. Since republicanism threatened everyone, it was more common to see monarchs coming to the assistance of each other when they were threatened. Yet, there were also disagreements as to what formula for monarchy was best to preserve the institution. This was on display in civil wars in Spain, Portugal and Italy in particular. As constitutional monarchists battled against absolute monarchists many, particularly the powerful British Empire, tended to favor the constitutional monarchists. Many absolutist-sympathizers of course have very uncharitable views about Britain because of this, yet it should be kept in mind that many people viewed constitutional monarchy (and Britain was the most shining example) were more conducive to stability and the long-term survival of monarchy than absolutism was. This was the view that absolute rule invites rebellion and disorder, possibly resulting in the overthrow of monarchy and the victory of republicanism, while constitutional monarchy was able to give the people enough of what they wanted to keep them peaceful and orderly and to take out their frustrations at the ballot box rather than barricades in the streets. Give them elected representatives, was the idea, so that they have politicians to hold to account rather than blaming their monarch for any misfortune that may come along.

This issue remained at the forefront and particularly came into view with the outbreak of the Revolutions of 1848. In that time of crisis, many monarchs had to fight to maintain their thrones but one monarch stood out as being safe enough at home to champion the cause of monarchy abroad and that was Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. He was certainly a monarchist monarch and an absolute monarchist (and monarch) at that. His political views were illustrated early on by the curtailment of the power of the government in Congress Poland (of which the Russian Emperor was also King). When the Poles protested, favoring a constitutional monarchy, the Tsar sent in Russian troops, dismissed the Polish constitution and from then on ruled Poland as a conquered province rather than an independent country in personal union with the Tsar. Nicholas I also offered to come to the aid of any European monarch who came under threat from republican traitors or even constitutional monarchists whom he tended to view as subversives. None availed themselves of his help until the Revolutions of 1848 when the Austrian Empire came to be in a desperate state. Rebellions by the various ethnicities of the polyglot empire seemed to be breaking out all at once. The Italians were seizing control of northern Italy, riots had broken out in Vienna and the Hungarians were rising up and showing signs of being determined to take Hungary out of the Austrian Empire. The Hapsburg Emperor fought back hard but it seemed doubtful that he had the military strength to suppress both the Italians in the west and the Hungarians in the east at the same time. In 1848 the Austrian Empire really did seem on the brink of collapse.

However, Tsar Nicholas I came riding to the rescue. Even though his country was not under threat and even though one could argue that the break-up of the Austrian Empire would have presented favorable opportunities for Russia, the man known as the “Iron Tsar” and the “Gendarme of Europe” did not care about such things. A monarchy was imperiled and he would lend assistance regardless of the circumstances. He sent a large Russian army into Hungary in 1849 to stamp out rebellion there and this was successfully accomplished with the rule of the House of Hapsburg being restored there. Nicholas I also sent his moral support to the King of Prussia not to give in to those who were demanding a constitution. No one can doubt that the Russian Emperor would have sent his army to Berlin to help prevent such a thing if the King of Prussia had asked it of him. For the Tsar, it was a matter of principle and he had an absolute clarity on the subject. The Revolutions of 1848 ended with most monarchies having been shaken but having survived. The crowned heads of Europe would not feel such nervousness again on such a scale until the outbreak of the First World War. More on that next time.

Continued in Part II
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...