Tuesday, October 28, 2014
To make himself more acceptable, Mussolini began moving noticeably to the right, voicing strong support for the monarchy and making common cause with the royalists of the nationalist party. The King, even in the fall of 1922, still expected Giolitti to return to power when a suitable political coalition could be formed. However, the other liberal politicians worked against this and Mussolini masterfully played them against the elderly statesman who had earlier squelched the forces of D’Annunzio in Fiume as Prime Minister. He secretly promised his support to Facta, Nitti and Salandra against Giolitti or even against each other. Meanwhile, the old wartime premier Orlando had come out as a supporter of the Fascists, thinking them manageable and preferable to the alternative of a Marxist revolution. More and more people were doing the same and Giolitti himself took no action to try to form a government himself to offer as an alternative. Whether out of fear, indecisiveness or the presumption that all must eventually come running to him for salvation, who can say? The fact is that in this time when leadership was needed, Giolitti did nothing. The liberals who like to condemn the King for eventually appointing Mussolini Prime Minister never like to, and rarely are expected to, explain where their leaders were and what alternative they put forward at the crucial time.
In any event, those who take issue with the King refusing to shoot down his black-shirted subjects in the streets like to imply that if he had done so, that would have been the end of it. But, what about all the parts of the country already effectively under Fascist control? Who can say that the movement would have stopped then and there? How do we know that the communists would not have seized the opportunity to launch their revolution and take power for themselves? Remember that there was still no decisive liberal leadership to take control of the situation. Salandra had agreed to form a government but, upon seeking support from De Vecchi and Dino Grandi of the Fascist Party, was told that Mussolini would settle for nothing less than the premiership. Plenty in the army spoke up for the Fascists, the leading industrialists in Milan sent messages of support and so Salandra willingly stepped aside in favor of Mussolini who, it should also be remembered, was originally appointed by the King as simply Prime Minister of a coalition government in which the Fascists were not the majority.
Monday, October 27, 2014
The King had been raised in the care of his mother, Joan of Kent, but the greatest influence on him was the Earl of Oxford, his hereditary chamberlain. When he came to the throne a council of regency was established which was formed with great care so that no one could dominate it. Yet, the result was that, so much care was taken in that regard, that it was effectively useless and John of Gaunt continued to dominate the political scene. With war still waging on the peripheries of England, there was reason for alarm when the Peasants Revolt broke out in 1381. John of Gaunt was away in Scotland trying to arrange a peace and the army was scattered far away in France, Wales and Scotland so that the two peasant armies, one from Kent and one from Essex, had an open road to London. The regency council tried to simply stay out of their way and divert their anger away from themselves and the King who was barricaded inside the Tower of London while the peasants burned the city and took vengeance on those they blamed for their every misfortune. Finally, he could stand it no more and the 14-year old King Richard II gathered some of his supportive nobles together and rode out to Mile End to meet the leader or at least spokesman of the peasant rebels, Wat Tyler. This was to be the setting of what would probably be the most dramatic confrontation of the reign of Richard II.
The ringleaders were later arrested and the rest sent home. The rebellion was over, the crisis had subsided and, of course, almost none of the demands the King had agreed to were ever fulfilled. As far as the council was concerned, it had all been an effort to buy time from the beginning. The King, still a youth and impressionable, undoubtedly took from this that deception was an essential tool of politics and that the people were all loyal deep down and would follow their king no matter what the circumstances. In regards to both, these lessons would not serve him well. It also further cemented in his mind the idea that he was protected and directed by God and in the following years grew increasingly impatient to begin ruling in his own right. As he began to push more and more against those trying to restrict him, two factions emerged that represented the King and his inner court, which wanted something closer to autocracy, and the powerful nobles who wanted the aristocracy to dominate with a mostly ceremonial monarch above them. Sir Michael de la Pole was representative of the friends of the King while the Earl of Arundel was a leading example of those who opposed him.
Naturally, he had no intention of letting that be the end of it and tried to gather his own force of loyalists while contesting the legality of the impeachment. His enemies, knowing their chances were never better, prepared for war and in 1387 Arundel, Gloucester and the Earl of Warwick gathered their forces north of London. With no sufficient force of his own, the King had no choice but to resort to appeasement, agreeing to the demand to have five of his closest friends arrested and put on trial. He agreed to the demand but did not go out of his way to actually carry them out. One, Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, escaped to the north and managed to gather an army loyal to the King but his force was defeated at Radcot Bridge in December. All of the friends and supporters of the King were then subject to retaliation from the rebel party who called themselves the Lords Appellant. They waged a vicious campaign against the members of the King’s household, making a farce of the law and essentially murdering anyone who had been friendly with or supportive of the King. It is no wonder they came to be known as “The Merciless Parliament” of 1388.
It was then that he began his absolute rule of England and it is from this period that probably most of the criticism of him arises. His private army kept a firm grip on the country and his own relatives oversaw affairs, paid with the large estates confiscated from his enemies. He spent lavishly, demanded the utmost submission and forced those who displeased him to pay high prices for pardons. Critics accused him and his forces, such as the Cheshire archers, of oppression and of doing away with the law in favor of royal absolutism. Things came to a head with the death of John of Gaunt in early 1399. King Richard II, rather than showing clemency, had the son of John of Gaunt, Henry of Bolingbroke (future King Henry IV), who had earlier opposed him, exiled for life and seized his property. This earned him the lasting enmity of the House of Lancaster and made all the other elites of the country nervous about their own property and standing. When Richard II left to deal with another outbreak of rebellion in Ireland, Bolingbroke returned to England to claim his inheritance. Powerful nobles rushed to support him and while the King and his supporters were in Ireland, all that remained to defend England was his hapless uncle Edmund of York. He proved a weak obstacle and Richard’s supporters melted away, his Cheshire archers tearing off their white hart badges and going home.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
As more politicians are running for office who have voiced support for restoring the monarchy, more people in the halls of power in Bucharest or those hoping to be, have started to shift in a more monarchist direction. In the current presidential race going on, several of the top contenders have said they would like to see the monarchy restored while others have obviously concluded that monarchist support is considerable enough in Romania not to be discounted. Because of this, politicians who have a history of republicanism and who have not endorsed the idea of a royal restoration have, at least, tried to assure the people that they admire the Royal Family and have the utmost respect for the King. Opinion polls are still not quite where we would want them to be, however, from listening to Romanian politicians one cannot help but wonder if they know something we do not. Even those who have been adamant about being republicans have begun to say that, while they favor keeping the republic, would be supportive of having a referendum on the subject so that the public can vote on whether to restore the monarchy or not. The staunchly republican head of state, President Traian Basescu (a former communist) has said that he has no objection to a referendum and that the former monarchy will be an issue that the government will have to somehow deal with.
That is an important point because, if the ruling elite in Romania were honest and honorable people (I know, it sounds absurd to even say) they would restore the monarchy immediately and then, if King Michael was agreeable and the political parties insistent, give the people a referendum on keeping it. That is because the current Romanian regime is completely illegitimate. King Michael lost his crown by the extortion of Soviet Russia and every government since his overthrow has been illegal. As soon as the communist bloc crumbled, the King should have been restored to his rightful place immediately after which a legitimate government could have decided where to take the country from there. If there is a referendum and if it ends in the way we would all hope, calling for the restoration of the monarchy, it would simply be recognizing what should already, justly, be the case -that Michael I is the King of Romania and always has been, by hereditary right and the long-established laws of the country.
On the other hand, I fear this sudden shift by such prominent republicans towards a referendum on the monarchy (rather than an immediate restoration on legal grounds) is a case of the ruling elite trying to head the monarchists off at the pass (if I can use a little western jargon). In other words, if they think that there are enough Romanian royalists to make a referendum happen, to make them have to deal with the monarchy as an issue, they may be trying to do it now at a time when most polls show that there is not yet majority support for a restoration. They may want to have the referendum sooner rather than later because, as things stand now, they are confident that they (the republicans) will win and then they can dismiss the issue as having already been dealt with, ‘the public has spoken, the cause is finished’. We know from other examples that this is how republicans tend to operate. When a referendum goes their way, the issue is settled but when it does not, that simply means there have to be more referendums until the public ‘gets it right’.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
When it came to politics and government, unfortunately, King Luis was not to enjoy a very tranquil reign. There was constant power struggles between the liberal ‘Progressistas’ and the conservative ‘Regeneradores’ with the King naturally being partial to the conservatives. Portugal was in a precarious economic condition and, in an attempt to alleviate this situation somewhat, a consumption tax was passed which proved so unpopular that it sparked rioting in late 1867. Political problems boilded over on May 19, 1870 when a military uprising broke out with the support of the (long-time schemer) Duke of Saldanha who was serving a brief stint as Prime Minister. He lost his office over the affair though he might have lost more; the usually non-political Queen Maria Pia saying that if she were the king she would have had him shot. It was rather out of character but, on the other hand, an Italian woman with a fiery temper is hardly unusual either. It was also in 1870 that King Luis I considered the idea of putting himself forward as a candidate for the vacant throne of Spain but, probably wisely, he ultimately decided against it. As most know, it was another potential candidate for the Spanish throne that sparked the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. Such trouble was the last thing Portugal needed.
After the abolition of the slave trade, the Portuguese launched military expeditions to expand these colonies from small coastal settlements deeper into the interior of Africa. The famous “Rose-Colored Map” illustrated the Portuguese desire to cross the continent and join East and West Africa together into one large Portuguese holding that would stretch from coast to coast. However, the British were expanding north from South Africa rapidly and negotiations were further put on hold by the Berlin Conference which set out to settle the disputed claims of the various European powers in the “Scramble for Africa”. Concessions were made to both the French and the Germans to obtain their support for the Portuguese claim to the interior which was considered even more vital after the Berlin Conference recognized Belgian rights over the Congo, further limiting the potential area of expansion for Portugal. It was, however, Portugal’s long-standing ally of Great Britain which thwarted the plan represented by the “Rose-Colored Map”. The Portuguese claim could simply not be reconciled with the desire espoused by Cecil Rhodes of British control of Africa from “the Cape to Cairo”.
Today, many unfairly blame King Luis for the ills that befell Portugal later and which ultimately brought down the monarchy. To do so is to hold him responsible for events which were far beyond his control. He was certainly not responsible for the wars that preceded his reign and he was not an absolute monarch who could rule however he wished. All he could do was try to bring the feuding political elites together but despite his best efforts they simply would not be reconciled. He was a thoughtful, well-rounded man who had every quality for a successful constitutional monarch. His people recognized him as such even if subsequent generations have not, calling him “Luis the Popular” and “Luis the Good”. Had he been a masterful statesman things may have gone better, presuming the politicians would have listened to him, but even as it stood, the public recognized that he was still the most upstanding man in the halls of power and appreciated him for it.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Today at the Vatican the Bishop of Rome (as he now prefers to be called) beatified his predecessor, now Blessed Pope Paul VI, best known for presiding over the close of the Second Vatican Council. For those keeping score, despite the immense problems the Catholic Church has had in recent times, it has apparently been blessed with an unprecedented abundance of saintly leadership. Of the past five Pontiffs who have gone to their eternal reward, Pius XII has been declared "venerable", John XXIII has been declared a saint, Paul VI has been declared "blessed", John Paul I has been declared a "Servant of God" and John Paul II has been declared a saint. In other words, every deceased Pope since 1939 either has or is set to become a recognized saint. Rather hard to imagine that the canonization of popes was once a rare thing.
Blessed Pope Paul VI
Friday, October 17, 2014
In addition to this, the Self-Defense Forces should be reformed as a formal military (rather than an outgrowth of the police) with the Emperor as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. I have no doubt that virtually every member of the JSDF currently considers this the case in their hearts anyway but it should be made official in law for the sake of cohesion as well as tradition. A constitution that embodies the Japanese spirit and which has its roots in Japanese history and legal tradition is what is called for. Some streamlining would also be extremely helpful to cut through the tangle of bureaucracy that exists today so as to make changes for new situations easier. Certainly if the existing Constitution is to be maintained (as opposed to having a new one which might be just as well) it is essential to make it easier to amend with public support than is currently the case. Too often, the Diet is where ideas go to die, where measures to address a current crisis are strangled or delayed to the point that they are no longer useful by the myriad committees and sub-committees that all proposals have to circulate through. While I would like to see the House of Peers restored, this is probably unrealistic but it should at least be possible to see the old aristocratic titles restored to legal recognition.
It is based on the proposal made by two Catholic priests, Bishop James E. Walsh and Father James M. Drought who tried to reconcile the United States and Japan in 1940 and 1941. The proposal was for a Japanese “Far Eastern Monroe Doctrine”. My proposal would be slightly different of course, taking into account the considerable changes since 1940, particularly the end of European colonialism. Most simply it would mean that Japan would take a leadership position in East Asia and assume responsibility for safeguarding peace and stability in the region. If any threats arise it would be Japan that would handle them with no interference from outside powers (which would not exclude, of course, requested assistance provided with Japanese authorization). In 1940, the proposal of the two American Catholic priests was aimed primarily at stopping the spread of communism in China. Bishop Walsh was a very experienced missionary in China, understood the threat very well and was, in fact, the last missionary in China after the communist takeover. Today, such a doctrine would be aimed primarily at containing the communist threat as mainland China has become increasingly expansionist. Under this doctrine, Japan would stand ready to contain such aggression and assist any country targeted by the Chinese government.
In 1940, the United States did not recognize the danger of communism (as Tokyo did) in China but, although they would never admit it publicly, it has shown by American policy to have realized this was a mistake by supporting Japan and opposing China. So, because of the lessons of history, what America and other western countries would have opposed in 1940, they are willing to support today. This is illustrated by how supportive the United States and Australia have been on the subject of the reinterpretation of Article 9 by the Abe government. If the Japanese public has the will to embrace such a leadership role, there would be no better time to do it. Currently, Japan has in the United States the most militarily powerful country in the world as an ally and so can strengthen the Japanese armed forces (as they should be re-designated) in safety until Japan is fully prepared to take on this responsibility with the support of countries on both sides of the Pacific. Should problems arise with China, Japan, particularly the strong naval tradition and very advanced warships of even the current JMSDF, would be strategically placed to cooperate with Taiwan and the Philippines to cut off the exports that the Chinese economy so heavily depends on. Also, with naval mastery, Japan is ideally placed to respond quickly to a crisis in almost any East Asian country.
The possibilities are almost boundless considering what Japan has achieved in the past combined with all the additional potential Japan has today with a much larger economy and far better relations with virtually every major world power other than the Sino-Russian bloc. Japan has a higher GDP than any country other than China and the United States, the Self-Defense Force is one of the most advanced in the world and Japan has a military alliance with the United States and security pacts with Australia and India. There has never been a better time for Japan to begin the move towards a position of regional leadership in East Asia. This, combined with a cultural revitalization of the national spirit would allow Japan to become a world leader in a mature and balanced way that was never attained in the past. The future can be the period of the greatest glory for Japan and all that is required is to strengthen militarily, cut down the debt, reform or replace the constitution, revive the national spirit and have more babies. None of these things are impossible, it is only the will to undertake this challenge that must be motivated.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The studious, bespectacled general was given command of the Imperial & Royal First Army, made up largely of Slovak and Polish troops; a prestigious assignment. He would be on the flank of a massive offensive planned by the then-renowned strategist and chief of staff Graf Conrad von Hotzendorf to punch through the Russian frontier and cut off the so-called Polish salient. It was an ambitious plan but if successful it would have been a stunning blow to the Russians and the end of the Russian presence in Poland. At first, everything went as planned. Dankl and his troops pushed forward to the Galician frontier and met the Russians at the town of Krasnik (in what is now Poland but which was then Austria-Hungary). The Russians fought fiercely but the Austro-Hungarian troops were relentless and after three days of hard fighting the Russians retreated. Dankl had just won the first major victory for Austria-Hungary in the war and he was almost immediately catapulted to the status of a celebrity and war hero across the empire. With other victories by forces farther down the line, the Imperial & Royal Armies advanced as planned and Dankl was in the lead, pursuing the retreating Russians.
The next major action came in the spring of 1915 with the launching of the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive, again in cooperation with the Germans. Hotzendorf came up with the plan which was initially rejected by the German chief of staff, Erich von Falkenhayn but later Germany agreed to go along with it with the German General August von Mackensen in overall command. It proved to be a major success with the Russians suffering much higher losses and only ending due to a combination of bad weather and logistical strain. Dankl, once again, led his First Army forward with much success but this initial success was later halted by stiff Russian resistance in his sector of the front and Dankl was sidelined for the rest of the offensive. It was more frustration for Dankl who had been so celebrated for his victory at Krasnik and from whom everyone always expected better. Because Krasnik had been the first great victory of the war, Dankl had been celebrated to an extent that many were expecting things from him that were almost impossible. He was a competent commander but, of course, could not work miracles. In any event, after the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive he was transferred away from the Galician front and assigned to defend the Tyrol.
Hotzendorf planned an offensive in Trentino on the Asiago plateau. The goal was to punch through to the Po River plain and cut off three Italian armies in the process, crippling their war effort. This time the Italians would be outnumbered, almost 3-to-1 in manpower and much more outmatched in artillery. German support was requested but refused, still, it seemed Austria-Hungary had sufficient forces for the attack to be a success. Dankl and his army were assigned the crucial responsibility of making the initial breakthrough after which more troops could be poured in to exploit the breach and split the Italian armies. On May 15 the offensive commenced and despite stiff resistance, Dankl and his troops succeeded in breaking through the Italian center. Once again, everything seemed to go as planned, but once again problems soon arose. The artillery could not be moved forward fast enough to support the continued attack and so the Austrian forces had to halt. By the time the guns were brought up the opportunity had passed. The Italians had reformed and strengthened their lines plus a new Russian offensive was wreaking havoc on the Eastern Front and forced the transfer of Austro-Hungarian units to head off a potential disaster there.
In any event, the unpleasant episode of the Asiago offensive, combined with poor health, prompted Dankl to hand in his resignation. He was relieved of his command and after undergoing medical treatment was posted to the Imperial Guard, eventually becoming the commander until being replaced by his former superior Hotzendorf. He remained with the Life Guard until the end of the war and the collapse of Austria-Hungary when he retired to Innsbruck. In the last years of the war his service was, thankfully, rewarded with his elevation to the aristocracy, first as Baron von Dankl and then as Count Dankl of Krasnik in recognition of his most famous victory. He was also awarded the Maria Theresia Order and, long after the war in 1925, became its chancellor. Other honors he received included the Order of Leopold, Marianer Cross of the Teutonic Order and the Prussian Iron Cross from Germany. After the war, Dankl showed what a man of great character he was.
Monday, October 13, 2014
|Prince Imperial Agustin Jeronimo|
Interestingly, during that war, one of the (many) rumors that was floated about concerning the Cristero leader General Enrique Gorostieta was that he believed himself to be the reincarnation of General Miguel Miramon, former leader of the clerical party in Mexico and one of the generals that was executed alongside Emperor Maximilian. Princess Maria Josepha Sophia, head of the Imperial Family after the death of Prince Salvador, was also known to be a very devout Catholic. But, saving the most interesting story for last, while I know nothing of the source of the information and cannot confirm it, according to an article on the website "Comer, Viajar, Amar" in 2011 the current head of the Imperial House of Mexico, Count Maximilian von Gotzen-Iturbide was received at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican by Pope Benedict XVI as the "rightful heir to the throne of Mexico". If that is true, at least under the previous pontificate, it seems that some in the highest echelons of the Church still recognize the Imperial Family of Mexico in spite of all their years of abandonment and exile.