Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

King George V of Great Britain decorating a soldier of the AEF
I will admit to having mixed feelings about Memorial Day, despite my unqualified support for the U.S. military, due to the origin of the holiday. It began as a very partisan celebration, honoring only the U.S. war dead of the American Civil War. Southern states had to come up with their own holidays to honor the Confederate war dead. No matter which side one takes in that conflict, the Union victory spelled doom for at least one monarchy -that south of the border as the northern victory allowed the U.S. to bring its full diplomatic and military pressure to bear on France, ensuring their evacuation to Mexico and then to support the republican victory with money, men and guns. After the First World War the holiday was extended to include the AEF war dead and later it was expanded to include all the dead of all the wars fought by the United States. It became an official federal holiday in 1967. So, when prompted by Memorial Day, I try to ignore the origins of the holiday (best I can) and focus on those occasions when American forces have died in wars which saw monarchs restored to their proper thrones, and keeping in mind of course, that the military and government policy are two different things and simply salute the courage and valor of the American fighting men throughout history who have never failed in the tasks assigned them.
King George VI inspecting the crew of USS George Washington

My Favorite Kings of Spain

I - Queen Isabella: yes, I know, not a king, not exactly the ruler of “Spain” as we know it today, but I could not very well leave Queen Isabella out. She is one the most giant, iconic figures in Spanish history. Her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon brought a new unity to Christian Spain, and she ruled alongside him as an equal. Their conquest of Granada ended the 800-year war against the Muslim occupation of Spain in 1492 and that same year she set Columbus off on his voyage that led to the discovery of the New World and put down the first seeds for what grew into Latin America. More controversially, she also set up the notorious Spanish Inquisition, however, this was ultimately to the benefit of Spain as (despite going a bit overboard sometimes) it spared Spain from the horrific, catastrophic wars of religion that so divided and devastated Britain, France and especially Germany.

II - King Carlos I: better known by his superior title, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, one of the greatest Hapsburg monarchs in European history, despite some problems in his private life, was an upstanding monarch is almost every way. His Hapsburg connections made Spain part of the largest Christian realm in the world and it was the empire of Charles V upon which it was first said that “the sun never set”. He urged the Church to deal with the corruptions that led to the rise of Protestantism but few listened to him and in the end he was forced to fight the French in the west, the Lutherans in the north and the Turks in the south. Yet, his forces overcame and either triumphed or at least broke even and avoided total defeat. He also presided over the further expansion of Spanish power in America as well as the continued rise of Spain as a great power in Europe. There were scars on his reign, the worst certainly being the “sack of Rome” but his victories were more numerous, the most prestigious probably being his defeat and capture of the King of France, who was a longtime rival.

III - King Philip II: Felipe II to the Spanish of course, is rightly celebrated in Spain and reviled in England where he very nearly put an early end to the rise of England to naval dominance. Philip II presided over the zenith of Spanish power and greatness and he was, by far, the most powerful man in the western world in his time. Often at odds with the Church, despite his association with zealous Catholicism and the Counter-Reformation, his forces nonetheless bore the brunt of the fighting in the religious struggles that engulfed Europe. He defeated the French at San Quentin, relieved the siege of Malta, very nearly stamped out rebellion in the Netherlands but was at least able to retain Belgium for the Hapsburgs and his forces ended the Turkish naval threat with their victory at Lepanto. After the regicide of the Queen of Scots, he sent the Armada against England, which met with disaster but he took great care of the survivors and accepted the defeat with dignity. Philip’s timely intervention saved the Catholic cause in France and he expanded Spanish power from the Americas in the west to the Philippines in the east.

IV - King Philip IV: Felipe IV, perhaps, benefits from coming along during a time when good leadership was rather lacking in Spain. Under his reign the Spanish empire reached its peak, in size if not in power, and the arts flourished. Spanish forces won many victories in the Thirty Years War and Felipe IV did his best to bring about a revival of Spanish fortunes which had been on the decline, mostly due to political and economic problems. He was a deeply religion man and patron of the Church, successfully pushing for the canonization of Queen Isabella of Portugal in 1625. He exchanged letters with the mystic Venerable Mary of Agreda on matters of moral, kingly leadership. He was patron to some of the greatest artists in Spanish history and his forces won victories on many battlefields but the enemies Spain faced were too widespread for any conclusive military resolution. Nonetheless, he did the best he could to maintain his vast empire in the twilight days of Hapsburg Spain.

V - King Ferdinand VI: The reign of Fernando VI is usually pointed to as the most glorious period of Bourbon Spain before conditions really started to deteriorate. After so many costly wars, he enacted a policy of neutrality with France and England. He instituted many reforms, some beneficial, some less so, aimed at improving the Spanish government and though different factions tried to tempt him into taking the side of Britain or France in their continuing conflicts, he held firm and refused to do so. As a result, after so many years of economic struggle, the Spanish treasury was able to recover and Spain began, again, to become a quite wealthy country. He increased colonial commerce, founded the Royal Academy of the Fine Arts of San Fernando and was particular known for his musical patronage. He expanded and improved the Spanish Navy and signed a concordat with Pope Benedict XIV which stabilized Church-state relations. His reign was not without its problems (sadly common for the period) but it was an era of prosperity.

Dishonorable Mention: King Carlos III -not only were his “enlightenment” tastes not to my liking, the man outlawed bullfighting. Not cool Your Majesty. Not cool. Also, while I do not have a problem with the absolutism of King Ferdinand VII, he made many big mistakes, his last being flouting the law (when he didn’t have to) in order for his daughter to succeed him, setting Spain up for numerous civil wars.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Today in Mexican History

It was on this day in 1864 that Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota first set foot on the shores of Mexico at the port city of Veracruz, on their way to their coronation and the restoration of the Mexican Empire. Viva el Gran Emperador!
Bette Davis as Carlota and Brian Aherne as Maximilian arrive in Mexico in the film Juarez.

Happy Royal Oak Day

A Happy Royal Oak Day or Oak Apple Day, a holiday marking the restoration of the monarchy in Great Britain in the person of His Majesty King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland. To all the people of the U.K. and the Commonwealth Realms, to all the English-speaking monarchists in the world, we share a hearty cheer of GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

MM Video: The Spanish Royal Family

MM Video: The Swedish Royal Family

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Royal News Roundup

Love is in the air, in the east as well as the west. Last Friday at the state opening of parliament, HM King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan announced that he will be getting married in October to Jetsun Pema, a commoner distantly related to the Royal Family. The King is 31, his bride is 20 and a graduate of Lawrence School in Sanawar, India and Regent’s College in Britain. The soon-to-be Queen is already accompanying the King on his official duties, starting to learn the ropes, but for those expecting a big Buddhist bash -calm down. The King said the ceremony will be traditional but that due to the cost involved and their desire for something intimate and personal the wedding will be a pretty low-key affair. Bhutan has been a long-time favorite of the Mad Monarchist and we send best wishes to the happy couple. Across the continent in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Their Majesties King Abdullah II, Queen Rania and the whole royal clan were out in force on Wednesday to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Jordanian independence, the problems of recent months nowhere to be seen. The long peace and stability of the Kingdom of Jordan should be an example to all their neighbors on this occasion.

In southern Europe congratulations are in order, Prince Aimone of Savoy-Aosta and his wife Princess Olga of Greece, Duke and Duchess of Apulia, welcomed their second child into the world on Tuesday. The new addition, named HRH Prince Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta, is their second child after older brother Prince Umberto of Venice. Princess Marie Gabrielle (daughter of King Umberto II and Queen Maria Jose) is godmother to the new boy. Happy news, but such is not the case across the sea in Spain where the public is growing concerned over the increasingly frail looking King Juan Carlos I. Assurances from the palace that all is well have not been widely accepted and some have speculated that the King will abdicate. Queen Sofia, however, left no ambiguity on that topic saying, “To abdicate? Never!” Of course, we hope His Catholic Majesty maintains his health and lives long to guide the people of Spain. And on a more optimistic note, up in the sunny Principality of Monaco, Charlene Wittstock told German TV that she loves children and can’t wait to have a family of her own. Husband-to-be HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco said, “I agree”.

Moving northward, HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has come under criticism again for alleged improper behavior which prompted a Swedish newspaper to take a poll which found that a slight majority (59%) of Swedes would like the King to abdicate in favor of his daughter Crown Princess Victoria. The palace has issued statements defending the King but has said, quite rightly, it is hard to counter accusations that are so vague and have no evidence to back them up. The palace said they were being asked to, “react to something we have not seen”. Of course, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I hate the very idea of constantly polling the popularity of the monarchy. I want the day to come when every monarchy is so solidly supported and embedded in the national culture that no one would even think of taking a poll on how popular the institution or the current monarch is.

Finally we have the big state visit of U.S. President and First Lady Obama to the United Kingdom. Once again, Obama refused to bow to the Queen (and lest any think I am being unfair you can find the posts on this blog where I defended him for bowing to the Emperor of Japan and King of Saudi Arabia) and there were a number of other gaffes, probably the most memorable being the musical interruption to his speech and Obama signing the guestbook and dating the entry 2008 -perhaps his mind is locked in that year of his triumph when all the world was worshipping the ground he walked on? The Royal Family was gracious and welcoming as can be, there were the customary gun salutes, guards of honor and all of that, even a short meeting with the newly wed Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Of course, I cannot help but think that all the pomp and ceremony of an official state visit was only extended after Michelle Obama threw such a public fit over not being invited to *the* wedding; I thought her numerous mentions of that on TV were in very poor taste. However, at least there were no embarrassing gifts, no grabbing or major breaches of protocol. That, in itself, is rather remarkable given the well known dislike the Obamas have for the British.

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Tiara for the Pope

First, a nod of the head and dug of the forelock to Ad Orientem where I first learned of this. HH Pope Benedict XVI has been presented with his own papal tiara, paid for by German businessman Dieter Philippi and constructed by artisans in Sofia, Bulgaria, symbolic of the hope emphasized by Benedict XVI for greater unity between the eastern and western Churches (always a good thing in my book). It is even odds if the Pope will ever actually make use of his new tiara but I would consider it only polite to do so -don't want to seem unappreciative of such a gift right? The absence of a papal coronation in recent decades is one of the losses I mourn in western civilization. Of course, as most know, Pope Benedict XVI has adopted a much more "traditional" style compared to his predecessors on the Petrine throne and it was said that he had wanted to have a coronation but was told that it would be impossible to organize at such short notice after his election. So, next time, -no excuses! Plan it out in advance and now there is one more crown to choose from to use in the coronation. I would like to think that Benedict XVI would find occasion to wear this one but, I also don't want to get my hopes up. For his eventual successor, to be crowned with Benedict's tiara would be a nice tribute to the Pontiff would it not?

Bl. John Paul II and his Hungarian tiara
As most know it was Pope Paul VI who was the last to have a coronation and the last to make use of the papal tiara (he surrendered his at the end of Vatican II). The smiling, short-lived Pope John Paul I had none and Blessed Pope John Paul II said that, while it was proper to have a coronation, it was not appropriate to do so at his time because of the recent, tragic loss of his predecessor. However, not many know that Bl. John Paul II did have a tiara of his own. It was more traditional than that of Paul VI but still rather simple when compared to others as it was made in Hungary, behind the "Iron Curtain", smuggled out and presented to the Pontiff as a symbol of the determined faith of the Catholic Hungarians. It was never worn of course and its existence only made public after the end of the communist regime. Pope Benedict's tiara was presented to the Pontiff at his Wednesday general audience by a delegation of Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims in the name of Christian unity.
Benedict XVI presented with his tiara

Mad Monarchist Fan Mail

Maybe my readers like to see me suffer, but whatever the reason, I hear all the time how much you love reading my fan mail. So, here is the latest edition, you can all see how beloved I am:

hi! this article sucks! (Short and to the point, always a winner)

You are truly disturbed. Obviously you never took a history course in your life. Nazism was right wing, you can’t change the truth no matter how much you hate moderates. (Actually I majored in history and if Nazism was right wing it was an odd bird in deed, preaching socialism, abolition of class distinctions etc)

DIRTY FILTHY INBRED B******! (And in all caps so you know how much he meant it!)

Your “great monarchist” was nothing but a petty thief and a bloodthirsty war criminal, but it suits your amoral Machiavellian world view quite well that anyone who fights in the name of monarchism is a saintly figure. Greetings from someone whose unarmed civilian great-grandfather and his family were butchered by the forces of your favorite war criminal. (This was rather shocking to me -a man and his entire family are massacred and yet still managed to have great-grandchildren. Miraculous)

Hard to believe there’s idiots like you who bow at the feet of these over-inflated, self-centered monarchs. Congratulations you’re a bona fide slave! (Heh, heh, hear that? I’m bona fide!)

you are such an obsessive monarchist and traditionalist because you are most likely a f****** loser piece of s***. you should have been an abortion. (Don't worry, the world will be rid of me soon enough)

Lies, absolute lies. How can so many people believe this bull**** (Would have helped if the person had pointed out exactly what this was supposed to refer to but, alas, most do not)

Royals are nothing but a bunch of inbred, imbecilic parasites on society and anyone who would carry water for them is a retard. Why should anyone care about them? They’re thieves and murderers with jewelry. What heroes you have. (Well, you cared enough to look up a monarchist blog, come up with my email and send me a letter about the subject)

The British monarchy is the biggest criminal organization in the world. You can (unable to print suggestion) all you want, it only shows what a freak show YOU are. Quebec will soon be rid of them! (Oh, be honest, if Quebec wanted to be independent they would be by now, most just like being "precious")

I bet I know exactly who you are, you’re a fat, broke loser sitting in your basement and ****** out of your mind. (Afraid not. Truth be told, I'm skinny as a rail, not hurting for money and I don't have a basement -not too common in this part of the world)

Shameless Plug

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Monarch Profile: James V, King of Scots

James V, King of Scots, is one of those monarchs who clearly knew right from wrong, tried to follow the right path as king and yet had a major problem when it came to denying himself. In the Tudor period he was the Catholic champion of Scotland who steadfastly refused to follow the example of King Henry VIII of England. Yet, like Henry VIII, he had a real weakness when it came to women, however, in the case of James V this was his only real weakness and in every other way he was an astute monarch, devoted Catholic and loyal son of the Church who did his best in extremely difficult circumstances. He was born in April of 1512 (the exact date is still debated) at Linlithgow Palace in West Lothian and was little more than a year old when his father, King James IV, was killed at the battle of Flodden on September 9, 1513. The infant monarch was then crowned King of Scots in the royal chapel of Stirling Castle on September 21, 1513 initially with his mother, Margaret Tudor (sister of King Henry VIII of England) as his regent. This lasted only until the next year though when Queen Margaret remarried after which the regency passed to John Stewart, Duke of Albany. John himself was second in line for the throne after Prince Alexander, Duke of Ross, the younger brother of James V, who was born after the death of their father.

In 1525 the Earl of Angus, who was stepfather to James V, took the young king prisoner and ruled Scotland on his authority until James escaped in 1528 and took power himself for the first time. It was also in 1525 that the Protestant doctrines first began to spread into Scotland and James V was determined to resist them. He had parliament pass an act forbidding the importation of Lutheran books and the following year James wrote a letter to Pope Clement VII in which he promised to use all the power at his disposal to combat the spread of Protestantism in Scotland. In 1528 James V had Patrick Hamilton, a commendatory abbot with connections at court, burned at the stake at St Andrews for preaching heresy. The Protestant leader John Knox credited this action with being the starting point of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. However, in Scotland as in other areas, there were power hungry men who adopted the Protestant cause simply because they were interested in revolt rather than reformation. Had they only been concerned with reforming the Church they would have found a useful ally in King James V who was himself devoted to reforming the clerical abuses that existed in his country. To deny the problem was no longer possible as the Catholic Church in Scotland had, by that point, become rather infamous across Europe for corruption and immorality.

In political matters James took immediate action against the Earl of Angus who had imprisoned him as well as cracking down on rebel factions along the border and troublesome chieftains in the Western Isles. He improved the financial situation of the monarchy by keeping a closer watch on the royal estates and by taking advantage of his traditional feudal rights over the nobles. James V spent much of this money on building projects at Stirling, Falkland, Holyrood and Linlithgow. On January 1, 1537 he renewed the alliance with France by marrying Madeleine of Valois, daughter of King Francis I. However, Madeleine died only a few months after being married and so as to maintain the political situation James marred Marie of Guise on June 12, 1538. Marie of Guise was a devout Catholic woman, the daughter of Duke Claude of Guise (the Guise family were the leaders of the Catholic League in France) and she was the widow of Louis of Orleans, Duke of Longueville by whom she already had two children. Together James and Marie had two sons, the Duke of Rothesay and the Duke of Albany, in 1541 and 1542 but neither of them survived. In 1542 the couple gave birth to a daughter, Princess Mary, on whose shoulders the future of Scotland and the Stuart dynasty would one day rest. However, showing his major weakness, James fathered at least nine illegitimate children (3 before he was even 20 years old) of whom James, Earl of Moray would prove the most troublesome in the future for his legitimate heir.

Probably the most pressing issue for James V was the overflow into Scotland of the religious divisions his uncle King Henry VIII introduced to England by breaking with Rome and establishing his own Protestant church. Just as this divided the English into Catholic and Protestant camps, so too would Scotland be likewise. King Henry tried to persuade his Scottish nephew to follow his example and break from Rome as well but the staunchly Catholic James V refused to do so. Scotland became divided between those who favored the position of Henry VIII of England and those who were loyal to the Church and King James. The, essentially, Protestant camp included most of the nobles, the English Queen mother and religious dissidents. The Catholic camp included some powerful nobles, most of the clergy and the vast majority of the common people who were loyal to their King and the old religion. One of his most faithful servants was James Beaton who was made a cardinal in 1538 and shortly thereafter Primate of Scotland. It is a mark of his quality that Henry VIII of England considered him his greatest nemesis north of the border. The King of England was further enraged when the pope transferred to the King of Scots the title, Fidei Defensor, which Pope Leo X had originally awarded to Henry VIII for his refutation of Luther.

Matters came to a head after the death of the English queen mother in 1541 after which war soon broke out between England and Scotland. King Henry VIII, angry that King James V had rejected his offer, ordered an invasion of Scotland and this raid forced James to order his own forces to assemble for war. At first things seemed to go very well when, on August 24, 1542, Lord George Gordon, Earl of Huntly, soundly defeated the English army of Robert Bowes at the battle of Haddon Rig. However, Scottish hopes were soon dashed when the Scots were defeated at the confused battle of Solway Moss on November 24, much of it caused by the breakdown of the Scottish command after the death of Lord Robert Maxwell, before the battle, which caused the remaining Scottish leaders to start feuding amongst themselves for command. There were relatively few losses but many Scots were captured and the battle was a humiliation since they had the English considerably outnumbered. King James V was not present on the battlefield but was then at Lochmaben. He reportedly fell into a feverish despair when news of the defeat reached him and he withdrew to Falkland Palace in a state of nervous collapse.

James V took to his deathbed and was there when his only living heir, a daughter, was born on December 8. That girl would soon become the famous but tragic Mary Queen of Scots. King James V was alleged to have said on his deathbed when word of the birth came that, "It began with a lass and it will end with a lass". This was a reference to the origins of the Stuart dynasty with the daughter of Robert the Bruce and would prove to be true as the last reigning monarch of the House of Stuart would be Queen Anne; a lass. King James V died on December 14 and was immediately succeeded by his daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, and he was buried at Holyrood Abbey alongside his first wife Queen Madeleine and his sons by his second wife Queen Marie of Guise who would soon be ruling as regent on behalf of her daughter. In many ways his reign had been the last gasp of Catholic Scotland. The country would never be quite the same again, neither was independent Scotland ever to be quite the same as it had been under King James V. It would for some time be a rather unequal partner with England, for some time be held under the boot of England and then finally restored to her full rights, but all in all things would never be quite the same as it had been before. It was only left to Queen Mary to carry the cause of Catholic Scotland to its tragic end.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Consort Profile: Queen Marie d'Guise

One of my favorite female royal figures from history, and one that does not get very much attention, is Marie d’Guise, Queen-regent of Scotland. The problems she had to deal with were immense and far-reaching, reliable support for her was scarce and fragile and many probably did not expect much from her in terms of success. Yet, she ruled during a period when, whether good or bad, strong royal women in national leadership was fairly common considering this time also saw Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I in England and the formidable Queen Catherine in France. In fact, Marie d’Guise is one of the most important but often overlooked figures of the Tudor era in British history. She was born in 1515 to Claude Duc d’Guise and Antoinette de Bourbon-Vendome and was first married to Louis d’Orleans, Duc d’Longueville in 1533. King Henry VIII of England famously considered asking for her hand but Marie declined on the grounds that she had not a head to spare. Sadly, less than five years after her marriage she was a widow and in 1538 married the Stuart monarch, James V King of Scots (r.1513-42). France and Scotland had (and would be) old allies against the common threat of England, but the rise of Marie d’Guise as Queen consort of Scotland took things to a new level.

Despite his rather “colorful” private life, King James V and Queen Marie d’Guise both endeavored to due their royal duty but the royal couple’s only child, the famous Mary Queen of Scots, was born only a few days before the death of King James V. Queen Marie d’Guise was immediately faced with a crisis when King Henry VIII of England (always looking for ways to increase his power, at home, in France or northward) tried to take advantage of the situation and conquer Scotland, but was unsuccessful. No doubt he was also a bit disappointed that a previous English victory over the Scots had been won while he was away with his wife Catherine of Aragon acting as regent during the Scottish invasion. So, suffice it to say, there was danger and crisis from the beginning when Marie d’Guise was left alone in Scotland following the death of her husband. The child Mary Queen of Scots was spoken for by James, Earl of Arran (a Protestant pro-England Scot who later became a Catholic pro-French one and thus not entirely trusted by all) until 1554 when Marie d’Guise deposed him and became regent of the Kingdom of Scotland herself.

Queen Marie d’Guise faced a difficult situation. Come from the family that was well known as the leaders of the Catholic faction in France, she was a devout daughter of the Church of Rome which made her unpopular with many of the Scottish nobles who were adherents to the new, more austere, Protestantism of John Knox. However, Marie d’Guise was tolerant toward the Protestants and ruled in such an open manner that she made friends out of many who would have been her enemies. In fact, any claim that the Queen was intolerant is easily disproven by the fact that the Protestants even backed her decision to marry their young Queen to the Dauphin of France, Francois II. The Prince of Wales had been an earlier candidate and it proved extremely difficult to keep religion out of politics when England supported the Protestants and France supported the Catholics. Thus, Scotland easily could and often did become a battleground for the two more powerful nations to the south.

The Queen wanted to avoid this, knowing that the fragile coalition she had built between the Catholics and Protestants could be easily shattered. Nonetheless, problems soon arose with England. English support for the Scottish Protestants had dried up when the Catholic Queen Mary I was on the throne in London, but that changed with the accession of her Protestant sister, who soon began sending support to the Protestants in Scotland. Although Queen Elizabeth I had signed a peace treaty with Marie d’Guise, she sought to arouse the Protestants against their regent as a way to remove French influence in Scotland. Civil war broke out anew and Queen Marie d’Guise showed no hesitation in crushing the rebellion. Indeed, her forces had all but destroyed the Protestant rebels when the timely arrival of the English fleet staved off disaster. Marie d’Guise was forced to call in French troops and England forged an alliance with the Protestant Scottish nobles and supported them with an English army sent to invade Scotland. Fortunately for her, Queen Marie d’Guise defeated the English in a stunning victory at Leith. However, the resulting crackdown against the Protestants only widened the civil war.

In time, the Queen-regent was driven from power, but was later able to return. France and England continued to support the opposing sides but the Queen managed to hold the government together by sheer determination; the determination that she did not want her daughter to endure the same problems she had been forced to deal with. Her work was far from complete when Queen Marie d’Guise died of dropsy on June 11, 1560. However, even as her health failed her, she had continued to lead. While on her deathbed she gathered the Scottish nobles around her and pleaded with them to come to an agreement and restore the peace that had existed between the two groups at the beginning of her regency. Sadly, she died before the conference came to a conclusion and the divisions would outlive her. Her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, was summoned from France and would continue to rule according to the dictates of her faith and sense of duty but, like her mother, would also be plagued by religious attacks, the conflicting interests of France and England until she too was driven from the country and eventually executed by Queen Elizabeth I.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Favorite Royal Images: A Viet Queen

Empress Nam Phuong of Vietnam, not the first time she's been featured in the FRI series and I think the reason for that goes without saying. A great lady who left this world far too soon.

Video: The True Cost of the Royal Family Explained



A bit irreverent but full of important things people used to call *facts* that are all too often ignored.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monarchist Profile: Fra Diavolo

Michele Pezza, better known as Fra Diavolo or “Brother Devil” is one of the most famous counter-revolutionaries in Italian history and has become something of a folk hero for his resistance to French republican (later Napoleonic) rule. Michele Pezza was born on April 7, 1771 in Itri in the Kingdom of Naples. He became known as Fra Diavolo due to his mischievous behavior as a child. His family came from a modest background but were not impoverished as some later accused them of being. Fra Diavolo was no scholar but was taught to read and write which put him ahead of most other common born people of his time and place. As a young man he worked for the postal service which made him more familiar with terrain and populace between Terracina and Naples. In 1797 he was forced to join the army after killing two men in an argument over a woman.

Fra Diavolo was a good fit in the army, stationed on the northern frontier of Naples and soon became a non-commissioned officer. In 1798 he was among the Neapolitan forces that marched to the rescue of the Papal States when they were invaded by French revolutionary forces. However, the defense did not go well and they were forced to retreat with the French then invading southern Italy. Fra Diavolo was almost captured while fighting with a rear-guard action but escaped in disguise. In quick order he organized other soldiers and local irregulars to resist the French advance. Using their knowledge of the terrain, Fra Diavolo and his men harassed the French at every opportunity as they swept through the country, finally taking Naples itself and declaring a republic, planting “Liberty Trees” as they went.

However, in spite of their high-sounding ideals, the revolutionaries turned the people against them through their high-handedness, cruelty, theft and rapine. With every attack by Fra Diavolo or any other of the counterrevolutionary bands there was swift and brutal retaliation against the populace, which only served to make the republic ever more hated. Fra Diavolo was given further justification for his war when republican forces sacked his hometown, his father being among the 60 men, women and children massacred. Finally, the resistance received official sanction and support as Queen Maria Carolina (who had a rather more ‘take charge’ attitude than her husband King Ferdinand IV) appointed HE Fabrizio Cardinal Ruffo to command the counterrevolutionary forces.

British and Neapolitan ships landed 5,000 men in Calabria to support the struggle against the French. Nobles, peasants, clerics and laymen rushed to the standard of Cardinal Ruffo to join his “Army of the Holy Faith”. Fra Diavolo, who already had a force of his own and considerable experience at the business, became one the Cardinal’s top subordinate commanders. Soon, Fra Diavolo had 4,000 men from all walks of life under his command and he attacked the French incessantly, raiding their bases, disrupting their supply lines and cutting down their hated “Liberty Trees”. He did so at Fondi and the Cross he erected in its place still stands there to this day. Operating out of Ft St Andrea his forces even made attacks against the bastion of Gaeta on the coast and soon Fra Diavolo was the most feared enemy of the republican forces who put up a substantial reward in the hope that someone would betray him.

In time the enemy was driven out, Naples was retaken and Neapolitan troops went on north to liberate Rome. Fighting not only for the freedom but the life and the very soul of his country, Fra Diavolo was merciless toward his enemies, which at times put him at odds with Cardinal Ruffo, nonetheless he had been of invaluable service and the King appointed him to the rank of colonel in the royal army, made him Duke of Cassero and granted him a generous pension. In 1799, while on his way with the army to liberate Rome, he had married a teenage beauty and once peace was restored he settled down to a quiet life and had two sons.

However, war came back to southern Italy with the ascendancy of Napoleon Bonaparte who invaded the country and set his brother Joseph on the throne, the Bourbon king and queen being forced to retire again to Sicily. Fra Diavolo was recalled to service and ordered to raise a partisan unit to resist the invaders as he had before, but this time there was no opportunity. Napoleon ran an altogether ‘tighter ship’ than his republican predecessors and the French advance was so swift Fra Diavolo was barely able to escape to Sicily himself. However, he was back soon enough and was fighting the French again in March of 1806. Called back to Sicily to raise reinforcements, he was then sent to reinforce Gaeta and disrupt the French by bedeviling their supply lines. He attacked the French but was mistakenly arrested by one of his own allies and sent to Palermo. The British commander, Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, ordered his release and he was back in action, raiding coastal installations before leading another band of irregulars into Calabria.

Despite inflicting heavy losses on the French, the partisans were finally defeated. Fra Diavolo escaped but the British withdrew their support and most opposition died down. Not, however, for Fra Diavolo who continued to resist as he always had done until his forces were pinned down and all but wiped out, near his hometown, on August 28, 1806. Still, he escaped and carried on, struggling against hopeless odds until November when he was betrayed and taken prisoner by the French. They first tried to bribe him into joining their army but he refused and when Queen Maria Carolina offered 200 French prisoners in exchange for Fra Diavolo the proposal was turned down. He was hanged on November 11, 1806 for “banditry”. Nonetheless, the inspiration to resist that he provided meant that the counterrevolutionary forces continued until the French were finally driven out and the Bourbon monarchy restored.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Israel and a Jewish Monarchy

Recently, there was celebrated the anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, an historic event in more ways than the obvious. Where else has there ever been a nation, without land, scattered across the globe that was able to survive for more than a thousand years only to reestablish itself as a sovereign nation-state once again? If there are other examples, I cannot recall them. Like almost every other nation on earth, Israel was once a monarchy and an extremely influential one at that. The tradition of "sacred monarchy" for Christians, for example, comes more from the ancient Jewish kings than almost any other source. What about today? There are still Jewish monarchists who want to see the Kingdom of Israel restored along with the rest of their ancient traditions. I cannot help but feel that part of the reason they are given so little attention in the western media is because of the implications for other religions. When it comes to the Holy Land, the slightest twitch is enough to upset the world. However, they do exist and have been hard at work for many years trying to revive the Davidic monarchy of the Old Testament. The most prominent Israeli monarchist is Rabbi Yosef Dayan, recognized by most as the closest living blood heir of King David and thus most likely candidate for the throne. He is the founder and leader of the monarchist organization Malchut-Yisra'el. In 2005 the Jerusalem Post commented on the efforts to recall the Sanhedrin to proclaim a king. Efforts to revive the Sanhedrin are not new, but they seem more lasting in recent years and focus on such projects as a full restoration of traditional Jewish government, law, the House of David and the Temple. Rabbi Yosef Dayan is a member of the restored Sanhedrin.

MM Video: The Norwegian Royal Family

MM Video: Greek Royal Family

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Queen in Ireland

No doubt, THE big royal event of last week was the visit of HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom to the Republic of Ireland, an historic event, being the first visit of a British monarch to the Irish republic in almost a century. The Queen had long wanted to visit Ireland and many in the Irish government had been working for the visit to take place for some time but it had not been possible until now. The reasons why are, of course, obvious and were on full display during the royal visit. There were protestors, unprecedented security measures and no speeches by the Queen other than one at the formal dinner held in her honor. A bomb was found and another fake bomb threat kept Irish security forces on their toes. However, most of the Irish were welcoming and some expressed disgust at those who cling to their hatred over past grievances and refuse to move forward. That is certainly true as, regardless of the circumstances, threats and insults against the Queen on such a visit does nothing but present a very negative image of Ireland.

I am not as opposed to the Irish republic as most monarchists might be. As I have mentioned before, Irish republicanism is something that I do, at least *understand* even though I still oppose it and would prefer to see an independent Ireland become again a confederate monarchy as in the days of old. It is also specifically because of my very pro-British standpoint that I find republicanism in Ireland at least understandable and more understandable than in other areas. The reason for that being that, in terms of the historic relations between Britain and Ireland, my disappointment arises from the certain knowledge that the British rule or misrule of Ireland was the exception rather than the norm. Given all the Irish suffered over the centuries it is understandable, though no less unfortunate and unnecessary, that they should be republicans. My disappointment with some of the historical actions of Britain in Ireland arises from my certain knowledge that the British were better than that. In fact, as controversial as this may be, if Britain had governed and behaved in Ireland as they did in almost any other of their numerous colonies I doubt there would be an Irish republic today.

The reasons for this are many, complex and not worth going into at the moment. They have also been shifting, from dynastic disputes to religious bigotry to nationalism and ethnic prejudice. However, in recent years at least, it is important to make a distinction between Anglo-Irish relations and the quite separate ugly events that have plagued Northern Ireland. Just as past or present British bigotry against any and all things Irish is unjustified, so to is past or present Irish bigotry against any and all things British, especially in terms of the situation in Northern Ireland as the “British” public has long had a very different attitude than the Unionist community in Northern Ireland that most Irish have a problem with. Yet, this situation has tainted, for a long time, Anglo-Irish relations in general. In spite of the fact that, especially as concerns the monarchy, this is totally unjustified.

As I have mentioned before, for quite some time, even when the British government was very anti-Irish in many ways, the British monarch was often the one voice of reason, compassion and wisdom in dealing with the situation in Ireland. Yet, the bitter feelings remained, partly because this was drummed up by revolutionary Irish republicans and partly because much of what British monarchs have done for Ireland over the years have been little known. However, the visit of the Queen was something very public, something everyone could see and watch (and could only have been better if the revolutionary trash had not been such a security risk) and truly set a new tone in Anglo-Irish relations. I do not think it is an overstatement to say that Her Majesty has given both countries a wonderful opportunity to make a fresh start and put the past behind them. History cannot be changed or forgotten, nor should it be, but nor should it shackle us, as the Queen herself so wisely pointed out. To be blunt about it, Britain has accepted Irish independence, they have gotten over the loss and, by and large, hold no grudges.

What about Ireland though? Has the republic moved on and let bygones be bygones? Perhaps, but it seems to me at least, that if so, certainly not to the same extent. This is, again, somewhat understandable given that in terms of Britain and Ireland it was undeniably Ireland that suffered more. However, especially given the recent visit by the Queen, there is now absolutely no hindrance to Ireland moving on and becoming a fast friend with their nearest neighbor. The opportunity is here for Ireland to put the past behind them and move on and I sincerely hope they do so. Frankly, given the itinerary of the Queen, I am surprised even the most radical republicans found anything to complain about. It seemed to me, if anything, there would have been more room for British grumblings about the Queen being *too* conciliatory in the places she went and the sites she visited.

For example, the Queen visited the Garden of Remembrance which honors all those who have fought for Irish independence from Britain, even though some of those episodes were really less than admirable enterprises. I do not say the Irish should not commemorate them, but it might be a bit much to expect the British Sovereign to honor those who were their inveterate enemies, even those whose rebellions occurred in cooperation with powers like republican France or Imperial Germany against whom Britain herself was engaged in a war for her survival at those times in history. Yet, the Queen did so, and I noticed no serious voices of complaint from Great Britain on the subject. By now, just about everyone in Europe has fought everyone else at one time or another and if everyone dwelled on every past conflict there would be little or no discourse between anyone. That, national duty, can justify such a visit. I will, however, admit to a bit of a cringe at the Queen visiting Croke Park.

It was at that stadium, in 1920, where British forces fired indiscriminately into the crowd at a football match, killing 14 people in retaliation for the assassination of a like number of British officials by the IRA. I wonder whose idea was it for the Queen to go there? I confess, I really didn’t like the sound of that. Even in 1920, of course, King George V was horrified at what happened and I think it does no service to anyone to have the Queen go there now. It seems a bit like taking something terribly cruel done on the part of Britain in the past and rubbing their face in it to me. Call that one a bridge too far in my opinion. However, again, I heard no outcry in Britain against it. If it helps to smooth things over all well and good, though for those who still think they must seek “justice” for such historic crimes, no royal visit, no words, nothing at all will ever satisfy them and as such I think no one should try. You do not need to forget it happened, but neither the Queen nor any Briton today needs to flog themselves over it.

I say all of this because, as I have stated before, the “victim mentality” does no good for Ireland or any other nation or individual person. Ireland will never achieve a true feeling of national equality with the UK so long as they continue to define themselves only as constant victims of British cruelty. Likewise, while Britain as any country should be ashamed of past crimes, that does not mean they need to be constantly expected to feel ashamed of themselves. For me at least, part of the reason why I so sympathize with the Irish is because British behavior in their regard was so out of the ordinary. Taken as a whole, the British Empire was not a cruel or oppressive force in the world and subject peoples were generally governed efficiently, humanely and quite often to their benefit. Britons should feel justifiable pride in the fact that the treatment of Ireland was an obvious aberration and that nations raised up by the British Empire have done comparatively better than those of any other.

The Queen was her usual flawless self on this visit and certainly seemed to impress the Irish officials, particularly when she opened her speech at dinner with a few words in Gaelic. However, that is the Queen, that is someone who is a veteran of such affairs and who has spent a lifetime gaining experience at how to hit just the right note. This visit gives both countries the opportunity to start over and for those who insist on clinging to the adversarial mentality, I think the Queen, by being so conciliatory, claimed the moral high ground on this visit. She acknowledged the failings of her own country, she honored the founders of Irish independence, in short did everything to express British support and acceptance for the Irish republic. I hope Ireland will join her on the moral high ground.

The north may remain a sore subject but, at this point it honestly has very little, if anything, to do with Great Britain and Ireland. In fact, if anything, London and Dublin have rather reversed places on that score with London really wanting to be rid of Northern Ireland but not being able to say so and Dublin really wanting London to keep it but not being able to say so. In any event, even the people in the north are tired of fighting about that one and while many might like to grumble very few are willing to do much about it. If they can at least manage to tolerate each other there is no reason Britain and Ireland should feel compelled to carry on past prejudices on their behalf. After all, like a divorced couple, Britain and Ireland cannot ignore each other, cannot escape the fact that they have a history together and so should try to make the best of it. The Queen has shown, on this visit, her commitment to do so and that is a good thing for everyone. Britain and Ireland have too much in common and are too closely neighbors to ignore the fact that, even as independent powers, they are stronger in cooperation as allies than they would be as enemies.

God Save the Queen and Ireland Forever!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Norwegian National Day

Tuesday was independence day (or National Day) in the Kingdom of Norway and as the "news" tomorrow will be taken up with another subject, I wanted to take a moment to mention this and send a *salute* to the Kingdom of Norway. Like the rest of the western world, of course, they have their modern problems with secularism and liberalism but, on the whole, the Norwegians have done it right. As an ancient kingdom, gaining independence in the 20th Century, Norway has been a model to others in doing things the right way. They did not allow themselves to be shackled to the past, they became independent and from the start looked to do things in a calm, rational way to do what was best for their nation. It helped of course that they were not previously under the thumb of some brutal tyranny. They were in a union with the Kingdom of Sweden -Norway having been given to Sweden in compensation for their loss of Finland to Russia and as a punishment to Denmark (with whom Norway had previously been united) for taking sides with France.

There was no brutal war, there was no social chaos, no guillotines in the town square. The union with Sweden was dissolved and the issue was put to the public; to become a republic or a monarchy. Showing their great wisdom and common sense the Norwegian people opted for a monarchy and Prince Carl of Denmark was imported to become HM King Haakon VII of Norway, taking a name from Norwegian history to reiterate the fact that this was not a "new" nation but an ancient one resuming full independence. As it happens, they chose wisely as King Haakon VII proved in establishing good relations with all of Norway's neighbors, turning even the Norwegian republicans into monarchists and finally leading the country with great heroism during the dark days of World War II and the Nazi invasion. In the post-war era they have, as stated, suffered many of the problems that their neighbors have though, to their credit, Norwegians have refrained from joining the European Union.

HM King Harald V has been a solid and admirable constitutional monarch. Like the rest he has been obliged to go along with some less than positive changes but he had also done very praiseworthy things such as his 'behind-the-scenes' defense of the established Church of Norway (Lutheran) when the government wanted to cut all ties with Christianity in the largely secular country. The monarchy remains popular, has as strong a position going into the future as one could expect in this day and age and if they do not make the news all that often, it is only because the Norwegian royals have been pretty good about staying out of trouble. Other than one very colorful cousin (by marriage) I have no personal connection with the country, but I salute the Kingdom of Norway for their Royal Family, their history of good decisions and, I confess, especially for being the only Scandinavian country to say "no" to the European Union. Well done the Norwegians I say! I wish the Kingdom a belated happy independence day and long life to the King.

My Favorite Kings of France


(since the accession of the Capet dynasty)

I - King Philippe II Augustus: Philip II was a success in almost every way a King of France from his era could be judged. He built up his own estates and forces until he was the most powerful man in his kingdom, unified the squabbling factions under his leadership and launched a war against the King of England that brought down the Angevin Empire from its peak of greatness. He went on the Third Crusade and participated in the siege of Acre until ill health and tensions with England caused him to return home. He fought King Richard I to stalemate in France, not winning but at least avoiding defeat. He later defeated the forces of King John, driving him back to England and taking control of a great deal of English territory in France. When England, the Germans and the Flemish all allied against him, he still emerged victorious. He improved the French government and economy and though he was unpopular with many nobles and Churchmen, he was adored by the people.

II - King Louis VIII: Known as “Louis the Lion” began his reign by immediately taking the battle to the English in their on-going struggle and steadily regaining ground for France. During his reign the French knights seized Poitou, Saintonge, Avignon and Languedoc. He also made efforts to improve the economic situation and to improve relations with the Church. King Louis VIII was also one of the major leaders (on the Catholic side of course) of the Albigensian Crusade in the south of France, leading the French crusading forces into the fight in 1226. Unfortunately, he did not live to rule for very long and after taking the throne in 1223 he died later in 1226 while still on crusade against the Albigensians. His reign had been short but eventful and had seen the forward momentum continue of French victories and defeats for the English as well as local rebels and the heretical dissidents in the south. He was also father to one of the greatest kings of France: Louis IX.

III - King Louis IX: Better known as St Louis, set the standard by which all subsequent monarchs, not only in France but across Christendom, would be judged. His endeavors were not always unqualified successes, but his character and behavior were unparalleled. Because of him, in France as in no other country, the person of the King took on a sacred nature in the hearts and minds of the people. He was a devoted husband and despite coming to the throne at the age of 11, was a successful ruler overall. His combat against the English was mostly indecisive but he won several important victories over other enemies within France. He was a fair and just ruler, deeply religious even though the full extent of his devotions were never known to the public. When peace in France was secure his paramount objective was a crusade to retake the Holy Land, which was attempted but never successful. Still, he was brave, generous, just and upright in every way and as such was canonized after his death by Pope Boniface VIII.

IV - King Charles V: Known as “Charles the Wise”, King Charles V was not perfect but was ultimately the man who saved France from irrevocable disaster in the Hundred Years War. He intervened successfully in a civil war in Castile, blocking English influence there, but his greatest victories came when he renewed the war against the “Black Prince” of England. Disregarding traditional confrontation, his forces focused on wearing down the English and in the end they succeeded in driving the feared Black Prince back to England. As a result of the campaigns of his reign, earlier English conquests were reversed and Charles V restored his rule over all of France save for Calais and Aquitaine. His relations with the Church were not very admirable but were fairly common for the time. Charles V also embellished France a great deal, building or rebuilding the Bastille, the Louvre and a number of famous French castles.

V - King Louis XIV: The Grand Monarch, the Sun King, Louis the Great, is probably the only monarch I can like and dislike to the same great extent at the same time. He enacted many policies that were to have devastating consequences in the future, he led a very immoral lifestyle and his foreign relations were often despicable. Yet, at the same time, he was French greatness personified. All of Europe, and to a large extent the world, revolved around him. Virtually everything that was done by all the major powers in his lifetime was done in reaction to some action of his. During his reign France was the envy of the world with the most feared army, the brightest thinkers, the most astoundingly magnificent palaces, the most pious saints and some of the greatest sinners as well. He hoped to extent French power to the Rhine but did not quite make it though it took nearly every power in Europe to stop him. His relations with the Church were almost always strained yet he never crossed the line. His efforts to put the Stuarts back on the British throne failed but his effort to put the Bourbons on the Spanish throne did not. Today he is still remembered as the very personification of absolute, divine-right monarchy. No other monarch before, perhaps even since, embodied and exuded greatness to the same extent as Louis XIV. He is a hard man for me to admire and yet simultaneously hard for me not to.

Honorable Mentions: King Louis XVI for being a good man of upstanding moral character and King Charles X for his preference to chop wood ;-) I think you all know what I mean on that one.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Monarch Profile: Queen Christina of Sweden

Queen Christina of Sweden, though she reigned in the Seventeenth Century, continues to inspire fascination, debate and controversy even today. In her own time she was widely known as a rebel Queen, a woman who followed her own path and refused to limit herself to the social norms of the day. She was constantly causing gossipers and elitists to wag their tongues as she did things that women of her time considered unthinkable such as showing intellectual curiosity, thinking for herself, wearing breeches and converting to a religion which was illegal in her native land. She was Queen regnant of Sweden only from 1632 until 1654 when she abdicated to convert to the Catholic faith. Forget what you learned from the movies and Greta Garbo (though she is positively fantastic, don‘t get me wrong), she converted because of conscience and not romance.

Christina was born in Stockholm on December 8, 1626 to Maria Eleanor of Brandenburg and King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, the “Lion of the North”. Her Hohenzollern mother was rather unkind to her and her father ordered that she be raised as a boy. A true military genius who became the Protestant champion of Europe during the 30 Years War he would have preferred Christina to have been a son. When her father was killed at the battle of Lützen she became Queen of Sweden at only six years old. As she grew up she quickly displayed an independent streak and a very active mind. Educated as a boy and taking her coronation oath as a king rather than a queen, as per the wishes of her father, Christina was often referred to at court as the Girl King. She had an interest in a variety of subjects and loved long discussions with educated people on any subject which caught her interest. She also loved ballet, opera, theater and riding horses which necessitated wearing more masculine styles of clothing.

In 1649 she invited Descartes to her court to tutor her only one year before his death. Queen Christina gathered many other learned individuals around her which was considered unusual for a queen, further she seemed in no hurry to marry but what was perhaps most worrying to her government was that many of these philosophers, scientists and so on were Catholics, practicing or at least Jesuit educated nominal Catholics and religious discussions did arise from time to time. The Kingdom of Sweden by this time had long been officially Lutheran and to be a Catholic was a crime punishable by death as it was in most Protestant countries. She was never very interested in Lutheranism as it seemed too simplistic for her and the casual observer might have thought her to be totally unconcerned with religion, especially compared with other sciences and statecraft. She also saw to it that Sweden got in on the rush for colonies in North America when New Sweden was established in what is now Delaware, built around Ft Christina which was named in her honor. However, the Swedish Empire in the New World did not long survive as it was soon overrun by the Dutch from neighboring New Netherland. Nonetheless, during this period Sweden was the preeminent Baltic and Scandinavian power.

Queen Christina continued to make tongues wag across Sweden, though her most controversial studies, on the topic of religion, were kept secret. She met with Jesuit priests to learn more about the Catholic Church and in it, for once, she found a faith she could sink her teeth into; one that satisfied her fiery intellect as well as her heart. Where others saw idolatry and traces of paganism, Christina saw faith alongside reason, mysticism along with philosophy. Eventually, she determined that the Catholic Church was the true Church and made up her mind to convert. However, she tread softly and slowly, wishing no harm to come to her beloved country. If word had got out prematurely it might have meant chaos, her own death or even civil war. She was, after all, Queen of an officially Protestant country where Catholics were put to death and she was the daughter of the Protestant champion of the 30 Years War, the undeniably great man Gustavus Adolphus.

Queen Christina worked thoughtfully and methodically. She realized that she could not become Catholic and remain Queen of Sweden so she took steps to ensure a peaceful transition of power. Some have since questioned the sincerity of her conversion, but such arguments most often come from those who doubt true religious conviction to ever be authentic in any person. The Church sent a Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Casati, in 1651 to determine if she was sincere and he found that she was. Queen Christina may not have come to the faith by the way most converts do, but as with any human action there really is no one “normal” way at all. Different people are moved by different things in different ways. Despite what all of the doubters say, Queen Christina had everything to lose and nothing to gain in worldly terms by her conversion to Catholicism. Some point out that there were rumblings against her in Sweden for her expenses, her close ties with the aristocracy and so on. However, these are not uncommon for monarchs of her time and the same could be said for a multitude of kings across Europe, none of whom were overthrown or faced death because of some gripes by the chattering classes.

In 1649 Queen Christina had named her cousin, Charles X Gustav, as her heir though he had no role in government at all so long as she was on the throne. This set the stage for her abdication as well as being a way to stop the various European princes who had been seeking her hand in marriage. She had no desire to marry and preferred to devote her time to the arts and education. She was also eager, frankly, to leave behind the prejudices of her government. Officials groaned over her lack of attachment to Lutheranism and the more deeply she came into agreement with the Catholic Church the harder she found it to disguise her low opinion of Protestantism. The government also objected over her proposed alliance with Catholic Spain in which Sweden was to share the spoils of a new invasion of Portugal. Some attributed this to a total lack of understanding of statecraft on her part, but Spain was a major power and could have been a useful ally. The real reason for the opposition seems to have been simply the fact that the Lutheran elites of Sweden were repelled by any friendliness to Spain which was long considered the Catholic champion of Europe.

Despite the efforts of her detractors to portray her as a woman out of control at the end of her reign, the care she felt for her country is clearly seen in the plans she put into effect over a considerable length of time to ensure a peaceful transition of power when the time came for her to leave. That time came on June 5, 1654 when Queen Christina abdicated the Swedish throne and passed power to her cousin who became King Charles X Gustavus. She disguised herself as a man under the name of Count Dohna and left the country on a transcontinental trek to Rome. At Innsbruck in the Spanish Netherlands she was met by a Church delegation and was officially received into the Roman Catholic faith taking the name Maria Christina Alexandra.

Upon reaching Rome she was warmly received by Pope Alexander VII and for several months she was feted as the preeminent convert in the world at the time. The story of the Queen who gave up her crown to become Catholic was the one story absolutely everyone was talking about. The notables of Rome turned out in droves to entertain her and celebrate her courageous act of conscience. Thousands of people turned out to cheer her at this long succession of festivities in her honor which included pyrotechnics, operas, parades of elephants and camels in Asian style, jousts, acrobatic displays and mock battles. She reestablished herself at a court in exile and again became the hostess of some of the most brilliant minds in the world of her time. She became a center of the very essence of the old Renaissance with scientific and artistic figures constantly in her company. Eventually the celebrations calmed down but even after all of this Queen Christina had not lost her ability to shock and cause controversy.

A little over a year after her arrival she traveled to France as the guest of the preeminent European monarch of the day King Louis XIV. The very proper and protocol conscious ladies of the French court were shocked by her casual manner and doing such outrageous things as not sitting properly and clapping at a ballet. Hardly what anyone today would consider shocking behavior. The French elites were impressed by her but often with the attitude of being impressed by an oddity rather than by her own merits. She let her hair down, as we might say, but there was nothing truly scandalous about her actions and she was undoubtedly enjoying the freedom of being beyond the control of her gloomy government ministers and stuffy bureaucrats. She lived essentially the life of an Italian Renaissance prince and of course no Italian Renaissance prince worthy of the name did not have some political intrigue under his belt and Queen Christina was no different.

In 1656 a plan was conceived to put Queen Christina on the throne of the Kingdom of Naples; that part of southern Italy nominally under the rule of Spain but long neglected and finally being contested by France. The French army promised her support and Cardinal Mazarin, the power behind the French throne, was involved in the enterprise. However, this scheme fell apart as the result of the treason of the Italian master of horse for Queen Christina at Fontainebleau. He learned of the plot and in 1657 made it known. He was called before the Queen and presented with evidence of his betrayal and was summarily executed by members of her household staff. This caused quite a stir in France and subsequent historians have made quite an issue out of it, however, it was perfectly legal in the time and place as the prince (or princess) of any court at that time was judge, jury and executioner over those of his or her household. The man had betrayed his mistress and such treason would have resulted in death one way or another in any court or country in the world at the time.

Queen Christina and Pope Innocent XI
Nonetheless, the whole issue embarrassed the French and in any event meant that there would be no effort for the Kingdom of Naples and Queen Christina returned to Rome where she resumed her intellectual pursuits. She had some desire to visit England but as the country was then under the dictatorial rule of the Puritan Oliver Cromwell there would be no welcome there for a queen who was a Catholic convert of all people. Her only further political activities centered on her long lost homeland of Sweden. Since her exile things had not been going too well in the Nordic kingdom. The same year of her abdication a Swedish invasion of Poland met with defeat and in 1660, when King Charles X Gustav died, it seemed an opportunity for Queen Christina to regain the throne and resume her place as Queen of the Swedes, Goths and Wends. However, she found no welcome there in the Lutheran country for a Catholic queen and she had neither the means nor the desire to force her way back onto the throne and so she renounced the throne and returned to Rome, keeping up her social life there and correspondence with the intellectuals of the day.

In 1662 she again sent word out of her desire to return to her homeland even if she would not be Queen. However, the prejudiced government insisted on such restrictions placed on her residence that she would have been little more than a prisoner in her own home and for an independent woman like Queen Christina this was totally unacceptable. She remained in Rome, keeping up with the latest discoveries and theories as she always had done until her death on April 19, 1689. She left her massive library and exquisite art collection to the Pope and named her friend Cardinal Decio Azzolino, leader of the so called Catholic Flying Squad, heir to her estate. She was buried in the crypt beneath St Peter‘s Basilica and has a prominent monument on display there in her honor; Queen Christina being one of only three women to be so honored in the basilica.

Were all things as they should be, that is where the story of Queen Christina would end. Instead, there are the lingering, modern day controversies which must also be addressed. In the many works concerning her written long after her life she has been portrayed as a lesbian, a bisexual or owing to her occasions of wearing masculine attire as a transgender person. However, there is absolutely no factual basis for any of these accusations. As a matter of fact there is not one shred of hard evidence of her ever having a sexual affair with anyone. The most that can be presented are letters to female friends, none of which actually suggest anything more than strong personal friendship and her letters to her friend Cardinal Decio Azzolino, none of which, again, convey anything but strong friendship and one would have to do some extremely stretched reading between the lines to make anything more of them and in such cases one is usually able to find whatever one wishes, seeing things that are not there and twisting words so far out of proportion as to be totally unrelated to the original work.

As for Queen Christina dressing like a man and having male mannerisms, it must be remembered that she was purposely raised as a boy, encouraged to act like a king rather than a queen and many of her hobbies like horseback riding necessitated wearing something more practical than feminine attire. We should also keep in mind that by modern standards most of the men in her day dressed in a way we would consider feminine with long, flowing hair, earrings and lacey collars and cuffs. She also enjoyed study, learning and other things which were, at the time, considered the domain of men and her attire may have been no different from women today who are in big business that wear pantsuits to fit in better with their male counterparts and keep from drawing undo attention to their gender. As to the transgender issue itself, the body of the Queen was examined in our own time and no evidence of any sexual abnormalities were found. All in all the adoption of Queen Christina by the gay, lesbian or transgender communities as some sort of icon really represents nothing more than people grasping at straws in an effort to write themselves into the history books by claiming figures long gone as their own.

Greta Garbo as Queen Christina
With all of these accusations, which are numerous even if groundless, and the skeptics who doubt and pour scorn on her every action it is easy to lose sight of the plain facts about Queen Christina of Sweden. Those facts are that she cultivated her mind, rising above the prejudices that surrounded her as a child and that she gave up the pinnacle of worldly power, being the reigning Queen of a country, to do what she felt was right. She could have kept her throne and played the part of a hypocrite, being outwardly Lutheran even though she rejected it in her heart, or for those who say she simply did not want to be queen and was not sincere in her conversion, she could have abdicated and lived privately in her own country in considerable comfort with no religious conviction at all. However, she did none of these things and there is no other solid reasoning for her sacrifice and her conversion except that she was convinced she had to become Catholic as it was the only Church which she found totally satisfying. The facts support this, as they do not the many allegations against her. The facts also show how dearly she loved her country, even as she could not, in good conscience, remain its Queen, but taking great care not to disturb its tranquility with her departure and to leave it in capable hands. Sweden should still be proud of her.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Consort Profile: Queen Marie Louise of Orleans

Most will have heard of the unfortunate Carlos II, the last Hapsburg King of Spain, but how many know about the woman behind the man, Queen Marie Louise of Orleans? As royal consorts go, she had impeccable ancestry. Her grandfathers were King Louis XIII of France and King Charles I of Great Britain and among her uncles were the “Sun King” Louis XIV, King Charles II and King James II of Great Britain. The Princess Royal of England, Princess consort of Orange and future Queen Mary II of Britain was her aunt. So, she had the blood of the Bourbon, Hapsburg and Stuart dynasties flowing in her veins. She was born Her Royal Highness Marie Louise d'Orléans, Mademoiselle d'Orléans, at the Royal Palace in Paris on March 26, 1662 to Philippe Duke of Orleans and Princess Henrietta Anne of England. As a child she was known for her beauty and winning personality and from the start she was her father’s favorite, a real “Daddy’s girl”.

Marie Louise had a good upbringing and was given a great deal of attention by her grandmothers; the tragic Queen Henriette Marie and the formidable and calculating Queen Anne of Austria who left most of her fortune to the child when she died in 1666. She did not have an entirely happy childhood as her mother died in 1670 but, on a brighter note, she had a very good relationship with the stepmother she acquired the following year and with whom she always remained close. As she grew older though, the family necessarily began looking for an appropriate marriage for her and, as was often the case, trying to maintain friendly Franco-Spanish relations were a priority as the two monarchies had recently been squabbling over conflicting claims in the Low Countries. As a result, to a large extent thanks to King Louis XIV of France, she was betrothed to the King of Spain at the age of 16. On August 30, 1679 she was married by proxy at Fontainebleau Palace with the Prince of Conti acting for the groom. In a touching moment, during her last days in France, she went to pray at the Val-de-Grâce convent where the heart of her late mother was preserved.

Marie Louise then set out for Spain and met her husband, King Carlos II, going through another wedding ceremony at Quintanapalla on November 19, 1679. The resulting marriage was sadly tragic though not for the reasons one might expect of a match arranged by the father and uncle of the bride. Not surprisingly, King Carlos II was absolutely smitten with his young bride the instant he met her and for the rest of his life no other woman ever held his heart the way she did. However, her status in France had given her comfort but great freedom and she found the strict protocol and rules of the Hapsburg court in Spain hard to endure. There was also a good deal of lingering animosity against the French due to the recent conflict and for many Spaniards their new French queen became the focus for it. As Queen, Marie Louise was spared the worst of this, but her ladies were constantly being accused of involvement in some sinister plot or intrigue on the part of France and this only served to increase the feelings of isolation and homesickness on the part of the queen.

A family of her own might have been enough to pull her through but, alas, this was not forthcoming. King Carlos II (who may have been impotent) and Queen Marie Louise tried for years and prayed earnestly and constantly that God would give them children but none were forthcoming and eventually the Queen lost hope that any would. This, on top of everything else, caused her to fall into depression. There was no doubting the King’s love for his wife, but the coldness with which others treated her, the popular clamor against her and her lack of children worked together to remind her of how much happier she had been as a child in France, with no worries or responsibilities and surrounded by her doting father and attentive stepmother. The King, who certainly did not represent the best of his dynasty, could do little to help her as he was often ignored in his own government and was beset by problems on every side as economic problems increased, foreign losses mounted and Spanish power declined. Under such circumstances, the best of monarchs would have been hard-pressed and the generally disabled Carlos II could realistically never have hoped to.

Queen Marie Louise, who had arrived in Spain young, beautiful of full of energy had dealt with her depression by over eating and had become an overweight, unhealthy and constantly sad figure. She attended her husband, heard mass and tried to distract herself as best she could but she could find no happiness. On February 11, 1689 she was taken to bed with extreme stomach pains. Marie Louise had come to her tragic end, passing away the next night. However, her last thoughts were extremely touching. Despite all of his infirmities, her last words were of her husband, the one person in Spain who had always truly cared for her. “Your Majesty might have other wives”, she said, “but no one will ever love you as I do”. And with that, she departed this life at only 26-years old. King Carlos II would marry again, as duty dictated, but he would never hold any woman as dear as he had Marie Louise, and in his mind, no other could ever hope to match her and the heartbreak he felt would never go away. He lived on in increasing misery until 1700 when the reign of the Spanish Hapsburgs came to an end.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Monarchist Profile: Baron Ungern-Sternberg Part II

By 1920 the motley collection of Siberian Cossacks, Kalmuks, Buriats and Japanese mercenaries clustered around the Baron had almost been totally pushed out of Russia by the massive Soviet forces, but the Baron hatched another plan. He would go into the heartland of the Mongols, gather the forces loyal to the Khan and the deposed Emperor of China and forge a massive, revived Asian empire under the Manchu dynasty that would take in Mongolia, Manchuria and Tibet which was spiritually linked to the Mongols. Setting out, the Baron and his private army rode into Mongolia in 1920 with the Red Army nipping at their heels. This move, however, was not simply an invasion on his part. The Baron had been invited in by the displaced Bogd Khan of Mongolia who had ruled as Emperor and Living Buddha of the country in a Buddhist theocracy since the Chinese Revolution. By this time, however, the Chinese republicans had returned and the Khan was anxious for help from any quarter to restore his country. This was fairly common practice at the time as the deposed Emperor of China was also in constant contact with various White Russian warlords in the hope of enlisting them in the service of the restoration of the Manchu dynasty. Ungern-Sternberg was more than willing to comply. A committed monarchist, he viewed all republicanism with disgust and felt that only monarchy possessed the secular and spiritual purity to save civilization from chaos.

He immersed himself in his surroundings, donning native robes, learning at least passable Mongolian and studying Buddhist mysticism. This was to be the heartland of the Eurasian empire he planned to build. The Baron succeeded in restoring the Bogd Khan to his throne but at this time the Manchu Emperor has to be wary of his actions for fear of upsetting the republic and endangering the “Articles of Favorable Treatment”. The Baron had taken the capital of Mongolia (then called Urga) after intimidating the Chinese republicans by setting fires on all the surrounding hillsides to give the impression of an immense host waiting to slaughter them. He led his men in the attack with reckless abandon, on a white horse, even if his only weapon was often his bamboo stick he constantly carried. Prior to taking the city he had liberated the Khan with the help of 300 Tibetan cavalrymen sent by the Dalai Lama to aid in the rescue of his deputy. The Chinese republicans were totally defeated though they were not all dealt with as harshly as some say as the Baron hoped to recruit Chinese forces into his army for the restoration of the monarchy in that country.

On March 13m 1921 Mongolia was officially proclaimed independent of Chinese control once again as the Bogd Khan was ceremoniously restored to his throne amidst much rejoicing by the local populace. However, for the Baron, this was just to be the beginning. The first step in his grand plan to forge a massive Mongol-Manchu Empire had been accomplished but further progress proved more difficult. Aside from restoring the Qing dynasty, he wished to make an alliance with the Japanese so that all could join forces in invading Russia, wiping out the Bolsheviks and restoring the Romanov dynasty to the throne. Most would agree that was not about to happen but most would also not dare to say so to the Baron who, for the moment, was the man of the hour. A grateful Khan lavished titles and honors on him and the XIIIth Dalai Lama in Tibet declared him to be an incarnation of the wrathful, protecting deity Mahakala. However, Buddhist incantations aside, the enemies of the Baron were organizing, on both the Russian and Mongol sides of the border.

The Soviets had already set their sights on Mongolia becoming their first satellite state and had already begun grooming a new set of Mongol communists to be puppet dictators on their behalf. They were also not prepared to tolerate the growing number of White Russians taking refuge in Mongolia and Manchuria. Baron von Ungern-Sternberg was a priority. Others, they felt, were all talk, but the Baron was just crazy enough to make good on his threats to return. Ungern was convinced that the great mass of the Russian peasantry were loyal to the Tsar and had only been misled by deceitful agents into supporting the revolution. Once he and his army rode back on to Russian soil, he was sure, they would rush to his colors and together they wash their motherland clean of the Marxist infection. Meanwhile, in Mongolia, the Baron was forced to deal with domestic issues.

Although most sources speak of atrocities committed by his forces, the Baron was actually a strict disciplinarian who meted out harsh punishments for those who committed crimes or who were drunk on duty. His troops cleaned up the city, established a wireless station, telephone network, public transportation, built bridges, printed a newspaper, established a veterinary clinic, hospitals, re-opened the schools and reestablished commerce -which is another reason for his safeguarding the Chinese community as most were merchants. He was, at all times though, adamant that the Bogd Khan was the final authority and he no more than commander of the army. His headquarters was a simple Mongol yurt set up in the courtyard of a Chinese house and very sparsely furnished. His habits were Spartan and he tried (ultimately without success) to enlist the support of the Japanese government and the exiled Qing Emperor.

In the meantime, across the border, his enemies were gathering. A Mongol cavalryman named Damdin Suhbaatar had earlier been sent to Russia to seek aid against the Chinese. He would become the preeminent “hero” of the communist revolution, known as the “Lenin of Mongolia” while other men such as Soliin Danzin and Khorloogin Choibalsan (the “Stalin of Mongolia”) would lead the political struggle into a nightmarishly bloody future. The communists would later portray these men, Suhbaatar in particular, as their liberators from the monarchical-religious despotism of the Bogd Khan and the Baron. In truth, this campaign would mark the beginning of decades of Mongolian oppression at the hands of the Soviet Union as the country became the first communist dictatorship in Asia and the first Soviet satellite state. Finally, frustrating with politics and diplomacy as his enemies continued to strengthen, the Baron determined to ride out with his army as it was and seek a climactic confrontation with the Reds that would determine the future of the Far East and whether there was any hope for a future counter-revolution in Russia.

However, his two divisions were almost totally mounted cavalry, with few machine guns or modern artillery. The Red Army, on the other hand, possessed no shortage of trucks, weapons, airplanes or manpower and they concentrated all against him as the two forces maneuvered for advantage along the Russo-Mongolian border, crossing back and forth as the situation dictated. Ungern-Sternberg threw himself into battle with his usual zeal but while the local revolutionaries were never a serious problem, everyone knew his relative handful of Cossacks, Mongols, Japanese, Chinese, Manchus and Tibetans could never be a match for the hordes of the Russian Red Army. After scattering the local forces opposing him, in May of 1921 the Baron marched his small army back into Russia near modern Kyakhta. He let loose his fury on the communists who had not been expecting the Baron to take the offensive in such an aggressive fashion. It was truly a case of the prey becoming the predator.

However, it was only a matter of time before the Soviets brought their full strength to bear and after about a month of successful raids the communist offensive came in July of 1921. Red Army patrols were everywhere, combing the countryside in search of the Mad Baron and his renegade army. Finally, on August 21, 1921, the end came. As usual, Ungern-Sternberg did not intend to go quietly. He and his men, in a wild-eyed rage, charged with maniacal fury straight into the Soviet forces. As would be expected, his troops were decimated and at that point the Baron lost control. After announcing that they would ride to Tibet to regroup and continue the fight, a portion of his bloodied troops mutinied and tried to kill the Baron themselves, but he survived and they were too intimidated by him to try again. Instead, he was bound and abandoned on the steppe, half naked with his talismans still hanging about his neck. A Red Army patrol finally came upon him and took him into custody though some witnesses were afraid to even look at him, so fearsome was his appearance. The reign of the mad monarchist of Mongolia had come to an end and with him his dreams of a restored Asian empire.

Lieutenant-General Roman Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg was taken to Novosibirsk in Siberia with his train stopping at every station to display him as if he were an exhibit at a freak circus. Undoubtedly this is where many of his more heinous deeds were dreamed up as the communists shocked the locals with tales of the bloodthirsty former Tsarist general they saw before them who had tried to revive the empire of Genghis Khan. He was the last monarchist general in the field to bedevil the new Russian dictator Vladimir Lenin and with his capture and execution the Soviet chiftain was eager to finally put the civil war and any threats to his new state to rest. In September a military tribunal was convened, though in typical communist fashion it was more for appearances than anything else. The prosecutor was known, even by Bolshevik standards, as a fanatical atheist and he used the trial and the Baron to preach at length about the evils of religious devotion, be it Christian, Buddhist or of any other variety. The Baron said very little, accepting his situation as the fate of the defeated, though he did object to state that his forces had never harmed women. However, he knew the expected outcome as well as anyone else.

The fate of Ungern-Sternberg was a forgone conclusion. To the surprise of everyone, when he did speak, he spoke quite eloquently and coherently, perhaps causing a little confusion for those who portrayed him as a mindless, raving, bloodthirsty beast. Nonetheless, he was swiftly found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad on September 17, 1921. Even in death, however, the Mad Baron could not simply die easily. He chewed up his prized Cross of St George so as to keep it from falling into the hands of the godless communists and when the executioners shot him in the chest (we are told because his head was too small a target) a piece of shrapnel from one of his many talismans still hanging around his neck flew back and seriously injured one of the Red soldiers. That would officially mark the last blood to be shed by Baron von Ungern-Sternberg. The mad monarchist of Mongolia, the man who thought to revive the glories of Genghis Khan and wanted a united Asian monarchy that would wipe the scourge of Bolshevism from the earth was no more.

In Mongolia, the again powerless Bogd Khan ordered Buddhist prayers to be said for the Baron in all the temples of the country. In Moscow the politburo breathed a sigh of relief and doctors dissected him to try to find some scientific explanation for his bizarre behavior. Most of the world has forgotten him, but his name, his image, reappears just often enough to remind everyone that he still haunts the dreams of Marxist revolutionaries. Wherever his soul now rests, that fact alone, I think, would make the Baron smile. He had ultimately been defeated, but he had gone down fighting for what he considered the most holy and righteous cause possible.
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