Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Monarchy for America?

In prowling about the internet I see that some brave soul is again trying to organize a kingly political party for the United States. I direct those interested to the Monarchist Party of America which hopes to establish a monarchy in the United States under an elevated American dynasty. Believe it or not, this is not the first time such a thing has been tried. There was once the Constantian Society, founded in 1970, which endeavored to inform Americans about the benefits of monarchy overseas and to encourage support for monarchies around the world. It did not survive the death of its founder unfortunately. I recall there used to be a Monarchist Society of America, organized by member of the Qajar dynasty, formerly of Persia, which operated along the same lines, not advocating a monarchy for America but advocating for monarchy overseas. It seems to have receded into web oblivion as well as I can find nothing on it after a quick search prior to writing this. Were I to venture a guess I would say it probably dissolved for lack of interest.

On that subject, in 1998 was founded the Royalist Party of America (the colorful “Purple shirts”) which advocated making the United States a kingdom. In its original incarnation the RPA worked out a plan for what constitutional amendments would have to be passed in order to establish a monarchy in the United States. They also advocated following a more traditional route for countries in need of a monarch but lacking one; inviting a foreign royal not in line for their own throne to take the job. A poll was held and the popular favorite was HRH Princess Madeleine of Sweden (who happens to be living in the U.S. at the moment…hmmm…maybe there’s more to this than meets the eye) to be invited to become the first Queen of the United States of America. However, within a few years the party went inactive due to lack of interest. It was later revived under new leadership, starting putting out a newsletter, sending out membership packages, printing pamphlets and distributing campaign buttons but, again, finally dissolved due to lack of interest. A few years later it was revived again under new leadership with a new website and an on-line newsletter but, again, in even less time dissolved due to lack of interest.

All of this is why, when I am asked, as I occasionally am, what advice I would give to someone looking to set up a royalist or monarchist political party in the United States my sad but sober answer is, “don’t waste your time”. I hate to say that because I don’t want to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm and before I adopted my strict policy of never becoming a member of anything I was caught up in it once myself when I was a young, enthusiastic royalist at university. However, despite the sometimes extensive memberships these groups have achieved (and I say extensive considering that this is the “Great Republic” we are talking about here) time and time again I have seen the same pattern play out. People join up, join up and join up and then lose interest and a handful of the party faithful are left trying to do everything until they finally give up out of sheer exhaustion and an unwillingness by anyone else to take over leadership. There is also the fact that, even though the monarchist presence in the United States is tiny, the few that do exist agree on almost nothing and based on experience I can say most are not going to compromise on anything, for any reason, ever.

For example, some monarchists who firmly support the monarchy of a foreign country or even every foreign country still would not support a monarchy in the United States. I can understand this since monarchy is all about tradition and monarchy is not and never has been a part of the traditions of the “United States of America”. There is a tradition and a heritage of monarchy in North America to be sure, but the political entity known as the “United States of America” has never had a monarch and never been a monarchy. Because of that, there is the additional problem of the lack of a pretender. Aside from the state of Hawaii there is no native born American citizen who has any bloodline right to a potential American throne. The area encompassing the U.S.A. has regions that were under the dominion of the King of Great Britain, the King of France, the King of Spain and the Tsar of Russia but no one monarch or royal house ever held legitimate claim to the whole of what is now the United States of America. The lack of a “legitimate” royal candidate will put many people off all by itself.

Then there are the options of importing a royal or raising an American citizen to monarchial status. Again, since the American people have no common ancestry or common religion, whichever royal is picked to be imported will not please everyone and the same could be said for any potential American candidate for the throne. Even if Americans came around to the idea of having a king, getting everyone to agree on an appropriate candidate would be all but impossible. One could resort to the democratic process but, as I read once, if the issue was to be a matter of popularity America better prepare itself for the reign of “Queen Oprah I”. Personally, I have always said that if America were to ever become a monarchy the only way I could see it happening would be in a way similar to ancient Rome. That is that things fall apart to such an extent that an authoritarian figure must step in to save the day and then slowly establishes a monarchial system while keeping the republican structure in tact so as to avoid inflaming the mob. “King” is still a four letter word in the United States and that mindset is certainly not going to change anytime soon.

None of this, however, should be taken as a swipe against any American monarchists. I wish them nothing but the best and if they buck the trend I will applaud. I speak only as someone who has been around the block in this neighborhood before and, as with anything, experience tends to make one a bit skeptical and jaded. If there are those who want to give this sort of thing a try, I will wish them the best of luck. Heck, sometimes on election day I still wear one of my Royalist Party buttons to the court house just to enjoy the confused looks on peoples faces.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Romanian King Insulted

I had other issues planned for today but this news threw me into a proper royalist fury (and a tug of the forelock to Royal World -the only place I have seen this reported). The President of Romania, that traitor, that swine, that pinko-commie-bastard of a turncoat Traian Basescu, in a televised interview on Wednesday launched into a slanderous tirade aimed at his own lawful and legitimate monarch, HM King Michael I, a man held dear by many Romanians even if they do not support his restoration to his rightful throne. This political pig and walking insult to the Romanian nation, blamed the King for everything done by the pro-Nazi dictator General Ion Antonescu, including the deaths of all of the Romanian Jews and Gypsies killed in the Holocaust. This in spite of the fact that the pro-Nazi government was only removed from power when the young King Michael of the Romanians planned and successfully executed a coup against them that removed them from power and took Romania out of the Axis and into the Allied camp.

Let the record show that it was the King who had been pushed aside and treated almost as a prisoner by Antonescu and it was the King who enjoyed widespread support amongst the Gypsy and Jewish communities. History also shows the efforts made by the Royal Family to save Jewish lives whenever possible and that the pro-Nazi faction would never have been removed from power without his leadership as King. But, the dishonest political cur did not stop there. He went on to call his anointed sovereign “a Russian lackey” and that his abdication to the pro-Soviet government was “an act of treason”. It should perhaps, come as no surprise that the cabrón would come up with something like that as it is a better description of himself! As everyone here probably knows, King Michael abdicated only after the communist government threatened to execute 1,000 Romanians if he did not. If the King had simply wanted to escape he could have, he had the perfect opportunity while attending the wedding of HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, but he did not, he returned to Bucharest knowing full well that the communists could decide to execute him at any time. He sacrificed his position and gave up his Crown to save the lives of his people. He had principles which is something this piece of political filth could never understand in a million lifetimes.

I wonder how many people outside of Romania, hearing about this story, will know just what sort of “man” this puffed-up pimp of President really is? Here are just a few facts about this pendejo who would insult his King. You know who actually WAS a communist, yeah, this guy. He was a card carrying member of the Romanian Communist Party when the “Iron Curtain” was still up and had many cozy deals with the secret police the whole time. When the “Iron Curtain” came down and the pinko commie rats went scurrying for cover, of course he claimed that he wasn’t a communist really but just joined the party for the help it would do to his career. As I said -no principles. He was the first Romanian President to ever be removed from office (he got back in of course) and his career has been one long litany of allegations of corruption and voter fraud. This scum, this trash, this utter disgrace of a human being represents the absolute worst of that rightly reviled class of bottom-feeders we call “politicians”. He is not worthy to even stand in the presence of a man like King Michael.

What would this pig have done had he been in the place of the King? Would he have resigned from office to save the lives of his people? Oh no, of course not, he wouldn’t have had to because he was on the same side as the communists! Now, in fairness, I should say that, especially recently, I have not always agreed with King Michael on everything. But, he is a good man, an honest man and a man with principles. He is a man who put his people before himself. One of the things I disagreed with was his endorsement of his son-in-law running for President and I am afraid that may be what is behind this. That endorsement may have caused the political class in Bucharest to consider the King “fair game” from now on. That, however, is no excuse for spewing such slanderous lies about a great man. This spineless politician, this giant, flaming sore on the dark end of humanity who calls himself the President is someone who has lied and cheated every step of the way to get where he is now, a man with no integrity, no principles, no loyalty and obviously no manners on top of that. I would say what I think should be done to him … but that might put me on a list at Janet Napolitano’s house. Instead, I will simply say that he should be run out of office on a rail and the whole sorry crowd of political slime with him. Let Romania restore her monarchy so that, at the very least, there can be counted on to be at least one good and honest man in government.

The worst possible political fate for this pinko, commie pig would still be too good for him -and that’s all I have to say about that.

Long live the King of the Romanians! Long live the Counterrevolution!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Favorite Royal Images: Actress Princess

If you happen to be an Indian TV or film fan you may recognize the name Bhagyashree. Bhagyashree Patwardhan has been a rather prominent star in her native India for some time now. She also happens to be royalty, the oldest of three daughters of His Highness Meherban Shrimant Raja Vijaysinhrao Madhavrao Patwardhan. She is also not the only famous actress of royal blood in the subcontinent. Moon Moon Sen, her daughters Raima Sen and Riya Sen also have royal blood in their veins.

Monarchist Profile: Laura Secord

If you are not a native of Her Majesty’s Dominion of Canada you will probably never have heard of Laura Secord. However, for proud Canadians she is a heroine of the early history of their country; possibly even a savior of it. She was born on September 13, 1775 as Laura Ingersoll in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Her family, of course, were loyalists (like all good Americans were in those days) and her father, Thomas Ingersoll, served in the local loyalist militia during the Revolutionary War. This, naturally, made things rather difficult for the family after the separatists won the war and established the United States. Like many loyalist families the Ingersoll clan decided to relocate to Canada in 1795 where the British Crown still reigned supreme. At that time, Canada was the “land of opportunity” and there were many like the family of Thomas Ingersoll who hoped to recover family fortune they had lost in the Revolution due to their loyalty to King and country.

 Because of all of this it should be no surprise that the family, again like most, was staunchly monarchist and steadfastly loyal to the British Crown, their loyalty having been tested in the extreme and not found wanting. In 1797 young Laura married James Secord, a member of the United Empire Loyalists, whose father had also been a loyalist in the Revolutionary War having served as an officer with Butler’s Rangers, a particularly fierce group of American Tories. James and Laura Secord settled down to a life of domestic bliss, setting up house in Queenston, Ontario (or Upper Canada as it was known then). Laura Secord lived the life of a typical wife on the northern frontier of the British Empire until trouble with the United States brought another war to her doorstep. After years of increased tensions the United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812 and immediately launched an invasion of Canada. War Hawks south of the border boasted that taking Canada would be a ‘mere matter of marching’ and believed that the people would welcome them as liberators from the “oppressive” rule of the British monarch. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Laura Secord bravely kissed her husband goodbye as he rushed to the colors to defend Canada from the Americans. The Crown forces were grossly outnumbered but they had an advantage in the dynamic and audacious leadership of General Isaac Brock who organized his handful of redcoats, Canadian militia and local Indians to repel the American invasion. He had already thwarted one attempt before meeting the U.S. army at the battle of Queenston Heights where General Brock was mortally wounded. James Secord helped remove the body of his fallen commander and, in the process, was wounded himself. Laura risked the perils of the battlefield to search for her husband and, after finding him, caring for his wounds. The couple were almost killed by a group of American soldiers but were spared thanks to the arrival of Captain John E. Wool. A friend for life was made and that Captain Wool later became a hero in the Mexican-American War and a general in the War Between the States.

The war went on and in the spring of 1813 the U.S. Army made another effort to invade Canada. Fort George was captured and an American column moved to take control of the Niagara Peninsula which could have been of great importance. Colonel Charles Boerstler was dispatched with a sizeable force to surprise the British outpost at Beaver Dams, paving the way for future American advances. However, Laura Secord overheard the plans for this operation from a group of American officers who had quartered themselves in her home. Slipping away, Mrs. Secord braved a long and hard journey, barefoot through the wilderness to reach the British outpost and warn Lieutenant James FitzGibbon of the imminent American attack on June 22, 1813. There were over 600 regular U.S. Army soldiers against only 50 British redcoats and around 400 Indian warriors but FitzGibbon had time to prepare and the result was that the Crown forces were able to ambush the advancing Americans and totally defeat them with a minimum of losses. This hot little engagement so stung the U.S. forces at Fort George that they never made any further aggressive moves and finally abandoned the fort.

Laura Secord went back to a normal life with word of her exploits spreading by word of mouth but never being officially recognized, despite the efforts of Lt. FitzGibbon on her behalf. James Secord predeceased his wife and she fell on hard times in her old age but in 1860 the future King Edward VII, who was visiting Canada at the time, heard about the 85-year old widow who had saved Crown forces from a probable defeat and promptly donated a hundred pounds to her (a vastly greater sum at the time than it seems now). She died on October 17, 1868 and was buried next to her husband at Holy Trinity Church in the village of Chippewa (now Niagara Falls, Ontario). As the years went by her story spread through history books, articles and even plays. Today there are numerous memorials honoring Laura Secord in Canada as the heroine of the War of 1812, paying tribute to the brave woman who had risked her life in defense of her King and country.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Royal Profile: Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

Today ‘Archduke Ferdinand’ (as he is often incorrectly known) is probably one of the best known yet least understood royal figures of the 20th Century. Most people have heard of him but only because it was his assassination which caused the spark that ignited the powder keg of World War One. He was, however, a much more far-sighted man than he is often given credit for and, in many ways, he seemed to sense the calamity that was approaching Europe and which would overtake it upon his death. However, much of this remained unknown due to his style and personality which often masked how modern-minded a man he was. He was born on December 18, 1863 to Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria (younger brother of Emperor Francis Joseph) and Princess Maria Annunciata of the Two Sicilies. In 1889 HIRH Crown Prince Rudolf died which made Archduke Karl Ludwig heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, however, only a few days later he abdicated his rights making Franz Ferdinand the successor to his uncle the Emperor.

In the years since, many have tried to portray the Archduke as spoiled, aloof and uninformed but that could not be farther from the truth. He was wealthy, having inherited the fortune of his cousin the Duke of Modena and he was more of an avid sportsman than an intellectual but he was also well educated, well traveled and took his position as heir to the throne seriously. He devoted a great deal of his time to studying the problems of Austria-Hungary and how he might one day solve them, looking to examples from history and the world around him for ideas. He traveled extensively across Europe and around the world visiting Australia, Japan and Canada on one trip alone. He served in the army and was found to have a natural talent for organization, eventually becoming inspector general of the Imperial & Royal armed forces in 1913. His personality was such that he could seem a bit authoritarian at times but this was certainly not his character as his private life clearly shows.

To the immense dismay of his uncle the Kaiser he fell in love with the Countess Sophie Chotek after meeting her at a party in Prague in 1895. They kept their romance a secret for two years because of the disapproval of the Emperor. Finally, however, the Archduke made it clear that he would have no other wife but his beloved Sophie. Emperor Francis Joseph was outraged, considering the countess to be of far too low a rank to be wed to the heir to the Hapsburg throne but the Emperor would not budge. The Tsar of Russia, the German Kaiser and even the Pope all wrote to the Emperor urging him to agree to the marriage and finally he relented. The couple were married on July 1, 1900 but the Emperor would never allow the countess any additional privileges. Their children would have no rights to the throne, she would not have the title of her husband and so on. For the rest of his life the Emperor would refer to the countess as the “scullery maid” (she had previously been a lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Teschen) and always regretted allowing the marriage. Nonetheless, despite these difficulties the Archduke adored his wife and wrote in a very touching letter in 1904, “The most intelligent thing I’ve ever done in my life has been the marriage to my Soph. She is everything to me: my wife, my adviser, my doctor, my warner, in a word: my entire happiness. Now, After four years, we love each other as on our first year of marriage, and our happiness has not been marred for a single second.”

Obviously, the true character and personality of the man was not what most assumed it to be based on his reserve in public and his often heated confrontations with the Emperor. However, the misunderstandings regarding the Archduke overlap with the misunderstandings of the Dual-Empire as a whole. It has become fashionable to view Austria-Hungary as a doomed state, government remaining stagnant while the world pushed ahead, ready to bring down the edifice that refused to adapt. However, this was not the case. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, though a very conservative, Catholic prince, could see that problems existed and were growing worse and he worked on a plan to solve them. He was not a man who resisted any change at all on principle nor was he a militaristic expansionist (which often put him at odds with the Chief of the General Staff).

Archduke Franz Ferdinand realized that the greatest threat to Hapsburg stability was the Slavs in the southern part of the empire. To deal with them and to hopefully put to rest all of the ethnic discontent in Austria-Hungary, he proposed a version of the idea of federalism. Some called this the “United States of Greater Austria” (and, indeed, America was an example) in which all ethnic groups in their own regions would have an equal voice in government. Concerning the Slavs in particular, others called the plan of the Archduke “Trialism”; putting the Slavic peoples on an equal footing with the Germans of Austria and the Magyars of Hungary. In fact, most of the southern Slavs fell under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Hungary and so, not surprisingly, there was little love lost between the Archduke and the Hungarians who were to be his future subjects. Franz Ferdinand thought Hungary needed reform, both in how they treated their own minorities and in how they administered government. In fact, he threatened to refuse being crowned King of Hungary if their government did not pass universal suffrage. Surely this was hardly in keeping with the image of the Archduke as an aloof authoritarian.

However, in a way, it was his foresight that was to be his undoing. When he became the target for assassins while on a visit to Sarajevo it was not because of what he had done wrong to the Serbs but for what the extreme Serb nationalists feared he would do right. The Archduke had actually opposed the annexation of Bosnia from the Ottoman Turks because he feared it would upset the European balance of power. So, he had not even wanted Austria-Hungary to rule Bosnia. Furthermore, it was his plan to create a federal Austria-Hungary with the Slavs being raised to equal status with the Austrians and Hungarians that the violent Serb nationalists saw as a threat. After all, if the Slavs were given political autonomy, if their grievances were all addressed, they might not be so receptive to the idea of risking war to throw off Hapsburg rule in favor of the dream of a “Greater Serbia”. So, again, it was not because of what he had done to mistreat the Slavs but specifically because of what he planned to do on their behalf.

And so, we come to that fateful Sunday, June 28, 1914 when, after surviving a bomb thrown in their direction, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were gunned down while riding in an open car by the Serb terrorist Gavrilo Princip. Even with his last breaths his concern was for his beloved wife and children. He died shortly after reaching the town hall and, taking the side of either Austria-Hungary or Serbia, the rest of Europe and soon the world began marching down the path to the most ruinous war mankind had yet witnessed.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

MM Video: Tsars and Nominal Tsars of Russia

The Cause for Queen Katharine of Aragon

I direct the attention of all Catholic readers to the official website for the cause of Queen Katharine of Aragon, tragic first wife of King Henry VIII of England. She has always been a favorite of mine, for her deep religious devotion, courage, sense of duty but also her great fidelity. The loyalty she held firm to toward her husband, even to her last breath, is, to me, probably the greatest evidence of her saintliness. How many people could do that after all the woman had been through? Anyway, she was a great woman, I have no doubt she is in Heaven and I fully support her cause. Also, a tug of the forelock to Tea at Trianon where I first found out about this.

MM Video: The Last Empress

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Royal News Roundup

Why, especially with all of the pressing issues facing the countries of Europe today, do so many seem fixated on messing with the rules of succession? In the UK, Nick the Commie Clegg has started talks with the Commonwealth realms over the abolition of male primogeniture in the monarchy of the British Commonwealth. It remains to be seen how that will turn out. It is, however, an accomplished fact in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg which recently passed a law getting rid of male preference for the descendants of Grand Duke Henri. Hold on though, it gets better. The law was actually passed in September of last year but has only now been made public. Of course, most other European monarchies have already done the same but I wonder if these people will all be honest when the changes actually take effect? Will the Swedish Royal Family after “Queen Victoria” be known as the House of Westling rather than Bernadotte? I doubt it. I never liked this sort of thing but it is one of those issues that I like even less the more I think about it.

There has been a royal exchange, east and west, this week. HRH Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark traveled to Japan to visit some of the sites hit by the tsunami disaster. First were the formalities of course, meeting with HIH Crown Prince Naruhito and later a dinner with the Emperor and Empress. When visiting the hard hit areas the Crown Prince met with a number of school children and it was a happy sight to see with so many smiling faces, the Crown Prince included. HIH Crown Prince Naruhito also traveled overseas, going to the Federal Republic of Germany to mark the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Amity between the Empire of Japan and the Kingdom of Prussia. This was an “unequal treaty” as far as Japan was concerned and later renegotiated. During World War I the Japanese, as allies of Great Britain, declared war on Germany and seized German possessions in the Far East but later fell out with the Allies over their treatment of Japan after the war. Of course there then followed the period of the “Axis” between Japan, Germany and Italy which ended with their defeat in World War II. Since then, Germany and Japan have still maintained good relations based on trade and cultural exchanges.

In North Africa, the Kingdom of Morocco has introduced numerous constitutional changes with HM King Mohammad VI taking the lead in calls for reform. However, many protestors still complain that the reforms do not go far enough though some are ready to declare “mission accomplished”. Unrest in Morocco has already led to the referendum on the changes being held far ahead of schedule. Aside from the government aspects, expansion of democracy and so on, the changes will also include greater religious freedom (while maintaining Islam as the official religion) and greater protections for the Berber minority.

In the Low Countries, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg celebrated its National Day on Thursday with the Royal Family out in force for the event. Meanwhile, Crown Prince and Princess Philippe and Mathilde of Belgium have come to the United States for a 9-day visit focused on strengthening business links between Belgium and America, bringing several hundred Belgian businessmen with them. New York, Boston and Washington DC are on the itinerary before they jet back to Europe. After all, they must be back in time for the Princely wedding in Monaco which has been getting an increasing amount of media attention, you see some of the latest stories and interviews at Mad for Monaco.

And who would have thought that the United Kingdom would be the focus of a Catholic ‘gong’ fight between members of the Royal Family of the former Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies? Well, it has happened. As you probably know, leadership of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies dynasty is contested between HRH Infante Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria and HRH Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro. Each also claim leadership in rival factions of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George. Well, the Constantinian Order of the Duke of Castro planned a special service to be held in Westminster Cathedral this fall. When this was publicized the Duke of Calabria protested vehemently, claiming that the Duke of Castro’s Constantinian Order is invalid and should be shunned while also mentioning some unsavory relations on the part of the order headed up by his rival. The Duke of Castro, of course, would probably say the same thing about the Order of the Duke of Calabria. However, this dust-up has caused something of a diplomatic headache and threatens to force the Catholic authorities to take a side, something the Holy See has adamantly refused to do in the long-running succession dispute. These disputes are so, so very tiresome. Whether it is France, Portugal, Russia or the Two-Sicilies, sometimes I would really like to knock their heads together. Most simply ignore the feuding but it does do real harm. I for one and rather annoyed that when I finally became able to actually contribute some meaningful assistance to the monarchist cause, I can scarcely find a royalist movement where the leadership is not disputed and you risk donating to what may turn out to be the “wrong” side. It would make me mad … if I weren’t already.

NOTE:
I should also point out that I take no sides in most of these disputes. In some, I do adhere to one side but I would not argue their case here. I want to encourage monarchist unity and in every case I would prefer any candidate over the prevailing republic. I list the websites of both the Castro and Calabria factions on the sidebar (because frankly every time I have tried to work out which “side” is right, I end up with a legalism-induced headache) as well as the websites for the Savoy dynasty of both the Prince of Naples and the Duke of Aosta. On that one, I have mixed feelings, I do lean a certain way but at the end of the day I take no side. For France, I list both (though I do have a preference) because I don‘t want to ignite a debate that would accomplish nothing.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Monarchist Military: The Austrian Volunteer Corps

When Archduke Maximilian of Austria, after some great initial hesitation, accepted the offer of the throne of Mexico his brother, the Emperor Francis Joseph I, was certainly not pleased. Nonetheless, once the decision was made the prestige of Austria-Hungary was somewhat invested in the enterprise and he agreed to allow the formation of the Austrian Volunteer Corps to go to Mexico to fight alongside the soon-to-be-organized Mexican Imperial Army. Recruitment began in 1864 in Laibach, Slovenia and volunteers came from all corners of the Hapsburg empire. There was even an effort to take advantage of this occasion as an opportunity to rid the empire of some of those who had proved troublesome in rebellions in the years prior. Single men of the Catholic faith were preferred in the hope that they would put down roots and settle in Mexico. There were Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and almost every other ethnic group of Austria-Hungary represented in the formation.

In all the initial strength of the Austrian Volunteer Corps was 6,800 men. These were organized into three light infantry battalions, the “Kaiser Maximilian” Hussar regiment, a lancer regiment, three batteries of mountain artillery, two companies of pioneers and an assortment of support personnel such as gendarmes, medics transport and so on. General Franz Graf von Thun-Hohenstein was appointed to command the corps and upon their arrival in Mexico they were supplemented with some loyal Mexican brigades to form the II Territorial Division, under Major General Thun, based out of the historic city of Puebla. Lorenz rifles were the standard weapon for the infantry while the cavalry carried an assortment of pistols along with their sabers or lances. Most of the troops also grew beards and seemed to intentionally wish to take on a rough and rugged “frontier” appearance. Their “look” proved to match their abilities as well as they earned a reputation as an elite force amongst the soldiers fighting for Emperor Maximilian against the republican bandits.

Not surprisingly, the Austrians (nor the Belgians who they were initially grouped with) did not get along very well with their French allies. There was little love lost between the two groups and eventually many came to resent the Belgians as well who enjoyed the full support and favor of the Belgian-born Empress Carlota whereas Emperor Maximilian tended to hold back in such areas for fear of being seen as showing favoritism to the sons of his former country over his adopted homeland of Mexico. The Emperor was always concerned with showing that he had embraced Mexico and the Mexican people whole-heartedly, that he was one of them and not the instrument of any foreign power. However, the Austrians more than proved their worth, despite being probably the most multi-lingual force on the continent. The infantry spoke German, the lancers spoke Polish and the hussars spoke Hungarian as a rule and all in a country where the official language was Spanish and working side by side with another army speaking French!

Although they had only been intended to provide security for the Emperor, the French were hard pressed in dealing with the guerilla tactics of the republicans and the Austrians saw extensive combat. Although operating primarily in eastern Mexico, they brought the Sierra del Norte under control, pacifying the area and obtaining a ceasefire from the local rebel leader. Because of their effectiveness, Austrian companies with their own cavalry and artillery were often organized into “flying columns” to stamp out guerilla attacks as they appeared. Austrian companies were also often attached to units of the Mexican Imperial Army to strengthen them. By 1865 things were going well militarily but north of the Rio Grande the United States was able to crush the southern Confederacy and bring their full diplomatic and military weight to bear in seeing the Mexican Empire destroyed.

The French, already war weary, were encouraged to begin pulling out. In Austria-Hungary, national pride had been aroused and a considerable relief force was assembled (there always being more volunteers for service than could be accepted) but these were never dispatched as the United States intervened, threatening to declare war on Austria-Hungary if any additional assistance was sent to Maximilian. Meanwhile, they dramatically increased their own assistance to the republicans and the tide turned against Maximilian. Still, they fought bravely to the bitter end. At the disastrous battle of Santa Gertrudis, while the other imperial forces were wiped out or surrendering, the Austrian companies decided to go down fighting, affixed their bayonets and charged into the enemy ranks. Still, with the cause seemingly lost, many were ready to go home. When it was decided that their unit would be disbanded and the troops placed under the command of the unpopular General Leonardo Marquez most of the Austrians decided not to re-enlist and 3,428 of the remaining 4,500 returned to Europe.

There were though about a thousand men who remained, ready to fight to the death alongside Emperor Maximilian who had determined to stay in Mexico no matter the circumstances. These men formed the majority of the 18th Line Infantry regiment and the ostentatious “Red Hussars” and they represented probably the most effective and reliable units in the Mexican Imperial Army at that time. However, when Maximilian left for his fateful last stand at Queretaro he purposely did not take these regiments with him, leaving them behind in Mexico City. He wanted his final battle to be a purely Mexican affair and to show that his loyal Mexican brigades had the unqualified faith of their Emperor. Some Austrians found ways to tag along anyway but their number was negligible. The remainder were surrendered along with Mexico City on June 21, 1867 bringing a final end to the heroic Hapsburg adventure in the New World.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Monarch Profile: King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy

The future monarch, who would become known to his people as “the little one” was born Vittorio Emanuele in Naples, Italy to King Umberto I and Queen Margherita (then Prince and Princess of course) on November 11, 1869. In his youth he learned all about his grandfather leading the way for the creation of the unified Kingdom of Italy, the colonial expansions under his father and the desire for Italy to take her place among the great powers of Europe. Duty was stressed, respect for the constitutional monarchy set down by his ancestors and a proper respect for the ancient House of Savoy that he would one day lead. In those days, when radical liberals often had control of the government, one thing that everyone agreed on was the driving ambition for Italy to live up to her past glories and achieve greatness. Responsibility for the continued rise of Italy and the survival and embellishment of the Savoy dynasty was placed on the young Prince of Naples. In an effort to ensure an infusion of new blood into the Royal Family, in 1896 he was married to Princess Elena of Montenegro. In time, five healthy children would follow.

Italian politics had always been contentious in the extreme and the Prince of Naples saw just how far this could go when his father was assassinated on July 29, 1900, bringing him to the throne of Italy as King Vittorio Emanuele III. It was quite a change. King Umberto I had been a strong, even fierce-looking monarch who played an active role in government, supporting certain endeavors and never leaving much doubt as to where he stood. Vittorio Emanuele III, on the other hand, was quite short (and both at home and abroad many people made a good deal of sport about his size) and he took a more detached role from politics. He respected the Italian constitution and was to learn that royal intervention could have severe repercussions. One of these lessons, he learned early, with the onset of World War I. His father had brought Italy into alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary (which was not very popular in Italy) but Italy initially stayed out of the war. However, when Britain and France offered Italy considerable financial support and extensive new territories to be taken from the Germans and Austrians, King Vittorio Emanuele III intervened to take Italy into war on the Allied side.

The King had picked the winners but most of the consequences were still disastrous. Casualties were extremely heavy, allied support had to be called in to stave off defeat and national pride was wounded as a result. Still, the King might have been praised if Italy had emerged better off after the victory when all the promised spoils were delivered. Unfortunately, almost none were forthcoming. Aside from some gains in the Austrian Tyrol region, Italy was given none of the territories she had been promised and this led to outrage, directed against the other Allied powers, the government and, to some extent, the King himself. To further demonstrate the danger of becoming involved in politics, Vittorio Emanuele III survived two assassination attempts and watched as increasingly radical factions took hold in the country and threatened to destroy all the House of Savoy had built with civil war. The dashed hopes for national expansion and the increasing chaos in the country from the First World War to the early 20’s would have a major impact on the most controversial period of history for the Kingdom of Italy as a whole.

In his personal life, the King was known as a very devoted husband, a bit of a “neat freak”, very frugal and a coin collector. Despite what detractors have said, he was committed to the rule of law, constitutional monarchy and he was courageous. During World War I he had set up his headquarters very near the front, visited the front lines numerous times and took an active interest in the welfare of his soldiers. However, the crisis was building and within the framework of the Italian constitution there was little the king could do on his own, there had to be a capable government to work with and the government was rapidly breaking down. Radical socialists were calling for the overthrow of the monarchy, an international communist revolution and the destruction of everything Italian history and culture stood for. On the other side, the fascists of Mussolini were calling for nationalism, authoritarian government but also professing loyalty to the Kingdom of Italy and pledging to restore the values and strength of Italian family life and the glory of ancient Rome. The King, ultimately, had to choose between these two groups and his only real choice was the fascists.

Critics, since that time, have claimed that Vittorio Emanuele III did not need to make that choice. They argue that if he had mobilized the army (which was staunchly royalist) he could have stopped the fascist “March on Rome” and kept Mussolini out of power. There are two major problems with that argument. First, it would have meant Italian soldiers shooting down Italian civilians in the streets. It would likely have sparked a civil war, exactly what the King wished to avoid at any cost, and destroyed the Italian nation. The second problem is that, even if the fascists could have bee suppressed, that still would not solve the political problem. It would have effectively forced all power to go to the radical socialists as there was no other major force to oppose them and Italy would have gone down the nightmarish road of republican Spain. The Savoy monarchy would have been destroyed and Italy would have become a communist satellite in southern Europe. The King knew that many of the fascists were revolutionary in temperament and that Mussolini himself had once been a radical leftist who opposed the monarchy, however, he had no choice but to work with the man who was the only one available to save the situation.

We must also remember how the King was criticized for pushing for Italy to join the Allies in World War I and this probably influenced his decision to some extent to summon Mussolini to Rome and ask him to form a government. Despite his earlier opposition to all traditional authority, Mussolini never moved against the King and even after establishing his dictatorship he maintained the monarchy after reducing the parliament to powerlessness. The King did question some fascist actions but could not ignore the fact that the new Duce was (so far) loyal. Support for the King remained high and government offices began displaying two portraits; one of the King and one of Mussolini. On patriotic occasions two songs would be played; the Royal March (the official national anthem) and then Giovinezza (the unofficial national anthem) which was the song of the National Fascist Party. However, despite this show of dual loyalties there was no doubt that power was being exercised by Mussolini, not the King.

For a time, things got better. The threat of civil war was ended, law and order were restored and a stable government was established. As the saying went, the trains started running on time. In 1929 the people of Italy and Catholics around the world rejoiced at the ending of the stand-off between Church and State in Italy when the Lateran Treaty was signed between Mussolini and Pope Pius XI. The Church recognized the Kingdom of Italy and the Italian government recognized Vatican City as a sovereign state. Catholicism became the official religion of Italy and the past unpleasantness resulting from Italian unification and the occupation of Rome was finally consigned to the past. The Church gave support to the King, Italian clerics swore allegiance for the first time to the King of Italy and Mussolini was praised, in the words of the world press as “the man who gave God back to Italy and Italy back to God”. Italy also intervened in Spain to support the nationalist faction (which had the support of Churchmen and monarchists) against the Soviet-backed republicans, resulting ultimately in the victory of General Franco and the nationalists.

After a border incident Mussolini ordered the invasion of Ethiopia and within seven months the African country was conquered and King Victor Emmanuel III became Emperor of Ethiopia. When the victory was announced, he made no comment but obviously the public could not but be moved by the fact that for the first time in so many centuries there was again an Emperor in Rome. In 1939 Victor Emmanuel also became King of Albania following the annexation of that country which had, in fact, long been occupied by Italy as a protectorate. The year previously Mussolini, by now allied to Nazi Germany, passed new racial laws in Italy which were fairly unpopular. Some since have accused the King of being silent on this issue but that is not the case. He expressed deep misgivings to Mussolini on the subject, shaming him for following in the footsteps of Germany but, of course, there was nothing he could do about it with Mussolini at the height of his power.

When Mussolini decided to enter World War II the King, list most of the military high command, had grave misgivings about Italian preparedness but, as a constitutional monarch, he had to go along with his government and issue the declaration of war in 1940. For a brief time the Kingdom of Italy reached its peak in terms of territory, controlling all of east Africa, the formerly Italian areas of France, all of the Adriatic coast and most of Greece but reverses came quickly and as losses mounted the popularity of the King declined as well as that of the fascists. By 1943 enough members of the Fascist Grand Council no longer supported Mussolini that the King was able to act and after the council voted against Mussolini, King Victor Emmanuel III summoned him to the palace and, with the support of the government and the army, he dismissed Mussolini and placed him under arrest. The King appointed Marshal Pietro Badoglio as Prime Minister, renounced his titles as Emperor of Ethiopia and King of Albania and began negotiations with the Allies for an armistice.

The King was willing to take any action to save his country from the disastrous war but the Germans were not about to tolerate the loss of their primary European ally and German troops were soon pouring down the Italian peninsula armed with orders from Hitler to depose and arrest Victor Emmanuel III. The King and the government were forced to leave Rome and join the Allied armies advancing from the south. To drive the Germans out of Italy the King formally joined the Allied powers and declared war on Germany. However, chaos prevailed with most of the country under German control and Mussolini leading a puppet republic in the north. It is worth remembering that Mussolini said his greatest mistake had been in not abolishing the monarchy when he had the power to do so. But the damage had been done and King Victor Emmanuel III turned power over to his son in 1944. This did not have the desired effect and in 1946 he abdicated in favor of his son who became King Umberto II. Victor Emmanuel III retired to Egypt but the monarchy still did not survive a highly irregular referendum. Only a year later the former King died in Alexandria and was buried in St Catherine’s Cathedral.

In retrospect, probably the most accurate thing that has been widely said about King Victor Emmanuel III was that he was unlucky. He reigned during the peak of power for the Kingdom of Italy as well as the time of her darkest devastation. He was a good man, a responsible man, a devoted husband and father, who was forced to make some very tough decisions. It is an immense injustice that he was held to blame for things which were far beyond his control and punished for crimes he never committed. His people and his country were his paramount concerns and it was thanks largely to him that Italy survived World War II and if anyone is quick to be critical of some of the hard choices he had to make, they would do well to ask themselves first what they would have done if faced with the same alternatives.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Servant of God Princess Maria Clotilde of Savoy

Princess Maria Clotilde of Savoy may not be one of the best known royal figures of history but she certainly deserves to be. I cannot help but think she would be better known and more widely celebrated if not for the fact that those most would expect to did not often hold a considerable grudge against many of her relatives and in-laws. She was born HRH Princess Ludovica Teresa Maria Clotilde on March 2, 1843 in Turin to HM King Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont-Sardinia (who would go on to become the first King of Italy) and his first wife Queen Adelaide of Austria. She was the first of eight children and, as such, had to take on more responsibility as a girl than her younger siblings. As befitting a princess she had quite an illustrious heritage behind her. Her paternal grandparents were King Carlo Alberto of Piedmont-Sardinia and Queen Maria Theresa of Tuscany and her maternal grandparents were Archduke Rainer of Austria (son of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II) and Archduchess Elisabeth of Savoy.

From the time she was quite young Princess Maria Clotilde was known for her modesty, piety and good nature. Her mother was a very devout Catholic woman and impressed upon her the importance of religion, the Church and good moral character, lessons she learned well. However, the Princess did not have much time for childhood. As was the fate of princesses everywhere her marriage was soon the subject of political considerations. At this time, the French Second Empire was the largely dominant power on the continent and King Victor Emmanuel II had it impressed upon him constantly that the goal of a united Italy required the good will of the French Emperor Napoleon III. A Savoy-Bonaparte marriage seemed like just the thing to help bind Paris and Turin together; something which the House of Savoy at least would have thought absolutely unthinkable in the past. Arrangements were soon being made for Princess Maria Clotilde to marry Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, son of Jerome Bonaparte the one-time King of Westphalia.

The princess was less than overjoyed at the news she was to marry Bonaparte. In fact, she was absolutely horrified by the prospect and with good reason. She was an intensely religious, innocent, petite girl of barely fifteen. Her husband-to-be was a very large, very anti-clerical and worldly man of more than thirty-seven. She was so young in fact that the wedding had to be postponed for a time and the Piedmontese were less than impressed with how anxious the lumbering Bonaparte was to come and scoop up their dear little princess. The two were married in Turin on January 30, 1859 in what some onlookers described as the union of a gazelle and an elephant.

No two people could possibly have been less suited to each other. He was an anti-clerical liberal who liked lavish parties and fast living; a big man with big appetites. She was a deeply religious conservative who preferred peace and quiet, a small woman with a big heart, bound by royal duty to serve God and the people. He liked to party, she liked to pray, his instincts were ambitious, her instincts were charitable. Princess Maria Clotilde was, needless to say, a very unhappy wife. Yet, she had finally agreed to the marriage because of her devotion to royal duty and in so far as the politics of the match were concerned the marriage worked out well. Plon-Plon (as her husband was known) was a tireless advocate for French intervention in Italy on the side of Piedmont-Sardinia and the Italian nationalist movement. The policies of Emperor Napoleon III regarding Italy were not entirely consistent (his wife constantly urging him in the opposite direction) but French support against Austria was crucial in the eventual triumph of the House of Savoy and the unification of Italy.

Princess Maria Clotilde therefore had the satisfaction of knowing she had done her duty as her father wished but it is doubtful how much that meant to her when her daily life was filled with such unhappiness. She gave Plon-Plon three children; Prince Napoleon Victor in 1862 (who later married Princess Clementine of Belgium), Prince Louis in 1864 and Princess Maria Letizia in 1866 who later married the one-time Savoy King of Spain Amedeo I. She was devoted to her children and was a very good mother but her husband caused her no end of grief with his numerous affairs which was difficult for a proud Savoy princess to take. However, she was nothing if not a woman of duty and proved she could and would endure almost anything that her royal duties demanded of her. It was small comfort that most of the French disliked her husband as much as she did and one thing the French and Italians both agreed on was that he was not worthy of such a good, dutiful wife. However, she carried on, devoting herself to prayer and charity which also earned her a great deal of respect and affection among the people of her adopted country.

Eventually though, the star of Emperor Napoleon III began to decline and with the disastrous war with the German states in 1870 the French Second Empire came crumbling down and Paris soon broke out in yet another chaotic revolution, in some ways more horrific than those of the past. The Bonaparte clan began to flee Paris and France but Princess Maria Clotilde was reluctant, even in the face of frenzied revolutionaries and the Prussian army. She was adamant that as an Italian princess of the House of Savoy she did not run away but preferred to stay proudly at her post even as the ship of state was sinking beneath the waves. However, for the sake of her family she was finally persuaded to leave Paris and the family moved to Switzerland. When King Victor Emmanuel II died in 1878 it was, in many ways, the final straw for the long suffering princess. With her older sons staying with their father, she took her young daughter with her to Turin for the funeral and remained in Italy afterwards. Shutting herself off from the outside world for the most part in Moncalieri Castle outside Turin, she spent her remaining years in seclusion, prayer and keeping up her charitable work. She died there on June 25, 1911 at the age of sixty-eight.

No one who ever knew her could not sympathize with her for all she had to endure in her life nor could they not but admire her for the stoic pride with which she did endure it. The Princess was a responsible woman, a woman of deep faith, great compassion and devotion to duty. She strove at all times to carry out her responsibilities to God, her country, her family and her people. She had a very magnificent sense of what it really means to be royal. For her, to be royal was to be the servant of her people and she showed that by enduring an unhappy marriage and in her many, many years spent helping the less fortunate. She was an example and an inspiration and, as such, it is entirely fitting that she has since been declared a Servant of God and her cause for beatification is currently underway.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Trasimene and Relativism

It was on this day in 217 BC that the Roman army of Flaminius was ambushed and wiped out at the battle of Lake Trasimene by the Carthaginian forces of the great general Hannibal. For the strict monarchists, there is no dog in the fight. Carthage and Rome were both, at the time, republics (though both were founded as monarchies). However, as everyone knows I am a Roman partisan and so this is a sad event to recall for me while taking nothing away from Hannibal who was a very talented and audacious military man.

The lesson I take from battles of the Punic Wars like Trasimene (in which Carthage won) is how different the world might well be if it had been Carthage that had rose to dominate the western world instead of Rome. Relativism is all the rage today, be it cultural or moral, but those are sympathies that I do not share. Yet, even modern Christians can look at Carthage and Rome and shrug their shoulders since both were pagan. Not me. They were both pagan, true enough, but that does not mean they were both the same. Although the odd fringe existed as in any religion, the paganism of ancient Rome was pretty tame when compared to the paganism of Carthage where they were sacrificing little children in the most horrid way possible. No two people, nations or cultures are the same nor are they equal and the fact that all may have value does not mean that any one is as good or bad as another. For myself, I am quite grateful that the Romans learned a lesson from their defeat at Trasimene and went on to eventually win the war for supremacy against Carthage rather than the reverse.

Favorite Royal Images: Little Luxembourger

HRH Princess Sophie of Luxembourg, daughter of Grand Duke William IV, she later married Prince Ernst Heinrich of Saxony.

MM Video: Egyptian Royal Family

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monarchist Profile: William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle

William Cavendish, First Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was one of the leading royalists of the English Civil War. He was born at Handsworth Manor in Yorkshire to Sir Charles Cavendish and Catherine Ogle. He grew up at Welbeck Abbey with his younger brother Charles with whom he was very close. Intelligent and curious, as he grew up he showed himself to be something of a ‘Renaissance Man’ dabbling in a number of fields from architecture to poetry and diplomacy and politics to the art of warfare. He attended St John’s College in Cambridge and when Prince Henry Frederick became Prince of Wales in 1610 William Cavendish was made a Knight of the Bath. He dabbled more in the diplomatic field as he traveled with the English ambassador to the court of the Duke of Savoy and upon his return Elizabeth Bassett, widow of the First Earl of Suffolk. He inherited a considerable fortune in his turn and became close friends with both King James I and later King Charles I.

He used some of his vast wealth to help King Charles fund his wars in Scotland which served as a prelude to the English Civil War, in which he was quick to cast his lot with his King. In 1628 Charles I had created him Earl of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and there was no doubt that his prestigious position would warrant him a top command in the Royalist army. Some, then or since, argued that Cavendish was not a military man, though he had military experience and that he was not suited to a command position. However, if the Earl lacked a total mastery of warfare he made up for this by surrounding himself with expert veterans such as Sir Marmaduke Langdale and George Goring. Using his own money he raised his own troops, equipping and maintaining them at his own expense. One troop, known as the ‘whitecoats’ became quite famous over the course of the conflict. From Newcastle upon Tyne he was called back to York where the Fairfax father and son were harassing the local cavaliers (royalists). His attack on Fairfax was repulsed but Fairfax was still forced to retreat and Cavendish secured the area for the King for the remainder of the war.

One of the benefits of the occupation of Newcastle had been that the Earl was able to keep open communications with Queen Henrietta Maria in France and he also oversaw the importation of supplies from the continent through that area to aid the royalist cause. In 1643, having returned to York, he was joined for a time by the Queen in person and also gained the highly esteemed soldier, James King, as his second-in-command. On June 30 at the battle of Adwalton Moor he defeated a smaller parliamentarian force under Lord Fairfax, securing all of Yorkshire and even capturing Fairfax’s wife, whom he gallantly let pass through the lines to join her husband. At Gainsborough the arrival of his forces helped the royalists win the day but he failed to follow up the victory and ignoring orders to march on London diverted to besiege Hull, in what was probably his greatest mistake, and the result was a total defeat for the royalists.

Setbacks such as that were always an occasion for others to call into question the military ability of the Earl of Newcastle and, by most accounts, he did not react well to these, being rather quick to take offense. In 1644 his problems were doubled when the Scots entered the conflict on the side of Parliament and he had to deal with both the Scots and the refurbished forces of Lord Fairfax. He made some progress against the Scots initially but was forced to fall back to defend York which was soon besieged by superior Parliamentary forces. Still, he had prepared his defenses well and determined to hold out until a relief force under the “Mad Cavalier” Prince Rupert could arrive. Fairfax tried to block the Prince but he slipped by him, reached York and the city was saved. However, the prickly Newcastle had taken offense at some of the communications sent by Prince Rupert and some attribute this to his slowness to respond to the build-up for the battle of Marston Moor.

In that engagement, Newcastle fought fiercely, taking out several enemy soldiers himself in close combat, but abandoned the field once all seemed lost and his famous ‘whitecoats’ were virtually annihilated. Still fuming about what others were saying about him, in the aftermath he handed the King his resignation and went into exile in Holland. This was a disaster for the royalists as many gave up hope after the departure of Newcastle and defected to the Parliamentary side. Once in exile he resumed his previous peacetime pursuits and eventually settled in Antwerp where he remained until the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. After that happy occasion he was compensated for his financial losses, restored to all his previous posts by King Charles II, given the Order of the Garter and promoted to the status of First Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He died at Walbeck Abbey on Christmas Day in 1676 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

The Duke of Newcastle was certainly no Marlborough or Wellington, however, the efforts some have made to portray him as a complete incompetent are grossly unfair. He was of invaluable service to the royalist cause, won a number of important victories and if it could be said that he did not ‘play well with others’ the same could be said of many other men on both sides in those days when egos were large, pride easily wounded and dueling fairly common. More inclined to literary and artistic pursuits than anything else, Newcastle was a true conservative. He cared nothing for politics or ideology but knew simply that his first loyalty was to his King who was also his friend. It was that personal relationship that mattered most to him and it was that bond that he fought for to the best of his ability and he deserves to be remembered for that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Monarchists and the Sacred Heart

The month of June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, as we have discussed before, this devotion has long been a very prominent one for Catholic monarchists. Here is a look at some of them:
 French counterrevolutionaries wore the Sacred Heart as a badge, an item which was the closest thing they had to a uniform. As such, the Sacred Heart became very associated with the French royalists as a whole.
The Sacred Heart, portrayed in simple form, was featured on many flags and banners of the royalist forces as well as the badges they wore over their breasts. Because the symbol became so associated with French monarchism it is still featured today on many royalist flags and insignia.
 In Spain, the devout Catholics of the Carlist faction made the Sacred Heart a prominent symbol in their own movement. Some wore the Sacred Heart as a badge on their uniforms (as seen above) while others scratched the symbol on to their weapons or in more modern times even painted the symbol on their vehicles. Carlist banners also often featured the Sacred Heart incorporated in the Spanish royal arms.
In Mexico the Catholic rebels known as the Cristeros often featured the Sacred Heart on their flags. They were what we might call "spiritual monarchists" (their battlecry was 'Long live Christ the King') and had they been more successful, who knows, they might have become more political monarchists. Their top general did see himself as another Miguel Miramon, one of the generals shot alongside Emperor Maximilian.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Monarchist Destinations: The Pantheon

Obviously, there are many, many monarchist destinations throughout Rome and Italy, but if I had to choose one where you get the most ‘bang for your buck’ (so to speak) it would probably have to be the Pantheon, officially now the Church of St Mary and the Martyrs or, more popularly, Santa Maria Rotonda. Still, many people continue to refer to the building as the Pantheon, though there are conflicting stories as to why it came to be called that. Probably no other monarchist destination in Italy so well combines the glory days of the two monarchies that ruled a united Italy; the Roman Empire and the recent Kingdom of Italy. The place where it was built was on or near a temple built by General Marcus Agrippa, who was the right-hand-man of Emperor Augustus. However, the structure as it exists today was build by the great Roman Emperor Hadrian. Although purported to be a rebuilding of the original temple it was really an almost totally new structure and design.

The Pantheon was built between 118 and 126 AD and was one of the most magnificent of the many buildings constructed by Emperor Hadrian and one the great emperor was quite fond of as he often held court there. The central dome that dominates the structure is still the largest free standing concrete dome in the world, even 2,000 years after it was built. In 609 AD Emperor Phocas of the East Roman Empire legally ceded the building to the ownership of Pope Boniface IV who consecrated it as a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. The Pope had requested that the Byzantine Emperor give the building to the Church so that this sacred place where once the pagan gods were worshipped could be transformed into a house for the worship of the Christian God. This was extremely significant as the rededication of the building as a church is probably the only thing that saved it from going the way of so many other Roman monuments that were destroyed in various invasions (most people don’t know that a great many of the relics of ancient Rome were not ruined in ancient times but in the dark ages or even the Renaissance period).

Given this new purpose for the Pantheon, it is remarkable just how little was changed after it became a Catholic church. Some of the things that were changed were later restored with probably the biggest difference being the removal of all the pagan statuary which would, of course, have been rather inappropriate (to say the least) for a Christian place of worship. However, it is still, to a very large extent, in much the same condition as it was when Emperor Hadrian built it. No doubt because of the connection with the glorious days of ancient Rome, the Pantheon eventually became famous as a place where the most famous Italians were brought to be buried. When the country was reunited as the Kingdom of Italy the Pantheon was where the ancient and modern Roman Caesars came face to face.

Along with many famous painters, composers and architects also entombed in the Pantheon are the first two Kings of Italy and one Queen: Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I and his wife Queen Margherita. Also, although he is buried in Egypt where he was exiled, King Vittorio Emanuele III has a memorial lamp burning for him at the tomb of his father as it had been intended for all the Kings of Italy to be buried there. The area is quite a spectacular monument, combining the ancient and the modern by showing the arms of the Royal House of Savoy surmounted by the Imperial Roman eagle. Also, in a wonderful display that still enrages republicans, loyal Italian monarchists still hold a voluntary vigil over the tombs of their kings. The republican government might have put a stop to this but, as the building is still a working church (where mass is still held on special occasions) they have no say in the matter and the Catholic authorities have allowed the monarchists to continue.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Today in Mexican History

It was on this day in 1863 that General Juan Almonte was appointed provisional President of Mexico by the Superior Junta in Mexico City appointed by the victorious General Frederic Forey of the French Imperial Army. The body was essentially a triumvirate consisting of General Jose Mariano Salas, General Juan Almonte and Archbishop Pelagio Labastida (left to right in the above picture). The elderly General Salas, like Almonte a veteran of the war in Texas and the storming of the Alamo, had twice served as an interim President of Mexico and all were known advocates of the conservative, Catholic, monarchist cause in Mexico. General Juan Almonte had been dispatched to Europe by a previous Mexican government (that was quickly overthrown as they all were) and had remained there arguing in Paris and Madrid and elsewhere for a European prince to come across the ocean and restore the Mexican monarchy. Accusations that he had his own sights on the throne are entirely false and obviously absurd. General Almonte had always been loyal to his own superiors and never advocated anything that would have given himself power. On the contrary, a major reason for his adherence to the monarchist cause was that none of the traditional elites in Mexico could be trusted. So many governments had come and gone, so many leaders set up and overthrown over and over again that no one trusted anybody. He was convinced that only someone from outside the country, with no connections to the entrenched political factions, could bring order out of the chaos.

As Provisional President, General Almonte formed a regency and sent a delegation to formally invite the Austrian Archduke Maximilian to assume the Mexican Crown. This had long been the goal of the conservative, Catholic faction in Mexico but, oddly enough, they were probably closer to their own ideal vision under the provisional regency of General Almonte than they were when Emperor Maximilian actually arrived. Under Almonte the rights of the clergy were restored, the honored place of the Church was restored, public processions were as well and it was made a criminal offense to fail to kneel when the Blessed Sacrament was being carried in procession down the street. Churches that were closed were re-opened and the traditional rights of the aristocracy were restored to them as well. Much of this would be un-done by Emperor Maximilian as he tried to rule moderately and appeal to all parties and be acceptable to all nations -ultimately without success. The French were, themselves, not entirely impressed with the Triumvirate that Forey's assembly of notables had appointed. One officer referred to General Salas as, "a mummy dug up for the occasion".

General Forey addressed the junta after their organization on the subject of their task of forming a government from the political chaos left over from the Reform War. They were free to choose any sort of government they wished, though the acid-tongued Captain Loizillon (quoted above) said that was so, "on condition they choose a monarchy". However, in truth, this issue was never much in doubt. The traditionalist party in Mexico had long supported a restoration of their short-lived empire founded at independence by Agustin de Iturbide. They were also ecstatic that the French had delivered them from the hands of Benito Juarez and his leftist, anti-clerical tyranny and, as Colonel du Barrail thought, they would have voted for the Grand Turk or the Devil himself if the French army had desired them to. Fortunately, neither Satan or the Grand Turk were on the short list of candidates which held only the name of His Imperial and Royal Highness Prince Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph von Hapsburg, Archduke of Austria, to my mind the most noble, selfless and genuinely good intentioned leader the Mexican nation has ever had.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Monarch Profile: King Albert I of the Belgians

The future third King of the Belgians was born Prince Albert Leopold Clement Marie Meinrad on April 8, 1875 to Prince Philippe Count of Flanders and Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. On the surface he would have seemed unlikely to ever become a monarch. He was the second son out of five siblings in his own family and his own father was the third son of the first Belgian king. However, after the death of the only son of King Leopold II and the death of his father and older brother Prince Baudouin, Prince Albert became heir to the Belgian throne. He was only 16 when his father became heir to the throne but even by that time he had the makings of a great monarch. His parents ensured that he was well grounded and sincerely religious. He was serious and studied hard and from the first moment he knew he would become king someday he set to work preparing himself for that task. The reputation of the Belgian monarchy had suffered during the reign of Leopold II and Albert was determined, even as a young man, to set a new tone.

Part of this new tone was to be the domestic life of the Royal Family. In 1900 he married Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria in Munich, beginning what would be a very long, happy and fruitful marriage marked by mutual respect and devotion. The succession was also quickly secured as the following year Princess Elisabeth gave birth to the future King Leopold III. In 1903 another son was born, Prince Charles Theodore, giving Belgium an “heir and a spare”. In 1906 the family was completed with the birth of Princess Maria Jose, the future Queen of Italy. Albert was a very devoted husband and father who set a fine example in his private life. This, in itself, was quite significant given the unhappy marriage of King Leopold II and Queen Marie Henriette of Austria. Together, Albert and Elisabeth would project a united front of domestic fidelity.

Prince Albert also made himself familiar with every section of Belgian society. He studied the problems of the working class and came up with recommendations to improve their working and living conditions. A firm believer in the principle of “go thyself”, in 1909 he traveled to the recently annexed Belgian Congo to see the situation for himself and what conditions were like for the natives. He had, perhaps, learned from the experience of his uncle, King Leopold II, that it was not safe to simply take the word of officials as to what life was like in the central African colony. He took seriously his duties to all of his future subjects, Belgians and Africans alike, and when he returned home presented a detailed report and recommendations on improving the lives of the natives and for further modernization in the Congo. His role in the rapid improvement in conditions in the Congo is not often stated but it was significant.

Later that year, in December 1909, King Leopold II passed away and his nephew was formally sworn in as King Albert I of the Belgians. Whereas Leopold II wanted his reign to be known for grandeur and greatness, King Albert I, at least in his own life, was best known for his simplicity and moderation. He was a hard working monarch not at all enthralled by pomp and ceremony. He was also a very humble man, reluctant to accept any praise or adulation no matter how well deserved. He wanted peace, prosperity and contentment in Belgium but he was not blind to the growing threat across the border in Germany. He tried to strengthen the Belgian army and give them more up-to-date weapons but was hampered by an uncooperative government and the fact that Germany itself was the source of most of their rifles and artillery. In 1912 his generals estimated that it would not be until 1918 that the military was fully prepared to successfully defend the national territory. As we know, Belgium was not to have that long.

In August of 1914 the ultimatum arrived from Germany stating that Belgian neutrality would be violated and that if resistance was met Germany would consider Belgium an enemy. No effective resistance was expected. King Albert I, however, boldly rejected the ultimatum, famously stating that “Belgium is a country, not a road”. A very upright and moral man, he had no other option. Belgium was bound to neutrality by treaty and if the Belgians had simply stood aside and allowed the Germans to pass through in order to attack France this would be a violation of that neutrality, not only by Germany but by Belgium as well as they would be passively cooperating in the invasion of France. Despite the impossible odds arrayed against them, King Albert I took command of the Belgian army and led a heroic defense of his country. The tall, serene soldier-king of “brave little Belgium” was tailor-made for the newspapers of the day and he quickly became a hero amongst the Allied nations for the stubborn defense of his country. The German timetable was upset and French and British forces had just enough time to rally in front of Paris to defeat the invasion force at the First Battle of the Marne.

King Albert, after being forced to withdraw from Antwerp, pulled back behind the Yser River and established a defensive line on the last corner of his native soil from which the Germans could never dislodge them. It was important to him to remain at the front, with his soldiers, on Belgian soil. He oversaw the rebuilding of the army which had been shattered in the initial invasion and in time they were better armed and equipped than they were at the outset. This was an extraordinary feat considering that almost the entire country was under German occupation and the sector the Belgians had to defend, the Flanders coast, was easily the most miserable on the western front, low, open and constantly waterlogged. As commander-in-chief he also had to oversee the operations of the Belgian colonial forces in Africa, where they met much success. It was a very trying time for the King, but his deep and sincere faith helped sustain him. A devout Catholic, King Albert impressed the importance of religion on his children and when Pope Benedict XV called for a peaceful end to the war he was the only Allied head-of-state to take the issue seriously. Unfortunately, his efforts to arrange peace with the Emperor Charles of Austria-Hungary were thwarted by the other Allied powers.

In 1918, since Belgian troops could only legally be commanded by their King, Albert was made commander of “Army Group Flanders” made up of the Belgian army and elements of the British II Army and French VI Army and he led these forces in a series of successful advances as part of the overall “Grand Offensive” or “Hundred Days Offensive” which brought the war to a successful conclusion by the Allies. There were wild celebrations in Brussels as the King rode in at the head of his army to liberate the country. However, there was no rest for the King as he immediately set to work rebuilding the devastated Belgian economy. He implemented government reforms such as universal suffrage and at the peace conference in Paris obtained reparations payments for Belgium but also showed his magnanimity by opposing overly-harsh treatment of the Germans. He could see, if none of his fellow Allied heads of state could, that the downfall of the German princes and the dissolution of the Hapsburg empire would dangerously destabilize all of central Europe. Alas, his warnings in this area went unheeded.

The interwar years were a period of recovery and King Albert I was kept very busy. He became the first reigning European monarch to visit the United States, paying tribute to the men of the AEF who helped clinch the Allied victory in the war, he opened the first national park in Africa in the Belgian Congo and he showed solidarity with the Dutch-speaking community of Flanders whose region had suffered the most in the war. He also saw his son Leopold married to Princess Astrid of Sweden and his daughter married to Crown Prince Umberto of Italy. When he did have some time for himself he loved mountain climbing. He was climbing in the Ardennes, near Namur, when, on February 17, 1934 he died in a tragic accident. His sudden death was a cause of great mourning and it is probably accurate to say that he was the most beloved King the Belgians ever had up to that time. He was upright, hard working, devoted to his God, his family and his country, courageous in the face of disaster and humble in the face of praise and adulation. He was a great man and a great king.
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