Friday, November 30, 2012

Monarchist Profile: Chen Pao-shen

Chen Pao-shen (or Chen Baochen) was born in 1848 in Fuzhou, a region which had produced many scholars for Imperial China. Chen Pao-shen showed great promise in his youth, studying and becoming quite expert in the fields of history, philosophy and the Confucian classics. He successfully passed the famously difficult civil service examinations and became a mandarin, all at a surprisingly young age. He was still in his twenties when he became a prominent official at the Manchu court. It was also during this time that Chen Pao-shen married and started a family, eventually having sixteen children. However, his time at the Qing court was not without some problems. Chen Pao-shen was a very loyal man and a very traditional man but not totally averse to change when change was needed. He recognized that there were problems in Imperial China that the court would have to be corrected and that they would have to adapt in order to do so. Because he was not bashful in speaking his mind on such subjects, he incurred the wrath of the Empress-Dowager who finally dismissed Chen Pao-shen.

The respected scholar returned to his native Fuzhou and taught school as a humble teacher for the next thirty years. However, though notoriously slow to do so, the Empress-Dowager was not so close-minded as many people think and did begin to adopt some reforms toward the end of her life. She also decided that the infant prince, Aisin-Gioro Pu-yi, would be the next to sit on the Dragon Throne. Putting personal feelings aside, the Empress-Dowager decided that no one would be better qualified for the job of tutor to the future boy-emperor than Chen Pao-shen. He was summoned from Fuzhou to the Forbidden City where he remained for the next twenty-one years. In the past he had been sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat and vice-president of the Board of Rites but as tutor to the emperor he would have more influence than he would ever have had before in the future of Imperial China. Unfortunately, Imperial China was not to last very long, coming to an end in 1911 and 1912. Still, Chen Pao-shen remained loyal to the Qing dynasty and carried on with his duties as imperial tutor.

Chen Pao shen (right) with the Emperor
Today, thanks to a certain film (which is probably the only reason most people have any idea who the last Emperor of China was), most people think of Reginald F. Johnston as the only teacher the last Emperor of China had. Of course, this is not true (and I realize Chen Pao-shen was featured in the same film but his was a more minor part). Chen Pao-shen was the primary teacher and guiding force for the Emperor throughout his childhood and even after Johnston was brought in, Chen Pao-shen continued to be one of his closest advisors. As the Emperor wrote in his autobiography, “With Chen Pao-shen, I had one spirit. When Johnston came, I had two spirits.” Chen Pao-shen taught the Emperor the classics of Chinese literature and how to draw the proper moral lessons from the works of Confucius. Johnston came when the Emperor was older to teach him in a more western fashion. Also, because of the film, some mistakenly view Chen Pao-shen as someone comfortable with the status-quo and against taking any overt action to restore the Chinese monarchy. This, of course, is not true.

Chen Pao-shen was as committed as any other Qing loyalist to the restoration of the empire, however, he wanted to keep it a purely internal matter. He was a widely respected scholar at the time and was able to meet on good terms with representatives of the republic. Under the Articles of Favorable Treatment, the republic had made pretty good deal for the emperor and Chen Pao-shen did not want to jeopardize that. He preferred to work with Chinese republican officials and generals to get them on the side of the monarchist alternative and so restore the imperial system from the inside. Because of this, he supported the short-lived restoration of the empire in 1917 by General Chang Hsun (Zhang Xun) but he also learned from that fiasco to be very careful about stepping out on a limb before knowing that there was a reasonable chance of success. He also learned from that experience that promises of support from government officials could not always be trusted.

In time, Chen Pao-shen began to be overshadowed by the more ambitious mandarin Zheng Xiaoxu. Still, in 1925, after the Emperor had been evicted from the Forbidden City and forced to relocate to Tianjin, Chen Pao-shen packed up his family and followed his monarch into “exile”. It was there, however, that the eventual break came as the court divided into two factions, represented by Chen Pao-shen and Zheng Xiaoxu. It involved, of course, the friendly overtures of the Japanese culminating in their offer to help restore the Emperor to power in Manchuria. Zheng Xiaoxu pressed the Emperor to accept the Japanese offer, fearful that such an opportunity would never come again. This was not unjustified. After all, for decades the imperial court had tried to gain support (or buy it) with republican officials and warlords all to no avail. They took the Emperor’s money but never actually took any action to help him. Japan, another monarchy that believed firmly in the imperial system, was actually taking action. Chen Pao-shen, however, wished to take things slower and more cautiously.

Chen Pao-shen did not want to offend the Chinese republic but to try to gain more prestige and more of a following with the goal of the republic restoring the Articles of Favorable Treatment. Once that was done, they could try to influence Chinese officials to restore the monarchy completely. This strategy, also, has good points to it. The Qing court had been forced to rely on foreign support in the past and, in the end, the Qing suffered for it. He did not want the Emperor restored by a foreign power and he also believed that the Japanese would never support a total restoration of the Great Qing Empire across the whole of China. He believed that they should try to stay close and relevant to the circle of power in China and not make an enemy of the Chinese government. When it came down to it, the Emperor chose to accept the Japanese offer as the Chinese republicans, especially after the desecration of the Qing tombs, had completely disgusted him and turned him off of any idea of ever reconciling with them. When the Emperor made his decision, Chen Pao-shen, for the first time, refused to go along with and would not go to Manchuria. He remained in China and died not long after in 1935 at the age of 88.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Battlefield Royal: Archduke Friedrich, Duke of Teschen

Even among those with a general knowledge of the First World War may not recall the name of Archduke Friedrich. Yet, it was the Archduke who was the commander of all Austro-Hungarian armies. Of course, the Emperor and King was the supreme commander-in-chief of all armed forces and, rather than the Archduke, it was his Chief of Staff who actually commanded the armies and planned the strategies but if this makes it seem that the Imperial-Royal army was rather top-heavy and that the Archduke was a man with nothing to do, that would be quite an incorrect conclusion. In fact, he played an important part in the Austro-Hungarian war effort and was probably a much more able military commander than most give him credit for. He was probably a better general than even he gave himself credit for. He was born on June 4, 1856 in Moravia (what is now the Czech Republic) to Archduke Karl Friedrich and Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria. He certainly had an illustrious military ancestry, being the grandson of Archduke Karl, Duke of Teschen, the greatest Austrian commander of the Napoleonic Wars.

One of his sisters grew up to be Queen of Bavaria, another the Queen of Spain but Friedrich and his younger brothers Karl Stephan and Eugen were more or less adopted by his godfather Archduke Albrecht, also a field marshal in the Imperial Austrian Army, and it is no wonder that the military so dominated his upbringing and education. Because of this he was only 14 when he first entered the army as a lieutenant in a Tyrolean light infantry regiment. He was awarded the Order of the Golden Fleece before his eighteenth birthday and went on to a steadily rising career with various postings and one promotion after another. In 1886 he became commander of the Fourteenth Infantry Division and later that year was given command of the Fifth Corps stationed at Pressburg. He was awarded the military merit cross in 1892 and in 1894 the Hungarian Order of St Stephen. Still, the military was not all there was to his life. He studied mining and agriculture to care for the estates and business interests he stood to inherit and in 1878 he married Princess Isabella von Croy-Duehmen by whom he had eight daughters and one son by 1897.

When he inherited the estate of his godfather in 1895, Archduke Friedrich became the wealthiest man in all the realms of the House of Hapsburg. He proved an extremely capable businessman, acquiring other properties and business interests until he dominated whole industries. Widely admired and respected, in 1905 Emperor Francis Joseph made him Inspector-General of the troops and after receiving further awards and honors, he and his family moved to Vienna where he was put in command of the Landwehr, the Austrian militia (a relatively new formation compared to the older and more famous Prussian Landwehr) which was somewhat limited in scope. Due to the nature of the multi-national Hapsburg empire, the emperors tended to be reluctant to embrace the idea of pan-empire armed militia. The Archduke was also promoted to General of the Infantry. He was well respected across Europe and Emperor Francis Joseph held him in the highest regard, appreciating his more conservative nature compared to his nephew and heir Archduke Francis Ferdinand, whose ideas for change tended to worry the monarch. The Emperor was more reassured to have Archduke Friedrich on hand to take charge of the military should war break out.

The two archdukes did not get along very well. Archduke Friedrich’s wife Archduchess Isabella hoped that the heir would marry one of their daughters and her hopes were raised when Francis Ferdinand began to visit them more often. However, her hopes were dashed and she was rather offended when it got out that he was smitten, not with one of the archduchesses, but with Countess Sophie Chotek, a lady-in-waiting to Archduchess Isabella. The Archduchess took this as a personal insult to her family and Archduke Friedrich, as well as the Emperor, were shocked that Francis Ferdinand would seemingly sacrifice anything in order to marry the Countess Sophie. Feelings only hardened as Francis Ferdinand married and continued to do his best to have his wife accepted. Things reached such a point that Archduke Friedrich was prepared to resign from his post in 1914. However, then came the terrible news that Archduke Francis Ferdinand and Countess Sophie were murdered in Sarajevo.

The Emperor needed Friedrich more than ever and promptly promoted him to command of the whole army as war broke out with Serbia and soon began to engulf almost the whole of Europe. Despite was some detractors might claim, Archduke Friedrich was probably more qualified than even he himself believed. However, from the start it was expected that the actual planning would be done by his chief of staff, Conrad von Hoetzendorf, whom the Archduke was perfectly willing to give a free hand and who was also widely respected as a strategist. The Archduke was promoted to General Field Marshal and German Kaiser Wilhelm II also gave him the same rank in his own army as he had nothing but respect for the grand, old Archduke. This was important as, when German commander General Erich von Falkenhayn clashed with Conrad von Hoetzendorf over strategy on the eastern front, Archduke Friedrich was able to intervene with the German Kaiser to obtain support for the Austrian position. This was all the more important to the war effort since Emperor Francis Joseph could not have done so himself, monarch to monarch, as he was not terribly fond of his German counterpart, viewing him (like his late nephew) as too given to change. It is no exaggeration to say that, on at least one occasion, it was Archduke Friedrich who prevent Conrad von Hoetzendorf from losing his job.

Archduke Friedrich was also no desk-bound general. He frequently visited the front, inspected the troops and often took along the new heir to the throne (Archduke Charles) to prepare him for his future role as monarch of an empire at war. He paid close attention to the conditions in the army, decorated heroes and was an important link to the monarchy for the regular soldiers in doing so, which was good for morale. When Archduke Charles did become Emperor, he took personal command of the army and Archduke Friedrich was reduced to a lesser position. That may have been well enough to his liking, but his wife took it as a slight and in any event one of her daughters was married to a brother of the Empress Zita, and one the Empress was not terribly fond of, so there were again some unfortunate tensions. Finally, Emperor Charles dismissed the Archduke but still thanked him sincerely for his long and dedicated service to the empire and the House of Hapsburg. Later on the Archduke retired to Hungary. He lost a good deal when the empire collapsed but remained a man of status and Archduchess Isabella even dreamed that their son, Archduke Albrecht, might become the King of Hungary but, of course, that was not to be and was never even a serious plan.

Archduke Friedrich, Duke of Teschen died in Hungary on December 30, 1936 at eighty-years old. His funeral was a grand affair, attended by His Catholic Majesty King Alfonso XIII of Spain (then in exile of course), a small army of Austrian archdukes, all of the field marshals of the Austro-Hungarian army, representatives of the King of Italy, the exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Hungarian regent, the Austrian government and of Adolf Hitler. Whole battalions of the Hungarian army showed up to pay their respects to their former wartime commander, a tribute not only to the respect his soldiers had for Archduke Friedrich but also of the extent of royalist sentiment in the Hungarian military even decades after the monarchy had effectively ended. He was a good man and a good general, he fulfilled the requirements of his position very well and could probably have done quite a competent job even if had exercised command himself.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monarch Profile: Emperor Claudius

Amongst all the emperors of Rome, Claudius has a very unique story; the malformed fool who became the ruler of the world, so it is no wonder that he has been the subject of a great deal of literature and even his own television series (which is quite good despite being littered with historical inaccuracies). Claudius was only the fourth Roman emperor and the first to be born outside of Italy. He was born Tiberius Claudius Drusus on August 1, 10 BC in Lugdunum or what is now Lyons, France. His father was Drusus, the son of Livia Drusilla by her first husband, with whom she was already pregnant when she married the Emperor Augustus. Likewise, on his maternal side, he had illustrious ancestry as well, his mother Antonia being the daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia, the sister of Caesar Augustus. Yet, despite this lofty lineage, Claudius was a disappointment from the very beginning -even his mother was not terribly fond of him. When he was simply sitting still one might not notice anything wrong with him but when he moved it became very noticeable that something was not quite right and his disabilities would mark him as the object of shame and ridicule for most of his life.

What exactly was wrong with Claudius? We have descriptions but can only speculate as to the underlying cause. In fact, given what a competent emperor he eventually became, some have suggested there was never much wrong with him at all and that he was simply very adept at ‘playing the fool’ in order to survive. That is a tempting idea but it is beyond the realm of probability that he could have kept up such an act for so long from the very beginning of his life. Claudius was a mess to look at. He walked not so much with a limp (as often described) but an overall uneven balance, jerking his limbs and lurching back and forth. He had a very pronounced speech impediment, tended to drool at times, always seemed to have a runny nose and, according to some, was also hard of hearing and prone to twitch. All of this tended to put people off as did his habit of telling odd jokes that no one but him seemed to understand or find amusing. Still, the image some have of Claudius as the locked away, shy, disabled innocent is totally incorrect. The family were embarrassed by him and did not like to appear in public with him, but Claudius was no introvert. As he got older he enjoyed drinking, gambling and womanizing as much as any other privileged Roman youth.

It is also true that if Claudius was less than perfect physically, there was certainly nothing wrong with him mentally (though one of the popular explanations for his symptoms is cerebral palsy). He was a very intelligent man, was very well read and (in another aspect that makes me partial to him) was a historian, writing histories of the Etruscans who preceded the Romans; as well as the greatest enemy the Roman Republic ever faced: the Carthaginians. He was also no less ambitious than the other members of his family but he was intelligent enough to know that power was not to be taken lightly and he appreciated the dangers that went along with it and even the pursuit of it. Some have attributed this to his witnessing of the rest of his family killing each other off in palace intrigues until Claudius was the only one left. However, this is easy to exaggerate and usually goes back to the story that the Empress Livia (aka Julia Augusta, Claudius’ grandmother) was a murderess who had half the imperial family poisoned. An entertaining story, but one with no facts to back it up. As far as we can tell most of those who died in the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius were simply the victims of time and chance and nothing more.

All that being said, it certainly helped Claudius remain unscathed that most viewed him as a simple-minded fool who was no threat to anyone. Rather than a possible contender for the purple, he more often seemed to be viewed as a victim for ridicule and jokes. He had kept fairly distant from actual politics until being named consul by his nephew Gaius, aka the Emperor Caligula. He was more than up to the job but we may never know if he was appointed consul because of his intellect or as some sort of joke along the lines of Caligula famously appointing his horse to high office. Whatever the case, it was fortunate for all that Claudius survived to become Emperor of Rome and that his boat was not swamped in the tidal wave that brought down his nephew.

As most know, I am a big fan of Imperial Rome and an ardent defender of the original Julio-Claudian dynasty. For some, they have a bad reputation even to this day, but the facts rarely match the gossip that has become accepted “fact”. Augustus Caesar was a colossus and truly one of THE great men of history. Emperor Tiberius, while he did get a little nasty at the end, was a great soldier, a dutiful man and a capable ruler. Even Emperor Nero was not without his good points and while he, on the whole, deserves most of his bad reputation, a great deal has been exaggerated. Emperor Claudius we are just coming to, but then there is Caligula. With him there really is not much to say, the man was a horror. One day I may go into his story but for right now, suffice it to say that the end of the reign of Caligula was an extremely low point for the imperial monarchy. Not only was the Emperor murdered, his wife was murdered, his little daughter was murdered, his statues were smashed and his name was blotted out of the record books. His nearly four years in power were a nightmare that most wanted to forget. Claudius was by then 50-years old and was, supposedly, found hiding behind a curtain after this bloodbath and expected to be killed just like his nephew. However, a member of the Praetorian Guard found him and they hailed Claudius as Emperor of Rome.

The downfall of Caligula had been seized upon by the senate as an opportunity to take back power and restore the republic. They hoped that the urban cohorts would back them but the Praetorian Guard had already declared Claudius the new emperor (again, some suggest as a joke to highlight their own power) and Emperor Claudius solidified their allegiance with a generous bribe. When the urban cohorts defected to Claudius and the monarchist camp it was clear that the senate had been checked and republican rule would not be returning. In this, Claudius has often been portrayed as a hapless pawn but that is certainly not true. He knew what he was doing and worked quickly and cleverly to secure his newfound position. Despite what some romantics may think, a return to the republic would not have been good for anyone. True, there had been plenty of intrigue and bloodshed since the beginning of the reign of the Caesars but this was almost exclusively within the imperial family and household. Under the republic, the same had gone on but on a far wider scale, involving coalitions of senators and generals with their own armies, devastating the Roman world from end to end. For Rome, the empire meant peace and stability.

To reassert imperial authority, Emperor Claudius first had the murderers of his nephew Caligula executed. Caligula had become an insane, perverted, sadistic nightmare on two legs, but he was an emperor and the law had to be upheld. Still, Claudius was astute enough to know that most viewed the assassination of his predecessor as a good thing and only those who had done the actual killing were put to death. To show that things would be different, Emperor Claudius destroyed his nephew’s stockpile of poisons, returned confiscated lands, burned the criminal records, repealed the laws which awarded the emperor the property of anyone convicted of treason and put an end to treason trials altogether. It was a smart as well as benevolent move to make. Because of what happened to his nephew, Emperor Claudius was also downright paranoid when it came to his personal security, but not without reason and when someone did act against him Claudius could be just as harsh as Tiberius had been.

Perhaps the biggest problem Claudius had was his wife, the infamous Messalina. She soon became notorious for both arranging the murder of those who displeased her as well as immense amounts of adultery. As usual, malicious writers were quick to embellish Messalina to epically wicked proportions with stories of her as a murderous nymphomaniac, poisoning or framing for some capital offense those who would not share her bed, of her organizing wild orgies and even working at a brothel under an assumed name. It remains something of a mystery how all of this went on (though the more lurid tales are probably fabrications) without Emperor Claudius taking action. They say the husband is the last to know, but surely someone so paranoid about plots and intrigue would have had some clue. Was he aware but willingly ignorant or was he perhaps so enamored of his beautiful young wife that he refused to believe the evidence in front of him? Whatever the case, Messalina became ever more brazen in her behavior until she finally went too far and actually married one of her lovers while the emperor was away. Claudius thought it a plot to overthrow him but, if it was, it came to nothing. He was rushed to the Praetorian Guard camp and Messalina and her lover were promptly executed, though unlike her accomplice, the empress was not allowed to see her husband for fear that she might melt his resolve and convince him to spare her life.

It was really for the best as she was the greatest piece of “evidence” cited by those who believed that Emperor Claudius was a weak man who was ruled by his wife and his closest officials. This, however, is largely false and was likely “sour grapes” on the part of the traditional governing elite who were upset that Claudius filled high offices with freedmen (emancipated former slaves) who were often extremely intelligent and capable and whom he felt he could trust more than the usual power-hungry elite. It is also untrue that Emperor Claudius was some sort of republican at heart. He had no qualms about continuing the monarchy and, indeed, during his reign, further centralized power at the very top. He did, though, take a great interest in the justice system, often presiding over cases himself, and seeing that the government functioned smoothly. He is often criticized for his love of the games but in this he was no worse than any other average Roman of his time. His odd habits and paranoid behavior kept him from being as popular as he might have been but he gained a huge boost when his armies completed the conquest of Britain, the greatest expansion of Roman power since the imperial era began. He may have cut an odd figure at his triumph afterwards but all Romans took pride in the achievement.

Emperor Claudius also sought to bring the provinces of the Roman Empire outside Italy closer together and he was unusually generous in granting citizenship and appointed non-Romans to the senate (something extremely rare but not unprecedented as Julius Caesar had done the same). Unfortunately, women continued to be a problem for him. After the heartbreak and betrayal he felt over Messalina, Claudius had no desire to marry again but he was finally persuaded to accept his niece Agrippina (the younger sister of Emperor Caligula) as his wife. For Claudius, this proved a big mistake. Gossip soon began to circulate that Agrippina was simply Messalina “part two”. Her schemes, however, were mostly devoted to securing the succession of her son from a previous marriage over that of Britannicus, the son of Claudius and Messalina. She was ultimately successful and her son, by then known as Nero, was given the title “Prince of Youth” and married to Claudius’ daughter Octavia. With that done, Agrippina arranged for Emperor Claudius to be poisoned and he died on the night of October 13/14 54 AD. He was succeeded by his step-son, Emperor Nero, just as Agrippina had planned though she might have regretted her efforts before it was all over.

After his death, Emperor Claudius was deified, the first emperor since Augustus to be so honored (not counting the self-deification of Caligula) and yet, despite being declared a god, one still has the impression that Emperor Claudius was not as appreciated as he should have been. He was a brilliant man, despite his disabilities, and for about thirteen years was a very capable emperor, a learned man and a man who took his duties and responsibilities seriously. He wrote his own autobiography (which has unfortunately been lost) and he took great care to ensure the survival of the Roman Empire and the imperial monarchy at a time of great crisis because he wanted peace and moderation to reign throughout the world. He wrote about caring for sick slaves and, of course, caused controversy by giving power to his freed slaves. His jokes may not have been funny and he may not have cut a fine figure but he was a good man, he kept order in Rome and the provinces, improved the infrastructure, left behind some magnificent buildings, expanded the empire by conquering Britain and the world was better off for his reign.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Favorite Royal Images: An English Rose

HRH Princess Margaret Rose, Countess of Snowdon
(1930-2002)

Monarchist Quote

“In fact, after having abolished the monarchy, the best of all governments, [the French Revolution] had transferred all the public power to the people - the people…ever easy to deceive and to lead into every excess…”

-Pope Pius VI, Pourquoi Notre Voix, June 17, 1793

Monday, November 26, 2012

Story of Monarchy: Albania

The story of modern Albania as we know it today began in 1912 when lasting Albanian independence from the Turkish Ottoman Empire became a reality. Of course, the roots of Albanian history go back much farther. The area was settled, early on, by the Roman Republic and was part of the Roman Empire, later the East Roman Empire, for centuries. With the decline of East Roman power it came under Slavic control and part of the Bulgarian Empire with the Albanian people we think of today and a unique Albanian state emerging later in the Middle Ages. During the period of Turkish rule, Albania was often neglected and for a considerable period of time the coastal areas came under the control of the Italian city-state of Venice. Yet, Albania produced a great many people who became very prominent officials in the Ottoman Empire. Many of the men who held the position of Grand Vizier (high advisor or roughly equivalent to a prime minister) to the Sultans were from Albania and it was, as most monarchists know, an Albanian general in the Ottoman army which founded the dynasty that ruled Egypt until 1953.

Skanderbeg
During this early period the greatest Albanian national hero came on the scene who led an early fight for independence against the Turks. This was George Skanderbeg (a Catholic convert from Islam) who became, not only an Albanian national hero but a fighting celebrity across Christendom for his decades long struggle against Turkish expansion in his area. He was actually intended to be the chief commander of the crusade Pope Pius II called for but which never came about. Skanderbeg was involved in other political causes outside Albania and was famous far and wide but to his own people he was an inspiration for independence. Strictly speaking he recognized the King of Naples as his feudal overlord but in effect he ruled Albania independently though Ottoman rule was restored after his death. Still, his example would provide an honored memory for later independence advocates to rally around. However, when that time came, the attitude of the rest of Europe would be somewhat different than it was in the time of Skanderbeg.

There were rebellions and struggles against a weakened Ottoman Empire after 1910 with Albanians finally declaring their independence. The nations of Europe recognized this in 1913 but many Albanians were upset at how their borders were drawn and they had trouble finding a national leader or a national leader the rest of Europe would respect. The first modern Albanian monarchy came about in early 1914 with the elevation of the German Prince Wilhelm von Wied to be Sovereign Prince of Albania (to the rest of Europe, in Albania he was titled as King). His aunt, the Queen of Romania suggested him for the job and he turned it down before the Austrians persuaded him to accept. He went to Albania to take up his throne, adopting the reigning name of Skanderbeg II in tribute to the traditional Albanian hero. But the odds were certainly stacked against his long-term success. Naturally, many Albanians viewed him as an outsider but even many in the rest of Europe were not ultimately of help because few seemed to take Albanian independence seriously. During the “Scramble for Africa” the Kingdom of Italy had wanted Tunisia but hoped to gain credit for being quiet and modest. They received nothing, France grabbed Tunisia and when Italy complained they were told to look to Albania if they wanted a colony. Likewise, many in Romania expected Albania to follow their wishes because Prince Wilhelm had been nominated by the Queen and Austria-Hungary, which heavily subsidized Albania, practically viewed the principality as an unofficial part of the Hapsburg empire (and got rather testy when Prince Wilhelm refused to contribute Albanian soldiers to the Austro-Hungarian war effort in World War I).

Prince Wilhelm
Inside Albania there was a good deal of opposition to Prince Wilhelm and the war was a good excuse by others to make grabs for Albanian territory and the Albanians themselves were still upset about their national borders. Civil war soon broke out, Greek forces, acting independently (that country was highly divided as well) invaded southern Albania and as the chaos spread Italian forces landed, eventually linking up with the Allies from Greece to form a united front in the Balkans. By that time, Prince Wilhelm had already left the country, it having become ungovernable by the fall of 1914, and moved to Venice though he did not abdicate his throne. He joined the Imperial German Army under an alias and hoped that he might be restored once the Austro-German armies had driven the Serbs and Montenegrins out of Albania but this was not to be. Needless to say, because he chose to join the losing side, he would never return to Albania as the Allied powers would certainly not have tolerated it. When talk began of restoring the Albanian monarchy under a local ruler, Prince Wilhelm reiterated his claim, pointing out that he had not abdicated and that the Albanian throne rightly belonged to his family. He remained defiant to the last and died in Romania in 1945, still claiming to be Prince of Albania.

In the aftermath of World War I the situation in Albania was still far from stable and it was not until 1924 that a new government was officially declared and recognized by the other powers. Again, however, one has the impression that most outsiders did not take Albanian independence seriously as the Allies effectively recognized it as an Italian protectorate as well. There had been plans to partition the country and Albania was plagued by in-fighting and assassinations. A list of all the marriage-alliances, foreign ties, coup attempts and actual coups could fill a library. Suffice it to say though that the most successful man on the ground was Ahmed Bey Zogu. He first seized power in 1922, during a time of great confusion, but by 1924 was forced to step down and leave the country. However, in time he came back with support from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, anxious to increase their influence. Ahmed Zogu accepted their help but had no intention of putting their interests before those of Albania. After taking power again, a republic was declared with Ahmed Zogu as President with dictatorial powers and to compensate for the loss of Yugoslavian support (who felt themselves betrayed) he turned to the Kingdom of Italy, by that time under the control of Benito Mussolini.

King Zog I
In 1928, having secured his position as much as possible under the circumstances, the Albanian government restored the monarchy and named the President “King of the Albanians”. King Zog (who also took the name of Skanderbeg III in keeping with the tradition established by Prince Wilhelm) began his efforts to turn Albania into a more modern country. However, he was plagued by problems from the very start. Many of the established elites resisted his reform efforts and after a number of assassination attempts the King lived mostly in seclusion. In 1938 he married the glamorous Hungarian-American Geraldine Apponyi de Nagyappony who he made a princess prior to the marriage. However, being self-named royals, the other dynasties of Europe never really accepted them as one of the club, though doubtless attitudes would have changed had they been able to maintain themselves longer. Life in Albania remained a struggle for most people and harsh divisions remained and many of the Muslims who had been his base of support were turned off of King Zog because of his “western” lifestyle, his wife, his fondness for gambling or any number of things. King Zog was in an unenviable position and it is, perhaps, no wonder that he came to hold the world record for being the heaviest smoker in history, puffing away some 225 cigarettes a day.

Development was occurring but it was painfully slow and the warring factions never really went away. Most dangerous for King Zog was the extent to which Albania had become indebted to and dependent on Italy for financial support. The King realized this and tried to distance himself but it was too late and Albania was still not able to stand alone. He nationalized the Catholic schools, dismissed Italian military advisors, cut the national budget and tried to make other alliances. However, Yugoslavia was unfriendly, as was Greece (whom the British were allied to) and Germany was on the side of Italy. In any event, the Nazi Party could not have been pleased when King Zog humanely opened Albanian borders to Jews fleeing persecution in Germany. Despite all the foreign investment, Albania also remained quite poor and in 1939 King Zog defaulted on the loans from Italy. Mussolini ordered the occupation of Albania shortly afterward, Italian troops landing just after King Zog and his family left the country for Greece.

King Victor Emmanuel III
King Zog settled in England while the Albanian government declared him deposed and King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy added “King of Albania” to his list of titles. The situation was stabilized, by force, but the old divisions remained. Some supported the Italians, some supported King Zog, some wanted another option and some supported a communist dictatorship. It was, however, during World War II, after the Axis conquests of Yugoslavia and Greece, that the “Greater Albania” so many nationalists had yearned for became a reality. The Kingdom of Albania was enlarged by the annexation of Kosovo from Serbia, border areas of Montenegro and parts of northwest Greece. The circumstances, however, by which this was achieved left many still dissatisfied. But, it was not to last and in 1943 came the dismissal of Mussolini by King Victor Emmanuel III who also abdicated as King of Albania. It was, oddly enough, the King of Italy who would be the last monarch to actually reign over Albania. King Zog was declared restored by the government but he did not return home, Albania was quickly occupied by the Germans and in the aftermath of World War II the Soviet Union ensured that the communists seized power. King Zog would never see his country again, despite his best efforts to restore himself from exile.

Albanians loyal to King Zog never wavered in their support of him over the years and declared his son Crown Prince Leka to be “King of the Albanians” as his father had been when Zog died in 1961. However, the Kingdom of Albania was never really able to firmly establish itself and become accepted nor was the title of King Zog ever widely recognized by the international community. Part of this was the means by which he became “King of the Albanians” and part was the title itself, implying claims to Albanian populated territories within the borders of Allied countries from World War I like Serbia or Greece. The royals courts, at that time, were also still reluctant to accept self-made royalty. Royals marrying commoners was still illegal in most European monarchies and taken altogether it is not surprising that, when in power or in exile, the other royal families had little to do with the House of Zog. That attitude, however, has not been replicated by most monarchists and I at least have been surprised by how much widespread monarchist sympathy there is for the legacy of the late King of the Albanians. To compare, I have seen more objections to the Emperor Napoleon as not being a “real” royal figure than I have to King Zog even though one might expect the reverse. Why is this?

"King Leka I" and "Queen Susan"
I can only offer an educated guess but I would point to several factors. For one, the history and details of Albania and King Zog are not widely known and people are more apt to feel strongly about a subject they feel closer to or know more about. For another, King Zog lost his throne because of an invasion launched by Mussolini and anyone who is a victim of the forces of Fascism gains automatic sympathy with the wider world. The biggest reason though, I think, was the fate of Albania after the triumph of communism in the absence of Zog after World War II. There was probably no more nightmarish country in the whole of Europe. Under the Marxist fanatic Enver Hoxha, Albania had the lowest standard of living of any country in Europe. The man was such a radical, bloodthirsty and fanatical Stalinist that eventually the Soviet Union, Red China and Communist Yugoslavia all shunned his regime as being far too extremist. When Chairman Mao thinks you’re taking Marxism too far -you know you have a problem. Given that, while far from ideal, the reign of King Zog was positively paradise in comparison.

Leka II and Elia Zaharia
It is also to the credit of King Zog and Crown Prince Leka that, in spite of the obstacles against them, they did not just accept their exile and settle down to a comfortable life. They never surrendered their claims and never gave up the struggle to one day restore the Kingdom of Albania. This went on even when it included risks and got Crown Prince Leka into some trouble for stockpiling illegal weapons. Then, after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, when a referendum (no more fair than any prior Albanian votes) found against the monarchy and in favor of the republic, he attempted an armed uprising (damn straight) before being forced to leave the country again. I know, probably not the sort of thing most would condone, but I cannot help to cheer a little bit when a royal pretender takes some action rather than just sitting down and accepting unfair treatment. Anyway, since that time he was pardoned and allowed to return, kept up the political fight and was able to die in the country of his birth. Since that time his son, Leka II, has carried on the family legacy, recently seeing his grandfather’s remains returned to Albania for reburial. He works as an advisor for the current president but still maintains the royal legacy as well as support for the unification of the Albanian peoples including the annexation of Kosovo. Some monarchists might cringe at a royal claimant working for a president but in the case of Albania it seems a legitimate way of staying relevant and engaged on the national scene. And, after all, his grandfather was president before he was king. Restoring a monarchy is always extremely difficult but, in Albania, the chances seem brighter than in a great many other countries. Leka II might be just the young man to do it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Royal News Roundup

In the Far East, last Saturday Their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited Okinawa for the first time in eight years where Their Majesties met with survivors of the battle there and paid their respects to those who lost their lives in the brutal battle that saw the largest amphibious assault of World War II in the Asia-Pacific theater. This was the fourth visit of the Imperial Couple since His Majesty became Emperor of Japan. During the four day trip Their Majesties visited the peace memorial, the national cemetery for war dead and had exchanges with several groups of survivors. One such survivor was Masakatsu Takara who lost nine family members on the Tsuchima Maru, a civilian ship evacuating civilians which was sunk by an American submarine, taking the lives of 1,400 people on board, about half of whom were children. This tragedy bears a special significance for the Imperial Couple who say a special prayer every year on the anniversary of the sad event. All those present were deeply touched by the concern of Their Majesties and hoped they would visit again. A diary, just made public, revealed that His Majesty the Showa Emperor had previously sought to visit Okinawa shortly after it reverted to Japanese control but was never able to do so. Also, in a recent interview, HIH Princess Hisako of Takamado spoke of how she still misses her late husband, Prince Takamado, even ten years after his death. And, to the south, on Sunday, President Obama and Secretary Clinton visited HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great of Thailand at the Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok where the King has been staying since 2009.

In the Middle East, despite the near war in Gaza, the embattled King of Jordan remained in the news. In a meeting with former British PM Tony Blair, King Abdullah II called for, “the need to speed up regional and international efforts to bring an immediate halt to Israeli aggression and military escalation” and called the Israeli air campaign against Hamas rocket sites and leaders a, “dangerous threat to the security and stability of the region, increasing the suffering of Palestinians in the strip”. He called again for a “two-state solution”. However, his own problems closer to home remain as the people protesting in the streets take on a more anti-monarchy tone. Some still claim the King is not the target of their anger but demonstrations increasingly include chants of “Down, down with the king”. Protests have turned violent and have provoked clashes with police forces. The howling mob blame the democratic reforms the King introduced for not going far enough. One member of the Muslim Brotherhood stated that they were not calling for the overthrow of the King but held the anger against him out as a warning to give in to their demands.

On the European front, TSH the Prince and Princess of Monaco presided over National Day celebrations with HSH Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein as their special guest of honor. In the Low Countries, Belgian Crown Prince Philippe and Crown Princess Mathilde came to the Commonwealth of Australia at the behest of the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency and which includes a delegation seeking closer ties between Australian and Belgian universities in several areas. In The Netherlands, HRH Princess Margriet was awarded an honorary law degree by McMaster University in Canada for her lifelong commitment to humanitarian causes. Closer to home, there may be signs of a turnaround for Prince Friso who has been in a coma for the last nine months following a skiing accident. Previous reports seemed to say to expect the worst but now tests have shown “signs of limited awareness”. The second son of HM Queen Beatrix is being treated in Wellington hospital in London for severe brain damage after being buried in an avalanche for 25 minutes. His wife, Mabel, said, “This is the most challenging period of my life. My love for Friso, the support of family and friends, and the many signs of compassion give me strength in these difficult times”. On a happier note, Princess Maxima of Orange and her girls were on hand to welcome Santa Claus (or Sinterklaas) to Scheveningen as part of a long standing tradition honoring the national patron St Nicholas.

Up in Scandinavia, HM the King of Norway is still apologizing over that medal controversy from last week. In Sweden, HM King Carl XVI Gustaf handed out the Prince Eugen medals for artistic achievement while the Queen met with leaders from North Africa. HRH Princess Madeleine, back in the USA, visited Lawrence County, Ohio to check in on the GRADS project that supports teenage parents (“mothers” would probably be more accurate, I saw no dads in the pictures). Across the North Sea in Britain, HRH the Prince of Wales has agreed to a secret out-of-court settlement to the butler who claims he was “bullied” for refusing to work at Clarence House. The Prince of Wales also said that if he we don’t all embrace the “green” movement we’re pretty much all going to die! I for one am quite confident I’m going to die in any event. A recent poll showed that HRH the Duke of Cambridge is the most popular royal in recent history with HM the Queen taking second place in “job approval” and Prince Harry coming in third. And in a bit of heartwarming news HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this week making Her Majesty the longest wedded monarch in British history.

In more sober news, HM King Juan Carlos I of Spain entered the hospital on Friday for hip replacement surgery, his sixth operation in two years and the most extensive I think so far. However, His Catholic Majesty was his usual casual self about it, joking with reporters that, “Today I am definitely going into the workshop” as he entered the San Jose Hospital in Madrid. All of this comes at a difficult time for the Spanish monarchy as economic problems have caused many to lash out in any direction and seize on anyone as a focus of public anger. It does not help that the King’s son-in-law is now facing a four million euro bail payment and that the King’s private (and privately funded) trip to Africa was overblown to such an extent. Protests against government cut-backs have become common, with many of the protestors carrying republican flags and there has been growing support for the secession of Catalonia. God save the Kingdom of Spain.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

As most long-time readers know, I don't "do" Thanksgiving, but for those of you who do, I wish you all a happy one. I will spare a repeat of my position regarding the holiday but will simply point back to an older post on the real first Thanksgiving which was, of course, in Texas. Read about it here.

Be on the lookout in the coming days for a new series here at The Mad Monarchist called "The Story of Monarchy" which will be short histories (with commentary of course) on the overall history of monarchies of the world and, for those which are now republics, how they have fared since. -MM

Restore the Red Ensign!

I would like to direct the attention of readers (particularly those in the Commonwealth and Her Majesty's Dominion of Canada) to this video with Canadian journalist Brigitte Pellerin on the removal of the Canadian flag by the minority government of Quebec. I applaud Ms. Pellerin and could not agree with her more. She points out that, aside from their flag antics, members of the Bloc Quebecois frequently "mumble" their required oath of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, basically acting childish about a supremely solemn moment because of their stupid anger, some even shouting "Vive la Republique" at the end, but who still are glad to accept the Queen's salary. Particularly though, I agree with Ms. Pellerin in pointing out (correctly) that the adoption of the Maple Leaf flag in the first place was an effort to placate Quebec and that if this flag is no longer acceptable then it should be discarded entirely and the Canadian Red Ensign restored as the national flag of Canada. I like the Maple Leaf fine but the Red Ensign was the first, true national flag of Canada and there was no reason to get rid of it. I would be thrilled to see it come back. God Save the Queen of Canada!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Consort Profile: German Empress Augusta von Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

Often overlooked by history, when King Wilhelm I of Prussia presided over the unification of the German states to become the first German Kaiser, the woman at his side, through it all, was Augusta von Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. She was born Her Serene Highness Princess Augusta Marie Luise Katharina von Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach on September 30, 1811 in Weimar, the second daughter of Grand Duke Karl Friedrich and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (who was the daughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia). Although her father was a rather simple man, her mother was a known intellectual who befriended and corresponded with some of the most famous thinkers of her day and thanks to her influence the Princess Augusta received an exemplary education. Very well rounded, she was brought up to appreciate the usual subjects of language, history, mathematics, politics and so on as well as being well versed in the arts, particularly music and painting. Her introduction to the heirs of the King of Prussia came at a very early age.

King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia thought the daughters of the Grand Duke excellent choices for his sons as brides and Princess Augusta met his second son, Prince Wilhelm, in 1826 when she was 15-years-old. At the time, Prince Wilhelm was infatuated with a Polish girl and in any event considered Princess Augusta less attractive than her sister Maria. She was off-limits though as his younger brother Prince Karl had his eye on her and the two were married the following year. Still, Wilhelm thought Princess Augusta a nice and charming girl and King Friedrich Wilhelm III encouraged him not to dismiss her as a potential bride. His marriage was considered of prime importance since the Crown Prince had yet to produce any children and so it looked as though it would fall to Prince Wilhelm to secure an heir to the Prussian throne. His Polish sweetheart lacked the pedigree suitable for a future Queen of Prussia. Finally, he came back to Princess Augusta and with pressure mounting to marry and start a family the two were finally engaged in 1828. It was not, exactly, a match made in Heaven.

The two were married in Berlin on June 11, 1829. Prince Wilhelm was fourteen years older than his new bride and admitted to his sister that he was not totally in love with her. He appreciated her kind nature and keen mind but, unfortunately, she just did not ‘stir’ his blood at all. Princess Augusta knew nothing of this and had an exalted view of her new husband and was filled with hopes for happiness, a house full of children and total domestic bliss. However, her rose-hued glasses soon fell away. Her intellectual interests made her rather unappreciative of the very militaristic Prussian court and she could not help but feel slightly put off by her sister-in-law, the Crown Princess, being given pride of place even though everyone knew the future of the succession would depend on Augusta. She thought well enough of the Crown Prince but soon fell into an ever deeper state of sadness due to the neglect of her husband. Too bookish for his tastes, in time he began seeing more “feminine” mistresses and Princess Augusta fell victim to bouts of depression. It was not until 1831 that the succession was finally secured when Princess Augusta gave birth to the future Kaiser Friedrich III. It would take seven more years for another child to be born, Princess Louise, and no more were forthcoming. There were other pregnancies but, tragically, all ended in miscarriage.

However, Princess Augusta was not unappreciated everywhere. Her friends and connections in intellectual circles fostered in her a growing support for social change. As such, she became rather well regarded in the liberal circles that had hoped for the accession of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV to bring about a new, democratic and united Germany, only to see their hopes dashed. Unfortunately, this reputation certainly could not have helped her situation at home considering the very traditional and conservative views of her husband. Crop failures and rabble rousers helped bring about a growing discontent that resulted in several small rebellions before the outbreak of the revolutions of 1848. Princess Augusta hoped her brother-in-law would work with the liberals and unite Germany as well as giving Prussia a constitution. He would do neither and Prince Wilhelm was at the head of those urging his brother to set the army loose on the liberal mobs, which probably did not please his wife. Even after the worst danger was suppressed, public anger was so great that Prince Wilhelm had to leave the country. Frustrated liberals hoped that, perhaps, the King and Prince Wilhelm could be made to abdicate and Princess Augusta, who was more to their taste, could rule as regent in the name of the little Prince Friedrich to create the sort of state they desired.

Because Augusta later burned all of her papers from this period it can never be known if she was party to or even supportive of such designs. She was certainly disappointed that the King did not take the lead in the unification efforts but outwardly she always remained supportive of her husband and the Prussian monarchy as it was. They moved to the Rhineland when Prince Wilhelm was posted there and more liberal-minded people continued to visit her. The court in Berlin, naturally, disapproved of this as they disapproved of her ideas on education, her tolerance of and friendship with Catholics and the way she was raising little Prince Friedrich, ensuring his training was academic as well as military. The liberal attitudes Friedrich later displayed were often (mostly in Berlin) “blamed” on his British wife but the upbringing his mother gave him also had a great deal to do with it and she was, naturally, perfectly thrilled when he became engaged to the Princess Royal for the same reason Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were. Aside the personal happiness they clearly had together, she too hoped that they would be the future rulers of a united Germany that was a democratic and progressive constitutional monarchy.

Nonetheless, she was never a pushy woman and never even tried to exercise much political influence on her husband, despite often being accused of doing so after Wilhelm succeeded his brother as King of Prussia in 1861. When Bismarck came to power he assumed that Queen Augusta was responsible anytime King Wilhelm I did not immediately bend to his wishes and it was no great secret that Augusta and Bismarck despised each other. The Queen was distressed at how Bismarck handled the government and was positively outraged when he provoked a war with Austria to push the Hapsburgs out of German politics. Over time she became more and more opposed to the entire direction Prussian foreign policy was taking and this also caused a falling out with Crown Princess Victoria (“Vicky”) who, despite her own differences with Bismarck, allied with the chancellor in his goal of uniting the German states under Prussian leadership. Her opinion of her daughter-in-law fell lower and lower as she regarded her as being insufficiently religious and lacking in her sense of duty to the monarchy. She did, however, think very highly of her first grandson, the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, and put her hopes for the future in him.

Augusta despised the outbreak of war with France just as deeply as she did the war with Austria and (rightly) blamed Bismarck for all of it. Warfare went against her very nature as an open-minded, intellectual type and she devoted herself to organizations to care for the wounded. When, in the aftermath of the defeat of France, she became German Empress alongside her husband, she was not at all flattered and considered it a calamity. She was convinced that only moral persuasion could unite the Germans and that a unity based on military conquest would never last. She was unhappy about it but it was, sadly, only the latest unhappiness in a married life that seemed to be filled with little else. Nonetheless, she was dutiful to the last, even when infirmity confined her to a wheelchair. Her marriage had long been little more than a formality but she and the Kaiser did finally reconcile but only a year before his death of extreme old age. She lived to see her son and grandson become German Emperor in their turn before she finally passed away on January 7, 1890 in Berlin at the age of 78.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Favorite Royal Images: Belgian Cherub

HRH Princess Marie Jose of Belgium, who would go on to be the last Queen of Italy

Monarchist Quote

“We have been given an assignment as a monarchy, and we do as well as we can…We try to be as little populistic as possible. We don’t do anything on the spur of the moment to win an opinion poll, or short-term popularity.”

-King Harald V of Norway, 2005

Monday, November 19, 2012

National Day in Monaco

Today is 'National Day' in the Principality of Monaco and this year there was a special guest of honor; HSH Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein (micro-monarchy solidarity!). Photos can be seen at our sister-weblog Mad for Monaco, with more to come tomorrow.


Slander Against the Belgian Heir

Recently, the gutter press has produced an infamous book (the latest of several) slandering the Belgian Royal Family. This one, however, is somewhat different than the rest. It is disturbing in its origin, coming from a member of the Walloon press whereas most slanderous attacks on the Royal Family have originated in the vile ranks of the Flemish separatists. In the past, it has often seemed that whenever one side made trouble for the monarchy, the other would instinctively rally to support it. If attacks begin to come from both sides at once, it certainly does not bode well for the wellbeing of all Belgians as a whole. Another is that, in this book, the slander extends beyond the ‘usual suspects’. The King himself has often been a target and he has occasionally ‘put a foot wrong’. The same can be said for Prince Laurent, a fine man but one who any observer would have to say has not always displayed the best judgment. This book, however, also includes slander against the Queen and the Duke and Duchess of Brabant. Additionally, whereas previous attacks often included exaggerations of problems or taking some small bit of embarrassment and trying to stretch it to the level of scandal, this work, frankly, lies blatantly and ostentatiously with no regard for fact or the slightest ounce of believability.

The whole thing is beyond reprehensible and should cause any decent person to recoil in disgust and certainly any proud, patriotic and loyal Belgian (let us pray for those still in existence) in particular. It is, however, the attacks on Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant, that personally infuriate me the most. The same goes, of course, for his lovely wife Princess Mathilde, but she has not suffered the same level of ridicule as her husband though she herself has also been treated with the most gross injustice too. The attitude toward Prince Philippe has troubled me for years. I think he is one of the most unfairly treated royals in the world today, due certainly in part to the fact that, in my opinion, he is one of the best. Of the reigning monarchies, I don’t think there is any royal heir I hold in higher regard than Prince Philippe. Yet, not everyone seems to share my opinion and I cannot imagine why. At least, I cannot imagine any valid reason why and it causes me greater distress to imagine that Prince Philippe is actually being ridiculed not in spite of but because he is such a good, decent, upright and God-fearing man.

A few years ago I saw a story about the low “approval rating” Prince Philippe had in Belgium and this prompted me to put my own perceptions aside and investigate, to see if there was some scandal I was unaware of that would account for this. After all, the report said that his approval rating was even lower than the Prince of Wales who, let us be honest, has had a few embarrassing scandals, had gone through a messy divorce and attracted a great deal of anger (most of it unjustified but what else is new). I scoured royal gossip columns and the royal message boards and I found nothing scandalous at all in the history of Prince Philippe, but I was alarmed at what I did find. Based on my own findings, rather than Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, it is the public and the gossipmongers and royal watchers who are the abnormal ones, who seem too “uptight” and who need to “just relax”. Never have I seen so much made of so little! No, I cannot even say ‘of so little’ since that would imply there is some little something there at all when there is absolutely nothing! It leaves me, frankly, baffled (as a lot of things these days seem to).

There has been no divorce, no affairs (nor even rumors), no international insults, no recorded phone conversations, no interns under the desk and no getting sick on foreign officials. There have been no scandals of any sort and no doubt about the couple being totally devoted to their duties, their people and country. All the criticism I saw was so un-specific and full of phrases starting with, “he seems”, “she appears”, “they come off as” or “I get the feeling that…” For so many people to have such a low opinion of the Crown Princely couple based on nothing more substantial than feelings and appearances is frankly alarming to me. Some things are matters of taste -who “seems” confident or who doesn’t, how the Princess dresses and so on. Other things are just, again, baffling. I noticed the word “clumsy” being tossed around a great deal. Why? Again, there was no substantial reason to point to that would justify it. Prince Philippe never pulled a Gerry Ford and he never dropped one of his children or anything like that. No, it all goes back to “he seems”, “he comes off as” and “I have the feeling that…” which just infuriates me.

Anyone who takes an honest look at the Belgian crown princely couple will see nothing but an upright, dedicated and affectionate couple. Prince Philippe, who is so often described as “stuffy”, “uptight” or “awkward” will see him, when in the presence of his children even to this day, shed his years and appear as a delighted and loving first-time father. One need only look at the photos and videos of the couple, and see them simply look at each other to see the true affection they have for one another. Why did it take so long for Prince Philippe to marry? I have a simple answer; a good woman is hard to find. Sometimes it takes time and for someone in the position of a royal heir, it is certainly understandable to take more time than usual to find that someone special and Princess Mathilde certainly seems to me to be well worth the wait. She has every quality I could imagine being necessary for a future Belgian queen-consort. Likewise, her husband has every quality necessary for a future king though, undoubtedly, many are trying their best to undermine one thing he needs which is the respect of his people.

All of this is why I can only assume that Prince Philippe is being ridiculed for being a good man rather than otherwise. How far Belgium has fallen since the reign of the late King Baudouin. In his time, already his people had fallen far from the character of their monarch, yet, his virtues were still respected even if a majority of his subjects no longer shared them. Today, on the other hand, Prince Philippe seems to be singled out for slander for sharing those same values. Much of this has to do with faith, make no mistake about it. King Albert II and Queen Paola, for all of their difficulties, have raised good and faithful children. Prince Laurent may make the eyes roll on occasion, but he has a lovely family and is devoted to them. Princess Astrid is a member of Opus Dei and takes faith as seriously as one would expect given that. Prince Philippe, who shares many of the same admirable qualities of his late uncle, is often ridiculed because of his faith and morality. When he served his time in the Belgian senate he dared to introduce a bill against pornography and he was met with laughter and derision as though he had made some mistake rather than having stood up in opposition to something which causes the abuse and objectification of women.

No, it is clear, the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess are being slandered not because of anything they have done wrong but because of all they do that is right. It is a deliberate effort by those who wish to see the monarchy destroyed (so as to destroy Belgium itself) to undermine the respect and affection the people should have for the future king and queen. It is also a sign of how far morality has fallen in Europe that virtue is mocked, faith is ridiculed and any who take religion seriously are derided as hopelessly “un-cool”. My heart goes out to them in the midst of these ceaseless slanders and to their faithful and patriotic people who have to endure so much for their good intentions by their very ill-intentioned countrymen. I am glad to see, with this book, the Royal Family ‘hitting back’ (so to speak) more forcefully than in the past and I hope all loyal monarchists and people of good faith everywhere will rally to their defense.
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