Monday, May 27, 2013

Upcoming Absence

I wanted to let all you regular readers know that there will be a short break in posting here for at least the next couple of days. I have a "procedure" to undergo Wednesday and will be heading up to the big city tomorrow to get ready for it. So for at least the next two days I will not be posting anything new, I hope it will not be for any longer but we will have to see how I am feeling afterwards. It shouldn't be very long and I am sure everything will be back to normal by next week at the latest but hopefully much sooner than that. Hopefully it will just be a couple of days but I wanted to let everyone know. It's nothing serious, no need to worry, just be aware that there will be a pause around here. As usual, feel free to browse through the archives and catch up on anything you might have missed.

Stay mad my friends

Papal Profile: Pope Alexander III

During the period when the papacy and the German emperor (officially the Emperor-Elect of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) were in a state of near constant struggle, one of the most vociferous in defending the rights of the Pope and opposing the Emperor was Pope Alexander III, and it was no easy task as rarely has the Catholic Church been so divided as in his time. He was born Orlando Bandinelli around the year 1100 in Sienna. Originally a law professor, he was called to Rome in 1150 by Pope Eugene III. After that, he rose quite rapidly in the Church, being first created Cardinal Deacon and then the Cardinal Priest of St Mark and Papal Chancellor. As an advisor to Pope Hadrian IV he was prominent among the faction of cardinals who opposed the imperial-German influence on the Italian peninsula and favored an alliance with the Normans in Naples to free Italy from the German grip. In 1157 at the Diet of Besancon he earned the long-lasting wrath of the Germans for saying that the rank and title of emperor was a favor of the pope, a “papal beneficium” rather than something that came to the German rulers automatically or directly from God. Otto von Wittelsbach nearly separated his head from his shoulders then and there but Emperor Frederick I (the famous “Frederick Barbarossa”) prevented any bloodshed.

The stage was set for a showdown between pope and emperor as, in the final stage of his reign, Hadrian IV broke with the Hohenstaufen monarch and, as Cardinal Bandinelli had suggested, allied with the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. This prompted Emperor Frederick to clamp down and extend his imperial claim across northern Italy just before Hadrian IV died. When the cardinals met to elect a successor, the German Emperor dispatched two reliable figures to influence the Sacred College in his favor. They were not entirely successful. On September 7, 1159 Orlando Cardinal Bandinelli was elected to the See of Peter by a considerable margin, however, the atmosphere was extremely divided and hostile. Cardinal Octavian snatched the red mantle from Bandinelli and a scuffle ensued in which the garment was torn to pieces. However, finding another, Cardinal Octavian announced himself as pope to some priests gathered elsewhere in the Basilica of St Peter and the doors were flung open to let in a mob, hired with imperial funds, cheered him as the Bishop of Rome. The actual Pontiff, taking the name of Pope Alexander III, had to isolated himself for a time before escaping to the safety of Norman-held southern Italy. Meanwhile, Cardinal Octavian declared himself “Pope Victor IV” (though he was not the first “Victor IV”) and was consecrated at Farfa monastery on October 7. Alexander III had, by that time, already been crowned on September 20 in Nympha.

With Pope and anti-Pope opposing each other, Emperor Frederick had the perfect opportunity to intervene as the good imperial defender of the Church, rescuing it from division and disorder. However, the meeting he called at Pavia came to nothing as when he addressed the rivals as “Pope Victor IV” and “Cardinal Orlando” it was pretty clear that he was not an impartial or fair mediator. Pope Alexander III refused to recognize the gathering as having any validity which dutifully declared the anti-Pope Victor IV as the legitimate Successor of St Peter just as the Emperor wished. In the aftermath, Pope Alexander III excommunicated Emperor Frederick I and absolved all of his subjects of their allegiance to him. This led to open warfare between the Pope and the Emperor who had the support of some monarchs and the opposition of others depending on their situation while Pope Alexander III was in an extremely difficult position as all of Christendom was divided as to whether or not he was the legitimate pope. During his reign there appeared on the scene no less than three anti-popes to oppose him (Victor IV, Paschal III, Callistus III and Innocent III) which complicated the situation to no end.

However, ultimately, the schism did not work out to the benefit of the Emperor Frederick I who came marching down the Italian peninsula with an army of German knights. Pope Alexander III called for a pious and patriotic unity of Italians to oppose this invasion and the result was the formation of the Lombard League which included most of the cities of northern Italy, banding together to resist the German onslaught. This was certainly significant, even simply as an act of courage given the might and proven military abilities of the famous Frederick Barbarossa. The idea that an embattled Pontiff and a few Italian city-states would stand in defiance to one of the greatest German conquerors of all time must have astounded a great many people. Even more astonishing is that the German emperor was defeated. At the battle of Legnano in 1176 the forces of the Lombard League won one of the greatest victories in Italian military history. The Emperor himself was believed to have been killed for a time but, though wounded, he did survive and afterwards was obliged to withdraw from Italy and recognize Alexander III as the legitimate, validly elected Pontiff. In the early days of Lutheran Protestantism, it was popular to show Pope Alexander III putting his foot on the neck of a prostrate Frederick Barbarossa as a way to inflame popular opinion against the papacy for the defeat of a great German hero. In fact, of course, nothing of the sort ever happened.

In fact, Alexander III had gained some support in Germany. In his effort to get Christendom united behind him he tried to enlist the support of the Byzantine Empire but was turned away. Even after his triumph over Frederick Barbarossa there were plenty of troublesome heresies to deal with and the lingering tension over Church-State relations. With the Waldensians (the holier than thou crowd) and the Albigensians (the world is evil and everyone should die crowd) spreading their influence, Pope Alexander III called the Third Lateran Council where his immense talent as a canon lawyer was on full display. The council condemned the new rising heresies and called for a greater emphasis on education as a way to ensure that such unorthodox beliefs never develop and are rejected when they appear. He also always asserted Church independence from the secular powers and papal authority over the kings of Europe. Aside from his dramatic struggle with the German emperor this was seen in his support for St Thomas Becket in England in opposition to another great monarch; King Henry II. There were no invasions or bloody battles but, like Frederick, King Henry II did finally come around to accept the position of the Pope, doing penance and asking forgiveness for his part in the murder of Becket.

The prestige of the papacy rose somewhat during the time Alexander III was exiled to France and locked in combat with the German emperor. It often seems the papacy is never so popular as when under direct attack. Still, Alexander III attracted plenty of criticism, both for his determination in asserting the rights of the Church as being apart and above those of the state but also because of his cautious nature and his willingness to hear out both sides of an argument. Because of this, there were those, then as now, who accused the pontiff of being “shifty” and simply putting off taking a side until the victor was clear. He was not always the best diplomat but he was an unwavering defender of the rights of the Church. He died on August 30, 1181 at Civita Castellana after reigning for 21 years. At his burial a stone-throwing angry mob attacked his funeral procession which should be kept in context with the tumultuous and divisive events of his reign and only puts him in the lofty company of someone like Pope Pius IX.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

MM Sunday Scripture

The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established forever.

Proverbs 29:14

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Royal News Roundup

It has been a busy week for the royals but most of it rather “small” news stories, so instead of trying to just relate a list of comings and goings I thought to just focus on a few of the stories that particularly caught my attention. Even on the best of weeks I can never cover everything as is usually pointed out to me. We will start with the very prominent monarchies of the House of Windsor. In a story we might call “news” that I thought was nothing new at all, reports are that the next coronation will include non-Christian participants. Long ago the Prince of Wales (best as I recall) had made mention of having a more “inter-faith” coronation but, evidently, this was objected to by the Church of England. However, such objections have now been dropped, at least somewhat. It will not, as some have said, be an “inter-faith service” but it will have non-Christians performing certain symbolic gestures (lighting candles or reading off some vague, ‘feel-good’ type stuff). Still, this will be a major change considering that the coronation has been a strictly Anglican affair for many hundreds of years at this point and it does seem rather odd that when other Christians, be they Catholics or dissenting Protestants, are still rather looked down on by many in the Church of England, something so central as the coronation will be jumping right into including Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and who knows what else.

The explanations for this make very little sense to me. Yes, Britain is a multi-cultural country, yes there are people of every religion and no religion at all in the UK and most Commonwealth Realms but is that really all that new? There may not have been large populations of Muslims or militant atheists living in London during the reign of Queen Victoria but the coronation, basically an English ceremony, counted as much for those living in every far flung corner of the British Empire which included almost every race, color and creed in the world. The British Empire was extremely multicultural and extremely diverse, the only difference was that all those cultures were not then coming to take up residence in England. The Empire of India, for example, held the spectacular Delhi Durbar three times for the accession of a new monarch even though King George V was the only one to actually attend. People of any religion can mark the occasion in their own way whether the sovereign is able to participate or not. Persons of non-Anglican religious beliefs do not *need* to be involved in the coronation themselves from where I stand and I cannot really see why they would especially want to. The very Catholic Queen Henrietta Maria was barely allowed to witness the coronation of her husband King Charles I and she was never crowned herself because she insisted that only a Catholic bishop could do the job and the Church of England was not going to stand for that.

That seems perfectly understandable to me. In all this fashionable celebration of multiculturalism and diversity, what seems to me to be overlooked is the fact that England at least still has an officially established church and the monarch is the head of that church so it hardly seems unreasonable that the official installation of the head of the Church of England be a purely Church of England affair. I say this as someone who is not terribly fond of the Church of England these days, in fact as someone who scarcely considers them to be “Christian” at all any more but, whatever you think of them, however you want to label the thing, there IS a Church of England, the British monarch is the head of the Church of England and the coronation is to Anglicans what the “installation” (or whatever they are calling it these days) of a new Pope is to Catholics or what the election of an Ecumenical Patriarch is to Orthodox Christians. Why should the Church of England have to include others in their ceremonies just because their governor has ‘another job’ which involves working with a great many non-Anglicans?

Again, the British monarch has long reigned over a great many non-Anglican Christians and a great many peoples of other religions. At one point the British monarch actually reigned over more Muslims than any other sovereign in the world, but no one ever thought that every one of these groups had to be involved in the coronation which is a service of the Church of England and really a tradition of the English monarchy specifically. It may not be a huge disaster and I thought this was something that had already been more or less decided years ago and, given my opinion of the Church of England these days, I cannot bring myself to get too elated or upset about anything they do but it just seems to me to be odd and unnecessary. Perhaps even just a little unfair to the Church of England which, lest we forget, is itself a product of the monarchy.

Meanwhile, in other news, royal wedding fever has again gripped the Kingdom of Sweden. However, this week there was an additional bit of meat for the media to chew on when it was announced that Princess Madeleine’s husband-to-be Chris O’Neill has “declined” to accept Swedish citizenship and will not accept any royal or noble title. A statement from the Marshal of the Realm said, “Mr. Christopher O’Neill has respectfully asked to remain a private citizen and not be granted royal status”. Who would turn down the chance to be a prince? That seemed to be the question everyone was asking. Personally, I find this to be another story which does not surprise me in the least. He doesn’t want to be granted royal status? Fine, he’s not royal anyway and I am not very wild about anyone “becoming” royal unless it is a girl marrying into a royal family -and even then I think it would be best if everyone kept to their own kind. Whether or not the Swedes find this upsetting I do not know but I think, if anything, I would be more offended by his refusing Swedish citizenship than refusing a royal title. After all, he already has dual US-British citizenship as it is, so why not add another and pledge allegiance to your father-in-law? If they still do that in Sweden, and why refuse it when being a citizen of the UK (and I’m trying very hard not to go on a rant about when all these monarchies suddenly started having citizens instead of republics -”citizen” used to be a dirty word) automatically makes one a citizen of the EU which includes Sweden anyway. Right?

I must admit, I may be somewhat prejudiced when it comes to this story because, honestly, I have never been a big fan of Chris O’Neill. Perhaps it is his elitist, playboy reputation, his inability to decide whether he is British or American or maybe it is just a little prejudice against his being an investment banker. I cannot put my finger on it but I have just always found him a bit unsavory for my taste and if he doesn’t want to be a royal I would say that the royals will not suffer for his absence. I cannot be very upset about his not wanting to be a prince when I tend to think he would not make a terribly good one anyway. Besides that, drawing in Princess Madeleine herself, it seems like going on to accept a royal title and to appear at royal functions would just be a charade for both of them. To be perfectly frank, Princess Madeleine herself has not given the impression of being especially attached to being a Swedish royal herself. Since she dodged a proverbial bullet with her last near-marriage she had pretty much made her life in the United States as part of the high society scene of New York City, has said she intends to continue living in the United States after her marriage, she is presently fourth (I believe) in the line of succession and has not taken on many royal duties at all herself in recent years. So, why pretend that this marriage means Sweden is gaining a prince when it seems more like the culmination of Sweden losing a princess if we just take the facts as they stand. If she wants to marry a rich Wall Street pirate and be an American I cannot work up any outrage that she and her husband will not be playing a game of pretending to be part of the Swedish Royal Family or the Swedish monarchy. Why bother?

Compared to another high profile case, Princess Madeleine is coming off quite well. When HIH Princess Nori of Japan decided to marry an ordinary commoner she, in accordance with Japanese law, had to relinquish her imperial title, left the Imperial Family, took the name of her husband and gave up her government allowance. Princess Madeleine is not required or expected to make any such sacrifices though, in 2011, Swedes were rather upset about the Princess still receiving a state allowance despite living in New York, carrying out no official duties and also probably because all anyone ever saw of her in the papers was shopping and going to parties with her then live-in boyfriend. That may change in any event but it would be no great sacrifice as I am sure whatever she receives from the Swedish government is pocket change compared to the expense allowance her multi-millionaire husband-to-be can provide her. The law in Japan may seem unkind to some and I will admit I am no more fond of someone “becoming” common than I am of someone “becoming” royalty but differences of birth hold no terror for me. I am a monarchist and I think royals and commoners are very different things and even if the blood sucking investment banker thinks being a prince is “beneath him” or simply a waste of time, I cannot get very upset about it because I don’t think he should be a prince anyway. Honestly, I don’t think he’s terribly worthy to be marrying Princess Madeleine but (full disclosure) I have long had a soft spot for the princess and would probably find anyone unworthy of her. If Chris O’Neill wants to say, “I am not royal” then I am perfectly fine agreeing with him.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Did Japan Read the Baron's Playbook?

Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg (our blog mascot here) may have been a bit on the “unusual” side but he had a grand vision and was nothing if not ambitious. We have talked in the past about his aspirations and his, albeit short-lived, efforts to bring his vision to reality. It says something that, despite being only very briefly on the scene in Outer Mongolia, the “Mad Baron” became something of a legendary figure. For years later he was viewed with a sort of awe, a mixture of both fear and admiration. He was a bogey man to the Bolsheviks and he still pops up from time to time in works of fiction, from novels to comic books to video games and movies. Many legends grew up around him including, as is nothing new or uncommon, the legend that he was not really killed by the Soviets and would return someday to resume his holy war against the revolutionary enemies of tradition and monarchy. A legend though, is of course a fanciful tale, not reality. However, one could be forgiven for thinking that there may have been something to the basic premise considering the extent to which the “cause” of the bizarre baron was taken up by the forces of the Empire of Japan during and prior to the Second World War. How was that? Let us see by first having a little refresher on what the plan of the baron was.

Ungern-Sternberg was, like many people, fascinated and impressed by the glorious history of the great Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. He learned the language (not perfectly but sufficiently), adopted Mongolian dress and many customs and pledged his support and obedience to the theocrat/monarch of the country the Bogd Khan (roughly “Holy King” or emperor, aka Bogd Gegeen or “Holy Shining One”. He wanted to see the Eurasian empire of Genghis Khan brought back to life in some form or another, at least as the vehicle for his goal of a pan-monarchist crusade against the forces of the revolution that had decimated his beloved Russian Empire. So, step one was to drive the republicans out of Mongolia, restore the Holy Khan to his throne and consolidate the area as a bastion of traditional authority. In that first step he was entirely successful, driving out the forces of the Republic of China, liberating the Holy Khan and then beginning at least to build his multi-national counter-revolutionary army of White Russians, Mongols, Tibetans, Manchus, Japanese and other peoples of the region.

The next step in his original plan was to revive the Great Qing Empire and restore the last Manchu Emperor to his throne in China. This, obviously, did not happen but it was crucial if he was ever going to hope to have the manpower necessary to take on the conscripted hordes of the Soviet Red Army. He tried to make contact with the Xuantong Emperor (Henry Pu-Yi to most westerners) though it is unclear if he ever actually did or not. His old partner, General Semyonov certainly did though and was actually employed by the last Emperor for a time. Had that worked out, the next step would have been to arrange an alliance with the Empire of Japan, and he sent agents to try to make contact with the Japanese for that purpose but, again, it is unknown if any ever even reached anyone in authority. We do know that the Baron had among his army a number of Japanese troops, many or most of whom were detailed to handle the artillery as Japan was one of the few countries in the region that had developed sufficiently to master things like modern artillery, automatic weapons and so on. When all that was done, which it unfortunately was not, the Baron then planned to launch a massive offensive against the Soviet Union drawing on peoples from Japan, Korea, Manchuria, China, Tibet, Mongolia and the Russian Far East. He hoped to sweep away the Bolshevik revolutionaries, restore the Romanov monarchy and then build a coalition across the area of the former Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan into a Eurasian “empire” that would be a bulwark of traditionalism as well as a base from which to strike out and eradicate the forces of revolution everywhere.

It sounds glorious but that is also obviously quite a tall order to fill and such a plan by itself would probably be enough for some people to have questioned the sanity of Ungern-Sternberg. However, it is remarkable how similar at least some of the plans made by the Empire of Japan were not long after the “Mad Baron” met his tragic end. There are striking similarities between what the Baron dreamed of doing and what the political and military strategists of Imperial Japan planned for their own agenda. It was not everyone of course but was more in keeping with the agenda of the “army faction” which advocated focus on northeast Asia as opposed to the “navy faction” which advocated a focus on southeast Asia. One supportive group stands out in particular; the famous Black Dragon Society founded by Uchida Ryohei in 1901. Members of the society sought to bring Japan, Manchuria and Mongolia together in combined opposition to the expansion of the Soviet Union. One member, for instance, was Kawashima Naniwa who arranged the marriage of his adopted daughter, Kawashima Yoshiko, a princess of the Qing Dynasty, to a Mongolian prince in an effort to establish a royal dynastic alliance across northeast Asia. That did not completely work out but it was only one effort among many. A simple look at the basic history shows just how closely the actions of Japan and the Kwantung Army in Manchuria in particular, mirrored the goals of the “Mad Baron”.

Where the Baron hoped to restore the Manchu Emperor, the Japanese actually made it a reality. The creation of the Empire of Manchukuo, under the sponsorship of Japan, is one of those rarest of cases in history in which a fallen monarch is successfully restored to his ancestral throne and, people tend to forget, Manchukuo persisted for thirteen years. As far as getting China proper on side, Emperor “Henry” (officially Kang Te in Manchukuo) considered his restoration in Manchuria only a step in the ultimate revival of the Great Qing Empire completely. The Japanese were a little more realistic about the difficulties of that but were still active in supporting a change in government for the Republic of China which did come about in the person of Wang Jingwei whose regime was the only Chinese government to actually recognize the Qing monarch as Emperor of Manchukuo. This was a major step considering how violently anti-Qing dynasty Wang Jingwei had been in his youth. By the time he had made peace with Japan he had become extremely anti-communist and could have been counted on to be supportive of any efforts against the Soviet Union though, as we know, the authority of his government reached only those areas of northeast China held by the Imperial Japanese Army.

As for the Mongolian connection, since the Baron had chased out the Chinese in 1921 the Soviet Union had come to totally dominate Outer Mongolia in one of the most brutal and oppressive regimes in history few people have heard of. Direct involvement in Outer Mongolia by Japan was out of the question in the short-term as the country had effectively become the “sixteenth” Soviet republic. However, Inner Mongolia was within reach and Japan was quick to cultivate alliances with traditional leaders there. The most prominent was Prince Demchukdongrub, a cousin of the Manchu emperor, longtime Qing loyalist and a pan-Mongol nationalist that the Japanese Kwantung Army was quick to reach out to. With backing from Japan the Prince and his family established the autonomous monarchy of Mengjiang with the hope of eventually reunited Inner and Outer Mongolia into a revived country with Prince Demchukdongrub and his relatives as the new Royal Family of Mongolia. In their support of the Prince the Japanese issued a proclamation which would have sounded very familiar to any follower of Ungern-Sternberg saying that the Prince would, “inherit the great spirit of Genghis Khan and retake the territories that belong to Mongolia, completing the grand task of reviving the prosperity of the nation”. The Baron could have said the same thing in his own day.

Finally, there is the case of Russia. The Baron hoped to ride into Siberia at the head of a White Russian, pan-Asian monarchist army and wipe out the red menace. What about Japan? After being stung in a few border clashes with Soviet forces the Japanese signed a neutrality pact with the USSR (part of the shift as Tokyo officially embraced the policies of the “navy faction” in turning toward southeast Asia) which Japan scrupulously observed. Even when her Axis partners invaded the Soviet Union, Japan took no action and honored the agreement until the Soviets, a in a move which earned them the furious hatred of Japanese people ever since, launched a sudden invasion of Manchuria after the United States had already dropped the atomic bomb and the defeat of Japan was imminent. However, the Japanese certainly had plans for other possible courses of action and the army in particular had a long history of working with White Russian monarchist factions in opposition to the Soviet Union. One of these was the revival of the Provisional Priamurye Government which the Japanese had supported during the Russian Civil War in 1921 (the same year the Baron rode into Mongolia). Under Japanese protection and with their financial support the regime had declared for the restoration of the Romanov monarchy under Grand Duke Nicholas (former Russian army commander in World War I).

Someone else who had long been supported by Japan was General Grigory Semyonov, the former comrade-in-arms of Ungern-Sternberg. After some trouble in the USA he had returned to Manchuria (then Manchukuo) where the Japanese paid him a pension and he continued to be a leader in the White Russian exile community which was quite large in Manchuria. The record leaves little doubt that if war had come between Japan and the USSR (at least earlier than it did, before Japan was subject to nuclear attack) there was a friendly force in reserve ready to establish a pro-monarchy government to call for counter-revolution against the Soviets just as the Baron himself had once hoped for. Taken all together, the similarities are striking and might make some wonder if someone in Tokyo had not found some lost record of Baron von Ungern-Sternberg and decided it all looked like a pretty good idea. What might have been we can never know for sure. However, what we can know for sure is that what did ultimately happen; the victory and expansion of communism across Mongolia, China, North Korea and beyond, was not for the best and is still causing misery, unrest and international fear for people today.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Monarchist Quote

"We can reasonably affirm that a true Right without the monarchy ends up deprived of its natural centre of gravity and crystallisation, because in almost all traditional states the principal reference point for realizing the independent and stable principle of pure political authority has been the crown."

-Julius Evola

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Celebrating Crime in Colonial America

Modern-day Americans, for completely understandable reasons, idealize their colonial forefathers as the founders of their ideals and federal union. They are portrayed as noble, upright, God-fearing patriots who were champions of liberty, democracy and all the usual, “truth, justice and the American way” stuff. Perfectly understandable but also very far from the truth. In many instances it was more like being the champions of assault, vandalism, theft and racial and religious bigotry. A case that illustrates this is that of HMS Gaspee. It may not be as well remembered today as the mob assault of the so-called “Boston Massacre” or the large-scale theft and vandalism of the “Boston Tea Party” but it was just as famous at the time and served to keep the revolutionary fervor up between those two more famous events. The background for this case is tied up in all the commercial regulations and taxes that the American colonials had a problem with. However, in reality, these were not often much of a problem since smuggling and the buying and selling of illegal goods was so widespread. One area that was a particular hotbed for smuggling was the many coves and inlets of Narragansett Bay just off Rhode Island. It became such lucrative location for smugglers that they were positively bumping into each other and the Royal Navy dispatched a warship, HMS Gaspee, to the bay to deal with the smuggling problem.

Governor Wanton
The schooner was under the command of Lieutenant William Dudingston who arrived in the spring of 1772 and he proved to be an officer dedicated to his duty and quite successful. Did the locals applaud this enforcer of law and order on the water? Of course not! They sympathized with the criminals and were extremely peeved with Lt. Dudingston for cutting such a swath through the illegal trade going on in the area. While the local colonials were more than happy to romanticize breaking the law, they demanded that the man upholding the law be treated like a criminal and the elected governor of Rhode Island, Joseph Wanton, was quick to heed their cries lest he be voted out of office. He was not a radical revolutionary by any means but he was also a man of rather little spine. So, he threatened to have Lt. Dudingston arrested! Yes, imagine that; the local governor wanted to arrest the man enforcing the law rather than the smugglers who were breaking it. In fact, he wanted to arrest a man for bringing actual criminals to justice. Obviously, the lieutenant was not impressed by this and reported the threat to his admiral who entered into a rather testy exchange of letters with Governor Wanton who was being pushed on by the wealthy merchants of his colony who profited immensely from the illegal trade.

Sheriff Whipple
Ultimately, more than words were exchanged as HMS Gaspee went about the business she was assigned to. On June 9 the ship was in hot pursuit of a smuggler sailing very close to the shore when she ran aground near Providence. Nearby was Sheriff Abraham Whipple but if one would expect a lawman to be on the side of upholding the law one would be quite mistaken. His support was firmly with the smugglers and he took advantage of the misfortune of the Gaspee and gathered a group of like-minded colonials who rowed out to the immobilized schooner than night. When the little flotilla was spotted, Lt. Dudingston called out, “Who comes there?” The sheriff shouted back, “I am the Sheriff of the County of Kent G** d**n you! I have a warrant to apprehend you, G** d**n you -so surrender, G** d**n you!” Then as now, Royal Navy officers are not in the habit of surrendering to foul-mouthed county sheriffs for upholding the King’s laws and he politely refused. So, the sheriff and his party forced their way onto the ship (the crew compliment of a schooner not being very large) and when the lieutenant pulled his sword to defend himself one of the colonials shot him in the groin. Ouch!

A surgeon was rushed in to tend to the wounded officer and then the lieutenant and his crew were hustled off the ship which Whipple then set fire to. It was not the first time that colonials had attacked ships in defense of smuggling but it was certainly the first time that a local official had ever burned one of His Majesty’s armed vessels and assaulted one of the King’s officers. Orders were dispatched from Great Britain for those involved to be charged with treason and (most importantly) brought to London to stand trial for it. However, the urge for swift justice fell afoul of a confused bureaucracy and widespread colonial outrage so that in the end no one was ever punished for the crime. This certainly gave courage to the rabble-rousers in America and the case became famous across the colonies with radicals somehow managing to portray the lieutenant as the villain and the defenders of smuggling and organized crime as the heroes. The incident, in fact, led to the formation of the “Committees of Correspondence” which were organized across the American colonies and which were little more than the older “Sons of Liberty” groups under a more mature-sounding name. In fact, they contained so many of the same people and advocated so much the same message and tactics that the two groups were effectively identical.

The consequences were more far reaching than most people realize. The Gaspee Affair (as it tends to be called) prompted the formation of the Committees of Correspondence which led to greater unity throughout the American colonies in fomenting revolution. The greater level of organization as well as the impression that British laws could not only be ignored but that a British warship could be attacked and still have a sizeable portion of the public sympathize with the attackers who went unpunished led ultimately to the events of the Boston Tea Party. With that bit of vandalism, undoubtedly to the surprise of many who remembered the Gaspee Affair, Britain finally decided that enough was enough and took repressive measures. They learned, perhaps a little too late, that when the public embraces criminal behavior and when elected civil officials start to pick and choose which laws they will uphold and which they will not (sound familiar) the country is on a fast track to disaster.

Monday, May 20, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of England (Part IX)

The Coburgs

King Edward VII: It seems incredible that a woman of such incredible moral fortitude as Queen Victoria could have an eldest son like Edward VII and it can only call to mind the vast difference between the third and fourth Georges. However, the first British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, while no paradigm of virtue, was certainly of better quality than George IV. He, at least, waited for the throne with better grace and dignity and he waited quite a long while. Still, while he was undoubtedly a bit of a rascal in his private life, he at least was a much more likeable fellow and proved himself a seasoned and capable monarch. Fashionable, jovial and a man who enjoyed good living, he personified a Britain that was ’large and in-charge’. My opinion of him is somewhat prejudiced by his peacemaking with republican France, to the detriment of Austria-Hungary and Germany. His rather warmer attitude toward Imperial Russia, on the other hand, was certainly a welcome change in my view from the hostility of his mother, if not very whole-hearted. His modernization of the army and navy was also a major positive, the move toward curtailing the power of the House of Lords was certainly not. He avoided war with France over colonial rivalries but set the stage for World War I. Given how that turned out, a little colonial conflict might have been preferable. Still, a steady and sober monarch, far removed from his reputation as heir apparent.

King George V: When I think of George V the image that comes to mind is of a hard working, stable, reliable, methodical monarch. He lacked the style and personality of his father but was a more meticulous monarch and a more upstanding man, even a bit on the authoritarian side. Those looking for a romantic figure would be disappointed but George V was a good, steady monarch for those interested in substance rather than style. He was perhaps more closely familiar with the far flung dominions of his empire than any British monarch before him and things would have gone better had his advice been heeded more often, particularly in the wake of the Easter Uprising in Ireland. World War I was a disaster, though he was not to blame for it and was a commendable wartime monarch. In the aftermath he seemed to have every radical, revolutionary movement plaguing him and that is nothing to be taken lightly. He was a good man and a good monarch but, understanding the unrest he faced in his own country, I will still always have some bitterness in regard to George V for his failure to rush to the aid of his cousin the Tsar and his family.

King Edward VIII: When Edward VIII came to the throne, albeit briefly, it must have seemed to some that history was repeating itself. Again a stern, upright and moral father had produced a rather libertine son and heir. I cannot have a very high opinion of Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor) who led quite an immoral life in his youth and who put his own desires before his duty to the empire and the royal house he belonged to. Still, I certainly do not hate the man as many seem to. He had no use for the League of Nations, which I would agree with and he was opposed to war which, while considered outrageous today, might have saved the British Empire. I don’t think he would have been a terrible king but his beloved was never going to be queen and I doubt he would have settled for anything less. His abdication was a dereliction of duty, no question, but if that was his nature, surely it was best that he abdicate rather than inflict an unwilling monarch on his country and dominions. I have also never understood those who hold anger against the man, totally despise him and yet still condemn him for abdicating. Makes no sense to me.

King George VI: Back on the right track, with George VI Britain again had an ideal constitutional monarch. I have often said that when I picture “a king” in my mind, it is George VI that I usually see. He was a man of great dignity, high moral standards, a devoted family man and he was disciplined, dutiful and dedicated. His calm and majestic presence was just what Britain needed in World War II and, though he is often left out of the historical narrative, he was a very “hands-on” wartime monarch. More than enduring the blitz alongside his people, he kept up with the war economy, visited the front and was involved in all the major planning sessions for strategy. Even the American supreme Allied commander, General Eisenhower, had nothing but respect and the highest praise for King George VI. He also had the good sense (and persistence) to marry a fine Scottish lady who proved to be a tremendous asset for the Royal Family and the country. His reign is bitter-sweet though as he did see Britain through her “darkest hour” but was also the last King-Emperor and presided over the beginning of the disintegration of the British Empire, mostly due to the government poverty caused by the war.

Queen Elizabeth II: One of the greatest but simplest things one can say about HM the Queen is that she is and has always been worthy of her father. It must be said that her reign has covered the most drastic decline in British power and influence in centuries but none of that can be attributed to her. She follows the advice of her ministers without fail and has been a model constitutional monarch. Warm, friendly, even humorous but at the same time dignified and majestic, no matter what has gone on around her, the Queen has always conveyed continuity, stability and integrity. Few other monarchs have been faced with such rapid and drastic changes as Elizabeth II and she has shown both strength and an ability to adapt in navigating through such waters. Even on the rare occasion when she became rather unpopular, the public eventually realized she had been right all along and that they had behaved rather childishly. The Queen has been an anchor in the storm and has, seemingly effortlessly, upheld the monarchy as a popular institution by her spotless moral values and her matchless ability to never make a mistake. It has been said quite often by now that the Queen has “never put a foot wrong”. That is quite a remarkable thing to say when you think about it -and the most remarkable thing is that it is completely true.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

MM Sunday Scripture

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

-Proverbs 22:11

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Concerning the Scandinavian royals, TM King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden were in the American state of Delaware last Saturday to celebrate the 375th anniversary of the Finno-Swedish colony of New Sweden in what is now Wilmington. They met with the Governor and traveled on a replica period ship to the old grounds of Fort Christina, named after the Swedish Queen Christina (daughter of King Gustavus Adolphus) who expanded Swedish influence into North America before abdicating to convert to Catholicism. Afterwards the royal couple traveled to New York to meet up with daughter Princess Madeleine and her British-American husband-to-be Chris O’Neill. I may have mentioned this before, but it does bother me that non-British royals get so little press when coming to the United States. I don’t want to discourage any attention toward visiting royals, and the U.S. does have more of an historical connection with the British monarchy than others but surely it is a little odd that Prince Harry causes such a media frenzy when coming to America but the King and Queen of Sweden get barely a mention. Meanwhile, in Norway, there has been a “dust up” over the fate of the gravel at the Royal Palace -which proves Norwegians will argue about absolutely anything. Since King Harald V visited the Brazilian rainforest the natives of Borneo have been putting forward their own claim to endangered status and called on the King to intervene to stop one of his subjects from building a dam in their area. However, the big news was the annual celebration of Constitution Day on May 17, the Norwegian national birthday party when almost the whole country turns out for patriotic displays and celebrations presided over by the Royal Family. We wish a happy birthday to the Kingdom of Norway and hope many, many more follow.

Elsewhere on the continent, a 44-year old man from Zwolle was arrested by Dutch police two days before the recent inauguration of King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands (it was recently announced) for making threats against the House of Orange. The threats were made via text message which prompted one recipient to alert the authorities. The man was released on Monday to await trial at his home. In neighboring Belgium TRH the Duke and Duchess of Brabant paid tribute to International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne this week before visiting the Olympic Museum which is currently being housed on a boat on Lake Geneva while its building is renovated. And, down in Luxembourg Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stephanie visited the historic town of Vianden, talking with the locals and soaking up some of the early history of the Grand Ducal Family’s ancestors. And, further south, more dead royals have returned to return to Serbia. This time it was Prince Andrej, third son of King Alexander I whose remains were taken from Illinois in the United States and arrived on Wednesday at the Royal Chapel in Dedinje. For the British and Commonwealth Royal Family most of the news this week was taken up with the minute details of Prince Harry’s recent visit to the United States. In other news this week, the Prince of Wales and HM the Queen attended the service for the Order of Merit at St James’s Palace. The Order of Merit is about the only royal honor which remains exclusively in the gift of the Queen rather than the government. And, in southern Europe, the King of Spain has had to give up his yacht (I’m rather surprised it has lasted this long) and gossipmongers have started to say nasty things about the Princess of Monaco -file that under “news” that is nothing new.

In the lands of Eternal Asia, in a colorful ceremony (sadly only symbolic these days held for the sake of tradition alone) the 9-year-old prince of Jaipur HH Rajkumar Lakshya Raj Singh was formally anointed as the Maharaja of Sirmaur, a former princely state of India in southern Himachal Pradesh. The ceremony was held at Nahan Palace on Wednesday, giving locals a chance to glimpse some of the old royal splendor of imperial India. Representatives of other princely states were on hand as were a few politicians and some Bollywood celebrities for the occasion. And there has been some very big monarchy-related news out of China recently, though, as usual, it is “too little, too late” to be very helpful. A former government official and historian, Jia Yinghua, has discovered records in the secret archives of the Chinese authorities at Zhongnanhai which explain why the imperial system came to such a sudden and unceremonious halt with the abdication of the last Emperor, acted for by the Empress Dowager Longyu. It seems she was not exactly acting freely but was offered 20,000 taels of silver (1,700 lb) and threatened with beheading by General Yuan Shikai. His efforts to threaten or bribe court officials was apparently extensive, including the Empress Dowager’s closest eunuch Xiao Dezheng and Prince Yikuang who accumulated 2 million dollars in silver in his Hong Kong bank account, mostly from efforts to buy his support for Yuan Shikai taking power and ending the rule of the Qing Dynasty. Evidence also suggests that he convinced friends in the Russian embassy to write threatening letters to the Empress Dowager warning her that the European powers were about to bring down the dynasty anyway. The entire affair was utterly disgraceful. It has also always been perfectly obvious that the agreement signed by the Qing court with the republican leaders for the abdication was never honored by the republican side and should, therefore, be considered invalid.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Consort Profile: Queen Maria Cristina of Savoy

Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Cristina Carlotta Giuseppina Gaetana Elisa of Savoy was born on November 14, 1812 to HM King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia and HM Queen Maria Teresa of Austria-Este in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia. The youngest of seven children, Princess Maria Cristina was born during a difficult period for the House of Savoy. The French Revolution, following by wars of expansion, had forced the family out of their ancestral homeland and the traditional citadel of Turin, which was occupied by French troops, to the island of Sardinia. As her very conservative and traditional parents refused to have anything to do with the revolutionaries or the Bonaparte regime, they had to wait until the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo before the Savoy family was able to return to Turin to fully restore the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia to what it had been before the invasion. A little girl by that time, Princess Maria Cristina was educated privately at court and from an early age she had it impressed upon her that there was no greater duty than to God. She had an extensive religious education (her father had restored education to the clergy after it had been secularized by the French) and she was also taught about the long and illustrious history of the House of Savoy and her responsibilities to her family as a princess.

Of course, during this time, part of the duty of any royal princess was to be the source of a marriage alliance advantageous to her own country and dynasty. King Victor Emmanuel I had aspirations to remove the Austrian presence in Lombardy and consolidate northern Italy under the House of Savoy. Ultimately this would be done but not by Victor Emmanuel I and the marriage of Maria Cristina would have nothing to do with it at all. Nonetheless, it was thought practical to arrange a marriage between the princess and the King of the Two-Sicilies in Naples in an effort to keep southern Italy on friendly terms. So, while his second-to-the-youngest daughter was married to the heir to the Hapsburg throne (she would one day become Empress of Austria), it was decided that Maria Cristina would be married to King Ferdinand II and become Queen of the Two-Sicilies. She was still a teenager when the engagement was agreed to in 1830 and the local aristocracy in Turin held a magnificent engagement party for her. Onlookers remarked on how lovely the young princess of Savoy looked with her large deep eyes, light complexion and thick dark hair, charmingly shy and reserved. The princess had to be a little nervous about the marriage, not only because she was leaving her family for the first time but also because there was not a great deal she had in common with her husband-to-be.

However, it was ever “duty first” in the House of Savoy and Princess Maria Cristina was married a couple of years later with the wedding being celebrated in Genoa on November 21, 1832. Maria Cristina became Queen of the Two-Sicilies and began her married life in Naples. Sometimes such arranged marriages resulted in devotion and true romance but, sadly, this was not the case for the new Queen Maria Cristina. King Ferdinand II was rather crude where his Queen was refined, abusive where she was gentle, outgoing and bombastic where she was modest and reserved. The Queen was disturbed by the morals of the court at Naples and rather shocked by the oppressive policies of her husband who, to be fair, certainly had a great deal of malice and treachery among his people but who is most known for dealing with it by means of violent retaliation. Queen Maria Cristina was quite lonely as the King had little patience for her shy nature. The only close companion she had was her younger sister-in-law Princess Maria Antoinette (named after the ill-fated Queen of France Marie Antoinette) but even that relationship was short-lived as not long after her arrival in Naples the princess left for Florence to be married to Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany.

Yet, though she had almost no one close to her for company, Queen Maria Cristina was greatly loved by the ordinary people of the Two-Sicilies who were charmed by her demure beauty, kindness and sympathized with her for the way she was treated by her seemingly cold and indifferent husband. In fact, at times he seemed to delight in offending her, whether by his vulgar language or having dancers perform in their underwear. Originally quite popular as a “man of the people” the public reputation of Ferdinand II suffered both by the perception of how he treated his wife as well as the violent suppression of any calls for constitutional government (hence his eventual nickname of ‘King Bomb’). But Queen Maria Cristina was always adored because of the care and compassion she showed toward her adopted country and because of how she endured her less than ideal life, with patience and pious devotion.

Maria Cristina had always been a devout Catholic and she came to rely on her faith ever more in times of trial. Her commitment to God and the Church, serene detachment and beautiful appearance caused many people to see her as an almost angelic figure and even then many began to refer to her as a saint. Tragically, her life was not to be a long one. She had not yet celebrated her twenty-fourth birthday when she gave birth to her one and only child, the future King Francesco II, and complications soon set in. Her condition deteriorated rapidly and only five days later she passed away on January 21, 1836. She was buried in the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Naples, the King married again in less than a year and his new wife would be the major influence on the life of little Francesco II. Nonetheless, as a boy he was always taught to honor the memory of his late mother, who had died bringing him into the world, as the ‘saintly queen’ or ‘holy queen’. He would be the last King of the Two-Sicilies and after he had lost his throne and was living in exile he began to push for the Church to take up the cause of his late mother. Her pious reputation was such that there was great support for it and in 1872 Pope Pius IX recognized her status as a Servant of God. The cause continued to progress and on May 6, 1937 Pope Pius XI recognized the Queen as a Venerable Servant of God and, most recently, on May 3, 2013 Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to her intercession, opening the way for her to be beatified, the last step on the road to canonization as a saint.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ordinary for a Republic

U.S. President Barack Obama is currently serving his second term and, as most observers of American politics can attest, that is when the scandals usually come out. Of course, it is a little more difficult with the current occupant of the White House because the media industry (news and entertainment alike) so heavily favored him in his initial run and reelection that commenting on any missteps must be extremely uncomfortable for them. Like Bush and the lead-up to the Iraq War, they might admit their mistaken lack of scrutiny -but only after the fact when it is too late to actually do anything about it. There is the continuing fallout over the terrorist attack in Libya, the “Justice” Department violating the privacy of the Associated Press and the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting conservative groups opposed to the policies of the current President for extra scrutiny. No matter how one cuts it, things are not looking good for the big B.O. who has either been flagrantly dishonest or (if we are to believe he only ever learned about any of these things when they were finally reported on by the news media) grossly incompetent. Of course, these sorts of things happen in countries all over the world and scandal and politicians go together hand-in-hand. Again, especially in second terms, American presidents have a habit of getting into trouble. Ronald Reagan had the Iran-Contra affair, Bill Clinton had the Monica Lewinsky scandal and George W. Bush had the case of the incredible disappearing weapons of mass destruction. It is nothing new.

The one I would like to draw special focus on for our purposes today is the IRS going after conservative groups. This too is not entirely original. President Richard Nixon was also accused of using the IRS to punish his political enemies (for those unaware, the IRS is the agency which collects federal income taxes and most Americans fear them about as much as your average German probably feared the Gestapo). This is no minor issue as the IRS has vast and far-reaching powers, hence being known by many as “the most powerful collection agency in the world”. They can violate your privacy, take your property and even clap you in chains and haul you off to prison if they think you have not paid your feudal federal overlord his required tribute. They can completely ruin your life and they have (not a few times) done so to people only to find out later it had all been a case of mistaken paperwork. The IRS is nothing to fool around with. Presidents being accused of using this most fearsome weapon to punish their political enemies is also nothing new though it can be extremely difficult to prove. This time, as usual, President Obama is claiming he had nothing to do with it and, again, only learned about what was going on in his own government from watching television. That last part is a little hard to believe but, even though the political nature of this scandal is undeniable, it is possible that the President had nothing to do with it. If it is proven that he did; that would be an impeachable offense -but I doubt it will come to that and, even if it did, no U.S. President has ever actually been removed from office following an impeachment.

It is perfectly understandable that many on the right in America would, in the absence of any concrete evidence, believe that the President had something to do with this. Many of these same sort of conservative groups have, in the past, been lumped together with violent radicals and terrorists by the Obama administration. It is perfectly clear he doesn’t like these people and the feeling is mutual. I make it a rule to have nothing to do with organizations or political parties but even on my own, I have no doubt that, were I known to him, the American president would have as low an opinion of me as I do of him. It doesn’t bother me, but it does strike me as rather disconcerting for those “conservative” republicans with fairly mainstream views who would fall into the same camp. More than those people though, I wonder what, if at all, the people in the monarchies of the world think about this state of affairs. Do they realize what this means? And do the republicans on those monarchies arguing against a hereditary head of state realize what it is they are arguing for?

In the great Commonwealth of Australia, for example, I wonder if they look at what is happening in the United States and appreciate their own good fortune? In the United States, if you are on (or anywhere near) the political “right” there can be little doubt in your mind that the President of your country, the head of state and government and the commander-in-chief does not like you at all and possibly even despises you. Moreover, he or at least many of his underlings are not averse to using the power of the state against you -and you pay the salary, benefits and pensions for these people (all of which are quite generous). How would that make you feel? Yet, this is the system that Australian republicans and their comrades in other monarchies wish to foist on their people. People living in constitutional monarchies should look at what is going on in the United States, which is nothing new, and cling all the more tightly to their system in which they have a non-partisan and non-political head of state who can (literally) do them no harm whatsoever as opposed to the republican system where absolutely everything is political, everything is partisan and there is no government department, agency or service that is not constantly locked in a struggle to advance their own agenda and suppress those who think differently than they do. Every elected government in the world has partisans, that goes without saying, but it must be nice for those living in monarchies to know that their head of state and commander-in-chief doesn’t actively hate them.

But even if we are to take President Obama at his word, that he knew absolutely nothing about the Benghazi talking points tampering, the IRS targeting his political enemies (how convenient) and the Justice Department spying on the Associated Press it certainly doesn’t speak well for the accountability of the U.S. government. After all, the advocates of a republic always tout accountability as one of their greatest arguments, yet, here we have an elected president who claims to know next to nothing about all of these major events going on in his own administration. Furthermore, even in this American republic which has a better record than most, is full of departments and agencies like the IRS which have extensive, sweeping powers, which can put you in jail, seize your property and totally ruin your life and they are all being run by people no one ever voted for, who cannot be voted out of office and who often keep their jobs regardless of who the occupant of the White House is. It seems to me that anyone living in a monarchy need only to look at the United States right now and thank God for their reigning sovereign.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Knights of Malta

Next to the Knights Templar, probably the most well known group of Crusader knights is the Knights of Malta, also known as the Hospitallers and the Knights of St John. Alongside the Templars they were one of the preeminent defenders of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, mostly the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Their names come from the fact that St John the Baptist was their patron saint (hence, Knights of St John) and because they originally ran a hospital for Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem they became known as the Hospitallers. Later, after the fall of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem they took the name of whatever their base of operations was, particularly Rhodes and finally Malta. The Knights of St John were one of the earliest military orders, founded around 1099 in the aftermath of the First Crusade and the capture of Jerusalem by the Christian forces. As their name suggests, they got their start simply running a hospital, founded by Blessed Gerard Thom, a native of southern Italy (exactly where is disputed) who became guardian of a hospital built in Jerusalem. Eventually, the need for military protection became more evident as his organization grew until it was granted official sanction by Pope Paschall II in 1113. This was because pilgrims became more and more in need of armed escorts to ensure their safety throughout the region but, it is important to note, even when they became a specifically military religious order, the Knights Hospitaller never lost their commitment to their humanitarian medical role.

Like other religious military orders, the Knights Hospitaller had religious as well as military discipline to keep but they always maintained both a fighting arm and a medical arm to look after the sick and injured pilgrims. Even the most illustrious and high born knights were still expected to spend time caring for the most poor and destitute of the hospital. In fact, the earliest records of the Knights Hospitaller deal exclusively with their medical role and it is not until much later that we can find documents dealing with the rules and regulations for their soldierly role. The “uniform” was a black robe with a white 8-pointed cross; another symbol being a white cross on a red field to distinguish them from the Templars who displayed a red cross on a white field. There were three types of Knights Hospitaller; the military brothers, the medical brothers and the religious brothers or chaplains who were the clergymen attached to the order and loyal to the grand master of the order. On the battlefield, the Knights Hospitaller were quick to distinguish themselves as one of the most elite groups of soldiers of the Christian powers and their reputation spread throughout both the territories of Christendom as well as the Islamic lands. As they grew with their success the Knights Hospitaller established hospitals and fortified bases throughout the Holy Land with seven major castles and over a hundred smaller outposts throughout the region.

Eventually, however, the Muslim forces were able to come together and drive out the Christian presence from the Holy Land, conquering (or re-conquering) Jerusalem in 1187. The Knights Hospitaller relocated their main base to the County of Tripoli until the last Christian foothold in the Holy Land, Acre, was captured by the Muslims in 1291. It was at that point that the Knights Hospitaller withdrew to the island of Rhodes, after a brief stay on the Kingdom of Cyprus where they found the political atmosphere not to their liking. So, at that point, many began to refer to the order as the Knights of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes. This took time though as Rhodes was then held by the Byzantine Empire (sometime ally and sometime enemy of the Latin Crusaders) and it took more than two years to conquer Rhodes and the surrounding islands which the Knights then held for some time thereafter. Once secure in their new base, the Knights won more battles and earned greater fame. They also got a considerable boost with the unfortunate dissolution of the Knights Templar, many of whom chose to continue their vocation by joining the Knights of St John.

The Hospitallers became such a large and significant military order that they reflected almost the entirety of European Christendom in their ranks. Because of that the order was divided into “tongues” which were Aragon, Castile, Italy, France, Auvergne, Provence, England and Germany based on language. Obviously, as with much of the Crusades in general, the French presence was usually the largest but the ranks included knights from all across Christendom. They also attracted an increasingly illustrious membership with many members of the most old and noble families joining the order. One example of this was a member of the House of Savoy, which eventually became the Royal Family of Italy, and the motto of the Savoy comes from the ancestor who defended Rhodes with the Knights of St John and the Savoy arms of a white cross on a red shield are obviously those of the Knights of St John (or at the time, the Knights of Rhodes). During this time the military duties of the knights became increasingly dominant as a matter of necessity. Besides harassment from Barbary pirates, the Knights had to defend Rhodes from a number of Muslim invasions, defeating forces vastly greater than their own. Because this was rather embarrassing, the Ottoman Sultan made the eradication of the Knights of Rhodes a top priority and after conquering Constantinople in 1453 the Turks came after the knights with a vengeance.

In 1522 Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent sent an invasion force of 400 ships and more than 100,000 troops to conquer Rhodes which was defended by a scant 7,000 knights and their auxiliaries. Obviously, the odds were hopeless for the knights, but they fought with immense tenacity and held out for some six months before finally accepting the Turkish terms for surrender which allowed the survivors to evacuate to Sicily. The Knights were then homeless for a time until the King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V granted the Knights the island of Malta in return for a rather unique annual rent payment which was a Maltese falcon to be paid to the Viceroy of Sicily every year on All Souls Day. Today, at least among film noir fans, “The Maltese Falcon” is quite famous even if few know exactly where it comes from. In any event, the move to Malta was of great benefit to the Knights, thereafter known as the Knights of Malta, who settled in and began to grow and strengthen again while still standing guard on the southern frontier of Europe to ward off the ever present Barbary pirates and the occasional Turkish offensive. The Ottoman Sultan was still determined to see the Knights of Malta eliminated and once they reappeared on Rhodes, Suleiman sent another invasion force against them.

This was the spearhead of what was planned as a major invasion of southern Europe. The idea was to conquer Malta, then Sicily and then to advance up the “boot” of Italy to capture Rome itself. Suleiman the Magnificent sent about 180 ships and 31,000 men against the Knights of Malta who numbered only 641 knights backed up by 8,000 auxiliaries. They were led by Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette who had himself spent a year as a slave in a Turkish galley. He had a religious process, led by the Blessed Sacrament, in La Valette (at least as it is now known) to invoke the help of God as the Turkish fleet approached. The attack began on May 18, 1565 and the Turks attacked with determined ferocity, at one point launching six attacks on the Christian walls in one day. However, despite taking terrible losses, the Knights and their companions just managed to hang on and repel each attack. They knew, again, the odds against them were hopeless, but they fought on while waiting for a Spanish fleet sent by King Philip II to come to their rescue. The battle was long, hard and desperate. Maltese civilians pelted the Turkish attackers with stones, taken from the rubble of the holes blasted in the walls by Turkish artillery. Women fought on the walls and children carried food and water to the fighting forces. Everything was in ruins, ammunition supplies were so exhausted that the Knights had to fire back the canon balls the Turks shot at them and eventually there were only 600 Christian defenders left alive. But, just as the Turks were preparing what would likely have been the final attack, the Spanish fleet arrived and the Turks, who had taken heavy losses themselves plus being weakened by sickness and the climate, withdrew.

This was undoubtedly the most famous battle and “finest hour” for the Knights of Malta but they carried on for quite a while afterwards. Because of their island location they became as much a naval power as they had been a cavalry force in the Holy Land. They sent ships to fight with the Christian fleet at the battle of Lepanto and their war galleys escorted Christian vessels in the Mediterranean to protect them from pirates and hostile powers. When money became scarce they began to hire out their ships to the navies of France and Spain. Money became an ever bigger problem, especially after the spread of Protestantism meant that many who had previously supported the Knights would no longer do so and many Catholics had other priorities closer to home to deal with and could no longer make their usual donations. So, the Knights of Malta adapted and despite being a Catholic order did their best to make friends with Protestant powers as well. The increase in mercenary work, usually for France, also meant that at times the Knights of Malta would be allied with their old enemies the Turks while fighting against the Catholic Spanish who had once been their saviors. Still, they did the best they could to survive and carry on. They remained secure on their island fortress of Malta until 1798 when the French forces of Napoleon Bonaparte conquered the island on their way to Egypt.

The Knights would never rule Malta again as, after the French occupation ended, the island would become part of the British Empire. Some of the Knights joined other orders, most simply waited for a new home to be provided for them as had happened in the past. One monarch who wanted to come to their rescue was Tsar Paul I of Russia who welcomed a large number of Knights to St Petersburg. He admired their traditions and sympathized with their plight. Catholic authorities were rather shocked when the knights in Russia elected the Tsar as their Grand Master and he founded a Russian establishment for the Knights of Malta that was open to all Christians rather than only Catholics (which was necessary for his new “job” as he, of course, was a devout Russian Orthodox). The Catholic Church did not and does not recognize the Grand Mastership of Tsar Paul as legitimate but the Russian establishment carried on for the rest of the life of the Russian Empire and even afterwards in the exile community. In Western Europe, the order was homeless and fatherless until 1879 when Pope Leo XIII appointed a new Grand Master and in 1834 it was more formally revised as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a purely humanitarian organization with nothing military about it aside from their traditional attire. This order was given a home in Rome and still exists today, including among its ranks a great many nobles, royals (mostly non-reigning royals unfortunately) and some of the most successful people in the world. However, they are really not the same as the knights of old and are purely a charitably organization which carries out and funds medical and social work.

Protestant countries founded several different orders inspired by the Knights of Malta and there are numerous groups which make use of the name, or some variant of it, with no real connection at all to the original order (much like the Knights Templar). The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is the only valid continuation but, again, it is for all intents and purposes something new. Among those royals who have been granted ranks in the Knights of Malta are King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Prince Albert II of Monaco, King Albert II of the Belgians, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg and Vittorio Emanuele Prince of Naples (former Crown Prince of Italy). There are over 10,000 members of the order around the world, membership is by invitation only and until recently was exclusive to the aristocracy. Today, however, the lower ranks are open to commoners while the higher still require an extensive pedigree.

Monday, May 13, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of England (Part VIII)

The Hanoverians

King George I: If nothing else, one can at least say that Britain’s first German monarch was a colorful character. A distant relative thrust onto the British throne by the 1701 Act of Settlement, something which further cemented the notion that the King reigned ‘by the grace of Parliament’ rather than the grace of God. He had no burning desire to be King of Great Britain and had already proven himself a fairly competent Elector of Hanover. He is known for his mostly “hands-off” approach to governing, which gave rise to the first British Prime Minister as we would understand it today, for his mistresses, his contempt for his eldest son (a Hanoverian tradition) and his inability to speak English. Still, he understood English law and government better than most of his subjects realized, he kept a steady hand on the wheel and if his British subjects did not understand him, he likely understood them just as little. Hanover was always his home and his first concern, he hadn’t sought to be king and certainly launched no invasion to bring it about like the Prince of Orange but he nonetheless made the most of it. He was not a likeable character but was probably at least somewhat better than most think.

King George II: Like his father, there is not an overabundance with which to recommend George II. He hated his son just as his father had hated him, though he was more kind to his wife (not difficult) and the British Empire grew considerably under his reign. Still, he spent some lengthy periods in Hanover and was always more concerned with Germany than with, for instance, the British North American colonies. The 1745 Jacobite uprising gave him quite a scare but he was certainly no coward, being the last reigning British monarch to lead his troops on the battlefield. Overall, he was a fairly effective monarch, fulfilling the traditional requirements for a successful monarch; securing the succession, defending his throne, winning victories in war and enlarging his domain. Still, he tended to put Hanover before Britain, was not a very likeable person and his forces were positively brutal in Scotland in the aftermath of the ‘45. So, all in all a successful monarch but one I could never muster a great deal of enthusiasm for.

King George III: It is a shame that George III will probably always be remembered most for losing “the United States” and for going “mad”. He really deserves to be counted among the greatest of British monarchs. For the first time since Queen Anne the country had a monarch who didn’t speak with a German accent and who was as thoroughly “British” as he could be. Unlike his predecessors, he took an active role in the government of his kingdoms and far from being harsh or tyrannical was almost invariably a voice of fairness and consideration. Also unlike his predecessors, King George III was a man of upstanding moral integrity, a faithful husband, devoted father and a man of great generosity while still having enough of George II in him to appreciate a balanced budget and deplore extravagance. Still, tradition being tradition, he and his eldest son never got along very well, mostly because of the extent to which the King disapproved of the rather weak moral fiber in his son. It should not be forgotten though that while losing what became the USA, he won the wider war and although he would not forget he was able to put the past behind him without holding a grudge, establishing diplomatic relations with the United States and going to war with revolutionary France after his old enemy Louis XVI was murdered by the mob. He also certainly secured the succession (in a big way) and was, in every way, a monarch any of his subjects could be proud of.

King George IV: When it comes to character, George IV was everything his father was not; licentious, lazy and wasteful. Still, he was not a terrible monarch though certainly not a great one. He may have been extravagant but he had a tremendous sense of style and he left Britain a more grandiose country than he found it. Yes, he was a scoundrel, but also a patron of the arts, a driver of fashion and a great builder. Those are about his only redeeming qualities though, aside perhaps from reviving highland dress in Scotland. His reign (and regency) coincided with some of the greatest moments in British history, the passing of historic legislation and at least he did not manage to mess any of that up though, based on what his ministers wrote some may have suspected him of trying. He was not a monarch one could admire, though many found him likeable. He did have sense enough to realize at least to some extent when politicians were trying to take advantage of him and his political views shifted after inheriting the throne. So, not a great one, not very praiseworthy but neither can it be said that things went to ruin under his watch.

King William IV: The “Sailor King” William IV often seems to get lost in between his colorful and controversial brother and the historic reign of his niece. Overall, my impression of William IV is as a pretty good, solid monarch. In sharp contrast to his brother he was frugal, plain and blunt which was probably a good thing on the heels of the fuss and feathers of George IV. William IV could behave in ways rather lacking in “majesty” but he was a man of strong leadership, good instincts and common sense. Since the reign of his father the politicians had become more and more dominant, which mostly continued under William IV though he was the last monarch to appoint a prime minister of his own choosing. He provided steady leadership during his time on the throne and had the wisdom and fortitude to hold on to life long enough for his niece to succeed him without a regency -probably saving the country from a great deal of trouble.

Queen Victoria: In some ways, Queen Victoria can be seen as being more revered than she should be and yet, I at least cannot help but have the greatest admiration for her. She made her share of mistakes over the years but she had a presence few other English sovereigns could ever hope to match. Like Elizabeth I, she gave her name to an era and on the world stage it was the Victorian era that was far greater. The Queen deserves at least some of the credit for the great, powerful, dynamic force that the British Empire became during her reign and she was an admirable woman. A very devoted wife, a reluctant (but frequent) though dutiful mother and a woman of impeccable moral fortitude. Queen Victoria made the monarchy widely respected again as well as a force for good in society with the outreach to the poor, the working class and her strident opposition to racial bigotry. Like a few others, it is hard to separate the Queen herself from the image of the Queen but that image was so great and remains so brilliant that it seems a pity to even try. The first to made Empress of India, the British Empire may have grown larger after her time on the throne yet it is still the reign of Queen Victoria that stands out, in my mind at least, as the pinnacle of the British Empire. Plus, she really was the “Grandmother of Europe” and anyone who doesn’t love their grandmother must have something wrong with them.
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