Thursday, October 31, 2013

Flag Flaps, Part II, France

Most monarchists are aware of the occasion on which the restoration of the Kingdom of France came to naught because of a dispute over the national flag. HRH Henri of Artois, Count of Chambord, the grandson of King Charles X, who should have been King Henri V of France, was offered the chance of reclaiming his birthright but turned it down because of the refusal of the National Assembly to revert the national flag to the white flag with the golden lilies that had flown during the days of the old Bourbon Kingdom of France. This resulted in the establishment of the Third French Republic, which many thought would last only as long as the life of the Count of Chambord after whose death the monarchy could be restored under the more compromising Count of Paris. As we know, that never happened and France has remained staunchly republican ever since. Needless to say, this caused no small amount of controversy, not just in France but for concerned people around the world and even among monarchists to this day. Upon hearing the news Pope Pius IX famously lamented, “And all that, all that for a napkin!” Many monarchists have the same attitude even today, rather disgruntled that such an opportunity was lost over a flag.

Certainly, a case can be made that the count was being unnecessarily rigid. The French tricolor of blue-white-red was, itself, not without monarchist connections. It was actually first adopted late in the reign of King Louis XVI when he had been, rather coerced, into making France a limited, constitutional monarchy. Many took it at the time as a compromise flag and, although it obviously came to be associated with the revolution and the republic it created, the tricolor was technically the last flag of the original Kingdom of France. It also remained the national flag during the French Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte, it was the national flag of the popular monarchy of King Louis Philippe and, most recently, had been the flag of the Second French Empire of Louis Napoleon III. It was after the defeat and downfall of Napoleon III that the royalists gained a majority in the National Assembly and the Count of Chambord was offered the throne. At that time, odd as it may seem today, the tricolor had actually been the national flag of more monarchial regimes in France than republican ones. There was also an effort made to compromise with the count to persuade him to accept the throne by which the tricolor would remain the national flag but the fleur-de-lis would be established in law as his personal royal standard. The count still said “non”.

an alternative, royalist version, of the tricolor
I have been asked my opinion on this issue numerous times and it is at this point that I have to say that, in my view, the count should have accepted that compromis, learned to live with the tricolor and allowed the restoration of the Kingdom of France. A genuine effort had been made to accommodate his views and as most monarchists know, it is so rare as to be downright miraculous for any monarchy to be restored once it has fallen and, in my view, it would have been best to accept the situation as it was and not make the perfect the enemy of the good. The French people, even at that time, had experienced a great deal of momentous history under the tricolor. French troops, even royalist ones, had bled and died under the tricolor and it was probably too much to expect that it just be tossed aside as much as ardent royalists (like myself) would wish it could be. It had become, perhaps because of the many regimes that made use of it, associated with France itself rather than just the first and second French republics. It had also been the flag of the empire and I have seen many devoted, right-thinking royalists remain completely unable to grasp why the empire had been so popular with so many people and, to a limited extent, can pull on French heartstrings even today. In the latter years of the Kingdom of France, one must remember, France had suffered a number of setbacks, usually at the hands of Britain. The morale of the nation was rather low and yet, despite ultimately ending in disaster, under Napoleon and the tricolor, France had come surging back to dominate almost the whole of Europe for a time. Also under Napoleon III the French once again became a prominent world power and that is something that the general public would not easily dismiss. It was probably unrealistic to expect or demand that all that had happened under the tricolor be suddenly shoved aside to have a King again.

For all of those reasons, I think the count should have taken the deal and perhaps he could have managed to have the flag changed later. All that being said though, I think I understand why the count was so unwilling to compromise and it is why I cannot have that negative a view of the man in spite of him allowing the opportunity for a royal restoration to slip through his fingers. The reason is because, I think for the Count of Chambord, the issue was not the French flag really but rather what the flag had come to represent, at least in his own mind and probably a great many others as well. It was also under the tricolor that King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette had been murdered and it was under the tricolor that the revolutionary regime in France had embraced every kind of outrage, cruelty, sacrilege and depravity. To the count, the tricolor represented the Revolution and in their reluctance to do away with the tricolor, the count saw a reluctance to do away with the ideas of the Revolution. The monarchy had been restored under King Louis XVIII only to be brought down again. King Charles X had tried to set things back to the way they had been under the traditional Kingdom of France and the people had turned against him in the end. King Louis Philippe had tried to steer a middle course between traditional France and revolutionary France and had failed to please either side of the political divide. The Count of Chambord was trying to keep things simple and clear-cut. In forcing the government to choose between the tricolor and the fleur-de-lis he was really asking them to choose between the revolutionary republic and the traditional Catholic monarchy. The two could not exist side by side and France had to decide which sort of country it wanted to be. If they chose the traditional Kingdom of France and the Bourbon flag, he would happily preside over it but if they were not prepared to finally turn their back on the monstrous crimes of the Revolution, he wanted no part of it.

I will repeat, with the dispassionate light of history, and knowing that France has not had a monarchy since the fall of the second empire, I think the count should have accepted the tricolor, which the public had “bonded” with by that point and restored the monarchy in the hope of improving it from there (and hopefully restoring the proper flag later on). However, I can understand why he could not bring himself to do such a thing and all I have to do in order to understand it is to imagine someone asking a member of the House of Romanov to be Tsar of Russia again but with the red flag of the USSR as the national flag. The very idea of it is positively repugnant and it is not just the flag itself but because retaining that symbol of the revolution implies that one has not completely rejected the thoroughly evil and godless system it represents. Now, the French tricolor is not the same as the red hammer and sickle flag. The tricolor, as stated, was originally supposed to be a compromise sort of flag, monarchs did use it and that is partly why I think the count should have taken the deal. However, I can certainly understand why he did not and I cannot be too hard on him for not doing so. After all, efforts at compromising with the revolutionary mindset had not exactly worked out in the past. If France today became a constitutional monarchy under the tricolor, I would be happy that such a great step in the right direction had been taken. If they fully embraced a return to the traditional monarchy under the fleur-de-lis however, I would be even happier. Ecstatic even. Those are my thoughts on the subject, feel free to share yours.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MM Mini View: Romanov Tsars of Russia, Part II

Continued from Part I

Empress Catherine I: Peter the Great did a great deal to benefit Russia and also some things that I do not think were so beneficial. I count among those leaving Russia in the hands of his common-born wife Empress Catherine I. She continued the policies of her late husband, good and bad alike but did win some popularity for lowering taxes but cutting the strength of the army. Overall, I am not a big fan of Catherine I. She was not a very upstanding woman, she encouraged corruption whereas her husband had tried to wipe it out, she tended to be dominated by those around her, who usually had self-interested motives and she only attained power thanks to a coup by the famous Preobrazhensky Guards led by Colonel Menshikov. She was gluttonous, lustful and spiteful, getting rather nasty when she came to power and started to settle old scores. Fortunately, she was not around for very long. She wanted her daughter Elizabeth to succeed her but instead, when she died in 1727 the throne passed to Peter, son of the late Tsarevich Alexei.

Emperor Peter II: Only 11-years-old when he came to the throne, Peter II, was immediately thrust into the devious world left by Catherine I with Colonel Menshikov as the power-behind-the-throne. When he tried to marry his daughter to the new Emperor the nobility rallied in support of Peter II who finally had Menshikov and his whole family deported to Siberia. The capital was moved from St Petersburg back to Moscow, the navy was downsized and it seemed that the pendulum was swinging back from the direction it had gone under the first Peter. Where Peter II would have taken Russia we will never know as he died of smallpox in 1730 on what was to be his wedding day. Very sad. Given the brevity of his reign, I cannot have very strong opinions on Peter II one way or the other but I tend to think he would have made a fine tsar and taken things back in a more traditional direction had he lived.

Empress Anna: Since Peter II left no heir, a number of candidates were sorted through before the choice fell on Anna, daughter of the late Tsar Ivan V, though it was conditional. Even then, many of the Russian nobles had a problem with it and rightly so as it turned out since she immediately repudiated the agreement she had signed and much of her reign was dominated by her German advisors and German boyfriend. Her position was weak and that made her paranoid and liable to lash out in all directions. German advisors took Russia into a war over Poland alongside Austria that achieved little. Anna was a bit of a patron of the arts but her tastes, like her values, were erratic. The same could be said for her personality and sense of humor though it tended to be cruel. Her reign was not a glorious period at all. It was not a complete disaster but it was nothing to be proud of. She reigned from 1730 to 1740 when she died of kidney failure, childless but still able to pass the throne to a fellow descendant of Ivan V.

Emperor Ivan VI: The nominal reign of the infant Ivan VI was so short and so controversial in how it came about that many do not recognize him as being worthy of inclusion among the list of Russian emperors. It is impossible to have much of an opinion of him as the poor child was never more than a political football. He came to the throne at less than 2 months old and from the start was fought over by the German officials who dominated the reign of Empress Anna. The next year, in 1741, the baby emperor was deposed by the partisans of Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, taken from his family and kept in confinement. He was kept for many years in this sad, isolated state until he was stabbed to death, most likely on the orders of Catherine the Great in 1764 to prevent anyone for attempting to rescue him and mount a rebellion to restore him to the throne. By the agreement Anna had made and then rejected, Ivan VI never should have been Tsar in the first place. In the end, he was simply a figure of pity, thrust on the throne as an infant and then punished for the rest of his life for fear of what others might do on his behalf.

Empress Elizabeth: After two rather disastrous reigns by female monarchs the Empress Elizabeth, well, doesn’t entirely break that bad trend but she at least had some positives aspects about her rule to balance out the negative ones. She was quite a contradictory person, attending divine worship regularly and often going on religious pilgrimages while also being frivolous, hedonistic, lustful and gluttonous. Still, she kept on good terms with the Church (which backed her coup to take power), boosted the influence of the nobility, got rid of some influential foreigners but not all and she saw to it that the succession was put in order. Most state business was attended to by her advisors while she focused on enjoying herself and her male favorites. Elizabeth did play an active role in foreign policy however and her forces were victorious over Sweden and she forged an alliance with Austria aimed against the Ottoman Empire and Prussia as Frederick the Great was seen as a threat to Russian influence in central Europe. Russian troops marched to the Rhine but because they took no part in the fighting, Elizabeth was left out of the peace process. She was a great patron of the arts (and something of a clothes horse) and the policies of her government did bring about a great boost to the economy. At the end of her reign she allied with France and Austria against Prussia, winning some victories but she died in 1761 before the war was finished.

To be continued in Part III...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the Far East, on Sunday HM the Empress of Japan celebrated her 79th birthday, congratulations on that and best wishes for many more to come. In a press conference Her Majesty expressed her admiration for those still dealing with the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake, her joy at Tokyo being chosen to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and expressed her concern over civil wars and acts of terrorism around the world. The Empress addressed some of her health problems with advancing age and, of course, apologized that this caused some people to worry (adorable) and spoke about some family milestones and expressed her happiness that HIH Crown Princess Masako was able to make the trip to The Netherlands with HIH the Crown Prince for the enthronement of King Willem-Alexander. TM the Emperor and Empress also visited the Minamata disease site and leprosy sanitarium in Kumamoto. In Southeast Asia, there was a 3-day wedding celebration in Indonesia for Yogyakarta Sultan Hamengkubuwono X’s fourth daughter, Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Hayu at the Palace’s Panepen Mosque to Kanjeng Haryo Notonegoro. Congratulations to the happy couple. And, in Brunei, the Sultan this week issued a new legal code based on Islamic law with tougher punishments such as mutilation for theft and stoning to death for adultery. Other crimes such as using alcohol or having an abortion will be punished by flogging. Human Rights Watch is not pleased, however, it should also be kept in mind that these punishments apply only to the majority Muslim population and not the non-Muslim minority.

In Europe, starting in the south, Prince Felipe of the Asturias was in Panama where, along with the Panamanian President he attended a special ceremony honoring the Spanish conquistador Vasco Nunez de Balboa on the 5th centennial of his discovering the Pacific Ocean. Tributes were paid before a statue of the bold explorer that was given to Panama a hundred years ago by His Catholic Majesty King Alfonso XIII. The Prince received a miniature statue of Balboa as a gift for the occasion. Later, also in Panama, the Prince inaugurated the sixth World Congress of the Spanish language. Back in Spain, HCM King Juan Carlos held an audience with the Foreign Minister of Morocco at Zarzuela Palace. In the Low Countries, the Hereditary Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg were in Rome for an audience with HH Pope Francis. In Belgium, Princess Astrid traveled to Africa this week for her first trade mission, also touring a hospital in Angola. The Princess took over this duty from her brother after he became King. In Brussels, the Flemish PM Kris Peeters was given an audience with King Philip and later in the week the Belgian King and Queen were welcomed by singing children on a visit to Bruges.

In northern Europe, the King of Sweden presented the New Entrepreneur of the Year awards, thanked all those who expressed congratulations on his 40th jubilee and along with the Queen attended a meeting of the World Scout Foundation. Expectant-mother Princess Madeleine attended a “Green Summit”. Over in Norway, Crown Prince Haakon visited the naval forces on anti-pirate patrol and then visited Finland. Back at home, the King and Queen held a dinner for members of parliament, serving lamb raised on their own royal farm. Also, a new biography details how Norwegian King Haakon VII kept his country out of the Axis camp by going against most of the political and business leaders in Norway urging him to appoint the pro-Nazi politician Vidkun Quisling to the post of Prime Minister. Finally, in Denmark, the Crown Prince and Princess made a visit to Australia, returning to the same city where their romance began. Crown Princess Mary, always a favorite in her homeland, made the crowds go wild singing the Australian national anthem and visiting a local school.

Finally, in Britain, the big news this week was little Prince George of Cambridge becoming the newest little Christian in the Royal Family, officially joining the Church of England with his christening at the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Afterwards a special 4-generation portrait was taken of Prince George, the Duke of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales and HM the Queen. This was a bigger event than some people, perhaps, realize. Consider for a moment all of the media attention (positive) focused on a Christian sacrament in a country (and a continent) were religious observance has largely become the exception rather than the rule. At a time when so many have forgotten their history, their faith, the Royal Family continues to be a reminder of these things and in their traditions embody all that Britain is and where the country came from. Less positive was a news story later in the week in which an article quoted an anonymous aide to the Prince of Wales saying that he was trying to accomplish as much as he could before he became King, comparing the throne to a prison. The Palace was quick to denounce this, saying that the Prince never said such a thing and that the comment does not reflect his beliefs at all. Of course, the Prince himself was never quoted at all and everyone should know what “anonymous sources” are worth, however, it is good to push back against such a sentiment. The reason, of course, is that, while it certainly sounds plausible given how restricted the lives of modern constitutional monarchs are, such sentiments are made-to-order for republican traitors who can then attempt to disguise their treason with good intentions. Surely some will have heard things like this in the past already, these traitors claiming that they do not dislike the Queen or the Royal Family but that they wish to “liberate” them from the “prison” that is the monarchy. It is something we all have to be on guard for.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Flag Flaps, Part I, Japan

As long-time readers will know, your resident madman is a vexillologist, which is a very fancy name for folks interested in flags. Flags, like even the most ceremonial of monarchs, are powerful symbols and have the ability to arouse very strong feelings in people. I have ranted before about the misuse of monarchist flags and those who want to scrap flags with monarchist overtones, however, something else that bothers me a great deal is when a flag is unjustly criticized, especially a flag associated with an ancient and honorable monarchy. The primary example of this that most often arouses my anger today is the unjust vitriol poured out on the flag of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, the same flag as was used by the predecessor to that organization, the much more appropriately named Imperial Japanese Navy. Many refer to it as the “Rising Sun flag”, which is certainly not an official title and could be used to describe any Japanese flag, but there are many misconceptions about this flag that should be cleared up. One of which is the idea some people have that this was the flag of the Empire of Japan, which is not true of course. The white flag with the red disc in the center is and has always been the only official national flag of Japan. It was the national flag of the Empire of Japan during and before World War II and it is the national flag of the State of Japan today.

Imperial Japanese Army Flag
Similarly, the Japanese naval flag has never changed. The flag used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force today is the only official naval flag Japan has ever had. Unfortunately, many people, almost exclusively in the People’s Republic of China and the two Korean republics, have decided that the Japanese naval flag has militaristic, nationalistic and imperialistic connotations. This is, to put it simply, completely absurd. There is no reason that anyone today should find the Japanese naval flag offensive. All of the sore feelings surrounding the flag usually involve World War II, especially for the Chinese, or for the Koreans the era when Korea was a kingdom that was part of the Empire of Japan. Concerning this, my first thought is that there may be some mistaken identity at work here on the part of those who look for things to be offended about. After all, how much contact could there have been between the Chinese or Koreans and the Imperial Japanese Navy considering that, in those days, neither country had much of a navy at all? I can only speculate that some of these people may be confusing the flag of the Imperial Japanese Navy with that of the Imperial Japanese Army. They are quite similar, the most noticeable difference being that the Imperial Japanese Army flag had the sun disc in the center of the flag while that of the navy was slightly off center, closer to the fly.

Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Flag
Are all of these people really offended by the Imperial Army flag and just do not know any better? I have wondered and any confusion is probably made worse by the fact that the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (successor of the Imperial Japanese Army) does not use the same flag as the old IJA but uses a similar but more simplified version. In any case, it is probably a waste of time trying to attach too much thought to this process anyway, it is most likely an emotional reaction and not a natural one at that but, I suspect, one that has been purposely stirred up by Chinese and Korean politicians to serve their own ends. The worst, and most ridiculous, comment that is often made about the Japanese naval flag is that it is no different than the flag of Nazi Germany. This absurd accusation really sets my blood to boiling. After all, it is such a tired tactic at this point; when you have nothing else, bring up the Nazis in order to smear someone or something. Fortunately, this is an easy accusation to refute, at least with anyone willing to use their brain because the Nazi flag was a purely political flag that really had nothing to do with Germany or the German people. It had never been a German flag or in anyway associated with Germany prior to the arrival of the Nazis. It was the flag of the Nazi Party which they made the national flag after taking power.

Italian Social Republic civil flag & ensign
The Japanese naval flag, on the other hand, was not the flag of any political party or faction and long pre-dated those who set policy immediately prior to and during the Second World War. The Japanese ensign was first adopted on October 7, 1889 before which there was no official, standard Japanese naval flag. It was the first and only flag that Japan has ever used at sea in an official capacity. There is nothing about it that was unique to the period of Japanese rule over Korea or the second Japanese war with China. It is not and never has been the flag of any faction or political party like the flag of Nazi Germany. To put it another way, no one is upset today that the flag of the Italian Republic is exactly the same as the Fascist puppet state Hitler put Mussolini in charge of in northern Italy. Few people may be aware of that because they are likely more familiar with the military flag that had an eagle and fasces on it but the national flag was a plain, green-white-red tricolor just like the flag of the Italian Republic today. Yet, no one says it is a Fascist flag because some probably know the Fascist flag was just a black flag with the fasces on it and more likely just realize that green-white-red are the Italian national colors and always have been and all they symbolize is Italy as they did long before Mussolini was ever born. In the same way, Japan has always been known as “The Land of the Rising Sun” and the image of the rising sun has always been a symbol of Japan.

What worries me the most about these (rather childish) antics is that things could go much farther. The Japanese ensign represents nothing more than Japan or more specifically the Japanese navy and there is no more reason for the Chinese or Korean republics to hate that flag any more or less than the national flag of Japan, the Hinomaru. So, if the haters of today succeed in suppressing the version of the Japanese flag they dislike so much; what is to stop them from suppressing the national flag of Japan altogether? Already in Japan today there is so much concern about appearing too proud or too nationalistic or upsetting their extremely sensitive republican neighbors that the national flag is not widely displayed. Some leftists even objected to and opposed the law passed in 1999 to again officially designate the traditional flag as the legal national flag of Japan. Some schools object to displaying the flag just as some have said that the national anthem, a song honoring the Emperor, be abolished and replaced because they want to replace everything that existed in the days of the original Empire of Japan. It is a dangerous road to be on that, if accepted, can lead in only one direction which, make no mistake about it, would include the abolition of the monarchy itself -which would mean the end of Japan entirely, plain and simple.

All loyal Japanese should stand together in supporting all national symbols, be it the naval flag, the national flag, the army flag or the national anthem. Furthermore, all monarchists around the world should stand with the Japanese in defense of the “Rising Sun flag” just as we should all stand together anytime a symbol of monarchy is under threat, misused or attacked. Just because China and North Korea abandoned their traditional symbols (South Korea kept basically the same flag they have always had, they just need to restore the monarchy that created it) and just because self-hating leftists in Japan have personal issues, it is no reason to allow them to force a change on the majority of faithful and upright people.

The Rising Sun flag -long may it fly.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Question for Catholics: Why Not the Pope?

Two weeks ago was my second attempt at a “theme week” focusing on royal topics from a particular region. The first was Scandinavia, then two weeks ago was Southeast Asia. Here at The Mad Monarchist your humble correspondent makes an effort to cover the royal heritage of every part of the world, not just the popular monarchies or former monarchies most in this audience are probably most familiar with. However, who you are will always have some effect on what you do and so, in spite of my efforts to leave no continent or region neglected, I am sure I have naturally tended to talk more about the monarchies of those places I am most familiar with; Europe and East Asia. Not surprisingly for someone like me, I have long been fascinated by both the similarities and the vast differences between these two sides of the world. Recently, while thinking about the ways of the major monarchies of East Asia, a question occurred to me regarding the oldest succession in the western world; the Roman Pontiff. I pose this question to Catholic readers, not to exclude anyone, but because others would have no reason to even have the vaguest clue of an answer. The question is; why was the Pope never made Emperor? There must be some really smart Catholic readers out there who could take a crack at this one. Here is how I arrived at such a thought:

In the Far East the usual translation for what westerners have called the emperor is some variation of the term “celestial sovereign”. It is a position that holds supreme political as well as religious authority with some variations in one or the other from time to time. In Japan, for example, His Majesty the Emperor was considered the highest political authority (even when he did not exercise such authority) as well as being the chief priest of the ancient Shinto faith of Japan. Similarly, in China (and Sino-influenced countries), the Emperor was the “Son of Heaven” who, at the top of the Confucian hierarchy, said prayers and made sacrifices to Heaven on behalf of humanity. He was the national pontiff, so to speak, linking the upper and middle kingdoms. A similar situation exists or existed in those monarchies more influenced by India than China such as in Thailand where the King is regarded as an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu and (reflecting Hinduism being supplanted by Buddhism) as an enlightened one. He too performs religious rituals on behalf of his country, in a way acting as their pontiff, in traditional beliefs being the center of all things. This is all, of course, very different from the way things are or were done in the west. Kings at times claimed to be the viceroys of God on earth, particularly in Protestant countries during the height of Protestant fervor, but they always had to be careful not to be too overt about it for fear of resembling their primary enemy; the Pope in Rome.

Leo III crowns Charlemagne
However, if we go back far enough (but not too far) the monarch and the pontiff were one and the same. The title of the Pope, Supreme Pontiff, of course goes back to the pre-Christian religious leaders of pagan Rome and from the beginning of the Roman Empire under Caesar Augustus, the Emperor of Rome was also the Supreme Pontiff. This tradition actually carried on even into the early days of Christian Rome until the Emperor Gratian decided it was rather odd that he still be titled as the Supreme Pontiff when the Bishop of Rome was basically doing that job in the new Christian religion of the empire. So, from that time on there was an Emperor and a Pontiff but they were never again one and the same. And, as we know, there was not always an emperor (just as there is not today) but there has always been a Pope. We also know that, when there was again a Pope and an Emperor (after 800 AD) they did not enjoy a peaceful relationship terribly often. The feuds between the two most powerful figures in western Christendom were quite unfortunate for everyone but it is not surprising considering the rather complicated nature of their relationship. The Pope needed the Emperor politically but did not want to be subject to him while the Emperor did not exactly need the Pope politically, the Pope could certainly help or hurt your cause and then, for the true believers amongst them, there was the whole burning in Hell for eternity thing if you did not fall in line with him. So, trouble.

It would seem at least plausible that all of this might have been avoided if the Pope had simply made himself emperor rather than constantly having to crown an emperor only to then excommunicate or attempt to depose him when he did something wrong. Likewise, the emperors went to a great deal of trouble dealing with popes who opposed them like calling councils to depose them, setting up anti-popes and waging war against them. Even Emperor Charles V, one of the great champions of the Catholic cause, made war on the Pope and his troops came very close to killing the Pontiff. This relationship remained somewhat complicated even long after the days when wars were fought over religion in Europe. The Emperor of Austria, for example, (successor of the Holy Roman Emperors) retained the right to veto papal candidates they thought would be a threat to their national interests until 1904 when Pope Pius X forbid any outside interference in papal elections. There was, in any event, only one other papal election before there was no more Austrian emperor and, indeed, no more emperors in Europe at all (unless one counts the Tsar of Bulgaria but he was Orthodox in any event). So, almost up until the very end, there was still this possible cause of contention between the Pope and emperor.

Gregory VII absolves Henry IV
Now, just to be clear, I am not suggesting that the Pope should have become the emperor or that everything would have worked out for the better if he had. I have no idea, I am just wondering what reasons others might have for why this was never done. Obviously, the recreation of the imperial office by the Pope was done for practical reasons; the Pope needed protection and the King of the Franks had the muscle to do it. However, most of the time, the Catholic Church does not seem to rely on solely practical explanations for things but usually points to some higher reason for why or how the Church does things. There are also reports, though I am not sure if they are believable or simply examples of the many accusations made about the Popes by their religious or political enemies that certain pontiffs fancied themselves as emperors. There are stories of one or two even dressing in imperial robes and some claim that, Boniface VIII perhaps, exclaimed, “I am Caesar! I am the Emperor!” before a crowd of pilgrims. That may not be true but the thought has occurred to me; why not? What would be the problem with it? After all, it is not as though the popes were ever deemed to be too lofty to deal with politics and government. For much of history between the fall of Rome in the west and 1870 the Pope was a temporal ruler who maintained ships and soldiers, levied taxes, enacted laws, arrested criminals and maintained diplomatic alliances and trade.

The relationship never seems to have been very well defined or thought out before Pope Leo III restored the Western Empire by crowning Charlemagne the Emperor of the Romans. At least one source says that, after he did so, Pope Leo bowed his head to the ground before Charlemagne in the manner that was done to the past Roman Emperors, portraying himself as the Emperor’s subject. After that, Emperor Charlemagne not only essentially ruled over those lands his father Pepin had entrusted to the Pope but even ruled in religious matters. As any Catholic with a catechism can attest, however, it is only supposed to be the Pope who has absolute authority and protection from error when it comes to matters of faith. Later on, the appointment of bishops became a major bone of contention but there almost never ceased to be at least some unfortunate infighting or at least tension over the simple political jurisdiction of the two. The Emperor was, after all, supposed to be the “Emperor of the Romans” and so he was, at least at first, but very early on the Pope, while still recognizing the German monarch as Roman Emperor, fiercely guarded his own political authority over Rome and the surrounding territory. So the Emperor of Rome was titled the Emperor of Rome by the Pope but the Pope would not allow him to actually exercise that office as it was really the Pope who ruled the Romans. It can get more than a little confusing.

Pope Caesar Boniface VIII
Eventually, the Pope being the absolute monarch of his own central Italian kingdom was deemed as essential so that the Pope could exercise his spiritual office without being dependent and thus partial to influence by any secular monarch. A very good argument. Yet, it did not start out that way as, obviously when the Roman Empire first became Christian the Bishop of Rome was an imperial subject and had no secular authority at all and later on when the restored Western Empire or what eventually became the German “Holy Roman Empire” came into being, Rome was clearly a part of the Empire over which the German monarch reigned as Holy Roman Emperor. It is also true that in all the time that the Pope was master of his own country, it was never a country that was strong enough to stand completely on its own and thus he was often at the mercy of foreign powers; if not controlled by them at least forced to shift in alliances between the French and the Germans to keep either one from dominating his territory. Upon reflection, it seems slightly amazing to me that no Pope ever decided to just simplify things by saying that since the spiritual authority is greater than the secular authority and since I claim the right to crown and depose the emperor, I will just be emperor myself and make it a part of the whole papal package. It could not have been a hereditary monarchy but the Holy Roman Empire, at least on paper, was not hereditary either. Papal elections might have been extremely troublesome affairs, but they were in any event and eventually calmed down to be carried out peacefully and without controversy.

It was not until 1177 with the Treaty of Venice (after the Italians had defeated a German invasion led by Emperor Frederick I) that it was ever really spelled out that the Papal States, over which the Pontiff ruled, were to be considered an independent sovereign state apart from the Holy Roman Empire. At that point it could have been truthfully stated that Frederick I was no more “Emperor of the Romans” than he was the “Emperor of the Muscovites” and that he should be satisfied with the title of “King of Germany” while the Pope took the title of Roman Emperor for himself. There was, unfortunately, the minor fact that even then the Romans were not prepared to submit to the Pope (he was driven out of the city a couple of years later) but the fact that many if not most would have been reluctant to submit to the Pope as their temporal monarch does not move me much as a reason for this never having been done. After all, even when all of western Europe was Catholic, not everyone submitted to the Pope even in spiritual matters and despite the outbreak of numerous heresies, the long-term silent treatment with the Orthodox half of Christendom and the rise of Protestantism, the Pope never ceased to maintain his pontifical title and position in spite of all those who denied it.

Again, I am not trying to make a case here, at all, for the Pope being the Emperor. I am not trying to argue that everything would have been better if he had, though nor am I saying things would have been worse. I am simply asking the question and throwing it out to any who may wish to answer it. There is no “right” answer I am looking for, nor can there be a “wrong” answer, this is purely speculative. Are there some concrete religious or political reasons why this was an absolute impossibility that I am ignorant of? Did anyone ever suggest such a thing in the past? Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MM Mini View: Romanov Tsars of Russia, Part I

Tsar Michael I: The first Romanov to rule Russia, placed on the throne by the Church and known as a frail but pious youth in the beginning, Michael I showed he was stronger than he appeared by having to deal at the outset with Polish and Swedish armies on Russian soil and some rebellious Cossacks. He got Novgorod back from the Swedes but had to accept some losses to Poland. Under Michael I the ruined Russian economy began to recover, Orthodoxy was staunchly defended but a renewed war with Poland was undercut by an attack by the Tatars. All Russia gained was the King of Poland giving up the claim to be Tsar of Russia. His reign was no great success on every front but it was a good, solid beginning for the Romanov dynasty. He regained some territory, not all, but it was a start and his rule brought a welcome period of internal order so that the rebuilding of the country could begin after the disasters that preceded his reign. He knew a great deal of hardship in his personal life but his strong faith never wavered and the work he accomplished made it possible for his successors to succeed in areas in which he had only broken even.

Tsar Alexei I: One of my favorite Tsars, Alexei I was only 16 when he became Tsar of Russia after his father Michael in 1645. He had a cosmopolitan sort of education but he was staunchly devoted to the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian culture in the best Romanov tradition. His knowledge of music and liturgy was so great he could often be found correcting the priests when they made a mistake. He was a benevolent ruler but not a soft one. He got the Assembly of the Land to approve his war with Poland and then never called them again nor did the Duma meet very frequently. He had to raise taxes early on, which was not popular and which he was reluctant to do but saw no other option. He did also cut the pay of government workers and reduced their number. Serfdom was legally established, which some may frown at now but regulating it was an improvement over what existed before and though his war against Poland and Sweden gained some territory, it was not as much as was hoped for. Still, it provided a staging ground for the greater gains made later by Peter the Great. He worked to reform the Church which ultimately led to some unfortunate clashes with the Patriarch but the personal piety of Alexei could never be doubted. War costs hurt the economy but he also enacted reforms to the economy and trade, one of which was cutting off special trading rights of the English after the regicide of King Charles I. He died during a war against the Turks. Alexei I was a good Tsar who set the stage for great things to come and his reign was the last great flowering of the old Muscovite culture.

Tsar Feodor III: The successor of Alexei was only 14 when he came to the throne and like his father was known for his pious devotion to the Church, being well educated and well read. He reformed the army by abolishing the practice of basing rank on ancestry rather than ability and he abolished mutilation as punishment for crimes in preference to exile to Siberia. He married a Polish Orthodox wife and the Russian court began to take on a Polish style for a while but she died in 1681 along with their newborn child. The Tsar married again but he himself died not long after with no son to succeed him. His reign had not been a terribly successful one but, lasting only from 1676 to 1682 he hardly had the chance to accomplish much of anything. Still, he had shown promise and during his time on the throne had been able to do a few things of great importance by making beneficial changes to the army, the justice system, managing a land survey of central Russia and bringing some reconciliation to the Church. Had he reigned longer he may have done much more but simply never had the opportunity.

Tsar Ivan V: Poor, poor man. Ivan V was not expected to reign at all. The sudden death of Feodor III without an heir caused some confusion but the initial decision was to crown the younger son of Alexei, Peter, because of the afflictions Ivan suffered from. However, the streltsy (the militia regiments set up by Ivan IV) rose in revolt, most believe at the instigation of Alexei’s daughter Sophia who wished to rule herself with Ivan V as a mere puppet. The streltsy went on a rampage and, as a result, Ivan V and Peter I were declared joint-rulers. Sophia emerged as the real winner and she has been portrayed as the villain of the story even though she was probably nowhere near as bad as most think. A trade treaty was signed with China and Russia joined Poland in the Holy League against the Turks (along with the Austrians and Italians). Ivan V married but had a girl, making him less useful to Sophia and in the end the brothers turned on their sister. However, Ivan V was still somewhat unwell and his brother dominated the scene until his death in 1696.

Emperor Peter I: I cannot help but have some mixed feelings about Peter the Great. He is best known for “modernizing” which is to say, “westernizing” the Russian Empire and while that probably worked out for the best, as an old fashioned reactionary I cannot help but be just a little bitter about the loss of the traditional Muscovite style that prevailed before his time. Still, Peter the Great is a giant figure in Russian history and rightly so. At 6ft 7in tall he was almost a giant himself for the time he lived. He was energetic, curious, ambitious and led Russia to great accomplishments. All of which I applaud him for but I tend to think most of that could have been accomplished without totally doing away with the old styles and traditions to the extent that Peter did. One of his primary goals was a Russian presence on the Black and Baltic Seas and he took advantage of any opportunity to press forward in those areas. He was the father of the Russian navy for all intents and purposes and he toured Europe to learn all the latest advances before going home and imposing western methods and styles on Russia, whether anyone liked it or not. He thought Sweden would be easily defeated until King Charles XII cleaned his clock in 1700 but Peter responded by improving the army, their weapons and tactics and in the end he defeated a Swedish invasion of Russia, gained a foothold on the Baltic and founded the great city of St Petersburg. His reforms of the economy were well meant but often badly implemented, he didn’t get along with his son and his relations with the Church were often not any better. Still, he expanded Russia in the Baltic, the Far East and gained a foothold in northern Persia before his death in 1725.

Continued in Part II

Monday, October 21, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the Far East this week, in the Kingdom of Thailand, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, eldest child of HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Thai ambassador to Austria and a former criminal prosecutor has launched a new campaign aimed at helping incarcerated women receive “equal justice” on a global scale through the United Nations. At the first of what is hoped to be many international meetings held in Bangkok the princess said, “Without the rule of law, without a good justice system it’s always chaos. I think the rule of law is a very important pillar to development, to economic growth, and of course to human rights.” In the neighboring Kingdom of Cambodia a special ceremony was held to commemorate the anniversary of the death of King Norodom Sihanouk. The gathering was attended by leaders of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party but not the opposition which is still disputing recent election results with the CPP and who say they were banned from holding a ceremony of their own to honor the late, revered monarch. The ceremony was held at the statue of King Norodom Sihanouk near the Independence Monument which commemorates the break with the colonial rule of France carried out under then Prince Sihanouk.

In the Middle East the big news this week came when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia refused one of the five rotating seats on the UN Security Council. It is the first time any country has ever refused a place on the Security Council whose permanent seats are held by the former Allied nations of World War II; the US, UK, France, Russia and China. The countries elected to the rotating seats were Chad, Nigeria, Chile and Lithuania along with Saudi Arabia which shocked everyone by refusing the position. Saudi officials took issue with the inability of the UN to act against Syria thanks to the vetoes of Russia and China as well as the lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, presumably due to the staunch support for Israel by the United States. The Saudi foreign minister said, “The manner, the mechanisms of action and double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities toward preserving international peace and security as required…” He further cited the death toll in Syria as proof of the impotence of the UN Security Council. Also cited was the fact that any of the five permanent members can veto any resolution passed by the majority of the council. Also this week, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called for Muslims around the world to put aside their difference and come together to open a dialogue between the different Islamic sects.

In Britain, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their choices for godparents for Prince George, a man was arrested for trying to enter Buckingham Palace with a knife and the Duchess of Cornwall presided over harvest celebrations at Westminster Abbey. HM the Queen also, reportedly, made a “polite protest” to the government over a Royal Charter from “Call me Dave” Cameron that will set up a watchdog group to keep an eye on newspapers. Also this week the Princess Royal was prevented from unveiling a statue of a horse that survived an IRA bombing in Hyde Park in 1982 due to her helicopter being grounded by fog. Prince William stood in for the Queen for the first time this week in investing new members of the knighthood and the Prince of Wales issued a warning about the hardship faced by British pensioners. The Duchess also played volleyball this week and lots of people were talking about how great she looked in those skinny jeans. Important stuff that. On the continent, Dutch officials are worried that perhaps King Willem-Alexander should not visit Russia as planned due to tensions between Russia and the Netherlands over a raid on the home of a Russian diplomat and the arrest by Russia of some environmentalist-save the whales type people. In Belgium, King Philip and Queen Mathilde received an appropriately warm welcome in the Belgian province of Luxembourg as part of their tour of the country.

The King of Norway visited the Oslo Youth Power Center on Thursday in Hvervenbukta. It was announced that the Crown Prince Haakon of Norway will visit Finland next week by Crown Princess Mette-Marit will not be accompanying him due to her current neck trouble. This weekend the Norwegian Crown Prince was with the navy off the Horn of Africa, inspecting the forces there standing guard against the pirates that infest the region. In the Kingdom of Sweden there was a busy round of receptions and visits for the Royal Family but it was announced that the expecting Princess Madeleine will attend the Nobel Prize ceremony alone, without husband Chris O’Neill who cited business commitments for his inability to attend. Finally, down in the Kingdom of Spain, judges in the on-going legal case involving the royal son-in-law, said that the long-time (and now controversial) friend of the King, German aristocrat Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein will not be called to testify. This is entirely appropriate as it smells like nothing more than an effort to exploit any hint of scandal involving the Royal Family, whether pertinent to the case at hand or not. On a more optimistic note, HRH the Prince of the Asturias addressed business leaders this week and said that the Spanish economy could be expected to see growth this year. Hopefully, he is correct.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Shut Down and Debt Ceiling

Recently, the United States government was shut down for a few days, causing worry all around the world and warnings of the most dire consequences and even total economic collapse across America and then across the globe if the government was not re-opened and the debt ceiling raised. Because that is what the stand-off came down to; raising the debt ceiling. The provocation, of course was the “Affordable Care Act” aka “Obamacare” which the Republican-controlled House of Representatives did not want to fund. The Republicans passed a bill funding absolutely everything else, the entire Democrat wish-list that Republicans despise -everything; except for “Obamacare”. Obviously, this was a case of the Republicans being totally unreasonable. Sure, they were planning to give Democrats 99% of what they wanted but, you see, everyone knew that it was that remaining 1% that was most important to the Democrats and President Obama because, well, it was about the only thing they managed to accomplish during those first few years when they had control of the entire government -and even passing that took more than a little bribery. It was an ugly, painful, difficult process but the Democrats got “Obamacare” passed and (thanks to a George W. Bush appointee) approved by the Supreme Court and it did not matter if the Republicans voted to give the Democrats everything they have ever wanted or will ever want until the end of time, if “Obamacare” was not included, they were not going to play ball.

Most Republicans, however, did not think “Obamacare” was a hill worth dying on. With the Democrats controlling the Senate and the Presidency (and probably more importantly the media) they knew that giving the Democrats everything they wanted except “Obamacare” would be seen as the Republicans being totally unreasonable. If it had been down to that issue alone, the Republicans would not have lasted even as long as they did. The debt ceiling, however, is an issue where the Republicans start to look a little more ‘grown up’. The shut-down was really over that and it was only when the Republicans finally agreed to raise the debt ceiling that the government was re-opened and everyone and all the markets around the world breathed a sigh of relief. Yours truly, however, was not among them. The government shut-down was a bit of a joke in the first place anyway. I went to the Post Office while the government was shut down and there was no problem. The military was still funded, social security checks still arrived but non-essential workers were given some time off and, for some unfathomable reason, open air national monuments were closed. I have yet to hear anyone explain how it makes sense to close down a monument that is just sitting over there in the grass. In other words, it was not really a shut-down of the government, it was a very, very limited “partial shut down” which Republicans and Democrats tried to use to make each other look bad.

Raising the debt ceiling was the main issue and it comes up regularly and most of the time it is raised with little fuss or fanfare -but it *always* gets raised. This time, for example, a few people pointed out that, as a junior senator, President Obama had voted against raising the debt ceiling when George W. Bush was president, saying that it was downright unpatriotic to keep piling on more debt for future generations. I am not sure which is worse, the idea that the President was being a total hypocrite (as Republicans claimed) by doing this or that the President didn’t really mean what he said back then and was just voting against it to annoy President Bush because Obama is a Democrat and Bush is a Republican. Pick your poison; dishonest and hypocritical or childish and petty. The important point here is that the debt ceiling is raised regularly, it always goes up, it never goes down. Am I the only one who wonders why we even bother to have a debt ceiling if that ceiling can just be raised every single time we reach the alleged limit? Is it just completely insane to even consider the possibility of maybe spending less so that we don’t have to keep borrowing more and more money just to stay afloat? I guess it is.

Anyway, as I said, the partial, limited, sort-of “shut down” did not frighten or bother me. What did bother me was the way the President and people all around the world freaked out about it. The President said that it would cause a fiscal catastrophe if the debt ceiling was not raised and others added to that by pointing to fears in markets all over the world and that if things stayed as they were the U.S. economy would plummet and then, since the U.S. has the biggest economy in the world and the U.S. dollar is the reserve currency of the international community, the whole world would go into a deep financial disaster. Is everyone getting this? Is it just me who is extremely freaked out by all these people freaking out? Am I the only one who finds it just the slightest bit alarming that so many experts are saying that the government of one country being shut down for 16 days could economically destroy the entire planet? If a government being partially shut down for a couple of weeks is enough to bring ruin to the economy of everyone in the world, I think we have to stop and ask ourselves if we don’t have a bigger problem than just Republicans being reluctant to raise the debt ceiling. The people of the world are either being lied to on a massive scale or else nearly every major economic power on earth is living so beyond its means that the planet is resting atop a very unstable deck of cards… balanced on a 2-legged table… held up by a one-armed clown… on a unicycle… resting on a golf ball… I think you get the idea.

Even if it were just the United States of America this would be alarming enough. The total national economy should not be brought to the brink of ruin by the government being partially shut down for 16 days. That should not even be possible. However, it should also not be possible that the United States is over $16 trillion in debt and still able to borrow more money. Does anyone really think that amount can ever be paid back? I doubt it, but most countries are deeply in debt these days even if not as much as the United States (though I think Japan is #1) and this is partly why the rest of the world gets worried that the U.S. might not borrow more money. Everyone seems to depend on it these days. Thanks to extremely generous social welfare programs, most First World countries are so deeply in debt their whole method of thinking about economics revolves around juggling the books, printing/stealing money, borrowing money and just trying to keep everyone calm until they can come up with some new way of delaying the inevitable time when the bill collector appears at the door and no one will lend us any more. It is a little like what some people do on the stock market. Have you ever heard politicians complaining about those “evil” speculators on Wall Street? Well, that’s pretty rich considering that almost every major country is practically surviving on the same sort of system. Just like those people who make millions (and billions) betting on money that hasn’t been earned yet for selling goods that retailers haven’t purchased yet because the products haven’t been produced yet, governments have become accustomed to budgeting funds that haven’t been borrowed yet because they passed up the idea of spending only as much as your government can bring in on its own many years ago.

It reminds me of the story of two neighbors in Louisiana who kept buying and selling the same horse back and forth to each other. One day a stranger came by and offered a ridiculously high sum for the horse and the man sold it. His neighbor came rushing over and asked him how he could have done such a thing saying, “Don’t you realize we were both making a damn good living off of that horse?” The sad thing is, that story was meant to be a joke but today, entire governments are displaying that same level of idiocy. Governments are betting the future of whole populations on things like the rapid growth of the Chinese economy, on China being able to loan money to America and Europe in spite of the fact that most of China is still impoverished, that the Communist Party controls what we know and don’t know about the true state of their finances and in spite of the fact that the very growth of the Chinese economy is working against them. It’s all based on political prisoners, oh, I mean “cheap labor” being able to produce massive amounts of exports at rock bottom prices. Yet, the more successful China becomes, even if just limited to the major population centers on the coast, the more the local public expects and labor prices go up which means many businesses are already looking for new, cheaper labor markets to exploit, oh, I mean “develop”. Why pay a Chinese kid a dollar a day to make $200 tennis shoes when a Cambodian kid will do it for less than half that?

Now, I am sure someone is already asking what any of this has to do with monarchy, because a number of people always seem eager to “catch” me talking about something off-topic. Well, in this case, it does not have a great deal to do with monarchy specifically because monarchies and republics are both capable of making bad economic decisions. However, economics have an impact on monarchy because any time the economy gets bad, the monarchy is always one of the first things to come under criticism in spite of the fact that it has proven to be more cost-effective than a republic. When cuts finally have to be made, I would be very afraid that the British public today would sooner do away with the relative pittance the monarchy costs them before they would scrap the massive money-hole that is the NHS. If it comes down to choosing between anything, even the monarchy, and “my free stuff” from the government, people will always choose their “free stuff”. Of course, there are plenty of other ways governments could and should cut down their out-of-control spending habit but we all know they won’t. Europe as a whole decided to become an American protectorate so they could have a social welfare state which even then they couldn’t afford in the long run but that still didn’t stop them from adding on a whole new level of burden by creating the European Union. Forget finding a way out of the hole, Europe hasn’t even stopped digging. And don’t expect any financial sanity from the United States when someone like Senator Harry Reid refuses to even cut federal funding for “Cowboy Poetry Month”. The Democrats refuse to cut anything and the Republicans only seem to favor spending cuts when they are out of power.

I am afraid I cannot be very optimistic about the direction things are going, on the financial front as well as some others. However, again, I am not ideological about these things, it just seems to me that it should be as simple as not spending more than you make, not getting so deeply in debt to another country or countries that your survival depends on them and just looking at the facts about what works and what doesn’t. If we did that we might see that monarchies such as Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Cayman Islands or the Isle of Man where taxes and regulations are extremely low, business is always booming and the government actually takes in more than it spends -again, in spite of having extremely low taxes. Imagine that. I know a lot of people will say that what works in tiny little countries like that could never work on a larger scale but, given their record of success; couldn’t we at least give it a try? Would it be so unthinkable to at least try moving in that general direction? I think it would, but that’s just me and I am … The Mad Monarchist.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Monarchists Today: Germany

The most prominent monarchist group or movement (that I am aware of) in Germany is the group “Tradition und Leben”. It was officially registered with the German authorities in Cologne in January of 1959 but existed prior to that in an organizational stage. “Tradition und Leben” seems to be a good group and, given their platform, there are probably some who would be surprised to hear yours truly say that. However, I say it because they are being serious and realistic about the restoration of monarchy in Germany and for no other reason. In these times when the internet is such a dominant part of everyday life, one will often come across what I like to call “e-monarchists” who are often strident, childish and totally unrealistic in both their aims and methods. Oftentimes they do not really want to restore monarchies so much as they want to turn the clock back and if that were not unrealistic enough many want to go beyond that to arguing for some ideal alternate reality of their own where all of their preferences are put into effect. Trying to please or even trying to deal with these types at all is a waste of time and it makes no difference because these are, again, “e-people” who exist solely to gripe on the internet and social media. They may as well just be names on a screen -they do not exist in reality.

Unfortunately, I have to deal with these “e-people” more often than I would like doing what I do. They often pop up when the subject of German monarchy arises. Some will recoil in horror at the thought of there being a King of Prussia again, others would prefer a republican Germany to anything other than a full return to the Holy Roman Empire, still others want to re-draw the map of Germany and most of central Europe entirely and a few will quote centuries old laws by long defunct entities to assert that it is impossible to restore monarchy in Germany or that doing so could only be accomplished by warfare. In other words, these people are not being realistic, are not living in the real world. “Tradition und Leben” on the other hand, is made up of actual people, actual German monarchists and members of the former ruling families of the German states. They accept the facts of their current situation and are working from there in such a way as to have the best chance of seeing as many of the old German monarchies restored as possible. Personally, there is much about the current state of affairs in the Federal Republic of Germany and most of Europe that I find less than ideal and I wish it were not so but the situation on the ground is what it is and wishing will change nothing. The German monarchists of “Tradition und Leben” are working within the existing framework to make the case to the modern German public for the restoration of monarchy.

Readers will know what I mean by that when I say that the motto of “Tradition und Leben” is, “We crown democracy”. They are not trying to set the clock back to pre-1918 days when the King of Prussia and German Kaiser more or less had final say on everything. “Tradition und Leben” advocates converting the existing federal republic into a constitutional monarchy in which the German Kaiser presides over a parliamentary democracy. The chancellor would still be the one to run the government and, in what is probably a very strong ‘selling point’ for the modern German public, it does not presume that all the old German royal houses will be restored at once but that this should be done on a state by state basis as the people prefer. So, the federal union would exist as it does today but with some states being republican and other states being monarchist as the local population chooses. Of course, they would like to see all the old monarchies restored but this emphasis on local choice is probably a smart move and a means of advancing the monarchist cause in a non-threatening way for a public that has been taught to view monarchy in a negative light. They are also pro-European Union (which I am not but the majority of Germans is) and they are adamant that absolute nothing but peaceful means will see monarchy restored (so, yes, there can be a German monarchy again without invading Poland).

“Tradition und Leben” also (quite correctly) recognizes Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia as the legitimate head of the House of Hohenzollern and the heir to the German throne in recognition of the tradition and history of Prussian leadership in the creation of the modern, united Germany. This is a group that has well established roots in Germany. Their “father”, so to speak, was the German monarchists who got together after World War II under the motto, “Letters for Tradition und Leben”. Their “grandfather” organization was the “Bund der Aufrechten” founded by German monarchists in Berlin in 1918 (the final days of the German Empire) and which was banned along with all other anti-republic groups in 1922 and which continued to be suppressed by the Nazi Party. Prince Oskar and Prince Eitel Friedrich of Prussia, sons of the last Kaiser, were both members. Some members of this group were also part of the now famous anti-Nazi Kreisau Circle. “Tradition und Leben” is working with the existing system, taking into account the current situation and values in Germany to advance the monarchist cause. It is hard work to be sure but the statistics show that they are having an effect. A poll taken in 2010 found 13% of respondents in favor of having a monarch reigning over Germany and by 2013 that number had risen to 19% in favor with the greatest increase being among young people and a much higher percentage at least expressing an interest in monarchy. This is all good news and shows that the effort being made by German monarchists is not being wasted. The numbers are improving and going by current trends the support for monarchy in Germany should increase rather than decrease.

“Tradition und Leben” strives to educate the public on Prussian history and organizes lectures, trips, special exhibitions and group discussions about monarchy and the monarchist tradition in all parts of Germany. They talk about the German roots of monarchy, not just from 1870 but back to the German Confederation and the Holy Roman Empire of the German People as well. Some members meet regularly to commemorate the birthdays of the Prussian King Frederick the Great and the last German Kaiser Wilhelm II. “Tradition und Leben” also makes regular pilgrimages to the grave of the last Kaiser in The Netherlands to mark the passing of the late monarch or for other occasions. They strive to show the modern German public how monarchy and democracy are compatible and that the restoration of monarchy in Germany is possible. That is an important point to make as so many people (and the aforementioned “e-monarchists” do not help this) tend to view monarchy in Germany as belonging to the past, something that cannot fit in to their world in the here and now and so simply do not give it any consideration. “Tradition und Leben” says, quoting Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, that, “There is nothing impossible in politics”. We wish them all the best in their efforts even if their views and our own are not exactly in perfect alignment on every issue. Let the monarchy be restored and then we can go from there in perfecting it. Those interested or German readers who would wish to join in supporting “Tradition und Leben” can go to their website at for all the details.

*Addition: Interested parties may also wish to visit

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Portuguese Empire, First and Last

The Portuguese were the first to establish an overseas colonial empire and it was also the Portuguese empire that was the last to fall. It should come as no surprise that it was during the reign of the Kingdom of Portugal that the country experienced its greatest prosperity, prestige and the height of colonial expansion only to see it all come crashing down after Portugal became a republic. Like the history of any colonial empire, it was not always pretty, but the world at large and Europe in particular owes a great deal to Portugal for opening up so much of the world in ways that are ignored or taken for granted today. There were blemishes on the Portuguese record, as with any country, but a few things about the Portuguese colonial empire should stand out. It was driven by faith, commerce and the quest for knowledge rather than conquest and so Portuguese territories, early on, were almost exclusively restricted to coastal enclaves at port cities around the world. Although it is often denied today, many in the local populations Portugal encountered benefited from the establishment of this colonial empire and, finally, when it came to the struggle to maintain the empire at the time of its ultimate fall, Portugal was fighting the good fight against communist expansion with practically no help from the rest of the “Free World”.

After liberating itself from the Moors and making sure the Castilians kept their hands to themselves the new Kingdom of Portugal was soon striking out overseas. In 1415 the first step towards empire was taken when the Portuguese captured Cueta on the north African coast. It did not prove terribly successful and was eventually lost but it was an important first step (today Cueta is a Spanish exclave). Prince Henry, later famous as “Henry the Navigator” played a part in the conquest and he proved to be a driving force in Portugal taking to the seas to explore the African coast. Thanks to his leadership the Kingdom of Portugal became the most dynamic power in the world at that time in the fields of navigation, exploration and cartography. Intrepid Portuguese sailors brought back to Europe the first knowledge of sub-Saharan Africa and later other far flung corners of the world. The islands of Madeira and the Azores were discovered and claimed for Portugal (and they remain Portuguese to this day) and over time Portuguese footholds for trade were established all around the coasts of Africa. The great achievement in discovery came in 1488 when Bartolomeu Dias sailed around the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of South Africa, proving that the Indian Ocean could be reached by sea. In 1498 the intrepid Vasco da Gama succeeded in reaching India. In time, Portugal established a number of trading footholds around the Indian coast.

In clashes with the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Portugal established bases around the Arabian peninsula and for a time totally dominated the sea trade of the Indian Ocean. Other Portuguese explorers sailed farther, reaching the Indochinese peninsula, the Spice Island of what is now Indonesia, China and finally Japan. In fact, it was the Portuguese who first brought two great gifts to the shores of Japan; Christianity and firearms. The firearms were accepted more readily than Christianity was. In time, the only Portuguese colonial possessions remaining in East Asia would be Macau on the coast of China and half of the island of Timor. However, for some time Portugal held a near total monopoly on trade with the spice islands and this produced immense profit for Portuguese merchants and in large part because of this the Kingdom of Portugal became one of if not the most fabulously wealthy country in Europe. And, although Portuguese colonial focus was mostly on Africa and Asia, the newly discovered continents of America did not escape attention either.

It was in 1500 that the Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral landed on the coast of Brazil and claimed it for King Manuel I. As the name suggests, brazilwood was initially the most attractive resource of the region but, in time, Brazil would become the largest and most prominent Portuguese colony in the world, covering an area not much smaller than the continental United States for comparison. Sugar cane plantations were later established and provided the economic backbone of the colony. Of course, mention must also be made of the fact that these were labor intensive industries and to provide that labor the Portuguese important large amounts of Africans from their ports on that continent to provide the slave labor that made the colony prosper. The slave trade itself was big business for Portugal and it was an extremely brutal affair. Yet, at the same time, while the treatment of slaves was often extremely cruel, the Portuguese did not hold themselves above the Africans as was often the case elsewhere. Although many Portuguese colonists came to Brazil, most were unmarried men and Portuguese women were reluctant to settle in the colonies. As a result, many Portuguese men married and had children with African women which resulted in the largely mixed-race population of Brazil today.

Relations with the natives in Brazil were also not always friendly but the Jesuit missionaries who arrived made a great effort and endured immense hardship to learn the native languages, understand and appreciate their culture and convert them to Catholicism. As was also the case elsewhere, these missionaries proved to be great champions of the natives when colonial officials wished to enslave them. They were not always successful, but they stood on moral high ground and made eloquent arguments in defense of the natives. Similar clashes occurred between missionaries and colonial officials in the Spanish empire and, for a time, the colonial holdings of Spain and Portugal were brought together when the King of Spain became the King of Portugal as well. The Portuguese empire covered a wider area than that of Spain but the Spanish held much more territory and colonial populations which resulted in the opening of extensive new markets for Portuguese merchants and traders because of the union. It also, at least for a time, helped ward off the attacks on the Portuguese colonial holdings by other powers such as The Netherlands and Great Britain. Eventually the Dutch gained control of the Spice Islands away from Portugal, took control of the coast of Ceylon and became the only western country with a lasting trade agreement with Japan. By the time Spain and Portugal separated, the colonial holdings of Portugal had been greatly reduced.

The biggest blow to the Portuguese empire was the loss of Brazil in 1822. This came about for a number of reasons; the example of the United States of America, the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the increase in status when the Portuguese Royal Family relocated to Brazil during the period of French occupation and the desire of Brazil not to lose that status when the King returned to Lisbon. However, it was at least a peaceful separation and the ruling family of the new Empire of Brazil came from the Royal Family of Portugal. Still, it was a consequential loss for Portugal and in an effort to recoup some of that loss the Kingdom of Portugal began to consolidate and expand those Portuguese colonies that still existed. In Asia the Portuguese footholds were surrounded by lands controlled by the Dutch, British or Chinese so this expansion was mostly limited to Africa. The largest Portuguese holdings were what is now Angola and Mozambique. Originally, the Portuguese planned to link these two colonies which were on the west and east coasts of Africa and so launched expeditions into the interior of Africa. However, this put them at odds with their longtime allies in Great Britain and, in the end, it was the British that secured control of the territory between the two Portuguese colonies.

Conditions in the colonies were not always ideal but things were not much better in Portugal itself as the kingdom faced a number of problems. Corrupt politicians and power-hungry rabble rousers ultimately succeeded in creating problems and profiting by them, bringing down the Portuguese monarchy in 1910. For the time being though, the Portuguese government assumed that the empire would continue to exist. Things were not perfect but the Portuguese colonies had long been quite different from some others in the neighborhood. Slavery was abolished, over time, throughout all Portuguese possessions. First the enslavement of Chinese persons was banned in 1624, then slavery in Portuguese India was banned in 1761. In 1774 King Jose I outlawed bringing slaves to Portugal and ordered that all African children born from that time on would be free. In 1777 slavery was abolished in Madeira, the slave trade was outlawed in 1836 and in 1869 slavery was finally abolished in all Portuguese African colonies. Britain and France had done the same but what set the Portuguese colonies apart was how little racial bigotry was reflected in law. Of course, wherever there are differences there will be problems but the Kingdom of Portugal had shown no prejudice against a mixed race population and there was very little segregation in Portuguese Africa. The Portuguese colonies were considered to be part of Portugal itself and everyone in them, whether Portuguese, African or a mixture of the two were considered equal or in the process of becoming equal.

The Portuguese empire eventually fell due to communist subversion. This was certainly true in Africa where it prompted a long and costly colonial war against the communist rebels who were backed by the Soviet Union but even in India when the newly independent India launched a massive attack on the Portuguese cities it was with the support of the Soviet Union. The Soviet dictator was even in India at the time, cheering them on. Antonio Salazar, then ruling Portugal, ordered the Portuguese troops in India to fight to the last man (though they were outnumbered better than 10 to 1) but after some initial clashes they nonetheless surrendered fairly quickly. Africa was a different story as the colonial war there went on for about a decade until the economic strain brought down the corporate state in Portugal itself. Rebel forces were backed by the USSR, Communist China and even many do-gooder groups and useful idiots in the west who often had communist or at least socialist sympathies of their own. In Mozambique it was FRELIMO that led the fight and established a Marxist dictatorship over the country after Portugal conceded independence to them. The party has remained in power ever since.

In Angola the Portuguese forces were opposed by pretty much everyone except South Africa with both the United States and the Soviet Union (plus Red China, Cuba and the rest of the gang) supporting various rebel factions in their effort to ensure that the winners would bring Angola into their own sphere of influence. It probably did not help that Portugal was ruled by a corporatist regime that tended to look down on the extremes of both capitalism and socialism so it was almost equally disliked by both the United States and Soviet Union. In the end it was the MPLA that emerged victorious when Portugal gave up the fight. Again this was a Marxist movement that has held dictatorial power over Angola ever since which has been accused of numerous human rights violations. Portuguese Guinea was fought over in a war that lasted from at least 1956 to 1974 when it gained independence as Guinea-Bissau. It was the worst of all the fronts in the colonial war. The winner there was the Marxist-socialist African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde which of course became the only legal party afterwards and held power until the 1990’s. It has a GDP among the lowest in the world and is so chaotic that no elected president has ever served a full term in office. In other words, just because the country became independent does not mean life became better for the people. Likewise, as with all too many African countries sadly, honest colonialism has simply been replaced by dishonest colonialism as resources and political influence has been purchased by foreign powers, most often the People’s Republic of China so that, in fact if not in name, these places are just as much being ruled by a foreign power as they ever were.

The last remnant of the Portuguese empire was officially given up in 1999 when the colony of Macau was handed over to the People’s Republic of China. The Portuguese had been the first European power to establish an overseas empire and theirs was the last to fall. As with all colonial empires, there will always be the critics who want to do nothing but cry and condemn, ignoring the good and exaggerating the bad. Such hysterics do not impress. The Portuguese empire was extremely important and has left a lasting legacy in the widespread use of the Portuguese language and vibrant Catholic communities from Brazil to India to East Timor (which as most know was immediately invaded by Indonesia after declaring independence). Even the unique (though very small) version of Christianity exclusive to Japan, though not what the Portuguese left behind, would not exist were it not for the Kingdom of Portugal. The legacy of slavery will always be a painful one but the vibrant, mixed-race country (and former Empire) of Brazil would not exist were it not for the Portuguese empire it sprang from. The whole world owes a great deal to the Portuguese empire for many things taken for granted today. So many built on the advances in sailing, navigation and cartography made by the Portuguese who were the trailblazers in exploration. Many people, not just in Portugal but throughout Europe and around the world, benefited from the global trade network Portugal established and to a large extent it was the Portuguese empire that introduced Europe to much of the wider world and likewise so much of the wider world to the continent of Europe.
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