Thursday, July 27, 2017

Monarchy and Morale

One of the most horrific but telling things I have ever read about the difference between a monarchy and a republic was written by Robert Katz in the last chapter of his book, “The Fall of the House of Savoy” on the subject of the end of the late Kingdom of Italy. In a paragraph praising the republic for what I would call listlessness and lack of ambition, Mr. Katz wrote, “Italy has fared well without the monarchy and its recurrent, restless dreams. The country no longer pretends to great powerhood. A president sits now in the Quirinal. Few people abroad know his name. The republic has no plan to march for glory.” I suppose one could easily cite this as a sort of test. If you can read lines like that and think, as Katz does, that this is a good thing, you must be a republican. If you think they are horribly tragic, you are probably a monarchist. This could be “Exhibit A” in making the case that liberal republicanism saps the morale of a great people. Personally, one of the things that I find most despicable, damnable and insidious about, in this case, the Italian republic, is that it has made people comfortable with mediocrity.

Simply consider the context. Italy, a land with almost nothing in the way of natural resources besides mineral water, once conquered the entire Mediterranean basin, ruled the known world and in many ways created western civilization as we know it. The cultural legacy of Italy alone was fought over by the great powers that rose up after the fall of Rome for centuries. Italian religious spread Christianity to distant shores and Italian navigators discovered new continents. Even after centuries of being divided and ruled by foreign powers, the Italians reunited, won their independence and, despite being the last out of the gate, set out again and built an empire that reached from the Alps to the Horn of Africa. When the Kingdom of Italy was brought down in World War II and this modest, most recent of the European colonial empires was demolished, we see the result in the waves of “refugees” from Eritrea and Somalia of what becomes of such places when the benefits of Roman civilization were withdrawn. Yet, led by a corrupt, top-heavy, talking shop that dispenses social welfare, people are dulled into passive acceptance with their elite always assuring them that this is the best they can expect.

I take a different view. I say that those, “recurrent, restless dreams” which Katz faults the House of Savoy for, are essential for the health and morale of any people. The liberal elites do not want this though, they simply want listless, passive consumers. They want fuel for their machine and nothing more. They do not want people to think, to dream or to aspire to greatness. Italy is only one example of this but it is a stark one. The republican ruling class has taken a population who are the sons and daughters of the Caesars and taught them to be content with being second-rate, even third or fourth-rate. If this were being done by parents, in a family, people would surely call it child abuse. Forget Augustus and Trajan, forget Legnano, forget Venice and Genoa, forget the Medici, Farnese and all the great houses of the Renaissance, forget the great strides, from Turin to Naples, forget the “fourth shore” and all those who sacrificed there, from those led by Scipio to those led by Graziani, forget the model plantations of Somaliland, forget the great art, the great buildings, the great music and literature. Just watch football on TV, wait for your check and buy yourself something nice. Something “Made in China”. Whatever you do, just don’t show any ambition.

Not every nation, of course, has the origins of the Roman Empire in their background, but most do have some period, long or short, of greatness that they once achieved. Lithuania, for example, regarded today as a minor Baltic state, overlooked by most, was a force to be reckoned with in the Middle Ages. Lithuania dominated Eastern Europe, controlling an area that stretched all the way from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Bulgaria, after the fall of the Byzantines, was the Bulgarian Empire, dominating the Balkans. They certainly had spirit, they certainly had high morale as when that empire was destroyed, the Bulgars did not lapse into apathetic acceptance. They strapped on their armor, fought back and built the Second Bulgarian Empire which again dominated the Balkans. They had what it takes to do great things and the blood in their veins was no different than that which flows in the veins of Bulgarians today. I look at most of the nations of the western world today and I want to shake them by their collective collars and shout, “YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!” What would your ancestors think of you if they could see you now?

One of the many southern European countries known for being in particularly bad shape economically is Portugal. Some take a fatalistic view of the situation but I do not. A cousin of mine is of Portuguese ancestry and she has a work ethic that would put the Puritans to shame. Portugal, yes, is a relatively small country but consider how it started. It had to fight for its liberation from Moorish rule and then, despite having relatively little land, a small population and few resources, Portugal still had ambition, still had a vision. They took risks, they tried new things and they became the leader in exploration, cartography, navigation and global trade. They built an empire that stretched from Brazil, all around Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia and East Asia. They controlled virtually every major trade route and became the wealthiest country in Europe. The Kingdom of Portugal did all of that and the Kingdom of Portugal started with far less than what the Portuguese Republic has today. We know what great things were possible because they actually did them. There can be no excuse for settling for mediocrity with so many great achievements in your past.

Unfortunately, the fact that a few countries have allowed their kings to still live in their palaces and still call them kings, does not make them immune from this republican mentality, this socialist dependency and consumerist apathy. Monarchies in which the monarchs have been virtually taken prisoner by the ruling class often have the same affliction and none seems worse off than the nominal Kingdom of Sweden. The Swedes, at this rate, may well go down in history as the first nation to actually die from political correctness. It doesn’t have to be this way. Sweden does not have to be the way it is now. The Kingdom of Sweden, the Christian heirs of the Vikings, once dominated northern Europe. In fact, for a brief time, the King of Sweden dominated most of eastern as well as northern Europe. The Swedes once had the audacity to fight Russia and more than once the Swedes won wars against mighty Russia. They made the Baltic Sea a Swedish lake and played a decisive role in European, even world affairs. And what did they have to begin with? Again, they were a country with little useful land, a small population, few to no resources and had much more powerful neighbors like the Germans and the Russians, yet they still proved capable of great things. We know what Swedes can do and as long as the Swedes are Swedes, there is no reason they cannot be great again.

I will not go on at length like this but it is all the more frustrating because I easily could. Russia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, France, Spain and so on. Each has a similar story in this regard. Each one has been far, far greater than what they are now. Each one is capable of so much more than what they have been coddled into accepting in this present year. In the past, the liberals and even the socialists claimed that under each of their systems, the people would be delivered from poverty and they would then be free to pursue greater things. It was a lie. Credit capitalism or socialism as you please, hardly any country these days is not a combination of the two, the result of freedom from poverty has not been the freedom to pursue greatness but a dull, sullen, sickeningly contented apathy. Which is not to say that there are none who struggle in our modern world, far from it, but generally speaking more people today live on some sort of government assistance than at any time previously and as long as they have their bread and circuses, their government cheese and their cable TV, their only concern is not losing that rather than trying to gain something more.

This is not surprising given who is in control of what people are taught, what they see and hear on a daily basis. In the past, people took great risks, tried new things, struck out into unknown seas, for the chance of fortune and glory and to bring salvation to the heathens. Today, however, those who did this are shamed, vilified and their motivations have been stripped from the modern populace. The desire for profit is terrible, we are told (though the ones doing the telling seem to profit a great deal), very out of step with our egalitarian ideals. To convert the heathen is likewise a monstrous notion, we are told, for the only ones who do not defame Christianity among our current elite are the ones who say that St Paul got it all wrong and that Christianity is not about converting others to save their souls but accepting the heathens as they are and not doing anything to change them or make them feel in the least bit challenged or uncomfortable. The republican mentality has drained the morale of people everywhere, created an infantile society more servile than any that bowed, kneeled or kowtowed to a prince. The republic has drained away the motivation and the inspiration of once great peoples. Is it any wonder they are now dying off in record numbers?

To return to the original example of the Kingdom of Italy, regular readers may recall a post from last year in which I pointed out an article by one Andrew Roberts of “The Telegraph” who denounced Donald Trump as the American version of the late Duce of Fascism, Benito Mussolini. His evidence for this boiled down to little more than the slogan, “Make America Great Again”. This proves the point very well, I think, about someone who truly embodies the republican mindset of today. I am sure Mr. Roberts would detest any number of things about the Fascist regime in Italy, such as its suppression of the socialists and Marxists, its insistence that men be masculine and women be feminine, its teaching of religion in schools and its encouragement of Italians to marry and have very large families. However, what most offended Mr. Roberts in this instance was that Mussolini wanted to ‘make Italy great again’, he wanted top-tier status, he even wanted to rebuild the Roman Empire. Simply the desire that your nation be great is considered a crime to these disgusting people and I have no hesitation and absolutely no shame in saying that, given the choice between the views of Andrew Roberts and those of Benito Mussolini, I would take the Duce every time, call me what you like.

When people have nothing to believe in and nothing to strive for, they sink into apathy and slow death. We are seeing this happen right before our eyes. It is a psychological sickness everyone must strive to overcome and save others from. I will not be as blunt as I might about the opinion of Robert Katz as he passed away from cancer a few years ago. However, given that he was sued for libel by the Pacelli family for some outrageous things he wrote about Pope Pius XII, I consider myself in good company for being completely opposed to his point of view. Italy has not “fared well without the monarchy” specifically because it no longer has the “recurrent, restless dreams” of the House of Savoy. Other than that, he is correct, “The republic has no plan to march for glory.” but it certainly does seem to have a plan to march toward the doom of western civilization entirely. That alone, I would think, would be enough to make any rational person an ardent monarchist.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Interview with Amerika

Recently, your resident mad man was interviewed by Brett Stevens at the blog on, well on the subject of monarchy of course, how I came to it, what it does and how we can get back to it and some other things. Read it if you like right here: Interview with The Mad Monarchist.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Stumble Toward War, July 1914

It was on this day in 1914, in the wake of the assassination of the heir to the Habsburg throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, that the Imperial-Royal government of Austria-Hungary issued a list of demands which amounted to an ultimatum for the Kingdom of Serbia. They were demands which were so far-reaching that many have since speculated that the Austrian government never intended them to be accepted and was simply following the traditional pattern of issuing an ultimatum as a prelude to war. Yet, if Austria-Hungary was overreaching, it should be entirely understandable. The assassination of the heir to the throne was only the latest and most tragic act by Serbian terrorist groups in what had been a long campaign of antagonism. Vienna wanted this stopped and were prepared to use force to make that happen. The Emperor of Austria-Hungary, Francis Joseph, did not want war but he was also not prepared to let this anti-Habsburg campaign continue without response.

The world was shocked when the Kingdom of Serbia agreed to all but one of Austria's demands. There had been hardly anything in the ultimatum that any independent country would have agreed to and, yet, Serbia agreed to comply almost entirely. Why was this? They knew just how high up in the halls of power in Belgrade that the anti-Habsburg secret societies reached and they knew that if they did not comply, war would result and everyone expected that Austria-Hungary would completely crush Serbia in such a war. Serbia's only hope was Czar Nicholas II of Russia, as only the threat of Russian intervention might make Austria think twice about attacking Serbia. Czar Nicholas II was prepared to do the right thing, he was not prepared to tolerate the Austrian conquest of a Slavic, Orthodox nation yet, like Emperor Francis Joseph in Vienna, he did not want war either. Russia's last war, against Japan, had ended in defeat and with the monarchy badly shaken, both by internal unrest that was eager for any sign of weakness and by more professional revolutionaries paid by the Japanese to undermine the Czar. Any threat of war against Austria-Hungary would also surely result in the German Empire coming to the defense of their Austro-Hungarian allies.

Czar Nicholas II is almost never given credit for this, yet it was he who persuaded the Serbians to agree to all but one of the Austrian demands, something which could have stopped the outbreak of World War I. The Czar of Russia took a very clear position; if the Austrians insisted on invading Serbia, he would intervene but as long as there was any hope for a peaceful resolution, he would press the Serbs to agree to almost anything so that the crisis could be ended. King Peter I of Serbia and his regent Crown Prince Alexander, both supported the expansionist movement to create a Yugoslav state under Serbian leadership, yet they also knew that without Russian support, they stood little chance against Austria-Hungary and so, because of the part played by the Czar of Russia, agreed to all but one of the Austrian demands. In short, none of the monarchs involved wanted to go to war and Czar Nicholas II in particular deserves credit for doing all that he could to prevent such a disaster. Yet, it happened anyway. How? Even after the first declarations of war, it still seemed possible but was not.

Not a few historians have said that, rather than German Kaiser Wilhelm II (who had all blame heaped on him after the war), the real villain of the tragedy was Count Leopold Berchtold, the Austrian Foreign Minister. At Ischl, he presented the declaration of war against Serbia to Emperor Francis Joseph and obtained his signature by a flat out deception. He informed his monarch that the Serbs were already attacking Austria-Hungary, which was simply not true. The Serbs had mobilized first as there were hotheads in Belgrade just as eager for war as some in Vienna, but they had taken no hostile action. Berchtold thus obtained the Austrian declaration of war against Serbia by dishonesty and then allowed subsequent opportunities to stop the conflagration to pass by him on the grounds that Austria-Hungary had already declared war and the time for talks was over. If one were to insist on guilty culprits to blame for the outbreak of the Great War (and there was blame enough to go around), I would have to say that three men dominate the scene and none of them were reigning monarchs. There was the Austrian Foreign Minister Count Leopold Berchtold who lied to his monarch to obtain a declaration of war against Serbia and brushed aside opportunities for peace; there was the French Ambassador to Russia Maurice Paleologue who pushed relentlessly for war between Russia and Germany and finally Sir Edward Grey, the Labour Foreign Secretary of Great Britain who might have put the Germans off the whole affair if he had made it clear from the outset that Britain would intervene on the side of France and Russia.

Did two leftist foreign ministers and one Czech aristocrat start the First World War? No, that would be a considerable overstatement. However, they ultimately had far, far more culpability than did the emperors of Austria, Russia and Germany.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Caught Between India and China

Recently, thousands of soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army held live fire war games in Tibet, taking part in a simulated invasion of India. As most are aware, India and China have had a less than friendly relationship ever since Indian independence. In 1959 Indian and Chinese forces clashed when the Chinese suppressed an uprising in occupied Tibet, at the same time as India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama of Tibet. The Himalayan border region between India and China was in dispute between the two countries, just as China has had border and territorial disputes with practically every neighboring country with some (Vietnam and Russia for example) simply conceding territory in order to improve relations with China. India, however, was less sanguine about doing so and was feeling particularly assertive after gaining independence. After many years of championing non-violent resistance and the peaceful resolution of disputes, in 1961 the Indian government demonstrated that it would resort to military force to solve such problems when India invaded and annexed the Portuguese coastal enclaves (principally Goa).

Communist China, while likewise viewing Portugal as an enemy and cheering the downfall of European colonial empires, was nonetheless quick to point to this expansion by India as proof that their territorial dispute was unlikely to be settled peacefully. The following year, in October of 1962, Chinese military forces launched a two-pronged offensive into the disputed territory. The Chinese overran the Indian border posts, inflicted heavy losses on the Indians and generally gained what they wanted. Their objectives having been achieved, in November the Chinese announced a cease-fire and the war ended with China retaining control of Aksai Chin which remains part of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China to this day. Later, in 1967, there were two minor skirmishes between Indian and Chinese forces in the Indian state of Sikkim and it was with an eye to Sikkim that the latest Chinese war games were held; a possible dress-rehearsal for war with India over this obscure province. Keep that in mind.

Indian monument to pro-Axis leader Bose
Tensions between India and China have also continued on numerous fronts. In economic terms, the two countries have for some time competed as the primary source of cheap labor for Western Europe and North America. India has been increasingly alarmed at Chinese naval expansion into the Indian Ocean and India is friendly with countries China is not very friendly with, particularly Japan. Famously, it was an Indian judge who was the sole dissenting vote in the Tokyo War Crimes Trials after World War II, basically agreeing that the Japanese were their would-be liberators from British rule and taking up, along with the right-wing in Japan, the vision of “Asia for the Asians” and cheering on the pledged Japanese war aim to eradicate the European presence in Asia. China, of course, takes an extremely different view of the war and probably despises Japan more than any other country on earth. Also, thanks to all the years of the “One Child” policy in China, India is set to soon overtake China as the most populous nation in the world which will undoubtedly help keep labor cheap in India and thus make India an increasingly more lucrative source of exports than China with its growing middle class.

Sikkim's last King & Queen
Because of all of this, conflict may be unavoidable, however, there is something that can be done to at least make such a thing more difficult or delay it and that involves the area under dispute itself. Some readers here may be aware but the general public is certainly not that Sikkim was, not so long ago, an independent country, it was the Kingdom of Sikkim. Like the nearby Kingdom of Bhutan, it was largely unknown to the outside world for most of history and it probably only briefly became known to the west in 1963 when the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Palden Thondup Namgyal, married a young American girl named Hope Cooke. She was his second wife, his first wife (a Tibetan) having died in 1957. This briefly made the Kingdom of Sikkim the talk of the town, at least in the United States, to see a young, well-to-do American girl from New York City becoming the Queen consort of this remote, hitherto unknown Himalayan kingdom. Her husband became the King (or Chogyal) of Sikkim shortly after their marriage upon the death of his father in 1963 and his coronation in 1965 attracted quite a bit of attention.

The Kingdom of Sikkim was also no backward state living in primitive isolation. Although very small and having few resources, King Namgyal was actually quite successful at improving his tiny country. During his rather brief reign, while most people still lived very modestly by western standards, Sikkim became relatively better off than its neighbors. The literacy rate and per capita income in the Kingdom of Sikkim was double that in India, Bhutan and Nepal. Things were improving, Sikkim was doing well and becoming more educated and more productive under its new monarch. King Namgyal had been the leader of those who negotiated the normalization of relations between India and Sikkim when India became independent. Previously, the British Empire had maintained the same sort of relationship it had with most of the other numerous kings, princes, rajas and so forth of the region. He knew that things would be different after Indian independence and he was not wrong about that.

King Palden Thondup Namgyal & Queen Hope
The Kingdom of Sikkim, of course, knew it could not defy India alone and so, in 1950, agreed to maintain essentially the same relationship with India as it had done with the British, in other words, Sikkim was officially independent but a protectorate of India. However, there was a pro-Indian faction in the country, backed by India of course, which sought to imitate India to the point of establishing a political movement known as the Sikkim National Congress (in imitation of the Indian National Congress). This Indian-backed movement gained power in the 1974 elections (something which may explain why Bhutan would have nothing to do with democracy until recently) and immediately began trying to liberalize the country. The King blocked them, and rightly so, after which this group drew up a new constitution which India all but forced the King to accept. Naturally, the next step was annexation. The King, powerless to resist, could only try to beat his enemies at their own game so he called for a referendum to settle the issue on September 8, 1974. He would get his referendum and in the usual way such referendums are traditionally held, which is to say unfairly.

On April 9, 1975 the Indian army, which was supposed to “protect” the tiny country, instead invaded Sikkim, which was powerless to resist them, and after his guard was overpowered and disarmed, the King was arrested and confined to his palace. The local pro-Indian government, backed by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, unanimously voted to abolish the monarchy and for Sikkim to be annexed by India. It was only then, after the occupation of Sikkim by the Indian military, that a referendum was held the following month, at a time and with voting locations that would mean many locals would be unable to reach them. The result was a forgone conclusion, returning a result of over 97% in favor of annexation to the Indian republic. Bitter locals reported that the vast majority of those voting had been Indians and not natives of Sikkim at all. Within a matter of days Gandhi and the Indian government passed the appropriate measures to make Sikkim a state in India and abolishing the monarchy.

In happier days
China and Pakistan, no friends of India, criticized the move, the Soviet Union praised it and the United States did little more than shrug. King Namgyal rightly denounced the referendum as “illegal and unconstitutional”. The King had a sad life from then on, as tends to happen in such cases. He went into exile, was divorced from Queen Hope in 1980 and in 1982 died of cancer in New York. His son and heir, Prince Tobgyal Wangchuk Tenzing Namgyal, was allowed to use the title of king but, obviously, it is purely honorary and he has no official position or actual authority. Educated in England, he is now in his 60’s and is largely forgotten by the rest of the world though the loyal locals in Sikkim still know him as the man who should be king. I know nothing else about the man but what he represents does present at least a partial solution to the current problem. Rather than a war between India and China over Sikkim, which both claim they wish to avoid, surely a better answer, fair to both sides, would be to say that neither are entitled to the area and for it to be restored as the sovereign Kingdom of Sikkim under its rightful heir.

The last King of Sikkim
Personally, I do not think that the republicanization of the Himalayan region has been an accident, yet, at every step the rest of the world has looked the other way as the local monarchies have been overthrown and India and China have inched ever closer to each other and ever closer to confrontation. Simply look at the historical timeline: in 1950 the Chinese occupied Tibet, in 1959 the Dalai Lama was forced into exile in India. In 1975 the Kingdom of Sikkim was invaded and annexed by India. In 1996 a Maoist Communist insurgency began in the Kingdom of Nepal. In 2005 the King of Bhutan made his country a constitutional monarchy, embraced multi-party democracy and ended its policy of isolation, hoping, I think to strengthen itself through ties with major foreign powers. Finally, in 2008 the Nepalese monarchy was overthrown and Nepal became a republic with a Maoist becoming the first republican Prime Minister. This has left only little Bhutan as the last monarchial holdout in the entire Himalayan region. It broke my heart when Bhutan shifted to openness and democracy and, though it is only an opinion, the only reason I have been able to come up with to explain this change, which the people had not wanted or asked for, was because the King hoped to gain greater security from the international community.

As such, I would propose that the Kingdom of Sikkim should be restored. I would want the same for Nepal and even for Tibet though that is surely expecting too much. Let these places be restored and make them absolutely “hands off” to the military forces of China and India alike. A monarchical buffer to keep India and China at a distance might be of benefit, not only to those involved, but to the wider world, including those countries which might be drawn in to another, even more serious, Sino-Indian conflict.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Strange Case of Emperor Rudolf II

It was on this day in 1552 that Rudolf von Habsburg, the future Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation, was born in Vienna, Austria to Emperor Maximilian II and his Empress Maria of Spain. He came to the various Habsburg thrones from 1572 to 1576 as King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia, King of Germany and finally as the Emperor-Elect. Today, when Emperor Rudolf II is remembered, he tends to be remembered as one of the oddballs of the Habsburg dynasty at best and at worst he is blamed for the outbreak of the horrific Thirty Years War which devastated central Europe for decades and left Germany in ruins for many decades to come after. It was one of the most truly devastating events in all of German history and probably nothing like it was seen until the utter destruction of defeat in 1945. Emperor Rudolf II will certainly not make my list of “favorite Habsburg monarchs” but the fact that he is so ridiculed or outright despised by so many people on both ends of the political spectrum means that I cannot help but at least have some sympathy for him.

What is the problem with Emperor Rudolf II? Why is so much ridicule and blame heaped on him? There is certainly, if most accounts are believed, much in him worthy of criticism. However, I think the reason why so much is heaped on him is, at least to a large extent, because he managed to alienate both ends by trying to steer a middle course in his policies. One will also notice that, to justify opposition or a negative opinion of Emperor Rudolf II, critics will more readily address his personal life rather than his policies because, if one looks at his policies, I think it becomes much more difficult for the “left” and the “right” (so to speak) to criticize him without more than a bit of hypocrisy or revealing their overreach. People want to look for scapegoats, they want to find a “villain” for every story and for many on both sides of the political spectrum, Emperor Rudolf II was an obvious target. What can make the disinterested observer feel some pity for Rudolf II is that, in modern times, he will be attacked from the right for doing certain things, attacked by the left for doing other things yet never praised by the left or the right for doing the things that the other side attacks him for.

There are, of course, people on the left today who will criticize Emperor Rudolf II simply for being an emperor, pointing to him as a totally unfit person who came to power simply because of an accident of birth who was inept, corrupt and tyrannical. Yet, few right-wing monarchists will defend Emperor Rudolf II because of his policies or personal life and much of this comes down to the religious divide in western Christianity between Catholics and Protestants. Each have some valid points to make yet, I would say that the fact that these divisions existed in his own lifetime to such an extent, even within his own family, that this rather disproves the notion that blame for the Thirty Years War could be laid solely at his doorstep. Catholics dislike Rudolf II because, honestly, he was not much of a Catholic, he certainly was not devout or personally pious and if certain accusations about him are to be believed, he was very far from that. He also made concessions to the Protestants which angered the Catholics immensely. However, this did not, in turn, win him much loyalty from the Protestants since, after all, no matter how nominally, he was still a Catholic and the head of a traditionally Catholic dynasty and leader of an officially Catholic empire.

In this regard though, I think Rudolf II was a victim of bad timing and those who heap undue amounts of blame on him, I think, tend to forget the historical context of his life. For example, Emperor Charles V, Rudolf’s great-uncle, also made concessions to the Protestants and, as those familiar with the horrific ‘Sack of Rome’ know, even used Protestant soldiers to make war on the Pope. Yet, Emperor Charles V was known to be a very staunch Catholic personally and, as a champion of Christendom, Catholics tend to forgive him for these things. Yet, it highlights the precedent that he set. Charles V had fought the Protestants to be sure but he ultimately made concessions to them because he considered it more important to have peace and at least some degree of unity in Germany so that he could focus on fighting the French, the Italians and the Turks. His younger son and heir to the German half of his continental empire, Emperor Ferdinand I (Rudolf’s grandfather), also opted for a policy of religious neutrality between the Catholics and Protestants in order to maintain the peace in Germany. He pushed for reform in the Catholic Church, was generally tolerant of Protestants but allowed them no further power, hoping that the division would be solved by reconciliation.

Finally, Emperor Rudolf’s father, Emperor Maximilian II, went even farther with trying to bring both sides together. He was more generous toward the Protestants, so much so that some suspected him of having Protestant sympathies, yet he still refused to give them access to the ‘top tier’ as it were of imperial power by allowing Protestant prince-bishops. However, at the same time, he pushed for the Catholic Church to change in ways that would make it more acceptable to the Protestants, again, in the hope that the religious division could be ended by finding a middle ground that would accommodate both the Catholic and Protestant camps. Obviously, he was not successful but, given the actions of his predecessors, it should hardly come as a surprise that Emperor Rudolf II would not have the makings of a religious zealot about him. Emperor Rudolf II was, in my view, simply not very religious at all, which is not to say he was an atheist or completely uncaring about the subject but that the theological divisions between the Catholics and Protestants were on a level that simply did not interest him and I can imagine him being baffled as to why the two sides could not just stop arguing about such things and get on with other business.

Emperor Rudolf II did make even further concessions to the Protestants but it was not because he agreed or sympathized with them but rather that he wanted to stop them from rebelling and if some greater degree of rights and privileges would do the job, he would give those to them. The reason why the outbreak of the Thirty Years War is so often laid at his feet is that it was these concessions which seemed to be threatened by his successor and which the Protestants rose up to demand be honored that led to the initial outbreak of hostilities. However, as well as what happened under the emperors before him, people also tend to forget what happened after him as his end ultimately came when his brother Matthias rebelled against him and ultimately deposed him, fearful that Rudolf was diminishing the imperial power. However, to gain the support of the Protestants in order to take power from his brother, Matthias too had to make further concessions to them and he too carried on the tradition of trying to find a middle path that would, if not reconcile, at least keep the peace between the Catholic and Protestant factions. Things only really boiled over when Emperor Matthias died and was succeeded by Emperor Ferdinand II who, for a change, was a very serious Catholic and who was most intent on seeing religious divisions ended in the empire by restoring Catholic supremacy.

As we know, that never quite worked out either and ultimately both sides eventually had to learn to live with each other. Emperor Rudolf II did do something which, I would think, traditional Catholics would applaud him for, yet it is more often a source of criticism against him which was to push for another crusade. He hoped that he could unite the Christians of Germany and, perhaps, Christendom as a whole, by another war against the Ottoman Turks. The Muslims, after all, saw no difference between a Catholic infidel and a Protestant infidel so, perhaps, Rudolf reasoned that this would bring the bickering Christians of Europe together against a common enemy. Unfortunately for him, this did not work and the war was a long, grueling affair which ultimately accomplished almost nothing. Spain made some contribution as did most of the Italian states to this frustrating conflict known as “the Long War” but it proved to be a bloody stalemate with neither side gaining a clear advantage. For Rudolf II, it was a drain of men, resources and brought no greater Christian unity as, in order to prosecute the war, as emperors almost invariably had to do, he was compelled to make concessions to the various subsidiary princes to contribute men and resources to the ultimately fruitless conflict.

So, his religious policies angered Catholics while still not earning any great loyalty from the Protestants and his foreign policy proved to be ineffective and costly. All of these concessions to various groups also encouraged opposition from within the Habsburg family ranks as they saw imperial power being diminished further and further yet, as mentioned above, the younger brother who ultimately dethroned him would find that he would have no choice but to do the same. Most, however, choose to focus on the personal life of Emperor Rudolf II and he was an unusual and rather colorful character to be sure. As monarchs do not tend to make a public issue of their sexual proclivities, I prefer to avoid the subject, to the frustration of some readers I have noticed. Rest assured, I am well aware that many regard King Frederick the Great of Prussia or King James I of Great Britain as homosexuals, I simply do not care. I think one could argue the point and I do not see how it could be proven with any degree of certainty one way or the other and, while I certainly think it matters in moral terms, as long as they keep it to themselves, it does not matter *to me*. Were they so inclined and were they to make a public issue of it, trying to push this as acceptable or praiseworthy behavior, then I would certainly have a problem with it.

As with a growing list of historical figures, Emperor Rudolf II has now also been deemed by many to have been a homosexual. Personally, I do not know what his sexual preferences were and would rather keep it that way. There are some such royals about whom I have no doubts, some prominent cases which most accept but which I tend to disbelieve but with Rudolf II, I really have no idea one way or the other. There seems to be just as much “evidence” to me that he was as there is that he was not. He talked about marriage a lot but never went through with it, there are rumors of some homosexual relationships yet there are even more rumors of heterosexual relationships and illegitimate children that he produced. My only conclusion is that he does seem to have been a rather lustful man which is hardly uncommon. Rumors of affairs are things I put very little weight in as gossip is often spread maliciously but the, sometimes rather explicit, erotic artwork Rudolf collected is the primary basis for my admittedly banal assessment of his private life. Was he or wasn’t he? I don’t know but Emperor Rudolf II did seem to be a bit of a pervert.

I only mention this at all because it is something that Rudolf II does tend to be criticized for and yet, I have noticed that this is usually a red herring. Particularly among those who think there should be no limit to sexual practices, partners or proclivities at all, there is a noticeable habit of always trying to paint those you dislike as some sort of sexual deviant. Everyone knows, for example, that Eva Braun was the mistress of Adolf Hitler and everyone knows that Clara Petacci was the mistress of Benito Mussolini. Does anyone know the name of Franklin Roosevelt’s mistress? Does anyone know of any affairs by Winston Churchill or Joseph Stalin? I doubt this is an accident. Consider also, if you live in the west, how many times you have seen those photos of Vladimir Putin riding a horse without a shirt splashed across the media. This, I think, illustrates my point well enough. Everyone knows who Eva Braun was but I bet no one reading this could name FDR’s secretary he had the affair with without looking.

Aside from this issue though, Rudolf II was also accused of being so devoted to intellectual and artistic pursuits that he neglected government. This may actually be true, however, I have not failed to notice that be it Emperor Rudolf, Britain’s King Edward VIII, President Trump or President Obama, people seem to complain the most about rulers who shirk their duty even though they think those exact rulers are ruling badly. If they are not good at their job, one would think you would be happy to see them abdicating, playing golf or, in the case of Rudolf II, devoting himself to art, music and certain currently discredited fields of science. Again, it is certainly true that Rudolf II spent a great deal of time and money collecting works of art, however, criticism for him over this may be more due to the fact that it can no longer be appreciated. Unlike other monarchs whose art collections became great national treasures, that of Emperor Rudolf was lost, sold or destroyed in the years and reigns after his death so that it cannot be appreciated but it is still easy to criticize him for accumulating it.

Perhaps the thing about Rudolf II that seems the most odd today, however, is his fascination with two particular subjects which have been discredited and those are astrology and alchemy. Now, to be fair, the Emperor was rather obsessive, particularly in regards to alchemy and I think it is safe to say allowed the subject to occupy much more of his time and attention than he should have. Rudolf was positively obsessed with alchemy, even having a private alchemist laboratory of his own and spent his life trying in vain to find the elusive “Philosopher’s Stone”. He even hired two brothers named Edward and Alphonse to,, wait, never mind (inside joke). Today, of course, people regard astrology and alchemy as so much superstitious nonsense, completely absurd and unscientific. I would agree that the Emperor spent rather too much time on the subject, however, I would push back on criticism of the Emperor on this front almost more than any other. Today, we view astrology as basically a swindle for the superstition but, at the time of Rudolf II, astrology was considered scientific “fact”. Practically every European government embraced it and every monarch, even the Pope in Rome, had an official court astrologer.

Astrology is something I point to frequently today in comparison to the evolutionists or the global warming/climate change phenomenon. We are told that these things are scientific facts by the scientific community and yet, once upon a time, the scientific community also said that astrology was a scientific fact and that one could concoct an elixir that would turn lead into gold (maybe they never got their Transmutation Circle just right). My point being that, while I think it is fair to criticize Rudolf II for going overboard on these subjects and allowing them to monopolize his time, it is completely unfair to portray him as some sort of occultist lunatic for doing so. Interest in astrology may have led some to a better understanding of actual astronomy and we know as a matter of historical fact that the study of alchemy was a step along the process of developing scientific understanding and played a part in the establishment of modern chemistry and medicine as we know them today.

In the end, it is safe to say that Emperor Rudolf II was not a successful monarch. He never married or produced legitimate offspring, imperial power was diminished under his rule, his foreign policy won no great victory and he provided no lasting stability as evidenced by the fact that he was ultimately overthrown by his younger brother. His critics are many and there is much in him that can be validly criticized. However, I do think some of the criticism of him is unfair and much of it, even if fair, is certainly unfortunate and does not cast his critics in a very favorable light either. In regards to the most serious accusation against him, that he must bear responsibility for the Thirty Years War is, I think, a considerable overstatement and lays too much blame on him for a disaster which was caused by the cumulative policies and events spanning the reigns of a number of German emperors. He certainly was not one of the best, but he was also far from being the worst national leader the world has ever seen.

Those interested may wish to read…
My Favorite Habsburg Emperors
MM Mini-View: The Habsburg Emperors

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Netherlands in the Napoleonic Wars

At the time of the outbreak of the French Revolution, The Netherlands was still a republic, albeit a very business-minded republic with a prince, usually, holding the place of honor in government. This was the United Provinces, as they were often called, though some still referred to the area as the Spanish Netherlands to differentiate the lands from Belgium which was known as the Austrian Netherlands. Both areas were to see rebellions and upheavals and their destinies would prove to be intertwined. In the Austrian Netherlands, Catholics and leftist republicans joined forced in opposition to Emperor Joseph II to proclaim the independence of the “United States of Belgium” which was eventually suppressed by Emperor Leopold II. The trouble brewing in Belgium, where Catholic opposition to the Emperor brought about a common cause with the dissident, revolutionary sect, was the primary reason why Joseph II was probably the most anti-American and pro-British monarch on the continent during the American War for Independence as he feared the precedent this would set for his Belgian subjects.

Prince Willem V of Oranje
In the United Provinces, there had long been a tension, periodically breaking out into violence, between the republican faction and the royalist faction (or ‘Orange party’) of Dutch politics with the republicans wanting to keep the country a republic and, indeed, make it even more republican while the Orange party wanted to empower the Prince of Orange and make him king. The American War for Independence also highlighted this division as the Prince of Orange, Willem V, favored the British while the republican government favored the American patriots and ultimately succeeded in bringing the Dutch republic into the war against Britain alongside the American rebels (though the Dutch did not benefit by it). As in Belgium, the Dutch republicans seem to have been inspired by the American example as illustrated by how they began calling themselves the Patriot party in opposition to the Orange party. They became even bolder until finally clashes broke out between the Patriots and the Dutch army which tended to be loyal to the Prince of Orange. The situation became so serious that it took an armed intervention by King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia to see the Dutch patriots cleared out.

Prince Willem V was thus in control but only by the grace of Prussian bayonets when the French Revolution began to come to a boil and, given recent events, he was well aware of the danger of such ideology spreading. In 1792 the French declared war on Austria and prepared to invade Belgium where they expected popular support. The Prince of Orange, not being in the strongest position, held back. However, 1793 saw the regicide of King Louis XVI of France and every royal in Europe was instantly made aware of how serious this situation was. On February 1, the United Provinces, led by Prince Willem V, declared war on the French Republic, joining the “War of the First Coalition”. There was, originally, some success when an Austrian-Dutch army led by the Prince of Coburg defeated the French under General Charles Dummouriez at the Battle of Neerwinden on March 18 in Belgium, however the Prince of Orange and his Dutch troops were defeated at Menin on September 3 and another Austro-Dutch army was defeated by the French at the Battle of Wattignies in October. The Austrians on their own, as well as the British and their German comrades did no better in the face of the mass conscript armies of France.

Willem VI, later Willem I
1794 saw the last of the coalition forces driven from Belgium and the country was annexed to the French Republic and would remain so for quite some time. That same year, French forces under General Charles Pichegru invaded the Netherlands along with a contingent of anti-Orange Dutch patriots led by General Herman Willem Daendels in a surprise attack during the harsh winter. Local republican revolutionaries rose up in support of the invaders, making things even more difficult. Whereas, in the past, the French had been traditional enemies of the Dutch, the French had made themselves the most acceptable allies for Dutch, Protestant, republicans by embracing republicanism and tearing down the Catholic Church as well the monarchy. The French republicans declared that they had come to “liberate” the Netherlands and in 1795 declared the country the Batavian Republic. Defeated from without and betrayed from within, Prince Willem V was forced to go into exile in England. The new French-backed Batavian Republic was declared a “sister republic” of France, one of many such puppet-republics the French established in the wake of their armies.

However, not everyone felt “liberated” by this turn of events. The behavior of the French republicans won them few friends outside the already ideologically committed and the French also annexed Flanders, Maastricht, Venlo and part of Walcheren with Flushing to France. The British, however, still had a good intelligence service operating in the area and took notice of the growing Dutch discontent with their so-called liberators and in 1799, as part of the War of the Second Coalition, launched a joint invasion of the Batavian Republic along with an Imperial Russian Army force. The British were led by the “Grand Old” Duke of York and the Russians by General Johann H. von Fersen. They were met by a Franco-Batavian (Dutch) force of about equal size but, after initial success, in battles lasting from August to November, the Anglo-Russian army was ultimately forced to retreat, leaving the Netherlands once again to the First French Republic and their local collaborators. The House of Orange had not been mere spectators to these events as the Hereditary Prince of Orange, later Willem VI, participated in the campaign alongside the British and Russians. In fact, he was instrumental in the seizure of a naval squadron known as the “Vlieter Incident” with the ships ultimately being sold to the Royal Navy.

Gen. Janssens at the Battle of Cape Town
The Prince of Orange also wrote a series of letters in 1795 known as the “Kew Letters” while in exile, instructing the governors of the Dutch colonies overseas to resist the French and cooperate with the British, in his capacity as Captain-General of the Dutch armed forces, in the hope of keeping these territories from being controlled by the Batavian Republic. Malacca, Amboina and West Sumatra (in the Dutch East Indies) did so and surrendered to the British without opposition. Cochin, or Dutch Malabar in India, on the other hand, required some “persuasion” from the Royal Artillery but, in the end, the Dutch holdings in India and Ceylon were captured by the British. Also in 1795 the British sent an expedition to seize control of the Dutch Cape Colony at the bottom of Africa. The local Dutch forces offered determined resistance but were finally compelled to surrender on September 15. Later, the British would hand the cape over to the Batavian Republic as part of a peace agreement and so another expedition would have to take it back again. When the Napoleonic Wars finally ended, the British would give back the Dutch colonies they seized, but not all of them, keeping some, such as the Cape colony, for themselves as it was a highly prized strategic chokepoint, controlling access to and from the Indian Ocean and south Atlantic.

Meanwhile, in 1803, Jan Rudiger Schimmelpenninck was elected President of the Batavian Republic but things began to change thanks to the grander aspirations of one Napoleon Bonaparte. After succeeding in making himself “Emperor of the French”, the client republics that France had set in neighboring countries suddenly received an upgrade to become client monarchies. In 1806 the Batavian Republic, at the behest of its French masters, became the Kingdom of Holland and the Emperor Napoleon awarded the new Dutch kingdom to his brother Louis (originally Luigi) who became King Ludwig I of Holland (or to be more precise, Lodewijk I). This led to a rather unusual situation as the new King Ludwig proved to be quite popular with his new Dutch subjects. Unlike, for instance, Napoleon’s older brother who became King of Spain, many Dutch people embraced their new monarch or, at least, did not dislike or oppose him. To his credit, Ludwig I took his new position seriously and tried to be a good king. That, however, ultimately led to trouble with his brother. King Ludwig I was supposed to be little more than a puppet but he was a puppet who tried to pull his own strings and when Dutch and French interests conflicted, Napoleon expected French interests to prevail. However, his brother actually stood up for Dutch interests which caused Napoleon no small amount of frustration (and at a time when he had much to be frustrated about).

King Ludwig I of Holland
This tension between the two Bonaparte brothers was exacerbated by the effort of the Emperor Napoleon to defeat Britain by means of economic strangulation. He instituted the Continental System which forbid France and all countries controlled by or allied with France from trading with the British which, as it turned out, proved more ruinous for the continent than it did for Britain and particularly for The Netherlands which had a heavily trade-based economy. Needless to say, smuggling soon reached epidemic proportions because of this and Napoleon was so desperate to stamp it out that in 1810 he simply annexed the Kingdom of Holland and it was absorbed into the French Empire. The former King Ludwig I, by then none too popular with his brother, fled into exile in the Austrian Empire and remained there for the rest of his life. So it was that, until 1813, the Dutch, willingly or not, mostly fought alongside the French under Napoleon. For some, this did not seem all that unnatural given the long history of Anglo-Dutch rivalry and warfare.

Because of this situation, there were prominent Dutch military men on both sides of the conflict. General Jan Willem Janssens had fought against the British at the Cape Colony and Java, was made Secretary-General for War for the Kingdom of Holland by Louis Bonaparte and then, after annexation, fought for Napoleon under Ney in the War of the Sixth Coalition. He would later serve as War Minister for the Kingdom of the United Netherlands in the last campaign against Napoleon. General David Hendrik Chasse, regarded by many as the best Dutch soldier of the period, was from the Patriot party and commanded the Dutch brigade that fought for Napoleon in Spain for which exploits he was elevated to baron. He carried on in French service after the annexation but remained bitter about it though he won decorations and promotions for outstanding service, even being credited with saving the French army at the Battle of Maya. For his offensive spirit and fierce attacks, Napoleon nicknamed him, “General Bayonet”. He too though would later fight against Napoleon as commander of the Third Netherlands Division during the Waterloo campaign. Later still, he would defend Antwerp during the Belgian Revolution.

Constant Rebecque
One soldier of the Dutch army who fought against the French revolutionaries as well as Napoleon the whole way was not actually Dutch but a Swiss professional soldier; Jean Victor de Constant Rebecque. He first came to France as part of the Swiss Guard protecting the King. He survived the massacre of his regiment during the Revolution and from there was employed by the Dutch, serving in the regiment of Prince Frederick. When the French conquered the United Provinces, he served with the British and later the Prussians before returning to the British along with the Prince of Orange during the Peninsular War under the Duke of Wellington. After the downfall of Napoleon, according to a previous agreement by the major allied powers, the former United Provinces as well as Belgium were to be united into one country with the Prince of Orange as its monarch. This would be the Kingdom of the United Netherlands which would officially come into being in 1815, combining the Seven Provinces, Belgium and Nassau, though Nassau would later be traded for Luxembourg. This was because the allies wanted a strong monarchy as a buffer between the French and the Germans. Rebecque was instrumental in organizing the Dutch-Belgian army and would serve as Quartermaster-General and chief aid to the Prince of Orange (commander of the Allied I Corps) in the Waterloo campaign.

Prince Willem V of Orange was long since gone by then, having died in exile in Germany in 1806 (in fact, his body was only reburied in The Netherlands in the 1950’s). He was succeeded by his son Prince Willem VI of Orange, however, in 1813 he had, with the downturn of fortune for Napoleon, returned to the Netherlands and received quite a warm welcome, almost everyone by that time having turned against the French. In 1815, with the support of the allies, he proclaimed himself King Willem I of the United Netherlands, also becoming, in due course, Grand Duke of Luxembourg. His son and heir was the Prince of Orange who would fight on more than one battlefield as chief deputy to the Duke of Wellington with his old military tutor Rebecque as his ‘right hand man’. Unfortunately, the military reputation of the Dutch, particularly as it concerns the Waterloo campaign, has suffered considerably and quite unjustly at the hands of their British allies, both in accounts from participants, post-war historians and even television filmmakers.

The Prince of Orange at Quatre Bras
Probably because so many had fought with the French, the British may not have been inclined to trust the Dutch too much and, in addition, there was the already mentioned long history of Anglo-Dutch rivalry in trade, colonial expansion and naval supremacy. Whatever the cause, the British quite unfairly ridiculed and derided the Dutch participation in the Waterloo campaign. More recently, historians have done serious research, not simply repeating what others wrote before them and have found that the standard British version of events was not true, indeed, in some cases was shown to be impossible. The truth is that the Dutch-Belgian army played a critical part in the final campaign against Napoleon. Indeed, if Rebecque had not countermanded an order from Wellington so that the Dutch-Belgian troops stayed and fought at the crossroads of Quatre Bras, the British would not have been able to occupy the choice position that Wellington had picked out to do battle at Waterloo. The Prince of Orange himself, has often been portrayed in a grossly exaggerated way as being totally incompetent. This is also not true. Though the Prince of Orange certainly made some mistakes, they were not due to incompetence but simply to his lack of experience.

King Willem I of the Netherlands
As it happened, the troops with the orange cockades acquitted themselves well and, again, if the Dutch forces had not held off the French for as long as they did at Quatre Bras, the subsequent defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo might never have happened. However, it did and so King Willem I was secure on his throne, achieving what almost all the Princes of Orange before him had dreamed of since the winning of Dutch independence. As things were established, he was also pretty much an absolute monarch, though that situation would not survive him. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars could be seen as the fire in which the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands was forged. At the beginning of the era, they were a republic, the Seven Provinces which was often called the United Provinces but which were far from united. Crippled by the feuds between the orange and patriot parties, the country was an easy victim of the revolutionary French. However, they endured and finally fought their way back, emerging as a strong and, mostly, united kingdom. Belgium and Luxembourg was part from them in time but for the Netherlands itself, the Napoleonic Wars were a pivotal moment in history. The Dutch had gone in as a republic but emerged as a monarchy.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Royal Saints and the Catholic Church

I recently had an exchange online (not the usual unpleasant sort) which I thought worth bringing to these pages as others may find it interesting. The question put to me was why, in the long history of the Roman Catholic Church, have relatively so few royals been raised to the status of recognized sainthood by the Church. Is it harder for monarchs to achieve sainthood? Is something blocking their way? My short answer was that it comes down to a little of column “A” and a little of column “B”. For one thing, the Catholic Church hierarchy today holds a vastly different broad view of politics than in the past. Whereas the historic Catholic Church held that, as Pope Pius VI said, monarchy is the best form of government, the Catholic Church of today is all about liberal, representative democracy, or at least so they claim. It would certainly be difficult to imagine His Holiness Pope Francis being very praiseworthy of any monarch as an ideal Christian ruler. Loyalty and obedience are not so popular as diversity and human rights nowadays. Yet, this was not always the case.

St Louis IX w/Crown of Thorns
Most Catholics, and indeed most western Christians of any sort know of some saintly monarchs as these tend to date from before the Protestants came to be. Most will have at least heard of one king-saint from most countries that have been around a long time. There is King St Louis IX of France, King St Ferdinand III of Castile, King St Edmund the Martyr of East Anglia, King St Stephen of Hungary, King St Olaf II of Norway and so on. However, given the huge number of kings over thousands of years of Christian history, most of that history being dominated by monarchies and practically nothing else, their ranks can seem rather thin. Why is this? As stated at the outset, my immediate response is both that of royal worthiness as well as political machinations that would block the causes for the canonization of royals. In each case, human frailty plays the dominant part I would say. In the first place, monarchs are usually figures of wealth, power and prestige and, as such, they doubtless face a greater degree of temptation than an ordinary person would. In this way, yes, it is probably harder for a monarch to be worthy of canonization than a lesser person would be.

It would, however, be absurd to think that politics does not play a part in this either and not simply today when monarchy is the exception rather than the rule and traditional monarchies are frowned upon as being ‘backward’ and ‘authoritarian’. Christian monarchs, unfortunately, have a long history of fighting with other Christian monarchs and this applies to Catholics just as much if not more so than to Protestants. When one considers the monarchs who have been recognized as saints, such as those mentioned above, I direct your attention to who their enemies were. In most cases, their enemies were non-Christians; pagans or Muslims and the opinion of pagans and Muslims tended to hold little weight in the Catholic Church in those days. If, however, the Catholic Church had moved to canonize someone like King Henry VI, a monarch who was once considered saintly by a great many people in England, one could expect the French to protest against this vociferously as Henry VI had not only claimed the French Crown (as many English monarchs did) but was the only one to actually be crowned King of France in Paris. Likewise, being of the House of Lancaster, the notables of the House of York might have opposed it too. For a time, it seemed that the Tudors might have pushed for his canonization but then the break with Rome over the marriage of King Henry VIII brought all of that to a total halt.

Blessed Innocent XI
So, you can see how this would play out. Try to canonize a French monarch, you upset the Germans. Try to canonize a German monarch, you upset the French. This also applied to the Roman Pontiffs themselves. Pope Innocent XI, for example, was beatified centuries after his death but his cause never progressed beyond that point and the reason for this is well known to those familiar with his case. At the time of his pontificate, the most powerful Catholic monarch was King Louis XIV of France and, as we have discussed before, the Popes tended to oppose whichever Catholic monarch was the strongest in their time and Pope Innocent XI was very much opposed to King Louis XIV of France. As such, when his cause for canonization came up, French clergymen blocked it from going forward and it was not until the 1950’s that he was beatified and his cause has not progressed since for, while there is no longer a French monarchy to oppose it, there are few who feel strongly about pressing it either. Doubtless there have been other, similar cases. Now, as I have also mentioned before, contrast this with the sudden flurry of papal canonizations. Since the Second Vatican Council, every deceased pope has either been canonized or is at some point along in the process of being canonized (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I & John Paul II). A few have pointed out, particularly given how poorly the Catholic Church has fared in this era, that this looks like an effort to ‘canonize the council’.

The person who raised this issue also pointed out that out of 46 (or 47 depending on how you count them) Holy Roman (German) Emperors, only one, Emperor Heinrich II, is recognized as a saint. Once again, it would be foolish to think that the long history of rivalry and antagonism between the popes and the German emperors played no part in this being the case. All of the most famous German emperors could expect heavy opposition to any consideration of their piety. Even someone as widely admired as Emperor Otto the Great would likely be opposed given that he was quite strict about the Church in his lands being answerable to him. Emperor Frederick Barbarossa is possibly the most famous of the Medieval German monarchs yet, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, he was a villain and, to be fair, from the standpoint of the Church, it is just as legitimate that they view him as such as it is for the Germans to view him as a hero for his victories. Even an emperor most Catholic monarchists admire perhaps more than any other, Emperor Charles V, would be an almost impossible case. It would be hard to imagine the Catholic Church canonizing a monarch who waged war against the Pope, regardless of the circumstances.

Empress Maria Theresa
There are also those monarchs who might have been more easily canonized in the past than today. Queen Isabella I of Castile, for example, has a small but fervent following who wish for her to be canonized, yet such a cause could expect to attract immense criticism upon the Church from Jewish, Muslim and Native American groups and advocates. Such criticism is basically groundless and shouldn’t have any impact but realistically it should be expected and not surprising that the Church would wish to avoid the whole subject and everything it would bring up from the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition to the voyage of Columbus. The Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary, would also, I think, be worth consideration for canonization, yet she too would attract a great deal of opposition due to her attitude toward the Jews and such a cause might also generate political opposition from Poland. Again, such cases would bring up issues that the Church would rather not deal with.

Of course, canonizations are much more common among the ranks of the clergy. Not only are they less susceptible to political objections but, even among the hierarchy where the temptations associated with power and prestige are more common, they are also the ones who determine whether a cause goes forward or not which makes things much easier of course. This is not to imply that the system is out or order of course, only that any system consists of human beings and human frailty applies to the clergy as well as the laity. It also cannot be denied that even among the clergy, political opposition can still cause complications. The cause of Saint Josemaria Escriva, for example, was the source of considerable controversy because of his association with the regime of Generalissimo Franco in Spain or the cause of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac who was imprisoned by the communists and martyred after World War II for complicity with the Axis regime of the Independent State of Croatia. This sparked immense opposition and it remains to be seen if his cause will progress further. The cause to canonize Pope Pius XII himself is also very well known for the political opposition it has aroused due to accusations that he was insufficiently zealous in opposing the Nazi and Fascist government all the way to accusations of sympathy and collaboration with them, all of which has aroused considerable debate and acrimony. To date he has reached the status of “venerable”.

King Baudouin of the Belgians
Unfortunately, the enemies of traditional authority are also not always the only source of opposition to royal saints. For example, I would think that the Belgian monarchs King Albert I and King Baudouin worthy of examination but of course the mainstream types will not push for causes for them, because they were monarchs and held traditional moral views, yet there are likewise intransigent types on the right who will neither take up their cause because of their opposition to a Belgian monarchy existing in the first place (though this is absurd given that Belgian independence came at the expense of a Protestant monarch and their previous, failed, bid for independence was against a Catholic, Habsburg monarch who far-right Catholics heartily despise). King Baudouin has been talked about more than others, particularly by the Pro-Life, anti-abortion community given his public stand on that issue. However, that would also then invite opposition from leftists everywhere and no doubt they would also take issue with his words of praise for King Leopold II at the granting of independence to the Congo. The (now retired) Cardinal Godfried Daneels, while praising King Baudouin, said some years ago that a cause for canonization was “not going to happen”.

There is also the fact that, sadly, for a great many people Catholic monarchies in particular are seen as a source of division rather than unity, nothing but an open door to trouble that is best avoided. In Spain, France and the former Italian states (basically an all Bourbon problem) there continues to be intense internal dynastic disputes which are unrelenting and which the Church, as with most others, would certainly wish to avoid getting in the middle of. The left is content to let the feuding monarchists focus on fighting each other and the right would prefer not to get caught in the crossfire and look for other, non-royal alternatives. Even if there was a worthy candidate, the Church would have to show considerable courage to canonize someone in such a position, given the intense opposition it would immediately attract from the opposing faction of the various Bourbon family branches.

Blessed Maria Cristina di Savoia
However, while all of this must seem grim to Catholic monarchists, and it is certainly far from ideal, if one is prepared to not be partisan on the subject, there is still room for hope. Royal canonizations are rare but they are certainly not unheard of, even today. The most prominent example, of course, is the beatification of Emperor Charles of Austria and a French bishop did, in 2009, open a cause for his wife Empress Zita of Bourbon-Parma which it would be hard to imagine anyone objecting to and, while extremely rare certainly, saintly royals who are husbands and wives are not without precedent. There are also currently a number of potential royal saints under consideration within the historic ranks of the Italian royal House of Savoy. Maria Cristina of Savoy, Queen of the Two-Sicilies, was beatified in 2014 (being a Savoy means taking neither side in the feuding branches of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies dispute), Princess Maria Clotilde of Savoy has a cause open, making her a “Servant of God” and Queen Elena of Italy (wife of King Victor Emmanuel III) is, last I heard, under consideration for a cause of her own. All of this is good to see, though I would caution that the Italian Royal Family has a history of royals being beatified but not going on to sainthood. Still, there are royal causes being pressed which I fully support and am grateful for.

Blessed Charles of Austria
Certainly, there are many others that I would think certainly at least worthy of consideration and some I think should have been canonized long ago. Speaking of the House of Savoy, almost every recent royal consort would be worthy of consideration, Maria Pia of Savoy, Queen of Portugal, King Charles Emmanuel IV and his Bourbon bride would both be worth looking into I think. On the subject of the Bourbons, I think it odd that King Louis XVI and his Habsburg bride Queen Marie Antoinette have not been canonized already. The Dauphin, Louis XVII, would seem to be a child martyr to me and his sister Marie-Therese would seem more than worthy of consideration I think. There are others of course but, much beyond that, in France or Spain or Italy, with the Bourbons you start running into the dynastic disputes that make them all untouchable without kicking off a firestorm of acrimony. King Baudouin of the Belgians is, I think, deserving and I have been told that there has at least been talk of a potential cause for Queen Astrid. There are also others among the ranks of the Habsburgs who I would think would be possibilities given that the current family leadership has, since the days of Archduke Otto, become ‘acceptable’ to the powers-that-be and considering that, thankfully, the followers of the Habsburgs have shown more loyalty and adaptability than those of the Bourbons so that it remains one of the few Catholic dynasties that is not at the center of any serious inheritance disputes.

Clearly, there are obstacles and plenty of difficulties but hope remains and there are plenty of causes worth pursuing. Certainly, nothing will happen if no one at least tries.
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