Saturday, February 18, 2017

Royal Regalia: Recent Papal Tiaras

The Roman Pontiffs, because their spiritual position is of greater importance than their political position (though sometimes it hasn’t seemed that way) have never had the sort of accoutrements than secular royals have had, these typically being a sword, a scepter and a crown, at least in western, Christian countries. However, there have still been some items of personal adornment that have distinguished the Bishops of Rome such as the “Fisherman’s Ring” (which is unique to each Pontiff), the red shoes and, most strikingly, the three-tiered crown or Papal Tiara. The oldest sort of unique papal ceremonial headgear dates back to the Dark Ages but there soon developed a sort of crown, originally a bullet or beehive-shaped object with a crown at the base. Later, a second crown was added and, in time, a third which became the traditional norm for hundreds of years. Popes would wear their crown at their coronation, of course, and certain other formal events but, it should be noted, were never liturgical wear other than on one occasion when Pope St. John XXIII wore his tiara at a special joint Catholic-Orthodox service.

The Palatine Tiara
The three crowns on the Papal Tiara can symbolize a number of things, from the triple Christian roles of prophet, priest and king to the Church militant, Church suffering and Church triumphant to the supreme authoritative position of the Pontiff as, “the ruler of the rulers of the world”, a phrase which was formerly used at the papal coronations. Most of the Papal Tiaras were destroyed when the French Revolution came to Italy but a new collection was begun as popes were often donated a Tiara from their home diocese. When Pope Bl. Pius IX lost his political position as ruler of central Italy, Catholic countries seemed to try to compensate for failing to go to war to defend his property by showing how much they still respected his spiritual authority by gifting him a Papal Tiara. He ultimately collected six Papal Tiaras, the most of any Pontiff. For a time, it became tradition to use the 1877 “Palatine Tiara” of Pope Bl. Pius IX at papal coronations. All of his successors were crowned with this Papal Tiara until the coronation of Pope Bl. Paul VI.

Tiara of Bl. Paul VI
Pope Bl. Paul VI was crowned with a very distinctive tiara made for him by his former archdiocese of Milan. However, his would be the last papal coronation to date as, at the end of the Second Vatican Council, Bl. Paul VI gave up his Papal Tiara as a gesture of humility, selling it to benefit the poor. It was bought by the Catholic Church in America and is currently on display in Washington DC at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This was the last Papal Tiara to ever be worn or, at least, the last to ever be worn publicly (who knows what the Popes try on for size behind the walls of the Vatican). However, old traditions do not ordinarily stop so suddenly and, other than the short-lived Pope John Paul I, every one of the Pontiffs since Pope Bl. Paul VI have still been given a Papal Tiara of their own from some group or another. Obviously, though it remains only as a symbol on the Vatican City coat-of-arms, the Papal Tiara is still the one symbol most associated with the papacy.

Tiara of St John Paul II
When elected to the throne of St Peter, Pope St John Paul II remarked on his immediate predecessor not having a coronation. He lamented that the Papal Tiara had come to be viewed in an incorrect way, yet, he made no effort to correct this other than pointing it out on this one occasion. In the same remarks he said that he too would not be having a coronation to mark his installation as Supreme Pontiff. While Pope Paul VI had done away with much of the traditional pomp and ceremony of the papal court, the reign of St. John Paul II saw occasional use of traditional finery but an explosion of extremely novel modes of dress for a Pope. It seemed to be the era of tie-dye vestments. However, though it remained unknown until long after his passing, Pope St. John Paul II did have a Papal Tiara of his own. It was made by unknown persons behind the “Iron Curtain” in Hungary and was smuggled out of the land of the Magyars to Rome. Although simple in style, it is still quite striking. The lack of lappets (representing the Old and New Testaments and traditionally featured on all bishops miters and Papal Tiaras) suggest it may have been made solely as an artistic work and was not intended to be worn at all. Who was responsible for its construction remains a mystery (as far as I know) and photos of it only emerged after the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Whatever faithful Hungarians were responsible, I say God bless them for helping to carry on the tradition of every pope having a crown of his own.

Tiara of Pope Benedict XVI
With the death of St. John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI the era of the tie-dye papacy had certainly come to an end. Benedict XVI took a noticeably more traditional style in his dress and habits, however, unfortunately, that did not extend to the Papal Tiara. Benedict XVI reportedly inquired about having a coronation but was told that it would take too long to organize and come up with a proper ceremony on such short notice so that, effectively, it could not be done. I have no way of verifying that story, just relating what I heard but it seems like a lame excuse. Pope Benedict instead opted for a larger, more old-fashioned style of pallium (the wool band worn about the shoulders by popes and metropolitan archbishops) to be invested with at his inauguration, though it was later replaced with one more like those others wear but still slightly distinctive. However, the Papal Tiara was not only used but even removed from the papal coat-of-arms, replaced with an odd looking miter sporting three, connected, gold bands around it. This was designed by Deacon (now Cardinal) Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo. Pope Benedict XVI was not to end his reign without a tiara of his own though. In 2011, after a General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI was presented with a Papal Tiara by a group of German Catholics with a businessman named Dieter Philippi being behind the project, having employed a Bulgarian firm that makes liturgical headgear for the East Orthodox which makes it more likely than not that this Papal Tiara can actually be worn. Unfortunately, it was not, despite Benedict XVI being known for trying on all sorts of hats and reviving other forms of papal headgear, specifically the camauro, not seen since the days of Pope St John XXIII (though he did only wear it once).

Tiara of Pope Francis
The election of Pope Francis brought about a drastic change from the more traditional style of his predecessor. From the first day of his election, Pope Francis dispensed with traditional papal fashions along with other displays to highlight his humility in contrast to his predecessors such as refusing to live in the papal apartments at the Apostolic Palace and wearing black or brown shoes rather than the traditional red shoes meant to symbolize martyrdom. With the new standard for humility and simplicity set by Pope Francis, papal coronations seem firmly consigned to the history books and, needless to say, the Papal Tiara has remained absent from the papal coat of arms as well. Whether it was his decision to live in the equivalent of the Vatican ‘guest house’ to his preference for a compact car over the dreadfully named “Popemobile” much less the stately Sedia Gestatoria, Pope Francis has been known for his public displays of humility and renunciation of traditional finery. One would think that he would be the last Roman Pontiff who would wish to receive a Papal Tiara of his own, yet, he too has one. In 2016 Pope Francis was presented with a Papal Tiara by the President of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia. It was handmade for him by the nuns of the monastery of Rajcica of Ohrid pearls from a nearby lake. It is quite an exquisite Papal Tiara, obviously made with great care. Pope Francis has never worn it nor would any expect him too. In fact, it was stated at the time that those giving the gift are well aware that Papal Tiaras have become a thing of the past and obviously did not expect their gift to ever be used.

Pope Francis being presented with his tiara
The papacy has, in a very short time, outpaced even the progressive constitutional monarchies of liberal Europe in not only ceasing to have coronations but going so far as to remove their crowns from even symbolic use. Any pope could at any time choose to revive the old traditions, as the pope can generally do as he pleases and is not bound by the actions or words of his predecessors, but the way in which it was done makes this highly unlikely and unfortunately so in my opinion. Pope St John Paul II lamented that the Papal Tiara was, “…an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes” but nonetheless refrained from the use of one and, in that same remark at least seemed to imply that a clash with the virtue of humility was the reason. The portrayal of the abandonment of the Papal Tiara by Pope Paul VI as a symbol of the ‘renunciation of earthly glory’ thus set a standard that it would be very hard for a future Roman Pontiff to undo. By abandoning the Papal Tiara as a gesture of humility, how can any future Pope return to it without appearing vainglorious? It may be hard enough simply to move back in to the Apostolic Palace after the reign of Pope Francis without appearing to show vanity. And that, I think, underscores a more fundamental point about why the renunciation of the Papal Tiara was a mistake. In attempting to show that such “appearances” do not matter, they have, on the contrary, shown the extent to which “appearance” is all that matters.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Story of Monarchy: The Kingdom of Denmark

In all the monarchies of the western world, none can match the longevity of the Danes. The venerable Danish monarchy can boast of having the longest unbroken hereditary succession in the world other than Japan. As such, the history of Denmark stretches back to traceless antiquity. Scientists have found evidence of human habitation in Denmark going back 11,000 years though very little is known about the people that lived there at that time other than that they survived by hunting and fishing. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the onset of the “Dark Ages” things began to become more exciting for the people of Denmark who, under their various chieftains, struck out on Viking raids into neighboring countries. In the 800’s Danish Vikings conquered most of southern England while others conquered and settled on the northern coast of France. Referred to as the “Northmen” or Normans, this area has since been known as Normandy. These Danes were Vikings but eventually adopted French culture, mixed with the local population and converted to Christianity.

Sweyn Forkbeard
About the year 950 AD the Danes were finally united into one country by a chieftain known as Harald Bluetooth. It was his son, Sweyn Forkbeard (and you have to love those Viking names) who led the Danish conquest of England which was completed by 1013. King Sweyn Forkbeard was, in turn, succeeded by his son King Canute the Great who conquered Norway in 1028. This represented a high point in Danish history but it was to be rather short-lived. After the death of King Canute the Great things began to come apart, aided in so small part by the fact that various chieftains battled over the throne. While civil war prevailed at home, Denmark lost control of England and Norway as well as other territorial holdings outside Denmark itself. However, when your history is as long as that of the Kingdom of Denmark, there is time for more than one high point and, in a way that seems rather foreign to people today, the Danes were not deterred by these setbacks and as soon as the domestic problems were settled, began to expand again to build another era of power and glory for their country.

A new Danish empire stretching across the shores of the Baltic Sea was established by two particularly powerful monarchs with the same name; King Valdemar the Great (1131-1182) and King Valdemar the Victorious (1170-1241). Thanks to their successful campaigns, the lands of the Kingdom of Denmark stretched across much of northern Germany, the island of Gotland and east to what is now Estonia. It was also King Valdemar the Victorious who gave Denmark its first legal system known as the “Jutland Code”. This law code was to remain in effect in Denmark until 1683 and influenced subsequent Danish law codes far beyond that. However, the Danish empire built by the two Valdemars eventually met its match with the rise of the German merchant city-states that banded together in the Hanseatic League. Denmark lost most of its continental possessions to the League as well as absorbing an amount of German customs due to proximity and close interaction. But, you can’t keep a good Dane down and as the 1200’s gave way to the 1300’s the Kingdom of Denmark began to rise again.

Queen Margaret I
The island of Iceland became a Danish possession in 1380 and would remain such until the middle of the last century. The late 1300’s also saw the emergence of one of the most famous and formidable characters in Danish royal history; Queen Margaret (1353-1412). During her time on the Danish throne, Queen Margaret was able to unite under her rule all of Denmark, Norway and Sweden by 1397. These countries did not become Danish possessions but retained their own national governments. They were, however, united in personal union with Queen Margaret of Denmark. This union of the Scandinavian countries survived Queen Margaret but not by much. It began to come apart when the Swedish nobility rebelled against King Christian II of Denmark (1481-1559) and the Swedes succeeded in winning their independence from the Danish crown in 1523.

Baptism of Bluetooth
On the religious front, the beginning of Christianity in Denmark dates back to our old friend King Harald Bluetooth. There are conflicting accounts as to how exactly it happened but all agree that King Harald Bluetooth was the first to convert to Christianity and was the first Catholic monarch of Denmark. He even had his father, Gorm the Old, (honored as the originator of the Danish monarchy) removed from the old pagan burial mound and reburied in a church. King Harald Bluetooth helped to spread Christianity though it would take some time before the faith was accepted in Norway and Sweden. However, eventually it was and Denmark was a Catholic country as were Norway and Sweden. So firmly were these lands a part of the wider Christendom that Christian knights from the most distant northern land of Norway even participated in the Crusades to retake the Holy Land from the Muslims. However, by the sixteenth century, religious changes arrived in Denmark and were to change the course of Danish history.

King Christian III
In 1536 King Christian III of Denmark (1503-1559) became a Protestant, adopting Lutheranism and making the Lutheran church the official state religion of the Kingdom of Denmark. Prior to this, as elsewhere, the Catholic Church held extensive properties and assets in Denmark. When King Christian III embraced the Protestant cause, he seized all of these assets for the Crown of Denmark and in so doing greatly increased the wealth and power of the Danish monarchy. This also, of course, separated Denmark from the countries of Catholic Christendom but it did not mean peace and tranquility with the Protestant powers either as this was followed by a long period of conflict with the Kingdom of Sweden which had also become officially Lutheran as well. For most of the next two hundred years Denmark and Sweden were often at war. The Danes were trying to force Sweden back into the personal union with Denmark while the Swedes were growing more powerful and ambitious and wished to secure control of the Baltic shores and to obtain an outlet to the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Denmark and Norway stood in the way of this goal and frequent warfare ensued. The fighting was fierce but between 1649 and 1660 the Swedes succeeded in gaining access to the ocean and expelling the last Danish footholds from the Swedish mainland. Over the next two centuries the Danes would fight to regain the territory lost to Sweden with the situation not really calming down until the Napoleonic Wars.

The defeats at the hands of Sweden were certainly demoralizing but they did prove rather beneficial for the Danish monarchy. The nobility of Denmark had been devastated by the wars with Sweden and this gave rise to the middle classes increasing their power and eliminated the nobility as a major rival for power with the King. The middle classes wanted stability and the opportunity to advance themselves and so joined with the King in opposition to the aristocracy and so it was that in 1660 King Frederick III (1609-1670) made the Kingdom of Denmark an absolute monarchy and, officially, a hereditary monarchy. In the old days, the monarchy was elective but effectively hereditary as the eldest son of the previous monarch was invariably chosen to be the next king but Frederick III made this official. Even modern historians have had to admit that royal absolutism benefited Denmark.

King Frederick VI
Absolute monarchy brought greater stability to Denmark which in turn brought about a flourishing of commerce and, with the increased wealth, also a flourishing of the arts as monarchs sponsored great artists. In 1721 the Danes settled Greenland and in 1788 serfdom was abolished in Denmark by King Christian VII (1749-1808), though as most regarded him as quite insane, it was actually his doctor and later brother and regent who produced these changes. The end of serfdom meant the end of the huge estates which hurt the economy in the short term but eventually led to improvements in farming that benefited the country as a whole. It was under the regent, later King Frederick VI (1768-1839), that the Napoleonic Wars first came to Denmark when the British launched two attacks on Copenhagen, in 1801 and 1807, to stop Denmark from trading with France and frightening Sweden, Prussia and Russia away from the same. A period of hostility between Britain and Denmark ensued with the British taking the view that Denmark was essentially taking the side of France and, as such, when Napoleon was ultimately defeated, Denmark would have to pay a price as well to the victorious allies. In 1814 the Kingdom of Denmark was forced to hand over Norway to the Kingdom of Sweden as their compensation for the Swedes giving Finland to Russia.

Like the country as a whole, King Frederick VI was embittered by this loss and a gloomy mood seemed to hang over Denmark in the aftermath. The King abandoned the tentative liberalism of his youth and turned hard reactionary though he did allow for consultative assemblies on the local level. This, however, produced two problems in the decades that followed; disputes between the Danes and Germans in the Schleswig-Holstein region and increasing demands for even more democracy and representative government in Denmark. The absolute monarchy came to an end in Denmark with King Frederick VII (1808-1863) who signed a new constitution that allowed for the creation of a Danish parliament and made Denmark a constitutional monarchy in 1849. There was also the growing crisis over Schleswig-Holstein to deal with. Did the new constitution apply to these areas? To make matters worse, these lands were becoming of greater interest to the Germans at a time when the Prussians were starting to move to displace the Austrians as the dominant power in the German-speaking community.

Victorious Danish troops
Schleswig was a Danish dependency while Holstein was a German dependency but both were ruled by the Crown of Denmark. The Germans in Holstein wanted not only their own territory but Schleswig as well to be part of the German Confederation (the presidency of which was held by the Austrian House of Habsburg). In 1848 Holstein and southern Schleswig finally rose up in open revolt against Denmark. The Prussians and later the Austrians gave aid to the rebels in their fight against the Danes. The result was the First War of Schleswig of 1848-1851 and later the Second Schleswig War of 1864. In the first war, despite the rebels being aided by the German Confederation (primarily Prussia), the Kingdom of Denmark was victorious. Some people in Norway and Sweden volunteered to fight for Denmark because of their fear of the growing power and expansion of the Germans at the expense of a Nordic neighbor.

Danish attack in the Second Schleswig War
The second war, in 1864, was generally a hopeless fight as both the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire aligned against the Kingdom of Denmark. Not only were the Danes hopelessly outmatched by the relatively new Danish politicians interfered with the army in how to conduct the war, leading to the Danish forces being poorly deployed to repel the German invaders. The Austrian and Prussian invading columns pushed the Danes back where forced to retreat or risk being surrounded. Fighting and retreating February, often in blinding snow, was a bitter and grueling experience. The Danes fought hard and were able to win some engagements but most were delaying actions, stalling the inevitable Austro-Prussian advance. Bismarck also pushed the Austrians to go along with invading Denmark itself, not stopping with the conquest of Schleswig-Holstein. At Heligoland the Danish navy won at least a tactical victory though it would not effect the outcome of the war. Ultimately, King Christian IX of Denmark (1818-1906) was forced to accept an unfavorable peace being totally outmatched by Prussia and Austria while being unsupported by his Scandinavian neighbors. Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg were handed over to the victorious Germans and King Christian IX immediately became a very unpopular monarch for, evidently, not being able to work miracles.

Nonetheless, in the ensuing years, Denmark become more and more prosperous. Industry and trade expanded, new farming methods were devised and cooperative enterprises were developed. The Kingdom remained neutral during World War I and in 1918 granted independence to Iceland though it remained in union with the Crown of Denmark. In 1920 a political shift occur when King Christian X (1870-1947) dismissed his elected cabinet and this brought about a left-wing backlash that further subordinated the Crown to the elected government. Though, that same year, following the collapse of the German Empire, northern Schleswig voted to rejoin the Kingdom of Denmark. However, the era of peace was not to continue indefinitely. With the outbreak of World War II, Denmark and her neighbors thought they could remain neutral but this proved impossible, mostly due to efforts to infiltrate Norway. On April 9, 1940 the Germans invaded Denmark. The government had largely neglected the armed forces and put all of their faith in other countries respecting their neutrality. As a result, Denmark was taken by surprise and was practically helpless in the face of the German attack.

King Christian X
The Danes were thus unable to resist and so, effectively, they didn’t resist and the German occupation of Denmark was completed in a matter of hours. It was a strangely peaceful and swift end to over a thousand years of independence. It is often forgotten that until April of 1940 the Kingdom of Denmark had never been conquered in all of its very long history. Fortunately, the Germans were initially on their best behavior, the Nazi government portraying Denmark as the ‘model protectorate’. In time, however, that relationship began to break down with the Danish underground carrying out acts of sabotage and Danish workers going on strike which resulted in greater German repression of the population. In the summer of 1943 King Christian X was placed under German guard, the Danish army was disbanded and the parliament ceased to function. The Danish navy sank their ships to prevent them being confiscated by the Germans. A “Freedom Council” was organized to coordinate resistance against the Germans and when Jews began to be arrested for deportation the Danes worked to smuggle more than 5,000 into neutral Sweden. In 1944 the Germans even disarmed the Danish police but, as we know, by the following year the war ended and Denmark was liberated from German control.

King Frederick IX (1899-1972) came to the throne in 1947 and presided over Denmark joining the United Nations and abandoning neutrality, which had not proven an effective defense, in favor of joining NATO in 1949. During the war the Allies had occupied Iceland and during that time Iceland severed ties with the Crown of Denmark and became a republic. Themselves under German occupation at the time, Denmark was unable to respond to this. In 1953 a new constitution was adopted which saw Greenland upgraded from a Danish colony to an independent country but still within the Danish Commonwealth in union with the Crown of Denmark. In 1953, following a referendum, the Danish monarchy changed to allow women to succeed to the throne for the first time in the modern history of Denmark and upon the death of King Frederick IX he was succeeded by his eldest daughter Queen Margaret II, the first female Danish monarch since the fourteenth century.

Queen Margaret II
An accomplished artist and sometime translator, Queen Margaret II has presided over a tumultuous period of Danish history with the rise of the European Union, the end of the Soviet Union, NATO participation in the “War on Terror” and an unprecedented rise in immigration to Denmark. The Queen spoke out in 2005 about the rising population of Muslims in Denmark and raised some eyebrows on the left when she said that Danes had to stand more firmly for their principles and culture and be more clear about what immigrants are expected to do when coming to Denmark, regardless of what unkind names Danes may be called for doing so. This was said in the context of a contentious debate in which any who oppose total open borders and unlimited immigration have frequently been labeled “racists”. Quality of life in Denmark has remained consistently high and society remarkably united. Recently, however, parliament did voice objections when it was learned that Danes are now a minority in a number of Danish cities. The Queen is highly respected in the country and her heir, Crown Prince Frederick and his Australian bride Crown Princess Mary, are likewise popular. As it stands now, the oldest monarchy in Europe faces challenges but seems secure for the foreseeable future to carry on their remarkable longevity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Look Back at Emperor Claudius II

This is an appropriate occasion to take a look back at the Roman Emperor Claudius II, also known as "Claudius Gothicus". Read to the end to see why.

A Short Look at the Life of Marcus Aurelius Valerius Claudius Augustus, Emperor Claudius II

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Monarch Profile: Emperor Gia Long of Vietnam

In the first half of the eighteenth century, Vietnam was a divided country. While the emperors of the Latter Le Dynasty continued to reign in Hanoi, actual power was held by two feuding families; the Trinh family in the north and the Nguyen family in the south. Most recognized the damage and stagnation this was causing but neither side wished to give up their hold on power. Rebellions increased dramatically but none were successful. Significant change was not sparked until 1771 when the Tay Son brothers, from an area in central Vietnam under the control of the Nguyen family, rose up in revolt. As usual, they promised to rob from the rich and give to the poor and also to restore the Le Dynasty emperor to actual power. In 1778 they accomplished what the Trinh never had and routed the Nguyen militia in front of Gia Dinh (Saigon) and massacred the family almost entirely. The only survivor of this bloodbath was one 16-year old prince named Nguyen Anh. Born in 1761, he would prove to be more formidable than any enemy the Tay Son would ever face.

Prince Anh during his sojourn in Siam
Prince Nguyen-Phuc Anh was the third son of Prince Nguyen-Phuc Luan, the second son and designated successor of Prince Nguyen-Phuc Khoat, lord of southern Vietnam. However, when Lord Nguyen Khoat died, a powerful mandarin named Truong Phuc Loan changed his will to keep Prince Nguyen Luan from power, imprisoning him until his death in 1765. It is then, not so surprising that Prince Anh would grow up to be such a formidable character. As a young child his father had been betrayed and imprisoned, denied his birthright and as a teenager he had witnessed the wholesale slaughter of his entire family by the rampaging forces of the Tay Son. To redeem the memory of his father and restore the achievements of his ancestors became the driving ambition of his life. Despite being left alone in the world, he was committed to doing whatever was necessary to regain all that had been lost, no matter how long or how difficult it would be. From there, he had higher aspirations still but focused, for the time being, on the battle at hand.

While the Tay Son turned their aggression on the Trinh, abandoning their earlier promise and ousting the Le emperor to establish their own, short-lived, imperial dynasty and even defeating a Qing Dynasty army from China sent in to rescue their Le Dynasty vassal, Prince Nguyen Anh rallied the remnants of his family’s forces. Despite his young age, he proved a very inspirational figure, cunning leader and, above all, a young man of boundless determination. After regrouping, he succeeded in re-taking Saigon from the Tay Son forces and, for a time, a sort of stalemate ensued as the two sides battled back and forth for domination of southern Vietnam. In 1783, however, the stalemate was broken and the Nguyen forces once again suffered a devastating defeat. Having earlier taken refuge in Siam, this time Prince Anh fled to Phu Quoc. A Catholic seminary was there and he was given a safe haven by the French missionary Pierre Joseph Pigneau de Behaine, a Catholic priest and eventual Bishop of Adran. Pigneau and Prince Anh quickly became very devoted friends.

The Tay Son had originally posed as the friends of the Christian minority in Vietnam but, after achieving power, began persecuting them. Pigneau wanted to do something to end the suffering of his fellow Catholics, naturally, and also to secure special favor for his native Kingdom of France in what was then known as Dai Viet. Prince Anh, likewise, knew that his own forces were far too depleted and he would need foreign assistance, particularly advanced foreign warships and firearms, to achieve his goal of victory over the Tay Son. Despite his setbacks, he was more determined than ever to not only regain his family’s rule over the south of the country but to reunite the whole country under his leadership.

Pigneau de Behaine
Toward this end, Prince Anh dispatched Pigneau to arrange an alliance with his country and, as a sign of his goodwill, sent along his first son, Crown Prince Canh (by his first wife Thua Thien), who was only five years old. Pigneau first went to Pondicherry, in French India, but the local governor would give him no support. Undeterred, he traveled all the way to France where little Prince Canh was quite the sensation. He met with King Louis XVI and made the offer of Prince Anh to His Most Christian Majesty; if France would provide ships and weapons to help Anh become emperor, there would be freedom of religion for Catholics, France would be ceded the island of Poulo Condore and part of the port of Da Nang along with special trading privileges. King Louis XVI was most agreeable and Pigneau and his young charge set out for the return voyage to Indochina confident that they had succeeded. Upon arrival in India, however, they found out that due to the growing threat of revolution in France, no official help would be extended after all. Still undeterred, Pigneau acted on his own to hire French mercenaries to act as advisors and obtain what modern ships and artillery he could.

Pigneau finally returned in 1789 with two ships filled with French soldiers of fortune and various war materials along with Crown Prince Canh, who had been baptized into the Catholic faith. Prince Anh would be forever grateful to his friend Pigneau for this and used these forces to regain control of his ancestral lands in the south. He won over the locals who had become disenchanted with the Tay Son who had promised much but delivered little. Prince Anh impressed the people with his honesty as he admitted that his family had made mistakes in the past, had acted incorrectly but promised to set things right with a renewed commitment to morality and good government based on the ethical code of the great Confucius. Spears were made, muskets and swords distributed, ships were stocked, cannon were loaded and the war elephants were prepared. Prince Anh launched a massive and devastating offensive against his enemies, sweeping inexorably north through the country until the Tay Son were totally defeated and he stood victorious as the master of all.

Neither Pigneau nor Crown Prince Canh had lived to see this triumph but it marked the beginning of the reign of the Nguyen Dynasty in 1802. Prince Anh, to show that the country was now united, with neither the north ruling the south or the south ruling the north, moved the capital to Hue in the central provinces and took as his reigning name Gia Long, a combination of the words Gia Dinh (Saigon) and Thanh Long (Hanoi). He immediately set to work to establish his dynasty. He sought and received the recognition of the Qing Emperor in Peking for his reign over Nam Viet, though the Qing court reversed the name of the country to Viet Nam. Emperor Gia Long set to work keeping the promises he had made. Vietnam became a staunchly conservative Confucian country with the imperial commands implemented by a bureaucracy of mandarins trained in Confucian morality.

To their annoyance, France did not receive the pride of place they had expected due to the fact that they had not fulfilled their promise to aid Gia Long. He knew that what help he received was due to Pigneau and not to the government in Paris. Therefore, out of respect for his late friend, Christianity would be tolerated in Vietnam as long as Gia Long was alive. He was, however, not entirely pleased that his late son and heir had been converted to Christianity and was careful not to allow western influence to spread in his country. Rather than any particular religion, Confucianism was to be the backbone of the country under Gia Long and trade and contact with the west was restricted. This was the basis of what has become the major criticism of Emperor Gia Long, which is that he isolated Vietnam and allowed the country to stagnate and thus become vulnerable to French expansion in later years. This, however, is not entirely fair.

Emperor Gia Long did do his best to secure the country, strengthening the military and building a series of modern fortresses across the country. However, neither he nor anyone should be expected to foretell the unprecedented events that would happen in the future. He had restored his dynasty to power, consolidated control over the whole country, reunited the country and ended the fratricidal north-south divide. He had the recognition of Imperial China, the traditional powerhouse of East Asia and no one then expected that the European powers, about which most in East Asia still knew very little, would so soon come to dominate the whole region. Some of his domestic policies, such as heavy taxation and mandated periods of forced labor, were quite unpopular, however they were essential to rebuilding and strengthening the country quickly after such a long period of turmoil and civil wars. Furthermore, while he did work to curtail western influence in his country, he continued to maintain contact and trade with East Asian powers such as China. The Nguyen lords in the south had even maintained quite active trade ties with the Empire of Japan prior to the shogun adopting its isolationist policy.

Most of the reign of Emperor Gia Long was concerned with consolidation. Fairly early on there developed two different factions at the imperial court, one of which was more focused on establishing ties with the west, based around the family of the late Crown Prince Canh, and the other which favored closer ties with China and isolation from the west which was focused on the family of Prince Nguyen-Phuc Dam and this was the faction that Emperor Gia Long favored, naming Dam as his heir and successor. Emperor Gia Long was obliged to neglect the navy so as to have funds for the building of fortresses and an extensive infrastructure project of building roads to improve travel and communication as well as canals and other waterway projects to boost agricultural production. Again, not all of these were popular at the time, but all of them paid dividends in the long run though the lack of a modern navy would be problematic when the French came calling in the years to come.

Emperor Gia Long enacted a new legal system, basically a combination of the old Le Dynasty legal code and that of the Qing Dynasty in China. The focus, again, was on the authority of the Emperor, the centrality of the mandarins as his instruments and the traditional family values of Confucian ethics. To placate the spirits of his family, he took his revenge on the Tay Son, executing those who had survived and desecrating the remains of those already gone. He did away with their political innovations and restored the traditional laws that had preceded them. He had sense enough to advise his heir not to provoke or offend the western powers but told him to take his example from the Empire of Japan which was careful to shut them out.

Emperor Gia Long, first emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, founder of the last Vietnamese imperial line, died at the age of 57 on February 3, 1820. He was buried at Thien Tho Tomb, which he had originally built in 1814 for his beloved wife Empress Thua Thien, but which has since, sadly, fallen into disrepair. For someone who had such a remarkable life, rising from the ashes of defeat and the massacre of his entire family, to triumph over his enemies and forge an empire, the historical legacy of Emperor Gia Long has been grossly distorted due to the political bigotry of those who have come to power since the Nguyen reign. While generally dismissive of the entirety of traditional Vietnamese history, the Communist Party seized on Emperor Gia Long as a particular enemy in their propaganda. Taking the side of the Tay Son rebels, they tended to heap all blame for any misfortunes which befell Vietnam on Emperor Gia Long and his policies. This is quite unfair and quite outrageous considering the extent to which Emperor Gia Long is responsible for what most recognize as traditional Vietnam even today.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Papal Profile: Pope Paul III

Few Roman Pontiffs ever inherited so unfavorable a position as Pope Paul III. Rome had been sacked, much of Italy was in ruins, Protestantism was taking root and the papacy itself was firmly in the grip of the German Emperor and King of Spain Charles V. However, Pope Paul III would not be deterred by any of that. A Renaissance prince, rather typical of the period, he had his negative as well as positive qualities yet his pontificate would be remembered as one of pushing back wherever possible and accepting the ills of the day when not. A man from an illustrious family whose name appears often in papal history, he was born Alessandro Farnese on February 29, 1468 in Canino, in what was then Latium, part of the Papal States. His family were well known in the ranks of the condottiere and his sister, the famously lovely Giulia Farnese, had been the beloved mistress of the notorious Pope Alexander VI. As a son of the Italian Renaissance, Alessandro Farnese would be known for his great culture, his love of art as well as for his political machinations and nepotism. However, as with the Renaissance Popes as a group, he was a more pious man than he is usually given credit for.

Young Cardinal Farnese
It is true that Alessandro Farnese lived a rather colorful and worldly life as a young man. He fathered four illegitimate children but this was all before joining the priesthood. By the time he was ordained in 1519 he had abandoned his worldly ways and dissolute life and devoted himself to the service of God. It is interesting how often this fact, which is not uncommon among the Renaissance Popes, is often left out of the popular histories. In spite of the recent obsession with mercy and forgiveness, the Renaissance Popes often seem to be denied either and are forever tainted by their misdeeds prior to becoming men of the cloth. In fact, many of those people absent-mindedly regard as notorious, were, like Alessandro, faithful to their vows once they had taken them. His career in the Church was undoubtedly aided by his family connections but he was by no means unfit for the stations he held. In time he was made a cardinal bishop and was dean of the Sacred College prior to being elected at the age of 66 on October 13, 1534 after the death of the long suffering Medici Pope Clement VII. He took the name Paul III and quickly set to work trying to restore a sense of normalcy about the Church and begin pushing forward again.

His election had taken only two days, a sign of the respect his fellow cardinals had for him as well as being seen as no friend of the King of France but also not beholden to the German Emperor though he was careful not to cross him. As someone who owed his red hat to his sister being the mistress of Pope Alexander VI, it should not be too surprising that, while his own life had changed considerably upon entering the Church, Pope Paul III was not above laughing at a bawdy comedy, turning a blind eye to the indiscretions of the Roman court and elevating his teenage grandsons to the Sacred College. Nonetheless, when it came to matters of the Church, the spiritual life of the Church and the revival secular historians have dubbed (erroneously) the, “Counter-Reformation”, Pope Paul III provided invaluable leadership to Catholic Christendom.

In political matters, Pope Paul III was not too timid to clash with the secular authorities. He famously excommunicated King Henry VIII of England for his divorce of Queen Catherine of Aragon, appropriation of Church property and various other desecrations of the sacred which Henry termed as a ‘campaign against idolatry’. Paul III was though careful not to find himself opposed to Emperor Charles V and he backed the Habsburg war against the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Lutheran princes in Germany which was happily in his own interests as well. However, Paul III knew there was only one thing that would fully satisfy Emperor Charles V and it was the one thing all of his predecessors since the first outbreak of Lutheranism had been reluctant to do; call a general council of the Church.

Pope Paul III with two of his grandsons
Emperor Charles V had been pushing for a council for years. Although he would make peace and grant toleration to Protestants when it served his interests, he most wanted the Church leadership to address the problems that Luther and his fellows made issue of so that some sort of reconciliation could be made that would restore the tranquility of Christendom and stop his German subordinates making war on him and each other. However, history had taught the popes that this was a dangerous thing to do. Such councils, particularly those pushed for by German emperors, frequently ended with an effort to depose the Pontiff and replace him with someone more amenable to the imperial position. This resulted in a cycle of antagonism between popes and emperors which could be extremely disastrous as such a thing had only recently resulted in the near death of Pope Clement VII and the Sack of Rome which was absolutely unprecedented in its horror and bestial cruelty. Pope Paul III finally put a stop to this cycle by calling the Council of Trent which first met in December of 1545 and would carry on for quite some time addressing the many problems and corruptions that had permeated the Church.

This actually had a huge impact and was probably the single most significant thing that Pope Paul III did during his reign. Nothing happened overnight, but the Council of Trent did provide the framework and the starting point for what would be a Catholic revival which would ensure that the Church of Rome not only survived the Protestant storm but would push back against it, ultimately regaining at least a good deal if not all of what had been lost. As part of this overall campaign, Pope Paul III also continued the work of his predecessor Clement VII in pushing for reform in the religious orders. The Theatines, Capuchins, Somaschians and Barnabites were rejuvenated, the Ursulines (a teaching order of nuns) was established in 1535 who would prove quite effective and in 1540 Pope Paul III officially recognized the Society of Jesus. In 1550 he would confirm their constitution and he showed great favor to the Jesuits, viewing them as the spiritual ‘shock troops’ of Catholicism in combating the spread of Protestant sects. He also established and gave extensive powers to the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition. Despite his worldly reputation, Paul III was obviously someone who took his faith seriously.

Pope Paul III
So, there were two sides to the coin of Paul III. On the one hand he was the pope who made his teenage grandsons cardinals, pushed the power of the Farnese family wherever possible, who made his son Pier Luigi the Duke of Parma and lavished wealth on his grandson Ottavio so that Margherita of Austria would marry him and yet, on the other hand, he was the pope who began reforming the Church, authorized zealous new religious orders, urged respect for the persons and property of the Native Americans and condemned their enslavement. He was also a great patron of the arts and paid heavily for the rebuilding and refurbishment of Rome itself. Probably his most noteworthy project was commissioning the great Michelangelo to finish his painting, “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel. He had a relatively long pontificate for a man who was 66 when he first was elevated to the Throne of St Peter. Pope Paul III died of fever on November 10, 1549 after reigning 15 years and 29 days. He had his good points as well as bad ones but the good was far more significant whereas the bad can generally be reduced to being partial to his own family. That should be considered easily forgivable, especially considering the very valuable work he accomplished as well as setting the stage for greater successes to come. On the whole, Pope Paul III is another example which should prove that the supposedly notorious ‘Renaissance Popes’ were not nearly so awful as most imagine.

Monday, February 6, 2017

When Monarchs Lost Power

When people think of when traditional monarchy was replaced with largely ceremonial monarchy most tend to set World War I as the time when everything changed. As usual, this is true to some extent but not universally so. World War I impacted monarchy a great deal in that it saw the downfall of three major monarchies in which monarchs still ruled, namely Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. The German Empire was a constitutional monarchy but one in which the government answered to the Kaiser and not to the public. In Austria-Hungary the situation was, of course, more complex but the Kaiser still had, more or less, a dominant position and more power than anyone else. The Russian Empire was the last absolute monarchy among the major powers and though, since the Russo-Japanese War, had taken the first tentative steps towards constitutional government, was still effectively an absolute monarchy in which the Czar appointed who he pleased to high office and could close down the Duma whenever he wished. In those cases, the war meant not only a loss of power but the loss of the monarchy entirely.

The other major and quite old monarchy to be brought down by World War I was the Ottoman Empire of Turkey. However, while it did survive the war briefly, in fact the Sultan had already lost power before the conflict began. Sultan Abdul Hamid II was the last Turkish monarch to really rule his empire. In 1908 he was forced to give up his power and the following year was deposed entirely, replaced by Mehmed V who was effectively a figurehead for the “Young Turks” who actually ruled the empire. In Greece, King Constantine I was brought down by a pro-Allied coup and replaced by King Alexander who was also little more than a figurehead but when a monkey bite cost him his life, King Constantine was restored. Greek monarchs continued to be power players for about as long as the monarchy existed. No other country had such an ‘on again, off again’ relationship with their monarchs as Greece. For most of the monarchs who survived World War I, their fortunes varied from case to case. Some emerged from the conflict stronger, others weaker.

At the end of World War I, the King of Italy was actually one of the most powerful monarchs in Europe, due to the fact that the original constitution of Italy was rather vague and reserved considerable powers to the King. It also made a difference that King Victor Emmanuel III was not a man who relished involvement in politics. He disliked stepping in and generally did so only when the politicians could not sort things out for themselves. So, when no liberal politician was prepared to take responsibility for the disastrous state of affairs in the country, he appointed Benito Mussolini to power. Despite the changes brought about by the Fascist regime, it was still the King who was the only one able to dismiss Mussolini from office in 1943. His power drastically declined after that, due to the situation of World War II at the time but the Italian monarchy had only a few more years of life left to it in any event. For Italy, as with some others, the King mattered a great deal right up until the point where he ceased to matter at all because he ceased to be King.

In the Low Countries, no monarch emerged stronger from the war than King Albert I of the Belgians. Although starting out as a limited, popular monarchy, King Leopold I had astutely mastered his politicians to be the indispensable man of his time in his country. His son, King Leopold II, was not so respected but almost always managed to get what he wanted, even if he had to bypass his government and do things for himself. King Albert I, on the other hand, had considerable influence due to his personal popularity. He was nothing like his uncle Leopold II and his heroic stand in World War I made him an international celebrity. World War II would prove the more decisive conflict for the Belgian monarchy. King Leopold III had hoped to use the disaster as an opportunity to correct many problems but he was quite wrongly and quite unjustly vilified for remaining in Belgium during the war and ultimately lost his throne as a result. His son and successor, King Baudouin, exerted considerable influence because of his personal popularity but he would be the last Belgian monarch to do so to date.

The fate that befell King Leopold III of the Belgians in World War II was somewhat similar to that which befell Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide of Luxembourg in World War I. She had been a monarch with rather robust powers and who played a prominent part in the government of her country. However, her decision to remain in Luxembourg during World War I when the country was under German occupation resulted in a considerable backlash that almost saw Luxembourg deprived of its independence by the victorious Allied nations and which almost brought down the monarchy in Luxembourg itself. Grand Duchess Charlotte gained considerable prestige for going into exile during World War II and standing for resistance to the German occupation (and indeed annexation of Luxembourg) but no monarch would ever be quite so influential again as had been the case prior to World War I. In recent years the Grand Duke Henri voluntarily gave up having any significant part in government due to his unwillingness to be a participant in certain actions by the government which violated Catholic moral teaching so that today the monarchy of Luxembourg is effectively ceremonial.

For the Netherlands, the original Kingdom of the United Netherlands had effectively been an absolute monarchy. However, before the end of his life King Willem I abdicated due to the determination of the political class to lessen, if only slightly, his royal powers. The real change came in 1848, the year revolution swept across most of Europe. The Netherlands, however, was mostly untouched by the tumult because King Willem II decided to get out in front of it and willingly adopt a new constitution that made the Netherlands a limited, parliamentary monarchy. Nonetheless, the King was still an integral part of government and retained considerable influence. This was lessened during the First World War, though the Dutch were neutral, with the expansion of democracy in 1917, lessening the share of power for the monarchy. King Willem III had been able to master or at least intimidate his officials to be the dominant force in the governing of the Netherlands and even after 1917 his daughter Queen Wilhelmina was able to have considerable influence due to her popularity and her strong will. World War II saw quite a lot of tension between the Queen and her government-in-exile but the Queen invariably prevailed. However, the loss of the Dutch empire in the aftermath meant the loss of Dutch influence on the world stage and no Dutch monarch ever had quite so much influence after that point. However, it is worth noting that the Dutch monarch does still retain a role in government and more influence than most may realize, partly due to popularity and partly due to being longstanding stockholders of the Royal Dutch / Shell Group, in the past owning 25% of the stock. It is much less now but would still cause them to be a family that "mattered" whether they had a kingdom of their own or not.

In Scandinavia, the monarchies of northern Europe took no part in World War I but were all very much impacted by World War II. In the Kingdom of Denmark, most venerable of all western monarchies, King Christian X exerted considerably more influence than his successors have. He was a very popular and highly respected figure, particularly because of his actions during the war years and yet he had already been obliged to surrender most of his royal authority during the inter-war period. In 1920 King Christian X had been able to dismiss the elected cabinet because he disliked it and while his authority was upheld on this point, it caused a backlash that effectively subordinated the Crown to the democratic process, his later popularity from the World War II years notwithstanding. Denmark had only become a constitutional monarchy in 1849 and prior to the crisis of 1920 the monarch, while forced to work with parliament, still had the most prominent role in national affairs. In the neighboring Kingdom of Norway, recently separated from Sweden, the monarchy was more limited from the outset. King Haakon VII was able to exert some influence but this evaporated after World War II with his failing health. His son, King Olav V, known as “the People’s King” was never one to clash with the elected government.

In Sweden, King Gustav V was the last monarch to intervene in politics over his insistence that Sweden strengthen itself in the event of World War I spreading to Scandinavia. The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused a spread of leftist politics in Europe and Sweden was not unaffected by this. The King tried to replace the outgoing government with another conservative one but found himself powerless to do so and forced to accept a succession of basically socialist governments afterwards. Seen as being sympathetic to the German Empire in the First World War he was also accused, though Sweden was neutral, of being sympathetic to Nazi Germany in World War II. These charges mostly come down to the fact that he preferred not to antagonize Hitler rather than risk the swift conquest and occupation of his country, which hardly seems out of order. In any event, no matter how unjustly, King Gustav V did see his reputation damaged because of World War II which meant that along with the loss of his political power, his personal influence fell away as well. Since that time the Swedish monarchy has been firmly restricted to a purely ceremonial role with no real part in government at all. Incredible as it sounds, the Swedish monarchy was most impacted by two world wars despite Sweden being neutral in both.

The French, of course, remained republican before, during and after both world wars. The last monarch to reign over France was Napoleon III who was, of course, the dominant figure in the Second French Empire but the last King to reign over France was King Louis Philippe. He was a constitutional monarch but still one in which he played an active role in government and making policy. That, of course, ended with his downfall and the end of the monarchy altogether.

In neighboring Spain, King Alfonso XIII was around for the First World War, though he lost his throne at the start of the decade that saw the outbreak of World War II. The powers of the Spanish monarchy had changed several times throughout history, from the change from the Habsburg style to the more absolutist Bourbon dynasty and then with the defeat of the Carlists from absolute to constitutional monarchy. However, King Alfonso XIII retained some powers and considerable influence throughout most of his reign. He had zealously pushed for the war in North Africa to conquer a new Spanish empire to compensate for the loss of the old one but this produced a great deal of public anger and, in the end, the King backed the dictatorship of the Marques de Estella. He was forced from power in 1930 and the King lost his throne in 1931. When the monarchy was restored with King Juan Carlos, the King inherited near absolute power from Generalissimo Franco but willingly became a constitutional monarch. However, because of his popularity from doing this, King Juan Carlos retained a great deal of influence until 2012 when he lost popularity so quickly and so dramatically that he felt obliged to abdicate, something he had never expected to do. Since then the monarchy has been largely ceremonial.

In the Kingdom of Portugal, which was destroyed prior to the First World War, the monarchy had shifted from absolutism to constitutional rule with the Liberal Wars of 1823 to 1834, the cause of absolute monarchy being defeated with King Miguel I but the monarch retained certain powers and continued to play an active role in national policy right up until the overthrow of the last King of Portugal, Manuel II, in 1910.

For Portugal’s most long-standing ally, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and (Northern) Ireland, the world wars also did not have a significant impact on royal authority. The power of the monarchy had shifted in both directions over the centuries but certainly a major change came with the Revolution of 1688 and later with the throne passing to the House of Hanover when the prime ministerial office first took shape as the leader of the British government. That looked to be set to shift back again in the opposite direction under King George III but his decline and need for a regency, caused the trend to continue and the British monarchy became firmly set as one which reigns but does not rule. The world wars had no appreciable impact other than a scare with the rise of radical leftist agitation at the end of World War I and in the inter-war years when, along with his choice of wife, many feared that King Edward VIII intended to play a more active role in the government of his country than was the norm for British monarchs, something which helped force his abdication and replacement by King George VI who was reliably committed to the constitutional set up as it was. However, one can still see a considerable loss in influence coinciding with the loss of the British Empire for the monarchy which was to a large extent caused by World War II.

Finally, though, we have one area which is often overlooked but which provides a rather dramatic example of monarchs becoming more powerful rather than less so during the interval between the world wars and that was in the Balkan monarchies of Bulgaria, Romania and the post-World War I Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Although starting out as a constitutional monarchy, cobbled together from the southern provinces of Austria-Hungary after World War I and under the Serbian Royal Family, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia saw a dramatic change fairly early in life. On January 6, 1921 King Alexander I dissolved the constitution and ruled the country himself for the rest of his life in what was termed, rather critically, the, “January Sixth Dictatorship”. He worked to centralize power, tried to force together the various nationalities into a new Yugoslav national identity and as part of that it was he who changed the name of the country from the rather wordy title of “The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes” to simply, “The Kingdom of Yugoslavia” or the southern Slavs. In 1931 he moved to enact a new constitution but one which still reserved primary power to the Crown, though he was assassinated in 1934 and as a result of World War II, that constitutional arrangement would not last long.

Something similar happened in the Kingdom of Romania. Upon his death in 1927, King Ferdinand was succeeded by his grandson King Michael who was, of course, a child who could not exercise power. However, in 1930, his father, Crown Prince Carol, returned to his homeland and seized power as King Carol II. He began a campaign which he referred to as a “national renaissance” with a focus on reviving Romanian nationalism, devotion to the monarchy and national regimentation. With their uniforms, berets and Roman salutes, many observers referred to this as a sort of fascistic royal dictatorship. Absolute monarchy was being revived in Romania under King Carol II. Because the political situation had been so chaotic, King Carol II was able to use the royal emergency powers to enact a new constitution which effectively made him an absolute monarch in all but name. However, Carol II tended not to be too persistent and he soon handed over most of the duties of government to General Ion Antonescu in 1940. With the outbreak of World War II, the Romanian monarchy became imperiled as the Nazi leadership in Germany did not like King Carol II. When they started to conspire with Antonescu the King ordered the arrest of the general but was then overthrown in a coup and replaced by his son, King Michael, who was restored to his former throne. He was not allowed to rule but did seize power when he overthrew the pro-Axis government in 1944 but that, of course, did not last long as by the following year the Soviets had occupied Romania and the monarchy was soon destroyed.

The Kingdom of Bulgaria saw a similar revival of royal power in the inter-war years as in Yugoslavia and Romania. King Boris III came to the throne after the Bulgarian defeat in World War I saw King Ferdinand being forced to abdicate. There was unrest, threats of revolution and a deluge of assassinations but King Boris III handled the situation adeptly. In 1934 a coup established a short-lived military dictatorship but in 1935 Boris III organized a successful, royalist, counter-coup that resulted in a new prime minister who, along with his successor in office, with both loyal royalists who could be counted on to govern in accordance with the wishes of King Boris III. He was the man in charge in Bulgaria and everyone knew it. Boris III banned dissident political parties, made a royal marriage alliance with the Kingdom of Italy and reconciled with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In short, he was ruling and ruling rather well. World War II, however, changed everything. Bulgaria joined the Axis powers but refused to participate in the war with Soviet Russia. Hitler was outraged and after a fiery meeting with the Nazi Fuhrer, King Boris III died under mysterious circumstances. Succeeded by his son, King Simeon II, the child monarch naturally could not rule and the end of World War II brought a swift end to the Bulgarian monarchy so that he never had the opportunity, though he would later govern the country as elected prime minister.

So, as we can see, World War I had a major impact on the power of kings but only in certain countries. For others, World War II was the pivotal conflict and for others, neither had all that much to do with their ultimate overthrow or loss of power to elected politicians. The years between the wars saw some of the most dramatic changes; the King of Spain lost his throne, the King of Denmark lost his power while the Kings of Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia saw themselves empowered to the point of practically becoming absolute monarchs. The purely ceremonial monarchies of today are a rather recent innovation when one takes the broad view and, as was seen in the recent Supreme Court case involving Britain leaving the European Union, we are reminded that monarchs today, such as the British monarch, often still retain considerable power and authority but are simply not allowed to exercise it. Given how chaotic politics is becoming these days, I would say it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that a monarch who acts to put himself (or herself) at the forefront of a campaign for national revival in a time of emergency might be able to reverse this recent trend. However, whether any would and whether the situation develops in a way that would be conducive to it, is anyone’s guess.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Liberal Hypocrisy on Display

This is a subject I have addressed before, not without some hesitation because one could easily have enough material to do this and nothing else but recent events have prompted me to address, yet again, the subject of liberal hypocrisy. I often say that liberals are “proving Mussolini right” which a few people usually misunderstand, probably because they do not know what I am referring to. Right about what? Those of you who are regular readers will probably know but for those who do not, I will briefly summarize. In the past I have pointed out how Mussolini, at the end of his career, predicted that Fascism would revive when the people realized that the liberals were hypocrites who loved to talk about freedom but only really believed in freedom for themselves, freedom for people who thought as they do. In other words, validating what he had frequently said about liberals and why they were ideological enemies of Fascism and why there could be no compromise between liberalism and Fascism. One memorable quote of his was that, “The liberal state is a mask behind which there is no face, it is a scaffolding behind which there is no building” and, increasingly every day it often seems, that mask, that scaffolding, is falling away to reveal the falseness of the liberal position.

Just as important, to my mind, as what is being proven is who is proving it. It is the left-wing liberals, the people who call themselves “Antifa” or anti-fascist who are doing this. Doing it, in fact, so perfectly that one would be forgiven for thinking they wake up every morning and ask themselves how they can prove Mussolini right today. The liberals, not Mussolini, are the subject at issue here. You can take Fascism or leave it but Mussolini made no secret of the fact that he was a totalitarian, that he despised democracy and egalitarianism while the liberals constantly claimed to champion things like democracy, civil liberties, equality and so on while actually, according to Mussolini, being just as authoritarian as he was, they simply were not so honest about it and wished to use their power to go in a very different direction from where he wanted to go. This was the mentality behind his adamant belief that there could never be any compromise or working together between liberalism and Fascism because each were just as committed to suppressing the other. As Mussolini said, “…either we or they, either their ideas or ours, either our State or theirs!”

Today we see all of this being proven correct, by the liberal left, on a daily basis. In the very liberal country of Canada, a man in Montreal was recently arrested for saying unflattering things about Muslims on the internet. That very same evening, in the very liberal American state of California, violent riots broke out to shut down a speech by a Trump supporter. The following evening there was also violence in New York for the exact same reason. In Europe you have people who claim to be liberals supporting laws against Holocaust denial, people who claim to be liberals actively thwarting democracy when the results go against the European Union project and you have people who claim to be liberals screaming about misogyny and homophobia when done (or allegedly done) by one type of people but either ignoring it or even making excuses for it when done by another type of people. What happened to equality? The slightest talk of having laws which support Christian morality are swiftly condemned by liberal countries but many of these same countries openly allow for segments of their populations to be governed according to Islamic law with no worries or warnings about theocracy. What happened to freedom of religion?

None of this, however, should come as any great surprise to those of us who are adherents of traditional authority. This is the primary point I wish to make. We have seen this from the very beginning. We saw it when the supposedly liberty-loving French revolutionaries made it their business to massacre anyone who opposed the revolution. The same people who condemned anyone being privileged because of who their parents were had no hesitation to torture and starve to death the innocent, little Dauphin simply because of who his parents were. These people have been rank hypocrites from the very start and it should come as no surprise that they have never truly changed their ways. They can talk a good game when they are untroubled, but let the slightest hint of danger appear and they immediately become as tyrannical as they always accuse their opponents of being.

At the very core of their ideology is supposed to be the “power of the people”. They pride themselves on how democratic they are. They love democracy so much they will fight for it, die for it and kill other people to force them to accept it! The underpinning of this is that the people, or the majority of the people anyway, are always or at least almost always right. Yet, in the United States, for example, it was not enough to let the people in each state decide whether they would allow abortion or recognize gay “marriage” since, after all, some states chose not to. So, the liberal left had to turn to nine un-elected judges on the Supreme Court to force the entire country to do what the liberal left thought was right. One could, of course, argue that this is not so important as deciding how and by whom you are ruled which, we are told, is the ultimate goal and ultimate good of liberalism, of the concept of democratic republics. Yet, here too, we ourselves have seen liberal hypocrisy on display from ‘day one’. If the whole point of having a democratic republic is to allow the people to choose how they are governed, why is it that democratic republics such as France or Germany or Italy all forbid the people from choosing to be governed by a monarchy?

Surely anyone must be able to see how fraudulent the liberals are on this point. They crow about how in their system it is “the people” who choose how they are governed and who it is who governs them and yet, in numerous republics, one choice was taken off the table and forbidden at the outset. Does this not reveal a glaring betrayal of their own professed principles? Imagine if you went to a restaurant that boasted of having an unlimited menu, you can order anything that you like and it will be made to your satisfaction only to then be told that there are certain dishes you are forbidden to order. The menu isn’t really unlimited then, is it? Liberals say they trust the people to choose their own leaders but start by telling them that are not trusted enough to be allowed to choose their former monarch. In some republics, monarchists are refused to campaign as a political party. Communists who think Joseph Stalin was a great guy are free to participate but not those horrible people who want their king back. Today, of course, people are not so concerned as they used to be as they have resurrected fascism, national socialism or, in an extremely ironic twist, populism as the terrifying bogeymen threatening to destroy the liberal world order as we know it. However, if counterrevolutionaries were making similar gains, they would fall back to their old paranoia soon enough and some countries still have laws on the books banning such efforts.

It says something about the true feelings of the liberals, about their doubts concerning their own utopian world view. “The people can choose any government they like! You know, except for that one…” which was monarchy. It was once practically standard procedure to not only make it illegal to restore the monarchy, illegal to campaign for it but they would usually go even further and expel their former royals from their own countries (and that when they didn’t simply murder them). As late in the game as World War I the Bourbon-Parma brothers Prince Sixtus and Prince Xavier, devoted to the cause of France and the Allies, tried to join the French army but were forbidden because they were members of the Bourbon dynasty, even though it was a fairly remote junior branch that had been farmed out to rule a patch of conquered Italy and not France itself. No, the French Republic considered these two young men too great a threat to allow them to defend the soil of their ancestors, at least while wearing a French uniform and so they instead joined the Belgian army whose King was rather more accepting of any help he could get.

Until 2002 the family of the last King of Italy was not allowed to set foot on Italian soil. They had been exiled and had all their property confiscated after the clearly fraudulent referendum that made Italy a republic in 1946. When, in 2002, the Savoy royals were finally allowed back in to their homeland, it was only after Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, renounced his claim to the Italian throne. The Italian Republic has always justified this by effectively blaming the House of Savoy for Mussolini coming to power. However, oddly enough, they never exiled or barred from politics anyone of the Mussolini family and, in fact, a granddaughter, Alessandra Mussolini, is still a prominent politician and MEP today. Of course, if the Italian government were to ban Alessandra Mussolini from holding office, that too would be a violation of their own stated principles and should not happen but the fact that it was never an issue shows how unjust and false the justification for banning the Savoy royals was.

The son of the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, Archduke Otto, got involved in politics after World War II but was banned from his native Austria because of his royal ancestry. After World War II the Austrian republic repealed all the laws of the hated Nazis, except for those which banned the Habsburgs and confiscated all of their property. They thought the Nazis were right on when it came to that family. In order to gain Austrian citizenship, in 1961 Archduke Otto was obliged to pledge his allegiance to the republic and later to go even further and renounce all his titles and claims to the Austrian throne, something he later described as an “infamy”. Even then, socialist opposition was so strong it was several more years before he was actually able to obtain a passport and visit Austria in 1966. Think just for a moment about the fact that the Austrian republic today is adamant that any pitiful, wandering stranger from any far flung corner of Africa, Arabia or Asia has a right to come to Austria and live but for decades refused to allow into the country a man who was born in Austria simply because, for a brief few years, his father had been Kaiser. He could only return to his native country if he renounced his birthright and agreed to refrain from campaigning for the restoration of the monarchy. In other words, he could play the game of politics but only so long as he played for any team but his own.

Again, this is not all that uncommon, even though most do not think about it. Several years ago the German High Court ruled that changing the constitution to make Germany a monarchy rather than a republic would be illegal, no matter if every single voting adult in Germany wished for this to be so. Even democrats believe democracy has its limits it seems. The Germans, of course, are a rather unique case and could be a major contender for having the most hypocritical political establishment in the world. While prattling on about freedom they ban political parties, ban certain speech, ban certain public assemblies all depending on what is politically fashionable, politically incorrect or which might threaten the ruling political establishment. So far, they have yet to ban any monarchist organizations because, frankly, they have posed no serious threat. However, they are perfectly capable of doing so should that ever change. They seem to have very little trust in the German people and very little confidence in their own ideology given that they regard it as too fragile to withstand competition from fundamentally opposing viewpoints.

So, yes, the liberals are showing themselves to be colossal hypocrites. They suppress speech they don’t like, the overrule the public when a vote does not go their way, they riot and vandalize when they lose, demanding the rules be changed to let them win. The world is seeing it now on full display, practically on a daily basis. For those of us who believe in traditional authority, those of us who never bought into their utopia in the first place, those of us who believe that blood is thicker than ballot paper, this is no surprise. After all, they came for us first.
"Yes, the children can choose any dessert they like. They can choose apple pie or cherry pie."
"What if they don't want pie? What if they want cake?"
"Oh, God no! We would never let them eat cake... 
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