Thursday, February 22, 2024

Frederick III and William II

My friend Christina Croft (author of The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II) has written an excellent rebuttal to the frequently regurgitated myth (common in discussions of 19th-century royal history) that "if only Kaiser Friedrich III (1831-1888) had lived longer, World War I would have been prevented." I think many years ago I used to believe this myself, as it is the impression one can get from some superficial reading, until I learned better. Writers in English on royal history have tended to be myopically pro-"Fritz" and anti-Wilhelm, determined to paint the former as a dovish liberal and the latter as a hawkish reactionary, when the truth was more complex. Of course, no counterfactual proposition (and I think about counterfactual history a lot) can ever be either proved or disproved, but there are substantial reasons _not_ to believe in this particular one. None of this is to deny that Frederick III's death at 56 from throat cancer after a reign of only 90 days was a personal tragedy for his family, especially his wife Victoria, but it is unrealistic and unhelpful to blame the events of 26 years later on it or on his son. With Christina's permission I reproduce her comments here.

"This is a complete myth for so many reasons and it stems from the usual thing of making Fritz into a hero and Wilhelm into a villain. Neither man was a saint and neither was a villain - they were both just doing what they thought was right. Here are just a few reasons why Fritz would not have prevented war:

Firstly, it suggests that kings/emperors were responsible for the war - they were not. The politicians and the press brought about the war.

Secondly, the King of Prussia might have been an autocrat but the German Emperor was not and so it would be impossible for a German Emperor to cause (or prevent) a war single-handedly.

Thirdly - there is a misconception that Fritz was far more liberal than Wilhelm was. This is not the case - Wilhelm was praised by socialists across Europe (including the extremely radical George Bernard Shaw and the Germano-phobic French socialists) because of his genuine concern for workers and their rights. Fritz, on the other hand, had no direct contact with workers as Wilhelm did and he was out of touch with them. A contemporary German diarist wrote of Fritz: "He intended to rule with and for the bourgeoisie, and is thrown into perplexity by the more rapid emergence of the workers."

Fourthly, Fritz fought in 3 wars. Wilhelm (who is wrongly labelled a warmonger) maintained peace for 25 years. [Added by TRH: in 1913 on the 25th anniversary of his accession, the New York Times, not exactly a bastion of monarchism, effusively praised Kaiser Wilhelm II for his then-seemingly-successful efforts to preserve the peace in Europe.]

Fifthly - People say Fritz would have maintained good relations with Britain. In fact, when Queen Victoria asked him to treat the defeated states in the Austro-Prussian War more leniently, Fritz basically said it was not Britain's business and he would always put Prussia first. Wilhelm, on the other hand, repeatedly tried to form an alliance with Britain.

Sixthly, Fritz was so Russophobic that he was asked not to go to the coronation of Tsar Alexander III for fear that he would make trouble. Wilhelm wanted to befriend the Tsar.

Seventhly, Fritz was an authoritarian. When the German states were reluctant to join the unification, he said they must be FORCED to join and he deceived Ludwig II of Bavaria about it (in fact the Bavarians hated him for it).

Eighthly, apart from anything else, Fritz would have been 83 in 1914.

I could go on..."


Thursday, February 15, 2024

A rant...

 ...that would probably cause too much trouble if I actually put it on Facebook so I'm putting it here since hardly anyone reads my blog anymore anyway.

Just so you know, no one on either side of the fake American political spectrum is ever going to get anywhere with me by appealing to Democracy. I hate Democracy. And I will not be voting for either of those two annoying old men and there is nothing you can say to change my mind.

Democracy means accepting that wicked parties like the Scottish National Party and Sinn Fein can hold office. I don't accept that. I hate them. I don't like it that I have to put up with whatever the majority of voters in any part of the United Kingdom decide and I never get a say. I know more and care more about British history than most people in Britain. I have British flags and decor all over my home including a portrait of HM The King over the fireplace. I should get my way, not stupid people who live there and think that Sadiq Khan's idiotic new London Overground names are acceptable.

I am mildly on the autistic spectrum (in case you haven't figured that out) and the British Monarchy is my Special Interest and I do not accept that anyone in the UK has the right to try to take it away from me, ever, just because they live there and I don't. I don't give a damn about republicans' "human rights." Anti-monarchists are garbage and I am not ashamed of how much I hate them because I know God hates them too. If that makes me selfish and evil so be it. At least I'm not a republican. There is nothing worse than being a small-r republican.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Peace, Goodwill, and Harmony: On King Charles' Christmas Speech

Very few published commentators (Rod Dreher in 2012 was another) understand King Charles. But I think this one does.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Queen Elizabeth II, one year on

Today we remember the one and only Queen Elizabeth II on the first anniversary of her death.

I remember waking up a year ago to the news that she was under medical supervision at Balmoral. I posted the 1662 BCP prayer for the Sovereign. Actually she had probably already passed away by then, and being frequently online I saw the news a few hours later as soon as The Royal Family page posted it. Stunned and shaken, I didn’t cry yet, though I would later.

Queen Elizabeth II had seemed eternal. An institution in her own right who had been on the throne since my parents were little children. Old enough to remember the difficult 1990s, I saw her grow more radiant and joyous as she aged, as if the fairytale lustre of the young Queen had somehow been magnified in a different way. There was something so comforting about images of the Queen. While not “ruling” as her ancestors did, she was a benign authority figure not only for her official subjects in 15 countries, but also for those of us in other countries who looked to her as the sentimental focus of our earthly allegiance, a far more satisfactory head of state than any president could ever be.

One paradox of Queen Elizabeth II was that she was simultaneously both timeless and of her time, a living link to a very different past yet surprisingly adaptable, letting her delightful mischievous sense of humour show more as she aged as seen in the 2012 Olympics and 2022 Jubilee videos.

Occasionally tabloids would claim that the Queen was “furious” over some real or alleged “violation of protocol.” But that wasn’t who she was at all. To the contrary her grandson Prince William said in an interview that she loved it when something went wrong at official occasions so that she and Prince Philip could laugh about it later.

While she had access to grand palaces suitable for the performance of her duties, her private tastes were simple, less grand than many celebrities. She kept leftover cereal in Tupperware, put on a sweater rather than turning up the heat, and was never happier than when in the countryside with her dogs and horses. Now she is in a different and better countryside where there is no more duty, only joy.

We miss her. I miss her. But the Monarchy to which she devoted her life continues under the different but equally dutiful stewardship of her son and successor King Charles, who I have long admired in his own right. The best way to honour her memory is to support him as he serves what are now his realms and to emulate her devotion to duty in our own lives, whatever our duties may be, in my case to the Symphony.

Unlike so many people, I never got to meet her, though at least I saw her in person a few times. But I like to think she knew how many millions of people loved her, even if it was surprising for her in her humility, and she knows even more fully now. Remember the Queen. God Save the King. 🇬🇧

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Musicians and Monarchy

A lot of great figures in classical music have held political views diametrically opposed to mine. Beethoven's admiration of the "ideals" of the French Revolution is well known, though he had many aristocratic friends and patrons. Wagner, before he discovered that the support of the King of Bavaria could be useful to him, was a supporter of the Revolutions of 1848 and was a wanted man in Saxony for a time. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) disliked his former mentor Mily Balakirev's pious Orthodox monarchist conservatism, was critical of the Tsarist regime towards the end of his life, and sympathised with student protests against it. Conductor Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957), who according to Norman Lebrecht had only turned against Mussolini when it became clear that Mussolini would not abolish the Italian monarchy, said after World War II that he would not return to Italy as long as the House of Savoy were still reigning. Cellist Pablo Casals (1876-1973), despite having owed his early training to the generosity of Queen Maria Cristina (1858-1929), supported the Spanish Republic that ousted her son Alfonso XIII.

Of today's classical musicians, I've heard that one very well-known British conductor is privately a republican, though as he has made no public comments to that effect I won't name him here. The less said about a certain Australian conductor, the better. I hope that none of the British performers I admire are republicans.

In general I don't envy Soloists, who fly from hotel room to hotel room, and am happy to be an orchestral cellist. However, sometimes I wish I were prominent enough in classical music for my monarchist views to be Noticed.

But I can take comfort in the fact that Brahms, despite a youthful essay arguing that music should be "republican" in the sense of being accessible to all, was politically a staunch monarchist and once got very angry at a friend who had mocked the young Kaiser Wilhelm II. Haydn was a monarchist as well; the last music he played when he was dying in 1809, reportedly with great feeling, was his own Kaiserhymne. Verdi, near the end of his own life, was overcome with grief at the assassination of King Umberto I in 1900, wondering if his own 1859 opera "Un Ballo in Maschera" (inspired by the 1792 assassination of King Gustaf III of Sweden) could be in some way to blame. (It must be admitted that most Italians were probably rather more moved by Verdi's death the following year.) Brazilian composer Carlos Gomes (1836-1896) remained loyal to Emperor Pedro II after the 1889 coup and refused the new Republic's request to compose a new national anthem. Bruckner, a devout Catholic who was humbly moved to be decorated by Emperor Franz Joseph and considered moving to Mexico to serve his brother Emperor Maximilian, was a staunch monarchist. Perhaps more surprisingly, as an article in The Critic revealed, so were musical modernists Schoenberg and Stravinsky, who long after the Revolution never lost his reverence for the Russian Imperial Family. Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was famously pacifist, but as far as I know had no problem with the British Monarchy and counted Prince Ludwig of Hesse (1908-1968) & his wife and the Queen's cousin the Earl of Harewood (1923-2011) as friends.

I guess this just goes to show you that musicians can be all over the map politically!

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Jordanian Royal Wedding

On June 1, Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan married Rajwa Al Saif in Amman. Congratulations to the newlyweds! The Royal Hashemite Court has released this splendid photo of most of the distinguished guests. This article helped me identify almost everyone in the picture.

Front row: King Philippe of Belgium, Queen & King of Malaysia, First Lady & President of Iraq, Sultan of Brunei, King Abdullah, the Bride & Groom, Queen Rania, parents of the Bride Khalid al-Saif & Azza Al Sudairi, Queen Maxima & King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Queen Emerita Sofía & King Emeritus Juan Carlos of Spain.

Behind them, more or less left to right except when listing couples together:

Prince Sebastien of Luxembourg, Crown Prince Theyazin of Oman, Princess Beatrice of York, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Ilham Yassin (Queen Rania's mother), Princess Salma, Crown Prince Frederik & Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, between them Prince Hashem, Princess Takamodo of Japan, Former First Lady & Former President of Iraq, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Prince Mateen of Brunei, King Simeon & Queen Margarita of Bulgaria, Princess Elisabeth of Belgium Duchess of Brabant, US First Lady Jill Biden, Princess Muna (King Abdullah's mother), President & First Lady of Rwanda, Hereditary Princess & Prince of Liechtenstein, May Mikati & Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon, Sheika Mozha (in lime green) of Qatar, Princess & Prince of Wales, between them Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of Iraqi Kurdistan, Queen Jetsun Pema of Bhutan, Sheikha Muna Al-Klaib (in blue) of Kuwait, First Lady Philippa Karsera (in green) of Cyprus, Crown Princess Margareta & Prince Radu of Romania, Sheikh Ahmad Al Abdullah Al Sabah of Kuwait, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Princess Iman & Jameel Thermiotis, Princess Felicitas & Prince Johann Wenzel of Liechtenstein, Crown Princess Victoria & Prince Daniel of Sweden, Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands Princess of Orange.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Coronation of King Charles III

While I'm obviously no longer the frequent blogger I used to be, since I don't want this blog to be considered completely defunct, I can hardly ignore here the glorious historic Coronation of last Saturday 6 May (covered extensively on my social media), in which Charles III was crowned King of the United Kingdom in Westminster Abbey. I was of course up at 4:15 AM Dallas time to watch the event live on YouTube, following along in my printout of the liturgy, and with millions around the world was thrilled by the spectacle, the spiritual power of the occasion, and the music. As a Loyalist I joined enthusiastically in the Homage of the People. God Save the King!

I assume that readers (if I still have any) have by now seen plenty of Coronation coverage elsewhere, so I will not attempt to be comprehensive in this rather belated post. Instead, I wish to share some links to photo galleries, videos, and thoughtful articles (more or less in reverse chronological order of appearance, as is fitting for the blog format) that you might not have seen, as well as the official photographs taken in Buckingham Palace after the event.

Alexandra Wilson, Music fit for a king

Charles A. Coulombe, After the Crowning

Fr. Steve Rice, God Bless America, God Save the King

Zewditu Gebreyohanes, Britain is Lucky to Have a Monarch (Telegraph)

Benjamin Guyer, Charles III and Kenotic Monarchy
Ruth Dudley Edwards, Coronation of King Charles is a reminder...

John Martin Robinson, Coronation Diary

YouTube: The Coronation Weekend (Prince & Princess of Wales)

Saint Thomas Church: A Service of Thanksgiving for the Coronation of HM King Charles III

CNN: In pictures: the coronation of King Charles III
BBC: Extraordinary photos from King Charles III's Coronation

Mail on Sunday: If we heeded republican wails...

Daily Mail: The new Firm assembles

Paul Shakeshaft, Why a Coronation Matters

Sohrab Ahmani, Coronation is a ritual humiliation

Esmé Partridge, In Defense of the Philosopher King

Rebecca Mead, The Self-Justifying Philosophy of King Charles

Tom Holland, Our bronze age coronation rites seem to speak to a modern love of the sacred

Aris Roussinos, Britain Needs King Charles the Weird

The Critic: Crowning Moment

Anna Tyzack, What sort of man is King Charles, and what sort of king will he be? (2022)