Tuesday, March 28, 2017

RIP Infanta Alicia (1917-2017)

RIP Infanta Alicia, Duchess of Calabria (1917-2017). I had hoped she would make her 100th birthday on 13 November but it was not to be. Extremely significant genealogically, she was the heiress of the Kings of Navarre as well as of Edward the Confessor and David I of Scotland, a distinction now born by her grandson Pedro Duke of Noto (b 1968) as her son Carlos (1938-2015) predeceased her. Daughter of Elias Duke of Parma (1880-1959) and Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria (1882-1940), she married Infante Alfonso Duke of Calabria (1901-1964), nephew and onetime heir presumptive (1904-07) of King Alfonso XIII who after 1960 was one of the two claimants to the throne of the Two Sicilies. In addition to the late Carlos they had two daughters, who survive her.

Born in Austria-Hungary when her similarly long-lived aunt Zita (1892-1989) was still its Empress, Infanta Alicia had been the oldest living member of any European royal family (possibly any). With her death there are no more royals born before the end of World War I; I believe the comparatively obscure Duchess Woizlawa of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Princess Reuss (b 17 December 1918) is now the oldest.

May she rest in peace. Condolences to the Bourbon family.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Europe of 1517

Inspired by Carlos, Rey Emperador, here is the earliest pictorial chart I've made: European Monarchies exactly 500 years ago, 1517, which happens to be when the show starts. No one had heard of a German monk named Martin Luther, though that would soon change. (Thanks to Jonathan Bennett for help with some details.) It's interesting to notice that if I were alive 500 years ago at my present age (38), I would already be older than most of Europe's leading sovereigns.

Unsurprisingly, appropriate pictures of the youngest children named were unavailable. In some cases I could not determine who the heir to the throne would have been at that time. The Papacy, the Empire, and Bohemia & Hungary were elective monarchies so there was no automatic heir as such (though as we see in the show, young King Carlos was assumed by many to be the rightful heir to his paternal grandfather Maximilian I). France and Scotland were hereditary, but while François I and James V both fathered heirs eventually, they hadn't been born yet in 1517, and neither king had younger brothers.

The Swedish throne was vacant, with the kingdom ruled by Regent Sten Sture the Younger (1493-1520); I elected not to include him since I did not include other rulers whose rank was lower than King. Gustaf I Vasa would fully reestablish the Swedish monarchy, never again to be joined with Denmark's, in 1523.

Needless to say, despite (as an Anglican and Bach fan) not having an entirely negative view of the Reformation (though I think I'm more critical of it than the Vatican is these days), I much prefer this European political, religious, and cultural order to the present one. One can't miss modern conveniences, even Blogger, if one has never known them. "I" hopefully would have been some sort of court musician (though the cello hadn't been invented yet) or perhaps a priest, even a bishop (the arts-patronising kind, of course).

One of the interesting things I learned looking up 16th century royalty: the present Princess Isabella of Denmark (b 2007) was named after her distant ancestor Queen Isabella (1501-1526), teenage bride of King Christian II (1481-1559) and sister of none other than our friend Emperor Charles V. Oddly, since Christian II was deposed in 1523 and succeeded by his uncle Frederik I, no descendant of theirs occupied the Danish throne until 1912, but all Danish monarchs since then have been their descendants.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Century Without A Tsar


I once dared to hope this day would never come, yet now it has. With the 100th anniversary of the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II (whose brother Michael's purported ephemeral "reign" thereafter had no legal foundation), Russia has now gone a full century without its Monarchy. No republican regime can ever fill the void that was opened that dark day. For those of us for whom the fall of Communism in 1989-91 rekindled hopes of royal restoration in Russia and Eastern Europe, this lamentable anniversary is a bitter pill to swallow indeed. As Nicholas wrote in his diary at the end of the day, "All around me I see treason, cowardice, and deceit." Holy Romanov Passion Bearers, pray for us!

With a heavy heart, I have removed Russia from my chart of European monarchies as they were a hundred years ago. Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Montenegro didn't have much longer, and many of the borders shown on the 1914 map no longer meant much. 

Alas, the present "Time of Troubles," now a whole century, has lasted far longer than the original (1605-13). 🇷🇺 May the throne one day again be filled!

One thing I get tired of hearing these days is that politics globally have suddenly become "crazy," as if everything were sort of OK until about a couple years go. By my standards politics have now been crazy for a hundred years. Every day that Russia, Germany, and Austria exist without their traditional hereditary monarchies is an outrage. If more people on both sides of the Atlantic are waking up to the fact that something is terribly wrong with modern liberalism, that could be a good thing, but there is no real solution other than Altar and Throne. I categorically reject what Mussolini said about how the Right cannot attempt to turn back the clock. Nothing else is acceptable. I want the 20th century repealed. If that condemns me to political irrelevance, so be it. I know I'm right, and if the entire world disagrees, the entire world is wrong.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monarchical Republics?

A pet peeve of mine is when people say that the United States, France, or Russia (three very different republics but all with a strong presidency) are still in some way "monarchical," because the President, the head of state, has a lot of power. No. No no no no no. Monarchy is not about one man having a lot of power. Monarchy is about so many other things: Tradition, Inheritance (the existence of non-hereditary monarchies does not mean that inheritance should be dismissed as irrelevant: most elective monarchies have had some sort of hereditary component to the process), Sovereignty being nominally vested in a person (whether or not that person actually wields power) who did not normally seek the office and is separate from the political process, Titles and Terminology, Aesthetics and Philosophy. 

How much power the head of state holds in practice is completely irrelevant to the question of whether a government is monarchical or republican. A Monarch can be "absolute," serving as both head of state and head of government, or "constitutional," with a stronger (but formally subordinate) elected head of government; both kinds of monarchies are real monarchies. A Republic can have a strong president (like the three examples mentioned) with either a relatively weak (France, Russia) or no (USA) prime minister, or a ceremonial president (which I personally think is pretty much the stupidest thing ever) and a strong prime minister (or chancellor), like Germany or Italy; both kinds of republics are real republics. I wish everyone who writes about these topics could at least agree on terminology.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (1870-2017)

I loved the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when we went many years ago in Indianapolis. I think I had one of their posters on my bedroom wall for awhile as a boy. This is a melancholy article that arguably reflects a lot of what is wrong with our time, though I say that fully aware of the irony that I'm now as susceptible to the lure of smartphones and the internet (though not some of the other rivals mentioned) as any 21st-century kid. I suppose the animal rights activists will be happy: they finally got their way.

One hundred forty-six years (referring to the 1870 foundation of "P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome" in Delavan, Wisconsin), stretching back to the last year when even France still had a monarchy, is quite a run. I don't think the circus ever quite stopped echoing the spirit of an era when American entertainers would boast of having performed for "The Crowned Heads of Europe," and circus performers often formed "dynasties," with several generations of the same families carrying on the tradition. Like Disney, the circus was a thoroughly American institution that a monarchist could nevertheless appreciate. Now I wish I'd seen it again more recently.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Who cares about Presidents?

Apparently someone named Mario Soares who used to call himself President of Portugal (whatever that is) died. I suppose it is good to offer prayers for his soul, since he'll certainly need them. But what I can't stand in the coverage is the ubiquitous assumption that the Salazar regime was Bad because it was Not Democratic while the current government is Good because it is Democratic. No. Democracy is at best a tolerable means to an end, but there is nothing inherently good about it. By my standards both the Salazar regime (though it did some good things) and the present republic are bad, because neither one is the Monarchy that shaped Portugal and was integral to its civilisation from its beginnings in 1139 until 1910. Only the Kingdom can be good for Portugal, because only the Kingdom can represent continuity rather than rupture with the glorious past. Only the Kingdom could provide a head of state who represents unity rather than division. Viva o Rei!

As the illegitimate regimes of Portugal and Iran both insist on mourning former presidents, here's a friendly reminder of who those countries' rightful rulers are. Viva o Rei! Javid Shah!





Portugal and Iran are interesting to contemplate together, because chronologically they constitute "bookends" of by far the worst seven decades in the history of Monarchy. While the idea of replacing a longstanding monarchy with a republic, though often claimed to be "modern," had actually been around since ancient Rome (509 BC), prior to 1910 "successful" attempts other than the French Revolution (itself not really consolidated in France for nearly a century) were rare. One thinks of the tragic cases of Brazil (1889) and Hawaii (1893), but that was about it, apart from failures of short-lived monarchical experiments (e.g. Haiti, Mexico) and numerous anti-colonial rebellions in the Americas that did not displace reigning monarchs at home in Europe. And since 1979, the world's remaining monarchies have seemed fairly secure, and for the most part are probably likely to remain so, Nepal being the main exception (let's hope there will be no others).

But by the time of my first birthday, the damage had been done: between 1910 and 1979, which is to say within less than an average modern Western human lifespan, monarchies in the Eastern Hemisphere fell every few years, transforming half of the globe from a world in which Monarchy was very much the norm (France, Switzerland, San Marino, and Liberia being originally the only exceptions) to one in which it is sadly very much the exception and republics (whether democratic or authoritarian) are widely assumed by Left and "Right" alike to be the "default" form of government. We must live in hope that the errors of those catastrophic seven decades may one day be reversed.





Monday, January 2, 2017

Anniversaries 2017

This year features many major round-numbered anniversaries, most of them bad. Going backwards, we have the 50th of the colonels' coup in Greece and King Constantine's subsequent unsuccessful counter-coup which led to his exile and the eventual fall of the monarchy, obviously the 100th of the Russian Revolution (both of them), and the 150th of the regicide of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. For my Roman Catholic friends, the 100th of Fatima can be celebrated but the 300th of the founding of the Grand Lodge of London and the 500th of Luther's revolt (about which I'm ambivalent myself) will be more sinister occasions.

On the bright side, we can celebrate the 150th anniversaries of Canadian confederation and of the Austro-Hungarian compromise that created the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as the anniversaries of the births of two of my favourite royal women in European history, Queen Frederica of Greece (1917-1981) and Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780). This summer will also see the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the House of Windsor (formerly known as Saxe-Coburg & Gotha) in the United Kingdom.