Wednesday, November 30, 2011

King Leka I of the Albanians (1939-2011)

Crown Prince Leka of Albania, only son and heir of King Zog (1895-1961), died at 72 of a heart attack in Tirana. Leka, born shortly before the Italian Fascist invasion exiled him and his parents, and proclaimed "King of the Albanians" in exile after his father's death, led a colourful life that included two unsuccessful attempts to regain the throne after the fall of Communism. While his militant methods were somewhat unorthodox, I admire the fact that "King" Leka actually tried, unlike some heirs to defunct thrones who seem content to accept republicanism as permanent. His titular reign lasted fifty years and therefore would have been among the longest in European history.

I am sorry to learn of the de jure king's death, but even sorrier that as with all the Balkan countries the collapse of Communism has not been followed by a royal restoration. It's encouraging, however, that Albania's prime minister now admits that the 1997 referendum "cannot be considered a closed issue." Leka is succeeded as head of the Royal House of Albania by his only son Leka (II), now an orphan at 29 since his mother (the former Susan Cullen-Ward) died in 2004. Rest in Peace, Your Majesty.

Readers wishing to send condolences can do so at this address:
HRH Prince Leka II,
Royal Court of Albania,
Oborri Mbreteror Shqiptar,
PO Box 8170,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fantastic pictures of Bhutan

While looking at the splendid photo essay on Ludwig II linked in my previous post, I discovered another set of equally magnificent photographs, in this case comprising "A Trip to Bhutan," many of them related to last month's royal wedding. This "Last Shangri-La" must be amazing to visit, but if you can't, perusing Alan Taylor's superb collection of photos may be the next best thing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

King Ludwig II, 125 years on

Shamefully, I somehow neglected to post in June about the 125th anniversary of the mysterious death of Bavaria's legendary King Ludwig II (1845-1886), which was commemorated on June 13 near the site of his death with a mass attended by Duke Franz and other members of the Bavarian royal family. So, prompted by a video about Neuschwanstein posted at my monarchist forum, I'll post about it now, as there is never a bad time to remember one of my favourite characters of royal history. To me Ludwig II is the epitome of why I love hereditary monarchy and its potential for elevating people who would never have become heads of state in any other system. It is impossible to imagine an eccentric lonely dreamer such as King Ludwig, in many ways ill suited to politics, winning a presidential election, yet 125 years later, his legacy continues to enrich Bavaria and the world incalculably in the form of magnificent castles (that have paid for themselves many times over in tourism) and the operas of Wagner, which almost certainly could not have been completed and produced without his romantic patronage.

It is encouraging and moving to see how many Bavarians still revere the memory of their "Märchenkönig." The Atlantic has a remarkable collection of beautiful large photos about King Ludwig, his castles, and the commemoration of his death. Bavarian monarchist sentiment (despicably suppressed by occupying Americans after World War II) is not unanimous; a few disrespectful republicans reportedly staged an "anti-monarchist swim" in Lake Starnberg, though the numbers of those honouring their beloved King seem to have been much larger. I salute those Bavarians who continue to keep traditional Bavarian culture & its Wittelsbach royal heritage alive and wish I could have been among them in June. Current prospects for restoration unfortunately appear slim, but we must never lose hope. Long live the Kingdom of Bavaria!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Charles & Camilla in Africa

Speaking of Africa, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have been visiting Tanzania, where among other activities they have been honoured by a Maasai tribe with the titles "The One Who Makes Cows Cry" (Oloishiru Ingishi) and "Mother of the Children" (Koto Engera) respectively. Considering the source, I was pleasantly surprised by this provocative but insightful reflection in The Guardian on the implications of a photo that calls to mind the British Empire at its height. Mr Jones might not be a traditional monarchist, but his conclusions are likely to irritate republicans more.

The euro may or may not survive but the fact is that we didn't join it. What kept Britain out? Was it the Tory Eurosceptics, Gordon Brown – or a spiritual insularity that is far older and more innate? This image says it all. We never were going to abandon sterling for two reasons that precede all others. We stayed out because we have a monarchy, and because we once had an empire.

Africa's Canute?

As I've admitted here once before, Swaziland's King Mswati III may be the world's most challenging contemporary monarch for monarchists to defend, as this Daily Mail article suggests, though I would still insist that the integral relationship of the monarchy to traditional Swazi culture should not be lightly tossed aside and that any regime that replaced it would almost certainly be worse. What really irritated me about this article though was its casual and ignorant reference to Danish-English King Canute (c 985-1035). Contrary to the mistaken popular belief implied by the headline and eighth paragraph, King Canute did not believe that he could control the ocean! In the famous anecdote (which may be apocryphal anyway) about Canute "trying" to hold back the tide, he was deliberately showing fawning courtiers that he was not as powerful as they said he was. It was a gesture of humility, not arrogance, and the story therefore means the opposite of what it is sometimes assumed to mean. King Mswati has little in common with King Canute other than that they are both kings.

Incidentally, I notice that Sherborne School [which King Mswati (b 1968) attended as a boy prior to becoming king in 1986] does not include him on their list of famous alumni. Perhaps they are not especially proud of this particular Old Shirburnian?

Middle East: Dictators fall, Monarchs endure

National Public Radio, not generally known as a bastion of monarchism, admits that in the Middle East, monarchies have weathered the "Arab Spring" wave of unrest significantly better than the region's authoritarian republics, and there are good reasons for that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Queen and my Maestro

I was delighted to learn today that HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands took the time to personally congratulate Jaap van Zweden, the Dutch music director of the Dallas Symphony in which I am a cellist, on having been named "Conductor of the Year" by Musical America, extending her appreciation to us musicians as well. Congratulations Maestro and Thank You Your Majesty! I look forward to performing with the DSO at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in early 2013; who knows, perhaps HM and/or other members of the Dutch Royal Family will attend!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Prince Charles and Kate Middleton"

While I am glad to learn of Her Royal Highness's interest in the arts and visits to Covent Garden, I am utterly sick of the ignorant British media continuing to refer to the Duchess of Cambridge as "Kate Middleton"! There. Is. No. Such. Person. Anymore. Are the idiots who write these headlines unaware that there was a little event at Westminster Abbey on April 29?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Leading monarchist on BBC

Congratulations to Rafal Heydel-Mankoo on an excellent interview with the BBC in which he explains his support for constitutional monarchy, as well as a bit of his own family background. Mr Heydel-Mankoo is everything a contemporary monarchist spokesman should be: elegant and refined without being snobbish, thoroughly committed without coming across as a fanatic. He is a credit and an asset to our cause.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

British MP supports Libyan restoration

My new favourite British MP, Daniel Kawczynski, has advocated that Libya hold a referendum on restoring the monarchy, suggesting quite properly that another politician is hardly what Libya needs right now. Only the Sanussi dynasty, steeped in history, can plausibly bring Libyans together and constitute a thorough repudiation of the Gaddafi regime. It is very rare for politicians even in existing monarchies to advocate the restoration of others; hopefully Mr Kawczynski's wise words will be heeded!

Greek crisis

In an interview with CNN, Crown Prince Pavlos said that Greece (currently making headlines for its severe economic woes and political instability) needs to "reintroduce the private sector." I'm sure he's right, but it would be even better to reintroduce the monarchy, as the Daily Mail reports at least some Greeks would like (see the FAQ at the end of the article). Perhaps this crisis will pave the way for something better to emerge out of the ashes of the discredited Greek Republic. Long live King Constantine!