Thursday, March 26, 2009

Succession reform

Downing Street and Buckingham Palace have discussed proposals for changing the laws of succession to allow British dynasts to marry Roman Catholics and abolish male-preference primogeniture. While I disagree, I'm more wearied than outraged. I just don't understand the point of trying to make the monarchy conform to modern notions of "non-discrimination." Doesn't the monarchy "discriminate" rather spectacularly based on whether or not one is born into the royal family in the first place? And why is it any more "fair" to base succession rights on order of birth? Perhaps the best article on the monarchy I've ever read in the generally republican Guardian was this one by David Mitchell, which makes similar points. But according to the latest polls, the vast majority of British people support both the continuation of the monarchy and these "reforms." Most people aren't that interested in being logically consistent--but I'd have to prefer inconsistency to republicanism.

Perhaps the most ridiculous idea is that repealing the Act of Settlement will somehow make up for the Labour government's record of policies diametrically opposed to Roman Catholic teaching. Somehow I suspect that orthodox Roman Catholics in the UK have other concerns than whether their co-religionist the Earl of St Andrews can be 24th in line of succession to the throne.

Just as silly and meaningless is idle speculation that had male primogeniture been abolished earlier, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany would have inherited the British throne. Well, no, since we have no way of knowing how subsequent history would have turned out had his mother Princess Victoria been regarded as heir to the throne. As the article finally gets around to admitting in the final sentence, it's highly unlikely that the heiress to the British throne would have married the heir to the Prussian throne in the first place, in which case Kaiser Wilhelm II would never have existed. This fallacy (and related stale propaganda about the Kaiser) mars monarchist Andrew Roberts's otherwise admirable defense of the monarchy and its status quo.

A related point about counterfactual scenarios. I do not believe that they are necessarily worthless just because they cannot be proved. But they must not assume the constancy of other variables that would have also been affected by the proposed alteration. For example: it is reasonable to suppose that had Archduke Franz Ferdinand not been assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914, the Austrian and other European monarchies could have lasted longer than they did, perhaps even still being around in some form today. But it is not reasonable to assume that the occupant of any particular throne would necessarily be the same person who claims it today, since royal genealogy, shaped as it is by a myriad combination of events, would have proceeded quite differently, and many of today's royals (and commoners) might not exist at all. Even in the case of Archduke Otto, who was born in 1912 two years before the murder of his great-uncle, one cannot rule out the possibility that an Emperor Franz Ferdinand would have revoked his wife and children's morganatic status, or alternatively perhaps outlived the Duchess of Hohenberg and married a suitable princess, whose son by him would have succeeded him instead of Otto.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Swedish royal wedding date

The Royal Court of Sweden announced that the date of Crown Princess Victoria marriage to Daniel Westling in Stockholm's Storkyrkan Cathedral will be June 19, 2010.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Britain's "first black queen"?

German-born Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), namesake of the North Carolina city where I lived from 2004 to 2008, is the subject of speculation concerning her alleged African ancestry. Since Queen Charlotte in any case would have been "black" only by the most fanatical application of the "one-drop rule," I can't see what is so significant about this story, and link to it only due to its connection to the city that was my home for four years.

As long as we're on the subject of British queens, American places named after them, and race (how often does that combination come up?) here is an interesting 1998 article about the saga of how New York City almost erected a giant statue of Charles II's wife Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705), the Queen after whom the borough of Queens was reportedly named, only to see the plan scuttled by leftist activists. Also see this shorter article. Naturally I am sorry but not surprised at what happened eleven years ago. As far as I'm concerned, the only valid argument against the statue would have been the historical doubts as to whether Queens was in fact named after her, and I have my reservations about the agenda of the sculptor...but I still think it's unfortunate that this turned out the way it did, and have no sympathy for the politically correct professional grievance-mongers that plague modern Western societies.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Westminster Abbey Choral Evensong

One aspect of the contemporary Church of England about which traditionalists like Peter Hitchens have complained is that the traditional prayers for the royal family tend to be left out and replaced by trendy references to the latest global crises, usually far removed geographically from the United Kingdom. This is certainly normally true of the Choral Evensongs broadcast weekly by the BBC. So it was a pleasure (though not surprising, considering the location) listening to today's live broadcast from Westminster Abbey to finally hear the officiant give HM the Queen, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, HRH the Prince of Wales, and all the Royal Family their appropriate place in the Church's prayers. The service, featuring music by Henry Purcell in honour of the 350th anniversary of his birth, was quite musically outstanding as well (as was last week's from King's College Cambridge). Prayers thanking God for the contributions of Purcell, other composers and musicians in general were also appreciated by this royalist musician. I encourage readers to make use of this great internet resource.

Of course, all UK Choral Evensongs do still include "O Lord, Save the Queen" as part of the Responses, while in the US even the finest Episcopal churches have to make do with the awkward (and arguably problematic) American substitution "O Lord, Save the State."

The Prince and the Press Packers

Two young reporters (and cancer patients) enjoyed a friendly chat with Prince William, who joked about his "Harry Potter" scar, at Clarence House.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Royal Palm Beach

I recently returned from a successful short tour of Florida with the Dallas Symphony. On our free day, March 11, I had some time to explore Palm Beach. Most monarchists, unlike most people, would probably associate Palm Beach with the mayoral "reign" of Paul Ilyinsky (1928-2004), son of Rasputin assassin Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (1891-1942) and the only "Romanov" (albeit a morganatic one) to hold political power anywhere since the Revolution. I was not able to learn in advance of any particular sites with connections to Ilyinsky I could visit while there, though I realized after my return to Dallas that the Episcopal church I had stopped at, Bethesda-by-the-Sea, is where his funeral was held in 2004.

However, I did visit two attractions which were not without their royal connections. The first of these was the 1896 luxury hotel The Breakers, located right on the Atlantic Ocean, whose elaborate Renaissance-inspired decor (one could almost imagine one had left the USA behind for Italy or Spain) includes a 16th century tapestry depicting the 1556 abdication of Emperor Charles V as well as a marvelous "Gold Room" full of portraits of such figures as Charles V, Ferdinand & Isabella, Margaret of Parma, and Catherine de Medici.

The second was the 1902 "Whitehall" mansion, now the Flagler Museum, a supreme example of "Gilded Age" luxury, some of the details of which pay tribute to icons of style such as Marie Antoinette and Louis XV. In the courtyard were two stones from a ruined 18th century Spanish fort inscribed with the name and heraldry of King Fernando VI.

I would highly recommend both of these attractions to anyone visiting Palm Beach, especially monarchists...but allow more time than I did, and if you take pictures of the Gold Room, copy down the key on the wall so that you can identify more than a few of the historical figures depicted!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Prince Umberto of Savoy-Aosta

The future of the House of Savoy has been solidified with the birth of a son, Prince Umberto, to Prince Aimone of Savoy-Aosta and his wife the former Princess Olga of Greece, yesterday in Paris, reports the invaluable Paul Theroff. Prince Umberto is the first male born into the family since 1972.

Friday, March 6, 2009

"Lavish Lifestyles"

A young member of my forum who is relatively new to monarchism asked how he could defend the "lavish lifestyles" of ancien regime royalty and aristocracy. As this is a question that often comes up in discussions of monarchy I thought I'd also post my own response here, while encouraging visitors to read others' answers at the original thread as well.

First of all, Marie Antoinette never said "let them eat cake"; that was revolutionary propaganda.

This article is a good start:

It is true that there was certainly inequality in the era of the monarchies, but there is also inequality today in democracies and republics. Many of the improvements in quality of life we take for granted today are the results of technological and medical advances that have benefited everyone; in many ways the life of a "poor" person in France today is more comfortable than that of an 18th-century French king.

There always have been and always will be "haves" and "have nots," and I think it's better to be honest about it as a formalized class system is. Ironically, generally the monarchs who have been blamed for Revolutions were themselves genuinely compassionate and charitable and did what they could to alleviate the suffering of the less fortunate. This was certainly true of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

A perhaps more important point, though, is that the existence of so-called "lavish lifestyles" is a good and necessary thing, even for those not able to live them themselves. This may seem a shocking thing to say, but think about it: many non-wealthy people depend, and have depended throughout history, for their very livelihoods on professions and trades that could not exist without "lavish lifestyles." Think of manufacturers of luxury goods and those who supply their materials. Think of chefs creating gourmet delicacies, and those who supply their ingredients. Think of architects of palaces and mansions and those who work on building them, and those who supply their materials. Think of artists who in order to make a living from painting must charge prices for their work that no one of limited means could possibly afford. And of course, think of those of my own profession, musicians, who have relied on the patronage of wealthy people, now almost as much as then, though the form of such patronage has changed. Public concerts as we know them today did not exist in the 18th century and before; if there had been no royalty and aristocrats able to afford their own court orchestras (part of that much-maligned "lavish lifestyle"), no one could have earned a living as a secular musician, as I like to imagine myself doing had I lived in a previous era.

Therefore, it is an economic fallacy to assume that the lavish lifestyles of royalty and aristocracy caused poverty. Rather, there would have been even more poverty if the ordinary people in the professions described above had not been able to indirectly benefit from the economic activity generated by those lavish lifestyles. This has been proved time and time again by the results of the egalitarian revolutions that have attempted to eliminate the luxury of privileged classes: more misery and suffering for everyone.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Monarchical Entertainment

I generally am not much of a television watcher, but monarchists in the US may wish to tune in on Sunday evenings this spring. NBC is launching a modern retelling of the story of King David, Kings, on March 15, and the third season of Showtime's The Tudors begins on April 5.

Meanwhile, Andrew Roberts praises the historical accuracy of upcoming film The Young Victoria, released tomorrow in the UK and hopefully soon in the US.

Ekaterinburg 1918: No Survivors

As if any more confirmation were needed, a new scientific report confirms what most monarchists and historians have known for decades: that all seven Romanovs were indeed murdered by Bolshevik thugs in Ekaterinburg on the tragic night of July 16-17, 1918.

Monday, March 2, 2009

King Hridayendra?

Nepal's ruling Maoists reportedly fear that King Gyanendra's visit to India could be part of a plan to restore his 7-year-old grandson Prince Hridayendra to the throne. I hope they're right!

New Genealogical Tables

I have long been interested not only in the monarchist cause and royal history but also in the minutiae of European royal genealogy. Recently, as a follow-up to a comment of mine on a thread at my monarchist forum on the engagement of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden about relationships between reigning European monarchs eventually growing more distant as unequal marriages continue to be the norm, I prepared this table of relationships between current European sovereigns. Liking the way the table looked and inspired to attempt a bigger challenge, I then prepared this similar table for 1914. I am grateful to forum member Peter for his help in revising and refining the tables; our discussion is here in the thread on which I originally posted them.