Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ranavalona III

Wikipedia's helpful anniversary feature informed me that today is the 115th anniversary of the deposition of the last Queen of Madagascar, Ranavalona III (1861-1917) by French republican colonial forces. European colonialism may be sometimes unfairly maligned by the Left, but it can be criticised from a traditionalist perspective as well. Certainly between a European republic and an African monarchy I would side with the African monarchy. French royalists never should have lifted a finger for the colonial ambitions of their various illegitimate governments since 1870, since republics have no right to have colonies. If there must be republics, let them mind their own business. If there must be imperialism, leave it to countries who can do it properly, with actual emperors.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Infanta Maria Adelaide of Portugal (1912-2012)

HRH Infanta Maria Adelaide, aunt of Portugal's rightful king the Duke of Braganza, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday, has died in Lisbon. I am glad she reached (and apparently was able to enjoy) this milestone, though sorry that she had to spend her entire long life as a member of a non-reigning royal family, the Portuguese monarchy having fallen slightly over a year before she was born in January 1912. Maria Adelaide was the first and so far only centenarian of royal birth in European history. (Only royals-by-marriage Princess Alice Duchess of Gloucester and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother have lived longer.) Incredibly, due to late marriages by her father and grandfather, she was only two generations removed from the controversial de facto king (1828-34) Dom Miguel (1802-1866), uncle and rival of Maria II. The infanta's passing is also particularly notable in that she was the last surviving member of any European royal family who had been born before the First World War, severing a last link to the "Belle Époque" era of European royalty. Requiescat in pace.

I believe there are now three possible contenders for "oldest living European royal" depending on exactly how "royal" is defined. The oldest living member of a European royal family by marriage is Princess Lilian [Davies], Duchess of Halland (b 30 Aug 1915), widow of Prince Bertil of Sweden (whose long-delayed 1976 marriage unlike those of his brothers was fully accepted by the court). The oldest living person born into any "Section I" (reigned since the Napoleonic era) Gotha family is Princess Elisabeth [of Lippe] (b 23 Jan 1916), widow of Ernst August Prince of Solms-Bruaunfels. The oldest living person born into the reigning family of a European kingdom is the former Prince Carl Johan of Sweden, Count Bernadotte of Visborg (b 31 Oct 1916).

Prince Friso may not recover

In a very sad development for the Dutch Royal Family, Austrian doctors announced that Prince Johan Friso, 43, in a coma since being buried in an avalanche a week ago, has suffered massive brain damage and may never recover. Please keep Prince Friso, his wife Mabel, their daughters Luana (6) and Zaria (5), his mother Queen Beatrix, his brothers Willem-Alexander and Constantijn, and all the Dutch Royal Family in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Princess of Sweden

The Swedish Royal Court announced that Crown Princess Victoria has given birth to a healthy baby girl, the first child of her and her husband Prince Daniel and according to the cognatic primogeniture succession law adopted in 1980, Sweden's future sovereign. Congratulations to Their Royal Highnesses on the first Swedish royal baby in three decades! Personally I hope they'll name her either Christina or Ulrika Eleonora for continuity with previous Swedish Queens Regnant.

Update (24 Feb): King Carl XVI Gustaf announced that his new granddaughter's names are Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary, with the title Duchess of Östergötland.

Picking on George III: Santorum's Turn

American Republican "conservatives" sure are determined to lose that crucial monarchist vote. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum may have their differences, but they both apparently think it clever to bash Barack Obama by likening him to King George III. (Or possibly a "rock star," which I guess is sort of the same thing?) Santorum's anti-royalist rant apparently struck a chord with his audience, though, providing one more indication of why I will probably always feel like an alien here. Personally I would much prefer George III to either Obama or any of his rivals! (Some of Santorum's left-liberal critics fear he will "bring us all back to the 14th century"...if only!)

The painful truth for American monarchists is that in a perverse sense Santorum is right: the USA really is founded on hatred of George III and the belief that it is somehow special and better than any other nation. What ought to be clear to American Christians however is that Rick Santorum, though both admired and reviled for his allegedly staunch Catholicism, is the epitome of the Americanist Catholic whose effect has been to Americanize Catholicism rather than to Catholicize America, whether he would see it that way or not. He follows in the disgraceful tradition of Archbishop John Ireland (who traveled to France to inform French Catholics that the persecution of the Church there was their own fault for having supported the monarchy) and Cardinal James Gibbons (who assured President Wilson that American Catholics would back him in destroying the ancient Catholic Habsburg monarchy).

Santorum and his ilk have thoroughly repudiated the European ideal of Christendom, and swallowed the profoundly anti-Catholic (and anti-Anglican) Enlightenment mythology of the Freemasonic United States of America hook, line, and sinker. His concept of nationality is defined not by any particular culture or [traditional] creed, but by some kind of mystical "DNA" of "Freedom" which somehow elevates Americans above all other peoples in the world, without any explanation of how a purely scientific concept such as DNA could have anything to do with "Freedom," or how it is that some Americans (presumably, those who disagree with Rick Santorum) are missing this mysterious "Freedom Gene." Those who congratulate themselves on their "reason" for having rejected the allegedly superstitious doctrines of Christianity might want to ask themselves how this religion, though flowing naturally from the lies and errors of 1776, is any more "rational." Those who do consider themselves Christians might want to ask themselves if the two religions are really compatible.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Defender of the Faith

Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch, talks to Canada's CBC News about her new book, including the Queen's affection for North America. Meanwhile, Charles Moore eloquently reflects on the Queen's religious role, as exemplified by her recent remarks praising the "under-appreciated" Church of England. Truly it can be said that to be a subject of Elizabeth II is to have won first prize in the lottery of life.

German president quits

In a development that cannot but give monarchists a certain slight grim satisfaction, German president Christian Wulff has resigned, unable to withstand the scandal surrounding a dubious home loan. The dreary politicians' republics that have replaced far too many of Europe's ancient monarchies are bland at the best of times, but it looks like Mr Wulff could have done with a little blandness. I call on the once-great German nation to take advantage of the opportunity presented by this unsurprising stain to the image of an institution that never should have been created and rally for the restoration of their ancient dynasties, whose current representatives are surely far more likely to provide impartial and honest leadership than politicians or those appointed by politicians. Long live Kaiser Georg Friedrich I and the heads of all the German royal, ducal, and princely houses!

Dutch Prince Johan Friso in avalanche

Prince Johan Friso, second son of the Queen of the Netherlands, is in critical condition having been buried in an avalanche while skiing in Austria. The prince and his wife Mabel have two young daughters and live in London. I'm sure all readers will join me in wishing him a full recovery during this difficult time for the Dutch Royal Family.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Massie's Catherine the Great

Yesterday I finished reading Robert K. Massie's excellent new biography, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, a wonderful Christmas gift from my parents and a worthy successor to Nicholas & Alexandra (the book that changed my life when I was twelve) and Peter the Great. While I'd read about Catherine (1729-1796) before, I learned a lot from this book, which like all of Massie's writing brings its subject to life so that the reader comes to feel like he actually knows her, a remote historical figure no longer.

I don't think I'd realized quite how serious the Pugachev rebellion was, or known much about the strange relationship between Catherine and her former lover Stanislaus Poniatowski (1732-1798) who she made King of Poland mainly because she was tired of him and wanted to get him away from her, surely a unique method of getting an annoying ex out of the way. Massie provides excellent insights into how Catherine combined admiration for the Enlightenment with autocratic rule. The way he describes the difficulties with which she was confronted in implementing her ideals, her approach makes more sense and is more coherent than it might appear at first glance. Also I hadn't real
ized that the first (1772) Partition of Poland, far from being a pure greedy land grab, actually benefited the religious liberties of most of the people affected, with the territory Catherine took having an Orthodox majority and the territory Prussia's Frederick II took a large Protestant population. (The final partition in 1795 which erased Poland from the map completely, mainly because Catherine didn't like it that the Poles had adopted a new constitution replacing a weak elective monarchy with a strong hereditary one, might be harder to justify.) What emerges throughout however is Catherine's essential kindness and warmth, which she combined with dedication to Russia's potential cultural greatness, crucially setting the stage as Massie says for the incredible flowering of the 19th century.

I disagree with Massie on only one point, namely that he believes Catherine's first extramarital lover Sergei Saltykov (1726-1765) to have been the probable biologic
al father of her son Paul I (1754-1801), whereas without denying the obvious failure of Peter and Catherine's marriage I still think that the notable similarities in both appearance and behavior of Paul to his official father Peter III (1728-1762) suggest that he actually was Peter's son, despite the young Catherine's (admittedly understandable) infidelity. I caught two minor editing slips: a date which from context clearly should be "1780" appears as "1789," and the word "Little" is at one point spelled "Litttle" with an extra "t." It would have been nice if a family tree had been included, though I had no trouble making my own.

Massie concludes the book with an excerpt from one of Catherine's last letters to author and confidante Friedrich Melchior Baron von Grimm (1723-1807), which I found rather moving. Fittingly it so happens that she apparently wrote this exactly 218 years ago, on today's date in 1794 (nearly three years before her death), when she was 64.

"'Day before yesterday, on February ninth, it was fifty years since I arrived with my mother in Moscow. I doubt if there are ten people living today in St. Petersburg who remember. There is still Betskoy, blind, decrepit, gaga, asking young couples whether they remember Peter the Great...There is one of my old maids, whom I still keep, though she forgets everything. These are proofs of old age and I am one of them. But in spite of this, I love as much as a five-year-old child to play blindman's bluff, and the young people, including my grandchildren, say that their games are never so merry as when I play with them. And I still love to laugh.'"

No wonder Massie concludes his Acknowledgements with:

"Finally, I must acknowledge the extraordinary pleasure I have had in the company of the remarkable woman who has been my subject. After eight years of having her a constant presence in my life, I shall miss her."

I am no feminist, but after reading this book I am more convinced than ever that Russia could use some female leadership once more. Long live Empress Maria Vladimirovna!

Obama's Falklands Betrayal

I don't like the U.S. Republican presidential candidates (Ron Paul excepted) any better than my liberal friends do. So why do I also oppose Barack Obama? Here's one reason. Falklands British Forever!!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Queen Elizabeth II: Sixty Years of Service

It was on this date in 1952 that King George VI, suffering from cancer and exhausted after heroically leading Britain and its Empire through World War II, died in his sleep at Sandringham. His daughter, proclaimed Queen that day, has now reigned for sixty years as Queen Elizabeth II, only the second British monarch to reach this milestone. It is hard to come up with an original or adequately extensive tribute to add to the many being expressed today. So I will simply say that I, though alas not technically one of Elizabeth II's millions of subjects, consider myself one at heart and regard the Queen as by far the most inspiring example of public service in the world today. In six decades she has never failed to do her best to serve her various realms, which include not only the United Kingdom but also Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other smaller countries (mostly in the Caribbean) around the world. With a schedule that would wear out most people a generation younger but shows no real sign of relaxing even at the age of 85, the Queen always has a smile for everyone, with a warmth (perhaps increased in her old age) that clearly delights the innumerable people from all walks of life with whom she comes into contact.

As my own Rector Bishop Anthony Burton points out at his blog, this dedication to service as expressed in HM's new Diamond Jubilee Message is rooted in her own deep Christian faith, a faith which in this secular age she is not shy to express. Today's anniversary with its reminder of her beloved father's death is inevitably tinged with melancholy for the Queen, who observed it with a visit to a school in Norfolk among other activities. But the Diamond Jubilee Year of 2012 promises to be a joyful one, culminating in a weekend of celebrations in London in June which I for one cannot wait to attend. As sung in Benjamin Britten's superlative arrangement of Britain's National Anthem, God Save the Queen!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Contrast (1792)

A monarchist friend in New York City sent me this 1792 cartoon, apparently the work of someone who saw the French Revolution for what it was even before the Regicide and the Terror, on the differences between British and French concepts of "Liberty." Its lesson is as relevant today as it was then. Unfortunately, modern Europe as dominated by the secularist and egalitarian ethos of the European Union too often appears to prefer the French version, albeit without the overt violence--for now.

The Traditionalist Prince of Wales

"Crunchy Conservative" blogger Rod Dreher, who used to live in Dallas and with whom I have some mutual friends, reflects on Prince Charles's traditionalism. Dreher explains how as he tried to understand where the Prince of Wales was coming from, he gained more sympathy for his pluralist (but not modernist) approach to religion. I hope the forthcoming article Dreher mentions will also be available online. Perhaps I should not have allowed my subscription to The American Conservative to lapse...