Monday, December 12, 2016

Transition in Malaysia

Malaysians say farewell to their outgoing King, whose five-year term as Yang di-Pertuan Agong ended today (12 December) according to Malaysia's unique system of elective monarchy. Abdul Halim (b 1927), who has been Sultan of Kedah since 1958, is the first sultan to hold the supreme office twice (1970-75; 2011-16) and has the distinction of having been both its youngest and oldest holder since Malaysia's independence from the United Kingdom in 1957. In 1971 during his first term he represented Malaysia at the Shah of Iran's famous Persepolis celebrations. His successor is the considerably younger Muhammad V of Kelantan (b 1969). (It is already 13 December in Malaysia.)

Monarchs of the World, with Malaysia updated. Thailand's King Vajiralongkorn didn't last very long as the world's newest monarch.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Edward VIII and the Europe of 1936

Eighty years ago today, the abdication of King Edward VIII signed the previous day took effect with an act of Parliament and Royal Assent, his last act as King. Here then are European monarchies as they were upon the accession of King George VI, 11 December 1936.
I'm not particularly nostalgic for the interwar era--we monarchists had already lost so much and there were some nasty regimes about--but in itself, 15 monarchs of 18 monarchies (the discrepancy exists because Ireland and Iceland were both independent but in personal union with the sovereigns of their former colonial powers, and Hungary was a kingdom without a king) is certainly an improvement upon the present, even though we had just lost Spain. It's striking how many monarchs at this time were without a consort: Wilhelmina, Gustaf V, and Leopold III had been recently widowed; Louis II, Zog, and unsurprisingly the 13-year-old Peter II had yet to marry; Franz of Liechtenstein never married; Carol II and George II were divorced. The former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon brought all the more noticeably then a unique and indomitable presence to the world stage, where she would remain for the next 65 years.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Gone but not forgotten

This must be the saddest British Pathé newsreel ever. And they don't even include Albania, Serbia/Montenegro/Yugoslavia, or Bulgaria, not to mention all the regional German ones. (France, of course, the only major European monarchy of which no film footage exists, had fallen long before the 20th century.) Excellent old footage though, with more recent captions reflecting the perspective of no earlier than the 1970s. (At least one error in the narration: in the beginning of the Russian portion, it is the Tsar's mother, not his wife, on his arm in the procession; Russian protocol gave the Dowager Empress precedence. At the end of the segment, it is indeed Empress Alexandra who walks with her husband.) Beyond Europe, the second half of the 20th century would prove as disastrous for monarchy in Asia and Africa as the first half was for monarchy in Europe.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I know I should be used to it by now, but sometimes it's really frustrating to me the way most of my fellow classical musicians hold such left-wing political beliefs. The societies that produced the great music that we all love were, for the most part, Christian, not secular; monarchical, not democratic; hierarchical, not egalitarian; and while sometimes multi-ethnic (e.g. the Austro-Hungarian Empire), not multicultural or multiracial in the modern sense. And I believe there are good reasons for all of that. Yes, some of the great artistic figures of history (like Beethoven) chafed at that structure--but there has to be some sort of traditional structure for artistic and unconventional people to rebel against! Strip all that away and you get the desolation of modernism from which I've felt profoundly alienated all my life. Today, ironically, I think it is those of us who question shibboleths like "Democracy," "Diversity," and "Equality" who are the real rebels. And I'm afraid anyone who's pleased by the recent Austrian presidential election results (and I think I've made it clear that I do not approve of Austria having a president at all) is seriously naive about the threat posed to European culture--including classical music--from mass immigration, especially Muslim immigration. Exceptions to the pattern of musicians being left-wing do exist, and I'm grateful for each of them.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Remembering Grand Duchess Augusta (1822-1916)

One hundred years ago today, on December 5, 1916, Grand Duchess Augusta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1822-1916) (born Princess Augusta of Cambridge) died at the remarkable age of 94. One of my favourite royal personalities of the 19th century, she was known within the family for her strong opinions. Among the things she disapproved of were her cousin Queen Victoria's refusal to go inside St. Paul's Cathedral for her own Diamond Jubilee service in 1897 ("thanking God in the street?!") and the democratic origins of the new Norwegian monarchy in 1905 ("a Revolutionary Coronation!"; her niece the Princess of Wales wrote back, "it is strange, but these are very modern times.") (Sometimes when I disapprove of something I say to myself, "what would Grand Duchess Augusta say?")

During the preparations for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, 64 years after the last such ceremony, Grand Duchess Augusta was frequently consulted as she was one of the few living people who could remember the coronations of not only Victoria but also her uncle William IV. Born just two years after the death of her grandfather King George III, she lived through the reigns of George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII, and into the reign of George V. Close to her niece Queen Mary, she regretted being too old to travel to London for their coronation in 1911. In the last years of her life, the Great War divided her from her beloved England. But as she wrote to Queen Mary (via neutral Sweden) not long before her death, "it is a stout English heart that beats beneath these old bones." Sadly, she had outlived her son Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich V (1848-1914), though she was spared the mysterious suicide of her grandson Adolf Friedrich VI (1882-1918). Grand Duchess Augusta was the longest-lived member of the British royal family ever until Princess Alice of Athlone (1883-1981) broke her record; she remains its second-longest-lived member by birth.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Vajiralongkorn, King of Thailand

Yesterday, after a curious interregnum of a month and a half, Vajiralongkorn was finally proclaimed KING (Rama X) of Thailand.  Apparently the new King's reign will be retroactively dated to have begun on October 13, the day his father died. Long live the King!!!

I have updated all the relevant pages of my website, including this one, to reflect the fact that Vajiralongkorn is now King of Thailand. Unless there is an official statement to the contrary, I am regarding his 11-year-old son Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti as heir presumptive, though he is not Crown Prince.
King Vajiralongkorn and his son Prince Dipangkorn, 11