Sunday, June 13, 2021

Hélène d'Orléans 150

One hundred fifty years ago today, Princess Hélène of Orléans (1871-1951) was born at York House in Twickenham, England. Daughter of the Count of Paris, Orléanist claimant to the French throne, following the fall of the Second Empire she spent most of her childhood in France, until the insecure Third Republic exiled them again in 1886 following exuberant royalist celebrations of her older sister Amélie's marriage to the Crown Prince (later King) of Portugal. Thus the Orléans family returned to England and became close to the British royal family. Hélène and Prince Albert Victor (1864-1892), eldest son of the Prince of Wales, fell in love and wished to marry, and Queen Victoria was fond of her, but the religious difference proved insurmountable.

Instead Hélène married in 1895 Italy's Prince Emanuele Filiberto (1869-1931), Duke of Aosta, a nephew of King Umberto I, whose own father had briefly reigned as King of Spain, and who was next in line to the Italian throne until the birth of Crown Prince Umberto in 1904. The marriage produced two sons, Amedeo (1898-1942) and Aimone (1900-1948), but was not happy; Hélène became known for her adventurous solo travels in Africa and for her heroic humanitarian work with the Red Cross. Her life was marked by tragedies, such as the murder of her brother-in-law and nephew in Portugal in 1908, the devastation of the two World Wars, and outliving both of her sons as well as the Italian monarchy she had served for half a century. Hélène was the grandmother of Prince Amedeo (1943-2021) who died recently, as well as two princesses who survive. Edward Hanson's biography "The Wandering Princess" is a fascinating window into a long and unconventional royal life that spanned and was shaped by the major upheavals of modern European history.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Today's Rant

Atheists think all religion is fantasy; many Protestants think those beliefs peculiar to Catholics (though in most cases also held by the Orthodox and some Anglicans) are fantasy. And yet most contemporary Christians, including Catholics, are far more grounded in "Reality" than I am. Most Christians who use the internet want to talk about widely discussed contemporary issues from a Christian perspective, primarily as pertaining to the country in which they live. Whereas I want to talk about things like restoring the Portuguese Monarchy, which has been gone for 110+ years and which hardly anyone is talking about. I don't like contemporary "Reality" and want it to go away. I would rather live in my little royalist fantasy world and play music written when Europe was mostly ruled by monarchies than be fully engaged with the political issues of my actual time and place. I don't accept that living in the United States obliges me to give my primary patriotic loyalty to the United States and not to the United Kingdom. If I wish to identify as British then I'm British. I'm sorry if this sounds selfish and arrogant but I have no doubt that the Twentieth Century and the American Revolution were wrong and I'm right. And neither the Church nor the World can force me to defer to their priorities.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A sad anniversary

Seventy-five years ago today, in a dubious referendum probably rigged by the Americans, an alleged majority of Italians voted to abolish the 85-year-old Italian monarchy (though the House of Savoy was nearly a thousand years old). King Umberto II (1904-1983), a good and patriotic man who had never supported fascism, nevertheless paid the price for his father’s association with it and had to spend the rest of his life in exile, his reign officially ending ten days later after only a month. The Italian Republic, which has never exactly been a model of stable or competent governance, in its arrogance dares to celebrate today as a “holiday,” even though at the time it was a sad result for many Italians who had remained loyal to the dynasty despite the hardships of the war. It is not a holiday for me. Viva il Re!

I mean no offense to my many Roman Catholic friends, some of whom agree with me, but as we contemplate the 75th anniversary of the accursed Italian referendum (on which Pope Pius XII for some reason remained silent, at a time when the Church still had rather more influence in Italy than it does today) I am deeply frustrated by the Church's modern habit of neutrality on Monarchy versus Republic, which to me is the most important issue of modern times. Maybe I want Christianity to be something other than what it actually is. Maybe I'm frankly a bit of a heretic guilty of trying to elevate my personal preferences to doctrine. (I shudder to think what would happen to my relationship with Anglicanism if the unthinkable ever happened in England. Let's not go there.) But I cannot accept Neutrality on this issue. I believe that replacing a Monarchy with a Republic is intrinsically morally wrong, much worse than most of the things that many religious people complain about today, and I want the Church to say so. It is the replacement of tradition with novelty, of beauty with banality, of humility with arrogance, of duty with willfulness, of inheritance with ideology, of what is natural with what is artificial. I cannot take seriously the moral complaints of "conservatives" who accept what I believe to be the catastrophic and evil modern worldwide trend of replacing monarchies with republics. It must be reversed. If that's not possible, then I see no point in politics. What I absolutely reject is any "conservative" or "Christian" approach to contemporary Europe that willingly consigns its Monarchies to history.