Monday, March 28, 2022

Prince William and the Commonwealth

Upon the conclusion of his and the Duchess's tour of Belize, Jamaica, and Bahamas, HRH the Duke of Cambridge issued an unprecedented statement obliquely acknowledging that he may never be Head of the Commonwealth, or King of any of those countries:

Foreign tours are an opportunity to reflect. You learn so much. What is on the minds of Prime Ministers. The hopes and ambitions of school children. The day-to-day challenges faced by families and communities.

I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon. But we have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with communities in all three countries, understanding more about the issues that matter most to them.

Catherine and I are committed to service. For us that's not telling people what to do. It is about serving and supporting them in whatever way they think best, by using the platform we are lucky to have.

It is why tours such as this reaffirm our desire to serve the people of the Commonwealth and to listen to communities around the world. Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead its family in the future isn't what is on my mind. What matters to us is the potential the Commonwealth family has to create a better future for the people who form it, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can.

Under the circumstances it's hard to see how HRH could have said anything very different; indeed, there was never any hard evidence for the ubiquitous media assertion that the main purpose of the tour was to discourage those three countries from imitating Barbados and breaking with the Crown. But let's remember that the point of the Crown is not the glory of the Royal Family but the well-being of the people it serves, and so while it may be true that Prince William himself would not be particularly distressed by a reduction in the number of his future Realms, those who live there who do believe in the Monarchy and have looked forward to having him as their King one day would be. So would all monarchists and believers in the essential Royal dimension of the Commonwealth throughout the world, including me. I know that I for one would cease to have any interest in the Commonwealth were this aspect of it to be sacrificed in favour of yet another bland platitudinous international organisation stripped of any central role for the Crown.

I do specifically regret the use of the word "foreign," which seems to me to concede to republicans their mistaken premise that the Monarchy is "foreign" to countries like Belize, Jamaica, or Barbados. In fact since independence the Crown is theirs as well; the Queen transcends such narrow concepts as single nationality and legally belongs equally to all 15 of her remaining Realms. It would have been better to describe the recent tour as "international." As the grandson and heir of the Queen of Jamaica, Prince William cannot truly be considered a "foreigner" in Jamaica. (He and Catherine certainly did not look like "foreigners" when participating in local dances!)

While Peter Hitchens tends to be more negative than I am about the contemporary royals' concessions to modernity (and incidentally I also have a bit of a soft spot for Rishi Sunak since I met him in 2015), I basically agree with him here:

The British Monarchy will not save itself by sucking up to its enemies, or by making penitent speeches about slavery.

Barbados has dumped the Crown and Jamaica is going the same way.

Left-wing radicals aren't that bothered by slavery in general, though it is a useful whip with which to scourge what is left of the old British establishment.

Always remember that the biggest slave empire of all time was created by Soviet Communism in its Gulag camps.

And there is a good argument for saying that modern China does the same thing, especially to the persecuted Uighur people, in its vast network of cruel prisons.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Haydn quartet online

I rarely use this blog to promote my own performances as a cellist. However, since I'm currently taking a break from Facebook and feel the need to post about this somewhere, I'll make an exception today. Tonight with three of my Dallas Symphony colleagues I will be performing Haydn's monumental string quartet "The Seven Last Words of Christ" at Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, a project of Crescendo. A short Instagram preview from last Friday's dress rehearsal for the first concert at my own church is available here. I mention it here regardless of whether any readers can attend in person, because the performance is available to watch and listen online on Facebook. Please tune in!

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Dreher on the Spanish Civil War

While only indirectly related to monarchism, this new blog post by Rod Dreher on the Spanish Civil War, one of the most widely misunderstood topics in modern history, is worth reading.

Royal Wedding in Colombia

Yesterday, HSH Prince Josef-Emmanuel of Liechtenstein, 32, nephew of both the Prince of Liechtenstein and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, married Colombian socialite Maria Claudia Echeverria Súarez in her hometown of Cartagena. Many European royals attended the wedding, including the Bonapartist pretender to the French throne and his wife.

The Royal Tour and the Media

Anyone casually following the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge's tour of the Caribbean (Belize, Jamaica, Bahamas) might understandably get a little confused. If one looks only at photographs and videos, one sees images of successful visits in which people in all three countries are clearly thrilled to see and greet the glamorous and impeccably gracious royal couple, who for the time being remain, under current constitutions, their future King and Queen. But if one looks at social media and commentary, one is told that the tour has been a "failure," dominated by republicanism and protests against colonialism. A thoughtful post at my friend The Royal Watcher's blog delves into the mysterious discrepancy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Wilhelm I 225

 Today is the 225th birthday of German Emperor Wilhelm I (1797-1888).

Queen Luise (1776-1810) with her sons, later Wilhelm I and Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1795-1861)

Emperor Wilhelm I

Four generations of Hohenzollerns in 1882

Friday, March 18, 2022

The Russia We Have Lost

Peter Hitchens, staunchly anti-Bolshevik although perhaps not as Tsarist as I am, is at his elegiac best here mourning the loss of the kind of Russia he had hoped would be reborn after the fall of Communism, a dream now perhaps shattered forever by Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Sofiyskaya Street, Moscow, early 1900s

The Monuments Man and the Princess: More Articles

Back in May 2017 I blogged about this then-recent article (October 2016) on the unique story of American Monuments Man Clyde Harris (1918-1958), whose grave in Amarillo I later visited (June 2019), and Princess Cecilie of Prussia (1917-1975). It seems I am not the only one who finds this subject fascinating as new articles have continued to appear online: on January 18, 2021 (coincidentally the 150th anniversary of the German Empire) at Medium and on May 12, 2021 at Amarillo's Mix 94.1.

My photo of Clyde Harris's grave, Llano Cemetery, Amarillo, TX, June 26, 2019

Monday, March 14, 2022

Empress Teresa Cristina 200

Today has been the bicentennial of the birth in Naples of Princess Teresa Cristina of the Two Sicilies (1822-1889), Empress (consort) of Brazil as the wife of Emperor Dom Pedro II (1825-1891), known as "the Mother of the Brazilians."

I visited her tomb at Petrópolis Cathedral in May 2019.

My photo of the imperial tombs at Petrópolis Cathedral, May 30, 2019

Micaela, Countess of Paris (1938-2022)

HRH the Dowager Countess of Paris, née Micaela Cousiño, second wife of the late Count [regarded by many royalists as King Henri VII of France (1933-2019)], has died at the age of 83. May she rest in peace.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Grand Duchess Elizabeth at Saint Thomas Church

I've been listening to the webcasts of New York's Saint Thomas Church for over 15 years, attending in person as often as possible between 2007 and 2019. I am pleased that today's Solemn Evensong, which you can watch and hear online, features a sermon on Grand Duchess St. Elizabeth of Russia (1864-1918), one of Westminster Abbey's ten Modern Martyrs, by Mo. Susan Hill of NYC's Church of the Holy Apostles. This sermon is part of Saint Thomas's Lenten series, "'A Grain of Wheat': Martyrs of Our Time." Mo. Hill skillfully links Elizabeth's holy life to the needs of our contemporary world.

Daughter of Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse (1837-1892) and Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (1843-1878), Elizabeth was considered one of the most beautiful princesses of her generation. In 1884, having rejected other suitors including the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, she married Grand Duke Sergei of Russia (1857-1905), at which occasion her younger sister Princess Alix (1872-1918) first met her future husband, Sergei's nephew who later became Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918). Not required by Russian law to convert to Orthodoxy since her husband was not in direct line to the throne, she nevertheless did so voluntarily several years later. After her husband's assassination in 1905, she renounced her glittering royal lifestyle for one of heroic service to the poor of Moscow as a nun. She had little political influence on her sister or on subsequent events in Russia, but the Revolution showed her no mercy. In July 1918, the day after the more famous Ekaterinburg murders, she and her companion Sister Barbara and several other members of the imperial family (including Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, a brother of the subject of my previous post) were murdered by the Bolsheviks in Alapayevsk, a location (now a monastery) which I visited in 2018 several days before the centennial. She was canonized in 1981 by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and in 1992 by the Moscow Patriarchate. 

I have no doubt that current events in her adopted homeland would grieve her deeply, but she would do what she always did and try to help those in need as much as she could.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Centennial of the death of Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna

One hundred years ago today, Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1860-1922), died in Cannes at the age of 61. She was the daughter of Nicholas I's youngest son Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich (1832-1909) and his wife Cecilie (Sophie) of Baden (1839-1891). A vivacious and colourful personality, the Grand Duchess had never been happy in Mecklenburg (despite the obvious beauty of Schwerin Castle) or in her marriage to Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III (1851-1897), spent as much time as she could in southern France, and caused a scandal when she gave birth to a child several years after his death. (Her Wikipedia article used to be unusually long and thorough for a relatively obscure royal, but it has apparently been shortened due to copyright infringement.) She and her husband had three children, all of whom married well: Alexandrine (1879-1952) became Queen of Denmark as the wife of King Christian X (grandparents of the present Queen); Friedrich Franz IV (1882-1945), the last Grand Duke, married Princess Alexandra of Hanover; Cecilie (1886-1954) became Crown Princess of Germany as the wife of Crown Prince Wilhelm, and would have become Empress eventually if the German monarchy had survived. Kaiser Wilhelm II was initially hostile to his son's union with Cecilie as he had a low opinion of her mother, but eventually came to accept the match, which proved popular with the public though privately unhappy.  Here Anastasia is pictured with her three legitimate children. While unlike her more famous cousin of the same name she did survive the Revolution, being already out of Russia, her brothers were not so lucky: three of them, Grand Dukes Nicholas (1859-1919), George (1863-1919), and Serge (1869-1918) were murdered by the Bolsheviks. May they all rest in peace.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Prince William under fire

There is a fake online controversy being stirred up about some innocent remarks by Prince William at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in London. HRH said, “For our generation, it’s very alien to see this in Europe. We are all behind you.” But misleading media reports suggested that he added that wars like this were more typical of Asia and Africa, even though there is no video evidence that he said anything about other continents. So of course Twitter explodes with self-righteous condemnations of "racism" and mocking the prince's alleged ignorance, given that of course historically there have been many conflicts in Europe. But this is stupid. It is a fact that there has not been a large-scale invasion of one European country by another anywhere in Europe since 1945. So yes, for Europeans of William's generation, and even of his parents' generation, what is happening now in Ukraine is "alien." People on Twitter need to get a life and stop hunting for "racism" where it doesn't exist. And shame on those journalists who, perhaps deliberately, put words in the Duke's mouth and altered the meaning of his comments, shortly before he and the Duchess are due to visit the Caribbean.

Update: Hannah Furness sets the record straight in the Telegraph.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

New pages on Frederik IX & Ingrid 1935 wedding group photo

Today, inspired by a photo downloaded from Wikipedia, I added two new pages to my website about the 1935 wedding of King Frederik IX of Denmark (1899-1972), whose 50th death anniversary was January 14, and Princess Ingrid of Sweden (1910-2000), parents of the present Queen Margrethe II (as well as Princess Benedikte and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece). Here is the rather splendid photo of all the guests, with identifications and links to their Wikipedia articles, so that viewers can learn a bit about almost every person depicted, and here is a chart of European monarchies at the time. (I recommend viewing the former page on a computer, with the browser extended to full screen; otherwise it is unlikely to display properly.) 

I find it fascinating to contemplate how many stories and how much history a photograph like this represents. In 1935, the old continental European empires were already gone; yet unlike today, many people, royals and commoners, still lived who had been formed by the pre-1914 monarchical Old Order and remembered it well. Modernism (especially in its forms of Communism, Fascism, and Nazism) was already frighteningly ascendant, and yet more vestiges of tradition remained than do today; a unique juxtaposition in history. Countries still monarchical in 1935 that no longer are included Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary (albeit without a King), Albania, Romania, and Yugoslavia. (The Spanish monarchy had only recently fallen and the Greek one would be restored later that year.)

The Atlantic on MBS

The Atlantic has a substantial new article on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. Without editorializing I am sharing it for my readers. It has already been criticized in the Washington Post for being too flattering, though in fact the article contains plenty that is negative. Author Graeme Wood responds to the implication that journalists should not interview autocrats here.