Monday, October 16, 2017

MM Movie Review: The Exception

“The Exception” is a “romantic war drama” from 2016 directed by David Leveaux. Despite its official designation, I would hardly call it any kind of war drama as the war is never really seen and, as for the “romantic” part, I suppose it is though it certainly is not what I would say is typical in that regard. However, that aside, this is going to a positive review. If you are a monarchist, over 18 and do not live in Kansas, I would recommend this film and I am saying that now because, since unlike most movies I talk about, this one is relatively recent and if you want to watch a film which is stolen by a masterful portrayal of the exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II, read no more and do so now because there will be spoilers. That generally goes with the territory with my reviews but, again, I want to put the warning out there since this was released last year and I ordinarily only review films that have been out for a long time and I assume most have seen already.

The film is based on the novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss” by Alan Judd which I have not read and so will not comment on. The main characters of the film are German army captain Stefan Brandt played by Jai Courtney and a house maid name Mieke played by Lily James. However, the film revolves around the exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II played masterfully by veteran actor Christopher Plummer who totally steals the show. I cannot imagine anyone, monarchist or not, watching this movie and not wanting to see more of Plummer playing the Kaiser than anything else. The most surprising thing is that, quite unintentionally I gather from the commentary, it is actually a very fair and even somewhat sympathetic portrayal. Yeah, imagine that. Christopher Plummer even looks eerily similar to the Kaiser at this stage in his life and I would say gives the most convincing portrayal, in appearance and mannerisms, of the last German emperor since Barry Foster in “Fall of Eagles”. Christopher Plummer and his scenes alone make this a film worth watching, in spite of the things it does get wrong.

Our story begins with Captain Brandt having a nightmare about a traumatic war experience he had in Poland after a tryst with some unknown woman. He is called to HQ and told that the German army has just conquered Poland and that he is to be put in charge of the guard posted at House Doorn, residence of the exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Without specifics we are made aware, from his nightmare and the words of his superior, that Brandt evidently witnessed an atrocity in Poland, took some sort of action and got into some trouble over it as his posting, while away from the front, is considered better than he deserves. Brandt goes to Doorn and meets up with the local SS agent for the area, a predictably contemptible character, and is brought before the former German Kaiser after being briefed on the very strict rules that are in place concerning the former monarch. We also meet the Kaiser, who is following the progress of the German army during the westward blitzkrieg and Mieke, a new girl working at the house, who wins over the exiled king with her sweet simplicity.

Mieke later comes to invite Captain Brandt to have dinner with the Kaiser and, despite having set him up as being not such a bad guy, he sort of attempts to rape her and not “attempt” in that he gets fresh and she fends him off but rather that he is unable to complete the act. It is an odd and difficult scene, all the more so because Mieke makes no effort at all to resist and does not seem terribly bothered by it at all. She says nothing about it and at dinner, despite his briefing on what not to talk about, as the Kaiser’s wife, Princess Hermine, asks about the captain’s background, the difficulties of his family stemming from World War I comes up which causes the Kaiser to have an emotional outburst, pained that he is held to blame for everyone’s misfortunes. Brandt said nothing of the sort, though we see from a comment later that he does seem to blame the Kaiser for the war, but it reveals how much the Kaiser himself feels responsible despite recounting how he tried to stop the catastrophe (which is historically accurate) and wondering where were the men like Ludendorff, Bethmann-Hollweg and Tirpitz when the world turned against him. It was one of the most powerful scenes in the film, brilliantly done by Plummer who, in sad frustration, remarks that these men, “lost me the war. They lost me my country”.

After dinner, Brandt returns to his quarters to find Mieke there and she basically turns the tables on him, which he doesn’t seem to mind and the two have a conjugal encounter, something forbidden by the rules of the house. Later, the local SS agent tells Brandt that they have been picking up radio transmissions and believe a British spy is operating in the area and may be targeting the Kaiser. In a somewhat funny scene, when Brandt goes to inform the Kaiser about this, Princess Hermine beats him to it, already aware of this news through some sources of her own. Whether because of this perceived threat or to be closer to Mieke, with whom Brandt is having a full blown affair, he moves into the main house. The Kaiser is unimpressed by the idea of a British spy possibly targeting him, thinking, sadly but not unreasonably, that an old man with no position of power who chops wood and feeds his ducks all day would not be considered a target worthy of assassination. Still, we are left to wonder what this secret agent is up to but we are very quickly left in no doubt as to who that agent is; it is Mieke. She says nothing about this to Brandt but does reveal to him something just as dangerous; she is not simply a Dutch girl but a Jew. However, Brandt does not care about this, only urging her to keep it a secret for the sake of her own safety.

The tension and suspense of the film is mostly based around Brandt following Mieke, slowly suspecting that she is the agent and the Germans who are using her radio broadcasts to slowly zero-in on her exact location. The Kaiser, for his part, is mostly concerned with his desire for a restoration of the monarchy, pointing out that in such a time of crisis, Germany needs a traditional, Christian monarch to unite the country and serve as a moral leader. His wife does not want him to lose hope that this dream could come true and we are made to believe that she was working very hard for it, doing her best to gain the favor of the Nazi high command (again, something generally accurate). Brandt thinks it is only tormenting the Kaiser to have such hopes, knowing from his own experience that the Nazis would never restore the monarchy, being dominated by men from the lowest levels of society who clawed their way to the top and who are extremely resentful of the traditional aristocracy and princes. This, however, leads to one of the biggest historical inaccuracies of the film which, up to this point, had been doing pretty good in that department.

Word arrives that Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, is coming to Doorn to visit the Kaiser. Princess Hermine hopes that such a high profile visit could mean that Hitler is about to offer the Kaiser his throne back. Needless to say, this visit never happened and would have been quite absurd. The Kaiser was visited, before the war, by Air Marshal Hermann Goering and this is mentioned in the film, the Kaiser being less than impressed with the outlandish Nazi. For Himmler to visit the Kaiser, on the other hand, would have been extremely bizarre to say the least. He was a party official after all and, especially after being visited by Goering, to have someone like Himmler come would have been seen as a slight rather than an honor. Himmler was basically a policeman, had been too young for action in World War I and I can only imagine this was put into the story because of the reputation Himmler has today as possibly the most sinister Nazi of all. People today tend to forget that, at the time, Himmler hard made the list of highest-ranking Nazis whereas Hermann Goering was Hitler’s right-hand man, the second most powerful man in the Reich and Hitler’s chosen successor

When Himmler does arrive, following a thorough search of the house which offends the Kaiser, it is extremely awkward on every level. Not that many will be honest enough to say it but, I think they are somewhat unfair to Himmler, at least up to a point, in his behavior during the visit. He is shown to be ignorant of proper protocol and rather rude which I do not think Himmler would have been. Prince Heinrich of Bavaria was his godfather and Himmler’s own father had been a tutor to the Bavarian Royal Family so I am fairly sure Himmler, despite his politics, would have known how to behave in such a situation. Princess Hermine, who had tried to think the best of the Nazis, has her Christian values offended by catching a glimpse of Himmler’s secretary in his room in her underwear as she, again very awkwardly, gives Himmler an envelop full of cash as a gift. She actually did do this but to Goering who did actually visit and while Himmler did carry on an affair with his secretary, it seems very unlikely that he would have been unable to behave himself for one evening in such a situation. He also offends the Kaiser and his Christian values by talking about the studies underway which he has witnessed to most effectively exterminate the Jews.

This is another point that must be addressed, even though I am sure it will offend someone. First of all, the war was well underway before any talk of exterminating the Jews ever came up even behind closed doors among Nazi leaders. The idea that Himmler would have been openly chatting about such a thing in the Netherlands, in front of the former Kaiser, at the beginning of the war is ridiculous. Secondly, Himmler was not that sort of man. By all accounts I have read, Himmler himself only ever witnessed one execution of Jews and it so revolted him that he had to run outside and be sick. So, again, the idea that he would be telling such lurid stories to such an audience is utterly absurd. The point of this whole meeting in terms of the film is to reveal to the Kaiser and his wife, who were both devout Christians, what sort of people the Nazis were. Later that night, the Kaiser reveals privately that Himmler indeed offered to restore him to his throne in Berlin but that, after waiting and hoping for this day for so long, he cannot bring himself to be associated with so monstrous a regime.

Captain Brandt, however, knows that the Kaiser is being tricked. Himmler, in another scene which would never have happened in real life, informs him prior to his meeting with Wilhelm II that he will inform the Kaiser that Hitler will restore his throne but that this is a ruse intended only to flush remaining German royalists out into the open so that they can be dealt with. Brandt does not keep this secret, being already in the midst of a conflict of loyalties concerning his affair with Mieke. Once Himmler has left, Mieke confronts the Kaiser out in the woods while he is chopping wood (which actually was the Kaiser’s primary pastime during his exile) and reveals herself as the British spy. However, she was not ordered to kill him but rather to pass word to him that the British would offer him a safe haven in England and the restoration of his throne after the Allies win the war. The Kaiser can only marvel at the absurdity of the situation; after twenty years of waiting receiving two offers for restoration in a single night, neither of which he can accept.

The last act of this drama plays out though as Mieke is discovered by the SS and Brandt must decide to serve his country or save the woman he loves. He proves Mieke right as she had previously told him that he was “the exception” among the servants of the Nazi regime rather than the rule. In a move that must surely win over some republicans, at least momentarily, the Kaiser, who had collapsed with heart problems, helps Brandt get Mieke to safety under the guise of taking him to the hospital. At the very end, we see that Brandt was not found out for what he did and that Mieke got away to England, carrying his child. Kaiser Wilhelm II, unfortunately, did not long survive the point at which these fictitious events are to have happened but that is not dwelt upon and that is fine. They did end the film with the old Kaiser being counted among the ranks of the “good guys” which is more than most monarchists would likely expect, particularly concerning the rather thorny issue of the last German Kaiser and his attitude toward the Jews.

On the whole, I thought the movie was very good and well worth watching but, personally, almost solely for the purpose of watching Plummer portray the Kaiser which I thought was the most well done, the most accurate and the most interesting. The rest, I could frankly take or leave. The romance just seemed to happen for no reason other than first-sight physical attraction and seemed to go way too far way too fast. It didn’t make sense to me. Likewise, while there was some real suspense to see what would happen, there was certainly no real mystery as to who the spy was and her being Jewish seemed a bit like unnecessary pandering. Doubtless she would have been in just as much danger for being found out as a British spy as she would be for being Jewish. At this early stage of the war, perhaps even more so. The Himmler visit was ridiculous but I suppose I should not complain given that it made the Kaiser and his household look very good in comparison.

It does contain a little naughty language and a couple glimpses of brief nudity so, again, not for the underage of residents of Kansas but I recommend it simply for the very accurate and sympathetic portrayal of the Kaiser, accidental though it was on the part of the filmmakers. I also thought the portrayal of Princess Hermine by Janet McTeer was excellent and pretty historically accurate as well. They showed the Kaiser as a good man, unjustly maligned, haunted by a terrible past that had been laid at his doorstep and who firmly believed in the righteousness of the Christian monarchist cause. They showed the Princess Hermine, likewise, as a good Christian woman of the Prussian aristocracy who had pinned her hopes for her husband on the Nazi regime and who wanted to believe the best about them until coming face to face with the ugly truth in the person of Himmler. Anyone interested in the Kaiser and particularly his time in exile should certainly give it a viewing. I am glad I did.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Brief Word on Faith & Frederick Barbarossa

The German emperors tend to have a rocky history when it comes to Church-state relations, partly because, in their time, anything involving the popes were also state-state relations. For some reason I have yet to fully understand, some modern Catholics are willing to be more understanding regarding some emperors than others. So, Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa), who found himself at odds with the pope is still reviled by many today while Emperor Charles V, who waged war against the pope, is celebrated. I hasten to add that this does not mean Charles V should be vilified, those who defend him are correct inasmuch as his problems with the pope were political and not religious, however, I am saying that one could be more consistent in applying such understanding in regards to the Hohenstaufen kaiser as one is with the Habsburg. The fact that it is not is, in my view, unfortunate and helps to further religious division, particularly for Germans, and that division has led only to widespread religious indifferentism. If, as any monarchist should, one wishes the German people to get back in touch with their monarchical roots, Frederick Barbarossa is a figure that cannot be ignored and should not be dismissed. He was one of the most important German emperors ever, I would say easily among the top three, and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation cannot be fully understood without him.

Did Emperor Frederick I have problems with the Church in his time? Most would say, "yes" but I would add that his problems were more with the papacy than with the Church as a whole. Problems there certainly were though and ultimately this stemmed from the fact that the First German Reich, referred to officially as the "Holy Roman Empire" had a very different beginning than the original Roman Empire which preceded it. It all came down to the fact that this new entity had begun with the Pope, St Leo III, crowning Charlemagne "Emperor of the Romans" and, as such, the papal view was that the imperial crown was theirs to give and theirs to take away. Emperor Frederick I, as with many of his fellow kaisers, needless to say, did not tend to share this view. There was also a territorial dispute which originated from, basically, the Pope giving land to the King of Sicily which Frederick regarded as being part of the empire without checking with the emperor first and after the Emperor had signed an agreement with a previous pope that promised there would be no such agreement between the Emperor and the King of Sicily without papal approval, so it seemed like a double-cross to the Germans.

When Pope Alexander III was challenged by a rival in the person of anti-Pope Victor IV, the rather bad relations between Frederick and Alexander meant it was no great surprise that the Emperor recognized Victor IV as the rightful Bishop of Rome. Yet, even then, it seems to have been purely political as Emperor Frederick had first conveyed to Pope Alexander that if he would agree to see things his way, Frederick would remain with him but when the Pope refused, the Emperor sided with his rival. When Victor IV was succeeded by another anti-pope, Frederick supported him as well until he was defeated and driven from Rome by Alexander III. The Emperor mounted a last major invasion of Italy but met with a stunning defeat at the hands of the Italians at the Battle of Legnano. After this, Emperor Frederick I finally gave up on his ideas of empire, resigned to contenting himself with Germany and (this is important) formally and publicly patched things up with Pope Alexander III. So, yes, the Pope and the Emperor had their "issues" but, in the end, they kissed and made up. The dispute was always of a political nature and not really about doctrine or dogma.

Especially in these dishonest and disjointed times we live in, I think it is important to keep a few things in mind before being too hard on Emperor Frederick. He was one of the few German emperors to actually be crowned by the Pope (in 1155) with his troops killing off the Roman republicans who had been antagonizing the pontiff while he was there. Emperor Frederick, though he was excommunicated along with anti-Pope Victor IV, only had a problem with that because from his first day to his last he considered himself a staunch Roman Catholic and never considered being anything else. Indeed, he was widely considered a very devout and pious man who wanted the papal and imperial powers to work together but did insist that the pope recognize the imperial power which he wielded in secular matters. He was not some raving, unorthodox, heretic who was, for example, trying to argue that mothers could kill their children or that two men can get married. Finally, it is also worth remembering that even after all of his trials and difficulties, Emperor Frederick I died while going on Crusade to retake the Holy Land from Islam. In short, while not denying or covering up the very real differences Frederick Barbarossa had with the papacy, I think Catholics should not be too hard on him. The first view of him that comes to mind should not be that of a villain.

It is only my opinion, and I may well be wrong, but I cannot help but think that such attitudes probably played into the hands of someone Catholics should oppose much more; Martin Luther. I can imagine it being a great gift to him and his portrayal of the pope as a corrupt, Italian prince who lorded over the Germans that their most celebrated national heroes among the emperors tend to be the ones most condemned by the Catholic Church. In some cases, there were legitimate grounds for such condemnations with emperors who were clearly in need of some "correction" but I do not think Frederick Barbarossa was really one of them and I think some distinction should be made between those who had religious differences with the Church itself and those who had political disputes with the papacy at a time when, for good or ill, the pope was a political figure and acted as such. Again, Frederick Barbarossa was crowned emperor by the Pope, it was in his reign that the empire was first referred to as the "Holy" Roman Empire, he took his position as the secular leader of Christendom very seriously and died on crusade. I think Catholics should stop with the knee-jerk evaluation of him as an enemy to be immediately condemned at every opportunity.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Beginning of the End of Imperial China

It was on this day in 1911 that the Wuchang Uprising kicked off, the event which would escalate, in odd ways, spreading to finally bring about the rather anti-climatic end of the Great Qing Dynasty and thousands of years of the imperial monarchy in China. It was the last time that China would have a system of government that was completely Chinese in its origins. This is something, I find, many modern authors fail to mention but it seems a glaring fact to leave out considering how Sino-centric and nationalistic the Chinese, even the Communist Chinese, have traditionally been. The imperial system, which came to be bound up with the Confucian moral code and worldview but which long predates even the Great Sage himself, was the only system of government China has ever had that was entirely Chinese in its origin and entirely Chinese in its basis and its political philosophers. This is all the more bizarre given that the movement which brought down the Qing Dynasty contained a considerable vein, at the very least, of anti-foreign sentiment. Yet, this would prove to be not at all uncommon in East Asian history in the last century.

This dichotomy was partly the result of how different factions viewed the non-Chinese world. One, opposed foreigners and all things foreign but, at the same time, blamed the Qing Dynasty for failing to defend China from these infecting foreign elements. Another, however, shared the opposition to the foreigners and the Qing Dynasty but at the same time felt that as the foreigners had been able to dominate them, there must be a reason for this and that the foreigners possessed superior knowledge which the Chinese needed to adopt in order to deal with them. For a long time, the threat of the foreign powers seemed relatively minimal. Other than the coastal areas and major ports, most of China had no contact with any foreigners at all and while the military defeats and unequal treaties were aggravating, they were not seen as existential threats. These also came at the hands of Europeans who, for many Chinese, were so alien and incomprehensible that they could be discounted. A bigger blow to Chinese prestige came in 1895 with their stunning defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War. This was far more consequential than many realize.

Just like World War I was not the first “world war”, so too the “First Sino-Japanese War” was not the first time that the Chinese and Japanese had fought each other. However, it was the first time that Imperial China and the Japan of the post-Meiji Restoration had come to blows. The way China was so swiftly and completely defeated shocked the world, given the disparity between the two powers in the ways in which national strength had always been measured. China had vastly more land, more resources, more people, more wealth of every kind, how could they possibly lose? They did lose though and for China this was a bigger shock than their losses in the south to the British or French. Losing to Europeans was rather like losing to invaders from Outer Space. Losing to Japan, however, was totally different. China had long regarded the Japanese as being little more than a nest of pirates. They often referred to them as “dwarves”, uncivilized and, indeed, were previously held to be a vassal state of Imperial China. In every way, the Japanese were an enemy unworthy of being taken seriously. Losing to them in 1895 was a blow to the entire traditional worldview of Imperial China.

Emperor GuangXu
Something, therefore, had to be done. Earlier, there had been an effort to take essentially the same course Japan had taken with the “Tongzhi Restoration” but this was thwarted, in part by the Empress Dowager Cixi. The defeat at the hands of Japan, as well as other, minor territorial losses to emerging European nation-states, prompted another effort in the name of the Guangxu Emperor known as the “Hundred Days’ Reform”. However, Empress Dowager Cixi put a stop to this as well, even placing the emperor under house arrest. She would come around to supporting some innovation but it would prove too little and too late. Military force to deal with the foreign element was tried by swinging imperial support behind the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901 but this proved disastrous. With the end of the Hundred Days’ Reform and the Boxer Rebellion, it was really the end of any monarchist effort to deal with the crisis. From then on, anti-monarchy elements would take the lead and a number of anti-Qing secret societies were formed. They would ultimately take advantage of dissatisfaction in the provinces with imperial rule.

This came about, oddly enough, from the burgeoning railroad industry in China. Local provinces had built their own railroads but when the imperial government decided to nationalize the railroads, as a means of collateral to obtain foreign loans, the provincial authorities were outraged. Some organized their own security forces to defend the railroads and there were clashes between them and imperial troops. Taking advantage of this unrest were a couple of secret societies working together who planned a sort of terrorist attack. However, their bomb exploded prematurely which alerted the Qing authorities and who began a crackdown on these organizations. One group, the Literary Society, knew they were marked for arrest and execution and so planned to simply mount an uprising of their own and hope others joined their cause. However, again, the local Qing viceroy was made aware of the plot and quick action was able to stop it with many of the leadership being arrested. At every point, the would-be revolutionaries were failing and often through their own mistakes.

Wuchang rebel military flag
When word of this got out, on October 10, 1911 revolutionary elements within the New Army mutinied and attacked the Qing Dynasty garrison at Huguang, taking control of the viceroy’s residence after a hard fight. This was the first step. The next day, a military government was established by the rebels for Hubei province. They raised their flag and called on all Han Chinese people to join them in revolution against the Manchu dynasty but, it is important to note, only after they had confirmed from the representatives of the foreign powers that they would not intervene to support the dynasty as, for example, they had done in the Taiping Rebellion. Although then and still to this day they claim that the revolution had been all about driving out the foreigners and getting rid of the Qing who were either foreigners themselves as Manchu rather than Han people, were in league with the foreigners or else unable to defeat the foreigners, the truth is that the revolutionaries themselves were not only successful but only really tried in the first place to take power after being assured that the foreigners would not oppose them.

This makes it extremely frustrating for monarchists who, in China, are inevitably portrayed as being on the same side as the foreigners when, in fact, the rebellion only happened because the foreigners withdrew their support for the continuation of the dynasty. Adding to monarchist frustration is the fact that the loyalists were never really defeated. The Qing court dispatched General Yuan Shih-kai and his formidable Beiyang Army which won the Battle of Yangxia and recaptured Hankou and Hanying from the rebels only to have Yuan Shih-kai do a double-cross and offer to deliver the surrender of the Qing forces in exchange for being given power in the post-Qing republic. This is what ultimately came about as, after securing his secret agreement with the rebels but still posing as a loyal general, Yuan Shih-kai persuaded the court that their cause was lost and that the best thing to do would be to abdicate in exchange for a promise of favorable treatment which he would guarantee.

Beiyang Army
So it was that thousands of years of imperial rule in China came to an end, not after a crushing battlefield defeat, not with rebel mobs storming the Forbidden City but after a double-cross by a supposedly loyal top general and the end of a string of events which included one failure after another by the hapless revolutionaries. It should then be considered only inevitable that many monarchists in China would not regard the loss of the Mandate of Heaven by the Qing Dynasty to be in any way legitimate. They may in fact be the only monarchy to ever be tricked into handing over power to a faction which they had actually just defeated.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Empire of Lies

One of America's most important "Founding Fathers" once referred to his vision of the United States of America as an "Empire of Liberty". A better description of modern republicanism in general could be the "Empire of Lies". Jefferson, of course, knew that his phrase in the Declaration of Independence, that "all men are created equal" was a lie when he said it. The struggle which prompted that phrase was based on a number of 'whoppers' such as the colonies being over-taxed (in fact, they were hardly taxed at all) to the claim that they could not be taxed since they had no representation in the British government when, in fact, they wanted no such representation because they could have been easily outvoted by the much larger population of Britain which was also much more heavily taxed and likely none too sympathetic with their receiving all of the benefits of British rule while shouldering hardly any of the cost.

We have lately been “treated” to two sides of the political spectrum in America arguing over “free speech” when neither of them actually believe in such a thing. The left shouts people down or resorts to violence to silence speech they disapprove of and, while the right has not done the same (such as in regards to the protests of the national anthem), that may well only be because they are unable to. As with all people of all times, they refuse to tolerate anyone disparaging that which they hold most dear. In the old days, it was speaking disrespectfully of the king or of Christianity that would land you in hot water, today it is more often speaking against the “narrative” of the ruling elite.

Also, recently, after the horrific mass-shooting in Las Vegas, we have the left telling another big lie which is that they are all about “gun control” and if only we could take guns away from people, all would be well. They don’t mean a word of it. If they did, they would not have put a stop to Mayor Giuliani’s program of “stop and frisk” in New York City which was aimed at getting illegal firearms off the streets. However, it seemed that the people with illegal firearms were too consistently of one color and so this was deemed “racist” and had to be stopped. So, by their actions, we know that any effort at “gun control” is really only an effort to suppress gun ownership by one segment of the population and not the population as a whole. After all, that “equality under the law” jargon has been shown to be nothing but a lie as well. The law only applies to certain people and some people are ‘more equal than others’.

Lies are the foundation of our modern society. Everyone knows this, it is only that few wish to seriously address it. Everyone in probably every society knows some version of the joke about politicians, how they pretend to tell us the truth and we pretend to believe them. The lies are positively essential when you have a society based on vague, ephemeral, unrealistic and unobtainable “ideals” rather than actual reality. Equality is not a reality and no amount of legal paperwork, five-year plans or social engineering can ever make it so. Popular sovereignty is a lie, there are those who rule and those who are ruled and that is just as true today as it was in the age of absolutism, the Middle Ages or ancient Rome. The separation of church and state is a lie and an increasingly obvious one. The official religion of every modern state is not always a traditional religion but it is at least a pseudo-religion. Often, this too is simply a “narrative” and that narrative will be defended with all of the zeal of the Dominicans of the Inquisition.

Modern Germany offers a plethora of examples. Freedom of assembly? Only for those approved of by the elite. Democracy? The Germans never voted to make themselves an endangered species. They never voted to get rid of the Kaiser and in this Germany of government ‘by the people’, the choice of going back to the Kaiser is legally forbidden to them. Freedom of speech is an obvious lie everyone knows about and it has been mentioned here before. Tell someone you think the Armenian genocide did not happen and you may be thought a crank but tell someone you think the Holocaust did not happen and you will be put in prison. Fly a communist flag, you may offend a few but will be in no trouble. Fly a Nazi flag and, again, you will go to prison. In Nazi Germany, all parties but one were banned. Modern Germany gives you a wide selection of parties to choose from but only those the ruling elite approves of. We are told, of course, that this is because some ideas are simply too dangerous to be allowed a hearing. That is fair enough, however, it also means that the people who lie and say they believe in self-rule by "the people" do not believe the people are intelligent enough to refrain from supporting the Nazis if they were able to hear them and consider their ideas. Obviously, once again, the whole basis of their system is a lie.

The French Republic, likewise, rests on a bed of lies. The lie that the Revolution was in any way glorious rather than an orgy of self-destruction, the lie that the revolutionaries ever actually delivered on any of their high-sounding promises, the lie that the republic prevailed because of its superiority rather than the inability of the royalists to present a better alternative, all the way up to more recent lies such as what the French were doing in World War II. Some things, such as the storming of the Bastille being a heroic enterprise, are simply lies but the French Revolutionaries are more likely to lie by omission. This is quite common nowadays. There is simply no way to put a positive spin on something like the crushing of the Vendee uprising, the September Massacres or how the little Dauphin was abused, tormented and finally starved to death so such things are simply not talked about at all.

Practically all of our modern lives are based on lies. The education system is full of lies designed to feed the narrative of our rulers, as is the news media and much of pop culture. Our economic system is based on lies. Napoleon Bonaparte once said that, "History is a set of lies agreed upon". Substitute the word "currency" for "history" and this statement is just as true. Our money has value because our government lies to us and tells that it does, simply because they say so, and we believe them because not to would be disastrous. So much of our economies today depend on people making bets on the profits to be made on products that have not even been manufactured yet. We buy, sell and trade success or loss on items no one has produced. Not all of course, but a great deal of it is all based on nothing concrete, nothing substantive. In other words, lies, selling a product you do not have for imaginary money from someone else. And, it all goes on because to admit the lie would cause the entire facade to come crashing down and leave everyone in ruins. One of the "benefits" of globalism is that all the nations of the world are now members of a suicide pact.

Once upon a time, all of this was not so. In the pre-revolutionary days things were quite different. Not that lies did not exist in those days, they certainly did, but because before the revolutionary era there was no mass-politics, no politicians and thus no need to resort to wide-scale deceit in order to win and hold on to power. In the days of traditional monarchy, the system was not based on lies but on straightforward loyalties and obligations. Monarchs were monarchs of peoples, their peoples and their only concern was what was in the best interests of their peoples. The King of the English, the King of the Franks, the Emperor of the Romans etc did not have ideologies, political parties and pressure groups tearing at them. They did not have welfare states to fund (the Church and the guilds took care of such things), they did not have an entire system of government based on false and absurd ideals that required an army of propagandists working 24/7 to maintain and adjust the flow of lies. You knew who was in charge, you knew who had power over you, you knew what your obligations were and you knew who was responsible if things went badly.

I doubt many today could even imagine how much more simple, direct and honest things used to be in the days before every man, woman and child was expected to be involved in politics. I doubt many can imagine what it was like before everyone in society was locked in constant ideological warfare with their fellow citizens. It was the way life was once. There were no Tories, Labourites and Liberal Democrats, there were just Englishmen. There were no Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Greens and so on, just Germans, Frenchmen and so on all wanting to make the best of their lives, to live in peace and not be plundered by the neighbors. Your king was your king, your lord or other local authority was well known as were his obligations. A society without politics, without political parties, seems endlessly attractive to me. I wonder if we are becoming so inundated with lies these days that others might start to feel the same?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The House of Habsburg and the Jews

Particularly after World War II, many have looked back and heavily scrutinized any comments concerning the Jews from German Kaiser Wilhelm II in a very obvious effort to portray him, and thus justify his overthrow, as the precursor to Adolf Hitler. That, however, is a ridiculous exercise. The Kaiser did make accusations against the Jews, no doubt because of their overrepresentation in the ranks of his enemies on the far left, but he also expressed genuine horror at the first anti-Semitic crackdowns in Germany under the Nazi regime. The entire narrative, however, is a canard. Hitler, after all, was a native of Austria rather than Germany and none of these people ever look to the relationship between the last two Austrian Kaisers and the Jewish population, doubtless because there is little, if anything, which can be used against the final Habsburg monarchs in that regard. What was the relationship like between the Jews and the Habsburg emperors? The answer is that it was one subject to change.

The First Reich, the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”, had a large and very old Jewish population. Because the First Reich was usually a very decentralized body, more like a collection of small countries than one, large, empire other than in the periods when a particularly strong German Kaiser came to the throne and united the German people behind him. The Jewish population predated the rise of the House of Habsburg to the imperial throne, the Hohenstaufen Kaiser Friedrich II being notable for encouraging Jews to enter the financial sector and, indeed, they soon became known as the ‘servants of the treasury’. They were recognized as a separate group within the empire, allowed to live by their own laws and were not subject to the same laws as the Christian population. However, because of the decentralized nature of the empire, their status varied from locality to locality with some local rulers being more tolerant of them than others. There were occasions of mob violence against them but, overall, they were generally far better off than the Jews in other countries.

Albert II of Germany
Just prior to the Habsburgs attaining the imperial throne the status of the Jews initially remained the same as it had been previously. However, that changed under Archduke Albert V of Austria, aka Albert II of Germany. During the Hussite Wars the Jews were accused of complicity with the enemy and after a notorious incident of Eucharistic desecration at a church in Krems in 1420, Albert V ordered that the Jews be arrested, forced to convert and forfeit their property. Some were deported, some fled and a few were burned. Albert V banned Jews from Austria, destroyed the synagogue in Vienna and declared that they would never be allowed back. The successor of Albert V as Archduke of Austria would be the first Habsburg to be elected to the imperial throne; Emperor Frederick III. The “eternal ban” of Albert V turned out to be nothing of the sort as Emperor Frederick III canceled it, welcomed the Jews back and was extremely popular with the Jewish community who hailed him as the “King of the Jews”. The Jewish population revived quickly and prospered quickly, finding no shortage of customers for their businesses, particularly those looking for loans. Yet, this period of tolerance was not eternal either as Friedrich III was succeeded by Emperor Maximilian I.

Emperor Maximilian I, a very astute statesman and a figure who looms large in European history, found the Jewish presence rather at odds with the foundational principles of what was supposed to be a Catholic Christian empire. He did not go as far as he could have or as far as other monarchs had done in countries such as England, France or Spain but in 1496 he ordered the expulsion of all Jews from Styria and, later in 1509, confiscated Jewish property and burned all Jewish books. Yet, this situation did not persist nor was it widespread. After greatly expanding the reach of his dynasty, Maximilian was succeeded by Emperor Charles V who, despite being one of the most significant emperors, did not command unquestioning obedience. Faced with enemies such as the French, the Turks, the first Protestants and even the Pope, he had to take care to respect local authorities. He tolerated Jews in his German lands but in Spain, of which he was king as Carlos I, where Jews had been expelled, they remained expelled. Indeed, compared to Martin Luther, many Jews viewed Emperor Charles V as their guardian from fundamentalist mobs. In this period the Habsburg emperors were known to defend the Jews from the repressive measures of the Estates-General.

Ferdinand I
However, the outbreak and spread of Protestantism, and with it an increase in Christian fundamentalism, was bound to cause trouble for the Jews who stood out as the most noticeable non-Christian population within the borders of Christendom. When Emperor Charles V abdicated and divided his lands, the German half went to Emperor Ferdinand I who remained tolerant of them but did order them to wear a symbol marking their status as Jews. Today, this tends to cause an uproar due to memories of Hitler making the Jews wear a Star of David on their clothes but for Emperor Ferdinand it went no further than that. He did not molest them, he simply wanted them to be easily identified as a people apart which, it must be said, the Jews themselves considered themselves to be. However, restrictions on them did increase throughout the reigns of Emperors Maximilian II, Rudolf II and Matthias. This is often attributed to the Society of Jesus and an increasingly “fanatical” Catholicism in the empire, in reaction to the Protestants, yet, most ardent Catholics have a generally less than extremely favorable view of any of these Habsburg monarchs with many doubting the Catholic zeal of Maximilian II and Rudolf II and with Emperor Matthias also often viewed as too tolerant of non-Catholics.

It should also be pointed out that Emperor Ferdinand II, who is generally regarded as a Catholic champion like Emperor Charles V, was also like Charles V in being more tolerant of the Jews. He opposed their persecution and even allowed them to build a new synagogue. Obviously, it is ridiculous to attribute anti-Semitism to Catholic zealotry when the monarchs who are most celebrated by traditional Catholics, Charles V and Ferdinand II who led the Catholic side of the Thirty Years War, were more tolerant of Jews than Maximilian II or Rudolf II who are generally disliked by these same staunch Catholics. Indeed, during the Thirty Years War, Emperor Ferdinand II found the Jewish population to be a very valuable tax base to support his war effort against the Protestant coalition. In many ways, the Catholic emperors who wanted reconciliation with the Protestants tended to be more anti-Jewish while the Catholic emperors who wanted to defeat the Protestants were more tolerant of the Jews, at least during this period.

Emperor Leopold I
Things changed again with the reign of Emperor Leopold I. He was a staunch Catholic and had a very different attitude toward the Jews than his predecessors. Leopold I expelled the Jews from many of his lands, including banning them from Vienna in 1640. However, while he deported a great many Jews, he ultimately did not prevent them from returning which, in spite of accusations of persecution, they inevitably did. It is also worth noting that Emperor Leopold I had a Jewish economic advisor, one Samson Wertheimer. Clearly, whatever his attitude toward Jews collectively, he was willing to make exceptions. Although not extremely significant, it is also true that not all the Jews did come back after being expelled from the Habsburg lands with some moving all the way back to the Holy Land, following a rabbi who purported to be the messiah but who later converted to Islam (!). In general, however, over the ensuing years and throughout the reigns of a number of monarchs, the situation of the Jews was peaceful and the attitude of the Imperial Crown generally tolerant.

This trend generally remained in place though with one slight exception. Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary, inherited the Habsburg lands, prompting the War of the Austrian Succession (King George’s War to Americans) and she married the Duke of Lorraine, bringing to the Habsburgs one of the claims to the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. She was a devout Catholic, not a fan of the “Enlightenment” and not a big fan of the Jews. She wrote that, “Henceforth no Jew, no matter under what name, will be allowed to remain here without my written permission. I know of no other troublesome pest within the state than this race, which impoverished the people by their fraud, usury and money-lending and commits all deeds which an honorable man despises. Subsequently they have to be removed and excluded from here as much as possible.” However, it should also be remembered, she had a similar opinion of Protestants and wished to deport them as well which ultimately prompted a threat from her eldest son to abdicate. She also, like Leopold I, had Jews in her court and her ministers did convince her to moderate somewhat.

Emperor Joseph II
Her son, Emperor Joseph II, is generally regarded as much more tolerant than his mother, however, as is often the case with Joseph II, the truth is more complicated with him. He did not, like his mother, wish to expel all Jews or deport them to wild, frontier areas, but he did basically want them to stop being so Jewish. Emperor Joseph II was perfectly willing to restore the old tolerance toward the Jews but, at the same time, he also wanted them to stop being ‘a nation within a nation’ and integrate or assimilate as we would say today. He would give them the same rights as his Christian subjects but also expected them to submit to the same obligations with no special privileges. Joseph II, for example, was happy to let Jews worship as they please and do business as they pleased but he also wanted them to speak German rather than Yiddish, be subject to service in the Imperial Army, submit to the same laws as everyone else and so on. The Jews accepted their restored rights but generally refused to assimilate. It was, for Joseph II, one more project of his that failed to reach completion. As with most of the innovations of Joseph II, his successors, Leopold II and Francis II/I moderated the most extreme but largely kept the rest in place.

The status of the Jews remained largely unchanged until the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph who also oversaw the transition of the Austrian Empire to the “Dual-Monarchy” of Austria-Hungary. Rather than being a primarily German power, as the First Reich had been, Austria-Hungary reflected the shift toward multi-nationalism. Emperor Franz Joseph lifted remaining restrictions on the Jews and even championed their cause, repeatedly condemning anti-Semitism. As a result, he was widely popular with the Jews who called him the King of Jerusalem. They also recognized that nationalism by the member peoples of Austria-Hungary was a threat to them and so regarded themselves and the monarchy as having a common enemy. Rabbi Joseph Samuel Bloch, a native of Polish Galicia, was highly involved in this, promoting a Jewish form of Austrian patriotism. The restoration of full citizenship for Jews by Emperor Franz Joseph caused many to flock to Vienna. One of the most notable was Theodor Herzl, father of the Zionist movement, who believed that anti-Semitism could never be eliminated and the only solution was for the Jews to have a state of their own outside of Europe.

Badge of Jewish support for the K.u.K. war effort
Emperor Franz Joseph elevated many Jews to the nobility and gave them special considerations in the army. In the last conflict of the Habsburg drama, the Imperial and Royal Army included Protestants, Jews and Muslims which would likely have shocked previous generations. Rabbis and Imams served alongside priests in the chaplaincy. These policies were continued by Emperor Charles (Kaiser Karl) though he had little time to establish the same sort of relationship with his various peoples that his uncle had over so many years. According to Scottish author Gerald Warner, in Austria at least (likely not Hungary) the Jews were very supportive of the restoration of Emperor Charles and his son and would-be successor Archduke Otto is credited with helping a great many Jews escape Austria after its annexation by National Socialist Germany. This is rather remarkable given that all three of the founders of the Austrian Communist Party were Jews as was the leader of the short-lived communist takeover of Hungary Bela Kun. However, neither Emperor Charles or Archduke Otto in his long life ever relented in their friendly attitude toward the Jews or showed any regret over the policies of the last Habsburg monarchs in this regard (or any other really).

Rabbi praying over Emperor Charles & Empress Zita
No doubt this attitude contributed to the visceral hatred Adolf Hitler had toward the House of Habsburg whom he regarded as altogether too pandering towards Jews, Slavs and others rather than the German-Austrians. The problem that usually arises with this issue is that so many who focus on it tend to have a very simplistic attitude and firmly set preconceived notions one way or the other, pro- or anti-Semitic. History, as is usually the case, is more complicated than that. Some Habsburg monarchs were very indulgent with the Jews, some very clearly found them objectionable. However, on the whole, Jews fared better under the Habsburgs than in most other parts of Europe, the decentralized nature of the empire being very beneficial for them. When the King of England or King of France expelled the Jews, they were expelled from the country entirely. Under the Habsburgs, however, even when an emperor did expel them, they could only be expelled from lands directly belonging to the Habsburg dynasty and not from the whole empire over which the emperor had no control. Some did try to change this but none were successful. So, after starting out quite hostile to each other, the Jews and the Habsburgs ended on quite friendly ground with even the end of the empire not changing the attitude of the Habsburg dynasts in that regard.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Catalonia, Separatism & Small States

The day of the great independence referendum in the Catalonian region of the Kingdom of Spain has now come and gone and the result is that, true to their word, the Spanish government did not allow it to happen. Spanish police and the Civil Guard were deployed prior to the day votes were to be cast to raid polling stations, seize ballot papers, prevent people from voting and arrest ringleaders. Catalan separatists responded with cries of fascism and militarism, as well as producing ballots Catalans could print out at home. That, of course, only reaffirms the comment made by the Spanish prime minister that the referendum was a mere mockery of democracy. It is hard to say how he is wrong. Separatist leaders gave no guidelines by which success could be judged, no level at which voter turnout would be deemed sufficient to declare it legitimate, the voting process would be in the hands of the separatists themselves as would the process of counting the votes. It sounds rather like the referendum which gave birth to the Italian Republic in that regard.

Certainly, the entire affair contained a great deal of what the political class calls “bad optics” for the Spanish government with scenes of police smashing into polling stations and roughing up Catalan voters. However, what else could have been expected? The Spanish courts had already ruled that such a vote would be illegal and would have no validity, the organizers were openly flouting the law and the only recourse left was the use of force by the state. However, “optics” do matter these days and have for a long time actually which is why President Lincoln in the United States ordered the re-supply of the sacrificial garrison at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. He knew the outpost was doomed but he wanted the “optics” of the southerners firing on the American flag in order to boost northern support for a war of conquest against the breakaway southern states. The Catalan separatists were also clever enough to keep the issue simple, far more simple than it actually is, by giving the people the choice of only two options; the status quo or a Catalan republic. Thus, all we know about what sort of state they were proposing was that it would not be a monarchy.

These are certainly troubled times for the once proud and powerful Kingdom of Spain and there seems no hope of anything getting better in the immediate future. Separatist leaders have already, in spite of no vote really being held, declared themselves the winners with Carles Puigdemont saying that Catalonia has, “won the right to an independent state in the form of a republic” and that the way is now open for a unilateral declaration of independence. Again, it is noteworthy that the only thing the separatist leader can say to describe his ideal, independent, Catalonia is that it will be some sort of republic. What would actually resist remains to be seen as the separatists have portrayed independence as all things to all people, presenting differing visions cut to the customer’s satisfaction. To the socialists, it will be more socialist than ever, to the liberals it will be more capitalist than ever, to the Muslims, well, they were promised a ‘mega-mosque’ to be built when independence is achieved. They have no doubt about what sort of state they want and their views cannot be ignored considering that Catalonia has the highest percentage of Muslims among the Spanish regions. In fact, if Catalonia became independent, it would have the third most Muslim population in the neighborhood with a greater percentage than either Britain or Germany.

What has been odd is the number of people on the slightly right-of-center side of the political spectrum taking up the cause of Catalan independence. For the most part, these have been people and news outlets far removed from Spain who are mostly responding to the aforementioned “optics” of the situation. An independent Catalan republic would certainly be no bastion of conservatism or traditional European values (as the size and growth of the Muslim population rather clearly demonstrates). It would not even be all that “independent” given that they are even now looking to the EU to intervene on their behalf. So far, EU authorities have been rather lukewarm on the subject of Catalan independence, certainly showing none of the enthusiasm they failed to hide on the issue of Scottish independence. This, I contend, is simply because of money. Spain owes the EU a great deal of it and Catalonia accounts for about a fifth of the Spanish economy. If Catalonia were able to leave Spain, it would mean Spain would be even less likely to pay back its debts. Further, regions of Spain would likely then begin abandoning the sinking ship so that they are not the last one left holding the bill.

Due to a couple of comments, I think it also worth addressing the broader point of the ever-dividing states of Europe. I do not think I made it clear enough before why I think these ever smaller states are helpful. In the first place, whether one is speaking of Catalonia or Flanders or even Scotland, the immediate or ultimate end of these movements are to create more republics which is repugnant to my monarchist loyalties. However, even were they not, they would hardly be in a position to be truly independent. Some, more often the libertarian-minded rather than reactionary, also put forth the notion of micro-states. The problem with these is that they are too small and too incapable of the practical necessities of actual independence to withstand the stresses they would inevitably face. Those who point to the benefits of free market economics, and they have a case certainly, point to examples such as the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong which, while self-governing, was a colony and not independent. The Principality of Liechtenstein, while legally sovereign, is not capable of total independence and for most of its history has not been, previously being part of the First German Empire, currently part of a customs union with Switzerland.

The point can be made quite clear, I think, by pointing out the obvious which is that any small state which, unlike an independent Scotland or Catalonia or Flanders, truly wishes to go against the prevailing world order, will find itself isolated and vulnerable. Consider, for example, the fate of Rhodesia or South Africa prior to Black rule. These were not micro-states, in the case of South Africa it is a quite large state. However, even with their considerable resources, they were ultimately unable to stand against a hostile globe that treated them as pariahs. Even in the case of a Liechtenstein or a Monaco, these countries have had to bend to the international elites to one degree or another in order to retain their sovereign status. However, if you are not prepared to do business the way the masters of the current world order demand, such a state would be slapped with every sort of sanction imaginable. You have to have enough resources to be self-sufficient or otherwise have a patron to whom you are answerable like China is to North Korea. This is why there really is no substitute for winning the battle, winning the argument, because withdrawing is not possible when dealing with control-freaks.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Monarch Profile: King Augustus III of Poland

The history of the last of the Polish monarchs is generally a tragic one and the reign of Augustus III, the penultimate King of Poland, was an example of this. He, like others of this period, often comes under considerable criticism and yet, there should be room to have some sympathy for these monarchs in the last years of life of the old Kingdom of Poland. They were given a heavy responsibility, ruling a fractious country with no defensible borders surrounded by three powerful monarchies, Romanov Russia, Hohenzollern Prussia and Habsburg Austria, which all sought the elimination of Poland as an unnecessary complication to their ambitions. Yet, the Polish kings were given no tools with which to deal with this dangerous state of affairs, occupying a position in which they had no incentive to make long-term plans since the kings of Poland were elected and someone of another house would likely succeed them, their powers were curtailed and their populace was extremely divided.

The position of the Polish monarchs, at this late stage, was not entirely dissimilar from that of the Roman Pontiffs prior to the unification of Italy. They could, at times, achieve a degree of national unity in pursuit of a common goal, but there were always nobles who were willing to align themselves with the Austrians, Prussians or Russians in order to further their own aims and thus undercut the cohesion of the country overall. The kings themselves, because their position was so insecure, were also invariably forced in this period to align themselves with foreign powers, again, rather like the Roman Pontiffs shifted back and forth in alliances with the French or Germans in order to maintain their position and block the moves of other competing states. King Augustus III of Poland was no different, he too had to have foreign support and, like others, found this foreign support to quite often be as unpleasant as it was necessary.

Augustus III was born on October 17, 1696 in Dresden in the Electorate of Saxony, a member of the House of Wettin which once reigned over many countries and still reigns today over Belgium, the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth Realms. His father was Augustus II, nicknamed “Augustus the Strong” who is today most remembered for his huge number of illegitimate children, some putting the number of his offspring in the hundreds. Augustus III, however, was his only legitimate son and would, like his father, one day become Prince-Elector of Saxony, Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. He was brought up for this purpose and, as his father had done earlier, this required his conversion to Catholicism in 1712. The Electors of Saxony had been Protestants all the way back to the days of Martin Luther and this caused considerable outrage among the Saxon aristocracy as well as an effort by Prussia and Hanover (whose Elector was also the British monarch) to deprive Saxony of its leadership of the Protestant caucus in the Reichstag (the princely upper house of the Imperial Diet or parliament of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) but the Prussians and Hanoverians were unsuccessful.

In 1733 King Augustus II died and Augustus III succeeded his father as Prince-Elector of Saxony (as Friedrich Augustus II). His election as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania was expected but not a forgone conclusion. For that, he would require foreign support. The Russians backed Augustus III as King of Poland, which was not too surprising but the Austrians did as well. Of course, the German Reic
h (HRE) as a whole did as well, which was also not surprising, favoring a German monarch on the Polish throne but the specific backing of the Austrians, which is to say the House of Habsburg, was a matter of political bargaining. The Habsburgs were anxious to secure their own position which was endangered by the fact that the last Emperor had only a daughter, Maria Theresa, to succeed him and tried everything from backroom deals to outright bribery to gain support for his “Pragmatic Sanction” by which the German princes pledged to support Maria Theresa.

The danger, of course, was that the German lands would fall into the same pattern of civil war and dynastic infighting which later befell Spain during the Carlist Wars in a similar situation. Augustus III agreed to support the Pragmatic Sanction and thus won the support of Emperor Charles VI for his election to the Polish throne. Likewise, his promise to support the Russian claim to Courland by the Empress Anna, ensured that he had Russian support for his election as well. It also helped that he had, in 1719, married Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria, daughter of Emperor Joseph I which also helped win over the Habsburgs. On October 5, 1733 the Polish electors gathered and Augustus III was elected King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. However, he was still faced with a problem as there was already a King of Poland to deal with and a Polish one at that in the person of Stanislaw Leszczynski (King Stanislaus I). He had widespread support in Poland and had fought Augustus II for control of the country. When Augustus II died, he returned with French support to reassert his rule. The Russians and Austrians feared an alliance between the French, Poles and Swedes and so backed Augustus III against him.

King Augustus III was crowned in Krakow early in 1734 but, though he had basically won the War of the Polish Succession by 1736, still had to deal with pro-Stanislaus insurgents until 1738. Obviously, all of this made Poland a rather unattractive place to King Augustus III and it is estimated that he spent no more than about three years of his entire reign actually in the country. The local government was usually deadlocked by feuding between the Czartoryski and Potocki families and the King delegated most of his duties to his viceroy in Poland, Heinrich von Bruehl. However, unlike many other monarchs, King Augustus III was true to his word in agreeing to the Pragmatic Sanction with the House of Habsburg and when Maria Theresa came to the throne of the Habsburg lands, he backed her in the War of the Austrian Succession in 1742 (King George’s War in America) though Poland was not heavily involved. He also remained loyal to the Austrian Empress in the Seven Years’ War of 1756 (the French & Indian War in America) though, again, Poland was not heavily involved.

In his personal life, no one could accuse King Augustus III of not doing his duty to secure the succession, at least in Saxony, as he and his wife produced sixteen children which included daughters who would be married to the future King of Spain, Dauphin of France and Elector of Bavaria. However, on the whole, history has not been kind to King Augustus III and not always fairly so. His reign over Poland is usually described as one of an absent monarch who impoverished the country in order to enrich Saxony and who was far too deferential to Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Not all of the accusations against Augustus are unfounded, Poland certainly had happier periods in her history, but the factions in Poland who opposed him often smeared his reputation with falsehoods or exaggerations. A notably example being the oft-repeated story that the King could not speak Polish which is certainly untrue. We know for a fact that the King could speak Polish, as well as French, Latin and possibly Russian along with, obviously, German.

King Augustus III was noted in his own time for making Polish food popular in German and then wider parts of Europe, for introducing coffee to Poland and for furthering education of the Polish elite by bringing them to Saxony to attend university there. Unfortunately, (as a matter of opinion) this resulted in a whole crop of powerful, young Poles soaking up the latest fashionable trends of the so-called “Enlightenment” which they eagerly brought back to Poland with them when they returned. He was also a noted patron of the arts, nonetheless, his reign saw an increase in civil unrest within Poland and increased the trend of Poland, with its many feuding factions, being ever more at the mercy of Austria, Prussia and Russia. King Augustus III died in Dresden at the age of 66 on October 15, 1763, leaving behind a still fractured Kingdom of Poland which was not long to survive.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Reactionary Dilemma

It is a sadly all too common problem for monarchists to be their own worst enemy. Part of this is that, unlike the revolutionaries with their rigid ideologies and the simple fact that it is easier to burn down a house than to build one, monarchists are not united on what their ultimate goal is. I have also noticed lately a rather negative effect which comes, in part, from the rise of the Alt-Right which is to condemn anyone who does not agree with you as a sell-out or, as they like to say, a "cuck". Usually this involves condemning anyone who wants to take things one step at a time toward what both probably agree on being the ideal ultimate goal. These rigid types never want to actually engage as they view any sort of activity as cooperating with "the system" or making compromises. Often, in my experience, this is not the case at all but rather a recognition that one has to start from where we are now to get to where we want to be and that simply waiting around for the "miracle" to suddenly make everything the way it was in the pre-Revolutionary era.

Some monarchists do not wish to go there, true enough. Some would be happy to simply return to the more classically liberal constitutional monarchies of Nineteenth Century. The more reactionary, which I mean to address here, wish to go back even farther to the pre-Revolutionary era. The problem is one which many of the 'internet-reactionaries' embody even if they do not realize it. They do not see how much "Enlightenment" thinking has permeated every part of western society and influenced how people think. It has even influenced how they think, even if they do not realize it. It has caused many to view monarchs the same way they view politicians; basing their loyalty on whether or not they agree with them and reserving the right to choose a different monarch if the current one does not share their views. Personally, I would love to see all of this change as it is hard for me to think of a problem, which today is a crisis, that does not have its roots in the "Enlightenment" (though there were monarchs who went along with that and they were not all bad, some were even great).

The reactionary dilemma, however, is that you cannot undo the work of centuries in a day or a year or even a decade. It took the west a long time to reach the depths it has currently sunk to and it is going to take a long time to dig our way out. That also means we are going to have to work toward getting up to a level that is not our ideal but which will be a step toward reaching the broad, sunlit uplands. This was something the French monarchists, at least some of them, recognized but did not deal with terribly well. Any reactionary will have likely heard the phrase, "You cannot turn back the clock". That is true but, as Bonnie Prince Charlie said to his highland chiefs in a very bad British movie, "I have not come to turn back the clock. I have come to wind the clock." The destination can, in itself, be problematic. If you are to go back to exactly what was lost, it only stands to reason that it shall be lost again in exactly the same way. The French restoration ultimately came to ruin because they could not come to an agreement on how many of the changes made by the revolutionary and Napoleonic regimes they were willing to retain. The famous refusal of the Comte de Chambord to take the throne because he would not accept the tricolor flag is indicative of this. Rather than try to change France back to a more traditional mindset, he refused to accept being king if that mindset was not abandoned at the very beginning.

That mindset, did not change, as we know, and over time France became more and more republican rather than monarchist. The revolutionaries have had this problem as well though they seem to have better mastered how to deal with it. I have, in the past, pointed to the example of Spain under Generalissimo Franco and I think it is educational to look and compare that case with another. Franco, a man I regard as a hero and someone who may well have saved western civilization itself, was in power in Spain from 1936 to his death in 1975. The Kingdom of Spain would not exist today if he had not been. However, what he failed to do was get his ideas and his values to truly take root in the culture and the population. Were it otherwise, when elections were held after his death, the National Movement would not have fared so poorly (it also did not help that they divided their support by splitting into two feuding camps, something monarchists should be all too familiar with). Today, adherents to his politics are still a very small minority with no immediate prospects of ever gaining power again. Now, compare that to the situation in Russia. The Soviet Union was one of the most murderous and incompetent regimes in human history, it was forced on the Russians by a relatively small faction (many of whom were not even Russians) and yet, in spite of all the horror, the Communist Party is today the second-largest party in Russia. Obviously, the Communists were much more effective at getting their values and ideas to take root than Franco was able to.

There plenty of other examples one could cite. Perhaps an even better one would be Mongolia, the first Soviet satellite state. Very few in the west are familiar with Mongolian history but be aware that the Communist regime there was easily one of *the* most brutal and oppressive in the entire world. Their goal to totally eradicate traditional Mongolian culture and remake the country along the lines of Soviet Russia, particularly under the leader Choibalsan who saw himself as the Mongolian Stalin, was more intense, more vicious and more thorough than I suspect you could even imagine. They stamped out religion in a country which had been one of the most devoutly religious on earth, a Buddhist theocratic-monarchy for their few years of independence before the communist takeover, they wiped out traditions to the point that no one was left who remembered how certain ceremonies were performed, some families even forgot their names by the time it all ended. However, during all that time, the ruling communist party was the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. In 1990, with the fall of the Soviet Union, they allowed multi-party democracy. Can you guess what happened? The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party simply adjusted its name to the Mongolian People's Party and won the vote to remain in power from 1990 to 1996, was back again from 2000 to 2012 and was voted back into power again only last year. They were so successful in influencing the thinking of the people that even when the people were given a choice, they chose to stick with the communists, no matter how horrible and detrimental they had been to the country.

Some reactionaries, I have come to accept, never want to actually accomplish anything, being far too happy to be nostalgic and pour scorn on everything around them. Myself, I would like to actually win and live in a world without politics, protests, race wars, pressure-groups and globalists. I would like a world where every people has their monarch and every monarch works to make his people as powerful and prosperous as they can be. However, if that is going to happen, we have to learn what works and what does not. We cannot simply go back to exactly the way things used to be because, the way things used to be ended in disaster (if they had not, we would be conservatives rather than reactionaries). There must be some adjustment. Don't be just like what used to be, strive to be better. In order to do that, I can see no alternative but working to change the culture, change the ideas and values of people. Tearing down the last vestiges of the monarchical order because they are not up to your standards will not accomplish that. Counter the "Enlightenment" thinking from the ground up. We do have, as I have said before, at least some room to be optimistic about such a campaign because the current state of affairs does not really seem to be pleasing anyone. The revolutionaries and the liberals alike both promised a utopia and they have obviously failed to deliver it. That is to our advantage but we must do the hard work of steadily changing the values and ideas of our friends, families, neighbors and then going on to education, entertainment and the wider culture. What we have now is not working, use that to your advantage and go forth and change some hearts & minds.
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