Sunday, February 18, 2018

Monarch Profile: Emperor Bokassa I of Central Africa

The cause of monarchy in modern Africa has been a difficult one. In most of sub-Saharan Africa the tribal system of government persisted throughout the colonial period and still persists today under the surface of most regimes. Today, the only sovereign monarchies which exist in Africa are the Kingdom of Morocco and the small kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland which are, essentially, dependencies of South Africa. Previously, the only major Black African sovereign monarchy was the Empire of Ethiopia, restored by the British colonial and imperial armed forces during World War II and which was brought down by a communist coup in 1974. Many people in the African Diaspora (not quite so many in Africa itself) had looked to Ethiopia as the example they should aspire to. The same would not be said for the new imperial monarchy which sprang up thanks to one Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic which to many, then as now, strike most as farcical at best.

Jean-Bedel Bokassa was born in Ubangi-Shari in what was then French Equatorial Africa on February 22, 1921. Orphaned at a young age, he was educated in Catholic missionary schools, part of what the French proudly termed their ‘mission to civilize’ the primitive parts of the world. The young Bokassa proved himself to be not without ability, joining the French colonial army in 1939 as a private soldier. During World War II, he fought to secure the colony for the Free French forces from those of the Vichy regime and later fought on other fronts, including in southern France itself before the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany. He remained in the army, deciding to make that his career when a new conflict soon arose with the outbreak of war against the communist revolutionaries of French Indochina. Unlike America later, France never sent French conscripts to Vietnam and so relied heavily on native troops, the Foreign Legion and colonial soldiers from other parts of the French empire. Bokassa earned the Legion of Honor and the Cross of War before the French withdrawal from Vietnam, the young African private had become an officer and risen to the rank of captain. He had also married a Vietnamese girl and had a child before his tour ended but he abandoned them both. Were they still around when the North Vietnamese concluded the war, their fate could not have been a happy one.

The idea that such service was evidence of any great loyalty to the French colonial empire was, however, a false one and in Africa, as in Indochina, the movement gained strength for the independence of the French African colonies and the dissolution of the French colonial empire. In 1960 Ubangi-Shari was granted independence from France as the Central African Republic, led by President David Dacko, a distant cousin of Bokassa. Like most who would come to power in post-colonial Africa, Bokassa was the son of a tribal chief and had aspirations for leadership which did not include playing subordinate to his distant relative. President Dacko gave Bokassa, no doubt because of his military record with the French as a company officer, command of the armed forces of the new republic. Granted those armed forces amounted to only 500 men but it was something Bokassa took very seriously and it was totally in keeping with local custom in post-colonial Africa for new national leaders to stock the government with their relatives.

Soon, because of his obvious ambition, people in the Dacko administration began to fear Bokassa. Most, however, dismissed him as a vain and silly man who was not clever enough to be a real challenge to them. Bokassa worked to expand the army and his own prominence (because of the size of the army his rank was only colonel). However, the situation in the C.A.R. worsened quickly after independence. The economy stagnated and then began to decline, the bureaucracy totally broke down and foreign guerilla groups routinely violated C.A.R. territory. Dacko reached out to Communist China for help and soon communist propaganda was spreading throughout the country. The Chinese also made large loans to the Dacko government but most of this went into the pockets of government officials and the economy continued to decline. Bokassa began to make noise about stepping up to save the country from financial ruin and communist subversion and this finally caused Dacko to take notice. When Bokassa went to France for Bastille Day, Dacko refused to allow him to return until President Charles de Gaulle demanded that Dacko reinstate him, speaking of Bokassa as his “comrade in arms” from World War II.

This was done but, obviously, there was no longer any trust or loyalty between the two and Dacko began taking steps to replace Bokassa and disperse his supporters. However, he was not very subtle about this and Bokassa soon saw what was going on and decided to get rid of Dacko before Dacko could get rid of him. In the early hours of January 1, 1966, in what was called the Saint-Sylvestre coup d’etat, Bokassa and his chief subordinate Captain Alexandre Banza, seized control of the capital and, in due course, his forces captured and arrested President Dacko. Once in power, Bokassa promised a new era of equality for all, abolished the constitution and ruled through a Revolutionary Council. He promised that after his forces had eliminated corruption and communism, allowing the economy to stabilize, new elections would be held for a new national assembly and a new constitution. He banned opposition parties, outlawed begging and made employment mandatory. Anyone without a job could be imprisoned. However, he also banned polygamy and female circumcision, established a bus line in the capital, a ferry service on the Ubangi and used government funds to establish two national orchestras. He also broke off diplomatic relations with Communist China. In short, he did make some positive changes.

The new regime was troubled by the slowness of foreign powers to recognize them, particularly the French. The economy also showed no signs of improvement and when Captain Banza pointed out that the lavish spending of Bokassa was not helping, he was immediately demoted. Banza then began planning his own coup to unseat Bokassa but his actions were reported by a loyalist and he was arrested and executed after being beaten nearly to death. This caused a degree of disgust in France but French recognition did finally come. Colonel Gaddafi in Libya lent support to Bokassa, subtly at first, and a strange sort of normalcy finally seemed to settle. In 1972, having previously promoted himself to general, Bokassa declared himself president for life. This still was not good enough and General Bokassa was rather frustrated at the situation in his country. It was not as grand and prosperous as it should be and he felt he was not receiving the full respect of the international community that was his due. Ultimately, he seemed to believe that if he could make the C.A.R. look like a great power, it would become a great power. So, he decided to give himself another, major, promotion. He would become a Napoleonic-style monarch and make the Central African Republic the “Central African Empire”. He envisioned an advanced, dazzling, empire in the heart of Africa that would entrance the world and inspire Africans everywhere. And he was serious.

Bokassa at his coronation
At the end of 1976, Bokassa dissolved his government, proclaimed the country the Central African Empire, issued a new constitution and, having previously converted to Islam, converted back to Catholicism. On December 4, 1977, to mark this shift, he held a lavish coronation ceremony for himself. He had designer robes and gowns, a diamond-encrusted crown and a huge throne made of gold as well as 19th Century Napoleonic style French uniforms made for his soldiers, most of which was all imported from France. The cost was a staggering $20 million, the entire French aid package for that year or one third of the entire annual budget. It was, he claimed, the will of the people that he be elevated to “Emperor Bokassa I” and also that this would gain the respect of world leaders, raise the status of his country in the international community and bring global attention to Central Africa. In that last regard, he was certainly successful as he did get the attention of many people around the world with this spectacle but almost no world leaders attended his coronation and most were convinced that the man was completely insane.

Idi Amin and Bokassa
The situation in the new Central African Empire did not immediately improve with the change in style and Emperor Bokassa came under ever increasing criticism. Stories began to emerge of violent repression of dissent, torture and accusations that Emperor Bokassa practiced cannibalism. Such accusations, it must be said, were quite common at the time (and not unknown even now) for African leaders. Though, to be fair, it must also be said that this does not disprove such allegations as cannibalism was most widespread in the area of central Africa and this does tend to be where such accusations are most prevalent. His love of titles, uniforms covered in medals and the allegations of cannibalism caused many in the western press in particular to compare Emperor Bokassa with the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada who had also proclaimed himself, “Conqueror of the British Empire” and, famously, King of Scotland.

In 1979 what little tolerance in the international community that Emperor Bokassa had been shown began to erode. Key elements of this were the emergence of his partnership with the notorious Libyan dictator Gaddafi and the massacre of a large number of people protesting against rising food prices and a considerable lack of food at any price in Bangui. The French, on whose assistance Central Africa continued to depend, began to waver and the French government began to wish for President Dacko to return. The “last straw” for many was the repression of a student protest in 1979. As part of his campaign to make the Central African Empire look affluent and modern, Emperor Bokassa had ordered all students to wear school uniforms with his portrait on them which were rather expensive and, some might argue, rather crass and tacky. When the students protested, about 100 were killed by government forces with Emperor Bokassa accused of severely beating several of the children himself.

This episode was publicized all over the world and brought down a torrent of condemnation on Emperor Bokassa, prompting the French government to intervene in their former colony. In September of 1979 the French government dispatched the First Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment of their special forces to topple Bokassa and restore President Dacko to power. Flying in from Chad, the French had little difficulty in seizing control as the operation had been timed to coincide with Emperor Bokassa being out of the country on a visit to Libya. Dacko was reinstalled as President and he announced the end of the empire and restoration of the Central African Republic. Bokassa first fled to the Ivory Coast but was later granted exile in France due to his being a veteran of the French army (for which he also continued to draw a pension). He wrote a book during these years but it was banned by the French government due to allegations he made about sharing women and giving lavish gifts to President Giscard d’Estaing.

Tried and sentenced to the death in absentia for repression and the murder of political rivals, Bokassa nonetheless returned to the Central African Republic in 1986. He was immediately arrested and charged with a long list of crimes including treason, murder, corruption and cannibalism. He pled not guilty and at his trial denied all charges made against him, often attributing the crimes to others in the government or denying them completely. He was finally found “not guilty” of cannibalism but “guilty” on all other counts and sentencing him to death. However, in 1988 the then-President Kolingba, commuted Bokassa’s execution and shortening his sentence to 20 years in 1989. In 1993 Bokassa was released as part of a general amnesty. His remaining years were not long but just as ‘colorful’ as his time in power had been. He added to his accumulated 17 wives and estimated 50 children, proclaimed himself to be the thirteenth apostle of Jesus Christ and said that he regularly met in secret with the Pope. He died of a heart attack on November 3, 1996 at the age of 75. In 2010 he was legally rehabilitated by President Francois Bozize and praised for the stability of his years in power and his love of country.

To date, no other African leader has tried to follow his example and in my experience most monarchists regard him as a despicable figure who made the institution of monarchy look ridiculous by his antics. That is probably true, however, his crimes were not that an unusual by the standards of post-colonial Africa were dictatorial leaders with big ambitions and no tolerance for opposition have been the rule rather than the exception. There were certainly others who were far worse.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

America's Path Not Taken

During the American War for Independence, then as now, a diversity of viewpoints were held by men on both sides. There were those of the Crown forces, adherents of the Whig party, who were quite sympathetic to the cause of the American Patriots. Such sentiments reached all the way up to the commander of the Crown forces in North America, Lt. General Sir William Howe, to HRH the Prince of Wales. Meanwhile, among the American leadership were those who espoused the eventually successful cause of independence in some sort of republican union but also those, not often remembered, who preferred the goal of greater concessions and self-government within the British Empire and under the ultimate sovereignty of the Crown. One of these men was Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania. Born in Maryland, his family moved to Pennsylvania and young Joseph studied law alongside William Franklin, illegitimate son of the famous Ben Franklin, eventually becoming a lawyer in Philadelphia. Originally a Quaker, he converted to the Church of England and married the daughter of a very wealthy and well-connected family. He became a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, later Speaker of the House until 1774 and, again alongside Franklin, was most known for his efforts to have Pennsylvania become a Crown Colony rather than a Proprietary Colony of the Penn family.

As his political career demonstrated, Galloway was no republican firebrand. Indeed, he has more than once been referred to as an Anglo-American nationalist, which would certainly make him unpopular today even if nothing else were known about him. He had objections to the state of affairs in the colonies but, again, like many, his objections were not to the British Empire itself but rather with the subordinate place of the American colonies within it. He believed that the British constitutional monarchy as it was then, was the best system of government in the world and that the British, be they in the home islands or North America, were the best people in the world. He felt that the only problem was that the British subjects in America were not governed in the same way as the British subjects in Great Britain and that if this inequality could be resolved, there would be no further animosity. Indeed, he was convinced that, like himself, most Americans were loyal to the British Crown and were only being driven to disobedience by agitators in America and thoughtless policies on the part of the Parliament in London. In 1774 he had sufficient prominence and popularity to be chosen as a member of the Continental Congress (or Philadelphia Congress) which had no validity as far as the British were concerned but which would be the primary governing body of the colonies during the War for Independence.

In this capacity, Galloway proposed something quite similar to what Benjamin Franklin had previously suggested at the time of the French and Indian War known as the "Albany Plan" ("Join or Die") which was for the unification of the North American colonies within the British Empire. This proposal became known as the "Galloway Plan" or "Galloway's Plan for Union" which called for what would later be termed "Dominion status" in which the American colonies would unite together under a common colonial government but still under the sovereignty of the British Crown. Effectively, under the Galloway Plan, the American colonies would become a self-governing, autonomous partner of Great Britain within the British Empire. The colonial assemblies would appoint representatives to a parliament of their own which would be on equal terms with the parliament in London and would be presided over by a President-General appointed by the King. The American parliament would have jurisdiction over all domestic affairs, including taxation, but the parliaments in both Britain and America would each have veto power over what the other passed so that neither could impose any action detrimental to the other. The British Empire would thus become an Anglo-American partnership of a sort.

Unfortunately for Galloway, Massachusetts enacted an anti-British boycott one month before his proposal came up for a vote which was a boon for the radicals and put moderates such as himself at a clear disadvantage. Nonetheless, in October of 1774, when his plan was voted on, it was defeated only by a single vote with five in favor and six opposed. Worse still, the radicals were worried that this would display a lack of resolve on their part in dealing with the British and so it was agreed that his proposal and the very narrow vote on it, be stricken from the record. Understandably outraged by this, and seeing little hope for a compromise, Galloway left Congress and made his plan public himself the following year. He could see that there would only be two choices allowed to any American colonist; to support the King or to support total independence and, forced to choose, he would take the side of the King. His objections to British tax policy and trade regulations was not so great as his fundamental loyalty to the hereditary monarch of his nation. In late 1776, early 1777 he joined General Howe and the British army in the campaign to take Philadelphia. Once accomplished, he was made chief of police and head of civil affairs, earning praise for his administrative talents and his organization of loyalist militia forces.

The following year, when the British abandoned Philadelphia, he withdrew with them to New York and from there, with his daughter, took ship to England where he became a prominent advocate for the American loyalists and an adviser to the British government on American affairs. Still thinking that this view of American public opinion was the correct one, he asserted to the British authorities that there were many American loyalists in the colonies who could be instrumental in bringing the conflict to a successful conclusion. His advice may well have influenced the southern campaign in which the British had counted heavily on an outpouring of support and volunteers from American loyalists. In the meantime, the same year he left for England, 1778, the Pennsylvania Assembly convicted him of high treason and ordered the confiscation of all his property. His wife, Grace, had stayed behind in Philadelphia in the hope of saving their property (which was actually her property rather than his) but, of course, this made no difference and she was forcibly evicted from their home. In Britain, Galloway was also called as a witness at the trial of General Howe over his conduct of the war in America in which Galloway had few positive things to say about the general. Howe, to be fair, had little positive to say of Galloway either, accusing him of meddling in military affairs during the occupation of Philadelphia.

When the war ended in defeat for the Crown forces, Galloway settled down to a quiet life in England, devoting himself to religious study and literary pursuits until his death in 1803. His plan has mostly been forgotten today but it is notable that something similar would ultimately become quite common within the British Empire as the colonies of Canada and Australia united to become self-governing dominions in due time. Would his plan have worked? It would certainly have worked in keeping the English-speaking peoples united but as we can see across the British Commonwealth today, may well have fallen victim to the liberal laxity which has affected so many others. Yet, the retention of the American colonies within the British Empire may well have brought about a dramatic change in world history in a myriad of ways one can only speculate about today. That, we can never know, but it remains true today that the view of Galloway, and the basis of his plan, that the people of one language and one nationality should be united, are still not without supporters even while so many push against the notion, just as they did in his own time.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Monarch Profile: King Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana of Gaza

In the late Nineteenth Century, in the southern tip of what is now Mozambique, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers, existed the grandly named “Gaza Empire”. It was, like other African powers which later claimed the title, actually a collection of tribes ruled by whoever was able to seize control for as long as he could hold it. The Gaza empire consisted of tribes which migrated north out of what is now South Africa earlier in the century due to a combination of famine and the defeat of other African tribes following the “Great Trek” of the Boers after the British abolished slavery. The chieftains of Gaza continued to rely heavily on slavery with the Islamic slave merchants on the coast continuing to do business with them for a very long time. The other power in the neighborhood was, of course, the Kingdom of Portugal which had long claimed the whole area as Portuguese East Africa but whose actual control had, for centuries, been limited to the coastal area from which they did business with Africans who inhabited the interior.

Rough location of the "Empire of Gaza"
The man known by the Portuguese as Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana was born around the year 1850 with the name Mdungazwe (or Mundagaz). His grandfather, Gaza, had been a local tribal chief who, during the migration, was able to accumulate several other chiefs subordinate to him and thus when they settled in what is now southern Mozambique and established themselves named their new country Gaza centered around the village of Chaimite. The Portuguese, long established in the region, though mostly farther north, sent a small delegation led by a junior army officer to establish relations with this new entity and negotiate a treaty with them on behalf of the King of Portugal. Though the envoys were received, Gaza refused to make any agreement with Portugal and small scale hostilities continued, mostly with other African tribes in the region and occasionally clashing with the Portuguese as well.

Gungunhana was thus born into a tribal society constantly in conflict and was raised with the sole purpose of being a great tribal warrior in the image of his grandfather. When his grandfather died, his father, Mzila, his uncle Mawewe and another chief all fought for dominance over Gaza. Mawewe was victorious and Mzila, with his son presumably, was forced to flee to the Transvaal in what is now South Africa as Mawewe, to prevent any threat to his hold on power, did his best to massacre his brother’s family which was fairly typical for the time and place. This upsurge in violence caused the Portuguese to peg Mawewe as a troublemaker and they arranged an alliance with the President of the Orange Free State (one of the Boer republics) to eliminate this mutual threat. Chief Mawewe did his best to prove the Portuguese correct, sending them a demand for tribute from every Portuguese colonist at Lourenco Marques under threat of their total annihilation. The Portuguese governor, not being the sort to tolerate such threats and having a flair for the dramatic, sent Mawewe a single rifle cartridge with the notice that this would be the only tribute he would receive from the subjects of the King of Portugal. The fact that their earlier offer of friendship had been rejected, naturally, did not make the belligerent attitude of Mawewe go down any better with the Portuguese.

Gungunhana
This, however, gave Gungunhana’s father, Mzila, an opportunity to advance his own cause. Learning of recent evens in the autumn of 1861, Mzila went to the Portuguese and offered them his allegiance as a vassal of the King of Portugal if the Portuguese would help him to overthrow his brother and take control of Gaza. Portugal agreed, Mzila declared himself the rightful king of the Gaza and launched a war. He was able to rally some supporters with the help of having Portuguese backing him up and an November 30, 1861 won the decisive battle which secured his control of the area. The following month he signed a formal treaty in which the Portuguese recognized him as the chieftain of Gaza and which made him a subject of the King of Portugal. The war dragged on for several more years though the outcome was never really in doubt as Mzila, despite having initially a much smaller army, had 2,000 antiquated flintlock muskets provided by the Portuguese authorities which allowed him to dominate his enemy.

Gungunhana began to rise in prominence among the other children of his father during these years but as the decades went by, tensions began to rise too as warriors from Gaza attacked Portuguese colonists. New agreements were made and Mzila would offer apologies and expressions of friendship, but such attacks continued sporadically and bad feelings continued to fester. Around this time, as his reign was nearing its end, the “Scramble for Africa” was also starting to get underway. British rule in Africa was expanding rapidly and the Germans and Belgians were also arriving on the scene, eager to make agreements with native rulers for control of local resources. The Portuguese colonial authorities had to move to actually occupy the areas long claimed and to make sure none of the chieftains in these territories were wooed away by other powers.

After attacks on two Portuguese settlements, Mzila went to Lourenco Marques to make his apologies and again pledge his allegiance to the King in Lisbon. Although irritated by the attacks, the Portuguese gave Mzila a welcome full of pomp and ceremony as well as more tangible gifts such as rice, livestock and liquor. At his request, they also gave him a Portuguese flag to fly over his village. The Portuguese also sent an ambassador to his village shortly thereafter. However, not long after, in 1884, Mzila died. Gungunhana was not the heir to the throne but, again, in typical fashion, made war on his brothers and was successful in forcing the heir and other rivals for power to flee the country. By the end of the year he was firmly ensconced on the throne and took the name Gungunhana or “son of the lion”. With his authority covering 90,000 square kilometers of territory and over a million Africans, Gungunhana, at 34, undoubtedly felt at the top of his game. However, the encroachment of the British and the Germans in the area meant that Portugal had to have, not just treaties but an actual presence in every area under her flag, otherwise it would be seen as “fair game” to the more recently arrived European powers.

With the British in the midst of a flurry of expansion, the Portuguese colonial government dispatched Casaleiro Alegria as the Portuguese resident at the court of Gungunhana in 1885. The following year, representatives in Lisbon agreed to a new treaty which would allow Portugal a presence in Gaza, freedom of movement for the Portuguese in Gaza and granting Gungunhana the rank of Colonel of the Second Line in the royal Portuguese army. Unfortunately, that agreement fell apart and a new delegation had to be sent to Lisbon in 1887 to negotiate a new treaty. The Africans were much more cooperative after the recent suppression of the fearsome Zulu kingdom by the British. This was done but events began to unravel very quickly.

Gungunhana decided to move his capital farther to the south, to an area held by tribes that were less than friendly to his own (the Nguni) and this set off a series of conflicts and, again, some sporadic attacks on Portuguese colonists. One reason for this was the presence of some mines in this region which the Africans learned were highly prized by the Europeans and Gungunhana believed that if he could take undisputed control of this region, he could buy the support of the British in helping him divorce himself from the Portuguese. It did not help that at the same time the oldest alliance in the world was being tested with the British expansion into the interior of Africa between the Portuguese colonies in Angola and Mozambique. There were even threats of a naval blockade and relations between the British and Portuguese had scarcely ever been worse. The time for niceties was over and the Kingdom of Portugal had to get very serious or risk losing their territory. To oversee the occupation of Mozambique, Portugal dispatched the respected soldier Lt. Colonel (with brevet promotion to general) Joaquim Mouzinho de Albuquerque as governor.

Battle of Marracuene
Gungunhana, alarmed at the sudden ‘no-nonsense’ attitude of the Portuguese in Africa, went ahead with his scheme to enlist the British on his side. However, the governments in London and Lisbon, unknown to him, had already agreed on where the border between their colonial holdings would be. The spread of Portuguese authority also caused a backlash in areas far removed from Gaza and in 1894 in particular there were large native uprisings against the colonial government. At first, Gungunhana tried to assure both sides of his support but eventually he did have to mobilize his warriors, though he tried to reassure the Portuguese that he simply wished to review them. Portugal responded with a formal military campaign for the pacification of Mozambique. On February 2, 1895 a small Portuguese force led by Major Caldas Xavier defeated a much larger African army at the Battle of Marracuene thanks to the discipline and superior weaponry of the colonial army. That episode got the attention of some of the African leaders but a last effort at a diplomatic reconciliation with Gungunhana fails later the same year. Gungunhana continuously put off the Portuguese, still thinking that he would receive word from the British any day of their support for his cause.

Finally, that summer, Gungunhana refuses a last Portuguese ultimatum and threatens openly to ally himself with the British. This was effectively an outright declaration of war against Portugal. It does not go well for the Africans. At the Battle of Magul on September 7, 1895 a Portuguese column, having formed square, bloodily repulses a massive native attack with their superior firepower. Nearby villages were burned as the Portuguese army moved in. The Africans fighting at Magul, however, were not from Gaza as Gungunhana was still holding back, expecting the British to come fight on his behalf. He is even forced, eventually, to demobilize his army of 40,000 men as he simply could no longer feed them and the men needed to return home to see to their crops. He sends still more messages to the British in South Africa but, as usual, receives no reply. With no other native forces between his own and the Portuguese, Gungunhana became the focus of a direct attack by a heavily armed column of 600 Portuguese soldiers and 500 African colonial troops led by Colonel Eduardo Galhardo.

Battle of Coolela
Amazingly, Gungunhana seemed to think that, as he and his father had done in the past, the Portuguese might be mollified with apologies and renewed promises of friendship. This time, however, that will not be enough and Gungunhana is only able to mobilize a fraction of his previous strength, roughly 13,000 native warriors, to meet the Portuguese. The result was the famous Battle of Coolela on November 7, 1895 in which, again, the Portuguese forces decimate the native army, the African warriors of Gaza losing hundreds of men compared to only five Portuguese being killed. In the aftermath of this disaster, Gungunhana accuses his family of betraying him and announces that he will surrender to the Portuguese, again, still thinking that new promises of friendship will be enough. About four days later the Portuguese take the capital of Gaza, Manjacaze, but find the chieftain not at home. The kraal is burned and the troops march on. Gungunhana had fled to the old capital, the village of Chaimite, where his witchdoctors perform human sacrifice to arouse the spirit of his famous grandfather for protection.

The capture of Gungunhana
With other African chiefs eager to make themselves vassals of the King of Portugal in wake of the recent battles, including members of Gungunhana’s own family, Mouzinho de Albuquerque decided to go himself, with only a handful of men, to capture Gungunhana. The African chieftain tries to stop Albuquerque with gifts, sending ivory and over 500 pounds of gold, later more gold, livestock and even his firstborn son but all to no avail. On the morning of December 28, 1895 Mouzinho de Albuquerque enters Chaimite with its remaining 300 warriors fleeing at the approach of the tiny party. Gungunhana is taken prisoner and the village is destroyed. That was not the end of all resistance but it was the end for Gungunhana who was packed up, along with his seven wives and a few servants, and marched to the coast and put aboard ship for Lisbon. When journalists are allowed in to see him, they are confronted by the pitiful site of a bewildered man, crying hysterically, desperately trying to bargain for his life, convinced that he is to face a firing squad.

This, of course, does not happen and in the midst of a media frenzy the group is moved to a prison fortress where they are such a popular attraction that viewing stands are erected. Not long after they are moved to better accommodations and given their favorite foods, wine and medical care. Gungunhana repeatedly asked to meet with King Carlos, wishing to pledge his allegiance again but, though it is talked about, the King refuses to meet with him. The African chieftain was quickly becoming problematic for the government. Caring for them and the horde of spectators that gathered around them was expensive and while some in Portugal wished for nothing better than for Gungunhana to be shot as a faithless traitor, leftist agitators and enemies of the monarchy were also starting to champion his cause and condemn the pacification campaign as wanton cruelty. Finally, on June 22, 1896, the group was quietly shipped off to exile in the Azores.

The exiled king and his seven wives
The former ruler of Gaza was, on orders from the Portuguese government, treated with all due respect, spending his time hunting rabbits and weaving baskets for sale at the local market. To his dismay, the Catholic nature of the Portuguese monarchy would not allow him to retain his seven wives and so, to assuage him and his sons, weekly trips to the local brothel satisfied them. Eventually they all learned to read, write and speak Portuguese and in 1899 were baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. They adopted western clothes and customs and eventually became accepted, if unusual, members of the local community. Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana, former king of Gaza, died of a cerebral hemorrhage on December 23, 1906. Some of his descendants still live in South Africa today.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

When Does the Republican Magic Work?

The liberal democratic republican model makes great claims for itself. Even more extensive are the claims of the socialist republican model which promises a communist utopia of absolute equality for all. Liberal republicans (who truly believe in their system) will join us backward reactionaries in noting that the revolutionary, socialist republican model has utterly failed everywhere it has been tried and only persists in countries where it is supported by foreign powers or has largely abandoned its original Marxist economic principles. However, the liberal republicans are less willing to look at their own record of success in living up to the great claims they make for themselves. They, to be fair, have never promised equality of outcome as the Marxists do but they have, nonetheless, claimed to be better than any other system for organizing human endeavor which the world has ever seen in the history of existence. That is quite a claim.

Most liberal republics, however, clearly do not have much of a record of success to back up such claims as we have detailed on these pages before. The republicans of France, for example, can hardly claim to have delivered maximum human happiness and contentment for their people considering that France is currently on her fifth republican incarnation in the fairly short historical period since the French Revolution. The liberal republican model in China hardly drew its first breath before degenerating into civil war, ending only in succumbing to a communist dictatorship. The republican records of success in places such as Latin America or Africa range from fair to appalling and in Europe the most successful countries have been and still are monarchies. On the continent, the most looked-to republic has been the Federal Republic of Germany which, again, does not have much success behind it.

The Weimar republic was a degenerate disaster which easily succumbed to National Socialism and the post-war republic has been fairly prosperous in economic terms but in virtually nothing else and could hardly be said to fit the ideal liberal republican model in any event what with its constant banning of political parties and speech codes which make it clear that the German people are not to be trusted. That is what republicanism is supposed to be all about and yet, the laws of Germany show that they do not trust their people but rather firmly believe that if they are ever able to hear the arguments for National Socialism, discuss or debate such a subject, or the Holocaust, the German people will immediately rush headlong into another Nazi dictatorship. That the Germans would be in the position they are today is hardly surprising, and the idea of the democratic “will of the people” might be seen as not such a priority, given that every generation of German children since 1945 have been routinely marched to museums on a regular basis to be told how terrible there are year after year.

The Italian Republic has certainly been no roaring success. There is much to admire about Italy and people around the world will talk about how great it is (I would too) but only in cultural terms. The people, the art, the music, the food, the antiquities are all great but no one ever boasts about the government which is top-heavy, corrupt and which has buried the future of Italians in crippling regulations and massive debt. The First Spanish Republic was so incompetent that it collapsed very quickly and the Second Spanish Republic almost immediately started down the path to Marxist dictatorship and quickly degenerated into mass murder and finally a civil war which saw it destroyed. Where is the great republican success story? The countries in Europe that people point to as the most successful and the ones which more people want to move to are all monarchies; the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

However, if all else fails, liberals can always point to the one country that mesmerizes people all over the world, the one which both her friends and foes make the center of all life on the planet; the United States of America. Even in America-bashing Europe, the liberals almost invariably point to the United States and to the Founding Fathers of America as the great success story and the example for others to follow. Yet, the liberals, and the left-liberals in particular, cannot seem to get their story straight. On the one hand, they believe that America is so wonderful and so superior to all other countries in the world that it is positively cruel and inhumane to expect people to live anywhere else, while on the other hand being the ones most eager to provide skeptics like myself with the longest list of American failures or to respond to the likes of President Trump with the assertion that, “America was NEVER great!”

That America has done better than other republics, I have never denied. However, I fail to see how the USA can be claimed as the great, liberal, success story when the liberals themselves continuously redefine their measure of success. For example, liberals certainly claim to believe in democracy but, what is democracy? Does it even exist? I ask the question in all seriousness because the supporters of this ephemeral thing do not seem to have a substantive answer. Originally, in the USA, democracy meant that all landowners could vote. Then, for most of early American history it meant that all free, White, adult men could vote. But that was not democracy because later it meant that all men of any race could vote. However, it turns out, that wasn’t really democracy either because later still women were given the vote and that was democracy. Now, in at least one state I know of, the definition is about to change again to include convicted criminals, so I do not see how anyone can say that we have democracy clearly defined even after several centuries have gone by in America.

Similarly, if the American liberal democratic model is all about freedom and liberty, why are we constantly hearing about the people who do not have these things and why are we still struggling to achieve them? There was the struggle to end slavery, the struggle for worker’s rights, the struggle for women’s rights, the struggle for civil rights, the struggle for “gay” rights and so on and so forth. Has everyone ever been satisfied with their state of affairs in the United States? I am sure the modern social justice warriors would say that only straight, white, males have been satisfied in America. If true, that is hardly a record of success and if, as the right-liberals would say, this is not true, they still cannot then explain how the American system which they so idolize failed to protect itself from the likes of the social justice malcontents and troublemakers. The more right-leaning liberals would also have a hard time explaining how such gross violations of constitutional rights was able to occur in the Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt administrations. Ah, but, we are told, those cannot be held against the liberal model because it was times of war and great national crisis when Lincoln used military force to suppress the state government of Maryland or when Roosevelt put American citizens in “internment” camps.

That could be a fair point, though the United States government was not at war when federal agents entrapped Randy Weaver into a minor firearms violation and then murdered his wife and son when he refused to be an informant for them. The USA was not at war when federal agents (some of the same ones in fact) stormed and incinerated a commune of religious oddballs near Waco, Texas. No one was ever punished for any of these atrocities, few people remember them or really care. You might even be scolded for caring at all on the grounds that Randy Weaver was probably a racist and the Branch Davidians were a creepy cult. Fine, except the liberal standard they set for themselves claims that people are not supposed to be punished for their opinions or religious beliefs no matter what others may think of them. Not that I am willing either to brush aside the earlier suspension of vast constitutional rights just because it was wartime. Is that not in itself a damning indictment of the liberal republican model that it can only be expected to work when everything is fine and there are no emergencies? Are the traditional monarchies of history ever extended this same courtesy?

The answer, of course, is no. Freedom of speech is widely trampled on in the liberal regimes of the world today, yet, again, the United States is upheld as the exception to this. When you point out that many people are silenced, the response will be that they are silenced by private companies and not by the government. This is a distinction without a difference, the people in question are still being silenced. Liberal republicans, of course, would not allow traditional monarchists to get away with this such as by saying, just as truthfully, that the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church never put heretics to death, the inquisitors simply determined if heresy was present and, if it was, handed the guilty party over to the secular authorities to deal with. No, the liberal republicans would say that the Church and the monarchy were both complicit in suppressing religious dissent. They would not say that when Czar Nicholas II closed the State Duma, as he was repeatedly forced to do, that, as with the actions of American presidents, that the circumstances of the time made such a thing necessary, they simply dismiss him as an autocratic tyrant regardless of the facts of the matter.

The bottom line is this: if liberalism is supposed to be all about the power of the people and allowing the people to do exactly as they please; why are so many people in even the most “successful” of liberal societies so constantly unhappy and discontented? The answer, as should be all to obvious by now given recent events in both Europe and America, is that the people are not actually ruling themselves, they never have done and doubtless never will. They are being ruled but not in an open and honest way and this means that they are being manipulated by those who are their rulers but do not wish to be seen as such. This, I think, is something no traditional monarch has or could ever be accused of doing. For them, such a thing would have been unseemly as well as unnecessary but in the liberal system of idealism, it must be done to maintain the charade, to keep hiding the truth that liberalism is just as totalitarian as every other political “ism” that has ever been devised.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Monarch Profile: King Gustav I of Sweden

In the Sweden of today, King Gustav I may not be as much remembered as he is no doubt quite politically incorrect, however, once upon a time, not so long ago, he was regarded as the “father” of his country. He was the founding monarch of the Vasa dynasty, something of a liberator and the man who took Sweden from the Roman Catholic to the Protestant camp in the division of Christendom that was going on at the time. For this reason he is sometimes referred to as the “Henry VIII of Sweden” though, not surprisingly, such a description will anger as many as it satisfies. He was, in any event, a giant figure in Swedish history, a man who changed the course of history in Sweden and thus, to receding degrees, that of the rest of Europe as well. In the long national story of the Swedish people, King Gustav I is one of those monarchs you absolutely have to know something about. If you understand Gustav Vasa, you will know what a formidable power the Swedish nation is capable of being.

Gustav Eriksson Vasa was born on May 12, 1496 to Erik Johansson Vasa and his wife Cecilia in his father’s castle northeast of Stockholm. This was during the period when Sweden was, along with Norway, under the Crown of the Kingdom of Denmark at the time ruled by King Christian II. It is no coincidence that this same monarch, a formidable figure in his own right, came to be known as “Christian the Tyrant” to the Swedes. This personal union of the crowns of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, known as the Kolmar Union, had been on rather shaky ground for a while and the Swedes were becoming increasingly restive. One of the leaders of the independence movement was Gustav’s father, though he was not the primary leader. Naturally, his son Gustav supported him and supported the struggle for Swedish independence from Denmark. At one point, Gustav was captured but escaped and maintained his resistance to Danish rule.

King Christian II of Denmark launched an attack on the pro-independence faction in 1520 and was successful. However, his victory was followed up by the mass execution of 80 to 90 nobles and clergymen who had been invited to the palace after his coronation as King of Sweden. Some were executed for treason, some on charges of heresy, though Christian II did try to play a bit of a double game on this point, apologizing to the Pope for having cut the heads off several Catholic bishops while telling the public that they had been heretical and that the Pope was about to place Sweden under the interdict if he had not taken such drastic action. In any event, this became known as the “Stockholm Bloodbath” and one of the most infamous events in Swedish history. Most pertinent to Gustav Vasa was that his father was numbered among the massacred. He had opposed Danish rule before, now Christian II had made it personal. Accusations of heresy being tossed around, as well as the story that this was done to assuage the Pope, combined with the fact that the King of Denmark had married the sister of Emperor Charles V of Germany and King of Spain, certainly made for “bad optics” as we would say today for the Roman Catholic Church in Sweden.

For the moment, however, Christian II was in charge and Gustav had to flee for his life, ultimately all the way to Norway. This period later became legendary in Sweden with all sorts of tales springing up about Gustav’s adventures in trying to arouse the national spirit of the Swedish peasants while dodging the authorities of the King of Denmark. Ultimately, he did manage to gather together a small but growing rebel army under his command and in April of 1520 won a smashing little victory over the pro-Danish forces after which support for his cause came pouring in. Shortly thereafter the local nobles elected him regent of the Kingdom of Sweden, causing many more Swedish nobles to abandon the Danish cause and rally to his banner. Those who did not fortified themselves in their castles but these began to fall to Gustav one by one.

By 1522 much of Sweden, though not Stockholm, was under his control and more support began to come in from the German city-states of the Hanseatic League which saw it as advantageous for them if the domination of the Baltic by the Kingdom of Denmark could be broken. This additional support provided sufficient momentum for the Swedish council of nobles to decide to elect Gustav Vasa to be their king. The representatives of the German city-state of Luebeck backed the decision, saying it was the will of God, and Gustav accepted. In light of later events it is interesting to note that Gustav had a very traditional, Catholic celebration to mark the occasion including Eucharistic adoration and singing of the Te Deum. In June of 1523 when the rebel forces finally marched into Stockholm, this was topped off with a mass of thanksgiving. Not long after, the remaining Danish garrisons in Finland surrendered and King Frederick I of Denmark (who had replaced the ousted Christian II) decided to quit before Gustav conquered any more territory. In 1524 the Treaty of Malmo was signed, ending the Swedish War of Liberation and dissolving the Kolmar Union, making the Kingdom of Sweden completely independence once again.

This, however, is when problems of a religious nature began to bubble up. The previous Archbishop of Uppsala and chief cleric of Sweden had been Gustav Trolle, who had taken the side of King Christian II of Denmark during the pro-independence movement, for which he had been attacked. Later, Archbishop Trolle was said to have, in response to this, prepared the list of the men to be massacred in the “Bloodbath of Stockholm”. As the tide turned against the Danes, he was forced to leave Sweden and take refuge in Denmark. As he was no longer in the country, King Gustav I considered his see vacant and wrote to Pope Clement VII requesting that Johannes Magnus be made archbishop in his place in 1523. However, Pope Clement VII absolutely refused and demanded that Archbishop Trolle be reinstated immediately, which is something that King Gustav, nor any other monarch in his position, would have ever done. Nor was Johannes Magnus, the King’s choice, in any way unorthodox, indeed, he would quickly make enemies due to his staunch opposition to the spread of Lutheranism.

Historians ever since have puzzled over the actions of the Pope on this issue. Given the recent change in Sweden, and the fact that the former Archbishop had been on the opposing side of the new king and even implicated in the murder of his father, combined with the fact that his proposed replacement was a solid Swedish Catholic, makes it difficult to say the least to understand why the Pope decided to force the King to choose between restoring such a cleric or separating the Kingdom of Sweden from the Catholic Church. The best that defenders of the Pope can propose is that he was simply not very well informed about the situation, though that too would raise questions about why he stubbornly insisted on the reinstatement.

The result, not surprisingly, was that King Gustav appointed his own choice anyway but was suddenly much more “tolerant” about the spread of Lutheranism in his country. When the King’s appointed Archbishop Magnus came into conflict with this growing support for Lutheranism, the Archbishop the Pope had opposed left the country, leaving a vacuum which the Lutherans were only too happy to fill. In fact, King Gustav had tried to go even farther when the Pope refused to confirm Magnus. He put forward other candidates but the Pope refused them all and when the King proposed other bishops to fill five vacant sees in Sweden, the Pope again turned down all but one of the King’s suggestions. With the Pope refusing to budge an inch, the King finally made the switch and in 1531 appointed a pro-Lutheran cleric to the post of archbishop, breaking with Rome and beginning the transition of the Kingdom of Sweden from a Catholic country to a solidly and officially Lutheran one. This, as was ever the case, ultimately led to a crackdown on those who continued to adhere to the Catholic Church, most of whom were also accused of being pro-Danish traitors. Obviously, the actions of the Pope only encouraged this view.

A series of generally small scale rebellions broke out in the aftermath of this change, sometimes due to taxes and other secular issues but also due to the confiscation of church lands by the state and the switch to Lutheranism. King Gustav was ruthlessly thorough in his elimination of all opposition to this new state of affairs, having the most famous of the rebel leaders quartered. It was an unfortunate and bloody business, however it is difficult to see how the King could be blamed for the break and his intolerance of opposition did spare Sweden from the sort of drawn-out religious civil wars that were seen in other European countries. It was because of these events, most of all the shift from Catholic to Protestant Christianity, that King Gustav is often compared to King Henry VIII of England who broke with Rome shortly thereafter. However, the two cases are actually quite different. There was a legitimate religious reason for the Pope to oppose King Henry and it also came at a time after Emperor Charles V had invaded Italy, defeated the papal forces, sacked Rome and basically taken the Pope prisoner, making it rather impossible politically for the Pope to have just given Henry his damn annulment for the sake of keeping England, a staunchly Catholic country, in union with Rome. No such circumstances applied in the case of King Gustav in Sweden.

Most of the rest of the reign of the first Vasa king in Sweden was spent dealing with the aftereffects of this religious change (he had his problems with the Lutherans too) as well as establishing the state of the Kingdom of Sweden as it would be for a very long time to come. As the leader of a victorious independence movement, King Gustav became a legend in his own time and showed a positive gift for what we would today call “public relations”. In no time at all he came to be viewed as a great heroic figure, a liberator from Danish rule and the stern but wise ‘father of his country’. A plethora of art, literature, coins, songs and books were produced hailing King Gustav as the champion of his country. Married three times in his life, the King fathered nine children, including three future Swedish monarchs, so he certainly did his duty as far as securing the succession was concerned.

The last, and largely only, foreign policy problem of his reign involved the Russian Empire where Czar Ivan the Terrible viewed the new Swedish monarch as an upstart. When King Gustav sent envoys to Moscow, the Czar refused to meet with them and in the message conveyed to them, basically said to tell Gustav that Russia is awesome and Sweden is a puny weakling (and I really am not exaggerating much at all there). This, as you might imagine, did not go over well in Stockholm and in 1554 the Swedes raided a Russian monastery and when a Russian envoy came to complain, he was taken prisoner. Ivan the Terrible launched a formal offensive and the Russo-Swedish War was on. However, neither side gained much satisfaction. The Swedes besieged Oreshek but failed to take it. The Russians, in turn, besieged Viborg but also failed to take it. Swedish diplomats also had no luck in enlisting other northern powers to join their fight against Russia, seeing it all as a silly and pointless enterprise and so, in 1557 a peace was signed and the two sides left each other alone.

By this time, King Gustav I was in obviously declining health and he finally passed away on September 29, 1560. Memories of King Gustav Vasa have changed considerably over time. For much of modern Swedish history, he was as much a figure of legend and folklore as anything else. Stories abounded of his cunning and daring escapes from Danish pursuers, his heroic rallying of the country to his cause to fight for independence and later, when Lutheranism became firmly established and accepted, as the king who had delivered them from the clutches of the “papists”, giving them a Swedish church for Swedish people rather than one ruled by an Italian prince in faraway Rome. Later, however, when Sweden became more liberal and “enlightened” (feel free to roll your eyes there), King Gustav was portrayed as a grasping and ambition man, still a national hero perhaps, but a bit on the tyrannical side. In truth, he was a brave man, a clever man and a hard man. He was a lover of music, a great patriot and, while not unreasonable or harsh without purpose, was certainly a man who would not tolerate defiance. The many legends about him may be simply that but in the context of his place in Swedish history, he was the sort of monarch about whom there should be legends. He really was the father of his country, or at least, the father of what it was for a very long time.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Monarchist Hero for Today

Picture in your mind (I doubt it will require much imagination) this scenario which I certainly see. You have a European country, a monarchy, which seems to have had it. The country is being overrun by foreign invaders, the people are demoralized, the religious leaders seem to be as often as not taking the side of the invaders, your monarch does not seem to be much of a monarch, inspires no one and seems more intent on simply securing a comfortable life than saving the country. The populace is divided and many people seem to simply be looking out for their own selfish interests and not for their society, their nation, as a whole. If you see the things that I see, you might think I am talking about any number of countries today. The Kingdom of Sweden might be a good guess. However, I have no doubt some of you already know that I am actually describing the Kingdom of France in or about 1429 AD. It certainly seems highly reminiscent of the present day in a number of ways, though just as certainly radically dissimilar in more.

France was in a state of crisis and a great and ardently monarchist, pious champion stepped forward to save it. That person was, of course, an illiterate, teenage, peasant girl from Domremy in northeastern France. Acting on revelations from God, she went to the French monarch, King Charles VII; though she referred to him as the “Dauphin” because he had not been crowned and was, frankly, not acting very kingly; and told him that she was on a divine mission to see him become a proper King of France and to drive the foreign invaders (the English) from their sacred soil. The two spoke privately and the existence of God and some sort of divine intervention is absolutely the only rational, reasonable answer because, after a short, private, meeting between the two, Charles VII made this illiterate, teenage, peasant girl the commander of the armies of France with his blessing to go forth and meet the enemy, as it happened, the formidable English army besieging the city of Orleans. Joan, known then as the “Maid of Lorraine” or the “Maid of Orleans”, rallied the dispirited French, hurled herself into battle, was grievously wounded in the process, but won a stunning victory, smashing the English army and lifting the siege.

The war turned around, Joan and her army cleared the English from the Loire valley, saw Charles VII properly anointed and crowned in the cathedral at Rheims and then, after hitting a bit of snag at Paris, went on to further battles in the course of which she was captured by the forces of the Duke of Burgundy, sold to the English, put on trial by a Church court, declared a heretic and burned at the stake in 1431. In the aftermath, however, the English-Burgundian alliance collapsed, the Duke of Burgundy switched sides, the English were driven out of France and King Charles VII became the ruler of a united country. None of this would have been possible without Joan of Arc. Few dispute that had she not lifted the siege of Orleans, France would have been doomed. The traditional coronation solidified the loyalty of the people behind Charles VII and more than anything else, Joan of Arc revived the French national spirit which had completely broken down after so many years of fighting, so many internal divisions and a number of humiliating defeats at the hands of England.

All of this is clearly impressive but why does it make Joan a model hero for monarchists today? It seems to me, there are a number of reasons. For one, Joan revived the French national spirit, giving them back their proper sense of themselves as French, identifying with their nation and not simply their village, town or province which might just as easily belong to the English king as the French king of the Duke of Burgundy. She mad the French proud to be French again, made them believe in their unique identity and purpose. This is something, it seems to me, everyone needs more of today in practically every country. That goes for traditionalists, conservatives and right-wingers just as much as those of the liberal, leftist or revolutionary varieties. The left hates their countries for what they were, which is fine as they wish to destroy them anyway. However, the right tends to hate their countries for what they are and this is deliberate for you will hardly have much zeal to fight for the salvation of your country if you do not love it. Joan lived in what was possibly the darkest period in the history of France, she could have easily been discouraged, but she fought for the France that could be, that should be and looked beyond the divided, dispirited country that was.

Also, very much like today, Joan had to confront traditional institutions that were less than ideal. However, she had a quality that made her immune to the damage this could cause. Joan of Arc possessed a type of loyalty that seems exceedingly rare in this day and age, even among many who call themselves monarchists or royalists. The King she fought for was hardly inspiring by most accounts. Was he even the rightful king anyway? Plenty at the time would argue Charles VII had no right to the throne at all, perhaps because they believed in the legality of the claim of the child King Henry VI of England, which was not based on nothing let us not forget, or because they considered Charles VII to be of illegitimate birth. For them, his cousin, the Duke of Orleans (another Charles) was the legitimate heir to the throne. So you had an English child on one side with a treaty signed by the previous king of France that made him heir and on the other side the son of said king who many believed not to be his actual son at all. Joan did not get bogged down in all of that, though she had the benefit of divine revelations.

The primary point though is that Joan was loyal to a king who was, under the best of interpretations, not as loyal to her in return. If you only know the story of Joan of Arc from the numerous films, you would probably be inclined to think Charles VII to be a real villain and regret the fact that Joan had fought so hard to see him placed on the throne. He is often portrayed as outright betraying her to the enemy, selling her out in order to be rid of her. People who have studied Joan of Arc far more than I have do not usually go this far but will say that it remains essentially unknown why Charles VII did not do more to try to save her. Personally, I see no evidence that the King set her up to be captured but neither did he go to great lengths to save her which is why I say he was not as loyal to her as she had been to him. Nonetheless, like the Biblical injunction to “obey not only the good and the gentle but also the harsh”, this did not matter to Joan. She never faltered in her own loyalty, she fought the battles that made it possible for the king to do what he needed to do and she urged him toward the proper course of action but her loyalty did not depend on the King acting as she saw fit or of him reciprocating her commitment.

You could say much the same for the relationship between Joan of Arc and the Roman Catholic Church. She was to her last breath utterly devoted and faithful to the Church which persecuted her, falsely accused her, condemned her and finally sent her to a fiery death. In the years that followed her verdict was overturned by the Church and the bishop who presided at her trial was excommunicated but this was all after the fact (and it still took 500 years to have her canonized, which is rather lengthy even by Catholic standards). It could have been no comfort to Joan at the time and yet, even while surrounded by Catholic clerics and scholars, most presumably in sympathy with the foreign invaders of France that Joan was fighting against, she still maintained her belief in God and the Church of which her beloved country was the “Eldest Daughter”. In an even more perverse way, we often see this today and Joan of Arc sets the example of being faithful even if those charged with upholding that faith are extremely unfaithful.

Joan of Arc had her priorities in order; to restore the king, expel the foreigners, unite the country and obey God. If you believe (and I do) that she was on a divine mission from God, this means that these were also the priorities of the Almighty, which is something anyone claiming to be any sort of Christian should take very seriously. She did not hate the English, she pleaded with them to leave peacefully, even to join with her in fighting heretics and unbelievers, but she was adamant that France belonged to the French and not to the English. The wellbeing of her people was more important to her than the wellbeing of foreigners. She fought for her king, even if he was not the ideal monarch. I am sure it would have been easier to fight for someone like King Louis IX but a St Louis is rare, Charles VII was the man God had placed in her life. She fought for him anyway and if he or the Church did not do what they were supposed to, that was up to God to deal with. All she could do is show them the way and that is exactly what she did. This is important for monarchists today to learn from. If you are not happy with modern monarchs currently reigning or in exile, I sympathize but a King Edward III, Louis IX or Otto the Great are rare and if you are waiting for the ideal king to come along and save civilization for you, I am afraid you will be waiting for a very long time.

Joan of Arc did not wait. She took action. But, you may be saying, she was a saint and had God on her side. True, but who is to say God is not on your side too? God spoke to Joan of Arc, God may be speaking to you too but you just are not LISTENING!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Popes and the Emperors

As is not entirely unprecedented, I recently came across an historical fact about monarchy that is, evidently, somewhat controversial and I had no idea that it would be. This came up in response to my listing of a few facts about the history of Christianity and the Roman emperors, some of which I have talked about here before as a way of illustrating how central the imperial power was to the early Church. I was surprised, however, to receive some “push back” on the last fact I listed which was that for the first roughly six hundred years of Church history, every pope was the subject of the Roman emperors. I was told that I was “dreaming” this up but, rest assured, I am not. Evidently, this is something that needs to be talked about as, upon reflection, I think I might have an idea of where denial of this fact comes from, specifically for Catholics.

In the first place, you can check pretty much any historical source and find that the basic fact is just that; a fact. Starting with St Peter, every Bishop of Rome up to Pope Stephen II in 756 was, officially, a subject of the (later East) Roman Emperor. St Peter and the earliest bishops of Rome were all direct or indirect subjects of the Roman emperors. This was true whether they liked it or not but the fact of the matter is that they never made any objections to this. They were bound by Roman law and obeyed it so long as it did not force them to do anything contrary to Christian doctrine. They were loyal to the Roman emperors and never taught Christian people to be rebellious or called for a revolution to overthrow the Roman emperors. They did, as was written in the Bible, call for everyone to love their community, be good Romans, “fear God and honor the emperor”.

During the reign of Emperor Claudius, as had happened before and would happen again, the Jews were expelled from Rome and mention is made of this in the book of Acts concerning St Paul. Originally, the Romans considered Christians to be a sect of Judaism and St Paul, who was ethnically a Jew and a Roman citizen, became frustrated in trying to convert them and decided to accept their rejection and direct his efforts towards the Greeks and Romans. Later, in the reign of Emperor Nerva, we can see more evidence that the Christians submitted to imperial authority by the fact that they petitioned the emperor to stop forcing them to pay the tax that Jews had to pay as they were a different religion. At that time, the state still did not recognize Christianity as a valid religion but Emperor Nerva did order that Christians not be forced to pay the tax since they were not Jews. Official recognition of the Christian religion would not come until the issuing of the Edict of Milan by Emperor Constantine the Great. Later, Emperor Theodosius the Great would make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

However, even during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great, the emperor played an important part in Church life and it is hard to imagine this would have been the case if the Bishop of Rome rejected his authority as emperor. One could also look to the Emperor Gratian who handed his title of ‘Supreme Pontiff’ over to the pope which, again, he hardly would have done if the pope was objecting to his authority. In fact, it would make no sense for the pope to accept such a title unless he first recognized that the emperor lawfully possessed it and thus could hand it over to him. Indeed, in the early days of the Church, before rules had been standardized for such a process, the Roman emperors played a part in the selection of popes. Much of the history in this period is sparse and often debated but some argue that Pope Julius I was, for all intents and purposes, appointed by Emperor Constantine the Great. It is more widely conceded that the imperial power played at least some part in the selection of subsequent popes and in efforts to resolve disputes over who the pope should be.

The underlying point though is that the bishops of Rome were by virtue of being born in the Roman Empire or, later, baptized as Christians, subjects from birth of the Roman emperors and that did not change with their election or selection for the papal throne. When the last remnants of the Western Roman Empire fell with the forced abdication of Romulus Augustulus, this did not legally change. With no emperor in the west, quite understandably, the Eastern Roman Emperor assumed sole authority for the whole Roman world and still regarded the popes as his subjects in the temporal sphere and as shepherds in the spiritual sphere (though the East Roman Emperor never recognized Romulus so that the exiled Julius Nepos was regarded in the east as the “last” West Roman Emperor until his death). This culminated in an era which I have previously heard plenty of Catholics complain about but never deny which was the so-called “Byzantine Papacy”.

This term has been used to describe the period dating from the time that the East Roman Emperor Justinian set out to take back the territory of the Western Roman Empire from the various Germanic tribes which had conquered it. Emperor Justinian, during this time, basically came to Rome, fired Pope Silverius and appointed Vigilius to take his place. As you can imagine, this caused some controversy but, while many have little positive things to say about him, Pope Vigilius is regarded as a valid pope, included on every list of the bishops of Rome. Subsequent papal elections were confirmed by the Byzantine emperors which, I can imagine, some may find an intolerable idea but this is probably due simply to ill-will generated by the eventual east-west schism since this idea never really went away. After all, in the Roman Catholic west, ultimately a number of monarchs held the power to veto papal candidates they found objectionable, meaning that whoever was chosen must have been passively approved of (otherwise his election would have been vetoed). In fact, this imperial veto was used for the last time in the conclave of 1903 when the first choice, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla, was vetoed by Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, resulting in the election of Pope St Pius X.

The so-called “Byzantine Papacy” did not end until the reign of Pope Stephen II in 756. Prior to that time, the gains of Emperor Justinian had been rolled back and what was referred to as the Duchy of Rome (legally part of the [eastern] Roman Empire) was under threat from the Lombards of northern Italy. Constantinople was unable to help and the Pope turned to the King of the Franks, Pepin, son of the famous Charles Martel, to come to his rescue. He did so, the Lombards were defeated and in the subsequent peace treaty, only the “Romans, Franks and Lombards” were signatories, the Byzantines being left out completely. After the Lombards broke the treaty, attacked again and were defeated again, the King of the Franks ceded territory he had conquered from the Lombards to Stephen II which subsequently became the Papal States. Legally speaking, and this is why I warn Catholics about always trying to play the “legitimist” game, all of this territory was still part of the empire, having been basically stolen from the Byzantine emperors as the last Roman emperors still standing.

Their power, however, was gone and would not be coming back. From that time on, the popes would look to the west rather than to the east. However, that they had previously been imperial subjects cannot be argued against. Into the reign of Pope Stephen II, if not slightly longer, records were still dated by imperial years and imperial coins were still minted and dated according to the East Roman Empire. The ultimate change, of course, came when Pope St Leo III crowned another Frankish monarch, Charlemagne, “Emperor of the Romans” on Christmas day in the year 800. Again, if one chooses to play the strictly “legitimist” game, this was out of order as it had never been up to the Bishop of Rome to decide who the Roman emperor should be. This is, however, all I have been able to come up with in determining the root reason of why anyone would deny that the popes prior to this time had all been subjects of the Roman emperors in spite of the obvious history. I shall relate my theory and you may comment below as to whether you think it holds any water.

In the east, Church and State were firmly united. In the west, they were united as well but also fairly consistently at odds with each other and I think the perception of this has grown worse in modern times. The idea developed in the west of the “two swords” approach with the emperor (this being the German emperor) having the secular sword and the pope having the spiritual sword. However, the popes maintained that their sword was bigger than the emperor’s sword and that they could take away his sword if they wanted to because they had given it to him in the first place. I think this is magnified in our time because, basically, *everything* is or can be argued from moral grounds so that any issue can be considered a moral issue and thus falling under papal jurisdiction. All I have been able to come up with, to put it another way, is that there is a revulsion by some Catholics to the idea that the Bishop of Rome could ever, even in temporal terms only, be “subject” to a higher power, again, even if that power is only higher in terms of worldly power and nothing at all to do with spiritual power.

The Church was born into the preexisting Roman Empire. As such, the Roman emperors came and went and the earliest Christians and Christian bishops, had nothing to say about the matter. When the Pope crowned Charlemagne, this created a new western empire, which eventually became the German empire (First Reich) under the magnificent Kaiser Otto the Great, and a sort of “new world order” of which I am rather fond. However, it also led to a succession of troubles, most famous being the “Investiture Dispute” as the popes and the German emperors quarreled over where their powers began and ended. This is because this new imperial system had been handed down by the pope and what the pope gave, naturally, the pope felt he could take away. This is something no pope could or ever tried to do with the east because the eastern imperial succession predated his own, going all the way back to the first Augustus who was the Augustus before Christ was born. The Byzantine (East Roman) emperors had to be converted, confronted or submitted to, they could not simply be dismissed or overruled by the popes.

I think, at least this has so far been all I can come up with, the underlying reason for any denial that the popes were ever subjects of the Roman emperors which, like it or not, is an objective fact. It seems to me that some have become too attached to the idea of the popes being temporal sovereigns as they were in the era of the Papal States and since the recognition of the State of Vatican City because this has been so heavily emphasized as being absolutely essential to the independent function of the papacy as an institution, that it would be impossible for Catholicism to function without the popes being a power unto themselves. Personally, I do not think this view an incontestable one. Certainly it did not prevent any and all secular influence and I cannot be the only one who was outraged at the number of clerics implicated in child sex abuse crimes who escaped justice by being transferred to the Vatican establishment and thus beyond the reach of any secular government. However, the fact is that the papacy did exist for quite a few centuries without any secular power of their own, as subjects of the Roman emperors and it did not mean that they were simply the tools of Rome or Constantinople. What it did mean was that they had only their personal piety and courage to rely on. Those who were persecuted, exiled or martyred, I think, shows that such devotion was not unknown just as, I think, the amount of secular praise heaped on the current pontiff shows that independent sovereignty does not prevent a pope from giving in to popular trends or influence from beyond the Vatican walls.

For Further Reading:
Centrality of the Roman Empire
Church and Empire
Christian Empire
The Tiburtine Sybil & Imperial Prophecy
Christ and the Emperor Tiberius
The Story of the Byzantine Empire
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