Monday, October 23, 2017

A Brief Word on Titles

Today we are quite used to titles being sort of honorary and nothing more, particularly, I think, in the English-speaking world but, certainly after the French Revolution, in most of the west as well. The British monarchs, for example, became fond of awarding titles to victorious generals which reflected their success such as Viscount Allenby of Megiddo (a place in the Middle East) or Baron Napier of Magdala (a place in Ethiopia) in addition to some actual location in the U.K. but while they may have had some traditional privileges associated with the place in the U.K. mentioned in their title, it certainly was not their own to rule as they pleased. In the old days, more so the farther back prior to the French Revolution one chooses to go, this was not the case. A title more often meant that the holder of that title actually controlled and ruled the land in question. William the Conqueror, for example, was the Duke of Normandy and he ruled Normandy. So, in the past, a title could mean there were actual lands and people and those lands that the holder of the title actually controlled, sometimes, even then, it was more in name than in fact.

Coronation of Otto the Great of Germany
One area that often causes confusion is the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”. You will, for the sake of being easily understood, see the ruler of this entity be referred to as the ‘Holy Roman Emperor’ but his actual imperial title was “Emperor of the Romans”. His primary subsidiary titles were “King of the Germans” or “King of Germany” (the one which mattered the most), “King of Italy” and later “King of Burgundy”. Usually the Emperor held these titles prior to or upon becoming “Emperor of the Romans” but this was not always the case. Usually, whoever became King of Germany was confirmed by the Pope and could then be crowned Emperor of the Romans though not many actually were. Eventually, papal-imperial relations became such a touchy subject that this stopped being done which is why every emperor after Charles V were technically only entitled to be called “Emperor-elect” as they did not officially become “Emperor of the Romans” until crowned by the pope and no emperor after Charles V ever was.

This issue of titles can be very confusing but it is rather important in understanding why certain historical events were so important when, on the surface, it may seem as though there should have been no difficulty about them. Even the title at the very top, “Emperor of the Romans” was rather complicated. Technically, a Roman was and is simply a native of the city of Rome, however the title could be seen, and was, to refer to “Romans” in the broader sense of basically all Europeans or at least all Christian Europeans which, eventually, they all were. Maps might show the actual city of Rome as being part of the Holy Roman Empire but the emperors did not usually rule Rome but rather the popes ruled the city of Rome and part of the reason why there was so much ‘storm and stress’ between the popes and the emperors was because, originally, the popes were supposed to be superior to the emperor in their spiritual capacity but subjects of the emperors in the temporal sphere. It did not usually work out this way in practice though as neither wished to be overruled by the other on any issue.

Emperor Romulus surrenders his crown
Similarly, the title of “King of Italy”, falsely regarded by many as an innovation of the Nineteenth Century, was a title which had been in use consistently ever since the fall of the Western Roman Empire when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed by Odoacer who was then proclaimed “King of Italy”. You then had the Ostrogoth kings of Italy, then the Lombard kings of Italy and finally it was the German emperors who came to hold the title and would often be crowned King of Italy, after being crowned King of Germany, while on their way from Germany to Rome to be crowned Emperor of the Romans. However, because the Holy Roman Empire was more like a collection of small countries than one, united, powerful country, this did not mean that the emperors, as kings of Italy, actually ruled Italy.

In the first place, relatively soon after Odoacer became King of Italy, the Eastern Roman Empire invaded and recaptured the southern half of the peninsula and later other conquerors did as well so that different political entities were established there and the King of Italy only actually held even nominal rule over the northern half of the peninsula. Yet, even then, the German emperor who was King of Italy did not usually rule even northern Italy himself because of the nature of the empire. Northern Italy was ruled by people like the Doge of Venice, the Duke of Milan, the Duke of Savoy and so on who may or may not have been loyal to the German emperor and their nominal king depending on the situation. Quite often, to prevent the emperors from ruling Italy, the pope would form a coalition of the rulers of the northern Italian states to band together in opposition to the emperors. Sometimes they succeeded, such as under Pope Alexander III, and sometimes they did not, such as under Pope Clement VII. His defeat, by the way, is what resulted in the victorious Charles V being the last Emperor to be crowned by the Pope himself.

Crown of Prussia
Most of the time, the most significant title of the emperors was their position as King of the Germans as that is where they held the most actual power, though most still had to negotiate with the princes and nobles under them in order to accomplish anything. However, this is why there were supposed to be no other kings within the empire other than the Emperor himself who was King of Germany as that would conflict with his title. This is why it was significant when the Elector of Brandenburg demanded to be ‘upgraded’ to King of Prussia as it was seen as being a challenge to the authority of the Emperor who was King of the Germans. Eventually, because the Prussian heartland was outside the borders of the empire, and the Emperor really needed the help of the Prussians, it was decided to allow the Elector of Brandenburg to be called “King in Prussia” but not “King of Prussia”. Later, under Frederick the Great, all pretense would be dropped and he simply adopted the title “King of Prussia” anyway and there was nothing the Emperor could really do about it.

At the very end of the life of the Holy Roman Empire, this ban on more than one king was thrown completely out the window as the victorious Napoleon Bonaparte began to redraw the map of central Europe as he negotiated a new continental order centered around France. This is when, in addition to the King of Prussia, you suddenly had a King of Saxony, a King of Bavaria and a King of Wurttemberg within the historic lands of Germany and different imperial electors than there had been before. Ultimately, however, none of that really mattered as by then the Empire had become so nominal as to be practically nonexistent anyway. Even before the time of Napoleon, when one spoke of the “Emperor” they actually meant the ruler of Austria as he clearly did not rule the whole of the German nation. In 1804 the Emperor Francis II, wishing to end the charade as well as preventing Napoleon himself from being elected, abolished the Holy Roman Empire of the Germans and declared himself Emperor Francis I of Austria, which later became the “Dual-Monarchy” of Austria-Hungary under Francis Joseph.

Emp. Ferdinand wearing the Crown of Italy
Nonetheless, once someone has a title, they usually want to keep it. As such, those German princes who had been elevated to royal status by Napoleon, were allowed to keep their titles as part of the means of encouraging them to turn against Napoleon and join the Allies. So, after that whole affair, there was no longer a King of Germany but instead kings of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Wurttemberg as well as the Emperor of Austria who was also a king several times over in his own empire. The Kingdom of Burgundy had been broken up centuries before any of this so that left only the Kingdom of Italy. Napoleon had revived the Kingdom of Italy and actually made it a reality, intending it to be his secondary title after Emperor of the French, taking a great interest in it and naming his step-son viceroy. However, after his downfall, the Kingdom of Italy was no more as most of the territory was handed over to the Austrian Empire rather than being restored to its previous rulers. The Crown of Italy was also held by the Habsburgs but they created a new title to use with it, “King of Lombardy-Venetia”. The title King of Italy would not be revived until 1860 with the accomplishment of Italian independence and unification.

The subject can be much more complicated if one chooses to go into all of the details and all of the changes over time but, I hope this little summary will at least give those unfamiliar a better grasp of the titles associated with the Holy Roman Empire and perhaps make certain past (and future) articles easier to understand.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Monarch Profile: King Manuel II of Portugal

The last reigning Portuguese monarch to date, Manuel II, had a very interesting life, with all of the misfortune that statement implies. Coming to the throne of Portugal before his time, he was young, handsome, widely popular and seemed to embody a real sense of hope that the Kingdom of Portugal could be on the verge of a great revival in prestige and prosperity. Yet, after all too short a reign, he became the first major monarch to lose his throne in the Twentieth Century. Predictably, his country suffered as a result and there was every reason to believe that he could have been restored in his own lifetime. Yet, he was not and would live out his remaining years in exile, leaving behind a very problematic succession dispute. His life, in a way, embodies the problem with what we know as “constitutional monarchy” which looks quite reasonable and has worked very well for certain periods of time yet which always seems to go in the same direction. King Manuel II was probably the most “modern” monarch that Portugal had ever had, yet his position meant that he had great responsibility with very little power and fell victim to a powerful republican faction even though most Portuguese thought well of him.

His Royal Highness Infante Manuel Maria Filipe Carlos Amelio Luis Miguel Rafael Gabriel Gonzaga Francisco de Assis Eugenio de Orleans Savoy and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Braganza of Portugal was born on November 15, 1889 at Belem Palace in Lisbon, the second son and third child of King Carlos I of Portugal and Queen Amelie of Orleans, daughter of the Count of Paris. As the younger son he was not expected to succeed to the throne and so was not educated with national leadership in mind though he was still given a first-rate education. Indeed, young Manuel proved to be a brilliant boy, becoming literate and fluent at French at only six years old. He was very much the bookish type, inclined to study with a great interest in literature and the arts, particularly music, having a great appreciation for the classics and becoming quite an adept pianist. Athletic activities were required of course but he preferred to spend his time reading and listening to Beethoven and Wagner, a young man of refined tastes. He seemed tailor-made to serve as in intellectual advisor to his handsome, more athletic and outgoing older brother Luis Felipe, when he eventually became king.

While his brother was trained for the army, Prince Manuel was set to enter the Portuguese Naval Academy for his own military career. However, all of those plans came to ruin on the tragic day of February 1, 1908 when a republican terrorist gang assassinated the King, the heir to the throne and wounded Prince Manuel in the arm. He likely would have been killed as well had it not been for the heroic actions of his mother Queen Amelie, instead, he became King Manuel II of Portugal and the Algarves under the most traumatic of circumstances. Although he confessed to being unprepared for such a position and forced to rely on his loyal ministers for advice, the new, young monarch did take some immediate and decisive action, dismissing the prime minister and his government which had presided over such a disaster and replacing it with a new government led by the distinguished Admiral Francisco Joaquin Ferreira do Amaral. It was hoped that this new government would encourage national unity and, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, it seemed to work. However, the republican conspiracy was found to be more widespread than any had originally realized.

King Manuel II started his reign greatly loved by the vast majority of his people. He was young, handsome and most felt immense sympathy for him due to the circumstances which had brought him to the throne. He also set a tone that he was to be a more “modern” king than his predecessors. He did away with most of the traditional pomp and ceremony of the royal court and, not surprisingly considering the fate which befell his father, declared that he would “reign” but not “rule” and would not be intervening in political matters as King Carlos had done. He also quickly set about trying to build a personal relationship with his subjects, traveling around the country to see and be seen by as many people as possible. He was highly praised for his frank conversations, sincerity and informal style. Unfortunately, none of this had any impact on the blind hatred of the ideologically driven republicans. As the investigation into the assassinations went forward, it was found that the web of these villains was extensive indeed and their hostility would be unremitting. King Manuel II did not remain unaware of this and decided on a way to try to deal with it but it would mean playing with fire.

The plan of the young monarch was to try to tame the socialist party, which, odd as it seems now had never fared well in Portugal, in order to make them a more palatable alternative to the republican party. Of course, being socialists, they were naturally republicans as well but the hope was that they could be made to work within the existing system of constitutional monarchy and that leftist agitators would abandon the cause of the republicans who had no other goal than the ruination of the kingdom. This would be no small trick as it would require two political miracles; making the republicans go over to the socialists and yet not have the socialists simply replace them as the primary threat to the monarchy. King Manuel II hoped that he could weaken the republicans and, perhaps naively, that the socialists could be a force for good in the country. Unfortunately, though perhaps not surprisingly, this never really worked but nor was it given much of a chance to. The situation was deteriorating faster than anyone would have expected. The efforts to modernize and any moderation on the part of the Crown was the scent of blood in the water for the republicans.

In electoral terms, the supporters of the constitutional monarchy did quite well and the republicans won the least number of seats but, hypocrites as they inevitably are, they never intended to take power democratically anyway and from the start were plotting to seize power by force. The King traveled abroad and reaffirmed the historic alliance with Great Britain but disaster struck when King Edward VII died and without him and with a Liberal government in London the Portuguese Royal Family could expect no help from that quarter in their hour of need. It also did not help that the British alliance and the friendship between the British and Portuguese royal houses was still fairly unpopular with a segment of the population in Portugal over the British seizure of the African territory between Portuguese East and West Africa. From the time King Manuel II came to the throne the Kingdom of Portugal would survive for only 33 months. Of that time, Portugal saw the rise and fall of seven different governments in 24 of those months. As was all too often the case, a splintering of the pro-monarchy parties created a power vacuum that the republicans were only too eager to fill.

The King and royal officials knew something was up and on October 3, 1910 put the soldiers of the Lisbon garrison on the alert and took care to stay at a different location than his uncle and heir-to-the throne, Prince Royal Afonso, in case the worse should happen. Rumors of a coup attempt were thick but republican conspirators nonetheless succeeded, with some of their fellow members serving in the army, in sparking a mutiny first in the Sixteenth Infantry and later First Artillery Regiments. Men from other units joined as well along with a few hundred civilians and, after clashing with police and some municipal guard troops along the way, set themselves up behind barricades in Rotunda Square. By the next morning some naval crews had mutinied as well, one group of rebels even seizing the cruiser Dom Carlos I, the situation in the capital was momentarily deadlocked. The rebels had achieved all of their aims and yet there was no mass uprising of the people as they had expected. They controlled a major city square and Alcantara parish, but little more and they could not remain there indefinitely. With no movement on the part of the public, many rebel leaders gave up and went home. Unfortunately, the firebrand Machado Santos stayed and determined to carry on.

The following days, troops from the palace were sent to dislodge the rebels at Rotunda Square but they were attacked as they came up, fought off their attackers and pressed on only to be repulsed at the rebel barricades. They tried to call for reinforcements but telegraph lines had been cut and railroads smashed to hinder if not prevent just such an occurrence. The monarchist units began to crack under the stress, a rebel cruiser shelled government buildings within sight of a Brazilian battleship which was actually carrying the President of Brazil, a former Portuguese colony which had only recently overthrown its own monarch of the same family as King Manuel II (in fact, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil had been present when the last King of Portugal was born). The King was doing his best to appear confident and relaxed by the morning of October 5 but found his phone lines cut when rebels attacked the Palace of Necessidades where he was staying. When the president of the Council of Ministers finally got in touch with him, he advised him to flee, having heard that the palace was to be bombarded but King Manuel II refused, saying he preferred to die at his post.

The palace did come under fire from ships in the harbor but the King kept his cool and contacted the minister president about what forces needed to be sent to reinforce the position. As the attack on Rotunda had already failed, he was advised again that it would be easier to get him out than to get sufficient loyal troops in. The King agreed to evacuate to a military school at Mafra, dispatching many of the soldiers sent to escort him to fight the rebels. However, when he arrived, he found only a small fraction of the soldiers expected and by that time had not many with him either. It was decided to bring the Queen Mother and Dowager Queen Maria Pia of Savoy to Mafra and then they would all go to Porto to make a proper defense and organize a monarchist counter-offensive to take back control of Lisbon. Fighting was still going on there but it came to end in an odd way, all due to a misunderstanding.

A German diplomat had gone out under a white flag to try to arrange a cease-fire to evacuate foreign diplomats. The royalist general on hand agreed, thinking this would also buy him some time for more reinforcements to come in. However, the sight of the white flag and the royal forces holding their fire, caused many to believe that the King’s troops had surrendered and many of the republicans began celebrating. Now the public made itself known as huge crowds took to the streets. This buoyed the republicans and totally demoralized the loyalist forces which soon collapsed, however, many people had no idea what had actually happened. Some were simply celebrating that the shooting had stopped, others assumed that it was the rebels who must have surrendered. However, the rebels wasted no time and proclaimed the First Portuguese Republic. King Manuel II, still at Mafra, was shocked to receive word from the civic officials that his country was now a republic and he was cut off. The arrival of the royal yacht, which had already picked up his uncle, offered the only chance of escape. The King first hoped to take the ship to Porto and carry on the struggle as planned but was advised this would be too risky and, indeed, as it turned out the city would have been in republican hands by the time they arrived. Instead, they had just enough fuel to make it to Gibraltar.

King Manuel II was extremely civil about the whole ordeal. After landing at Gibraltar he even ordered the yacht to return to Portugal on the grounds that it was government property and not his own. He would live out the rest of his life in exile in Great Britain. For a kingdom that dated back to 1139, with roots stretching back even further, it seemed an anticlimactic end, more like the result of a bizarre accident than a successful conspiracy. King Manuel II still regarded himself as King of Portugal, as did the other crowned heads of Europe and, indeed, there was plenty of reason to hope for a restoration as the First Portuguese Republic proved to be an incoherent, anticlerical, monument to political incompetence from start to finish. In 1911 and 1912 there were efforts at a royal restoration, showing considerable public support for the monarchy but each were unsuccessful. In 1913 the King married Princess Augusta Victoria von Hohenzollern but the two never had any children.

In World War I, starting the following year, the King, living in exile in Middlesex, England, supported the British war effort and approved of Portuguese involvement in the conflict on the Allied side. This put him at odds with many of his supporters who hoped for a German-Austrian victory. However, while intervention was a fiasco, the King’s judgment ultimately proved correct. Portugal would have lost their African empire in the event of a German victory and, as it happened, their colonies were saved by being on the winning team while at the same time the war severely discredited the republican government. They had been unable to maintain the Portuguese Expeditionary Force sent to France and ultimately allowed it to be absorbed into the British military because they could not provide support for their own soldiers. It was in light of this that another, very serious, attempt at a restoration of the monarchy occurred in 1919. Alas, once again, the republic managed to just survive.

There were also, unfortunately but not surprisingly, problems which the monarchists created for themselves. Ever since the Liberal Wars of 1828-1834 between the constitutional and absolute monarchists (basically the Portuguese version of the Spanish Carlist Wars) there had been a faction of the Portuguese Royal Family providing a rival claim to the throne in opposition to the victorious constitutional monarchists. At the time of the overthrow of King Manuel II, the absolutist claimant was Miguel, Duke of Braganza and this division doubtless hurt the overall cause of monarchy. It was also all the more pressing given that Manuel II had no heir to continue the constitutionalist line after the death of his uncle in 1920 with no heirs either.

King Manuel II and the Duke of Braganza met shortly after the revolution in Portugal and supposedly the King agreed that the Duke’s line were part of the family but no more than that and even that remains disputed to this day by some. Later, in 1922, another agreement was supposedly reached in France between the two rival claimants that the Duke’s heir, Duarte Nuno, would succeed Manuel II as claimant to the Portuguese Crown. However, the absolutists refused to accept allegiance to a constitutional monarchy and, as the offer by Manuel II depended on this, it was withdrawn. Maybe. Again, the facts on this are seemingly impossible to obtain as each side has a different version of events. Portuguese succession law also proved very problematic and hard to maneuver around, especially since it could no longer be modified and there were still those absolutists who would never accept a constitutional monarchy and constitutional monarchists who would never accept an absolute one.

As it was, Manuel II, the last King of Portugal to date, died of suffocation from a throat problem on July 2, 1932 which made the Miguelist heir Duarte Nuno the ‘last man standing’ and basically the only option for carrying the monarchist cause forward. By this time the First Portuguese Republic had fallen apart and a corporatist “New State” was in place led by Prime Minister Antonio Oliveira de Salazar who had begun to stabilize things and slowly bring the country back toward prosperity. A devout Catholic and inclined to monarchist sympathies, he allowed the remains of King Manuel II to come to Portugal for burial with full state honors. The sad occasion gathered huge crowds, showing again how much popular support the monarchy still had in Portugal. Salazar talked of restoring the monarchy and seriously considered it in 1951 but, perhaps because of the legal disputes and lingering rivalries within the monarchist community, ultimately never did so. When his regime was brought down by a military coup in 1974 the revived Portuguese republic has had basically only liberal or leftist governments ever since which, of course, have little time for any talk of monarchy.

In the end, King Manuel II had been a monarch with much promise. He was very intelligent, very devoted to his country and hoped to bring about a revival of Portugal by reviving the national pride of the Portuguese themselves as a unique people with a glorious history. A king at eighteen he was, nonetheless, inexperienced and was handed a problem on his first day that had been festering for years and proved worse than anyone then knew. He had so little time to prove himself that he can hardly be faulted for how things turned out. The situation which brought about his downfall was so bizarre as to almost defy belief. For the rest of his life he seemed the ideal exiled monarch and always seemed tantalizingly close to restoration only to never have it quite work out. He may not have always made the right moves, but his heart was always in the right place and Portugal only suffered by his absence. He could have done so much more for his country if only he had been allowed the opportunity.

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.
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