Monday, July 31, 2017

The Crimean War All Over Again?

The U.S. Senate, you know, the upper house of the American legislature with a Republican majority that could not muster enough Republican votes to appeal ‘Obamacare’ which they spent the last seven years promising to do, did manage to pass a sanctions bill against Russia, with Iran and North Korea added as an afterthought, with a huge bi-partisan majority of Republicans and Democrats. Because North Korea was added it must now go back to the House of Representatives but is certain to pass there, again, with Democrat and Republican support, with a large enough majority to override any presidential veto. The Trump has said he will sign it, despite some earlier misgivings, I think simply because he will look impotent if he vetoes a bill that becomes law anyway. Some people, on both the left and the right by the way, have warned that this is insane as sanctions usually end with war and, as Russia has thousands of nuclear weapons, such a thing could be disastrous.

U.S. forces in Narva, Estonia (which borders Russia)
What is the reason for this? It depends on who you ask. The Democrats, of course, are still wailing about Russia “hacking” the 2016 election, “attacking our democracy” and so on while the Republicans justify their support (as some Democrats do too) by pointing to Russian actions in Ukraine. The Ukrainians, coincidentally I’m sure, have also recently been talking about joining NATO and the European Union but no one in the halls of power in Washington DC or Brussels think Russia should have any reason to worry about that. However, the European Union (pertinent here as it contains most of Europe’s remaining monarchies) has said they are less than thrilled about these sanctions which will impact European companies which do business with Russia, particularly in the energy sector as Europe buys most of their natural gas from Russia. It is a far cry from the tone of the same European leaders who wailed about Russian interference in the French presidential elections or Russian interference in the “Brexit” vote and who backed the NATO military buildup in the Baltic. The EU, it seems, wants to endlessly provoke Russia but does not want to actually put their money where their mouth is.

The American politicians, needless to say, do not want war with Russia either (though a war with Syria or Iran is something I would not consider beyond them) and they would be doing none of this if they believed for a moment that Russia would ever fight back. The more dim even act as though they are completely ignorant of the fact that the choice between war or peace with Russia is one that is not only up to them but up to the leadership in Moscow as well. I really wish people would learn from history, the common lament of historians of all ages I am sure. All of this should remind us of the Crimean War and not just because Crimea and Ukraine are again at issue. For those not familiar or who would like to refresh their memory, read this past post about the Clash of Monarchies in the Crimean War. Suffice it to say that neither Britain or France really expected to get into a war with Russia over what amounted to a sort of turf-feud between Christian factions in the Holy Land. Napoleon III of France, who took the side of the Catholics (silly man), was satisfied by Turkish concessions on the issue and the British, being a Protestant country and not Catholic or Orthodox really had ‘no dog in the fight’, so to speak, concerning the original issue. How then did this all come to war?

British troops depart for Crimea
The answer lies with the British, specifically the British politicians and their allies in the media. Already sounding familiar isn’t it? One political faction in Britain wanted to fight, or at least said that they did, while the other urged compromise. They were more concerned about fears of Russian rivalry on the wider world stage, about areas where the British and Russian empires were bumping up against each other in Central Asia. They portrayed the Russians as brutes and Czar Nicholas I as a ruthless tyrant who suppressed opposition, killed dissidents and so on. Doesn’t that sound familiar? They could not compare him to Hitler of course but no doubt they did the best they could along those same lines. Their allies in the media pumped up public outrage against the Russians, picking on the poor, victimized Turks, and the demand for action by the British government began to grow at an alarming rate. This is how, in the end, the Her Majesty’s government was forced by public pressure, their own alarmism and brinksmanship into a war they did not really want over issues that could not be clearly defined.

After having stoked the fires of anti-Russian sentiment to such a degree, the politicians in London were left with no other option but to make good on their threats rather than face the public humiliation of backing down from their hysteria. The Czar of Russia was not averse to talking the matter over but he was also not about to back down over an issue in which he clearly felt that he was in the right. He would not and, given his character, could not simply wash his hands of the large Orthodox Christian population living under Ottoman rule in the Holy Land and the Balkans. The result was a war in which nearly 40,500 British troops were killed, France lost over 100,000, Sardinia lost just over 2,000 and the Turks lost almost 45,500 men. The Russians lost the war of course and had casualties of over half a million, just over 500,000 compared to total Allied losses of just over 200,000. Their position was severely weakened and yet, what had the Allies really won with their victory over Russia in Crimea? The French abandoned their interests in the region when another republic replaced Napoleon III, brought down by the Germans in 1870, and the Russian Imperial Navy was soon back in the Black Sea and the British could do nothing about it since neither the French or Germans would support them. Hopes the British had of added Alaska to Canada were thwarted when Czar Alexander II sold the vast territory to the United States. What had Britain gained? Not much.

President Vladimir Putin
What is possibly the most frustrating thing for me about so many of these international issues is the empty preening of the political classes of the various countries which they often represent. For example, the U.S. is going to put harsher sanctions on Russia because they “interfered” in the last U.S. election and they invaded a neighboring country. Okay, let us suppose for a moment all of that is true, you could also say the same thing about Communist China and yet, not only does the U.S. refrain from putting sanctions on China but both parties howled in anguish when they thought the Trump was going to start a “trade war” with China. Are the Ukrainians more worthy of support than the Tibetans, Indians or Vietnamese? Was the Chinese desire for a Bill Clinton victory any more interfering than the Russian desire for a Hillary Clinton defeat? The answer is that putting sanctions on Russia has no impact on the U.S. because America does very little business with Russia anyway. It does a great deal of business with China, as everyone else does, even Taiwan, and so sanctions on China would be even more problematic for America than the sanctions on Russia are for Europe.

It is, I think, worthwhile to take a step back and look at the basic situation here. Russia does not have military forces or military bases in any country bordering the United States. Russia has not attacked the United States and the same European leaders who howled about Trump rubbishing NATO during the campaign and demanded reassurance of America’s commitment to their defense are now not wanting to get so tough on Russia after all. Iran, likewise, (and regular readers will know what I think of the monstrous and illegitimate regime in Tehran) is no threat to the United States and never have Shiite Islamic terrorists attacked the United States itself. Sunni Islamic terrorists have, many, many times and yet we are sanctioning the Islamic Republic of Iran while selling weapons to the (Sunni) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. North Korea, finally, is more problematic and yet, one could make the case that they would not be threatening America if American forces were not right next door in South Korea and Japan. The South Korean government, particularly the new President, does not want to take a hard line with North Korea and is very friendly with China. So, on that front, my question is; if South Korea is not worried about the North, why should Americans be? Pull the U.S. forces out and let South Korea handle the situation.

Where sanctions tend to lead...
Both sides of most of these issues are doing a great deal of talking and threatening and most of them do not really mean a word of what they are saying. However, my concern is that the Democrats and Republicans in America are creating a media hysteria that will pull them into a war with Russia, a stupid, pointless war even if it be victorious, just as happened to Britain in the Crimean War. I would also point out again that the ultimate decision between war or peace is not up to the stuff-shirts in Washington alone. The U.S. once put sanctions on Japan, tougher and tougher sanctions all while proclaiming how the U.S. only wanted peace. On the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941 they found out the hard way that the other side has a say in when wars start too, not just your own. I would hate to see that happen again, particularly when no vital interest is at stake and on behalf of alliances that are a total farce.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Republican Menace in Australia

Recently, traitorous politician Bill Shorten, leader of the Labor Party of Australia, announced that if he becomes the next Prime Minister, he will hold another referendum on the monarchy in his first term (article here). For quite a few decades at this point, the mainstream media, the political class and the academics (all the usual suspects) have been pushing for Australia to become a republic and to sever the last remaining link with the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth Realms, that link being HM the Queen. As most readers probably know, this culminated in a referendum in 1999 on abolishing the monarchy and becoming a republic with a president chosen by parliament. A slight majority of the public voting to remain a constitutional monarchy and none of the Australian states backed the move. That, along with new royal weddings, babies and the usual thing that generates warm feelings for the monarchy, meant that the republican debate was set aside for a while. However, the respite did not last long.

Today, the situation seems more serious given that the political class seems to be increasingly republican. The Green Party has long supported Australia becoming a republic, the Labor Party does too as seen by Shorten’s promise but even the (allegedly) right-of-center Liberal Party is currently led by a republican, the sitting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The only difference seems to be when this should happen as Prime Minister Turnbull said that he sees no chance for a republican victory while Queen Elizabeth II still lives but that, after Her Majesty departs this mortal coil, the time will be right to strike as treason will be more readily accepted against the less popular Prince of Wales than against the widely respected Elizabeth II. That, in and of itself, says a great deal about the character of republican traitors who pretend to be respected statesmen. Shorten, on the other hand, sees no reason to wait for the current Queen of Australia to depart this life and has no problem overthrowing this 91-year old World War II veteran who is the longest reigning monarch in British history. So, the leaders of both major Australian parties want to betray their sovereign, one just wants to do it sooner rather than later.

This has been particularly irritating for me as it so neatly fits into several issues I have recently been in rather heated arguments over. For one thing, it shows how even modern, muzzled, all but if not outright ceremonial constitutional monarchs cannot win. Those who complain that they are useless, rubber-stamps for the ruling class never stop to ask themselves why, if this is so, does the ruling class so consistently favor getting rid of them? The Australians, to my annoyance, have gone ‘all in’ with the republican mindset and I mean to include in that even the *good* Australians. They have basically said that Australia is a “crowned republic” and that a republic with a monarch is better than a republic without one. They maintain that they already do have an Australian Head of State as they argue that the Governor-General is actually the Head of State while HM the Queen is “Sovereign” of Australia but not the Australian “Head of State”. Yet, all of this ‘meeting halfway’ with the republicans has not been sufficient to settle the issue. Despite, as Australian monarchists themselves claim, being a republic in all but name already, the drive to remove the Queen as Queen of Australia still persists.

Personally, I think many of these groups in the Anglosphere, trying to do the right thing, do not help much in the long-term. For instance, the insistence on stressing the *Australian* monarchy or the *Canadian* monarchy and objecting to any use of the term, “the British monarchy” has never seemed like a proper hill to fight for to me. Not only does not seem a fight worth having, I do not see how it could ever possibly succeed. The Queen of Australia was born in Britain, raised in Britain, lives in Britain and so do all of her children, grandchildren and so on. You are simply never going to be able to make people see the British monarchy and the Australian monarchy as two totally separate things, even though, in terms of technical legality, they are. In Australia in particular, the problem that this does not solve is the acceptable level of anti-British bigotry in the country. There are no mobs at the embassy or violence against tourists but, let us be honest, the British are the one group of people it is most acceptable to denigrate, insult, mock and disparage in Australia. Saying anything derogatory about another ethnic group will land you in very hot water but you can say anything you like about the “bloody Poms” in Australia and get a laugh.

This is stupid but, I think, extremely significant because the fact is that the British and Australian peoples are actually not different peoples at all. By heaping scorn on the British, the Australians are heaping scorn on their own forefathers. Recently, I was rather surprised to hear a certain American speak about the War for Independence with at least a certain degree of regret on the grounds that it had created the false impression that the British and Americans were different peoples, that European colonists in America were no longer Europeans but, somehow, had become an entirely different breed. This was long ago but, obviously, this same thinking has led to noticeable problems in other countries of the former British Empire, from Canada to Australia, with these people suffering from an identity crisis in which they can only define themselves in a negative way; by what they are “not”. This is one reason why, I think, even ceremonial monarchs are still targets for the political class. They need people to be disconnected from their roots, their history, their heritage and so on. A monarch, even a powerless, largely ceremonial, constitutional monarch is still a symbol that these power-hungry politicians want to see brought down.

For the same reason, debates about the monarchy in Australia also tend to go hand in hand with the ‘on again, off again’ debate about the Australian flag with the treason-crowd wishing to do away with the current design because the presence of the Union Jack in the canton makes it far ‘too British’ for the very anti-British Australians. The point is to separate people from their roots, water down their identity and they will say or do anything to make that happen. In Canada, for example, it was argued that the traditional national flag, the Canadian Red Ensign, was ‘too British’ and that, under a new and unique design, the French Canadians of Quebec would feel ‘more Canadian’ and less like a different people. Well, as the facts of history have shown, they actually are a different people and changing the flag did nothing to change that fact. Quebec still tried to secede from Canada and becoming a republic on their own, however, by the time that happened, Quebec had too many non-French Canadians in the province to achieve the result that most French Canadians wanted.

Make no mistake about it, if Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull and their kind have their way, Australia will cease to exist entirely. The vilification of the British has consequences. It is all usually wrapped up in the vilification of the British Empire and the desire of modern Australians to distance themselves from it. However, as a former colony, Australia would not exist without the British Empire. Do away with the monarchy, do away with the flag and what is left? The people, you might say. Not so fast. As Mark Steyn wrote early last year, while Australia has recently reached a record high population of 24 million, this is not the result of growth in the British or even European-descended majority population. Lebanese immigrants to Australia have 4 children per couple, Syrian immigrants have 3.5 while Australian born women have only 1.86. Within a few generations, as Steyn shows, this means that the majority population becomes a minority. Given how democratic we all are these days, that all means the descendants of those who built Australia will have no power at all. How then can Australia be considered Australia at all then? This is why I say these people are traitors, not just traitors to their Queen and country, but traitors to their people, their history, their entire civilization.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Monarchy and Morale

One of the most horrific but telling things I have ever read about the difference between a monarchy and a republic was written by Robert Katz in the last chapter of his book, “The Fall of the House of Savoy” on the subject of the end of the late Kingdom of Italy. In a paragraph praising the republic for what I would call listlessness and lack of ambition, Mr. Katz wrote, “Italy has fared well without the monarchy and its recurrent, restless dreams. The country no longer pretends to great powerhood. A president sits now in the Quirinal. Few people abroad know his name. The republic has no plan to march for glory.” I suppose one could easily cite this as a sort of test. If you can read lines like that and think, as Katz does, that this is a good thing, you must be a republican. If you think they are horribly tragic, you are probably a monarchist. This could be “Exhibit A” in making the case that liberal republicanism saps the morale of a great people. Personally, one of the things that I find most despicable, damnable and insidious about, in this case, the Italian republic, is that it has made people comfortable with mediocrity.

Simply consider the context. Italy, a land with almost nothing in the way of natural resources besides mineral water, once conquered the entire Mediterranean basin, ruled the known world and in many ways created western civilization as we know it. The cultural legacy of Italy alone was fought over by the great powers that rose up after the fall of Rome for centuries. Italian religious spread Christianity to distant shores and Italian navigators discovered new continents. Even after centuries of being divided and ruled by foreign powers, the Italians reunited, won their independence and, despite being the last out of the gate, set out again and built an empire that reached from the Alps to the Horn of Africa. When the Kingdom of Italy was brought down in World War II and this modest, most recent of the European colonial empires was demolished, we see the result in the waves of “refugees” from Eritrea and Somalia of what becomes of such places when the benefits of Roman civilization were withdrawn. Yet, led by a corrupt, top-heavy, talking shop that dispenses social welfare, people are dulled into passive acceptance with their elite always assuring them that this is the best they can expect.

I take a different view. I say that those, “recurrent, restless dreams” which Katz faults the House of Savoy for, are essential for the health and morale of any people. The liberal elites do not want this though, they simply want listless, passive consumers. They want fuel for their machine and nothing more. They do not want people to think, to dream or to aspire to greatness. Italy is only one example of this but it is a stark one. The republican ruling class has taken a population who are the sons and daughters of the Caesars and taught them to be content with being second-rate, even third or fourth-rate. If this were being done by parents, in a family, people would surely call it child abuse. Forget Augustus and Trajan, forget Legnano, forget Venice and Genoa, forget the Medici, Farnese and all the great houses of the Renaissance, forget the great strides, from Turin to Naples, forget the “fourth shore” and all those who sacrificed there, from those led by Scipio to those led by Graziani, forget the model plantations of Somaliland, forget the great art, the great buildings, the great music and literature. Just watch football on TV, wait for your check and buy yourself something nice. Something “Made in China”. Whatever you do, just don’t show any ambition.

Not every nation, of course, has the origins of the Roman Empire in their background, but most do have some period, long or short, of greatness that they once achieved. Lithuania, for example, regarded today as a minor Baltic state, overlooked by most, was a force to be reckoned with in the Middle Ages. Lithuania dominated Eastern Europe, controlling an area that stretched all the way from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Bulgaria, after the fall of the Byzantines, was the Bulgarian Empire, dominating the Balkans. They certainly had spirit, they certainly had high morale as when that empire was destroyed, the Bulgars did not lapse into apathetic acceptance. They strapped on their armor, fought back and built the Second Bulgarian Empire which again dominated the Balkans. They had what it takes to do great things and the blood in their veins was no different than that which flows in the veins of Bulgarians today. I look at most of the nations of the western world today and I want to shake them by their collective collars and shout, “YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!” What would your ancestors think of you if they could see you now?

One of the many southern European countries known for being in particularly bad shape economically is Portugal. Some take a fatalistic view of the situation but I do not. A cousin of mine is of Portuguese ancestry and she has a work ethic that would put the Puritans to shame. Portugal, yes, is a relatively small country but consider how it started. It had to fight for its liberation from Moorish rule and then, despite having relatively little land, a small population and few resources, Portugal still had ambition, still had a vision. They took risks, they tried new things and they became the leader in exploration, cartography, navigation and global trade. They built an empire that stretched from Brazil, all around Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia and East Asia. They controlled virtually every major trade route and became the wealthiest country in Europe. The Kingdom of Portugal did all of that and the Kingdom of Portugal started with far less than what the Portuguese Republic has today. We know what great things were possible because they actually did them. There can be no excuse for settling for mediocrity with so many great achievements in your past.

Unfortunately, the fact that a few countries have allowed their kings to still live in their palaces and still call them kings, does not make them immune from this republican mentality, this socialist dependency and consumerist apathy. Monarchies in which the monarchs have been virtually taken prisoner by the ruling class often have the same affliction and none seems worse off than the nominal Kingdom of Sweden. The Swedes, at this rate, may well go down in history as the first nation to actually die from political correctness. It doesn’t have to be this way. Sweden does not have to be the way it is now. The Kingdom of Sweden, the Christian heirs of the Vikings, once dominated northern Europe. In fact, for a brief time, the King of Sweden dominated most of eastern as well as northern Europe. The Swedes once had the audacity to fight Russia and more than once the Swedes won wars against mighty Russia. They made the Baltic Sea a Swedish lake and played a decisive role in European, even world affairs. And what did they have to begin with? Again, they were a country with little useful land, a small population, few to no resources and had much more powerful neighbors like the Germans and the Russians, yet they still proved capable of great things. We know what Swedes can do and as long as the Swedes are Swedes, there is no reason they cannot be great again.

I will not go on at length like this but it is all the more frustrating because I easily could. Russia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, France, Spain and so on. Each has a similar story in this regard. Each one has been far, far greater than what they are now. Each one is capable of so much more than what they have been coddled into accepting in this present year. In the past, the liberals and even the socialists claimed that under each of their systems, the people would be delivered from poverty and they would then be free to pursue greater things. It was a lie. Credit capitalism or socialism as you please, hardly any country these days is not a combination of the two, the result of freedom from poverty has not been the freedom to pursue greatness but a dull, sullen, sickeningly contented apathy. Which is not to say that there are none who struggle in our modern world, far from it, but generally speaking more people today live on some sort of government assistance than at any time previously and as long as they have their bread and circuses, their government cheese and their cable TV, their only concern is not losing that rather than trying to gain something more.

This is not surprising given who is in control of what people are taught, what they see and hear on a daily basis. In the past, people took great risks, tried new things, struck out into unknown seas, for the chance of fortune and glory and to bring salvation to the heathens. Today, however, those who did this are shamed, vilified and their motivations have been stripped from the modern populace. The desire for profit is terrible, we are told (though the ones doing the telling seem to profit a great deal), very out of step with our egalitarian ideals. To convert the heathen is likewise a monstrous notion, we are told, for the only ones who do not defame Christianity among our current elite are the ones who say that St Paul got it all wrong and that Christianity is not about converting others to save their souls but accepting the heathens as they are and not doing anything to change them or make them feel in the least bit challenged or uncomfortable. The republican mentality has drained the morale of people everywhere, created an infantile society more servile than any that bowed, kneeled or kowtowed to a prince. The republic has drained away the motivation and the inspiration of once great peoples. Is it any wonder they are now dying off in record numbers?

To return to the original example of the Kingdom of Italy, regular readers may recall a post from last year in which I pointed out an article by one Andrew Roberts of “The Telegraph” who denounced Donald Trump as the American version of the late Duce of Fascism, Benito Mussolini. His evidence for this boiled down to little more than the slogan, “Make America Great Again”. This proves the point very well, I think, about someone who truly embodies the republican mindset of today. I am sure Mr. Roberts would detest any number of things about the Fascist regime in Italy, such as its suppression of the socialists and Marxists, its insistence that men be masculine and women be feminine, its teaching of religion in schools and its encouragement of Italians to marry and have very large families. However, what most offended Mr. Roberts in this instance was that Mussolini wanted to ‘make Italy great again’, he wanted top-tier status, he even wanted to rebuild the Roman Empire. Simply the desire that your nation be great is considered a crime to these disgusting people and I have no hesitation and absolutely no shame in saying that, given the choice between the views of Andrew Roberts and those of Benito Mussolini, I would take the Duce every time, call me what you like.

When people have nothing to believe in and nothing to strive for, they sink into apathy and slow death. We are seeing this happen right before our eyes. It is a psychological sickness everyone must strive to overcome and save others from. I will not be as blunt as I might about the opinion of Robert Katz as he passed away from cancer a few years ago. However, given that he was sued for libel by the Pacelli family for some outrageous things he wrote about Pope Pius XII, I consider myself in good company for being completely opposed to his point of view. Italy has not “fared well without the monarchy” specifically because it no longer has the “recurrent, restless dreams” of the House of Savoy. Other than that, he is correct, “The republic has no plan to march for glory.” but it certainly does seem to have a plan to march toward the doom of western civilization entirely. That alone, I would think, would be enough to make any rational person an ardent monarchist.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Interview with Amerika

Recently, your resident mad man was interviewed by Brett Stevens at the blog on, well on the subject of monarchy of course, how I came to it, what it does and how we can get back to it and some other things. Read it if you like right here: Interview with The Mad Monarchist.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Stumble Toward War, July 1914

It was on this day in 1914, in the wake of the assassination of the heir to the Habsburg throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, that the Imperial-Royal government of Austria-Hungary issued a list of demands which amounted to an ultimatum for the Kingdom of Serbia. They were demands which were so far-reaching that many have since speculated that the Austrian government never intended them to be accepted and was simply following the traditional pattern of issuing an ultimatum as a prelude to war. Yet, if Austria-Hungary was overreaching, it should be entirely understandable. The assassination of the heir to the throne was only the latest and most tragic act by Serbian terrorist groups in what had been a long campaign of antagonism. Vienna wanted this stopped and were prepared to use force to make that happen. The Emperor of Austria-Hungary, Francis Joseph, did not want war but he was also not prepared to let this anti-Habsburg campaign continue without response.

The world was shocked when the Kingdom of Serbia agreed to all but one of Austria's demands. There had been hardly anything in the ultimatum that any independent country would have agreed to and, yet, Serbia agreed to comply almost entirely. Why was this? They knew just how high up in the halls of power in Belgrade that the anti-Habsburg secret societies reached and they knew that if they did not comply, war would result and everyone expected that Austria-Hungary would completely crush Serbia in such a war. Serbia's only hope was Czar Nicholas II of Russia, as only the threat of Russian intervention might make Austria think twice about attacking Serbia. Czar Nicholas II was prepared to do the right thing, he was not prepared to tolerate the Austrian conquest of a Slavic, Orthodox nation yet, like Emperor Francis Joseph in Vienna, he did not want war either. Russia's last war, against Japan, had ended in defeat and with the monarchy badly shaken, both by internal unrest that was eager for any sign of weakness and by more professional revolutionaries paid by the Japanese to undermine the Czar. Any threat of war against Austria-Hungary would also surely result in the German Empire coming to the defense of their Austro-Hungarian allies.

Czar Nicholas II is almost never given credit for this, yet it was he who persuaded the Serbians to agree to all but one of the Austrian demands, something which could have stopped the outbreak of World War I. The Czar of Russia took a very clear position; if the Austrians insisted on invading Serbia, he would intervene but as long as there was any hope for a peaceful resolution, he would press the Serbs to agree to almost anything so that the crisis could be ended. King Peter I of Serbia and his regent Crown Prince Alexander, both supported the expansionist movement to create a Yugoslav state under Serbian leadership, yet they also knew that without Russian support, they stood little chance against Austria-Hungary and so, because of the part played by the Czar of Russia, agreed to all but one of the Austrian demands. In short, none of the monarchs involved wanted to go to war and Czar Nicholas II in particular deserves credit for doing all that he could to prevent such a disaster. Yet, it happened anyway. How? Even after the first declarations of war, it still seemed possible but was not.

Not a few historians have said that, rather than German Kaiser Wilhelm II (who had all blame heaped on him after the war), the real villain of the tragedy was Count Leopold Berchtold, the Austrian Foreign Minister. At Ischl, he presented the declaration of war against Serbia to Emperor Francis Joseph and obtained his signature by a flat out deception. He informed his monarch that the Serbs were already attacking Austria-Hungary, which was simply not true. The Serbs had mobilized first as there were hotheads in Belgrade just as eager for war as some in Vienna, but they had taken no hostile action. Berchtold thus obtained the Austrian declaration of war against Serbia by dishonesty and then allowed subsequent opportunities to stop the conflagration to pass by him on the grounds that Austria-Hungary had already declared war and the time for talks was over. If one were to insist on guilty culprits to blame for the outbreak of the Great War (and there was blame enough to go around), I would have to say that three men dominate the scene and none of them were reigning monarchs. There was the Austrian Foreign Minister Count Leopold Berchtold who lied to his monarch to obtain a declaration of war against Serbia and brushed aside opportunities for peace; there was the French Ambassador to Russia Maurice Paleologue who pushed relentlessly for war between Russia and Germany and finally Sir Edward Grey, the Labour Foreign Secretary of Great Britain who might have put the Germans off the whole affair if he had made it clear from the outset that Britain would intervene on the side of France and Russia.

Did two leftist foreign ministers and one Czech aristocrat start the First World War? No, that would be a considerable overstatement. However, they ultimately had far, far more culpability than did the emperors of Austria, Russia and Germany.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Caught Between India and China

Recently, thousands of soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army held live fire war games in Tibet, taking part in a simulated invasion of India. As most are aware, India and China have had a less than friendly relationship ever since Indian independence. In 1959 Indian and Chinese forces clashed when the Chinese suppressed an uprising in occupied Tibet, at the same time as India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama of Tibet. The Himalayan border region between India and China was in dispute between the two countries, just as China has had border and territorial disputes with practically every neighboring country with some (Vietnam and Russia for example) simply conceding territory in order to improve relations with China. India, however, was less sanguine about doing so and was feeling particularly assertive after gaining independence. After many years of championing non-violent resistance and the peaceful resolution of disputes, in 1961 the Indian government demonstrated that it would resort to military force to solve such problems when India invaded and annexed the Portuguese coastal enclaves (principally Goa).

Communist China, while likewise viewing Portugal as an enemy and cheering the downfall of European colonial empires, was nonetheless quick to point to this expansion by India as proof that their territorial dispute was unlikely to be settled peacefully. The following year, in October of 1962, Chinese military forces launched a two-pronged offensive into the disputed territory. The Chinese overran the Indian border posts, inflicted heavy losses on the Indians and generally gained what they wanted. Their objectives having been achieved, in November the Chinese announced a cease-fire and the war ended with China retaining control of Aksai Chin which remains part of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China to this day. Later, in 1967, there were two minor skirmishes between Indian and Chinese forces in the Indian state of Sikkim and it was with an eye to Sikkim that the latest Chinese war games were held; a possible dress-rehearsal for war with India over this obscure province. Keep that in mind.

Indian monument to pro-Axis leader Bose
Tensions between India and China have also continued on numerous fronts. In economic terms, the two countries have for some time competed as the primary source of cheap labor for Western Europe and North America. India has been increasingly alarmed at Chinese naval expansion into the Indian Ocean and India is friendly with countries China is not very friendly with, particularly Japan. Famously, it was an Indian judge who was the sole dissenting vote in the Tokyo War Crimes Trials after World War II, basically agreeing that the Japanese were their would-be liberators from British rule and taking up, along with the right-wing in Japan, the vision of “Asia for the Asians” and cheering on the pledged Japanese war aim to eradicate the European presence in Asia. China, of course, takes an extremely different view of the war and probably despises Japan more than any other country on earth. Also, thanks to all the years of the “One Child” policy in China, India is set to soon overtake China as the most populous nation in the world which will undoubtedly help keep labor cheap in India and thus make India an increasingly more lucrative source of exports than China with its growing middle class.

Sikkim's last King & Queen
Because of all of this, conflict may be unavoidable, however, there is something that can be done to at least make such a thing more difficult or delay it and that involves the area under dispute itself. Some readers here may be aware but the general public is certainly not that Sikkim was, not so long ago, an independent country, it was the Kingdom of Sikkim. Like the nearby Kingdom of Bhutan, it was largely unknown to the outside world for most of history and it probably only briefly became known to the west in 1963 when the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Palden Thondup Namgyal, married a young American girl named Hope Cooke. She was his second wife, his first wife (a Tibetan) having died in 1957. This briefly made the Kingdom of Sikkim the talk of the town, at least in the United States, to see a young, well-to-do American girl from New York City becoming the Queen consort of this remote, hitherto unknown Himalayan kingdom. Her husband became the King (or Chogyal) of Sikkim shortly after their marriage upon the death of his father in 1963 and his coronation in 1965 attracted quite a bit of attention.

The Kingdom of Sikkim was also no backward state living in primitive isolation. Although very small and having few resources, King Namgyal was actually quite successful at improving his tiny country. During his rather brief reign, while most people still lived very modestly by western standards, Sikkim became relatively better off than its neighbors. The literacy rate and per capita income in the Kingdom of Sikkim was double that in India, Bhutan and Nepal. Things were improving, Sikkim was doing well and becoming more educated and more productive under its new monarch. King Namgyal had been the leader of those who negotiated the normalization of relations between India and Sikkim when India became independent. Previously, the British Empire had maintained the same sort of relationship it had with most of the other numerous kings, princes, rajas and so forth of the region. He knew that things would be different after Indian independence and he was not wrong about that.

King Palden Thondup Namgyal & Queen Hope
The Kingdom of Sikkim, of course, knew it could not defy India alone and so, in 1950, agreed to maintain essentially the same relationship with India as it had done with the British, in other words, Sikkim was officially independent but a protectorate of India. However, there was a pro-Indian faction in the country, backed by India of course, which sought to imitate India to the point of establishing a political movement known as the Sikkim National Congress (in imitation of the Indian National Congress). This Indian-backed movement gained power in the 1974 elections (something which may explain why Bhutan would have nothing to do with democracy until recently) and immediately began trying to liberalize the country. The King blocked them, and rightly so, after which this group drew up a new constitution which India all but forced the King to accept. Naturally, the next step was annexation. The King, powerless to resist, could only try to beat his enemies at their own game so he called for a referendum to settle the issue on September 8, 1974. He would get his referendum and in the usual way such referendums are traditionally held, which is to say unfairly.

On April 9, 1975 the Indian army, which was supposed to “protect” the tiny country, instead invaded Sikkim, which was powerless to resist them, and after his guard was overpowered and disarmed, the King was arrested and confined to his palace. The local pro-Indian government, backed by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, unanimously voted to abolish the monarchy and for Sikkim to be annexed by India. It was only then, after the occupation of Sikkim by the Indian military, that a referendum was held the following month, at a time and with voting locations that would mean many locals would be unable to reach them. The result was a forgone conclusion, returning a result of over 97% in favor of annexation to the Indian republic. Bitter locals reported that the vast majority of those voting had been Indians and not natives of Sikkim at all. Within a matter of days Gandhi and the Indian government passed the appropriate measures to make Sikkim a state in India and abolishing the monarchy.

In happier days
China and Pakistan, no friends of India, criticized the move, the Soviet Union praised it and the United States did little more than shrug. King Namgyal rightly denounced the referendum as “illegal and unconstitutional”. The King had a sad life from then on, as tends to happen in such cases. He went into exile, was divorced from Queen Hope in 1980 and in 1982 died of cancer in New York. His son and heir, Prince Tobgyal Wangchuk Tenzing Namgyal, was allowed to use the title of king but, obviously, it is purely honorary and he has no official position or actual authority. Educated in England, he is now in his 60’s and is largely forgotten by the rest of the world though the loyal locals in Sikkim still know him as the man who should be king. I know nothing else about the man but what he represents does present at least a partial solution to the current problem. Rather than a war between India and China over Sikkim, which both claim they wish to avoid, surely a better answer, fair to both sides, would be to say that neither are entitled to the area and for it to be restored as the sovereign Kingdom of Sikkim under its rightful heir.

The last King of Sikkim
Personally, I do not think that the republicanization of the Himalayan region has been an accident, yet, at every step the rest of the world has looked the other way as the local monarchies have been overthrown and India and China have inched ever closer to each other and ever closer to confrontation. Simply look at the historical timeline: in 1950 the Chinese occupied Tibet, in 1959 the Dalai Lama was forced into exile in India. In 1975 the Kingdom of Sikkim was invaded and annexed by India. In 1996 a Maoist Communist insurgency began in the Kingdom of Nepal. In 2005 the King of Bhutan made his country a constitutional monarchy, embraced multi-party democracy and ended its policy of isolation, hoping, I think to strengthen itself through ties with major foreign powers. Finally, in 2008 the Nepalese monarchy was overthrown and Nepal became a republic with a Maoist becoming the first republican Prime Minister. This has left only little Bhutan as the last monarchial holdout in the entire Himalayan region. It broke my heart when Bhutan shifted to openness and democracy and, though it is only an opinion, the only reason I have been able to come up with to explain this change, which the people had not wanted or asked for, was because the King hoped to gain greater security from the international community.

As such, I would propose that the Kingdom of Sikkim should be restored. I would want the same for Nepal and even for Tibet though that is surely expecting too much. Let these places be restored and make them absolutely “hands off” to the military forces of China and India alike. A monarchical buffer to keep India and China at a distance might be of benefit, not only to those involved, but to the wider world, including those countries which might be drawn in to another, even more serious, Sino-Indian conflict.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Strange Case of Emperor Rudolf II

It was on this day in 1552 that Rudolf von Habsburg, the future Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation, was born in Vienna, Austria to Emperor Maximilian II and his Empress Maria of Spain. He came to the various Habsburg thrones from 1572 to 1576 as King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia, King of Germany and finally as the Emperor-Elect. Today, when Emperor Rudolf II is remembered, he tends to be remembered as one of the oddballs of the Habsburg dynasty at best and at worst he is blamed for the outbreak of the horrific Thirty Years War which devastated central Europe for decades and left Germany in ruins for many decades to come after. It was one of the most truly devastating events in all of German history and probably nothing like it was seen until the utter destruction of defeat in 1945. Emperor Rudolf II will certainly not make my list of “favorite Habsburg monarchs” but the fact that he is so ridiculed or outright despised by so many people on both ends of the political spectrum means that I cannot help but at least have some sympathy for him.

What is the problem with Emperor Rudolf II? Why is so much ridicule and blame heaped on him? There is certainly, if most accounts are believed, much in him worthy of criticism. However, I think the reason why so much is heaped on him is, at least to a large extent, because he managed to alienate both ends by trying to steer a middle course in his policies. One will also notice that, to justify opposition or a negative opinion of Emperor Rudolf II, critics will more readily address his personal life rather than his policies because, if one looks at his policies, I think it becomes much more difficult for the “left” and the “right” (so to speak) to criticize him without more than a bit of hypocrisy or revealing their overreach. People want to look for scapegoats, they want to find a “villain” for every story and for many on both sides of the political spectrum, Emperor Rudolf II was an obvious target. What can make the disinterested observer feel some pity for Rudolf II is that, in modern times, he will be attacked from the right for doing certain things, attacked by the left for doing other things yet never praised by the left or the right for doing the things that the other side attacks him for.

There are, of course, people on the left today who will criticize Emperor Rudolf II simply for being an emperor, pointing to him as a totally unfit person who came to power simply because of an accident of birth who was inept, corrupt and tyrannical. Yet, few right-wing monarchists will defend Emperor Rudolf II because of his policies or personal life and much of this comes down to the religious divide in western Christianity between Catholics and Protestants. Each have some valid points to make yet, I would say that the fact that these divisions existed in his own lifetime to such an extent, even within his own family, that this rather disproves the notion that blame for the Thirty Years War could be laid solely at his doorstep. Catholics dislike Rudolf II because, honestly, he was not much of a Catholic, he certainly was not devout or personally pious and if certain accusations about him are to be believed, he was very far from that. He also made concessions to the Protestants which angered the Catholics immensely. However, this did not, in turn, win him much loyalty from the Protestants since, after all, no matter how nominally, he was still a Catholic and the head of a traditionally Catholic dynasty and leader of an officially Catholic empire.

In this regard though, I think Rudolf II was a victim of bad timing and those who heap undue amounts of blame on him, I think, tend to forget the historical context of his life. For example, Emperor Charles V, Rudolf’s great-uncle, also made concessions to the Protestants and, as those familiar with the horrific ‘Sack of Rome’ know, even used Protestant soldiers to make war on the Pope. Yet, Emperor Charles V was known to be a very staunch Catholic personally and, as a champion of Christendom, Catholics tend to forgive him for these things. Yet, it highlights the precedent that he set. Charles V had fought the Protestants to be sure but he ultimately made concessions to them because he considered it more important to have peace and at least some degree of unity in Germany so that he could focus on fighting the French, the Italians and the Turks. His younger son and heir to the German half of his continental empire, Emperor Ferdinand I (Rudolf’s grandfather), also opted for a policy of religious neutrality between the Catholics and Protestants in order to maintain the peace in Germany. He pushed for reform in the Catholic Church, was generally tolerant of Protestants but allowed them no further power, hoping that the division would be solved by reconciliation.

Finally, Emperor Rudolf’s father, Emperor Maximilian II, went even farther with trying to bring both sides together. He was more generous toward the Protestants, so much so that some suspected him of having Protestant sympathies, yet he still refused to give them access to the ‘top tier’ as it were of imperial power by allowing Protestant prince-bishops. However, at the same time, he pushed for the Catholic Church to change in ways that would make it more acceptable to the Protestants, again, in the hope that the religious division could be ended by finding a middle ground that would accommodate both the Catholic and Protestant camps. Obviously, he was not successful but, given the actions of his predecessors, it should hardly come as a surprise that Emperor Rudolf II would not have the makings of a religious zealot about him. Emperor Rudolf II was, in my view, simply not very religious at all, which is not to say he was an atheist or completely uncaring about the subject but that the theological divisions between the Catholics and Protestants were on a level that simply did not interest him and I can imagine him being baffled as to why the two sides could not just stop arguing about such things and get on with other business.

Emperor Rudolf II did make even further concessions to the Protestants but it was not because he agreed or sympathized with them but rather that he wanted to stop them from rebelling and if some greater degree of rights and privileges would do the job, he would give those to them. The reason why the outbreak of the Thirty Years War is so often laid at his feet is that it was these concessions which seemed to be threatened by his successor and which the Protestants rose up to demand be honored that led to the initial outbreak of hostilities. However, as well as what happened under the emperors before him, people also tend to forget what happened after him as his end ultimately came when his brother Matthias rebelled against him and ultimately deposed him, fearful that Rudolf was diminishing the imperial power. However, to gain the support of the Protestants in order to take power from his brother, Matthias too had to make further concessions to them and he too carried on the tradition of trying to find a middle path that would, if not reconcile, at least keep the peace between the Catholic and Protestant factions. Things only really boiled over when Emperor Matthias died and was succeeded by Emperor Ferdinand II who, for a change, was a very serious Catholic and who was most intent on seeing religious divisions ended in the empire by restoring Catholic supremacy.

As we know, that never quite worked out either and ultimately both sides eventually had to learn to live with each other. Emperor Rudolf II did do something which, I would think, traditional Catholics would applaud him for, yet it is more often a source of criticism against him which was to push for another crusade. He hoped that he could unite the Christians of Germany and, perhaps, Christendom as a whole, by another war against the Ottoman Turks. The Muslims, after all, saw no difference between a Catholic infidel and a Protestant infidel so, perhaps, Rudolf reasoned that this would bring the bickering Christians of Europe together against a common enemy. Unfortunately for him, this did not work and the war was a long, grueling affair which ultimately accomplished almost nothing. Spain made some contribution as did most of the Italian states to this frustrating conflict known as “the Long War” but it proved to be a bloody stalemate with neither side gaining a clear advantage. For Rudolf II, it was a drain of men, resources and brought no greater Christian unity as, in order to prosecute the war, as emperors almost invariably had to do, he was compelled to make concessions to the various subsidiary princes to contribute men and resources to the ultimately fruitless conflict.

So, his religious policies angered Catholics while still not earning any great loyalty from the Protestants and his foreign policy proved to be ineffective and costly. All of these concessions to various groups also encouraged opposition from within the Habsburg family ranks as they saw imperial power being diminished further and further yet, as mentioned above, the younger brother who ultimately dethroned him would find that he would have no choice but to do the same. Most, however, choose to focus on the personal life of Emperor Rudolf II and he was an unusual and rather colorful character to be sure. As monarchs do not tend to make a public issue of their sexual proclivities, I prefer to avoid the subject, to the frustration of some readers I have noticed. Rest assured, I am well aware that many regard King Frederick the Great of Prussia or King James I of Great Britain as homosexuals, I simply do not care. I think one could argue the point and I do not see how it could be proven with any degree of certainty one way or the other and, while I certainly think it matters in moral terms, as long as they keep it to themselves, it does not matter *to me*. Were they so inclined and were they to make a public issue of it, trying to push this as acceptable or praiseworthy behavior, then I would certainly have a problem with it.

As with a growing list of historical figures, Emperor Rudolf II has now also been deemed by many to have been a homosexual. Personally, I do not know what his sexual preferences were and would rather keep it that way. There are some such royals about whom I have no doubts, some prominent cases which most accept but which I tend to disbelieve but with Rudolf II, I really have no idea one way or the other. There seems to be just as much “evidence” to me that he was as there is that he was not. He talked about marriage a lot but never went through with it, there are rumors of some homosexual relationships yet there are even more rumors of heterosexual relationships and illegitimate children that he produced. My only conclusion is that he does seem to have been a rather lustful man which is hardly uncommon. Rumors of affairs are things I put very little weight in as gossip is often spread maliciously but the, sometimes rather explicit, erotic artwork Rudolf collected is the primary basis for my admittedly banal assessment of his private life. Was he or wasn’t he? I don’t know but Emperor Rudolf II did seem to be a bit of a pervert.

I only mention this at all because it is something that Rudolf II does tend to be criticized for and yet, I have noticed that this is usually a red herring. Particularly among those who think there should be no limit to sexual practices, partners or proclivities at all, there is a noticeable habit of always trying to paint those you dislike as some sort of sexual deviant. Everyone knows, for example, that Eva Braun was the mistress of Adolf Hitler and everyone knows that Clara Petacci was the mistress of Benito Mussolini. Does anyone know the name of Franklin Roosevelt’s mistress? Does anyone know of any affairs by Winston Churchill or Joseph Stalin? I doubt this is an accident. Consider also, if you live in the west, how many times you have seen those photos of Vladimir Putin riding a horse without a shirt splashed across the media. This, I think, illustrates my point well enough. Everyone knows who Eva Braun was but I bet no one reading this could name FDR’s secretary he had the affair with without looking.

Aside from this issue though, Rudolf II was also accused of being so devoted to intellectual and artistic pursuits that he neglected government. This may actually be true, however, I have not failed to notice that be it Emperor Rudolf, Britain’s King Edward VIII, President Trump or President Obama, people seem to complain the most about rulers who shirk their duty even though they think those exact rulers are ruling badly. If they are not good at their job, one would think you would be happy to see them abdicating, playing golf or, in the case of Rudolf II, devoting himself to art, music and certain currently discredited fields of science. Again, it is certainly true that Rudolf II spent a great deal of time and money collecting works of art, however, criticism for him over this may be more due to the fact that it can no longer be appreciated. Unlike other monarchs whose art collections became great national treasures, that of Emperor Rudolf was lost, sold or destroyed in the years and reigns after his death so that it cannot be appreciated but it is still easy to criticize him for accumulating it.

Perhaps the thing about Rudolf II that seems the most odd today, however, is his fascination with two particular subjects which have been discredited and those are astrology and alchemy. Now, to be fair, the Emperor was rather obsessive, particularly in regards to alchemy and I think it is safe to say allowed the subject to occupy much more of his time and attention than he should have. Rudolf was positively obsessed with alchemy, even having a private alchemist laboratory of his own and spent his life trying in vain to find the elusive “Philosopher’s Stone”. He even hired two brothers named Edward and Alphonse to,, wait, never mind (inside joke). Today, of course, people regard astrology and alchemy as so much superstitious nonsense, completely absurd and unscientific. I would agree that the Emperor spent rather too much time on the subject, however, I would push back on criticism of the Emperor on this front almost more than any other. Today, we view astrology as basically a swindle for the superstition but, at the time of Rudolf II, astrology was considered scientific “fact”. Practically every European government embraced it and every monarch, even the Pope in Rome, had an official court astrologer.

Astrology is something I point to frequently today in comparison to the evolutionists or the global warming/climate change phenomenon. We are told that these things are scientific facts by the scientific community and yet, once upon a time, the scientific community also said that astrology was a scientific fact and that one could concoct an elixir that would turn lead into gold (maybe they never got their Transmutation Circle just right). My point being that, while I think it is fair to criticize Rudolf II for going overboard on these subjects and allowing them to monopolize his time, it is completely unfair to portray him as some sort of occultist lunatic for doing so. Interest in astrology may have led some to a better understanding of actual astronomy and we know as a matter of historical fact that the study of alchemy was a step along the process of developing scientific understanding and played a part in the establishment of modern chemistry and medicine as we know them today.

In the end, it is safe to say that Emperor Rudolf II was not a successful monarch. He never married or produced legitimate offspring, imperial power was diminished under his rule, his foreign policy won no great victory and he provided no lasting stability as evidenced by the fact that he was ultimately overthrown by his younger brother. His critics are many and there is much in him that can be validly criticized. However, I do think some of the criticism of him is unfair and much of it, even if fair, is certainly unfortunate and does not cast his critics in a very favorable light either. In regards to the most serious accusation against him, that he must bear responsibility for the Thirty Years War is, I think, a considerable overstatement and lays too much blame on him for a disaster which was caused by the cumulative policies and events spanning the reigns of a number of German emperors. He certainly was not one of the best, but he was also far from being the worst national leader the world has ever seen.

Those interested may wish to read…
My Favorite Habsburg Emperors
MM Mini-View: The Habsburg Emperors

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Netherlands in the Napoleonic Wars

At the time of the outbreak of the French Revolution, The Netherlands was still a republic, albeit a very business-minded republic with a prince, usually, holding the place of honor in government. This was the United Provinces, as they were often called, though some still referred to the area as the Spanish Netherlands to differentiate the lands from Belgium which was known as the Austrian Netherlands. Both areas were to see rebellions and upheavals and their destinies would prove to be intertwined. In the Austrian Netherlands, Catholics and leftist republicans joined forced in opposition to Emperor Joseph II to proclaim the independence of the “United States of Belgium” which was eventually suppressed by Emperor Leopold II. The trouble brewing in Belgium, where Catholic opposition to the Emperor brought about a common cause with the dissident, revolutionary sect, was the primary reason why Joseph II was probably the most anti-American and pro-British monarch on the continent during the American War for Independence as he feared the precedent this would set for his Belgian subjects.

Prince Willem V of Oranje
In the United Provinces, there had long been a tension, periodically breaking out into violence, between the republican faction and the royalist faction (or ‘Orange party’) of Dutch politics with the republicans wanting to keep the country a republic and, indeed, make it even more republican while the Orange party wanted to empower the Prince of Orange and make him king. The American War for Independence also highlighted this division as the Prince of Orange, Willem V, favored the British while the republican government favored the American patriots and ultimately succeeded in bringing the Dutch republic into the war against Britain alongside the American rebels (though the Dutch did not benefit by it). As in Belgium, the Dutch republicans seem to have been inspired by the American example as illustrated by how they began calling themselves the Patriot party in opposition to the Orange party. They became even bolder until finally clashes broke out between the Patriots and the Dutch army which tended to be loyal to the Prince of Orange. The situation became so serious that it took an armed intervention by King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia to see the Dutch patriots cleared out.

Prince Willem V was thus in control but only by the grace of Prussian bayonets when the French Revolution began to come to a boil and, given recent events, he was well aware of the danger of such ideology spreading. In 1792 the French declared war on Austria and prepared to invade Belgium where they expected popular support. The Prince of Orange, not being in the strongest position, held back. However, 1793 saw the regicide of King Louis XVI of France and every royal in Europe was instantly made aware of how serious this situation was. On February 1, the United Provinces, led by Prince Willem V, declared war on the French Republic, joining the “War of the First Coalition”. There was, originally, some success when an Austrian-Dutch army led by the Prince of Coburg defeated the French under General Charles Dummouriez at the Battle of Neerwinden on March 18 in Belgium, however the Prince of Orange and his Dutch troops were defeated at Menin on September 3 and another Austro-Dutch army was defeated by the French at the Battle of Wattignies in October. The Austrians on their own, as well as the British and their German comrades did no better in the face of the mass conscript armies of France.

Willem VI, later Willem I
1794 saw the last of the coalition forces driven from Belgium and the country was annexed to the French Republic and would remain so for quite some time. That same year, French forces under General Charles Pichegru invaded the Netherlands along with a contingent of anti-Orange Dutch patriots led by General Herman Willem Daendels in a surprise attack during the harsh winter. Local republican revolutionaries rose up in support of the invaders, making things even more difficult. Whereas, in the past, the French had been traditional enemies of the Dutch, the French had made themselves the most acceptable allies for Dutch, Protestant, republicans by embracing republicanism and tearing down the Catholic Church as well the monarchy. The French republicans declared that they had come to “liberate” the Netherlands and in 1795 declared the country the Batavian Republic. Defeated from without and betrayed from within, Prince Willem V was forced to go into exile in England. The new French-backed Batavian Republic was declared a “sister republic” of France, one of many such puppet-republics the French established in the wake of their armies.

However, not everyone felt “liberated” by this turn of events. The behavior of the French republicans won them few friends outside the already ideologically committed and the French also annexed Flanders, Maastricht, Venlo and part of Walcheren with Flushing to France. The British, however, still had a good intelligence service operating in the area and took notice of the growing Dutch discontent with their so-called liberators and in 1799, as part of the War of the Second Coalition, launched a joint invasion of the Batavian Republic along with an Imperial Russian Army force. The British were led by the “Grand Old” Duke of York and the Russians by General Johann H. von Fersen. They were met by a Franco-Batavian (Dutch) force of about equal size but, after initial success, in battles lasting from August to November, the Anglo-Russian army was ultimately forced to retreat, leaving the Netherlands once again to the First French Republic and their local collaborators. The House of Orange had not been mere spectators to these events as the Hereditary Prince of Orange, later Willem VI, participated in the campaign alongside the British and Russians. In fact, he was instrumental in the seizure of a naval squadron known as the “Vlieter Incident” with the ships ultimately being sold to the Royal Navy.

Gen. Janssens at the Battle of Cape Town
The Prince of Orange also wrote a series of letters in 1795 known as the “Kew Letters” while in exile, instructing the governors of the Dutch colonies overseas to resist the French and cooperate with the British, in his capacity as Captain-General of the Dutch armed forces, in the hope of keeping these territories from being controlled by the Batavian Republic. Malacca, Amboina and West Sumatra (in the Dutch East Indies) did so and surrendered to the British without opposition. Cochin, or Dutch Malabar in India, on the other hand, required some “persuasion” from the Royal Artillery but, in the end, the Dutch holdings in India and Ceylon were captured by the British. Also in 1795 the British sent an expedition to seize control of the Dutch Cape Colony at the bottom of Africa. The local Dutch forces offered determined resistance but were finally compelled to surrender on September 15. Later, the British would hand the cape over to the Batavian Republic as part of a peace agreement and so another expedition would have to take it back again. When the Napoleonic Wars finally ended, the British would give back the Dutch colonies they seized, but not all of them, keeping some, such as the Cape colony, for themselves as it was a highly prized strategic chokepoint, controlling access to and from the Indian Ocean and south Atlantic.

Meanwhile, in 1803, Jan Rudiger Schimmelpenninck was elected President of the Batavian Republic but things began to change thanks to the grander aspirations of one Napoleon Bonaparte. After succeeding in making himself “Emperor of the French”, the client republics that France had set in neighboring countries suddenly received an upgrade to become client monarchies. In 1806 the Batavian Republic, at the behest of its French masters, became the Kingdom of Holland and the Emperor Napoleon awarded the new Dutch kingdom to his brother Louis (originally Luigi) who became King Ludwig I of Holland (or to be more precise, Lodewijk I). This led to a rather unusual situation as the new King Ludwig proved to be quite popular with his new Dutch subjects. Unlike, for instance, Napoleon’s older brother who became King of Spain, many Dutch people embraced their new monarch or, at least, did not dislike or oppose him. To his credit, Ludwig I took his new position seriously and tried to be a good king. That, however, ultimately led to trouble with his brother. King Ludwig I was supposed to be little more than a puppet but he was a puppet who tried to pull his own strings and when Dutch and French interests conflicted, Napoleon expected French interests to prevail. However, his brother actually stood up for Dutch interests which caused Napoleon no small amount of frustration (and at a time when he had much to be frustrated about).

King Ludwig I of Holland
This tension between the two Bonaparte brothers was exacerbated by the effort of the Emperor Napoleon to defeat Britain by means of economic strangulation. He instituted the Continental System which forbid France and all countries controlled by or allied with France from trading with the British which, as it turned out, proved more ruinous for the continent than it did for Britain and particularly for The Netherlands which had a heavily trade-based economy. Needless to say, smuggling soon reached epidemic proportions because of this and Napoleon was so desperate to stamp it out that in 1810 he simply annexed the Kingdom of Holland and it was absorbed into the French Empire. The former King Ludwig I, by then none too popular with his brother, fled into exile in the Austrian Empire and remained there for the rest of his life. So it was that, until 1813, the Dutch, willingly or not, mostly fought alongside the French under Napoleon. For some, this did not seem all that unnatural given the long history of Anglo-Dutch rivalry and warfare.

Because of this situation, there were prominent Dutch military men on both sides of the conflict. General Jan Willem Janssens had fought against the British at the Cape Colony and Java, was made Secretary-General for War for the Kingdom of Holland by Louis Bonaparte and then, after annexation, fought for Napoleon under Ney in the War of the Sixth Coalition. He would later serve as War Minister for the Kingdom of the United Netherlands in the last campaign against Napoleon. General David Hendrik Chasse, regarded by many as the best Dutch soldier of the period, was from the Patriot party and commanded the Dutch brigade that fought for Napoleon in Spain for which exploits he was elevated to baron. He carried on in French service after the annexation but remained bitter about it though he won decorations and promotions for outstanding service, even being credited with saving the French army at the Battle of Maya. For his offensive spirit and fierce attacks, Napoleon nicknamed him, “General Bayonet”. He too though would later fight against Napoleon as commander of the Third Netherlands Division during the Waterloo campaign. Later still, he would defend Antwerp during the Belgian Revolution.

Constant Rebecque
One soldier of the Dutch army who fought against the French revolutionaries as well as Napoleon the whole way was not actually Dutch but a Swiss professional soldier; Jean Victor de Constant Rebecque. He first came to France as part of the Swiss Guard protecting the King. He survived the massacre of his regiment during the Revolution and from there was employed by the Dutch, serving in the regiment of Prince Frederick. When the French conquered the United Provinces, he served with the British and later the Prussians before returning to the British along with the Prince of Orange during the Peninsular War under the Duke of Wellington. After the downfall of Napoleon, according to a previous agreement by the major allied powers, the former United Provinces as well as Belgium were to be united into one country with the Prince of Orange as its monarch. This would be the Kingdom of the United Netherlands which would officially come into being in 1815, combining the Seven Provinces, Belgium and Nassau, though Nassau would later be traded for Luxembourg. This was because the allies wanted a strong monarchy as a buffer between the French and the Germans. Rebecque was instrumental in organizing the Dutch-Belgian army and would serve as Quartermaster-General and chief aid to the Prince of Orange (commander of the Allied I Corps) in the Waterloo campaign.

Prince Willem V of Orange was long since gone by then, having died in exile in Germany in 1806 (in fact, his body was only reburied in The Netherlands in the 1950’s). He was succeeded by his son Prince Willem VI of Orange, however, in 1813 he had, with the downturn of fortune for Napoleon, returned to the Netherlands and received quite a warm welcome, almost everyone by that time having turned against the French. In 1815, with the support of the allies, he proclaimed himself King Willem I of the United Netherlands, also becoming, in due course, Grand Duke of Luxembourg. His son and heir was the Prince of Orange who would fight on more than one battlefield as chief deputy to the Duke of Wellington with his old military tutor Rebecque as his ‘right hand man’. Unfortunately, the military reputation of the Dutch, particularly as it concerns the Waterloo campaign, has suffered considerably and quite unjustly at the hands of their British allies, both in accounts from participants, post-war historians and even television filmmakers.

The Prince of Orange at Quatre Bras
Probably because so many had fought with the French, the British may not have been inclined to trust the Dutch too much and, in addition, there was the already mentioned long history of Anglo-Dutch rivalry in trade, colonial expansion and naval supremacy. Whatever the cause, the British quite unfairly ridiculed and derided the Dutch participation in the Waterloo campaign. More recently, historians have done serious research, not simply repeating what others wrote before them and have found that the standard British version of events was not true, indeed, in some cases was shown to be impossible. The truth is that the Dutch-Belgian army played a critical part in the final campaign against Napoleon. Indeed, if Rebecque had not countermanded an order from Wellington so that the Dutch-Belgian troops stayed and fought at the crossroads of Quatre Bras, the British would not have been able to occupy the choice position that Wellington had picked out to do battle at Waterloo. The Prince of Orange himself, has often been portrayed in a grossly exaggerated way as being totally incompetent. This is also not true. Though the Prince of Orange certainly made some mistakes, they were not due to incompetence but simply to his lack of experience.

King Willem I of the Netherlands
As it happened, the troops with the orange cockades acquitted themselves well and, again, if the Dutch forces had not held off the French for as long as they did at Quatre Bras, the subsequent defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo might never have happened. However, it did and so King Willem I was secure on his throne, achieving what almost all the Princes of Orange before him had dreamed of since the winning of Dutch independence. As things were established, he was also pretty much an absolute monarch, though that situation would not survive him. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars could be seen as the fire in which the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands was forged. At the beginning of the era, they were a republic, the Seven Provinces which was often called the United Provinces but which were far from united. Crippled by the feuds between the orange and patriot parties, the country was an easy victim of the revolutionary French. However, they endured and finally fought their way back, emerging as a strong and, mostly, united kingdom. Belgium and Luxembourg was part from them in time but for the Netherlands itself, the Napoleonic Wars were a pivotal moment in history. The Dutch had gone in as a republic but emerged as a monarchy.
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