Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's 3rd Wedding Anniversary

Yes, you read the title right. I can't be the only one who finds it hard to process that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge- the media like to call them "Kate and Wills," but here at the Rose and the Thistle we like to keep up standards when it comes to royal etiquette- were married three years ago today. It seems only yesterday we were treated to the pageantry of a royal wedding, to the soon-to-be Duchess' magnificent wedding dress, to Prince William in his smart military uniform, to the glorious procession of the household cavalry accompanying Their Royal Highnesses' back to Buckingham Palace in the state carriage as adoring crowds lined the Mall, holding aloft British and other commonwealth nations' flags and banners with kind words for the newly married couple. It was a spectacular warm-up to an even rarer royal event, 2012's Diamond Jubilee, when Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 60 years on the throne of the United Kingdom, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Even if, admittedly, several of those nations did not exist as independent states upon her ascension to the throne of the then British Empire and Commonwealth.

The Coat of Arms of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Quite fetching, if you ask me.

Recently the young Duke and Duchess have returned to the news. Their Royal Highnesses have just returned to the UK following a successful tour of Australia and New Zealand. I have been hugely encouraged by figures showing that support for the monarchy is strong among 18-34 year old Australians. This bodes well for the long-term security of Australia's monarchy. It is also encouraging to see how well the Duchess of Cambridge has settled in to her royal role; comparisons to her late mother-in-law Diana, the Princess of Wales, have been rife in the British press. That said, I often think such comparisons are unfair and place a great deal of pressure on the Duchess to live up to her mother-in-law's illustrious reputation, which has cast a long shadow over royal life ever since her tragic loss in 1997.

All in all, it has been a royal whirlwind for the last three years, but our future King and Queen have weathered it well. Republicanism remains a damp squib across the commonwealth realms. This month our Sovereign celebrated her 88th birthday, and Her Majesty shows no signs of slowing down. I'm sure her subjects the world over will join me in wishing Her Majesty many years on the British throne and the thrones of her other territories (and seeing as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother made it to the grand old age of 102, who knows how long our current monarch will reign), but it is comforting to see the affection afforded by those subjects to Her Majesty's eventual successors. Fate allowing, some day I may be blessed to see the coronation of King William V and his queen, Catherine. 'Till then, three cheers for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!

Hip, hip, hooray!
Hip, hip, hooray!
Hip, hip, hooray!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Battle of Midtskogen

Their Majesties King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway in
their coronation attire
Today is the 74th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Midtskogen in the Kingdom of Norway, when Nazi German forces under the command of Eberhard Spiller attempted to capture the King of Norway, Haakon VII, and his cabinet in order to force Norway into submission. The Norwegian force consisted of one rifle company of the King's Guards, the unit of the Norwegian Army responsible for the defence of Norway's monarch, and a number of volunteers primarily from local rifle clubs. The German force consisted of a small raiding party of paratroopers. The battle ended in a victory for the Norwegian forces, the Nazis failing to capture the King so he and his cabinet were able to escape to the United Kingdom and form a government in exile rather than be turned into a puppet of the occupying German Army. Casualties were light on both sides- two Germans were killed and only three Norwegians wounded- but this was a great moral victory for Norway.

The Germans invaded the Kingdom in 1940 despite Norway declaring independence at the outset of the war as Norway was of great strategic importance to both sides. Controlling Norway secured the Germans' supply of iron ore from Sweden, and also allowed Germany to use its sea power more effectively. Air raids on the United Kingdom were also conducted from captured German airfields. And, ridiculous as it seems in retrospect, the Nazis feared that the British would launch their own invasion of Scandinavia, which would give the Royal Navy the ability to strike the German Kriegsmarine in the Baltic. Approximately 6,602 Norwegian and Allied troops died, were injured or went missing while defending Norway from the German invasion, and around 400 Norwegian civilians were also killed in the crossfire; the Germans lost 5,296 troops. The Norwegian Armed Forces in Exile and the underground Norwegian Resistance would continue to fight for Norwegian liberation against the Third Reich until the end of the war. On this anniversary, I wish to join the people of Norway in celebrating the safe delivery of their King to Great Britain and the ultimate victory of the Allies against the Third Reich, and in commemorating those who gave their lives for the cause of Norwegian liberty. A Norwegian diplomat, Halvard Lange, once said  "We do not regard Englishmen as foreigners. We look on them only as rather mad Norwegians." If that is the case I can proudly call myself a mad Norwegian, and so raise a toast to "our" King.

Lenge leve kongen! Enig og tro til Dovre faller!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The United Kingdom, Ireland and President Higgins' State Visit

His Excellency the President of Ireland (or, in Irish Gaelic, a Shoilse an t-Uachtarán na hÉireann) yesterday made the first ever formal state visit by an Irish head of state to the United Kingdom, being Her Majesty's guest at Windsor Castle. Both the President and the Queen made speeches, with the Queen's speech being particularly enjoyable for monarchists due to her beginning by paying tribute to the "greatest of Ireland's High Kings," Brian Boru, who died in battle one hundred years ago this month. The High King, who styled himself "Emperor of the Irish," was tragically killed by fleeing Norsemen as they stumbled upon his tent after he led Irish forces to victory against them in the Battle of Clontarf. His death was one of those fateful moments which may well have altered the course of history in ways we cannot guess, and Ireland collapsed once more into a loose association of squabbling petty kingdoms.

George VI, the last King of Ireland
Of course, the final monarch of all Ireland was the Queen's own father, His Majesty King George VI, who was monarch of both Northern Ireland (as part of the United Kingdom) and what is now the Republic of Ireland (then the Irish Free State) until 1949. Today, unfortunately, monarchy is regarded in Ireland as permanently "tainted" by association with British colonial rule. Ironically, Sinn Féin itself was once a staunchly monarchist party calling for a dual monarchy in the British Isles based on the model of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This only changed following the Easter Rising, the leadership of which were much more radical than the then-leadership of Sinn Féin. Unfortunately the rising was mislabelled as an "Sinn Féin Rising" by the press, Sinn Féin members were unfairly blamed and persecuted, and nationalists rallied under the banner of Sinn Féin calling for an independent Irish Republic; all of this, despite King George V personally criticising the Government's response to the Rising.

1826 oil painting of the Battle of Clontarf, by Hugh Frazer
I could go into more detail about my thoughts on the Easter Rising, and on subsequent Irish history; in some future post I probably will do so. However, what is past is past- the core message of both Her Majesty and President Higgins' speeches yesterday- and now is a time for looking to the future. Although it is, to my mind, regrettable that history did not transpire differently and that Ireland is not today a united, self-governing kingdom in personal union with Great Britain and with Queen Elizabeth II as its beloved High Queen, the state visit yesterday and the Queen's recent state visit to Ireland are encouraging signs of rapprochement between the Republic and the United Kingdom. The only blot in the landscape as I see it was the presence of Martin McGuinness, currently Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and former Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army. The fact that this terrorist who was among the IRA's leadership when they murdered the Queen's cousin Lord Mountbatten (a memorial to whom the President visited and laid a wreath at yesterday) was allowed to sit at Her Majesty's table does not sit comfortably with me, nor do I expect it sits comfortably with the survivors and families of the victims of the IRA's terror campaigns; especially so soon after there was public outrage over the pardon of IRA members who took part in terrorist activities, including John Downey, a suspect in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, who was handed a pardon as the result of an "error." Meanwhile, a paratrooper involved in the events of "Bloody Sunday" complains that a promise of anonymity he received in return for giving detailed evidence in a previous enquiry has been revoked by a new police inquiry.

Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, meets Her Majesty the Queen and
His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh
Despite this controversy, on the whole the Uachtarán's state visit- I think I prefer the Irish name to the English word, although Ard Rí would be preferable- has been a success. Hopefully more such visits will follow, and in time past wounds will heal as the peoples of the British Isles become not merely good neighbours, but steadfast friends and allies. As Mr. Higgins, a poet and clearly a natural one, put it, "Ireland and Britain live in both the shadow and in the shelter of one another, and so it has been since the dawn of history. We celebrate what has been achieved but we must also constantly renew our commitment to a process that requires vigilance and care."

Sunday, 6 April 2014

For Queen and Country

This is the first post I have ever made to my first ever blog, so naturally I want to start by thanking anyone who actually takes the time to read this. If you are reading this, you may well have worked out by now the nature of this blog- this is the blog of a proud British patriot, monarchist and traditionalist, and is written from that point of view. My ambition is simply to add my voice to a growing chorus calling for Western civilization to revisit the values it has largely turned its back on; social hierarchy, chivalry, faith, loyalty, sustainability, localism and above all the basis of all great civilisations, the monarchy. At the same time, I wish to highlight which voices amidst the chorus represent true wisdom and which would lead us all down a very dark path indeed- the mantle of traditionalism has been usurped increasingly in recent times by those who subscribe to decidedly unsavoury ideas of racial supremacism, authoritarianism and ultra-nationalism.

"From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of people, all must consider the
cultivation of the person the root of everything besides." - Confucius
Although I have a particular interest, in light of the Scottish secession referendum fast approaching us, in promoting Scottish monarchism and British unionism by promoting knowledge of and interest in Scotland's rich royal past and countering the arguments of nationalists and republicans, I have no intention of limiting the scope of this blog to Scotland or even to the British Isles. Throughout the world there are grave injustices to be righted, great civilisations crumbling and solutions from history and tradition that are being overlooked. More than any other thinker, Confucius has influenced my view of the proper organisation of society and the path to becoming a man (or woman) of virtue, and yet today his teachings are being corrupted as a way of propping up the Chinese socialist regime that is responsible for destroying his legacy, all the achievements of some 2,000 years of Imperial rule handwaved with the label of "feudalism." The Islamic world, once a shining beacon of civilisation, of science, faith and good government, is now seen as a backwards, war-torn place by the rest of the world. One hundred years after the start of the war that spelled doom for the House of Romanov, Russia is governed by a former member of the Soviet-era secret police and dominated by organised crime.

Adolf Freiherr von Harnier, hero of the Bavarian monarchist
movement, enemy of the Nazis, and my long time hero.
Society today faces some of the greatest challenges humanity as a species has ever been faced with, whether we realise it or not. A growing population is putting increased pressures on  finite resources that are inevitably running out; the natural environment is suffering as a result of human activities; morality is becoming unfashionable across the developed world, and a tool of oppression in developing countries; since the 1940s, for the first time in the Earth's history a living organism- us- have possessed the power to cause destruction on a scale previously reserved for Mother Nature, equipped as we now are with nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Never before have we been in greater need of our collective experience and the words of history's wisest men and women to guide us through tumultuous times. The keys to our future lie in the past. It is by looking to the past that we will find our salvation.