Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.


A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

From Realm to Republic

South Africa’s transition from a monarchy to a republic coincided with a change of currency. Out went the old South African pound (with its shillings and pence) and in came the decimilised rand.

Luckily the republican government had the good taste to commission George Kruger Gray, responsible for the country’s most beautiful coinage, to design the new coins. HM the Queen was replaced by old Jan van Riebeeck, and the country’s arms were deprived of their crown.

May 3, 2017 2:30 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

The Queen

Richard Stone, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II
1992; Oil on canvas, 96 in. x 60 in.
January 24, 2017 12:53 pm | Link | No Comments »

Stockholm in the Swinging 60s

The Solemn Opening of the Riksdag was the state opening of Sweden’s parliament, seen here in a recording from 1960 during the reign of Gustaf Adolf. Years ago I wrote about Oskar II’s opening of parliament.

Alas, all this was done away with as part of the constitutional innovations of 1974, and the Swedish legislature is now opened with a much simpler ceremony.

via Karl-Gustel

January 10, 2017 1:40 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Botswana and Hereditary Power

To any observer it must be obvious that hereditary power of some kind is natural and most of the time inescapable. It’s not that you need to be born into power to wield it, but experience shows it doesn’t hurt. Since I was born, there has been just one American presidential election (2012) in which a member of either the Bush or Clinton families was not either the official candidate of their respective party or a significant contender for that role.

In Canada, the current prime minister has sailed into office solely on a combination of good looks and being the son of a previous prime minister. In Ireland there are no fewer than forty-one families who have had three or more members elected to the Oireachtas (or to the Commons before it). The relatives and descendants of Timothy Sullivan managed to elect thirteen members between 1874 and 2016 as MPs, TDs, senators, or MEPs. Sullivan’s son and great-grandson both served as Chief Justice of Ireland to boot.

Sir Seretse Khama

Botswana — the most succesful state in Africa by many gauges — today celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its assuming the mantle of sovereignty after eighty-one years as a British protectorate. Given that the United States, Canada, and Ireland are generally viewed as succesful countries, the hereditary aspect of power might help explain the comparitive success of Botswana, a multiparty state with free and fair elections, relative to its neighbours. The fourth and current president is Ian Khama, formerly a lieutenant general in the Botswana Defence Force. President Khama is the son of Sir Seretse Khama, the Balliol man who led his country and its people to independence fifty years ago and served as Botswana’s first president. Sir Seretse in turn is the grandson of King Khama III, last kgosi of Bechuanaland before the protectorate and leader of the Bamangwato tribe.

When Sir Seretse Khama became leader of Botswana it was the third poorest country in Africa — now it is the sixth richest on the continent in terms of GDP per capita. In a continent not known for good government Botswana, though not without its problems, is an oasis of stability and order.

At today’s celebrations for the fiftieth year of independence, President Khama wasn’t taking any credit for his country’s success: “Where we may have failed we take the blame. Where we succeeded we thank God.”

September 30, 2016 1:20 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Oliver VII

Oliver VII
by Antal Szerb, trans. by Len Rix
Pushkin Press (2013), £12, 208 pages

Hungarian by nationality, Catholic by faith, Jewish by birth — Antal Szerb was capable of touching the boundaries of intense seriousness bordering on the mystical (as in Journey by Moonlight) or magical (The Pendragon Legend) even though he is probably better known as paragon and only member of the interwar neofrivolist school of literature.

Here he is at his frivolous best with a novel about the monarch of a Ruritanian kingdom in crisis who abdicates and escapes to Venice incognito, where he falls in with a crowd of confidence tricksters who ultimately, unaware of the ex-king’s true identity, force him to impersonate himself.

In Oliver VII, romance, intrigue, and the perpetual allure of the genteel portion of the criminal class all combine in an enjoyable farce.

September 28, 2016 2:00 pm | Link | No Comments »

Protestant King in His Catholic Realm

George VI in Quebec

In the midst of some unrelated research the other day, I came across these photos of George VI on his first visit to Quebec as King in 1939. I think the Parlement du Québec is probably the only Commonwealth legislature to have a crucifix in its plenary chamber (c.f. ‘Christ at the heart of Quebec’, 25 May 2008). No, no, of course the Maltese do as well, in their surprisingly ugly parliament chamber. But Malta is now an island republic, while Quebec retains its monarchy.

In the above picture, the King and Queen of Canada hear a loyal address in the Salle du Conseil législatif of the Hôtel du Parlement in the city of Quebec. Below, the King speaks at a state dinner in the Chateau Frontenac. Seated is Cardinal Villeneuve, the Primat du Canada and Archbishop of Quebec.

February 10, 2013 9:20 pm | Link | No Comments »

George Tupou V, RIP

I note with great regret the early death of George Tupou V, the King of Tonga. Readers will remember the King from our 2008 report, Monocled Monarch is the King of Fashion. The blog post was forwarded to the King a year later by one of his honorary consuls, and it’s rather nice to think that a reigning sovereign has visited our little corner of the web.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat ei.
Requiescat in pace.

March 19, 2012 10:14 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Ireland’s Viceregal Throne Replaced

This sort of thing is devised simply to raise Cusackian hackles: having been used in every presidential inauguration in the history of the State until now, Ireland’s viceregal throne (above, left) is being replaced as the presidential chair. Supposedly it had become “a bit natty”, and no-one in the Office of Public Works knew so much as a single decent furniture restorer to get it back into condition. Scandalous! Its successor (above, right) was commissioned from furniture designer John Lee, and is rather new rite, as they say in London Catholic circles. (more…)

November 11, 2011 8:44 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

A Rioplatense Kingdom?

New book explores the monarchic projects of the River Plate, 1808–1825

A book recently published in Buenos Aires sheds new light on the difficult transition period between the Spanish Empire on the River Plate and the foundation of the Argentine Republic. The launch party for Bernado Lozier Almazán’s Proyectos monárquicos en el Río de la Plata 1808-1825. Los reyes que no fueron (“Monarchic projects in the River Plate 1808–1825: The kings who weren’t”) was held recently in the Quinta ‘Los Ombúes’, home of the municipal library, museum, and archives of San Isidro, the city in the Provincia de Buenos Aires known as Argentina’s ‘Rugby Capital’.

Proyectos monárquicos highlights the forgotten truth that most of the Argentine ‘patriots’ — San Martín, Belgrano, and Alvear among them — were monarchist, not republican. Proposals involving the courts of Spain, Portugal, France, and even England were proffered, and there was even an interesting proposal to marry a European prince to an Incan princess and offer him the throne of the Río de la Plata. (more…)

September 8, 2011 8:30 pm | Link | 5 Comments »

Canada’s Royal Standards

In anticipation of the recent visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Canada, the government of that dominion unveiled new Canadian personal flags for the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge. The British Empire started out as a group of states and colonies united in the British crown, but as the Empire evolved into the Commonwealth, dominions were gradually recognised as sovereign entities of their own. Thus when, for example, Elizabeth II visits, say, Vancouver, it is not the ‘Queen of England’ who is visiting but the Queen of Canada exercising her functions in her own country. (This is a point frequently lost upon ideological republicans). Even when Elizabeth remains in London she puts on different ‘hats’ for different occasions. The only time I ever saw the Queen was at a Service for Australia at Westminster Abbey, thus it was the Queen’s Personal Flag for Australia which flew from the tower of the Abbey, not the British Royal Standard. (more…)

September 8, 2011 8:25 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

South Africa in the New Year’s Honours

One CMG and three MBEs show links between Britain and South Africa

Despite breaking its constitutional links with the Crown over fifty years ago (c.f. here), South Africa continues to enjoy close social, economic, and cultural ties with Great Britain, a fact borne out in the recent New Year’s Honours list. Of the numerous individuals awarded for their public service, four from this year’s list show the relationship between these two countries. Most prominent is Fleur Olive Lourens de Villiers (above), who has been named a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George. Ms. de Villiers, a graduate of Pretoria & Harvard, is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. From 1960 onwards, she has been a theatre critic, economics correspondent, leader writer, columnist, political correspondent, newspaper editor, and travelling correspondent around the world, in addition to working with the De Beers Group and Anglo-American. She was one of the four contributors to the Institute of Economic Affairs’ 1986 study Apartheid: Capitalism or Socialism? which examined the role of the state and its race policy in the South African economy. (more…)

January 4, 2011 12:46 pm | Link | 2 Comments »


The word conjures up majestic imagery: Windsor — the castle viewed from the Long Walk and the Royal Standard snapping above the Round Tower. At the same time, it has a strange tinge of domesticity to it, an almost middle-class quality. Perhaps a 1950s development of semi-detached suburban houses along a ‘Windsor Drive’. What on earth does the word mean? (more…)

November 3, 2010 9:02 pm | Link | 8 Comments »

Imperial Mexico

The Forgotten Monarchs that Shaped a Great Nation

THE NEW WORLD has such a republican reputation these days. Even though there remain thirteen monarchies in the Americas, concentrated in the Caribbean, there are only three monarchs between them (all, curiously, women: Elizabeth II, Beatrix, and Margrethe II). But it’s usually forgotten that the Americas have had two great empires of their own: the Empire of Brazil in South America and the Empire of Mexico in North America.

Napoleon’s Peninsular War in Spain had caused quite a ruckus in the Spanish Americas, where liberals had seized the opportunity to wage long, rebellious wars of independence with fluctuating levels of popular support. In Mexico, two of the rebel generals, Agustín de Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero composed a plan to change the balance of power in the Spanish empire as a whole while simultaneously securing Mexican independence. The three main aims of the ‘Plan of Iguala’ were: 1) Catholicism as the established religion, 2) The independence of Mexico, and 3) The end of legal distinctions between the races; summed up as “Religión, Independencia, y Unión”.

But the larger scheme of the Plan was to convince King Ferdinand VII to move to Mexico and become Emperor of Mexico, shifting the center of power in the Spanish empire from Madrid to Mexico City. If Ferdinand would not accept, then the crown would be offered to his brother and the rest of his family down the line until someone accepted, or if even that failed then to a member of another European dynasty. (more…)

October 29, 2010 1:16 pm | Link | 14 Comments »

The House of Moctezuma

Noble Descendants of the Aztec Emperor

The last Emperor of the Aztecs, Moctezuma II (usually anglicised as ‘Montezuma’) suffered an ignominious end: defeated by the Spanish, some accounts have him being stoned by his former subjects, while others claim he died of starvation, refusing to eat food not worthy of an emperor, still more claim Cortés had him killed. Many of his descendants embraced Christianity and found favour from Mexico’s new overlord, the King of Spain. (more…)

October 24, 2010 10:00 pm | Link | 16 Comments »

Charles of Austria

TODAY IS THE first feast of Blessed Charles since the announcement last December that the cause for the canonisation of his wife, Zita of Bourbon-Parma, has been opened as well. In an age when most people in government and public leadership seem barely even decent, let alone saints, it is all the more important to seek the prayers and intercession of Charles and Zita — husband and wife, mother and father, Emperor and Empress — for the preservation of peace, the prevention of war, and the renovation of our families as well as our societies at large. (more…)

October 21, 2010 12:12 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

The Highest Order in the Land

The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle

In accordance with tradition, knights are appointed to the Order of the Thistle on the feast of Scotland’s patron saint, the Apostle Andrew, but they are not formally installed until the following summer when the Queen is in residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. And so this past July, the ‘Thistle Service’ took place at St. Giles’, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, and two new knights were inducted into Scotland’s highest honour and most exalted order of chivalry.

The knights, dames, and officers, dressed in their flowing velvet mantles of green along with their hats and collars, gather across Parliament Square in the Library of the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet (Scotland’s professional body of solicitors), part of the Parliament House complex that long ago housed the kingdom’s legislature, and is now home to her courts. In Parliament Square itself, the Royal Company of Archers (the Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland) forms a guard of honour and is accompanied by the band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. (more…)

September 7, 2010 7:11 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Zuma: Government Will Mediatise Six of South Africa’s Monarchies

Six of South Africa’s thirteen monarchies are to be mediatised, the country’s president announced in July. A report by the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims of the South African government concluded that the six dynasties had been raised from chiefdoms to monarchies by the apartheid government for purely political reasons and suggested that their government funding and recognition be ended. President Zuma said the aim of the move was to correct “the wrongs of the past” but that no one was being accused of collaboration with the apartheid authorities. The six incumbent rulers will retain their styles and dignities while their successors will revert to the rank of princely chiefs.

“We have been waiting for this decision for a long time,” Khosi Fhumulani Kutama, the Chairman of the National House of Traditional Leaders told the media. “It is important that people accept it not only for the institution of traditional leadership but for the whole country.”

But the indications so far are that the six monarchies will take the government to court in an attempt to forestall the demotion.

Up to this point, the most significant spate of mediatisation was during the Napoleonic era, when Talleyrand arranged the demotion and reorganisation of conquered German lands.

September 7, 2010 12:30 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Titles in Afrikaans

ROYAL, NOBLE, AND common titles in Afrikaans are, like most of the language, descended from Dutch antecedents which, in turn, come from German. The Cape knew not the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was established after the Dutch relinquished the colony, but was founded as an outlet of the Dutch East India Company (or V.O.C., to give its Dutch acronym). After a brief period of British occupation, Dutch dominion over the Cape returned during the Batavian Republic before finally being seized by the British in 1806 and erected as a British colony in 1814. When the Union of South Africa was created in 1910, the country had its first king, George V, though the sovereign was generally only referred to as ‘King of South Africa’ from 1927 onwards.

The country has had no emperors, though some like to attribute that title to Shaka, the greatest King of the Zulus. Typically, however, he is known as king (as in King Shaka International Airport, Durban’s brand new landing-place). South Africa’s royalty have tended to be either native (like Prince Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela) or German (like Prince Hubertus of Prussia, d. 1950, and a few Blüchers, etc.). (more…)

May 9, 2010 8:24 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Relic of Blessed Charles in Catalonia

In October of last year, a relic ex ossibus of Blessed Charles I was formally received at the Basilica Church of Our Lady of Mercy & St. Michael Archangel in Barcelona, the capital city of the Spanish principality of Catalonia. The bone fragment is the first relic of the last Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, and King of Bohemia to be publicly venerated in the Kingdom of Spain. It was requested by His Grace the Bishop of Solsona, Don Jaume Traserra y Cunillera, at the request of the Catalonian Delegation of the Constantinian Order. The relic has been enshrined in the chapel of St. Michael the Archangel, alongside a portrait of the Emperor.

A grandson of Blessed Charles, HIRH the Archduke Simeon of Austria, attended (with his wife) as the representative of HRH the Infante Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria, the Grand Master of the Constantinian Order and head of the Royal House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Also in attendance were Lt. Gen. Don Fernando Torres Gonzalez (Army Inspector General), General Mainar Don Gustavo Gutierrez (Chief of the 3rd Sub-inspection Pyrenees and Military Commander General of Barcelona and Tarragona), as well as representatives of the Order of Malta, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, various guilds and corps of Spanish nobility, and lay fraternities.

January 20, 2010 8:06 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Hapsburg Hebraica

Empress Zita and Emperor Charles of Austria are prayed over by a Jewish rabbi.

After the passing of the Hapsburg empire, which had been so protective of its Jewish subjects (especially compared to the regimes which succeeded it), numerous prominent Jews were received into the Catholic faith, perhaps having come to a full appreciation of precisely what they had lost. The subject of “Literary Jewish Converts to Christianity in Interwar Hungary” is worthy of further investigation (some graduate student should write a dissertation on just such a matter). I am no longer surprised when, in my researches, I come across yet another fascinating Hungarian Jew — be he a writer, playwright, poet, or patron — and discover, usually buried in some footnote, that he died a good Catholic.

December 30, 2009 10:02 pm | Link | 6 Comments »
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