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

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 | 13 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 »

St. Zita?

Church Opens Investigation into Sanctity of Zita of Bourbon-Parma, Wife of Blessed Charles and Last Empress of Austria-Hungary

It was announced recently that Mgr. Yves Le Saux, Bishop of Le Mans in the traditional province of Maine (Pays de la Loire), France has opened the cause for the beatification of Zita of Bourbon-Parma, the long-lived wife of Blessed Emperor Charles of Austria. Charles, the last (to date) Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, and King of Bohemia (&c.), died in exile in Madiera in 1922, aged just thirty-four years. Zita Maria delle Grazie Adelgonda Micaela Raffaela Gabriella Giuseppina Antonia Luisa Agnese de Bourbon-Parma, meanwhile, was born in Tuscany in 1892 and lived a long life, giving up the ghost in March 1989, and interred in the Capuchin vault in Vienna following a funeral of imperial dignity.

“The process was opened in Le Mans,” Gregor Kollmorgen of TNLM reports, “and not in the Swiss diocese of Chur, where the Empress died twenty years ago in 1989 in Zizers, with the consent of Msgr. Huonder, the Bishop of Chur, and the permission of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, because within the diocese of Le Mans is situated the Abbey of Solesmes, well known to NLM readers for its leading rôle in the early liturgical movement in the nineteenth century, especially regarding Gregorian chant, and which was the spiritual center of the Servant of God Zita, her home among her many exiles.”

Zita’s relationship with Solesmes dates back to 1909 when she first visited its sister-abbey of St. Cecilia on the Isle of Wight in England. She became an oblate of the Abbey of Solesmes itself in 1926. Her daily life after the exile & death of her saintly husband included the Rosary, hearing multiple daily masses, and praying part of the Divine Office. (more…)

December 13, 2009 9:18 pm | Link | 10 Comments »

H.H. the Maharaja of Patiala

Lieutenant-General His Highness Farzand-i-Khas-i-Daulat-i-Inglishia, Mansur-i-Zaman, Amir ul-Umara, Maharajadhiraja Raj Rajeshwar, 108 Sri Maharaja-i-Rajgan, Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh, Mahendra Bahadur, Yadu Vansha Vatans Bhatti Kul Bushan, Maharaja of Patiala, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog, Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer, Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III, Grand Cross of the Legion d’Honneur, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Sts. Maurice & Lazarus, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Grand Cross of the Order of the White Lion, Grand Cordon of the Order of the Nile, Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold, ascended to the throne of Patiala in 1900. A keen cricketer, the Maharaja captained the 1911 Indian cricket tour of England, and played in twenty-seven games of cricket at first-class level between 1915 and 1937. Indeed, for the 1926-27 season he played for the MCC itself. (more…)

December 6, 2009 10:04 pm | Link | No Comments »

The Would-Be King of New Zealand

Brigadier the Right Honourable Sir Bernard Fergusson,
Baron Ballantrae, KT, GCMG, GCVO, DSO, OBE

Left, Lord Ballantrae in his robes of office as Chancellor of the University of St Andrews; Right, as Governor-General of New Zealand with former Prime Minister Sir Walter Nash.

Over at Curated Secrets, Stephen Klimczuk takes a brief wander through Clubland, mentioning the illustrious Bernard Fergusson, who was known for “the skill with which he could toss his monocle in the air and catch it in his eye”. Stephen’s co-author on Secret Places, Hidden Sanctuaries, the Much Hon. Laird of Craiggenmaddie, chimes in on the commentbox, bringing to light that “when he was serving under Orde Wingate with the Chindits in Burma, among the supplies dropped by the RAF to those doughty warriors was a supply of monocles for Fergusson, since the damage/loss rate was so high in the jungle.”

Fergusson has always fascinated me, not only because he was the Chancellor of my university, but also because he has the best claim to the throne of New Zealand should the Land of the Long White Cloud ever decide to dispense with the House of Windsor. Lord Ballantrae (as Fergusson was ennobled) served as Governor-General of New Zealand, his own father served as Governor-General of New Zealand, and both his grandfathers served as Governor of New Zealand before the antipodean kingdom became a dominion. Rather appropriately, his son and heir is currently serving as Her Majesty’s High Commissioner to New Zealand, which is now the highest office of the British government in those islands.

Stephen mentions other fun stories of Clubland, such as the waggish response of the dinner guest who was kept waiting for Hermann Goering at one club before the war: “‘I have been shooting,’ said Goering. ‘Animals, I hope?’ was the quite reasonable question in response.”

November 2, 2009 5:30 pm | Link | No Comments »

Argentines Recall Blessed Emperor

An Argentine correspondent informs us that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered on October 28th at the Church of St. Boniface, the German-speaking parish of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Charles, Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary. The mass was organized by Viscountess Huges Stier de Saint Jean (née Princess Isabelle Auersperg-Breunner), whose mother was a descendant of the Emperor Franz Joseph through his daughter Valerie. The Mass was offered in Spanish and German, with the prayers of intention read in those languages as well as Hungarian, Slovak, Ukrainian, Croatian, and Italian.

Category: Charles of Austria

October 30, 2009 8:00 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Opening the Riksdag

Ek probeer om Sweeds te leer, om my skamele kennis van wêreldtale te verhoog. I’ve also taught the English word ‘purgatory’ to a Finnish friend of mine, who happily reports back that she recently saw the word used on an episode of “South Park” and was glad to already be aware of it. In the meantime, I stumbled upon these photographs of Oscar II (by the Grace of God, King of Sweden, the Goths, and the Wends, erstwhile King of Norway) opening the Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament. You would think reading Kristin Lavransdatter and watching “Max Manus” would get me into a Norwegian frame of mind (and they do!) but all of Scandinavia is of interest to me. (more…)

October 22, 2009 9:04 pm | Link | 7 Comments »
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