Tuesday, July 17, 2018

100th Anniversary of the Romanov Executions

In the summer of 1998, just before I was about to begin junior high school, my cousins introduced me to the Fox animated musical Anastasia. It had just been released on home video (remember videos, those artifacts?), and I found myself thoroughly enchanted by the film while even more intrigued that it was based upon actual events. Not long after watching the movie, I asked my mom to take me to the local library, where I nabbed a couple of books about Anastasia and the Romanov dynasty. Upon reading these, I discovered that this cute musical cartoon glossed over some of the realities of what actually happened to its titular heroine – namely that her entire family and a group of their faithful attendants were savagely murdered by their Bolshevik captors in the cellar of a house where they had been held under arrest. This was rather jarring for my eleven-year-old mind to process, but then I came upon a rather coincidental link with this gruesome event – the date of the Romanov murders was July 17, 1918. My birthday is July 17. In a strange way, I suddenly felt connected to these people and the terrible fate that befell them.

What was even more, during that same summer, on July 17, 1998, the eightieth anniversary of the executions and also my twelfth birthday, I saw in the news that a lavish funeral ceremony took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, presided over by then-President Boris Yeltsin and attended by a number of foreign dignitaries, European royalty, and surviving members of the Romanov family. All of this attention to the Romanovs that transpired that summer, coinciding with my own discovery of this tragic chapter in history and realizing the connection of my birthdate, triggered a deep interest in European history – Russian history and the history of European monarchies, in particular. This would culminate in the pursuit of my degree in history and in my recent certification as a credentialed social studies teacher.
The Romanovs just before their executions, as depicted in the
1971 Oscar-winning film "Nicholas and Alexandra".

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Romanov executions. The story of that horrific night has been told (in admittedly varying ways, depending on the source) numerous times over the years. The generally accepted version is this – in the early morning hours of July 17, 1918, the imprisoned Romanov family were awoken, ordered to dress, and came down from their bedrooms. Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Empress Alexandra, their four daughters, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, their only son, the Tsarevich Alexei, along with four attendants who agreed to join the family in captivity – their personal physician, Dr. Eugene Botkin; the empress’s maid, Anna Demidova; the tsar’s valet, Alexei Trupp; and their cook, Ivan Kharitonov – had been held under arrest in the Ipatiev house in Yekaterinburg, a mining town in the Ural Mountains. The Red Army of the Bolsheviks, who had seized control of Russia in October of the previous year, was embroiled in a brutal civil war against the White Army, made up of anti-Bolshevik forces, many of which were loyal to the overthrown tsar. The Red Army had been struggling to hold on to Yekaterinburg, allowing for a very real possibility that the White Army would reach the town, liberate the Romanovs, and potentially restore Nicholas II to power.
The Ipatiev house, the Romanovs' final prison.

Something had to be done with these highly valuable prisoners.

After emerging from their quarters, the guards moved the Romanovs and their entourage to the cellar of the house, where they were told to wait until a truck came to evacuate them. The family suspected they would probably be moved, as they had been able to hear the distant cannon fire of the Red and White forces for days now. The commandant of the guards at the Ipatiev house, Yakov Yurovsky, informed the family a photograph would be taken, in order to dispel rumors that they had escaped. After arranging the eleven prisoners within the cellar, Yurovsky returned with a group of guards standing in the doorway facing them. Yurovsky pulled out a small piece of paper and, addressing the tsar, read aloud from it –

“Nicholas Alexandrovich, in view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Soviet Russia, the Ural Executive Committee has decided to execute you.”

The imperial children - Grand Duchess Maria, Grand Duchess Tatiana,
Grand Duchess Anastasia, Grand Duchess Olga, Tsarevich Alexei.
Startled by what he had just heard, Nicholas turned to his wife, who quickly crossed herself, and then turned back to Yurovsky, asking with bewilderment “What?” At that moment, the guards pulled out their guns and began firing upon the family. Nicholas died instantly, having been shot point-blank in the head. Empress Alexandra and her eldest daughter, Grand Duchess Olga, were also killed immediately. The execution was far from organized – the guards, crowded in the doorway, fired erratically over each other’s’ heads and shoulders, as the remaining victims ran about screaming and crying in the small cellar. The gun smoke from the executioners’ weapons filled the room and made it difficult for them to take aim. When the gunfire ceased, the guards found that the three younger grand duchesses and their brother, along with the maid, Anna, were still alive though badly injured. The son, Alexei, was finished off with a bullet in his ear, while his sisters were savagely murdered with the bayonets of the guards’ Winchester rifles. Once the victims were all still, the guards began searching their clothing and discovered pounds of jewelry sewn into the corsets of the daughters, while the maid Anna had jewels sewn into the lining of a pillow she was carrying. This was reportedly done on the orders of Empress Alexandra, who wanted to secretly hide their valuables in case they should be liberated and needed to cash in their jewels for money to support themselves. The bodies of the imperial family and their staff were brought outside, loaded into a waiting truck, and driven to the woods outside of town for a hasty and ignoble burial. Despite the botched manner in which the remains were disposed of, they lay hidden until the 1970s, though the existing political environment meant that the two men who found the gravesite did not publicly reveal their discovery until after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
The site of the Romanovs' original burial site near Yekaterinburg.
Less than a week after the murders, the White Army marched into Yekaterinburg. They raced to the Ipatiev house, only to find it wholly vacated. Some of the imperial family’s belongings – books, clothes, diaries – were left behind, but not a single living soul remained in the house. They went into the basement and found the walls and floor riddled with bullet holes. Something had happened to the family.

Just one day after the executions of the tsar and his family, Empress Alexandra’s sister, Elisabeth, who had also married into the Russian imperial family, was murdered in the woods near Alapayevsk along with a group of Romanov princes. Elisabeth, who had renounced her royal life and became a nun by the time of her death, was later canonized as a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church, and her effigy stands above the door of Westminster Abbey in London along with other figures regarded as “Twentieth Century Martyrs”.

The executions of the Romanov family remains among the darkest chapters in Russian history. It preluded what became a savage century for the country, as the autocratic rule of the tsars swept away by the 1917 revolution gave way to seven decades of totalitarian rule under the communists. For the crowned heads of Europe in 1918, most of whom were relatives of the Romanovs, the murders in Yekaterinburg left them shaken to the core. The hardships of World War I and the surprise victory of the communist revolution in Russia left the monarchies across the continent feeling vulnerable about their positions and terrified of their fates if their countrymen decided to turn on them. The gruesome fate of the imperial family hung like a specter over Europe for years – a harbinger of what could happen if royalty failed to earn the love of their people.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the funeral service
for the Romanov family, July 1998.
The 1998 burial ceremony served as a sort of reckoning between Russia and the brutal killing of its final monarchs. Nicholas II had his shortcomings as a ruler, to be certain. He was woefully unsuited to the job of an autocratic tsar. Many have speculated that if he had been a constitutional monarch, like his cousin and close friend, Britain’s King George V, he would have been far more successful. He was a devoted husband and father, sincerely loved by his relatives and friends, a God-fearing man committed to the welfare of his beloved Russia. Politically, however, he was a spectacular failure. He was weak, indecisive, unimaginative, utterly blind to the vastly changing world taking shape around him in the early twentieth century, and pathetically ignorant of the challenges facing his country at a time when reform would have gone far to save so much. How utterly different world history would have been if he had listened to reason and gave Russia the reforms it badly called for. Or, perhaps, the revolution and its aftermath were inevitable. Perhaps Nicholas II, his country, and the twentieth century as a whole were condemned from the start. Even a full century later, Russia still feels the effects of its unprecedented revolution, and the rest of the world continues to feel it too in one form or other.
The Empress with her daughters.
However we analyze the impact of the events of 1918, at the core of this tragic story is a family – a loving, kindly husband, his beautiful, yet melancholy and occasionally domineering wife; their four pretty, obedient daughters, and their handsome, imperious and sickly son. Fewer families were devoted to one another as the Romanovs. In the days after his abdication in March 1917, Nicholas II refused all suggestions to escape from Russia and meet his family at a later time – he would not go anywhere if his wife and children were not at his side. In April 1918, the Soviets ordered Nicholas to be moved from the family’s imprisonment in Siberia, ostensibly so that he could be taken to Moscow for trial by the Bolshevik government. His hemophiliac son Alexei, however, was recovering from a bleeding attack and unable to travel. His wife Alexandra agonized for hours over whether she would accompany her husband towards whatever fate lay in store for him, or stay behind to care for the son she devoted her life to. She chose to follow her husband, saying “I must leave my child behind and choose to share my husband’s life or death”. The night before Nicholas and Alexandra’s departure, the parents and their children sat huddled together sobbing, uncertain whether they would see each other again. Mercifully, they would be reunited, in the Ipatiev house in Yekaterinburg, where they lived out the final three months of their lives in misery and isolation at the hands of rude, lecherous guards. But they were at least together. In the end, as savage and cold-blooded as their deaths were, the one saving grace was that the family all died together.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Royal Christening in Britain

Members of the British royal family met at St. James's Palace in London for the christening of the House of Windsor's newest prince, Louis of Cambridge. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their children, Prince George of
Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, and
Prince Louis of Cambridge.
The baptism of Prince Louis Arthur Charles of Cambridge into the Church of England took place on July 9 at the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, the same venue where his elder brother, Prince George, was christened in 2013. The prince's parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, culled from their circle of friends and family to appoint their son's six godparents. They are Nicholas van Cutsem, a close friend of the Prince of Wales and Princes William and Harry (Nicholas's daughter, Florence, was one of the bridesmaids at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex two months ago); Harry Aubrey Fletcher; Lady Laura Meade; Hannah Gillingham Carter; and Lucy Middleton, a first cousin of the Duchess of Cambridge. The selection of Louis's godparents continues with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's decision to appoint godparents for their children from outside the royal family and outside of European royalty. 

Prince Louis's paternal grandfather, the Prince of Wales, and
step-grandmother, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Louis's christening was an admittedly smaller affair than the christenings of his siblings, George and Charlotte. The only attendees were his parents and his siblings; his paternal uncle and aunt, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex; his paternal grandfather and step-grandmother, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall; his maternal grandparents, Michael and Carole Middleton; his maternal aunt and uncle, Philippa and James Matthews; his maternal uncle, James Middleton; and his six godparents. None of the extended members of the Windsor clan attended, and the most notable absentees were Louis's great-grandparents, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Reportedly, the royal couple's advancing age and health was a factor in their absence. This week alone will be a busy one for the 92-year-old monarch, who attended commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force on July 10 and will meet privately for the first time with US President Donald Trump on Friday. 

Princess Charlotte of Cambridge provided some comic relief among the formalities, as she hilariously told photographers "You're not coming" shortly before entering the chapel with her parents. 
Prince Louis's newlywed uncle and aunt, the Duke and
Duchess of Sussex

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

HRH Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma (1926-2018)

A prince who fled to America as the Nazis marched through France, only to join up with the US Army and parachute back into enemy territory; a prisoner of the Viet Minh and nearly left for dead; a complicated love life involving two princesses and twins who were acknowledged to be the children of another man - this characterized the unique life of HRH Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma, who passed away on July 7 aged 92.

Michel was undoubtedly one of the last princes of the "old school" generation of European royalty, those born before the Second World War in a time when royal status still held some luster, even if it was steadily fading. For Michel and his family, the fact that they belonged to a deposed royal house did not mean they were left in the dark when it came to inter-royal mingling. Michel was a first cousin of King Boris III of Bulgaria, a nephew of Empress Zita of Austria, a first cousin of the former Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, brother-in-law of the late King Michael of Romania, son-in-law of the late King Umberto II of Italy, and second cousin of the Duke of Edinburgh. He came from indisputable royal stock, and yet he lived a life that would prove far more interesting and dynamic than most of his crowned contemporaries.

Born and raised in France, Prince Michel was the third child of Prince Rene of Bourbon-Parma and Princess Margaret of Denmark. His national identity proved somewhat complicated - as a scion of the Bourbon line that ruled over the small Italian duchy of Parma until 1859, he and his siblings were technically Italian royals. Yet his father (and his grandfather before him) raised the children to regard themselves as French, while their mother's background as a Danish princess led to erroneous reports in the press that they were in fact members of the Danish royal family.
Prince Michael with his parents, brothers Jacques and Andre, and sister Anne.

When Michel was fourteen, his family left France as Nazi Germany came marching in. Upon escaping to America, Michel's parents entered the work force to keep the bills paid, and his elder sister Anne even found employment as a clerk for a Macy's department store in New York City. With his father's approval, 17-year-old Michel returned to Europe with the US Army and was part of a parachute squadron to land in occupied France behind enemy lines. After the end of World War II, Michel went into service in French Indochina (today Vietnam), where he was captured by the Viet Minh. During eleven months of imprisonment, Michel was tortured, beaten, nearly starved, and watched dozens of his fellow prisoners die before a ceasefire between the French and the Vietnamese enabled his release.

Prince Michel and his first wife, Yolande.
The harrowing years at war prompted Michel to leave the army, and he indulged himself in that favorite past time of idle royalty - race cars. He made a considerable fortune in business and used his royal connections to gain French contracts with the Shah of Iran.

Michel's romantic life proved to be just as colorful. In 1951, he married the French aristocrat Princess Yolande de Broglie-Revel, with whom he had five children - Princess Ines of Bourbon-Parma, Prince Erik of Bourbon-Parma, Princess Sybil of Bourbon-Parma, Princess Victoire of Bourbon-Parma, and Prince Charles-Emmanuel of Bourbon-Parma. The year before his marriage, Michel fathered a daughter out of wedlock, Amelie, whom he legally acknowledged in 1997.

His marriage to Princess Yolande proved complicated, and they separated in 1966. Michel had begun an affair with another princess, albeit one who, unlike his wife who was merely nobility, was thoroughly royal -- Maria Pia of Savoy.

Princess Maria Pia of Italy with her two sets of twins. The younger twins are generally
regarded to be the biological offspring of Maria Pia and Prince Michel of
Bourbon-Parma, though Maria Pia's first husband, Prince
Alexander of Yugoslavia, legally acknowledged them as his own.
Princess Maria Pia of Savoy, or of Italy, was the eldest daughter of King Umberto II and Queen Marie Jose of Italy. Exiled after the expulsion of the Italian monarchy in 1946, Maria Pia entered into a suitably royal marriage with Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, a cousin of that country's deposed King Peter II. Maria Pia had given birth to twin sons by Alexander - Princes Dimitri and Michael - but the marriage had its issues, and she eventually strayed from her husband and engaged in an affair with Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma.

Prince Michel and Princess Maria Pia in later years.
Maria Pia would give birth to another set of twins - Prince Serge and Princess Helene of Yugoslavia - in 1963. They were legally acknowledged as the children of Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and thus bore his title and membership in his royal house. However, Maria Pia and Michel had already begun their affair by this time, and it is an open secret that Serge and Helene are, in fact, the biological offspring of Michel. Alexander of Yugoslavia acknowledged the twins as his legal children, but he never had a close relationship with them and by most accounts never treated them as his own.

Maria Pia and Alexander divorced in 1967, while Michel and Yolande remained legally married until 1999. After decades together, Michel and Maria Pia finally married in 2003.

Prince Michel's sister, Queen Anne of Romania,
and her husband, King Michael of Romania
Prince Michel was the last surviving member of his immediate family. His father died in 1962 and his mother in 1992. His eldest brother, Prince Jacques of Bourbon-Parma, was killed in a car accident in 1964. His youngest brother, Prince Andre of Bourbon-Parma, died in 2011. His only sister, Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma, was married to the exiled King Michael of Romania, who died in December 2017. Queen Anne passed away in 2016 and was granted a semi-state funeral in Bucharest. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The most anticipated royal event of 2018 took place on Saturday, as His Royal Highness Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales tied the knot with Miss Rachel Meghan Markle at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, in a ceremony watched by a television audience of over 18 million in the UK, 29 million in the bride's homeland of the United States, and a global audience estimated in the hundreds of millions. Over 100,000 people jammed the streets of the small town of Windsor, dominated by the ancient 1000-year-old Windsor Castle, to catch a glimpse of the bridal couple. It was a ceremony lauded by the press as "modern" and "groundbreaking", with nods to both the "old world" traditions of Harry's background and the "new world", multicultural, and Hollywood side brought by Meghan. 

Drama unfolded in the days before the ceremony concerning Meghan's father, who eventually decided not to attend, but this did not place a damper on the overall events. It was a spectacularly sunny day as the 36-year-old bride, renowned for her acting career on the TV legal drama Suits, rode by car alongside her mother, Doria Ragland, from Cliveden House to Windsor Castle. The groom and his brother, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, entered St. George's Chapel after the arrivals of the extended members of the Royal Family. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived at 11:52 AM, while the Duchess of Cambridge arrived by car with the pages and bridesmaids; chief among them being her children Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Miss Markle arrived at St. George's Chapel and made her way up the steps on her own. She was greeted by her future father-in-law, the Prince of Wales, who offered to walk her down the aisle after her father announced he would not be attending. Presiding over the ceremony was David Conner, Dean of Windsor, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, performing the marriage ceremony. Harry's maternal aunt, Jane Fellowes, one of the sisters of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, gave a reading, while the Most Reverend Michael Curry, the primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States (the American branch of the Anglican Church), delivered a rousing fourteen-minute sermon. In a break with royal tradition, both the bride and groom exchanged rings, rather than just the bride receiving a ring as has been customary. Following the signing of the wedding registry, the newlyweds made their way back down the aisle and emerged at the steps of St. George's to rapturous applause. They boarded a landau and treated the spectators lining the streets of Windsor to a carriage procession, which culminated with a gorgeous ride down the famous "long walk" leading up to the George IV gateway of Windsor Castle. A luncheon was given at the castle by Her Majesty the Queen, while the Prince of Wales hosted a reception for close friends and family later that evening at Frogmore House on the Windsor estate.

Earlier that day, the Queen announced that Prince Harry was being created Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton, and Baron Kilkeel, titles that Meghan also holds since becoming his wife. The newlyweds are now officially known as Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The Duchess of Sussex wore a gown from the designer house of Givenchy, with a sixteen-foot veil trailing her, embroidered with floral emblems of all fifty-three countries of the Commonwealth, and anchored by Queen Mary's diamond bandeau tiara. The tiara was made in 1932, with its centerpiece being a spectacular brooch dating back to 1893 when it was presented as a wedding gift to the Duke of Sussex's great-great-grandmother, Princess Mary of Teck, for her marriage to the Duke of York (later King George V).

Being sixth in line to the throne, the wedding of the Duke of Sussex did not hold as much significance for the state and the dynasty as the 2011 nuptials of his brother, the Duke of Cambridge. For these reasons, foreign leaders were not invited, and neither did any members of European royal families attend. Nevertheless, the prince's popularity and his role as a senior member of the Royal Family, being that he is a son of the future king, meant that public interest would be high. It must be said that of all the guests at the wedding, the one who put on the most admirable displays of gallantry was the groom's father, the Prince of Wales. His decision to escort the bride down the aisle in the absence of her father was gentlemanly all on its own, and this was emphasized to an even greater extent with the way he treated Meghan's mother. When he and Miss Ragland accompanied the bridal couple to sign the wedding registry, the Prince gallantly held out his hand and escorted her out of her seat, and then offered his arm to Miss Ragland as the congregation made their way out on the steps of St. George's following the conclusion of the ceremony. If there has ever been any doubt about the manners and kindness of the Prince of Wales, then the behavior of His Royal Highness towards his new in-laws on Saturday should dispel any such notions. He deserves widespread admiration for the manner in which he conducted himself on his son's special day.

We here at About Royalty wish the Duke and Duchess of Sussex many years of happiness and the hopes that they will create a happy and healthy family together.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Cinco de Mayo - Reflecting on Mexico's Ill-fated Experiments with Monarchy

Today, May 5th, a.k.a. Cinco de Mayo, is renowned in parts of Mexico, and especially in the United States, as a celebration of Mexican culture, Mexican food, and, perhaps most notably, Mexican liquor. The fascinating story behind the historic events of Cinco de Mayo correlates with one of the two attempts at monarchy that Mexico experimented with in the 19th century. 
Archduke Maximilian of Austria, later Emperor of Mexico

Cinco de Mayo became a holiday to commemorate the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862. This marked a surprise victory for Mexico against the invading army of France sent by Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, in what turned out to be a cynical and disastrous attempt to extend French imperialism. The whole skirmish began in 1861, when Benito Juarez, President of Mexico, defaulted on his country's massive foreign debts to various European powers. Incensed by Mexico's failure to pay, Emperor Napoleon III sent a task force along with troops from Great Britain and Spain to land at Veracruz, Mexico, to force the Mexican government into honoring its debts. While the British and Spanish drew up an agreement with Juarez and subsequently left the country alone, Napoleon III decided to further his involvement in Mexico as an opportunity to expand French imperial influence. More French troops arrived in Mexico and began pushing inland. 

On May 5, 1862, General Ignacio Zaragoza led his troops into battle near the town of Puebla de Los Angeles and scored a surprise victory against a larger, better-trained French battalion. While the Battle of Puebla was not a decisive one, news of the Mexican victory spread across the country and rallied feelings of patriotism against the foreign invaders. Four days later, President Juarez declared that May 5 would be celebrated as a holiday to commemorate the victory achieved by Mexico on that day. The commemoration continues to this day, despite it being admittedly more popular in the United States than in Mexico itself. 

Maximilian and Charlotte depart from Europe for Mexico.
Yet there is more to the story beyond Cinco de Mayo. In fact, the success of May 5, 1862 proved to be a short-lived one. The French ultimately succeeded in overrunning Mexico and the following year Napoleon's scheme went into effect. The Archduke Maximilian of Austria was approached with an offer to become Emperor of Mexico. A small faction of wealthy, conservative, and landowning Mexican elites presented the offer to the archduke, believing that the creation of a monarchy would lend support to an aristocratic class which they would make up. Maximilian, the brother of Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria, was encouraged by Napoleon III to accept the crown with French military support to help secure his newly-minted throne. 

Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte, daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium, made their way from Europe to Veracruz, arriving with great pomp as well as French troops guarding them on the way to the capital. The new Emperor and Empress installed themselves at Chapultepec Castle, atop a hill overlooking Mexico City. While the imperial couple were sincere in their desire to serve the Mexican people, their subjects were deeply unhappy with the foreign monarchy that had been imposed upon them. The presence of French troops was the only element preserving Maximilian's shaky throne, as uprisings and Franco-Mexican clashes frequently erupted all across the country. 

Mexico's northern neighbor, the United States, had been too distracted by its own bloody civil war to get involved. Once the war ended, however, the American government made clear to Napoleon III their strong opposition to a monarchy imposed by foreign powers so close to their shores. In 1866, responding to American pressure as well as the cost of maintaining a military presence there, Napoleon III withdrew French troops from Mexico. Emperor Maximilian now stood as a vulnerable figure, with defeat inevitable. The French emperor advised him to flee back to Europe, but Maximilian refused, delusional in his belief that he owed his life to the service of Mexico. Empress Charlotte raced across the Atlantic to appeal directly to Napoleon, begging him not to withdraw military support for her husband's throne. Charlotte's requests were refused, and at an audience with the Pope she went hysterical and slipped towards a nervous collapse. Sadly for the empress, all of her efforts to save her husband failed, and she would never see her beloved Maximilian again. On May 16, 1867, Maximilian was captured by Mexican forces and sentenced to death. President Juarez had admired Maximilian as a person, but denounced his involvement in the foreign invasion of his country and refused appeals from European heads of state to spare the emperor's life. On June 19, 1867, Maximilian von Habsburg, Emperor of Mexico was executed by firing squad in the town of Queretaro, thus ending the short-lived Second Mexican Empire. 
Execution of Emperor Maximilian

This bizarre and disastrous affair was not the first time that Mexico tried its hand at monarchy, however. The First Mexican Empire had briefly existed some forty years before. 

Augustin de Iturbide
After Mexico broke free from the Spanish crown in 1821, the country declared itself to be the independent Mexican Empire. King Ferdinand VII of Span was actually invited through this initial declaration to resume his position as monarch of Mexico albeit ruling it as a separate nation entirely independent of his throne in Spain. If he did not want the crown, he could offer it to a member of the Spanish royal family of his choosing, but Spain's refusal to recognize Mexico's independence at all led to a full severance of any ties with the former motherland. Instead, the Mexican Empire would be ruled over by General Augustin de Iturbide, who had been instrumental in leading Mexico's final push towards victory against the Spanish army during the wars of independence. He was proclaimed Emperor Augustin I on May 19, 1822, and crowned on July 21 at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City. Augustin's wife, Ana Maria de Huarte, was likewise crowned as his empress consort. 

The reign of Augustin I proved short and unstable. Severe economic strain, the withholding of political recognition from a number of foreign powers, and competing factions within the country made life difficult for the emperor. After less than a year on the throne, Emperor Augustin decided to abdicate on March 19, 1823. The imperial family went into exile, but the following year Augustin returned and unsuccessfully attempted to retake control of Mexico. He was captured and executed on July 19, 1824. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Britain Welcomes a New Prince

The British royal family is getting two new Royal Highnesses in 2018, and the first of them made his arrival this week - a second son for Prince William and his wife Catherine. The other Royal Highness joining the ranks of the House of Windsor will be Meghan Markle once she marries the newborn prince's uncle, Prince Harry, in just a few weeks.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their son, Prince Louis.

On Monday 23 April, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her third child, a son. The little prince was born at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, and his father, the Duke of Cambridge, was present at the birth. Four days after his birth, Kensington Palace announced the infant's name and title - His Royal Highness Prince Louis Arthur Charles of Cambridge. As is tradition following the birth of a member of the royal family, Louis received 21-gun salutes fired off from Hyde Park and the Tower of London. 

Prince Louis is fifth in line to the British throne, and his birth made history as it marked the first time that a British prince did not supersede an elder sister in the line of succession. This stems from the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, where inheritance of the British crown abides by the principle of absolute primogeniture to allow firstborn children to take precedence in the line of succession regardless of their gender. This new law applies to any legitimate dynast in line for the British throne who is born after October 2011. In the case of newborn Prince Louis, he does not replace his elder sister, Princess Charlotte, in the line of succession. Under the previous order, Louis would have replaced Charlotte as fourth in line and she would have been fifth. This was the case with their grand-aunt, Princess Anne, the sister of their grandfather, Prince Charles. Anne is the second-born child of Queen Elizabeth II, but the births of her younger brothers, Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964, meant that she was pushed down behind them in the line of succession even though she was already fourteen years old by the time of Edward's birth. 

Prince Louis of Battenberg, grandfather of
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
The announcement of Louis's name generated a considerable amount of surprise from the public, as public polls had strongly favored either Arthur, James or Albert. Louis is not a common name for the British royals, although it does have significant family connections. The little prince Louis is the namesake of his great-great-great-grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg, who was the maternal grandfather of little Louis's great-grandfather, Prince Philip. Louis of Battenberg was a German prince who married a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and rose through the ranks of the British Royal Navy to become First Sea Lord. However, the onset of World War I and a rise in anti-German tensions throughout Britain made Louis's position within the navy highly unpopular, and he reluctantly stepped down from his prestigious role. Further insult was added to injury in July 1917, when Louis's cousin, King George V, undertook a complete wipe-out of the British royal family's German connections. In addition to changing the name of his own dynasty from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, King George also asked his German relatives who were living in Britain to give up any Germanic titles of their own. Prince Louis of Battenberg thus renounced the Battenberg title for himself and his children, and translated their name into the more English-sounding Mountbatten. King George compensated Louis with the noble title Marquess (Marquis) of Milford-Haven, but the loss of his princely rank stung Louis for some time. 

Lord Louis Mountbatten with his grandnephew, Prince Charles
The name Louis also honors the newborn Prince Louis of Cambridge's great-great-grand-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was the youngest son of the aforementioned Prince Louis of Battenberg and uncle to Prince Philip. Incensed when his father was hounded out of office as First Sea Lord as well as having to give up their princely rank, the young Louis Mountbatten vowed to avenge his family's humiliation. He did so in spectacular fashion, becoming First Sea Lord himself many years later as well as the last Viceroy of India before it gained independence from the British Empire. Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA in 1979, an event which devastated his grandnephew, Prince Charles, who had looked to Louis as something of a surrogate father. In addition to his own name being one of his newborn grandson's middle names, Prince Charles will no doubt be pleased to have this grandchild's first name pay tribute to his beloved late uncle.  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Yugoslav Princess Attempts to Save Granddaughter from Accused Sex Trafficking Group

Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and her daughter, actress Catherine Oxenberg
HRH Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia has been called upon by her daughter, actress Catherine Oxenberg, to help save her granddaughter from the influence of accused sex cult NXIVM. NXIVM's leader, Keith Raniere, was recently arrested in Mexico and extradited by US authorities on sex trafficking charges, and one of Raniere's protogees, Smallville actress Allison Mack, also faces criminal charges for helping Raniere operate a "sex cult" within NXIVM. Oxenberg's eldest daughter, 26-year-old India Oxenberg, began her involvement with NXIVM seven years ago and has reportedly severed contact with her mother following multiple attempts to convince her to end her relationship with Raniere's group. Oxenberg has gone public about her daughter's situation and believes NXIVM is a cult which brainwashes its followers. NXIVM garnered attention after former members revealed that they had been branded with cauterized pens and forced to have sexual relations with Raniere. Oxenberg says her attempts to stage an intervention with India have proved unsuccessful, and that she called on Princess Elizabeth as a last-ditch effort to save her daughter from the group's influence. The recent arrests of Keith Raniere and Allison Mack could lead to India Oxenberg facing legal troubles of her own if it is discovered that she has somehow been involved in the alleged sex trafficking. 

Catherine Oxenberg and her daughter, India.
Catherine Oxenberg is best known to audiences for her role as Amanda Carrington on the hit 1980s television series Dynasty. Oxenberg also portrayed the late Princess Diana in the 1982 CBS TV movie The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana; Diana's former husband, Prince Charles, is Oxenberg's second cousin in real life. She was married to actor Casper van Diem (known for his role in the 1997 film Starship Troopers), and has two daughters with him in addition to India from a previous relationship. Oxenberg appeared with Van Diem and her children in the short-lived Lifetime reality series So I Married a Princess (despite her mother's royal title, Oxenberg herself is not actually a princess). 

Jelisaveta Karađorđević, a.k.a.
Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia 
Oxenberg's mother, Princess Elizabeth (Serbian: Jelisaveta), is the only daughter of Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, who ruled the country as regent on behalf of the underage King Peter II from 1934 to 1941. Oxenberg's maternal grandmother, Princess Olga of Greece, was a first cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Princess Elizabeth was the first member of the deposed Karađorđević dynasty to return to Yugoslavia (which no longer exists and has since been broken up into the countries of Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina) after the Communist government of Josep Tito abolished the monarchy in 1945. Elizabeth's second cousin once removed, Crown Prince Alexander, is the pretender to the Serbian throne and head of the House of Karađorđević.