Monday, July 17, 2017

Short Reflection on the Romanovs' Martyrdom.

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the majestic, imperial Viennese funeral of Otto von Habsburg, by pretence Emperor-King of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia. While admiring the spectacular pageantry, the fascinating historical legacy of the former crown, I could not stop thinking how good it was for European nations to have such strong bonds with their living history, to be able to witness such ceremonial, the fruit of a continuous evolution of power going back to the Roman Empire, through the Church and via the birth of national states in the Middle Ages, through the later evolution of the Holy Roman Empire in central Europe. Upon hearing the beautiful Kayserhymne sung to the beautiful tune "Austria", I realised how these institutions are an important treasure to keep, a treasure that made us who we are; monarchies shaped our culture, commissioned our art, peacefully (or less peacefully) supported the role of the Church in our society, in a fashion that dates back to Emperor Constantine and with an even more ancient ceremonial. I am not being nostalgic, or perhaps I am, but I certainly don't believe in anachronisms, the existence of monarchies today isn't one, if they would humbly serve their people. I do believe that monarchies are a gift to our societies, forgive me for my opinion, but they are much more so than republics which lack this fascinating and emotional side, they also represent impartiality and continuity above any earthly matter and because our rulers of ages past shaped this our European culture, how can we not be grateful? A recent Austrian study stated that despite the country is now a republic the Imperial Habsburg heritage is the main reason tourists visit the country - in the form of their legacy, their palaces, churches and so much more and I believe this is very much applicable to anywhere else: in Italy; from the Doges of Venice or the Medici of Florence, to the Popes of Rome; to the Prussian or Austrian Emperors to the monarchs of England, France and Spain. The imperial legacy of the Habsburg was so strong that when the Emperor-to be died in 2011, Hungarian Parliament held a moment of silence, bad legacies are often forgotten or forced to be forgotten by common sense.

My mind can only go to our own Anglican Defender of the Faith: Queen Elizabeth II, the fruit of a long lasting line of monarchs going back more than a thousand years, keeping the kingdom together through continuity and by simply being above any earthly matter, a neutral guide to a nation, not elected but anointed, not responding to the people, but serving it, only under God. Also, it is a matter of fact that the English Crown, which is entirely self sufficient is in fact a matter of pride but also revenue for the United Kingdom because of the tourism and merchandising it fuels. Frankly, it also makes English public life much more interesting, from the Abbey services to the Trooping of Colour, it is without doubt that a crown is a perfect link between history and modernity that truly gives a country a strong self-identity and I believe all of Europe should begin to appreciate this its heritage.

But what is the point of this article? Nicholas II, the last Tzar of Russia, one of the most ancient and most refined nations of Europe, was born on May 6, 1868 (from the Julian calendar, which was used in Russia until 1918) in Pushkin, Russia. He inherited the throne when his father, Alexander III, died in 1894. Although he believed in autocracy, he was eventually forced to create an elected legislature. Nicholas II’s handling of Bloody Sunday and World War I incensed his subjects and led to his abdication. Bolsheviks executed him and his family on the night of July 16-17, 1918, in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
Today we remember his execution, as of 2018 occurred 100 years ago, Russian Bolsheviks murdered Tzar Nicholas II and his family, including the young children. The Tzar of Russia was among the most powerful crowned heads of Europe, the Russian court was among the most refined of its time and the Romanov family had reigned in Russia for about 500 years, it is as if the Stuarts were still reigning today - the Tzars helped to make Russia, despite its distance from France or Britain, a true European nation, through its arts, culture and political scene. Unfortunately, the Romanov were only the last martyrs of an European revolution, this case that of the the Communists. Sadly, the Romanov, whom most Russian still praise will not be back, but one would hope their martyrdom would prove the sadness revolutions can bring and be a mark as well as a sign of hope. One could easily notice that there are several points in common with between earlier European revolutions and the Bolshevik revolution - sometimes they were about monarchs who might have been out of touch with their people and reigning under absolute power. But is the only way to change that murder?

Did Charles I and Louis XVI have to die? Would bad monarchs die for the apostolic faith in England or would bad monarchs wish their sacrificial blood to bring calm and felicity among the French people? What are these common points? Revolutions are usually started by few who intoxicate the most unhappy spheres of society and do not lead them into a successful way to improve their condition, but instead use them as a mean to get to their own goal: power and a dictatorial type of government: whether it is the Puritanism of Cromwell or the Reign of Terreur of Robespierre up to the Communism that brought down Russia's credibility as a nation, as well as its economy, for a whole century. The point of this post is not to convince anyone about the grandeur of past monarchies but simply to understand that not everything is at it seems - that most of what we must be thankful for, as nationals of our own countries, derives from our past and these institutions shaped our past. Fortunately the English monarchy was restored, but when we talk about France or Russia, we are talking about millenary institutions and I do believe it is just plain wrong that in such a small time they were erased for ever, mercilessly never to be back; and for whom arts, literature, music and all that shaped our European culture were composed.

These revolutions also led the path for the end of the Prussian and Austrian empires whose legacies and history were also extremely fascinating, instead we all know what happened after their end - nowadays we have the idea that only republics can be real forms of democracy. It is not so. On a lighter note, we left the world of Tchaikovsky, Sissi, Lully and the great palaces of Vienna, Salzburg or St. Petersburg or the French Chateaux for (allow me to say it) boring republican normality - in Germany and Italy the President of the Republic receives almost regal respects, is that democratic? In a parliamentary republic the President is essentially an unelected politician who carries all the duties of the royal family, Italy's one lives in the Quirinal, Europe's largest palace, guarded by a whole dressed-up cavalry regiment. Why not have a royal family! Monarchies can be perfect examples of liberal democracies under the rule of law, as Britain, Norway or Sweden, we can't certainly say the same about Erdogan's Turkey or Putin's Russia. I hope these horrors won't be repeated and I hope we will begin to appreciate our past and the respect for the sacred institution of the crown, the beauty of neutrality and continuity and a line that goes back to the origin of Western civilisation. Today we remember the slaughter of an innocent man who was instructed to rule under God in the way he did, and of his family and children, that the greed of some may never again prove in the death of other people of God. 

We remember the martyrdom of the Romanovs, 
may the Holy Family of Russia and Saint Mary the Virgin, pray for us.

1 comment:

  1. Good essay. The deaths of the Romanovs remains a memory for me from "Dr. Zhivago," when it seemed that there could never be another royal Romanov.