Thursday, 5 February 2015

True portrait of a Catholic monarchy or "overly roseate picture"?

Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Francis Joseph I of Austria-Hungary

On the Catholicism Pure and Simple Blog my Catholic Monarchy post was re-posted and comments came in.
Many misunderstood that:
(1)   The film Sissi was, as I said, a stylised and idealised view of the period (albeit fundamentally historically accurate). No-one pretends that it is anything other. It is surprising that apparently intelligent adults have to be told this.
(2)   I was not suggesting that this – or any – Catholic monarchy was flawless or perfect. How could it be? No merely human society ever is. I am surprised that anyone has to re-make this obvious point but seemingly it does need to be made.
(3)   On the other hand, the Austrian and Holy Roman Empires, no matter how humanly flawed they were, also were uniquely blessed and approved by the Church as the true successors of the first Christian Roman Empire and as having a special place in Christendom and among Christian nations. The Emperor was, in the Church’s teaching and understanding, the supreme temporal equivalent of the supreme spiritual authority, the Pope.

One academic (nom de plume “The Raven”) decided to weigh in on the contrary side and I responded.
I reproduce the correspondence below.
Blessed Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Charles I of Austria,
the last ruler of the Empire of Austria-Hungary

As can be seen, "The Raven", in saying that he yearns only for one King, namely Christ, rather misses the point that no-one is "yearning" for a Catholic monarchy as if it were a substitute for Christ but precisely because we, as Catholics, have a duty to try to build a just, peaceful, charitable, sustainable Christian society. That, after all, is precisely the role of the laity.
What he also fails entirely to understand is that one cannot "yearn" for Christ if one does not also desire what Christ desires and Christ shows us this through His Church. And there is no doubt but that His Church desired and favoured, in very signal and repeated ways, that the Christian Roman Empire be at the centre and heart of Roman Catholic Christendom.
How one can simply ignore or reject that and yet still claim to "yearn" for Christ, is pehaps not a question that admits a ready answer.
It seems somewhat to be saying "I know Thou, O Christ, art all powerful and all wise but I think I know better than Thee what constitutes Christian government".

What Christian can ever say that?

Forgive me for coming late to this argument, but I think that we are painting an overly roseate picture of the final centuries of the Habsburg monarchy.
I will lay my cards on the table at the outset, the only reasons for perpetuating the monarchy in the United Kingdom that I find persuasive are that:
(i) I am persuaded of the personal qualities of the current resident of Windsor Castle (I am sadly ignorant of the personal qualities of our lawful monarch, Francis II); and
(ii) If we became a republic at this time we would either end up with a US style system (which would probably leave us with President Blair) or an Irish style system (which would leave us with some political has-been or never-really been like Baroness Ashton).
My preference would be to return to a true and Godly elected monarchy as was the case before William the Bastard invaded these lands, or as pertained in Poland or Venice.
But with specific regard to the Holy Roman Empire, and its successor, the Habsburg Dual Monarchy, the situation was really very complicated.
It is true that the Blessed Carl was a man of heroic virtue and would have made an excellent Emperor and that he could have saved the Empire and its peoples from great suffering in two world wars had he ascended the throne a decade earlier.
However, the Empire and Monarchy was rotten from its very heart: in the late Eighteenth century Joseph II had pursued a path of “Enlightenment” reform, closing monasteries, undermining the Church, imposing German on his subjects, nurturing proto-nationalistic ideas.
After the shock of the first great fascist war (that instigated by the French and Buonaparte), the Habsburg rulers set about creating a “modern” state after the model of Prussia and England: they did not seek to return to the status quo ante of a Catholic state. 
Under Franz-Josef there was initially significant change and modernisation in the state, but his long and autocratic reign eventually degenerated into stasis. 
The frozen aspect of society and the state at this time allowed the newly rekindled flames of nationalism take hold in Czech, Dalmatia and Hungary, as well as the sort of toxic German nationalism in Vienna that was becoming common currency in Berlin (vile anti-semitic views were current at court and particularly the group around Franz-Ferdinand, not to mention a strong (albeit fully reciprocated) hatred of the Magyars).
With a few notable exceptions, among them the Blessed Carl, Archduchess Sophie (wife to Franz-Ferdinand) and the “Old Gentleman” (Franz-Josef), the monarchy that stumbled into the First World War was already divided, corrupt, modernist and intoxicated with nationalism and racial ideas.
(The Empress Sisi being an interesting case: compare her story and treatment with that of the late Princess of Wales; history may not repeat itself, but sometimes the scribe copies the same line twice in error).
By the end of the war, which was ultimately won by the Orthodox Serbs in the east, everything had utterly fractured: the destruction of the Empire led to economic hardship for the majority of the population, as well as instability, corruption and misery, but you would have been hard-pressed to find many people in Czech, Slovakia, Dalmatia or Ukraine who yearned for the return of the monarchy in the inter-war period (and even fewer today). 
It should say a lot to us all that the Götterdämmerung of the Habsburg monarchy came in a war that they chose to wage against fellow Christians, instead of the Turk or the forces of secularism.
I, for one, yearn for no king but Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and want nothing to do with despots who call themselves “Caesar” in Vienna, Constantinople or Moskow.
~~ + ~~
The Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Este,
heir to the throne but gunned down in cold blood,
with his pregnant wife, Archduchess Sophie,
at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914,
which murder started the First World War
He followed that up with this:
Let me be blunt, many of the comments that you direct to me are simply untrue:
(1) The anti-semitism and anti-magyar sentiments of the circle around Franz Ferdinand are well attested in Fran Ferdinand’s own letters and diaries and the contemporary accounts of people who met him. The following is a brief and sympathetic account of the man: 
(2) Anti-semitism was a top-down program in Austria-Hungary and had been since the seventeenth century with the expulsion of Jews from Vienna by Leopold I (long before any popular assemblies could stew in any cod-scientific “racial theories”); the moderate relaxation of restrictions on Jews that occurred in the nineteenth century was vigorously opposed by a faction at court that included Franz Ferdinand. That Bl Carl stands out as being a better man than his contemporaries should not come as a surprise to you.
(3) Hungary certainly wanted to restore Bl Carl to the throne of Hungary, but there was no appetite in post war Hungary to tie themselves to Austria or to restore anything other than the Kingdom of Hungary.
(4) You manage to elide the entire inter-war period by jumping straight from the end of Habsburg rule to communism and fascism (and totally ignore the resistance to communism and fascism put up by former subjects of the Empire in Poland and Czechoslovakia).
(5) Yes, I focussed on Joseph II, but the rest of the Habsburg dynasty have little to recommend them, do you want me to list the extravagances of the magic obsessed Rudolph II? or the Freemasonry of Francis I? or the long history of the consolidation of the Habsburg grasp on the monarchy at the expense of the historic constitution of the empire and the interests of the peoples of the empire? or how about Francis II’s collaboration with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and proclamation of the new Austrian Empire? or Franz Josef’s proposals for the union of Austria and Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II?
And that’s just scratching the surface.
And my point about the state of stasis under Franz Josef was that he had erected a “modern” nineteenth century monarchy in Austria-Hungary (it was already far from being the idealised vision of a Catholic state that you nurture) and then everything was frozen – everything from railway building to telegraph construction was slowed and hampered, with the result that Austria-Hungary was even worse prepared than Russia to fight the sort of industrialised warfare that they committed themselves to in the First World War and in a worse position to deliver a good life in peacetime to its citizens,
(6) You are also guilty of conflating the Holy Roman Empire with the Austrian Empire – the Habsburgs colluded in the destruction of the first to guarantee their ownership of the second.
(7) While you are right to say that the Serb “Black Hand” may have fired the shot that started the first world war, the Austrian general staff had been planning an invasion of Serbia for years beforehand, it should have come as no surprise to anyone that the Austrians seized on the murder of Franz Ferdinand and his wife and driver as the causus belli: it saved them significant trouble in manufacturing some other provocation. As anyone with a passing familiarity with the outbreak of the first world war would know, there were ample opportunities for all sides to prevent the war from happening, but the real-politic of the Austrian court had been itching to start a war against Serbia. And I would hardly describe the invasion of a second country as being justified when the murder was committed on the territory of the Empire by a citizen of the Empire (it would be akin to the United Kingdom invading the Republic of Ireland in response to the assassination of Lord Mountbatten).
(8) You seem to ignore the fact that Austria-Hungary allied itself with the Turk in the first world war, against its fellow Christians. And the Turk was still an active threat throughout the Balkans – the Balkan wars of the period 1890-1910 should have alerted you to that – or are the Balkans not part of Europe now?
(9) I made the point that people were worse off after the dissolution of the Empire (people usually are materially poorer after the dissolution of a single market and the re-organisation of polities rarely goes well after the chaotic withdrawal of central authority), but the point remains, very few people in post-war Czech, Slovakia, Dalmatia, Poland, Ukraine, Ruthenia or Dalmatia wanted a return to the Imperial system (my original list specifically excluded Hungary, but you chose to ignore that).
(10) And as for the rottenness or otherwise of Austria-Hungary, one only has to look to the military and economic collapse that followed quickly on the declaration of war as evidence for the corruption of the body politic (a good example being the supply chain chaos created because the general staff had plans to mobilise against Russia or against Serbia, but those plans conflicted and they had not foreseen that they would end up fighting against both simultaneously, and that’s before we get into the completely futile waste of human life involved in the war against Italy).
(11) As I’d inferred in my original comment: some of the individual members of the ruling family were good sorts; some of them were devout Catholics; a significant number of them were utter rotters. Their actions in Czech provoked the creation of a schismatic church, which described itself as “Hussite”, in Vienna they had cultivated a milieu that embraced atheism and modernism (there is a good reason that this period of Viennese history is called “decadent”), they had advanced their family interest at the expense of the institution of the Holy Roman Empire and created a “modern” centralised state in Nineteenth century Austria.
(12) The points that you address to me about Lloyd George, Clemenceau et al are ill-taken; I made no attempt to hold up Western liberal democracy as an ideal. You would be better to address the points that I actually did make, instead of the points that you would have liked me to make.
I am sure that you will remain obdurately convinced in your viewpoints, but, to be blunt, you undermine your argument by selectively ignoring the facts that contradict the case that you want to present.
I acknowledge that, even in its death-throws, there was much to admire in the Austro-Hungarian empire, but I’m not going to pretend that it was anything like a paragon of a well governed Catholic state.
~~ + ~~

Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Charlemagne,
the re-founder of the Christian Roman Empire in the West

After this, I replied in full thus: 

Dear Raven,
I respond to your points.
(1) Your source for saying that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was “anti-Semitic and anti-Magyar” is a throwaway line in a newspaper article by Adrian Bridge saying no more than parenthetically that the Archduke was “vehemently anti-Hungarian and anti-Semitic”. I think you will have to admit that is hardly evidence of any degree of cogency!
But you claim that it is well attested in his own letters and diaries. Can you quote some?
(2) It was notorious amongst European monarchs that the Habsburgs supported and encouraged the Jews better than any other monarchs, after the popes. If anything was “top-down” it was philosemitism, not anti-Semitism.
Kaiser Leopold I (1640–1705), Holy Roman Emperor (1658–1705), King of Bohemia (1656–1705), and King of Hungary (1655–1705), on his election as Holy Roman Emperor in 1658 confirmed all charters which had been granted in Austria and in the Holy Roman Empire by his father Kaiser Ferdinand III and he expressly ordered that Jewish life and property be protected (1660, 1665, 1669).
In 1670, however, he responded to the city’s request that the 150 Jewish families be re-settled elsewhere in the Empire, away from Vienna, in spite of papal intervention, and he was prevailed upon to do so because numerous Jews were acting as spies for the threatening Turks (Jews were tolerated under the Ottomans provided they paid their Jewish taxes). Some Jews had spied successfully in Spain and for the invading Protestants in the 30 years’ war, to the grave detriment of Catholic Christendom.
That the Turkish threats were far from chimerical is evidenced by the massive Turkish overland invasion and battle of Vienna in 1683 which the Empire would not have been able to withstand but for the arrival of their Polish allies under King Jan Sobieski.
Anti-Catholic propaganda regularly fails to take into account the facts or the circumstances e.g. war and invasion and is often biased, unequal and lop-sided in its treatment of the subject. One should be wary of taking it at face value. I am well aware of the existence of anti-Semitism in all parts of the world but the Habsburgs were generally notably free of the taint of that particular prejudice.
Furthermore, Leopold re-admitted to Court, Jews such as Samuel Oppenheimer in 1676 and Samson Wertheimer in 1684, and in 1695 he permitted the printing of the Talmud in Germany. At Oppenheimer’s request, he prohibited (1700) the circulation of Johann Andreas Eisenmenger’s Entdecktes Judenthum (“Judaism Unmasked”, a book attacking Judaism by quotes from the Talmud).
Around 1150, when the dukes of Babenberg made Vienna their residence, they brought Jews into the city, who settled in the area of today’s Judenplatz (Jew square), worked as money lenders and tradespeople, and enjoyed the sovereigns’ special protection.
The issue of expulsion only became live at the time of the Turkish Wars in the seventh century, when, as had occurred in Spain in earlier times, some Jews acted as spies to assist the Turkish invaders.
In 1623 the 130 Jewish families in Vienna were resettled between the forks of the Danube, an area they had themselves chosen. They were later removed from Vienna and sent to other parts of the Empire. 50 went to Prussian to be re-settled.
However, once the Turks had been defeated, they came back to live in the old Judenplatz which had been re-named Leopoldstadt.
The law of 1867 brought them equal rights, completely and without qualification (is this the Habsburg “modernisation” you object to?).
An immediate consequence was a wave of Jewish immigrants into the capital and imperial residence.
Before the emancipation, in 1860, 6,200 Jews lived in Vienna, which represented a 2.2 percent share of the population; in 1870, there were 40,200 Jews, which was 6.6 percent; in 1880 the numbers were 72,600 and 10.1 percent, respectively. In 1890 Vienna had 118,500 Jews.
This percentage remained a constant in the rapidly growing city. In 1900, 147,000, and in 1910, 175,300 Jews lived in Vienna. These figures exclude lapsed or secularised Jews.
It was only in the latter stages of the 19th century that anti-Semitism, meaning hostility on the basis of race, gained ground. Following the criterion of ethnic anti-Semitism, which had become fashionable by then – that is to say, including assimilated and baptized Jews – the numbers of Jews were estimated as much larger.
Among the Dual Monarchy’s cities, Vienna had by no means the largest share of Jews. In Cracow they represented 50 percent, in Lemberg (Lvov/Lviv) and Budapest, 25 percent, and in Prague, 10 percent. Compared to other large cities in Europe, however, Vienna’s share was very high. The Jewish share in Berlin was between 4 and 5 percent, and in Hamburg 2 to 3 percent.
The euphoria triggered by the freedom the immigrants had finally achieved, motivated many of them to great achievements. All doors seemed to be open to those who worked hard. Emancipation fanned their desire to become respected members of society by way of achievement and education.
The writer Jakob Wassermann, noted :
“The court, the petit bourgeoisie, and the Jews gave the city its character. That the Jews as the most mobile group kept all the other groups constantly on the move, is no longer astonishing.”
I challenge your wholly unsupported claim that the new laws were “vigorously opposed by a faction at court that included Franz Ferdinand”. Where is the evidence?
That Blessed Karl stands out as being a better man than many of his contemporaries does not mean that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was an anti-Semite. As a matter of fact, he and Karl were very close to each other and shared numerous ideas, not least for the federalising of the Empire and recognition of its national groups.
It was the Hungarians who opposed this and wanted to dominate half of the Empire (they succeeded in so doing in 1867 at the Märische Ausgleich). Their nationalism was chauvinistic, racist and threatened the Empire which is why both Franz Ferdinand and Karl opposed it.
In the end, the racist Magyar leaders helped destroy the Empire with the consequence that they fell first under the Nazi-allied Regent Horthy and then under Communism. That is hardly good progress.

(3) Hungarians not only wanted to restore Blessed Emperor Karl as King Karoly to the throne of Hungary, but wanted him because he was a Habsburg, the traditional royal-imperial family.
However, their leaders’ attachment to fanatical and racist nationalism, not least at the expense of the minority nations like Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia, Ruthenia and Slovakia, was highly destructive. This led their small clique of leaders to ally with Hitler before World War II (who sent Adolf Eichmann to expel and exterminate the Hungarian Jews) and, after the war, they fell into the Communist Zone, the worst fate that could befall any people.
There was indeed such an appetite in post-war Hungary to throw off the shackles of Communism and to return to the freedom of the past, not least that they enjoyed under Austria, that the Hungarians rose up in 1956 and fought even against the invading Soviet tanks to try to regain their freedom.
The West stood by and allowed them to be utterly crushed by the Soviet tyranny.
(4) You seem to overlook the simple historical fact that the inter-war period in central Europe was but a 21 year period, and a time of chaos, flux, corruption, inflation and depression, in which stability was elusive and was achieved – and that most unsatisfactorily – only by letting in Fascist and fanatically totalitarian parties to rule.
At first, the Allies simply allowed the former monarchies to fall into the hands of Communists of various shades who seized power, in the chaos, in each of the major cities. The Communist rulers were so fanatical and brutal that they were quickly opposed and overthrown. Then came the Right Wing parties.
Hungary was ruled by the Arrow Cross Party, Rumania by the Iron Guard, Germany by the Nazis, and so on, and Poland and Czechoslovakia were no exception.
Despite the extraordinary victory against Communism in 1921 (“the miracle on the Vistula”), Poland was ruled by Josef Pilsudski, a secularist Freemason, and the Sanacja, an authoritarian movement which later broke up into factions and an explicitly Rightist Party under Edward Smigly-Ridz took over.
Czechoslovakia, a hybrid creation of Woodrow Wilson and the post-war treaties, was ruled by the Leftist Freemasons, Edvard Benes and Jan Masaryk, both anti-Catholic. This alienated the almost completely Catholic Slovakia.
The Czech rulers managed to keep the nations together by opposing Hungarian nationalist pretensions (and formed the “Little Entente” with Rumania and Yugoslavia).
By the Munich Agreement, Slovakia was placed under Hungarian control which virtually threw the nation into the arms of the Axis powers and, under Fr Jozef Tiso, a Clerico-Fascist puppet state was set up virtually controlled by the Nazis.
After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reconstituted and Jozef Tiso was hanged in 1947 for collaboration with the Nazis.
More than 80,000 Hungarians and 32,000 Germans were forced to leave Slovakia, in a series of “population transfers” initiated by the Allies at the Potsdam Conference. Note how this was called a “population transfer”, not an expulsion, still less a “pogrom”, and no-one in the West even questions it. In truth, it was an expulsion. This expulsion is still a source of tension between Slovakia and Hungary. Out of about 130,000 Carpathian Germans in Slovakia in 1938, by 1947 only some 20,000 remained.
One’s man’s “population transfer” is another man’s “expulsion” and how one interprets such actions can be heavily influenced by ideology.
The reality is, as I said, chaos ensued from the fall of the Christian monarchies – particularly Austria-Hungary. First Communism, then Fascism and then Communism again, with very little of anything else in between.

(5) Yes, you focused on Joseph II, but he was not at all typical and was unlike most of the rest of the Habsburg dynasty.
 Joseph II stands out precisely because he was so very unlike most other Habsburg rulers.
Your supposed “list” of alleged crimes of the Habsburgs is well wide of the mark.
The Habsburg dynasty, of all European dynasties, had the closest relationship with the Papacy and the strongest support from both Papacy and Church, with rare exceptions and only then because of the very occasional ruler who bucked the trend, like Joseph II.
Time and again the Papacy supported the Habsburg dynasty enthusiastically and warmly, in word, spoken and written, and in deed.
Taking your “list” in turn, Kaiser Rudolf II has been recently re-evaluated by historians who see his patronage of the arts and occult sciences, this leading to scientific discoveries of a genuinely important nature, as a triumph and key part of the Renaissance, while his political failures are seen as a legitimate attempt to create a unified Christian empire, which was undermined by the realities of religious, political and intellectual disintegrations of the time, not least the prelude to the 30 years’ war.
Although raised in his uncle’s Catholic court in Spain, Rudolf was tolerant of Protestantism and other religions including Judaism. He largely backed those whom he thought were the most neutral in the debate, not taking a side or trying to effect restraint.
He was also patron to some of the best contemporary artists, particularly the Mannerists so much that a style of “Rudolfine Mannerism” is often used in art history to describe his patronage of the arts.
He commissioned decorative and other objects of all kinds and in particular mechanical moving devices, clocks, water works, astrolabes, compasses, telescopes and other scientific instruments, all produced by some of the best craftsmen in Europe.
He patronised scientists like Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler and Charles de l’Ecluse.
Elizabeth Jane Weston, a neo-Latin poetess, was also patronised by him.
To deprecate Kaiser Franz I for Freemasonry is to fail to grasp that Freemasonry was originally permitted to Catholics and, indeed, grew partly out of the secret Jacobite groups trying to restore the Catholic Stuarts to the British thrones.
It was only very late in his reign that Freemasonry was condemned as a secret sect and society. Franz left government to his wife, Maria Theresia, who had, in fact, succeeded as Empress before him, save that he controlled the finances and was highly successful thereat.
Your claim to a “long history of the consolidation of the Habsburg grasp on the monarchy at the expense of the historic constitution of the empire and the interests of the peoples of the empire” is also wide of the mark as a criticism of the Habsburgs.
Consolidation, insofar as it occurred at all, was often forced upon the Empire as a consequence of events after the 30 years’ war.
But even so, by 1798 the Empire was still highly decentralised into a whole myriad of small and large duchies, principalities, counties, baronies and lordships and to speak of this being a “consolidation” is to ignore this reality. Indeed, the Empire was mocked by other rulers who had centralised (e.g. in France and England) precisely for NOT being “consolidated”.
To take Kaiser Franz II to task for “collaboration with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and proclamation of the new Austrian Empire” is untenable.
The reality, as history amply reveals, is that he dissolved the Holy Roman Empire on 6 August 1806 after the disastrous defeat of the Third Coalition by Bonaparte at the Battle of Austerlitz because Bonaparte threatened to make himself Holy Roman Emperor and so turn the Empire into a secular empire. Franz thereby saved the Holy Empire from a fate worse than its death.
Finally, your suggestion that Kaiser Franz Josef proposed a union of Austria and Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II is a statement devoid of factual evidence. Upon what basis do you make this statement?
Notoriously, Germany and Austria, under Franz Josef, were at loggerheads throughout the 19th century, each claiming to dominate the German Confederation, but only Austria properly having that right.
The Secularist-Protestant Bismarck put paid to the dispute by declaring war on Austria in 1866, defeating Austria and simply seizing power over the rest of the Confederation and calling it the North German Confederation, thereafter excluding Austria at every turn.
He then created the German Empire which was a liberal Protestant ape of the Austrian Empire and the old Holy Roman Empire but a million miles away from either in spirit and temper, Prussia being a bullying, militarised, secular-Protestant state, whose empire was acquired entirely by wars of aggression.
It is said that the Devil is the “ape” of God and never more so was this true than in Prussia’s aping of Austria and usurping its rightful position.
At no point have I said that Austria-Hungary was an “idealised vision of a Catholic state”. I said it was a charming example.
Austria-Hungary was very far from “frozen” under Kaiser Franz Josef. Everything from railway building to telegraph construction was far from “slowed and hampered” and Austria-Hungary was certainly not ill-prepared to fight the war, still less to be “in a worse position to deliver a good life in peacetime to its citizens”,
On the contrary, Vienna was a highly successful, thriving city and the Empire was delivering higher and higher standards of living to its peoples which it showed every sign of continuing to do.
As to warfare, it is simple historical fact that the Austrians continually had the better of the Italians and simply wiped the Italian army off the map at Caporetto in 1917.
The gap had to be filled by British and French divisions, drawn from other fronts.

(6) That the Austrian Empire was the successor of the Holy Roman Empire is an historical fact. It was also recognised as such by the Church.
As I told you earlier, the Church continued the imperial prayers right up until 1955 when they were removed by Msgr Bugnini.
In 1806, the Church simply transferred its prayers and recognition of the Holy Roman Empire to Austria.
The fact is that the Church itself recognised Austria as the successor of the Holy Roman Empire.
There was no “collusion in destruction”. The Empire had been defeated by Bonaparte at Austerlitz and he threatened to become a secular Caesar.
Austria’s fighting to the bitter end at Austerlitz cannot, by any stretch, be characterised as “collusion”.
(7) Of course the Austrian general staff had been planning, among many other scenarios, an invasion of Serbia for years beforehand since that is precisely what general staffs the world over do – it is their job.
There are probably plans in the Pentagon for the US to invade Canada and Mexico. So what? Contingency plans are what military staff work on all the time.
It was, indeed, no surprise that the Austrians considered the murder of the heir to the throne as a casus belli. Who wouldn’t? As I said in my earlier post, it would be no different if a neighbouring nation assassinated the US President or Vice-President. Can you imagine the outcry?
The Austrians certainly did not “seize” upon the murder as a pretext, or at all. This is another falsehood.
On the contrary, Kaiser Franz Josef repeatedly resisted calls for war from the war-hawks and instead authorised letters stipulating conditions which, although characterised by the far away and, as then, unaffected Anglo-Americans as “unmeetable” were, in fact, eminently meetable, not least the requiring of serious attempts to apprehend the murderers.
This was reasonable given that the whole murder had clearly been planned from Serbia and executed with the connivance, if not actual assistance, of Serbian officials.
If there was any pre-determined plot it was firmly on the Serbian side. The Serbian Black Hand was determined to foment war, trying to bring in the Russians and then re-gain so much of Bosnia-Herzogovina, and other parts of the Empire, as, then and now, they regard as part of their mythical Greater Serbia.
The Austrian so-called “ultimatum” was far less draconian than the preposterously excessive ultimatum delivered, during the Rambouillet Accords, to the Serbian leadership in 1999, which threatened a US take-over of the whole country if Milsosevic and the Serbs did not simply capitulate to the demands of US Secretary of State there and then and, in effect, allow NATO troops to occupy Yugoslavia, freely, anyway.
Of it, Henry Kissinger himself said:
“The Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, an excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that even an angelic Serb could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.”
And this was without any US head of state being assassinated, nor the US itself being in any way threatened, unlike Austria in 1914.
If any Americans, then, criticise Austria’s letter of July 1914, but not Madeleine Albright’s 1999 demands, that looks like pure hypocrisy. We should not do so either.
To liken it to Britain invading the Republic of Ireland for Mountbatten’s murder is also unsustainable.
The government of the Republic of Ireland utterly condemned and repudiated the murder of Mountbatten and one cannot suggest, if you are, that it had any involvement in it, or connived at it, as Serbian officials openly had with the murder of the Archduke.
As a matter of fact, the Russian government, being unready for war (on this I agree with you), pressed the Serbs to accept the Austrian terms and, indeed, the Serbian government did, but the acceptance letter was deliberately stopped at the border by the Black Hand (again) and never reached Austria. The Black Hand wanted war. Not the Habsburg Emperor.
If you have any familiarity with the more extreme Serb nationalist fanatics you will quickly realise that they are beyond reason. For them the world revolves around Serbia and they care not a whit what happens to the rest of the world provided Great Serbia is preserved. It is a matter of record that such Serbs have been indicted and convicted by the War Crimes Tribunal for the most atrocious murders and atrocities and were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
They were no better back in 1914.

(8) The Balkan Wars were in 1912 and 1913. Far from representing a threat from the Ottoman Empire, the reverse is true. These were wars by constituent parts of the Ottoman Empire attempting to break away from an empire that, as anyone with a passing knowledge of history knows, was referred to by most people at the time as “the sick man of Europe”.
ou may, if you wish, consider that the “sick man of Europe” was, in fact, a threat to the peace of Europe, but you will find yourself in a minority of one, I suspect, in that view.
Far from “ignoring” that Austria was allied with Turkey, I specifically mentioned it in my post.
Moreover, I do not think anyone can rightly characterise secularised France as a “fellow Christian” country when its government had been anti-Catholic (often savagely), secular and republican for over 100 years.
(9) For the reasons already adumbrated, I dispute that “very few people in post-war Czech, Slovakia, Dalmatia, Poland, Ukraine, Ruthenia or Dalmatia wanted a return to the Imperial system”. Whilst some undoubtedly did not want it, plenty did and, indeed, thought they were getting some kind of “Empire” or “Reich” when they threw their lot in with the Hitlerite Antichrist. The problem was that the real Empire was no longer on offer. The only choices were extremists of the Left and Right or weak-minded democrats who were ready to capitulate to either extreme.
(10) Your assessment of the military strength and plans of Austria is, as we have already seen, again wide of the mark. There was no “collapse” after the declaration of war, as you assert (without evidence). On the contrary, the Austrian army fought very successfully and decisively and, as I have already said, completely wiped out the Italian army at Caporetto in late 1917.
A passing acquaintance with military planning quickly reveals that all general staffs make numerous and conflicting plans for the defence of the nation so that there are as many options available as possible to cover the contingencies of uncertain political situations. This is nothing unusual.
Your primary assertion that “the Empire and Monarchy was rotten from its very heart” is simply unsustainable, I suggest, on any view.
As for the “futile waste of life” in the war in Italy, that could be said of the entire First World War, on any front.
 The truth is that the secular Freemasonic Italian government had been itching to foment a world war against Austria so that it could seize its long-coveted, and entirely unjustified, “fino al Brennero” which Italian irredentist nationalists (condemned by the Pope) had been aiming at for decades, in treasonous defiance, not only of their due loyalty to the their sovereign, but in scandalous defiance of all morality, honesty, natural law and Christian justice and charity.
Baron Sydney Sonnino (his mother was English and he, himself, a secular Freemason) even persuaded the British and the French (without much difficulty) to enter into the secret Treaty of London in 1916 to give the Italian Freemasons their coveted “fino al Brennero” despite the fact that northern Italy had been ruled by Austria and its imperial forebears for over 1,000 years.
This was a blatantly aggressive claim without the slightest justification and bound to prolong the war even in the face of the most generous offers from the Austrian Emperor.

(11) If you are going to call members of the Imperial family “utter rotters” you’d better have some pretty good evidence to support your view. Do you? Catholic scholars have a particular responsibility to analyse and test the often highly biased and jaundiced view of historic Catholic regimes that proliferate today or else we risk merely doing the work of the enemies of the Church for them.
To suggest that the Hussite heresy was somehow the fault of the Habsburg monarchs is perhaps your most surprising claim.
Hus was burned after arrest at the Council of Constance. King Wenceslaus, a Catholic but on account of his wife soft to the Hussites, died in 1419 and the Hussites staged a revolution burning churches and monasteries (contrary to their pacific and purist ideology) forcing the Emperor Sigismund to use force to restore peace in the kingdom which was now his, following the death of his half-brother.
It was Pope Martin V who called a Crusade against the Hussites, and Joan of Arc threatened to lead a Crusade there on 23 March 1430.
In the 19th century, Austria had no choice but to modernise since it faced enemies on all sides who were threatening its very existence if it did not do so.
Nonetheless, it still remained a fully Catholic state. It was certainly vastly more Catholic than any state calling itself Catholic today, save perhaps the Vatican itself.
Of all the monarchies of Europe, it was the Habsburgs that were most loyal to the Church and who put their family interests after those of the Faith and the Empire. That, perhaps, is partly why it lasted so long.
Indeed, it was said of the Austrian Empire “alii bella gerent, tu felix Austria, nubes” – others make war, but thou, O happy Austria, make love (i.e. marry and extend the bonds of the Empire by marriage, not war).
(12) I am interested in the truth. I have addressed the points you made more than fully and if I challenge you to state your position and you fail to do so, then it is not unreasonable for me to make further challenges.
You criticise Catholic monarchy, particularly the Habsburg monarchy which enjoyed the support of the Church and the Holy See more than any other, and, as successor of the Roman Empire, has a special place in the Christian dispensation, and undoubtedly in the plan of God. But you provide no alternative model nor example to meet your criteria of a state which Christians should be willing to support and uphold.
Christ was born in the Roman Empire, thus sanctifying it to a degree, and St Peter, the first Pope, in his first encyclical letter, tells the Faithful to “Honour the Emperor” [1 Pet 2:17], meaning the Roman Emperor. The great Catholic poet, and Thomist, Dante Alighieri, wrote a whole work explaining the importance of the Empire entitled De Monarchia, the Doctors of the Church warmly defended the rights of the Empire (see e.g. Bellarmine and Aquinas) and the Church, generation after generation, showered blessings and privileges upon the Empire and the Emperor.
This is, without doubt, the most fulsome endorsement of any political system that the Church has ever made, at any time, anywhere. It is remarkable for its consistency and persistence and is unique.
You say you do not defend Western liberal democracy but you do so without pointing to any known regime that meets your rather unrealistic expectations.
In short, you criticise Catholic states that actually existed and enjoyed the blessing and protection of the Church but offer nothing, yourself, by way of your own example of a “well-governed Catholic state”.
This seems to be doing little more than baying at the moon and preaching “pie in the sky” which seems to compromise the proper role of the laity whose task it is to help establish the kingdom of Christ in the temporal sphere.
It is not the laity’s task to sit on the sidelines, sniping at every attempt to build a Christian community, arguing that none will be good enough.
It is the role of the laity to build a Christian society, if it can. But one cannot do that if one has no idea what a Christian society looks like, in practice (rather than in some impractical metaphysical mental landscape or dream).
To ignore the political entity that, above all others, enjoyed the most fulsome support and blessing of the Church, seems a particularly foolhardy approach for any Catholic to endorse.
This is a rational and reasonable approach to take and to characterise it as “obdurate” is, I suggest, not reasonable.


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Hapsburg Restoration Movement said...

Though long the faithless ages run
Yet ever upon our shields is drawn
An eagle darker than the night
That comes before the golden dawn.

Tribunus said...

Thanks HRM!

A delightful prospect. May it be so!


Steve T. said...

I was once on the path to the history professorate, in modern European history, no less, so I am not wholly ignorant of the period.

Tribunus, your response was magnificent. I would have been proud to have authored it.

His, less so.

Bravo, sir.

Tribunus said...

Thank you, Steve, for your kind words. You are a scholar and a gentleman.