Showing posts with label monarchy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monarchy. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Match Made in Hell-King George the IV and Queen Caroline

Royal marriages of times gone by weren't the fairy tale royal romances of modern years. Up until the past few years, royal marriages were political and economic transactions, and little more. While most couples weren't in love, they were expected to remain civil, and many became friends. Some royal couples, however, were royal disasters. But no couple was quite so disastrous as the marriage between the dissolute George IV and his German cousin, Caroline of Brunswick-L√ľneburg.

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Caroline of Brunswick
By age 17, George IV was a known troublemaker. He was fond of women, wine, gambling, and all sorts of immoral flim-flammery. His parents, King George III and Queen Charlotte had quite given up on him, and he was running wild around the country. He was a notorious womanizer with a preference for older women, and liked to build elaborate and ornate palaces (Like the Brighton Pavilion  which was constructed in 1787). In 1785 George contracted an illegal marriage with the twice widowed Maria Fitzherbert, and within the decade was 630,000 pounds in debt.

George was desperate for funds, and the only way he could get parliament to pay his debts was to marry and provide an heir. His marriage with Maria had ended in about 1793, and so on the urging of Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, George agreed to a marriage with his cousin Caroline, whom he had never met.

Caroline was a vivacious and bubbly young woman with some unfortunate hygiene habits. According to contemporary sources Caroline liked to talk and gossip, and enjoyed a good joke. She was very friendly, but was prone to talking about things outside of what was considered appropriate. This alone, wouldn't be a big problem, but she had a bad habit of not changing her underwear, and once sent the English ambassador a tooth she had had pulled. Despite these shortcomings, Caroline was both a protestant and a princess, and was therefor a suitable bride for George.

Their first meeting was on the same level of disaster as the first meeting between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves. Upon being introduced to his cousin, three days before their wedding, George turned to his friend, Lord Malmesbury, and asked for a glass of brandy. He then left the room, calling for his mother, the Queen. Caroline was equally unimpressed, informing Lord Malmesbury in French that George was not nearly as handsome as his portrait.

The couple's rocky start can be attributed not only to a mutual lack of physical attraction, but to the fact that both parties were in love with, or at least involved with, other people. It was an open secret that George had married Maria Fitzherbert, and though he had left her eight years after he was attached to Lady Jersey, and he wasn't going to get rid of her. Caroline, though the identity of her suitor is unknown, definitely had a different man she wished to marry. Upon being asked her opinion on her marriage, she replied:
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George IV
“I am indifferent to my marriage, but not averse to it; I think I shall be happy, but I fear my joy will not be enthusiastic. The man of my choice I am debarred from possessing, and I resign myself to my destiny.” 
Note the "The man of my choice I am debarred from possessing" part.

Despite their lack of attraction and the fact that they were both romantically interested in other people, the couple might have had a decent go of things. Unfortunately, George was an immature dick who was determined to make his new wife miserable right from the very beginning. He installed his mistress, Lady Jersey, as Caroline's Lady of the Bedchamber, and showed up drunk to their wedding. He later demanded the return of several of Caroline's wedding jewels, and gave them to Lady Jersey, who flaunted them in Caroline's presence. On their wedding night, George was so drunk that he passed out on the floor before performing his marital duties.

Despite George's obvious distaste, the couple evidently had sex at least once, because in January of 1796, almost exactly 9 months after the wedding, George and Caroline's only child--Charlotte--was born. Shortly afterwards George sent Caroline a note informing her that though they were required to remain married they would no longer be living together. This was reportedly quite fine with Caroline. However access to her daughter was heavily restricted, and she was only able to see Charlotte in the presence of others. She wasn't quite as fine with this. In 1811 her access to Charlotte was cut off entirely. There wasn't much for Caroline in England, so she left to tour the continent in 1814.

While abroad Caroline lived the way she wanted. She took an Italian lover, adopted multiple children, and was fond of dancing half naked. She was very happy, but in 1820 when George III died and George IV became king she returned to England to claim her rights as Queen.

This was, as it turns out, a terrible idea. Princess Charlotte had died in 1817, and George was scheming to divorce Caroline and remarry so he could have an heir. He used scurrilous tales of Caroline's time abroad and false accusations of her having an illegitimate child to persuade parliament to open up an investigation into her. The House of Lords introduced the 'Bill of Pains and Penalties', which, if made law, would have dissolved their marriage.

Unfortunately for George, Caroline had the popular support of the people. While the Bill of Pains and Penalties passed in the House of Lords by nine votes, the House of Lords knew that the bill would never pass in the Commons, so they dropped the affair, leaving George furious.

File:How to get Un-married, - Ay, there's the Rub! by J.L. Marks.jpg
Political cartoon put out in 1820
George, however, was the king, and he had a few cards he could still play. On July 19, 1821 Caroline was barred from his coronation. When she tried to enter Westminster Abbey the men at the door would not let her in, and slammed the door in her face. She died a little over two weeks later.

The real legacy of George and Caroline's disastrous union was the introduction of tabloid coverage of royal life. During the investigations into Caroline's behavior, two penny broadsheets advertised every detail. Rivalries sprung up between newspapers that supported the queen and newspapers that supported the king. For the first time in English history, the public was immersed in every detail of a royal scandal, a tradition that continues to the modern day.

Sources
The Wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Caroline
The Queen Caroline Affair, 1820
George IV
Caroline of Brunswick-Luneburg
George IV and Queen Caroline: A Disastrous Royal Marriage
The Trial of Queen Caroline in 1820 and the Birth of British Tabloid Coverage of Royalty
George IV: the Royal Joke?
Caroline of Brunswick, Wife of King George IV of the United Kingdom

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Damn, Girl-Chevaliere d'Eon de Beaumont

The Chevaliere*, or Chevalier, depending on who you ask, d'Eon was one of the most colorful figures of the 18th century. Assigned male at birth, and named Charles Genieveve Louisa Auguste Andre Timothee de Beaumont, the Chevaliere is notable for her service in the french military, for being a spy, and for coming out as a female, and living as Lia de Beaumont in the latter part of her life. She was a free mason, a champion fencer, a lawyer, a decorated war hero, and a celebrated author.

Image result for Chevalier d'eonIt was 1755 and, no surprise, the French were scheming. Relations with England were growing uneasy, and King Louis was attempting to put his cousin on the Polish throne. The Russian Empress, Elizabeth, refused to meet with any French ambassadors, and the French government was actively working against itself. It was this environment that the Chevaliere first got her start.

The Chevaliere was sent with the French diplomatic mission to Russia under the guise of a lowly secretary. The truth of her mission, however, was much more complex than that. d'Eon was there as part of le Secret du Roi--Louis' secret spy agency that was so secret, most of the French government didn't know about it. At the time of the Chevaliere's service, the group was dedicated to helping Louis put his cousin on the Polish throne, essentially giving France control of Poland. d'Eon's mission was to get the good will of Empress Elizabeth. There was just one problem, the Empress refused to see any of the French diplomats.

So the Chevaliere and the people back in Versailles put their heads together, and came up with a brilliant idea. d'Eon would be disguised as a woman, and infiltrate the court of the Empress that way. The idea was that Empress Elizabeth would be more open to speaking with a female French diplomat. They were absolutely right.

Seven years later the Seven Years War is going poorly for France. d'Eon left Russia to serve as a dragoon in the French army. She was the Secretary to the French ambassador, and she must have been very helpful at the peace talks between France and Britain, because she was later awarded the honor of the Order of St. Louis, which, I have been told, is a big deal.

After being decorated, d'Eon was sent to London to assist the current French ambassador to England, the Comte de Guerchy. Unfortunately, the pair did not get on. d'Eon's overspending, and her insubordination made her a liability, and she was recalled by the French government in 1763.

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Had the Chevaliere returned to France as ordered, she most likely would have been thrown in the Bastile or worse. That was an unattractive option for d'Eon, so she decided to blackmail the French government. d'Eon was still a member of le Secret du Roi, and was in possession of certain sensitive information. Since the end of the Seven Years War the French had given up their ambitions in Poland, and were working towards an invasion of England. The Chevaliere threatened to expose the duplicity of the French government if they didn't assign her a pension, and let her live in peace.

The French government was, understandably, a tad uneasy about this arrangement, and were delaying their decisions. To hurry them up, and show that she meant business, the Chevaliere published her first tell-all book, filled with secret correspondence she had received as a spy. She promised that more would follow.

France quickly acquiesced to her demands, and d'Eon became an overnight celebrity. Her book was incredibly popular, but it was the mystery surrounding her gender that really had the English people hooked. See, the Chevaliere continued to dress up in women's clothes, even after quitting the court of Empress Elizabeth. She maintained a sense of mystery about her gender, to the point where people made bets about whether or not she was a boy or a girl. d'Eon herself refused to say.

After fifteen years in England, France reached out an olive branch. d'Eon would be allowed to return home on the condition that she assume the role and appropriate clothing of her gender. the Chevaliere jumped on the opportunity, and went back to France.

However, the transition was difficult for her. She wanted to keep her dragoon's uniform as a symbol of political power, and to maintain the same amount of political influence that she had before. The French government wasn't too keen on this. Several times she was forceably dressed in female clothes, and her political opinions were consistently ignored. She was, essentially pushed to the side, and in 1785 she moved back to England.

d'Eon was able to live off her pension for a while, but in 1789 the French monarchy was abolished, and the Chevaliere was left without a source of income. To support herself, she gave swordsmanship exhibitions, wearing her Cross of St. Louis, and branding herself as an Amazon. The English people welcomed her back with open arms, but as the Chevaliere grew older she grew increasingly more isolated. When an injury made her stop fencing in 1796 she moved into a flat with another old woman, and rarely left her home after.

Image result for Chevalier d'eonAfter her death it was, of course, discovered that the Chevaliere possessed male genitalia. This news, of course shocked the world. Most people believed the Chevaliere to be female, and there had even been court cases that confirmed this, the most convincing argument being that the Chevaliere said she was female.

And there is a large amount of evidence saying that the Chevaliere truly identified as a woman, and that it wasn't a guise she adopted for social and diplomatic purposes. The Chevaliere experienced a religious awakening in her later life, and affirmed that not only did she believe herself to be a woman, but that God had told her she was a woman.

Historian's today waver about d'Eon's sexuality, but d'Eon knew d'Eon best. If she said she was a woman then she was a woman, and while today's gender politics are very different from gender politics of the past, the fact remains that d'Eon identified as a woman, and that identity should be respected.

Gender identity aside, d'Eon was an amazing woman. She was a talented and capable diplomat, and excellent writer, and a colorful person.

*A note on pronouns: since the Chevaliere maintained that she was a woman for most of her life, I have used feminine pronouns to refer to her here. No one would know the gender of the Chevaliere better than the Chevaliere herself, and on while the Chevaliere hasn't appeared to me in a dream saying that she prefers she/her pronouns, it is reasonable to assume that female pronouns are the appropriate pronouns to use when writing about her.

Sources
Chevalier d'Eon de Beaumont
d'Eon, the Fresh Face
Charles, chevalier d'Eon de Beaumont
The Incredible Chevalier d'Eon, Who Left France as a Male Spy, and Returned a Christian Woman
The Chevalier d'Eon

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Microstates of Europe-The Other White Meat

There's something fascinating to me about microstates. It's the 'micro' part really. There's something that's just inherently interesting to me about these tiny, tiny, countries that, by all sense of reason, should have been absorbed into a bigger country a long time ago. I also find it interesting that these countries still keep their traditions alive, and maintain a semi stable population, despite the lure of big cities elsewhere.

For those of you who are unaware, a microstate is a very small country that has (and this is the important bit) received international recognition of sovereignty. International recognition is necessary, it's what divides say, San Marino, the oldest republic, from my living room, which I now officially declare to be the Duchy of High Westnerdia.

There are a least a couple dozen microstates all over the world, with the most of them being in the Caribbean or Polynesia. We'll talk about those later, but for now, let's go over the European ones.

Vatican City

Image result for vatican city flagYou've undoubtedly heard of this one. The Vatican sits smack dab in the middle of the Italian capitol of Rome, and is the epicenter of the operations of the Catholic church, still the largest Christian religion in the world. The Vatican is the home of the Pope, currently Pope Francis, and his college of Cardinals. As far as microstates go, the Vatican is very small, covering less than a square mile of land, so if there's ever a smallest country competition, the Vatican will definitely win.


Despite it's small size (and the fact that more than half of its citizens live abroad!), the Vatican is a more or less functioning country. They print their own currency, issues passports, participate in the Olympics, and participate in international organizations. The only thing the Vatican government doesn't do is tax its citizens, instead relying on donations and stamp sales to generate revenue.

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St. Peter's Basilica
This shouldn't be as surprising as it is. After all, the Vatican, formerly known as the Papal States, were an enormous world power from the middle ages up until about the age of enlightenment. The Papal States had an army (they still do!), and held power over Kings. They've been known, more than once, to get involved in international wars, and to defend their interests with assassination, espionage, and all out war. But we'll delve into more of that later. ;)

The Vatican is an absolute monarchy, one of the last few in existence. In the Vatican, the Pope is In Charge. And while the Cardinals may have the power to elect him, they don't have the power to remove him, and once elected the Pope becomes ruler of the Vatican for life. (Or until he decides to retire, and Pope Benedict XVI did in 2013)

Monaco

Image result for monaco flagMonaco, home of the wealthy and glamorous, home of Princess Grace, is a tiny principality (meaning it's ruled by a prince, more on that later.) wedged between France and the ocean. You would think that, being next to France, a once notorious power and land hungry behemoth, Monaco would have ceased to exist long ago, and for a while it did. Monaco was annexed during the French Revolution, and was not restored until 1814. It has since then been a protectorate, first of Sardinia, then France, who protects it to this day.

The country of Monaco is a constitutional monarchy, headed by members of the Grimaldi family since the 1200s. The current Prince is Albert II, son of Prince Ranier III and the actress-turned-princess  Grace Kelly. As far as actual governing goes though, unlike in many constitutional monarchies, Prince Albert actually has a lot of power. He is the head of the executive branch of the government, with a Minister of State beneath him. Prince Albert, however, seems to focus his attentions outside of Monaco, focusing mainly on lobbying against climate change.

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Prince Albert II and his wife, Princess Charlene. Charlene is a
former Olympic swimmer from South Africa.
One of the reasons that so many people move to this tiny French and Monegasque speaking country is because of the lack of income tax in the principality. Taxation was abolished in the 1800s, when the Grimaldi family decided to throw the common people a bone. Besides, tax money didn't really matter to the Grimaldis, the casino had already made them fabulously wealthy.

Monaco's economy is driven by its tourism. Tourists flock from around the world to visit its world famous casino, to soak up the sun and the stunning scenery. The Monaco Grand Prix is held there every year, as is the Monte-Carlo television festival.

San Marino

San Marino is the oldest republic in the world, and they are very proud of that fact. They were established in 301 CE by St. Marinus, a christian stonemason who was seeking refuge from the Christian hating Romans who, as we have covered, were dicks.

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St. Marinus scrambled up Mt. Titano, one of the major defining geographical (and geological!) features of San Marino today. From there he established his highly improbable republic.

Why is San Marino highly improbable? Glad you asked.

You see, San Marino is a tiny country located smack dab in the middle of Italy (the country formerly known as Rome), a region known for conquering and being conquered. In fact, before the unification of Italy in the 1800s Italy was made up of several city states just like San Marino (if somewhat larger, more autocratic, and land hungry). Yet San Marino has, in its entire history, been occupied only twice, and never conquered. Napoleon respected the sovereignty of San Marino, and San Marino remained neutral and unmolested during WWII.

Of course, this might be because San Marino honestly doesn't have a lot worth taking. The country is mainly mountain, with only 16% of their land useful for farming. Their main export was stone, until they over mined their mountain. They don't have a large population, and no army worth bothering. (The current Sammirinese army is comprised of 50 citizens.) 

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Guaita Fortress
Today, San Marino is a peaceful, prosperous, if not quite self-sufficient state. Extensive quarrying since the early CEs has sadly left San Marino with limited mineral resources, so like many micronations it's main revenue comes from tourism and, surprise surprise, stamps! San Marino stamps, while not the rarest in the world (those would be the stamps of the tiny island of Tristan da Cunha), are still highly prized by collectors. San Marino relies heavily on Italy for electricity, as well as printing its coinage. The official currency of San Marino is the euro, even though San Marino has yet to join the EU.

Lichtenstein

Image result for liechtenstein flagSo we've talked a little about Lichtenstein before, and how Switzerland keeps attacking it, but there's more to this tiny country. Squeezed between Austria and Switzerland, Lichtenstein is one of the worlds foremost tax havens, and is also the only country you can rent on Airbnb. 

For years Lichtenstein's primary stream of revenue comes from international corporations who establish skeleton 'offices' in Lichtenstein to take advantage of the country's lenient business tax laws. However, due to international pressures, Lichtenstein revised its tax laws in 2009, and is making an effort for more transparent banking practices.

Lichtenstein came into being when the Counts of Hohenems, being short of cash, had to sell off some land, namely the county of Vaduz and the dominion of Schellenberg. Both areas were purchased by Prince Johann Adam, and he united them into an independent principality, though a ditch still divides the area to this day. It took a while for the tiny principality to become a fully functioning independent state; it was occupied first by Austria, then by France, and later by Germany until 1866 when Napoleon recognized Lichtenstein as a sovereign nation.

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Lichtenstein Castle
Today, Lichtenstein is a quiet country, and the largest manufacturer of false teeth in the world. They rely heavily on their neighbor Switzerland, both for trade and for defense. Lichtenstein has also adopted the Swiss franc. The country is ruled by Prince Hans Adam II, though most administrative details are taken care of by his son Alois. The Lichtenstein princely house has an unusual amount of power for a European monarchy--Prince Hans is able to both veto bills put forward by parliament, and fire the entire government should he feel like it.

Andorra

We've talked a bit about Andorra before as well, but let's talk a little more. Andorra is a tiny, Catalan speaking, oft forgotten, country sandwiched between France and Spain. There aren't a lot of natural resources, so Andorra makes money off its scenery and its loose tax laws. (a running theme among micronations) Andorra isn't a member of the EU, but it holds a 'special status' with them, and uses the Euro.

Image result for andorra flagAndorra was a little late to the modern scene. In 1607 France and Spain decided that they were going to share Andorra in a feudal type situation. During this time the Andorran people were ruled over absolutely by the French and Spanish delegates, and had to pay tribute to both countries. While this may have been pretty normal seeming when the situation started, that sounds pretty insane in the modern era. The insanity continued until 1993 when Andorra adopted it's first constitution, and joined the UN. Even today the president of France, and the bishop of Urgell (Spain) are 'heads of state' of Andorra, though the title is more honorary than anything.
A good way of summing up Andorra's situation is to describe it as the child of France and Spain, and France and Spain have divorced. Andorra is supported militarily by both countries, trades with both countries, and has a titular head of state from each country. France kept Andorra safe while Spain was fighting itself, and Andorra passed notes (and goods) between the two during WWII. And in WWI, when France declared war on Germany, so did Andorra.

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Andorra la Vella
This co-parenting situation between France and Spain came about in the late 1200s when the related princes of France and the Bishops of Urgell were arguing over who got to inherit Andorra. They fought a merry war over the whole thing until the Lord of Aragon told them that they had to share.

Today Andorra is a full functioning independent country. They're known for their ski resorts, and their liberal banking laws. Andorra's a place to play, and they receive some 8 million tourists every year. Not bad for the fifth smallest nation in Europe.