I happened to stumble on an article about the tragic fate of Sophie Chotek.
The beautiful daughter of an impoverished aristocratic family attracts the attention and later becomes romantically involved with the heir of one of the most important European thrones of the time. Looks like a prequel for ‘Love Story’, right? … only worse, unfortunately. The reigning Monarch wasn’t happy about the whole thing and, to make things worse, ‘the law’ wouldn’t allow their union.
After huge complications that involved the intervention of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicholas II and Pope Leo XIII in favour of the ‘young lovers’ Emperor Franz Joseph gave in and yielded to the marriage, on condition that the children of the couple will not be able to inherit the throne and that the bride will never be treated as a queen or attend official functions at the side of her future husband.
And the worse was yet to come. After 14 years, to a day, of happy marriage both she and Franz Ferdinand, her husband, were assassinated together in Sarajevo.
Reading about the treatment she had to endure cannot but make me wonder about why would modern democracies still ‘entertain’ royal courts? Specially after what happened to Lady Di…
“The Emperor expressed his disapproval by not attending his heir’s wedding, as did Franz Ferdinand’s brothers and nearly every member of his family. The Imperial court, led by its chief overseer the Prince of Montenuovo (who was the child of a morganatic marriage himself) continued to humiliate the new “Princess of Hohenberg” at every opportunity. If for example the Imperial family were to hold a ball then Sophie would not only have to sit apart from her husband but be last in line to enter behind every other Hapsburg relation no matter how obscure. All contemporary reports state that Sophie never complained or even show displeasure at this treatment in public, earning the sympathy of many outside the court for her dignified response. Less inclined to forgiveness than his wife, Franz Ferdinand allegedly drew up a list of particularly obnoxious aristocrats for whom he intended payback when he became Emperor.”
Well… It’s not so easy to dismiss the fact that some of the most successful nations, by any standards, are exactly those that have managed to balance the survival of the monarchy with ‘full blown’ democratic government. Not only in Europe.
Great Britain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Thailand, Japan … There must be something here!
Two things constitute the common denominator between these countries, besides being run as constitutional monarchies. They have all found their own road to democracy/rule of law and they had traveled this road in a relatively peaceful manner. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Japan had been ‘opened’ up by Matthew Perry and then defeated in the WWII. The Japanese emperor had been powerless since long before Perry and the ‘fathers’ of the Meiji Constitution might have been inspired by the German Imperial one but the transformation was instrumented by the Japanese politicians themselves, not by nor after being prodded by a ‘foreign power’. Furthermore by 1915 the Japanese Constitution was modified to include universal male suffrage.
Meanwhile the XX-th century has witnessed a very mixed performance by the rest of the democracies, with the notable exception of the US. No, I haven’t forgotten Canada, Australia or New Zealand. They are constitutional monarchies too.
Latin America. I don’t think you’re going to dispute the fact that there is no single nation inhabiting this part of the world which hasn’t ‘enjoyed’ at least a few years of dictatorship that has started with ‘free elections’.
Africa. Until very recently there wasn’t a single functional democracy on this continent.
Asia. With the notable exception of India – which has inherited strong democratic values from her imperial power and enjoys special circumstances – no other real democracy besides Thailand and Japan until very recently.
Europe, the birth place of democracy. Hitler and Mussolini were democratically elected before becoming two of the most horrendous dictators in the history of humankind. Eastern Europe countries, including Russia, were governed for many decades as ‘popular democracies’. In reality they were ruled by oligarchies which were hiding their criminal nature behind ideological smoke screens.
Any explanation for this?