It may seem odd to have an American address a gathering of Czech monarchists. Were not the United States born in a revolution against a King? Has not much of our foreign policy for the past century been dedicated to pushing monarchs off their thrones—and keeping them off? How can a patriotic American who claims to love his country possibly favour monarchy?
Good questions all, to be sure. But the fact is that a century ago the peoples of this continent took a very wrong turn indeed—one that in large part was forced upon them by my country’s president, Woodrow Wilson. As Winston Churchill observed, driving the Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns, Wittselbachs, and the rest off their thrones set the stage for the next war. That debt of honour aside, Americans, like Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, Latin Americans, and a host of other peoples scattered around Asia, Africa, and the Pacific are really Europeans— often enough ethnically, and almost universally in terms of culture, language, and religion. The first permanent European settlement in what are now the United States was founded in 1565, and the foundations of the country I love were laid by the Kings of Spain, France, and England long before our political independence came about. We were born of Europe, and Europe in turn was born of Altar and Throne.
The Europe that we Americans ought to revere as our common homeland is in terrible shape in many ways, precisely because of its rejection of the two institutions which gave her birth. Call it Christendom, l’Occident, Abendland, or what you will, the collection of Christian monarchies that together constituted the Mother Continent before the Reformation and succeeding Revolutions constituted the highest social and cultural achievement humanity has ever made. This was due not to some magical properties in European blood but to the Providential combination of Greek philosophy, Christian faith, Roman order and law, and Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic cultural energy.
Despite all the wrack and ruin of subsequent revolutions, innumerable local institutions, associations, customs, and practices—and, of course, the Church herself—continue to bear witness to the enduring greatness, humanity, and warmth of that accomplishment. Austria-Hungary was in many ways an exemplar of this; it is indeed fitting that its last Emperor-King was a Saint.
The Austria-Hungary that my president insisted on destroying will never come back. Yet Blessed Emperor Karl often said during his last illness that he was suffering “so that my peoples shall come back together”. One cannot help but think that the growing popularity of hiscultus throughout Central Europe may help do just that.
What might be restored is a Central European Federation, with each member state individually and collectively ruled by the heir of the House of Habsburg. Such a grouping would provide a needed counter-weight to France and Germany within Europe and strengthen each of its members—as well as going far to help remove the remaining ill-will between Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, and perhaps other peoples as well.
But what of the wider European picture, to which Archduke Otto continually directed his attention? As a scion of both the Habsburgs and the Bourbons—who between them at different times ruled the vast majority of the Continent—he was perforce a European, who saw its innate unity. As His Imperial Highness headed the Paneuropa Union from 1973 on, so in the 1950s and 60s, he was associated with the Abendländische Bewegung. But the United Europe for which the Archduke and his various collaborators hoped, prayed, and worked was very different to the European Union of today. That EU is a reflexion of the secular nation states that comprise it (at least in Western Europe), ruled as they are by bureaucratic-political machineries dominated by the elderly generation of ’68.
Traditional monarchy throughout Europe, as defended and enunciated by English, Scots, and Irish Jacobites, French Legitimists, Spanish Carlists, Portuguese Miguelists, and a host of others (including a number of Central European writers) have produced a vast body of writing whose common elements constitute a real antidote to the poison that dominates so much of modern governance. Among these common elements are recognition of Christianity as the animating principle of society and culture, and the importance of the Church in national life; local and provincial liberties—that is to say, subsidiarity; minimisation of class, ethnic, and political conflict—or as is said to-day, solidarity; and a monarch garbed in authority that comes to him from both the past and on high, and sufficient executive power “to protect his people from their politicians,” in the pithy phrase of Franz Josef to Theodore Roosevelt.
A Europe made up of such monarchies would no doubt reflect its member states even as the present one does. As Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP argued in his book, Christendom Awake!: “The articulation of the foundational natural and Judeo-Christian norms of a really united Europe … would most appropriately be made by such a[n Imperial] crown, whose legal and customary relations with the national peoples would be modelled on the best aspects of historic practice in the (Western) Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine ‘Commonwealth.’” As the good Dominican comments on his own proposal: “Let us dare to exercise a Christian political imagination on an as yet unspecifiable future.”
Across Europe, the remnants of Christendom earlier mentioned as well innumerable commemorations of vanished monarchies and past triumphs and defeats of the Old Order continue. The memories of Royal Martyrs such as England’s Charles I, France’s Louis XVI, Russia’s Nicholas II, and, most certainly, Blessed Emperor Karl are constantly invoked by their devotees. While it would be tempting to look at these as mere remnants of a glorious past, they might well be—as Archduke Otto showed by his patronage of so many of them—the foundations of an even more glorious future. It is the task of today’s monarchists to explore this vast heritage, popularize, and build upon it.
In conclusion, it were well for me to point out that, as the Archduke Otto wrote, Europe really extends from San Francisco to Vladivostok—and one might add, to Buenos Aires, Sydney, and Cape Town. The health of the Mother Continent affects all of us in the daughter countries.
But there is more than that to be considered. We must never forget that He from Whom all monarchs derive their crowns is as much King over the New World as the Old, of Asia and Africa as of Europe. I pray that He may bless you and your deliberations richly—and speed the day when once more sovereigns guide their peoples “by the Grace of God.”