On Specific Issues Within Monarchism

Every monarchist must make certain decisions regarding countries where there is or has been a dispute over the succession. My opinions in this area have been guided by a concept which I call the "Principle of Acquired Legitimacy." This is the idea that when a royal house or specific branch of a house has been the acknowledged dynasty of a country for a certain amount of time, claims of rival houses or branches which may originally have been technically superior gradually become weaker until they are irrelevant. The basis for this belief is the premise that one of the advantages of monarchy is continuity between the present monarch and monarchs of the past, both recent and distant. Therefore, someone whose direct ancestors have been reigning continuously for some time has a superior claim to someone whose most recent ruling direct ancestor lived and died much longer ago. I will explain how this relates to various succession disputes as well as discuss some other issues unrelated to the Principle.

Great Britain. The opening of the Scottish Parliament briefly focused some renewed interest on the traditional Jacobite claims to the British (especially the Scottish) throne. Jacobites have regarded the 1688-9 Glorious Revolution, the 1701 Act of Settlement, and the 1714 accession of the House of Hanover (Guelf) as illegitimate and illegal. They may have had a point up until 1807, when Henry Benedict, the last remaining Stuart in the male line, died. But after then the Jacobite claim becomes rather absurdly academic. The line twists and turns from Charles I’s daughter Henrietta through the royal houses of France, Sardinia, Modena, and Bavaria. So Jacobites, whose position was originally strengthened by the fact that the first two Georges were foreigners, have been forced to defend the rights of a line that became much more foreign than the descendants of the Hanoverians. It should also be noted that this line descends through an uncle-niece marriage, illegal in Britain. The current "claimant" is Franz, Duke of Bavaria (b. 1933), who is childless. His brother Max, Duke in Bavaria (b. 1937), has five daughters; the eldest, Sophia (b. 1969), is married to Crown Prince Alois of Liechtenstein, making their son Joseph (b. 1995) the eventual heir. If the Jacobite position were adhered to, the result would be the ridiculous spectacle of the sovereign Prince of Liechtenstein also becoming King of Great Britain (or perhaps of an independent Scotland). In any case, by my Principle of Acquired Legitimacy, the Jacobite claim is irrelevant. No direct ancestor of Duke Franz has ruled either England or Scotland since 1649. In contrast, Queen Elizabeth II is descended from almost all of the monarchs who reigned from 1714 to 1952 (as well as those prior to Charles I); therefore any suggestion that Duke Franz’s claim is "better" is meaningless.

France. No country’s succession is more disputed among royalists than this one. There are three significant claimants to the throne, vacant since 1870. The most widely recognized is Henri (VII), Duke of France, Count of Paris (b. 1933), who recently inherited the Orléanist claim from his father, Henri (VI) (1908-1999). Legitimists insist on the superiority of the claim of Louis Alphonse de Bourbon (Louis XX), Duke of Anjou (b. 1974). The parvenu dynasty founded by the legendary Napoleon Bonaparte also boasts a claimant, Charles, Prince Napoleon (b. 1950). The Bonapartist claim I believe can be dismissed relatively easily. Should France ever become a monarchy again, there is no reason why a family whose royal status is less than 200 years old, and which reigned for a total of only 28 years, would be preferred to the dynasty founded by Hughes Capet in 987, over 1000 years ago. It is true that the Bonapartes reigned more recently (1852-70) than either of the two branches of the Capetian house (1814-30; 1830-48); however, this difference is too small and the combined durations of the First and Second Empires too short to apply the Principle of Acquired Legitimacy in this case. It is betwen Orléanism and Legitimism that the real controversy lies. Having studied arguments for both sides, I have decided that I favor the Orléanist position; that is, the Count of Paris over the Duke of Anjou. I am not going to go into all of the complicated legal and historical arguments, as these have been discussed extensively elsewhere. However, I have my own reasons. First, my Principle. The reign of the Count of Paris’s most recent ruling direct ancestor, King Louis Phillippe, ended in 1848, more recently than that of any other French king. The reign of the Duke of Anjou’s most recent French ruling direct ancestor, King Louis XIV, ended in 1715. While this difference is not as great as that between the Windsors and the Jacobites, I think it is significant. But in this case the Principle is not the most important factor. The main reason to support the Orléans royals is that, whatever else they are, they are undeniably French. There is no other country with which this branch of the family has ever been associated. Its members have lived in France for as long as they have been allowed to, speak French as their first language, and have predominantly French ancestry. This is not true of Luís Alfonso. He is a great-grandson of King Alfonso XIII; he was born in Spain and is of mainly Spanish ancestry; he served in the Spanish military and swore allegiance to the Spanish constitution; he is a great-grandson of Francisco Franco. While the Bourbon family which reigns in Spain originated in France, since coming to the throne in 1700 it has become an essentially Spanish dynasty. Therefore from a French perspective Luís Alfonso is a foreigner. To support a Spanish prince for the French throne when a more widely recognized French claimant is available seems to me to serve no useful purpose and makes the restoration of the French monarchy even more improbable than it already is.

Italy. Italy presents two problems for monarchists: the succession dispute within the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (Neapolitan Bourbons), and the larger question of the rights of the House of Savoy to the whole country versus the claims of those families (including the Neapolitan Bourbons) which were deposed on behalf of the House of Savoy in order to unify Italy. I believe that the second problem makes the first problem irrelevant. The dispute over the Two Sicilies succession is inconsequential, even for monarchists. This is because should Italian public opinion ever swing in the monarchist direction, it would be likely to favor Crown Prince Vittorio Emanuele over the various claimants to former Italian states. There are three reasons for this. The dynasties of Naples and Savoy have opposite connotations politically. The Neapolitan Bourbons stood for a divided Italy and repression; the Savoyards represented a united Italy and (at least before Mussolini) liberalism. The Principle of Acquired Legitimacy applies as well. Crown Prince Vittorio Emanuele is, as his title implies, the son of Italy’s last king, Umberto II, who abdicated in 1946 and died in 1983. The other Italian families were deposed around 1860, almost ninety years earlier, earlier even than the Bonapartes of France. So the House of Savoy is central to a major period of Italian history--the first 85 years of unification--to which the other Italian royal families are irrelevant. In addition, the House of Savoy, despite its medieval French origins, is firmly identified with Italy and the Italian people, whereas the Italian Bourbons and Hapsburgs never overcame the stigma of their French/Spanish and Austrian origins. However, on the other hand it should be noted that the reputation of the House of Savoy still suffers from its association with Mussolini and fascism, which is not a problem for the other Italian dynasties.

Russia. The Principle of Acquired Legitimacy does not apply here. Monarchists agree that the claimant should be a member of the Romanov family, which has never officially been divided into branches like the French royal family. However, there is confusion as to whether the head of the family (and therefore rightful tsar or empress) is Prince Nicholas Romanovich (b. 1922) or Princess/ Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna (b. 1953). The debate hinges on how the succession laws decreed by Emperor Paul I are interpreted. I believe that they are actually quite clear and are being misused by Nicholas Romanovich and his supporters. Emperor Paul stipulated that the succession could not pass to a female unless there were no more male dynasts (full members of the Imperial family). I am sure that he did not expect this situation to come to pass; incredibly, it has. This is because the laws of the Russian Imperial family stipulate that only persons born of equal marriages (that is, a Romanov father and a mother of royal birth) are dynasts. The surviving members of the Romanov family in the twentieth century have generally not made equal marriages; therefore, the last male dynast was Maria’s father, Prince/Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich (1917-1992), son of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha and Great Britain. As his only child, Maria’s position would seem clear; unfortunately the matter is complicated by the question of whether her father’s marriage to Princess Leonida Bagration-Moukhransky was in fact an equal marriage. Prince Nicholas Romanovich (whose father’s and own marriages were undeniably unequal) claims that it was not, on the grounds that the Bagrations were considered nobility, rather than royalty, once the kingdom of Georgia which they had ruled for centuries was absorbed into the Russian empire. This is as absurd as maintaining that the Neapolitan Bourbons are no longer royal because their lands were absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy or that Montenegro’s Petrovich dynasty is no longer royal because that country was incorporated into Yugoslavia. Loss of political power has never resulted in loss of royal status, at least as far as marriages are concerned. To deny the Bagrations' royal status is an insult to their dynasty, which is far more ancient than the Romanovs', and to the country of Georgia. Therefore, the marriage of Vladimir and Leonida was entirely in accordance with traditional Romanov standards. So was the marriage of their daughter Maria to Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia. Their son, Georg (b. 1981), is legally a Hohenzollern but is nevertheless the only legitimate heir to the Russian throne. It should be noted that his mother seems to regard her role as being that of guardian of her son’s rights rather than the claimant herself; therefore, if the Russian people ever desire a Romanov restoration, it would probably be to Georg (Emperor Georgiy I) that they would turn. It is certainly significant that Maria Vladimirovna and her son are actively interested in a restoration of the Russian monarchy, whereas Nicholas Romanovich is a republican and has no desire to be tsar, insisting only that he is the head of the family. Neither does Paul Ilyinsky, former mayor of Palm Beach, Florida, who if one disregards the equal marriage requirement would be the male primogeniture heir of Nicholas II. The complaint that Georg is a Hohenzollern and therefore a German, not a Russian, makes no sense due the fact that since 1762 the so-called Romanov male line has actually been the Holstein-Gottorp branch of the German Oldenburg family. It should be noted that if Georg makes an unequal marriage or does not have (legitimate) children, upon his death the Romanov dynasty will effectively cease to exist according to its own rules. Theoretically, the head of the family has the power to change the rules, but it would be difficult to accomplish this without general agreement as to who the head of the family is.

I should say a word about titles of current members of the Russian Imperial family, since this is also a matter of dispute. In order to limit the size of the Imperial family (similar to actions taken by King George V of Great Britain in 1917), Tsar Alexander III (1845-1894) decreed in 1886 that the titles of Grand Duke and Grand Duchess were limited to children and grandchildren in the male line of Tsars, with wives of Grand Dukes who were of royal birth also entitled to the title of Grand Duchess. All other members of the Imperial family were to be known merely as Princes and Princesses. By this system, the last Grand Duke was Andrei Vladimirovich (1879-1956) and the last Grand Duchess was Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960). However, it is highly unlikely that Alexander III ever anticipated a time when there would be no Tsar. Since Vladimir Kirillovich was head of the Romanov family for over 50 years (1938-92), it seems to me that it was appropriate for him to use the title Grand Duke. Logically this rank would extend to his wife, daughter, and grandson. Due to the equal marriage requirements, there is only one other living full member of the Russian Imperial family: Princess Catherine Ivanovna (b. 1915). All other Romanovs, including Prince Nicholas Romanovich, are morganatic relatives equivalent to such families as the Battenbergs of Hesse, the Rosenborgs of Denmark, and the Hohenbergs of Austria.

--Theodore Harvey

The Russian Imperial Succession