Thursday, May 29, 2014
In April of 1941 the Axis forces of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy invaded and conquered the Serbian dominated Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Of the many minority nationalities who had been handed over to Serbia after the Allied victory in World War I none were so eager for liberation as the Croatians and they quickly set up the Independent State of Croatia under the leadership of the Ustashe party of Head Man Ante Pavelic. A new government was quickly established under Italian supervision as southern Europe was considered by the Axis to be within the sphere of the Kingdom of Italy and the new Roman Empire Benito Mussolini dreamed of creating around the Mediterranean. The following month Ante Pavelic went to the Quirinal Palace in Rome to meet with His Majesty Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy, Albania and Emperor of Ethiopia, to request that he appoint a member of the House of Savoy to be the king over the new Croatian State recently established. On May 18, 1941 the ceremony was held in which the Italian monarch named his cousin Prince Aimone as the new King over Croatia, which also included what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The enemies of Tomislav II and Croatia also like to point out that the reigning monarch never actually set foot in Croatia, trying to make the case that his reign was never more than a matter of titles which he nor anyone else gave the slightest thought to. This is an argument that is a lot like rat poison; mostly good food but just enough strychnine to kill you. It is true that Tomislav II never resided in Croatia yet it was specifically because he took his job so seriously and was committed to being a truly Croatian monarch for his people and not simply an Axis puppet for Italy. Everything was set up for him to be given a formal Catholic coronation in Duvansko Polje in Bosnia but he refused to do so out of protest to the seizure of certain coastal areas of Dalmatia by Italy. He refused on the grounds of the sovereignty and national integrity of the country over which he was king! Tomislav II stated that this land was never going to be able to be fully integrated into Italy and by the Italian seizure of the territory it only served as an obstacle to better Italian and Croatian friendship. His refusal to enter the country was well thought out and based on a principled stand of putting his new country first, even before Italy.
Enemies of the Croatian King also like to say that Tomislav II was simply a powerless figurehead who had nothing to do with Croatian life, cared nothing about it and was only a symbol of the Ustashe regime of Ante Pavelic which held the real power in the country (and which has the worst reputation). An easy response to that allegation is simple: Well So What?! Was King George VI of the UK and the British Empire no less a real monarch because he reigned while a government ruled in his name? What other monarch in any European country at the time actually ruled his country personally in an absolutist manner during World War II? He reigned but did not rule and this was the accepted practice of all monarchs of his time and still is today. He was, like any monarch then or now, a symbol of Croatian unity and tradition and was never meant to be a political administrator. However, that does not mean he did nothing or took no interest in his country. In the areas for which the monarchy was responsible he was quite active. For instance, while King he granted 60 titles of nobility such as duke, marquis, count, viscount and baron for Croatia; something he certainly would not have done if he considered his position purely honorary and nothing more than an additional title. He had enough of those anyway as one year after becoming King his full title was extended to: His Majesty Tomislav II (or Zvonimir II) King of Croatia, Prince of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Voivode of Dalmatia, Tuzla and Temun, Duke of Aosta, Prince of Cisterna and of Belriguardo, Marquess of Voghera and Count of Ponderano.
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
This was his first chance to rule and Viceroy Carlo Felice proved to be tough but fair. Much of Sardinia had fallen prey to banditry and lawlessness and, of course, the revolutionary poison was present as well. Carlo Felice eradicated it with ruthless determination and was not afraid to make extensive use of the death penalty in restoring law and order to the island. He famously wrote to his brother the King, “Kill, kill for the good of mankind”. Of course, some complained that his regime seemed more like a police state and executions were plentiful, however, he got the job done and improved conditions dramatically on the island. His reputation improved when people learned that their Viceroy was not arbitrary but ruled fairly and would show no favoritism to the Piedmontese. He was just as strict toward the feudal lords who failed in their responsibility to their people as he was toward the people who embraced rebellion simply for the sake of rebellion. He also worked to improve agriculture, mining, trade and promoted the cultivation of olive trees in an effort to invigorate the Sardinian economy.
This was the result of the secret society known as the Carbonari (charcoal-burners), some of whom were revolutionary republicans, others of whom were constitutional monarchists but all of whom opposed absolutism and wanted a united, liberal Italy. When four students were arrested on their way to the theatre on suspicion of belonging to the Carbonari there was an uproar, mostly by university professors and students. They protested, soldiers were sent in, they clashed, people were killed and events escalated to a disastrous level. Prince Carlo Alberto knew some of these people and they intended to use him as their go-between. They had shrewdly waited until Prince Carlo Felice was away in Modena and planned to swarm the royal castle and force King Vittorio Emanuele I to grant a constitution and declare war on Austria to liberate northern Italy. To his credit, Prince Carlo Alberto backed out of the scheme and warned his cousin the King what was up. While he tried to decide what to do the situation deteriorated further with rebel forces seizing control of the citadel in Turin. He tried to deal with the rebels, but they had turned their back on Carlo Alberto and no communication was possible. Not wishing to start shooting down people in the streets, King Vittorio Emanuele I abdicated in favor of his brother but, as he was in Modena, named Prince Carlo Alberto regent in the interim.
As monarch, King Carlo Felice was fairly “hands-off”. His ideas about the sacred nature of the monarchy and his insistence that royal power was absolute did not translate to the idea that the King had to do everything himself. He was happy to delegate power and did not spend much time in Turin, which he felt to be somewhat tainted by revolutionary sentiment. He could always be expected to show up in ‘theatre season’ as he loved the theatre, music and was a patron of the arts. Ordinarily though, he preferred to reside in Savoy, Nice or Genoa and many complained that the country, under Carlo Felice, was dominated by a few stuffy chamberlains, old ladies and a cohort of priests and religious. They were not entirely wrong in that but it should not be stated as though it were a bad thing. King Carlo Felice, despite his reputation as a reactionary, did preside over some needed legal reforms. He did away with special courts, enacted regulations that the punishment must fit the crime and, to the surprise of some, resisted papal encroachment on royal authority in his country as well as that from the political class. He also abolished the slave trade and ordered that anyone born on Piedmontese soil or on a ship flying their flag would be free. He improved the infrastructure of the country (yes, roads and bridges), restored the port at Nice and gave a boost to the steel industry and encouraged agriculture as well as manufacturing and trade.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
|Leonardo da Vinci|
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
British researcher Barry Clifford said, "All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria," which is something new, even though the wreckage has long been known. It was first found and photographed in 2003 but no one knew exactly what ship it was and it is only now that experts are saying it is the Santa Maria, the largest of the three ships Columbus used on his voyage which claimed the New World for the Catholic Monarchs of Spain in 1492.
The evidence cited for this is that the location matches that recorded by Columbus in his diary, the ship is the right size and the topography of the area matches up with what researchers believe it was like when the Santa Maria was wrecked on Christmas Day in 1492. They have also poured over the photos taken in 2003 and have identified objects dated from the time of the Columbus voyage. They have to use the photographs because, evidently, much of it is not there anymore, including a ship's cannon, due to being looted by treasure-hunters.
Clifford has said that his hope is for the remains of the ship, if they are confirmed to be that of La Santa Maria to be salvaged from the sea, restored and preserved and placed in a museum in Haiti.
Christopher Columbus, a native of the Republic of Genoa, requested patronage for his voyage of exploration from King John II of Portugal and King Henry VII of England before finally receiving support from King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile in Spain.