Adam Snygg, discusses how the aristocracy across Europe have dealt with change throughout the ages and how some, surprisingly, seem to be able to cope.
Constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe is rule rather than exception and there is a sprinkling of royalty in Southern Europe as well with Spain as the biggest southern monarchy. These often have long histories, the exiting British royal house consider themselves established with the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066 (though a minor spat with the parliament ensures that the line isn’t unbroken) and Sweden could theoretically count their monarchs back to the kings of the tribes of the Swedes and the Geats. The later history of the monarchies is also surprisingly democratic as well, with a long history of debate, compromise and stability ensuring that the constitutional monarchies of Europe are some of the most well-functioning democratic states in existence.
Certainly not perennially true, there have been violence as well as the need to actually transform the absolute monarchies into liberal states. Yet, they provide an interesting narrative for us federalists and Europeanists. While the progressive nature of the disparate groups tends to make us as a group rather republican, it is worthwhile to look at the history of the nobles and take some inspiration. The nobles rarely acknowledged a single homeland and they saw commonality in their estate rather than in the language they spoke. Several times – the Kalmar Union between the three Scandinavian kingdoms, Austria and Hungary, Russia and Finland – they also united several countries into larger blocs, united irrespective of nationality, homeland or creed. And at the dawn of the 20th century they battled the same forces that we battle today: nationalism, isolationism, racism. They did so unsuccessfully and we must look upon their failures to see where we can do better. We cannot be the elites, because the elites will always be pulled down by the downtrodden sooner or later. We cannot stagnate, we must evolve as the monarchies evolved from tyrannical absolute monarchies to liberal-democratic constitutional monarchies. And most of all, we must listen. Listen to the people, listen to the times and listen to those that would do us harm.
My argument is not of course that we all become monarchists, neither is this a drive towards republicanism. Monarchy is an integral part of our shared European ancestry and it is a great way to look at how earlier generations met problems, whether successfully or unsuccessfully. We must strive to repeat their successes and avoid their mistakes. That is how we build a better Europe.
There is a link between most royal lines that is often a strictly avoided topic. That is that many, if not most, of them have a blood line back to one or more popes. Pope Alexander VI was born Roderic Llançol i de Borja (Borgia) in Xativa near Valencia in Spain. His maternal uncle Alonso de Borja was another pope, Calixtus III. Alexander had a lot of mistresses. The one for whom his passion lasted longest was a Vannozza (Giovanna) dei Cattani, who was wife of three successive husbands. The connection began in 1470 when she bore Alexander four children who he openly acknowledged: Giovanni, who later became Duke of Gandia (1474), Cesare (1476), Lucrezia (1480) and Goffredo (Giuffre) (circa 1481). Three other children, Girolama, Isabella and Pedro-Luiz, were of ‘uncertain parentage’. His son Bernardo, by Vittoria Sailór dei Venezia in 1469, is much less known because his father kept him in hiding. His daughter Lucrezia, who is probably the best known member of his family, lived with his mistress Giulia, who bore him another daughter, Laura, in 1492. Through her Alexander is an ancestor of virtually all royal houses of Europe and directly the ancestor of Dona Luisa de Guzmán, wife of the king João IV de Portugal, of the House of Braganza and thus direct ancestor of the entire dynasty. Through inter-royal and aristocratic marriages the line moves back and forth, making a snake line genetic trace right into the depths of politics. In the UK Churchill and more recently Cameron have been PMs linked to Alexander’s line and the House of Lords is full of not only the relatively small number of hereditary peers but others who have his blood. There were even branches of the line in the Romanov family who were generally considered more or less separate from other European royal dynasties. The whole picture is worthy of a Dan Brown novel, except that none of it is fiction. There is a great deal of influence because of the extent of the many links. It is extraordinary of course when one thinks the papacy is supposedly chaste and very devout.