By David Hoggard
In countries with existing monarchies, support for the status quo is usually fairly common – in the UK, even most Labour supporters view the monarchy as, at the very least, the lesser of two evils. But when that monarchy is abolished, a monarchic Restoration very rarely attracts significant support from the general public. This is what we’re going to look at today.
Perhaps the longest-lived Restorationist movement in modern times was that of Italy, where Umberto II was voted out in an allegedly rigged referendum in 1946, and a series of right-wing Monarchist parties were elected to the Parliament until the Italian Democratic Party of Monarchist Unity, with its 6 deputies, merged into the Literal Fascists of the Italian Social Movement in 1972.
Italian Monarchism’s relationship with Fascism is unsurprising, of course: Vittorio Emmanuele III tolerated Mussolini’s regime until the Allies arrived, and ex-Fascists needed to find political philosophies which would be less divisive in the post-War world if they wanted to stand a chance of being re-elected. A lot of them ended up in the Italian Liberal Party. More broadly, there is a certain amount of crossover in Monarchist and Fascist ideology – both desire an exalted leader in whom the Nation is made incarnate. The main distinction, of course, is that Fascist leaders at least get there on their own merits.
Restorationism, however, is not simply a highbrow annexe to Fascism. The Franco-instigated restoration of the Spanish monarchy formed part of the transition back to democracy, for instance. In Portugal, the People’s Monarchist Party was founded by opponents of the Estado Novo regime – they included quite a few ex-Fascists, but these were people who had abandoned that ideology to the extent of working together with Socialists during the Carnation Revolution. Of course, the PPM, which currently holds one seat in the regional parliament of the Azores, remains very right-wing, but it has had a varied life.
The early central figure of the party was Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles, a long-time opponent of Salazar and – more importantly – a landscape architect. He was therefore a natural choice for Junior Environment Minister in the post-Revolution Provisional Governments and was re-elected in a centre-right electoral alliance until the mid-80s. From 1981 to 1983 he was Minister for Quality of Life, and in that capacity he introduced forward-thinking land use legislation. Later on, he established the Earth Party, which is not formally Monarchist, but rather a Green-Conservative formation whose high point was 7% and two MEPs in 2014.
The Portuguese Monarchists are notable for maintaining an appreciable existence more than a century after the last King was deposed. Elsewhere in Europe, especially in the Balkan nations upon whom German princelings were foisted in the late nineteenth century, there was very little appetite for yet more authoritarianism when the Communist dictatorships were rolled back. Some briefly successful Monarchist parties included the Romanian Christian Democratic National Peasants’ Party, the Serbian Renewal Movement, and Bulgaria Without Censorship. All of these parties had broader right-wing philosophies and have not seen sustained success – similarly, the Greek National Alignment only won seats in 1977.
However, it is worth saying that some of these Balkan states, particularly those in which nationalism became an emotive issue after the fall of Communism, have in fact welcomed back their old royal families to live in their old palaces and function as a draw for foreign investment – without any Constitutional function. These include Serbia and Albania, both of which have also witnessed polls in which over a third of the population backed the restoration of the monarchy. Significantly, the dynasties which emerged in those countries in the nineteenth century were home-grown.
All of the Monarchist movements examined so far have been solidly right-wing or far-right, as you might expect. While the centre-left might support an existing monarchy (or simply believe that there are more pressing reforms to be passed), it would seem obvious that only an authoritarian right-winger could have an ideological basis for wanting to trade in a Republic for a Monarchy. Not so: for starters, that guy from the Portuguese Monarchist party was re-elected on a Socialist Party list in 1985.
Why would a Monarchist be on the Left? The most obvious explanation would be that the exiled King they unquestioningly supported had decreed that Socialism was the way forward. This was exactly what happened in the Carlist movement in Spain in the 1970s. Carlists opposed the succession to the throne of a woman, Isabella II (conveniently forgetting that this was hardly novel – there had, after all, been an Isabella I) and after being defeated in several Civil Wars, have splintered into several groupuscules who disagree on exactly which man ought to be King of Spain. There are currently about half a dozen possibilities. But in any case, Carlism was based on an anti-Enlightenment traditionalism and absolutism – until King Carlos Hugo became a Titoist.
Carlos Hugo’s supporters formed the Carlist Party in the run-up to Spanish democratisation, espousing workers’ self-management and left-wing nationalism – much to the chagrin of the traditionalists, who were more loyal to the conservative principles of the Carlist idea of monarchy than to the monarch himself. Hilariously, these traditionalists, who were part of a movement based on legalistic arguments about who ought to have become the ruler of Spain a century before, decided simply to support Carlos Hugo’s younger brother instead. The far-right Carlists won a Senate seat in the 1977 elections, while the Carlist Party had to make do with winning a seat in the Navarrese Parliament in 1979. The Basque nationalist tradition can with some justification be traced back to the nineteenth century Carlists and their emphasis on regionalism. Carlos Hugo abandoned politics in 1980 and his Party sank into the United Left alliance without a trace.
Monarchists may also tend to the Left out of pragmatism. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, a minority of the White émigré community concluded that if you couldn’t beat the Bolsheviks, you might as well join them. This group became known as the Mladorossi – ‘Young Russians’ – and combined a loyalty to Grand Duke Cyril with approval for the Soviet system. A system which had, of course, resulted in the murder of the last Tsar and his children. Cyril himself was open to retaining some of the Revolutionary modifications if he were ever to become Tsar, although this was probably largely because the Mladorossi were his most outspoken supporters.
The Mladorossi were also part of the National Bolshevik tendency, and used Roman salutes – which essentially takes us right back around the Horseshoe to the identification of Monarchism with Fascism. However, they weren’t fond of Fascists, and were in fact in the pay of the Soviet secret police to cause friction in émigré politics. When this was discovered, the Mladorossi collapsed. Nowadays, the only major Monarchist force in Russia is the distinctly unpleasant Liberal Democratic Party.
Equally unpleasant is Action Francaise, a far-right group which emerged from the Dreyfus Affair and only faltered when the Pope denounced it and Fascist copycats of the Italian regime became voguish in the 1920s. Interestingly, despite being very much against the democratic ideals of the French Revolution, they support the Orleaniste branch of the House of Capet, as opposed to the Legitismistes. The Orleanistes, of course, presided over a relatively liberal regime. This internal contradiction caused a fissure in Action Francaise after the Second World War (during which they were very keen on Petain and Vichy) and led to the split of 1971.
Half of the movement became Nouvelle Action Royaliste, a group which favours a constitutional monarchy in keeping with the Orleaniste tradition and argues that a King is the best way of defending the General Will (i.e. Res Publica, checkmate Republicans). They also participate in anti-racism campaigns and have endorsed Socialists such as Mitterand and Hollande for the Presidency.
A discussion of Monarchist movements cannot avoid talking about the Jacobites, who spend a solid century and lots of French cash on claiming that they ought to be in charge of the British Isles. The movement stayed quiet thereafter until the 1890s, when Romantic Nationalists started social clubs with names like ‘The White Rose League’. Several of them stood for election in 1892 but did terribly. Probably the most interesting of these candidates was Herbert Vivian, a friend of Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde. His other main claim to fame was as a travel journalist and Montenegrin consul to the UK (and as the inventor of a roulette ‘system’ which didn’t work). The closest Vivian came to a political career was as Liberal candidate for Deptford in 1906: he was still explicitly a Jacobite, and convinced Churchill to speak at not one, but two of his public meetings. He got 726 votes – 6.1% of the poll – and subsequently came to approve of Fascism.
One hundred years later, another Jacobite stood for election – John Black of the Scottish Jacobite Party, who won 309 votes (1%) in Dumbarton in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections. This Jacobite Party was even more bizarre: for one thing, it didn’t propose to restore the House of Stuart, but to establish a Scottish Republic. Essentially, Black conflated the mythology of Culloden with that of Scottish nationalism, which is an easy mistake to make, and it attracted some attention. One of the reasons why that attention didn’t translate into votes might have been the rest of their manifesto. The Jacobites proposed to turn Scotland into a tax haven and alter the border to follow a straight line between Morecambe and Bridlington – the main impact of this incredible expansion, they argued, would be that several English football teams would now have to play in the Scottish Leagues.
Needless to say, they were wrong on this point, as football teams are allowed to play in foreign leagues – just look at Berwick Rangers, for crying out loud.
What does all this tell us? Well, the obvious thing is that the vast majority of ideological Monarchists (as opposed to those who are merely happy with the status quo) are right-wing authoritarians. It also tells us that right-wing authoritarians tend to prefer to promote their own power, rather than that of some distant dynast – just look at how little success ideological monarchism has had, compared to Fascism. In a free market, royalism will usually be superseded by bourgeois dictatorship. And finally, it tells us that some of the people who maintain loyalty to an unpopular constitutional option can get some very odd ideas into their heads, especially if those ideas are put there by a Carlos Hugo or a Grand Duke Cyril.
As far as Alternate History goes, there is definitely some potential for royalist Restorations in contemporary South-eastern Europe – but as far as the twentieth century is concerned, the Monarchist ideology will be most likely to be an analogue or adjunct to a model of right-wing dictatorship. Timelines in which Monarchism takes the place of OTL Fascism are, perhaps, under-explored.