Boulainvilliers’ project for aristocratic rejuvenation

The name of Henri, comte de Boulainvilliers (1658-1722) is, thanks to Michel Foucault and Hannah Arendt, largely associated with his Germanist position on the origins of the French nobility, which is frequently held to be an early example of modern racism. Actually the Germanist thesis predates Boulainvilliers’ output, and held no such connotations. It emerged in opposition to the traditional ethnographic practice which held the Franks to be the descendants of Trojans. Boulainvilliers himself explicitly denied that the French nobility were ethnically pure, and did not consider this integral to his arguments. His identification of the Franks with the conquering military aristocracy separate from the Gauls had the intent of serving as an analytical device for his treatment of the French constitution, which Boulainvilliers thought was eroded by a myriad of usurpations and perversions throughout the centuries. I’ll be borrowing plenty from Olivier Tholozan’s 1999 thesis Henri de Boulainvilliers: L’anti-absolutisme aristocratique légitimé par l’histoire for this piece.

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Giacinto de’ Sivo: an enemy of Italian unification

Having spoken about il Risorgimento and the “partito moderati” in revolutionary Italy before to various degrees, a logical next avenue to pursue is the question of who best epitomizes the intellectual legacy of the Lost Cause of the Italian South. The Lost Cause of the American South had and continues to have various partisans and spokesmen, but the one in Italy is much more sparsely represented.

Over 130 years later, Jefferson Davis’ The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881) remains something of the ur-text of Lost Cause historiography, though how much is it still read is a different question. Is there an analogue to Davis’ memoirs and history for the Southern Italian Bourbonist resistance? I think there is. That would be Giacinto de’ Sivo’s Storia delle Due Sicilie dal 1847 al 1861, published in two volumes between 1863 and 1867, and reissued twice afterward. De’ Sivo came from a loyalist family, his grandfather having fought for the sanfedisti in 1799, and de’ Sivo himself served in various state positions in the Two Sicilies; he was part of the Commission for Public Education, then in 1848 he was appointed Councilor of Intendance of the province of Terra di Lavoro, with seven hundred men at his orders, and in January 1849 he was commander of one of the four companies of the National Guard of Maddaloni, until its dissolution.

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Non-interventionism and neutrality as a Machiavellian instrument

Watching his beloved Kingdom of the Two Sicilies be dismembered from its crown and plundered by hordes of Piedmontese, Belgians, Jews, Greeks, Croats, Poles, Hungarians, Bulgarians, etc. — Garibaldi’s redshirts were a very diverse band of motley adventurers — Giacinto de’ Sivo (1814-1867) had strong feelings about the role of what today might triumphantly be called international humanitarian interventions.

The isolationist/non-interventionist ideal has only ever been viable for true hermit kingdoms that Europe has never really had, and for small states with clear idea of who their protector is. The United States has never been quite non-interventionist, with its active policing of Latin America, its raids against Barbary pirates, the French Republic (Quasi-War), expeditions in Fiji, Sumatra, Japan, the Ivory Coast, etc. all before its formal imperial period starting with McKinley. And, of course, the Western expansion itself.

The defining characteristic of the foreign policy of the great imperial states in the 19th century was precisely in their selective and opportunistic “non-interventionism” that was all about feigning neutrality whenever it was useful to smite the other side, the classic example being Britain appealing to neutrality to avoid aiding France in the restoration of Ferdinand VII to the Spanish throne in 1823, but going on to then defend the Bourbon-Isabelist line in the First Carlist War a decade later via the British Auxiliary Legion, when that option meant aiding the cause of constitutionalism.

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Duke Bretislav lays down the law

Cosmas of Prague (c.1045-1125) was a priest of Bohemian noble lineage, who wrote one of the central sources on Bohemian history from pagan times to Christianization and the reigns of the Přemyslid dukes up until Vladislaus I — the Chronica Boemorum, translated into English as the Chronicle of the Czechs.

Book II contains one of the most striking passages that I know of, when Duke Bretislav I in front of his comites and the bishop Severus, lays down a brief but powerful set of laws with the aim of definitively breaking down the last remnants of barbaric and decadent pagan customs that had still remained after the conversion of Duke Borivoj I in 884. As such, it serves as a very useful source to underline the uniquely civilizing aspects of the Christian religion on European peoples.

This occurs sometime in 1039 (“the fourth year of the duke’s reign”) during a Bohemian raid on Poland, sacking Krakow and heading to Gniezno, where the Czechs aim to retrieve the relics of Saint Adalbert housed in the basilica of the Holy Mary. Their bishop, Severus, admonishes them to do fasting and penance for three days and three nights before touching the relics. At first the Czechs disobey their bishop, whereupon divine retaliation is immediately exacted when they become blinded, “having neither voice nor sense nor sight for a space of almost three hours, until they again regained their original faculties by God’s grace.”

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Coussergues and the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis

By far the highest point of the Bourbon Restoration, possibly after the conquest of Algeria depending on your priorities, was the so-called “Spanish expedition” of 1823, when a 60,000-strong French army entered the Pyrenees, smashed the Spanish liberals at the Fuerte de Trocadero and restored Ferdinand VII to power from his house arrest under a three-year period of a liberal-constitutionalist coup (1820-1823), the “triennio liberal.”

This also ties in as an addendum to my previous post on Metternich and conservative internationalism, of which the “Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis” (the popular name for the 1823 intervention in Spain itself) as approved by the Congress of Verona was certainly a fine hour. It is perhaps also one of the last examples of a familial and chivalric component in foreign policy, involving as it did a Bourbon coming to the aid of another Bourbon.

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Metternich and his secret police

This is a belated response to a comment exchange between The Hapsburg Restorationist and Metternichian Theory that took place a few weeks ago, and republished as a standalone post.

THR quotes Kuehnelt-Leddihn on Metternich’s regime learning too much from the enemy (the Jacobins) and assuming a leftist character in its Polizeistaat nature. I don’t think that was the problem with it, however. First, we have to talk about the nature of the Holy Alliance and the concert system that the Metternichian project was devoted to.

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Prince Ludwig Windischgraetz’s predictions of European economic community

Fürst Ludwig Aladar von Windischgraetz (1882-1968), descendant of a Lower Styrian noble lineage, published his memoirs in 1921, (shortly before the Little Entente defense pact was signed between Yugoslavia, Romania and Czechoslovakia to prevent Karl I of Austria from exercising his legitimate birthright), dealing with his tenure as a WWI-era Austro-Hungarian diplomat.

At the end of the book, he draws some fascinating remarks on the future of international politics, which he believed would be intimately connected with the foundation of a European economic community or union of some sort.

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