Some time ago, I read an article by a prominent British politician (Tory Party) lamenting the diminishment of certain personal freedoms in the English-speaking countries outside of the United States. He singled out for particular illustration the diminishment of freedom of speech, due mostly to the modern-day champions of political correctness and the recent idea that no one should ever have to suffer the horror of being offended by something someone else says. He noted that this was not a problem or at least much less of one in the United States in comparison to Great Britain because of the Bill of Rights. Correctly, he pointed out that, though many are unaware of it, Britain has a similar document, predating the American version of course, and restated the argument this man has made many times in the past that the founders of the United States were simply carrying on the tradition of their Anglo forefathers who had turned out King James II and welcomed in King William III in the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 when the current model of the British constitutional monarchy was established. Lamenting that the 1689 Bill of Rights has been forgotten in the modern United Kingdom, he suggested that Britain would do well to emulate America on this front, perhaps with a written constitution rather than depending on the sovereignty of Parliament to keep Britain a ‘nation of laws rather than men’. Reading through this, I could not help but notice the glaring absence of a defense of the British monarchy because that is really the essential factor.
True, this person did point out that, because the Prime Minister exercises the royal powers, he has considerable political power, pointing out how easily Tony Blair was able to totally destroy (what was left of) the traditional House of Lords. Yet, the monarchy itself remains something few politicians of any stripe wish to address directly and those who do are invariably on the side of diminishing or abolishing the institution which is at the heart of all law and government in the United Kingdom and all Commonwealth Realms. Having no window to his soul, I could not state for a fact whether this is due to a lack of support for the monarchy as a vital part of British life, culture and government or because of fear of the political consequences of defending the monarchy in such a context. However, it is an essential point. The first thing that must be said is that, regardless of how comparatively better things may be or seem to be in the United States compared to other English-speaking countries when it comes to individual freedoms, the fact is that the Constitution is not a cure-all and never has been. It is one of the flaws of the American system that every politician must swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and yet, by that very document, it is perfectly legal to change it. An American politician can take an oath to uphold the Constitution and still have it altered or taken to the Supreme Court to be reinterpreted to say something it never said before. It is, after all, only a piece of paper. It cannot speak for itself, it does not toil or spin. It has meaning only insofar as the Supreme Court interprets it and it has authority only insofar as it is enforced as it is.
The British case, on the other hand, is quite different and yet here again the very document being lauded, the 1689 Bill of Rights, is at least somewhat self-defeating. The only problem with the unwritten British constitution is that the one entity which is supposed to defend it and which, allegedly, has the obligation to defend it has been completely robbed of the ability to do so in part because of those very events of 1688 and the changes which came after (of course there have been plenty of others, and more drastic ones since). At the coronation of every British monarch they must swear to uphold the law and administer justice and yet, because of the perpetual power-grabbing by Parliament, today the monarch is effectively incapable of doing this and, in fact, most legal experts in Britain today would consider it “unconstitutional” and illegal if the Queen attempted to actually uphold the very oath she took at her coronation. Yet, this is only one modern absurdity among many we can see today. Another would be politicians being required to swear allegiance to the Crown yet also being allowed by law to campaign for the abolition of the Crown. We see it as well in the law which makes Parliament supreme while Parliament votes away its powers to the European Union.
It seems strange to me to hear a British politician, even one of comparatively better sense than most, argue that a new bill of rights is needed while admitting that the old one is simply ignored. Why not simply stop ignoring the old one? Perhaps because modern Britain is planted so thick with laws, local, national and European, that they often contradict each other. To enforce one law would mean to violate another. Of course, one could appeal, but go far enough and one will find that the ultimate authority has been effectively deprived of the power to act. Furthermore, any reassurance that this would be an occasion to do so and follow the letter of the law exactly would take some persuasion given the decades stretched to centuries that monarchs have been browbeaten into believing that the one thing they must never, ever do is exercise the power that is technically, legally, their own. I must also point out that in this same article, the author laments the evolution of the modern, permanent political class; those who have made politics a profession rather than a part-time obligation. However, the system that exists came to be as it is now by these very people and to serve the interests of that same political class. That is why there is no recourse. The final authority is supposed to be the monarch but the monarch is not allowed to exercise any royal powers so everything just circles back around to those same professional politicians in Parliament.
The United States, lest anyone think things are better in the “Great Republic” has come to the same thing, and in much less time. Contrary to what various presidents have said, “the buck stops” nowhere these days. The President does something that is illegal (something that violates the Constitution) and yet, the Constitution can do nothing to stop him. The opposition party may ask the Justice Department to investigate but, of course, the Attorney General is a presidential appointee and unlikely to find his boss guilty of any wrongdoing. The Congress is supposed to be able to do something but as any American should know, a thing is only illegal if someone in the *other* party does it. Unless the party opposed to the President controls large majorities in both houses, there is nothing they can do about a President who breaks the law. Most would think that the Supreme Court could do something, and it is probably true that most Americans consider them to now be the ultimate authority in the country (oddly, the institution to which one is appointed and serves for life, making it the least democratic) but, even if someone brought such a case to them and even if they deigned to hear it their ruling must be enforced by the President as they have no power other than to render opinion. As most familiar with American history know, presidents have refused to enforce Supreme Court rulings in the past and, in the right circumstances, there is no reason it couldn’t happen again.
Every country, no matter how modern and “enlightened” it may be, has to have something that the political structure is based on. There has to be something or someone which, when all else fails, has the final say and is above question. A republic, fundamentally, does not. America has made a good effort with its Constitution but, again, that is only a document which does little good when those who must uphold it and interpret it (and I do so love that word, as if it was written in some obscure, ancient language) are the very ones it is supposed to restrain. For Britain and the Commonwealth Realms this is supposed to be the monarch and it could be and has been. However, over time, minor incidents were so exaggerated that the British public, it seems, came to view the monarch as being the advisor to the Parliament rather than the reverse and invested so much power in politicians for fear of being tyrannized by a monarch that today the monarch has no power to restrain the politicians from tyrannizing the people. As can easily be seen in America, if a President oversteps his authority, it is difficult to impossible to call him to account. Yet, in a monarchy, if a King or Queen in most European countries tried to exercise their authority (much less overstep it) there is no doubt that they would be brought down immediately. Meanwhile, those in power can overstep their authority with no one to call them to account because the only one entitled to do so is not permitted.
One can debate whether or not another bill of rights would do the United Kingdom any good. Perhaps it would help for a while, perhaps it would not or perhaps it would be twisted to actually do even more harm. What is certain, and it is certain because the current bill of rights has failed in “its” duty, is that it would not be a perfect solution. Nor is their likely to be one so long as the public is limited in its thinking to trusting for the answer to their problems in more politicians (such as in the new House of So-Called Lords) or in more documents to be upheld and interpreted by politicians when the politicians are the very problem. When the monarch has been reduced to ceremonial status and the House of Peers destroyed in all but name, is it any surprise that the professional politicians of the Commons have been able to run wild? The public must awaken sufficiently to stop trusting those who advance themselves by playing on the public vanity. It must awaken to the fact that sometimes the popular majority can get it wrong and that any constitution or code of justice is only as good as those who are charged with upholding it. They must also realize that, even if they cannot consider allowing a monarch to rule or even have a share in governing, it is still a good idea to allow a monarch to say “no” and have that be the end of it. The public wanted that power and they have it. Most now realize something is wrong but they do not want to admit that maybe, just maybe, they are part of the reason why. Looking at the situation today, a monarch would not be unjustified to say to anyone asking for help, in the words of the last German Kaiser, “You’ve cooked this broth, and now you’re going to drink it”.
In June 2013, I wrote an article entitled “Arguing with Australian Republicans” and with only two words of alteration, the same opening lines can be used for this article. Republicans are quite a nonsensical bunch no matter where in the world you find them and those infecting the great country of Canada are certainly no different. Their arguments are so full of holes and lack any credibility to such a great extent that they have so far been unsuccessful in their treasonous efforts in spite of having virtually the entire mainstream media, political establishment and university system all helping them push their agenda. Of course, the traitor crowd in Canada has not even managed to get as far as their fellow traitors in Australia but, because of all the powerful institutions mentioned, they continue to get far more attention than they deserve and so their ridiculous carping is a near constant irritant. Now, I am sure some may dispute me that all of these elite bodies are pushing republicanism but they are, they are just not always overt about it.
For example, not all professors in Canadian universities are actively trying to convert their students into being good, little republicans but they are certainly not teaching them about the Canadian constitutional monarchy or instilling in them a proper understanding of and loyalty to the Canadian Crown. As for the media, despite the fact that none of the major Canadian political parties embrace the cause of republicanism, despite the fact that no poll has ever shown a majority of Canadians to favor republicanism and in spite of the fact that sufficient public support for a republic has never been gained to even hold a referendum on the subject, the CBC continues to give air-time to Canadian republicans virtually every time a royal event is covered. And this bias reaches across the political spectrum. For example, one of the most famous (or infamous) “right-wing” Canadian media personalities, Ezra Levant, on October 29, 2013, told an American guest that one of the things he most admired about the United States was that Americans are “revolutionary in spirit”. This was on a segment discussing merging the USA and Canada into one country and never once did Levant say that Canada was a constitutional monarchy and that was preferable to being a republic with America. The CBC to Levant basically covers the left/right divide in the Canadian media. As for the political establishment, the instances of outspoken loyalty to the Crown have been relatively few.
Yet, Canadian republicans are, thankfully, a rather inept bunch and were it not for the woefully inadequate public education concerning the monarchy, they would almost certainly have no support at all. Their own arguments frequently contradict each other. They claim, for example, that none of the royal safeguards, royal titles, royal treaties or anything at all would be changed if Canada became a monarchy because Canada is a republic already in all but name yet, they still say it is vital that Canada become a republic in name as well. So they are at the same time arguing that the Canadian monarchy has absolutely nothing to do with Canada these days but that it is somehow still damaging enough to need to be abolished. Have they never stopped to ask themselves how an institution can be doing a disservice to Canada when they are the ones claiming it does not serve at all? A close look at their arguments shows almost nothing but a long list of everything that would NOT change if Canada became a republic and yet they still try to persuade that changing Canada into a republic is absolutely vital. It is truly astonishing that absolutely anyone with their faculties in order could ever be taken in by such a cause. However, again, as with republicans everywhere, when common sense fails they do not hesitate to resort to outright lies.
To demonstrate this, I shall respond to some of the posted “Frequently Asked Questions” on the website of the most prominent Canadian republican organization. Their very first “question” is a lie itself. “If Canada ends its constitutional connection to the British monarchy, doesn’t that mean we’d become a republic?” Their answer is “yes” but that this would only accomplish in name what already exists in fact, so, again, one would be tempted to ask, “then what’s the point?” right out of the gate -and this is only the first question mind you. However, the lie is in the question itself as technically (and they do like to get technical, so I will as well) Canada already ended its constitutional connection to the British monarchy. There is now a Canadian monarchy that is legally a totally separate entity from the British monarchy. First question, first lie.
Second question, “Wouldn’t we end up being a republic like the United States?” to which the Canadian republicans reply “no”, basically saying that they would probably be a parliamentary republic rather than a presidential republic like the United States. However, if Canada became a republic it would be a republic “like the United States” in that both would be republics. In fact, Canada would be more like the USA than any other republic because both Canada and the United States started out the same way, only becoming separate countries because the American revolutionary forces were defeated during the American War for Independence when they invaded Canada. The American “Founding Fathers” originally intended their new country to include all of the British Empire in North America, Canada included, but Canada resisted and when peace was secured the current division between Canada and the United States was first drawn. The fundamental difference between the USA and Canada is the monarchy. Other than that, most Americans and Canadians wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, speak the same language, listen to the same music, watch the same TV shows and movies, drive the same cars, have many of the same political arguments from environmental protection to abortion. Both countries sprang from the same root and both now have an equally diverse population representing various ethnicities and religions and so on. The only reason Canada and the USA are not the same country already is because colonial America rebelled against the King while colonial Canada remained loyal.
The third question asks, “Is it true that if we end the monarchy we’d have to rename the Mounties and lose all our other royal patronages?” to which the republicans answer, “Absolutely not. The criteria for the title “Royal” includes no reference to removing it if a country transitions from monarchy to republic. Ireland has been a republic for over sixty years and has many institutions with royal patronages.” Which is true, but this is not a case of republican honesty so much as an illustration of how republicans want to turn the whole of Canada into a lie. It is true, they would not have to rename the “Royal Canadian Mounted Police” if Canada became a republic just as it is true that they could choose to rename them the “Imperial Canadian Mounted Police” even though there is no “Emperor of Canada” which would make about as much sense as calling them “Royal” when Canada has no Royal Family. Do you see how absurd these people are? Are you starting to see a pattern here? The very next question & answer assures people that Canada would not have to leave the Commonwealth if they became a republic. That is true, though I wish it were not, but do you see the common theme here? So they want Canada to be a republic but not a republic like the United States, they want to keep their royal titles and royal patronages and they want to stay in the Commonwealth of which HM the Queen is the “head”. Do they have any idea how ridiculous they sound?
Another question asks about the monarchy providing stability. These oh-so “honest” republicans respond by pointing to revolts, plots and revolutions Britain has had over the centuries, the Irish problem and the upcoming vote on “independence” for Scotland. They also point out that Canada almost broke up as a monarchy, referring, I assume, to the secession vote in Quebec. Well, yes, congratulations republicans, no country is immune from treason and internal conflict as your very presence demonstrates that every barrel has some bad apples. However, perhaps a little perspective might be in order. Monarchies may not be free from internal conflict, but history has proven that republics are better at setting people to killing each other by far. The American Civil War remains the bloodiest war ever fought in the western hemisphere of the world -and that was in the republic that has worked better and survived longer than most any other in history. Russia had internal strife as an empire but nothing so bloody and brutal as the civil war following the downfall of the monarchy. France had civil wars as a kingdom but nothing close to the Reign of Terror that followed the Revolution, to say nothing of the massacres that followed it in royalist parts of the country.
There are a number of questions trying to explain away the lack of public outcry over the monarchy but it is the answer to the last question, basically, “why bother?” that displays yet another republican contradiction. They say, “Admittedly, for as long as there’s been monarchy, there have been those who oppose it for its inegalitarian and undemocratic nature. But now, Canadians are increasingly realizing that a country that has rejected titles and aristocracy many decades ago, and which triumphs merit over bloodline, deserves to have the same values mirrored in the highest office of the land.” Yet, in their own second question about becoming “like the United States” they themselves say about a Canadian President that, “Contrary to popular belief, the position need not be political or popularly elected.” So it seems they cannot even make up their own mind whether a democratically elected head of state is a good thing or not. They do not want an unelected monarch as head of state because they value democracy but at the same time they do want an unelected president as head of state because democracy makes things political.
Aside from all of that though, when you hear these traitors being interviewed or debated, they invariably fall back on the old whine that the monarchy is a hold-over from the colonial past, from the days of the British Empire and it prevents Canada from being viewed as a “real” country. As if the foundational institution of a country should be determined based on what the neighbors will think. Frankly, the only thing I see detrimental to Canada being considered a “real” country is dimwits like these republicans and the influence they have already had on the Canadian public. Even as it stands now, the Canadian monarchy is one of the few things that makes it clear Canada is a different country from the United States. However, when I am tempted to take Canadian nationhood less than seriously it is because of things like scrapping the national flag, the Canadian Red Ensign, in favor of a new, more “inclusive” model. Real countries are proud of their history, heritage and symbols and do not discard them for being ‘behind the times’. I am tempted to take Canada less than seriously when celebrated journalists like Diane Francis write books about why Canada should merge with the United States. Real countries do not want to become another country. I am tempted to take Canada less seriously when a Canadian says what they are most proud of about Canada is their respect for human rights and multiculturalism, in other words, the value of having no values. Ask an American, even when the party they oppose is in power, what they are most proud of about their country, and they will usually say “our form of government” which they think is the best in the world. If Canadians would say the same it would do more for their “image” than becoming just another republic.
The debate over the Australian national flag is one of those annoying little issues that can be extremely frustrating. Those who advocate scrapping the Australian flag for a new design have never come anywhere close to gaining the support of a majority of the people and yet, partly thanks to an often treasonous mainstream media, the issue never seems to go away. It continues to be brought up and discussed over and over again in spite of the fact that no poll has ever shown more than 32% in favor of changing the flag and recent polls have shown even less support than that. Those who favor changing the flag invariably wrap themselves in the most popular, “warm and fuzzy” catch-phrases of modern political-speech like “uniqueness” and “multiculturalism”, yet, when you boil it down, it seems what they are most upset about is that Australia never had a really bloody, horrific revolutionary war in order to become an independent country. The Australian national flag came about in much the same way that the independent Commonwealth of Australia itself did, moderately, peacefully and over a period of time. That would seem to be the ideal way for a country to gain independence, yet it seems these people wish things could have been different and rather than be proud of how mature and reasonable Australia behaved in the past, they wish there had been a murderous tantrum instead. Does that sound mad? Give it some thought.
The primary complaint against the anti-Australian flag crowd is the presence of the Union Jack in the canton. They dislike this because the Union Jack is also the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and because it is a reminder of the colonial history of Australia as the flag is basically a modified British Blue Ensign. This is entirely understandable because Australia began as a collection of British colonies, as part of the British Empire and so the flag of the British Empire was not the flag of a foreign country, but the flag of Australia and every other part of the British Empire. As Australia came together as one country and gained independence the British Blue Ensign was modified to become the uniquely Australian flag we know today. This was not the case in, for example, the United States of America which started out with a defaced British Red Ensign but dropped the Union Jack (as it was then) also called the “King’s Colours” when independence was declared during the Revolutionary War. It would have been rather absurd for rebel colonists in America to continue flying the flag of a country they were at war with, whose soldiers they were trying to kill as best they could. Yet, none of that happened with Australia. Britain was never an enemy of Australia, they have never fought a war against each other and so the British flag was not the flag of an enemy but the flag of the “mother country” and the British Empire which was the seed bed that the Commonwealth of Australia grew in.
There was no radical change in flag design because there was no radical break with Great Britain. Australian independence came about step by step, legally and peacefully with no bitterness or animosity. It seems some wish it had not been so. These are the sort of people who are, make no mistake about it, traitors in their heart and soul who I am sure wince in physical pain when reading the words of the great Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies who called himself, “British to the bootstraps” and who said that, “…the common devotion to the throne is part of the very cement of the whole national structure.” There should be no doubt that everyone agitating for changing the Australian national flag is also a republican (which makes them a traitor) and some will proudly admit it. Some will smugly proclaim that they oppose the Australian national flag because it features the Union Jack and the Union Jack symbolizes the British monarchy (which is also the Australian monarchy but good luck getting any of them to say that). So, again, it seems that they cannot enjoy being an independent country because that independence came with no hateful, violent break with the past.
Of course, the anti-flag crowd would never admit to such a thing. Instead, they complain that the Australian flag is too similar to other flags and that it does not represent the modern, multi-cultural Australia because all the symbolism on the flag is British (which is not entirely true but that is the argument). The idea that it is a problem that the flag looks too similar to some others is certainly an absurd one. The only other sovereign state with a flag similar to that of Australia is New Zealand, so it is not as though there is a great deal of confusion gripping the peoples of the world. One other flag is similar and that is all. There would be more grounds for confusion for confusion over the United States flag which is similar to at least two other countries; Liberia and Malaysia. Yet, no one complains. You will certainly never hear anyone in Texas complain that the beloved Lone Star must be tossed aside because some might confuse it with the flag of Chile. How about Turkey and Tunisia or Slovakia, Slovenia and Russia? What about Indonesia and Monaco? What about Mexico, Italy and Ireland? Chad and Andorra? It is, frankly, ridiculous and more than that, it contradicts their very own, paramount, argument concerning multi-culturalism.
There is, after all, a reason why the flags of New Zealand and Australia are similar just as there is a reason why the flags of Canada, India and South Africa used to be similar; all were a part of the British Empire. Obviously, those wishing to change the flag despise that fact and hate their own history but if they value multiculturalism so highly, surely there was never a more multicultural entity than the British Empire. The British Empire included the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic peoples (all of them outside the United States), French-Canadians in Quebec, Dutch Boers, Africans of various tribes, the Hindu states of India, the Buddhists of Burma, the Chinese of Hong Kong and the largest population of Muslims in the world. What on earth could be more multicultural than that? And how is it that the Union Jack (which is really the only part of the flag most of these people object to) cannot be considered a symbol of multicultural Australia when it is still the symbol of a very multicultural Great Britain which has sizeable minorities of peoples from countries as far flung as Jamaica, Poland and Pakistan? Of course, they will counter that with an even more absurd argument which is that it is just not “proper” for an independent country to have the flag of another country as part of its own. This, frankly, displays an astounding level of stupidity.
For one thing, it is not just “another country” but the country that, whether these people like it or not, founded and brought up what became the modern Commonwealth of Australia. These people cannot seem to get beyond their own prejudices and accept the fact that there would be no Australia if it had not been for the British Empire and those first British ships and British colonists who came and built the country from the ground up. However, the argument that it is “improper” for an independent country to feature, as part of its flag, the flag of another country, while being grossly insulting to other countries and states and provinces around the world that do the same, is so astoundingly absurd, I can really only think of one way to best respond to it and that is with a question. I would really like to pose this to one of the advocates of changing the Australian flag: “Why are you speaking English then?” After all, you’re a totally different and multicultural country now, so why do you still speak the language of your former “colonial masters”? Isn’t it “improper” for one independent country to speak the exact same language as another country? I know, I know, that sounds extremely silly but that is the whole point. Australians speak English because they were founded by English-speaking peoples just like how the Australian flag features the Union Jack because they were founded by people for whom the Union Jack was “their” flag and proudly so.
The Australian flag, the flag that has accompanied Australians to battle in both world wars and every conflict since, represents the entirety of Australian history whereas these people seem to what a flag that represents only the Australia of today which might not even be the Australia of tomorrow. It is absurd. However, it is part of a larger and more insidious effort to divorce Australia entirely from the traditions and values that made the country. Part of that, all here should take notice, is the monarchy. There is scarcely any argument made for changing the flag that could not, and for the most part has been, used to argue for abolishing the monarchy as well. For many people across the entire English-speaking world those three crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick that make up the Union Jack represent monarchy like no other symbol. The enemies of monarchy are always trying to hide it, change it and remove it from view and all monarchists in the world should stand together in opposition to this. All monarchists everywhere and most certainly all those in the English-speaking world should give all of our support to our loyal brethren ‘Down Under’ in defending and maintaining the Australian flag.
God Save the Queen! God bless Australia and keep it flying!
Most people are probably aware that the south Atlantic islands known in Britain as The Falkland Islands are at the center of a long-standing dispute between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Argentina (which calls the islands Las Malvinas). In 1982 this dispute sparked a brief war between the UK and Argentina when the Argentine regime of General Leopoldo Galtieri (acting president of the military junta then ruling Argentina) invaded and occupied the islands before being soundly beaten in a British counter-attack ordered by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that removed the Argentine military presence and inflicted a defeat on Argentina that brought down the military regime. Fewer people, however, may be aware of why these islands, seemingly insignificant, continue to cause tensions and how the dispute over their sovereignty came to be. First of all, it is important to remember that this is a sovereignty dispute, which means that both Britain and Argentina claim to hold sovereignty over them. It is not, for example, the same thing as the tensions between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Spain over Gibraltar. The status of Gibraltar is not really in dispute; Gibraltar is British and the Spanish are not happy about it. With the Falklands, it is not a case of Argentina simply being disgruntled or upset that the islands, for some reason, should have been given to them and have not. They claim that they have always belonged to them and rightly still do. This makes sovereignty disputes particularly troublesome because, at any time and for any reason, a conflict like that seen in 1982 could break out.
Captain John Byron
The claim by Argentina that the Falklands belong to them is, it should be made clear at the outset, obviously ridiculous given that ownership of the islands pre-dates the founding of the country of Argentina by centuries. The first people to land on the islands were British sailors in 1690 when Captain John Strong sailed through the area and named the islands for the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Viscount of Falkland. The British planned to settle the islands but were beaten to the punch by the Kingdom of France (yes, France is involved in this too) when Louis Antoine de Bougainville planted a small French colony in East Falkland in 1764. Then, in 1765, the British returned when Captain John Byron landed on another nearby island, Saunders Island, and claimed the whole island group for Great Britain. The French settlement in East Falkland was not even noticed. The British did not find out about the French presence until the next year in 1766 which was also the year that France sold their claim on the islands to Spain with the understanding that the Spanish would keep the British out of the neighborhood. Spain claimed the islands based, rather shakily, on the Treaty of Tordesillas which was a refinement of a papal bull issued by Pope Alexander VI which divided the world between Spain and Portugal (Spain got the Americas and Portugal got Africa and Asia). Because of this treaty the Spanish, or at least some of them, claimed that the Falklands should belong to them. However, the islands were not mentioned in the treaty nor did Britain or France (or any other powers) recognize the authority of the Pope to divide up the unexplored lands of the earth (hence all the non-Spanish and non-Portuguese colonies all over the Americas, Africa, India and East Asia).
In 1766 another British expedition landed and established a British fort on Saunders Island named Port Egmont. The Spanish never knew of this outpost until 1770 at which time they found out and the Spanish authorities in Buenos Aires sent a military expedition to Port Egmont which forced the British to withdraw though they still maintained their claim on the islands. They had arrived first and none of the treaties invoked by Spain (the Treaty of Tordesillas or the Treaty of Utrecht) to back up their claim applied to the Falkland Islands. Nonetheless, for the time being, Spain was in control of them. When the Spanish empire in the Americas began to fall apart, British entrepreneurs endeavored to settle the islands again in the 1820’s. By this time, the British presence was protested by the revolutionary government of the “United Provinces of the River Plate” or the “United Provinces of South America” which was the rebel government that had broken from Spain and taken control of what had formerly been the Spanish Viceroyalty of the River Plate (Rio de la Plata) and which presided over territory that would eventually become the northernmost reaches of the Republic of Argentina.
In 1833 the British returned, forced out the meager Spanish/Argentine military presence on the islands and established British control over the islands once again. Today, some in Argentina trace their claim back to Luis Vernet. He tried twice to colonize the islands, failing each time, before establishing a minor presence. However, he reported to the British consul at every step and though the government in Buenos Aires declared him to be governor on their behalf, the political situation on the South American mainland was far from settled and Vernet himself even requested permission to make his colony a British protectorate if the British were to resume their colonization of the islands. The British reestablished control of the islands and protected the existing settlement though most eventually left, despite British efforts to persuade them to stay. The islands, aside from that brief period in 1982, have remained in British hands and occupied by British settlers ever since that time. Argentina, however, usually asserts their claim based on the actions of an American mercenary sea captain sailing in the employ of the United Provinces of the River Plate named Colonel David Jewett who, in 1820, raised the United Provinces flag over the islands. The problem, or at least one of them, is that the very status of the United Provinces was unclear at the time as is the connection it holds to the country of Argentina today.
The United Provinces were formed, usurping authority from the Spanish Viceroy, in 1810 and were not recognized by any major foreign powers. Moreover, they did not actually declare independence from Spain until 1816. Britain, for example, did not recognize Argentine independence until 1823, a year after the Jewett episode. The Kingdom of Spain did not recognize Argentine independence until 1857! Furthermore, though modern Argentina claims descent from the United Provinces, it was certainly not the same political entity that exists today. Bolivia and Paraguay broke away and the United Provinces were succeeded by the Argentine Confederation of 1831-1861 which was itself succeeded by the rival Republic of Argentina and State of Buenos Aires. Obviously, the claim of the modern country of Argentina to the real or imagined territories of past revolutionary governments that were always in a state of transition, is extremely tenuous at best. What makes the modern-day claim of Argentina to sovereignty over the Falklands really rich is that it is based on someone planting a flag on them and occupying them, all the while claiming that when the British did the same thing that this should be considered illegal and should not count as a way of determining sovereignty. Because a government which they claim as a predecessor of their own held possession of the islands, very briefly, Argentina asserts that this negates the British holding possession of the islands for centuries.
God Save the Queen!
The bottom line is this: it is a matter of historical fact that the British were the first to set foot on the Falkland Islands. Their claim predates all others and that is a fact. The Spanish based their claim on the islands on the Treaty of Utrecht which stated that all territories formerly held by Spain, prior to the War of the Spanish Succession, should be returned to them. However, the Falkland Islands were not named in the treaty nor did Spain hold the islands prior to the War of Spanish Succession as stipulated in the treaty. The earliest claims by any government with any connection to modern Argentina were made by a government that neither Britain nor Spain recognized and which was basing its very existence on the usurpation by force of Spanish territory (it being a revolutionary war for independence). A successful revolution can seize power from a legitimate monarch and can even obtain the recognition of that monarch of their authority over a given territory. However, they cannot claim what they did not have, what “their” government had never held and which they failed to take. The British right to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands is as legally sound as can be possible and the fact of the matter is, even if the British were to renounce their sovereignty over the Falklands, they would rightly belong to the Kingdom of Spain and not the Republic of Argentina.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest military minds England has ever produced, fully deserving to be ranked among the great captains of history from any nation, the life of the first Duke of Marlborough, also known by his nickname “Corporal John” is marred only by the fact that, while a soldier of monarchy all his life, he did betray the King he had sworn allegiance to and who had been his patron. Because of this, Marlborough will always have the taint of a Brutus about him and yet, no one can deny his military brilliance or discount the great victories he won for Great Britain on the field of battle. His skill was wide-ranging as he displayed a mastery of battlefield tactics, overall strategy, logistics and the political competence to coordinate an allied war effort made up of diverse forces. After a long period of internal conflict had left the British Isles in a weakened state on the European stage, the victories of Marlborough brought Britain roaring back as a major world power and for that he deserves all due credit. The fact that he was ambitious, untrustworthy and a shameless opportunist can also not be denied and, apart from his accomplishments, as a man, he left much to be desired. However, those accomplishments were immense and even his many enemies and rivals had to admire his military ability.
John Churchill was born in Devon on May 26, 1650 into a family of good royalist standing but very poor finances. Nonetheless, his connections were good enough to secure him a place as a page to the Duke of York (future King James II) when he was seventeen. It certainly helped that his sister was then the mistress of the Duke. This put Churchill in a position to meet the right people and as he grew older he managed to befriend the right men and romance the right ladies to advance himself. In 1667 the relationships he had made were good enough to secure him a commission as a junior officer in the Foot Guards and he saw his first action fighting the Moors in North Africa (mostly around Tangier), an area gained from Portugal through the marriage of King Charles II to Catherine of Braganza. He gained valuable experience there but gained even more when he returned home and began an affair with the veteran mistress of the King (and many others) the Duchess of Cleveland. In 1672 he was fighting the Dutch at sea on the flagship of the Duke of York where his heroism won him promotion over other, more senior, officers. At this time, Britain was allied with France against the Netherlands and many of the French officers he fought beside he would one day fight against.
After returning to England in 1677 he married a lady-in-waiting to Princess Anne (daughter of the Duke of York and the future Queen), Sarah Jennings. He undertook some diplomatic tasks and continued to advance himself in the army, rising to the rank of brigadier general. Because of his background at court, his marriage and his military service alongside him, Churchill was seen very much as one of men most attached to the Duke of York and when he succeeded his brother on the throne as King James II, Churchill solidified this image by helping put down a revolt against the new, and openly Catholic, British monarch. The religion of the King was soon seized upon as the pretext for the Protestants at court to plot the overthrow of James II and his replacement by his son-in-law, the Prince of Orange, who was mounting a Dutch invasion of Great Britain. Churchill, as most expected, was initially staunchly loyal to his sovereign and longtime patron King James II. However, by this time certainly, Churchill knew a losing cause when he saw one and when Prince William of Orange landed in England with his Dutch army in 1688, Churchill promptly turned his coat to join the invaders. For most, this was a religious issue, Catholic versus Protestant, and there were later attempts to make Churchill a sort of Protestant champion, however, he had been loyal to James II long enough knowing full well that he was a Catholic and intended to reign as a Catholic king so there seems little explanation for his betrayal other than simple opportunism. Fortunately for him, he had picked the winning side.
When the Prince of Orange became King William III, alongside his wife Queen Mary II, he promoted Churchill to lieutenant general and raised him to the nobility as the Earl of Marlborough. A nice prize but many viewed it as his thirty pieces of silver and despite giving good service in minor conflicts from Ireland to the Flemish coast, Marlborough was not trusted with great responsibility. Some were still wary of him given his background. He had betrayed his King, the man who set him up in life, so who was to say if he might not do the same again under the right circumstances? This was simply the price Marlborough had to pay for the decisions he had made. Of all those who had turned against James II, the betrayal of Marlborough probably hurt the most (outside his own offspring of course) and some credit it with breaking the will of King James to resist and prompting his flight into exile. Given how shocking this was, it is no wonder that King William III never entirely trusted Marlborough, nor did Queen Mary II and Marlborough came to dislike them both as well. Eventually neither tried very hard to hide their true feelings. Doubts about the loyalty of the Earl of Marlborough came to a boil when it was discovered that he had been writing to the exiled King James II, asking the deposed monarch to pardon him for his betrayal. It is unlikely that Marlborough was truly sorrowful and more likely that he wished to regain the good graces of his former patron in the event that the male-line of the House of Stuart was restored to the British thrones. Whatever the reason, it was enough for Marlborough to be arrested and locked in the Tower of London where he remained until Queen Mary II died.
Although he never trusted him, King William III finally gave Marlborough his rank back. Not long after King Billy died and was succeeded by Queen Anne. Just as importantly for Marlborough, the unfortunate King Carlos II of Spain, the last of the Spanish Hapsburgs, died and so brought about the War of the Spanish Succession. Anxious to keep France and Spain apart, England allied with the Netherlands and Austria and declared war. The Dutch would not be major participants but Marlborough would find himself fighting alongside the Austrians under the command of another of the great captains of history; Prince Eugene of Savoy. For the next nine years this pairing of two of the greatest military leaders in history never lost a battle and set a new standard for military excellence. Warfare, at that time, had become rather stagnant again thanks to the brilliant designs of the influential French military engineer Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban and his impregnable fortifications. Marlborough insisted that no one could win a war fighting defensively and built his new method of warfare on the twin pillars of “attack” and “planning”. He would often employ diversions to draw away the strength of an enemy from a certain point and then launch a surprise attack, often leading from the front in person and like so many of the greatest captains in history, he seemed to be able to read the mind of his enemy and knew just when to throw in his reserves for the knock-out blow.
Along with this though, as much if not most of the credit for the victories of Marlborough grew from his grasp of the importance of logistics (which allowed for the mobility his armies were famous for) and morale. He moved his men at odd hours to foil enemy spies and scouts, he took great pains to establish supply trains, set up camps at predetermined positions so that his troops could carry less and so march faster and always be well fed and well equipped. He saw that his men were paid promptly and regularly and that they had new boots before going into battle. His careful planning of attacks also cut down the casualty rate at the troops felt that their commander cared for their welfare and so would fight all the harder, confident that he would not waste their lives needlessly. Because of the respect he inspired among his men, they adoringly nicknamed him “Corporal John”. Marlborough showed what confident, well cared for British troops were capable of. In 1702 he cleared enemy forces from Belgium with relative ease and two years later teamed up with Prince Eugene of Savoy for his greatest victory at the battle of Blenheim in Bavaria on August 13. For a loss of only 13,000 men he had inflicted casualties of 34,000 on his enemies, knocked Bavaria out of the war and showed in a dramatic way that the French, previously considered unstoppable, could be beaten.
By this time his victories had earned him promotion to first Duke of Marlborough and the Queen lavished the genuine war hero with money and land. It did not take long for the Duke of Marlborough to become the wealthiest man in all of the British Isles. And, still his victories continued. Back in Belgium, he defeated the French again at the battle of Ramillies on May 23, 1706 and two years later won, perhaps, and even more shocking success. At the battle of Oudenaarde it seemed that, at last, the Duke of Marlborough had been bested. The fight on July 11, 1708 saw the French take Marlborough by surprise for a change but, in a dramatic turnaround, “Corporal John” again displayed his masterful ability to maneuver the army, worked his troops around to advantageous position, stopped defending and started attacking. The French were beaten and their morale suffered heavily from the loss. The following year, on September 11, 1709, Marlborough gained what would be his final victory at the battle of Mons. It was a brutal, hard fought battle that took a terrible toll on both sides. Again, for a time, it seemed he might be beaten but Marlborough knew just when to commit his reserves and did so at just the right time to win the day. Still, casualties had been immense; some 21,000 losses.
The large death toll was seized upon by the Tories who wanted Britain to focus on naval power rather than committing large armies to the continent. They were also none too fond of the Duke whose wife was an outspoken Whig who was rapidly falling out of favor with her former friend, Queen Anne and generally making herself (and so her husband) thoroughly disliked by those coming into power. Marlborough’s lavish estate and high living also attracted envy and accusations of misuse of government funds. He was relieved of his command and recalled to England. With the death of Queen Anne and the arrival of the new King George I, the Duke of Marlborough had his position restored but, by that time, his health was too poor for him to return to active duty. He died after a series of strokes on June 16, 1722 at the age of 72. Even to the last his character had been in doubt and yet, at the same time, no one could deny that the man who had just passed away had been one of the greatest military minds Britain had ever produced. Perhaps not until the rise to fame of the Duke of Wellington was it no longer the Duke of Marlborough that any successful British general was measured against.
Throughout his life, the private life and the military career of the Duke of Marlborough were always in contrast. His betrayal of King James II was shocking and distasteful even to those whose side he joined. His efforts to keep one foot in each camp, as it were, also lowered his reputation. Later on, when his self-seeking pride and disloyalty might have been somewhat forgotten, his arrogance and outlandish opulence won him many more critics. His wife and her gossip, intrigues and haughty behavior certainly did not help his reputation either. All of that, of course, was off the battlefield. When it came to warfare, Marlborough was a soldier almost without equal and, indeed, his reputation would probably be still higher were it not a number of other exceptionally gifted captains he shared the stage with. In his entire career he had never lost a battle. He had won four major victories on the field and succeeded in twenty-six sieges. Marlborough and his army were masters of the continent for ten years and he would probably be easily titled as the greatest captain of his time were it not for the presence of his ally, the brilliant and daring Prince of Savoy. Nonetheless, his achievements were astounding and he fully deserves both the contempt many have for him as a man but also his standing as one of the great captains of world history and one of the greatest figures in the hall of heroes of the British army.