Breaking Glass

The Last of the Royals

When historians survey Europe’s 20th century, rarely do they question the fundamental evil of the old irrelevant monarchies and aristocratic regimes, and the obvious necessity of replacing them with progressive socialist and nationalist substitutes.  A strong case can in fact be made that those ancien regime states disappeared some decades too early, and that had they survived, many evils might have been averted.  Millions of squandered lives could have been saved.

The last generation of those old royal families were an impressive bunch, perceptive, resourceful, and above all, decent people.  To get a sense of what might have been, look at one of those now-forgotten royals, namely Rupprecht of the ancient house of Wittelsbach, Crown Prince of Bavaria.  He lived from 1869 to 1955, a span that covered multiple epochs in European history.

Far from being a fossil, obsolete in the modern world, Rupprecht emerged as one of the finest generals on either side of the First World War, and one highly open to the latest technologies.  At the height of German victories in 1915, the country had to plan how to deal with its sprawling conquests.  Rupprecht proposed drawing Belgium, the Netherlands, and associated regions into the German Empire, not as occupied possessions but as full federated states.  That way, he thought, Bavaria and a restored Burgundy would combine to outweigh Prussia...

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