Friday, February 7, 2020

The Legal Drama of the Hohenzollern Family

From The Wire:
With 176 freshly renovated rooms, grand gardens and majestic fountains, who wouldn’t want to move into the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, just outside Berlin? One person is apparently itching to Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, the head of the once royal House of Hohenzollern and the great-great-grandchild of the last German monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II. But whether he is allowed to or not remains a legal question loaded with historic significance. Since 2014, Georg Friedrich has been battling the national and state governments of Germany as he attempts to secure the right of residence in the property, the last palace built by his family as German nobility. He is also attempting to secure the restitution of art and other former family possessions. His prospects remain unclear. (Read more.)

How the Revolution slowly overwhelms everything as monarchies have disappeared. From The Week:
The tradition of a royal person ruling a society can be traced at least as far back as the earliest state formations in the Middle East. During the 4th millennium BCE, the rulers of the Mesopotamian civilization of Sumer declared themselves kings and arranged for their sons to inherit their positions. Throughout the millennia that followed, monarchies reigned supreme as the preferred system of government, the Greek city states (except for Sparta), the Roman Republic, and the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell being a few notable exceptions to confirm the rule. Monarchies as a system of government began to fall out of favor in Europe during the 18th century when the movement known as the Enlightenment put the age-old connection between religion, politics, and social hierarchies under scrutiny. Out of these debates grew the oldest and still-existing political ideology of liberalism.

Liberalism developed as a response to the absolutist monarchies that had dominated the European continent for the past few centuries. Absolutism describes a system of government based on a monarchy dominated and controlled by the sovereign. It developed from the 16th century onwards; it, too, in response to what came before, namely the monarchy of the Middle Ages where the sovereign's powers were counterbalanced by a council of nobles. King Louis XIV of France (1638–1715) perhaps described absolutism best when he quipped, "L'etat, c'est moi," or "I am the State."

According to liberalism, all citizens are equal with the right to self-government and self-expression. In a time dominated by absolutist monarchies ruling over vast cross-continental empires and supported by either the Catholic Church or a Protestant State Church, these claims proved to be explosive. The first liberal revolution was the American Revolution in 1776, soon followed by the French in 1789. Having rid themselves of George III and Louis XVI, respectively, the Americans and the French reconstituted themselves as republics, drawing inspiration from their forebears of Antiquity, the Greek city states, and Rome, and establishing a government for the people by the people without any religious influences. This is what we today call liberal democracy.

Together with the equally disruptive ideology of nationalism, liberalism piggybacked on the reach of the European empires across the globe and ignited independence movements and revolutions in places such as Haiti against the island's slave owners, the Philippines and Latin America against the Spanish, Africa and Asia against the French and the British. At the dawn of the 20th century, socialism joined the group of disruptive ideologies. The result was the toppling of even more monarchies, this time in Russia, China, and Ethiopia, just to name a few. The chaos created by World War I brought down the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires, all of them almost exclusively replaced by either liberal or social-democratic republics. (Read more.)

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