Another from the archive, 20 November 2009, a little amended to bring it
up to date. It is how the EU has come resemble Europe when under the rule of
the Habsburg dynasty. Some things do not change much. Quote:
Well, after all that, we are now agreed that basically, taking
everything into consideration, and looking at all the options the Habsburgs
were right. It is now admitted by our leaders in Europe, not all of them
elected, that after about six hundred years, all those wars of ideologies,
wealth and empire seeking, dynastic disputes, and sundry fighting between other
groups with particular agendas were a waste of time, men and money.
If only those misguided people our forebears trusted with power in the
past had just let the Habsburgs, their Emperors, Princes, Dukes and the rest
get on with running the show, religion, trade, and everything we could all have
lived happily ever after.
Perhaps Jean Claude Juncker and Theresa May do not much resemble King
Philip II of Spain, and Queen Mary Tudor of England who married at Winchester
in July 1554 (above), but they are the best Europe can do for the time being. Tony
and Cherie Blair would have been a little too Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella
I will skip the complicated history of the Habsburgs, it is all there on
the web and Wikipedia serves for starters.
Nor do I suggest that the various descendants of Habsburg’s line
scattered about the world should be elevated to high positions in Europe.
They seem to be a sociable lot, but their heritage has meant exclusion
from politics. They could almost claim
to be an ethnic group who have suffered social and political isolation and
apply for the relevant grants from Brussels.
The point is that the Habsburgs, Holy Roman Emperors and all that, not
only ruled much of Europe and beyond, but in the parts they did not have direct
rule, exercised a profound influence over what went on. Moreover, many went in for micro management
to an astonishing degree, complaining that they were slaves to their peoples.
We can also ignore their foibles and eccentricities, difficulties in
personal relationships, and consequences of genetic inbreeding. They are minor
compared to those of many of the current European and UK leaders, and as for
the UK we can substitute “political” for “genetic”. The effects of that are
infinitely more serious and damaging to the business of ruling than the odd
twitching of the DNA.
The Europe of the Habsburgs was a sprawling regime with its many parts
rarely functioning in connection with the others. It was a massive tax and wealth gathering
entity which spent vast sums on prestige projects, personal palaces, and in
enforcing the doctrines of which they and only they determined and defined.
It was multi layered to a bewildering and complicated degree. Most of
the time of its functionaries was spend in working out who they were and what
they were supposed to be doing. If they
found that out, then someone higher up would confound it, and it will all start
Public decrees would be made, laws and regulations issued, but how they
came to be or why would be shrouded in deep secrecy, and only the powerful or
the proximate would be party to any of it.
This meant that as you went down through the levels of administration,
matters became slower and slower, and more uncertain. Nobody quite knew what
decisions might be made and when, unless, of course, they paid good money to
find out and obtain the right result.
There was a proliferation of senior, high paying, posts to satisfy the
many clients of the state, and as many of the highest gathered so many of them
to themselves, then there was extensive delegation to much cheaper and junior
officials whose only hope of survival was to extract as much income and as
quickly as possible.
The Empire had a monopoly of policing and military matters that were
closely combined and under the instruction of the doctrinal and legal
administrative classes, so that rebellion was prevented, and any reformers or
opposition would be classed as rebellion or heresy and dealt with accordingly.
At the highest levels it was necessary to have connections and
background that were absolutely correct. Without the sixteen quarterings of the
right families you could neither be admitted to nor held worthy of rule.
Then it was ancestral because that was held to the test of rightness or
wrongness. Today there are other tests of political correctness that amount to
the same thing. They are boxes that contain the right configurations of
display, beliefs, and membership.
Nobody really knew where the money went, and accounting was simply an
exercise in writing fiction. Who was supposed to getting the money was one
thing. Who really benefited was quite another, sometimes completely random in
effect, and at others going to people who had abused every office they held.
There were some political jurisdictions which held out against the
Habsburg system, but in the 21st Century by the more effective
methods of modern communications and means of propaganda they have been
suborned and defeated.
For almost a century Europe was freed of the last of the Habsburg
heritage. But it has been too difficult to shake them off. They may not be back
in person, but their political tradition has triumphed. Their system is back, bigger and better than
ever and we are all now subject.
At least we will not have dynastic or other wars. Well, not for a year