News has reached us today of an article concerning the Abbey-Principality which has been published in the online newsletter of an entity styling itself “The International Commission on Nobility and Royalty”. As may be expected from previous correspondence (see “A response to recent communications” published by us on 18 August, and our paper on the late Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg and “The International Commission for Orders of Chivalry”) the article is critical in tone, and makes a number of specific points to which we will respond in turn below.
By way of initial remarks, however, we must firstly comment on the authorship of this article. It would appear, from the material sent to us, that no person dares put his or her name to it and admit to being its author. It seems odd that a body that seeks to comment on issues of nobility and royalty should itself be so neglectful of the basic principles of honour, namely that if you wish to accuse another, you must do so openly and answer for the consequences. Not to do so – to hide behind a corporate name, and to skulk in the shadows of anonymous speech – may well be in keeping with the spirit of today’s internet “flame wars” but it is not the act of a gentleman.
The Abbey-Principality notes common factors in all “commissions” that concern themselves with nobility, royalty and chivalry. Firstly, they are uniformly self-appointed organisations, not owing their impetus to any Royal House, but instead to members of various chivalric orders who wish to “protect their turf” from anyone who threatens their establishment. Secondly, these organisations have no standing and no power in law, for all that they assign to themselves grandiose titles and ambitions (always, seemingly, claiming to be “international” in scope). Of course, they may publish their opinions as they see fit, but the only standing those opinions will have is within their own circle of followers. Any claim to scholarly standing that is put forward by such entities is at once quashed by their insistence on anonymous authorship for their pronouncements. It is self-evident that no “commission” can be recognised by the Abbey-Principality as possessing any form of authority whatsoever.
A further trait of these entities is that their verdict is always delivered in advance of the “trial”. In other words, firstly the decision not to accord “recognition” is made, and then an argument is concocted in order to support that decision. This is amply confirmed by the fact that no member of the “Commission” has at any point contacted us either to establish the facts concerned or to seek our response to their findings prior to publication, which would of course have corrected them on a number of points of fact and interpretation. What is presented instead in the absence of any due process is a “show trial” more suited to the admirers of Stalin and Mao than to those who would call themselves royalists.
The argument of the “Commission” seems to rest primarily on two points. The first concerns the lack of documentation from the early years of the Abbey-Principality. The second concerns the issue of sovereignty.
No documentation of the early years of the Abbey-Principality prior to 1899 has survived to the present day, and those of us who are concerned with its history have always been frank upon this point. This situation, unfortunate though it may be, is not one in which we stand alone; not all of the famous dynasties and chivalric orders extant and “accepted” today can prove their origins through a “perfect” document trail that would be sufficient to satisfy a court of law. Strangely enough, however, it is not they but we who find ourselves the target of such attacks.
What our critics ignore, however, is that written testimony does indeed survive from Prince-Abbot Edmond I, who personally saw at least a part of this early documentation before it was either destroyed or suppressed. In a letter of 31 January 1961, preserved in our Archives, he writes, “my predecessor had a fire in his home, so I lack much data that I ought to have, & which I saw before he returned to France” (our emphasis). A further commentary by Edmond I confirms the same, “his possessions were seized by Rome and nothing got away without their consent. I never got any of the Order matters, for example, and that has made things very difficult. I saw most of the important papers and documents when he was here, but that is not legal backing.” (Ancient Christian Fellowship Review, vol. 1 sect. 5, January-March 1947, p 7) The letter of 14 June 1930 from M. Georges Panchaud, nephew and legal heir of Prince-Abbot Joseph III, also mentions a number of these documents being in the hands of M. Louis Druel of France. Since by this time M. Druel was markedly antagonistic to Prince-Abbot Edmond I, it can be deduced that any such documents, while they may still exist today, have been deliberately kept from our hands.
It should not therefore be imagined that this missing documentation is a mere chimera. There stands the testimony of our predecessor, who was acknowledged as an honest and upright man of God, that he himself saw these documents before their disappearance. For this reason we may have confidence that the early history of the Abbey-Principality rests upon a wholly reliable source.
Our critics choose to twist the latter part of Prince-Abbot Edmond I’s statement to imply that his assertion that his eyewitness account “is not legal backing” somehow equates to a lack of legal proof of the position of the Abbey-Principality in its entirety. We suggest, rather, that our predecessor overstated his caution in his statement (as was characteristic of him), for eyewitness testimony continues to be accepted in legal proceedings the world over, and indeed has been a prominent element in many recent cases of international law that have come to public attention. Whilst we cannot, as our critics might wish, place our predecessor on the witness stand and have him repeat his statements before a competent court, we can at the least take note of and give appropriate credence to the written testimony that he has left us. “Opinion or assumptions are not facts” say our critics. We agree entirely, and we apply that comment very pointedly to their opinion and assumptions on these matters, which again is simply presented for the purpose of discrediting us.
In the 1961 Symposium we find the following commentary, which remains relevant: “We need not be disturbed by the seeming obscurity of our foundation when we consider in parallel the history of the Order of the Garter (the Order of the Crown of Thorns claiming about 40 years seniority). In Sir Ivan De La Bere’s words: “Though the story of the foundation and origin of the Order (of the Garter)…has been discussed and disputed by inumerable antiquaries during the past four hundred years, it still remains obscure. In fact it is not possible to state with certainty either the exact date of the foundation or the precise cause of its institution, because all the annals of the Order for the first two hundred years of its existence are both imperfect and unreliable.” If that is so with the Garter, it may well be true also of the Order of the Crown of Thorns.”
We have previously published an extended paper that addresses the sovereignty and position in international law of the Abbey-Principality; this we now see dismissed by our critics as “irrelevant” – a response that conveniently absolves them from considering any of its evidence. They continue to maintain that the relative brevity of the territorial sovereignty of the Abbey-Principality – between 25 August 1883 and 2 August 1884 – is somehow a factor of significance. It would not have mattered if the period of territorial sovereignty had been of six days or six millennia. Once sovereignty exists, it is perpetual.
In their second point, our critics seem to be attempting to argue that sovereignty cannot be created by means of a colonial action of settlement, ie. without the consent of the indigenous people of the region that is being colonized. It is a long time since we have seen quite such an absurd argument advanced by those who aspire to being taken seriously, with the only cited source coming from almost a century prior to the foundation of the Abbey-Principality! Even the most casual student of history must note the many occasions upon which eventual sovereignty has depended upon invasion, the result of war between foreign powers, usurpation or similar means, with “history being written by the victors”. We do not condone colonial actions on a moral basis and we certainly do not support any recurrence of them in today’s world, but we are dealing here with matters of history. In the nineteenth-century, it was a frequent occurrence for the European rulers to colonize Africa irrespective of the rights of its indigenous monarchies, exactly as happened in the case of our past and present ally Bunyoro-Kitara. Anyone who questioned the resulting sovereignty of the colonists would have met with a blunt response at the barrel of a gun.
Even today, we see members of these “commissions” happily accepting honours from the hands of the descendants of the rulers of these colonial powers. We should also note that the late Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg, president of the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry – an institution where African royalty and nobility goes wholly unrepresented among the membership – was “a champion of apartheid and has stated his belief that blacks are worthless.” It must be considered ironic that these “commissions” invariably have among their members citizens of the United States, a country whose past treatment of its indigenous Native American rulers is well-known. The double standard is all too clear.
We continue to find it ironic that today’s “commission”, all-knowing on matters of sovereignty, takes it upon itself to lecture the Catholic Church, saying in effect that the Catholic Church in the past did not know what sovereignty is, did not use the term in its “legal, secular sense” and so on. This sort of argument is always a resort for those who are desperate to deny the sovereignty of a religious entity, and specifically that sovereignty which pertains to the Catholic Church and the Pope as its head, as it does to the various canonical Orthodox Churches, a number of whose ancient patriarchates are principalities in their own right. These are the people who assert that “sovereignty” in their definition belongs only to the Pope in his capacity as present-day “secular” ruler of the Vatican City and is not inherent in his office since the time of Christ as the Pope and the head of the Catholic Church. Since these arguments have been refuted repeatedly by others in other places, we will confine our response to saying that we will continue to prefer the definition of sovereignty as maintained by the Catholic Church throughout the ages to the attempt to redefine the term as proffered by modern “commissions” in support of their own ends.
The statement concludes in an expected manner. We must note the fact that its tone throughout seems to us to border on the intemperate, and also that it is the work of someone with a poor command of English. It would appear that the Abbey-Principality’s willingness to defend itself, and its ability to do so comprehensively, has greatly riled those who would sit in judgement upon us. We find the Abbey-Principality taken to task because it has not obtained the “recognition” of “the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry (ICOC), The International Commission on Nobility and Royalty (ICNR), or the International Commission and Association of Nobility (TICAN).” The reason for that situation is entirely obvious to any who have troubled to read this far. It is that the Abbey-Principality holds these self-styled bodies in contempt and recognizes them for exactly what they are, “paper tigers” comprised of self-appointed “experts” whose “recognition” is legally and in every other sense meaningless. It is a rich irony that the “Commission” devotes so much emphasis to its point that recognition by others does not confer sovereignty (a point we have never denied) when its principal purpose seems to be to offer just such a “recognition” to entities seeking confirmation of their sovereign status!
In closing, we note the curious situation whereby the “commission” sees fit to attack the Abbey-Principality but is careful not to mention by name the chivalric orders for which the Abbey-Principality is responsible. The reason for this becomes clear when it is understood that the sovereign status of the current Royal Patron of two of the San Luigi Orders, H.M. the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara, has previously been “recognised” by this “commission”. Clearly the brief that has been given to the author of this article is to attack us while giving no offence to our Royal Patron, and indeed we have noted earlier the attempts made by certain individuals to “persuade” our Royal Patron to withdraw his support from us, using the expected combination of carrot and stick. It is indeed an unedifying spectacle to see such base behaviour emanating from those who should be dedicating themselves – particularly in this season of Advent – to higher ideals than futile attacks upon others. Perhaps, indeed, they seek a second form of colonialisation: this time, rather than military might, they will instead use promises of “recognition” by Western ex-regnant houses and nebulous pledges of future financial aid in an attempt to compel the Africans to accept their position.
We continue to recognize our Christian duty to stand up against those who would aggressively and falsely seek to traduce us, and doubtless we shall return to these topics at a future date. For now, however, we may reflect that “les chiens aboyent et la caravane passe”.