Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Reign in Spain

Taking a break from today's dismal headlines, Sovereignback Saturday returns yet again to a more innocent time: namely, World War I. In the summer of 1917, we find the crowned heads of Europe shaking in their boots.
"Help!" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, 1917
1917 is remembered as the year Russia threw off the yoke of Romanov rule, only to have its attempts at establishing a liberal democracy thwarted.

Political upheaval was not limited to Russia, however. The Greek King, Constantine I, had tried to maintain his nation's neutrality while World War I raged about the country on all sides. Constantine denied the Allied and Central powers permission to use Greece as a landing base, and stymied moves by his Prime Minister Venizelos to bring Greece into the war on the side of the Allies.

Allied leaders suspected Constantine of harboring sympathies for Germany. After all, his wife was Kaiser Wilhelm's sister — but then all the crowned heads of Europe were related in one way or another.
"Family Troubles" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, 1917
On June 10, 1917, backed by the threat of an Allied landing in Piraeus, Venizelos forced King Constantine to go into exile. But since the European Entente powers weren't interested in "making the world safe for democracy," they passed up the opportunity to return democracy to its cradle; Allied Commissioner Charles Jonnart opened casting calls for another member of the royal family to take the throne. Constantine's eldest son, Crown Prince George, was too pro-German for the Allies' liking; so after Constantine's brother (also named George) refused to take the throne out of loyalty to his brother, Constantine's second son, Prince Alexander, was chosen to become the new monarch.
"I Remember Those Boys..." by Rollin Kirby in New York World, 1917
After King Alexander died from an infected monkey bite (would I make something like that up?), Greek voters approved a plebiscite to recall Constantine — who had never actually abdicated anyway —to the throne in 1920.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, there were rumblings beneath the throne of Spain's King Alfonso XIII. Spain, too, maintained neutrality in the war, but Alfonso's sympathies leaned more toward the Allies than Constantine's had. Alfonso's queen, moreover, was British, a cousin of George V.
"Alphonse and Gaston" by Cy Hungerford in Pittsburgh Sun, 1917
Outside observers perceived democratic inclinations in the Bourbon monarch. The Washington Star editorialized that
"...liberalization of the government has been along definite and practical lines for years, and the republican party has grown until, since the Spanish-American War, it has been a powerful factor in Spanish politics. ...
"Complaints against the courts are bitter, especially in the matter of appointment of officers of the army. Favoritism is the rule. So insistent are the demands for reform that the government is at a crisis of decision."
"Another One of the Boys on the Run" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, 1917
As it turned out, Alfonso remained King until 1930, his popularity eventually worn away by a six-year war to maintain Spain's territories in northern Africa, his support for the leaders of a military coup in 1923, and the worldwide Great Depression as the 1920s roared to a close.

Returning to the summer of 1917, Belgium's King Albert was in exile from his German-occupied country, as were Serbia's Peter, Montenegro's Nicholas, and Romania's Ferdinand. In Allied propaganda, the German Kaiser was due to be toppled from his throne any day now.
"Come, Junkers" by Jan Sluijters in De Nieues Amsterdamer, 1917

Cartoonists who did not accept the role of cheerleaders for their government saw no reason to presume that the havoc of war would limit itself to Europe's autocracies. Socialist Kenneth Chamberlain, drawing for The Masses, predicted the war dragging on for another three years, but the principal powers (including the U.S. — foreground) having spent themselves utterly.

"1920 — Still Fighting for Civilization" by K.R. Chamberlain in The Masses,  August, 1917

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