Did World War I discredit the idea of divine right to rule?
By - ButterflyForeign949
WW1 demolished many of the old principles of 19th century Europe such as Christianity, Monarchy, Imperialism and the old order that upheld the Congress of Vienna in general, the effects of which we’re still feeling today.
The cracks it caused in the social fabric of Europe were tiny on the surface but caused deep cracks beneath it.
And the effects of industrialized warfare as our ancestors have witnessed caused much disillusionment, but in the path of trying to find a new way, we ended up with a s*** world where people are as lost as ever
Once a tree is cut down, you can't put it back up but no matter how many seeds you plant, there is just going to be a looong time where you're looking at nothing at all.
That’s a great analogy. But what I fear is that in the process of trying to figure their s*** out, people will do as they always do and appoint something to lead them (like with Napoleon, Hitler, Caesar, and every other man) and thus continuing the cycle.
Today's Kingdom of Belgium, Kingdom of Norway, Kingdom of Denmark, Kingdom of Spain, et al. all would like to have a word with you. While those aforementioned are primarily democracies today like the UK, Liechtenstein and Monaco still have trappings of an absolute monarchy. I think the rise of democratic liberalism in the 19th century probably had more to do with rejection of divine right than WWI.
Communism was already thing before WWI and even before 1900. Karl Marx, who was one of the biggest influences on 20th century Communism, died decades before WWI. I'll give you some allowance for fascism but even some of its practitioners pointed to the earlier Jacobin movement as one of the roots of 20th century fascism.
Rule of the Corporations? Certainly I am concerned with the amount of influence that some corporations seem to hold with governments today. In addition, things such Google's and other entity's control of information and impact on public discussions through their Orwellian procedures that ban certain people from being heard and certain topics from being mentioned. But WWI had less to do with that and more to do with the explosive growth of certain technologies without proper checks and balances being implemented to prevent the rise of techno-monopolies able to dictate those sort policies.
In all the former countries you mentioned, does the monarchy have an active role in society, politics and culture the same way as in 1900 or is it just a thing that exists and the political will to explicitly abolish it just isn’t there yet? The fact of the matter is that OP is correct to diagnose WW1 as the root case of this as it was by and large the liberal states warring with the ancient autocracies, the exception of the Russian Empire notwithstanding. The war was what could have been a turning point as the German Empire would have shaped and led the world after 1918 and absolutely shaped the world in the ideals of their aristocratic, traditional Christian society. But since they were defeated, the ideals of that world died out, especially as the old institutions had so urgently supported the war which was the beginning of the end of British Christianity even in our own timeline.
To summarise, the existence of a paper crown in most European countries or a real one in the micro states that exist does not defeat the premise that serious widespread monarchism was defeated and discredited by the First World War. If anything, it supports it.
Moving on, yes, Communism was a thing before WW1 but what was it that spurred it from the fringes of ideological obscurity to the principal foe of the United States for over half a century? The social upheaval in Russia caused by the First World War. Without that, I don’t see how it advances from where it was to being the global phenomenon that shaped and defined the twentieth century. The war caused such economic, physical and moral devastation to Europe that it allowed something as utopian as Communism to rise from the ashes of the world that burnt in the fires of Verdun and Tannenberg. How else would it have gone from Vladimir Lenin’s rambling newspapers to his murderous dictorial edicts?
And do you not think that the fall of monarchies allowed the state of affairs to exist wherein the corporations could take cultural and social control? It’s not like these things are immediate but the process began with the social upheaval of 1914-18 and ended with the widespread control they have in today’s day and age. And even though the US where these corporations are based is not a monarchy, which is what I assume your counter argument will be, the same principles which upheld the monarchies largely held true in the US and when they evaporated in one place, they evaporated everywhere, which leads us with the situation we’re in now.
Tl;dr - History has consequences.
> n all the former countries you mentioned, does the monarchy have an active role in society, politics and culture the same way as in 1900
No (with the exception of Andorra, Liechtenstein, and Monaco) but the OP mentions the UK Monarchy as a survivor of that period. However its role today is not any different than in many of those other European countries I listed so my statement is still valid for the OP's definition.
While WWI is certainly a significant event and with any event of that magnitude its ripples can still be felt, it can't be pointed at as the cause of the decline of the idea of the divine right of rule. I would point out that the French formed republics a number of times through the 19th century and so rejected the idea of Monarchy on more than one occasion. More than a rejection of Monarchy, an important element of the eruption of WWI was the rising nationalism that was already beginning to supersede the idea of Kingdoms in much of the rest of Europe.
The Ottoman collapse had been going on since the late 19th century as various groups within its Empire grew their own feelings of ethnic national identities. Austria-Hungary, the trigger for WWI, was already dealing with a number of national-ethnic uprisings culminating with a Slavic nationalist assassination of the ArchDuke.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 was not the first revolution in Russia in the 20th century. In fact it had almost become an annual event by then. Russia had already shown its discontent with the Monarchy even before WWI erupted. All that war did was knock the pilings out from an already rickety institution ready to fall.
Without WWI you still have revolution likely in Russia, The various Slavic groups will still be agitating in Austria-Hungary for their own independent homelands, France is still a republic as it had been for decades at this point.
History shows that you don't need the removal of Monarchies for corporations to thrive, either. Hudson Bay, Bank of England, East India company all existed, thrived and by any definition were major corporations while operating under British Monarchy. East India even managed to bring another nation under its control so the influence of today's corporations on public discourse and governmental affairs is not without precedence.
I think to say that the British Monarchy retains the significance and importance that it did in 1914 is to comically understate just how much things have changed since then. You need only look at the Coronation Oath to see that. In 1953, it was a sacred occasion wherein Elizabeth undertook holy oaths to God and to her church that both she and her subjects held in due reverence because Britain then was a protestant nation, still believing itself an Imperial power, still sure of itself and it's institutions and still believing in what it represented. Can anyone say the same for when Charles takes the throne? Those in observance directly will hardly be able to contain their sneering and giggling at the ceremony, they tolerate the notion of something as silly as "Almighty God" in all other state functions but this will be the point of absurdity for them. And that's just those who hold direct political and cultural power. What of the country beyond it? Deeply irreligious to say the least, conflicted over what it is, unsure of it's own identity and even unsure if it deserves to exist at all, let alone as a serious force of any kind in the world. Britain may still be a monarchy in name but in 1953, Republicanism was the sheerest kind of absurdity, only a lunatic would argue that in a country where the monarchy was so essential to public life. Now one of the major political parties is staffed entirely with Republicans and apathetic careerists. And all of this is a consequence of the social damage caused by the First World War, it is a Monarchy in name alone but all the depth that status conveyed has been hollowed out and stripped away.
France's eternal divorce with itself and who it wishes to be is a product of 1789, the products of which are still felt to this day as no Republic in France has ever felt as secure as the Kingdom or the Empire, whichever form you prefer. But this is largely irrelevant to the fact that when I refer to Monarchy, I'm not merely referring to the political principle that the head of state should be a hereditary position because that's not what it is. Monarchism is a belief in tradition, continuity and order, a belief that we came from something great and should pass it on to our children when we depart this world. Now, was that damaged by the French Revolution or the general rise of Liberalism and Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century? Yes, absolutely. But was the position of Monarchism in Europe so utterly smashed by their rising, indeed their LITERAL risings in 1848 among others? No. They survived and endured, and possibly could have continued to do so. But the First World War was the death blow for these institutions, the idea that an autocratic Kaiser or Tsar could simply wage war upon one another wherein the lives of aristocratic commanders mattered more than the common soldier dying in the mud by their millions for the conquest of two inches of territory per month? That couldn't fly after that, not after that war had delivered such a monumental failure and defeat as was delivered unto the German, Austrian and Turkish thrones. It shattered the confidence in these states and turned the tide of history from vast Imperial land empires to a Europe of liberal, democratic ethnostates, at least for the time being. But this future was not inevitable and while the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were likely doomed to collapse at some point anyway, that would merely have been a reflection upon the specific political decisions that caused those specific states to fall, NOT a damning inditement on the concept of Monarchical rule as a whole.
No, the Russian Revolution was not a singular event but what was that spurred the 1906 Revolution on? Primarily, the social unrest caused by the losses sustained in the war with Japan. Now, this was not the ONLY reason, as the longstanding grievances against the political repression carried out by the autocracy, denial of political representation, and sustainment of medieval conditions for the rural communities of Russia all contributed to that but they exploded in Nicholas' face so spectacularly because of the war. It was the same principle with the February Revolution that swept Kerensky and the Liberals to power on the back of an unpopular, and again losing under Nicholas' direction, war. And then the only reason that the Bolsheviks took power was because Kerensky refused to stop the war and - wisely imo - refused to make any terms with Germany. Now, I don't think war was needed for this and the political powderkeg inside Russia was going to lead to a liberal reform of the autocracy sooner or later, but it would have shifted to a Constitutional Monarchy along the lines of Germany or Japan, with the Tsar still wielding great power. In no timeline except General Ludendorff giving Lenin a shitload of gold and sending him on a seal train across Russia does it end with a Communist Revolution, because it was such an absurdly unlikely scenario and without the war. EXPLICITLY without the war in this case as Lenin could never have taken power on his own, only in the absolute chaos of 1917 Russia could the Soviet Union have even had a chance of being created.
And I find it interesting that the corporations that you mention either belong to a completely empty slate where no prior state exist such as the Hudson Company or other colonial ventures, or ones that were eventually brought to hell such as the Raj. But even then, the EIC found India in a state of absolute opportunity, being the only term I can use for it, with a deeply divided society and an elite all too willing to hand over state controls to British businessmen so long as they retained economic prosperity. Does that remind you of anything? I see so many parallels in modern China to the EIC in how they manipulate the political elites of nations to do their bidding against the will of their populations for no reason other than economic prosperity, but really the internal situation needs to be adressed. India at the time had reached a point of stagnation, of a loss of drive and purpose in the dying Mughal Empire, and the West is in a similar position. We don't know who we are, and are all too willing to hand that control over to people who do. So no, you're right that this situation is not unprecedented; that we have such a clear precedent is what absolutely terrifies me.
What I was getting was that the occurrences in WWI truly shattered people’s faith in the old order. One of the reasons, although far from the most important one, is that Europe was ruled by one big family and that was not enough to stop the war. People saw this and basically said, “What’s the point of having your relatives wear crowns when my relatives died?”
Come WW2, fascism became discredited as a viable political ideology. Communism as many understand it followed after the Soviet flag was lowered in Red Square. We now live in a world where people are forced to choose between largely capitalism and socialism, both ideologies that are equally evil if taken to the extreme (and human history is sadly defined by those who take things to the extreme, not those who take things in moderation).
Even democracy as we experience it has not prevented the rise of right-wing nationalist movements around the world. US foreign policy committed the grave mistake of imposing democracies in places where it never should have existed in the first place (a byproduct of arrogance in the American elite after the Soviet Union collapsed) and we are still having to deal with the consequences of when the West ran colonial empires around the world.
The way I see it, people are confused because we live in a world where technology has not promised the equitable existence as originally intended, the elites around the world are simply out of touch with everyday people, ideology does not care about people’s difficulties no matter what they are, and so on.
That’s why I dabble in alternate history, because the world as we live in now is crap