Royalists Look Back to the Future
PARIS — ROBERT ROGISTER looks up at an arched doorway of the Louvre in the throes of restoration. He notices that the words ``Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,'' - motto of the French Republic - have been scraped away. ``Maybe there's good news,'' says the elegant Parisian, heading down the street to an anti-French Revolution assembly. ``Perhaps they've chosen today to announce the restoration of the monarchy.''
Actually, the French Republic is quite safe, especially in these lazy days of August when all of France seems on vacation. Mr. Rogister is a royalist. He believes that only the return to power of a king (or queen) can save his country from the decadence and political partisanship he says now reign.
Rogister is not alone in his convictions. Here and in Italy, Austria, even Hungary, small but in some cases growing numbers of people say that the continuity of a royal regime has been replaced by the upheaval and egotism of partisan politics. This, say the these royalists, is to the detriment of their countries.
In most cases, these monarchists are religious - Roman Catholic, as would be their kings. They hold the secular (they usually say ``atheist'') government responsible for the permissive society they condemn.
In a Europe where birthrates are declining, the monarchists vaunt large families, ``family values,'' and the symbolic importance of a royal family at the head of a country. They insist that their movement is not simply a nostalgia for a time when Europe ruled much of the world.
``We don't want to return to anything in the past. That would be stupid,'' says Nicholas Rosam, an Austrian student who actively promotes a return in his country to a monarchist regime.
``We want progress, to go forward - but with values and believing in something,'' he adds.
Last April thousands of Austrians turned out for the burial of the country's last empress, Zita de Hapsburg; the 41/2-hour-long funeral was televised live nationwide. In neighboring Hungary, where Zita de Hapsburg had been the last ruling queen, son Otto de Hapsburg was received with applause and singing of the Hungarian national hymn after a requiem mass for his mother.
In Italy, royalists lobby for a change in the law that prohibits the country's would-be king, Victor Emmanuel IV, or any of his male offspring, from entering or residing in Italy.
But it is in France, against the backdrop of this year's celebration of the 200th anniversary of the fall of the monarchy and beginning of the French Republic, that monarchists have been most active.
In January a group of protesters shouting ``Long live the king!'' interrupted a concert of Republican music and injured the featured singer.
Such incidents, coupled with their avowed nationalism and anti-egalitarianism, usually place monarchists on the far right of the political spectrum, if not among the fascists. But monarchist leaders insist they adhere to no political persuasion.
``We act outside the political parties because they are creations of the Republic,'' says Pierre Pujo, director of ``Aspects de la France,'' a publication representing the royalist organization, Action Fran,caise.
``We are of neither the left nor the right. But our adversaries like to dismiss us as far-right,'' he says.
Like many royalists, Mr. Pujo says he and his organization have ``certain sympathies'' with the far-right National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen, notably its strong nationalism and pro-family politics. But he says the two groups differ strongly on issues such as the republican form of government and construction of a united Europe.
``We oppose anything that promotes an integrated, internationalist Europe, to the detriment of European nations,'' says Pujo, explaining his group's call for voters to abstain from European Parliament elections next or last June.
Monarchy activist Jean-Louis Damville, national director of the France Royaliste et Legitimiste movement, says there is no blind refusal of progress and change among royalists, as long as the change is positive and moral.
At an antirevolution assembly of conservative Catholics that drew 12,000 participants last week outside the Louvre, most people said they considered themselves monarchists. Most cited a rejection of ``godless government'' and an increasingly decadent society as their reason for supporting a return to a monarchy.
French monarchists disagree among themselves over who would be king were the throne reinstated. There is disagreement, as well, over how the monarchy would return. Many say it would be through a return in France to Christianity. Gautier Martin, a Parisian student of law, says French society is so mired in its own decadence that it may take a military strongman to bring back the monarchy.