lundi 7 avril 2008

Le mystérieux parcours du sang royal

Francis II, duc de Bavière, en compagnie de sa nièce Elisabeth.

Le Daily Telegraph fait frissonner ses lecteurs à peu de frais en leur dévoilant les conséquences imprévues d'une projet gouvernemental. Les journalistes Richard Alleyne et Harry de Quetteville font semblant de découvrir ce que tout le monde sait : les prétendants légitimes à la couronne anglaise vivent sur le continent. La famille régnante est une usurpatrice de seconde zone, des nobliaux allemands au rabais.

Les choses se compliquent quand le premier ministre a dans ses intentions d'annuler l'Act of Settlement de 1701 qui interdit aux catholiques d'accéder au trône anglais. Cette décision remettrait en selle les héritier du dernier monarque légitime d'Angleterre, soit Charles Ier, mort décapité à Londres.

La lignée des Stuart vibrionner joyeusement en Allemagne avec à sa tête Franz II, l'actuel duc de Bavière et, comme le remarque l'universitaire Daniel Szechi, s'il devenait roi à la place d'Elisabeth, les Anglais ne feraient que remplacer une famille allemande par une autre.

Les Anglais oublient volontiers que leur ersatz de famille royale s'appelait Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha jusqu'en 1917 quand le poids de la propagande de guerre et de la germanophobie les a puissamment encouragés à adopter un nom plus indigène, les Windsor.

Nouveau coup dur pour l'orgueil insulaire, la princesse Elisabeth tombe amoureuse d'un « allemand », le prince Philip von Battenberg lequel par un coup de baguette magique change son nom en Mountbatten lors de leur mariage en 1947. D'autres détails croustillants ici.

Le duc de Bavière visite une école.

Act repeal could make Franz Herzog von Bayern new King of England and Scotland

Gordon Brown is considering repealing the 1701 Act of Settlement as a way of healing a historic injustice by ending the prohibition against Catholics taking the throne.

But doing so would have the unforeseen consequence of making a 74-year-old German aristocrat the new King of England and Scotland.

Without the Act, Franz Herzog von Bayern, the current Duke of Bavaria, would be the rightful heir to the British Crown under the Stuart line.

The bachelor, who lives alone in the vast Nymphenberg Palace in Munich, is the blood descendant of the 17th-century King Charles I.

La généalogie de Francis II, duc de Bavière.

"If it [the Act] goes then the whole Catholic line is reinstated," said Prof Daniel Szechi, a lecturer in early modern history at the University of Manchester.

"Franz becomes the rightful claimant to the throne. We would just exchange one German family for another one."

The Act was introduced as part of the power struggle between Parliament, the Christian churches and the monarchy, then dominated by the House of Stuart.

It prohibits any Roman Catholic from having access to the throne, even through marriage. Once a person marries a "Papist" they shall be "for ever incapable to inherit, possess or enjoy the Crown", it asserts.

The legislation effectively severed the Stuart line of succession, a family who favoured Catholicism, and switched it to their distant relatives the Hanoverians, from which our current Queen descends. James II, the son of King Charles, fled into exile.

The Stuarts stopped making claims to the Crown after the death of Henry Benedict Stuart (known to the Jacobites as Henry IX) in 1807, but there remains bitter feeling among many Catholics at their treatment.

The Royal Stuart Society still holds annual vigils at the bronze statue of Charles I in Trafalgar Square.

The Act of Settlement's reach continues today. Prince Michael of Kent renounced his claim to the throne when he married Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, a Catholic divorcee, in 1978.

Next month Peter Phillips, 30, the eldest grandson of the Queen and 11th in line to the throne, will automatically lose his birthright by marrying Autumn Kelly, a Canadian Catholic.

The Act has recently come under attack from Church leaders and MPs, in particular Scottish MPs, as an unjustifiable discrimination.

In the face of this new pressure, the Prime Minister indicated he would consider abolishing the legislation as it was "antiquated" and discriminatory.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, whose brief includes constitutional affairs, said the Government was ready to consider repealing the Act, although he added that it was an extremely complicated issue.

Dr Eveline Cruikshanks, the author of The Glorious Revolution and a former president of the Royal Stuart Society, said: "They ought to repeal the Act. The language is particularly offensive to Catholics and should go."

Patrick Cracroft-Brennan, the editor of Cracroft's Peerage, said that while theoretically the Duke's claim was good, it could never be actioned because Parliament now effectively chose the monarch.

"It is a very interesting hypothesis and theoretically he is the head of the House of Stuart," he said. "But the Government effectively chooses the monarch now and it is highly unlikely to remove the Windsors from the throne."

As for the Duke of Bavaria himself, he is a reluctant heir.

The graduate in economics, who values his privacy, has always laughed off pretensions to the British crown and prefers to concentrate on his modern art collection.

Baron Marcus Bechtolsheim, the president of the administration of the Duke of Bavaria, said: "The Duke generally does not comment on this issue because he sees it as an entirely British question which does not concern him. And he regards it as a purely hypothetical issue.

"Even if this change in Britain happens, it won't change his attitude. All this interest in his opinion makes him smile because, really, he is very happy and satisfied with being the Duke of Bavaria."

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