Tuesday, August 3

Philip of Edinburgh: One of the Last Aristocrats of Old Europe | International

While organizing the funeral of Philip of Edinburgh, the historian’s gaze revisits the beginning of the devastation of Old Europe that began at the time of the Prussian campaigns against France that culminated in Sedan in 1870, weeks before the proclamation of the Commune in Paris. : an explanation of history would no longer be attempted through the value system of the aristocracy that, since the middle of the 10th century, had defined the character of Europe, but rather by assuming the revolutionary spirit that emerged in London in 1688, in Philadelphia in 1776, in Paris in 1789, in Dresden in 1848 and in Petrograd in 1917. However, this universal truth of our time, no one told a few resisters who for generations have remained faithful to the ideas of a society without national borders, founded from the knowledge and assumption of family ties. A cosmopolitan society that uses according to what language to speak according to what things, and that received the recognition of that great lady of the twentieth century who was Helene von Nostitz, Rodin’s muse and friend of Harry Kessler, in a book too important to be forgotten .

Because the aristocratic values ​​that forged European culture since the early Middle Ages are not reduced to perfect diction and good manners, they are actually about the ways of life of a world that has managed to survive numerous wars thanks to its ability to recycle. your options.

Suffice it to think, for example, that the mother of the late Duke of Edinburgh was Alicia de Battenberg (daughter in turn of Victoria of Hesse-Darmstad) who, due to the vicissitudes of her genealogy, led her to have her son Philip in Corfu as a royal house of Greece because her husband in addition to Denmark was king of Greece. If we think for a moment that, when she died, Alice was buried in Jerusalem, in the Church of Mary Magdalene, and that in her life she was a nun, we find ourselves before the aristocratic microcosm that has woven European history.

Unfortunately today the interest of this world is reduced to Netflix series and some novels, nothing to do with the desire of a society that has not been willing to give up the real in exchange for the dream. The weight of the centuries paraphrases the history of this sector of society that rejects the faerie power of thoughtless love, however much recommended by romantic poets like Keats. It is clear that today the Carpe diem it is popular and personal sacrifice only arouses suspicion. But it is clear that the values ​​that for centuries have sustained the tone of European life have nothing to do with the repression of the dominant over the dominated (there are cases, but few) or with the exercises of exaltation of equality as synonymous with equality. freedom of the peoples; they have to do with the personal greatness with which Europe was once built.

And, if there is a moral lesson from the role of these people in the history of the last ten centuries, it has to do not with the mistakes made by some of them (by many of them, certainly), but with the negligence of some of them not. be true to themselves at key moments. So this afternoon, about to hear the Dies Israe of the Requiem for the deceased, we must think about the need to build values ​​for the future of Europe at the level of those that figures like Philip of Edinburgh, one of the last European aristocrats, leave us when they pass away.

José Enrique Ruiz-Domènec He is a historian and author of the book Europe, a necessary story (RBA, 2019).


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