OUR CHRISTIAN XIXTH CENTURY ETHICS
[Lucifer, Vol. II, No. 12, August, 1888, pp. 482-484]
As civilization progresses, moral darkness pervades the alleged light of Christianity. The chosen symbol of our boasted civilization ought to be a huge boa constrictor. Like that monstrous ophidian, with its velvety black and brilliant golden-hued spots, and its graceful motions, civilization proceeds insidiously, but as surely, to crush in its deadly coils every high aspiration, every noble feeling, aye, even to the very discrimination of right and wrong.
Conscience, “God’s vicegerent in the soul,” speaks no longer in man; for the whispers of the still small voice within are stifled by the ever-increasing din and roar of Selfishness.
But—“our shops, our horses’ legs, our boots. . . . have all benefited by the introduction” of the “macadam of civilization,” says Dickens. Yea; but have not our hearts turned, on the other hand, to stone also? Have they not been macadamized in their steady petrifaction with this rapid spread of civilization? Highwaymen may, or may not, have disappeared with more perfect highways, yet it is certain that they have reappeared since in every class of life and trade, and that highway robbery is now taking place on still deadlier, if improved and legalized principles. “Crawling beggars and dirty inns” offend our esthetic feelings no longer; but starving beggars have found their numbers increasing tenfold and are multiplying at a rate in proportion to the extortionate charges of white-washed inns, now turned into palace-hotels. And if—still according to Dickens—“much of the ribbonism, landlord-stalking from behind hedges, and Skibbereen starvation of Ireland may be attributed to the baleful roads of bygone days,” to what shall we attribute the same evils, only on a more gigantic scale, in the Emerald Island to-day?
Politics does not enter into the programme of our magazine’s activity. Yet as everything under the sun now seems to have become connected with politics, which appear to have become little else but a legal permission to break the ten commandments, a regular government license to the rich for the commission of all the sins which, when perpetrated by the poor, land the criminal in jail, or hoist him upon the gallows—it becomes difficult to avoid touching upon politics. There are cases which, emanating directly from the realm of political and diplomatic action, cry loudly to the common ethics of humanity for exposure and punishment. Such is the recent event which must now be mentioned.
It is a truism of too long standing, a policy acted upon by every civilized nation from antiquity, that the prosperity of every state is based upon the orderly establishment of family principles. Nor is anyone likely to deny that social ethics depend largely upon the early education received by the growing-up generations. On whom does the duty devolve of guiding that education from early childhood? Who can do so better than a loving mother, once that her moral worth is recognised by all, and that no evil report has ever sullied her fame? The youth and his later intellectual training may well be left to the firmer hand of the father: the care of his childhood belongs by all divine and human rights to the mother alone; the parent who gave her offspring not only a part of her flesh and blood, but a portion likewise of her immortal soul— that which shall create hereafter the real man, the true EGO. This is the A B C of the life-duties of mankind; and it is the first duty of those in power to guard the sacred maternal rights against any brutal violation.
How then shall we characterise the unparalleled act of violence, perpetrated on the modern principle that “might is right,” which has been offered in the face of all the world by a crowned husband to his innocent wife, and by the first statesman in Europe to an unprotected Queen—a woman? Has Queen Nathalie of Servia played false to her country, was she a faithless wife, or a bad mother? No; most decidedly not. Has she in any way deserved the insult dealt her at the hands of these two men, in the European scandal which has now disgraced the King, her husband, and the country to whose honour and protection she trusted herself? Once more, and a thousand times, no. All those who knew Milan Obrenovitch’s life, his low moral standard, his family relations for the last years, and especially his small intrinsic value as King, patriot and man, will deny emphatically any accusation against Queen Nathalie. On the other hand many are those who knew her personally from her
birth and throughout her girlhood. A good daughter cannot be a bad mother. A pure, noble-minded woman can hardly be a guilty wife.
Why then should she be so cruelly treated? Why should she have been forced to drain to the last drop the contents of the bitter cup of insult and moral agony for crimes that were not her own? It is a measure of political necessity, we are told. The Christian clergy of the land is forced to sanction it, and Christian law is thus made to act in defiance of every moral and divine law! Most undeservedly and brutally insulted in all her most sacred rights, the honest woman, the faithful wife of a faithless man and husband, is now doomed to be sacrificed to the Moloch of politics! She must remain separated from her only child, and witness, passive, helpless and powerless, year after year, the virus of moral depravity being inoculated in her boy’s nature by such a father! She, the legitimate wife and Queen, has to submit to be treated like a discharged courtisane and suffer another woman and women, fully deserving of that epithet, to take her place in the palace, perhaps to assume authority over her innocent son. “Politics” doom a future king to witness from his childhood daily scenes that seem copied from those which must have taken place in the palaces of Messalina and those of the Popes Borgia!
Therefore every honest man and woman has a right to say that no more brutal, heartless, unqualifiable act has ever been perpetrated in the political dramas of this century of the greatest civilisation. Such an act committed by a Milan of Servia, the salaried bravo of Austria, could hardly astonish anyone. But that the deed should be sanctioned by one who had just proclaimed in the hearing of all Europe, that he “feared God alone,” is incomprehensible. We are far, it seems, from the barbarous Middle Ages, when the German Ritter fought and died to protect a woman. We are in the age of civilisation and politics. Poor, unhappy Nathalie Keshko! Who of
those who knew her hardly a dozen years ago, the beautiful, happy, innocent girl, the ornament of the high social circles of Odessa, would have ever dreamt of such a fate for her? Left early an orphan, she was brought up by her guardian as a beloved daughter. Love, wealth and happiness smiled upon her from her very cradle, until that unfortunate marriage of hers—a true mésalliance—with the unworthy nephew of the martyr-Hospodar, Michael Obrenovitch. The descendant of the swine-herdsmen of Servia has since become an opéra-comique King, who now dishonours the nation which chose him for its ruler. It was not her beauty that attracted him; but her millions. The noble uprighteousness of her character and her true womanly moral qualities must have made him dread her from the first; and while these repelled the profligate husband, the millions of Nathalie Keshko consoled him, by permitting him to enlarge his harem, and make his mistresses share the same palace with the virtuous legitimate wife. And now, having filled the life of the unfortunate young Queen with gall, he gives her the last deadly blow by depriving her of her only child, making of her a Rachel weeping and refusing to be comforted.
Why? For what crime and by what right? The last word of the mystery is in the safe keeping of Prince Bismarck and King Milan. The proud Imperial Chancellor might have defeated the ends of that puppet-King with one word; but he preferred to help him. Before the Prince, all male Europe bows. But no woman can fail to rise in righteous indignation against the politics of the “Iron Chancellor” and proclaim it to his face. The loud blame of millions of women, and of every mother in Christendom, are so many implied curses that must for once fall upon the head of the man they are addressed to. And what mother will fail to sympathise with this other bereaved and wronged mother? There is a law of Retribution, however, and it is this which gives us the
liberty to ask: What, or who, gives you the right and audacity to so insult all law, divine and human? Is it in the name of Christianity that you perpetrate an act which would disgrace any “heathen” potentate and State?
Ye, unrighteous judges who fear neither moral law, nor do you feel ashamed before the open censure of the teeming millions of those who openly blame you; it is posterity which will render to you your just dues, and thus avenge the memory of this martyred Queen and mother. That day must come, when, passing into history, your political action will be read with disgust and horror even by the descendants of those who now keep silent, instead of raising their voices in the defence of that innocent woman.
But while whole nations of private individuals can do nothing except protest, sincerely and as vainly; all those who could do so effectually, will not lift a finger on behalf of Queen Nathalie. The public is willing, but powerless; the Sovereigns and potentates all-powerful, but evidently unwilling. But, O, ye Crowned women, mothers, and wives of Europe! Unless you join your voices in one mighty cry of indignation and protest against such an infamous act of despotism and undeserved cruelty, you have small right indeed to call yourselves Christians or to represent the religion of your Christ in the eyes of the masses. Although might is really right in our age of dissembling and of unexampled Selfishness, there may be something worse in store for those who fail to do the right thing by an oppressed sister. That which is now being done to the legitimate Queen of an insignificant little Kingdom, may be done to any of you—when the hour of just retributive justice strikes. Arise then and protest in the name of human rights while you are still in power. For who knows how long that power may yet last? Verily, in view of the rapid spread of civilization and the despotism of such politics, the day when that hour will strike is only a question of time and of expediency. . . . .
[A few explanatory notes may be of help in connection with the above. Milan Obrenovich IV, King of Serbia, was born at Jassy, Rumania, Aug. 22, 1854, a son of Milon Obrenovich (1829-61), and Maria Katardži, a Moldavian. Left an orphan early in life, Milan was adopted by his cousin Michael, educated at Bukarest and Paris, and placed on the throne under a regency, in 1868, on the assassination of Michael. He proclaimed himself King in 1882. His Austrophile policy was very unpopular, and his private life was most unsavoury. In 1875 he had married Natalie, the 16-year old daughter of a wealthy Bessarabian landowner of Moldavian origin, named Keshko, who was a Colonel in the Russian army. Her mother belonged to the Sturza family and was of Moldavian origin also. Natalie was born May 14, 1859, in Florence, Italy, where she was educated. Relations between Milan and Natalie became strained soon after the birth of their son Alexander in 1876. Natalie supported the political parties which were opposed to her husband, and had a tendency to interfere in the affairs of state. In 1885, Milan embarked upon an ill-judged campaign against Bulgaria, and was saved from disaster by Austria.
The marital unfaithfulness of Milan came to light around that time, though Natalie had hidden the facts for a considerable period of time. Milan entered into a formal agreement with her, on the strength of which their son was to be educated in Germany and France, under the supervision of his mother, who was permitted to visit Serbia only during the summer months. Natalie went with her son to Wiesbaden, Germany, but neither of them adhered strictly to the signed arrangement. The Queen continued various political activities and found support in Serbia, being quite popular among the people. Milan offered a new agreement, but Natalie proudly refused to accept it. In 1888, Milan sent General Protich to Wiesbaden, where, with the assistance of the German police, he abducted Alexander, on the basis of paternal rights, and returned to Serbia with him. At the same time, Milan circulated scandalous tales about his wife and finally extorted a divorce, which was illegal according to the Greek-Orthodox Church, by forcing Metropolitan Theodosius to declare, on his own initiative, the marriage dissolved. This took place in October, 1888. On March 6, 1889, after a brief attempt to regain prestige by means of a liberal constitution, Milan abdicated in favour of his son Alexander, and retired to Paris. He went so far as to renounce his Serbian nationality in 1892.
Milan’s abdication spurred the hopes of Natalie, and she attempted to regain her rights as Queen-Mother. She returned to Serbia in 1889, but found that the Regency was placing obstacles in the way of her contact with her son. She outlined the history of her marriage in a document presented to the
authorities, with the result that the Synod annulled the act of Theodosius, and denied to both parents the right of entry into Serbia until Alexander became of age. Natalie refused to obey this order, and was forcibly sent abroad, a circumstance which gave rise to violent outbreaks in the streets of the capital.
In 1893, Alexander restored her rights to Natalie. In January, 1894, Milan reappeared in Belgrade and became nominally reconciled to Natalie, who returned in 1895. Appointed commander-in-chief of the Serbian army, Milan inaugurated a cruel persecution of Russophils and Radicals. This was brought to a sudden end by the marriage of Alexander, in July, 1900. Milan resigned his post and returned to Vienna, where he died rather unexpectedly, February 11, 1901.
After Milan’s death, Natalie became a Roman Catholic and lived in retirement in Paris and Biarritz. She died in 1941.
In connection with the erratic conduct of Milan, and especially his sudden abdication, certain peculiar circumstances have come to light. It would appear on good authority that Milan under the hypnotism of Madame Artemisia Christich resigned his crown. This woman, whose influence over the King had long been unaccountable to his friends, had been for some time carrying on hypnotic and mesmeric experiments, using the King as her subject. His manner on the day of his abdication has been described by several eye-witnesses in the contemporary press, such as the London Standard, for instance. The impression of these people was that the King behaved like one hypnotized, and in a different state of consciousness from his ordinary one.
Natalie wrote a work entitled Mother (Russian trans., St. Petersburg, 1891), in which she outlines her painful experiences, but somewhat strains the facts of the story. She also published a book of Memoirs (Paris, 1891). A brilliant description of her character may be found in a letter addressed to her from Ristich, and partially translated in the Russkiya Vyedomosti, No. 27, 1891.—Compiler.]