Monday, 29 August 2016

Legitimacy Lost

During Dominic Flandry's lifetime, four men plan or attempt to seize the Imperial Throne by force:

Hugh McCormac;
Hans Molitor;
Edwin Cairncross;
Olaf Magnusson.

They are not all defeated by Flandry and this is not just a good guys-bad guys routine. In fact, McCormac is a good guy, especially when contrasted with the Emperor Josip -  and his sidekick, Snelund, who is the real villain of the piece. However, Flandry defends the principle of legitimacy in government. Of course, he not only defeats the McCormac Rebellion but also knows how to dispose of Snelund.

There are some bad guys in the list. Cairncross is self-serving and Magnusson is a Merseian sleeper. Flandry defeats McCormac and Cairncross. Flandry's daughter, Diana Crowfeather, defeats Magnusson. Molitor succeeds. Flandry winds up working for a usurper. This statement might shock blog readers not familiar with the Flandry series but Poul Anderson explores every possibility.

We should add that legitimate succession had been lost and the civil wars had begun before Molitor contended for power. Nevertheless, he founds a new dynasty by force alone - or is that how they all begin?

Addendum: See Comments. Sean refers to his articles which can be found here.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I think ALL states are founded by force or at least the threat of force (with some possible exceptions like the curious principality of Andorra). What really matters, as I discussed in a recent article, is that the state--whatever form it takes--needs to be accepted, to become LEGITIMATE in the eyes of most of its people. With legitimacy we can hope a state will govern not too badly and that reforms and improvements are possible.

    As for Hans Molitor, we need to recall that while Flandry defended the principle of legitimacy as long as possible, he ended up serving Emperor Hans because he was the best likely possibility after Josip died. And Flandry even LIKED old Hans, considering him able and basically well meaning. And the same was true for Hans son Gerhart who, despite disliking Flandry, was smart enough to listen to intelligent advice.

    Remember what Chunderban Desai said to Flandry in A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS, the Empire was entering a dangerous and precarious stage of anarchy or possible anarchy. Making it prone to both civil wars and outside invasions. A stage Desai thought would last about 80 years. His hope was that Hans (and by extension his son Gerhart and grandson Karl) would rule firmly enough for the Empire to avoid the worse perils of this anarchic phase. Desai's long term hope was for the Empire regaining a "scarred" kind of unity after this period. Possibly, for the Emperors even REGAINING legitimacy?

    A very clear and obvious example from real history was what historians call the "crisis" of the third century AD Roman Empire. That is, the period of anarchy and chaos it suffered for fifty years after the assassination of Alexander Severus in 235. Order was finally, if shakily, restored by a series of strong and able soldier Emperors, culminating with Diocletian.


    1. Sean,
      It sounds like a longer article comparing the Roman and Terran Empires would be appropriate.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      A good thought. Altho I think such an article would have to stress where and how the Terran Empire was DIFFERENT from the Roman example (as Chunderban Desai seems to have suggested).

      I myself have written articles which seems to cover most of the bases such an article of the kind you suggested would discuss. To say nothing of Sandra Miesel's essays about Dominic Flandry and the Terran Empire (to be found in the Gregg Press edition of ENSIGN FLANDRY and the Ace Books printing of A STONE IN HEAVEN. And, of course, your own notes!

      Some readers might find some of my essays interesting. Because of how they tie in with your suggestion.

      The Imperial Gardener
      The Widow of Georgios
      Sector Governors in the Terran Empire
      God and Alien in Anderson's Technic Civilization
      Crime and Punishment in the Terran Empire
      Political Legitimacy in the Thought of Poul Anderson


    3. Kaor, Paul!

      Thanks for the nice Addendum to your blog piece! I also thought of including my "Finding An Unexpected Contradiction" in this list, but decided not to. Because "Unexpected" focused narrowly on a single point connecting THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN to "Honorable Enemies." I wanted to list articles taking a broader view.

      I really do hope readers will offer some comments to any of these articles!


  2. Paul and Sean:
    Any king or aristocrat is either a smart and lucky BRIGAND or the descendant of such.

    As Robert E. Howard said, "Gleaming shell of an outworn lie; fable of Right divine--"

    1. David,
      True. As Sean pointed out a while back, British monarchs are numbered "since the Conquest." However, acceptance/legitimacy has also grown since then. To end the monarchy in any acceptable way would/will require mass acceptance of some new legitimacy. We don't need any more brigands!

    2. Hi, David and Paul!

      Thanks for commenting, albeit, I don't quite understand your point. Boiled down, you seem to say that all nations were founded by force and violence. And often preserve themselves by additional force. If so, I certainly agree!

      Paul: Exactly! After almost a thousand years, aside from the brief interlude of Oliver Cromwell's dictatorship, England/Britain has been ruled by a monarchy the overwhelming majority of Britons have long, long, long since accepted as legitimate. To say nothing of how the regime William I founded has evolved parliamentary institutions and ideas about the rule of law and the limited state which became the basis of the governments of Britain's daughter countries (including the US). Any forcible overthrow of such an ancient and deeply rooted government would be simply wrong.