The history of Empires is getting shorter. Rome in the West last perhaps five hundred years. Rome in the East, the Byzantine Empire another thousand. Until Napoleon put it out of its misery, The Holy Roman Empire had survived eight hundred years. The Egyptians might lay claim to three thousand years as Imperialists. Nowadays you are lucky to last the century.

I mention the matter because we shall have to get used to the idea of being Imperial Subjects once more as The Union is rolled out in Lisbon by the EuroNabobery for our delectation. Not since The Eagles went home c. 410 AD have we been an Imperial Possession and so waking up this morning as a thing to be disposed of at the whim of an Emperor comes not as a shock but certainly as an offence.

I ponder therefore, for a moment, on the fate of Empires and Emperors in modern history.

Take The German Empire. Born of an act of humiliation for the French (funny how those just keep coming around!) in 1871 when Emperor Wilhelm I announced himself as such to the world, as you do, in the Palace of Versailles, it lasted a mere 47 years, having been plunged by its last strutting cockerel of an Emperor, Wilhelm II, into a war against Britain, France and Russia. In 1918 the former two and the USA sent it on its way, its end marked by a ceremony in the Forest of Compiègne every bit as humiliating as that of its birth, a ceremony marked for the next twenty years by a large tablet which read:


This did not please the Germans.

Then there was the Austrian Empire which grew out of the remains of the Holy Roman one and was to be transformed in 1867 into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ruled over by the remarkable Habsburgs who had managed to survive the wreck of their first Imperial incarnation as Holy Roman Emperors to have a second bite at the cherry. This effort also only lasted until 1918 when Emperor Karl I fled to Switzerland with his Empress as his Empire split into many pieces, scattering with it the entire von Habsburg clan who had for so long dominated Europe’s affairs. (As a modest footnote, The Huntsman’s son was taught history at school by one Max von Habsburg, a Scottish scion of the clan).

The modern British Empire might be thought effectively to have come into existence only in 1858 when Great Britain assumed formal responsibility for the Indian possessions of The East India Company following the Indian Mutiny and Queen Victoria became its first and only Queen-Empress. It lasted until 1947, though other portions were to linger under British rule until the 1960s until, by 1970, it was all gone save for a few little bits and pieces.

After the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917, the Russian Empire, which had subsisted for two hundred years, was formally dissolved. In its place there arose, in 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which, embodying most of the territories of the former Russian Empire, some of which had become independent in the meantime, became de facto an Empire. It lasted until it ignominiously imploded in 1991.

So seventy to a hundred years seems to be the modern norm, though doubtless we could quibble endlessly about when this or that Empire actually came into existence.

So how long will The Union last?

Notice it has dropped the “European bit”, so Turkey is plainly still on the menu, to be gobbled up at leisure when the EuroNabobs have digested the first twenty-seven courses at their leisure. Then it will have its eyes on the Refuseniks such as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland (all that fish, oil and money would come in very handy in due course). Other than that it will want to gather in as many bits of the former USSR as it can, all of whom will gracefully accept in anticipation of all the lovely handouts that will then be forthcoming from those nice, generous citizens of the North-eastern Union.

In a sense, the more the merrier.

Austro-Hungary eventually found it impossible to rule an Empire which encompassed fourteen nationalities, its minor members eventually finding rule from Vienna increasingly intolerable, the ‘give and take’ of Empire having become largely ‘take’.

Britain ruled over the largest Empire of them all, a quarter of the world population and a quarter of the world’s land mass, with an astonishingly small civil administration backed by a modest Army, a ‘smoke and mirrors’ trick which was eventually rumbled by its subjects who then jumped ship as quick as they could.

The USSR collapsed in part because of its barmy Socialist economic policies and as for ruling over the disparate peoples of southern Europe and central Asia, that made Austria’s little trick look simple. No matter how monolithic power the centre accreted, it did not suffice to save it. And Hitler’s Second German Empire was so unpleasant that it was beaten to death in a fit of outraged indignation by its irate neighbours and peoples in under six years.

“The Union” may be all brand shiny spanking new, but at its black heart it is a creature of the 1950’s, the brainchild of an essentially centre-left consensus in European politics of an early twentieth century mien, designed to deal with the peculiar circumstances of the post-war world of a Europe which had been ravaged by nearly six years of total war. Those circumstances are long gone, yet the monster that was spawned lives on, sucking into its maw all that take its fancy.

The present Treaty which has put an end to the effective independence of its ‘members’ has been sold to us as a necessary measure that is designed to make “The Union” function better now that it has twenty-seven members rather than the six with which it started. We were told that, without it, “The Union” would be impossible to govern manage. Although some might say that, actually, it seems to have managed quite well without the Treaty since 2005, when the scheme was last booted into touch, the EuroNabobs insisted that we have a Constitution.

In the very concept of The Union though lies the kernel of the nut that will eventually choke it and all its rotten works to death: trying to run a magnificent Empire of this magnitude with fifty langauges and a hundred nationalities will eventually prove impossible and it will all end in a very serious flood of tears, like all the other Empires of the modern world. Then not even its very own Waffen-SS, the Euro Gendarmerie Force, will be able to save it.

So how much longer have we got to endure this particular nightmare? If nobody complains, about forty years on recent form.

On the other hand, if certain MPs who sit in the Labour and Liberal ‘Democrat’ interest remember that above all they are Britons first, they could put an end to it within a few months. That would save us all a lot of tears and perhaps more.

I leave the last word, however, to the 17th. century philosopher Samuel von Pufendorf whose (reasonably) pithy observation on the Holy Roman Empire I have mildly adapted for our present circumstances:

“Nihil ergo aliud restat, quam ut dicamus Europam esse irregulare aliquod Conventus et monstro simile …”*

* We are therefore left with calling Europe a Union that conforms to no rule and resembles a monster.