What is a Counter Revolution?

De Maistre - father of the Counter Revolution

Joseph de Maistre, father of Catholic Counter Revolution shown wearing the insignia of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.

This website is a call – a call to Counter Revolution.

This means, if we think of ‘to counter’ as a verb, it is a call to counter the revolutionary movements of modern times that have cost us all so very dearly.

Still we need to define further what we mean by Counter Revolution, beyond the little we have offered already (for example, here).

And so we begin a little series towards defining the nature of Counter Revolution.

And it is not easy to define, for the term has taken on divergent meanings in different historical contexts.

Counter Revolution: probably the term began to be used in earnest only after that primal Revolution that shook the entire foundations of Europe, indeed the Christian West.

We speak of course of the French Revolution of 1789. And if the French Revolution is considered as the first great Revolution, then the first Counter Revolution was the uprising in the French Vendée – a violent insurrection that tried to meet force with force – to defend Altar and Throne through the call to arms.

However, I purposely said IF we think of the French Revolution as primary – because it is possible to cite earlier examples.

For example, from 1594 to 1603, Catholic Ireland rose up against the Protestant British in a doomed attempt to resist the forced Protestantisation of Ireland.

One might think of that Nine Years Irish war as an earlier Counter Revolution – and with that in mind, we recently reviewed a remarkable book about this ‘Irish Catholic Counter Revolution’.

However, by focussing on Catholic Ireland and the Vendée, one may think that what we mean by ‘Counter Revolution’ entails bloodshed.

This weblog is not a call to violence! Even though I want to recall the memory of people who cared so passionately about the order they saw being toppled that they were prepared to die  to restore that order … (And tragically, to kill for it.)

No what I mean by ‘Counter Revolution’ is of a very different nature.

And as a point of departure, we can best turn to Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), philosophical father of the Catholic Counter Revolutionary Tradition.

Now  de Maistre was deeply concerned with both Altar and Throne. For de Maistre, both belonged to the Sacred Order of things. This is to say, he was not only a monarchist, but a devout Catholic who spearheaded Catholic Ultramontanism and Papal Infallibility.

So de Maistre had very much to say about both the Return of the King (to echo a title employed by J.R.R. Tolkien – who like De Maistre was also a devout Catholic traditionalist and monarchist) and the Return of the Pope to authority.

But here we need to quote de Maistre in regards to the French Throne, after the Revolution had murdered Louis XVI and his Queen.

De Maistre predicts the return of the French King (which did indeed happen for a brief period) and in the process of predicting this, he speaks to Counter Revolution – in a way that strikes us as most useful here.

The return to order will not be painful, because it will be natural and because it will be favoured by a secret force whose action is wholly creative.

We will see precisely the opposite of what we have seen. Instead of these violent commotions, painful divisions, and perpetual and desperate oscillations, a certain stability, an indefinable peace, a universal well-being will announce the presence of sovereignty.

There will be no shocks, no violence, no punishment even, except those which the true nation will approve …

The king will bind up the wounds of the state with a gentle and paternal hand.

In conclusion, this is the great truth with which the French cannot be too greatly impressed: the restoration of the monarchy, what they call the counter-revolution, will not be a contrary revolution, but the contrary of revolution.’

All this is to suggest that for Joseph de Maistre, a genuine Counter Revolution is not effected through violence – for this would be nothing but a contrary Revolution. By contrast, a genuine Counter Revolution will be ‘precisely the opposite of what we have seen’.

Thus a Counter Revolution must be contrary to the very nature of Revolution. It must not proceed by way of ‘violent commotions, painful divisions, and perpetual and desperate oscillations …’

But something very different.

To be Continued … (Though not necessarily immediately. Other blog posts may come first).


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The world is awash with materialistic imagery, designed to stimulate consumer desire. Yet once, Christendom was awash with imagery of the Christian Mystery. Whatever can redress this imbalance is most needed. With such thoughts, we present this small selection also available from Amazon:

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2 Comments

  1. Juan Senko
    Posted 20 May 2015 at 16:52 | Permalink

    Very nice definition. However, I’m not as positive as you. For me, the CR is more of a resistance (of the spirit of course) of Tradition until the Second Coming. There may be a resurgence of Tradition or two, here and there; but I believe that we are spiraling downwards to the End. We must brace ourselves and pray to God that we can save as much as we can of Christendom before He returns.

    • Posted 22 June 2015 at 17:05 | Permalink

      Juan, at long last, thank you for this. Wanted to say something more articulate … but have been ill and still am (which also helps explain why I am also very late with others.) My illness not serious, but longer than I would like.

      Failing to find words right now, all I will say now is that I can readily understand your perspective, given all we see around us now and have been seeing … for centuries now.

      But I appreciate your comments, Juan and hope to be more articulate another time. Thank you.

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