HOW come we don't hear more about Prince Joachim? If there's one guy who gets short-changed in this whole 1916 business, it's Prince Joachim Franz Humbert of Prussia. Had the Easter Rising succeeded in giving the Brits the heave-ho, the name Joachim might be as popular in Ireland today as are Padraig, Eamonn, Sean, Michael and the names of all the other heroes. Instead, we've
HOW come we don't hear more about Prince Joachim? If there's one guy who gets short-changed in this whole 1916 business, it's Prince Joachim Franz Humbert of Prussia. Had the Easter Rising succeeded in giving the Brits the heave-ho, the name Joachim might be as popular in Ireland today as are Padraig, Eamonn, Sean, Michael and the names of all the other heroes. Instead, we've swept the poor sod into the dustbin of history.
Given the day that's in it, we've decided to haul poor Joachim out of that dustbin, brush him down and put him on display. Joachim's story is at least as interesting as much of the codswallop about the Rising that's being shovelled at us.
Of course, codswallop and 1916 have never been far apart. They go together like ice cream and chocolate sauce. Or developers and brown envelopes. Or ballot boxes and Armalites.
From the beginning, the National Codswallop portrayed the Rising as the "Sinn Fein Rebellion", which it wasn't. Pretty soon, we had a solid body of codswallop that became the birthright of all true Irish people. It was simplistic, as all national legends must be - brave people shake off the yoke of the oppressor, passing on a coherent set of unchanged ideals, from Tone to Pearse to us, the inheritors of the One True Republic.
Prince Joachim doesn't fit that picture.
The nature of the codswallop changed occasionally. Up to the end of the Sixties we were all republicans. We had a big parade every Easter to commemorate the Rising, and we cheered the army as it marched past the sacred GPO. The legends of the martyred dead were retold yet again and we all resolved to hold sacred and emulate their republicanism.
That gave us something to be proud of, in our poverty.
Then, the North erupted, and out went the Easter parade. Flaunting the legends of the Rising might give legitimacy to the Provos. Wrapping the green flag around you became the surest way to get your phone tapped. As a consolation, the Paddy's Day parade - up to then a woeful event - was upgraded to become the official national celebration we know today.
Up to the early Seventies, to question the National Codswallop was to be some kind of West Brit or Commie, not truly Irish. Then the National Codswallop changed. It became possible to be too Irish. The Rising was no longer an example of unalloyed idealism. The former heroes were now portrayed as flawed individuals, some of them despairing, some bloodthirsty.
Under the old National Codswallop, the unionists had been grim cavemen, gratuitously stamping their boots on the necks of the Catholics. The new National Codswallop said they were all delightful people (apart from that Paisley guy, who was - we were assured - wholly unrepresentative). If it wasn't for the Provos, the North would be a slightly backward but mostly charming place. Practices that used to be called spiteful coat-trailing were now "colourful traditions".
And to question the new National Codswallop was to be some species of Provo fellow traveller.
Thirty years on, the North has calmed down and it's safe - and even useful - to be a republican again. But, still, we don't hear much about my favourite character of the entire 1916 Rising - Prince Joachim Franz Humbert of Prussia.
It's now safe for Bertie Ahern to waffle about republicanism's commitment to "religious and civil liberties" - as though independent Ireland didn't become for decades a grim Monarchy of Bishops. And Enda Kenny is free to squabble about how Bertie doesn't give enough republican credit to Fine Gael's political ancestors. The Provos can continue to lay claim to the one true, holy and apostolic republicanism.
The republican past can again be safely used to hustle for votes. And Prince Joachim, God rest him, spins in his grave.
My problem with the official National Codswallop started with Wolfe Tone, the Father of Irish Republicanism. Yes, he was genuinely enthused by Republican France - but that was late in the day. On the whole, Tone was an adventurer who loved uniforms.
The Father of Irish Republicanism repeatedly begged Prime Minister William Pitt to allow him colonise the Sandwich Islands on behalf of England: "I hope to see the colony yet a terror to Spain and the pride of England. I hope that a fortress called after your name may perpetuate your glory when other less splendid, though not lessuseful, parts of your administration are, if they can ever be, forgotten."
In the year he was hanged, Tone tried and failed to win a place in Napoleon's imperial campaigns, to play a part in subjugating colonies on behalf of France.
Does this mean he was a knave? No, he was an ambitious young man, bouncing from one enthusiasm to the next, genuinely attracted to republican ideals in his final days but as shallow as most ambitious young men.
Another republican icon, John Mitchel, had no problem with monarchy as long as the Brits were kicked out: "I am no republican doctrinaire, and I would accept an Irish monarchy or Irish anything." This republican hero was also a supporter of slavery.
And in the GPO, during the fighting, Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Desmond FitzGerald had a discussion about the Ireland they would like to see come out of the rebellion. They knew the chances of winning were microscopic, but they had their dreams.
FitzGerald, the only one of the three to survive, recorded that they agreed on an acceptable outcome: "an independent Ireland with a German Prince as King".
Yes, you guessed - in the GPO, at the heart of the Rising, three of its heroes, including two of its martyrs, agreed that Prince Joachim would make a suitable king of Ireland. Joachim's dad, Kaiser Wilhelm II, presided over the German empire and was a powerhouse in imperial Europe. Prince Joachim would make a suitable strong man to safeguard the new "republic".
Were they knaves or fools - from Tone to Pearse? No, just men of their time, of limited political sophistication. They believed - with good reason - that England ruled Ireland solely in its own interests, so they wanted the Brits out. Republicanism is a set of democratic principles, but for these men "republicanism" was interchangeable with "nationalism".
Their republicanism was compatible with monarchy.
It isn't necessary to worship the political actors of the past, nor to reproach them. It's advisable only to try to understand them in their time. And to recognise when today's political actors - politicians, academics or media pundits - are using the past to seek to shape the future.
Had things gone differently, there might today be a Joachim Street in Dublin, a Joachim Station in Kerry, his descendants might be yet on the Irish throne. As it was - in 1918 there was revolutionary fervour in Germany and Prince Joachim's dad abdicated. By the time Michael Collins's ruthless campaign brought the British to the conference table, Joachim was two years dead. His political prospects zero, his marriage falling part, Joachim had shot himself at the age of 30.
By then, the age of kings was over. His erstwhile Irish subjects, purifying the national legend, were laundering their country's past.
Sorry, Joachim, you might have been good enough for Pearse, but you just don't fit the official picture.