Four Sforzas

Carlo Sforza /

Carlo Sforza /

It would be hard to think what the history of Italy would have been without the Sforza family. We have already studied the Visconti, the Medici, the Este and other great dynastic families; our first subject from this one is Francesco, born 1401 the illegitimate son of one Muzio Attendolo Sforza. Being born a bastard was a commonplace festivity in medieval Europe – as long as the child was recognised by his natural father. History is strewn with such cases. The Beaufort line of dukes in Britain started with an illegitimate child of Edward III’s (q.v.). Many more ducal lineages commenced with recognised bastards of Charles II (q.v.); one exception was the unrecognised bastard of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, Leandro Alfonso, fruit of the king’s relation with the actress Carmen Moragas.

Francesco Sforza was a soldier and swordsman who worked violently and bloodily for money. At one time or another he fought against the Pope, Venice, Florence and finally Milan, but he became Duke of Milan in 1450 and stayed duke for sixteen years. This apparently clever upward mobility was a result of the usual method – he married the previous Duke of Milan’s daughter. Naturally he ascended to the dukedom when the lass’s father died. Continue reading

The Girondins

Jacques Brissot /

Jacques Brissot /

In the General History blogsite many posts have appeared dealing with different aspects of the French Revolution; there will have been many references to Jacobins and Girondins, both being a kind of politically-motivated club or political party with a multitude of members, who either smiling or snarling at each other helped to cause the Revolution. We have dealt extensively with the Jacobins, and now it is the turn of the Girondins.

The majority of these deputies came from the department of Gironde in south-west France – whence the name. They were occasionally called ‘Brissotins’ after their leader Jacques Brissot: it was he who played a significant part in persuading the Assembly to declare war on Austria in 1792. Brissot thought such a conflict would arouse enthusiasm for the Revolution, which had begun in July 1789 with the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris. Continue reading

An error in author names

Our editor has noticed that on Wikipedia, one of the pieces on Winston Churchill originally appeared, with a new link, under the author name of JAMES DEAN instead of DEAN SWIFT. In case this error appears again, we must remember that Dean Swift is a pen name used by a living author, and that James Dean was the name of a celebrated American film actor who sadly died in a traffic accident in 1955. James Dean starred in only three movies, each of them exceptionally good – East of Eden (1955), Rebel without a cause (1955), and Giant, released the year after Dean’s death.

Jeremy Taylor, editor of and three volumes of collected history articles by Dean Swift.

Este and Esterházy

The Villa d'Este at Tivoli /

The Villa d’Este at Tivoli /

These are two more of those family names that ring down the centuries, the Este since about the year one thousand, and the Esterházy since the sixteenth century. We have emphasised the importance of dynastic, powerful families and individuals in on purpose, because history is made or mangled by humans, in association with, or struggling with Nature. Many of our subjects have been weak or bad or a combination of the two; many have been strong and good, but even more have been that strangely human breed, the weak who appear strong (and vice-versa), with good and bad elements showing up equally.

The family Este seem to have surfaced in Italy around 1000 A.D., and were absolute rulers of Ferrara by the end of the 12th century. They remained in charge of this region until 1598, when their powers were incorporated into the Papal States. Azzo d’Este was the first Marchese (marquis). He lived from 1205 until 1264, and had completely established his authority by the time he died. He was Signore of Ferrara, and his son Obizzo made the position hereditary, annexing Modena and Reggio at the same time.

Niccolo III (born 1383, died 1441) was a good man who brought prosperity and comparative peace to the territory during his long princely reign. His sons and successors, Leonello (born 1407), Borso (born 1413) and Ercole (1431) were scholars who encouraged learning. They were also notable patrons of the arts. Isabella (1474) and Beatrice (1475, both daughters of Ercole) continued the traditions set by their family and ancestors. Isabella married Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua, and Beatrice married Ludovico Sforza of Milan, thus joining together three significant and powerful Italian families.

Alfonso I got into trouble with Popes, not at all a difficult thing to do in and around the Renaissance (q.v.), or at any other time for that matter, and Julius II and Leo X removed the Este’s papal fiefs in 1527, but meanwhile Ippolito was building the magnificent Villa d’Este at Tivoli. The family lost their power in Ferrara in 1598 but retained the duchy of Modena until 1859, when Francis (1819 – 1875) gave up all his territories to King Victor Emmanuel II.

Prince Pál Antal (Paul Anton) Esterházy /

Prince Pál Antal (Paul Anton) Esterházy /

The Esterházy flourished in several branches in Hungary from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. It is still an aristocratic name to be reckoned with in Europe, because Esterházys married into most noble European families, with notable breeding success.

Count Pál (Paul) Esterházy (1665 – 1713) was a field-marshal for the Habsburgs, becoming a Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (q.v.) in 1687, mostly because of his successful campaigns against the Turks. Prince Miklós IV (born 1765) fought against Bonaparte, but was such a spendthrift he lost most of the family’s enormous estates. Prince Pál Antal (born 1786) was Austria’s ambassador in London until 1842, and in 1848 took up the reins of the Foreign Ministry in Vienna. After the end of the Great War, the defeat of Germany/Austria, the splitting of Austro-Hungary etc., great families like the Esterhazy have maintained a low, well-bred profile, but aristocratic circles from Vienna to New York would not be the same without the occasional Esterházy to liven things up.

Errata in the printed version of General History

After the successful publication of three edited volumes of General History, we have discovered to our astonishment that errors abound! Prepositions and full stops have vanished. There are unwanted spaces between words. In Volume Three the German word Ruhr has become a much-repeated Rhur. The editing and correcting was carried out with the utmost care, but errata occur and I must take the blame, for the printer can only print what he receives. Should a second edition be printed, it is to be hoped that these irritating mistakes will have been found and erradicated. We have also noted that both Volume II and Volume III carry the same article on Shakespearean vocabulary in the chapter on the English Language.

This is a message to faithful followers of, from Jeremy Taylor, who writes the articles under the pen name of Dean Swift.

Fascism – a dreaded word

Fasci or Fasces /

Fasci or Fasces /

Fasci, literally meaning ‘bundles’, and perhaps descending from the fasci of thin staves of wood carried by Roman officials as symbol of authority, were established in Sicilian towns and villages in the late nineteenth century. They were mutually – supporting societies of peasants and workers; the basic trade union in fact. Their leaders varied in type and political opinion, but were usually anarchists, though many were teachers, local landowners and gentry, members of ancient and respected families. Not a few among them were local mafiosi. Continue reading

William the ‘Sailor King’



William IV King of Great Britain and Ireland was born in the eighteenth century (1765) and died seventy-two years later. He was also King of Hanover from 1830 to 1837, because he was the third son of George III. He was called ‘the Sailor King’ because he joined the Navy at fourteen, serving around the coasts of the United States and in the West Indies. He was promoted admiral in 1811 at forty-six – not bad for the crusty British Navy – and then rose to be Lord High Admiral in 1827.

George IV (who had been the infamous Prince Regent) died in 1830, and William ascended the throne because his older brother had died. He was to be the penultimate British monarch of the House of Hanover. The country believed he had Whiggish (liberal) sentiments, and this might have beeen true, but he soon abandoned them, developing serious Conservative sympathies, obstructing the passing of the first Reform Bill in 1832.

William IV was the last British monarch to use prerogatory powers to dismiss a ministry which had won by a majority vote. He achieved this by firing Lord Melbourne in 1834 and inviting the Tories to form a government. He died in 1837 and was succeeded in that year by his niece Victoria at the age of eighteen. Queen Victoria did not fire Lord Melbourne; she learnt about politics and power from him. Ascending the throne as a Hanoverian, she changed the name to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha when she married a German prince.

Henry VI of England, sad man and king

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Henry was born in 1421, and became King of England at the age of one. He had two reigns, due to the Wars of the Roses. The first lasted from 1411 to 1461; he was noted for his piety and general air of preferring to be left out of things. He was the only son and child of a very famous warrior, Henry V, who after the Battle of Agincourt married a daughter of the French King – Catherine of Valois. This sturdy couple managed to produce only our subject, a weakly child, disposed to illnesses and madness. During his infancy and adolescence his tutor the Duke of Bedford (a younger brother of Henry V) was regent, while another uncle, Humphrey of Gloucester was Lord Protector of England. Nothing of these three redoubtable men showed in the future Henry VI. The one useful thing he managed successfully was the founding of Eton and King’s College, Cambridge.
Continue reading

Latest news on the books



Oyez! Oyez! Latest news on the books!

All three volumes of Jeremy Taylor’s brief chapters on world history, written under the name of Dean Swift for the website and now in cheap paperback form, are available on and also Amazon. com in America. The price plus p. & p. is extremely reasonable. The reading matter is colossal. The three volumes offer nearly one thousand pages of easily read history covering up to twenty-one different nations on this planet. Wars, treaties, personalities, politics, religions and philosophy plus many other categories abound. Order your copy/copies now, in this first month of the year 2015. Enjoy the wry humour and keen observation. Just go to Amazon and under books key in the words ‘General History Dean Swift’ and then choose – all three books, two or just one. ‘He (or she) who hesitates is lost!’

Who said it?

An auctioneer /

An auctioneer /

Our first slightly intellectual quiz for the year 2015 presents the published words of an eccentric and wit, male, and the only clue to his identity is that he is not English. The sayings resemble a dictionary, which, I note, is another clue:

Acquaintance – A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. (It is) a degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.

Applause – The echo of a platitude.

Auctioneer – The man who proclaims with a hammer that he has pìcked a pocket with his tongue.

Battle – A method of untying with the teeth a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.

Conservative – A statesman who is enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

Future – That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true, and our happiness is assured.

History – An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, or soldiers, mostly fools.

Patience – A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.

Peace – In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.

Prejudice – A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.

Saint – A dead sinner revised and edited.

Please give your answer as to who write these lines in the form of a Comment sent to