Ptolemys, poisons and Cleopatra

The Furies pursue a Ptolemy for matricide, from a painting by W.A.Bougereau / en.wikipedia.org

The Furies pursue a Ptolemy for matricide, from a painting by W.A.Bougereau / en.wikipedia.org

There was a lady of Egypt, I’m told

The barge she sat in was of burnished gold;

Her moral code made the sphinx perspire,

Her Roman scandals set the Nile on fire!

They tried to make her marry

Her brother Ptolemy,

She said ‘I won’t ptolerate Ptolemy

To collar me!

I only sell sell to the highest bid . . .

Now she’s hotting up the pharaohs

In the pyramid!

                                 (from Salad Days, a musical by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds)

Ptolemy was a childhood friend, confidant, soldier and general of Alexander the Great. The Macedonian King conquered Egypt in the 4th century BC, and Ptolemy was made the first of a long line of Ptolemaic Pharaohs, ruling Egypt under 30 BC.

   Ptolemy I was a man of outstanding diplomatic, military and organisational abilities. He rose from minor Macedonian aristocracy to become king of Egypt because of the absolute faith Alexander had in him. Many, many Ptolemys followed him in the dynasty he created, but they were a thoroughly bad lot.

Historians, authors and playwrights have given Queen Cleopatra a drubbing for centuries. She stands accused of murdering her brothers (among them a Ptolemy) to remain in power. If she did, and it is most likely that she did – it was nothing new in the family founded by Alexander’s great friend. Cleopatra’s ancestors were a murderous bunch, and Cleopatra herself used to amuse herself (and her maids-in-waiting) by watching the effects of selected poisons on condemned criminals, lazy servants or unsatisfying lovers. Continue reading

Sir Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts

Sir Oswald and Blackshits of both sexes in 1936 / melbourneblogger.blogspot.com

Sir Oswald and Blackshits of both sexes in 1936 / melbourneblogger.blogspot.com

Oswald Ernald Mosley was born in 1896 into a family with a baronetcy. He came from ‘the ruling classes’ and later used his knightly title and high connections as a political tool. He entered the game as a Conservative Member of Parliament in 1918 after serving in the Great War, became an Independent in 1922 and crossed the floor in 1924 to join the British Labour Party, not without some risible comment from members of that rising party.

   He joined Ramsay Macdonald’s government in 1929, heavily under the influence of the writings of John Maynard Keynes. He thought, for example, that one could reduce unemployment by restricting foreign imports, making purchasing power more elastic, and relying on the nation’s banks to finance industrial development. These plans may have made sense but they were rejected. so he resigned in 1930 to set up his own ‘New Party’. Mosley had not failed to note the rapid upward mobility of a Bavarian ex-corporal called Hitler in the floundering, nearly starving Germany of the early Thirties. Then there was an election and all the New Party’s candidates including Mosley himself lost their deposits dreaming in vain of parliamentary seats. Continue reading

Lilibet – a purely American invention

Five of Carolly's inventions / o.canada.com

Five of Carolly’s inventions / o.canada.com

Intrigued by the title, ‘Lilibet’, I ordered a hard-bound first edition from my online bookshop Bibliophile (how lost I would be with it). I suppose it is a work of biography, in this case composed without the subject’s permission. The author is an American ‘PhD in Medieval History’ called Carolly Erickson. Her subject is the British Queen. Continue reading

The War in the Pacific

/ pinterest.com

/ pinterest.com

Officially, this war lasted from December 1941,

/ ww2db.com

/ ww2db.com

when the United States entered the Second World War, until 1945. But the Pacific War really started with the Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937, when Japan’s concern was to defeat China. This was to be achieved by expanding in South-East Asia, so that Japan could control the raw materials on which she so much depended – oil from Dutch East Indies and Burma (now Myanmar); and tin and rubber from Malaya. She had to cut off China’s supply routes from the south, even if this involved friction with the United States. Moving further south involved risk of conflict with Russia in Manchuria (the Russians came off best after a battle with Japan’s army in 1939 at Nomonhan. Then a non-aggression pact was signed with Russia in April, 1941: thankfully, Adolf Hitler did the double-cross and invaded the Soviet Union in June with his Operation Barbarossa (q.v.) Continue reading

The Battle of Leyte Gulf

US armada moving towards Leyte / en.wikipedia.org

US armada moving towards Leyte / en.wikipedia.org

This little-known sea battle was fought between American and Japanese fleets towards the end of October, 1944. Japanese forces were seeking to stop the US re-conquest of the Philippines, which had started on October 20 with American troops invading the island of Leyte. It was seen as obvious that American success in the Philippines would cut Japan off from her oil supplies as well as essential raw materials in South-East Asia. Though they knew they were outnumbered, the Japanese decided to send all available warships into a conflict they were by no means certain to win. Continue reading

Left, Right, Left, Right

From the Left / paradigmas.mx

From the Left / paradigmas.mx

Mention is made in the media (rather too often) of the magic words Left or Right when the subject is politics.The terms originated as follows: The Left came from the French Revolution, when members of the Jacobin Club sat in the Convention on the left of the President’s chair. Before long the term came to be associated with people who held radical views, a belief in the sovereignty of the people, elimination by any means of royalty and/or the aristocracy, a firm republic, and anti-clericism.

   With the Industrial Revolution in Britain the left was identified with working class interests. It wanted to interefere in the free market, because it believed that by doing so social change could also be brought about. It is difficult to define what kind of ‘social change’, but one hopes it means a fair deal for all – except landowners, rentiers, lords, bishops etc. Well into the twentieth century the Left referred to all socialist parties, Christian or otherwise, and the Communist Party as a whole. Supporters and upholders of the idea of the Welfare State were and are also supposed to be of the Left, though this has not worked out in practical terms. In Spain, the Falange and General Franco referred to the Left as ‘the Reds’, perhaps because of the clenched fist and singing of ‘The Red Flag’ at public meetings. Continue reading

The first volume of General-History as a book is out on Amazon

Jeremy Taylor a.k.a Dean Swift at home in Tenerife

Jeremy Taylor a.k.a Dean Swift at home in Tenerife

For those who are interested the first volume of my 3-volume printed version of articles from General-History.com is on Amazon. Just click on Books, and then key Jeremy Taylor General History and you should find the first volume on sale at around £8. Do not be confused by the name ‘Dean Swift’ – it is just one of my pen-names!

After the Abdication – HRH or not HRH?

/ Britannica.com

/ Britannica.com

The popular Prince of Wales who should have become the crowned and annointed Edward VIII (q.v.) gave up his throne because Church and State would not recognise his plan to marry a twice-divorced lady from America. As we know, the Prince married his lady from Baltimore, and abdicated as well. When all the fuss had died down in the Thirties, and the Prince became the Duke of Windsor, the question arose as to whether or not his American wife should become ‘Her Royal Highness’, as indeed her husband was HRH. Continue reading

Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey

/ onelondonone.blogspot.com

/ onelondonone.blogspot.com

The second earl was born in 1764, was elected county Member of Parliament for the whole of Northumberland when he was but twenty-two years of age, representing the Whig party dominated by Charles James Fox. A devout reformist, he presented Bills for parliamentary reform in 1793 and 1797, with the intention of demolishing the so-called ‘rotten’ boroughs: both bills were defeated. Continue reading