Henry M. Stanley, explorer and journalist

Henry M. Stanley, explorer and journalist

Stanley with a bearer carring his favourite shooting stick / literaturadeviajes.com

Stanley with a bearer carring his favourite shooting stick / literaturadeviajes.com

One is not too sure that modern schoolchildren are taught about persons like Henry Stanley, or for that matter Dr. Livingstone, with whom Stanley is inextricably connected. It is supposed that vast changes in syllabus are responsible for this, just as in the Classics, neither Latin or Greek are these days awarded much importance. At my school we were unfailingly taught that Henry Stanley was American; he was a naturalized American citizen for a period, but he was born British – Welsh in fact – son of a farmer from that region. He was also illegitimate, and was first called John Rowlands.

Stanley lived a life so adventurous it seemed to be fiction stemming from the Boys Own Paper. Born in 1841 he existed, somehow, in a poorhouse from 1847 to 1856, got away and managed to get himself on a ship sailing to the United States. Here he was luckily befriended by a merchant in cereals who adopted him. Young Henry also took the merchant’s name – Stanley, and after adoption automatically became an American citizen. Continue reading

Further thoughts on the SS

/ germaniainternational.com

/ germaniainternational.com

The Schützstaffel was a more or less elite special force created by the National Socialist Party in 1925 for the ‘special protection’ of Adolf Hitler. The name means ‘defence group’, and the significance of its actions is that the force was hated even more within Germany than among her enemies. At first, the SS was a small part of the SA, or Sturm Abteilung, a much bigger Nazi paramilitary organisation, formed to break up dissident political meetings and distribute Nazi propaganda. The SA had played a very big part in the ascent of Hitler to power; its leader was an old-time friend of Hitler’s called Ernst Rohm, but when the SA became, according to the Fuhrer and his associates, too big for its boots, it was dealt with by simply murdering its leaders, including Hitler’s old friend. Most of the summary executions were carried out by the SS. Continue reading

Another message from Jeremy Taylor

The author / apaisada.com

The author / apaisada.com

You can read a book (at the risk of your eyesight) off your computer screen, or you can have it read to you by some famous actor; you can beg, borrow or steal a book from a friend – in my case the last verb is the most appropriate – or you may, just possibly prefer to buy the book to keep among all the others in your bookshelf. This kind of printed book is what you take to bed with you, where you read it chapter after chapter with your head nicely rested on your pillows and that reading light you found at Ikea providing the light. Or you can seat yourself in a favourite armchair after choosing a real book from a vast library or a modest collection.

General History is available to just about everywhere on this planet by going to Amazon Books, clicking on Books, and then typing ‘Jeremy Taylor-General-History’ or ‘Dean Swift-General-History’. Click on this and all three volumes (there will soon be a fourth) will appear on your screen. Then choose how you will buy it (at remarkably low cost), and very soon you will have 99% of the articles or posts published on-line, in printed book mode, to keep for ever.

Very best wishes, yours ever, Jeremy Taylor.

A bracing brace of Bentincks

3rd Duke of Portland / alaintruong.com

3rd Duke of Portland / alaintruong.com

Hans Willem, Baron Bentinck was born in the middle of the seventeenth century. An aristocrat by birth, he served as a page to the Stadholder (q.v.) William. Surviving his master’s customary bad humour, he became a confidant, friend and agent to the future King William III of England. We have already described how a Dutchman became king of England in another volume of General History, so suffice it to say that William was married to Mary, who descended from Mary Queen of Scots. Thanks to the treachery of Marlborough and others, the rightful monarch of England, James II, was requested to leave, which he did, and William and Mary became joint rulers of England. The good Baron Bentinck came with them.

In fact it was thanks to Bentinck that the marriage between the Stadholder and Princess Mary ( a daughter of James VII and II of Scotland and England ) came about, as he negotiated the terms. Not only that, but the plans for a minor invasion of England by William of Holland in 1688 were supervised by Bentinck. Minor became major, James II ran off to Catholic France, and surly William the Stadholder mounted the English throne accompanied by his wife, who was not blessed with good looks. Once William was installed he rewarded his faithful confidant by making him the Ist Duke of Portland (1689). The ‘Glorious Revolution’ had been achieved with little bloodshed, and the name Bentinck began to ring through British political history. Hans Willem died in 1709. Continue reading

The revolt of Portugal

Sunrise over an older part of Lisbon / the guardian.com

Sunrise over an older part of Lisbon / the guardian.com

The first king of this tiny country, washed by the Atlantic, and blessed with fine seamen, navigators and harbours, was Alfonso I, in 1139, but the Portuguese Empire as such began in the fifteenth century. Portuguese ships were making voyages of discovery right round the world. Perhaps her immediate neighbour, Spain, felt that Portugal should belong to her, and by 1580 she did. This situation, most unpopular with the Portuguese, lasted from the above mentioned date until 1668. The French invaded in 1807, and the monarchy was overthrown. Most of the Empire vanished with the loss of Brazil, Goa and Macao.

That union of crowns in 1640 brought nothing but unrest in Portugal, partly because the people quickly noted that Spain was not ready (or able) to defend and protect the vast Portuguese possessions overseas. When troubles started up (again) in Cataluña, powerful Portuguese were encouraged to gather round the standard of the Duke of Braganza. They proclaimed him King Joao IV during an uprising in the capital, Lisbon in December, 1640, which ended with the murder of the Spanish Viceroy Vasconcellos. This was a serious mistake, for Vasconcellos was a personal friend and confidant of the all-powerful Conde-Duque de Olivares, the Spanish minister who managed Spain for the King. No-one, perhaps not even the King, had more power than Olivares at that stage. Continue reading

Two Popes with the name Julius

Rex Harrison suitable pious as Julius Ii (right) & Charlton Heston wooden as Michaelangelo (left) in a Hollywood extravaganza / m759.net

Rex Harrison suitable pious as Julius II (right) & Charlton Heston wooden as Michaelangelo (left) in a Hollywood extravaganza / m759.net

In this case I cannot do my usual playing with papal names and invented adjectives; some of my faithful followers might like to read about ‘Julian Popes’, as in ‘Innocent Popes’, but ‘Julian’ refers to anything connected with the Emperor Julian, who was, if not the anti-Christ, at least anti-Christian, which is why he was called ‘Julian the Apostate’. There is a splendid biography in the typical Gore Vidal style about Emperor Julian, very well worth reading. You can get it easily and cheaply on Amazon.

Julius II came from one of those distinguished Roman families – the Della Rovere; he was born in 1443 and was Pope from 1513 to 1513. He devoted most of these papal years to re-establishing the Pope’s sovereignty within the ancient territory of the Vatican. He also found time to try to remove any foreign domination from Italy herself, though the Vatican is of course a city/state within Italy. Julius II took part in the restoration of the Papal States through what was called ‘The League of Cambrai’. He was less successful in ‘The Holy League’ (Spain, England and Italy), moving in wae-like manner without intelligence, against French King Louis XII.

As a liberal patron of the arts, however, he did very well, exploying the architect and artist Bramante for a re-design of St. Peter’s. Work began in 1506, and by then Julius had commissioned work from Raphael and Michaelangelo no less. He died still full of hope for a super-powerful Vatican, in 1513. Continue reading

Further thoughts on the Khmer Rouge

Pol Pot in majestic mode / pinterest.com

Pol Pot in majestic mode / pinterest.com

In 1970, serious trouble boiled up again when the Prince Sihanouk was knocked off the throne by a Cambodian communist guerilla force called Khmer Rouge. This brutal, well-organised group was inevitably opposed to an American invasion of Eastern Cambodia, and rapidly gained control of the entire country by 1975. The ‘government’ was led by a man called Pol Pot, noticeably insane, who announced the dramatic transformation of his country into what he called ‘Democratic Kampuchea’. His aim was to move the masses out of urban areas into the countryside, where they could be usefully employed in tilling the soil, if they could find some, and could irrigate it if there was nearby water. To control the new agricultural population Pol Pot invented thousands of new ‘agricultural cooperatives’ managed by his specially trained uncivil servants, while at the same time just as many ‘bougeois elements’ (previous owners of land) were eliminated. Continue reading

Four revolutions of 1848

Gen. Moritz Karl Ernest von Prittwitz / wikiwand.com

Gen. Moritz Karl Ernest von Prittwitz / wikiwand.com

Revolutions are a regular feature in all history, human nature being what it is. The careful student can probably find a revolution of some kind every year since records began, but in 1848 there were FOUR in Europe alone – In France, Italy, the Habsburg Empire and the greater part of what was then Germany. Reasons for these violent upheavals were failure of crops, especially that of the potato; pathetic cereal harvests, resultant food shortage and high prices, and a reduced demand for manufactured items, which in turn led to massive unemployment. In today’s enlightened days governments are better equipped to deal with such serious matters, but they were notably short of political and economic measures in the first half of the nineteenth century. Continue reading

Important European families: Este and Esterhazy

The Villa d'Este at Tivoli / en wikipedia.org

The Villa d’Este at Tivoli / en wikipedia.org

Any family that distinguishes itself for eight hundred and seventy-five years must have something special, and the Italian family d’Este has it. Appearing first in the misty beginnings of the eleventh century, they became rulers of the city of Ferrara near the end of the twelfth. Their iron rule stayed firm until 1598, when Ferrara was incorporated into the Papal States.

The first Marchese or marquess was Azzo d’Este (1205 – 1264), whose absolute authority seems to have been established by the last year of his life. The office of Signore or Lord was made hereditary during the time of his son, Obizzo, who annexed the territories of Modena and Reggio. Niccoló III, born 1383, brought peace and security to the area; his sons Leonello, born 1407, Borso, b. 1413, and Ercole, b. 1431 were mainly known as fervent patrons of the arts, as well as being scholarly students of the humanities. The daughters of Ercole, Isabella, b.1474 and Beatrice, b. 1475 continued this peaceful tradition. The first married Francisco Gonzaga (q.v.) of Mantua while the second married Lodovico Sforza (q.v.) of Milan, thus uniting three of the grandest (and richest) Italian families. Continue reading

The murder of Elisabeth Feodorovna

/ russiapastand present.blogspot.com

/ russiapastand present.blogspot.com

This beautiful, doomed woman was the sister of the Tsarina Alexandra of Russia, and of Prince Ernest of Hesse-Darmstadt, and the daughter of Princess Alice of Great Britain, which made her a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her other sisters were Princess Victoria of Battenberg (who became Marchioness of Milford Haven), and the Princess Henry of Prussia.

Elisabeth was tall and slim, with a gentle expression that hid a will of steel. She married the Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovitch, fourth son of Tsar Alexander II. In 1891 her husband was made Governor-General of Moscow, and Elisabeth became a much loved figure in both St. Petersburg and Moscow. In February of 1905, as the Grand Duke was crossing the Senate Square in a carriage, a terrorist took his opportunity and threw a bomb, which blew both the carriage and the Grand Duke to pieces. Elisabeth was working at one of many charities in a workroom in the Kremlin and heard the violent explosion.In the square, she found the badly hurt coachman and two dead horses, but the vehicle and the Duke were scattered over the snow. Some of his fingers, still wearing rings, were found on the roof of of one the great houses facing the square. Continue reading