Christian X riding in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen / copenhagenet.dk
Christian I was born in 1426 and became King of Denmark in 1448, King of Norway in 1450 and Sweden in 1457. In case this seems greedy he was also the founder of the Oldenberg royal line, being a son of the Count of Oldenberg and his lady Hedvig, the heiress of Schleswig and Holstein. He was monarch by election in Denmark, succeeding Christoph (of Bavaria to ensure more complication). Norway wanted him to replace their king, one Karl Knutsson (of Sweden to complicate matter more), and he was crowned king in Sweden too, though Karl K. was offended and ousted him in 1464.
To complicate the issue more the people elected him sovereign ruler of Schleswig/Holstein. It is all quite wondrous, for Christian was not a good king; he spent too much on himself and his glittering court, and was therefore always broke. When he married his daughter Margaret to James III of Scotland, he was expected to provide a dowry of 60,000 guilders. Not being able to find the complete sum he mortgaged the Orkneys and Shetland, getting 8000 guilders (which he never repaid). He did, however, found the University of Copenhagen in 1478: where did the money come from? Dying in 1481, he was succeeded by his son Hans I. Continue reading
O’Toole & Burton (right) as the King and Thomas Becket in the famous movie / mrfalk.18.wordpress.com
Thomas Becket, or Thomas à Becket as he was called by my teacher of History, was not a Saxon. He was a son of a wealthy Norman merchant (born 1118), and as Norman as his friend and king, Henry II. Thomas read Canon Law at the University of Bologna, where his teachers found him a first-class student, digesting books when he was not drinking or whoring. It may have been his ability to keep up glass by glass with the young Henry Plantagenet that cemented (he thought) his friendship, and caused Henry to make Thomas his Chancellor, the holder of the royal seal, and high on the list of very powerful men in England, an island he had chosen to make his home. Continue reading
Benedict XIV, from a painting by Benoit / en.wikipedia.org
Pope Francisco recently reached the throne of Peter because his predecessor decided, wisely perhaps, to retire from the Papacy before his death – a rare festivity in the Roman Catholic faith. Francisco is proving to be an excellent leader of the millions of Catholics on this planet. It is true that he is more popular with poor, ordinary people than the richer among us, following the fashion set first by John Paul II and staunchly sustained by the wise old pianist priest who was and still is a musician of world class. In fact, and this has nothing to do with the article you are now reading, I often find it sad that Ratzinger chose the Papacy instead of the concert hall. Continue reading
After Federal Germany’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in May, 1955, the Federal German Armed Forces came into being under the name Bundeswehr. At first, it consisted of 101 new recruits, the rest perhaps a bit wary because total disarmament had been in force since Germany’s capitulation had ended the War in Europe in 1945.
The new army was utterly different to any that had gone before; the Bundeswehr was and is subordinate only to the German Parliament. Conscripts were seen as ‘citizens in uniform’. The new force was virtually encased within the NATO command structure, but the Bundeswehr very rapidly became the biggest single element in NATO, with 340,000 soldiers and 8,600 tanks of the latest design. There were more than 100,000 airmen flying or servicing more than 400 aircraft. There were also nearly 40,000 seamen in the newly structured navy. Continue reading
An artist’s impression of Burgundian knights in gothic armour / pinterest.com
Burgundy, a region of France, was first a kingdom after the collapse of the Roman Empire, roughly speaking the fifth century. It was incorporated into the Carolingian Empire, divided by the Treaty of Verdun, and finally combined with the Kingdom of Provence in the tenth century.
Dukes of Burgundy, though sometimes richer than kings of France, and owning more land, towns, hamlets and troops, were in fact officially vassals, as indeed was the King of England. Even Henry II Plantagenet paid hommage to the French king; Burgundy was the greates of these vassals. Many dukes tried to gain independence from the royal family, and were prepared to go to any lengths to achieve their purpose. No French king, however wealthy or in need of finance, was able to trust a Duke of Burgundy. Continue reading
Even in 2015, some two hundred and fourteen years after his death, the name Benedict Arnold can inspìre in thinking Americans either an adverse or admiring reaction. “Traitor!’ “Outcast!” some will cry, curling the lip as if he were something disgusting: whereas some will say, “Brave man!” or “Good fellow!”. It seems to be automatic reaction, not necessarily based on fact.
Benedict Arnold was born in 1741; when the American Revolution(q.v.) broke out he chose to fight for the colonists against the British, and at the siege of Quebec distinguished himself for his courage and tenacity in battle. His reward was promotion to Brigadier-General – an essentially American army rank which means a field officer in command of a brigade. Continue reading
1774: hundreds of anti-Revolution families leave the Colonies for Canada / travelanguist.com
The war that established the independence from Britain of the thirteen American colonies took place between 1775 and 1783, and is improperly called ‘The American War of Independence’ when it should more correctly be referred to as ‘The American Revolution’ – for that is what it was, a revolution.
In the early 1760s relations between the government in London and the Colonies became even more strained than they had ever been. The London government was intent on taking measures to control everything in the colonies, and the colonists objected, though only verbally at first. They found it difficult to understand why they should be taxed without having proper representation, indeed any representation in London. Independence-seekers gathered in most of the coastal port towns, such as New York, Richmond, Virginia and Boston, Massachusetts. Continue reading
During the 1980s and 90s of the last century a giant crop of young, or very young male actors began appearing in major films made in Hollywood, or on location by Hollywood. They were the replacements for the suddenly elderly chaps (Tracy, Peck, Granger, Ferrer, Gable, Stewart, MacRea etc.) some of whom had been making movies in the late 1930s; for example John Wayne, who played a character called ‘John Wayne’ in more than a hundred pictures until his death of cancer. Sometimes half a dozen of these youngsters appeared together in very small parts in films like Dead Poets’ Society, White Squall, The Outsiders or School Ties.
By the year 2015 two or three had become super-stars, getting millions of dollars in films with their name above the title because they are so bankable. Some have vanished into obscurity, mainly because they never managed to change from ‘leading young man’ to ‘middle-age attraction’. One (Swayze) died absurdly young; another is more or less permanently in a wheelchair (Fox). The passing of Time has of course been the leading factor in their lives. Their attractive youth is frozen for ever on Video/DVD/Blueray, but now many are fat-cheeked, heavy-bellied, balding fifty-somethings. Hollywood has, as it always has, passed most of them by.
Here is a sometimes surprising list: Continue reading
The name is unknown to most of us in the 21st century, and seems to be in a state of banishment from the minds of some of today’s historians too. Yet Nikolai was, as a revolutionary, greatly admired by, among other, Karl Marx himself.
He was born in 1828, and never saw the twentieth century, or its dreadful beginnings in Russia. As the son of an Orthodox priest, he grew to hate injustice, and hoped in the 1850s that Tsar Alexander’s reforms might improve conditions for the serfs, and go some way towards removing injustice. His hopes were in vain, for though Alexander introduced the Emancipation of the Serfs, results were inconclusive and disappointing. The rebel in Nikolai Gavrilovitch itched to overthrow the Tsar and seek a total change of government. Continue reading
US soldiers fighting in typical Ardennes winter weather /warfarehistorynetwork.com
Shakespeare has generals dancing together in a suitably stately manner, on board ships in his play Antony and Cleopatra. The Battle of the Bulge, a nickname, properly called the Ardenne Offensive, was Hitler’s last and most surprising offenivfe in World War II. It was the greatest ptiched battle in American history, putting up more than 600,000 American soldiers, mostly young and inexperienced, against a mixture of battle-hardened German troops with a heavy admixture of the infamous Waffen-SS, some Hitler-Jugend regiments (boys from 16 – 19 years of age). Together they reached half a million ferocious fighting men who believed their battle must be won against the Allies because the massive and callous Red Army was closing in from the East. The battle between the opposing soldiery was one thing, while the consistent bickering, jealousies, and outright hatred between the US generals and the newly created Field Marshal Montgomery was another. These men were not dancing together, on board ship or knee deep in the snows of Belgium. Continue reading