The name could hardly sound more French, and yet Henri was the grandson of William of Orange ‘The Silent’, which should make him at least a Netherlander. Henri’s grandfather had earned his nickname by keeping his mouth firmly shut about French plans to murder every Protestant in France and the Netherlands. This Hitler-style plot had had success only in Paris in the form of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day (24 August, 1572 q.v.). Henri was born in 1611. Continue reading
I do not refer to the hideous filmed television series of the same name, designed more as pornography for sexually deprived viewers than students of England’s history. I refer to a family of minor Welsh gentry, smallholders in the North of that sad country, one of whose male members managed to marry a French girl, the widow of a Plantagenet king.
The King, Henry V, died young after winning the crucial battle against the French at Agincourt. He had defeated and routed the Dauphin, whose father Charles VI gave the victor his daughter Catherine of Valois in marriage. When she was widowed, this Catherine fell in with one Owen Tudor – and married him. He had his head cut off in 1461 but not before siring Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. He in turn took as his second wife Margaret Beaufort. This is where the trouble started. Continue reading
If he had not been assassinated, this 19th century Spanish soldier and politician would probably have been forgotten, but as his death added to the unattractive list of conspiracy theories, the neglect historians usually apply to failed politicians has not been forthcoming. Continue reading
The French (and later the Spanish) royal house descends from a Capet – Louis IX (The Saintly). As such it was absolutist and conformist in ideology, and dedicated to the extension of France in other territories and maintaining her influence.
The last king of the Valois dynasty was Henry III; Henry of Navarre (‘Paris is worth a Mass’) became Henry IV of France and established the Bourbon dynasty. His son was Louis XIII and his grandson was the Sun King himself, Louis Quartorze (Louis XIV). Continue reading
Leopoldo de Gregorio, Marqués de Esquilache was born around the beginning of the 18th century, perhaps 1700? He became that most difficult of objects – a Spanish politician – and was made Minister for War and Finance when Charles III (Carlos Tercero) was on the throne.
At that time Naples was a part of Spain and Leopoldo was sent there to be Minister of Finance by 1759. He returned to Spain where he bravely tried to introduce reforms, especially in the Spanish fiscal system, a permanent bugbear. It is still a bugbear today. Continue reading
There have been wars that lasted a few days; the Great War lasted a terrible four years, and the Second World War six. There was a thirty year war that nobody needed, except perhaps for giving employment to soldiers, but many died where they stood and were not recorded as thinking it worthwhile. The Punic Wars took forty-three years to complete, and Rome won them all anyway. It is possible to find a war endured by its participants for eighty years (1568 – 1648) and naturally the conflict was over Habsburg domination. Continue reading
Catalonia (English spelling), Cataluña (Castilian spelling) and Catalunya (Catalán spelling) all refer to the same autonomous region, made up by the provinces of Barcelona, Gerona, Lérida and Tarragona (the last three in Spanish spelling). Catalonia was united with the Kingdom of Aragón from the year 1337, and developed a huge trading empire in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Catalans have always been known for hard work, and their principal port, Barcelona, is among the best in the world. Continue reading
James Fitzjames was born in 1670. His father was James II of England and VII of Scotland, younger brother of Charles II. His mother was Mrs Arabella Churchill, one of the latter James’s numerous mistresses, the Stuart brothers being highly sexed and beyond doubt very attractive to women. Continue reading
It is difficult to find any time since the Byzantine Empire when the North African coast from Morocco to Libya was not infamous for piracy. The worst period was the beginning of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth. The Berbers, who may or may not have originally populated the Canary Islands, were piratical by nature and good navigators in the treacherous Atlantic and unpredictable Mediterranean.
Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania (Libya) take their name from the infamous pirate Barbarossa. Even the English adjective barbaric has its roots in berber, bereber or Barbarossa. Continue reading
A bit of a dirty word since 1938 but it shouldn’t be. There is enough appeasement going on now over the disgusting situation in Syria to fill the Golden Bowl with appeasers eager to keep Assad Junior happy. It is all rather puzzling. With one Bush, America went with its cautious allies to war against Iraq because Saddam invaded Kuwait. Firepower won, of course, but Saddam’s government remained! Then Bush Jr. went to war with Iraq with equally cautious allies, beat him up, and permitted the locals to lynch Saddam in a particularly horrible way. Now in Syria the Assad boy kills hundreds of fellow citizens every day, even using poison gas to do it, and the world’s committees sit expensively around asking themselves what to do. Continue reading