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Orange and Orléans

Young William of Orange, future William III of England / journal.carlottamanaigo.com

Young William of Orange, future William III of England / journal.carlottamanaigo.com

When James II made his Catholicism too ostentatious for seventeenth century Protestant politicians to stomach, a successful conspiracy was made to remove him from the throne he had inherited from his brother Charles II.  Among the conspirators was John Duke of Marlborough, who had been raised to the dizzy heights he attained from being a country squire. Most of the raising had been done by James II. Do not put your faith in country squires who rise to become Dukes and have colossal palaces (Blenheim) built for them by ‘a grateful nation’. The conspirators then invited a Dutchman to come to Britain and become William III, which he did, albeit with some reluctance. He was a firm Protestant descending from Mary Queen of Scots, a Stewart, and was married to another Mary, Mary of England. This was considered a good enough claim by the conspirators, and so the Dutchman became King of England,Scotland and Ireland. Silly weak James went without much pushing into exile, where he stayed. (more…)

Two proud Dukes of Buckingham (too proud perhaps?)

George Villiers (pronounced 'Villers') Duke of Buckingham / nowportsmouth.co.uk

George Villiers (pronounced ‘Villers’) Duke of Buckingham / nowportsmouth.co.uk

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham was born around 1454 in Salisbury, Wiltshire. He was a member of the House of Lancaster, being a descendent of Edward III, and most of his forebears had lost their lives fighting the House of York in the interminable wars over royal succession (1455 – 85).

In 1460, only six years old, he succeeded his grandfather as Duke of Buckingham. At twelve he was dynastically married to Catherine Woodville, a sister-in-law of the Yorkist King Edward IV. Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville, a strong-minded woman of mean temper, probably as his second wife, though the first marriage was supposed to be a secret. (more…)

Gibraltar in the news again


President of the Spanish Government Mariano Rajoy spoke to the United Nations recently. He explained the country’s economic situation, which is disastrous, though no fault of his own, and clarified what his government is doing (or trying to do) to improve the situation. But he also brought up the thorny and contentious subject of Gibraltar. He said that the two governments, British and Spanish and the UNO itself must reach a consensus of opinion about the Rock, and be quick about it. He pulled no punches. It is not his job to pull punches. (more…)

Great War Commanders: Hans von Seeckt: who?

Hans Von Seekt

Hans von Seekt / zh.wikipedia.org

I am not being frivolous. If you were to ask even German or Austrian nationals of below a certain age, say seventy, who Hans von Seeckt was, you might well get a blank expression. But it was Seeckt who prepared and made the German Army of which Hitler was so proud, and which he could use so effectively in France, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Poland etc. in the early years of the Second War. (more…)

Tory, Conservative; Whig, Liberal

The term ‘party’ for a political group has been around in Britain for centuries. The Tory Party was a political group that was spoken of in the 1680s. The term ‘Tory’ is itself pejorative, derived from the Irish Gaelic-speaking Catholic toraidhe – ‘outlaw’ or ‘brigand’. In the last quarter of the sevententh century the outlaws were those against the attempt being made to put the Duke of York, who was Catholic, on the throne after the death of his older brother Charles II (q.v.). (more…)

Great War Leaders: Kitchener needs YOU!

Horatio Herbert Kitchener was born in 1850. At school in Switzerland he learned perfect French, and later went to Palestine where he picked up near-perfect Arabic. After military college and commissioning he got to Egypt (where his knowledge of languages was useful for a junior officer).

The British were occupying Egypt in 1882, but this was the time of the Mahdi, an almost mythical religious and military leader who caused consternation in Britain by the brilliance of his strategy, and the blind faith in him showed by his followers. (more…)

The Continental System (Blockade)

Constant blockade of the ports: the Continental System / xtimeline.com

Constant blockade of the ports: the Continental System / xtimeline.com

When I was a schoolboy (the Punic Wars q.v.), Bonaparte’s genial idea was called ‘The Continental System’, a good name but implying a kind of applied plan to Continental economics, rather than a sustained attempt by him to ruin the British nation economically, and force it to sue for peace. In this sense the word ‘blockade’ is more appropriate. It is surprising however, that such a violent word, in these days of euphemism and political correctness, should emerge in the most modern history books – when the word ‘system’ appears infinitely more euphemistic and more politically correct. (more…)

Philippe II & Felipe II: two successful Philips

Felipe II painted by Antonio Moro / blogs.ua.es

Felipe II painted by Antonio Moro / blogs.ua.es

There were nearly two hundred years between the births of these two triumphant kings of France and Spain respectively. I shall use the anglicised version of their names. The French Philip came to be known as ‘Augustus’ as well, as if he were a Roman emperor. He did not appear to object to this magniloquence. (more…)

A tangled skein: the War of the Spanish Succession

A battle in the War of the Spanish Succession / historyfiles.co.uk

A battle in the War of the Spanish Succession / historyfiles.co.uk

Not even Frodo trying desperately to cut his way out of Shelob the Spider’s thick cobwebs is like my trying to explain the War of the Spanish Succession. Let us go at it in stages, keep a clear mind and watch out for the snags:

Charles II (Carlos Segundo) died childless in Spain in 1700. A sister had married Louis XIV (the Sun King of France). Another sister had married the Holy Roman Emperor (q.v.) Leopold I. Consequently, both the French Bourbons and the Austrian Habsburgs (q.v.) claimed the right to rule Spain itself and the Spanish Empire. The latter included the southern part of the Netherlands, Milan, Naples, and almost all of Central and South America. There was a lot at stake. (more…)

Charles ‘the Bold’, Philip ‘the Good’ & Philip ‘the Bold’ (of Burgundy)

Burgundy was an important former duchy in south-central France, originally settled by a German tribe called the Burgundii, there in the 5th century. It was first under Merovingian control, and later was absorbed into the Carolingian Empire (q.v.). While powerful Holy Roman Emperors exercised imperial control it was ruled by a series of impressive dukes.

Oddly enough, the Court of Burgundy was by far the most splendid in Europe, but few people have heard of it, France having easily and erroneously assumed that mantle. Dukes of Burgundy were more powerful than kings of France, especially when they were astute enough to form partnerships with England (as they did during the Hundred Years War). It was then that these dukes presented a real threat to the kings of France. (more…)

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