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Some notes on the 2000 Scarlet Pimpernel series

Some notes on the 2000 TV series ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’

I have in my possession a box set of this production, the material contained in four DVD discs. The series was adapted from the books by the Baroness Orczy by Richard Carpenter, and on the whole he has not done a bad job. Where the series fails, collapses in fact, is in the casting, with one exception – Ronan Vibert.  Richard E. Grant plays Percy Blakeney, a difficult task because Blakeney must be an effeminate fop, pandering to the Prince of Wales (future George IV) in some scenes – and a highly dangerous, athletic, intelligent kind of 18th century ‘Bourne’ in others, rescuing aristos from the clutches of the French revolutionaries. Leslie Howard managed this tolerably well in a film made in the Thirties. David Niven failed completely in 1950. Grant’s problem is simply one of class. Good actor that he is, he hasn’t the right sound, looks or disdain to play an aristocrat. There are plenty of other actors who possess these essential traits – Sam West and Toby Stephens come to mind. (more…)

Who were the ‘Sans-Culottes’?

The fashion for both men and women to wear trousers ending at the knee, or just below it, has been with us for five years or more. Some shops even name this article of clothing in memory of the French Revolution, though that upheaval took place at the end of the eighteenth century. The workers in 1789 preferred the wearing of these well-ventilated trousers because they hated the knee-breeches worn by the upper classes, whom they had been inspired to hate by the republicans. (more…)

By | 2014-04-01T13:27:55+00:00 January 29th, 2014|French History, Today, World History|0 Comments

(Thomas) Woodrow Wilson

The twenty-seventh President of the United States was born in 1856 in Virginia, son of a Presbyterian minister. The family were slave-owners. Thirty-four years later Woodrow was made a professor at Princeton, one of the ‘Ivy League’ American universities of great prestige. He taught History and Political Science and in 1902 became president of the university.

Soon he was elected Governor of New Jersey, where he easily gained the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, promising a ‘New Freedom’ by destroying the trusts, decreasing taxes and tariffs, and beginning a severe revision of the financial system which was the life blood of ‘The American Way of Life’. He was the first Southerner to become President since A. Johnson, and the first Democrat. (more…)

Burke, politician, essayist & long-lasting influence

Edmund Burke was born in Dublin in 1729. Educated in this city, it was not long before he quit ‘the bogs of Ireland’ and moved to London, where he got the job of being private secretary to Lord Rockingham in 1765, when Burke was 36. So far so slow, but the Irishman never wasted a moment of his long apprenticeship with Rockingham, which lasted until the latter’s death in 1872. (more…)


This is not merely a philosophy: it is a political movement, a system of governance, and a decided set of political principles. As a political movement it was the lynch-pin of the descendants of Napoleon Bonaparte. It can be dated from the election of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte who became Napoleon III. He was of course Bonaparte’s nephew. (more…)

By | 2014-04-01T13:28:29+00:00 January 6th, 2014|French History, World History|0 Comments


Turkey, a European country once described as ‘the sick man of Europe’, decided to unite with the Central Powers in the First World War; by January, 1915, the Western Powers thought it might be prudent to kick Turkey right out of the War. There would be a combined operation of British and Commonwealth and friendly naval and land forces to do the job. By 19 February the Gallipoli Campaign had started.

Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty at thirty-nine years of age; he was convinced that the military stalemate on the Western Front would not be broken without decisive action somewhere else. Gallipoli is the gateway to the Dardanelles, and therefore far enough away from the hopeless bloodbath in the Flanders mud. British and French battle fleets would destroy the Dardanelles defences; troops would then secure the Gallipoli peninsula. After this was successfully concluded the land forces would move on to Constantinople, later known as Istanbul. It was reckoned that with the fall of Turkey’s capital she would withdraw from the fighting. (more…)

Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne, Viscount Turenne

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. (more…)

War in Vietnam

It is now an independent socialist/communist state bordered to the east by the South China Sea, and to the west by Laos and Cambodia. Dominated by China for many centuries, it was ‘visited’ by the Portuguese in 1535. By the 17th century visits had also been made by Dutch, French and English traders accompanied by missionaries.

In 1802 the north and south were combined as The Vietnamese Empire, which in turn was conquered by French forces towards the end of the century. The French Indo-Chinese Union with Cambodia and Laos was formed in 1887.

Inevitably, during the Second World War the country was invaded successfully by the Japanese, and there followed an occupation during which a certain amount of industrialization took place, but agriculture remained the basic staple by which the people of Vietnam were fed. (more…)

The Tudors

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. (more…)

What was the ‘Risorgimento’?

The word means ‘resurgence’ but that will not mean much to students. It was a nineteenth century movement designed to unite Italy, which had not been united since the Roman Empire;  even then solidarity had not been achieved.

The origins of the idea came from ‘enlightenment ideas’ stirring in the eighteenth century, especially in the final years, with Bonaparte as the inspiration. The movement got itself together after the Congress of Vienna 1814/15. It is strange to relate that it commenced with insurrections – not one would have thought the best way to unite a country –  but small rebellions in the 1820s and actual revolutions of 1848 paved the way, helped by violent anti-Austrian feelings and the fiery and compelling speeches of Mazzini, and the more moderate Gioberti. (more…)

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