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Posted in Animals, Bravery, Famous battles, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, War on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about the Charge of the Light Brigade originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
Lord Cardigan rode his splendid chestnut charger, Ronald, in that heroic charge at Balaclava by James E McConnell
Few people have not heard of the famous Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava in the Crimean War. On that memorable day, the 25th October, 1854, 670 of Britain’s finest cavalrymen charged to their doom in the ‘Valley of Death’.
Of course, it was a blunder. A wrong order sent the Light Brigade on its tragic charge, but that did not dim its glory. Shot at from the flanks, riding into the volleying barrel-mouths of Russian cannon, not a man hesitated.
Commanding the Light Cavalry Brigade was Major-General the Earl of Cardigan, riding his splendid chestnut charger, Ronald, a horse with two ‘white stockings’. As if on a ceremonial parade, Cardigan on Ronald trotted, then galloped up the shell-riddled valley and leapt between the Russian guns. Here, with the crash of artillery in his ears, Ronald took fright for the first and only time, and bolted towards the mass of Cossack lancers waiting beyond the guns.
The noble Earl quickly recovered control, fought off three Cossacks, and proudly rode back all the way up the valley. He had suffered only a scratch, on his thigh, and Ronald was completely unhurt. Yet there were only 195 survivors of the charge, and 500 horses were killed.
After the war, Cardigan took the horse back to his family home at Deene in Northamptonshire, where Ronald lived a long and contented life. His head and tail are still preserved there.
Ronald was a soldier’s horse, and shared a soldier’s glory.
Posted in Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Royalty, Superstition, World War 1 on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about World War One originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
Princip shot the Archduke and then his wife, by Neville Dear
The whole of the Austrian Royal Family was opposed to the marriage. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, it was pointed out, was heir to the thrones of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, but Countess Sophie Chotek was merely a lady-in-waiting. If the marriage took place, she would be treated as a ‘commoner’, and not as her husband’s equal.
Despite this threat, Franz Ferdinand married his Sophie on 28th June, 1900.
As they were leaving the church, an old gypsy woman burst through the crowd and ran up to the Archduke.
“Tell your fortune, Your Imperial Highness?” she asked.
Franz Ferdinand nodded his permission and held out his hand. The gypsy gazed into his palm and then looked solemnly at him.
“You will loose a great war,” she prophesied.
The young newlyweds turned to each other and laughed; they were not going to let anyone – the Royal Family or a gypsy – spoil their happiness.
But their joy was only to last until their 14th anniversary when the tragic consequences of their marriage brought about the start of the First World War. Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Historical articles, History, Medicine on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about medicine originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
Three women doctors: Elizabeth Garrett (large picture); Sophia Jex-Blake (inset, top) and Elizabeth Blackwell (inset. bottom) by Ken Petts
There were tears in the eyes of Elizabeth Blackwell when her name was formally entered on the British Medical Register on 1st January, 1859. Her lifelong dream had come true; she had been accepted as the first properly qualified woman doctor in the world.
Today it is hard to imagine that just over 100 years ago women were not considered suitable to be physicians. Elizabeth Blackwell devoted her life to fighting this stupid prejudice.
Born at Bristol, she emigrated with her father to the USA in 1832. Here she became a school-teacher, but before long she was filled with the ambition to help the sick, not as a nurse but as a surgeon.
In New York she was rejected by eight medical colleges. Their professors thought she was mad – and told her so. Finally, she was enrolled in the more enlightened medical school of Geneva in the New York State, and here she graduated as an M.D.
No American hospital would employ her, so she came to Europe to gain the experience to become a surgeon. In France she was only allowed in a hospital as a nurse, and it was here that she caught an eye disease. The sight of one eye was ruined, preventing her from ever being able to perform an operation.
Florence Nightingale befriended her in England, and she was allowed to study at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, until she was officially recognised as a doctor.
Returning to USA, she was still not allowed to work in hospitals. People sent her threatening letters and it seemed her struggle had been in vain until she opened her own hospital for women. To everyone’s surprise women flocked to become her patients, and soon she was able to establish a full medical teaching course – for women.
Posted in Historical articles, Religion, Saints on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about St Simeon Stylites originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
The crowd gazed at the man on the 60ft. column as though hypnotised. Every few seconds he bowed so low that his head almost touched his feet. All through the burning desert day he had been making this gesture of submission, and when he finally sank exhausted to his 3ft.-wide platform, the onlookers had counted 1,240 times.
In the 5th century many Christians believed that by neglecting, and even torturing, their bodies their spirits grew closer to God. Today this idea is still held by some holy men in India.
The greatest exponent of this belief was St. Simeon Stylites (the latter part of his name coming from stylos, the Greek word for a pillar). At the age of 13 he gave up being a shepherd and entered a Syrian monastery. Soon he decided the life of a monk was too easy. He began a life of fasting and meditation at the bottom of a deep, dry well. He neglected himself so much that when his friends finally hauled him up by a rope they found him close to death.
Next, he lived in the desert in an enclosure of stones. But now the fame of the hermit had spread so far that people were constantly coming and touching the frail body in the hope of a miracle. To avoid this interruption with his devotions, St. Simeon had a pillar built.
Without shelter, and clothed only in the skin of a wild animal, the saint lived on the tiny platform high above the sunburned rock of the wilderness about 30 miles east of Antioch. A little water and scraps of food were drawn up by a cord from his devoted disciples.
Twice a day he preached to the pilgrims who flocked to see him. Sometimes he would stand all day with his arms extended like a cross, sometimes he would keep bowing until it was a miracle he did not fall from his perch with fatigue.
As a result of his self-inflicted suffering he was often ill. For a year he was afflicted with sores so badly that he could only stand on one leg. Yet he remained on his pillar until 5th January, 459, when death ended his ordeal. He had been 37 years without coming down to the ground.
No doubt his strange feat is a world record in endurance. Many claimed it had enabled him to work miracles. One practical result was that his fame spread throughout the Roman Empire, inspiring great interest and respect.
Posted in Bible, Historical articles, Religion, Saints on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about the Early Christians originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
The Christian faith was first preached in Jerusalem, and the men whom we call ‘the Apostles’ were its first preachers. They had all left their various jobs to follow Jesus Christ and were to spend the rest of their lives in spreading this new religion. They had to depend for a living mainly on the gifts of those who accepted their message.
At first they were not called ‘Christians’. According to the earliest Church history (the book of the New Testament called ‘The Acts of the Apostles’) the new religion was known simply as ‘the Way’, and its followers as ‘Those of the Way’. But when the new teaching reached the town of Antioch, someone there coined the nickname of ‘Christiani’ for the followers of Christ. With slight variations in different languages, this has remained the name by which they have been known for nineteen hundred years.
It is very difficult to say when the Christian faith was first preached beyond Jerusalem and its immediate surroundings. Travelling was slow in those days; there was nothing faster than a horse or a sailing boat. We read of the Apostle Peter going to Joppa (the coastal town now called Yafo, near Tel-Aviv) and of others going to Antioch. Neither was really far from Jerusalem. Yet within the lifetime of the Apostles, the faith had been taken to many parts of the Roman Empire, and within another two centuries to practically every part of the known world.
According to ancient traditions, this was the work of the Apostles themselves. The name ‘Apostle’ is a Greek word meaning ‘someone sent forth’, and one of the last commands of their Master, Jesus Christ, was ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news’.
This they undoubtedly did, but we cannot be certain that the traditional places to which they are said to have gone are correct in every case. For instance, an old tradition claimed that the Apostle James (the brother of John) preached the Gospel in Spain, but it is much more probable that he met his death at the hands of King Herod before he even left Jerusalem (Acts, chapter 12, verse 2). He thereby became the first of the Apostles to be a ‘martyr’ (a Greek word for ‘witness’); that is, to die for the Christian faith.
It is generally accepted that the Apostle Peter went to Rome, and established the Church in the Imperial Capital. Certainly by the time Paul wrote to say that he was coming to Rome (about A.D. 58) there were already a number of Christian believers there.
Simon the Zealot, and Jude, the brother of James, are said to have taken Christianity to Persia, where there have certainly been Christians since very early times. Surprisingly, the most adventurous of all the Apostles seems to have been Thomas (‘Doubting Thomas’ as he has been called, on account of the story in John, chapter 20), for with Bartholomew he is said to have taken Christianity to India, where the most ancient form of the faith is that of the ‘Mar Thoma’ or ‘St. Thomas’ Christians, who today claim to be members of the Church he founded.
Posted in Boats, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, London, Ships on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about Captain Bligh originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
Captain Bligh was at sea for three months before reaching Timor, by Peter Jackson
Every schoolboy must know the name on the plaque at No. 100 Lambeth Road, the former home of Captain Bligh of the Bounty.
Bligh joined the navy when still very young, and was educated by the teachers then carried on the larger warships. Eventually he became one of Captain Cook’s officers, and with him he surveyed Tasmania and the Sandwich Islands. He was with Cook at the time of his fatal visit to New Zealand, and took part in the fight in which Cook was killed.
It was during this voyage that breadfruit was discovered at Tahiti. The event was to prove much more significant for Bligh than he could possibly have guessed at the time.
For some years it seemed that Bligh would follow a normal career of average obscurity. He saw action at the battle of the Dogger Bank in 1781 and in the following year he fought under Lord Howe at Gibraltar.
In 1787, his skill as a navigator was recognised, and he was given his first command: Bounty. He was then sent to transplant breadfruit trees from Tahiti to the West Indies. The mission was not so whimsical as it might appear, for it was thought the trees would provide a source of good, cheap food for the slaves then at work on the plantations of the New World.
At Tahiti, the ship’s company relaxed and enjoyed the natural delights of the island for much longer than was necessary. They left with reluctance. Tempers were short and Bligh was overbearing. After a heated quarrel about some coconuts, the young mate, Christian, prepared to desert. He changed his mind and instead led the famous mutiny.
Bligh was put into a small boat with 18 men, some provisions and navigational instruments, but no charts. Three months later, Captain Bligh and his men reached Timor, off Java, having spent three months at sea, touching only islands for fruit and shellfish. It was a remarkable voyage.
Back in England, Bligh was given another ship, and was dispatched once more to transplant breadfruit trees. This time he completed the mission without incident.
Three years later, mutineers again relieved him of his ship, at the Nore, but this time he was landed. He fought at the battle of Copenhagen under Nelson, and in 1805 he was appointed governor of New South Wales, Australia. His harsh, authoritative temperament was bitterly resented, and he was forcibly deposed by Major George Johnston of the 102nd Foot, who sent him back to England as a prisoner. The major was cashiered for this piece of rough justice, while Bligh continued to enjoy the favours of the Admiralty. He became a vice-admiral in 1814, but further promotion was prevented by his death three years afterwards.
Posted in Africa, Historical articles, History, Invasions, Oddities, Politics on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about Jacques LeBaudy originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
Berbers on horseback around the time LeBaudy established his empire
From the age of six, Jacques LeBaudy knew exactly what he wanted. He put it into words when his father asked him what he would like for Christmas.
“A throne!” replied the little boy. And to have an empire of his very own was an obsession which remained with him for the rest of his life.
Jacques’s father became a millionaire in the sugar business, and at the age of 24, Jacques inherited his vast fortune. Now that he was one of the richest men in France, he secretly planned to achieve his childhood ambition.
He boarded his yacht Fransquita with 200 men whom he had secretly hired in Paris. Most of them were ex-soldiers, but there was also a sprinkling of men from the underworld. The senior man was an ex-American bank-robber.
As well as being overloaded with passengers, the luxury yacht had a strange cargo; it included 16 cannon, a printing press, a guillotine – and a throne.
The voyage ended at the West African coast. As land came in sight, LeBaudy assembled his men.
“We have come to set up the Saharan Empire of LeBaudy,” he announced.
He went on to explain how he had employed geographical experts to find him a part of the world which did not belong to an existing Power. These experts had discovered that there was a huge ‘no-man’s-land’ in the Sahara, stretching 150 miles from Cape Juby to Cape Bojador. Inland it covered hundreds of square miles, being situated between the frontiers of Morocco and the Spanish colony of Rio de Oro. This vast piece of desert was to be the new ‘Empire’. Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Politics, War on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about William Pitt the Younger originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
William Pitt pointing to the map of France after hearing of Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz, by Angus McBride
Few young men could look forward to so brilliant a career as could William Pitt in the year 1783. He was not yet 25 – but he was Prime Minister of Great Britain. His father, too, had been a great parliamentarian and when he received the Earldom of Chatham as reward for his services, the young William exclaimed: “I am glad that I am not the eldest son. I want to speak in the House of Commons like Papa.”
Pitt was a comparatively poor man when he entered Parliament for he enjoyed an income of only £300 per year. But when, in 1782, he was offered a post in the government at a salary of £5,000 a year – he declined it. He told the House that he had no intention of accepting any post except a seat in the Cabinet. In those days the Cabinet consisted of about seven men, and many of his colleagues considered that the 23-year-old statesman was being arrogant in the extreme. But Pitt knew what he was doing: a little more than 18 months afterwards he was offered the highest position in the Cabinet.
William Pitt’s first administration lasted for 17 continuous years. During the first half of that period England enjoyed a prosperity and tranquillity she was not to know again for many years. But from 1792 onwards a change came, not only over England but over all Europe. The French Revolution was breaking up the old pattern of power and soon the Revolutionaries were turning their arms upon the neighbouring monarchies.
During the Revolutionary Wars, Pitt played the part which Winston Churchill was to play during the war against Germany. He became the symbol as well as the head of a government determined to resist even when resistance seemed hopeless. Soon the French acquired their own symbol and leader, the Corsican, Napoleon Bonaparte and with his military genius, the tide began to turn in favour of France.
In October, 1805, Napoleon defeated the Emperors of Russia and Austria, England’s allies, at the battle of Austerlitz. The French now were dominant on land even though the English controlled the sea. The news almost broke Pitt, for it was the destruction of all that for which he had worked. When the news came to him he gestured at a great map hanging on the wall of his room. “Roll up that map of Europe, it will not be wanted these 10 years.” It was an accurate prophecy. Just 10 years later the victorious Allies drew up the political boundaries of Europe at the peace of Paris. But Pitt survived the news of Austerlitz by only a year. In those last months of his life his face bore an expression of sadness.
Posted in Animals, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Royalty, War on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about Napoleon originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 259 published on 31 December 1966.
Napoleon Bonaparte owned many horses during his meteoric career – ‘Intendant’, ‘Wagram’, ‘Kurden’, ‘Vizir’ and ‘Coco’, to name only a few. But his favourite charger was the handsome white or light grey African barb, ‘Marengo’.
Standing only 14 hands 1 inch in height, Marengo was considered by good judges to be a faultless animal. Napoleon obtained him after the Battle of Aboukir in Egypt in 1799. The following year, after the brilliant French victory over the Russians at Marengo, The First Consul named the barb after the battle. Marengo was with him at the later battles of Austerlitz in 1805 and Jena in 1806, and during the disastrous Russian campaign of 1812.
On that fateful day in June, 1815, when Wellington finally defeated the French at Waterloo, Napoleon was riding Marengo. After the battle, Lord Petrie obtained the horse and brought him back to England, where he sold him to Lieutenant-General Angerstein, formerly of the Grenadier Guards, who bred from him at his paddocks at New Barnes, near Ely.
In his old age, Marengo was well cared for and petted. When death finally overtook the old warrior, his skeleton was preserved at the Royal United Service Institution in Whitehall. From there it was moved in 1963 to the National Army Museum at Camberley, in Surrey, where it can be seen today.
Unfortunately it has only two hooves left – the other two were made into snuff boxes at the order of General Angerstein. He presented one to the Brigade of Guards, and its resting place became the Guard Room at St. James’s Palace. The second went to the General’s home at Weeting, in Norfolk.
From the sands of Egypt to a glass case in Surrey is a long way; but Marengo was always a great traveller.
Posted in Art, Artist, Famous artists, Historical articles, History, Royalty on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about Spanish painters originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 259 published on 31 December 1966.
In the summer of 1625, a young African boy set out to travel from Seville in Southern Spain to Madrid, the capital.
The boy, Juan de Pareja, was worried and uncertain about the future. He was a slave whose mistress had recently died, and he had been ‘inherited’ by her nephew, a famous painter called Velazquez.
In those days it was the custom for rich Spaniards to have their own personal slaves. Some of the slaves were treated cruelly, but others were often pampered and spoilt by their owners.
The latter had been the case with Juan. His mistress had been a prominent member of Seville society, and it had pleased her to dress him up as if he were a ‘pet monkey’.
Juan, who had been ‘born into slavery’, realised how lucky he was not to be ill-treated. Even so, he resented being dressed in a suit of brilliant blue silk, with an orange-and-silver turban on his head, and one of his mother’s ear-rings dangling from his right ear.
He also felt that his duties were ‘unmanly’, and not at all suitable for a sturdy twelve-year-old.
But there was one thing for which Juan was always grateful to his Mistress – she taught him his alphabet, so that he could write a ‘fair hand’ and copy out her letters for her.
When his mistress died in a plague which struck Seville, Juan was told by a magistrate that he must go to Madrid, together with the rest of his mistress’s belongings. He was now owned by the painter, Don Diego Velazquez, whose portraits of King Philip IV and his family were soon to win him world prestige. Read the rest of this article »