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Subject: ‘Famous landmarks’

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The Berlin Wall divided Europe and was an offence against humanity

Posted in Communism, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This edited article about the Berlin Wall first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 598 published on 30 June 1973.

Berlin Wall,  picture, image, illustration
Escapees trying to cross the border between East and West Germany after the wall was built in 1961; some succeeded, while others were shot down by East German border guards; picture by Graham Coton<

On the morning of Sunday 13th August, 1961 an old man lay asleep in his home in the village of Rhondorf. Exhausted by a hectic election campaign and by mounting criticism, Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor Of West Germany, tossed fitfully. His bedside telephone shrilled suddenly. News had come from Berlin that a barrier had been built, sealing off the East German frontier. Chancellor Adenauer listened quietly. Two hours later he went to Mass. But although he continued to remain calm for the rest of the day, he knew, as the world knew, that the ever-tense situation in Berlin had been tightened to breaking point.

Why was the Berlin wall built?

At the end of the Second World War Berlin had surrendered to Russian forces and so lay within the area of Germany claimed by Russia, which became the East German Republic. The city itself, however, was quartered between French, British, Russian and American commands. It became the scene of a trial of strength in 1947 when the Soviet Union attempted to blockade the western sector; the siege was only overcome by a massive airlift. Early in 1961 the Russians again threatened western access to the city but it was the East German Republic which brought matters to a head.

Since the early days of the republic numbers of East Germans had “voted with their feet,” by fleeing over the border from east to west Berlin to seek political refuge in West Germany. By 1961 the flow had risen to over a thousand a day. It was a direct result of the policies of repression and brutality imposed by the regime of Walter Ulbricht the East German president. The effect of the mass emigration was to reduce drastically the labour force in East Germany and to ruin plans for the expansion and improvement of the East German economy.

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The Palace of Whitehall in London about 1680

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Royalty on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Palace of Whitehall about 1680,  picture, image, illustration
A reconstruction of the Palace of Whitehall in London about 1680 by Peter Jackson

This detailed architectural drawing is a reconstruction of the Palace of Whitehall around 1680, a few years before the Glorious Revolution. The Palace was a treasure house of the ancient and the modern, with many buildings dating back to mediaeval times alongside the magnificent new additions of the Tudor and Stuart period. The original residence had been bought by the Archbishop of York in the 13th century, but once it was acquired by Cardinal Wolsey its splendour was not long in the making. Henry VIII acquired it after the vainglorious prelate’s demise, and it served as the monarch’s palace until 1698 when it was almost entirely destroyed by fire, save for the magnificent Banqueting House built in 1622 to the designs of Inigo Jones, its interior painted by Rubens a decade later. It stands at the centre of our reconstruction, while to the right can be seen the Horse Guards barracks and at the top the Holbein Gate, the entrance to the Palace of Whitehall.

Many more pictures relating to Whitehall in London can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The Old Palace of Westminster in London about 1530

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Politics on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Old Palace of Westminster, picture, image, illustration
The Old Palace of Westminster about 1530 by Peter Jackson

This historically accurate drawing shows a reconstruction of the Old Palace of Westminster in the reign of Henry VIII. It is a bird’s eye view from the north east showing the Old Palace itself, with its waterfront and the Westminster jetty or landing stage. There was no bridge over the Thames at Westminster until Labelye’s Westminster Bridge was completed in 1750. To the right can be seen the clock tower in what is New Palace Yard, and in the background rises the impressive Gothic majesty of Westminster Abbey, and in the distant corner the Holbein Gate. Westminster Hall sits at the centre, the oldest extant building of the Old Palace, which still stands today at the heart of Britain’s history and political establishment, over 900 years since it was built.

Many more pictures relating to the City of Westminster, London, can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Old St Paul’s Churchyard in London around the year 1600

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Religion, Trade on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Old St Paul's Churchyard
Old St Paul's Churchyard next to Old St Paul's Cathedral in C17 London by Peter Jackson

Old St Paul’s Cathedral was a Gothic church which dominated the City of London and the skyline of the capital. Its fabric, however, was in a dire state of repair and during the 16th century various depredations took place, including a wholesale stripping of the cathedral’s interior ornaments after a mob was incited by evangelical Protestants, who preached a ranting sermon from St Paul’s Cross in 1549. Many subordinate buildings were demolished and the stone sold off to developers, including the builders responsible for Cromwell’s new London palace, Somerset House. Other properties were sold or rented out as commercial premises, and booksellers colonised the formerly sacred site.

Many more pictures relating to St Paul’s Cathedral, London, can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The Beargarden in the entertainment district of Southwark

Posted in Animals, Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Leisure, London, Sport on Friday, 14 March 2014

Bear Garden,  picture, image, illustration

The Beargarden in Southwark, London

The Beargarden was an enclosure in Southwark with a purpose-built theatre-like stadium for the baiting of bears. The exact location of this famous entertainment spot has been difficult to find, and it is thought that the original Elizabethan beargarden may have moved around the time of the building of the Globe Theatre in 1599. The theatrical impresario and entrepreneur, Philip Henslowe, bought the prestigious Mastership of His Majesty’s Game in 1604, since he had already been engaged in staging bull and bear baiting as well as pursuing his more famous theatrical career of staging plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. He continued to provide the sport in the famous old Beargarden well into the Jacobean period, until in 1614 he decided to demolish it and build the Hope theatre, which was used for both plays and animal baiting. Half a century later Samuel Pepys called the sport “a rude and nasty pleasure” after visiting the very same venue in 1666.

Many more pictures relating to Southwark can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The golden age of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama

Posted in Actors, English Literature, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Literature, London, Shakespeare, Theatre on Monday, 3 March 2014

This edited article about the English theatre first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 576 published on 27 January 1973.

Shakespeare at the Globe,  picture, image, illustration
Shakespeare performing at the Globe Theatre by Peter Jackson

Telling the boy apprentices to look after the shop, Master and Mistress Page, a prosperous tailor and his wife, went out into the street and headed south.

This was a street with a difference, for it was London Bridge with its high houses and marvellous array of shops. It was a wonder of the Elizabethan world.

The Pages walked hurriedly, waving at friends and not stopping to talk to them, for it was already nearly 1.30 and the play at the newly built Globe Theatre on Bankside on the south bank of the Thames began at 2.

Boats were taking other theatre-goers across the river, which in Spring 1600 was London’s main highway, but it was more sensible for the Pages to walk. They passed under the south gateway, glancing up at the shrunken traitors’ heads stuck on poles to deter others, then they turned right into a world of churches, slums, bear-gardens and theatres all alongside each other. Many patrons of the bear-baiting and cockfighting dens were just as much at home in the Globe listening to Master Shakespeare’s thrilling poetry, or to singers accompanied by lutes. Such was the sharp contrast of Elizabethan London – beauty and pain, music and sudden death, and always in the background the fear of the plague, which, when it came, closed all the theatres on Bankside for fear of mass infection.

The flag was flying over the Globe to show that a play would definitely be given that afternoon, and streams of people, some 2,000 or so, were heading for the cylindrical building with the thatched roof that the great actor Burbage, Shakespeare and several of their friends had built when their old one in north London had been threatened by the landlords. The Pages knew the story of how Burbage and the others had literally pulled the old theatre down and carried the wood across the river to help build the new one. They had once met Shakespeare himself, a most likable man, as everyone agreed, and they knew one of the boy actors at the Globe, who played women’s parts.

They waved at friends going to the Swan Theatre. Still more were heading for the Rose, where a play by Christopher Marlowe, who had been killed in a tavern brawl, was being given by the Lord Admiral’s Men, rivals of Shakespeare’s company, the Chamberlain’s Men.

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Francis Bonivard was the political prisoner of Chillon

Posted in Castles, English Literature, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Politics on Friday, 28 February 2014

This edited article about the Prisoner of Chillon first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 574 published on 13 January 1973.

Chateau de Chillon,  picture, image, illustration
The Chateau de Chillon and Bonivard were immortalised by Lord Byron in his poem The Prisoner of Chillon, by Harry Green

The Lake of Geneva is a long crescent-shaped stretch of water with Switzerland on its northern side and the Savoy region of France to the south. Many famous places lie along its shores – Lausanne, Vevey and Geneva itself – places that are visited by tourists from the world over.

Towards the eastern end of the lake, past the resort of Montreaux, stands the Chateau de Chillon, a building that has a far darker history than its beautiful surroundings would seem to suggest.

The Chateau de Chillon dates back to the seventh century, but it was not until about 1250 that it was expanded to become an impregnable fortress. Subterranean dungeons were hewn out of the massive rock foundations. On three sides, the castle rose sheer from the icy waters of the lake. Its fourth side faced towards the cliff that towered above the shore. This side was strengthened, and the roadway between the lake and the cliff was narrowed, so that at most only two horesemen could ride abreast along it. A heavy gate was built across the path leading to the castle.

The Chateau de Chillon had been made impossible for an unwelcome intruder to enter – or for an unwilling prisoner to escape from – a prisoner such as Francis Bonivard.

In those days, the Savoy district of France was a separate country ruled over by its warrior dukes and counts. They looked upon Geneva as part of their territory by right, although the people of Geneva would have preferred to ally themselves with the neighbouring states in Switzerland. But as long as the people of Geneva stood alone, the dukes of Savoy were too strong for them. So revolutionary groups began to be formed, people who made plans for the day when Geneva would be free of the chains of Savoy. Francis Bonivard was one such person.

Francis Bonivard was born in 1493. His uncle was the prior of the monastery of St. Victor in Geneva and, when he died, Bonivard took over the position. It was really a position in name only, offering a good salary and little in the way of duties. Bonivard used his salary to further his own education, travelling and studying law. When he was about twenty-five he joined the “Children of Geneva,” a young political, group who seemed to be more enthusiastic than sensible, for their main activity was to swagger round the town shouting “Down with the Duke of Savoy!”

The following year, the Duke of Savoy visited Geneva to wipe out this talk of sedition. Bonivard’s closest friend was caught and beheaded as a warning to others. Bonivard himself left Geneva disguised as a monk, but he was betrayed and imprisoned by the Duke of Savoy for two years.

“Never again shall I endure the horror of imprisonment,” Bonivard vowed. He little realised that a far worse prison was waiting for him.

When Bonivard was released, he found that his position as Prior had been taken from him. He was friendless and without money. He decided to fade from sight until the right moment came once again to try to help Geneva gain its independence.

After a few years, his position as Prior of St. Victor was restored to him. But the position was one thing, money another. The money had previously come in the form of rents collected from estates in Savoy. These had ceased. So Bonivard now built up his own private army and went to war. He would sally forth, striking without warning, and conducting a form of amateur guerilla warfare. However, the people of Geneva became worried by his activities, fearing reprisals from Savoy. They persuaded Bonivard to stop, offering him instead a small yearly income from the city exchequer.

But Bonivard had already gone too far. The Duke of Savoy now had other plans for him!

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Gunpowder challenged castle builders in the Renaissance

Posted in Architecture, Castles, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Science, War, Weapons on Wednesday, 26 February 2014

This edited article about castles first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 568 published on 2 December 1972.

Artillery castles,  picture, image, illustration
Artillery Castles: the simplest was Camber Castle (top), made up of a 12-sided structure with a central tower, whilst Deal Castle (centre) was more complicated and built on three levels; (bottom) the round castle at Dover; pictures by Pat Nicolle

“Who is this man?” snapped Pierre d’Aubusson, Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes of the Order of St. John.

“His name is Roger, Sire. He is an English sailor,” replied one of the knights. “He has a scheme to destroy the Turkish assault bridge.” At this the Grand Master pricked up his ears. Though he was a busy man organising the defences, d’Aubusson was particularly interested in anything that could stop another Turkish attack on the St. Nicholas Tower, the northern outpost of Rhodes’ defences.

For months the Turks had hurled themselves with incredible courage and ferocity at the walls of Rhodes. Their cannon had smashed ramparts, towers and battlements. Once they had tried to take the St. Nicholas Tower and this time they were planning to float across an assault bridge. But how did they intend to do it? Roger the Englishman had the answer.

“Sire, the Turks brought an anchor in secret across the harbour last night. They have now passed a rope through it and tomorrow they will haul their bridge across on the rope.”

“Two hundred crowns if you can get rid of that anchor!” boomed the Grand Master. And two hundred crowns Roger earned the following night, for he was a fine swimmer. Yet the Turks were not so easily deterred. They concentrated a barrage of artillery fire on the St. Nicholas Tower while thirty ships towed the bridge across. With ships, shouts, giant cannon and janissaries the Turks once more attacked. The walls of Rhodes crumbled – but the Knights of St. John drove back their fanatical foe until after three months of siege the Turks retreated.

The shattered fortress of Rhodes had survived, yet all Europe knew that this Christian victory had been won because the knights were as fanatical as their foes. The weakness of their fortifications in the face of artillery fire was plain for all to see.

During the 15th century Italy was in the front line of the war against the Turk. Then in 1494 Charles VIII of France rampaged through Italy and gave the Italians yet another reason to improve their defences. One of the best Italian fortification engineers was Michele San Michele and in 1520 it was he who came up with an entirely new idea – artillery bastions which he designed for the defences of Verona.

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The Countess who wanted the throne of Catherine the Great

Posted in Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Royalty on Tuesday, 25 February 2014

This edited article about the Countess of Bamberg and imperial pretender first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 567 published on 25 November 1972.

Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul,  picture, image, illustration
Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul by Frederic De Haenen

Catherine of Russia stormed up and down the lavishly decorated throne room of her Winter Palace in a white-faced fury. Her courtiers cowered back. They knew her ugly temper only too well. Before the throne stood Count Orloff, that morning returned from Naples. It was his news that had thrown Catherine into this fit of rage.

“It is intolerable!” Catherine fumed.

“I await your orders,” Count Orloff said gravely.

Orders? What orders could she give? What was she to do?

Catherine the Great, Empress of all Russia, had been a German princess before politics had forced her into a marriage with Peter, son of the Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Her early life in Russia had not been a happy one. The Empress Elizabeth had treated her with rudeness and contempt, and her husband, Peter, had been tottering on the brink of madness.

Eventually Elizabeth had died, and Peter had become Czar of Russia. But the loyalty of the people had been towards Catherine. In the end, the loyal officers of the Guards had risen up against her husband and taken him prisoner, and proclaimed Catherine as sole Empress. A few days later it was announced that Peter had been killed in an attempt to escape. There were many who said that he had been assassinated by Count Orloff on the orders of Catherine.

However, Catherine ruled wisely and well. Russia became united, as she had never been before, and there was no more internal strife. The way to future prosperity lay clear.

Until Count Orloff had brought his disturbing news from Naples.

A certain woman, it seemed, had made her appearance in Naples. She called herself the Countess of Bamberg and had applied to the British Ambassador, Sir William Hamilton, for the necessary papers to travel to Rome. These had been given to her.

On her arrival in Rome she had written in secret to Sir William asking for his help. She stated that in reality she was the daughter of the old Empress of Russia, Elizabeth, by a secret marriage. She further stated that it was she, not Catherine, who should be sitting on the throne of Russia.

Sir William knew that Count Orloff was in Naples and had confided this news to him, asking for his advice. Realising the possible consequences of the affair, Count Orloff had travelled post haste to St Petersburg to inform Catherine.

A pretender to the Russian throne! Someone who, if she came to Russia, could again divide the loyalties of the people. No, it could not be permitted!

Catherine threw open the tall windows of the throne room and strode out on to the balcony, ignoring the icy winter wind that lashed at her face. She started out across the broad stretch of the River Neva towards the island near the further side. On the island the massive shape of the grim Peter and Paul fortress stood silhouetted against the snow-clad hills.

As she stared her plans began to take shape.

There was a movement behind her. It was Count Orloff.

“I still await your orders, Madam,” he murmured.

She swung round, eyes blazing.

“You shall have them,” she said.

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Castles were designed for fine living as well as defending

Posted in Architecture, Castles, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, War on Tuesday, 25 February 2014

This edited article about castles first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 567 published on 25 November 1972.

Tattershall Castle,  picture, image, illustration
(Top) Pierrefonds in France, owned by the Duke of Valois; (centre) Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire, built in the early 15th century by the Lord Treasurer of England; (below) from a French illuminated manuscript showing soldiers attacking a Spanish town, by Pat Nicolle

“Hey – Leonello, there’s the little kitchen maid who likes you so much!” shouted a young man dressed in blue and yellow. Leonello blushed, and so did the kitchen maid who hurried away. The young men laughed. They always teased Leonello d’Este because he was the serious minded member of the gang. But Leonello took it in good spirits.

The Italians sauntered down the wide streets of Ferrara towards a great castle that dominated the city centre. This was the Castello d’Este, Leonello’s home. Leonello let them walk ahead. His friends were good company but Leonello had seen someone he wanted to talk to.

“Good day Master Guarino da Verona,” said the young man respectfully to an old gentleman who gazed thoughtfully at the brick-built towers of Leonello’s home. Guarino da Verona just nodded. They stood in silence for a while, the dashing young nobleman and his white haired teacher.

” ‘Tis a fine castle is it not? My grandfather must have been as proud to build it as my father is to rule it,” said Leonello.

Guarino da Verona merely grunted for he was of a philosophical turn of mind. “Yes a fine castle – a fine castle – but a sign of man’s stupidity that such things should be necessary in this world.” Leonello was a bit taken aback by this description of his huge home battlements, barbicans, bridges and moat. Of course people were not peaceful, he thought, and so castles were needed, and anyway this one was very handsome.

The 14th and 15th centuries were the age of the Renaissance when new ideas and learning were completely altering men’s attitudes. On a more practical level it was a time of great change. The nobility wanted to live in more comfort and enjoy a really civilised life. This was just as true in Britain and France as it was in Italy. Castles were originally meant to be strong places safe from attack but now their function as homes was growing more important.

Homely comfort is not easy to combine with defensive strength. One way to get round the problem is to make your defences as clever as possible rather than relying on brute strength. Many Italian Renaissance castles show this sort of cleverness. The Castello d’Este is in the middle of Ferrara town which means that its outer defences cannot stretch very far. On the other hand it is near an arm of the river Po, so the Castello d’Este relied a great deal on its moat.

The castle itself is a rectangular building around a central courtyard. Its four gateways are each defended by a separate tiny castle or barbican in the middle of the moat. Two of these barbicans are isolated from the castle while two are joined to the main structure by an archway over a drawbridge.

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