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Posted in Historical articles, History, Royalty on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 299 published on 7 October 1967.
In 1798 in Vienna a mob attacked the French embassy, and during the riot Bernadotte distinguished himself by holding off the rioters single-handed
When Napoleon had established himself as Emperor in France, he began to create a new aristocracy to replace the one the French Revolution had destroyed. His brothers and his marshals succeeded to the thrones of Europe and were endowed with titles and princedoms.
One of these, Marshal Bernadotte, whom Napoleon created Prince of Ponte Corvo in 1806, realised a destiny outside the Emperor’s sphere, and the line of kings which he founded was the only one of the Napoleonic era that survived.
Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (1763-1844) was a thorn in Napoleon’s side. The Emperor could not fail to respect his talents, both as a general and as an administrator, but he found Bernadotte’s independence of thought and action extremely irritating.
Bernadotte’s personality was an attractive mixture of independence, stirring bravery and humanity. A significant episode in his career occurred when he captured the town of Lubeck in Germany in 1806. True to character, he treated his prisoners kindly. About 1,000 of them were Swedish.
Bernadotte little realised what this apparently unimportant action would lead to.
The sequel came several years later when Bernadotte, temporarily out of favour with Napoleon, was living quietly in Paris with his wife (Napoleon’s ex-fiancee, Desiree Clary) and his young son, Oscar. Out of the blue, he was invited to become Crown Prince and heir to the throne of Sweden.
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Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution, Royalty on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about the French Revolution originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 297 published on 23 September 1967.
France in the 1770s and 1780s seemed to be tottering on the verge of financial collapse. Part of the trouble lay in the distribution of the tax burden. It was so unevenly spread, and with such disregard for means, that the peasant ended up shouldering most of it.
French society was corrupt. Not only did the privileged classes – the nobles of State and Church – escape the main tax burden, but their position gave them other advantages for which they performed no compensating services. Few nobles actually lived on the estates from which they derived their wealth: and they obtained the highest honours in Church, State and Army solely because of their birth.
Louis XVI came to the throne in 1774. After the long and unspectacular reign of his grandfather, Louis XV, men hoped that a new era was about to begin. Unfortunately, though Louis had many virtues, statesmanship was not one of them. And he was harassed by the views of his strong-willed Austrian queen, Marie Antoinette.
The record of Louis’ reign became even more dismal than that of his predecessor: the years passed and one minister after another failed – either through lack of ability or because of dismissal – to pull the country back to solvency. Charles Alexander de Calonne, among the more impressive of those who tried, remarked with a wise accuracy which was not regarded. “France is a kingdom . . . where certain districts are completely free from burdens, the whole weight of which is borne by others; where the richest class is the most lightly taxed; where privilege has upset all harmony; . . . necessarily it is a most imperfect kingdom, very full of abuses, and in its present condition impossible to govern.”
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Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Law, Royalty on Friday, 14 June 2013
This edited article about Lady Alice Lisle originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 294 published on 2 September 1967.
On 2nd September, 1685, a silent crowd watched as an elderly lady kneeled down before the public executioner in the centre of Winchester’s market place. The headsman’s axe rose and fell, and Lady Alice Lisle paid the penalty for offering shelter to a rebel.
Born in 1614, Lady Alice was the wife of Sir John Lisle who at one stage had been a member of Oliver Cromwell’s House of Lords. On 20th July, 1685, a fortnight after the Battle of Sedgemoor where the followers of the Duke of Monmouth were defeated, a man named John Hickes came to Lady Alice’s home at Moyles Court near Ringwood. He was a Nonconformist minister who had been with the rebel army and he was desperately in need of shelter.
Lady Alice took pity on Hickes and allowed him to stay and rest. On 28th July she was arrested and taken to Winchester where the infamous George Jeffreys, the Lord Chief Justice, had opened his ‘Bloody Assizes’ at which Monmouth rebels were tried and punished with extreme cruelty. She was charged with harbouring an enemy of the King.
Lady Alice was found guilty and Jeffreys sentenced her to be burnt at the stake that very afternoon, but the time of the execution was delayed. King James II decided that she should not be punished at the stake: instead he ordered she should be beheaded.
Posted in Africa, Historical articles, History, Royalty, War on Friday, 14 June 2013
This edited article about Cetewayo originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 294 published on 2 September 1967.
On 28th August, 87 years ago, the famous Zulu warrior chief Cetewayo was captured by British soldiers following his army’s defeat at Ulundi on 4th July of the same year. He was brought as a prisoner to Britain, where his dignified bearing and romantic background appealed to so many people that the Government decided to let him go back to his territory in Natal.
Cetewayo was born around the year 1836. His father was King Panda, a man friendly to the British, who had taken over Natal as a colony three years after he had become the Zulu ruler. As Cetewayo grew up, this friendship with the British angered him. He could never forget he was the nephew of the war chief Chaka, a great but ruthless military leader who had organised the formidable Zulu system of fighting.
When he grew up Cetewayo rebelled against his father. Fearing that his younger brother Umbulazi would be made Panda’s heir, he killed him at a great battle on the banks of the Tugela River in December, 1856.
Following this victory the Zulus decided that Cetewayo would run the affairs of their nation, though Panda would still be king in name. Now that he had the power he wanted, and was assured that he would succeed Panda as king when he died, Cetewayo kept on good terms with the colony of Natal.
King Panda died in 1872 and in August, 1873, Cetewayo was proclaimed king. He made a pact with the British authorities that he would be a humane ruler and would keep the peace. But soon it was obvious that he was breaking the agreement. He was a cruel tyrant to his own people, and often raided his neighbours.
The authorities ordered Cetewayo to halt his bloodthirsty policies. When he refused, a British military force was sent against him in January, 1879, under Lord Chelmsford. It numbered 18,500. Cetewayo had 40,000 warriors.
The first major fighting was at Isandhlwana, where 10,000 Zulus defeated a British force, killing over half of them. Almost immediately 4,000 victorious Zulus attacked a British post known as Rorke’s Drift. It was a garrison of 80, with between 30 and 40 in hospital. During the battle the Zulus reached the trenches round the garrison six times, but each charge was hurled back at bayonet point. When the Zulus withdrew at dawn they left behind 350 dead. The British casualties numbered 17 dead and 10 wounded.
After the amazing defence of Rorke’s Drift, the Zulu army was defeated at Ulundi. Cetewayo’s territory was divided between 13 lesser Zulu chiefs, and he was brought to London. But on 29th January, 1883, he was back in Natal, being reinstated on part of his old land. Within a week Cetewayo’s enemies attacked him, and for a year he struggled against them until he was finally defeated and his kraal* destroyed. He fled for his life to British territory, where he was given asylum, but he died on 8th February, 1884, at Eshowe.
* An African village of huts enclosed by a fence.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution, Royalty on Friday, 14 June 2013
This edited article about the French Revolution originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 293 published on 26 August 1967.
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are prevented from making their escape by Barrie Linklater
Probably all of you have heard of the tragic royal couple, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette.
For them, the French Revolution meant dishonour, humiliation and eventually death at the hands of those who had once been their loving, obedient subjects.
In a way, their downfall was their own fault.
During the 15 years of Louis’ reign, conditions in France gradually worsened. The country was nearly bankrupt due to France’s fatal intervention in the American War of Independence. The time was ripe for revolution. And in 1789, it came.
Neither Louis nor his Queen had the temperament to deal with the situation. Marie Antoinette, in particular, was hated by the people. They believed her capable of almost every crime in the book.
And so, in June, 1791, the royal family decided to escape from the Palace of Versailles, to try to reach the frontier where men loyal to their cause would protect them.
They travelled heavily disguised. But at Sante-Nenchould, they were recognised by the Postmaster, Jean-Babtiste Drouet. A message was sent ahead of them and the road to Varennes was blocked.
They had only a few hundred yards to go to safety. But it was not to be.
Eventually both were sent to the guillotine – some say unjustly. But all feel pity for their tragic fate.
Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Royalty on Wednesday, 12 June 2013
This edited article about Sir Francis Drake originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 290 published on 5 August 1967.
Sir Francis Drake celebrates his Spanish success by Paul Rainer
Who said, “I have singed the Spanish king’s beard”?
The answer is Sir Francis Drake in 1587.
In 1586, Drake returned home from a voyage which had made his name ring round Europe. His fleet was laden with plunder and he had sacked his way through the Spanish West Indian possessions and held the two largest cities, San Domingo and Cartagena, to ransom.
Philip of Spain realised that the time had come to wipe out his most dangerous enemy, England, and preparations were made for a great Armada. It was to sail in 1587, collect the Spanish army already fighting in the Netherlands and then cross to the Kent coast and land them.
Drake realised that the Spaniards must be struck in their ports as the fleet was being assembled, and the largest of these ports were Cadiz and Lisbon. Both were heavily fortified and galley ships lay in the harbours to defend them.
Queen Elizabeth, short of money, decided a naval campaign was too expensive, so Drake, with only four Royal vessels, and merchantmen numbering 23 ships in all, sailed out of Plymouth, just missing an urgent message from the Queen cancelling the expedition! On 19th April, he arrived off Cadiz to learn that it was guarded by 12 galleys, and that many Spanish ships were there preparing for the Armada. He sailed straight in, overwhelmed the galleys and burnt every vessel he could find. Drake claimed 37 ships sunk, the Spaniards admitted to 24.
For two months he patrolled the coast, destroying shipping and spreading alarm. Lisbon was impregnable, being too far inland: Drake’s taunts failed to draw the Spanish out. Then he sailed to the Azores, captured a treasure ship and returned to Plymouth on 26th June. There would be no Armada that year. Wrote Sir Francis Bacon, the statesman and philosopher: “I remember Drake, in the vaunting style of a soldier, would call the Enterprise (of Cadiz) the singeing of the King of Spain’s Beard.”
Posted in Historical articles, History, Language, Law, Politics, Royalty on Wednesday, 12 June 2013
This edited article about Magna Carta originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 290 published on 5 August 1967.
Part of the preamble and the famous Clause 39 ("No free man…") engraved from the original document
Like most English monarchs, King John was often short of money – the more so after he had lost his Continental lands, with all their revenues, to the King of France.
John had other problems too. He succeeded his brother, Richard I, who had spent only six months of his 10 years’ reign in England. Richard had bled the country dry to finance his crusading expedition, and England had to pay an enormous ransom to release him after he had been captured on the way home.
After Richard’s absence, England had to grow used to John’s presence: to the rule of an active and ingenious King who was on the spot to govern.
As feudal lord of England, John enjoyed certain rights over his tenants and could expect certain services from them. John stretched his recognised feudal rights to unrecognisable proportions. In his code of honour there was little that money could not buy.
At first, resistance to John’s rule was disorganised. It came from barons like Robert Fitz-Walter and Eustace de Vesci, who were no better, and probably worse, than John himself. Many barons realised that the King had real problems to face in a period of rapidly changing conditions.
As opposition from the barons grew and became organised, John played for time – another of his talents – getting the Pope on his side as he went along.
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Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Royalty, War on Wednesday, 12 June 2013
This edited article about the Black Prince originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 289 published on 29 July 1967.
Edward III and the Black Prince after the Battle of Crecy by Kronheim
Who said, “Let the boy win his spurs”?
The answer is King Edward III at the battle of Crecy, about his son, the Black Prince.
From 1337 to 1453, England and France were almost continually at war, owing to a doubtful claim by the Kings of England to the French throne, and English interests and possessions in France and Flanders. The struggle is known as the Hundred Years War.
In 1346, Edward III invaded France with about 30,000 men. At Crecy, the English faced a vast French army probably well over twice its own size. Despite the odds, the English had a far finer force and their longbows were the most deadly weapons in Europe. They also had a few primitive cannons.
Edward placed his son, Edward the Black Prince, aged 16, in charge of the right wing of the army. (‘Black’ referred either to his armour or the name that the French called him in later years.) The French were depending on Genoese crossbowmen, but these troops, exhausted by a forced march, had their bowstrings spoiled by a sudden shower. The English archers, whose bows had been covered, let loose the first historic flight of arrows which was to change warfare. The Genoese fled, and crashed into the French nobility who had begun to charge the English. In the confusion it was feared that the Black Prince might be overwhelmed and a messenger was sent to the King.
“Is he dead or unhorsed, or so wounded he cannot help himself?” Edward asked, and the messenger said no. “Bid them not send to me again so long as my son lives! Let the boy win his spurs . . . I will that the day be his and the honour may be with him,” said the King, who could see from his vantage point that all, in fact, was going well.
The French were driven back, then routed. They fled leaving about 30,000 dead. Edward embraced his son after the battle. The boy had won the spurs of knighthood.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Magic, Royalty on Tuesday, 11 June 2013
This edited article about Dr John Dee originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 288 published on 22 July 1967.
Dr John Dee
Dr. John Dee was known as the Queen’s Magician. A favourite of Elizabeth I, he was once offered £2,000 by the Emperor of Russia to visit his country and change base metal into gold. (It did not seem to occur to the Emperor that if Dr. Dee could make gold he would not need the money.)
Born in London on 18th July, 1527, he was sent to Cambridge to study at the age of 15. He was so keen on learning, it is recorded, that he spent only two hours a day in eating and at recreation, four in sleeping and the remaining 18 at his books.
At Cambridge he was said to have practised magic and as a result he left hurriedly for the Continent. He soon gained a great reputation as a scholar, following lectures on mathematics which he gave in Belgium and France. He returned to England in 1551 when he was given a pension by Edward VI as a recognition of his great knowledge.
But it was not long before he was in trouble again on the question of magic. He was accused of conspiring against the life of Mary Tudor by means of witchcraft, but finally he was found not guilty and acquitted.
When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne she became a firm friend of the wizard. He often gave her advice on her health and, as an astrologer, he read the stars to warn her about future events. Her esteem for him was proved when he was taken ill in Belgium and two royal physicians were dispatched to attend him.
Dee’s great ambition was to use magic to change ordinary metal into gold. To try and find the secret he was helped by an assistant who, Dee believed, had the power to conjure up a spirit in a crystal ball.
At court many powerful people were jealous of Dee’s influence on the Queen. Fearing a charge of sorcery, he left England for Poland.
For six years he wandered from country to country continuing his experiments. Then once more he returned to England where he had an audience with the Queen at Richmond. She gave orders that he was to be allowed to continue his work without hindrance, and even used her influence to get some of his books returned to him. But it seemed his power as a wizard and prophet deserted him. For a while he was Warden of Manchester College.
When Queen Elizabeth died he retired to his house in Mortlake where he lived alone in poverty until his death in 1608.
Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Music, Royalty, Scotland on Tuesday, 11 June 2013
This edited article about traditional song originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 285 published on 1 July 1967.
Prince Charlie's farewell to Flora Macdonald by George W Joy
At Culloden, in the year 1745, the Jacobite hopes of restoring a Stuart king to the throne of England were finally crushed. The army of the Scottish Prince Charles Edward, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, met that of the Duke of Cumberland in a terrible battle in which the prince’s men were heavily outnumbered.
Cornered and near defeat, the Scots would have fought on but for the fear that the prince would be taken prisoner. Wounded and dazed, distraught at the butchery he had seen (the duke was known as ‘Butcher’ Cumberland) the prince was carried away, believing that there were reinforcements and that the fight would go on. There were no reinforcements.
They got him to the coast and on board a small boat which set out for the Isle of Skye. Not until he heard the sound of the waves slapping against the side of the boat did he realise that this was retreat. When he protested they finally told him the truth – there were hardly any men left to fight for him, and they were taking him to shelter on the Island of Skye. A great song tells of that flight:
Speed, bonnie boat,
Like a bird on the wing,
Onward, the sailors cry.
Carry the lad
Who is born to be king,
Over the sea to Skye.
The boat had a rough crossing, and the young prince slumped down in the prow watching with glazed eyes the scene about him. He must have known that he had lost everything and that most of his friends had been slain. There could be no return.
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