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Archive for August, 2013

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Both Bertie’s two little princes, Eddy and George, became Prince of Wales

Posted in Historical articles, History, Royalty on Thursday, 29 August 2013

This edited article about Prince Eddy and Prince George originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 387 published on 14 June 1969.

Princes Eddy and George, picture, image, illustration

Prince Albert Victor, ‘Eddy’, and Prince George, the inseparable sons of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, wearing matching sailor suits and hats

The second son of the Prince and Princess of Wales (Albert Edward and Alexandra) was born in 1865. Queen Victoria was not pleased that the name George had been chosen as she was not anxious to recall the memory of the Hanoverian kings, but as Prince George was not expected ever to be king as he had an elder brother (Albert Victor Christian Edward known in his family as Eddy) she did not insist on it being changed.

There was a year’s difference in age between the two princes and they were brought up together in a happy family atmosphere. Princess Alexandra adored her children who always referred to her as “darling Mother-dear” and Edward was very fond of them and determined they should not suffer the stiff training he had endured.

It was decided that Prince George as a second son should make the navy his career, but Prince Eddy was mentally very slow and it was arranged that the brothers should not be separated. So, with a tutor to take care of them and Queen Victoria’s instructions that Eddy should not take risks on rigging or in boats, they became naval cadets and later midshipmen cruising round the world.

At 18 and 17, they were separated, Prince Eddy going to Cambridge and then into the army to prepare him for kingship while Prince George remained in the navy.

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The prophet gains most credence and honour from complete strangers

Posted in Bible, Interesting Words, Language, Religion on Thursday, 29 August 2013

This edited article about the language of the Bible originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 387 published on 14 June 1969.

Jesus preaches in Nazareth, picture, image, illustration

Jesus's teaching rejected by his own townsfolk in Nazareth by William Hole

If you are ever given this title, it simply means that you are considered to be too well-known to the people you are dealing with for them to take much notice of you. Let us imagine you are a candidate for your local Council. If people remember you as a little boy with a scooter, or a little girl with a doll, it will be hard for them to think of you as a person of importance.

But why “a prophet without honour”?

Like many other picturesque phrases, this comes from the Bible. The expression was used by Jesus himself, but from the way he spoke, it seems it must have been familiar to his hearers already.

Jesus had just done the very thing we have been talking about. He came back to the town of Nazareth, where he had spent his childhood, and began to preach in the local synagogue. What he said made quite a stir, for he claimed that the promises made by one of the ancient prophets had come true that very day. He even seemed to be suggesting that he himself was the long-awaited “messiah”, or saviour, sent by God to be the leader of the Jewish nation.

This was more than his hearers could stand. Elsewhere, the words of this earnest and persuasive speaker made a great impression. People crowded to hear him, and even followed him out into the country, hoping to hear more. They brought sick people to him and, by laying his hands on them, Jesus healed a great many. But none of these things happened in his home town of Nazareth.

As the people in the synagogue there listened to the extraordinary claims Jesus was making, they began to whisper to one another, like this:

“Who is this man anyway? Where does he get it all?”

“Don’t you know? This is Jesus, the son of Joseph.”

The whispering grew to an angry buzz, and Jesus realised that the people of Nazareth were showing none of the faith in him that he had found in other villages of Galilee. So he challenged them with words that they had probably heard before.

“A prophet,” he said, “is not without honour, except in his own country, and among his own relations, and in his own home.”

He went on to tell them of other prophets who had been neglected or despised by those who knew them best. This made his hearers very angry. They stood up in the synagogue, grabbed hold of him, and hustled him outside. Some even wanted to kill him. They dragged him up to the brow of a hill and prepared to throw him headlong down a cliff. But he made them let him go, and went into hiding until the danger was over.

It is from this incident, recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel, chapter four (verses 16 to 30) that we have gained the phrase, “a prophet without honour.”

One of the several remarkable prison escapes of Masers de Latude

Posted in Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Law, Revolution on Thursday, 29 August 2013

This edited article about great escapes originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 387 published on 14 June 1969.

Masers de Latude, picture, image, illustration

A frontispiece portrait of Latude from his memoirs showing the Bastille, one of several prisons in which he was incarcerated

In the summer of 1750, 24-year-old Masers de Latude was studying engineering in Paris. So were scores of other young men, but two things singled this young man out from his fellows. Firstly, he was the son of the Marquis de Latude, a soldier of rank and distinction; secondly, he was falsely accused of plotting to kill the beautiful Marquise de Pompadour, a close friend of King Louis XV, and leader of the capital’s literary and artistic life.

Despite his protestations of innocence, and his father’s power and influence, Latude was imprisoned in the Castle of Vincennes.

After more than a year, he managed to escape, but was quickly recaptured. This time he was put in a dungeon in the dreaded Paris fortress-prison called the Bastille, where he spent the next eighteen months in solitary confinement.

At the end of that time he was moved into a cell with another prisoner, a youth of his own age called D’Aligre who had also fallen foul of the Marquise de Pompadour.

The two cell-mates petitioned for release, but their hopes were cruelly dashed when a lieutenant of police came and told them that their sentences had been increased to life-imprisonment.

“Under the circumstances,” said Latude, “we came to one resolve – to escape or perish. But this project seemed little short of madness. Our eyes rested on the walls, which were above six feet thick; on the four iron bars in the windows of our cell; on the four iron bars in the chimney. Yet I felt I knew what I was about, and trusted in my initiative being something above the ordinary.”

After examining all the possibilities, Latude and D’Aligre decided that the chimney was their only chance. But it ran to the top of a tower from which there was a 200-ft. drop into a ditch. They would have to climb up the chimney to the top of the tower and to get down to the ditch they would need a rope ladder. Then they would have to have a wooden ladder with which to climb out of the ditch itself.

First the two prisoners made their longer ladder. They did this by tearing into strips every spare article of clothing they had. They had been allowed to take their personal effects into prison, and altogether they possessed dozens of shirts, silk stockings, under-stockings, towels, handkerchiefs, and scarfs.

It took them weeks of painstaking work to complete their ladder, which was some 220 ft. long. They hid this under the floorboards, and turned their attention to the thick iron bars across the mouth of the chimney. To remove these, they needed sharp tools, and they made “knives” by taking the hinges from a folding-table and sharpening them on the stone walls of the cell.

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Woodpeckers are dull singers but dazzling birds

Posted in Animals, Birds, Nature, Wildlife on Wednesday, 28 August 2013

This edited article about woodpeckers originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 386 published on 7 June 1969.

Ivory-billed woodpecker, picture, image, illustration

The species Campephilus principalis is now extremely rare; its handsome red-crested head and strong yellowish bill contrast vividly with its black and white feathering

Easy to recognise, and found all over the world, there are more than two hundred different kinds of woodpeckers and their close relatives.

Their ancestors can be traced back 55 million years to the Eocene period. This has been proved by the discovery of fossil remains in various parts of the world.

Woodpeckers are of course birds of the woodland. Their constant and rapid pecking has created interest in many surprising ways. Songs, poems, and even cartoons have been based around them, and we may well agree that they are amusing and even entertaining birds.

Typical woodpeckers are fairly powerful birds. They have straight, hard, chisel-like bills, and strong heads and necks which, when combined with strong muscles, are capable of boring holes through fairly thick wood or bark.

The feet and claws of woodpeckers are particularly well adapted for tree-climbing. (When feeding, these birds usually start at the base of the tree and work upwards, working in a spring-like spiral.)

Their food consists of the insects and grubs that abound in trees, particularly rotting or partly rotten ones. These insects bore their way deep into the wood and the birds chisel out holes which are just wide enough to insert their long, sticky, barbed tongues and extract the prey.

It may take a woodpecker quite a long time to cover all the likely food sources in one tree, yet if the bird is still hungry, it will finish at the top of one tree, only to swoop down to the base of the next tree – and start all over again!

Woodpeckers are seldom seen in large numbers, in fact they are never seen by many people in Britain. However, because they are noisy birds, they are probably more often heard than seen.

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Profligate Lord Massereene turned his Parisian prison cell into a salon

Posted in Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Law, Oddities on Wednesday, 28 August 2013

This edited article about Lord Massereene originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 386 published on 7 June 1969.

Lord Massereene, picture, image, illustration

The young Irish aristocrat, Lord Massereene ran up considerable debts in Paris, as he lived in lavish style surrounded by servants and clamouring creditors, before being taken to prison where he continued to live like a lord, by Paul Rainer

In the year 1779, a strange scene was enacted outside an elegant Paris mansion. An ornate sedan chair, borne by four splendidly-liveried lackeys, stopped at the mansion. The men set down the chair gently, and one rushed to open the golden door. A handsome youth in his middle twenties stepped out daintily, taking care not to rumple his silk damask coat with the pure gold buttons, or soil his gleaming buckled shoes and silk knee-breeches. He raised a gloved hand to adjust his powdered wig, then made his way towards the door.

At that moment a fat, fussy little man who had been waiting in the shadows, came quickly forward.

“Lord Massereene,” he said, “these bills simply must be paid! I will wait no longer.” As he spoke, he waved the bills in the air.

Lord Massereene ignored him, and, followed by his liveried footmen, made his way towards the door, which opened to receive him, revealing the elegance inside.

Puffing and blowing with anger, the creditor followed him, talking all the time: “Your Lordship, please listen to reason. You have had everything from us – beautiful jewels, and wonderful clothes from Monsieur Tarnesc. Yet you refuse to pay. Please. . . .”

The door slammed in his face. The tradesman shook his fist threateningly at the closed door. “Very well, my fine Lord. You shall go to prison!”

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60-year-old Bertie declined to celebrate his own diamond jubilee as Prince of Wales

Posted in Historical articles, History, Royalty on Wednesday, 28 August 2013

This edited article about Albert Edward, Prince of Wales originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 386 published on 7 June 1969.

Victoria and Bertie, picture, image, illustration

Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, soon to become King Edward VII by Richard Hook

Queen Victoria’s eldest son was born in 1841 and was christened Albert (after his father, the Prince Consort), Edward (after Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent). He was made Prince of Wales when he was a month old and remained so for 60 years.

Albert Edward was a small, fair child, gay and loving, but, to his parents’ great disappointment, in temperament he resembled his pleasure-loving great-uncles, the sons of George III, more than he did his studious father.

The Queen and the Prince Consort were anxious to repair the damage done to the Royal Family’s reputation by George III’s family. Their greatest fear was that the Prince of Wales should take after his great-uncles, so they were severe with Bertie and mapped out a plan of education which was quite beyond his capabilities, and which kept him away from gay, young companions, only allowing him to meet elderly, respectable people. As a result, the poor prince led a life of terrifying dullness.

The Queen always spoke disparagingly of her eldest son, and after her husband’s death, she positively disliked him. The Prince Consort in fact died of typhoid, but the Queen was convinced that his death was brought about by Bertie’s bad behaviour. She could not bear to have him anywhere near her.

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“Pride goes before a fall” is a Biblical proverb for the rich and powerful

Posted in Bible, Interesting Words, Language, Religion, Sinners on Wednesday, 28 August 2013

This edited article about the language of the Bible originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 386 published on 7 June 1969.

Pharisee and publican, picture, image, illustration

The Pharisee is proud and boastful in prayer while the Publican, or tax collector, is humble and self-deprecating

Perhaps there is a story in the morning paper about someone who has boasted of some success. This boasting has led to enquiries which show that the person in question has achieved that by dishonest means. He is convicted and sent to prison, and on reading his story we may remark, “Pride goes before a fall.”

However apt the words may seem for such a situation, they are not an actual quotation. Look up the Book of Proverbs in the Bible (chapter 16, verse 18) and you will find these words:

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

You may say that the meaning is just the same, and you will be right. The way of emphasising anything in the Hebrew language, in which these proverbs were originally written, was to say it twice, the second sentence repeating the sense of the first in a slightly different way. This gave stronger force to the original sentence, even though it did not say anything new, and was one of the ways in which Hebrew poetry was composed. You will find many examples in the Bible, notably in the Psalms, such as the opening verse of Psalm 19:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” The same pattern of repetition is found in the Book of Proverbs from which this saying is taken, but which for convenience has been shortened by popular English usage to “Pride goes before a fall.”

In the Middle Ages, Pride was listed as the first of the “seven deadly sins” and it has always been looked on as the worst of human failings.

One of the most famous stories told by Jesus was about a man whose pride blinded him to his own shortcomings.

According to this story, two men went into the temple one day to pray. One was wealthy, influential and educated; the other was a tax-gatherer, which in those days was a despised occupation, followed only by the least reputable members of the community.

The wealthy man, who was very pleased with himself, began his prayers by saying how generous he was, and how carefully he was keeping all the rules and regulations of his religion. He even thanked God for having made him so different from other people, and especially for making him different from men like the tax-gatherer.

The tax-gatherer prayed quite differently. Feeling very humble in the house of God, he stood there with his head bowed, and simply said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus said that, of the two men, it was the tax-gatherer’s prayer which pleased God, thus bearing out the truth of the old proverb about pride and a haughty spirit.

Scotland’s future continues to be in the Union of 1707, but for how long?

Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Scotland on Wednesday, 28 August 2013

This edited article about Scotland originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 385 published on 31 May 1969.

Edinburgh tattoo, picture, image, illustration

Edinburgh Tattoo

In a Scottish glen, a company of troops was making camp before the evening closed in. Since dawn they had been pursuing Highlanders, and now they were ready for a rest.

Suddenly, however, on the brow of a hill that fringed the glen, stood a small clansman who waved his broadsword and targe defiantly at the troops below and shouted insults at them.

The commander was furious. All day he had chased the Highlanders without success, and now one of them had the nerve to stand there openly jeering at him. Furiously he barked out the order for ten men to go up and deal with the tartan-clad figure.

The clansman waited patiently as they rushed towards him, then vanished from sight with the ten troopers in pursuit. A few moments later, the shouts and sounds of fighting could be heard. After that, all was silent.

It was the clansman who returned, a little ruffled perhaps, but not dramatically so. Once more he shouted insults until 20 men were detached to deal with him. And once more he vanished as the troops approached. Again all the clamour of a fight was heard, again to be followed by silence.

This time the clansman did look more dishevelled when he reappeared. But his laughter and insults were no less. Angered beyond reason, the commander this time sent up 50 of his men to deal with the defiant Highlander.

This time the noise of the fight reached a greater pitch, but then a somewhat discomfited soldier staggered over the top of the hill.

“Back! Back!” he shouted to his comrades. “He’s led us into a trap! There are two of them!”

* * *

Where that story originated is anybody’s guess, though it takes little guesswork to conclude that it was not south of the Highlands! Many Scotsmen relish such stories, the sort which have been handed down over the years and which have harmlessly prolonged the once serious rivalry which existed between Scotland and England.

At the same time, Englishmen have gladly recounted other stories more favourable to themselves.

In 1773, Dr. Samuel Johnson accompanied the Edinburgh-born James Boswell on a tour of the Hebrides. Johnson’s scorn for Scotland was well known, though he eventually did succumb to his Scottish biographer’s charm.

One snippet of their conversations has become a standard joke for some Englishmen.

“I do indeed come from Scotland,” said Boswell, “but I cannot help it. . . .”

“That, sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help,” was Johnson’s reply.

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The political idealism of H G Wells informed his science fiction

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Philosophy, Politics, Science, War on Wednesday, 28 August 2013

This edited article about originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 385 published on 31 May 1969.

H G Wells, picture, image, illustration

A caricature of H G Wells by David Low

Hanover Terrace, Regent’s Park, has two claims to distinction. First, it was built by John Nash; and, second, it housed that controversial novelist, H. G. Wells, who spent the last ten years of his life at No. 13. This house number delighted H. G. Wells, and during the war he had it painted in huge figures to shock the superstitious.

Herbert George Wells was born over a china shop in Bromley, Kent, where his father, a professional cricketer, carried out a desultory trade in crockery, lamp-wicks, paraffin and cricket accessories. He was not a successful business man and the family knew poverty.

“H. G.” had little education. He was sent briefly to a school for tradesmen’s sons, where he won a certificate which proclaimed himself and another boy as “first in all England in book-keeping.” For the rest he read books avidly, expanding his mind with a wealth of ideas. He taught himself Latin, squatting out of sight behind bales of merchandise at the draper’s shop where he worked.

This was H. G.’s fifth job, and he hated it no less than those that had preceded it. Finally, threatening suicide unless she agreed, he persuaded his mother to free him from his apprenticeship, and fled.

For a time he became a teacher. Then he won a studentship at what is now the Royal College of Science. He started well, but gradually spent more and more time in the library rather than the laboratory, attracted increasingly by politics.

When he eventually obtained his B.Sc., H. G. Wells turned briefly to teaching again, this time at a tutorial college. It was during this period of his life that he married and tried his hand at journalism. Next he began writing short stories, and at last settled firmly into a career.

Success came with the publication of The Time Machine in 1894. Other scientific romances followed and found a wide audience.

Although H. G. had a genius for telling a story, pure fiction did not satisfy him, however, and by the turn of the century his stories were only vehicles for a much deeper play of ideas. He urged the importance of scientific progress, and saw education as the only hope for the survival of civilisation.

Socially and politically, H. G. Wells was outspoken and impetuous. He twice fought for the London University seat in the House of Commons. Each time he failed to secure election, being devastatingly handicapped by a small piping voice that made him sound ridiculous on a public platform.

He was impatient with the slowness of the democratic process, and he despaired when the outbreak of the Second World War proved his worst prophecies correct. He had hoped that men would learn from the lessons of the past, which he attempted to sum up in his Outline of History, and that they would go on to fashion a new world such as he envisaged in A Modern Utopia.

H. G. spent the last years of his life corresponding vigorously with philosophers and leaders all over the world, trying to find a basis for a declaration of human rights that would command universal acceptance. This work was not wasted, and some of the results are to be read in the charter of the United Nations. Unfortunately, Wells himself did not live to see that day.

The man who stole the Mona Lisa was motivated by grief and love

Posted in Art, Artist, Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Law on Wednesday, 28 August 2013

This edited article about the Mona Lisa originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 385 published on 31 May 1969.

Salle Carre, picture, image, illustration

The Mona Lisa in the Salle Carre at the Louvre whence it was stolen; the theft was reported by the painter of this picture, Louis Beroud

On the morning of August 22, 1911, Sergeant Poupardin was patrolling the galleries of the Louvre, in Paris, where art treasures worth a fabulous fortune attract art-lovers and visitors from all over the world.

He had just been through the Gallery of Apollo when, casting a casual backward glance on his way out, he was amazed to note that Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, was missing from its place.

Within minutes, 250 guards were searching frantically through the ancient palace. After a while they found the first clue to the theft; on a shelf on a little-used stairway, they discovered the picture’s frame and glass. The picture itself had vanished.

The shock and incredulity of the Louvre authorities can be imagined. Precautions against theft were thought to be perfect. How could anyone have removed the framed picture, which weighed over a hundred pounds, extract the painting from it (it was painted on a heavy piece of poplar, four and a half feet square) and get out of the building unobserved?

In any case, what good would such a world-famous picture be to a thief?

Alphonse Bertillon, a famous French detective of those days, was called. He found that the knob of the staircase door was missing; the door led to a courtyard which gave on to the street.

In the excitement, everyone quarrelled with everyone else. When Bertillon was sarcastic about the poor safety precautions, Jean Nicausse, the Sherlock Holmes of France, and Hamaud, Chief of the Surete, pointed out that Bertillon had insisted on the police recording 750,000 right thumb-prints of criminals and suspects. Four imprints on the picture glass were of a man’s left thumb and were therefore useless as clues.

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