Category Archives: History

The Kings We Never Had (Part 4)

James II had 27 children by two wives and two mistresses. The only one we need to mention is James Francis Edward Stuart, also known as the “Old Pretender”. He was born in 1688, shortly before his father was deposed in the Glorious Revolution, lived in France and assumed the title  James III (or VIII of Scotland) on the death of his father in 1701.

In 1714, with Queen Anne nearing the end of her life, he was offered the throne if he would convert to the Protestant religion. He refused, and landed in Scotland in 1715 in an attempt to depose George I. Unable to secure military success he left for the continent a lived in Rome for the rest of his life. When he died in 1766 his “reign” had lasted 64 years, 3 months and 16 days, compared to  63 years, seven months and two days for Queen Victoria. Only the current Queen has reigned longer.

Next in this line is Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Young Pretender. He tried to take the throne in 1745, coming as far south as Derby, before retreating to Scotland, where the Battle of Culloden became the last battle fought on British soil.

His brother Henry, a cardinal, became Henry IX of England and I of Scotland and was, in his later days, supported financially (to the tune of £4,000 a year) by George III. He died in 1807 and was the last Jacobite to claim the throne.

Frederick, Prince of Wales, was the son of George II; when the family left for England, he was left in Hanover and did not see his parents for 14 years. This may be why he was a difficult child and opposed his father in most things, even going so far as to secure the release of Flora MacDonald from the Tower after she was imprisoned for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape after the 1745 Rebellion.

He was a great cricket fan and supported the game financially as well as playing for the county of Surrey. In the 1733 season he presented a silver cup to the Surrey and Middlesex team that beat Kent – the first recorded cricket trophy. He died in 1751, probably from a pulmonary embolism, though some sources say it was a lung abcess caused by a blow from a cricket ball.

Fredericksburg, Virginia, Prince Frederick, Maryland , Fort Frederick, Maine, Fort Frederick, South Carolina, Fort Frederick, New York, Fort Frederica, Georgia, Fort Frederick, Maryland, Point Frederick, Ontario, Fort Frederick, Ontario and Fort Frederick, New Brunswick are all named after him.

We can only speculate what would have happened if he had lived to succeed his father, some historians suggest that the future of America might have been very different. Well, the place names certainly would be. However, he didn’t, and his son eventually became George III. George III was suceeded by two of his sons – George IV and William IV. William had no legitimate children but ex-Prime Minister David Cameron is descended from one of the illegitimate ones.

That brings us in orderly fashion to Queen Victoria and then Edward VII. Edward nearly became a King we didn’t have, suffering from typhoid (the disease that killed his father) whilst staying near Scarborough in 1871, being shot at by a Belgian student in 1900 and finally going down with appendicitis in 1902 just two days before the Coronation. He survived (and made surgery for appendicitis more popular – until that point they just tried to nurse people through it).

The oldest son of Edward, Prince Albert Victor was at the centre of many stories concerning him contracting embarrassing diseases, fathering illegitimate children and even being Jack the Ripper. He was also rumoured to be a visitor to a homosexual brothel. Despite all the accusations nothing was ever proved. In fact the Ripper allegations can be absolutely disproved by a record of his movements and engagements. He could even count the German Royal Family amongst people able to provide an alibi.

He died from influenza in 1892, though there were even rumours about this. His bride to be, Princess Mary of Teck, was recycled by his family and married his brother, the future George V. (Not the first time we’ve heard this during this series of posts).

Really that’s the end of the story. It’s tempting to add Edward VIII to the list but as he became King, even if it was just for a short while, he doesn’t really count. The Abdication, to be honest, was a good thing, as a King who supported the Nazis would not have been an asset in wartime.

 

 

 

The Kings We Never Had (Part 3)

Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales was the better looking, more popular elder brother of Charles I. He was a staunch Protestant, something his father ensured by taking him away from his mother because of her tendency towards Catholicism. Personally, if I’d have been worried by that sort of thing I just wouldn’t have married her, but Kings do these things differently.

He was already becoming active in politics and was well thought of by the nation when he died of typhoid at the age of 18. At his funeral 1,000 people followed the coffin and many poems and songs were composed in his honour.

Cape Henry, Henricus and Henrico County are all named after him.  In those days it was still considered acceptable to steal a country off someone and rename bits of it.

Next question – do you include Cromwell? He was near enough a King when he was Lord Protector, and was actually related to the Jasper Tudor, the uncle of Henry VII. He also passed the country on to his son Richard at his death, which is pretty kinglike, but they probably shouldn’t be here. Sadly, that gives me no chance to talk about Tumbledown Dick.

When Charles II died, he left 12 children by 7 mistresses and, unfortunately, no legitimate children. His brother James was his heir, and James was a Catholic. This was a major problem, as the majority of the country did not want a return to Catholic rule.

Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, who had been the youngest brother of Charles II and James II, had, at one time, been thought of as a successor to his father, being strongly Protestant after an education at the hands of tutors appointed by Parliament. He was later allowed to join the rest of his family in France, became a noted soldier and died of smallpox in 1660. If he had been alive in 1685 he might have helped to avert the Monmouth Rebellion by providing an acceptable alternative to James II.

The popular alternative was James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. He claimed his mother had been secretly married to Charles, though the King always denied it, and no proof was ever produced. Monmouth was popular in the country, had a good reputation as a soldier, and was a Protestant.

If all this talk of Catholics and Protestants seems out of touch with modern life you may like to check the Succession to the Crown Act (2013)You can now succeed to the throne if you are married to a Catholic, but you still cannot succeed to the throne if you are, or have ever been, a Catholic.

Anyway, back to Monmouth. It didn’t end well. Not only did the rebels lose a large number of men at the Battle of Sedgemoor, but more were condemed by Judge Jeffreys at the Bloody Assizes. Alice Lisle was executed for sheltering rebels (or, as some said, because her husband had signed the death warrant of Charles I), and was the last woman to be sentenced to death by beheading in the UK.

Probably the best known participants in the rebellion were John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough, and Daniel Defoe who fought for the rebels but escaped punishment.

There is a story that after the execution the royal family realised that they didn’t have a portrait of Monmouth so they stitched the head back on, covered the join with a cravat and had a portrait done. Unfortunately the story isn’t true, as there are several portraits of Monmouth, and the supposed post mortem portrait probably isn’t him.

Meanwhile, on a personal note, I am probably the last man to shed blood for the Duke of Monmouth. At the 1985 re-enactment I was wielding my rubber billhook in a vain attempt to reverse the injustice of 1685 when a teacher of English, having imbibed enthusiastically for lunch and put on a red uniform, clipped me on the elbow with his sword.

It wasn’t much blood, but it was definitely shed when it would have been better left inside me..

(Sorry this has gone on so long – the final installment should be shorter.)

 

The Great War List

The Great War List

Captain W E Johns

Percy Toplis

Charles Lightoller

Ernest Hemingway (Nominated by https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com/ )

John Francis Cecil Knight (Nominated by https://derrickjknight.com/ )

C.E.Montague (Nominated by https://beatingthebounds.wordpress.com/ )

Walter Tull (Nominated by https://johnknifton.com/ )

Leslie Buswell (Nominated by https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/ )

After thinking of Harry Patch and General Arthur Currie I’ve decided to leave them for a bit and see how things develop while as they are both quite well known, in fact Harry Patch had a book written about him.

Any more nominations?

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Hedd Wyn – poet

The picture is the Hedd Wyn statue at Trawsfynydd. He’s probably best described as a poet who served in the war, rather than a war poet. He was killed on the same day as the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, who probably can be described as a war poet. I can see a lot more books ahead, as I need to correct a deficiency in my reading in this area. They are both buried in the same cemetery.

Neither of them appear on the War Poets’ Memorial in Westminster Abbey, so they are going on the list.

I’ve also thought of Edith Cavell and Captain Fryatt, but I’m not sure. Edith Cavell is very well known (she even has a car park in Peterborough named after her) and Captain Fryatt also seems pretty well commemorated for an “unknown” hero.

I may list Marie Depage, who I only knew because she was on a commemorative medal with Cavell.

And Thomas Dinesen VC. He was one of three Danes to be awarded the Victoria Cross, but the only one who tried to join the British, French and American armies before being accepted by the Canadians. He’s also the only one with a famous sister.

Book Review: She Wolves – The Notorious Queens of England

She Wolves – The Notorious Queens of England

by Elizabeth Norton

The History Press (2009)

Paperback 288 pp  £12.99

ISBN-10:  0750947365

ISBN-13: 978-0750947367

I always feel it’s wrong to be too  critical in a book review as I have never had a book published. In this case, when the author has degrees from both Cambridge and Oxford and I don’t have one from anywhere, I feel even worse about it.

However, the back cover indicated that this was going to be a story of  “bad girls” and “witchcraft, murder, adultery and incest”. That indicated a tabloid approach to the subject and I was looking forward to an interesting read.

It wasn’t. The writing style was dry and the material was from being as interesting as advertised.  I was left with the distinct feeling that the writing improved as the book moved on to better known Queens, and was distinctly more interesting as it moved on to the Tudors. Not only that, but though the book made frequent references to the way women were seen and treated at various times in history, the theme was not developed.

When I read some of the comments in the reviews on Amazon, I find I’m not alone in this. I also found I had missed most of the poor editing and only spotted one of the factual errors (the “thousands” of Marian martyrs).

If I’d have paid £12.99 for this I’d have felt cheated. As it is, having paid just £4.99, I don’t feel so bad.

I do, though, feel like I’ve wasted my time reading it.  To make things worse, after missing the various faults outlined in other reviews, I’m feeling insufficient as a reviewer.

There’s another book called She Wolves. I may try that one later.

 

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Book Review: History Without the Boring Bits

History Without the Boring Bits

by Ian Crofton

Quercus (2007) This edition 2015

Paperback 362 pp  £9.99

ISBN-10: 1847240860

ISBN-13: 978-1847240866

Not so much a title as a challenge. I’m not sure I can resist it. Having read a previous book of Crofton’s on food, I wasn’t expecting too much but it was reduced to £2.99 so there wasn’t much to risk.

The food book was very basic, and a few hours on the internet would have given you most, if not all the information. This one is a step up from that, seeming to cram a lot more in. Unfortunately a succession of interesting snippets doesn’t make for an interesting book. I’d like to see fewer entries, with a bit more information about each one. Apart from the bits I already know, there are many entries that aren’t particularly interesting, and some that are just unpleasant. (To my mind he seems overly fond of mutilation.)

So, referring back to the challenge contained in the title, no it hasn’t missed all the boring bits out. It’s a good book to dip into, but sometimes you may have to skim before finding a gem.  I was pleased with it after my earlier experience with the food book, though still a little ambivalent, and have just ordered another of his books from Amazon. It cost me £2.81 including postage and packing so even if it’s rubbish it’s not a great loss.

I’ll let you know what happens.

Who Would You Include?

I was just answering a comment on a previous post – the review of Famous 1914-18 when a question crept up on me. The question is – who would you include?

The authors included A A Milne, George Mallory, Arnold Ridley, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Reith, Dennis Wheatley, John Reginald Halliday Christie, C S Lewis, Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Alexander Fleming, R C Sherriff, B L Montgomery, Ned Parfett,Tom Denning, J R R Tolkien, Winston Churchill, Henry Moore, J B Priestley, Harold Macmillan and Peter Llewelyn Davies.

It seems that the over 35s do best when asked if they recognise the names. Teenagers do worst, but it would, to be fair, be a well-informed teenager who recognised more than Tolkien. I recognised all except Ned Parfett and Peter Llewelyn Davies (which was embarrassing as I’d only just read about him in The Final Whistle as the nephew of Guy du Maurier).  But I am over 35, and I do spend too much time reading about the Great War.

The rules of selection are simple – they need to have been involved in the Great War and they need to be reasonably interesting. It would probably help if they survived.

I’ll start with three to consider.

Captain W E Johns – wrote about Biggles though he wasn’t a fighter pilot or a Captain. He landed at Gallipoli in 1915 and saw a variety of active service before being shot down and wounded whilst on a bombing mission in 1918. After the war he was the recruiting officer who signed Lawrence of Arabia up for the RAF.

Percy Toplis – better known as the Monocled Mutineer, though that is probably inaccurate. He was born near Alfreton so is reasonably local, and was once arrested by the ancestor of one of our neighbours for attempting to defraud a jeweller in Hucknall.

Charles Lightoller joining the Merchant Navy as a thirteen-year-old apprentice Lightoller endured shipwreck, fire at sea and malaria. His career started to look up when he went to sea again, ending up on the RMS Titanic. He was played by Kenneth More in A Night to Remember.  For those of you wondering who played him in other films, don’t bother – they aren’t worth it.

 

Rather than run on, I’ll let you click the link to read about his exploits in the war, and at Dunkirk in 1940.

 

 

Scarborough, Sandwiches and a Broken Phone

This morning (Thursday)  I broke my phone. It slipped from my hand and hit the pavement face first. I’ve dropped it many times before but this time the screen shattered. In itself it’s annoying, but the full importance will be revealed later…

The weather on Wednesday lived up to its forecast so we swung into action with a trip to the coast. It was Julia’s only day off of the week so I thought I’d treat her to a day at the seaside.

We drove further north than usual and visited Wetherby Services for elevenses (breakfast had been toast, which I don’t actually recognise as a meal). We’ve stopped there once before and were impressed by the architecture.

Sadly, having decided to have a bacon baguette from Upper Crust, the architecture remained the only impressive part of the visit. Too late, we remembered that this was the situation after the previous visit. The bacon tasted of fish.

From there we turned towards Teeside, dropped down through the moors and emerged on the coast at the top end of Whitby near the Rugby Club.  A few years ago Nottingham U15s went on tour to Scarborough. Scarborough Rugby Club, with their £10 million facility, didn’t reply to my enquiry about a match.  Despite it being last minute, Whitby stepped in and hosted us.

They made us welcome and lent us several players (including a full Yorkshire player) to augment our squad. By “squad” I mean 11 forwards and a scrum half who had spent the previous day and night on a training diet of seaside rock, chips and Red Bull.

All in all, I always feel a warm glow when driving past the club.

We had crab sandwiches at Mrs Botham’s. They were excellent. The photos are currently stuck on my camera. Attempts to extract them, trying to swipe the shattered screen, did not go well.  At quiet times of the year you can park outside the shop, obtaining a parking disc from the newsagent.  There are some very interesting shops along the street.

Finally, we went to Scarborough.

The vessel in the featured image is the MV Coronia, the second excursion ship of that name to sail from Scarborough. Built as the Brit, she cruised the Norfolk coast from 1935 to 1939 befire being taken up by the Admiralty and renamed HM Tender Watchful. She spent the war in hard but unglamorous work – boom defence on the Humber, resupplying destroyers in Yarmouth Roads and working on PLUTO (Pipeline Under the Ocean).

For a short time in 1940 she was one of the ships that rescued troops from Dunkirk, bringing 900 home. One of the crew at that time spoke of clearing body parts from the deck and having to beach the badly damaged ship on the return to Dover.

The other shots show the castle above the town and a painted bicycle – probably from the recent Tour de Yorkshire.