Bardiness

"..a bardy view!"

Alfred…A Great Guy!

Statue_d'Alfred_le_Grand_à_WinchesterIn 1899 the Victorians marked the 1000th anniversary of the death of Alfred the Great as the founder of England and saviour of its Christian faith.

In the BBC Millennium Poll of 2000, Alfred didn’t make it into the top ten list of greatest Britons.

Sometime during those one hundred years the British lost favour with her most revered son.

Alfred wasn’t called “great” for nothing. He is the only British king with the title.

So what happened between then and now to change our views, or if not change them, merely ignore his achievements? Perhaps it’s just too long ago?

Alfred did however make it into the top 100, along with such luminaries as David Beckham, Tony Blair, Robbie Williams and even Boy George.

I’ll pause at this point to allow you a gasp of astonishment…..

Some sense prevailed in the top ten. Winston Churchill came out at number one, followed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Princess Diana, Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Elizabeth I, John Lennon, Horatio Nelson and, in 10th place, Oliver Cromwell.

Bearing in mind that the poll was conducted 16 years ago, it’s possible that the nation had an unhealthy dose of celebrity worship and collective amnesia.

It was only three years after the death of Diana; the country was still euphoric basking in the afterglow of a new labour victory, and the nation had yet to be embroiled in the war on terror.

Although Tony Blair didn’t make it into the top ten he did make it into the top 100. If the poll was taken today, it’s highly unlikely he (and many others) would get a look in. The highest ranked living person at the time was Margaret Thatcher, coming in at #16.

60 of the top 100 were alive during the 20th century. Hence the poll was severely flawed for it was indicative of contemporary individuals and populist history. Surely Alfred was greater than John Lennon? Indeed he was, but he died in the 9th century, and not the 20th; nor was he a famous singer/songwriter. Imagine that!

Twelve years after the poll, both Churchill and Brunel played prominent roles in the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics, and both coincidently topped the millennium poll of 2000, so perhaps there is some justice attached to it.

Back to Alfred the Great (those of you who have lost interest may leave now). Herewith follows a compact history lesson from a Bardy view:

When the Roman’s left Britain in AD 410, over 300 years of relative peace, stability and prosperity left along with them.

Her empire was under attack, Rome was in trouble and the legions needed to consolidate and attempt to fend off the vandals and barbarian hoards. For Britain, what followed was a period of substantial unrest, and is known today as the Dark Ages. It lasted for several hundred years, and England as we know it today did not exist. It became a place divided and ruled by feudal chiefs with a hotchpotch of kingdoms, the most powerful being Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex.

Wessex was the most powerful, and during the rules of Egbert (802-839) and Aethelwulf (839-858) it expanded to include most of the land south of the River Thames, although not the Mercian controlled area of London. It was
during these periods that England was under constant raiding parties from the Vikings and Norsemen of Scandinavia.

In 865 the Vikings landed with force and within ten years subjugated the kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia. Wessex was the next in line.By this time Alfred’s elder brother Ethelred was King of Wessex, and together they confronted the invasion of Wessex in 871. But they failed to prevent the advance and during the battle Ethelred was killed. Wessex was the last surviving Anglo-Saxon domain, and if it fell, then the land would be completely ruled by the Vikings.

Alfred took the throne, and through bravery and intelligence, through methods of tactics and guerrilla warfare, eventually prevailed.

He became an honourable and wise king, uniting the kingdoms, constructing the country’s first navy, instigating law and order, and promoting education, with particular emphasis on the English language, art, culture, and successfully creating – out of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora – the nation of England.

That’s why he is known as Alfred the Great.

Perhaps if a new poll is taken, he can take his rightful place along with Churchill, Elizabeth I, and Nelson as one of the nation’s top ten greatest Britons.

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Arts, Books, Education, Europe, History, London, Politics, Religion, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Crimea…Half a League Onward…….

 

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Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Just over a hundred years ago the world went to war, and the stage for it was set by another smaller but no more less significant conflict almost 60 years earlier. It’s a timely reminder – because it was called the Crimean War.

It was a war which altered the balance of power in Europe, and which subsequently led to the assassination in 1914 of Archduke Ferdinand – heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His killer was Gavrilo Princip a Serbian nationalist who wanted the South Serb provinces to break away and be combined into Greater Serbia – or a Yugoslavia – a union of South Slavic countries.

This ultimately led to other European states being dragged in, all vying for their position and alliances, and so it was that the Great War began. This brief introduction, deliberately short on studious analysis is merely to put the Crimean War into context. And we must go even further back from it’s origins to understand how and why the Crimean War began – as far back as the Napoleonic Wars 200 years ago.

2014 commemorated the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, but last year 2015 also commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the end of Bonaparte’s dream of a European empire, with he as her emperor.

At the end of the Napoleonic war the great powers  Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria and France got together in Vienna to try and restore European stability by suppressing revolutionary republics and supporting sensible monarchies. Known as the Treaty of Vienna, it led to 30 years of peace in Europe. By 1845 this peace was showing signs of cracks, principally because of the weakness of the Ottoman-Turkish empire.

Then as now Turkey had one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, or more to the point one foot in European Christian orthodoxy and the other in Islamic Middle East. At this point enters the protagonist, then as now – Russia.

Tsar Nicholas  was keen to take advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire with a view to carve up the European part of Turkey and gain some valuable strategic areas. This effectively would give Russia control of the Dardanelles, the strait which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean, and more famously known today for the disastrous tragic WWI campaign of Gallipoli.

Due to increased Russian aggression, Turkey declared war against Russia in October 1853. A month later the Russian Black Sea fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron at Sinope, a Turkish city on the Black Sea, which galvanised British concerns because it threatened her trade links with Turkey and India.

The French, who had no particular interest in Turkey, chose to ally themselves to Britain because they were still smarting from their defeat by Russia in 1812 (later immortalised in Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture) and thought that this was their chance to return the bloodied nose.

An ultimatum was issued to Russia to evacuate from the area by March 1854. That month was significant because by then the Baltic ice fields would break up allowing the British to annihilate the Russian fleet should the demand be ignored, which it was. By August the combined Anglo-French fleet took control of the Baltic. Austria subsequently joined the alliance and together contributed to an army of 60,000 to defend Istanbul.

The Russian Tsar ignored the threats (shades of Putin here) and called the bluff. A British plan was formulated to land in the Crimea, and attack Sevastopol with the view of destroying the Russian fleet and the dockyard. What followed was a catalogue of indecision, chess board manoeuvring and glorified Victorian valour which resulted in the Battle of Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade. This astonishing display of bravery, courage (madness some will say) into the “valley of death” as Tennyson penned it, so shocked and frightened the Russians that they never again dared to face the British in the field.

Eventually there was a victory of sorts, and the Russians accepted defeat, the demilitarisation of the Black Sea, and for a time the European settlement of the “Turkish Question”. With the 1856 Treaty of Paris, (as with all face-saving treaties of this kind) Russia went home to lick her wounds with a modicum of compensation.

That’s what it’s all about and that’s why the defeated always walk away with a prize of sorts. Political expediency, diplomacy and conciliation make the world go around, regardless of the pain and suffering to get there in the first place. It’s easy to start something, but damned difficult to end something. A lesson we never seem to learn.

Today Russia is on the aggressive ascendancy, and Turkey seeks a political route to European Union membership through clever compromise and negotiation regarding the current mass refugees crisis. History may be the past, but it is also the present and the future, and we ignore it at our peril.

See also Bardiness: Florence Nightingale

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March 7, 2016 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, History, Politics, Religion, The Flashman Papers, Travel, United Kingdom, World War I | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Edith Piaf

“The Little Sparrow was the epitome of the classic French chanson: supercharged, even melodramatic, and emotionally extracting every last drop of sentiment from a lyric.”

The singer gained popularity as she toured France, her petite frame concealing an energy which would drive her to the pinnacle of her profession, singing in cabarets and vaudeville theatres and, from 1936, performing on radio and recordings.

Her great fame came after World War II, with her song “Le Vie en Rose” becoming an international standard.

During World War II she worked with the French Resistance by using her popularity to have herself photographed with French prisoners that she had performed for. These photos were then used to make identity papers that would be smuggled back to the prisoners during her return engagements.

Born Edith Gassion on December 19, 1915, in Ménilmontant, a poor district of Paris, legend has it she was born under a street light on the corner of the Rue de Belleville, with two policeman in attendance.

A difficult and exploited childhood led eventually to her being found singing on a street corner in the Pigalle area in 1935 by Louis Leplée, a cabaret owner. Leplée took the young singer under his wing and renamed her “La Môme Piaf” (which in Parisian slang translates roughly as “the little sparrow”.]

The voice of Edith Piaf carries with it perhaps more national identity than that of any other recorded artist in the world. Tiny, frail, and tragic in her life, Piaf brought French identity to the rest of the world in a way that was understandable to all.

Her voice was strong, bold, and passionate, even as she grew more frail and  infirm.

When she died on October 11th, 1963 the news heralded a nationwide outpouring of grief, two million people jammed the streets of Paris, stopping traffic to watch her funeral procession.

Her grave at Père-Lachaise has become a shrine for thousands of visitors every year, and her music continues to stir the heartstrings with vibrant, passionate and yet vulnerable emotions.

Edith Piaf was one of the most popular female singers of all time, with a unique voice and talent that conquered the hearts of admirers around the world.

Her life story was truly remarkable: from her birth in 1915 on a policeman’s cape, under gaslight, to her extraordinary love affairs and heart-breaking tragedies, she was a true artist that lived to sing.

 

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Arts, Culture, Europe, General, History, Music | , , , , | 3 Comments

A Pragmatic View on the UK Election 2015

UK-Union-FlagPragmatism is the key to this UK General Election, yet by very nature of the word it can stifle change and continue the status quo. All of us like to think we are pragmatic. It implies we are sensible, realistic, grounded and practical. That’s why most of us who will vote on May 7th will favour the established political parties – Conservative or Labour. It’s the comfort factor – idealism is all very well, and whilst many of us will have high ideals, and may even strive for them – the fear of instability will override them. Such loyalty, although commendable, invariably reduces risk, and risk is a factor for those who want to live stable lives – regardless.

Families require security – they know that the Socialists will tax more to pay for essential services. By contrast they know that the Conservatives will reduce tax, but the spending power of the individual will be increased and therefore essential services will be paid through a a growing healthy economy. Both are in essence ideals – they just differ on the method of delivery.

A sensible electorate will vote for one or the other. Not because they are the only choices, but because they are the established safe choices. Yet, for the second time in five years, a majority government seems unlikely. It is the age of coalition, and until 2010 this had never happened before except during a time of war – World War II. Then it was the right thing to do – when political differences were set aside to fight a common enemy. Today we don’t have a common enemy, we just have common differences and in the mix are small parties with specific agendas, and anyone of them could play politics and hold the balance of power.

A minority Labour or Conservative government could function, but they would have difficulty implementing policy without doing deals with undesirable bedfellows. The Scottish Nationalist Party, who seek an independent Scotland within the EU (a party which recently forced a referendum to leave the UK and lost) could have influence in the very Parliament they wanted to leave. The United Kingdom Independence Party which wants to leave the European Union and have strict immigration policies could have influence likewise. The Liberal Democrats – the party which formed a coalition with the Tories in 2010 have achieved little, but believe they are the party to keep a balance on an all powerful government. The Green Party which may catch votes, are unlikely to have any significance. Then there is the Democratic Union Party who power-share the Northern Ireland Assembly with the Irish Republican party Sinn Féin. Then there is Plaid Cymru the Welsh Nationalist Party who seek an independent Wales within the EU. All will attract votes, yet all in their own way will render impotent a UK Government holding a minority.

So when Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP declares that “all bets are off” – he is quite right.

That’s why this election is probably the most significant in modern times. A minority Labour or Conservative victory will result in deals being done with the aforementioned. Labour will not contemplate leaving the EU unless it can change it from within. The Conservatives are committed to a referendum on EU membership in 2017. UKIP want categorical and unconditional removal from the EU. The SNP want Scottish Independence. The DUP wants greater control in Northern Ireland, and Plaid Cymru wants Welsh independence within the EU without influence from a UK parliament. Neither Labour or Conservative want a coalition with any, and for the next 38 days they will surely attempt to distance themselves from any potential scenario.

Meanwhile our country is being shoved and pulled in the world of international affairs. Our military is diminished, our economic power is questionable, our values are clouded, and our status in the world is opaque.

We are the repository of wealth from the global rich, yet our own people cannot afford to live in their own Capital. Our treasured jewel the National Health Service is under attack, our fundamental values which we imparted to the world of care for the elderly, sick, disabled and less fortunate have now – in a dramatic turnaround – become ideals, and our prided pragmatism is now seriously questionable.

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, General, History, London, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Air Travel – a necessary inconvenience….

checkin2The best tip for airport security check-in is to ensure knowledge of procedure. You would be as unlikely to leave your passport behind than you would your common sense. Both are essential for travel. Oddly, many people appear to lose at least one of these prerequisites.

Delays at airport security are invariably a consequence of the unscrupulous methods employed by terrorists to cause disaster. The strict impositions imposed at airports today have been common for several years ever since 911, and other attempts by some individuals to detonate devices utilising seemingly innocent and innocuous articles regarded as essential travel requirements. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber was fortunately prevented from attempting to ignite an incendiary device in one of his shoes on a transatlantic plane, thanks to the vigilance of a fellow passenger.

Other attempts have been combated when it was discovered that liquids could be diabolically used as combustion when linked to a remote electronic signal hidden in something as mundane as a cell phone or belt buckle. Over Christmas 2009  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab smuggled a bomb in his underwear. He successfully boarded a plane because his nefarious device was hidden in a place where officials feared to tread. This brought in full body scanners, which are an extremely contentious issue.

If we assume that terrorists are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to bring disaster at worst or gross inconvenience at best to international air travel, then delays at airports will be an ongoing and probably never ending imposition which all travellers must endure. Therefore sensible preparation to encourage smooth passage should be common sense.

We all need to wear shoes, most of us need to wear a belt, and underwear is essential. So wear shoes that are simple to remove, and if you must wear a belt then take it off in advance. The implementation of full body scanners may not spare your dignity of having to expose your psychedelic boxer shorts or thongs (depending on taste), and as your face will not be associated with the rest of your torso, there really is no need to feel violated (officially). Besides, any objection, be they on moral or religious grounds will only result in preventing you from going any further. I’m speaking as a man, but female readers can easily equate to my point.

Well that’s the personal matters dealt with, so lets consider the rest. Liquids are permitted provided that they do not exceed 100ml in volume, and no more than ten items. They should be placed in a clear plastic bag and kept easily accessible for examination. Liquids will include toiletries such as perfume, after-shave, toothpaste, creams and mouthwash. Medicines and baby requirements should be allowed, but always check before you travel.

Next – consider sharp implements. Penknives will be confiscated along with anything else considered sharp or dangerous. Keys will be scrutinized – even nail clippers. Expect to lose anything which could fall into these categories (house and car keys will pass as long as they aren’t ringed on a knuckleduster). All metal must be placed in the tray that goes through scanners. Money, cellphones, laptop computers, Ipads/androids tablets, watches, jewellery and even hearing aids will be subject to inspection. Keep the devices in standby and easily accessible – some security staff ask for it to be switched on to demonstrate that it’s genuine. Imagine having to start up a laptop and the time it takes. And whilst I remember – don’t carry spare lithium batteries for computers or phones in check-in luggage – carry them in your hand luggage. If you must open your check-in luggage, then keep the padlock keys handy (and if using a combination lock – write the code down as by then you’ll be too flustered to remember it).

Jackets, overcoats and gillets all go in the tray. You need to pass through the security scanner without a bleep. If one goes off, then back you go. Succeed and you will feel accomplished. Fail and your stress levels will rise. Once through you will have to reconnect with everything previously parted from you. This can be equally exhausting, especially when you are fighting for space, or inadvertently mistaking the wrong tray (it’s a jungle in there!).  I’ve often wondered, having removed all my metals, that I pass through the detectors still wearing my wedding ring. How does that happen? I know it’s gold!

This is not fool-proof advice – airport security varies from country to country. For example your nail-clippers may get unrestricted passage through Heathrow, but definitely not in Hong Kong. You may have to remove shoes and belts in some places, but not in others.

Preparation is the key, but you cannot account for the person in front who may delay you. So if all else fails, be thankful that you don’t have holes in your socks. Now, that could be very embarrassing.

Above all swallow your pride and travel confidently. Wear your best comfortable clothes and invest in the best luggage. Don’t check in cardboard boxes as an alternative – it will be frowned upon – especially if you’ve wrapped them up with so much tape that will have to be removed if you have to open them. Smile, be friendly, be agreeable. Don’t complain, don’t criticise, don’t be officious or arrogant. Remember, you need to get on the plane as comfortably as possible – inconvenience is the price we pay in order to get to our destination. And if you think it is a big hassle – it is. All air passengers are victims of international terrorism and even lone, unstable individuals and dare I say, ignorant and idiotic families.

If you don’t need to fly, don’t – however the alternatives are very limited! If time isn’t money, then seek other methods wherever possible.

This is my baker’s dozen of do’s and don’ts:

1. Don’t tip the security guards

2. Wear slip on shoes. Velcro style is good. Easy to remove and put back on.

3. Don’t wear a belt. If you must, take it off in advance in the queue. Along with your shoes (see #2)

4. Don’t buy water until you enter the Duty Free Area. You will lose it. Unless you are prepared to drink it quickly. If you do then keep your empty bottle. You can fill it up (possibly) at the public drinking fountains. Most airports provide them near the toilets. Bottled water is expensive to buy, so this may be an important consideration.

5. Keep all liquids in a small transparent plastic bag. No more than ten items and each must not be more than 100ml. Ditch the toiletries. Prioritise. Put medicine first if they are important. Many major airlines provide the requisite bags for purpose, but don’t count on it. You could put all these in your hand-carry – but don’t bother. Carry them separately until you have got through, and then put them where you like!

6: Ditch unnecessary metal. Get ready to deposit the essentials in a plastic tray. Think coins, phone, keys, laptops, iPads and tablets, spectacles, hearing aids with metal fittings etc etc….

7: Keep your passport, tickets and boarding pass handy. That should be #1. Are you thinking straight?

8: Be patient. Be respectful and charming. If you can’t do that then just keep your mouth shut.

9: Remove jackets and overcoats. Check the pockets. Just find a nice big tray and throw caution to the wind.

10: Don’t put valuables in the check-in luggage, and make sure you stick to the weight allowance. Three reasons: 1. You may have to open them. 2. You may have to pay a surcharge. 3. You may lose your suitcase altogether.

Lost luggage is a common problem.

11: Don’t be a smart arse. And don’t make jokes about bombs or terrorism. Airport security officials have absolutely no sense of humour wherever in the world they are, and a silly misguided witticism will result in a missed flight and possibly interrogation and examination.

12. Check-in online whenever possible. It’s the sensible thing to do – with luck you can choose your own seat, print your boarding pass, and possibly avoid the queues.

13. And finally… If you are travelling to the USA – read all this again (and again), and don’t be surprised if your luggage (inbound or outbound) has been opened for inspection without notice.

Disclaimer: Always check on airline and specific country regulations before you travel. 

March 23, 2015 Posted by | Air Travel, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t forget your hat…………..

“Are you English?” asks the charming stranger who has suddenly appeared. “I love England. And the girls! Belissimo!” he bellows, whilst kissing his palm and throwing the residue into the breeze. “What size are you sir?” he continues “I have some leather jackets here. I’ve just been to a fashion show and I don’t want to return to Naples with any stock left over, so I’m going to give you one for free!”

So here you are walking around Rome somewhere near the Fountain of Trevi, minding your own business, a snout buried in a street map and suddenly a car pulls up. The driver asks for directions and then discovers you’re new around here too. (Hello? He sounds suspiciously Italian!)

“I’m sorry but I’m only a visitor here myself” you reply with a friendly and concerned gesture. You’ve just given him his cue!

“My goodness, what a nice man” you think. He offers the garment through the window, hoping you’ll caress it like a kitten. Are you smitten? Who cares? It’s free! Just as you’re about to thank him for his generosity and walk away, out drops the metaphorical bombshell.

He’s got an empty tank, and worse, he’s lost his wallet with the credit cards and cash in them! Well do you say to yourself “dear oh dear, the poor man. How is he going to get home? I must give him 50 Euros at once to help him reach his destination? After all, he’s been kind enough to give me a free leather jacket!” Or do you return it to him with a poverty stricken look upon your face, perhaps with a few choice words to suit the moment?

That little scenario happened to me on three occasions in one day. There’s a small platoon of these peddlers around this beautiful city. I was prepared the last time however. Before my lost friend could utter a word I was primed. “Keep your jacket” I said proud and bold, “I’ve got no money!” That sorted him out alright. He happily drove off looking for someone else. He didn’t drive too far either as less than 200 yards further he was accosting some other poor mug (I mean tourist). The nerve of the man!

It struck me then that perhaps I was standing out like a sore thumb. Well, of course I was! It couldn’t have been clearer than if I had “tourist” stamped across my forehead with a flashing neon arrow pointing at it. So I looked around and noticed that the locals all dressed rather stylishly. Italian men in Rome like their hats. I don’t mean any old hat, no no, I’m talking about fedoras together with a tasty flowing scarf worn with aplomb. That was the solution my wife suggested. So off we trotted and bought a trilby from a charming little milliner a stones throw from the fountain. I already had a scarf, it was January. I was made! After that, I happily roamed around Rome free from harassment. Yes, nobody messed with me, it was clear that I was a local lad!

What then, is the moral of my little tale? It is this. Just because you are a tourist in Rome (or anywhere else for that matter) doesn’t mean you have to look like one! So if you’re wearing a baseball cap, carrying a back-pack, have photographic gizmos slung around various appendages, and a bum-bag around your hips, be prepared for the worst. You’ve flagged yourself up good and proper, and you can happily explain to the custom officials how you acquired all that leather wear.

Provided you don’t do this you should pass with flying colours. Reconnoitre the places you are keen to see by climbing on board a hop on/hop off tour bus. They’re one of the few good values for money. Get up on the top deck, plug in the commentary, then plan your route. Most of the great sites are within reasonable walking distance, but remember…. if you want to get ahead, get a hat!

March 23, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Education, Europe, Humour, Italy, Travel | , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Great War – A Right Royal War…..

 

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In this centenial decade of WWI, revisionist theorists and historians are keen to highlight the sheer stupidity of it, and argue that it was the crowned heads of Europe who played it out to their own designs.

Others say it was necessary to enter the war to prevent an aggressive Prussian Empire from gaining more power. Both are right – but neither argument makes it right.

My own simplistic view, having read extensively about Queen Victoria is that had she not been such a bunny boiler (as far as her husband Albert was concerned), she wouldn’t have born so many children which she was hell bent to distribute throughout Europe and marry them off.

A consequence was her eldest grandson Willelm II, aka Kaiser Bill, King of Prussia whose bellicose, bombastic impetuousness triggered the bloody war in the first place.

Yes, we all know that the firework was lit by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, but that was an opportunity not to be missed by Bill.

His mother was Victoria’s eldest daughter, Victoria, the Princess Royal. She was married off to his father Prince Frederick William of Prussia who later became German Emperor Frederick III. She became engaged to him when she was 14 years old in 1855 and married him two years later.

For Queen Victoria this was dynastic planning. This planning may have resulted in the deaths of millions.

It’s difficult to track the connections, but take for example that Kaiser Bill’s first cousin was King George V (grandson of V&A and son of Edward VII, Victoria’s eldest son; and his second cousin was Tsar Nicholas II whose wife Alexandra was a granddaughter of…yes you’ve guessed it..Victoria. Her mother, Princess Alice was the second daughter of V&A who married her off to Duke Louis IV of Hesse.

Queen Victoria, rightly or wrongly believed that her children would be instrumental in unifying the European Crown States, and create stability. Today we still have this anachronistic legacy.

The King of Spain, Juan Carlos I is a direct descendent of Victoria. His grandmother was Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg who was..here we go again…a granddaughter of Victoria through her fifth daughter Princess Beartrice. Not only was Eugenie Queen of Spain through marriage to Alfonso XIII, but also first cousin of King George V of the United Kingdom, Queen Maud of Norway, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia (the aforementioned wife of Tsar Nicholas), Queen Marie of Romania, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany (yes, that bloke), Queen Louise of Sweden, and Queen Sophia of Greece. Is it any wonder Europe is in such a mess?

What baffles me about all this, purely from a layman’s perspective, is that back in 1649 during the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell chopped the head off Charles I as a direct reproof of the notion of the divine right of kings. The parliamentarians really didn’t like him waltzing into the House of Commons swanking away. How then, a mere one hundred years ago, did the United Kingdom find itself embroiled in a war which without doubt was a direct result of royalist manipulation and chess playing?

Even today our House of Windsor (formerly known as the house of Saxe-Coburg and changed because of anti-German sentiment in 1917) is directly descended from the matriarch who, having married off her brood, lived the remainder of her life in mourning, was rarely seen, but nevertheless gave her name to an era of extraordinary and unprecedented social change and industrial achievement.

The Great War – the war to end all wars was without question directly or indirectly related to the Royal Families of Europe. The brave men who fought (mine and your relatives in living memory) believed they were fighting for freedom. They will be remembered and never forgotten – but did they really know what they were fighting for? Do we know? Even now? Will we ever?

 

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January 30, 2014 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, History, Politics, United Kingdom, World War I | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

1914 – 2014

Great-warpicWhen I review my childhood I consider myself rather blessed.

It was spent throughout the 1960s. I began the decade aged four and ended it in 1969 as I turned a teen.

Things like the dawn of the Beatles, the JFK assassination, England winning the World Cup and the first moon landing are all fresh in my mind and I was old enough to comprehend what was going on.

But the reason I'm thinking about it now is because 2014 marks the centenary of the start of World War I. 

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January 15, 2014 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, General, History, The Beatles, United Kingdom, World War I | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Oyster – the World of Transport for London

Oyster1I took the car to the garage to have it's exhaust replaced, left it there and returned home by bus.

Upon entering I asked the driver (as I produced some strange metal objects from my pocket) how much to get to my stop?

He looked at me as if I'd just landed from Mars. "Are you paying cash?" he said astonished. I affirmed it. "That's £2.40" he replied, in what was clearly a state of shock. So I gave him £2.50. "Haven't you got the right money?" he grumbled.

"I only want 10p change" I said (I mean it wasn't as if I was giving him a fiver, which he would probably have rejected anyway). So he fumbled around in a little box and produced my 10 pence coin. I asked him if he'd ever heard of the concept of loose change. "Nobody pays by cash any more" he muttered. "Well, I don't get out much" I replied.

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January 14, 2014 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, General, History, London, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , | 1 Comment

Game of Thrones

Game-of-ThronesAs usual I have arrived late to the party.

In this instance the "Game of Thrones" which is aired on Sky Atlantic.

I must admit I shy away from mythological fantasy, especially if penned by such questionable luminaries as J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis, and dare I say, J K Rowling. (Notice how each author initialises their moniker!) 

So not being a Sky subscriber I was ignorant not only of the TV production but also the author who inspired it – George R R Martin (two initials in that one – must be a winning formula) from his collection of epic novels entitled "A Song of Ice and Fire".

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June 1, 2013 Posted by | Arts, Books, Culture, Education, Europe, Film, Game of Thrones, General, History, Politics, Religion, Science, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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