Posts Tagged ‘British history’

Your RDA of Doggerel

Posted in General on August 23rd, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

I came across this entertaining verse on English history, written in the 19th century, distinguishing the first four King Georges.

George the First was always reckoned
Vile, but viler George the Second;
And what mortal ever heard
Any good of George the Third?
When from earth the Fourth descended
God be praised, the Georges ended.

–Walter Savage Landor

It is good doggerel but poor history.  Let’s see if I can do better.

I’ll answer with candor
The errs of Walt Landor…
George First was the worst, unspeakably vile.
So reckon the Second inversely mild.
The Third, be assured, a well-meaning churl.
His diligent efforts lost the New World.
The Fourth, I discourse, was shamelessly bad:
A gluttonous wastrel, bigamist cad.
(The year of his death, 1864,
Kept Landor from rhyming for two Georges more)

The Fifth was a stiff, a true head of staid,
But fought cousin Wilhelm’s attempt to invade.
The Sixth stood affixed and showed majesty
In “their finest hour” of Brit’ history.

p.s.  Let’s not forget the historic significance of this day:  http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2009/08/23/history-rumors-and-hollywood/

Crime and Punishment and Real Estate

Posted in General, On This Day on September 15th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

In my meanderings through the internet, I came across a reference to the Roman poet Ovid. Since he is assigned reading in Classics 101 and merits an occasional question on Jeopardy, the man obviously has achieved immortality. That might have been some consolation to a man who was condemned for immorality in ancient Rome. To earn that kind of distinction, one might have had to debauch every vestal virgin and the entire Praetorian Guard, probably on the same night. (Imagine that Viagra Commercial!)  Unfortunately, Ovid really was the victim of guilt by association. At worst, he simply was the poet laureate of certain orgies, those of the daughter of Augustus.

But Augustus didn’t approve of family scandals. The Emperor couldn’t prosecute everyone at his daughter’s orgies–that would have been a class action suit–but he could punish the most conspicuous participants. And a celebrity poet made a great example. So Ovid ended up exiled, spending his last years on the Romanian coast of the Black Sea.

Think of the irony: a Roman’s idea of punishment is a East European’s idea of vacation. Imagine if Dostoyevsky had been exiled there instead of Siberia. How would his outlook have changed….

Crime and Punishment“: In an attempt to demonstrate his superior will, Rodya steals an apple pie from the nice lady baker. Can he live with the guilt, and will he get a tummyache from eating too much?

The Brothers Karamazov“: Dad and Dmitri are vying for the affections of Grushenka, an adorable stray puppy. Ivan and Alexei debate the existence of Santa Claus; Ivan has serious doubts.

The Idiot“: Prince Mishkin is so nice that he makes everyone wish that they had epilepsy.

 

p.s.  And from last year, a birthday greeting to the “Worst Englishman of the 17th Century”: http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2008/09/15/a-scoundrel-ahead-of-his-time/

What’s In a Name: On This Day in 1917

Posted in On This Day on July 17th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

After three ghastly years of war with cousin Willy, the royal family of Britain felt pressured to change its name. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha sounded unpatriotic. Indeed, the British royal family was quite German. Although born in London, Queen Mary was Teck-nically German. The mother of King George was (mercifully) Danish, but his paternal ancestry was almost completely Deutsch. (There had been a Scottish/Danish great- great- etc. grandmother almost three hundred years earlier.) The family decided to rename itself the impeccably anglophile guise of Windsor.

I have done a calculation of the British ancestry of the Royal family. You may need a microscope.

George V was 3/32768 English. By comparison, he was much more Scottish: 3/4096. The rest of his ancestors were German or Danish. However, George VI actually married a nice British girl. But then his daughter had to marry ein Battenberg (even if the family tactfully translated it to Mountbatten).

It is ironic but British law does not require the monarch to be British. The sole requirement is that he or she be Protestant.  At the penalty of disinheritance, a member of the Royal Family is prohibited from marrying a Catholic.

However, the prohibition does not apply to other religions. So, in theory, Prince Charles could have married Nigella Lawson (Levinson actually) or Rachel Weisz.

Burning a Scandal at Both Ends

Posted in General on July 2nd, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Mark Sanford mentions King David as his role model.  To spare him having to associate with a Jew, I recommend these paragons of Victorian hypocrisy. 

Scandal Number One

Charles Parnell (1846-1891), the leader of the Irish representatives in Parliament, was a veritable kingmaker. Shifting his bloc to the Tories or the Liberals, he could determine who would be Prime Minister. However, Parnell was not quite so adroit in his personal affairs. A Captain O’Shea noticed that his wife’s younger children seemed to resemble Mr. Parnell, and the indignant husband began divorce proceedings. Mr. Parnell’s name was conspicuous in the accusations.

A certain Church prominent in Ireland does not approve of divorce. Parnell only outraged the Church further when he married his divorced mistress. From pulpits and in the Irish press, Parnell was condemned. With his status as a pariah, he was abandoned by the Irish members of Parliament. Under the strain, Parnell died soon after of a heart attack.

The Uncrowned King of Ireland“, Parnell had been a proponent of Home Rule for this country. He alone seemed capable of controlling the sectarian rifts between the Ulster and Catholic Irish members of Parliament. Prime Minister Gladstone needed that solid Irish bloc to support his bill for Irish Home Rule. Without Parnell’s leadership, the Ulster members joined with the Tories and blocked the passage of Home Rule. The best chance for a peaceful integration of Ireland into the United Kingdoms was lost, and the consequence was to be rebellion and civil war.

Parnell might have been consoled to know that he would portrayed by Clark Gable in a Hollywood saga.  Unfortunately, it also was Gable’s worst role.

Scandal Number Two

Sir Charles Dilke (1843-1911) might have been a likely Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the Liberal star in Parliament was accused of being a little too liberal with other men’s wives. Balancing both his wife and his married mistress were not the problem; any Victorian gentleman could manage that. However, Dilke found himself dragged into a divorce court, accused of adultery with his mistress’ married daughter.

That woman further accused Dilke of infecting her with syphilis. Dilke denied any involvement with his mistress’ daughter. The evidence was circumstantial. Both had the disease but not necessarily from each other. Furthermore, she seemed to have had a number of intimate acquaintances.

The Court acquitted Dilke of this particular adultery, but the press and public opinion did not. His prospects for leadership were ruined.

And Dilke’s scandal never even merited a movie.

The Worst Englishman of the 19th Century

Posted in General on June 16th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

A few years ago some British historians compiled a list of the worst Englishmen of the last thousand years.  The scoundrels were categorized by century.  The historians selected Jack the Ripper as the worst Englishman of the 19th century.  The Ripper did kill five prostitutes but “Jack” was a philanthropist compared to Charles Trevelyan.  A bureaucrat can destroy the lives of millions…and be knighted for it. 

The story is on page 20: 

http://www.dixonvalve.com/fgal/publications/Boss_Summer_2009_DIXBOS.pdf

I am not feeling quite so Anglophile today.

On This Day in 1917…

Posted in General, On This Day on July 17th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

After three ghastly years of war with cousin Willy, the royal family of Britain felt pressured to change its name. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha sounded unpatriotic. Indeed, the British royal family was quite German. Although born in London, Queen Mary was Teck-nically German. The mother of King George was (mercifully) Danish, but his paternal ancestry was almost completely Deutsch. (There had been a Scottish/Danish great (etc.)-grandmother almost three hundred years earlier.) The family decided to rename itself the impeccably anglophile guise of Windsor.

I have done a calculation of the British ancestry of the Royal family. You may need a microscope.

George V was 3/32768 English. By comparison, he was much more Scottish: 3/4096. The rest of his ancestors were German or Danish. However, George VI actually married a nice British girl. But then his daughter had to marry ein Battenberg (even if the family tactfully translated it to Mountbatten).

It is ironic but British law does not require the monarch to be British. The sole requirement is that he or she be Protestant.  At the penalty of disinheritance, a member of the Royal Family is prohibited from marrying a Catholic.

However, the prohibition does not apply to other religions. So, in theory, Prince Charles could have married Nigella Lawson (Levinson actually) or Rachel Weisz.

The Hazards of Dukes

Posted in General on March 10th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Is decapitation hereditary?

If Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk, were here to celebrate his 471st birthday, I would ask that question. Surely he would have noticed that much of his family–Dad, Aunt Catherine, Cousin Anne, etc.– was dying in the Tower of London rather than Norfolk. Grandfather nearly went to the block but instead spent years watching the mold on his cell walls. At the very least, being a Duke of Norfolk seemed to have some risk. So, why was the fourth Duke writing fan letters to Mary, Queen of Scots? Perhaps he couldn’t help himself if decapitation is a hereditary trait. He certainly discovered that Queen Elizabeth I had a hereditary trait too: Tudor vindictiveness.

Yet, the Howards were fairly adapt at surviving. They had been on the wrong side at the Battle of Bosworth, but switched their loyalty from York to Tudor. They could be just as flexible in theology, oscillating their piety from Rome to Canterbury to Rome. The Howards were devoutly Anglican when it came to seizing monastery lands from the Catholic Church. Once they sated themselves upon the Church’s wealth, they could be Anglicans for Henry VIII and Edward VI; they could be Catholics for Mary. (Caught between Elizabeth and Mary Stuart, they tried being everything. That proved tricky.) Had the Ottoman fleet sailed up the Thames, the ingratiating Howards probably would have become the Emirs of Norfolk.

In the 17th century, when the reigning Stuarts were subconscious or covert Catholics, the Dukes of Norfolk felt safe to resume their Catholicism. For the last three centuries, they have avoided any unpleasant stays in the Tower. And yes, the Howards are still the Dukes of Norfolk.

The Worst Britons List–with commentary

Posted in General on November 29th, 2006 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

By unpopular demand, here is the list of the worst Britons of the last 1000 years.

1000 to 1100: Eadric Streona
1100 to 1200: Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury
1200 to 1300: King John of England
1300 to 1400: Hugh Despenser (The Younger)
1400 to 1500: Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury
1500 to 1600: Sir Richard Rich

1600 to 1700: Titus Oates
1700 to 1800: Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland
1800 to 1900: Jack the Ripper
1900 to 2000: Oswald Mosley

Bear in mind, this list was compiled by British historians–who have actually heard of Eadric Streona.

Eadric actually deserves fame as well as infamy.  He was the first of that unique and fascinating English specimen: the upper-class traitor. In the 11th century wars between the English and the Danes, Eadric managed to be on both sides. He continually betrayed everyone but managed to ingratiate himself back into his victims’ trust.  Well, King Canute finally got tired and wise. 

The inclusion of Thomas Becket is a surprise.  At least, he was a hero in the movie.  However, you might consider the perspective of Henry II.  His wife is poisoning his mistresses and trying to overthrow him.  With all that aggravation, Henry certainly doesn’t need an Archbishop who was claiming more sovereignty than the King.  If not the worst Briton of the 12th century, Thomas Becket certainly was the most tactless.

King John needs no introduction.  

And you have already met Hugh Despenserhttp://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2006/11/26/popular-disembowelments-of-1326/

Thomas Arundel liked burning heretics, and his idea of heresy was very extensive.  Even suggesting that the Bible be translated into English was a flammable offense.  Arundel could be an honorary Spaniard.    

You might recognize Richard Rich as the snivelling opportunist in “A Man For All Seasons.”  Thomas More was just one of his victims.  Rich was the greatest dancer of his age, making remarkable leaps from one faction to another, from one religion to another–and back, and he always landed on his feet and someone else’s neck. The scoundrel rose to be Chancellor of England, lived to be 70, and died in bed. His story reminds me of this anecdote. When Cardinal Richelieu died, the Pope mused, “If there is a God, the Cardinal will have much to answer for. If there is not God, Richelieu has had a very successful life.”  I think that we can say the same about Richard Rich. 

Titus Oates was the Joseph McCarthy of his day, claiming that there was a Catholic conspiracy lurking under every bed.  His lurid accusations incited widespread fears of treason and imminent invasion.  Factions at the Royal Court and in Parliament were only too happy to use this Anti-Papist hysteria to undermine or ruin their opponents.  Innocent people were imprisoned.  Eventually, so was Oates; someone finally asked for proof.  Yet, his supporters saw to his early release and voted him a government pension.

William, Duke of Cumberland, was a superb general against badly armed peasants and unarmed civilians.  The brother of George II was entrusted with crushing a rebellion in Scotland.  The Highland Scots had swords and were led by an alcoholic dolt.  Having cannons and muskets, the English were at a definite advantage.  Unfortunately, Cumberland was not a gracious winner.  He practiced pacification through depopulation.  The Scots were presented with this choice: hanging, starving or going to Canada.

Jack the Ripper? The British have a very genteel definition of “the worst.” Five corpses wouldn’t qualify him for a junior membership in the Mafia, Crips or NRA. For the worst Briton of the 19th century, I would nominate the right dishonorable Charles Trevelyan. He was the British administrator who let the Irish starve.

 
Sir Oswald Mosley was the definitive upper-class cad. Women left their husbands for him. He was equally promiscuous with politics, going from Tory to Labour to Fascist. He really was looking for a pedestal rather than a platform.  As leader of the British Fascists, he finally found his adoring cult.  His fellow aristocrats did not mind Sir Oswald’s embrace of Fascism; they somewhat agreed with ideas and rather liked the Gucci uniforms. However, they could not condone his adoption of Nazi tactics. One snubs Jews (although the Rothschilds were too rich to ignore) but you don’t try beating them up on the streets of London.  “I say, old boy. We can excuse treason but not vulgarity.”