Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Man in Apartment 14b.

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Historical research can sometimes lead you into unexpected places. I have recently been following my interest in the Industrial Revolution by looking into the life and inventions of Malachi “Utility” Satterthwaite, the famously dour engineer and inventor of several radical loom modifications. In an obscure Huddersfield archive I stumbled across his journal from the 1840s, detailing his little-known trip to Paris to investigate French silk-weaving technology.

Satterthwaite clearly did not enjoy his stay in the City of Light. Shocked by the licentiousness, appalled by the “fancy foreign food” and unable to find a Primitive Methodist Chapel within 5 miles of Montmartre, he spent much of his time alone in his lodgings, looking at blueprints of looms.

Yet even here he was sorely tested. He had paid in advance for two months in an apartment in the house of a Mme Janos-Hary in the Place d’Orleans, in what he had hoped would be a nice quiet part of town, and had apparently been assured by Mme Janos-Hary – in a conversation he describes as “difficult, but facilitated with the aid of a large ear-trumpet” – that her house was a quiet and sober establishment with no noisy tenants.

After two nights, it dawned on Satterthwaite that Madame’s impressions of quietitude was due to her deafness, and that the house not only was frequented by her Hungarian compatriot Franz Liszt, breaking her piano with disturbing regularity, but that his own apartment – 14b – was sandwiched between “a Polack named Showpan who ceases his wretched piano-bashing only to cough for minutes on end”, and “a Jew named Al Cann, seemingly suspended under a top hat as big as he is, who alternates between jumping up and down on his piano keyboard and babbling in Hebrew”.

It appear that these are his phonetic Yorkshire renderings of the names of [Frederic] Chopin and [Charles-Valentin] Alkan, both recognised as notable piano virtuosi and composers in their own right, who did indeed occupy flats in the same building at this time.

Fascinated by this collision of visionary genius with some men who played the piano, I read on. Robbed of sleep, repose and time to ponder patentable loom modifications, he grew agitated and began to contemplate revenge on those who saw as responsible. Coming home late one evening in December 1848, Satterthwaite found a brick lying on the pavement and “on looking up at the window of my tormentor, was seized by a sudden desire for revenge. The first flurries of snow were falling, and I watched the brick, seemingly propelled by itself and not by my suddenly outstretched arm, follow an inexorable parabolic arc upwards and through Showpan’s window with a satisfying crash.” The sound of policemen’s boots beating a hasty path towards the noise convinced Satterthwaite to duck inside the house, trusting that the act of vandalism should be ascribed to a partisan of the recently deposed Second Republic.

It is well known that December 1848 was the point at which Chopin’s underlying tuberculosis took a sudden turn for the worse, leading to his death within months; until now the pivotal role of the smashed window in a snowstorm has remained hidden.

Satterthwaite was soon to return to Yorkshire, his blueprints duly modified, yet fate had one more role for him. Three nights after the Chopin incident, he was disturbed from Alkan’s apartment the other side, with a thundering passage which from his meagre description would seem to be the Concert Etude “Le Preux”.

Enraged beyond control, Satterthwaite began to hammer on the wall relentlessly: “There was a creak, the piano abuse ceased for a moment to be replaced with a whimper of alarm and footsteps coming in my direction. A moment later there was a resounding crash, the house shook, and after one pitiful yell all noise ceased. Satisfied, I returned to bed and slept undisturbed for the first time in weeks.”

The date is missing from the diary entry, but the incident described can only have been Alkan’s untimely death under a falling bookcase.

Many have wondered whether Satterthwaite’s visionary design for converting grand pianos into steam-powered submersibles was inspired by his time in Paris, but the causal link now seems beyond doubt.

tardis

Sources:
Smith, Ronald (2000) “Alkan: The Man, the Music”
Samson, Jim (1996) “The Cambridge Companion to Chopin”
“Where to Stay in Paris”, 1846 edition
Satterthwaite, M (1844-73): Journals (unpublished)
de Cuisine, J (forthcoming): Building Satterthwaite’s 1853 Steam Submersible Piano

Jeff de Cuisine has recently been involved in a pioneering experiment in industrial archaeology, building a replica of Satterthwaite’s 1853 Steam Submersible Piano, which can currently be seen at the bottom of the Calder and Hebble Navigation.

Good Queen Anne: A Poetical Tribute

Anne_Neville_portrait

The Muse is an unpredictable creature, who sometimes whispers to me and sometimes sings to me, and sometimes keeps a cold silence. Tonight she sang, and as a result, I give you this tribute to Anne,  queen to Richard III. There may be some errors in meter–I confess I do not always hear my Muse perfectly–but please be assured, this rhyme comes straight from the heart.

Anne, my sweet, frail flower

Sacrificed  for the sake of power

Forced to marry a cruel and vengeful youth,

You kept within your heart the shining truth.

To lie with him you did abhor,

For you were bound to the white boar.

Death freed you from Lancaster’s wretched grasp,

Only to place you in Clarence’s cruel clasp.

In a cook shop you languished,

While all thought you had vanished.

Yet as Romeo would not be parted from his love,

Richard could not forget his gentle dove.

All he sought was your fair hand,

He cared nothing for your land.

Through London’s streets he paced by night,

While you continued in your helpless plight.

Good Lady Fortune led him to your side,

And you at last became his bride.

To lie with Richard, oh, such bliss!

Nothing like Lancaster’s cold kiss.

But now the door we must close,

On the wedding night of our fair rose.

Jeff Borden usually finds it best to keep his poetical gifts to himself, but was impelled to share this in the memory of the one true king’s one true queen.

Elizabeth’s Secret Marriage (part 1)

220px-Darnley_stage_3
Was Elizabeth Tudor Mrs? ?

Why did Elizabeth I never get married?

This question has been long pondered by historians.

Many posit that her father’s or – more likely – her mother’s marital experiences put her off the whole idea. Her father – Henry VIII for those who were unsure – married 6 times, but never seemed to find that marital bliss he so obviously, and desperately craved.

Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, married only once, but it didn’t end well – to say the divorce was acrimonious is perhaps a mild understatement. And the way it ended cut off her chances of ever having a successful 2nd marriage, if you get my meaning.

Anneboleyn2
Anne Boleyn, with head

So there were obvious reasons for Elizabeth to remain a spinster her whole life – and who would blame her? Her father was a serial monogamist and her mother was a head short because of this, poor woman.

However, new evidence has come to light to suggest that the reason Elizabeth never married was because she already was – married, that is.

I know!

Why didn’t we know this?

We all know secret marriages come to light eventually, and usually at the most inconvenient times. It doesn’t usually take 500 years.

But we all know Elizabeth was clever and she had ample experience, within her own family, of how secret marriages could cause considerable – shall we say – ‘fallout’?

4550226
532 years – coming, ready or not!

Elizabeth’s own great-grandfather, Edward IV, secret married Eleanor Butler, before he scandalously, secretly married Elizabeth Woodville. This led to no one knowing who he was actually married to and his sons running away to Burgundy, playing the longest-ever recorded game of ‘hide and seek’.

Luckily the wonderful Richard III stepped into the breach and saved the country from utter anarchy. Nonetheless, to this day no one is really sure who Edward was married to and the question regularly causes ‘fisticuffs’ on Facebook’s reputable history pages.

holbein henry
Cuddly Henry VIII

And if that wasn’t enough of an example for Elizabeth, there was the one of step-mother no.2 – sorry, no – it was stepmother no.3.

(It’s so confusing, haven’t a clue how Henry managed to keep up with so many wives – maybe that’s why the last 2 were called Catherine? But that’s another story…)

So, yes, stepmother no.3 (no.4 for Mary Tudor, of course, and no.2 for Prince Edward), the unfortunate Catherine Howard who ‘forgot’ she had married (or promised to marry, at least) Francis Dereham – until he reminded her. Sadly, Catherine was already married to Henry when she inconveniently remembered her first wedding.

execution of Jane Grey
Poor Catherine Howard (I know this is Jane Grey – but you get the idea?)

 

Henry didn’t take kindly to being 2nd.

In a fit of pique, Henry lopped off her head and introduced Elizabeth to stepmother no.4 (no.5 for Mary Tudor and no.3 for Prince Edward), Katherine Parr.

And what does all this mean? Well, if Elizabeth was ever going to get married secretly, she wasn’t going to tell anyone – ever!

But there was a secret marriage – apparently.

So there was I the other day, minding my own business, sitting in Costa Coffee, drinking a cappuccino (with chocolate sprinkles, of course) and reading. I think I was reading The other Boleyn Girl, by that excellent historian whose name quite escapes me for the moment.

Anyway, this chap came and sat on the next table, looked over to me and smiled. Then he looked round, leaned over and went ‘pssstttt!’. He had to do this a good few times before I stopped deliberately ignoring him.

I looked at him.

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Bishop Stillington? 

He whispered, behind his hand ‘I know a secret about her daughter’, nodding to the book in my hands.

‘Who? The writer?’ I replied, with a bemused (I hoped, rather than scared) look on my face.

‘No, the queen, Elizabeth. She was married you know. None of this Virgin Queen stuff is true, she was well and truly married.’

‘Who are you? How do you know?’ I asked., still not falling for it. Then he said something that totally made me trust him.

‘Oh, I’m Bishop Stillington, from Bath – and Wells. I have a letter. I found it in the attic. From Elizabeth to her husband.’

‘Really?’ I asked. I was totally drawn in. It had to be true. How could you not believe or trust a man with the name Bishop Stillington? Well, if he was lying, I wouldn’t be the first one to have been taken in by him, would I?

Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)
The letter? We’ll have to wait and see..

 

‘Do you want to see it?’

‘See what?’ I asked, bemused and not a little discomfited.

‘The letter – I can show it to you’ Bishop Stillington replied. ‘You’ll have to meet me….’

So, the meet was set up. I’m meeting Stillington behind the bike sheds on Tuesday at 10.30 am – to see the letter (I hope, gulp!).

Look out for my update.

Yours truly, Jeff R Sun (looking forward to Tuesday with trepidation)

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Photos taken from Wikipedia

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Sources: The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory; Eleanor the Secret Queen by John ‘eye-roll’ Ashdown-Hill; I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles; The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George; Carry on Henry VIII; The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell.

 

History for the Admiring

Clipped from my local paper The [Redacted] Jolly Good News Paper…

Team Jane Seymour gears up for action.
Team Jane Seymour gears up for action.

Several universities in the United Kingdom have proposed sweeping changes to the teaching and study of history. No longer will there be courses such as ‘From Byzantium to the Long March’ or ‘What Did the Romans Ever Do for Us?’

“That kind of teaching is outmoded and unfair,” one source told our reporter. “Our students are finding it very difficult to go onto facebook and talk about the boring or not so nice bits of history. Some are being traumatised by fans of this king or that queen because they insist on discussing the facts, such as are known. Our student counsellors are stretched to capacity and we now run recovery workshops three times a week.” Like the successful and popular ‘How to Stop Being a Tudor Troll’ workshop I attended at Durham University recently where I met a student I will call ‘Norma’[i]

“All I wanted to do was talk about the Wars of the Roses,” Norma said, her face pale and her hands shaking. “But I don’t admire anyone enough for that. I came here for help and I certainly got it! I now know the 10 Reasons I Should Hate Henry Tudor and I’ve memorized the first 500 Reasons I Should Admire Richard III. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m taking steps. Definitely taking steps.”

From now on, students wishing to study history are to choose the person they most admire. Teaching staff, class structure and course names will be built upon that. So, soon, we will be enjoying university courses such as: ‘Charles II, England’s Cuddliest King’, ‘Dick Turpin and his Influence on Fashion’ and ‘Canute: Cool King or the Coolest King?’

Reaction to the proposals has been mixed, with some in the university sector welcoming the changes. “Now we can get down to some proper history,” our source said. “None of this stuff about King John or Ivan the Terrible. No-one wants to know about unpleasant people like that!”

Others are more skeptical, wondering what we stand to lose with this approach. “History isn’t just about nice people doing nice things,” an eminent retired professor told us. “You can’t just decide for yourself what someone was like then twist the evidence to make it fit.”

‘Twisting the Evidence to Make it Fit’ and ‘How to Ignore Things that Make You Feel Uncomfortable’ are two proposed introductory courses to be offered at all participating universities.

But what if there’s a clash or conflict of interests?

“Well,” our source said. “If we get an influx of students choosing, variously, Catherine of Arragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, we have a contingency plan we can quickly put into action. Each group will be kept strictly separate except for one day a year when we will hold an annual “Henry VIII’s Wives’ Free-for All” paintball tournament. We tried something similar last year with our, admittedly small ‘Henry Tudor Wasn’t as Bad as All That’ pilot class up against our ‘Good King Richard!’ pilot class. Unfortunately, the Tudor chap is still trying to get the paint out of his hair.”

[i] Not her real name.

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J E F Dingle-Bell thinks this is a marvellous idea and can’t wait for the time when all the nasty bits from history are totally wiped from the collective human memory. She is planning to attend her local university in the near future to study all the nice things about the Battle of Stalingrad, as she is so admiring of Georgy Zhukov, noting (of course) there are some dodgy ‘facts’ that will need to be buried. She is currently workshopping some ideas for the name of the course she will create and is torn between ‘The Picnic of Stalingrad’ and ‘How Zhukov Asked the Germans Very Politely If They Would Please Leave, And They Did’.

Shocking twist in Richard III mystery: did the king fake his own scoliosis?

plant

Was the medieval herb Leechmold an early relation of today’s highly poisonous Caroline Jessamine, native to the US?

In a spine-tingling discovery, scientists working at the University of Leicester have uncovered an unbelievable possibility regarding Richard’s appearance. It is now over three weeks since the last medieval King was laid to rest amid great pomp in the Cathedral of St Mary Castro. Since the shock of his discovery, the curve of his spine lying less than a metre under the car park tarmac has led to all sorts of theorising and analysis. Yet his legendary “hunched-back,” now revealed to be scoliosis, continues to stir debate about the extent of his suffering and its visibility to others. Now, in the wake of all the tests, comes a new revelation. It may well be that Richard actually faked his own scoliosis. But how would he do this, and why?

A recent study suggests that Richard’s curved spine might not have been visible to anyone else, that he managed to keep it hidden all his life. This would appear to be likely, given that the comments about it uniformly appear after August 1485 and much was made of them by the Tudor spin machine which Henry VII kept well oiled like a circus act. Now a new report from a Leicester lab has been leaked, containing the suggestion, so damaging to Richard’s character, which has been hitherto concealed, for fear of the controversy it would spark in addition to the issues surrounding his reburial. The presence of certain substances in his DNA prove that Richard had consumed a high dose of a certain herb, well-known to medieval doctors as Leechmold, which had the effect of ceasing up the vertebrae of his spine.

The effects of the herb appear to have been dramatic. Its identity, however, is not clear; one manuscript illumination found in a twelfth century Leech Book show a small, modest-looking plant with heart-shaped leaves and a small yellow flower, but scientists are still struggling to identify it with any known species today. There is a chance that the crop was on the wane in the fifteenth century and has since died out in the UK. It does not feature in Culpeper’s herbal or any other manuals of medicinal plants in the Elizabethan or Jacobean eras, but it may have been taken across the Atlantic by the first travellers, and rooted itself there as today’s common Caroline Jessamine. Among its effects are listed: “to contracte and warp the spine,” “to bryng on the crampes in the back” and “to make a manne stoop when he walks.” Such a scarce and potent herb would have been highly prized, especially among those seeking to practise witchcraft and medicine and only available to those who could afford the significant cost. On 30 June 1485, one entry in the records of a well-known London doctor, John Fenygreek, includes the sale of two handfuls of “syrup of leekmolde” at 50s, to a client who is only recorded as “RG.” Fenygreek was a main supplier of the court, frequently at Westminster, and RG may have been Richard of Gloucester. Although he was King at this point, the doctor was clearly trying to hide this individual’s identity.

spine

But why would Richard have resorted to this herb, in the weeks approaching Bosworth? He had been anticipating Henry Tudor’s invasion since his first failed attempt in the winter of 1483 and in the spring of 1485, reports reached him that it would soon be a reality. Yet Richard was not afraid, not believing that Tudor was anything but a rank outsider whom he could easily defeat: his own marital plans for an alliance with Portugal prove that. So what was Richard doing? From his purchase, it appears to have been in Richard’s interests to make someone suffer from the ill-effects of the herb. Had he been intending to administer it to himself, or to a rival, or someone else entirely? Aware of the medieval correlation between physical deformity and morality, did he intend to capture Henry and parade him as a hunchback, an unfit, defeated King? Or had he bought it for his own use? The effects of the herb must have been rapid, perhaps immediate, depending on the individual’s build and weight. With Richard’s “gracile” stature, no doubt they worked quickly. Exactly what happened is unclear, but the Leechmold ended up in Richard’s system and its effects upon his spine were dramatic. Two possibilities arise. Did he ingest it himself, perhaps in an attempt to garner sympathy when the battle was lost? To present himself to Henry as a humble cripple, perhaps to spare his own life, to live and fight another day. If so, scholars need to reassess the King’s character. Alternatively, was it fed to him by someone he trusted in his camp at breakfast or in a drink, on August 22? If so, we need to start looking for the enemy within.

Leaked report LLR30497

Leaked tap in my bathroom.

Leeks, a few in my garden.

Jeff R Vescent is getting curiouser and curiouser.

What Thomas More Didn’t Want You To Know

On April 12, 1534 Thomas More was asked to sign the Oath of Supremacy. Five days later, he was arrested and taken to the Tower where he spent the remainder of his days. So what was he doing during those five days? Was he taking the opportunity to persecute a few more heretics? Filling out the lengthy application for sainthood?  Was he indulging in some well-deserved self-flagellation? No, no, and no. The truth is… he had a bonfire party.

more's richard

You see, Thomas More had a lot of things to hide.  The ending to his “The History of King Richard III”, the whereabouts of at least one of the Princes in the Tower, and the directions to Utopia, just to name a few.  Thomas More had even figured out how to effect world peace, build a better mousetrap, and time travel.

More family portrait

More knew that the villain Henry VIII would see to it that he did not survive. But he would have his revenge on Henry and on the world, which he deemed sinful and full of vice. So he strolled out into his courtyard and he built  a pyre. He threw in the last chapters of Richard III, his decoder ring for his family portrait, and the iPhone he acquired on a trip to the 21st century.  He stood merrily by, toasting marshmallows and roasting sausages, as the answers to so many questions went up in smoke.

moreburningbooks

More languished in the Tower stubbornly refusing to sign the oath. His trial might have come much sooner, were it not for Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell had dined with More at Chelsea and had heartily enjoyed a wonderful pastry during the meal. For weeks, he browbeat More and history would have us believe that the Oath was his primary objective. In truth, it was the recipe for the marvelous dessert that Cromwell craved. Unfortunately, More had burned his cookbook along with the rest of the mysteries and refused to divulge the secret to the tasty tart.

tudor pastry

Almost five hundred years later, we still wonder what More meant by his History of Richard III and argue its relevance. Periodically, someone will point out a hidden message in the More family portrait and keyboards are ferociously pounded as historians great and small discuss the meaning of it all. Thomas More took to his grave the answers to some of the most puzzling questions in history.  But his stinginess in withholding the instructions to delicious pastry was just not a very saintlike thing to do.

 

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources:

The History of King Richard III

Thomas More The Saint and the Society

The Keebler Elves

 

Having sworn off strip clubs and agreeing to cut back on my consumption of scotch, I am happy to report that my wife seems less disgruntled than has previously been the case.  I am not long to linger in domestic bliss, however. My next super secret spy mission is taking me to Phuket, Thailand, and then perhaps on to Cairo. There have been reported disturbances in these places, in regards to reggae music and national and historical safety.

 

 

Roll My Eyes

I heard my god-daughter, the Hon Mahogany Hummingbird Greville-Bbest, trilling this the other day and was quite taken by her sheer talent. I have no idea what it means, and she tells me she didn’t write the delightful melody herself, but it’s such fun, isn’t it? She’s of the Rutland Greville-Bbests. Her father played bass guitar for the Gruntling Fruttocks back in the 70s, before he took his seat in the Lords, and her mother’s the Duke of Finsbury’s middle daughter. Delightful family!

It does my heart good the have Birdie for a visit. She cheers up our little house and brings quite the breath of fresh air. Mr Bell is very fond of her – he never chuckles with quite so much avuncular gusto as when she’s with us.

So, here is it. Birdie tells me it’s called Roll My Eyes

Where you at?

In your pew?
Now roll your eyes!

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
(Just roll em)

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
(Roll em good)

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth

Unknown-1

Hop up out of bed, put my cream suit on
Pay no attention to them ‘Tudors’ cos we roll ‘em ou
And we ain’t doing nothing wrong
Not like Leicester U, I’m just tryna be right
So keep my name a coming

So what’s up?
(Me!)
And I’ll be sighing like a whale, here in a church
And roll my eyes and just say it over
Raise my eyebrows, raise my eyebrows, raise my eyebrows…
(No?)

Don’t let them academics keep me from the truth
Roll my eyes up and I know I’ll be fine
Need to keep my name out there
Did the genealogy and they just dug

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
(Just roll em)

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
(Roll em good)

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth

Unknown-2

I’m going to get more fame than a little bit
Soon as I hit the pew, adoration I’m feeling it
Whether it’s wiki, cherry red facts, I’m picking it
But none of them roll em like I do

Should be comfy in this pew but it’s hard
When I don’t hear my name, I roll em real hard
I roll em real hard, real hard I roll em real hard

Don’t let them academics keep me from the truth
Roll my eyes up and I know I’ll be fine
Need to keep my name out there
Did the genealogy and they just dug

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
(Just roll em)

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
(Roll em good)

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth

Unknown-3

All my Brides, if you feel me
Come on. Do it, do it, roll your eyes
Don’t matter if the tv’s there
Do it, do it, roll your eyes

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
(Just roll em)

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
(Roll em good)

I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth
I roll my eyes back and forth

Unknown-1

Sources

The Gruntling Fruttocks, Never Mind the Fruit Bowl, Watch Out for the Jasperware!
Greville-Bbest, the Hon Mahogany Hummingbird
This (whatever it is)

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J E F Dingle-Bell once met a very nice gentleman at a Gruntling Fruttocks concert in Windemere. Quite mussed up her do, he did! Ah, happy days of innocence, strange smelling smoke and grinding guitar riffs…

Saint Richard? Miracles in Leicestershire!

Last weekend, Easter weekend, I went to visit my cousin Jess and her husband Jezz in Tamworth. Jess suggested that we drove to Shackerstone, about 20 miles away, to the Railway Museum and maybe to have a ride on the wonderfully restored steam railway.

My own inclination was to sit in a quiet country pub and drink copious quantities of Real Ale and  so we went to the Railway Museum.

Thank you Jess.

Shenton Station
Shenton Station

Despite my slight reluctance, it was a very interesting and enjoyable trip and after picking up our cars at Shackerstone, we parted as I had to drive to London. This is when I realised where I was! Just fifteen days before King Richard III had been taken along this very route on his final journey, a procession from Fenn Lane Farm to the wonderful cathedral in Leicester, where he was to be  interred.

Richard III route

In case you have not heard of this unusual event – it was not very well publicized and hardly any one knew about it –  Richard III, a Mediaeval King, died in battle in 1485, came briefly among us and shared his secrets, told us what he ate and the illnesses he suffered, suggested to us his hair colour and body weight and wowed the ladies both young and old, before his time on earth again was over and he was returned to the soil from whence he came (or quite close to it anyway).

Driving along this processional Richard III route I noticed something strange and a little magical. Everywhere I looked trees were bursting into leaf; chestnut, crab apple, beech …taking on a vibrant green mantle along their branches, clothing themselves in leaf.

Crab Apple BudHorse Chestnutbeech

 

 

 

 

The Willow, Salix caprea, was covered with furry looking Pussy Willows, desirable for flower arranging but a bane to hay fever sufferers when the pollen starts to blow, but oh! how spectacular on this bright day.

Pussy Willow

Baby rabbits were hopping in the fields

Jeff the rabbit
Jeff the baby rabbit, from the recent article in the Metro. The baby rabbits that Jeff the adult man saw were a lot, lot smaller than this, (or that is a normal sized baby rabbit and a very tiny child. )

and lambs frolicked with their mother

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2015-04-02 16.02.42

I really was enjoying all of the splendour of nature and felt what a pity it was that the hedgerows and fields had not been so abundant 15 days previously for the journey of the king. Even the flowers were showing their colours, shy violets peeping, primulas unfurling their primrose petals, jonquil escapees from gardens making little  sunshine patches in the green.2015-04-07 14.23.08 2015-04-07 14.26.19 2015-04-02 15.58.35

It was then that I began to wonder a strange and wondrous thought. Maybe Richard had not missed all of these miraculous happenings. Maybe he had caused them! Fifteen days before there had been no leafy buds, no lambs or baby rabbits, no flowers and now there were! What had changed?

HE had traversed this route.

Could Richard III be causing miracles to happen?

I stopped the car and tried to access Google. Of course I couldn’t. Richard may be able to make miracles happen in nature, but even he cannot get an internet connection in rural Leicestershire!

Later, safely in a hotel room, I found the Facebook pages I was after. Fans of the dead king were convinced that he should be canonised for his unerring goodness. Maybe they were right! Maybe this mere man, just a normal king, did have magical or miraculous powers.

He, Richard, was most certainly the instigator, the very cause of the splendiferous nature display I enjoyed and witnessed that day. I consulted Wikipedia on how to make this king into a Saint and consequently wrote (not emailed) to the Pope.  Although the Pope does not make someone a saint – the designation of sainthood only recognises what is already there – I hope that he will respond favourably and try and progress this.

Miracles happened all along this saintly man’s processional route. His sainthood cannot be denied.

I hope to go to his tomb in Leicester Cathedral next week. I need a miracle to cure this ingrowing toenail.

Miraculous baby duck on a Leicestershire pond

(Source material is unavailable.

Cotton material and a bit of velvet material is available.)

Photographs are from http://homepage.ntlworld.com/candj_simmons/SHENTONS.HTM

The Hinckley Times

Wikipedia

Author’s own collection

© Jeff “Jefferty” Jeff: 09.04.2015

Wagner stars in cult TV programme.

Hmmm…..this Jeff had a shock!

After writing the blog about the curse of Tristan, I sat myself down to change gear with a good dose of vintage television, deciding to watch an old episode of the 1960s cult TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  I missed the series at the time, mainly due to being a small and puking baby, more interested in gurgling and eating my fists than watching TV.

Robert Vaughn 2
Wagner in strange 20th century clothes
Richard wagner
Robert Vaughn in old fashioned 19th century clothes (or did I get these two captions muddled? Is this Richard Waughn or Robert Vagner? Even the names have a strange similarity.)

I began with The Vulcan Affair, the pilot episode. The plot was something like this: UNCLE agent Napoleon Solo is assigned to stop an assassination plot by the criminal organisation, THRUSH. The target is a delegation from the newly independent Western Natumba, a new African nation. The plot is under the direct control of a man called Andrew Vulcan, an American tycoon, secretly working for THRUSH. Solo recruits an old girl friend of Vulcan’s as part of his plan. Solo is played by esteemed American actor, Robert Vaughn… But this is where I had the shock! The man on the screen was not Robert Vaughn, it was Richard Wagner! I immediately checked the known facts. Wagner died on February 13, 1883 in Venice. Robert Vaughn was born on November 22, 1932 in New York.  There was forty nine years between the lives of these two men and yet, and yet! every picture I saw made the two look to be just one individual.

wagner 3
Is this Robert Vaughn or is this Richard Wagner?
Robert Vaughn
Richard Vaughn or Robert Wagner?

.

I had to read a lot about both men’s lives until I knew what had happened.  I has to read a lot of things I did not understand at all and I quote an example: ”For Wagner, as for Schopenhauer, life is not the end (the principle) of death. … liberation from life as nothing but eternal death is death as nothing but eternal life.”

I felt a headache coming on so I decided to get onto safer ground – I went to the pub for some Real Ale.

After I came home from the safer ground at the pub, (albeit rather wobbly as if the ground were indeed a little unsafe – that C.A.M.R.A ale is good stuff) I reached again for my Wagner treatises and at last began to make a certain sort of sense of the situation; Wagner’s dramas centre on acts of sacrifice that involve accepting death in an effort to achieve eternal love; Wagner believes that love can last for eternity if the lovers have died for love, so could Wagner have achieved the impossible in his quest for eternal love and instead found eternal life?

I had to conclude that indeed Wagner had achieved immortality, he was blessed or cursed with eternal life.

It is unknown whether this helped him with his enormous debts, still being paid by his descendants well into the twentieth century, and these debts certainly explain why he disappeared completely for that 49 years between 1883 and 1932. It is also unknown whether his creditors eventually twigged his new alias and came seeking Robert Vaughn in Hollywood. I hope not for Mr Vaughn’s sake!

Robert Vaughn is now 82 and still working and winning hearts. On February 25, 2015 Vaughn appeared in Law and Order SVU season 16 episode 16 “December Solstice” as a celebrity writer, Walter Biggs (and Mr Biggs himself may not be a made up character, but the eternally living Walter Biggs (1886–1968) American illustrator and fine art painter.) I shall investigate.

Richard Wagner is now dead. (Sorry!)

Source material:

Wikipedia (as always)

eBay http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/Music-Memorabilia-/2329/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=wagner

Farmville II

Solitaire

Candy Crush Saga

My diary

Jeff ”Jefferty” Jeff  is currently seeking part time gainful employment for two plus hours a week in order to fund an Eye Rolling course later in the year. In his spare time he is compiling a comprehensive study of C.A.M.R.A  Real Ales. He has perfected his Aubergine Guacamole recipe deeming it now the most evil thing he has ever had the misfortune to put in his mouth, but has recovered from the food poisoning resulting from the first batch

Jeff is sad to announce he no longer has a budgerigar.

© Jeff ”Jefferty” Jeff 2nd April 2015

The Curse of Tristan: A look at Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde.

Following the 17 3/4 years of hype and media coverage of the exhumation and eventual re interment of Richard III, many of you will be heaving sighs of relief but others may be having some withdrawal symptoms so I want to wean you off gradually by talking about another Richard, Richard Wagner.

Looking at the life and works of Richard Wagner, I was struck by the amount of death and malfeasance that surrounds the opera Tristan and Isolde. At that point I had not heard of the ‘curse of Tristan’ but I was not surprised to find much authentic documentation on a supposed malediction and eagerly set out to find the details.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director and conductor who is best remembered for his dramatic and lengthy operas. Throughout his seventy years of life, Wagner had a controversial lifestyle characterized by exile for his political beliefs and actions, frequent turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flights from his creditors. He was an unconventional man who did not hesitate to use subtle emotional blackmail on his main sponsor to get his own way and many more gulden!

Wagner began work on Tristan and Isolde in 1857 and almost immediately the curse began to have effect. In the entire history of the world until that point, the only disaster of any significance was the treacherous betrayal and slaying of the revered and saint like Richard III at Bosworth in 1485, yet as soon as Wagner had written the first notes in early March, France and the United Kingdom declared war on China, a war that would be known as the second opium war. On 21st March an Earthquake hit Tokyo, killing over 107,000 people and then on 21st May the Indian Mutiny began with the Sepoy’s revolt leading to the terrible Cawnpore massacre.

Wagner began to get worried and put the work on hold for a month or so whilst the world sorted it’s self out and the effects of the curse wore off. During this hiatus his eye strayed to Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of his patron, and began affair that eventually led to the estrangement of the Wagners and another ‘notch in the belt of the curse’.

The lovely Mathilde. It is understandable why Wagner's eye should stray to her!
The lovely Mathilde. It is understandable why Wagner’s eye should stray to her!

Wagner had no sooner resumed work than on September 23rd the Russian warship Leffort disappeared with a loss of 826 in a storm in the Gulf of Finland.

Wagner was so busy with his new lady love that he only worked intermittently on Tristan for the next nine months and the curse did not have a chance to take too much effect and only caused local damage: a cook with a cut finger, a cat getting trodden on by a donkey, a pantile falling off a roof and squashing a crow – everyday things that happen every day – but suddenly on June 29th 1858, the curse struck again with the great fire of London Docks, followed in July by a far, far worse happening.

On July 21st spectators were charged for the very first time to see a baseball game!

It seemed the end of the world as people knew it.

Eighteen fifty nine may have seemed like the end of the world for Wagner too as a small pension he received from one of his previous lady loves ceased when he began an affair with another lady. Wagner never learned! but he did manage to complete the ill fated ‘Tristan’ during that year, with it only causing the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii to erupt for 300 days and the “Pomona” to sink in the North Atlantic drowning all 400 aboard.

Wagner himself was not ‘Tristan’s’ biggest fan, writing half-satirically of it ‘… This Tristan is turning into something terrible. This final act!!!—I fear the opera will be banned … only mediocre performances can save me! Perfectly good ones will be bound to drive people mad.’ Little did he know how true his words would be.

It may well have been just coincidental that Wagner was writing Tristan and Isolde at the time his personal life was falling apart, but what followed makes it seem as if the opera was trying to prevent itself from ever being performed. Even after its completion it was still another six years before it could be performed with difficulties plaguing the composer with funding and finding musicians who were able to sustain the pace during this long and difficult work. Ludwig and Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld, two of the greatest dramatic voices of the time, were eventually given leave from their court positions to sing the lead roles; Wagner had also secured the services of the genius conductor Hans von Bülow (it is unknown whether this is because or despite Wagner having an affair with Bülow’s wife Cosima at the time!)

Cosima, H. W. Ernst, Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow (1865) in Pest. The real marriage wrecking 'pest', Wagner, was absent from the picture.
Cosima, H. W. Ernst, Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow (1865) in Pest. The real marriage wrecking ‘pest’, Wagner, was absent from the picture.

The premiere scheduled for May 15, 1865 was cancelled at the last minute when Malvina suddenly lost her voice. It took almost an entire month for her to recover and for everything to be ready for the premiere on June 10, 1865 at the Bavarian State Opera. The reception of the work was disastrous, but Wagner was determined to carry on. His refusal to withdraw the work led to horrifying “coincidence” that Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld, the original Tristan, suddenly died on July 21, 1865. He was only 29 and the true cause of his death has never been established.

The curse kept quiet for most of the rest of the year, except for causing a forest fire in Oregon destroying about one million acres of timber and two events personal to Wagner. He was exiled from Bavaria and his estranged wife died. He probably would not have minded too much about his wife dying except that meant there was no reason why his mistress, Cosimo Bülow could not move in with him, a move that rather cramped his style with the ladies.

Nothing too great was attributed to the curse for quite a number of years after that except for a huge fire in Quebec destroying 2,500 houses, but suddenly two things happened in 1883. Cosimo broke three finger nails and Wagner died.

The curse was not over yet though. Remember Wagner’s words about good performances driving people mad? Wagner’s erstwhile champion, devoted acolyte and sponsor, Ludwig II, King of Bavaria,

The mad king Ludwig II of Bavaria, getting ready to do a spectacular eye-roll.
The mad king Ludwig II of Bavaria, getting ready to do a spectacular eye-roll.

who had been exhibiting signs of insanity for years, went completely mad and allegedly committed suicide by not drowning and beating up his doctor (long story – I will investigate this further in a future blog).

The next king, Otto, was totally mad and never properly reigned – another victim of the curse.

Not content, still the curse worked its evil causing the Boer war, the death of Queen Victoria after only reigning for 63 years, 217 days and in 1911, causing Felix Mottl to suffer a heart attack, from which he later died, while conducting the second act of Tristan and Isolde.

The next events that the curse of Tristan influenced were both the first and second world wars, the Suez crisis, the Cold War and the assassination of JFK and then in 1968, in a strange mirroring of an earlier event, 60 year old conductor Joseph Keilberth also suffered a heart attack during Tristan and Isolde’s second act.

All of this could safely be dismissed as superstitious nonsense except for my own personal experience.  In November last year Mrs JJ listened to part of Tristan and Isolde on the radio and  flounced out of my life shortly afterwards, never to return and even worse, the very radio she was listening to, fell onto the floor and shattered two days later.

I miss that radio.

People may roll their eyes at this and begin to think that Jefferty has lost the plot, but I seriously  consider that as proof of the curse of Tristan so be afraid everyone, be very afraid.  2015 is the 150th anniversary of the first performance and countries all over the world are planning to stage the opera.

Stay in bed. Hide under the stair well. Emigrate to Antarctica. Wear garlic and carry a stake. Anything (as long as you can still get the internet to read Double History!) Just stay safe and avoid this evil curse.

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Sources:

Dr Don Ashtray Pill: How to master head shaking.

Dr Don Ashtray Pill: Eye roll tutorial for beginners.

Dr Don Ashtray Pill: Sartorial dressing for funerals and other fashion tips.

Dr D Snarkey: The Common Loon.

Jolly N Fellow: How to describe medical conditions in a way designed to upset everyone.

Philippa Langley: How to hide under an  elegant hat to avoid eye contact with neighbour.

Radio Repair Workshop for beginners.

Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff is currently staring sadly at the broken radio whilst accidently inhaling glue fumes and wondering why he is feeling floaty and spaced out.

Jeff has spent the past week searching for fifty quid that he was sure that he had until that day he helped Jeff Fuel.

If you would like to be the first to see the Jeffs’ latest blog posts, please like the Double History Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Double-History/370098793163839?fref=ts

© Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff 29.03.2015