Castro

Yesterday the death of Fidel Castro was announced, I felt it was important to acknowledge the passing of such an important figure of the twentieth century.

He was not so much a popular figure, in fact was seen as an enemy by many people, but his place in history is assured by his actions in Cuba in the sixties.

It was in 1959 that he overthrew the president of Cuba and brought in a communist state, similar to that of the Soviet Union at the time.  Many countries, especially the USA saw him as a dictator and an enemy.

It is said that the CIA and FBI attempted many times to kill him, but he managed to escape all attempts on his life.

He was very popular with people in his own country, however other countries viewed him, his death has been met with much mourning.  He managed to maintain his own single party state in Cuba, unlike most of his contemporaries.  In the USA alone, he survived TEN different presidents!

He was forced to hand over control of the country to his brother Raul Castro in 2006 due to suffering from a serious illness, he never recovered enough to take back power from his brother, who still holds the seat of power there.

A sad loss to revolutionaries everywhere I am sure, many of whom saw him as a figurehead for what ‘could’ be achieved with the backing of the people.

RIP.

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Freddie

It was my birthday a few days’ ago on the 24th.  It made me think of my 17th birthday, 25 years ago (yes that means you can work out my age !!).

My mother had always been a big fan of the pop group Queen.  The day before we had heard that the lead singer Freddie Mercury was suffering from Aids, on the tv news.  At that time, Aids was a death sentence and still quite a taboo subject.

The 24th brought the sad news that he had succumbed to the illness, that he had been fighting for years.

He left the world a wonderful legacy in his music, though other singers have stood at the front of the group since his death, noone has lived up to his performance level.

It is hard to believe it is 25 years since he died, it feels so recent, probably due to his music still being played on radio and tv.

There are so many classics, it is hard to choose a favourite.  Bohemian Rhapsody has a place in the history of music, of course, and will always be one of the biggest ever sellers, song wise.  We Are The Champions, along with it’s double A side, We Will Rock You, will also always stand up as instantly recognisable songs.  Though the two songs which mean the most to me are Friends Will Be Friends and Who Wants To Live Forever.

The first song came into my life at a time when I was finding school difficult and had few friends, it gave me hope that one day, that special friend who would stand by me no matter what, would come into my life and these difficult days would be past.

The second song was from one of my favourite films ever, Highlander (though I will never, for the life of me understand the casting of a Frenchman to play a Scot and a Scotsman to play a Spanish man!).  It also spoke to me when, a couple of years after it’s release, I had my first bereavement to deal with, as a teenager.  It helped me cry out my emotions and learn to cope with the pain of losing a loved one.

I have always loved listening to music, of many different genres.  I find solace in specific songs and almost see them as the companion to moments in my life.  So many Queen songs have been part of those moments and memories.

It was a terribly sad day when Freddie died, but his death did bring discussion about Aids and HIV to the fore.  His dying made people stop and think and take more care about their sexual health, and also made people talk about the taboo illness.  People started to learn that sufferers of Aids were not going to infect others by simply using the same towel or sitting in the same room.  Yes, silly beliefs like that were around in the early days and gay men were treated badly because of the Aids risk, and it being seen as a gay man’s problem, even as God’s revenge on them for their ‘sinful’ ways.  Thank goodness for people eventually seeing sense and listening to the truth, instead of the scare stories.

I kind of imagine that Freddie would still be as flamboyant in whatever afterlife he has been taken to, looking down on everyone still enjoying his music, glass of champagne in hand and enjoying himself.

In the words of Highlander, ‘There can be only one…….Freddie’.

A strange coincidence

The 23rd of November marked the death dates of two of the prominent York family, eight years apart.

The first, Margaret of Burgundy died in 1503, to the relief of her great enemy, Henry VII.

She was sister to King Richard III whom Henry Tudor had killed in order to take the English throne, she had aimed to be as big a pain in the ass to the Tudors from then on !!

When the attempted coup began in England with a young boy at the head, who claimed to be the Earl of Warwick, son of Margaret’s other brother George of Clarence, her opportunity to try and wreck revenge on Henry Tudor came.  She sent money to the rebels, encouraging them onwards in their travails.

Unfortunately, Tudor had the said Earl in imprisonment in the Tower of London, so brought him out to show to the nobles and disprove the young boy’s claims.  The boy was found to be a young man called Lambert Simnel, who had been chosen to head the coup as he bore a slight similarity to the late Duke.

As both Clarence and his brother Edward IV were well known for their whoring, there is a slim chance that this boy was a son of one of them, but a baseborn one.

Tudor was fair on the boy, who had been pushed into performing the role, and gave him a job in the royal kitchens.  Maybe he also suspected a royal bastard and preferred to keep him close, rather than loose in the country!

So Margaret had been beaten this time, she must have been seething.  It was not too long before another opportunity came along, in the shape of a boy who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, the younger of the famous ‘princes in the tower’.

There is debate over whether he could have been the true prince.  The only surviving drawing of him does bear a striking similarity to Edward IV, and the Scottish King believed in him enough to allow a wedding between him and James’ niece.

Margaret declared this was truly her nephew and sent messages to the nobles and monarchs on the continent and in Ireland, where she gained much support for him.  He travelled to Ireland and was crowned as Richard IV, though support in England was still weak at this time.

This claimant to the crown obviously worried Tudor more, as we are told that noone knew what had actually happened to the two boys of Edward IV.  That is a story for another time !!

Eventually the boy came to England and was beaten by Tudor and his supporters.  I do feel it worth saying though, that Tudor would not allow his wife to meet with the boy.  Surely as his sister, she could have disproved his claim immediately upon meeting him.  Or did Tudor think this truly was his brother in law??

The boy was claimed to be a french born person called Perkin Warbeck, who was later executed by Tudor on what some think are trumped up claims, along with the Earl of Warwick, who had spent most of his life imprisoned in the Tower.

Her other life, as the Duchess of Burgundy was equally as interesting.  She was married to Charles of Burgundy, essentially for the good of her brother Edward, but unfotunately he died before they had any children.  There was a daughter from his first marriage, Mary, who became his heir and Margaret as the Duchess became her guardian.

They are said to have been very close, and Margaret helped her step daughter to make a good marriage.  She is said to have been an intelligent woman and a capable guardian and Duchess.

She died in 1503.

Eight years later, her niece Anne would follow her to the grave on the same day.

She had a much less exciting life than her aunt.

Born as the fifth daughter of King Edward IV, she was always destined to be married off to some Duke or Earl that would benefit the crown.

Her marriage was agreed during the reign of Edward’s brother Richard III, but did not actually happen until his sucessor had taken the throne.  The Howards were a prominent family in the realm, and she was married to one Thomas Howard who would later become Earl of Surrey and Duke of Norfolk.

There were two known issue from the marriage, a Thomas Howard and a stillborn child, with the possibility of more unrecorded pregnancies.  Unfortunately this young Thomas Howard did not outlive his parents.

She died at the tender age of only 36, possibly from pregnancy complications.  Before her death, she served her sister Elizabeth of York as Lady in waiting when she became Queen to Henry Tudor.  She is also known to have taken part in the christenings of both Prince Arthur and Princess Margaret.

It is merely a coincidence that these two women of the York family both died on 23rd November, though some members of the family may have thought of it as a cruel twist of fate, especially after all of the losses that this family faced in their time in the spotlight.

There is no record of how close this aunt and niece were in their lifetimes, but I always like to think that when a person dies, a member of their family welcome them to whatever afterlife there is.  I wonder if Margaret welcomed her niece?

Life

Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets,

So love the people who treat you right,

Forget about the ones who don’t.

Believe everything happens for a reason.

If you get a chance, take it.

If it changes your life, let it.

Nobody says that it will be easy,

They just promise that it will be worth it.

Happy Anniversary

It’s 69 years ago today since Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip of Greece married in Westminster Abbey in London.

It was 1947, just after the end of World War II.  The country was still mired deep in rationing.  It was said that a royal wedding would be an unfair use of taxpayer’s money at such a time.  This was at a height for the royal family’s popularity though and the public gave their own opinion of this, when in an unprecendented move, many women gathered their ration coupons together and sent them to the young Princess, so that she could have extra material and lace for her wedding gown.

Their marriage has been seemingly very strong throughout the time they have been together.  There have been rumours of the occasional arguments, but hey, which couple can stand up and say they have never disagreed on anything or argued about anything?  Especially over such a long time as 69 years!!

Sometimes, disagreements are necessary for a relationship to progress.  You have to find out what makes your other half tick, and that will inevitably lead to some arguments over the right way to do some things, but as long as you understand that fact and are strong enough to cope with differing opinions, then your relationship will survive.  Which theirs seems to have done.

I see the marriage of the Queen and Prince Phillip as an ideal for people to work to.  They have spent a lifetime together as man and wife, working through many problems and ups and downs, they still look incredibly in love when you see them together now.

I truly hope that my husband and I are still as happy when we reach our nineties !!

So in admiration of such a long partnership, I say happy wedding anniversary to HM Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.

War

There was an article on the television news tonight about today being the hundred year anniversary of the last day of the Somme, in WW1.

So many people died in that hell hole.  One single battle that lasted 161 days and gained practically no territory.

War is such a waste.  Of lives, of time, of money.

What does it achieve, to go to another country and kill a bunch of other people?

As human beings, we should be able to sit down and work out our problems in a more sensible way.  Don’t we all teach our children that violence is not the answer to anything?  I know that is how I bring my own children up.  Yet on the news, they see the people in charge of our countries fighting and killing others, just to get their own way.

I am a pacifist, as you can probably guess.  I hate war, I hate weapons of war.

I do respect the people who died in the great war.  They went to war without as much information as we have today.  They only had the government’s propaganda to listen to and they believed that there was no other way than to go to war.  They fought for their King and country, and deserve to be remembered as brave men.

If it were to come to the same thing again, I wonder how many in modern society would be willing to volunteer to go to an almost certain death to defend their country?

Equally I hope we never get to that stage again.  Mostly because WW3 will be very short.  Some idiot with their finger on a red button will press it and set off a nuclear weapon and as a result, everyone in the world will die.  Well everyone except the select few who have access to bunkers!!

We should remember the thousands who died at the Battle of the Somme.  We should remember how little was achieved by their deaths and learn from that.  Learn how wasteful war is and how we should avoid it ever happening again.  Unfortunately, I doubt that the people who need to learn that, will do.

And that truly saddens me.  I do not want my children growing up seeing war in the world around us, I want them to learn that violence of any description, is wrong.  Most of all, I want them to live, not to be destroyed in some stupid arguments between ‘governments’.

In remembrance of today and the sacrifice of all those men at the Somme, the best thing that this world could do would be to agree to a world peace.  I know it will not happen, but I can live in hope, can’t I????

john baliol

Today in 1292, John Baliol was pronounced King of Scotland by the English King Edward I.

There were contenders for the crown with a stronger blood link to the throne, but Baliol was chosen as he had promised to swear fealty to Edward I as overlord of Scotland.  This was not popular with many of the Scottish nobles.  Hence his reign as Scottish King was always going to be a short one !

The argument over who should inherit the Scottish throne had come about with the death of Alexander III in 1286.  Alexander and his wife Margaret (a daughter of the English King), had three children, a girl and two boys.  His daughter, Margaret, was sent to Norway and married into their royal family.  Unfortunately all three of his children predeceased Alexander, one son dying as a child and his heir, also called Alexander, at the age of 20, Margaret dying shortly after giving birth to her only child, a daughter, also named Margaret.

As his wife had also died by this time, there was no prospect of another heir and the only obvious heir that remained was the young granddaughter, Margaret of Norway. Upon the death of Alexander III, she was duly named as Queen Regnant of Scotland.

It was expected that she would marry the son of England’s Edward I, also called Edward.  She was sent to Scotland to take up her place as Queen in 1290, but she did not make it to her new country.  At that time the Orkney Islands were owned by Norway, she made it to one of the southern islands (traditionally thought to be South Ronaldsay, at a place named St Margarets’s Hope in her honour, though this is not definitely where she went) and unfortunately died there shortly after arriving.  It is said that she died of the effects of sea sickness caused by the long journey.

Therefore a lack of an obvious heir, created a void and two clear contenders for the crown of Scotland came to the fore.  John Baliol was one, Robert Bruce (grandfather of THE Robert Bruce) Lord of Annandale was the other, whose claim was actually one generation closer to the throne, but who was seen as being more difficult to control by Edward I.

Baliol was also born outside of Scotland, which made him even more unpopular.  His father was Lord of Barnard Castle, among other titles, and it is likely that he was born there.  His claim to the Scottish throne came through his mother.

Edward became increasingly bossy over Baliol over the next three years, leading to a new Parliament being created in 1295 and an alliance with France being sought in order to help Scotland against the English.

Edward took offence and invaded Scotland.  After being defeated at Dunbar, Baliol was forced to abdicate and sent to the Tower of London as a prisoner.  He was later released from there and exiled to France, where he lived until his death.

The Scottish throne remained empty for almost ten years until Robert the Bruce, grandson of the above Bruce, was acclaimed King in 1306, following many years of fighting between the English and Scottish forces.

Baliol is often thought of as a puppet king.  He was elected by and under fealty to the English King, who simply wanted to conquer the Scots land and add it to his own realm.  Maybe he saw an opportunity to advance himself and went into it without realising what Edward was asking in return?  Being naive is not an excuse for selling out his country, but it could explain why it took him so long to turn on the English King and rebel.

It was a sad time for Scotland, losing control to the English in such a way.  Had longshanks lived longer, or his son been a stronger man, it is possible that Bruce would not have been able to rescue the country and give it back it’s independence.

In the end, it was the Scottish King who took over the English throne when the Stewarts were invited to accede on the death of Elizabeth I.

Though Scotland still fights for it’s independence now, in a different way, hundreds of years later.  Are lessons ever truly learned from history??