A first….

On Friday, I was asked to do something for the first time in my life and it was quite inspiring.

I was asked to sign one of my books for someone.

It gave me the inspiration to push forward and complete the work that is needed on book number 2.  Release date may have been pushed back to May (which I admit did depress me a little that it was not ready for March as planned) but I am determined that it will be done now.

I did falter on the signing, it’s difficult to remember to sign your author name and not your real name!!  And how to work out what to write in there????

Hopefully it won’t be the last book I ever sign…………

George Blackburn

Last night I was relaxing with a little genealogy, working on our family tree.

I discovered a third cousin on my mother’s side who died on 7th May 1915.  Due to that being during WW1, I presumed that he had died on the fields of Flanders, as I have found with a few other relatives in history.

So bringing up his death certificate, I was taken by surprise to see that he had died at sea, off the coast of Ireland, on a boat called the Lusitania.

This name vaguely rang a bell so I decided to look for more information.

As it was a Cunard liner, I figured there would be passenger and crew lists, which I found after a short search.  And lo and behold, there he was in the 3rd class listings, Mr George Blackburn.

From the listing I could find out that he was a British Citizen, though a resident of Canada at the time of the sinking.  I also discovered that his body was one of the recovered ones. At least the family had some closure and a body to bury.  No other people named Blackburn are on the list, so I can presume that he was not travelling with a wife or children.

I did not know much about the sinking of the Lusitania and, to be honest, my interest was piqued by the knowledge that a relative had died on it.

So an hour or so of further research ensued!!

I read of the declaration of a war zone around the British Isles by the German government.  I read of the cruiser rules which were agreed at the time, allowing passenger vessels to pass safely.

Reading on, I read of the German U-boat that had torpedoed the Lusitania on that fateful day.  Also of the unexplained explosion that shortly followed the torpedo, which brought the ship to the seabed with 1,198 of her passengers and crew.

Germany claimed that the ship carried weapons and munitions from America to Britain, which was denied at the time.

Over 100 of the passengers who died were Americans, which eventually led to America joining the war against Germany.

Many years later, the British government admitted that there were amounts of shells in the cargo on the ship, possibly what caused the secondary explosion.

There is a conspiracy theory that the British government used the Lusitania to try and attract an attack from the Germans and force the Americans into the war.  Who knows what governments plan for the little people of their countries!!!!

It has even been said that the wreck of the ship has since been bombed by the Royal Navy, to hide whatever might be found on the seabed.

So finding out about a family tragedy in the family tree research led to me discovering something new from quite recent history.  Learn something new every day, that’s what my dad always said !!!!

Assassination !!

Either late on the evening of the 20th February or in the early hours of the 21st February, the King and Queen of Scotland were ambushed in their lodgings in Perth.

The Queen would escape death, but her and her ladies were injured in the attack.

The King was not so lucky.

They had heard loud noises from the corridor outside their chambers, which had given some warning to attempt escape.

The King is said to have looked for a way out and eventually hidden in a drain leading from their room.  The Queen and her ladies had tried to block the door and keep the attackers at bay while he hid.

The men who had the King in their sights broke through the door, alledgedly breaking one of the ladies’ arms in the process.  The ladies protected their Queen, and the men were not seriously seeking her death, so she was able to escape the room with minor injuries.

The King could not be found initially, though the drain that he had hidden in became his downfall.  A few days earlier, he had had the particular drain blocked up because he kept losing his tennis balls into the said drain, so his escape route was cut off.

It took a short while, but the group of murderers remembered about the drain and sought out the King.  It is said that the assailants numbered more than twenty, James did not stand a chance in reality.

He was stabbed at least fifteen times before succumbing to the attackers.

The Queen, meanwhile had raised the alarm and the people of Perth had rushed to the monastery to help their monarchs.  The gang of killers fled.

After making sure that her children, especially her son, who was now James II, were safe, she gathered men to find the attackers.  They were rounded up quite quickly and all were executed in Edinburgh.

She ensured that her son was soon taken to Edinburgh too and crowned at Holyrood Abbey, a little over a month later.

It is unsure where the dead King was buried, though it is thought that an abbey in Perth is most likely.  Rumour has it that his heart was taken to the  Holy Land on crusade around 1442 by a Knight Templar, and returned to Scotland the following year.

Bbc news today ran a story about James I (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39044453) saying that there is going to be a search for his body in Perth, in order to make a visitor attraction, a la Leicester !!

coronation day

The 20th february 1547 was a day of celebration in London.

Their new King, Edward VI, was to be crowned in Westminster Abbey.

He was only 9 years old and must have looked tiny against all the adults in his parade.  You could also ask just how much of the ceremony he truly understood.  He had been raised as a future king, but he had not been expected to take the throne at such a young age.  His father’s death in January of 1547 pushed him forward into the role.

He did have a council to help him in the running of the country, though Edward Seymour had been placed at the head of this council, and he was not as popular as he thought he was!

But this day was about him alone.

He travelled to the Abbey under his cloth of estate with noblemen all around him.  The service of coronation is said to have been shortened because of his young age, from 12 hours to just 7 !!

After being helped onto the throne in the Abbey, he sat while Archbishop Cranmer officiated.  It is said that his sister Mary thought he would tire during the service but was surprised by how attentive her young brother was.

One can wonder if she ever envisioned at that time that she would be the next person to sit on that throne in the Abbey (Jane Grey was not crowned in the Abbey).

Once he had been crowned, the procession made it’s way back to Westminster for the coronation banquet.

It is reported that the following two days were also set aside in celebrations, with jousting and much entertainment.  What a 9 year old must have made of all that in his honour !!

He was the first King to have been brought up in the reformer religion, his father having split with the Catholic Church many years previously.  When he became King, he became Defender of the Faith.  A big title for such a young boy.

I wonder exactly how much the pressure of coming to the throne so young affected him?  Did it contribute to his early death?

In history child Kings always seem to have troublesome times on the throne (think of Henry VI) and often shortened reigns (think Richard II, Edward V).  Maybe coming to the throne young was more of a misfortune than a blessing.  Sure they would have everything they wanted, but they often paid a heavy price for it.

George of Clarence

The 18th February is generally taken as the date that George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, was executed in the Tower of London.

It was done on the orders of his brother Edward IV, and was said to be done by drowning him in a butt of malmsey wine.

His crime was treason.  A wide ranging title for crimes in medieval times.

He is said to have gone a little crazy after the death of his wife Isabel.  Maybe he needed help and support rather than execution!  He was stupid to have blamed Isabel’s lady for her poisoning and thene execute her without Edward’s permission, but this could maybe have been looked on as the actions of a grief stricken man?

There is another theory about why Edward had him locked up and silenced.  Around the same time as George was imprisoned, the Bishop of Bath and Wells was also locked in the Tower.  This man was called Bishop Stillington, a name which is familiar to anyone who knows the story of this time.

This bishop would become famous years later when he took the information about Edward IV’s previous marriage to Richard Duke of Gloucester, information which would later cause the Parliament to declare Edward’s sons illegitimate and offer the crown to Richard.

The theory is that this Bishop took the same information to Clarence first.  In his grief stricken state, George made a spur of the moment decision and went to hisbrother to confront him about this situation.  Of course, his previous marriage to Eleanor Talbot made his boys bastards and made George the true heir of the crown.

Edward must have been spooked to know that his trusted priest, who had carried out his secret marriages in the past (some think up to four of them), had been talking about them.  It created problems in the succession.  His brother was a loose cannon and Edward could not be sure to control him and keep him quiet about this, especially as it offered the chance of the crown for George.  Putting him away in the Tower was his best option.

Perhaps George refused to stay silent on the secret.  It went in his favour if Edward’s boys were bastards, after all.  Perhaps the Bishop was easier to silence.  He would be released after a few months in the dungeons.  George though, was a bigger problem.  Edward had to silence him permanently to keep his sons safe.

So the attainder and vague charge of treason was placed upon him and his death was decided.  Maybe Edward thought the threat of execution would be enough and that his brother would kowtow afterwards, but he did not.  George may have thought that Edward would never go through with the killing, after all, George had done far more treasonous things in the past and always been forgiven, why should he think this time would be any different??

The 18th of February came and George was taken to the Bowyer Tower.  Did he struggle?  Did he accept his brother’s sentence?  Did Edward watch his brother die?  Did he regret killing his own kin?  Was he really drowned in a vat of wine?  Answers we will never know.

Instead of burying George in the Tower’s chapel as was the norm with traitors, George was buried in the vault at Tewkesbury Abbey where his wife Isabel and young son had been buried very recently.

Clarence left behind a young son and daughter.  His son was granted the title of Earl of Warwick, his daughter would later be granted the title of Countess of Salisbury.  Both would be executed by Tudor Kings in years to come, one by Henry VII and one by Henry VIII.

His young son, Edward, would be imprisoned in the Tower also, by Henry VII.  He spent most of his life there, until he was joined by a rebel called Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be one of Edward IV’s sons.  They would both allegedly attempt to escape the Tower and be executed for it soon after.

Clarence’s daughter Margaret, was married to a Tudor knight, Richard Pole, who was in the service of Henry VII.  This could only have been to control her and her bloodline.

The marriage was not an unhappy one and they had five children together.  Henry, Arthur, Reginald, Geoffrey and Ursula.

All execpt Reginald of these children produced children of their own, so that bloodline was not as controlled as he may have liked.

Modern times show many descendents from Margaret, including myself (through one of the 14 children that Ursula produced!), probably into the thousands !!!!

Margaret would later fall foul of Henry VIII, when he began worrying about others with strong blood claims to the throne, and she was executed at the age of 68.  Her son Henry and one of his sons are said to have been executed at the same time.

She was later made into a martyr in 1886.

My family history through Margaret makes Clarence my distant grandfather, so RIP to my 17th x great granddaddy !!!!

st albans

Following on from my post about the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, earlier in february, the battle lines moved to St Albans, just outside of London on this day in 1461.

The battle was mostly led by the Earl of Warwick (often known as the Kingmaker), as Edward of York had been delayed fighting Owen Tudor at Mortimer’s Cross, and defeating him, of course.

The Lancastrian army, led by Margaret of Anjou, had been victorious at Wakefield quite recently.  The disposessed Queen had ordered the deaths of the Duke of York and his son, Edmund after Wakefield, which made Edward of York, the Yorkist heir.

Warwick ranged his army as he often did, not knowing that Margaret had been warned about his actions.  She brought her armies around to catch his from behind and managed to overcome the Yorkists after an almost full day of fighting in the town.

The Yorkists retreated in such a hurry that King Henry VI, who had been their prisoner was left behind.  Two men stayed with him, to make sure no harm came to him, on the promise form the King that they would not be harmed.  Unfortunately his wife did not keep that promise and had them beheaded the following day.

Margaret could have forced their way into London from here to replace her husband on the throne, but she didn’t.  Her armies were mostly mercenaries, who raped and plundered their way through the battles.  The Londoners had heard of this and barred the city walls against the Lancastrians.

Instead, they welcomed Edward of York into the city a few weeks later, where he was almost immediately crowned as King.

Guess the Londoners knew which side their bread was buttered on!

the Hills

On the 15th february 1929, a young boy was born.  His parents named him Norman Graham Hill.

This boy would grow into one of Britain’s best ever racing drivers, and give the world another great racing driver in the shape of his son Damon.

He made his debut in the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix for the Lotus team.  He moved to BRM in 1960, with whom he won his first World Championship in 1962.

His next major achivement was winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1966.

He went back to Lotus in 1967 and won his second championship with them in 1968.  A serious accident the following year put him out of action for a while when he broke both legs.

He recovered but did not find the victories in the changing world of F1 to be as easy to come by anymore.  Switching his attention to the Le Mans 24 hour race, he took the victory in 1972.

This made him the only person ever to take the triple crown of motorsport – F1 world championship, Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 – a feat which is yet to be matched.

Only three years later, Hill would die at the control of an airplane, bringing himself and six teammates back from practice in France.  The plane crashed onto a golf course in dense fog, with no survivors.

He left behind a son Damon (and two daughters), who would himself show an aptitude to motor racing in the 80’s and 90’s.  When Damon won the F1 World Championship in 1996, the Hills became the first father/son to both win the Championship.

As a fan, I still think Williams were stupid to let Damon Hill go, the year after he won the championship!!  But they had done the same with Nigel Mansell four years earlier in 1992, dropping him as their driver the year he won the Championship.

The new F1 series starts in a few weeks, which I cannot wait for.  I have been an F1 fan for as many years as I can remember.  Sitting with my dad when I was a teen, shouting at the tv and cheering on our favourite racers.

We went to see a practice day at Silverstone one year.  Lewis Hamilton was there, it was the year before he drove in F1 so it would be 2006 I think.  Hamilton crashed his car three times that day, we watched on a big screen as each car was brought back to the pits on a trailer.  We joked that he would either be the worst driver ever, or the one who took the most risks to become the best!!

I hope this new season gives us a little more variety than the last few have.  It will be good to see some different drivers fighting for the points, though I wish Lewis Hamilton the best, he is the British driver after all.  My money is probably on him winning again, in truth.

Most of all I look forward to watching David Coulthard as he commentates in that sexy Scottish drawl and watch him walk the grid in those tight white jeans………