Saturday, April 30, 2011

The previous Duke of Cambridge

Prince George, the second Duke of Cambridge (1855, by Roger Fenton)

The Queen has made Prince William and Kate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Dukedom of Cambridge was created in 1801 but became extinct on the death of the 2nd Duke of Cambridge in 1904.

The last holder of the title, Prince George, was born in 1819. He was the son of Prince Adolphus, the 1st Duke of Cambridge and the 7th son of King George III. He served in the Crimean War, in the capacity of lieutenant-general he was present at the battles of the Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman, and at the siege of Sevastopol. From 1856 until 1895 he was the commander-in-chief of the British Army.

Louisa Fairbrother ('Mrs FitzGeorge') as Columbine by Richard James Lane (published December 1839)

He refused to have an arranged marriage and declared such unions were "doomed to failure". In 1847 he had an unrecognised marriage to actress Sarah Louisa Fairbrother,  the daughter of a servant. At the time she was already the mother of two of his children and pregnant with his third. Miss Fairbrother was never given the title the Duchess of Cambridge, instead she became known by the nickname Mrs FitzGeorge. Since their children were illegitimate the title Duke of Cambridge became extinct upon Prince George’s death in 1904.

His niece Princess Mary of Teck, daughter of his sister Mary Adelaide, married the heir to the thrown George in 1893, after having being engaged to his older brother Albert Victor.

next episode: Daraa

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A bust at a wedding picture

Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra pose with Queen Victoria after their wedding (Getty Images / Hulton Archive, 1863).

The heir to the thrown Prince Edward married the Danish Princess Alexandra ('Alix') on March 10, 1863. Notice that the mother of the groom, Queen Victoria (sitting) is staring at a bust of her late husband Prince Albert (deceased in December 1861).

Bust of Prince Albert (1819-1861)

The bust of Prince Albert surrounded by his daughters (Alice, Helena, Beatrice, Vicky, Louise)

next episode: mid 19th century man & wive

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Isle of Anglesey, home of Kate & William

Map of the Island. The Air Fore Base is located north of Rhosneigr (left of the middle at the map), Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll is located where the A55 enters the island (left of Menai Bridge).

Prince William and Kate Middleton live on the island of Anglesey (Ynys Môn in Welsh). It is situated off the northwest coast of Wales near the Snowdonia mountain range. It is separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait, which is spanned by two picturesque bridges. William rents a cottage on the southwest side of Anglesey near the Royal Air Force base, where he works as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.

Area: 714 km² (276 sq mi)
Population: 69.000

The Isle of Anglesey (northwestern Wales)

In the 1860s, in a (succesful) attempt to attract tourists, one of its villages, 'Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll' was renamed 'Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch', still the longest place name in Europe. 

Llanfair                 =        St Mary’s Church
pwll                      =        in the hollow
gwyngyll               =        of the white hazel
goger                    =        near
y chwyrndrobwll    =       the rapid whirlpool
llantysilio               =        and the church of St Tysilio
g ogo goch            =        by the red cave

The longest place name in the World is the official name of Bangkok ('Krung-dēvamahānagara amararatanakosindra mahindrāyudhyā mahātilakabhava navaratanarājadhānī purīramya uttamarājanivēsana mahāsthāna amaravimāna avatārasthitya shakrasdattiya vishnukarmaprasiddhi' meaning ‘The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarma’).

The longest Dutch place name is Gasselterboerveenschemond, a hamlet in the northern province of Drenthe. The longest US place name may be Lake Chargoggaggoggmancogmanhoggagogg in Massachusetts, althoug the alternative names of Santa Fe (La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis) and LA (El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula) also impress.

next episode: very strange royal wedding photograph

Monday, April 25, 2011

Constance Worth

The actress Constance Worth acted most at the theater but between 1919 and 1922 she also took part in some British silent movies.

next episode: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Saturday, April 23, 2011

passed on financees: princess Mary of Teck

Princess Mary of Teck shortly before her marriage in 1893

On December 3rd, 1891 Albert Victor, the heir to the British throne, proposed to Mary of Teck. The wedding was set for February 27th, 1892. But he fell ill with influenza in the great pandemic of 1889–92 and died on January 14th, 1892.

The family of the Prince of Wales in 1889. From left to right: Albert Victor, Maud, Alexandra, Edward, Louise, George and Victoria of Wales.

The following year she became engaged to Albert Victor's brother, the new heir, the future king George V! In 1893 they married and she became queen in 1911.

The wedding at Buckingham Palace in 1893. From left to right, back: Alexandra, Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, Victoria of Edinburgh, George, Victoria of Wales and Maud. Front: Alice, Beatrice, Margaret, Mary, Victoria of Battenberg, Victoria Patricia of Connaught. 
Another royal passed on fiancee: Princess Dagmar of Denmark.

next episode: an actress' autograph

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Capital: Mamoudzou
Official Language: French
Area: 374 km2 (144 sq mi)
Population: 194.000
Currency: Euro

France bought the Comoro archipelago from the king of Madagascar in 1841. In 1975 the other islands choose to become independent. But Mayotte wanted to be part of France, and since March 31, 2011 they are indeed fully incorporated as the 101st department of France. So the European Union has become a tiny bit larger!

next episode: a passed on royal fiancée 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Victoria & Albert after a Drawing Room

The Queen and Prince Albert, Buckingham Palace. Photo by Roger Fenton, 11 May 1854.

In preparation of the British Royal Wedding we interupt our program to present a photo of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert  wearing court dress, having just attended a Drawing Room, a formal ceremony at St James’s Palace in which people were presented to the Queen. This image, one of a set of at least six, is the first photograph of the Queen as a reigning monarch rather than as wife or mother.

Drawing Room of Queen Victoria, a Ceremony of Presentation. Drawn by J. Gilbert, 1841.

next episode: the European Union expanding far far away

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Angel with a mobile phone

The Roman Catholic St. John's Cathedral is located in the center of the city of ‘s Hertogenbosch (abbreviated: Den Bosch) in the south of the Netherlands. The medieval cathedral is richly decorated by dozens of small and large statues on the roof and the buttresses. In the 19th century the cathedral had fallen in a state of decay. Luckily money was found and several restorations were carried out, the most recent one started in 1998.  

St. John's Cathedral

During this last restoration missing statues have been replaced by newly made figures. Therefore Amersfortian Ton Mooy sculpted 25 new angels in his atelier in Amersfoort. Interestingly enough he also decided to create one modern angel. Although the cathedral's fathers rejected an angel with jet engines on the angel's back, they finally approved of an angel in jeans with a mobile phone. 

Angel with cell phone
"The phone has just one button”, says the artist, “It dials directly to God" (photo by Ton Mooy)

(BTW The angel is not the only modern reference; in a large stained-glass window representing hell an illustration of 9-11 is shown)

4-2012 update: here's an NYT article about the angel, who receives a lot of phone calls!

next episode: blurry painting

Friday, April 15, 2011

Alfred Stevens - The Duchess

The Blue Dress by Alfred Stevens
 'The Duchess' (or 'The Blue Dress') by Alfred Stevens, 1865-1867.
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institue, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

The opening of Japan to the West in 1853 after years of nearly complete isolation, created the cultural phenomenon referred to as 'Japonisme'. it describes the European fascination with Japanese objects and culture that previous to this had only been available for two hundred years to a few Dutch trading ships.

Alfred Stevens (1823-1906) was one of the first painters to become interested in the Asian artifacts and arts that began to be imported into Paris in the early 1860s.

'The Duchess' shows an expensively dressed married woman of high society who has just returned home; she is still wearing one glove. An opened letter rests on her knees while she looks at a dim portrait (her younger self? a lost relative?). From under her dress one tiny foot is visible. The receiving of letters theme is reminiscent of the work of Vermeer.

next episode: a modern angel  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Captain Burnaby

Captain Edwyn Sherard Burnaby (1830-1883) of the Grenadier Guards in the Crimean War. Photo by Roger Fenton, 1855. He was a Conservative Party Member of Parlement (MP) from 1880 until his death.

next episode: topical Italian (not Berlusconi)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Barbara Stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990), famous film and tv actress. She was born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn, New York. My surname is also Stevens, so maybe she is a distant relative...

next episode: a captain

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Emirate of Cyrenaica

The Tripolitanian Republic and the Emirate of Cyrenaica (Cirenaica)

Before colonel Gaddafi seized power in 1969 Libya was a federation consisting of three parts: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. The cities of Tripoli and Benghazi served alternately as the national capital (Fezzan being a dessert, tribal area, didn't provide a capital).

Flag of the Emirate of Cyrenaica

Cyrenaica, the region around Benghazi, was originally colonized by the Greeks. It is named after the ancient city of Cyrene, 
one of the greatest intellectual and artistic centers of the Greek world, famous for its medical school, learned academies, and architecture.

Stamp of Cyrenaica

From 1879 on Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were two separate Ottoman provinces (vilayets). In 1911 the Italians invaded, and a colonial war developed during which from 1920 until 1929 Cyrenaica was a semi-independent emirate led by sheikh Idris. When the Italians had finally won they (i.e. Mussolini) combined Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan into the Italian colony of Libya in 1934. From 1942 until 1949 Cyrenaica was occupied and administered by the English.

Emirate of Cyrenaica (southern border extends to Chad and Sudan)

From March 1949 until December 1951 the Emirate of Cyrenaica was an independent state led by Emir Idris. Its independence was recognized by the UK.

The parliament of the Emirate of Cyrenaica in Benghazi (with some WOII damage)

The palace of the Emir in Benghazi

In 1951, forced by the UN, the kingdom of Libya was formed out of the three parts, led by (now) king Idris.

What we see happening today sometimes seems more like a war between the two main components of Libya, each with their own distinct history, instead of a rebellion against a dictator.

next episode: a beautiful actress

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Republic of Tripolitania

Before colonel Gadaffi seized power in 1969 Libya was a federation consisting of three parts: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. The cities of Tripoli and Benghazi served alternately as the national capital.

Map of Tripolitania

Tripolitania, the region around Tripoli, was originally colonized by the Phoenicians and was under the influence of the Carthagians and Romans in antiquity. In the 20th century it was the first Arab Republic to declare independence under the name Tripolitanian Republic (1918-1923) (in Arab: Al-Jumhuriya al-Trabulsiya).

Flag of the Tripolitanian Republic

Later Italians seized power and administrated it as a separate colony.

Stamp of the colony of Tripolitania

On 1 January 1934, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan were united as the Italian colony of Libya.

next episode: Cyrenaica

Saturday, April 2, 2011

US Bombardment of Tripoli (1804)

The bombardment of Tripoli by Commodore Preble's squadron, August 3rd 1804 (oil painting by Michele Corne)

The first United States military action overseas was the attack on Tripoli under overall command of Commodore Edward Preble.  The goal was to put an end to the piracy in that area.

First a blockade was set up, and a campaign of raids and attacks against hostile fleets. But in October 1803 Tripoli's fleet was able to capture the USS Philadelphia after the frigate ran aground while patrolling Tripoli harbour.
Map depicting the Battle of Tripoli Harbor during the First Barbary War

On the night of February 16, 1804, marines led by lieutenant Stephen Decatur was able to sail to the Philadelphia in a captured Tripolitan vessel renamed USS IntrepidDecatur's men stormed the vessel, overpowered the guards, and set fire to Philadelphia, denying her use to the enemy. 

Commodore Edward Preble

In July 1804 Preble attacked Tripoli outright in a series of inconclusive battles, including a courageous but unsuccessful attack by the fire ship USS Intrepid under Captain Richard Somers. The Intrepid, packed with explosives, was to enter Tripoli harbour and destroy itself and the enemy fleet. Unfortunately it was destroyed before achieving that goal, killing Somers and his crew.

Destruction of the Intrepid

The turning point in the war came when ground troops were deployed (April–May 1805). A mixed force of US marines and Greek, Arab, and Berber mercenaries marched across the desert from Alexandria, Egypt to assault and to capture the Tripolitan city of Derna. This was the first time in history that the United States flag was raised in victory on foreign soil.

next episode: Tripolitania


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