Category Archives: Person of Interest

Elizabeth in the Tower of London

HolbeinThomasWyattAfter the Wyatt Rebellion in 1554, Princess Elizabeth Tudor was imprisoned in The Bell Tower at The Tower of London by order of her half-sister , Queen Mary I of England. When their father, King Henry VIII, died, he-was succeeded by their Protestant half-brother, Edward, the son of Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour. After Queen Jane’s death, Henry acquired three more wives, but no additional children.
Edward, a staunch Protestant, was nine years old when he became king. He was brilliant but sickly and died from tuberculosis in 1553 when he was only seventeen years old. Although he had named his cousin, Lady Jane Grey as his successor, she reigned for only nine days before Princess Mary Tudor put her aside. She and her husband, Guildford Dudley, were later beheaded for treason.
Queen Mary I, a staunch Catholic in the now Protestant England, was thirty-four when she succeeded to the throne. Her father had divorced her mother to marry his pregnant mistress, Anne Boleyn. She had been declared a bastard, removed from the succession, and forced to play nursemaid to her sister. Her mother had died in relative poverty which she often shared.

When Mary succeeded to the throne, she did so with the support of both Catholic and Protestant supporters. Thomas Wyatt the Younger, the son of one of Anne Boleyn’s accused lovers, rose up in rebellion when it was announced that Mary would marry King Phillip of Spain. Having seen the Inquisition first hand, he wished to spare England. He wrote a letter to Elizabeth pledging his support. When Thomas was captured as he prepared to attack the Queen in London, Elizabeth was suspected of treason and almost lost her head. Wyatt was beheaded and later, hung, drawn and quartered. (Portrait of Thomas the Younger c. 1540 by Holbein)

Tomorrow, Elizabeth’s Fate. Rita Bay

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The Architect of the Dissolution

220px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex (1485 – 1540), was a prominent English lawyer and statesman who worked his way through the ranks to chief minister to King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540. Cromwell supported the English Reformation. He helped engineer an annulment of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so that Henry could marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. Supremacy over the Church of England was officially declared by Parliament in 1534. In 1536 Cromwell supervised the Church from his posts of vice-regent in spirituals and vicar general. Through those positions, he organized visitations of England’s churches, monasteries, and clergy to conduct a census in 1535 to enable the government to tax church property more effectively. The information was actually used to close the smaller religious institutions and later the larger ones. The final abbey was closed the year of Cromwell’s death.

Cromwell’s rise to power made him many enemies, especially among the conservative faction at court. He was a protégé of Archbishop Cranmer but turned his back on his sponsor when he fell out of favor with Henry and was executed. Cromwell rose to power but fell from Henry’s favor after arranging the King’s marriage to a German princess, Anne of Cleves, in attempt to strengthen the Reformation. Henry was dissatisfied with her appearance and obtained an annulment after six months. Henry couldn’t behead a princess, so named Anne his dear sister. Anne was content to live her solitary life but was often at Court and helped raise the royal children.

Besides the problem with Anne of Cleves, Henry, uncomfortable with the Cromwell’s pushing further reformations, preferred the traditional services. Cromwell was subjected to a bill of attainder and executed for treason and heresy on Tower Hill in 1540. He was decapitated and his head placed on a pike on London Bridge. The King later expressed regret at having lost his minister but there were always others waiting in the wings.  Tomorrow, This Author’s Pen   Rita Bay

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King Henry VIII & The Dissolution of the Abbeys

150px-Henry-VIII-kingofengland_1491-1547King Henry VIII of England is our villain this week because of his role in the dissolution of the monasteries. Henry was desperate for a male heir which his Catholic Queen Catherine of Aragon did not give him. He convinced himself that he was cursed by god for marrying his brother’s widow. Catherine claimed that the marriage had not been consummated and that Henry knew that. It didn’t really matter, though, Henry’s wandering eye had landed on Anne Boleyn who refused to be his mistress, demanding a crown instead.

Queen Catherine, Spanish and Catholic, had the power of the Papacy behind her. There would be no dispensation from the Pope to divorce Queen Catherine to marry Anne. Henry declared war on the Catholic Church in England. In 1530 the Abbot of Whitby wrote: “The King’s Grace is ruled by one common stewed whore, Anne Boleyn, who makes all the spirituality to be beggared, and the temporality also.” The English people preferred Queen Katherine and called Anne “The Great Whore.”

GlastonburyAbbeyHenry and Anne married on 25 January 1533. It was not until May of that year that Thomas Cranmer granted Henry and Catherine’s divorce. Five days later, Cranmer declared Henry and Anne’s secret marriage valid. The Pope excommunicated Henry who assumed leadership of the Church in England. Unlike his miserly father, Henry had spent money liberally. Henry dissolved the Churches and monasteries, kept most of the assets himself, and granted properties to his supporters.
Tomorrow, More on the Dissolution of the Abbeys. Rita Bay

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Alexander the Great & The First Ptolemy

imagesCA818JSOIn 332 BC, Alexander the Great, King of Macedon invaded and conquered Egypt. He founded the city of Alexandria to serve as capital and appointed Greeks to the leadership. In 331 BC he departed leaving Cleomenes in charge. He left Egypt never to return. (See Pic Courtesy of British Museum)  After Alexander’s death in Babylon in 323 BC, a crisis erupted over control of the empire. Regents ruled for Alexander’s brother (Phillip III) and newborn son (Alexander IV).

iptoles001p1Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s favorite generals governed Egypt and its possessions for Alexander’s heirs. When central control weakened, Ptolemy assumed the rule of Egypt in his own right. Though Greek by birth, he adopted the customs of the pharaohs. (Notice the very Greek profile of a coin of the first Ptolemy)

More tomorrow, Rita Bay

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The Rosetta Stone

Ptolemy VThe Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian stone stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V (see bust).  Originally displayed within a temple, the stele was probably moved during the early Christian or medieval period and eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was rediscovered there in 1799 by a soldier  in the French expedition to Egypt. In 1801 when British troops defeated the French in Egypt, the original stone came into British possession. The Rosetta Stone was transported to London and has been on public display at the British Museum since 1802.

Rosetta_StoneAs the first Ancient Egyptian multi-lingual text recovered in modern times, the Rosetta Stone attracted a lot of  attention because it could be used to decipher the untranslated ancient Egyptian language. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek. Casts and copies of the text were disseminated widely among European museums and scholars. Comparing the Ancient Greek translation to the unknown Egyptian language provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The translation was completed by Jean -Francois Champollion in 1824.  While other multi-lingual texts have been discovered since, the Rosetta Stone was the essential key to modern understanding of Ancient Egyptian literature and civilization. It is the most-visited object in the British Museum. Doubtful that Britain will turn it over to France or Egypt.
Tomorrow, The Ptolemy Pharaohs in Egypt & the Stone.   Rita Bay

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Jean-Francois Champollion & the Rosetta Stone

220px-Leon_Cogniet_-_Jean-Francois_ChampollionJean-François Champollion was a French classical scholar, philologist and orientalist who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs.  As the youngest of seven children, his parents couldn’t afford to send him to school. His brother Jacques taught him to read, brought him to the university, and supported him throughout most of his life. He taught history at Grenoble University. He died suddenly on March 4, 1842 at the age of forty-one.

Champollion was a linguistic genius who could speak a dozen languages. When the Rosetta Stone which contained script in three languages including the hieroglyphics that had yet to be translated. Champollion published the first translation of the Rosetta Stone hieroglyphs in 1824 after two years of work.He  demonstrated that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs. His 1824 work Précis du système hiéroglyphique was the beginning of the entire field of modern Egyptology.

Tomorrow, The Rosetta Stone      Rita Bay

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Brady Pics: Clara Barton

Portrait

Clara Barton was a nurse (and many other things) when most women did not work outside the home. In 1864 she was appointed by Union General Benjamin Butler as the “lady in charge” of the hospitals at the front of the Army of the James. She is known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.” She was also the founder of the American Red Cross.(Pic credit: Library of Congress) Tomorrow, More Brady Pics. Rita Bay

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Mathew Brady: Photographer Extraordinaire

matthew-brady-1861LOCMathew B. Brady (1822 – 1896) was one of the most famous American photographers. He was known for his portraits of celebrities and his documentation of the American Civil War. He is credited with being the father of photojournalism. Brady employed a team of assistants who traveled the country to capture the war. They produced more than 10,000 images of the conflict, and brought the gruesome realities of warfare home to the American public. When people discourage him, citing battlefield dangers and financial risks, but Brady persisted. He later said, “I had to go. A spirit in my feet said ‘Go,’ and I went.” In 1862, Brady shocked America by displaying his photographs of battlefield corpses from Antietam, posting a sign on the door of his New York gallery that read, “The Dead of Antietam.” This exhibition marked the first time most people witnessed the carnage of war. The New York Times said that Brady had brought “home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war.” After the Civil War, Brady went bankrupt. He sold his entire collection to Congress for $25,000. He died penniless. (Pic credit: Library of Congress)

Throughout the week, we’ll feature Brady’s photography. Rita Bay

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George Washington Goes Greek

george-washington-as-zeusHave you ever seen George Washington like this? This 9-foot-high statue of George Washington was sculpted by Horatio Greenough in 1840 to celebrate the centennial of Washington’s birth. The statue was originally placed in the Capitol Rotunda but when the 30-ton statue cracked the floor it was moved outside and eventually landed in the American History Museum. The people of Washington hated the statue. The general consensus was that Washington should not be represented half-naked. The joke about Washington DC when the statue was first displayed was that the upraised hand represented Washington reaching for his clothes.

“Enthroned Washington” was based on the statue of the statue of the Zeus Olympus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The sheathed sword in his left hand with the hilt forward represents Washington surrendering power to the American people. The upraised hand with the two fingers extended generally symbolizes a benediction or blessing. The pointing finger can also symbolize the presence of God in Christian symbology.  Tomorrow, This Author’s Pen.  Rita Bay

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Term Limits in the Constitution

WashTrumbullThe United States Constitution did not provide for any mandatory term limits within the federal government. The earlier Articles of Confederation which had governed the colonies provided for term limits. Several state constitutions had incorporated term limits. Even a century later, the Confederate States of America mandated only one six-year term of office for its president.
A committee appointed to examine forms of government in 1789 recommended that term limits be imposed on federal offices. They were ignored. Thomas Jefferson supported limits “to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress…
Fortunately, George Washington set the informal limit of two terms of office for the President. (Pic – Washington with his servant Billy Lee on the banks of the Hudson – 1780  – by Trumbull)  It was not until 1940 that Franklin Roosevelt was elected for a third term as President. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution which mandated a limit of two terms for the office of President was ratified in 1951. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives and the Senate have no such limits. Tomorrow, More on the Presidents. Rita Bay

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