Book Review: The Women of the Cousins War by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin and Michael Jones

The Women of the Cousins’ War tries to illuminate the three most important women of the Wars of the Roses, or as the conflict has lately been called, The Cousins’ War.

Philippa Gregory writes the introduction in which she discusses the dearth of information about women in this time period. The sources sometimes give dates of birth and of death. Some more information may be teased out about the women based on battles in which their husbands fought and maybe their husbands’ travel itineraries, but little else usually exists.

Gregory goes on to write the first part of the book about the Duchess, Jaquetta of Luxembourg. Jaquetta was a minor French noble woman who married John, Duke of Bedford who was the third son of Henry IV and a staunch Lancastrian. After John’s death, Jacquetta flouts the conventions of the time and marries Richard Woodville, a commoner and her first husband’s servant. The lack of information affects Gregory’s part of the book. In talking about Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the writing is full of “maybes” and “might haves.” This is followed by a rundown of the Wars of the Roses themselves. The last part centers more on Jacquetta, her family and her heritage. Also there is the part about the Duchess being a witch. She survived the trial and is found not guilty. The second part of the book is about Queen Elizabeth Woodville, written by David Baldwin. Elizabeth is the daughter of Jacquetta from her second marriage and is mother of the two lost princes of the tower. She ends up being the mother-in-law to Henry VII after Henry defeats Richard III, who was her brother-in-law. This part is much less of a slog than the first part; Baldwin’s style is light without being frivolous. He recounts Elizabeth’s actions during her marriage to Edward IV. Elizabeth endured much examination when she married the younger Edward. The marriage also infuriated the old nobility by allowing the huge family of upstart Woodvilles close to the king. Elizabeth had more than her share of enemies including the conniving Warwick the Kingmaker and the king’s brothers, including the Duke of Clarence, and the later king, Richard III.

The third part by Michael Jones is about Margaret Beaufort, mother to Henry VII. Margaret might be seen as the ultimate survivor of the three, eventually becoming the Queen Mother without actually having been queen. Jones has an accessible style covering the details without being bogged down by them. Jones stresses Margaret’s political expertise, of which her very survival during those dangerous times is the highest example. Margaret’s eventually sees her son crowned King of England, and also sees her grandson succeeding to that position, which was no doubt gratifying. Further the book has a wealth of family trees, images, notes and sources included for those interested in such things. In short The Women of the Cousins’ War is a good read about little-covered historical figures and is not smothered in the fine points of the cross and double cross of the Wars of the Roses.

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Book Review: 100 Years of Motorcycles by Ammonite Press

The motorcycle’s story begins when Gottlieb Daimler strapped a small gasoline powered engine to a wooden bicycle frame in 1885. From this small beginning, the motorcycle was soon a specially designed means of transportation, meant to be an inexpensive every-day conveyance. It easily negotiated the crowded streets of the city and could also go for the long distance and even cruising the back roads on vacation.

Some motors as they soon became known, were also test vehicles for refining the motorized and thrill sports at race tracks and off road as well, all over the world. Vintage motors of the early years of the century, to the biker subculture of the 40s with the infamous Hells Angels”to the Café Racers of the mid century, to the 1960s with the Mods and Rockers to the ultra high tech super sport cycles of the later 20th century 100 Years of Motorcycles by Ammonite Press celebrates in pictures all those aspects of the motorcycle and more.

Books about motorcycle are usually written or edited by fans; therefore the pictures used are, as a rule, taken by the motorcycle specialists. The problem with that is that being so caught up in a subject does not allow for self editing or for taking an outsider’s view of the subject. But then take away that fanatical interest and look to the professional photographer looking for something news worthy and what happens is a shot that is not interesting to the fan. But Ammonite Press has fixed that issue in this new book. Essentially, they have make use of photos from the Press Association to relate the chronicle of the motorcycle and it riders right through the 20th century, letting the picture to tell the story while backing up each image with a short, but informative, caption. The result is as much a social history of the riders as well as the story of the progress of the motorcycle over time. With over 300 images, many not published before in a book format. There are a number of racing shots, but the reader also gets shots of regular people with their motors. Celebrity riders of all stripes are shown as well. The publication house has spared no expense with the book using high quality glossy pages. The photos range from early black and white stills, to the early days of color photography even to the early digital aged photos of the later 20th century. All the photos are well done and very sharp.

100 Years of Motorcycles is a first-rate effort that is well worth the money of anyone interested in the history of motorcycles.

Book Review: “Margaret Thatcher: Not for Turning, Volume One” by Charles Moore

Charles Moore’s authorized biography of Margaret Thatcher will do little to change peoples’ opinions of Britain’s “Iron Lady” but does add a great deal to the general public’s knowledge of Baroness Thatcher’s life.

Margaret Thatcher: Not for Turning, Volume One is the first book in a two-volume biography of the first woman prime minister of Great Britain. This first book covers Lady Thatcher’s life from birth to the end of the 1982 Falkland’s War with Argentina. As an authorized biographer Moore had access not only to all the public documents of Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister (1979 to 1990) but also to the secret papers. He also has unfettered access to the Thatcher family as well as the Baroness’ help in arranging interviews with political allies and co-workers.

In this book the reader learns perhaps more than they might have wanted to know about Thatcher’s early life, family relationships and career. Using a set of 150 letters between Lady Thatcher and her older sister, Muriel, the reader finds out that Margaret was almost a good time girl before she met and married Denis Thatcher. She dated often with a goodly number of different men and was not afraid to use her feminine wiles to get what she felt was her due.

Nor was the Thatcher’s picture-perfect marriage actually so picture-perfect. Denis Thatcher had a nervous breakdown in late sixties and ran off to South Africa for awhile. Moore reports that many of the Thatcher’s family friends felt this event was caused by Margaret’s single-minded focus on her growing political career.

After dealing with this, Moore starts to focus on Thatcher’s political life and times. He opines that there was nothing particularly special or inevitable about Lady Thatcher’s rise to power. Rather it was, like many historical events, made up of a series of accidents and unforeseen circumstances. If there is one theme that Moore brings to the front of Thatcher’s career, it is that her political enemies nearly always underestimated her as a politician and a leader.

Moore passes rather rapidly over Thatcher’s turmoil-filled, first term of rioting and high unemployment. But he does go into some detail on the inner workings of the War Cabinet during the Falkland’s War and Lady Thatcher’s determination to see the conflict through.

Moore’s prose can be a bit dense at times, but is precise and full of wry wit and good humor. “Margaret Thatcher: Not for Turning” is a required read for anyone interested in Margaret Thatcher as a person, politician and world leader.

 

An Overview of the Major Characters in Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill

“Cloud Nine” is a two-act play by British playwright Caryl Churchill, first performed at Dartington College of Arts in 1979. Act one of the play is set in Victorian times in a British colony in Africa. Act two is set in a London in 1979. Yet, unexplainably, only twenty-five years have passed for the characters.

Clive is the first act’s protagonist. He is, seemingly, the very model of a British aristocrat. He puts his duty to Queen and country first and assumes that those that rely on him will obey him. Clive accepts as true that gender-roles are well defined and expects his son, Edward, to be a man’s man, like him. Clive is an overt racist who believes the Africans are “savages” who can only be civilized by British discipline. Ironically, Clive has an affair with Mrs. Saunders, ignoring the infidelity that he imposes on his wife, Betty.

Betty is Clive’s wife and in the first act is played by a man. She spends almost the whole first act being confused and indecisive. She is totally reliant on Clive to provide her guidance and direction. Betty, however, has a sense of adventure. She thinks of a relationship with Harry, the explorer, and wonders about what another kind of life would be like. In Act Two, a new Betty, portrayed by another actor, has gotten a feeling of independence and has evolves into the play’s main protagonist. The second act Betty is older, gives long lectures and offers spontaneous comments.

Edward is Clive’s and Betty’s son. From a young age, he finds he is attracted to men and likes girly things. In Act One, this role is played by a woman. Edward keeps his true feelings hidden in fear of disturbing his conservative father. Over time those qualms fade, but do not vanish. In Act Two the older Edward, now played by a man, discovers that he is well adapted to the role of wife and mother, rather than husband and father. He prefers a steady relationship to sleeping around and often has a hard time getting what he wants.

Victoria is Clive’s and Betty’s daughter. In the first act, Victoria is played by a manikin. But in the second act she becomes a central figure. Victoria tends to depend on others but sometimes is strongly self-reliance. She is non-confrontational and prefers to be the peace-maker.

Harry Bagley is a British explorer and symbolizes the British ideals of courage and discovery. But his fame as an adventurer hides his sexual deviantcy. His presence begins to bring out the deep sexual yearnings of Clive’s family. Finally, Harry is a victim of own his action. He gives up his freedom to avoid persecution for homosexual acts.

Mrs. Saunders is a widow and is independent. She is fearless in wielding her sexuality, and she demands respect from men.

Lin is a brash and open lesbian. She is fearless in letting others know what she thinks. Beneath her bellicose exterior, Lin is unsure she is a good mother. She is openly crass and crude.

Rules of Golf while under enemy air raid.

During the Battle of Britain, when the Nazis were launching daily bombing raids against the island nation, the British in true phlegmatic style continued to, as the sign said , “Keep Calm and Carry On” in almost all aspects of their lives. This included that most British (at least Scottish) of games; golf. To that end, at least one golf course near London wrote a special set of local rules to deal with the various hazards and distractions to the players caused by being at war while trying to get in a quick nine holes after work.

1 – Players are asked to collect the bomb and shrapnel splinters to prevent their causing damage to the mowing machines.

2- In competition, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take shelter without penalty for ceasing play.

3 – The positions of known delayed-actions bombs are marked by red flags at a reasonable by not guaranteed safe distance there from.

4 – Shrapnel and/or bomb splinters on the fairways or in bunkers within a club’s length of a ball may be moved without penalty, and no penalty shall be incurred if a ball is thereby caused to be moved accidentally.

5 – A ball moved by enemy action may be replaced, or if lost or destroyed, a ball may be dropped without penalty, not nearer the hole.

6 – A ball lying in a crater may be lifted and dropped not nearer the hole, preserving the line to the hole, without penalty.

7 – A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball under penalty of one stroke.

From- The Los Angeles Times (30 December 1940, Pg. 5).

 

Royal Air Force’s strategy during the Battle of Britain

The Royal Air Force’s strategy during the Battle of Britain can be summarized in one word: Survive. Because as long as the RAF existed as an effective fighting force, the German’s could not achieve air superiority and launch their seaborne invasion of Britain.

The British used a complex system of command, control, communication and intelligence (C3I) during the battle. This was known as the Dowding System, called after its main developer, Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle.

The Dowding System divided Britain into four Group Areas; 10 Group in Wales and the West, 11 Group covering the Southeast and around London, 12 Group defending the Midlands and East Anglia and 13 Group covering the North, including Scotland. Each Group was further subdivided into Sectors. Each Sector was assigned between 2 and 4 squadrons. The sectors had a main headquarters airfield and some satellite fields on which the aircraft would be based.

The system would work like this:

A Luftwaffe raid would be detected by either Radar or the Observer Corps. This information would be called by dedicate telephone lines into The Filter Room of Fighter Command HQ at Bentley Priory. The information would be quickly but thoroughly analyzed and evaluated. The numbers and types of planes in the raid, possible directions and targets would be determined.

The information was then passed to the main operations room to be recorded on the plotting tables. The information was also forwarded to the affected Group HQ where it was also recorded on their plotting tables and where RAF officers called Fighter Controller would order a response. Sector HQs would then scramble fighter squadrons into the air for the intercept. Once in the air, fighters would be directed, or vectored, by High Frequency (HF) radio at the oncoming German planes.

Despite some limitation, such as the short range of HF radio and the fact that the RAF tracking system for its fighters, called HF/DF or ” Huff-Duff”, was limited to no more than four fighters squadrons in a sector, the Dowding system was amazingly effective. The RAF achieved an 80% interception rate on German formations. This means eight out of ten time RAF fighters showed up in place and in time to engage enemy formations.

Not that the system was flawless. Cooperation between groups was often lacking or faulty. This was particularly true with 11 Group and 12 Group where the two group commanders were often at odds. However, this Air Combat Control system combined with advance technology such as Radar and “Huff/Duff” along with short comings in and some strategic errors by the Luftwaffe lead to the RAF decisively defeating the Luftwaffe in the Battle.

British Monarchy Restored in 1660

King Charles the II was restored to the throne in 1660 for the simple reason that the Parliament and the people had grown tired of direct military rule.

After Oliver Cromwell, the Lord-Protector and the only person in history to rule England, who was not a monarch, died on 3 September 1658, his son, Richard succeeded him. Richard was not his father. He had no power base in either Parliament or the Army. Also Richard had no desire for power; he really wanted to be a country gentleman farmer. So after a short few months as Lord-Protector, the Army removed him from office.

The army recalled the Rump Parliament that had ruled England before Oliver Cromwell Protectorate. The Rump Parliament soon fell into dispute with the Army and the Army leadership. As the Parliament tried to disband some units and also remove some officers from command. Two of the Generals that the Rump had tried to cashier; Lambert and Fleetwood organized a coup. They barred the doors of Parliament Building excluding all the members.

On October 26 the Army Generals appointed a “Committee of Safety.” Fleetwood and Lambert were two of the seven members. Fleetwood was made Lord-General or Commander and Chief and Lambert made Major-General of all the forces in England and Scotland.

While all this chaos and political maneuvering was going on in London, George Monck, Governor-General of Scotland assumed a wait and watch policy from his capital of Edinburgh. However, when Lambert and Fleetwood declared against the Rump Parliament and then essential removed him from his position by appointing Lambert, Monck moved south.

The Committee of Safety dispatched Lambert north to meet Monck. Lambert’s job was to establish an understanding with Monck or force him to come to terms with the Committee. Soon after leaving London Lambert’s army started to melt away and he soon returned to London virtually by himself. Monck marched into London unopposed.

Monck restored the “Long Parliament” to power. Fleetwood was removed from office and barred from ever holding any public trust again. Lambert was imprisoned in the Tower of London but soon escaped and raised the flag of rebellion again. He was soon recaptured by Colonel Ingoldsby, one of the Regicides. Lambert was soon imprisoned on Drake’s Island where he died. Ingoldsby was later pardoned by Charles II for his part in the execution of Charles I.

Monck along with other Generals soon realized that to restore order that the monarchy, in the person of Charles the Second had to return. Monck organized the Convention Parliament which on 8 May 1660 declared Charles II had been king since his father’s execution on 30 January 1649.

Charles returned to London on 29 May and less than a year later on 23 April 1661 was crowned King.

Charles II rewarded by Monck by knighting him, made him Duke of Albemarle, Earl of Torrington, Baron Monck of Potheridge, Baron Beauchamp and Baron of Teyes. He was also awarded a pension of £700 Pounds a year.

Sources:

THE STEWART RESTORATION. By C. H. FIRTH, at http://www.uni-mannheim.de/mateo/ camenaref/cmh/cmh505.html

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=26183

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=26202