The subject of universal conversation – Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire

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“When she appeared, every eye turned towards her; when absent, she was the subject of universal conversation.”

-French diplomat Louis Dutens.

The first born of her parents and their favourite, Georgina grew up to be charming but like her mother’s nature in love with gambling. She met her future husband the Duke of Devonshire while abroad and got married shortly after her 17th birthday. She became immensely popular after her marriage onwards.

Interested in both fashion and politics, Georgina made political statements through fashion. She wore hats and muffs in fox fur to support the politician fox and threw balls where you could only wear black and gold, the colours of the Whig party (a political party active in the middle of the 19th century in the United States of America). She is also responsible f0r the towering headdresses. Daily accounts of her dressing was made in all the papers so that others could intimidate her style. Her tailor was once bribed to show the duchesses latest designs so that they may have them in advance. This resulted in four women wearing the same dress in an event, none of which were the Duchess. She was in contact with Marie Antionette who sent her one of her favourite muslim gowns as in France it was seen as indecent. However on Georgina, the gown was a fashion success.

As I stated in the introduction, Georgina like her mother loved to gamble. She along with other members of her circle gambled without any worry of money. She was often in debt but always kept it a secret from her husband. She was scared to inform the Duke of her problems and took loans from various friends to make up her losses. She also loaned money to her friends that were in the same situation. From time to time when she was in the brink of despair she would tell the duke about some of her debts and on many occasions he wanted to divorce her.

Her best friend Bess was also the Duke’s mistress and she bore two illegitimate children by  him: a daughter, Caroline St Jules, and a son, Augustus, who were both raised at Devonshire House with the Duke’s legitimate children by Georgiana. In spite of this Georgina remained loyal to her friend Bess and until this day no one can understand the nature of the relationship between the three. Some even say that there existed a lesbian relationship between Bess and Georgina.

Georgina fell in love once in her life time with Charles, Earl Grey (of the tea fame). When to her horror she discovered she was pregnant, the duke threatened to divorce her. He also threatened her with never seeing her children again unless she gave up both Grey and their children. She agreed and when she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, she gave her up to Grey’s parents. Her affair with Grey ended after she gave birth to their daughter as he was both sad and enraged that she chose to give him and the child up.

Surrounded by the duke,her mother, her daughter and Bess, Georgiana, aged forty-eight, died at three-thirty in the morning on March 30, 1806.

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Until death do us part – Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkova

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Once upon a time, heir to Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand attended a dance in Prague where he met the dazzling Sophie one of the ladies in waiting to the Archduchess Isabella of Pressburg. It was love at first sight. However, both of them knew that their relationship was unacceptable in the eyes of Europe as Sophie was not a member of the imperial family. Although she came from a prominent Bohemian family, both of them knew that she would not be accepted as the wife of the future emperor. That is why for two whole years they kept their relationship a secret.

When Franz Ferdinand started to make regular visits to the home of the Archduke Friedrich of Pressburg, people assumed that Franz had fallen in love with the Archduke’s eldest daughter,Marie Christine. Their secret was soon to be revealed however,when Franz Ferdinand at one visit forgot his watch and locket behind at the home of Archduke Friedrich of Pressburg. When one servant found his belongings he gave them to Archduchess for safe keeping until his return. However, to her astonishment when the Archduchess opened the locket she found a picture of Sophie. She assumed that she was going to find a picture of her eldest daughter Marie Christine and was furious. As a result of this Sophie was dismissed from her position and her relationship with Franz Ferdinand soon became a public scandal.

Emperor Franz Josef made it clear to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand that he would not be able to marry Sophie as she was not a descended from the house of Hapsburg or from any other ruling dynasties in Europe. However, Franz Ferdinand made it clear did he did not want to marry anyone else unless he married Sophie. Emperor Franz Josef finally gave up when Tsar Nicholas of Russia and Pope Leo XIII claimed that the disagreement was undermining the stability of the monarchy. Therefore in 1899, Emperor Franz Josef made a deal with Franz Ferdinand. He was allowed to marry Sophie but her descendants would not be allowed to succeed the throne.It was also pointed out that Sophie would not be allowed to accompany her husband in the royal carriage nor could she sit by his side in the royal box. Nonetheless, they were prepared to sacrifice these strictures because of their love for each other.

Franz Josef refused to attend the wedding even his brothers or their families.The only people of the royal family who went to the wedding was Franz Ferdinand’s stepmother, Maria Theresa, and her two daughters.

In a letter, published in “Archduke of Sarajevo,” to his stepmother, Archduchess Maria Theresa, after the birth of his second son in 1904, Franz Ferdinand writes:

By far the cleverest thing I ever did in my life was to marry my Sophie. She is everything for me: my wife, my doctor, my advisor — in a word my whole happiness. …And then our children! They are my whole pride and joy. I sit with them all day long in amazement that I can love them so much. And then the evenings at home when I smoke my cigar and read my papers. Sophie knits and the children tumble about, knocking everything off the tables. It’s all so cozy and precious…

Even after their death, Sophie was not buried next to her husband where the Habsburgs were buried.

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Famous Quotes by Napoleon Bonaparte

   Respect the burden.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

An army marches on its stomach.

Imagination rules the world.

Victory belongs to the most persevering.

A leader is a dealer in hope.

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.

detail Bonaparte Crossing the Grand Saint-Bernard Pass by Jacques Louis David

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The Carolingian Renaissance

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Another essay I wrote during my finals about the Carolingian Renaissance.

Charlemagne was not only an amazing warrior and a political but also a great reformer and begun what historians call, the Carolingian Renaissance. The Carolingian Renaissance was not as big on scale as the renaissance in the 1400’s but like the renaissance in Italy it looked back to ancient Rome especially during the age of Constantine the Great.

Charlemagne brought together some of the most significant intellectuals minds of Europe during that time in order for intellectual activity about the arts, manuscripts, and letters to take place and flourish. One should keep in mind that back then the arts were not considered the norm in societies, so for Charlemagne to take action about this matter was a unique step at this particular point in time.

During the 200 years before Charlemagne’s reign, hardly any Roman schools or private enters had survived. It was only in England monasteries that classical learning still survived. The English’s finest fruit was Bede’s ”ecclesiastical history”. The English missionaries introduced monastic schools into the newly christianised areas of the Frankish kingdom. The teaching of Latin and Latin literature became the central achievement of the Carolingian Renaissance.

One other important characteristic was the newly handwriting style.This is called the Carolingian miniscule. The Carolingian miniscule differed from the old Roman cursive. The newly style gives us uniformity and a set font pattern. They start using uppercase and lowercase. The newly style also tended to space out the words and used more punctuation. The humanists in the Renaissance in Italy will eventually find these manuscripts and will mistake them for traditional ancient Roman manuscripts. This is how Carolingian script becomes the model for Renaissance typography.

In terms of architecture there were significant building campaigns. From 768-855 there were at least 30 cathedrals and 417 monasteries built around the Frankish empire.

Charlemagne also began the concept of what is known today as public education. The educational system which previously was for a narrow audience now becomes a bit more attainable. Carolingian schools were divided into two : Trivium (logic,grammar,rhetoric) and Quadrivium (geometry, astronomy, music)

One can conclude that Charlemagne’s reign is the first cultural rise since the golden age of Ancient Rome. Although the empire did not last, they laid the cultural foundations for religion and education for the rest of the Middle Ages.

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A picture

A picture of a Russian ballet class during ww2. Even in the rubble and ash of war, there is still room for dance.

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Can war ever be justified?

Just war is a tradition. It is a tradition because it is an attempt to balance theory in practice in order to come up with rules or principles that should justify war. Mainly it is the work of many philosophers that studied and interpreted history. (Just war theory or jus bellum iustum) is a doctrine, also referred to as a tradition, of military ethics studied by theologians, ethicists, policy makers, and military leaders.)

The idea of Just war arises from conflict between ‘Prima facie moral obligations’.  A moral obligation is Prima Facie if it is adhere to as a moral obligation unless there is a more important value at stake. This does not mean that war is acceptable but the Prima Facie obligation states that at certain instances war is useful to preserve more important issues. However, from this reasoning another problem arises – If you justify killing during a war, then why don’t we justify killing in other different situations?

The medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas known in Christian faith as Saint Thomas Aquinas puts forward two sets of rules that could justify war. The first one is called ‘ Jus ad Bellum’ which means the right to go to war and the second one is called ‘Jus in bello’ meaning the right conduct within war.

There is no reason good enough to go to war but if there is going to be a war first and foremost it should be declared by legitimate authority. The war must not be declared by a private individual or a group who has not been entrusted with the care of the common good.

Before one declares a war one should remember that it is going to have serious consequences. Therefore it should be for a morally justified cause. A cause which could justify all that harm and kill such as self defence or the taking back of what was seized.

War should be declared for a rightful intention and not for any other hidden agenda.In addition to that war should occur as a last resort after one have tried all the other alternatives without any succeeding.

It is also important that war should be declared. This is because it means that you are going to give a reason why you are declaring war and also giving time for the opponent to think about it.

One should never engage in a war without any hope of success. One should not sacrifice in vain. The children crusades is a good example of this. The pope had declared war on the muslims and after loosing 3 crusades the pope had no army and instead he sent children. This of course was already a lost war.

And finally the good obtained from a war should be worth the cost.

Therefore, a war is only ‘Just War’ if it is both justified and carried out in a right way.

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Why should everyone read Medieval history?

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Many young historians look at Medieval history as this dry as dust, boring and complex subject. However, for one to understand the world we live in today, one must have some common knowledge about medieval history in general. This is due to the fact that western civilisation was created in medieval Europe. The thought and action we take so for granted today is a by-product of medieval societies. Therefore it is of utter importance that one should indulge in the reading of medieval history in order to have a better picture of the world we live in today.

Most Europeans live in towns and villages which have already existed in the lifetime of St Thomas Aquinas, many of them in the shadow of churches already built in the thirteenth century.The modern nation state is a result of the monarchies created by kings such as Philip Augustus of France and John of England also back in medieval times. The notion of popular sovereignty emerges first in the writings of Marsilius of Pauda, who already knew the communes of contemporary Italy.Students were already being awarded degrees from prestigious universities in Paris and Oxford. Methods of banking and commerce are taken from the practices of the Florentine Peruzzi and the famous Medici. Our novels and books of history are direct descendants of the works of Leonardo Bruni and Giovanni Boccaccio.

Therefore the world we live in  has deep roots in medieval history and although I have only mentioned some direct aspects, there are many more to be listed.

References :

The Oxford history of Medieval Europe by George Holmes

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