Micro War – The Spanish Flu Epidemic

As the country was enduring a catastrophic experience and (although they did not know it yet) in the last year of The Great War, Britain and the world were about to feel the strain of a particularly violent and virulent disease that would wipe out 50 to 100 million people. The Spanish Flu epidemic first began to flex it muscles in January 1918 in a world with limited life expectancies and war-torn countries that would proceed to blame each other for the dire circumstances some families would find themselves in.  The Spanish Flu first showed strains across Europe, the United States of America and parts of Asia, and due to the increased movement of individuals globally, before steadily spreading across the world. Although vaccinations had been around for over one hundred years, with the invention of the Smallpox vaccine in 1796, there was no effective treatment for this influenza strain.  Before the end of the epidemic in Britain citizens were forced to wear masks, entire institutions were bordered up and bodies piled inside the door of poorly constructed new morgues to cope with the demand. The strain did not discriminate, wealthy and poor, young and old all succumb quickly, sometimes spreading across an entire estate upstairs and downstairs to further add grief to families who’d lost someone in the war.

Influenza is a virus that dominates the lungs and whole respiratory system and is one of the most contagious diseases known to humans. Spread easily when someone coughs, sneezes and/or talks it is transmitted through the air into the breathing space of anyone nearby. The likelihood of it spreading to everyone in one household once one member has it is extremely high especially if an infected person touches items that is also handled by others. Many influenzas, or flu, appear yearly and vary on severity, think on the 2017 Aussie Flu outbreak, but none had been as virulent as the Spanish Flu. It is particularly dangerous in people with diabetes, young children, pregnant women and asthmatic people, but the flu also brings a myriad of issues including pneumonia and bronchitis. Many doctors in the war period would have been familiar with flu seasons that occupy late autumn to early spring every year however none would have been prepared for a strain that has little immunity globally.

The first wave of the Spanish flu arrived in spring 1918 but did not cause much concern as deaths did not exceed normal flu fatalities and most victims regained health within a week of their worst day. Doctors reported that the initial cases appeared in Spain hence why the sufferers based blame around the Spanish people who were hit the hardest during the most dangerous periods of the strain. There were reports of cases appearing elsewhere yet the censorship within the media prevented anything being reported that would lower morale of the people and those on the front lines. Spain was not under these regulations as heavily as the UK and Germany hence why Spanish cases were heard of first, especially since one of the first victims included the King of Spain Alfonso XIII. Spain had declared neutrality because of familial connections to both sides of the war therefore news leaked easily into the newspapers of the world. The world war had caused an extensive amount of deaths in people in the regions affected by bombing and trenches, yet the world was not ready to combat a micro-war, one that would creep into all corners without any particularly compelling reason as to where it came from or why.

The UK was hit in a series of waves throughout the year of 1918 with the end of World War One bringing the harshest low points. The disease spread from soldiers returning to train stations from abroad thus allowing the strain to be contracted from the inner cities and to slowly spread outwards in to the countryside. Prime Minister David Lloyd George contracted the disease alongside Walt Disney and Kaiser Willhelm II of Germany yet all survived. Onset of the more virulent periods were quick and violent with cartoonists displaying people healthy at breakfast and then dead by dinner. The flu initially caused the common flu symptoms of fatigue, fever and headaches before rapidly becoming serious in slowly suffocating the victims through increased shortage of oxygen. Hospitals were stretched to breaking point with medical students being drafted in early yet there was nothing to be done except give those dying comfort as there were no antibiotics to treat any part of the strain or resultative conditions.

In one year fifty million people died worldwide. Two hundred and twenty-eight thousand people died in the UK and the global mortality rate landed between ten and twenty percent. Historians have discovered that a larger amount of people died during this one year of epidemic flu than across the worst four years of the Bubonic Plague in the fourteenth century. Across the known world only one small region did not report any outbreaks down the Amazon river of Brazil.

Prehistoric Art

The hardest part of a being a historian is finding your interest travelling further and further back in history to discover your primary sources become scarcer and the history books become drier. However, one of the most enduring aspects of history can always been seen all over the walls in the form of art and sculpture, all through every countries history, and it envelopes the world in interconnecting strands of historical story-telling and passion. Prehistoric art is not classified as a movement like the Renaissance or Impressionism, but it still gives an image of an era that has no voice from the contemporary people. The artworks range from cave paintings to crude figurines found buried in archaeological dig from China to South America. Prehistory is considered by most historians to be between 3million and 5,300 years ago.

It is a shame prehistoric art is not studied in such depth by art historians or historians as an element of significance in human history. But the mere fact it predates printing, writing and traditional paint should make people see it as part of evolutionary progress and a time portal to the lives who lived the cave paintings depicted. Perhaps cave painting is maligned because of the crudeness and there are no written recordings of the meaning or thought behind the process. On the other hand, anthropologists have taken these pieces as a chance to study the human kind with a distance that nobody with a living memory can contest. As with the medieval era and parchment, only the hardiest of materials from the prehistoric era have stood the test of time to be analysed and debated. The prehistoric art ranges from Palaeolithic through to the Iron Age that expanded across the growth of humanity towards history, therefore the art is given the more generic name of pictographs and were thought to be the backdrops of ceremonies. Not all the art is understood and can be interpreted with any sort of certainty. Much of the cave art also consists of holes in the rock which have baffled all ‘oloigts’ that come across it.

The art that came from ‘modern man’ is analysed to come from the Pleistocene era from 1.6m to 10000 BCE towards the Holocene era that created evidence of human civilisation. Naturally history cannot be pigeon holed into specific eras therefore all dates and ranges for this post is purely speculative. Anything created during these eras are attributed to the use of stone is create tools and markings as they were the instruments of progress. This was not limited to stone but also included bone, ivory and antlers from ancient creatures that existed alongside the early homo sapiens. The first cave art appeared around 39000BCE, that historians are aware of, in the area now known as Spain, Italy and France. They are monochrome using charcoal and natural ochre, and depict figures of people, elephants, tigers and all sorts of predator prey situation. Hunter gatherer scenes also appear in some caves. From close inspection it is clear the images were crudely configured using plant bristles, fingers and sticks. The art has been used to assess the types of weaponry used and can track the use from sticks and rocks to sharpened arrow and spear heads. This era also produced early examples of architecture in huts and shelters that housed the communities it served. Prehistoric settlements have also unearthed evidence of ivory jewellery and anthropologists assess the growing use of fine arts with the development of motor skills and hand eye co-ordination that allowed smaller movements to create objects. Art also spread from caves to practical objects in use in society for example prehistoric pottery from Croatia with drawings, paintings and relief carvings into the moulds. Prehistoric art changed rapidly once the Mesolithic era began in 10000BCE as communities along around globe that had seasons began to shift from hunter gatherer to agricultural beings. More discoveries from this era are prevalent and are used to assess what life was like during these periods. Alongside the art that showed hunters and farmers the earth itself is revealing the history within its soil. The rise of forestry across western Europe began to affect the cave paintings as the hunting strategies changed and more human figures appear on the walls instead of just animals. Art also starts to appear on rocks because the weather is becoming warmer globally. Considering cave painting is not considered a true expertise other than an extra interest in specialists on the era it shows to true spread of the humans and their changes. It occurred over millions of years but also seemly rapidly. Art has always been the forefront in assessing what a world looked like and prehistoric art should be considered its own movement. The art may have been functional in its time but it showed a need for decoration and a need for people to attempt reinterpretation as to their meanings.

For further information please visit: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/prehistoric-art.htm

Princess Charlotte and the road to Victoria

The events that led Victoria to the throne involved a love match, national mourning and a race for royal princes to procreate quickly, quietly and efficiently. The sons of George III had a race to provide him with a suitable grandchild to continue the house of Hanover and naturally the most pressure fell on his eldest, the future George IV. George, as the Prince of Wales, was capable of only one(legitimate) progeny who was a girl, the Princess Charlotte. His other children were illegitimate and unable to take the throne due to the succession laws of Britain that barred any product of immoral or illicit unions. Princess Charlotte had grown up as a pawn in the furore that rang above her head between her father, the king, and her mother Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Her parents were first cousins with Caroline’s mother being the sister of George III, George IV’s father and predecessor on the British throne. The engagement between George IV, then the Prince of Wales, and Caroline occurred in 1794 due to a natural solution to clear some of his ever-mounting debts. If he married someone appropriate to become his queen the parliament and treasury would agree to increase his yearly allowance. By the eighteenth century choosing a bride for a British monarch had become increasingly more difficult than acquiring a substantial dowry, good looks and fertile child bearing hips. Naturally these were still important but events in the seventeenth century further narrowed the marriage market. One of the key aspects of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 that over threw the Catholic sympathiser James II, in the favour of a Protestant monarch, meant that Catholicism was now barred from the throne. The last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, who died in 1714 without a male heir left a vacuum that needed to be filled. The new laws meant the chosen heir would be needing to be related to the Stuart dynasty, male, preferably one with ruling experience and most importantly Protestant. This left very few people to take the helm except the rulers of a small German principality. The eventual George I was ruler of Brunswick-Lüneburg and descended maternally from the Winter Queen Elizabeth Stuart, eldest daughter of James I of England. He believed in the appropriate faith and already had an heir and a spare to satisfy the English parliament. Thus, creating the Hanoverian house which Caroline was marrying into.

Before their wedding day the couple had never met and therefore embarked on a lifelong union on the 8th of April 1795. Caroline had endured a difficult journey from her home in Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Germany. Britain was currently at war with revolutionary France whom had allies that surrounded the small German duchy. However, Caroline was known for being high spirited and verbally effusive, and arrived in England in a flurry of ill-mannered and vulgarly transparent behaviour. The future king the Prince of Wales was evidently disappointed as he was expecting a siren of beauty gracious, and kind, and most importantly quiet and biddable. None of which would describe Caroline’s delight in gossip and flirty behaviour. It is said that Caroline was equally disappointed with the appearance of her husband to be, who was fat, argumentative and given completely to his mistress (or possibly wife) Maria Fitzherbert. Their union is said to have lasted the length of their first night together and in the morning traded insults through mediators. George believed her to be unhygienic and not a true virgin in the marriage bed and Caroline was appalled that she was to have one of his mistresses, Frances Villiers, serve as her Lady of the Bedchamber (hence in close quarters and in insufferable dislike). It was however sufficient to get Caroline pregnant immediately and therefore sparing George the need of visiting her bed frequently. Despite her openness and given to charming the many men who looked her direction Caroline earned a popular reputation with the people, even furthering George’s hatred of her due to the public being very fluent in their despair of him and his behaviour. The notion of a child occurring so soon cemented the public opinion that Caroline was good and needed their support. On the 7th January 1796, a healthy daughter was born and christened Charlotte after the current queen who was the wife to George III. Upon hearing the birth of his daughter, the Prince of Wales responded by rewriting his will thus leaving all his property to Maria Fitzherbert and to Caroline one shilling. If there was need for evidence of the animosity between the couple, the will would naturally serve quite easily. George was disappointed for not having a boy but his father the king George III was delighted to have a legitimate grandchild regardless of her sex.

Charlotte was to grow up in a very divided household. Her mother was portrayed as the ‘wronged woman’ due to having her letters read by George’s mistress for any evidence that would permit divorce, and her father was vilified in the press for continuing to live in luxury and preventing Caroline from visiting anywhere without his permission. By August 1797 Caroline had moved into her own establishment of Blackheath and lived as though a single privileged woman. Happily, for Caroline who was fond of her daughter, Charlotte summered with her governess on the Montague House estate and could visit her frequently. It became clear quickly that Charlotte was to be the only child between George and Caroline and both parents attempted to instil their opinions and demands upon the young child. Caroline wanted better treatment within the royal family for having provided an heir but other than being allowed to visit Charlotte, she had no say in the child’s upbringing. Therefore, the child was to be brought up entirely by governesses and decisions made by her father. Despite this Charlotte saw very little of her father and it was unbeknownst to him that Caroline made a point of taking her daughter for carriage rides in the park, much to the delight of the public who were sympathetic to them.

The Prince of Wales had every appearance as a dominant father figure who liked his own way. When Charlotte was eight he pushed her mother out of Blackheath to live in small Kensington Palace apartments and moved his daughter into Montague House itself to allow visits to his Carlton House residence. Charlotte is said to have been socialised very well with her own peers as she rattled around her home with no company except those who were paid to serve her. She also suffered her first loss as her governess Lady Elgin was forced to retire due to her age despite them being close friends. Her replacement was Lady de Clifford who was not adept at disciplining the child who had grown into what would termed as ‘tomboy’ today. Charlotte would delight in playing with boys and becoming accustomed to unlady-like pursuits, such a fighting and galloping horses through the house estates. By 1805 Charlotte had a full suite of tutors to educate her on the Protestant faith, government and various genteel activities, however she evidently only learnt what she thought necessary herself. Thus, she became fluent in some languages and proficient at the piano but virtually illiterate alongside.

Relations between her parents had deteriorated by the time Charlotte reached the age of ten. Her mother acting upon George’s orders and pretended to not see her each time they came across each other in the park, rendering the young child deeply upset. At the time Caroline was under investigation against having taken various lovers however the ‘delicate’ matter found nothing that would aid George in finally divorcing her. The end of the proceedings allowed Caroline to visit Charlotte again but disallowed contact between any of Caroline’s followers. As Charlotte grew into a teenager and her visits to court became more frequent she was described as uncouth and undignified. Her father placed the blame of her mother’s influence with this despite being immensely proud of her stellar equine pursuits. She grew up into a tall and buxom lady with a love of Austen, Mozart and candid discussion… with a fondness of allowing her under-drawers being seen without concern for the dignity of her rank. Charlotte loved to do whatever she was told not do. On the 6th February 1811, her father became the Regent of Britain and Charlotte, forbidden to attend, rode obviously up and down the ground floor windows attempting to catch a glimpse of the solemn ceremony. Charlotte and her father did have some similarities, they were both politically minded with leanings towards the Whigs. Although the Whigs did not enjoy much royal enthusiasm while George was regent, Charlotte made it obvious where her feelings lay by flirting across the opera hall to the Whig leader, the Earl Grey. It would seem since George as a child rebelled against the strict confines of his parents rule he would learnt to show some respect to a child ready to grow up and explore. He however placed even stricter decorum and allowance rules upon Charlotte which led to her disappointing him frequently. Charlotte did not have a proper allowance for a princess for clothing and was forced to leave shows or operas early and to observe them without being perceived from most of the audience. She was also made to live in Windsor Castle with her unmarried aunts who she believed to be stuffy and dull. With such boredom to contend with her eye fell upon men for entertainment. George FitzClarence, her cousin, was banished to Brighton to join his regiment early after behaving unseemly with the princess and Charles Hesse of the Duke of York’s household was allowed several clandestine meetings with Charlottes mother’s blessing before Hesse was commanded to Spain.

However, Charlotte was at the age where marriage would be looming fast and her father started negotiations in 1813 after the tide of the Napoleonic wars steered in prosperous favour of the British. The first candidate was William, Prince of Orange who would increase alliances and trade with Northwest Europe. The potential couple met at the Regent’s birthday party and all males were riotously drunk. Although having given no official word about what was intended Charlotte had heard suggestions through the grapevine and did not bother to hide her distaste at the prince. She was informed properly of the match through Doctor Henry Halford who found her displeased at the prospect and declared that she did not wish a future queen to marry a foreigner. True enough in English and European history there is enough evidence to both support and negate this belief. The Regent had managed to mishear his daughter’s intentions and thought she wished to marry the Duke of Gloucester instead. Vehemently speaking he argued with both Charlotte and the Duke before realising there were no improper actions taken or about to be undertook. This whole affair was being enjoyed by the public through the satirical papers and news press who continued to vilify the Regent and bless the princess. On the 12th of December, Charlotte had given George the impression she liked the Prince of Orange and started to proceed with marriage plans. These took several months as Charlotte refused point blank to leave Britain and visit the home country of the prince. Many historians believe Charlotte was being difficult after having been advised by the Earl Grey to play for time before deciding on her future husband. The diplomats were also slowing progress since neither crown had the wish to unite under one throne and therefore inheritance of William and Charlotte’s children needed to be divvied up as to whom would gain Britain or the Netherlands. Charlotte signed the marriage contract on the 10th of June despite rumours of her having fallen in love with one of a few Prussian princes. The whole agreement was however about to be thrown into disarray. Charlotte met Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld at a party held for the Russian cavalry. Leopold was invited to attend Charlotte for a meeting and he impressed her father by leaving a note stating he wished no improper feelings toward her. George did not think Leopold would become an issue and knew that he would be an impoverished man to consider courting Charlotte.

During this Caroline who maintained public support was against the match between Charlotte and the Prince of Orange and the press agreed. Charlotte to the magnificent displeasure of the Regent broke of the engagement when she discovered her own mother would not be welcome within her marital home. Wishing to avoid being closeted with the Queen spirited herself away in a Hackney cab to her mother’s household before ordering Whig politicians to attend and advise her. She returned to her father reluctantly the next day after the Duke of York stating he had the power to return her by force. Charlotte lived in forced isolation until the end of July 1814 when she was informed her mother had left to live on the continent, never to see her again. Charlotte could visit Weymouth and travel as a dignified princess should eventually reconciling properly with her father at Christmas. The Regent held high hopes that Charlotte would return to the Prince of Orange but by March 1815 she had fixed upon Leopold as a future spouse. Issues surrounded her decision since Leopold was fighting with his regiment against Napoleon although he was responding enthusiastically to Charlotte’s overtures through intermediaries. As the continent was unsettled the Regent refused Charlotte’s initial proposal of marriage to Leopold before eventually summoning the man to Britain in February 1816. Leopold impressed both Charlotte and her father and the marriage was allowed to take place on the 2nd of May 1816. Delighted to have an end to his daughter’s romances he gave Claremont House and a generous income to the couple to set up a proper house for the future King and Queen of England. Crowds lined the streets and celebrations continued in the public spaces. The only mishap was when the poor Leopold promised his worldly goods to Charlotte who giggled in response.

Marriage to Leopold proved to be a calming balm on Charlotte who became quiet, respectful and more ladylike. Despite an early miscarriage Charlotte fell pregnant in April 1817 and she was restful and happy for the duration. Naturally at the mercy of the press, gamblers had bets on the sex of the child and economists made prospect forecasts. Charlotte’s pregnancy progressed normally under the care of Sir Richard Croft and a medical team. However, when her contractions came on the 3rd of November an unsuspected shock would rock the country. Charlotte had difficulties and her labour spread over several days until the end of the 5th of November a large stillborn boy was born. Charlotte received the news of her child calmly and appeared to recover from her ordeal. Leopold however distressed from being at his wife’s side the whole time took and sleeping draught and slept. In the early hours of the 6th of November Charlotte was violently ill and succumbing to post-partum bleeding. Within an hour Princess Charlotte had died while Leopold slept in the next room.

The death of Charlotte was a major loss to the royal family, she was the Regent’s only heir and none of his brothers had heir’s either. The public reaction to the news was one of genuine remorse and deep mourning even down to the paupers and homeless carrying black bands in respect. The entire running of the country shut down for two weeks and all gambling dens closed on the day of her funeral out of respect. The Prince Regent was distraught and unable to attend his own child’s funeral while Caroline fainted at the news after hearing it through a passing courier. It is said that Leopold never fully recovered from the loss of his wife and refused to remarry until he became King of the Belgians in 1832. He married Louise-Marie of Orleans and had four children. The princess was buried in St George’s Chapel with her son at her feet under a magnificent structure with help funded by the public. What killed Charlotte was never fully explained and despite receiving no blame from the Prince Regent, Sir Richard Croft committed suicide for his role in Charlotte’s labour.

Charlotte’s death meant there were no legitimate grandchildren of George III. George IV did not provide any more children during his rule as Regent or as King meaning there was a race for his younger brothers to marry and procreate, fast. After George IV died, the next in line was George III’s next son William IV who had a fonder love of sailing and ships then women. Once again England was facing the prospect of choosing someone to rule when the Hanoverians ran out of male brothers. Light did appear at the end of the tunnel, once Prince Edward the Duke of Kent discovered Charlotte’s death while at home in Brussels he abandoned his long-term mistress and sought a wife immediately. He chose Dowager Princess Victoria of Leiningen, Leopold’s sister, and they married in 1818. Their child, Charlotte’s niece, was born Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent. Edward did not live long enough to become king after his elder brother William IV. This meant the throne passed to his daughter in 1837 who became Queen Victoria, one of Britain’s longest reigning monarchs. Despite the sons of George III being disappointed in not being able to provide him with a male grandchild, it almost seems natural after the death of Charlotte that the grandchild that follows him to the throne would be a queen. And one that placed a descendant in nearly all the remaining ruling houses of Europe.

(Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mbell1975/6118587664)

The Darien Scheme

When you mention the phrase ‘trade with India’ in a historical sense, people automatically think of the British East India Trading Company that dominated English international affairs, trade and politics from the 31st December 1600, yet few would know that this was not the only attempt to trade with the India, the Caribbean or the Americas on the British Isles. Despite being joined under the crown by James I in 1603, upon the death of the last Tudor Elizabeth I, English and Scottish trade and political links were most definitely separate entities that operated within virtually the same sphere of ideology. This was exasperated by many European countries seeking trade from India and the Americas within years of each other. Scotland in the seventeenth century had struggled with famine and continued endurance of continental warfare that had crippled the trade links that were already established. Scotland was not capable of protecting itself against English legislation which was increasingly bringing the Scots under the rule of an English Parliament. The Scottish economic bands were diminishing and Scotland needed to find a quick route back to prosperity. Thus, in the 1690s, the Darien Scheme was born. The founding father of this scheme was a Scottish financial master called William Paterson who had spent several years south in England formulating what would become the formidable Bank of England. Paterson had spent time learning about the East India Trading Company and decided to take a new venture up to Scotland in order to garner trade links across the Pacific Ocean. The basis of the idea allegedly came from Paterson having a conversation with the sailor Lionel Wafer who told tales of paradise populated by friendly Indians in the fertile land of Darien.

Trade was incredibly lucrative in the seventeenth century for those who was capable of exploiting it successfully, and naturally the thought of Darien stuck in the mind of Paterson. It was however enormously expensive. The merchant ships had to travel a hazardous route below the southernmost tip of South America to reach most of the Pacific markets. The trip took months and there was a high risk of shipwreck or becoming at the mercy of piratical theft. Paterson had the forethought to plan for goods to be carried across Panama from the Pacific harbours to Darien which was situated on the east side next to the Atlantic. This meant there was a virtually unimpeded sea route from Scotland to the Americas. Therefore speeding up Pacific trade and making it instantly more accessible. Economically Scotland would gain huge profits. There was a minor problem. The area that Paterson wished to gain control over to create these trade links was owned by Spain, who were going to prove very problematic for the Scots.

When Paterson took his idea back to Scotland it was very popular and in 1965 the Company of Scotland Trade to Africa and India was established. However, the move was distrusted and disliked by both Spain and England who thought the Scots were going to overtake their monopoly on British trade to the Indies. The English investors into the company were forced to withdraw after the English Parliament threatened Scotland with impeachment. The threat did not prevent Paterson and the company from continuing their venture and they appealed to the Scottish people to help. Thousands subscribed and within six months approximately £400,000 was raised, which was used to fit out five ships even with the English attempting to block progress in every corner. Ambassadors were flocking to attempt to embargo any merchants who dared to trade with the new company.

The sailor had given the company an unrealistic vision of what to expect as they thought they were going to be greeted by people living in luxury. The first expedition set out in 1698 with a band of army veterans in order to establish a colony and to govern until a Darien Parliament could be established. The idea was to create a colony on the Isthmus of Panama and launch a prosperous gateway between the Atlantic and the Pacific traders. By the time the first five ships set sail Paterson was no longer involved due to being culpable for a subordinates embezzlement of the company, he was expelled from the Directors Board and away from the project. Most of the company consisted of those who would little chance of employment elsewhere and some had notorious backgrounds – involvement in the Glencoe Massacre is one particular example – that would’ve hindered their later life. On the whole approximately 1200 people set off from Leith in July 1698 and sailed East to avoid being observed by English warships. They landed in Darien on the 2nd November 1698 after short supply stops in Madeira and the West Indies.

The colony was quickly founded and named ‘Caledonia’ under the leadership of Thomas Drummond. The founders quickly formed their harbour in Caledonia Bay and built Fort St Andrew and a watch house. Several hiccups occurred in quick succession such as tides that threatened a ship if it tried to leave the bay and also the fact they had built in the heart of the Spanish landed colonies that traded silver. Caledonia eventually formed into becoming ‘New Edinburgh’ as settlement huts expanded the village and farming land was cultivated for the growth of maize. This seemed to be an auspicious start for the colonists but the founders did not fare well with those that already occupied the land. The local Indians refused to trade with the Scottish and those that docked in Caledonia bay did not express interest in their wares. Illness also spread with malaria producing a death toll of at least ten settlers a day. Some local Indians attempted contact by offering fruit but these were mainly commandeered by the leaders who kept mostly to their ship cabins. The only luck that occurred was a proficiency at turtle hunting.

Many analysts of the Darien scheme believe that had the English supported the colony, the settlers would have prospered and grown fairly rapidly. However, the English and the Dutch had expressly forbidden their merchants to supply the Scots, for fear of angering the Spanish, which meant after eight months the colony was abandoned. With most their people dead from dysentery and infested food only three hundred people survived long enough to sail to Port Royal in Jamaica. As the former settlers were deemed a disgrace to those at home they sailed north to New York to attempt a new life in the then small town.

As much a failure the first expedition was this did not prevent the Scottish from reattempting their scheme in 1699. The second flagship arrived in Darien in November 1699 and found the burnt embers and mass graves of the first settlement. Morale was low since it was expected that these people who join a busy town not be responsible for building a new one. This new settlement started a turf war with the Spanish and it did not gain any headway until the arrival of Alexander Campbell of Fonab. He organised a strong defence and took to forcing the Spanish back. As with all wars illness was rife which led to legions of death from both the Scottish and Spanish armies. Spain was able to regroup and forced a siege upon Fort St Andrew that lasted a month. Eventually in January 1700 the Scottish colonies were deserted for the last time. Few went home to Scotland, most sought a new life in the established colonies in North America. Of the approximate 2500 settlers that left Scotland, a mere couple of hundred survived to go elsewhere.

The failure of such a promising scheme led to a further morale loss in the Scottish heartlands who had lost a significant amount of their workforce. Many of the contemporary people placed the blame upon the English which led to an assault on an East India Company merchant ship and the hanging of the captain. Historians still debate today as to why the Darien Scheme failed so disastrously. One thing is certain, the failure of Darien Scheme was, and is, cited as a motivation to codify the 1701 Act of Union between English and Scotland. Due to many of the Scottish landowners having lost money through the scheme the English bailed out the Scottish economy in return for an offset future liability to help contribute to reducing the English national debt. This scheme still survives as an oral tale amongst the Kuna Indians who were the only people to settle peacefully in the region.

Women in Renaissance Portraiture (Extended Edition)

For centuries the depiction of women was kept within the confines of religious, and moral, ideological imagery until the Italian Renaissance swept up the fifteenth century to enhance and entrance the majority of the elite classes in Europe. Christianity had hindered female progress with images that encompassed the traditional values of being a woman while also aligning women as virtuous Holy Mother Mary or as demonic witches who seek to seduce men for their own gain. Portraiture for one did not include women unless they were of the supreme elite. Prior to the fifteenth century when the International Gothic movement held Europe women were painted as ethereal ‘s’ shaped figures with faces indistinguishable from each other. Portrayal of men as kings, warriors and soldiers exist in huge quantities dating back to the Ancient Greek and even further, and you are much more likely to have a visual facial representation appear to be identifiable. On the other hand women, much like their opinions and voice, as much less easily allocated to a specific woman and are less frequently found amongst historical records or art. This post will focus especially on the image of women in the Renaissance since this is a time when female representation, specifically portraits, almost treble in number.

First, we must look at why the Renaissance was such a phenomenon. The fifteenth century saw a huge upheaval in socio-political order allowing for a rise in merchant classes to gain wealth and prestige. Naturally they would want to spend this money and they did abundantly. The merchant classes were the middle ground between men at the bottom of their ladder looking to make a fortune through trade and the aristocracy who rule the land from their royal or ducal coroneted thrones. The merchants wished to emulate the aristocracy in order to make the move upwards a smoother hill to climb and this included copying and influencing the arts. Up until this point in history portraits were saved for the wealthy and powerful royals who needed to be remembered in posterity for the skilled kingship but for their image. But these new found rich men of the Renaissance also wanted to gain long galleries that contained images of their family to be seen for generations to come. All of sudden portraits of men holding the symbol of their guild start to pop up, for example the early Medici clan, alongside their aristocratic brides to signal their rise to greatness if a great lord would permit such a marriage. This was all in honour of conspicuous consumption, the merchants wanted to build and design like stamping their name across it. This is why so many churches were built in Italy with their leading families name and heraldry printed on the front starting being formed, as this was the most the church would allow before extolling the sins of pride, greed or vanity. Portraits were useful, they provided a visual image of someone before a marriage, adorned the walls of a newly gilded home and commemorated those that came before. Here is why the male family leaders starting painting their wives and daughters. It exuded wealth, power and the rise in social status. There is a snag to this growth in female imagery, they are highly idealised. The Northern Renaissance that occurred in the later fifteenth century across the Netherlands depicted men and women in a warts and all concept – nothing was hidden or edited to suit the sitter. However the beginnings of the Renaissance in Italy women were airbrushed to suit the ideals of the time.

Renaissance portraits of women generally intended to convey beauty and the social role of women. Portraits of men generally emphasized their social, political, or professional role, and these portraits were often stereotypically masculine. The function of portraits of male leaders was focussed on politics and their ideal portraits often served as some sort of ambassador of their status during their absence. This shows that men were defined by attributes of profession and social status. But female portraiture in Italian Renaissance art was not meant to be a direct representation of the individual. The purposes of most female portraiture include commemorative works, donor portraits, and images of ideal beauty. When used as a commemorative portrait, lineage and wealth were seen as the most important. Women were often painted in honour of marriage, shown by the age and costume of many subjects of portraits. Other than at the time of marriage, women were rarely seen on display as publicity was necessary to legitimize marriage during the period, and men wished to display wealth and prestige. Much of the time women were painted within the domestic sphere of the home, this included them being hard at work sewing or spinning, or rearing their many expected children.

Many depictions of women were also seen in religious paintings as donors. In Northern Italian courts, donors were portrayed in finery to publicly advertise their wealth. In other courts of Italy, this practice was frowned upon, and female donors were pictured in dark attire with heads covered in white cloth. The costume of a woman in portrait marked their parental and marital identity, and because costume and jewellery conveyed such a large amount of information, artists often focused on the wardrobe as much as the woman, who was considered to be a piece of property herself anyway.

As said before, the women pictured in the portraits of the Italian Renaissance were not often portrayed as specific individuals but as generally ideal women who shared similar facial features with the subject of the portrait. Examples of desired physical traits include a high, round forehead, plucked eyebrows, blond hair, fair skin, rosy cheeks, red lips, white teeth and dark eyes. This is shown in many portraits where they may memorialize different individual women, the images appear to differ only slightly, with many showing equal proportion and perfect symmetry in addition to the other features mentioned. In addition to physical beauty, women were expected to uphold the high moral standards of the time. The virtuous qualities most patrons and artists aimed to portray include humility, piety, charity, obedience, and chastity. The Italian phrase virtutem forma decorat, or ‘beauty adorns virtue,’ shows the common belief in Italian Renaissance society that ideal moral characteristics must be present for women to possess physical beauty, and therefore it was considered that outward appearance was a reflection of inner beauty.

Political Unrest in Russia: The Abdication of Nicholas II

Nikolai Aleksandrovich, known as Tsar Nicholas II, was the last Russian Emperor and a member of the illustrious Romanov dynasty that had sat on the imperial throne since the early seventeenth century. Born on the 18th of May in Tsarskoye Selo, now Pushkin, Nicholas was born to rule only to die in a bloody revolution designed to end the formal monarchy of Russia. Nicholas II was the son and heir of his predecessor Tsarevich Aleksandr Aleksandrovich and his consort the Dagmar of Denmark Maria Fyodorovna, and his succeeded his father in Moscow on May 26th 1896. As a child Nicholas was trained to be an excellent military officer but his intellectual skills were inadequate to be prepared for the role of emperor. It is well documented that he possessed a good personality, but naturally shy with a compulsion to remain within the privacy of the family quarters instead of socialising with the court subjects. His close family was intimate and happy since Nicholas had a genuine affection and love for his wife Alexandra whom he married two years before his ascension on 26th November 1894. Alexandra was the stronger of the two in temperament and was the leader in their religious guidance during their marriage and reign. However well his family circle functioned the political undercurrents of court life was rumbling with discontent. Nicholas had a tendency to lean on favourites, to distrust his ministers, and to believe his right to rule was derived from the outdated notion of Divine Right and absolutism that had already seen the fall of the French monarchy.

The year running up to the 18th March 1917 had several upheavals close in on the Russian imperial family, their downfall and eventual execution in 1918. Nicholas II had run through a series of ministers that had presented the emperor with a skewed perception of common Russian life that he preferred to what he read in the official reports that landed in his office. His belief in autocratic rule meant that he never attempted to produce policies to aid his government and people. Russia maintained the medieval ideology of feudalism and the people being closely tied to the land ensured a limited measure of freedom. This meant that the people’s faith in the imperial monarchy was low and morale sank lower during Russia’s involvement in World War One from 1914. Nicholas as a monarch has interests in Balkans and attempted to salve peace within the great powers of Europe, however the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo meant Nicholas’ resistance to war ended in the mobilization of Russian troops. Yet this war would see Russia falling from being a world power to an economic and military failure. In the years running up to the world war Nicholas II had been to seen to be the blame for several catastrophes from the execution of multiple political opponents, the instigation of the Russo-Japanese War, a very violent defeat for the leaders of the 1905 Revolution, and links with England attempting to suppress the power of Germany.

One of the reasons the people grew increasing disaffected with the imperial monarchy was the lack of order and control to the Russian army who had already seen a recent war with Japan. The imperial army lost approximately over three million soldiers, lack of food and supplies alongside poor management from the higher level military leaders. As the government failed to provide for their own army and citizens, riots and rebellions grew in frequency, particularly with Nicholas away, and authority crumbled. There had been several attempts at constitutional reform to become more similar to the role of parliament in Britain  but they were resisted. The increasingly isolation of the Tsar to his ministers prevented anything meaningful taking place.

The Russians began the war in the strong position in regards to supplies, but by 1917 severe winters had caused a standstill in railways, emergency shipments of coal and the treasury being depleted significantly. On the 23rd February 1917 the citizens of Petrograd resorted to stealing and rioting which slowly spread to other cities all with the aim to gain the attention and bring down the Tsar. With the best of the militia dead the police created a forced recruitment and gave them very little training. Although the police and militia deployed fired into the air rather than the mob of over twenty thousand that had formed they were not deterred but reinforcements from Nicholas’ base were too late. On the 12th of March the Volinsky Regiment mutinied which led to successive rebellions within the militia to join the mob themselves. Nicholas II knew that the situation was die when the imperial guards loyalists the Preobrazhensky Regiment formed under Peer the Great also turned their anger against the Tsar. By the end of the day sixty thousand soldiers had joined the revolution to march against the Tsar.

Up against such numbers members of government, the Duma and the Soviet attempted to restore order with provisional preparations. The most significant order was that Nicholas II was to abdicate and create a clean slate for ruling Russia. Nicholas II faced the decision with the threat of civil war, the army generals pushing for abdication and his citizens deprived of food with his family in the hands of the Soviet.

Nicholas II abdicated on the 15th March 1917, thus formally ending what is now known as the February Revolution. Originally he had abdicated in the favour of his son Alexei who was weak but soon the aim of the revolution was to force the whole imperial family into exile. The ideology of whether Russia should remain in the hands of the monarchy or become a republic was put to a vote by the people. Nicholas’ abdication and further revolution by the Bolsheviks would formally bring the end of the Romanov dynasty that had lasted three centuries. By October 2017 the last Romanov imperial family were imprisoned.

If you would like more information one of the best Romanov biographers is Simon Sebag Montifiore whose books are available on amazon and in most booksellers.

A 5000 Year Old Pyramid City: Caral, Peru

This month we are investigating a non-European pre-modern civilisation and I took some time to research a topic that really gripped my interest. Usually in Europe the founding of civilisation is kept within the confines of Egypt, China, India and Mesopotamia when studying academic history. Very few universities offer modules that look into the deeper past of the Americas, and more specifically for this post South America. I had always had an interest in the Incan Empire and slowly I started to work my way backwards through history until I found Caral in the country that is now known as Peru. Caral is a UNESCO World Heritage site sat in the middle of a dry desert near the greener valley of the Supe River. It is one of the best preserved ancient cities and is the oldest centre of civilisation in the whole of the Americas. Caral dates back around 5000 years to the Late Archaic Period of the Central Andes. The aim of this month was to look into what people would class as pre modern in different civilisations and I thought 5000 years ago would be sufficient! It is 626 hectare archaeological site that is listed as a sacred city when it was introduced into UNESCO in 2009.

Caral is known to be impressive in its size and complexity since its stone and earthen platform mounts are architecturally sound and clear in layout for archaeologists to examine. There are seventeen other urban settlements in the same area but Caral gives strong evidence of six large pyramidal structures making it one of the most complex. The Archaic period of the Central Andes is not well known outside of academics and Latin Americans, but there is a wealth of knowledge for archaeologists in terms of residential mobility, changes in resources and major population growth; much like what occurred elsewhere in world at several points in history when civilisation was shifting between eras.

For archaeologists Caral offers an insight into the city plan and its components such as residence spots for the elite and evidence for a strong religious ideology. The site reflects Caral as a fully developed socio-political state with the discovery of the early use of quipu, a recording device, and language. Images of the city gives the aura of a compact and consolidated state with clear boundary lines. It is the best site for Ancient Peruvian civilisation discovery that is known to have influenced the other sites that lie around it, specifically along the Peruvian coast line.

There has not been much scholarship that has escaped academia and into the public eye but for ancient archaeology it is incredibly interesting place to research. The mere fact that Caral is mostly intact had suggested early abandonment and very late discovery. It is known to have only been occupied twice; once in what is called Middle Formative/Early Horizon around 1000BCE, and once in the States and Lordships period between 900 and 1440AD. Both of these settlements occurred on the outside of the city therefore not disturbing the ancient archaeological structures. The site itself has been proven several times over to have been founded between 3000 and 1800BCE, therefore the Late Archaic Period, through radiocarbon analysis. There is no evidence of looting since the site lacks the appearance of gold or silver finds. There have been no modern structures built nearby except those associated with tourism since it is kept as natural as possible in its cultural landscape. The land surrounding the Supe Valley is devoted to non-industrial agriculture as most of the development occurred in Lima which lies to the south of the site.

Pyramids have been found within the city confines and one particularly stands out as the largest which is positioned in the most urban part of Caral’s landscape. It is sixty feet high and is approximately 1900 feet in perimeter. Archaeologists and historians have deduced that here is where the rulers of Caral lived and would have been able to monitor the whole cities progress. Previous digs have unearthed a series of rooms including an altar room (from the burns into the ground assumed to have been made by offerings), atriums and state rooms. Assumptions about the aristocracy are that they lived in the largest rooms atop the various pyramids and low societal workers lived in small outlying dwellings. The estimated population is around 3000 that had access to an amphitheatre, plazas and courtyards.

Most of this information come in extracts as there has been no full analysis that I could find to research from however UNESCO stated:

“The Sacred City of Caral-Supe reflects the rise of civilisation in the Americas. As a fully developed socio-political state, it is remarkable for its complexity and its impact on developing settlements throughout the Supe Valley and beyond… The design of both the architectural and spatial components of the city is masterful, and the monumental platform mounds and recessed circular courts are powerful and influential expressions of a consolidated state.” (Sourced from: http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-americas/5000-year-old-pyramid-city-caral-002016)


It is a fascinating city and one that deserves more attention outside of Latin America for which I happy to have had a chance to research into something completely different to me.

Medieval Warfare Vol. VI, Issue 6 Review – January/February 2017

Late last year I got the opportunity to read an advance issue of Medieval Warfare and since it was a chance to keep up to date with different historical literature since graduation I was delighted. A couple of issues were sent to W.U.HSTRY and Lilly (W.U.HSTRY ruler) sent this one over to me as it kept in line with my interests as a historian including art history, the Hundred Years War, and my curiosity in medieval weaponry. My initial reaction in receiving this issue, which is released in January 2017, was to enjoy how much effort has gone into the layout of the magazine and wishing I had the ability to draw medieval landscapes and images with such skill. The key theme of this issue was the ideology of man, specifically those of the lower orders of society, trying to act like God through violence and war in order to settle their respective scores, and the German Peasants War of the sixteenth century was an apt choice to represent this theme throughout. The editor of Medieval Warfare, Peter Konieczny, gave a short introduction to the theme of this month by identifying the main contributors to January’s edition such as eminent medieval scholars such as Kelly DeVries, some of whose work I enjoyed reading myself during research in my undergraduate History degree. There are heavier analytical aspects to this magazine towards the German Peasants War and this is followed by a lighter hearted tale of a cow stopping a siege.

I could sit here and analyse the whole magazine but I thought it would be more suitable for me to choose the highlights. As expected from the magazine with warfare in the title there is a strong tilt towards weaponry, armour, military tactics and the role the lords and peasants played against each other during the German Rebellion. The first article by Kelly DeVries ‘Lucifer and his Angels’ debates the issue around why would peasants revolt in the first place. The abstract introduces the Marxist opinion that peasant oppression from their lords meant that rebellion was always ‘simmering’. DeVries initially states that peasant revolts were infrequent, of varying size, and never successful. This is a good start to looking into why, how and what caused the sixteenth century German peasants to revolt and why it is particularly interesting to medieval historians. Throughout the article is images of armour worn during the war and maps presenting the breadth of the revolt in the German provinces.

The next couple of articles include text by Erich B.Anderson who looks at an army that swept through Upper Swabia in 1525 and Jean-Claude Brunner’s ‘Siege of Salzburg’. They both look in-depth as specific episodes of German history within the different aspects of the Peasants War. Another interesting part was an excerpt in Sidney E.Dean’s article on ‘Knight of the Iron Hand’ Götz von Berlichingen where Dean looked specifically into the mechanics of Berlichingen’s literal iron hands and whether they were efficient or useless in their role. Each article offers the opportunity to look into further reading which for both amateur and academic historians alike are useful.

The best article available in my opinion would be Iason-Eleftherios Tzouriadis’ ‘Death, Violence and Sex’ which looks into Anti-War propaganda art created during the sixteenth century as a response to the wars encircling Europe during the late middle ages. This is a particular interest to the art geek in me. Art in the military was limited as an aid in studying the military in itself and their equipment. Tzouriadis references Hale’s 1990 work Artists and Warfare in the Renaissance. This offers extra insight into how historians have started to critically analyse illustrations to inform their research. The article shows several examples to back up both Tzouriadis and Hale’s analysis.

It is always good practise as historians to look for parallels between the medieval and modern eras. Dahm looks into the socio-economic and political similarities between medieval Germany and 1850 when an eminent piece of medieval warfare scholarship was published. The last part of the magazine was dedicated towards the Hundred Years War as an increasing interest in the logistics of medieval warfare is appearing in historical literature, and a weapon that never existed.

In all this is a fascinating issue that introduced an element of history I was unfamiliar with and happy to get acquainted. The whole issue is 60 pages and packed with information, illustrations and snippets of relevant information. There is a coherency between the articles with a strand on the role of peasants in history, the logistics of each revolt, war, rebellion, siege or catastrophe and finally their representation in the media. I found nothing to argue with but a lot to research as a new interest to add to my bookshelves and by the end of the magazine you will want to rewatch Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the last article).

Medieval Warfare can be brought at https://www.karwansaraypublishers.com/shop/medieval-warfare/subscriptions.html


A Portrait of Hindenburg

This is my second contribution towards the effort to document the events of World War One on this blog, and another attempt at modern history, and this time I am profiling a man who preceded Adolf Hitler as president of Germany, Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (Paul von Hindenburg to his friends). At the first instance of research for this post all I had heard about that could be related to him would be the Hindenburg disaster of 1937 where a blimp crash landed, which I now know occurred after his death. This post will give a brief overview of his life and times in office while attempting to understand his significance in being the man to come before Hitler.

Paul von Hindenburg was born to a Prussian aristocrat, Robert von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg, in 1847 in Posen, Prussia (now Pozen, Poland). Hindenburg’s parents were engaged in a morganatic marriage due to his mother, Luise Schwickart, being a daughter of a medical professional and this fact was not seen as favourable to Hindenburg due to her barely occupying any attention in his journals. Hindenburg lineage was distinguished through two high powered Prussian aristocratic families. Hindenburg obtained a long but in no regards exceptional military career, after joining the Prussian Cadet Corps in 1858. He served in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Hindenburg eventually retiring from active service in 1911 aged 64 after being decorated for bravery and representing his regiment at the declaration of the German Empire in 1871. He finished his first career as head of the Fourth Army Corps. However his most significant rise to prominence came after retirement through being appointed to mobilise the whole German state for war in 1914, and thus becoming a popular and well-known figure to the detriment of the reputation of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Hindenburg’s shining hour was by cripplingly defeating the Russian Army at Tannenburg and Masurian Lakes earning him a promotion to Field Marshall and sole command of the Eastern Front in November 1914.

Throughout the First World War Hindenburg rose to immense power across the military and civil spheres of German government. August 1916 saw Hindenburg being appointed as Chief of the Greater German General Staff (GGB) a body within the Prussian Government established in 1806 to overlook all aspects of war through intelligence and strategic advances. The GGB had greater autonomy to the rest of the German Empire and held extensive political sway. Hindenburg was also a major mind behind the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Russia. This treaty effectively ended Russia’s involvement in World War One on 3rd March 1918 after the Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia thus eradicating the Romanov Tsar and his family. Throughout the war Germany had pushed through Russian occupied Poland and Lithuania, and into Russia itself, disintegrating the enormous but undisciplined Russian army. It was also Hindenburg that was instrumental in orchestrating the armistice as the Allies were pushing Germany to their limits especially after America waded into the fray to push the invasion of Germany. If the Allies had succeeded Germany would have suffered to a much greater extent materially, financially and civilly like France and Belgium. The 1918 German offensive on the Western Front had failed and the result was the conclusion of the First World War on November 11th 1918.

The aftermath of the war was the crushing of Germany as a power in Europe. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated the throne and retired to Holland while Hindenburg remained as head of the army until July 1919 when he once again attempted to retire. This was not to last since he was persuaded to stand in the presidential elections of 1925 upon the death of Ebert. Weimar Germany was growing and needed an authoritative figure at its helm. This era in German history unofficially began at the end of the war but took off in 1924 upon its first constitutional assembly in Weimar. Creating the German Republic caused several issues such as extreme inflation, political extremism from both the left and right and a distinct coldness toward other European countries that partook in the First World War. The main achievements of Weimar Germany was a reform of the currency, tax policies and a new organised railway connecting and integrating Germany into a further unified country. Germany had strained against the Treaty of Versailles which was aimed to prevent Germany from obtaining any power and Weimar Germany pushed against these boundaries vigorously. Hindenburg as the leader of all this was elected twice in 1925 and 1931, partly due to not being a politician foremost but a military man who was active during the whole war.

Hindenburg was of advanced age during these years but proved to be a good president for a Germany attempting to renew itself, particularly when hit by the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Hindenburg had a particular fear of communism which led to dismissals within his government including the chancellor Heinrich Brüning. 1932 saw Hitler attempts to become chancellor of Germany. Hindenburg initially rebuffed these due to Hitler not coming from the right social class, and had not had a majorly established career in the military during the war, but Hindenburg gave in January 1933 and Adolf Hitler began his track to power.

During the years that Hindenburg was in power he began to show his age and was more susceptible to persuasion. The burning of the Reichstag in February 1933 enabled Hitler to be granted emergency powers against any communism and thus gain another step to dictatorship. Hindenburg died in August 1934 on his Prussian estate which Hitler used the state funeral to solidify his progress. Immediately after Hindenburg’s death Hitler initiated the use of Fuhrer instead of president and started the ball rolling towards World War Two.

(Image: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Paul-von-Hindenburg)

Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

From the 19th of June to the 12th of July 2016 a fellow W.U.HSTRY contributor and I travelled around eight countries in the space of three weeks. We both shall be writing posts on our favourite memories, moments or monuments from the trip which included Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, Prague, Florence, Bern and Paris. This particular post of mine will cover the stunning castle of Rosenborg, one of many truly spectacular European royal residences that I dragged Laura around during our trip. Rosenborg Castle sits to the north of Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, which like many well-known cities was surprisingly smaller than expected. The castle, or slot in Danish, is a picturesque seventeenth-century structure with distinct renaissance architecture. The architects are believed to be Bertel Lange and Hans van Steenwinckel the Younger. Built as a pleasure palace by Christian IV at the beginning of the 1600’s, its use as a royal residence only lasted until the early eighteenth century but still stands in its entirety today. The castle was used as a royal residence only twice after 1710 after Christiansborg Palace burned down in 1794, and the second during the British invasion of Copenhagen in 1801. Christian IV built many beautiful Danish slots but Rosenborg was his favourite and became the holder of hundreds of the oldest and rarest of treasures cultivated for years by the royal family. Copenhagen is also home to Christianborg Palace whose intention was magnificence and a small library that sparked a stronger drive in me for books. Others still included Amelienborg and Charlottenborg which on this visit I did not get to observe, but hope to one day.

Christian IV of the House of Oldenburg ruled both Denmark and Norway from 1588 to 1648. He is significant partly due to having been the longest ruling Danish monarch and of all Scandinavian monarchies in fifty-nine years. His initial reign began as a minority before beginning his personal rule at the age of nineteen in 1596. He was an ambitious king in engaging within the Thirty Years War and losing Danish conquered territory. Proactive in that Christian IV established a stable economy (when not at war) for Denmark and established a further hold of Lutheranism in Scandinavia. He married twice to Anne Catherine of Brandenburg and Kirsten Munk, he fathered twenty-eight children via both wives and mistresses. Christian IV’s first marriage was one of state that produced the heir Frederick III of Denmark, but his second was a morganatic marriage to a noble. Munk’s mother insisted that the king married her daughter due to being a member of the nobility instead of having the suggested dishonour of being mistress. The marriage to Munk inevitably created disgrace, not through being an unwise choice, but through her infidelity with German officers. Christian IV’s legacy was general popularity with the Danish people but he is most well-known for his prolific building activities across Denmark and Norway, and having a glacier in Greenland named after him.

Rosenborg was opened as a museum in 1838 and is designed to portray a journey through the rulers of the Danish-Norwegian joint kingdoms. The guidebook begins your exploration on the ground floor, up through to the second floor and then back down deep into the basement where the treasury lies. Each room belongs to a respective king or queen, except for the Great Hall and tower rooms, and are still occasionally used for ceremonial circumstances along with the treasury by the current Queen Margrethe of Denmark. The rooms were typical of a royal residence in one leading onto another in a long loop, with each room decorated in unique style to suit the owners. The Lacquered Chamber, fitted for Princess Sophie Hedevig in 1665 in the Chinese design on the first floor, was dark but etched with gold and intricate Japanese/Chinese inspired china, furniture and art. The entrance on the ground floor, known as the Stone Corridor, featured a large wall mural that depicted the genealogical chart of Christian IV. My favourite part was the corridor on the first floor that spanned the length of the house between Frederik II’s room and Frederick IV’s Hall which was filled from floor to ceiling of portraits. Several other portraits were situated on the walls around the house but this corridor held a curious mix of Danish royalty alongside their Scandinavian relatives. One such portrait was of Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden, daughter of Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark, who was both Queen Regnant and Queen Consort of Sweden after abdicating in favour of his husband. The most strange part would be the wax models of a few Danish rulers which were most disconcerting when I came across them. (The image shows a the wax figure of Queen Sophie Amalie).


I have seen several treasuries on my travels but the Danish treasury was beautiful and outshone the Swedish collection in The Royal Palace of Sweden. The first floor of the basement held barrels of wine, collections of ivory and amber, and the coronation riding gear of Christian IV. As you descend further into the ground, the items become increasingly costly. The Crown Jewels of Denmark include the perceived oldest British Order of the Garter outside of Britain and the entire set of jewels owned by Queen Sophie Magdalene who bequeathed it all to ‘the crown’ and not to be owned by any one person in 1746. The Rosenborg jewels consist of sets of jewellery mounted with pearls and others with rubies, emeralds, rose and diamonds. The most expensive and internationally note-worthy is the set mounted with emeralds. The treasury never leaves Denmark and can only by used by the Queen and typically are only worn on such events like the New Years Banquet. It is remarkable the condition of these jewels especially with having been in use for over four hundred years – particularly the baptismal collection which was first used in 1671 and is still in continuous use in all royal baptisms today. The collection includes a silver dish and pitcher alongside two solid gold candle sticks.

The two crowns featured are those of the absolute monarchy each dating from 1671 and 1731. They were used for each coronation from Christian V to Christian VIII and they both weigh approximately two kilos. The queens crown was created in the eighteenth-century for Queen Sophie Magdalene but the precious stones date from 1648. The original sixteenth-century sceptre, orb and ampulla also lie in the treasury vault.


Rosenborg was a truly beautiful place with gorgeous gardens, which are Denmark’s oldest royal gardens, surrounding it. Considering its size you cannot view it sufficiently from the road and trees hide it from view until you approach the slot directly. You can visit the entire castle within the space of a few hours and I could have easily brought several books from the gift shop…if the best ones weren’t all in Danish! I highly recommend viewing Rosenborg – the Copenhagen Card will gain you free access to most castles and palaces in the city – and Christiansborg, but be prepared to wear protective blue socks over your shoes.


(All pictures are my own)