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31st January 1891. Ivanhoe.

Ivanhoe was Arthur Sullivan’s only grand opera and didn’t involve Gilbert who said that in that genre dialogue would be subservient to music. Sullivan always thought he should be writing more serious work than the Savoy Operettas and was persuaded by Queen Victoria to write one. Ivanhoe had its first night Today in 1891 and premiered at the Royal English Opera House, later the Palace Theatre, in Cambridge Circus.

Ivanhoe was an historical novel first published in 1820 by Sir Walter Scott in 3 volumes and subtitled ‘A Romance’ and was a shift away from his fairly realistic novels to a fanciful medieval England.

Title Page of Ivanhoe published in 1820.

It was a highly influential novel set in 12th century England, though many of its facts are anachronistic with its tournaments, outlaws and  witch trials, and showing the divisions between Jews and Christians, and credited with an increased interest in medieval romance.

J.H.later Cardinal Newman said the book was important in our modern perceptions of the Middle Ages a view echoed by writers Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin.

Thus we see Richard the Lionheart as a great hero, King John as a bad king and Robin Hood, originally known as Locksley, has come down as a leader of cheery, noble outcasts.

The story centres on one of the remaining Saxon noble families when the nobility was largely Norman and follows the protagonist Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe out of favour and disinherited by his father Cedric of Rotherwood for allying with King Richard in 1194 after the failure of the 3rd crusade when Richard was captured by Leopold of Austria, and for falling in love with Lady Rowena the ward of Cedric.

Scott’s Ivanhoe like his novels Rob Roy and Heart of Midlothian have similar themes where a conflict between heroic idealism and early 19thc society are highlighted and which were to inspire a romantic medievalism in both the arts and culture generally.



30th January 1649. Charles the Martyr?

King Charles 1st had a penchant for trying to divide and rule and upset the Puritans by reviving Elizabeth’s fines for their non-attendance at church, and use of the Star Chamber against those who criticised the High Church.(1) 

In the end Charles Stuart’s attempt to divide the Scots and English and Royalist and Parliament, and his conviction of his Divine Right to rule led inexorably to his execution Today in 1649.

(c) Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation. Funeral Cortege of Charles I about to enter St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Ernest Crofts RA,

Charles inherited from his unstable father James I the notion of his supposed ‘God-Given’ power which was supported by the High Church Arminians and in his closet Catholicism by Archbishop Laud’s High Church leanings. He had also married a Catholic, Henrietta Maria, and wished for his the children to be brought up in that faith.(2)

The King dismissed three parliaments between 1625-28; in 1626 he was forced to summon his second Parliament for funds and attempted to attack Spanish treasure ships in his support of Louis XIII against the Protestant Huguenots.  However the 1628 Parliament did force Charles to accept the Petition of Right giving Parliament the right to consent to taxation.

In reply Charles now chose to ignore parliament dissolving it from 1629 in the ‘Eleven years’ Tyranny’(3) whilst the Star-Chamber suppressed all opposition, so in his first five years Charles summoned and dissolved parliament three times.

The King was thus forced later to raise money in other ways when in 1635 he raised the controversial Ship Money, which along with monopolies on salt and bricks, contravened Magna Carta which required Parliament’s approval for raising taxes. The imposition of tonnage and poundage was an added grievance.

Charles’ attempt to bring the Presbyterian Scots into line with English religion by introducing an episcopacy, and the introduction of a new Prayer Book in 1637 by Archbishop Laud was resented and rejected on 28th February 1638, causing the nobles and gentry to to sign the National Covenant to uphold ‘true religion’.

Between the first Bishops’ War of 1639 and the second, the King was forced to call the ‘Short Parliament’ between May-June 1640, which ended his personal rule.(4) This was called in the King’s mistaken belief that the English would rally to his side especially with the Scots intriguing with the French, and his abandonment of ship money.

Final resting place of Charles I on the far left. Sketch 1888 by Alfred Young Nutt, Surveyor to Dean of St. George’s Chapel.

Parliament was dissolved after twenty-three days after it refused to grant supplies for the Bishops’ Wars until grievances were redressed; it was followed by the Long Parliament called on 3rd November 1640 to pass financial bills and which after many vicissitudes was not to be finally abolished until 1660, with Cromwell now dead, by the Convention Parliament.(5)

(1) One such was William Prynne in 1637 who had his ears cropped, nose slit and to cap it all was put in the pillory.

(2) Followers of Arminius with a doctrine of free-will. Laudian Rails protected the altar area.

(3) The Whig description of the period when Charles ruled without parliament (a right under his prerogative), was also known as the ‘Personal Rule’.

(4) In the second Bishops’ Wars, the Scots invaded England occupying Newcastle and Durham and though a peace was arranged in October 1640, the Scots only departed in 1641.

(5) The Long Parliament could only be dissolved by its members, but in 1648 it was ‘purged’ by Pride and his New Model Army. It didn’t dissolve until the Convention Parliament (1660).

Ref: lothians.blogspot/Pics.

Ref: The Verney Papers ‘Notes of the Procedures of the Long Parliament’, produced by the Camden Society.


29th January 1856. For Valour.

Surgeon (later Surgeon-General) William Manley is unique having been awarded the VC and the German Iron Cross, winning the first in New Zealand and the second in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 as a member of the British Ambulance Corps on the Prussian side.(1)

One of the most decorated NCO’s of WWI was conscientious-objector Lance-Corporal Coltman born near Burton-on Trent, Staffordshire. He was a stretcher-bearer and awarded the MM (twice), DCM as well as the VC and Croix de Guerre.

The Victoria Cross, the highest award regardless of rank, was instituted Today in 1856 by Warrant under Royal Sign-Manual. It was backdated to 1854 to recognise bravery in the Crimean War.

Obverse of VC.

The first investiture of 62 medals was held in Hyde Park on 26th June, 1857 by the Queen on horseback. (2)

It was William Howard Russell of The Times who reported on the bravery of the common soldier in the Crimea, who was the instigator of the VC, an idea taken up by the Commons in 1854, that the Queen should create a medal for the highest and the lowest.(3)

An early VC was presented retrospectively to Lieutenant (later Rear Admiral) Charles Lucas for his action in throwing a live bomb overboard from HMS Hecla in 1854. The youngest recipient was Andrew Fitzgibbon for action at Taku Forts, China on 21.8.1860.(4)

The list of awards is a litany of Empire conflict and beyond, from the Crimea (111); Indian Mutiny ((182) when 23 were won in a single day.(5); The New-Zealand Maori Wars (15); 2nd Afghan War (16), when the first padre to be awarded the Cross was the Rev. James Adams on the staff of Lord Roberts.

The Zulu War (23) saw the largest number awarded in a single action with 11 awarded at Rorkes’s Drift on 22nd– 23rd January 1879; In 1881 the medal was restricted for action in the presence of the enemy. The 2nd Boer War saw 78 medals awarded between 1899-1901.

Obverse of VC in dark blue awarded to Royal Navy 1856-1918.

The VC Medal comprises a bronze Maltese Cross captured from a Chinese-made Russian cannon captured at Sebastopol, the metal kept by the Logistic Corps at Donnington Supply Depot in Shropshire. Hancocks the London jewellers inscribe the blanks of a medal which has a royal crown surmounted by a lion in the centre; beneath is the inscription ‘For Valour’.

There were 627 recipients out of 628 in WWI. The first airman was William Rhodes-Moorhouse RFC.(6) The only holder to be Court-Marshalled was Lt. Colonel Sherwood-Kelly, for objecting to a raid against the Bolsheviks in 1919, using a newly developed gas, but ostensibly for his communication to the Press.

Not until 1920 could a VC be awarded posthumously with one quarter of WWI being so awarded

The first Army medals in WWII resulted from Dunkirk.(7) Five were awarded after the 1942 St Nazaire raid, the most for any single operation in a War when 182 were awarded altogether. D-Day saw only one VC awarded to Sergeantt-Major Stanley Hollis.

There have been 10 British awards since WWII which saw among conflicts the Korean, the Falklands to Colonel H. Jones (the 36th Old Etonian VC), and Sgt. Mackay whilst in recent times the 2003 Iraq and the Afghanistan Wars were to see the ultimate awards for bravery.

(1) Announced in the British Gazette on 22.12 1864.

(2) The VC was Gazetted on 5th February 1856 in the London Gazette 21846 pp.410-411.

(3) On 19th December 1854.

(4) 117 have been awarded to RN to date which includes Naval Reserve and Marines.

(5) On November 16th 1857.

(6) Of No 2 Squadron for action on 26.4.1915. In all 15 RFC and RNAS and 26 to RAF in total of which 23 were to Bomber Command.

(7) Announced in the London Gazette on Monday July 30th 1940 for awards to Lt. Harald Marcus Ervine-Andrews (East Lancs) and L/Corp Harry Nicholls (Grenadiers), posthumously.

Ref: Crook MJ. The Evolution of the VC. Midas Books, 1976. Ch. 8, P68-90.

Ref: Wikipedia List of VCs.


28th January 1813. Gentility Personified.

Richard Whately, a contemporary of Jane Austen observed that the books, written by women appeal equally to men: Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan was a great Austen reader.

Jane Austen’s gentility was a radical break away from the 18th century’s Rabelaisian novels, a tradition going back to the bawdy Canterbury Tales of Chaucer. No Moll Flanders or Tom Jones here.(1)

Austen’s novels seen as the work of a fine brush on a ‘little piece of ivory’, belies the fact that the Austens were a family of publishers and authors with Pride and Prejudice published Today in 1813 being the most popular.

Pride and Prejudice initially called ‘First Impressions’ was regarded by Charlotte Bronte as a, ‘carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden…but no glance of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air…’

Parting through misunderstanding is a constant theme, in Austen, as with Elizabeth and Darcy, owing to Wickam’s misrepresentation; Emma and Knightly because he believes she has given her heart to Frank Churchill; Anne Elliot owing to her understanding that Captain Wentworth was not a suitable match.

Then in Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland falls for the well-connected, wealthy and well-read Rev. Henry Tilney where the misunderstanding results from Tilney’s father.

The heroines are all young and pretty, though Anne Elliot was 27, a hopeless age for a woman to have reached without matrimony; Marianne Dashwood was a mere 17. Her heroes are either young blades in their twenties, or established youngish men, like Mr Knightley or Colonel Brandon in their mid thirties.

Pen and ink illustration by Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) for Pride and Prejudice.

Mr Collins protesting that he never reads novels.








All have money: Knightly and Colonel Brandon run estates at Donwell and Delaford, Captain Wentworth has colleccted his prize money and Edmund Bertram as second son, has been given the living and parsonage in the possession of Mansfield Park. Darcy has Pemberley in Derbyshire and commands £10,000 a year.

The rakes are punished with poverty: Wickham elopes with Lydia Bennet who is only 15, Willoughby and Henry Crawford with Maria Bartram, suffered the penalty as Jane says by being less ‘equal than could be wished’.

The de haute en bas of Lady Catherine de Bourgh contrasts with vulgar Mrs Elton, garrulous Miss Bates and monosyllabic Mr Palmer; gentry in trade or profession are disdained; the Bennets had an uncle who was a country attorney and another Mr Gardiner in business in London.(2)

Opposites abound: in Sense and Sensibility, which was originally published as a series of letters with Elinor Dashwood (sense and reason) and her sister Marianne (sensibility and passion). Emma Woodhouse where the clever, pretty and rich contrasts with the indigent, garrulous Miss Bates.

Virtue and Vice, with Fanny Price’s subjection by Mrs Bertram’s sister the insidiously half sycophant, half tyrant, Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park.

Clergy come variously: the sycophantic toady of Mr Collins, the elegant wealth of Mr Elton or the well connected and well read Rev Tilney and the despised Bertram.

Austen’s insular society ignores the wider world: though Kitty mentions a flogging at Meryton Barracks, and Darcy’s wealth from mining and estates from agriculture relying on sweated labour.

Outside there were revolutionary wars, slave trade, terror of destitution and pain of not conforming to stereotype of wealth, of prettiness, of being, gregarious, competent at sewing, drawing, the pianoforte, dancing, singing; of being an outsider, rejected, dependent on wealthy relatives and the boredom. (3)

(1) Rabelais was a French 16thc bawdy writer.

(2) P 181. Pride and Prejudice.

(3) Fanny does not want to learn or music or drawing’, according to a cousin. P 14. Mansfield Park.

Ref: Austen’ Power: Joanne Trollope Daily Telegraph Review. Sat. 26.1.2013.

Ref: 100 favourite fictional characters:

Ref: Jane Austen, Ordinary Times.

Ref: Thomson.


27th January 1659. ‘Tumbledown Dick’.

Richard Cromwell adopted the royal style of Your Highness when he became second Lord Protector of the Commonwealth after the death of his father.

Parliament had recognised Oliver Cromwell’s son Richard as Protector, but now in the third Protector Parliament convened by the Privy Council Today in 1659 it had two immediate problems: Richard was desperate for money, and the Army questioned his lack of military experience.(1)

Scottish Proclamation announcing Richard’s takeover of the Protectorate.

Parliament was also increasingly wary of the growing army demands of arrears of pay and freedom of worship and had incurred the hostility of the Army by criticising Oliver’s last two years and by impeaching one of the Major-Generals. Richard now had to choose between the Army and Parliament and chose the former.

Parliament was dissolved and the Protectorate which had followed the Commonwealth crumbled. when the irreconcilable Republicans who had conspired against his father threw out the son who might have prospered if he had been capable of acquiring the confidence of the Army.

It was the Army faction, the Wallingford House Party which removed him in May 1659 and came to terms with Parliament and at a meeting on May 2nd it was decided that the Rump Parliament be recalled and the oligarchic government of the early 1650.s restored.

However Richard Cromwell refused to dissolve Parliament but ceded on 22nd April, parliament was then dissolved and the Rump recalled on 7th and 25th of May.

Richard known as ‘Tumbledown Dick’ was granted a pension and his debts cleared and he just faded from the scene, but continuing to live in Whitehall. He eventually lived in France under the name of John Clarke and for long was thought to be a dangerous person.

Hursley Church, Hampshire where Richard was buried.

He returned to England in 1680 and lived in Cheshunt, dying on July 12th 1712 aged 85. He thus can be classed as one of the longest-lived ‘rulers’, and his nine-month reign one of the shortest de facto.

(1) This parliament was dominated by moderate presbyterians, crypto-royalists and a small number of Commonwealth-men or republicans.

26th January 1554. Wyatt’s Rebellion.

On the death of Henry VIII in 1547 and only when Catholic Queen Mary had succeeded to the throne in 1553 did Cardinal Reginald Pole feel safe to return from abroad. He succeeded Cranmer in 1556 who along with Latimer and Ridley, was to go to the stake as Mary dispatched all opposition.

Another threat posed was Wyatt’s Rebellion proclaimed at Rochester, Kent Today in 1554 and which along with the Duke of Northumberland’s attempt to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne posed a threat which Mary couldn’t ignore.

Graffiti of Thomas Lord Cobham in Tower of London, interned as a follower of Wyatt.

Wyatt’s rebellion was a series of uprisings in the south, Welsh Marches and Midlands resulting in an abortive march on London with the main intention being to block the Spanish marriage of Mary and to dethrone and replace her with the Protestant half-sister Elizabeth who would marry Edward Courtenay.

Other rebel leaders were keen to replace Mary such as the Duke of Suffolk, the father of Lady Jane Grey who wanted to put his daughter on the throne. Set to be defeated it resulted in the execution of Jane and and her husband Guildford Dudley. A shadow was thus cast over Elizabeth as another possible contender.

After the rebellion was put down the trial of Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger took place at Westminster Hall on 15th March which fortunately didn’t implicate Elizabeth.

His execution was delayed to April 11th to see whether Mary’s sister Elizabeth would compromise herself and she was kept under strict observation thereon being imprisoned at Woodstock suspected of plotting.

In the event Elizabeth survived to become queen in 1558 a symbol of a glorious new age.




25th January 1896. Unconquerable Sun.

Pope Leo I condemned the Christian practice when standing on the doorstep of the Apostle’s Basilica, of turning and adoring the rising sun: Paganism and Christianity have always marched parri-passu.

The ancient myths have been portrayed by artists down the ages including Lord Leighton who died Today in 1896. Many portray the eternal story of the killing and rising of the god signifying death, passage through the underworld and re-birth as in Leighton’s, ‘Return of the Persephone’ 1891.(1)

Myth Analysis: The Myth of Persephone. Early Science. Explains the Seasons. Pomegranate seed. Winter: the third of the year when Persephone is in the Underworld. Spring: when she returns. The Return of Persephone. Frederic Leighton

They form a corpus of art which tell of ancient fertility cults involving worship and sacrifice of a sacred king and reincarnation, a ritual of many cults from the Norse Baldur to the Egyptian myths of Osiris celebrating the return of vegetation and who dies at harvest, a theme developed by the Romans in the Unconquerable Sun who is reincarnated in the spring.

Many associated cults are observed in the Greco-Roman Mysteries of Eleusius, Dionysus and Orpheus and syncretised by the nascent Christians in their personification of god as man in Jesus, paralleled by the Roman belief in the divine nature of Augustus.

Pagan tradition spoke of the ‘Year King’ the human victim who was chosen and sacrificed as winter turned to spring and buried in the hope his body would come to life again with the rising grain. Everyone could share in the rebirth by eating bread from the grain.

It was a tradition later celebrated in medieval and later folk tale and songs of John Barleycorn the personification of the barley cereal who dies so others can live by being eaten as bread. All were attempts to manipulate the natural world by sympathetic magic and all in the name survival whose faint echoes are seen today in Christian harvest festivals and the Eucharist.

(1) Leighton born 3.12.1830 was the the shortest holder of a barony when he died the day after his peerage patent was issued.

Ref: The Golden Bough. J.Frazer.

Ref: Wikipedia Frazer J.

Ref: googleimages/slide player.