Sunday, May 20, 2018

Damn, Girl-Arsinoe II, Three Times a Queen

To start off, Arsinoe is pronounced ar-SIN-o-ay. The only reason I bring this up, is because I recently discovered that I've been pronouncing it wrong for years. What can I say? I read way too many books, and don't talk to nearly enough people.

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Bust of Arsinoe made in Alexandria.
Though she was often portrayed in
the Egyptian style, this sculture
has a distinctive Hellenic influence.
Born 316 BCE, Arsinoe, later known as Arsinoe Philadelphus, was wife to three kings. She has gone down in history as a schemer. She's been accused of vile crimes, such as propositioning her husband's son, ordering the banishment of her husband's other wives, and ordering the execution of men who threatened her son's places in the line of succession. The truth is much more tame, and reveals not a black-hearted schemer, but a talented and ambitious woman who wanted to see her sons on the throne of Egypt.

 Arsinoe was the daughter of Ptolemy I Soter and his second wife, Berenice I. Not much is known about her early life, as she doesn't make much of an appearance in historical record until 299-- the year of her marriage to the 60 year old Lysimachus, king of Thrace, Anatolia, and Macedonia.

Lysimachus, like Arsinoe's father Ptolemy, was one of the heirs to the vast empire of Alexander the Great. Unlike Ptolemy, Lysimachus was having a little trouble keeping his kingdom under control. It was hoped that his marriage to Arsinoe would not only establish good relations between the two kingdoms, but help bring stability to Lysimachus' lands.

Lysimachus must have liked the 17 year old Arsinoe, because they had three children in rapid succession, Ptolemy in 297, Lysimachus Jr.¹ in 294, and Philip in 293. He renamed the city of Ephesus  after her, and gave her at least three cities from around his empire. Though Lysimachus had other wives (polygamy was IN for Hellenic monarchs), Arsinoe was a clear favorite, especially after her full-brother (meaning same mother, same father. Keep this in mind, it'll be important later) Ptolemy II ascended the throne of Egypt.

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Lysimachus, Arsinoe's first
husband.
For 17 years Arsinoe had a relatively quiet life. She enjoyed her time as the second most prominent person at court (after her husband), built religious buildings, and took care of the cities under her command. Unfortunately, as the 280 BCE's came on, she began to clash with Agathocles, Lysimachus' eldest son and heir apparent.

Now, it is important to note that the idea of primogeniture, and the eldest son of the first wife inheriting the father's title and position hadn't come around yet. During this time, King's chose their heir based off ability to rule, and while Agathocles, being Lysimachus' only adult son, was most likely going to inherit the throne and kingdom, it wasn't a sure thing, especially since Arsinoe's sons were nearing majority.

Tradition has it that around 283 Arsinoe propositioned Agathocles, who was only a few years older than her. Agathocles turned her down, and, incensed, Arsinoe convinced Lysimachus to execute his eldest son. This is very likely untrue. Agathocles was a full grown man, and could have expected to share in the duties (and perks) of kingship, but Lysimachus was stubbornly clinging on to his throne. Discontented, Agathocles had begun to plot against his father, and Lysimachus ordered his son's execution.

Enter Lysandra, Arsinoe's half sister, Agathocles' widow, and political schemer out for revenge. She had fled to Babylon with her brother Ptolemy Ceraunus, and was pouring ideas into the ear of King Seleucus, one of Lysimachus' main rivals.

Seleucus was king of what is modern Syria and Iran, and he wanted into Anatolia. Lysandra and Ptolemy C. convinced him to invade in Agathocles' name, and claim the country for himself. Seleucus happily complied, and with Ptolemy C. in the lead, invaded Lysimachus' European holdings. Lysimachus died in the chaos, and Ptolemy C. personally assassinated Seleucus, taking Lysimachus' kingdom for himself.

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Ruins at the city of Ephesus. The city was renamed Arsinoea
by Lysimachus, but the name was changed back to Ephesus
after his death.
Arsinoe had fled with her sons to the city of Cassandrea. Located in modern Greece, the city had strong walls which Arsinoe kept manned by soldiers loyal to her. She was safely ensconced when Ptolemy C's emissaries came courting on his behalf.

Ptolemy Ceraunus was the son of Ptolemy I, and Arsinoe's half brother. He'd been passed over as king of Egypt in favor of his brother, and had fled abroad to make trouble. He'd been living in Lysimachus' court since 285, and recognized Arsinoe's political power. As the wife of the former king, she exerted significant pull with the government, and she was well loved by the common people for her piety. Throw in her Egyptian contacts, and Arsinoe was an ideal bride. Though they'd been mortal enemies weeks before, Ptolemy C. was ready to propose.

It is difficult to say what Arsinoe was thinking when she accepted his proposal. Ptolemy C. was well known for being someone who could not be trusted, and he'd contributed significantly to the death of Arsinoe's late husband. Arsinoe took every precaution--she insisted on a very public marriage ceremony, she made Ptolemy C. adopt her sons as his heirs--but the union still unsettled most people. Arsinoe's son Ptolemy was so against the union that he left before the wedding ceremony, a move which saved his life. Shortly after their marriage, Ptolemy C. had Arsinoe's younger sons killed, and Arsinoe fled to Egypt.

Ptolemy II, also known as Ptolemy Philadelphus (from here out, Ptolemy P.) was king of Egypt, and Arsinoe's full brother. He was already married (to a woman named Arsinoe, incidentally) with several sons when his sister returned to the land of her birth. Ptolemy P. welcomed his sister with welcome arms. She was well known for her political savvy, and she was ready to put that to work in Egypt. Unfortunately, this put Arsinoe II at odds with Arsinoe I. This eventually led to Ptolemy P. banishing his wife, and marrying his sister, making her co-pharaoh.

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Arsinoe II and Ptolemy P. on a coin.
A marriage between full siblings didn't sit super well with the ancient Greeks, though it didn't seem to bother the Egyptians too much. However, Ptolemy P. and Arsinoe quashed objections to their marriage by associating themselves with Zeus and Hera, Osiris and Isis, two other pairs of married siblings, and the monarchs of their respective spheres. This association with deity would lead to Arsinoe being worshiped as a goddess both during and after her life.

Arsinoe adopted Ptolemy P.'s sons by Arsinoe I, putting an end to her dreams of her remaining son taking a throne. However, Arsinoe was just as much the pharaoh as Ptolemy P. She inspected troops, led the state cult, and appeared on the coinage, sometimes alone. She was widely venerated, especially in the countryside by the common people. Unfortunately, she died just five years after arriving in Egypt.

We remember Arsinoe today because of her masterful political maneuvering. She wasn't noted for her charitable works like similar schemers, but rather for her swift rises to power. She became the favorite wife of two men who already had wives, and prompted the banishment of her enemies. It is impossible to say if Arsinoe did all this maliciously, but it is certain that she must have had a forceful personality. Though she drew significant criticism after her death, both for the disappearances of her enemies and marrying her brothers (though it is important to note that no children came of the union of Arsinoe and Ptolemy P.) she was an important, and valued politician of her time.


¹Not his actual historical designation.

Sources
Arsinoe II Philadelphus
Arsinoe II, Queen of Thrace and Egypt
Arsinoe II
A Portrait of Arsinoe Philadelphos  by Dorothy Burr Thompson 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Armenian Genocide

What came to be called the Armenian Genocide was the product of rising Turkic Nationalism, the gradual decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the outbreak of WWI. In the eight years between 1915 and 1923 the Ottoman Empire wiped out 1.5 million Armenians, completely annihilating the Armenian population in Anatolia. The Ottomans seized traditional Armenian homelands, and pressed tens of thousands of women and children into slavery, forcibly converting them to Islam and making them assimilate. To this day the Armenian population in Anatolia, and Armenia itself, is woefully small, and there are more Armenians in diaspora than there are in their traditional homelands. These horrors remain completely unrecognized by the Turkish government.

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The Armenian populace in the Ottoman Empire. This is where
the Armenians were centralized at the time. Historic Armenia
Extend further into the neareast. Armenians at the time were
spread across the eastern part of the Empire, as well as the border
with Russia
We've talked about the Ottoman empire a few times before in the context of its remarkable Sultanas. However, life had gone significantly downhill after the Sultanate of Women, and around the turn of the century the Ottoman Empire was facing a significant financial crisis, as well as political disputes with Russia. The Sultan at the time, Sultan Abdul Hamid, was a despotic autocrat who had ill-fatedly aligned himself with Imperial Germany and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

In 1908 the Ottoman Empire was changed forever when a group called 'The Young Turks' forcibly took power from Sultan Abdul Hamid and placing him under arrest. From this group sprang the 'Committee for Union and Progress' (CUP). Almost immediately, CUP instituted a constitution, taking away the Sultan's absolute power.

At the beginning, the Armenian population had high hopes for the CUP administration. Under previous administrations Armenians had been second class citizens, due to the fact that they were Christian. They were not allowed to participate in government, and had to pay additional taxes. Additionally, the law did not provide them with protection or civil rights. In the late 1890s Armenians had begun agitating for basic civil rights, and Abdul had had a massive Pogrom carried out. The Armenians hoped for more rights under the CUP regime.

Unfortunately, CUP wasn't interested in asserting universal rights to all people groups, they were only interested in giving rights to the Turkic peoples of the Empire. They wanted to ethnically cleanse the nation to make a wholly Turkic state. When WWI erupted, they were given the perfect excuse. Not only did the Ottomans gleefully follow their allies, Imperial Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, into battle, they also declared holy war on all Christians (excepting their allies of course.).

One of the biggest problems for Armenians, as mentioned above, was that they were Christian, and did not subscribe to the state cult. This made the CUP suspicious, and they feared that the Armenians would side with Christian Russia, and take up arms against the Empire from within the Empire.

Given that the Armenian homeland straddled the border between the Ottoman and Russian Empires, the idea that the Armenians would side with their enemies wasn't completely crazy. Russian Armenians had significantly more rights than Ottoman Armenians, and should the Russians devour the Ottoman Empire, Armenians would be granted more civil rights and protections under the law. Though the Armenians in Russia had experienced oppression under Czar Alexander II and Czar Nicholas II, things were looking up for them. In 1905 a minor revolution among the Armenians and Azeri spurred the Russian government to make serious change. Life as a Russian Armenian was significantly better than life as an Ottoman Armenian. The CUP's fears were additionally fanned by the fact that Russian Armenians had been smuggling arms into the Ottoman Empire since the 1880s, and Russian Armenian nationalists encouraged their Ottoman brothers to rise up against the Ottoman Empire in favor of an Armenian state.

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Turkish soldiers standing over the skulls of a massacred
village of Armenians
Despite their initial suspicion of the Armenians, the Ottomans were worried about their prospects in the upcoming war. They attempted to recruit the Dashnaktsutyun--the Russian Armenian nationalist group--to fight against the Russian Empire, but the Dashnaktsutyun rebuffed him, saying that Armenians would fight for the country in which they resided. Despite this, after a major loss at the Battle of Sarikamis, the CUP decided that the Armenians on the eastern border were colluding against them. They quietly had all Armenian soldiers executed, and began performing killing raids on villages.

Shortly after, Ottoman forces began deporting Armenians from border villages. They forced Armenians to march thousands of miles into the Syrian desert, depriving them of food or water. People who stopped to rest were killed, and any Armenian who exhibited any sign of fighting back was immediately slaughtered. Between the blistering heat, lack of rest, and deprivation of food and water, hundreds of thousands of Armenians died along the way. Furthermore, many Armenians were killed by members of the 'Special Organization', gangs of freed convicts tasked with killing Armenians en route to Syria. They were also at risk of murder from Circassians as well as the Turkish soldiers escorting them.

By the time they arrived in Syria there was nothing waiting for them. The remaining Armenians were left to die of exposure and starvation. By the end of WWI the Armenian population, previously more than 2 million, had been reduced to 388,000.

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Armenian woman bent over her dead child near the Syrian border
The Armenian Genocide still haunts Armenians and Turks today. All Armenian cultural structures and artifacts on the Ottoman side of the Armenian homeland were destroyed. Libraries were sacked, depriving Armenians of precious knowledge about their history and culture. The Armenians remaining in Turkey were forced to assimilate, stripped of their religion, culture, and identity. Armenians were scattered around the globe. Today, out of the 11,000,000 Armenians living, only 3,000,000 of them live in Armenia itself.

It is important to note that Armenians weren't the only minority group targeted by the Ottomans at this time period. Assyrians and Greeks were also massacred. The genocide of these people, along with the genocide of the Armenians is still vigorously denied by Turkish authorities today. The Turkish government maintains that the killings of Armenians was unfortunate product of war, and not a systematized effort to wipe out an entire people group. Furthermore, may of Turkey's allies, such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel, do not recognized the genocide either.

Sources
Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide (1915-16) Overview
The Armenian Genocide
Armenian Genocide

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Damn Girl-The Unsinkable Margaret Brown

Often known as 'Molly Brown', Margaret Tobin Brown was a turn of the century reformer, suffragette, and philanthropist, best known for her heroic behavior on the Titanic. She was never known as 'Molly' during her lifetime, and the name 'Molly', along with many of the tales about her, were circulated after her death. Using her work ethic, charm, and great wealth, Margaret helped create the juvenile court system, extend suffrage to her state of Colorado and the rest of the United States, rebuild post WWI France, and have a glittering stage career.

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Margaret
Margaret was born in Hannibal Missouri, the daughter of poor Irish immigrants. Her parents were both devout Roman Catholics, and as such, had six children. Firm believers in education, Margaret's parents insisted that all of their children go to school at least through the eighth grade. An eighth grade education, especially for women, was significant for the time, and instilled a love of learning in Margaret that would carry on throughout her life.

In late 1800s America people of all races were making their way out west. Immigrants who had dreamed of making their fortune in the New World found employment closed to them on the east coast due to their nationality, and headed west for land and work. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, people dreaming to make a fortune mining left the east in droves. Daniel Tobin, Margaret's brother, was one of them. He found success as a mine promoter, and in 1886, he sent for Margaret to join him. Margaret joined in him Leadville Colorado, and found a job working in a drapery store.

Margaret had grown up very poor. She'd had to leave school at age 13 to work in a tobacco factory making cigars. She hated living in poverty, and she wanted very much to take care of her parents through their elder years. This in mind, Margaret was determined to marry rich, and Leadville wasn't a bad place to find a rich husband. Leadville had a flourishing silver mine, and with the US government heavily invested in silver, it was a pretty lucrative business. A man could become a millionaire overnight depending on his finds. Margaret was looking for such a man. However, what she found was J.J. Brown.

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James Joseph 'J.J.' Brown
James Joseph (also known as J.J.) Brown, was a handsome, well educated, vivacious miner, and Margaret fell in love. J.J. had trained as an engineer and geologist, and was set up to become much more than a mere miner, but he had yet to make his fortune, and was far from wealthy. Though Margaret had some serious reservations about marrying him, she did, and the pair married in 1886, then moved to Stumpftown to be closer to the mines.

Though not rolling in money, Margaret and J.J. seemed to have been doing alright financially. While she still did her own housekeeping, Margaret was able to devote time to helping the wives and families of some of the less well off miners. She created soup kitchens, and engaged in other charitable efforts. She also helped establish the National American Women's Suffrage Association in Colorado, and became heavily involved in lobbying for women's suffrage. These early actions in Sumpftown set the tone for the rest of Margaret's life.

Margaret and J.J. had two children--Lawrence, and Helen. They moved back to Leadville after Lawrence's birth, and they were in Leadville when the Sherman Silver Act was repealed, starting the 'Silver Crash', and putting the financial future of the entire state at risk.

What the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act meant was that the US Government would no longer be buying silver at the same rate it had been. Previously, the government had been required to buy at least 4.5 million ounces of silver a month, and pay for them with paper money. This silver was then minted into silver dollars to back up the paper money. This act was meant to prop up the failing silver industry, but had failed. When it was repealed in 1893 there was a large surplus of silver, and the entire industry went into a panic. Many families like the Browns discovered that their money was now near worthless, and were plunged into poverty.

Luckily for the Browns, J.J. was a real smart cookie. He was the manager of the Little Johnny Mine, and he used his geology and engineering experience to find a way to shore up the walls of the mine so that the miners could delve deeper into the earth. Luckily for all involved, miners found what is, to this day, the largest vein of gold in the American West.

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The Brown family home at the time it was purchased. Molly
would later make extensive renovations.
Almost overnight, life for the Browns changed completely. The owners of the mine were so happy with J.J. that they gave him significant shares in the company, and the Browns became millionaires. The Browns bought a house in Denver, Margaret sent for her parents to join her, and began to establish themselves among the wealthy elite.

It was in social circles that Margaret really shone. She was kind, outgoing, and charmed more or less everyone she met. She had a wide group of friends, and with the financial help of these friends, she set about seriously affecting change. During these early years in Denver, Margaret personally funded the local animal shelter for several years, successfully lobbied for the installation of public baths in courthouses, campaigned for city parks, and provided aid for the thousands of people living in the slums of Denver. She also raised money to build the St. Joseph's Hospital, and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Part of her new social circles brought Margaret into contact with the judge and reformer Benjamin Lindsey. Lindsey, formerly a lawyer, was deeply disturbed by the presence of children in adult prisons. A young boy, jailed for stealing bread, could be tossed into a cell with a man convicted of murder. Lindsey felt that this system wasn't productive towards the reforming goal of prisons, and set about lobbying for a juvenile court and prison system. As a mother and an advocate for children's rights, Margaret was right on board. She helped with fundraising and lobbying efforts, and in 1899 the Juvenile Justice System was put in place. This system is still the basis for the modern US Juvenile Justice System.
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Benjamin Lindsey
Margaret was still heavily involved in the suffragette movement. She was involved with organizing one of the first women's suffrage conventions, and in 1901 she became one of the first women to run for senate. She would run for Colorado senate three times--losing twice, and withdrawing from the third because of the advent of WWI. Though she never won a political office, Margaret affected serious political change.

After their move to Denver the passions between J.J. and Margaret began to cool. Margaret was heavily involved in society and reform work, and J.J. preferred to focus on mining. J.J. didn't care for society, and he certainly didn't care for his wife's political efforts. He didn't appreciate how often his wife was in the paper, and he didn't think she should be running for public office. In an attempt to rekindle old passions, the pair began traveling together in 1902. They went around Europe and Asia, and while the couple did seem to reconcile for a time, it was not to last. In 1909 they quietly separated, with J.J. moving to Arizona to continue mining.

Post separation, Margaret traveled more than ever. In 1912 she set off on a journey to Paris, Rome, and Egypt with her friends and daughter Helen. While in Egypt, she received a telegram from her son Lawrence. The telegram stated that Lawrence's son, Margaret's eldest grandson, was gravely ill, and would most likely die. Margaret promptly put herself on the next ship across the Atlantic, hoping to see her grandson one last time before he passed.

Unfortunately, that next ship was the RMMS Titanic . When the ship hit an iceburg on April 14th, Margaret was thrown from her bed. An experienced traveler, Margaret knew something was wrong when the engines stopped running. She asked a crew member what was wrong, but was assured that everything was fine. Margaret went back to bed, and was awoken later, and told to get her life saver.

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RMMS Titanic
Margaret very practically put on layers and layers of clothing. She grabbed some money, she got her lifesaver and went up on deck. She wasn't too keen on getting in a lifeboat herself, but she helped many other families into the lifeboats. When a crew member realized who she was, he bodily threw her over the side of the Titanic into lifeboat 6.

On the lifeboat, Margaret quickly set to work. The crew member with them was involved steering, and there were only two men on her boat. The air was a balmy 28 degrees Fahrenheit, (-2 degrees Celsius), and the water even colder. Many of the passengers were wearing only their nightclothes, so Margaret stripped off her layers, and passed clothing around. She directed the other women in rowing so that they would stay warm, and avoid being dragged into the wreckage. Margaret spoke four languages, and she put this to good use directing and comforting the women around her.

At 4:30 am Margaret's boat was picked up by the Carpathia. After getting on board, Margaret swiftly set to work fundraising for the people in the third and second classes. Many of the people in those classes were immigrants, just as Margaret's parents had been, and because of the 'women and children first' policy, many of the families had lost their main breadwinner, as well as all the money and goods they had brought with them to start a new life. She was concerned that they would all be refused entry at New York, and so she began asking her fellow first class passengers from the Titanic and the Carpathia for money to help the passengers.

Many of the passengers from first class were reluctant to give money to help the survivors of the wreck. However, using her charm, Margaret wheedled money from some passengers, and strong armed the rest. She posted a list of passengers who had given money, and how much they had given, as well as a list of passengers who hadn't given money in public. Faced with donation or social ruin, all the first class passengers ended up donating money. Before they reached New York, Margaret had raised $10,000.
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Margaret presenting an award to the captain of the Carpathia
Upon arriving in New York, Margaret received a telegram that her grandson was fine. He wasn't dying, he was just lactose intolerant. Reassured that her family was fine, Margaret set about making arrangements for the survivors from the Titanic. She found living arrangements and contacts for all the survivors. She helped document the whereabouts of every survivor, and made sure that no one would be alone in their new country. She continued this work for about a year before she was recalled to Denver.

Margaret's actions in the aftermath of the Titanic made her internationally famous. Salacious gossip newspapers printed that her first words, upon setting foot on the Carpathia were 'Typical Brown luck, I'm unsinkable!'. Newspapers started to call her 'The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown'. Though these comments were meant to sting, Margaret thought they were hilarious. She became a Denver heroine, and in 1914 she was asked to mediate in the Ludlow miner's strike. The miners and their families, having saw her work with the survivors of the Titanic, and the Mexican War called on her for protection, and the Rockerfeller family (owners of the mine) saw her as an ally. Though violence did break out, Margaret managed to the Rockerfeller's to soften. She spoke out for the rights of the miners, and convinced the Rockerfeller family that they would look much better if they paid the miner's fairly.

After her experience on the Titanic, Margaret began spending more and more time back east, specifically in Newport Rhode Island. She became involved with the National Women's Trade Union, which not only advocated for universal suffrage, but for a minimum wage and an eight hour work day. Margaret traveled around the country, and wrote dozens of articles in favor of these causes. Margaret's passion and persistence earned her censure from the press, but she pressed on undeterred by literally anything. In her passion for reform, she once burst into the office of President Calvin Coolidge, dragging an Eastern European woman with her, and lectured the president on the virtues of her causes.

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Margaret at a Suffragette rally
When World War One started in 1914, Margaret was once again running for Colorado Senate. Though she was favored to win, she ended up dropping out of the race because her sister had married a German man. She turned her efforts to helping war torn Europe, first fundraising for ambulances, then driving those ambulances herself on the front lines. After the war ended, Margaret became involved with the efforts to rebuild France, and for her work with this she was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

When J.J. died in 1922 he neglected to leave a will. The Brown family went to war, with Lawrence and Helen taking Margaret to court for possession of the house in Denver, as well as J.J.'s wealth. Unwilling to fight with her family, Margaret moved to New York to pursue a career as an actress. She was quite successful, playing a leading role in L’Aiglon in both New York and Paris. She was a successful actress, and won awards for her work in that roles.

Margaret was getting on a bit. She was 53 when she took to the stage, and she continued to work there for another decade until she died suddenly of a brain tumor in 1932. She wanted to be buried in Denver, but because of the Great Depression she was buried in New York along her husband J.J.

Image result for molly brown tombToday, Margaret's main legacy is as the character of 'Unsinkable Molly Brown', but that isn't who she really was. Her real legacy is much more strong and meaningful. The juvenile court system she helped implement still stands, women have the vote, there is both a minimum wage and an 8 hour work day. In addition to these aforementioned achievements, Margaret is also the reason that having enough lifeboats for all passengers aboard a ship is compulsory. She also lobbied to change maritime law to say that families would be saved together, instead of women and children first. Margaret's house in Denver still stands, and is open as a museum. The animal shelter she helped fund is still open, and to this day she remains one of the great reformers of the turn of the century. Though she became unbelievably wealthy, Margaret never forgot her humble beginnings, and used her wealth and influence to help bring people (especially immigrants), out of poverty.

Sources
Molly Brown Biography
Mrs. Margaret Brown
Meet Molly Brown
Molly Brown
Margaret 'Molly' Brown

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Country Formerly Known as Yugoslavia

Though it came into existence before the start of the Cold War, Yugoslavia was a major communist player on the world stage during the 1900s. Officially and formally dissolving for good in 2006, Yugoslavia managed to last for nearly a century in some form or another.

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Yugoslavia at its height.
Yugoslavia, as a country, had three distinct periods. Pre WWII Yugoslavia, Post WWII Yugoslavia, and Serbia-Montenegro Yugoslavia. However, when people talk about 'the former Yugoslavia', they are usually referring to the second incarnation--Post WWII Yugoslavia.

Today, the region that was once Yugoslavia is now the six¹ independent countries of FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) or Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, and Montenegro. These countries have, ostensibly, very little in common. A mix of Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Muslims, Yugoslavia wasn't even composed of a singular ethnic group--a fact that led to great tension during its (relatively) short time as a country.

The greatest unifying factor of the nations that became Yugoslavia was the fact that they were 1) Southern Slavic peoples² and 2) part of someone else's empire for hundreds of years. For years Serbia³, Macedonia⁴, and Montenegro were a part of the vast Ottoman Empire, and Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,and Slovenia were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Though both Serbia and Montenegro had gained their independence at the time of WWI, the memories of former oppression was still strong.

It was these memories of oppression that ultimately brought these Southern Slav people together. Yugoslavian intellectuals believed that the only way to retain their freedoms and ethnic identities was to band together and protect each other from everyone else. In order to realize this idea the 'Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes' was created in 1918.

This first reincarnation of Yugoslavia went about as well as could be expected. Multiple ethnic groups with their own interests unified only by a general shared ancestry couldn't really be expected to get along well. Throw in a large minority of Albanians who really didn't want to be there, and you have a recipe for disaster. The young state was plagued with infighting and violence until it was invaded by Third Reich Germany in 1941.

As in most cases, when faced with a common enemy, the Yugoslavs managed to band together, and take out the Germans. By the end of WWII Yugoslavia was ready to go again, this time as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
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Josip Broz Tito, Leader of Yugoslavia from 1946-1980
In 1946 Josip Broz Tito, the Croat leader of the Yugoslav army, liberated Yugoslavia from Germany, and was installed as president. Tito was a great admirer of Stalin, and wanted to create a communist state in Yugoslavia. Basing his system on the same system used in the USSR, Tito formed a centralized government, with all six member countries having an equal say in governing. However, many constitutional changes led Yugoslavia to become a loose confederation of states largely run by independent companies working on the government's behalf.

This wasn't very communist, and Stalin didn't care for it. However, Tito, who had been declared president for life, didn't really care what Stalin thought, and divorced himself and Yugoslavia from the USSR. Though a communist country, Yugoslavia allowed tourism to, and from, the west. They experienced a post war economic boom, and the north and west of Yugoslavia did very well financially.

However, Yugoslav prosperity was built on a series of loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other countries. Following Tito's death in 1980, leadership of Yugoslavia was delegated to a rotating set of representatives from each country, and the IMF demanded a restructuring of the Yugoslavian economic system. That, in addition to internal violence, lead Slovenia to declare independence in 1991.

Following Slovenia's departure, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia were close behind. Only Serbia and Montenegro remained, and they banded together to become the third Yugoslavia.

However, the third Yugoslavia, now just known as Serbia and Montenegro, wasn't to last long either, in 2006 the union disbanded, breaking up Yugoslavia for good.

There's many reasons why Yugoslavia is no longer on the map, but the major reason is the lack of a stable leadership system. Josip Tito was president for nearly 40 years, and it was his leadership that largely kept Yugoslavia together. Lack of a workable system for deciding executive leadership after his death is what lead to the breakdown of the Yugoslav economy and unity.

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Yugoslavia flag
Though seemingly innocuous, Yugoslavia played a major part in the Cold War. Tito was the first communist leader to defy Stalin, and his refusal to bow to the USSR or the US made Yugoslavia the first non-aligned state. As a non-aligned state, Yugoslavia was able to concentrate on its own interests instead of playing the communist vs. capitalist game for the last half of the 20th century.




¹Seven if you consider Kosovo to be its own country
²'Yugoslavia' means 'Land of the Southern Slavs'
³Serbia was actually part of both the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Empires at one point in their history. Additionally, Serbia gained its independence from the Ottomans in 1878. Serbia then spent the next three decades being a major trouble maker on the Austro-Hungarian border until a Serbian shot Archduke Ferdinand in 1914, starting WWI
⁴There is quite a bit of controversy between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia concerning the name 'Macedonia', and the FYROM right to use it. However, for simplicity's sake, FYROM will be referred to simply as 'Macedonia' in this article

Sources
Yugoslavia-Encyclopedia Britannica
The Breakup of Yugoslavia: 1990-1992
Yugoslavia: 1918-2003
What is the Former Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia-Holocaust Encyclopedia

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Damn, Girl-Sigrid the Haughty? More Like Sigrid the Petty and Bloodthirsty

Influential in four countries, Queen of both Sweden and Denmark, mother of two great kings, and instrumental in one of the greatest sea battles of the Viking age, Queen Sigrid the Haughty is most known for setting two potential suitors on fire. Much about Sigrid's life is unknown, and even if she was a real person, a legend, or a combination of several different Viking queens is up for debate. However, the myths around Sigrid are epic in proportion, and if a girl ever made you say 'damn!', it was certainly her.

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Sigrid and her second husband, Sweyn
Sigrid was born in the mid 900s most likely in Poland, but also possibly in Pomerania (modern Czechia) or Denmark. One of the solid facts about Sigrid was that she married King Eric the Victorious of Sweden, and it was written by medieval chroniclers that Eric the Victorious married the daughter of King Mieszko I of Poland and Doubravka of Bohemia (also modern Czechia). Whatever her origins, Sigrid definitely married Eric the Victorious, and they had at least one child, a boy named Olaf, who would succeed his father.

In Sigrid's late twenties or early thirties she was widowed, leaving her as regent for her son Olaf. Beautiful and wealthy, Sigrid was an attractive marriage prospect. Much like Penelope of Homer's Odyssey, suitors came out of the woodwork to compete for Sigrid's hand, including Sigrid's foster brother, Harald Grenske, a minor king in Vestland.

Unlike fair Penelope, Sigrid was not down to deal with suitors tramping around her house disrespecting her, especially if those suitors did not have the fortune or title to match her own. To demonstrate her distaste, she invited Harald, as well as a Russian prince named Vissavald to a great feast. About halfway through, she locked the doors of the meadhall, and set it on fire with Harald and Vissavald still inside. She reportedly stabbed anyone who tried to escape.

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Most of what we know about Sigrid comes from the Icelandic
Sagas
Unlike in the case of Elizabeth Bathory, another famous blood soaked woman, setting a group of rude noblemen on fire was completely respectable. Viking society was harsh, and as the regent of Sweden (keep in mind, this is the WHOLE of Sweden, not just a small part. Sigrid was the overlady, the queen of queens.), Sigrid needed to show that she would not be disrespected. Most of the suitors got the message.

Unfortunately, King Olaf Trygvasson of Norway didn't quite get the message. He came courting, and failed epicly. He praised her beauty and wit, then belittled her manner. He informed her that if she wanted to marry him (keep in mind, there is no record of Sigrid wanting to marry him), she would have to convert to Christianity, something that was completely unthinkable to the deeply devout pagan Sigrid.

When Sigrid gave Olaf his marching orders, he snapped. He called her ugly, saying that he would never want to marry such an old woman anyways. He slapped her on the face--a fatal mistake on his part. According to legend, Sigrid informed Olaf that his blow may 'some day be thy death'.

Several years after her first husband's death, Sigrid remarried, this time to Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark. This united Sweden and Denmark, and Sigrid and Sweyn had two sons, the most famous of whom was known as Canute.


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Sigrid's son, Canute, would later conquer
England
Sigrid didn't forget insults, especially not from the King of Norway. The Icelandic sagas say that she convinced Sweyn, who was already feuding with Norway, to take to the sea against Olaf. Sweyn, combined the Sigrid's Swedish forces, cornered Olaf and the Norwegian navy, thoroughly defeating them at what would later be named The Battle of Skold. Olaf didn't survive the battle. He either jumped off, or was thrown off the side of his ship and sank, dragged down by the weight of his armor.

From here, the details of Sigrid's life get even murkier. From all reports, her marriage to Sweyn wasn't very happy, and the pair split. Sigrid went back to Poland to assist her brother, King Bolesław. With her help, Bolesław was able to make Poland thrive, and they were both well loved by the people. Sigrid could have stayed happy and content in Poland, but when her son Canute conquered England in 1016 she jumped on a ship to join him. Though the details of her life in England are unknown, she likely died, and was buried there.

Many historians dismiss Sigrid as a myth. There are very few surviving historical records from that period, and most of her history was recorded in the Icelandic sagas, written many years after her death. However, mentions of the men she was close to, namely her father and husbands, help establish her existence, if not quite her deeds.

Sources
The Viking Tale of Svein Forkbeard and Sigrid the Haughty
Sigrid the Haughty
Sigrid the Haughty: Queen Consort of Four Countries and Owner of a Forceful Personality
Sigrid the Haughty (D. before 1013)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Dollar Princesses-Social Mobility Across the Pond

It's the late Victorian Era, and the English nobility are having a rough time of things. Many of them are trapped with vast crumbling estates, huge debts, and little to no money. There's been an economic and agricultural depression, and country landlords are finding that their tenants can no longer pay rent. Things are pretty bleak, and all around the country, and ancient noble families are having to close the doors of their country homes and downsize.

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Jennie Jerome, later Lady Randolph Churchill. She
became engaged to Lord Randolph Churchill
within three days of meeting him. Their engagement
lasted about 4 months as their parents squabbled over
the marriage contract. Their eldest son, Winston, was
born just seven months after their wedding. 
Meanwhile, in the New World, it's the Gilded Age and things are booming! Americans have stopped killing each other, and instead they're building railroads, starting banks, opening factories, and making millions. New millionaires pop up in the mid-west every day, and as soon as they strike it rich, these millionaires move their families to New York City, home of high society. Unfortunately, upon arrival, these New Money families found that their millions couldn't necessarily buy them into upper echelons of society.

1870s New York Society was ruled by Mrs. Caroline 'Lina' Astor, and her crony Ward McAllister. Lina and McAllister were both part of the 'Knickerbockers', a stratification of New York society. To be a Knickerbocker, one had to be descended from the original Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam, and be very, very wealthy. Additionally, one's wealth couldn't come from something vulgar like railroads or manufacturing. It had to come from something aristocratic, like landowning and already being wealthy.

The railroad and manufacturing magnates didn't fit the mold, and the Knickerbockers were determined to keep them out. While it was possible for a noveaux riche to gain entre to society, it was extremely difficult, and the society courting system heavily favored the daughters of the Knickerbockers. This incensed many of the noveaux riche parents, particularly the mothers, who wanted their daughters to have all the privileges and advantages they themselves had never had. In order to give their daughters these advantages, their mothers decided to skip New York Society, and do one better--they decided to marry their daughters off to members of the English Aristocracy.

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Consuelo Vanderbilt, later Duchess of
Marlborough, was engaged to marry Winthrop
Rutherford, a man she loved when her mother made 
her break it off. She was soon engaged to the 
Duke of Marlborough. The couple separated
after 11 years of marriage, and eventually
divorced.
Hopping across the pond was not only beneficial for the daughter's marriage prospects, but a huge 'up yours' to the gatekeepers who had kept them out of New York society. If being rich wasn't enough to make families like the Astors respect them, then a title might do the trick.

This idea was not totally unfounded. While there were still some serious ill feelings between the United States and the United Kingdom (the United Kingdom had, after all, supported the South during the Civil War, attacked the United States in 1812, and it was less than 100 years since the American Revolution), having a noble or royal title still meant something in the United States, especially among the members of New York Society. Mrs. Astor and her friends wanted to create their own sort of aristocracy, and they admired little more than actual aristocracy.²

Across the ocean, these young ladies and their iron willed mothers were surprised to find themselves received into British Society with relatively open arms. The wealth, style, and glamour of the American girl made her fascinating to the British Lords, who were used to the quiet, reserved English girls. Throw in the fact that Albert, Prince of Wales and leader of fashion, ADORED American girls, and marrying an American became all the rage.

The Prince of Wales plays a big part in the success of these American women in English society. Because Queen Victoria had largely withdrawn from society, it fell to her son to be the leader of fashion and society, and this was a role Albert reveled in. He loved big parties, heavy drinking, and lots of sex, much to the disapproval of his mother. Albert had found that the wealthy Americans were much better able to host him, and that American manners much better suited his sense of fun. He became good friends (and lovers) with many of the first Dollar Princesses, and was responsible for the introduction and popularization of most of them in society.

Image result for albert prince of wales
Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, was
the son of Queen Victoria and Prince
Albert. Even after he reached his majority
his mother kept a tight grip on her reigns
of power, leaving Albert with little
to do but party.
Marrying an American heiress wasn't just popular however, it was also very convenient, and sometimes necessary for the impoverished English Lord. Because primogeniture wasn't observed in America, American girls could expect to get an equal share in their father's estates, and many of them came with an enormous dowry. Even the smallest of American dowries could pay off an English lord's debts, and set him up comfortably for a good long time. Because of this many of these marriages became little more than business transactions--the trade of millions of dollars for a title. Extra-marital affairs, already common among the upper class of that era, were even more common in these unions. Several unions were unhappy enough that they ended in divorce, such as the case of Consuelo Vanderbilt.

For this reason, as well as a few others, marriages between society heiresses and destitute noblemen weren't incredibly popular with the American people, though they were obviously popular with the families in question. Americans, for all their love of the glitter of society weddings, did not like the idea of an arranged marriage. It was common to marry for love, or at least affection in America, and the idea that a nobleman would marry an American girl for her money and not for her personality repulsed the public. Additionally, the idea that hard earned American dollars were going into funding the crumbling institutions that had so recently oppressed them was unpopular with Americans. As the 1900s dawned the prominence of international unions led many Americans to despair that the English were stealing all the American heiresses.

Image result for frances work
Despite being included in the 'Old Money'
elite of New York Society, Frances Work
married James Burke Roche, who was
set to inherit a barony. Unfortunately, the
couple divorced before James (and Frances)
inherited the title.
For about 20 years American heiresses went across the Atlantic to find a husband. The titles grew less important, but during the reign of Edward VII the transatlantic union was still very popular. However, this all changed when his son George ascended the throne in 1911. George (the current Queen Elizabeth's grandfather) and his wife Mary didn't approve of the joviality and high spending of Edward's court. They wanted a return to traditional English values, and marrying an American slowly fell out of fashion.

The 'Dollar Princess' is a major character in fiction. From Edith Wharton's Buccaneers to Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey, Dollar Princesses figure heavily in period pieces set in the Edwardian Era/Gilded Age/Belle Epoque. In real life, the descendants of these ladies still occupy a high place in British Society. Prince William, heir to the heir to the throne³, is the great-great grandson of Frances Work, the daughter of a stock-broker. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister during WWII was the son of Jennie Jerome, one of the first Dollar Princesses.

Aside from the children they left behind, the Dollar Princesses left a huge imprint on both their home and adopted countries. Not only did their marriages induce anglomania in the United States, but it also cemented alliances between the United States and United Kingdom. Though it was not the intention, these marriages functioned much as many political marriages of the time. They essentially married two countries together, forming an alliance that, to this day, is still one of the most important diplomatic ties for each country.

¹In the North that is. The South is undergoing Reconstruction  which pushed the region into an economic slump that still affects it to this day.
² In theory anyways. In practice, most Americans found members of nobility, especially the English nobility, to be severely lacking in moral fiber.
³ It is, however, unlikely that William will ever become king, as Queen Elizabeth II is most likely immortal.

Sources
To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Mc.D Wallace
The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan
A Look Back at the 'Dollar Princess'
Dollar Princesses
Topics in Chronicling America-- 'Dollar Princess'
The Gilded Age's Real Life 'Dollar Princesses'
How American Dollar Princesses Changed British Nobility
Gilded Age Heiresses

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Young Pretender and the Jacobites

Charles Stuart, also known as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' or 'The Young Pretender' is a near mythic figure, and a Scottish national hero. His 1745 uprising against the House of Hanover, culminating in the disastrous battle of Culloden is romanticized as a brave, but tragic attempt at freedom against an unwanted government. To this day, Charles Stuart is the face of the Jacobites, and he's idolized by modern Scots and people of Scottish descent.

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Charles Edward Stuart
However, the facts are that Charlie and his '45 Rebellion was the end of the militant Jacobite movement. Charlie's defeat at Culloden, and the subsequent Hanoverian crackdown on the Scottish people saw that the Jacobites would never rise again, and essentially put paid to any hopes of renewing the Stuart dynasty.

Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart was born not in Scotland, but in Rome. Related to both the Pope and the King of France, Charlie had a privileged upbringing, despite living in exile from his ancestral home. He was a keen hunter, and was well educated in both books and courtly manners. His father, James III and VIII, also known as 'The Old Pretender' raised him as the Prince of Wales, and awarded him several honors and orders of the British kingdom. Between this and his father's obsession with regaining his throne, it is no surprise that in his early 20s Charles devoted himself to reclaiming the English throne.

In 1745 Charlie invaded Scotland with the intent of ousting George I. Accompanied by an army of French and Scottish Highland supporters, Charlie managed to retake Scotland, and parts of England. However, due to infighting, desertion, lack of funds, and poor military choices on Charles' part, the Jacobites were defeated at the disastrous Battle of Culloden in 1746, and Charles Stuart fled back to France.

Though he's hailed as a hero, the truth is that Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart peaked at 25. After returning to France Charles tried to rally support for another invasion of the British Isles, but was unsuccessful. He had an illegitimate daughter, and at age 52 he married a 19 year old, whom he forced into a convent soon after. He died at age 63, sick, embittered, estranged from both his father (who had converted to Anglicism) and his brother.
Related image
James II was deposed by his Protestant daughter.
James was Catholic, and his second wife was
related to the Pope of the time
Though, as mentioned above, Charlie is the face of militant Jacobiteism, he was, by no means, the entirety of the movement. Jacobiteism started in 1688 when James II, the last catholic King of England, was forced into exile by his protestant daughter Mary II, and her husband, William of Orange. The movement really got going though in 1714 when Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart Monarchs, was succeeded by German George I, the first monarch of the House of Hanover.

There were two uprisings prior to the Hanoverian take over, one in 1689, and one in 1708. The 1689 rebellion was lead by James II, the ousted Catholic King. James II's uprising was almost immediately after the 'Glorious Revolution', and was moderately successful. James II was proclaimed King of England, Scotland, and Ireland by a parliament held in Dublin, but his French-Scottish forces were ultimately defeated by William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne. The 1708 uprising, largely French, was short lived and unsuccessful.

The next Jacobite uprising of note, 'The Fifteen', took place in 1715, directly after George I's succession to the throne. George I was vastly unpopular with a large percentage of the people. He was a foreigner, didn't speak English, and had an open disdain for England and its people. This, combined with a divided government made the Hanovers an easy target for John Erskine, 6th Duke of Mar. Erskine managed to raise a large part of the Northeast, and the Jacobite clans to the cause of James the III and VIII, and James set out for Scotland. While Erskine did progress as far as Perth, he was ultimately defeated by the Duke of Argyll, and James arrived too late to participate in any actual battling. However, though 'The Fifteen' was a failure, it was vital proof that a large scale uprising against the house of Hanover could be made. The proof remained strong in the minds of the exiled Stuarts and Jacobites even after the failure of the Highland Uprising of 1719. It was with the memories of 'The Fifteen' in mind that Bonnie Prince Charlie and his forces set out for what would become known as 'The Forty-Five'.

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Flag of Bonnie Prince Charlie
Charles was only 25 when he launched his invasion of Scotland. Backed by a modest French force, with promises of more reinforcements from France and Sweden, Charlie landed on the west coast of Scotland in July of 1745, convinced that the Scottish people would soon join him.

Charlie had been raised to believe that Britain, especially Scotland, was a hotbed of Jacobite sympathy, and that all he had to do was raise his banner, and the people would rally to his cause. In reality, while many Scots and Englishmen had Jacobite sympathies, most of them were unwilling to fight for a ill equipped king. In reality, it was largely the Highland Scots who came to Charlie's aid.

At the time, England was engaged in the Austrian War of Succession, and large parts of the English forces were fighting abroad in France and the North American Colonies. England was largely undefended, and due to a majority Whig government, many members of the Tory party were glad to support the Stuarts. Due to this support, and lack of opposition, Charles and his army were able to progress quickly through Scotland. He marched triumphantly into Edinburgh just two months after landing in Scotland, and with every victory more and more soldiers flocked to his cause. Charlie quickly took Perth, Prestonpans, and Derby before his supporters started to have doubts. Though Charles wanted to march on London from Derby, he and his army turned back to lay siege to Stirling Castle.

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William, Duke of Cumberland
As a military leader, Charlie was brash and reckless. He had a habit of ignoring his advisers, and relied heavily on the Highland Scot's favored tactic of a head-on charge. Historians speculate that had he continued his habit of ignoring his generals he may have successfully taken London and the throne, but at the worst possible moment Charlie decided to heed his adviser's cautioning.

Their retreat back into Scotland allowed William, Duke of Cumberland, to catch up with the Jacobites. George I, nervous about the Young Pretender's success had summoned his brother back to England, and the Duke of Cumberland was challenged the Jacobites relentlessly. Though the Jacobites enjoyed several early victories against the Duke, the battles began to become more difficult, and Charlie lost soldiers to desertion and death at an alarming rate.

On April 15, 1746, the Duke of Cumberland caught up to the Jacobites at Culloden, near Inverness. Ignoring the warnings of his advisers, Charlie chose Culloden as a battle site, despite the fact that the marshy ground would hinder the highlander's ability to charge, and allowed the English the better position. Charlie sent his men to raid the English camp the night of the 15th, and when the two forces met on the morning of the 16th, the Jacobite forces were tired,  divided, and hindered by the mud. Despite their best attempts, the Jacobites were defeated after only 40 minutes of fighting, and those who weren't killed fled into the highlands, pursued by the Hanoverian army.

Charlie survived the battle, spending five months on the run before with the help of Flora MacDonald, whom we've discussed before, he was able to escape back to France

The defeat at Culloden was a disaster for the Scots. Determined to quash the Jacobites once and for all, soldiers of the Young Pretenders army were hunted down, and killed without mercy. Those who weren't killed were transported, marking the first mass immigration of Scots to North America.

Image result for culloden
Culloden
Furthermore, the tartan, kilts, bagpipes, and the Scottish language were all outlawed in an attempt to kill Scottish culture. The ancient Scottish right to bear arms was revoked, and English soldiers combed the highlands, brutally disarming the residents, and commandeering their homes.

Though there is still a Stuart Pretender to the Throne, the Jacobite movement is all but extinct today. The Hanover dynasty ended with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, and, given the fact that Elizabeth II is widely rumored to be immortal, it seems unlikely that the House of Windsor is going anywhere soon. However, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause remain firm as a symbol of Scottish nationalism, and hope for independence.


Sources
Bonnie Prince Charlie by Carolly Erickson
The Battle of Culloden
Culloden
Battle of Culloden--English History
The Jacobite Rebellion of 1745
Jacobite--British History
The Jacobite Revolts: Chronology
Who Was Bonnie Prince Charlie
The Myths of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites
Charles Edward, the Young Pretender--British Prince
House of Stuart Family Tree
The House of Stuart
The House of Stuart--Scottish and English Royal Family


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Damn, Girl-Tamar of Georgia, Queen of Kings

Crowned co-ruler at age 12, Tamar (sometimes spelled 'Tamara') reigned over Georgia's¹ golden age, and expanded the kingdom to its greatest height. She would reorganize the Georgian Orthodox Church, defeat multiple attempted internal coups, and send an Ottoman invasion packing. A woman of faith, Tamar credited her religion for her battlefield successes, and performed extensive charity work. She was canonized shortly after her death, and is seen as a Georgian religious and national hero. However, behind her piety was a shrewd woman more than willing to fight for her throne and people.

Image result for king tamar of georgia
Tamar
Tamar was the only child of King George III and Queen Burdukhan. George, like his daughter, had to deal with scheming relatives. When his nephew (or cousin) Demma attempted to dethrone him George had Demma blinded, castrated, and thrown into prison. George dealt with other insurrectionists in a similarly brutal manner-with breaking kneecaps as his preferred method of chastisement. Due to the instability of his kingdom, George had his 12 year old daughter² crowned co-ruler.

George's main reason for this was to ensure the stability of Georgia during his lifetime and after his death. He hoped that if the restless Georgian nobility saw that he had a stable dynasty in place to succeed him, they might calm down a bit. Additionally, he was giving the patriarchal Georgians time to get used to the fact that there next ruler would be a woman, something that had never happened in Georgia before. While many nobles protested, George quashed their protests saying 'One knows a lion by its claws, and Tamar by her actions.' While there is little known about Tamar's childhood, this praise from her father suggests that she was more than suited for her role.

George died six years after his daughter's investment, leaving Tamar to govern the country by herself. Historians disagree about the beginning of Tamar's reign. Some sources claim that she had a very smooth ascension, aided by the fact that the Georgian people had had a chance to get used to the idea of her rule. Other's claim that she was met by insurrection--insurrection that she quickly quashed.

Image result for king tamar of georgia
Tamar holding court
Following her second crowning, Tamar's first order of business was to marry in order to produce an heir. She left the choosing of a spouse up to her council. They chose a Russian prince Yuri, the son of Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky of Vladimir-Suzdal. Yuri had a reputation as a warrior, and the council believed that he would be good for their queen and country. However, Yuri thoroughly disproved them not shortly after the wedding vows were said. He was thoroughly dissolute--engaging in extramarital affairs, torturing and murdering Georgian Muslims, and abusing alcohol. He publicly berated Tamar for not bearing him a son, and was prone to violent outbursts. He was such an awful husband that Tamar divorced him after only three years. In a merciful move her father would certainly have disapproved of, Tamar sent him packing off to Constantinople with a generous allowance--kneecaps intact.

Georgia was a largely Catholic country at the time. This makes the fact that Tamar was able to obtain a divorce quite extraordinary, given that divorce is, to this day, contrary to Catholic doctrine. Tamar was able to obtain a divorce not only because of Yuri's widespread unpopularity, but because of her own special relationship with the church.

Following her ascension, Tamar convened a Synod, and set about reforming the Georgian church. She was already known for her piety, and made several changes that reflected this. In addition to this, she also saw that the bishops and clergymen who didn't like her were defrocked. Every powerful clergyman in the church was Tamar's man, and she used this to her benefit.

With Yuri out of the picture, Tamar was free to remarry, and remarry she did. her next husband was Davit Soslan, an Alanian Prince. He was chosen for her by her aunt, who reportedly told Tamar that Davit was 'Hewn from stone, and reared on wolf's milk'. Davit, unlike Yuri, lived up to his reputation. He was handsome, supportive, and an able military man. Tamar installed him as King Consort, and quickly had two children.

After the births of her children, Tamar set to conquest. This was largely to keep the Georgian nobles busy elsewhere, and not conspiring with her ex-husband to dethrone her. Despite his exile, Yuri attempted to dethrone Tamar twice, but was soundly defeated.

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Georgia at it's height
Under Davit's leadership, the Georgians were able to take parts of Armenia, Shirvan, and Azerbaijan. Tamar's success made her Muslim neighbors nervous, and they sent a unified force after her under the leadership of the Rum Sultan, Rukn al-Din. Rukn was a lovely man. In his initial letter to Tamar he informed her that all women were feeble minded, and that, should she convert to Islam, he would make her his wife. Should she retain her religion he would make her his concubine. The letter was so insulting that one of Tamar's courtier's hit Rukn's courier hard enough that the courier passed out. When the courier finally came to, Tamar sent him back with a message that she didn't care to be married to Rukn, at that she would defeat him. True to her word, Tamar sent him packing.

In addition to her expansionist endeavors, Tamar also focused on developing and reviving Georgian culture. She had monasteries and churches built, and it was under her that a monastic town was carved into the cliffs of Vardzia.

Tamar died of an unknown illness in 1213. Her final resting place is a mystery, with rumors that she is buried in Gelati or in Jerusalem. As mentioned, she was canonized shortly after her death, and she is still celebrated in the Orthodox churches. She was succeed by her son, who was later succeeded by her daughter, Rusadan, another Queen of Kings.



¹No, not the Georgia in the United States, the Georgia in Central Asia.
²Some sources say that Tamar was 18 at the time of her ascension to the throne, but most agree on 12.

Sources
Queen Tamar: the Confident Female Ruler of the Georgian Golden Age
Queens Regnant: Tamar of Georgia--the First Female Ruler
St. Tamar, Queen of Georgia
Tamar of Georgia-Queen of Kings
Queen Tamar



Sunday, February 11, 2018

Finnish Wife Carrying Competitions

You've heard of the Caber Toss, you've heard of Camel Jumping, but have you heard of Finnish Wife Carrying?

Starting in the small village of Sonkajärvi in Finland, Wife Carrying started out as a celebration of local history, and turned into a global sport. Every year in July, couples from around the world flock to this small Finnish town to compete in a grueling obstacle course. The obstacle course includes two dry obstacles, and one wet obstacle. Throughout the course one partner (usually the husband) must carry the other partner on their back. If the partner being carried is dropped the carrier has to pick them up, and keep going. Though Wife Carrying is a somewhat serious sport, it is, by no means, serious. The winner of the competition gets the weight of the wife in beer, and prizes are given out for the best costumes.

The competition celebrates the legend of Rosov Ronkainen, a notorious thief from the 1800s. Rosov was notorious for stealing women and food from local villages, and he required all men involved in his band of robbers to complete difficult obstacle courses while carrying heavy weights on their back--presumably to make it easier to kidnap women.

Today, Wife Carrying is more about building the relationship between couples than preparing for pillaging. Competition requires a great deal of trust and communication between partners, and is a fun way for couples to spend quality time together.


The event is inclusive of LGBT and single people, so long as you have a partner you can participate. There are qualifying events around the world which determine who is allowed to compete at the world championships. Those interested in competing can find the world championship website here.

Sources
2016 World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland Captured in Incredible Pictures