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Monday, 30 March 2020

Reading during the Lockdown

As people might be looking for something different to read while being confined to the house, I am reducing the price of the Kindle version of this book to only $0.99 on 1st April. On 2nd April it will be $1.99; on 3rd April $2.99; and on Saturday it will revert to its original price .

Murderesses in Victorian Britain

Saturday, 28 March 2020

The Death of Prince Leopold

On 28th March 1884, Queen Victoria's youngest son, the haemophiliac Prince Leopold, died in Cannes. From 'Queen Victorias Granddaughters':

"Delighted by his little daughter, Leopold continued his duties and charitable works, but there was no relief from his medical condition. A year after Alice’s birth, he was troubled by a particularly painful swelling in his joints and his doctors recommended a trip to the warmer climes of the south of France. By then Helen was again in the early stages of pregnancy and not well enough to accompany him to Cannes. Although his life had often hung in the balance, as she watched him depart she had no idea that she would never see him again.
One afternoon, he slipped on the tiled floor of his hotel and banged his knee. A painful swelling ensued and the subsequent haemorrhage was so severe that he did not recover. After less than two happy years with Helen, he died in Cannes on 28thMarch 1884.
“My beloved Leopold!” Queen Victoria wrote, “That bright clever son who had so many times recovered from such fearfull [sic] illnesses, and from various small accidents has been taken from us! To lose another dear child, far from me, and one who was so gifted and such a help to me, is too dreadful.”[i]
Later, in a more tranquil moment, the Queen reflected that death had come as a blessing, for so often in his hours of agony Leopold had cried out that death would be preferable to his suffering.
[i] Nelson, Michael Queen Victoria & the Discovery of the Riviera (Tauris Parke 2001)

Sunday, 20 October 2019

A Leeds Woolen Mill Before the First World War

Before my grandmother's death at the age of 98 in 1994, I made a recording of her memories of life in pre-WW1 Leeds. This was her memory of working in a woolen mill...

Queen Victoria's Murderous Wet Nurse


This truly is a tragic story and one that both horrified and amazed the people of Esher, who knew the murderess as a devoted mother...

Friday, 30 August 2019

Murderesses In Victorian Britain

Which Victorian murderess inspired Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the D’Urbevilles’? Who lived to regret her ‘deathbed’ confession? Was Amelia Dyer mad or wicked? Why did the judiciary look compassionately on women who committed infanticide? Among over eighty women whose stories appear in this book, some were tragic; some were evil; some were mad; and several were undoubtedly innocent of the murders for which they were hanged. While politicians argued about the rights and wrongs of capital punishment, some of these women walked stoically to the gallows; some fainted or screamed in terror at the sight of the noose; and others walked free from the courtroom having ‘got away with murder.’ Now available on Amazon in Kindle & Paperback format.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Thunder of Freedom

I am happy to announce that my new book - Thunder of Freedom: The British Suffragette Movement - is now available in Kindle & Paperback formats:

 For over forty years women had quietly campaigned for women's suffrage when, in 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter, Christabel, decided to force the Government to take action. With the establishment of the Women's Social and Political Union, they began a militant campaign which would continue for the next eleven years, resulting in the imprisonment of over a thousand suffragettes, who were prepared to endure torture and even risk their lives to bring about votes for women.

Here is a short video about why I wrote the book:

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

With the recent find of an intact World War 1 German U-boat with the bodies of the twenty-three man crew still inside, I am reminded again of the reasons why Germany resorted to unrestricted submarine warfare, which ostensibly brought the United States into the war.

The following extract is taken from my book, "The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II":

"...following the establishment of the ‘starvation blockade’, Admiral Tirpitz and his fellow commanders saw no alternative but to retaliate in kind by preventing supply ships from carrying goods to Britain. U-boat captains were ordered to stop and search British merchant vessels, and, after giving due warning to enable to crews to escape into lifeboats, to sink them with torpedoes. Initially, this was carried out in a genteel fashion, for, as one American commentator wrote:

“The submarines…not only gave time to lower boats but frequently took them in tow and brought them to safety. When the German auxiliary cruisers took aboard the crews and passengers of vessels, they treated them with kindness and humanity. This is proof against the theory of barbarity and cruelty attaching itself to her maritime warfare.”[i]

Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty, unhappy with this gentlemanly arrangement, which allowed for the loss of so many merchant ships, issued orders that the crews were not permitted to abandon their vessels, but rather should ram the flimsy submarines or – since much of the merchant fleet had been secretly armed – should open fire upon them. This policy made it impossible for the U-boat commanders to continue to assist the enemy crews without risking the lives of their own men, leaving them no alternative but to sink without warning any British ship that they encountered.

Churchill then issued another illegal order that the merchant marines should paint over the names of their vessels and fly the flags of neutral countries to avoid torpedo attacks. Moreover, he manned some of the merchant fleet with Royal Naval officers disguised as foreign fishermen or civilian sailors, so that, whenever a submarine surfaced, the seemingly innocent trading boat was instantly transformed into a lethal warship.

Due to this deceit, and contrary to his own wishes, in February 1915 the Kaiser was persuaded to sign an order declaring unrestricted submarine warfare, meaning that any vessel sailing in British waters, including the English Channel, would be deemed a legitimate target for the U-boat commanders. Wilhelm’s reluctance to authorise this policy stemmed partly ‘from feelings of humanity’[ii], and partly from his fear that it would alienate neutral countries – particularly the United States.(copyright Christina Croft 2015)


[i] ‘Historicus Junior’ The ‘Lusitania Case’ (Hugh H. Masterson, June 1915)
[ii] Blucher, Princess Evelyn An English Wife in Berlin (E. Dutton & Co. 1921)

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Tragedy of Napoleon III

It's impossible not to admire the way in which Napoleon III held fast to a dream in the face of mockery, failure and disappointment. From his earliest years, he dreamed of emulating his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, and for the first four decades of his life he continued to hold fast to the ambition despite revolution, exile and imprisonment.

Humiliated by the government of Louis Philippe, he embarked on several hare-brained schemes to bring his plans to fruition, but they ended in failure, ultimately resulting in his being confined in the prison of Ham for almost six years. Rather than bewailing his fate, he nurtured his ambition for the future of France, studying and writing extensively, and preparing schemes for the betterment of the country when he eventually achieved his aim.

Later, following his escape from Ham, he settled for a while in England where one statesman commented, "Did you ever know such a fool as that fellow is? Why, he really believes he will yet be Emperor of France!"
Even his friend, the Duke of Cambridge, remarked, "...I think he has not enough to carry him through so vast an undertaking, and that he will consequently break down in the attempt of making himself Emperor…which he is evidently driving at."

Ultimately, though, he proved his critics wrong when, in December 1851, he staged a coup d'etat and had himself declared Emperor.

The tragedy was that, while he worked tirelessly for the good of his people, ill-health plagued him and power gradually slipped through his hands, as his ministers rejected his attempts at to maintain an autocracy; and his final defeat at Sedan owed almost as much to his debilitating illness as it did to the superiority of the Prussian forces.

My new book, "Queen Victoria & The French Royal Families" (available in paperback and Kindle formats) includes his story as well as that of his predecessor, King Louis Philippe, and their relationship with the British Royal Family.



Friday, 4 August 2017

August 4th 1914

On 4th August 1914, Britain entered the First World War. It is a matter of contention whether on not there was any reason to do so, for, although the invasion of Belgium is the cause that is always cited, King Albert of the Belgians specifically stated that he did not want foreign armies to intervene; and, what was more, there was plenty of evidence that the French had already entered his country before the Germans did.

Here, too, is an extract from 'The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II', which shows that, in fact, the British and the King were desperate to enter the conflict, and Belgium was merely a convenient excuse:

"In all his correspondence with his cousins, Britain’s King George V repeatedly emphasised his desire for peace but, in July 2014, an article appeared in the Daily Telegraph which calls into question his sincerity. According to recently discovered evidence, including a personal letter from Buckingham Palace, on August 2nd 1914, the King summoned the Foreign Secretary, Edward Grey, and told him directly that Britain must participate in the war to prevent Germany from becoming the most dominant force in Europe. When Grey observed that there was no justifiable reason for Britain to do so, the King told him he must find one.  
Throughout the crisis, Grey had remained ambiguous in response to questions from Germany, Russia and France as to what role Britain would play in the event of a European war. When Sazonov pressed the British and French Ambassadors to stand by their Russian allies, the French Ambassador, Maurice Paléologue, had responded affirmatively without hesitation but the British Ambassador, George Buchanan, explained:
“I could not hold out any hope of [Britain] making a declaration of solidarity that would involve unconditional engagement to support France and Russia by force of arms on behalf of a country like Serbia where no British interests were involved.”[i]
When informed of this conversation, Grey commented that this was the correct response, but Buchanan was already eagerly trying to persuade his government to back the Russians and he promised Sazanov that he would ‘make strong representations…in favour of the policy of resistance to Germanic arrogance.’[ii]  He was equally keen to ensure that Germany should take the blame for the subsequent conflict, telling Paléologue, on 28th July:
“The German Government must be saddled with all the responsibility and all the initiative. English opinion will accept the idea of intervening in the war only if Germany is indubitably the aggressor...Please talk to Sazonov to that effect.”[iii]
The Germans in general, and Wilhelm in particular, were desperate for an assurance of British neutrality, and several approaches had been made to Grey to ascertain his position and to discover under what conditions Britain might feel it was necessary to take up arms. In view of the Anglo-French Entente, Bethmann asked whether Britain would remain neutral if the Germans did not invade France, but since this did not preclude an attack on French colonies, the British refused to accept it.
On 1st August, however, the Kaiser received a message from Prince Linchowsky, his Ambassador in London, stating that Grey had told him that Britain would remain out of the conflict providing France was not attacked. Wilhelm was so overjoyed that, without informing his Chief of Staff, he immediately ordered a halt to the German advance towards Luxembourg, and sent a message to his cousin, George, assuring him of his willingness to accept the proposal. To his horror, however, George replied – in almost identical terms to those in which he had written to Nicholas following the Russian mobilisation – that there ‘must have been some misunderstanding’ as the discussion between Grey and Linchowsky was merely an informal and hypothetical conversation and had no significance.
On the same day, Linchowsky again asked Grey if the British would remain impassive provided that the Germans did not invade neutral Belgium. Grey refused to give that assurance, stating that Belgium might be ‘an important but not a decisive factor.’ On behalf of the Kaiser, the German government then asked on what terms Britain would remain neutral, but, as the British Member of Parliament, James Ramsey-McDonald, stated openly in the House of Commons:
“Sir Edward Grey declined to discuss the matter. This fact was suppressed by Mr Asquith and Sir Edward Grey in their speeches to Parliament. When Sir Edward Grey failed to secure peace between Germany and Russia, he worked deliberately to involve us in the war, using Belgium as his chief excuse.”[iv]
Three days after stating that the invasion would not be a decisive factor, Britain went to war in defence of ‘plucky little Belgium.’"

[i] Buchanan, Sir George My Mission to Russia Vol. 1 (Cassell & Company Ltd. 1923)
[ii] Paléologue, Maurice An Ambassador’s Memoirs (G.H. Doran 1925)
[iii] Paléologue, Maurice An Ambassador’s Memoirs (G.H. Doran 1925)
[iv] McGuire, James K. What Germany Could do for Ireland (Wolfe Tone Company 1916)