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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)

Sunday, 30 July 2017


Just as we look back aghast at the idea that human beings could take pleasure in watching Christians being torn apart by lions in the Roman amphitheatres, or watching others being guillotined following the French Revolution, I truly believe that in the years to come, people will look back aghast on this era for the way that we treat animals with such barbarity.

I have heard people say that animals are killed humanely, but I have seen pigs and sheep going into a small slaughter house, and seen the terror in their eyes and their desperation to escape. They know what is about to happen, and they are desperate to live. People cheered for the 'Tamworth two' - the pigs who escaped slaughter, but millions more animals are facing this horror every single day.

It is estimated that each vegetarian saves between 50 and 100 animals a year. Nowadays there are so many alternatives to meat - products that taste exactly like chicken, beef, cheese, pork etc. etc. - and so it really is not necessary for animals to suffer any longer in this way.

Ten years ago, an amazing film was released, Earthlings and now it is available free. Part of it is beautiful and part of it is horrific, but to watch only a small part of it would surely make people think again before tucking into the flesh of some innocent, sentient being that was unnecessarily and brutally murdered.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

"The Curse of the Elephant Man"

The 1980 film, 'The Elephant Man', starring John Hurt as the eponymous hero, was an excellent portrayal of the tragic life of Joseph Merrick who, tragically deformed by a medical condition, became an exhibit in a freak show before being taken into the care of the London Hospital, where he lived out the rest of his short life in relative comfort.

A more recent documentary, The Curse of the Elephant Man, is an attempt to discover the cause of his condition, and concludes with a wonderful reconstruction of how he would have appeared had he not been so afflicted.


The tragic part of his story is that he was a gentle, intelligent and learned man, who did not respond with aggression to those who treated him aggressively, and whose true character was only revealed by Sir Frederick Treves - the surgeon who, incidentally, also safely removed Edward VII's appendix shortly before his coronation. Most people who saw Joseph until that time, judged him solely by appearance, and did not make the time to talk with him or to discover who he really was.

Nowadays, in our age of celebrity culture, where some people are famous purely for being famous, and being young(ish) and physically attractive seems sufficient to make a political leader worthy of praise, newspapers regularly publish stories of the doings of people whose sole claim to fame is their appearance, and it is bizarre that they gain a following on social media. Ironically,  Beauty and the Beast has made a big comeback, perhaps because we are tiring of the superficiality of judging solely by appearances and actually listening to what people have to say. Looking at the picture of what Joseph Merrick would have looked like were it not for his condition, it is tragic to think that behind those pensive eyes, was a man who was clearly more beautiful than all those who screamed on seeing him in the freak show. Who were the real freaks?

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Napoleon III - The Power of a Dream

One of the most remarkable facets of the French Emperor Napoleon III was his ability to hold fast to a dream even when the chances of it ever becoming a reality were incredibly remote. A nephew of the great Emperor Napoleon, he had little time to enjoy his privileged childhood before his uncle, following his final defeat at Waterloo, was exiled to St Helena and the entire Bonaparte family was banished from France.

Over the next couple of decades, while the French restored and ousted, then restored and ousted the monarchy, the young Napoleon III and his mother moved regularly from place to place, frequently being ordered to leave as few nations were happy to house Napoleon's heir. Short-legged and large-headed, Napoleon nonetheless dreamed of restoring the Bonapartes' power in France, much to the amusement of his contemporaries who not only mocked his appearance but also believed his ambition was nothing but a pipe-dream.  

"Did you ever know such a fool as that fellow is?” laughed one English statesman. “Why, he really believes he will yet be Emperor of France.”

Regardless of the jeers, Napoleon continued to foster his dream, and in October 1836, he launched a hare-brained scheme to seize the throne. Convinced that French people would welcome his return, he set out from England and arrived at the garrison in Strasbourg, where he urged the officers to follow him. As they hesitated, he walked into the town, crying, 'Vive l'Empereur!' but no one recognised him and when he declared that he was Napoleon's heir, he was arrested for assuming a false name. His punishment involved being taken around the country so that he would see how little attention he received, before being put on a ship bounds for America. The fiasco cost him a potentially happy marriage to his cousin Mathilde Bonaparte, whose father was so appalled by the escapade that he called off their engagement. 
Still, though, he continued to dream and in 1840 he returned to France to declare himself Emperor, but once again, few people recognised him and he was generally ignored. This time, though, when he was arrested, he was imprisoned in the Castle of Ham, but, rather than bewailing his fate, he used his time wisely, studying all manner of subjects and making plans for what he would achieve once he became Emperor. 

Eventually, he escaped from the castle and settled again in England, where he quietly followed events across the Channel, ever watchful for an opportunity to bring his dream to fruition. Not until 1848, with the fall of Louis Philippe did he finally succeeded in returning to France, after being elected to the National Assembly. Within a short time, he was declared President of the Assembly, and after two years, he organised acoup d'etat and declared himself Emperor.

Through exile, humiliation, banishment, failure and mockery, he had never lost sight of his dream - and although it was only a matter of time before the dream turned into a nightmare, his example of singleness of purpose and refusal to be swayed by others' opinions is surely worthy of praise. 
His complete story, as well as that of King Louis Philippe, is included in my forthcoming book:  Queen Victoria & The French Royal Families

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Friday, 30 June 2017

Now Available

Jack Wynters' remarkable ability as a narrator shines through every line of his reading of the first book in my Shattered Crowns trilogy: The Scapegoats. He captures the many characters and their different voices wonderfully, and I am delighted that the book is now available in audio format via Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Coming Very Soon

Coming very soon - the first book in my trilogy of novels, Shattered Crowns, will be available as an audiobook, narrated by the brilliant Jack Wynters. Although the book - The Scapegoats - is a novel , following the lives of the Austrian, Russian and German Royal Families from 1913 to the outbreak of the First World War, it is based on extensive research and is historically accurate. The cover for the audiobook is different from that of the paperback/Kindle version of the book but the content is the same...

Friday, 2 June 2017

The Death of the Prince Imperial

On the morning of 2nd June 1879, a British army patrol set out from their camp in the vicinity of Rorke's Drift in southern Africa, in the desperate hope of finding the young Prince Imperial, pretender to the French throne, wounded but still alive. Few members of the patrol could have really believed there was any chance that the young prince had survived, as, the previous day, while on a reconnaissance mission in the midst of the Anglo-Zulu War, he and his six companions had been suddenly ambushed by a party of between thirty and forty Zulu warriors.

Two members of the party were killed instantly, prompting the rest of the group to take flight, but, as the Prince attempted to mount his horse, his saddle slipped and the horse bolted. One companion galloped past him, calling, "Make haste, Sir!" but none stopped to assist him.

On 2nd June, the patrol found his naked body, pierced by eighteen spears, including one through his eye; and beside him lay the speared corpse of his faithful little terrier.

Known as Napoleon IV to the French Imperialists, the Prince had been living in England since France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, and the overthrow of his father, Napoleon III. There, he attended Woolwich Military Academy and showed himself to be 'a plucky but alas! too reckless young man' in the opinion of Queen Victoria, who viewed him with a maternal affection.

A gifted artist and skilled horseman and swordsman,  he was, in the words of one of his many admirers, 'a fine fellow, with the grace of a perfect gentleman. Everyone who knew him speaks feelingly of his charm, his kindness, his heart, the sincerity and rectitude of his sentiments. Everybody loved him.'

Having completed his studies, he longed to take part in active service but, in view of his position as the pretender to the French throne, the British High Command and Queen Victoria had been reluctant to allow him to be placed in any danger. When the Zulu War broke out, he again pleaded to be sent into action but again his request was refused until, at last, after much persuasion, the Queen and the Duke of Cambridge - the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces - allowed him to go to Africa, as a volunteer. Strict instructions were given that he was to be kept away from any fighting, but his own derring-do led him into many dangers.

The fact that his companions abandoned him to his fate cast a dark shadow over the honour of the army, and, to make matters worse, much to Queen Victoria's disgusts, certain Members of Parliament not only begrudged paying for his embalmed body to be returned to England, but also refused to allow a monument to his memory to be placed in Westminster Abbey.

Instead, at her own expense, the Queen had a statue erected in St. George's Chapel in Windsor, and a similar monument stands at the military training school in Woolwich.

The effect of his death on the Duke of Cambridge is described in my book:  'Queen Victoria's Cousins' and far more information about this brave, kind and 'too reckless' young man is included in my forthcoming book, "Queen Victoria & The French Royal Families."


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Strange Ideas of Justice & Peace

Fidel Castro ordered mass executions, set up work (concentration) camps for gay men and other ‘deviants’; enslaved his own people and murdered them for trying to leave the country; established torture chambers and under his dictatorship Cuba had the highest suicide rate in any Western country. Jeremy Corbyn praised him as ‘a champion of social justice’.
Mao Tse-Tung set up concentration camps and killed no fewer than 45,000,000–78,000,000 people in 4 years. Diane Abbott said ‘he did more good than harm’.
Lenin & Trotsky ordered the secret police to use torture including lowering people into tanks of boiling water, forcing them into furnaces; and authorised them to carry out summary ‘justice’ by crucifixion and stoning. John McDonnell referred to them as his ‘most significant influences’.
The I.R.A. murdered approximately 1,800 civilians. John McDonnell said that ‘gutless wimps’ who opposed Sinn Fein should ‘have their knees blown off’; and later said the IRA terrorists should be ‘honoured for their bravery.’  

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Jesus Was Not A Socialist

It is tiresome to keep hearing the regurgitated notion that capitalism is somehow inconsistent with Christianity, or even that Jesus was essentially a socialist. As a Divinity graduate, who studied the Bible as part of my degree, I am familiar with the Gospels as well as the Old Testament and can find nothing whatsoever to support this notion.
Jesus’ teachings were focussed first and foremost on spirituality, and he frequently stressed that a person’s behaviour and attitudes are a matter of individual responsibility, rather than drawing any conclusions about society in general. He determinedly abstained from making any political comments, although he lived at a time when his people were severely oppressed by Roman rule. He refused, for example, to be drawn into any criticism of the occupying forces or their masters, responding, when asked about whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Some people argue that he was political in his criticism of the ruling classes among his own people, but his criticism was aimed solely at the hypocrites who made it extremely difficult for people to find their way to God. He drove the money changers out of the Temple, not for any political reason but quite simply because they were charging people exorbitant amounts to enter their most sacred building.
It is true that he told the rich young man to give away all he owned to the poor, and later said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” but he was speaking to one specific individual, who, as the Gospel explains, prized his money above all other considerations.
The God whom Jesus presents in the parables is anything but a socialist in terms of opposing capitalism and creating complete equality. In the Parable of Talents, for example, the master (i.e. God) gives each of his servants different sums of money and tells them to go away and use it. He does not give them the same amount; and he does not praise the one who made no return. On the contrary, he praises the servant who invested the money and made a fortune, and says that to those who have more will be given, and to those who have not, even the little they have will be taken away.’
Again, in the Parable of the Bridesmaids – those who prepared in advance by bringing with them extra oil for their lamps are praised, and when the foolish ones, who failed to prepare, ask them to share what they have, they are rewarded for refusing to do so! 
It is very easy to make sweeping generalisations about how society should care for the poor or the sick, which makes the speaker sound caring but really has no meaning. I have known people, for example, who rant about the shame of a society that has so many homeless people, but when confronted by a homeless person, they do not lift a finger to help that individual person. I have known people who rant about the supposed collapse of the NHS, while failing to visit sick people in their own vicinity. Jesus’ teachings concerning how we live in our everyday lives, and how we relate to one another, had nothing to do with society at large, or politics or sentimental speeches, they were about the actions of individuals who recognise the likeness of God in one another. Jesus did not advocate taking from the rich to give to the poor – on the contrary, he advocated each person using his or her own talents to the full, in whatever occupation they are engaged. He did condemn envy and hypocrisy, and it seems to me that a good deal of socialism is based solely on envy.
Why, I ask myself, do certain socialist leaders feel such intense anger towards ‘the rich’? The answer that comes from history is very clearly illustrated by the Russian Revolution when those who raged against the Tsarist wealth seized power, and immediately moved into the palaces, drove the Tsar’s cars and sat in his box at the theatre. It is the politics of envy. In the Old Testament, wealth was a sign of God’s blessing – Abraham, Job, David, Solomon – all were described as extremely wealthy.
Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money...” and I would argue that a poor person is more likely to serve money than is a wealthy person. A wealthy person has the ability to use their wealth for good, and can spend their time doing whatever they feel they are called to do. A poor person, struggling to make ends meet, spends so much time thinking about money...and usually the lack thereof. Surely then, it is better to encourage capitalism, and the ability we all have to make money, rather than to rail against the rich, quite simply because we do not share their riches.
Ultimately, Jesus was talking about neither capitalism nor socialism. He spoke of spiritual matters, and how we translate them in our every day lives is a matter of personal conscience. Clearly, it is misguided to claim his teachings for one political viewpoint or another – in the same way as it has been wrong that, in almost every war, every nation and army has claimed that God is on their side.  

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Queen Victoria's Granddaughters

I am delighted that 'Queen Victoria's Granddaughters 1860-1918' is now available in audiobook format, beautifully narrated by Fleur Edwards. It can be purchased through Audible (for people who are not already subscribers to Audible, the first book is free), Amazon and iTunes.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Not So Happy War Brides

In the light of recent events in the USA, it is interesting to note that, following World War II, when British war brides prepared to follow their G.I. husbands to America, they were treated with the utmost barbarity. Before they left Britain they were taken to an American army base where they were subjected to various intrusive medical investigations to ensure that they were not suffering from venereal disease. Once they had been vetted, they were packed into ships with very few comforts and, it was widely alleged that many babies died of dysentery en route. On their arrival they were deloused and subjected to another medical examination before being allowed to join their husbands. For some, worse was to follow, but, as this Pathe newsreel shows, others finally found happiness:

The band Squeeze wrote a song about the same subject in 1981:

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

And the winners are...

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition to win a free audioversion of "The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II"

The winners were chosen at random (not by me!) and are:

J. Kerrigan from the United States, who wrote, "I think that I have read all of your books and my favorite is "Dear Papa, Beloved Mama" because it gave me a real sense of what life was like for the children growing up in Queen Victoria's family."

and...Richard Chester from the United Kingdom, who wrote, "So far I have only read your Shattered Crowns trilogy but enjoyed it so much that I have several of your other books, including, 'The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm', on my wish list."

Congratulations to the winners! And thank you again to everyone who entered! 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Win a Free Audiobook

To celebrate the launch of the audiobook 'The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II', I am offering a prize of a free download of the book to one Audible customer in the USA and to one in the UK for the following competition. Using the 'contact form' on this blog, please write which of my books is your favourite and why; or, if you have not yet read any of my work, which you would most like to read...and why. In your message, please include your email address and whether you are in the UK or the US. The winning entries will be posted on the blog.

If you are not an Audible customer, you can still read the book by signing up for a free trial and selecting: 'The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II'. 

The competition will close this Sunday, 26th February 2017.