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Monday, 17 December 2012

The Power & Beauty of Perfume

Smell is surely the most powerful sense. I recall reading somewhere that babies recognise their mothers by their scent long before they recognise their voices or their faces; and how often are you transported back to another time by a sudden scent in the air? Many famous people of the past were associated with particular perfumes – I think of Marie Antoinette and Marie of Roumania with Houbigant; Tsarina Alexandra with White Rose, and Queen Victoria with the scent of orange blossom.

Today, as so many other aspects of beauty are being eroded, regulation by the EU has led to the ‘dumbing down’ of many long-standing scents with the banning of natural ingredients which have been used for centuries to no great detriment. How ironic that natural products should be banned when so many additives (produced by multimillion pound companies) are permitted in food, fields are being sprayed with all kinds of toxins, and animals are still being fattened with dangerous chemicals!
 

In this podcast – which, by a strange synchronicity was recorded immediately prior to the above article - author Cheryl Hilliard draws on her experience as a model, make-up artist and image consultant to speak of the beauty and power of perfumes and the effects of regulation on the perfume industry.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Keep Britain Free From GM Crops!


Food minister, Owen Patterson, has described opposition to allowing GM crops to be produced in Britain as 'complete nonsense'. For the past few years Britain has remained free from these 'Frankenstein foods', the effects of which on humans and on the wider environment are not fully understood. Creating these products involves interfering with plant DNA, and there are serious dangers of long-term effects on animals or humans who consume them. The plan to introduce these crops has nothing to do with feeding more people or preventing famine, but is another means by which multinational companies and pharmaceutical giants such as Monsanto will gain a monopoly of crops grown throughout the world. Organic famers in the US have already been forced out of business by these giants and now they wish to expand into European markets.
 
Please would you consider signing the petition which I have launched at Avaaz?

 
Keep Britain Free from GM Crops

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The House of Desolation!

As someone who believes that what we focus our attention upon, we bring into our experience, I’ve been unwilling to write or even think of this extremely vile subject but, as a combination of discoveries have come together, I feel it is important to do so.

Until a few years ago, I had not heard of groups such as the so-called ‘Illuminati’ or the secret societies into which various politicians and presidents have been initiated, and my immediate reaction to the discovery of these groups was scepticism, followed by, “How ridiculous that grown men play in these silly societies, which remind me of the secret clubs formed by children!” Now, though, it is clear that, while they continue to be ridiculous, they are also extremely sinister and operate in ways which, at first, seem so unbelievable to ordinary people like me, that it is almost impossible to believe that they exist or the extent of their manipulation and involvement in world affairs.

While researching the ‘Shattered Crowns’ trilogy, I was frequently shocked at various discoveries of the way in which not only the royalties were manipulated, but also – even more horrendously – the way in which entire nations were manipulated into believing they were fighting for a just cause when in fact the entire operation had been managed and planned from the start. This wasn’t something that just happened, or a series of unfortunate events. This was calculated decades in advance. I am not so familiar with the earlier history, but I recommend listening to Elena Marie Vidal, author of – amongst other books – Tea at Trianon -  as she speaks of the Illuminati at work in the French Revolution.

Mass manipulation of adults is one thing, but now – which sickens me to the core – it is clear that these sinister groups are not simply greedy for money and power on a physical level, they are actually and quite categorically involved in very dark occult practices, and the outcome of this is not only the wars etc. but the horrendousness of some of the things which have been coming to light in the media regarding Jimmy Savile and the extent of the abuse of children not only in Britain but across the globe. The media reports the occasional arrest of various celebrities but in fact, when you scratch beneath the surface, this goes way, way, way beyond a few disgusting paedophiles in show business. There are whole paedophile rings of people in some of the most powerful positions – the very people who also manipulate the economy, ensure the dumbing down of art, of television, of libraries and education, persuade us to engage in wars so that they have access to opium (for big pharmaceutical companies) or oil or other resources, invent epidemics like swine flu, attempt to pass laws to compel children to be vaccinated against diseases which sometimes they have actually created in laboratories, and who drive out independent farmers and introduce GMO crops.
 

The reason it is so difficult to believe this, is because it is beyond the comprehension of the vast majority of people, most of whom are decent and honest, that anyone could do such a thing. Evidence comes to light all the time, though, of the sinister cover-up of the Dunblane killings (Lord Burton himself revealed that the inquiry was a cover-up and he was ‘bullied’ by other peers to keep quiet about it); and the case of Hollie Grieg  to name but two. And what can be made of this – which was reported not only in the Independent in 2009, but elsewhere: ‘But as of April, because of a change in legislation being introduced by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, the media will no longer be able to identify those involved in cases such as the Websters. It will also be illegal for any children currently in care to speak out, even if they feel they are being maltreated. ?????

In the days when I studied saints extensively, one thing which I frequently read was (in Catholic parlance)  that sins rarely come singly; a person who repeatedly gives way to one fault, is often prone to adopting others. Now, I don’t doubt the truth of that statement but I think it is something far larger than an average person’s peccadillos! If a person, or group of people, devote themselves to evil in one form, in spreads into every area of their lives. If the idea of these people engaging in occult practices seems too bizarre to be believed, remember that Hitler and cronies engaged in all kinds of black occult practices, and that there is well-documented evidence of more than one recent US president being part of a very secretive and dark group with strange rituals and codes.

Today, probably at this very moment, children are still being stolen and tortured and abused by people in power and it surely turns the stomach of every decent person to be aware of this. It is very easy to wash all this way by focussing on the vile Jimmy Savile, or even the other celebrities who are being rounded up and paraded for us to see, but this goes deeper. Several people have questioned how Savile had access to so many hospitals, schools and children's homes and why a has-been DJ dined with ministers and consorted with royalty...

In writing ‘Shattered Crowns’ (and I am not writing this post to draw attention to those books, this is merely an observation), it became very obvious that the destruction of the 3 monarchies of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia, was part of a plan to impose a different order on the world; an order which increasingly crushed spirituality and expressions of spirituality and replaced it with materialistic ideologies. This was evil and the evil spread into so many areas of government across the world. Unsurprisingly, ignorant people still mock the Tsar and Tsarina’s religious sensibilities and fail to understand why the Tsar and Emperor Karl of Austria felt compelled to adhere to the oaths they had taken, and which they saw as a sacred duty. The worst organised crimes spring from these occult groups who remain in positions of power. I do not call them ‘Illuminati’ since that means ‘enlightened ones’ and there is nothing enlightened about such darkness.

 As I see it, though, there is also good news. In order to thrive, these ‘entities’ rely on darkness and secrecy and as more and more information is made available, the less chance they have of surviving. Many people have been murdered who have attempted to expose their wickedness, which shows how deeply they value their secrecy. If, however, we are aware of these things – and I think we need to be aware - we need only focus our attention on all that is good and right and pure and true and refuse to be hoodwinked into accepting their wars, their dumbing down (we can educate ourselves) or their lies and by concentrating on the good we can do, and this evil will shrink into nothingness.

I think of Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus...evil always destroys itself in the end and, as Christmas, the Season of Light, approaches, I pray that the Light within us all will shine more brightly than ever because, as some wise person once said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of one single candle.” As for the perpetrators of these horrific and unspeakable crimes, whether they be in churches or in governments or any other institution, even if, on one level, they believe they can go on undetected, on a deeper, energetic/spiritual level, they must already be living in hell and quaking to the core: “You who are like whited sepulchres, all clean and white on the outside but inside full of dead men’s bones and corruption! Yours is the house of desolation, the home of the lizard and the spider! Serpents, brood of vipers, how can you escape the punishment that is coming to you!”

These days really feel like the days when that which is hidden is being exposed and maybe as that happens, if we wake up, we really can participate in a far better and lovelier world in which spirituality, individuality, truth, respect and true beauty are valued far more highly than power, greed and manipulation.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Memories of an Evacuee

During the Second World War, my mother was briefly evacuated to Bowers Row, a mining village not far from Leeds. In order to capture a little bit of history, I interviewed her about her experiences as an evacuee and the interview can be heard here:

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Capturing History

Shattered Crowns: The Betrayal is now available on Kindle and will be available in paperback in the New Year.

On a separate note....Andre Hilliard, Virginia-based artist and photographer, describes the background to his photography and the influences on his work.  Andre (with an accent on the 'e', which fails to come out on a blog post!) is currently working on a fascinating project, photographing veterans of the Second World War and, as he points out, so many of these people are passing on, he is capturing history for future generations.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Shattered Crowns: The Betrayal


I am happy to announce that the final book of my Shattered Crowns trilogy will be available in Kindle format tomorrow.
 
Here is a brief excerpt from the book. In this scene Tsar Nicholas meets his brother, Misha, for the last time before his enforced departure to Siberia:
 
 
...Nicholas pushed open the door of his study and, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, dabbed it to the corner of his eyes. The room, in which he had spent so many hours for the past twenty-three years, felt bare and devoid of life. Stripped now of his dearest possessions, it took on a sepulchral atmosphere and, as he ran his fingers over the desk and ledges, he felt like a ghost from another era, unwelcome and out of place in this present age. There was nothing left to do here but to strengthen himself to ensure that neither his captors nor his children should see him cry. It had been easier earlier in the day when he had been able to continue the routine of strenuous manual labour, chopping logs and tending the gardens, which he had adopted since the beginning of his captivity. Now, in the stillness of the study the full tragedy of his situation overwhelmed him. Determined not to let his tears fall for fear that, if they did, he should not be able to stop them, he set about searching for any meaningless employment to occupy his hands and his mind.
A stack of books, which had been left untouched for years, caught his eye and he took them one after another from the shelf with a view to returning them in alphabetical order. Dust floated from their pages – something that would have been unthinkable prior to his abdication when servants were forever busying themselves to keep everything pristine – and, as he blew a cobweb from a cover, a photograph fell from the pages and floated down to the carpet. Stooping to retrieve it, he smiled sadly at the faces looking back at him: a happy scene of a family holiday in Denmark several decades earlier. His father, proud and strong, stood beside his mother whose face shone with the radiance of joy and pride in her loving family. There were Nicholas’ sisters, Xenia and Olga – then, still a baby, and now, he reassured himself, safe in the Crimea. Georgy, his late brother, looked so young and healthy in his white sailor suit, smiling and happily unaware that his life would be so brief. Beside him stood Nicholas, though he barely recognised his own youthful features which the pressures of his reign had now aged prematurely; and there, sitting cross-legged on the ground by his father’s feet, sat Misha.
A hundred regrets stormed through Nicholas’ mind as he murmured, “Dear Misha…”…such an innocent, open face displaying the childlike spirit that even the horrors of war could not diminish. Now that everything had fallen to pieces, it seemed to Nicholas that the years of his brother’s exile had been so pointless, bringing nothing but unnecessary pain. At the time of Misha’s banishment, of course, it had been the Tsar’s duty to put family feeling aside to uphold the traditions which had sustained the dynasty for almost three centuries. It would have been incorrect to have granted his brother permission to marry the non-royal divorcee who had stolen his heart. As Head of the Orthodox Church and head of the family, Nicholas had no alternative but to send him away. Now, though, as he stared more intently at the photograph, those years of separation tore at his heart.
He gazed more intently at the image on the photograph and recalled, with no trace of bitterness, that their father had always viewed Misha as a more suitable successor than Nicholas would ever be.
“Papa was right,” he murmured and, in the lonely silence of the study, was convinced that his younger brother – so cheerful, so brave and popular with the troops – would have handed everything so differently.  He might even have saved the dynasty and prevented the chaos which now engulfed their beloved country.
“It would have been better,” he whispered to the image, “if I had never been born, and you had succeeded as Tsar Mikhail II…Oh, Misha, I am so sorry…”
The door creaked open and suddenly there he was, tall, handsome, and dignified, looking every inch like a Tsar.
“Misha,” Nicholas mouthed, too overcome by emotion to speak.
Misha stood in the entrance to the study, gazing directly into Nicholas’ violet-blue eyes; so soulful they were, and so tender, that Misha felt like a drowning man, being drawn deeper into a whirlpool and watching his life flash before him in a myriad of disjointed images. First he was a tiny child, looking up in admiration at the elder brother whose cheerful kindness endeared him to everyone. There had never been any arrogance about Nicholas; no pride in his position as the eldest son and heir to the throne. He had simply been one of the family; respectful of his parents, attentive to his siblings, and gifted with that rare combination of inner strength and outer gentleness which enabled him to set everyone at ease. Throughout his childhood, Misha had always felt safe in his elder brother’s presence and even later in life, when their father died and Nicholas ascended the throne, Misha had been so sure of his brother’s ability and devotion to duty that had never imagined that his reign could end in such an abrupt tragedy. 
Kerensky, who had pushed past him into the study, was wittering about the limited time available for the visit. As irritatingly as a wasp, he buzzed around the room, before taking a book from Nicholas’ desk and settling in a chair. There he sat, flicking through the pages and pretending to read while obviously remaining alert to whatever might pass between the brothers. Nicholas paid him no attention. His eyes remained fixed on his brother and his anguished expression was filled with such sorrow that Misha felt that his heart would break. He longed to fall to his knees with a litany of apologies and regrets but his grief was so great he could not utter a word.
Would all this have happened, he wondered, if he had been more supportive throughout Nicholas’ reign. Time and again, from his first failed attempt to elope with his sister’s lady-in-waiting, to the scandal of his affair with Natasha, the wife of one of his officers, he knew had brought nothing but disappointment. He trembled to think of how deeply he must have wounded Nicholas when, despite all his promises that he would do nothing without the Tsar’s permission, he had reneged on his word and married Natasha in secret, only informing the family of what he had done when everything was signed and sealed. Even worse, he thought now, was the explanation he had given for his actions: little Alexei, the Tsarevich, was suffering from such a severe episode of haemophilia that the doctors doubted he would live. If the boy died, Misha knew his position would change dramatically as he would become Nicholas’ heir. Then it would be impossible to ever marry Natasha. He would be obliged to find a more suitable wife who would one day become Tsarina.
Looking now into Nicholas’ eyes, he understood the great disparity between his brother’s selfless devotion to duty and his own selfish pursuit of satisfaction. Nicholas had no desire to be Tsar but he had sacrificed his personal wishes to dedicate himself to the role, and the least he could have expected in return was the loving and staunch support of his family. Repeatedly, Misha knew, he had failed to give that support and his spirits sank to the depths as he thought of recent events and how, once again, he had failed to accept responsibility. He thought of what anguish Nicholas must have suffered at his abdication, and he understood now that his last hope of saving the dynasty had been to pass over his haemophiliac son, and name Misha as his heir. Had he accepted that role, Misha wondered, would he have been able to prevent this ignominy by ensuring that Nicholas and his family could enjoy a dignified retirement in Livadia or some other country estate?  But he had failed. He had refused to accept the crown without the support of the Duma and, since that support was not forthcoming, he had allowed the dynasty to fall into decay. 
“Misha,” Nicholas said softly and it wounded him even more deeply to realise that there was no malice or recrimination in his tone. If anything, Nicholas appeared even more apologetic than he was as though he somehow considered himself to blame for this tragic turn of events.
To be greeted with such humility and kindness in the face of his failures was more than Misha could bear. Were it not for Kerensky’s unwelcome presence, he should have fallen to floor to beg forgiveness but instead he heard himself ask a series of trite and ridiculous questions.
“How are you, Nicky?”
He heard Nicholas swallow.
“And how’s Alix?”
“Bearing up, you know?”
He nodded, “The children?”
“The same.”
“Good. That’s good.” The tension was unbearable. “Have you heard from Mama?”
“She’s quite safe in the Crimea with Olga and Xenia.”
            And so it went on – meaningless chatter to prevent an intolerable silence which would compel them to face the magnitude of what was occurring – and all the while Misha could only pray that, beneath the inanity of their words, Nicholas understood how deeply he felt and how much he longed to communicate.
            All too soon Kerensky stood up and, dropping the book onto the desk, pointedly looked at his watch. Biting his lip to restrain his tears, Misha nodded, and was about to whisper some final words when a shuffling behind him distracted him. He turned to catch a glimpse of Alexei peeping in from behind the door.
            “May I see the children before I leave?”
           The question was intended for Nicholas but Kerensky answered abruptly, “That won’t be possible.” He looked again at his watch, “It is time to go.”
           Unable to restrain himself any longer, Misha threw his arms around Nicholas’s neck and, kissing his cheek, whispered, “Nicky, I’m so sorry.”
          Nicholas held him so tightly he might have been clinging to him for life, “I love you, Misha. God bless you. God bless you.”
         Kerensky coughed and Misha, choking, tore himself from his brother’s arms and, without looking back, followed Kerensky from the room, pausing only to tousle Alexei’s hair as he passed and wondering whether he would ever see Nicholas or his family again. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

True Friends to Animals

Several times recently I have met with some beautiful creatures - Hearing Dogs for Deaf People,  Guide Dogs for the Blind, and the donkeys of the Elizabeth Svensden Trust for Children and Donkeys. There are so many wonderful ways that humans and animals are working together, which is surely the natural balance of creation.
Having seen this week, too, a reminder of the appalling treatment of Anne the circus elephant (who is now happily re-homed and thriving!) and read of other cases of the maltreatment of beautiful creatures, I wanted to do something to help promote the wonderful groups of people and animals who work together. As it's impossible to donate to every animal charity, I decided to donate a novel to be read on line free in the hope that if people like it they might contribute whatever they choose to an animal charity of their choice.
I have set up a new blog for this purpose and, in time, I hope that photographers and artists as well as authors might also agree to donate something of their work to the site. Please visit the site:

True Friends to Animals

“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men....Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission - to be of service to them wherever they require it.”—Francis of Assisi

Monday, 19 November 2012

All Things Beautiful

Over the next few weeks, my American friends and I will be uploading a series of podcasts on a variety of subjects. We began today with an interview about my novel 'Most Beautiful Princess' which is now available at the top right corner of this site, or here:

 "Interview about Most Beautiful Princess"

Many thanks to Kate Morris and Syzygy for allowing us to use 'Waltz Eddie'  - at a later date we hope to host an interview with these musicians, as well as discussing all kinds of subjects related to anything which is beautiful, from perfumes to photography, from books to gardens and stately homes, from art to animals and much more besides. There is so much written in newspapers about dark and unpleasant subjects and our aim is to present podcasts which focus on loveliness in all its forms, including a variety of interviews.

I hope you'll enjoy listening to our podcasts!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Armistice Day

As the Armistice came into effect on 11th November 1918, Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary signed a manifesto, relinquishing his authority over the government of what was left of his Empire:

“Always being filled with a burning love for all my peoples, I do not want to hinder their free development. I accept in advance what German-Austria will decide on her future political organization. The people have taken over the government through its representatives. I renounce any share in the affairs of state. At the same time, I relieve my Austrian Government of its mandate.”

Count Czernin wrote of him: “When the Monarchy collapsed, the Servant of God conducted himself, as in all other situations, in an admirable fashion. He did not abdicate his claim to the throne, for, to him, the rule by the grace of God had been placed on him as a duty which he was not permitted to shun. He temporarily renounced the exercise of his imperial prerogatives and accepted all the adversity he was experiencing as the Will of God. The Servant of God’s sole desire, in this situation too, was to avoid any bloodshed. He was fully absorbed with the principle of Christian charity. That is why he could only act this way and no other.”

It is a strange and sad thing that, after so many centuries of so many wars, still they go on and on and on...Wouldn’t you think that at some point, leaders would have learned the lesson that no war is the war to end wars, and no peace ever came from killing? This poem by John Scott was written in the 18th century and it might well have been written at any time since.


The Drum
I hate that drum's discordant sound,
Parading round, and round, and round:
To thoughtless youth it pleasure yields,
And lures from cities and from fields,
To sell their liberty for charms
Of tawdry lace and glitt'ring arms;
And when Ambition's voice commands,
To fight and fall in foreign lands.

I hate that drum's discordant sound,
Parading round, and round, and round:
To me it talks of ravaged plains,
And burning towns and ruin'd swains,
And mangled limbs, and dying groans,
And widow's tears, and orphans moans,
And all that Misery's hand bestows,
To fill a catalogue of woes.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Kaiser Wilhelm's Arrival in Holland

It often seems to be presented that as Armistice Day approached in 1918, the Kaiser fled Germany and strolled happily into Holland where his first statement was, ‘and now for a nice English cup of tea.’ In fact, the Kaiser’s departure from Spa and arrival in Holland was anything but pleasant. In spite of Queen Wilhelmina’s hospitality (and later her refusal to extradite him so he could stand trial for war crimes!) he remained for some time under guard in a castle with a double moat – partly for his own protection, and partly because he was initially treated almost like a prisoner.

His son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, described the events of the 9th-10th November very movingly in his memoirs:

Memoirs of the Crown Prince
and one of the men who accompanied Wilhelm across the border describes the events of the 10th November:

“I come now to the 10th (November). The night passed quietly but I doubt if a single eye was closed in sleep during its entire course. Soon after 4 a.m. we assembled in the dining car. The Emperor came in apparently self-possessed and calm, gave us all a friendly shake of the hand, as usual. During the breakfast we learned the shameful terms of the armistice. At 5 o'clock a.m. the train started for the Dutch frontier. It had a guard of four soldiers in each car, since it had to pass through places occupied by mutinied troops. Soon ten minutes after we halted at the little station La Reide.
In the darkness, the Emperor left the train and stepped, accompanied by a few gentlemen, into the automobile provided to take him across the Dutch frontier. The rest of us continued in the train. We travelled through Pepinster and Liege and ruined Vise. About 7 a.m. the train stopped. Obliquely across the track was a wire hedge. We had reached the Dutch frontier. As parting greeting the last German sentinel had called after us some coarse words. Our car was uncoupled and we waited for the Dutch engine to take us across the frontier. It came at about 10 o'clock a.m. and drew us into the neutral Kingdom. When we reached the first Dutch station we saw the Emperor, who had preceded us in automobile, walking up and down the platform. In great depression of spirit we presented ourselves before him.

The Dutch Government had been made acquainted with the decision of the Emperor by its Consul in Brussels. The Emperor had also telegraphed to the Queen asking her permission to enter her kingdom as a private gentleman. The Emperor had been received at the frontier by the Dutch Military Commander, Major van Dyl. T he Major looked out for our protection against the public, as the place was filled with hostile Belgian deserters. In the course of the forenoon the German Consul at Maastricht had a number of Dutch officers, both civil and military, presented themselves before the Emperor. We learned that the Queen had placed the Castle Amerongen, property of Count Bentick, at the service of the Emperor. Our departure from the frontier for the Castle was fixed for the next day, the 11th of November.
It was a most depressing, shameful journey. At every station thousands of people were gathered, greeting us with shouting, whistling, cursing. They threatened us, made signs of choking and hanging us, etc. In such manner was our poor Emperor received on Dutch soil.”

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

More of Queen Louise's Concerns

Two days after sending the letter described in the previous post, Queen Louise of the Belgians wrote again to Queen Victoria, with further concerns about her father’s visit to England:

“My dearly beloved Victoria,
...We are quite sure, I assure you, that you and Albert will take care of him and that he is with you in safe hands. And what makes my mother uneasy is the fear that, being at liberty and without control, he will do too much, as she says, le jeune homme, ride, go about and do everything as if he were twenty years old. If I must tell you all the truth, she is afraid also he will eat too much. I am sure he will tell it to you himself, as he was so much amused with this fear; but to do her pleasure, being well assured by me that you would allow it, and that is was even customary, he has given up, of himself, all thought of attending early breakfast....I will also only say that, though he has sent over his horses in case they should be wanted, my mother begs, if possible, his riding at all. I wrote to her already that I supposed there would be no occasion for riding, and that you promenades would either be on foot or in a carriage....”

I can’t help thinking that the King was probably looking forward to a break from the excessive concern of his family!

However, five days later, Queen Louise was clearly happy about the care that he had been shown:

My dearly beloved Victoria,
...I thank you very much for attending to all my recommendations about my father. I only fear they will lead you to think we view him as a great child and treat him like one. [that thought did cross my mind!!]; but he is so precious and dear to us all that I am sure you will understand and excuse our being overanxious...
Yours most devotedly,
Louise

And the King returned safely and happily to France (only to be deposed shortly afterwards).

Monday, 5 November 2012

A Visit from King Louis Philippe


 
 
 
In October 1844 King Louis Philippe of France visited Queen Victoria & Prince Albert at Windsor. The Queen had written to her dear friend, Louise, Queen of the Belgians, the daughter of Louis Philippe, to ask if her father had any special requirements. This reply is rather touching not only because it reveals a good deal about the King’s character and shows the concern his family had for him, but also because it shows how little things change. This letter could have been written today (almost!) to anyone expecting a visit from an elderly relative!
 
 
 
 
 
My dearly beloved Victoria,
....I have not much to say about my father’s lodging habits and likings. My father is one of the beings most easy to please, satisfy and accommodate. His eventful life has used him to everything, and makes any kinds of arrangements acceptable to him. There is only one thing he cannot easily do, it is to be ready very early. He means notwithstanding, to try to come to your breakfast but you must insist upon his not doing it. It would disturb him in all his habits and be bad for him, as he would certainly eat – a thing he is not to do in the mornings. He generally takes hardly what may be called a breakfast. You must not tell him that I wrote you this but you must manage it with Montpensier [Louise’s youngest brother, Antoine], and kindly order for him a bowl of chicken broth. It is the only thing he takes generally in the morning and between his meals.I have also no observation to make but I have told Montpensier to speak openly to Albert whenever he thought something ought to be done for my father, or might hurt him and inconvenience him, and you may consult him when you are in doubt. He is entrusted with all the recommendations of my mother, for my father is naturally so imprudent and so little accustomed to caution and care that he must be watched to prevent his catching a cold or doing what may be injurious to him. About his rooms – a hard bed and a large table for his papers are all that he requires. He generally sleeps on a horsehair mattress with a plank of wood under it; but any kind of bed will do if it isn’t too soft. His liking will be to be at your command and do all you like. You know he can take a great deal of exercise and all will interest and delight him to see, as to do: this is not a compliment but a mere fact. His only wish is that you should not go out of your way for him and change your habits on his account....
You have no notion of the satisfaction it gives him and how delighted he will be to see you again and to be once more in England....
 
Yours most devotedly,
 
Louise

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A New Video

Thank you, again, to Lucy, who has added her lovely review of 'Most Beautiful Princess' on her wonderful Enchanted by Josephine site!

Continuing the series of videos about the royalties in the First World War, I have just uploaded a new, short one about Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which might interest some people...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Ella

Happy Birthday to Grand Duchess Elizabeth!

 
And many, many thanks to Lucy, who has kindly allowed me to write a guest post about 'Ella' on her beautiful site:

Enchanted By Josephine

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Another Strange Story from Princess Marie Louise

For Halloween, here is another true story from the wonderful Princess Marie Louise, who was undoubtedly naturally gifted with the sensitivity of a psychic.

The princess recounts a visit to Littlecote, the home of a cousin of her lady-in-waiting, but formerly the home of the infamous ‘Wild William Darrell’, a member of the notorious Hell Fire Club. Wild Darrell had, according to legend, had an affair with a local girl, who was about to give birth to his child. Darrell took the girl to a room in the house and summoned a midwife whom he blindfolded before leading her to the room. The moment the baby was born, wicked Darrell seized the poor child and threw him into the fire. The midwife, realising something was wrong, cut a piece of chintz from the curtains surrounding the bed and smuggled it out with her as proof that she had been present when the event occurred.

Princess Marie Louise goes on to describe her experience at Littlecote. She was being shown around the house by the owner, Lady Wills, when:


“...we eventually came to the Long Gallery which is supposed to be haunted by the distracted young mother looking for her baby. As we reached the end of the gallery Lady Wills pointed to a door in the wall and said, “This is where the gamp [midwife] came up.” I promptly replied, “Oh no, you are mistaken,” and, pointing to another door, in the wall said, “This is where she was brought up.” Then I shut my eyes – why I cannot tell – and walked on a few steps, turned around and said, “Evelyn, take care, here are two steps so be careful not to fall.” I pushed open a door in front of me (still with my eyes shut), entered a small room and again said, “Here is the fireplace where Wild Darrell burnt the child.” I then crossed the room, took hold of the curtain around the bed, and pointed to the place where the gamp had cut the bit of chintz. Only then did I open my eyes and rather bewildered asked how I could have known all that I had seen and done.”


In her wonderful book: My Memories of Six Reigns, Princess Marie Louise describes several other equally intriguing experiences.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, 26 October 2012

"Bring Him Home"

A rather unusual exchange took place yesterday in the House of Commons when an MP for Leicester and one for Yorkshire briefly debated where the remains of Richard III – presumed to have been recently discovered under a car park in Leicestershire – should be buried. The MP for Leicester pointed out that Richard has been his county for so long that he should remain there, while the Yorkshire MP believed that the Yorkist leader should be returned to York or its surroundings. The debate was unfortunately cut short when a third MP objected that it was beginning to bear resemblance to the debates between ancient cathedrals about where the relics of saints should be kept!

As an inhabitant of Yorkshire, I absolutely believe that here is where Richard belongs. He loved this county and was – and always has been – loved and respected in York. Far from being seen as the eponymous villain in Shakespeare’s play, he is remembered for the benefits he brought to the country and particular to the north of England. His Council of the North was one of the first to pay real attention to the wishes and requirements of northerners (who, alas, are still often viewed by some in the south as rather backward and uncultured!). Richard arranged for government business and law courts to be conducted in English; he established the Court of Requests to grant a fair hearing to those who could not afford a lawyer to defend them; and he was also a loving husband and father. Many believe that the recent premature deaths of his son and his wife led him to take such a reckless stand in the Battle of Bosworth, where, of course, he was killed by Henry the Usurper...and thus began the reign of the very nasty Tudors!

To quote a song from Les Miserables....‘Bring him home’! If these are proved to be Richard’s remains, he surely belongs in Yorkshire!

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Betrayal

Coming soon:

 
The final book of the Shattered Crowns trilogy: The Betrayal.

As the trilogy nears its conclusion, I am struck by the way in which empires fall. Ancient empires took decades to crumble and collapse but in 1917 and 1918, three major European powers were destroyed in a matter of days. There was something decidedly orchestrated about this and the same pattern played out in all three countries, resulting in the removal of the monarchies, the destruction of their economies and a shifting of their resources. Throughout my research it has become so clear that nothing, absolutely nothing, about the First World War was quite as it has been generally presented by the victors or even by the vanquished. I am struck, too, by the similarity with many modern day events which result in overseas wars, and I wonder if someone in the future will look back on this time and ask, "why did they really fight all these 'wars'? Who gained from them and how many people's trust was betrayed?"

Saturday, 20 October 2012

King Leopold Writes to Queen Victoria

On 21st May 1845, King Leopold of the Belgians sent his niece, Queen Victoria, a portrait of his late wife, Charlotte – the Queen’s cousin who had died in childbirth twenty-eight years earlier. The King was, by now, happily remarried but it is touching to read his portrait of his first wife and gives a rare glimpse into her character. It seems very clear, too, that this is an attempt on the part of the wily King Leopold, to give Victoria a little sermon about her own behaviour since she, too, had been somewhat imperious with Albert during the early years of her marriage and had been greatly under the influence of her interfering governess Baroness Lehzen! :

...My gift is Charlotte’s portrait. The face is extremely like, and the likest that exists; the hair is a little too fair, it had become darker. I take this opportunity to repeat that Charlotte was a noble-minded and highly gifted creature. She was nervous as all the family have been: she could be violent but but then she was full of repentance for it, and her disposition highly-generous and susceptible of great devotion.

I am the more bound to say this as I understood that you had some notion that she had been very imperious and not mistress of her temper. Before he marriage, some people by dint of flattery had tried to give her masculine tastes; in short pushed her to become one day a sort of Queen Elizabeth. These sentiments were already a little modified before her marriage. But she was particularly determined to become a good and obedient wife; some of her friends were determined that she should not; among these Madame de Flahaut must be premiere ligne.

This became a subject which severed the intimacy between them. Madame de Flahaut, much older than Charlotte, and of a sour and determined character, had gained an influence which partook on Charlotte’s part a little of fear. She was afraid of her but when once supported took courage.

People were much struck on the 2nd May 1816 at Carlton House with the clearness and firmness with which she pronounced ‘and obey’ etc. as there had been a general belief that it would be for the husband to give such promises. The Regent [Charlotte’s father, later King George IV] put me particularly on my guard and said, “If you don’t resist she will govern you with a high hand.” Your own experience has convinced you that real affection changes many sentiments that may have been imparted into the mind of a young girl. With Charlotte it was more meritorious as from a very early period of her life, she was considered as the heiress of the Crown; the Whigs flattered her extremely and later...the Tories...also made great efforts to please her.

Her understanding was extremely good. She knew everybody and I even afterwards found her judgement to be generally extremely correct. She had read a great deal and knew well what she had read. Generous she was, almost too much, and her devotion was quite affecting, from a character so much pushed to be selfish and imperious.

I will end here on the subject of my poor, dear Charlotte but I thought that the subject could be interesting to you. Her constancy in wishing to marry me, which she maintained under difficulties of every description, has been the foundation of all that touched the family afterwards. You know, I believe, that your poor father was the chief promoter, though also the Yorks were; but our correspondence from 1814 to 1816 was entirely carried on through his kind intervention; it otherwise would have been impossible as she was a sort of prisoner....”

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A Prisoner-of-War

As my Shattered Crowns trilogy nears its conclusion with the forthcoming book The Betrayal, I am struck by the fact that, in the midst of all the horror, deceit, myths and downright evil of the First World War, there are countless stories of humanity at its finest and most natural. Apart from the well-known story of the football match between British and German troops in No-Man’s-Land at Christmas 1914, there are accounts of French soldiers, lured by the smell of cooking, sneaking into the German trenches to share supper with the ‘enemy’, and German soldiers throwing notes, wrapped around stones, into the British trenches to warn them when the next bombardment was about to begin. There is also the story of the young English soldier who, following an offensive, found the dead body of young German who looked very like him, and, when he went through the pockets of the dead man, he found letters and photos of his family and fiancée, and realised at once how similar their lives were. From then on, amazingly, that machine-gunner continued to 'play at soldiers' until the end of the war but never killed another German because he always ensured that his gun was aimed at an empty space.

Today I discovered something else, too. My grandfather, who at the age of 18 was a soldier in a Lancashire regiment, was wounded (I think!) and taken prisoner by the Germans. He had great respect for his captors and said that they had twice saved his life. Firstly when he was captured and secondly when, as a prisoner-of-war, he was sent work in a salt mine and was involved in a potentially fatal accident. He was well cared for in a hospital and shown great kindness, as a result of which he made a complete recovery. Even in the middle of all that slaughter, his enemies cared enough to save his life...twice.  

It constantly and happily surprises me that, just as plants grow through concrete and make their way through the cracks in paving stones, no matter how wicked events might appear, true humanity – the true nature of Mankind – will always shine through in one way or another. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Paradise

The beauty of the BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford was so unique that the creators must have faced quite a challenge in deciding on a new project, knowing there was so much to live up to.

At first it seemed impossible that anything could equal Lark Rise but, three episodes into the brilliant Bill Gallagher’s new series The Paradise, it’s clear that the writer is using the same successful formula in creating something very beautiful!

Loosely based on a novel by Zola, The Paradise is set in a department store in the north of England in the late 19th century. As with Lark Rise, the producers’ attention to detail in the settings and costumes is superb, and while Lark Rise was an absolute delight for the wonderful pastoral and village scenes, The Paradise is exquisite for its portrayal of the luxury of beautiful gowns and other items on sale in the extravagantly grand setting of the cathedral-like shop. The acting is convincing and the characters so well-cast, and I am now convinced that the excellent Sarah Lancashire is the new Maggie Smith (though considerably younger!)!

The real charm of both series, however, lies in the beauty of the characters and Bill Gallagher’s wonderful story-telling. When so much air time is taken up with dark and depressing crime and forensic programmes, it is beyond lovely to find a series in which there are genuine people with real-life problems but, without being twee, no one is truly evil and the viewer knows that nothing really nasty or degrading is about to happen. There are, of course, difficulties and misunderstandings in relationships as well as financial problems and other challenges that people meet every day, but – as happened in Lark Rise – each week’s story ends in kindness and the triumph of good. It is so refreshing and I am sure it is ‘good for the soul’ to find a series that is beautiful on every level – one that is both delightful to the senses and truly uplifting!
 

Thank you Mr Gallagher and thank you BBC for such beauty!
 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Best Job in History

Tony Robinson’s interesting series ‘The Worst Jobs In History’ included a programme on the worst royal job in history. From cess pit cleaners and similarly nasty occupations to the whipping boys who took the punishments for young princes, there have been some pretty unpleasant roles in the royal households. Even the most powerful people at court often found themselves in a perilous position when their fate depended on the fluctuating whims of a monarch: Thomas Cromwell, Thomas More and Cardinal Wolsey to name but a few. Those who managed to retain the monarch’s favour were still prey to the occasional revolution or the jealousy of other members of the court and if the head that wore the crown was uneasy, life could be equally troubled for his devotees. 

A few days ago, however, I discovered what might be viewed as one of the best royal jobs in history: The Royal Herb Strewer.
 

Twelve pounds a year must have been a considerable sum in the 17th century, and with a few yards of fine cloth included in the salary, it must have been a lucrative position. In the early days, there would undoubtedly have been a lot to do, trying to mask the stench of the insanitary royal palaces, but by the time of George IV, things must have been improving. All in all, it must have been a very pleasant job and one that wasn’t likely to provoke a great deal of rivalry.

Having recently begun to study and cultivate herbs, I am absolutely in awe of them. Their scents and texture are so beautiful and their healing and cleansing properties are positively amazing! At the moment I am in the very early stages of learning about them but the great herbalists of the past and present have worked some incredible ‘miracles’ using various concoctions of them. It is quite remarkable that they grow so freely and people pass them by on their way to doctors’ surgeries, unaware that Nature has provided a remedy for virtually every ailment and a natural way of dealing with many domestic situations such as preventing moths from coming indoors, repelling insects or cleansing pans and crockery. As a minor example, I was recently bitten a mass of midges and having read that basil is good for insect bites, I rubbed the leaves on my arms and the bites stopped itching instantly. The next time I walked among the midges, I rubbed lemon balm on my skin and came home with no bites at all.

The natural wisdom that comes from being close to nature seemed to have been temporarily lost with the industrial revolution. Happily nowadays many more people are rediscovering that ancient wisdom and I pray that the big pharmaceutical companies which are already seeking to suppress the use of alternative healing methods and several herbs, will realise that just as plants sprout through concrete and cracks in the pavement, you cannot suppress Nature.

Monday, 3 September 2012

"...Not Even Solomon In All His Splendour"

One of the most bizarre episodes during Tsar Nicholas’ captivity in Tobolsk occurred when a local priest included prayers for the Imperial Family in the religious service. The priest was interrogated afterwards and similar services were prohibited since these prayers had been banned. Shortly before this episode, someone in Austria had been persecuted as a traitor for praying for the Tsar during the war – fortunately Emperor Karl rectified such nonsense but the more you consider this, the more ridiculous it is! In Russia, an atheistic regime banning prayers? Why? If they didn’t believe the prayers had any meaning, why ban them? In Austria, if they did believe the prayers were effective, then they were surely aware of the message: love your enemies, bless those who curse you and pray for those who do you harm. The very notion of any regime or individual assuming the right to tell anyone else who or what to pray for is so beyond arrogance that it is unbelievable!

On a smaller scale, I have often wondered about the strange behaviour of the atheist society who, one Christmas, paid for a poster on a bus, which said, “There is no God.” Still more baffling are some pseudo-scientific authors who write volumes attempting to prove the non-existence of God. Surely, if you don’t believe something exists, you don’t waste your time trying to tell everyone else that it doesn’t exist. Personally, I don’t believe that the moon is made of green cheese but I wouldn’t spend months of my life trying to prove that. If someone else believes it is made of green cheese, it wouldn’t bother me. Why then do people who profess not to believe in something go to such lengths to argue about it.

Even more baffling to me, though, is how anyone who spends even a few minutes amid the beauty of nature cannot believe there is a wonderful and amazing Deity behind it all. As a child I often thought it quite miraculous that whenever I was stung by nettles, a healing dock life was always growing nearby. Recently I have taken to growing herbs and am on the brink of studying their amazing healing properties. It is truly remarkable that for every ailment imaginable, there is an antidote in Nature. What’s more the intricate design of the leaves and flowers, the incredible scents, the taste and the feel of the leaves are more beautiful than anything ever created in the perfumeries and workshops of the world, and these things grow so naturally with so little effort on Mankind’s part. Sometimes, looking at them in awe, or wandering in the gorgeous glasshouse at Temple Newsam (as in the pictures), I can only think, “...not even Solomon in all his splendour was clothed like one of these.”


So, to return to the prayers for the Tsar and his family...Why ban prayers if you don’t believe they are effective? And if you do believe they’re effective, it seems a pretty dangerous thing to attempt to  tamper with other people’s!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Princess Alice Battenberg

A documentary – The Queen’s Mother-in-Law – shown on Channel 4 last night, told some of the story of the life of Princess Alice Battenberg, great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and mother of Prince Philip. It was a respectful and balanced presentation, which included interviews with people who knew the princess, but at the end of it I had a strong sense that something very important was missing and also that there is something not right in the way in which certain details of the princess’ mental state are discussed and dissected. It was also a little odd that Alice was described as one of the royal family’s best kept secrets when it’s clear that there was never any attempt by the present Queen or Prince Philip to hide her away. She was very visible at the coronation and at their wedding so she was hardly ‘a secret’!

Princess Alice must have been an extremely intelligent woman to have been able – since she was born profoundly deaf – to lip-read in several languages and speak with no evidence of her disability. It is a well-known fact that she suffered for a while from a mental illness in an age when mental illness was seen as taboo, and consequently spent time confined in sanatoria. In one such place she was visited by Freud whose diagnosis and recommended treatment leaves me wondering: who was the mad person here? The woman who had endured enormous stress – nursing soldiers in horrific circumstances in the Balkan Wars, and had seen her husband sentenced to death (a sentence which wasn’t carried out) during the overthrow of the Greek monarchy - and might have been going through various delusions (described variously as religious mania and schizophrenia) or the man who prescribed such a ridiculously damaging treatment?



What was missing from the programme was any attempt to understand her spirituality and, more obviously, her connection to her godmother, Ella, Grand Duchess Elizabeth. Basically, Alice’s spirituality was more or less dismissed as her mental illness and, while it’s impossible to deny that some aspects of it manifested in ways which were not helpful to her or to anyone, her entire spiritual journey was put down to delusion. Her sudden conversion to Orthodoxy (as Ella converted); her desire to found a religious order (significantly named Sisters of Martha and Mary, after Ella’s convent in Moscow); and her appearance in a nun’s habit at the Coronation (in a pearl grey habit – the same colour as that of Ella’s order) were all mentioned but no reference to why Alice might be following such ideas. At the end of the programme one commentator said, “Alice has one final trick up her sleeve...” (or something to that effect). She requested that she should be buried on the Mount of Olives. This was stated as though it was merely a whim – no mention was made of the fact that she wished to be buried near her Aunt Ella, whose life she obviously tried to emulate.

Interestingly, too, there was an interview with a German lady who had been a child when Alice stayed at her parents’ boarding house. The princess, the German lady said, spent a long time just gazing at the sky and when asked what she saw there, she replied, “St. Barbara....” I couldn’t help wondering if she actually said ‘saint’ or was referring to Ella’s companion, Barbara, who died with her in the mineshaft in Siberia.

Yes, Princess Alice suffered for a while from a mental illness, but I think it is quite wrong to put down her entire spirituality to that episode in her life. Fortunately, the documentary also included information about her devotion in caring for the wounded soldiers, for orphans and for many people in need; and also her courage in hiding a Jewish family in her home in Greece during the Nazi occupation.

I think she was a deeply sensitive woman woman who overcame many obstacles and whose heart was most definitely beautiful.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Truly Inspirational

If you can possibly spare an hour, I can almost guarantee that this incredible message will be life-changingly beneficial! A massively inspirational man who speaks so brilliantly and leaves you with no excuses not to live your dream and be the best you can be. It's funny, moving...just wonderful really...

Friday, 10 August 2012

Spirituality and History



It often struck me when I was at school that history, which I loved, was filled with whats and wheres and hows but so few answers to the question, ‘why’. I don’t mean the glib answer of,  'this nation invaded that nation because they wanted this piece of land', or even 'this king persecuted this religion because he wanted a divorce,' but rather why the people involved acted as they did. For a long time it seemed that to understand anything at all about history it was vital to understand motivation and psychology but now I think it is even more vital to realise that history comprises two stories: the actual physical events and actions and the spirituality behind those actions. By 'spirituality' I don’t mean a particular religion. This has nothing to do with separate denominations, beliefs,  wars of religion or anything of the sort. It is, to my mind, a hugely overlooked aspect – perhaps even the most vital aspect – of history and what it means to be alive in any age. By spirituality, I mean the very essence of a person; the essence and purpose and driving force that sustains life and the awareness that there is something so much more powerful and beautiful that sometimes shines through but is often concealed within the physicality of life. It is so vital and so powerful that it is amazing that the spiritual aspect of people of the past is so often misunderstood, dismissed or even ridiculed.

It has been very clear for a long time that something very dark occurred in the early years of the 20th century; to misquote Shakespeare, it was clear that ‘something is rotten in the state of Europe and beyond...’ Perhaps it began before that when the industrial revolution – which, of course, provided us with many benefits, too – led to a dehumanisation of large sections of the populations of many countries, but it exploded in its full horror in the two world wars. Prior to that, regardless of any particular religion, there was a greater awareness and appreciation of spirituality. Of course, as with anything, it had often been distorted by darker minds but many more people were aware of their connection to Nature and to something greater than the everyday physicality of life. Churches were central to village life, as were wise women who understood the uses of herbs and their healing properties, and the relevance of the seasons and their connection to the rhythms of life. These are symbols of our innate spirituality and the awareness that there is more to us than just our bodies or who we appear to be. Whether you call the greater aspect God or Allah or Higher Being or any other name, that knowledge is intrinsic in all life.
In the early 20th century Russia was (and, I believe still is) a deeply mystical country. Holy Fools, holy healers, Shamans and Staretz were a natural part of life and sat comfortably with the Orthodox Church in the same way as the wise women of England sat comfortably in their villages alongside the more orthodox religions (apart from the brief spell when James I became obsessed with witches!). These different aspects of spirituality were perfectly compatible. They were not ‘mad’ or ‘deranged’, nor were they superstitious in the general sense of the way in which that word is used; they were an essential aspect of life and one which has so often been demeaned to our detriment.
It would be amusing, if it were not so bizarre, that I have read on several sites that Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia ‘turned to religion’ to find comfort after her husband’s murder, or worse that she was completely unhinged by his death and that is why she devoted the rest of her life to her faith. Anyone with even the slightest understanding can read her letters and see that this was no sudden whim nor the act of an unhinged person. Could an unhinged person have created such a haven for the poor, established such a wonderful foundation to bring relief to the sick and orphans or worked out such amazing plans to provide work for young people as messengers etc, etc,?



But this is as nothing compared to how Empress Alexandra Feodorovna has been described and vilified! Throughout the war years, ‘Alix’ – a deeply intuitive and very spiritual person – seemed to have realised more clearly than anyone that something very dark was happening. It was difficult to know whom to trust when it was clear that something extremely sinister was occurring and there was a definite plot afoot to destroy the Tsar and his dynasty. For this reason, I believe, she became quite frantic in her awareness of what was happening but was unable to ‘put her finger on it’ exactly. Alix was absolutely right. There was a plot afoot to destroy Tsardom and to destroy the soul of Russia. I, with the advantage of hindsight, think she might have been mistaken as to who her enemies were but who at that time could possibly have suspected the magnitude of what was happening? The Bolsheviks, funded by international bankers, did not represent the Russian people. The revolution did not spring from the discontent of the masses. It was planned by some of the wealthiest people in the world, and promoted by bribes and lies and its purpose was to allow those international industrialists and bankers to get their hands on Russian resources and – even more sinisterly – to destroy the soul of Russia by closing the churches, ridiculing spirituality as superstition and twisting the spirituality into a worship of human idols such as Lenin and Stalin.
Within a couple of decades came the Second World War and it is well known that the Nazi leadership practised dark rituals which, again, distorted the beautiful natural spirituality of the Rhineland and the German people. There is so much more to all of this than first meets the eye and it is clear that a hugely important aspect of the past has been omitted from history books and will continue to be omitted as long as the importance of spirituality is overlooked by historians and the spirituality of people of the past is dismissed as superstition or treated as insignificant.
You simply cannot look at the world or at history without looking at the real force behind and within everything. Happily, I believe that ultimately evil is powerless and empty – it is simply the absence of good – and one day we will be able to view all the events in a very different and far more real light.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Fellow Creatures

Yesterday while driving along, I stopped to let a truck reverse and then saw a few sheep in a trailer attached to the truck. One beautiful, healthy creature was close to the edge of the trailer and we were so close that I saw its noble face and eyes and, to my horror, I realised the truck was reversing towards an abattoir. It seemed so abhorrent on such a sunny morning that the same people who are rejoicing in a rare summer’s day and the beauty of nature are condoning the slaughter of beautiful creatures like that! I wished I could buy the sheep or do anything to say, “We are better than this! We are not savages who need to kill innocent beings...” And I did nothing except ‘pray’ for the animals and apologise to them in my mind for what people do to them.
A few months ago I saw the newly born lambs at Temple Newsam. People – maybe the same people who now eat them – were cooing over their loveliness and bringing their children to see them. It’s amazing that something like one in every three people in England feeds the birds; wildlife programmes are really popular, and we are known as a nation of pet lovers. How can it be that a people who, in many ways, recognise the dignity, individuality and amazingness of animals, can then continue to eat them when there are so many kinder and healthier alternatives?
Animals are renowned for their intuition and it is therefore obvious that they know they are on their way to the slaughter-house. The natural physical response to that fear is the production of chemicals within the body and so, when someone eats a dead animal, they are eating those chemicals and eating the animal’s fear.
I was told as a child that animals do not feel as humans do; that they did not miss their babies when they were taken from them and that they don’t feel fear or have souls. Have you ever seen footage of mother animals crying for their babies or risking their own lives to protect them? Have you ever seen an animal in pain? Have you ever watched a nature programme to see how wonderfully so many species work together? Have you ever looked into the eyes of a bull or a cow or a sheep and felt the presence of something far wiser than you are? Or befriended a creature and seen their loyalty and willingness to communicate? Have you ever seen a truck driving to an abattoir and felt ashamed of being human?
When we seen films about the Romans and the entertainment in the coliseum, or read of some of the tortures and punishments of the past, it is difficult to believe that people – good people! – accepted these things as normal. I believe that at some future time – perhaps a century from now, though I pray it will be sooner – people will look back at these practices in horrified amazement, in the same way as we look back on some of the barbaric practices of the past, and say, “Did my ancestors really do that? How could they? Oh, the grossness of eating the flesh of another creature!”

You don’t die if you don’t eat dead animals. You don’t become weaker. You don’t become less healthy. You don’t lack protein or calcium. You just can walk among our fellow creatures and feel the awe of being a part of the wonder of creation...and you feel a lot healthier for it!    

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Happy Yorkshire Day!


August 1st is Yorkshire Day and so what better day to sing the praises of this beautiful county! Contrary to an opinion I recently heard, the people of the north of England do not all go down t’pit, wear flat caps and keep whippets or ferrets, but we do have a fascinating history, a plethora of wonderful historic sites, beautiful landscapes and interesting coastlines and can boast many wonderful artists, musicians and writers! Of course, York itself is an amazing place for anyone interested in history since, apart from the original Roman walls, the Medieval Shambles and the presentation of the Mystery Plays, it is reputed to be the most haunted city in Europe.
 
 
 
 

If you enjoy stately homes, we have dozens...perhaps one of the most impressive being Castle Howard, where Brideshead Revisted was filmed; and the county is littered with the abbeys which Henry VIII destroyed, one of the most beautiful and evocative being the fabulous Fountains Abbey or the somewhat spooky Whitby Abbey of which the remarkable St. Hilda was once abbess. It was also, of course, in Whitby that Bram Stoker wrote ‘Dracula’. Whitby, once famous for jet, is a unique seaside resort, quite different from Scarborough and Filey...the entire Yorkshire East Coast is filled with many wonders!

Alan Bennett, J.B. Priestley, Arthur Ransome, Ted Hughes and the Brontes are but a few of many Yorkshire writers; Ben Kingsley, Dame Judi Dench, Sean Bean, Michael Palin are among many famous Yorkshire actors; both Delius and Barry were Yorkshiremen, as was the brilliant artist, John Atkinson Grimshaw, and the contemporary artist David Hockney...(I could have mentioned Henry Moore, too, but I don’t feel so proud of that kind of art!).


So, if you are an overseas visitor, here perhaps for the Olympics, please remember that England extends quite some way north of London and Yorkshire, a county filled with very friendly people, is well worth a visit!

Happy Yorkshire Day!