The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Why Dreadful Zealot Rage Came Upon Ireland (Oliver Cromwell at Drogheda in 1649)

Cromwell's New Model Army Arrive Drogheda 3rd September 1649

In 1649 a New Model Army (Roundheads) of the English CivilWar landed in Ireland after becoming victorious over the English Royalist Army in a second and brief Civil War. They were very fundamental Protestants who had extreme religious views that were so radical; they executed their sovereign King Charles I to protect and enhance their beliefs and rule across the English nation. In a far- reaching move; the Puritan English had destroyed the Monarchy and formed a Republic based on, their believed view of, vital religious needs to run a good God-fearing nation. The English Civil War that had raged through the 1640s decade had come to a turbulent end. The start of ominous and new zealot type rule, taken to extremes, was about to begin in earnest, but a final and third effort still remained with the defeated English Royalist Army.

Some historians think this strange new Protestant Commonwealth of England was a step in the right direction for the English constitution which would develop from the monumental change that had happened, but the beginnings were very precarious and would cause another decade of harsh religious fanatical government. Not for just England but all of the Isles – Scotland, Wales, Ireland included – plus the American colonies that would also suffer under the Puritan cloud of law.

When the English Puritans did the unthinkable and executed King Charles I of the Scottish Stewart dynasty they sent shock waves throughout Europe and brought an end to the second English Civil War of 1648 – 1649. The third English Civil War would start because the eldest son of the late Charles I was in exile and waiting to claim his throne. He was King Charles II and he formed an alliance with the Irish Confederate Catholics which allowed the defeated soldiers of the English Royalist Army to join forces with soldiers of the Irish Confederate Catholics. It seems strange in this day and age to regard an English Republic fighting against Ireland in support of the Monarchy, but in a strange and haphazard way, this was so.

The Protestant English and their New Model Army regarded Ireland as a land of heretic Catholics who had killed many Protestant Settlers in 1641 during a rebellion. Now, these un-pure people were supporting the vanquished English monarchy – aiding un-pure Royalists who would side with such heretics to destroy the divine Puritan goal of the New English Commonwealth.

Oliver Cromwell – champion of the Parliamentary cause was now at the head of his New Model Army to destroy a third English Royalist Campaign and exact vengeance upon the conflicting Irish Confederate cause. Ireland was a land to be colonised in a new exodus of Protestant religious dispersal. In the eyes of the English Protestants; they were new crusaders and the Catholic Confederation was no better than a Caliphate blight of the Holy land during the Middle Ages in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. This was, of course in the eyes of zealot English Protestants, heady from victory over a monarchy – an old style of rule that had subjugated them. Now this unholy and unclean form of Christianity, supporting the old defunct ways, was in danger of destroying the hard won Puritan dream.

The New Model English Army of Roundheads would bring a nightmare of their own for trying to destroy their Puritan dream. This outlandish crusade would scream out in Irish history to this day and part of one of the many dreadful battles was; the Siege of Drogheda.

Cromwell and his New Model Parliamentary Army arrived outside of the walls of Drogheda on 3rd of September 1649. He began to position his soldiers around the southern side of the city walls. The Harbour was blockaded by Parliamentary ships. Drogheda was cut off with 3,000 troops of the Irish Catholic Confederate and English Royalist Army under the command of Arthur Aston – a man who had seen campaigns in Europe among Swedes, Poles and Germans. He had also fought in the previous English Civil Wars. He believed if he could hold Drogheda, he would be reinforced by Royalist and Irish soldiers numbering 4,000 under the command of the Marquis of Ormonde. In this, Arthur Aston would be unfortunately mistaken.

After two days, Cromwell received his 48 pounder siege guns. Eleven of them. These canons were dispersed in the relevant places to start bombarding the old walls of Drogheda. The guns opened fire and two breaches were formed before the Parliamentarians called upon the besieged forces to surrender. The commander of Drogheda, Arthur Aston refused and so the shelling continued.

On the 11th September and the New Model Army infantry went in, trying to get through both breaches in the town’s old medieval wall. At the east breach of the wall, the Parliamentarians were beaten back by the Irish and English Royalist soldiers. However, in the south breach; the English Protestants, of Cromwell’s army, gained a foothold. The Royalist forces tried to counter attack but their leader, Colonel Wall was killed and the defenders then fell back allowing more Parliamentarians to flood into the breach. It was at this fierce fighting point that many of the soldiers of both sides fell in combat amid the rubble of the southern breach. Around 150 Parliamentary soldiers were killed, including Colonel Castle of the New Model Army.

After this, more Parliamentary soldiers flooded into the town as the wall’s defenders retreated in panic. Arthur Aston with some English Royalist and Irish soldiers took refuge in Millmount Fort as the massacre of Drogheda began in terrible earnest by the English Parliamentary army. It is said that when Oliver Cromwell see many of his Roundhead soldiers lying dead in the rubble of the southern breach, he became enraged and gave the order for no quarter. The bloodlust of the attackers became uncontrollable and although the order was for all bearing arms, everyone they came across was being put to the sword. Of the 3,100 soldiers defending the city, 2,800 were killed and a further death toll of the town’s civilians numbered around 3,000 put to the sword. The carnage and slaughter must have been horrendous for all the inhabitants as they tried to flee in blind panic.

Arthur Ashton and his men at Millmount Fort watched the carnage in horror. The Parliamentarians could not breach their smaller fort without more and considerable effort, so when the slaughter began to abate, some thousands of deaths later; terms of safety were offered to the English Royalist and Irish soldiers under Arthur Aston. These terms were accepted and the remnant defenders in Millmount Fort were disarmed and taken to a mill close by.

Here another dreadful atrocity was performed by the English Protestants of the Parliamentarian Army. Arthur Aston was manhandled by his murderous captors and was believed to have been bludgeoned to death by his artificial wooden leg – his skull smashed in as he was left dead along with the rest of his murdered men – the group of defenders that surrendered after taking shelter in Millmount Fort.

Other areas of the town harboured defenders, including a church that was set alight. As the burning building began to collapse and the defenders tried to escape the burning church; they were killed by Parliamentary troops surrounding the place. In other areas where English Royalist and Irish soldiers surrendered; officers were put to death and one in every ten ordinary ranked soldiers were put to death as an example. The remaining survivors were sent to penal servitude in Barbados.

Many of the dead officers had their severed heads sent to Dublin and displayed upon spikes. The highest ranking defender to survive the massacre was named Richard Talbot – the future Earl of Tyrconnell. Why he was spared, is not really known for he was an Irish Royalist and later Jacobite soldier. Some think he escaped from the garrison before it fell.

The Siege of Drogheda is one of the foremost reasons why Oliver Cromwell is remembered, without affection, by many in Ireland to this day – his campaign from 1649 – 1653 left a terrible legacy that effortlessly stands the test of time in historical memory.

Queen - Queen II - White Queen (As It Began)

Friday, 27 July 2012

How the Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill Took Place in 1965

This is from YouTube:

I suppose something in the entire nation died with Winston Churchill. It was like closing the chapter of a book - the story of that type of Great Britain ended. I was just four at the time and can't remember it. However, the people in the crowd - the everyday people I mean. They way they dressed and the way they look - their faces, I mean. I can remember that and the policemen even look strict. They had a different composure. I worked just by Saint Paul's Cathedral for 20 years from 1978 to 1998. The world has changed so much. Britain has changed enormously, yet I did not notice it from day to day. I never see the things slip away and only realise when I watch this and feel the sad nostalgia. I would never want to return to that time because I like the Britain I live in, despite what others might think, but sometimes the retro images pop up and I swoon for the old days.

Why Saladin the Great Opposed the Strange Leper King of Jerusalem

Baldwin IV 16-year-old leper king at Montgisard

This blog is about Saladin the Great’s defeat, before his great victory that echoes throughout eternity. It is not derogatory of the great warrior Sultan but tells the story of a gigantic incident that might have conditioned him better for future conflict. Many people of Europe know of the Crusades, but we fantasise and glory only in the victories and regard the Islamic forces in a dark and sinister light. However, it appears upon greater reflection, that the Crusaders and their Christian Holy war caused great mayhem and slaughter of life. There were heroes and anti-heroes on both sides of the Crusader wars and much is viewed from bigoted perspectives on both sides. Let us pretend that all men are good and can be corrupted and amid such turmoil and confusion. Some people try hard to be good before God in who, they believe. This could be said of many in the Crusader wars on either side of the colossal conflict that Islam eventually won.

Saladin the Great
Saladin the Great is a monument of Chivalry in Middle age history among many Europeans, even though he was an enemy of Europe’s Christian Crusader Kingdom. This is with good reason, of course as the Fatimid Caliphate that governed Jerusalem fell to the European Crusader Christians in 1099. This event drove a wedge through an Islamic territory of the Fatimid Egyptian-ruled Caliphate that stretched across North Africa into Egypt, up through areas of Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and parts of Turkey, Syria and Iraq. It should be noted that over 70,000 Muslims and Jews were massacred by the Christian Crusaders and the violence of the fall of Jerusalem in 1099 AD was horrendous. Many of these wicked slayings were blamed upon Christian Franks.

Perhaps, for this reason – 88 years later, Saladin would not free the Franks that he captured when he retook Jerusalem in 1187, despite the pleas of Balian of Ibelin and the Patriarch of the defeated Crusader Christians. All others were given safe conduct to the ports, while the Franks went into slavery. These are of course things that happened before and after the first of Saladin’s conflicts, as Sultan, with the Crusader Kingdom’s celebrated leper King.

For many centuries, before the Western European Christian Crusaders came; there had been wars with the Byzantine Empire and Western Muslim Caliphates and Eastern Muslim Caliphates. All were wrestling for over dominance of the Holy land territories. Everything was mixed and confused within the Middle East – in other words; business as usual in the Holy Land.

When Saladin the Great was born in 1137 or 1138, the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem had existed for around 39 years – a rule of European immigrant Christians. This newborn Islamic boy noble would one day become a great man and his name was Yusuf. The Muslim land of his birth bordered this conquered land where Christian Crusaders ruled and continuously tried to expand its Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Young Yusuf (Saladin the Great) grew up among a virtuous Islamic family of the eastern Caliphate ruled by Ayyubids. His birth place was Tikrit in Iraq. He would go through a great many periods of learning as a youngster and also was involved in political turmoil before he became Sultan of Egypt and Syria in 1174 aged about 36 or 37. This growing up and coming of age period was full of many notable events in the life of Saladin the Great. He would have been used to all the finery of a Royal Muslim within the finest and highest courts of the world of Islam – resplendent and gloried with fine architecture throughout the lands of the Middle East.

By the same example – yet in Christian courts, another young man was crowned King of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1174 and this Christian King would become an arch enemy, yet a respected foe. This strange young leper king would prove a worthy opponent of Saladin the Great as the new Sultan had to constructively come to terms with the difficulty that the Christian Crusader Kingdom presented to the new Ayyubid Caliphate. From the perspective of the Islamic Caliphate; the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was an extremely aggressive and temperamental unwanted neighbour that had stolen territory.

At this time of 1174 AD, the young Crusader Christian King of Jerusalem was just 13 years of age. He had been born in the Kingdom of Jerusalem but was a European Christian coloniser begot by Christian Crusader parents. His name was Baldwin and the young King was crowned King Baldwin IV. Many of the Crusader Christians of Jerusalem were extremely radical and fanatic in their Christian belief and found it difficult to compromise with any credence outside of their own. Part of their doctrines believed in humility and humbleness before God, which led to all sorts of twisted ways of regarding people – sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, depending on which perspective these Holy fighters choose to look at a circumstance.

Therefore it is possible that this 13-year-old boy, who was very well educated, could be revered by zealot Christian warriors in a Holy way. These people who believed in the poverty and humbleness of their divine Jesus Christ looked at this blighted young 13-year-old boy and regarded him as something special within the kingdom of Jerusalem. He was not expected to reign for long, but then many of the Holy men of Christendom had died young and supporting great Christian beliefs. The Crusaders looked at their 13-year-old king stricken with leprosy and thought him divine before God and their Holy war and somehow fitting in the new Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Thus the confrontation was set, between the Islamic Sultan of Egypt and Syria – Saladin the Great and the young Crusader Christian King Baldwin IV (The Leper King). The new name that the Sultan was given ‘Saladin’ was an epithet bestowed upon him for his own rightness and devotion to God. His Islamic warriors and people looked upon the Christian leper king’s affliction in a very different way to the Crusader Christians. To many, it was a terrible judgement bestowed upon the Crusader kingdom through their young king.

For some time there were tensions and cross-border raids, this was usual – even a planned naval attack with allied forces of the Byzantine Empire against Saladin in Egypt but nothing came of this. It was all just theory, plan and speculation. Then in 1177 word came to the court of the, now 16-year-old, King Baldwin that Saladin was to launch an invasion of Egypt.

King Baldwin set out to meet Saladin suffering from the aggressive stages of leprosy that slowly ate away at his limbs and flesh, leaving hideous disfiguring deformities. Much of this unsightly blight was hidden beneath a knight’s attire of armour. It is also believed that he wore an elaborate mask too. He had a small number of devoted Templar knights and the leadership of his forces by the unhinged and testing Templar Knight, Raynald of Châtillon who had just been released from 16 years of captivity in Syria. This man was supposed to be a fearsome monster of a Crusader warrior and is portrayed in a more cruel light in this day and age, though he was respected and revered by some Crusaders. To others – Crusader and Muslim alike; he was un-chivalrous, cruel and without charity of any kind. However, he was a fearsome opponent as many Muslims warriors had found out to great cost and just the man for the type of challenge that lay before the army of Jerusalem’s Crusader Kingdom.

Saladin the Great would not have earned the ‘Great’ part of his name at this time and his ill-deserved confidence on this occasion did little to show such promise of the great nemesis of the Crusaders, he would one day become. The Sultan led his army towards Jerusalem attacking various places on route. He knew of the young leper king and the small Crusader army of Templars that had been mustered, but he paid scant attention to the possibility of a threat because his army was vast and overwhelmingly outnumbered the Templar Knights. He did not suppose they would pursue nor have the audacity to attack him. Saladin allowed his army to spread out over a wide area and this was to prove a very big mistake indeed. It is often known that great men learn by their mistakes and become tempered by such things. Perhaps this makes them better prepared for future trials and tribulations and maybe this was so of Saladin when he came upon the young Crusader leper king and his Templar knights at the Battle of Montgisard.

Saladin was unaware of the rapid pursuit of the Crusaders along the coast. He had spread his army out into small groups to pillage and attack scattered locations and the small force he thought he needed to confront the leper king Baldwin IV was inadequate. At a place, sometimes known as Mons Gisardi, the Battle of Montgidard took place.

Saladin’s force was spread out and not in proper formation when the leper king’s Crusader army formed before them under a giant relic of a cross. In the desert heat and by the rolling sea of the coast, the Muslim army began to panic and hurriedly tried to form into battle order.

Among the Templar army of the Christian crusaders, the sick leper king, Baldwin IV was helped down from his horse where he knelt before the relic of the true cross and prayed for a victory. The 16-year-old king’s leprosy was in aggressive and advanced stages, but he was seen by his Templar knights and put back on his mount. He ordered and rode with the charge upon the disorderly Ayyubids army of Saladin.

It is believed that the Templar army numbered around 500 knights with several thousand foot soldiers, while Saladin's army was 26,000. This might not have been the entire amount that was present at Montgisard because many had been dispersed over a wider area and would be raiding and pillaging elsewhere. The Crusaders fell upon the Muslim host with fierce violence and hacked and killed a great many. Amid the turmoil and confusion, the young leper king fought fiercely with his bodyguards about him. His limbs were bandaged to hide the wounds and sores eating away at his blighted flesh and his armour would hide the disfigurement of his confounded condition.

Saladin began to see his bodyguards dwindling as they were systematically dispatched by the fanatical Crusaders. He only avoided capture with moments to spare when he managed to escape by swiftly retreating. The whole affair was a disaster for Saladin and his great Islamic army. His losses were estimated at 23,000. If this is all from the entire battle of Montgisard or perhaps including the mopping up of scattered raiding parties later, one can’t say for sure. However, it is believed that Saladin returned to Egypt with only 10% of his invasion force because 90% perished and most of these would have fallen at Montgisard.

The young Leper King Baldwin IV was propelled to divine status among the Templars of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He was the darling boy king, stricken by leprosy yet still able to win victories and do God’s work in the eyes of all Christians that flocked to the Holy land on, what they believed a sacred cause. This was the leper king’s glorifying moment in eternity and he would come up against Saladin again in the remaining eight years he had to live, for he would die from his illness in 1185. With his passing the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem would meet its demise in two years’ time when Saladin – wiser and cautious would reverse the tables and become the nemesis of the Crusader’s at the fall of Jerusalem in 1187.

Saladin would, prior to attacking Jerusalem, kill his arch enemy; Raynald of Châtillon after capturing the man at the Battle of Hattin. Saladin’s chivalry was highly regarded among many knights – Christian and Muslim alike, but he could be fierce and unmerciful to those who he decided were unworthy -   Raynald of Châtillon was one such person.

Eventually, Saladin's monument overshadowed that of the strange leper king – champion of the extinct Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Even in Western Europe where today, Saladin is widely known yet, the leper king is like the vanquished Crusader Kingdom - dust in the desert winds. Baldwin IV the leper king is probably better known among Muslims of the Middle East than he is by Europeans.   

Saturday, 21 July 2012

How Ancient Phoenicians Traded with Primitive Britain Using Bireme Boats to Travel the Seas and Collect Tin

Main areas of Phoenicians
The Phoenicians were a Mediterranean race of seafarers that travelled many seas in search of trade. They were among the first of the great cargo transporters developing complex international trade among the great and emerging civilisations of ancient times. The lands that these people came to occupy during their greatest era was Lebanon (mainly) but also parts of what is today, Israel, Palestine and Syria. The prominent times of the Phoenician sea traders were between 1200 BC and 800BC. After this time, the Phoenicians began to be swallowed up or ruled by other Mediterranean powers, though their seamanship skills were still hailed and used.

In their heydey; the Phoenicians sent out explorers to settle the various area and even went beyond the Mediterranean sea in search of trade. They were known to go along the west coast of Africa, Spain and France. It is also believed that some settled in Ireland too. There is also a strong belief that the Phoenicians began to trade with Britain for tin, which was abundant in Cornwall. Some historians believe that the tin was traded for in the north west of France as a secondary seller, acting for south west Ancient Britain - a sort of middle man. However, if a seafaring race like the Phoenicians know that tin can be got across a channel of water, it is very likely that seafarers would go directly to the source once known. I, therefore, believe that the Phoenicians and probably Israelites travelling with them might have come to Britain and traded for tin.
Phoenician Bireme used to travel across great seas

There are, of course, no written records in existence of Phoenicians visiting Britain because when Carthage fell, to the Roman Empire many of the historical writing of Phoenician explorers was lost in the destruction of the great city, long after the time of the great Phoenician trade routes and explorations.

Imagine what the Phoenicians might have thought of the Celtic Neolithic stones of Gaul, Ireland and Britain - especially Stonehenge, for I believe these Mediterranean traders would have seen such places. But then coming from lands of Pyramids and other great building feats of monumental achievement; perhaps the stones would not have been too amazing to such well travelled people.

I try to visualise the scenes of Ancient Britain through the eyes of a Phoenician sailor or Jewish trader looking for things of interest to buy and sell. The lands of North West Europe would have seemed very lush green and densely forested - a raw untamed view of mystical Celtic Britain via the eyes of a first time visitor.


Friday, 20 July 2012

How Sir Winston Churchill Escaped Death from the Secret Chocolate Bomb

A Nazi plot to kill Sir Winston Churchill with a bar of exploding chocolate during the Second World War has been revealed in historic papers.

Giving a new meaning to the dessert name “death by chocolate”, Adolf Hitler’s bomb makers coated explosive devices with a thin layer of rich dark chocolate, then packaged it in expensive-looking black and gold paper.

The Germans apparently planned to use secret agents working in Britain to discreetly place the bars - branded as Peters Chocolate - among other luxury items taken into the dining room used by the War Cabinet during the conflict.

The lethal slabs of confection were packed with enough explosives to kill anyone within several metres.

But the plot was foiled by British spies who discovered the chocolate was being made and tipped off one of MI5’s most senior intelligence chiefs, Lord Victor Rothschild, before the wartime prime minister’s life could be endangered.


Lord Rothschild, a scientist in peace time as well as a key member of the Rothschild banking family, immediately typed a letter to a talented illustrator seconded to his unit, asking him to draw poster-size images of the chocolate to warn the public to be on the look-out.

His letter to the artist, Laurence Fish, is dated May 4, 1943 and was written from his secret bunker in Parliament Street, London.
It was unearthed by Mr Fish's wife, journalist Jean Bray, as she sorted through his possessions after the artist's death at the age of 89 in 2009.

The letter, marked "secret", reads: “Dear Fish, I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate.
“We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin covering of real chocolate.

“Inside there is high explosive and some form of delay mechanism…When you break off a piece of chocolate at one end in the normal way, instead of it falling away, a piece of canvas is revealed stuck into the middle of the piece which has been broken off and a ticking into the middle of the remainder of the slab.”

The letter explained how the mechanism would be activated when the piece of chocolate was pulled sharply, which would also pull the canvas, and Lord Rothschild said he was enclosing a “very poor sketch” done by someone who had seen one of the bars.

He asked the artist to indicate in the text on his drawing that a bomb would go off seven seconds after the piece of chocolate and attached canvas was pulled out.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Most Beautiful Music In The World

This is very beautiful music that reminds me of Chinese garden scenes of imperil and historic times played on a bamboo flute with classical instruments in background. The sound is very dreamy and wonderful.


Raynald of Châtillon 1125 - 1187 - Why Wolf of Kerak was a Mad Holy Land Crusader

A Knight Crusader could achieve great social standing in the Holy Lands
It attracted pious and holy men plus ambitious and unscrupulous people too. 

Raynald of Châtillon is a very controversial crusader knight of the middle ages. He was born in France in 1125, but his origins are vague. He was a man of middle-class ranking in Middle age French society and his father was said to be a Lord of Châtillon. However history seems unsure if Raynald came from Châtillon Sur/on Marne or Châtillon on Loing - each Châtillon is on a river.

This young man seems to have been a reckless and rebellious character and was sent away on the second crusade at age 22 years in 1147. He entered the service of Constance of Antioch - a noble born lady who would be widowed in 1149. Raynald of Châtillon was to spend the next 40 years in the Holy Land until the end of his life aged 62.

Raynald of Châtillon must have made some impression upon Constance of Antioch - perhaps the lady was taken by the brash young chancer - there would have been an obvious element of danger about the young man. It is also possible that the young noble lady of Antioch was manipulated in some way for she was used as a commodity of power from a young age. Her mother, Alice of Antioch, had tried to marry her to a Muslim Prince to gain control over Antioch as a reagent. This was when Constance was an infant. Alice of Antioch was banished for this deed, and when she was allowed to return, she tried to broker a marriage alliance for herself with a Christian Crusader called Raymond of Poitiers. Through this marriage, they could both rule Antioch, by her young daughter, as regents. Again Alice was foiled by Raymond of Poitiers for he married her 9-year-old daughter in secret and Alice was forced into humiliated exile. This was in the year of 1136.

In the Holy Land, lower ranked individuals could rise in social standing, far easier than in Europe, doing service for the Holy Roman Empire in the Holy Land. Here, the new Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem had been founded in 1099 AD. Areas all about the Middle East were being colonised by Christian invaders and small vassal kingdoms were being set up in various surrounding cities. The Crusader state of Antioch was one such place and now, through devious means, a low-rank knight had won control of a small kingdom state within the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

A situation had developed in the Holy Land where wealthy men were pedalling the religion of Christianity as a material business. Anyone could jump on the band waggon and all were deluding themselves that they were doing God's work. Some may have believed this, but many that were intelligent enough to grasp the situation of ambition and acquisition, easily manipulated more pious and devoted men, of lower rank, to naively support hidden and unscrupulous causes. The example of Raymond of Poitiers and Alice of Antioch is such an example. The 9-year-old wife could hardly have known what was going on.

Then at the age of 20, Constance of Antioch sees a young knight from France come into her service, though more likely under the command of her husband. This is Raynald of Châtillon's first appearance in the Holy Land. Did he quickly grasp the situation coupled with his rebellious streak?

Raynald of Châtillon would have witnessed Muslims and Hebrews being subjugated to Christian rulers - immigrants who believed their prophet Jesus Christ should have Christian people rule the area. He may have been indifferent to them and probably the lower ranks of his own kind. It is hard to put oneself in the mind of such men when they could do underhand things and pedal forgiveness and penance so easily through their church. Imagine - suddenly there is a land of milk and honey to plunder and there is a God given right to do what you want, provided you rule as a believer of the Christian religion - or say you do if you are of an unscrupulous and cunning mind.

In 1149, two years after Raynald of Châtillon arrived at Antioch, his Lord and master were killed at the Battle of Inab. Raymond of Poitiers - the husband of Constance of Antioch, was beheaded by his Muslim enemy when captured during the battle. His head was sent to the Caliph of Baghdad as a gift. Why young Raynald of Châtillon was not on this expedition is not known for he was in the service of Constance and Raymond the co-rulers of Antioch.

Four years passed for the widow Constance of Antioch, then one day in 1153, she secretly married Raynald of Châtillon. How this secret marriage came about is not well known but it was not approved by King Baldwin III of Jerusalem. Together Raynald and Constance would have two daughters. The marriage of Constance to a man of such low birth was not permitted, but this was the Holy Land where men could better themselves in the service of God. Raynald had got his foot on the ladder of ambition and climbed up a few steps.

From the start, the rebellious and reckless young man caused controversy, often raiding and plundering neighbouring Muslim states in the name of God and the Holy Church of Rome, becoming a difficult person to control within his Crusader state of Antioch.

Raynald of Châtillon became very angry and resentful towards the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I, who Raynald believed, owed him a vast a sum of money. As a form of revenge and punishment, Raynald wanted to invade the island of Cyprus which was ruled by the Byzantine Emperor. For this, Raynald requested that the Patriarch of Antioch (Bishop) grant him the funds necessary to finance such an invasion. When the Patriarch refused this, Raynald had the Patriarch stripped naked and covered in honey. He was then put out in the hot sun for a great length of time until the exhausted holy man was forced to relent and grant the funds required.

Raynald of Châtillon led his Crusader forces against the Byzantine state of Cyprus, the way he attacked Muslim states in the Holy Land. The island was ravaged and plundered by his knights much to the consternation of the King Baldwin III of Jerusalem and the Byzantine Emperor. The shock waves caused Emperor Manuel I to raise an army and move towards the Holy Land.

Raynald of Châtillon was forced to grovel before the Byzantine Emperor in bare feet and dressed in rags. Later the Emperor went to Raynald's Crusader state of Antioch where he was received with pomp and ceremony by Raynald, and then; in full view of his subjects, Raynald of Châtillon, had to be seen leading the Byzantine Emperor's horse through the streets. This was always a mark of humility in the Middle East. Also, Antioch was forced to accept a new Patriarch - an Orthodox Greek Bishop. The last thing wanted by Rome and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was too upset the Eastern Christian Church. This political unrest with neighbouring Byzantine lands was put to rest in 1159.

If 1159 was a bad year for Raynald of Châtillon, then 1160 was to be the beginning of 16 years of trouble and strife. He led an expedition raid against the Muslim Kingdom called Marash and got himself captured. He was taken to the large city of Aleppo in Syria and remained a prisoner for 16 years. He was released in 1176 aged 51. When captured he was 35 years of age and now after a 16-year prison sentence and aged 51, one might think the old ruler of Antioch had mellowed. This was not so. Perhaps, as a high ranked official of Antioch, Raynald of Châtillon's confinement might have been better accommodation than most might expect. The Crusader Knight does not seem to have been humbled or integrated with an understanding of the Muslims where he had lived over the years as a prisoner. His wife, Constance of Antioch, had died in 1163 and all rule of Antioch was passed from him.

In 1176, after his years of confinement, Raynald of Châtillon was released from the Islamic prison and sent back to the Holy Land, where he was married to a Princess called Stephanie of Milly. She had been widowed twice and had children. She would have two more by Raynald of Châtillon and was the heiress to Oultrejordain and owned the castle of Kerak.

Kerak Castle

Raynald was back and into his old habit of attacking Muslim caravans as they travelled through the Kingdom of Jerusalem and her other Crusader states. The signed truces had allowed for this, but Raynald of Châtillon would not abide by these things still - despite all of the trouble this impulsive and disorderly conduct had brought upon him, in the past. History seems to portray him as a very driven pantomime villain, for he would not conform in any way. He even made threats upon the Islamic Holy Temple of Mecca and this brought Saladin the Great upon his castle at Kerak during the year of 1183. At the time there was an arranged marriage ceremony going on between Leper King Baldwin IV's half-sister and Stephanie's son.

The antics of Raynald of Châtillon were a constant cause for concern and when the Leper King Baldwin IV died, the reckless knight supported Queen Sibylla (Baldwin IV's sister) and her husband Guy of Lusignan. This led to a fatal confrontation with Saladin's invading army at Hattin. Raynald of Châtillon continued to attack Muslim pilgrimages and caravans - one had Saladin's sister travelling within. This final outrage brought Saladin the Great into the Holy Land to sort the problem, of rogue Christian attacks, out - once and for all.
The Crusaders suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Hattin
Here Raynald of Châtillon fortune ran dry.

The confrontation at Hattin was a huge defeat for the Crusaders and many prisoners were taken - among them Raynald of Châtillon and Guy of Lusignan (ruler of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.) It was 40 years since 1147 when 22-year-old Raynald of Châtillon arrived in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and by this time in 1187, the 62-year-old Crusader's luck had run dry. Some say Saladin himself plunged a dagger into the unruly Crusader's neck before he was dragged among his Muslim soldiers and beheaded. It was also said to have been done before Guy of Lusignan's eyes. Whatever happened; the problem of Raynald of Châtillon - the mad Christian crusader was put to rest. He died as violently and terribly as he had lived, receiving no mercy for his rank and social standing. In the eyes of Saladin and his Muslim soldiers, Raynald of Châtillon (often called the wolf of Kerak) had shown no such protocol to Muslims - why should he receive such respect for his social standing in return. While convulsively choking from his stab wound in the neck, he was beheaded and probably not too quickly. It is difficult to imagine a person choking for life and standing still so that an executioner can swiftly behead. It was probably a very messy affair.

He died a martyr by the consideration of some Crusaders, but history is less sympathetic to the man in this day and age. For 40 years he lived out in the Holy Land, spending 16 years as a prisoner, midway through this time. His monument among the Muslims is that of a terrible land pirate or plunderer known as The Wolf of Kerak. Among Christians and the western world, he is remembered not. Only historians with a special interest in the Crusader wars would know of this man. He was also portrayed in the Ridley Scott movie 'Kingdom of Heaven.' 


Saturday, 14 July 2012

How Balian of Ibelin Commanded During the Fall of Jerusalem - Capital of the Crusader Kingdom 1187

The Christian Crusaders of the Holy Wars

There is a historical movie by Ridley Scott, called 'The Kingdom of Heaven.' This film is very enjoyable and portrays the events that led to the fall of Jerusalem. Of course, the romance of Hollywood film directors added social diversions within the movie that were not so. Mainly concerning the historical characters of Balian of Ibelin and that of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem's sister; Sibylla, who would later become Queen Sibylla of Jerusalem.

This romantic story, with stunning special effects, for the backdrop of the fall of Jerusalem, in the year 1187, is untrue where Balian and Sibylla are concerned, though their paths did cross. I mention this because the film was most entertaining, but the love interest of the two mentioned (Balian and Sibylla) is untrue. Also the happy ever after ending in France was a big no, no as well.

In the movie 'Kingdom of Heaven,' we are presented with a young Balian who is 20 something years of age, and a humble blacksmith working in a remote French village. He is recently a widower and is the bastard son of an aristocratic man who fights in the crusades in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Again this aspect of Balian is not true. 

In reality Balian was a third son of Barisan of Ibelin with two elder brothers Hugh and Baldwin. Ibelin was a castle in a province ruled by the Christian crusaders. Concerning Balian's brother Baldwin; it is important to know that King Baldwin of Jerusalem (the king suffering from leprosy) and Balian’s brother Baldwin, are two different people with the same name. This bit of info is to avoid confusion as I continue the blog.

When Barisan of Ibelin died, his eldest son Hugh became the Lord of Castle Ibelin, and when he passed away the castle went to Baldwin who was already the Lord of Rama. He gave Ibelin castle to Balian, hence we have Balian of Ibelin. At this time Balian would have been around 44 to 46 years of age.

The Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem had come about in 1099 when the city fell to the Christian crusaders. It has to be visualised from a certain perspective in western points of view when calling it the 'Crusader Kingdom.'

Imagine, if you will, the American continent when it was first discovered by European nations. They carved out chunks of land for themselves, like Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina etc. Well in the middle ages, the Christian crusaders tried to do this with the Middle East, believing that it was their Holy Land where their prophet was born. Untitled Christian men could win renown for themselves and find improved social standing beyond their dreams. Far greater than if they remained in Europe. In the long run; the Muslims would win this long and turbulent struggle for the Holy Land, but it would take many generations to displace the invading Christian Kingdom builders.

Many of Europe's nobility gave themselves regal titles within this Crusader Kingdom under the endorsement of the Popes. From their point of view it was legal and the Muslims and Hebrews no longer had a viable standing concerning the matter. In this time, the Muslim nations tried to battle the European Christian invaders, but for a long period of time; the Christians occupied the Holy Land (The Crusader Kingdom of)

Over the years there had been battles, defeats and victories for the Christian Crusaders, but they also began to argue among themselves concerning lands within the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and when Balian was charged with the overseeing of castle Ibelin he may have been away from the squabbling fractions at the court of Jerusalem. Here King Baldwin IV was in the advanced stages of Leprosy and he was concerned as to who would take control of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. He wanted to marry his sister, Princess Sibylla, to a worthy consort and the person his sister married was Guy of Lusignan. 

In 1183, Balian and his elder brother Baldwin championed their support for a noble called Raymond III of Tripoli against Guy of Lusignan who was acting as a regent for Baldwin IV King of Jerusalem. The king was rapidly dying from the leprosy that was eating away at him. Balian's brother Baldwin had not long returned from Muslim captivity after being captured in a battle.

In 1185, King Baldwin IV died aged 24 and the young son of Sibylla was crowned king at just five years of age. The sickly child died a year later as Sibylla became Queen of Jerusalem in 1186 with her husband Guy of Lusignan as her consort. Balian reluctantly accepted the new consort, even though he did not support the man, while his elder brother exiled himself in Antioch. Brother Baldwin is believed to have died here in 1187.

Meanwhile, Consort Guy then went with an army of Crusaders to challenge the Muslim Sultan Saladin who had mobilised his Islamic army because of brutal raids against Muslim caravans that had permission to pass over the Christian held territories. This culminated in the Battle of Hattin in which the Muslim forces defeated the Christian Crusaders. Guy of Lusignan was captured by Saladin and imprisoned in Damascus.

Balian was in Jerusalem when Saladin led his Muslim army to recapture the city and make Islam the dominant power of the Holy Land and vanquish the Crusader Kingdom of. The siege lasted for several months and though Saladin's forces managed to puncture holes in the walls of Jerusalem; his Muslim forces could not enter the city because the Christian crusaders put up formidable defences against the besiegers.

Balian was able to evacuate his wife and four children to Tripoli unmolested because Saladin observed strict Muslim laws, and Balian was recognised as the highest ranking official defending the besieged city. He had honour status and thus his family had this right and privilege to vacate Jerusalem unmolested. It should be noted that Christian crusaders did not always afford or observe the same protocols towards Muslim nobility.

During Balian's valiant defence of Jerusalem, he made sixty men knights because there was under twelve knights to defend the Holy city when he first began to prepare defences against Saladin's army.

The siege lasted through September and when Sultan Saladin asked to speak with Balian outside the walls, a peace treaty was thrashed out after Balian promised to destroy everything of value in the city before any of the Christian Crusaders would give up.

Eventually Balian agreed to surrender the city of Jerusalem to Saladin for the Christian defenders to go free. However, there was a material price in bezants (gold coin) for this mass release of Christians. It was 30,000 bezants per man or two women or ten children. Any who could not meet the price would be sold into Islamic slavery. There were many who could not pay, but many of these were released by Saladin after and allowed safe escort from the city. There remained some Christian Frankish citizens who were not freed. Balian and Patriarch Eraclus offered themselves as high ranking hostages for their freedom, but on this issue Saladin would not give way. The Frankish inhabitants went into slavery.

Queen Sibylla was also allowed to leave with her daughters. She went to Cyprus and died of an epidemic three years later in 1190 at the age of 30. Her daughters also perished of this illness too.

Balian was reunited with his wife and four children and would have some involvement in the third Crusade, in which England's Richard the Lionheart was leading. He was at the Battle of Jaffa and took part in the peace negotiations that was known as the Treaty of Ramala. King Richard the Lionheart left for England while Sultan Saladin gave Balian castle Caymont as a Christian Vassal. Balian died in 1193 at about 53 years of age, six years after the fall of Jerusalem. 

Why Mary Rose Ship of War Sank - Henry VIII & England's Tragic Pride

The Mary Rose

England was a land of virtual irrelevance during the 15th century and was no more than a fringe island on the edge of Europe – a small nation that had spent years fighting a civil war of the Roses between House York and House Lancaster. This finally ended with the death of Richard III in battle and the accession of Henry VII of the Tudor dynasty. During this turbulent time, England had neglected her navy and had only constructed six ships for the crown in a period of eighty-seven years. The new king, Henry VII maintained a precarious peace with the dominant powers of Europe and managed to keep the island nation free from trouble allowing England a small time to establish breathing space and rebuild. At least, begin to rebuild.

Midship Section of Mary Rose

When Henry VII died his second son – became King Henry VIII. His first son, Arthur had died before ascending to kingship. Arthur had briefly married the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon. In this day and age, Spain was the super power of the world and France challenging for dominance too. Because Henry VIII wanted to join a powerful Spanish alliance against France, he decided to marry his late brother’s wife Catherine of Aragon – he was six years her junior. By doing this, Henry the VIII had made a powerful enemy of France but had many strong allies including the Holy Roman emperor Maximillian alongside the superpower of Spain. Little England was trying to punch above her weight, but for those who dare; sometimes things work out. This did in the long run but in twisted ways that none designed or could have predicted at the time.   

Henry VIII had received the start of a navy from his father Henry VII, but early into his new alliance with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, his small country decided to start by showing ambitions to the navy. England had two large warships to boast of and they were the Regent and the Sovereign. Henry VIII decided to add two more substantial battleships of the day. One was called the Peter while the other would be the Mary Rose. After this, more ships were started and the beginnings of a Royal Navy ensued.

Inside Part of Mary Rose

The grand warship ‘Mary Rose’ was launched in the summer of 1511. She went to London and received adulation in a grand ceremony as she was towed up the River Thames. The glorious array of flags and streamers must have been a colourful sight to behold as citizens of London flocked to see the modern battleship. For the times, this ship was a real state of the art building and engineering, lovingly crafted from fine English oak and craftsmen who were very proud of the profession and able to work for the grand king and country.

Some people believe the name ‘Mary Rose’ came from Henry VIII sister, Mary Tudor and the Rose of the Tudors. However, eminent historians say that it was the fashion throughout Europe to name ships from everyday common Christian names. England was trying to play alongside the big boys of Europe now and tried to emulate them in all ways.

For twenty-five years the ship patrolled and did her national duties taking part in actions against the national enemies of France and Scotland. She had castle style protection at the stern and bow with a lower mid-ship section. She would have looked resplendent in this day and was brought back into dock for a major rebuilding and enhancement programme in 1536. She was to be upgraded from a 500-ton vessel to 700 tonnes. After this, the Mary Rose continued in her duties against the main enemies until a fateful day in 1545 when the grand ship of war took a lead to attack a French invasion fleet.

Before this battle, the grand ship had performed admirably during the first and second French Wars – this was the third French war when Mary Rose was to meet her fate.
The Mary Rose lay on the Solent bed for many years.

As the Mary Rose went into action, a Flemish eye witness had his version of events written down. He saw the Mary Rose fire all one side of her guns as the battle began – a salvo. Then as the grand ship manoeuvred to present her opposite side of guns, she was caught by a strong breeze which caused the vessel to extravagantly heel to her starboard side, where many of the lower deck gun ports were still open. These were water tight when shut, but during the confusion of the battle they remained open and were, of course, in use. The sudden intake of water caused the ship to heel further over to her broadside as the weight of the water intake caught the mighty ship off balance. All people on board would have been flung about. Heavy guns and other bulk items would have broken from their fastenings and slide starboard too, causing more weight on this starboard side. Men would have been crushed and killed during the horrendous twist of fate. Those that escaped being crushed would have been struggling in a blind panic as their world, inside the ship, turned upside down. It was all over, very quickly, as the Mary Rose capsized and sank in the Solent off of the Isle of Weight and from a crew of four hundred and more; only thirty-five men survived the capsizing of the Mary Rose. The vice Admiral George Carew went down with his ship and crew as well.
Salvaged part of hull in Portsmouth museum

This terrible event rocked the entire nation and the great battleship lay on the seabed for hundreds of years until she was raised by scientists in 1982 after being re-discovered in 1971. Many of her artefacts and much of her hull are on display at the Portsmouth naval museum today.
Scientists working on Hull Preservation

Friday, 13 July 2012

Queen Boudicca vs Queen Cartimandua (Ancient British Queens of Roman Times)

Queen Cartimandua of Brigante
Why is Queen Boudicca given this glorious celebrity due to her rebellion against the Roman Empire that lasted little more than a few months? She was disastrous for Britain and probably caused the deaths of thousands due to her killing spree and Roman retribution afterwards.

QueenCartimandua of the Brigante ruled from around 43 AD to 69 AD and was usurped by her divorced husband Venutius during the ‘Year of Four Emperors’ when Rome was in civil turmoil over which person would become emperor. The fact that this little-known Ancient British queen ruled for more than 25 years against Boudicca’s single year - if that; always baffles me. Surely Cartimandua was shrewd and successful during her time of rule for she was able to play off the wolf against the weasel for many years while she sat in the middle and kept Rome at bay for a quarter of a century.

Add captionQueen Boudicca of Iceni
Both ancient British queens had husbands; Boudicca’s collaborated with Rome, but when he died; the Iceni queen entered into conflict with the empire. Cartimandua, on the other hand, had a husband who wanted to rebel against Rome and she betrayed him and exiled the man in favour of Rome.

Boudicca echoes in eternity because of Roman historians who wrote of her murderous rampage, yet Cartimandua barely merits mention because she was the friend of Rome and played the empire off against her exiled husband Venutius who never gave up trying to claim the Brigante for himself. Cartimandua is often written off as a traitor, yet it could be argued that she protected her people from slavery and held Rome at arm’s length like this.

QueenCartimandua of Brigantes must have been shrewd to be able to rule and keep Rome at bay for 25+ years, but none of this seems to be acknowledged because Roman historians only wrote of valiant foes and not friends. For Romans; Cartimandua was not interesting enough, which is a great shame because this durable ruler must have had some tales to tell over a twenty-five year period of troubled rule. What was she thinking when Boudicca ruled the Iceni and it looked as though she would beat the Roman Empire and drive them from Britain?

Cartimandua’s exiled husband probably had sanctuary in Caledonia among the Picts to the north. The Brigante queen must have been in a desperate situation knowing if Boudicca defeated Suetonius and his last Roman soldiers to the south; she (Cartimandua) would have enemies on two fronts and none from Rome to help her. She must have prevailed through many desperate times. Was she an anti-hero?  Was the Brigante Queen Cartimandua evil or good? What perspective do we put her in?

There must have been many in the Brigante who had their liberty kept safe during her fraternisation with Rome, while many of Boudicca’s Iceni would have lost theirs because of the violent rebellion they were encouraged upon.

I’m not trying to condemn the Iceni for rebelling, because they may have had no choice and I’m not denying Queen Boudicca her monument for trying, but there was a cost that is overshadowed by the myth of Boudicca. Perhaps Cartimandua paid the cost of protecting her people by being derided as a traitor?

When Cartimandua was driven into exile by her returning divorced husband; the Romans persuaded her to go into peaceful exile in mainland Europe. Later, Venutius lost his great Brigante hill forts as the Romans spent the next forty years viciously putting the Brigantes down. Venutius as the King of the Brigante led his people upon the same path of doom as the Iceni. Eventually, they paid the same price, but not under Cartimandua who seemed to be able to keep Rome at arm’s length for so long.

Venutius was overrun by Rome in 71 AD. No one knows what happened to him, yet the Brigante people were in line for Roman retribution to come. They must have wished Cartimandua never left.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Woodlands in Night (Gothic Music - The Eternal Forest)

Has anyone ever walked through woodland at night? Your mind starts to play tricks on you in strange and wonderful ways. It can be eerie and spiritual too. Your mind can drift a little and you think you've been to the place before in another time and place.

Andy Murray gets to Wimbledon Final

Andy Murray gets there

The entire country will be at a standstill today as the UK watches Super Scot - Andy Murray. Many might not be able to watch as Andy Murray tries to become the first Brit since 1936 to win the prestigious title. He must play the formidable Swiss tennis star; Roger Federer.

I'm not the most avid of tennis fans, but even I can appreciate the tremendous hard work that Andy Murray has constantly been putting in over the years to his achieve his goal of becoming the first Brit to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry way back in 1936.

I will not watch the great Scot because I always bring bad luck when I witness these tournaments. Just a superstition, but I do want him to win and if not watching helps; I'm going to do it...  :)