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The Anheuser-Busch commercial for the Superbowl this year, scheduled to air on February 5, has kicked up a storm and is viewed by a number of Americans as pro-immigration advertising.

It comes a week after President Donald Trump initiated a 90-day immigration ban on seven countries which have majority Muslim populations. These selected countries lack the means for sufficient background checks on their own citizens. (More about this in a future post.)

See if you think this is political commentary:

I have two problems with it. First, by the time Adolphus Busch arrived in the United States in 1857, Germans had been emigrating there for a century, at least. They were well established in society. Secondly, it was unclear to me that the final scene was the famous ‘when Anheuser met Busch’ moment. I thought he was a random guy in a bar until I saw a YouTube from Mark Dice explaining it in the first minute or so:

Budweiser, owned by InBev — a Belgian corporation — denies it is commenting on Trump policy or an anti-immigration climate.

However, I cannot help but wonder if Adolphus Busch would have wanted to be portrayed in that way. Most immigrants wanted to assimilate straightaway. They were not going to dwell on the voyage over, their processing time at Ellis Island or their early years getting established. Everything was about becoming an American.

If you doubt this, then, please be aware that his Wikipedia entry states (emphases mine):

His wealthy family ran a wholesale business of winery and brewery supplies. Busch and his brothers all received quality educations, and he graduated from the notable Collegiate Institute of Belgium in Brussels.[2]

Another German immigrant came to America in the 19th century. His name was Friedrich Trump, pictured at left (courtesy of Wikipedia). He was a Lutheran and came from Kallstadt in Bavaria. He managed to make a fortune within three years. He went everywhere, from New York to the Yukon. Nary a complaint. Even the most recent Channel 4 documentary by anti-Trump Matt Frei on his grandson — shown in late January 2017 — painted Friedrich as a clever, enterprising businessman. That makes me think Adolphus Busch was of the same entrepreneurial mindset.

You didn’t go to the US as a victim then, that’s for sure.

Incidentally, Friedrich returned to Kallstadt after three years only to go through a series of legal hurdles regarding his German nationality! He found out it had been revoked, possibly because he went to the US around the time he was to do his military service. So, back to America he went and the rest is history. According to Matt Frei’s documentary, Friedrich quietly enjoyed his life a lot but died in the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. His widow, Elizabeth — also from Kallstadt — set up a real estate company for her middle son Fred, the president’s father. It was called Elizabeth Trump & Son. Fred was still a minor at the time, even though he was precocious enough to follow in his father’s footsteps and get small houses built.

I recommend that we need to watch these adverts with a gimlet eye and research the immigrant mindset of the 19th and early 20th centuries, very much oriented to assimilating into American society — as future Americans.

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Coventry Scouts groups have a visit from Bear Grylls.jpgThis week in Britain, the notional artist Grayson Perry took issue with the masculinity that adventurer Bear Grylls displays, terming it ‘useless’.

(Photo of Grylls courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Perry is known for his cross-dressing, which you can see in a Spectator article on his sniping against alpha males. Perry is currently doing a show for Channel 4 which explores the ‘problems’ that ‘masculinity and manly men’ cause society.

Perry, 56, has enjoyed cross-dressing from his childhood. Not surprisingly, this fractured the relationship he had with his parents and his step-parents. In 1979, his step-father told him not to return home. He has been estranged from his mother since 1990.

He is best known for his pottery, although he has also created tapestries. Some of his work explores explicit sadomasochism and child abuse. However, he has had a one-man exhibition at the Stedjick Museum in Amsterdam in 2002 which led to him winning the Turner Prize in 2003. Incredibly, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to contemporary art. In 2015, he became chancellor of University of the Arts London.

He is married and has a daughter, born in 1992.

Unlike Perry, Edward Michael ‘Bear’ Grylls does not have any honours, although he has been Chief Scout since 2009. He was the youngest ever Briton to become one. He was 35 at the time.

His parents are Conservatives. He attended Eton College and has two university degrees. He has been interested in mountaineering and martial arts since his teenage years. For several years he served in the Territorial Army and as a reservist with the 21 SAS Regiment (Artists Reserve) until 1997.

His expeditions are too numerous to mention but include Everest, the Himalayas and Antarctica. He has starred and presented several television programmes for Channel 4 on extreme life in the outdoors. He also gives motivational talks to various organisations, including schools and churches.

He is married and has three sons.

His Christian faith is deeply important to him.

Perry finds Grylls appalling:

Top of his no-no list? Bear Grylls. Yes, Perry says that the Old Etonian adventurer is a ‘hangover’ who represents a ‘masculinity that is useless’:

‘Try going into an estate agent in Finsbury Park [London] and come out with an affordable flat. I want to see Bear Grylls looking for a decent state school for his child!’

Bear Grylls would have no problem at all in choosing a school for his sons, state or otherwise.

Perry also attacked Grylls’s show The Island:

Perry says it helps foster a masculinity that makes life in modern society more difficult.

Grylls responded in his usual gentlemanly style:

In the wild, quiet courage, humility, persistence and selflessness makes a man and also a woman. That is never outdated.

I agree with the Spectator when they say they’d be interested to see how Grayson Perry would fare in the wild — if only he could bring himself to leave leafy London.

Although I do not watch his shows, I’ll take Grylls’s alpha male masculinity any day, especially when he says:

my faith is a quiet, strong backbone in my life, and the glue to our family.

It’s time he was awarded an honour.

Queen Elizabeth II March 2015.jpgQueen Elizabeth turns 90 on Thursday, April 21.

Millions of people, not just in the UK but around the world, will wish her a very happy birthday and many happy returns.

Britons are blessed to have her as their head of state. She is the glue that holds us together.

What has made her so successful and well respected?

On October 31, 2015, Channel 4 broadcast How to Be Queen: 63 Years and Counting which revealed the ‘secrets’ of the woman who is more popular than ever.

Below is a countdown of the Queen’s ten secrets to No. 1 — the most important. The subheads below come directly from the programme and the text summarises its content.

10/ Stay out of politics

The film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, explores this principle in depth, especially in the depictions of her conversations with then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Queen does not say anything about politics outside of her family circle, however, to politicians like Blair, she makes her thoughts known through a look or a brief remark that can cut one down to size in an instant.

By contrast, Prince Charles, whose opinions are well known on a variety of subjects, has little of his mother’s near-universal appeal. Perhaps it is time he took a leaf out of his mother’s notebook.

9/ Say nothing

Unlike Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, the Queen does not give interviews.

Discretion is the better part of valour.

The only exception was in 1992 when the Queen noted in her Christmas Day message to the nation how awful that year had been, but used a Latin expression. She pronounced it an ‘Annus Horribilis‘. A number of Royal scandals broke that year. Windsor Castle also caught fire and was seriously damaged.

8/ Do your duty

The Queen was brought up to do her duty to the nation. She has never wavered from serving her people.

She is the opposite of two of her ancestors. When Queen Victoria’s son Edward VII ascended to the throne in January 1901, he continued his previous playboy lifestyle, even though he was married to Princess Alexandra.

A more shocking example, however, was that of Edward VIII who reigned for 326 days in 1936 before abdicating to lead his own life. After abdication, he took his ladyfriend, American divorcée Wallis Simpson, whom he later married, on a trip to Nazi Germany. Understandably, public opinion was so hostile to him that he spent most of the rest of his life in France. His successor (brother) George VI — Queen Elizabeth’s father — and his mother Queen Mary threatened to cut off his allowance if he returned to the UK uninvited. It is no wonder that Britons over the age of 50 consider him to be one of our worst ever monarchs.

7/ Don’t fluff your lines

The Queen has always delivered her addresses in a clear, professional way.

The Queen Mother no doubt had a role to play in that. Her husband George VI had a stammer which marred his radio addresses to the nation. His speech therapy was the subject of the film The King’s Speech. The film builds up to the King’s wartime broadcast of 1939, which had to be delivered flawlessly to have the necessary gravitas. A nation held its breath. Fortunately, all went well. The Queen’s father occasionally stammered after that, but much less so than previously. The British public considered him all the more human for it.

6/ Protect the brand

The Queen has always been conscious of the Royal Family’s status as a brand.

The Queen Mother instilled that in her from childhood, but it actually originated with George V during the Great War. He and Kaiser Wilhelm were first cousins. The British public were understandably unhappy during a time when anti-German sentiment was rampant. George V changed the family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, after the castle.

In 1917, the King faced another difficulty, this time involving another cousin, Tsar Nicholas. He wanted very much to bring the tsar and his family in Russia to safety in the UK but decided against it. He feared that bringing the Russian royals to Britain would also foment a revolt in Britain, similar to the Russian Revolution.

Unfortunately, not all of the Queen’s children share her desire to protect the brand. Some royals appeared in the television programme It’s a Royal Knockout in 1987. Rather than boost their popularity, it did the opposite. Lesson learned.

Ironically, it is the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, who makes the most gaffes, too numerous to mention here. Reading them is painful, but people who have met him and heard them find them rather amusing. Hmm.

5/ Don’t mix with the staff

When it comes to confiding in her staff, the Queen appears to abide by the maxim ‘Trust no one’. Her record is blemish-free.

This has not always been the case with previous monarchs. After Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria spent a lot of time with Mr Brown and then Abdul Karim. These associations with palace attendants scandalised the royal household and the courtiers.

More recently, Princess Diana confided in her butler Paul Burrell, which generated much publicity for him after her death and some difficulty for the Royal Family as a result.

4/ Earn your keep

The Queen was brought up to be a hard worker.

She understands that if one is going to live at the taxpayer’s expense, one had better earn one’s keep.

She, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne are the most dedicated of the Royals. Much of the charity work that Princess Anne does goes unnoticed by the media, and that is the way she likes it.

The Queen is careful to work hard and maintain a sober, low-profile private life.

Her responsible approach contrasts with Edward VII’s partying and cavorting more than a century ago. In our time, Prince Andrew rightly came under public criticism for his affair with Koo Stark in the 1980s and, in recent years, for his profligate air travel.

3/ Keep a stiff upper lip

The Queen always controls her emotions.

She was brought up to practise emotional reserve and displayed little physical affection for her children.

Her grandfather George V was also very reserved, even towards his wife, Queen Mary. With regard to his children, the Channel 4 programme said he was ‘cold’.

Does this mean there was no love? Hardly. In fact, many Britons would point to the old dictum ‘Still waters run deep’.

The Queen’s children have taken a different approach to parenting. Prince Charles, in particular, was careful to show his sons much affection in their childhood.

One of the few times one could see a scintilla of deep emotion in the Queen was when the royal yacht Britannia was decommissioned. Television news footage captured the monarch, her lips quivering ever so slightly as she blinked rapidly.

2/ Find true love

The Queen is deeply in love with Prince Philip and always has been.

The feeling is mutual. The couple have been married for nearly 70 years.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) share that same sort of love.

The film The Young Victoria depicted Queen Victoria’s profound love for Prince Albert in the 19th century. Her diaries record that he used to help her dress in the morning and would put her stockings on for her.

1/ Listen to the people

The Queen has only had one crisis during her reign and she mitigated that by listening to the people.

Another thing that helped was not to react instantly but rather wait and see what way the wind is blowing.

This troublesome period was the week following the death of Princess Diana at the end of August 1997. The Queen and the Royal Family were on summer holiday at Balmoral in Scotland at the time. The Queen decided they should leave for London four days later.

Meanwhile, public emotions were at fever pitch. I know. I worked in London at the time and saw a few of my female colleagues rail against the Queen, calling for her death. A lot of women laying flowers at Kensington Palace felt the same way. Television reporters interviewed a number of them for news broadcasts every day. The newspapers were filled with anti-Royal sentiment.

Once in London, the Queen went on a walkabout in front of Kensington Palace to see the queues of people ready to lay flowers in front of the late princess’s residence. The Queen has a scene which actually took place that day, later shown on the news. Queen Elizabeth spoke to a little girl holding a posy. She said something to the girl about the flowers being for Princess Diana. The little girl said, ‘These are for you’, and handed her the bouquet. That moment reversed the Queen’s dismal week because it signalled the turning of the tide away from animosity.

Later that day, the Queen gave a televised address to the nation with regard to Princess Diana’s death. It was her first public statement on the subject. Admittedly, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair had been advising the Queen on the hostile mood in London, but she does not say anything she does not mean.

In the address, she displayed no sign of regret but she delivered two messages in a muted fashion: continuing authority — ‘As your Queen’ — and true sentiment — ‘something I say from the heart’.

On the day of the funeral, Queen Elizabeth did something unusual. When Princess Diana’s coffin passed by, she bowed her head as a mark of respect. She might have done that as a nod to public opinion.

The Queen carefully averted what could have easily turned into a crisis. The following week saw a calmer atmosphere in the capital and a gradual return to normality.

Conclusion

How to Be Queen: 63 Years and Counting concluded that if the next generation of Royals can master Queen Elizabeth’s ten secrets, our monarchy’s future is secure.

Many of us will pray, particularly today, that it is.

Yesterday’s post looked at how Islamic extremism has developed in England over the past decade.

Today’s entry continues the theme, in a less dramatic way although a more personal one with regard to women. Emphases mine below.

The ‘Sharia’ driver

The Evening Standard Theatre Awards were held in London on November 21, 2015. (The Evening Standard is London’s local newspaper.) The English actress Frances Barber, 58, attended the ceremony.

She was wearing a long-sleeved ankle-length black gown with a high neckline and a shawl; click on the link for the full photo.

Afterwards, Barber got into the Uber taxi she had booked. She made small talk with the driver, remarking that it was a cold night.

The driver told her:

Well if you weren’t so disgustingly dressed

He also told her that women should not be out alone at night.

She got out of the car, slammed the door and sought alternative transport.

She tweeted:

Just had a sharia Uber driver, first time in London. Shocked. Reported.

And, she ended her second tweet — which recaps what I’ve already told you here — with:

THIS IS LONDON.

Uber are looking into the matter. We do not know what, if anything, happened to the driver. Barber’s next tweet was on November 26:

Thankyou for so many messages of support.Uber have taken this seriously & am grateful.But clearly there is an issue.

Frances Barber was not the only one who had a negative experience with an Uber driver. Her Twitter feed included tweets from another lady — from the Asian Subcontinent — who wrote:

My sister was told an Asian woman should not be out in late evening. Even tho with kids.

Uber must insist that their drivers refrain from making comments of a misogynistic nature, just as they would refrain from offering opinions on social or political matters.

Uber passengers

The problem is that these drivers have no professional driving qualifications. As Ed West pointed out in The Spectator:

if people want a fully-trained driver who knows what he’s doing, has invested both his time and money in his career, and is licensed, then get a black cab. Uber is not a taxi service; it’s merely a mechanism to hire some random guy to drive you around for a pittance – don’t be surprised if he’s not quite possessed of a Morgan Freeman level of repartee and diligence.

There is also the mind-set that goes along with celebrities and upper-middle class people flocking to Uber instead of black cabs in the capital. Uber attracts these passengers, nearly all of whom are left-wing. There is a case of cognitive dissonance here, as West explains:

Janice Turner recently pointed out in The Times that her friends ‘wouldn’t grind an unfairly traded coffee bean, they champion the living wage and want to tax global evaders like Starbucks and yet Uber leaves such principles squished in the road’.

The Times is behind a paywall, but West’s article has a legible photo of Turner’s article which says that Uber wants to flood London with drivers. Indeed, the Daily Mail article cited above says that they already have 15,000. Turner says that Uber drivers from Manchester (North West England) are going up to London to work weekends.

West rightly notes that there seems to be a British bias against drivers of black cabs. They are satirised as opinionated blowhards. In reality, like West, I have had very few conversations with them. Most prefer not to talk.

West points out that foreign taxi drivers also have political views:

I’ve had some interesting chats – most recently there was a lovely Iranian guy who hated the religious authorities and wanted to restore the Shah, which I’m totally down with – but I’ve also spoken to people who believe the Mossad were behind 9/11. Imported prejudices are not so much a target for Radio 4 comedy, but as Europe is finding out, these days they are much more extreme and dangerous.

Other news stories

Frances Barber’s unfortunate Uber encounter took place in the aftermath of the Paris attacks when Brussels was on lockdown and a day before Channel 4 broadcast Women of ISIS.

There were other related news stories. The Sun received fierce criticism for their poll taken in the wake of the Paris attacks. It shows that 19% of Muslims have ‘sympathy’ for those who go to Syria to fight for IS. The percentage is higher for those aged between 18 and 34.

Oddly, no one criticised the more dramatic results of the BBC’s poll of Muslims which followed the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January — 27% of respondents had ‘sympathy’ for the terrorists.

Why? Is it because The Sun is perceived as being a white working class paper? Is it because most people find Charlie Hebdo a repulsive publication? I think so. Therefore, both can be safely ignored.

Biased BBC has a good post on the subject, including the Frances Barber story. Incidentally, Barber is currently starring in a BBC series, Silk:

… if a non-Muslim spoke like that to a Muslim woman in a Niqab that would be classed as hate speech…why the difference?  The BBC would be all over that story …

The BBC has not reported this story of ‘racial’ abuse….even though the victim is one of its own employees….the BBC would rather cover up for a Muslim extremist than defend its own employee in the interest of ‘community cohesion’.

They mention the difference in perception of the two aforementioned surveys.

As for Women of ISIS:

You may remember the BBC also totally ignored the astonishing expose by C4’s Dispatches programme ‘Undercover Mosque’ which revealed what the extremists were saying behind the closed doors of British mosques.  The BBC instead spent the same week trashing Jade Goody for a ‘racist’ comment she made in the heat of the moment during an argument in the Big Brother house…great to see what the BBC’s real priorities are….never mind extremist Muslim hate speech, instead launch an all out, week long attack on a white (with a mixed-race father), working class girl.

Ultimately:

Odd isn’t it what the BBC prioritises and what it seeks to hide.  Three Muslim girls go off to be Jihadi brides and the BBC is there for them and their families….however, Muslim women aiding and abetting the radicalisation and recruitment of such girls in the name of Islam and the BBC ignores it.

Conclusion

This is the problem England will continue to have regarding Islam and why extremism is likely to increase rather than decrease in the short term.

The BBC are partly to blame. The BBC have a huge hold on the British public. Our neighbours religiously watch their news programmes and adopt the Beeb’s perspective on everything. There are millions more just like them.

At least the newspapers came out in support of Frances Barber. However, they need to also find out about other Uber drivers and anyone else who is telling women to stay off the streets at night.

We are not too different to Belgians and Swedes who attempt to brush a real problem aside in the name of tolerance with unenviable consequences. Belgian Jews are now beginning to leave the country. Nearly all of Sweden’s rapes are committed by one demographic. However, these are seen as minor issues which have been exaggerated.

At least France’s Muslim pundits are now beginning to speak out firmly against radicalisation. Mohammed Chirani, a political analyst and anti-terror specialist, is one such example. I have often heard him on RMC (radio). He speaks sense on many subjects. After the Paris attacks, he appeared on France’s iTele with this message (English subtitles at the MEMRI link). He says, in part, to the notional ‘caliph’ of IS, his followers and the Paris attackers:

We are the ones who will be kept firm. Truth is on our side. You are the wrongdoers. Know that our dead, the innocent French citizens, are in Paradise, and your dead, the terrorists, are in Hell. Know that Allah is our Protector and that you have no protector.

I’d like to tell you that you will not succeed in igniting the fire of strife in France … I’d like to tell you that we will wage jihad against you with the Quran. I’d like to tell the traitors who deceived France, betrayed their country and burned their IDs that we are kissing our ID documents.

At that point, he kissed his French passport.

England could use at least one, if not several, Mohammed Chiranis.

Last week, Britain’s Channel 4 broadcast ISIS: The British Women Supporters Unveiled, available to replay for the next three weeks.

When I saw it, the programme was part of the Dispatches series and was called Women of ISIS. I checked the television schedules, which had no listings for it. Just as well, perhaps.

The documentary shows how a young undercover reporter, Aisha, infiltrates extremist women’s groups led by two women. The women’s groups were hard to penetrate, and, yes, at the end, Aisha was uncovered. I hope she has a few minders around her for safety, as this material — which took a year to collect — is still quite recent. Aisha finished her report in October 2015, a few weeks before the Paris attacks. The Telegraph has a good summary. Their readers’ comments are also informative.

Since then, The Asian Centre in Walthamstow (east London) has cancelled the ladies’ tea afternoons. However, there is still at least one other centre which allows these women to meet. It is near Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, also in east London.

Channel 4’s press release has more information about the programme, which contains hateful language that one of the analysts looking at excerpts said might merit a visit from the police.

However, we have yet to find out whether these women have been questioned by the authorities.

The women persuade other females, including teenage girls, to fight for the new caliphate in the Islamic State. It did not surprise me, although I did learn three things:

1/ According to extremists, a ‘true’ Muslim does not obey the laws or customs of his/her country because they are man-made. Allah is the only one who must be obeyed. Therefore, voting, poppy-wearing and so forth are, in these women’s eyes, akin to apostasy.

2/ For the reason stated above, extremist Muslims are fully opposed to democracy, which, as a man-made concept, runs counter to Allah’s laws for mankind.

3/ ‘Die in your rage’ is the IS message/slogan to unbelievers. IS and their sympathisers practise the psychological phenomenon of projection, whereby they are the angry people, yet they accuse us of rage. In any event, the slogan explains the videos which came out after the Paris attacks where victims’ families politely countered, ‘I am not angry’.

My British readers will note that none of this is new. In 2007, Channel 4 aired the documentary Undercover Mosque, which you can see in full on Vimeo. That documentary, along with its 2008 follow-up (see YouTube below), explores the men’s side of extremism. Each programme lasts 45 minutes.

I highly recommend these documentaries, even if you think you fully understand the subject.

Among other things, I learned that they call Jewish people ‘monkeys’ and Christians ‘pigs’.

I have now watched all three documentaries.

I am not angry.

I feel sorry for these extremists.

After viewing these films, I spent several minutes praying for them, that their hearts may be filled with divine grace.

It won’t be the last time I ask that petition of our only fully divine and fully human Mediator and Advocate.

Richard III earliest surviving portrait.jpgA unique, once-in-a-lifetime event, occurred last week in Leicester.

Richard III, England’s second — and last king — to die in battle was reinterred in Leicester Cathedral. The last Plantagenet king, he lived from October 2, 1452 to August 22, 1485, weeks short of his 33rd birthday.

Channel 4 covered the event live in nearly seven hours of broadcasting. Well done to the station’s management for viewing this as newsworthy (unlike the BBC), to the cameramen, the production teams for arranging the many live interviews and to the Channel 4 News team, especially Jon Snow, for covering the event so engagingly.

Our memory of Richard III is marred by the question of what happened to the young princes, his nephews and mere boys (one of whom was heir to the throne), who were held in the Tower of London before Richard became king. This tragic episode in history has not been resolved conclusively for many people. It continues to enliven historical discussions and will do so for some time. The princes mysteriously disappeared from the Tower. Were they kidnapped or killed? Everyone has an opinion, including one on whether Richard was directly involved in their disappearance.

Richard III’s legacy

The last of the Plantagenet monarchs is the only British ruler to have his own dedicated fan club, for lack of a better term: the Richard III Society.

His supporters are called Ricardians.

More importantly, for those of us who live in English-speaking countries, is the legacy this young king left us after his 26-month reign.

Phillipa Langley, the Ricardian historian who led the search for the king’s remains, told Britain’s Radio Times (21-27 March 2015, p. 25, emphasis mine):

In his two-year reign, he began the presumption of innocence, he introduced bail and he translated laws that were written in Latin and French into English so that everybody would understand them.

Prior to that, only the wealthy or well-connected could be released pending trial. Richard’s reforms provided justice for the rest of the population. Langley explains:

It was the time of the 99 per cent and the one per cent — and Richard was saying to the 99 per cent: ‘I am listening to you even thought I’m in the one per cent’.

That these reforms took place in the late Middle Ages during the prolonged War of the Roses is remarkable.

The war is so called because the Yorkists, of whom Richard III was one, identified themselves with the white rose; the Lancastrians had for their emblem the red rose.

Even today, people from both east and west in northern England culturally identify themselves either with York or Lancaster, respectively.

Richard III the man

From the six hours of Channel 4 coverage that I watched, which included the procession of his casket from the University of Leicester to the Cathedral and the ceremony of his reinterment, the following highlights emerged.

Richard III’s life was marked by death, survival and few triumphs. There was nothing in between. His father died when Richard was eight years old. His mother, the Duchess of York, hurriedly sent him and his elder brother George to the Low Countries for several months. It was for their own protection.

Richard and George’s older brother Edward defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton in June 1461. In that one-day battle 28,000 men died. Richard and George returned to England to see their brother crowned as King Edward IV.

Richard became Duke of Gloucester, a Knight of the Garter and a Knight of the Bath. George was given the title of Duke of Clarence. Richard went to live at Middleham Castle (Wensleydale, Yorkshire) with his cousin Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick — the famous ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’.

Neville taught his young cousin the finer points of knightood and the art of war. Although Richard suffered with scoliosis, a condition which involves curvature of the spine, he held that it was his duty to be able to join his Yorkist relatives and supporters on the battlefield. After all, he would have to be able to lead his own men from the front once he became an adult.

In 1472, Richard married Neville’s younger daughter Anne, a recent war widow whose late husband was a Lancastrian. Wikipedia explains that this alliance had to undergo family and papal approval. The subsequent Church dispensation meant that no consanguinity issues were involved. However, to rectify matters with his own family, Richard had to forfeit his right to certain titles of the nobility as well as much of Warwick’s land and property.

Richard fought with the Yorkists both at home and in France. In the 1470s, he was also given rule over the north of England and was based in York.

Edward IV died on April 9, 1483. His 12-year old son Edward — Richard’s nephew — was seemingly the rightful heir. Richard was young Edward’s Lord Protector. Royal advisers told him to take the boy away for his own safety. Richard took Edward and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, to the Tower of London. From this point onward, the story becomes complicated for most readers, myself included; it involves political intrigue and various machinations.

While they were in London, a clergyman declared Edward IV’s marriage invalid, meaning that the two boys were illegitimate. On June 22, 1483, a sermon preached at St Paul’s Cathedral — a huge, Gothic structure prior to the Fire of London in 1666 — proclaimed that Richard was the rightful king. A petition soon made its rounds in the city, supported not only by noblemen but also commoners, asking Richard to be the next monarch. He accepted and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on July 6, 1483. Parliament ratified his title to the throne in January 1484.

Meanwhile, the princes were still in the Tower of London before disappearing or dying. The mystery lingers.

On August 22, 1485, the Battle of Bosworth Field changed the course of history. It meant the end of the Plantagenets and the beginning of Tudor — Lancastrian — rule. This episode is also marked by political complexity with Yorkists switching allegiance to the Lancastrians and Tudors. Richard was left exposed politically and personally.

In short, when Richard encountered Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII, he was confident he could strike him off his horse. However, Richard’s calculations went wrong and Henry’s allies — Sir William Stanley and his men — surrounded the king. Their brutal blows with swords and other bladed weapons brought the monarch off his horse to his death.

The 2012 archaelogical dig, which brought Richard’s skeleton to light, showed that a lateral chunk of the lower part of his skull is missing, which could only have been achieved by someone hacking away at it with a blade.

Richard’s enemies on the battlefield stripped him naked, threw him on a horse and paraded his corpse from Bosworth to Leicester. Once in the heart of the city, where great crowds had gathered, he was paraded along Bow Bridge. His head struck a stone on the bridge, causing further injury. An angry spectator also stabbed him in one buttock, to the crowd’s approval.

The Franciscan Greyfriars quickly and quietly buried the king at their friary, which was next door to the Parish Church of St Martin, the present Cathedral.

Henry VII’s son Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. His men lay waste to the Greyfriars friary. In our time, a car park and Leicester’s offices of Social Services occupy the site.

The ‘bonkers’ request

In 2012, The aforementioned historian Philippa Langley requested permission from Leicester City Council to dig under one of the spaces in the car park.

Oddly enough, it had the letter ‘R’ painted over it. It was ‘Reserved’ for the Director of Social Services.

Langley told the Radio Times:

I said: ‘Give me permission to dig your land — I want to go in search of a king.’ They said: ‘You’ll get permission but if you find him, he’ll stay in Leicester’.

Channel 4 interviewed one of the men who dug up the space. He said that, at the time, it seemed completely ‘bonkers’ (crazy).

Yet, once the first few feet of tarmac and ground had been excavated, Dr Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist, found the skeleton which also had a curved spine.

Genetics testing

In 2004, well before the dig eight years later, historian John Ashdown-Hill used genealogical research to trace matrilineal descendents of Richard’s sister Anne of York.

He managed to find an Englishwoman who had emigrated to Canada after the Second World War. A sample of Joy (Brown) Ibsen’s mitochondrial DNA was taken around 2004 and tested. It matched with the Haplogroup J of Richard III’s family. Mrs Ibsen died in 2008. Her son Michael gave a mouth-swab sample to researchers when the car park dig began. His DNA was used to establish that the identity of the skeleton found was indeed that of Richard III.

The newest painstakingly recreated likeness of this mediaeval king — a bust only recently completed by Liverpool University researchers and geneticists — shows us that the king would have had blue eyes and dark blond/light brown hair (see halfway down the page). It was probably the same colour as Michael Ibsen’s, in fact. However, generally speaking, the facial features depicted are consistent with the portraits done during his lifetime and posthumously.

Preparations for reburial

Michael Ibsen is a carpenter and joiner who makes cabinets and bookcases. He was commissioned to design and construct a casket and a small coffer to hold three soil samples from significant places in Richard’s life: his birthplace at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire, his time spent at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale and Bosworth Field in Leicestershire.

Ibsen was able to use oak from Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall estate.

His design for the casket is very plain by today’s standards, but Ibsen told Channel 4 that such simplicity is more in keeping with Richard’s era than our own. One of the commentators later added that, during that time, the coffinmaker carved a second interior casket shaped to the person’s body. Ibsen’s has a similar interior inlay.

The coffer for the three cubes of soil is of a similar design and construction.

Meanwhile, historians and Cathedral clergy were working on church ceremonies that Richard III would have recognised from his own time.

By all accounts, he was a devout Catholic (this was the pre-Reformation era) and asked priests and other religious around the country to pray for him. He had a number of chantries set up for this purpose and wrote a brief prayer for them to say which ended in ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord, our only Mediator and Advocate’.

He also had a thick leather-bound Book of Hours — an illumination from the early part of the 15th century, elaborately painted and penned — which researchers believe was passed down to him by family. It has been at London’s Lambeth Palace, home to the Archbishops of Canterbury for centuries, and was on loan for the reinterment (see below).

Compline — Sunday, March 22, 2015

The clergy of Leicester Cathedral invited England and Wales’s most senior Catholic clergyman, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, to give a brief sermon during Compline on Sunday, March 22.

Richard’s skeleton, in Michael Ibsen’s casket, was taken in a horse-drawn procession — complete with armoured men of arms — from Leicester University through the city centre to the Cathedral. (Earlier in the day it had been part of a ceremony at Bosworth Field.) Crowds of all races and creeds lined the streets. A number of them had white roses to lob onto the bier bearing the casket.

Leicester is Britain’s most multicultural city. In Richard’s time, it had a population of 3,000 and was England’s centre of the wool trade. Today, 300,000 people live there. Once the dig began, everyone began to take this king to their hearts. The adults and children interviewed live on Channel 4 really felt that this was a time when English history intersected with their own lives.

Once at the Cathedral, clergy received the casket in a brief ceremony with University officials. It was carried inside and placed in front of the baptismal font, where clergy said prayers reminding us of Richard’s own baptism and the religious meaning of that sacrament.

A pall, depicting Richard’s life as well as some of the people who helped to find his remains, was respectfully laid over the casket. Historian John Ashdown-Hill had designed a gold, bejeweled crown in keeping with the original. A local Brownie was given the responsibility for carrying it and placing it onto the pall.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols gave a brief but moving sermon, mentioning the deep religious significance that Baptism would have held for Richard. He added that Baptism alone does not make a person holy and that, in Richard’s life as in all of ours, there are elements of saint and sinner. He gave thanks that today’s conflict resolution starts with diplomacy rather than war.

After the Cathedral choir sung a choral interlude written for John F Kennedy’s funeral Mass, customary Compline prayers for temporal and spiritual safety concluded the service. The Cathedral was open from Monday through Wednesday evening to allow well wishers to visit the coffin to pay their respects.

Before the service, Channel 4’s Jon Snow asked the Cardinal, Anglican Synod member Christina Rees and the Cathedral clergy if there were any difficulties involved in Anglicans and Catholics co-ordinating the service. All said that everything went very well. Everyone understood that Richard was a Catholic, so it was only natural that a Catholic prelate should be invited to participate in this unique Compline.

We also discovered that stone from Greyfriars friary was used to repair part of the Cathedral through the ages, therefore, Catholic stone is in an Anglican church.

Church of England clergy held soil blessing ceremonies at the three collection sites earlier that day. They were attended not only by nearby residents but also by those most closely involved in the excavation and research. Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig, a distant cousin of his originally from Australia, also related to the king, attended.

Reinterment — Thursday, March 26, 2015

By the time of Richard III’s reinterment on March 26, over 20,000 people had paid their final respects. They came from all over the world, including Brazil and India.

This had far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Cathedral clergy opened the doors much earlier and closed them much later than anticipated every day.

This reburial, although not unique to the English monarchy or to the Church in general, did involve different circumstances and had to be organised accordingly.

Theologically, reburial can be done to transfer remains from one resting place to a rightful one. The tradition comes from the Israelites’ taking Joseph’s bones from Egypt for reinterment in the Promised Land. The current Duke of Gloucester — also named Richard, coincidentally — read the appropriate Scripture passage for this: Exodus 13:19-22.

In Richard III’s time, people were consumed by the thought of ending up in Hell, a place of everlasting torment, fire and brimstone. Funeral rites of the day would have lasted for several hours and would have had Bible readings which referred to Hell. These were warnings to those in attendance that their eternal life was in danger if they did not repent and lead godly lives.

One researcher uncovered a mediaeval manuscript documenting one of these services. The general pattern and readings were noted and discussed by the reinterment committee in an effort to make the ceremony more readily understood by those in the congregation.

The invitation-only ceremony lasted 45 minutes. It included a censing of the casket, which six Army officers, assisted by two more, took to the choir of the Chapel of Christ the King in the Cathedral.

Psalms 114, 138 and 150 were arranged to music. The Cathedral choir sang each of them beautifully.

Cathedral clergy recited prayers, the Public Orator of Leicester University gave us a life history of Richard III and the Bishop of Leicester, the Right Revd Tim Stevens, delivered the sermon. The Bishop spoke of ‘the Richard effect’ which went global, the tens of thousands of people coming to Leicester to pay their respects ‘confounded sceptics’. He added that such an interest was remarkable in today’s day and age in that Richard was a king and a Christian.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, also related to Richard III distantly, read ‘Richard’, a poem written for the occasion by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

The Archbishop of Canterbury presided over the reinterment and scattered the consecrated soil over the coffin once it was in place.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, represented the Royal Family. King Harold, the only other English king to have been killed on the battlefield, held the title Earl of Wessex when he died in 1066.

Everyone interviewed afterward agreed that the reburial was a fitting religious ceremony for a king whom historical novelist Philippa Gregory calls ‘the people’s Plantagenet’. Indeed. It transpires that, because the Plantagenets married exclusively into English families, millions of Britons — and others living around the world — could have Plantagenet blood.

Everyone whom Jon Snow interviewed said the week’s events, especially the Cathedral services, were ‘a lot to take in’. Richard’s descendants Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig, both of whom now live and work in London, said that they were still processing everything. They are very dignified people and one cannot help but wish them all the best for the future.

Richard’s new resting place in Leicester Cathedral will be open to the public.

The Richard III Centre is adjacent to the Cathedral for anyone wishing to view exhibits about this much-maligned king. The Centre also has information about the archaeological dig from 2012.

Research continues, particularly into the fate of the young princes, as a new archive has become available. The coming years might give us more insight into Richard III. I look forward to it.

OreganoSome time back after a stressful period in my life, I had a minor bout of what looked like eczema.

Having just replaced my thyme in the garden and deciding the plants were too young to harvest, I surveyed our rather large bed of Greek oregano.

As a roll-on ‘spot’ (pimple) remedy comprising manuka honey, witch hazel and tea tree oil had been slow to act over the prior three days, one evening I decided to pinch a small sprig off the oregano plant and rubbed it on my ailing skin (the size of a five pence piece or American dime).

The next morning the affected area had already turned from puce (purplish) to pink. I then decided to apply the same number of leaves (three or four) three times a day for the next two days.

In case anyone is wondering, I discarded each sprig after using.

By Day 3, my skin had turned a pale pink. I reduced the rubbing of fresh sprigs to twice a day — morning and night.

After a week had passed, my skin was back to normal. There were no brown blotches of thinning skin one often sees after eczema heals.

I meant to mention this earlier but only thought of it again after Britain’s Channel 4’s programme Royal Marines Commando School. In one of the first two episodes, a recruit is heartbroken to find out that he cannot continue with training because of a bout of eczema. The officer told him:

Your skin will deteriorate.

It is true. Anyone who has suffered from this embarrassing (not to mention itchy, noticeable and very slow-to-heal) skin condition will tell you that each eczema patch leaves a brownish blotch once healed. That brownish blotch indicates a weakened, thinner patch of skin.

Cortisone and prescription creams claim to heal eczema, but how is it that a simple application of July and August oregano leaves left it healthy and the same colour as the rest of my skin?

Surprised, I did some research. N.B.: This post is not intended as medical advice but as a suggestion for a possible alternative for certain persistent medical conditions.

Incidentally, oregano flowers, like those from many other herbs,  can also be used for topical applications — and seasoning. They are edible.

Wellness Mama, quoting Mark’s Daily Apple, says that oregano has several antibacterial properties and heals not just eczema and other skin conditions but also internal bacterial disorders (emphases mine below):

contains thymol and carvacrol, two oils which have remarkable bacteria-fighting power. In fact, researchers recently discovered that oregano is a better treatment for giardia [a disorder brought on by intestinal parasites] than the prescription drug commonly prescribed to treat the illness.

Therefore, with summer — and herbs — in full flow, why not see if oregano, as well as thyme and others, can help to cure what ails you?

I mention thyme because it is the source of thymol, another antibacterial. However, as Mark’s Daily Apple mentions, this herb and oregano — as well as mint — contain carvacrol. They are part of the same plant family.

Carvacrol can also act as an insect repellent. Whilst oregano often is packaged in oil to consumers, the Huffington Post (Canada) link warns:

Try putting a few drops of oil on outdoor furniture — test first on an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t stain — or apply a dilution of it to unbroken skin when heading outdoors.

Please be careful with regard to direct application of oregano oil on the young or the elderly. Their skin might be too sensitive for it. However, a normally healthy adult might well be able to use it with great success.

In the off-season, or if you don’t have an oregano plant, oregano oil is readily available in health food shops and online.

The following articles — as well as the aforementioned ones — might help to give us a better appreciation of oregano as being more than a ‘pizza herb’:

Oregano – Home Remedies for You (a good general overview of the plant)

‘Health Benefits of Essential Oregano Oil’ – Organic Facts (more on the properties of oregano, mentioning anti-inflammatory uses)

‘Oregano is a healing herb and natural anti-biotic’ – Natural News (good anti-oxidant, may help to prevent cancer)

‘Top 10 Health Benefits of Oregano’ – Top 10 Home Remedies (good for fighting the common cold, nasal congestion, influenza and menstrual cramps)

Oregano – Medical Health Guide (good for bruises and cuts as well as asthma)

‘Oregano oil’ – WebMD (oil of oregano for plantar’s wart, fungal infections)

‘Oregano Oil Health Benefits’ – Global Healing Center (yeast infections, respiratory ailments, athlete’s foot, skin disorders)

Last week, two men in Britain demonstrated how to win well.

In an era of crying, boasting, air-punching and so on, it was refreshing to see gracious, old-school victors with manners.

The first winner was Marvin Francis who took the trophy in the BBC3 series Hair. Throughout the series, Francis expanded his repertoire not only by creating challenging hairstyles but also by working with European hair. He normally styles Afro-Caribbean women. From the moment I saw him in the first episode, I had hoped he would win. He quietly and diligently got on with the tasks — three in each show. Unlike one of the other contestants, he didn’t boast about his abilities nor was he constantly looking around to see what his rivals were up to.

At the end of the fifth episode, he was pleasantly surprised to have been chosen for the final. In a subsequent interview aired during the sixth episode, he said, ‘I can’t believe I’m here. I left school. I never went to college. I have no qualifications.’ However, he must have been researching and practising various techniques between shows. (This style by Katie Crompton, another of the three finalists, shows the level the judges were looking for in each episode.)

Just before being presented with his trophy, the two hairdressers judging the show announced that one of the three finalists achieved a turnaround at ‘just the right time’. From his somewhat wistful facial expression, Francis did not seem to think for a second that they were talking about him. In fact, another amateur hairdresser seemed a shoo-in to win. However, her last three creations, whilst good, did not quite reflect the ‘wow’ factor of her previous efforts.

When the judges gave Francis the trophy, he smiled broadly, thanked them, then stood silently, holding and admiring it. He didn’t rush up to the two women competitors or run around the studio and flashing it about. He was humble and gentlemanly in his acceptance. He displayed a good upbringing through his dignified demeanour.

By contrast, the woman who was sure she would win was quite the opposite at the end of each episode. She displayed an unbecoming element of dominance in her competitive style.

I hope this was the catalyst Marvin Francis needed for pursuing further study in hairdressing and wish him much success in all aspects of his life.

The second winner was Irish jockey Leighton Aspell who won Saturday’s Grand National (C4), the culmination of the National Hunt steeplechase season. This is one time I wish I had laid down a tenner at the betting shop. It was the only time in nearly a quarter of a century of watching this race at home on television that I chose the first and second place winners. At odds of 25-1 for the winner — Pineau de Re — and 14-1 for the second place horse Balthazar King, I could have won a satisfying sum of money.

The Grand National is quite the spectacle. No other horse race is quite like it. With 30 daunting fences to jump, it is fraught with peril for both horse and rider. Horses begin falling at the first or second fence, although in recent years it has been rare for either man or beast to be seriously injured or die.

This race is so gripping and has so many horses, that it is replayed in slow motion and analysed so that the punter at home can see exactly what happened at each fence.

Given the drama and tension involved, it was a delightful surprise to watch Aspell’s interview just after the race. He rode along on Pineau de Re answering questions in a calm, congenial manner as if it were any other contest. Unlike previous Grand National winners, Aspell did not punch the air. One of the commentators asked a colleague in the studio why he didn’t. The answer came, ‘That’s not his style’.

In fact, because of his natural humility and calm manner, the racing community considered Aspell a competent but perhaps not a top jockey. Channel 4 commentators told us that a small fan club developed for him a few years ago.

He didn’t start it; a group of spectators following his races merely felt he should get more recognition.

With a Grand National win to his name, Leighton Aspell has earned the recognition he deserves.

I mention these two men because SpouseMouse and I have also been watching the US series, The Taste (originally on ABC, airing on More4 in the UK). We are happy that the production team modified the format for the UK; our version finished a few weeks ago and was a joy to watch.

By contrast, the American show is cringe-making, partly because of the deportment of the contestants.

All the jumping around, sniping at other competitors, boastfulness, emotional outpouring and false team building are getting on our nerves. That last element is particularly perplexing, considering that this is not really a team show; the chefs choose four contestants whom they can mentor. Anyone can get eliminated and anyone can win. It’s an individual effort.

In closing, it’s time we returned to traditional sportsmanship and grace in winning. It can be done. It had been the norm for generations. It has been done again only recently. May others observe and learn from it.

Those who miss the Paralympics are in luck: Sochi’s 2014 Winter Paralympic Games are on this week.

Britain’s Channel 4 and sister channel More4 are broadcasting them throughout the day with a half-hour highlights recap in the evenings at 7:30 (GMT).

As in 2012, Paralympian Ade Adepitan is hosting the coverage. He is accompanied by Olympians and Paralympians alike to walk us through the strategies and finer points of the events.  I learn more about sport watching the Paralympics than I do the Olympics; that’s how good the coverage is.

I enjoyed watching today’s curling and downhill skiing events. Having fallen behind at one point, Team GB beat the Koreans 8 – 4 in the curling. The American Tatyana McFadden came second in the women’s skiing event which was broadcast after the curling finished. One of her American counterparts won.

I hadn’t realised that McFadden also competes in skiing. Up to now, I thought she was exclusively a wheelchair racer during the summer months. Her abilities in both seasons’ events are remarkable. This short YouTube video features her discussing health issues and a love of sport:

She and her younger sister Hannah — from Russia and Albania, respectively — were rescued and adopted by Deborah McFadden, on a trip there as part of her work as a commissioner of disabilities for the US Health Department under President Clinton. Mrs McFadden and her husband adopted Tatyana first. They adopted Hannah not long afterward, once she was located in another orphanage.

On McFadden’s Wikipedia talk page, we find this comment. Those of us who followed the 2012 Paralympics will know that:

Tatyana and Hannah McFadden were the only sisters to compete in the same Paralympic final (100m – T54 in London 2012). —Kasper2006 (talk) 05:03, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

For me, the Paralympians are the real heroes of the summer and winter Games. Some, like McFadden, were born disabled. Others, like Adepitan (who contracted polio as an infant in Nigeria), suffered accidents or childhood illnesses which left them handicapped. Yet others were injured in recent wars, e.g. Afghanistan.

They never gave up. They were determined to not sit at home feeling sorry for themselves, which, admittedly, I probably would have done — for a while, anyway.

It’s interesting to listen to interviews with parents of disabled children who became Paralympians. All said, ‘They got treated the same as their brothers and sisters — through good and bad.’  Yes, it was difficult for the parents. Yes, the parents still worry. However, they gave these competitors a good upbringing in challenging circumstances.

I wish all the teams, GB in particular, all the very best. No matter who wins, their medals are well deserved.

As the Tour de France ended, I saw that Britain’s More4 is showing each day’s events of the 2013 IPC World Championships in Lyon, from mid-afternoon to 7:20 p.m.

If you missed the Paralympics last year or would like to see them again, you have four more days to enjoy these determined athletes revealing their athletic prowess and breaking more world records.

The Paralympians never fail to amaze me, regardless of where they are from. And most of the British favourites from last summer are there, along with a few new faces.

As I write, Great Britain is third in the medals table, behind the United States (second place) and Russia (first).

These men and women are truly inspirational and are excellent role models for other disabled people. Some have been in accidents where they lost limbs or their sight. Others have congenital conditions, such as missing limbs, blindness, cerebral palsy or intellectual underdevelopment.

Well done to More4 — a sister station to Channel4, which covered last year’s Paralympic Games — and to ‘proud sponsors’ Sainsbury’s for reviving the 2012 slogan ‘Here’s to extraordinary’.

Those living outside the UK can click on the live coverage in the lower right-hand box which appears part way through this video:

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