24 July 2021 – NORMAN ROCKWELL’S ART

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G’day folks,Norman Perceval Rockwell (1894-1978) was a 20th century American author, illusionist, and painter who is well known for his illustrations of everyday life, for capturing the spirit of small town America, and for his patriotic depictions during WWII. He was the most widely known and popular commercial artist of mid-20th century America. Below you’ll find a few  of his most famous paintings.

11 May 2021 – ISAAC PITMAN – SHORTHAND INVENTOR

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G’day folks,

Today, many young people would have no idea what shorthand is.

January 22, 1897Isaac Pitman died on this day, leaving behind the shorthand note-taking system named after him, which became the most widely used in the English-speaking world. It continues to flourish despite astonishing advances in technology which would have been expected to render Pitman Shorthand obsolete.

Pitman was born in 1813, the third of his parents’ 11 children. His father, Samuel, was the manager of a weaving mill. Isaac went to a grammar school but left at the age of 13 because of health problems. He suffered with speech difficulties and the crowded classrooms frequently caused him to have fainting fits.

He took a job as a clerk at a textile mill but refused to give up his education and studied at home. It wasn’t long before he enrolled at a teacher’s training college, paving the way for an 11-year stint as a teacher at local schools.

While teaching English, he became fascinated by spelling and felt it needed reform. This led to his creation of Pitman Shorthand, a system of rapid writing based on the sounds of words – the phonetic principle – rather than on conventional spelling. It was all explained in a book, Stenographic Sound Hand, published in 1837.

Until his death at the age of 84, he continued to improve the system through twelve editions. He also established a phonetic institute and a phonetic journal to publicise it.

Not content with all that, Pitman also printed standard works in shorthand, and his book Phonography (1840) was published in many editions. The system quickly became widely popular and commercially successful.

Pitman shorthand was introduced into the United States in 1852. Among the many languages to which it has been adapted are Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, German, French, Spanish, and Dutch.

In 1886 – eight years before he was knighted by Queen Victoria for his shorthand work – Pitman went into formal partnership with his sons Alfred and Ernest. Isaac Pitman and Sons was to become one of the world’s leading educational publishers and training businesses.

Now trading as Pitman Training, it continues to thrive from its base at Wetherby in Yorkshire. In 2013 it was recognised as a Superbrand in the prestigious league table that charts the UK’s strongest brands. Surprisingly perhaps, this put Pitman alongside such giants as Apple, Google and British Airways.

The company offers 250 courses and qualifications across a range of sectors including office, secretarial, book-keeping, web design and marketing. Teaching methods include audio, books and software.

As well as training centres in London, New York, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Toronto and Tokyo, it has 57 of them in the UK, 14 in Ireland, and others in Spain, Palestine, Romania, Kuwait, Ireland, Nigeria, Cayman Island, Zimbabwe and India.

But in this age of rapidly developing technology is there a future for shorthand? One blogger recently wrote: “As recording technology and voice recognition become more reliable, shorthand will be needed less and less. Laws will be changed to recognise recordings.

“Some reporters still find it useful, but most now use a recorder. In the UK, reporters still need shorthand at 100 words a minute, but there is increasing pressure to drop the requirement.”

However, former London newspaper executive Graham Dudman wrote in 2015: “The armoury of tools used by reporters to create journalism is changing as never before. Periscope, Instagram, Twitter … the list goes on.

“But among the all-singing, all-dancing hi-tech digital tricks and toys there is one old-fashioned tool still standing head and shoulders above the rest: shorthand. It has been top dog for decades and should remain so for decades to come.

“In my book, a reporter isn’t the finished article until they’ve passed their NCTJ [National Council for the Training of Journalists] shorthand at 100 words a minute.

“Why? Because the ability to write down what somebody says at the same time they’re saying it, then read your note back instantly is essential to do the job properly. Shorthand is a brilliant skill no digital trickery can match.”

You can almost hear applause from the ghost of Isaac Pitman.

27 May 2021 – INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MARK TWAIN

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G’day folks,

 February 2, 1863 — After failing to strike it rich prospecting for gold and silver, an enterprising young American on this day wrote a humorous travel story for the Territorial Enterprise, a newspaper serving Virginia City, Nevada. He was Samuel Longhorne Clemens and the pen-name he chose to use for the first time was . . . Mark Twain.

By his mid-thirties he had become one of the most popular writers in America and with novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn his fame was to spread worldwide.

A great story-teller both in print and in real life, his distinctive narrative style was funny, irreverent, often satirical and he always took delight in deflating those puffed up with their own self-importance.

 Clemens was born in 1835, the sixth child of a poverty-stricken family which moved, when he was four years old, to Hannibal, a bustling Missouri town on the banks of the Mississippi. But when he was just 12, Clemens’s father died, plunging the family into virtual destitution and forcing the boy to give up school and find a job.

He became an apprentice printer at the Hannibal Courier, but received no pay, just food. Things improved three years later when he got a job as a printer and part-time editor and writer at the Hannibal Western Union, but Clemens temporarily abandoned newspapers in 1857 when, at 21, he was taken on as a cub-pilot aboard a steamboat. It was a dream he had nurtured for years as he watched the whistle-tooting vessels call three times a day at Hannibal.

Two years later he was a qualified pilot and immensely enjoying his highly paid work plying the shoals and channels of the great river. Sadly for him, but fortunately for literature, it was not to last. The Civil War broke out in 1861 and civilian traffic on the river was stopped.

So that year he boarded a stagecoach and headed for Nevada and California hoping to find a vein of gold or silver. He failed, and in 1862, needing a job, he became a reporter on the Territorial Enterprise. There, he began churning out news stories and sketches, adopting his now celebrated pen-name, derived from a call on the riverboats when measuring the depth of the water. It was considered that a steamboat needed a depth of 12 feet for safe passage and this was represented by the second mark on a line thrown overboard to gauge the river depth. When the safety mark was indicated, the call “Mark Twain” (mark two) was shouted out.

Another of Mark Twain’s epigrams decreed that “there are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.”

But perhaps his most famous quote came after a newspaper mistakenly published his obituary. Twain is alleged to have quipped: “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Sad though it is to debunk a myth, Twain never actually said that. Well, not quite. What happened was that in May, 1897 journalist Frank Marshall White of the New York Journal contacted Twain who was on tour in London for comment about reports that the writer was on his deathbed.

Twain replied: “I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about. I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. A cousin was ill in London two or three weeks ago, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Samuel Clemens certainly belonged to the group of people who accomplish things. Just before he died he wrote: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together; they must go out together’.”

His wish was granted. Clemens died of a heart attack the day after the comet appeared at its brightest in 1910.

6 May 2021 – INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE TITANIC

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G’day folks,

We’ve all heard about it, but here are some interesting facts.

April 15, 1912 — On her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, the passenger liner Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on this day in history, resulting in the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster.

Five days earlier the toweringly impressive ship — eleven storeys high, a sixth of a mile long and weighing 46,328 gross tons — slipped her moorings at Southampton to the cheers of awestruck crowds. She was the pride of the White Star Line, the biggest ship the world had seen, and certainly the best.

 For a single crossing the “millionaire suites” cost up to £870 ($1,200) — equivalent to about £44,000 ($62,000) today — and were designed, as one newspaper reported, “for the financial giants of our time: men who could lightly pay for this single voyage the year’s keep of ten British families.”

There was no shortage of takers for the ship’s wondrous facilities. Leaders of industry, finance and commerce and figures from British and European aristocracy were joined by members of some of the wealthiest families in the United States.

They included Benjamin Guggenheim, whose fortune lay in mining, smelting and banking; Isidor Straus, whose money came from commerce and banking and his partnership in the famous Macy’s department store; George Widener, son of tramway magnate P A B Widener, said to be the wealthiest man in Philadelphia; Charles Melville Hays, president of the Canadian Grand Truck Railroad; and John Jacob Astor, perhaps unkindly described by one journalist as “the world’s greatest monument to unearned income.”

Astor had divorced in 1909 and two years later, at the age of 45, married 18-year-old Madeleine Force, a girl younger than his son, Vincent. Society was outraged and Astor went abroad with his young bride to escape criticism. They were now returning, Madeleine five months’ pregnant and Astor anxiously wondering if he would be able to regain his old position in New York society.

They and some 2,200 other souls were enjoying their sumptuous surroundings when, at 11.40pm on the fifth night out, lookout Fred Fleet, peering from the crow’s nest into a calm, clear night bursting with stars, spotted something directly ahead.

Walter Lord, in his book A Night to Remember, tells dramatically what happened next: “At first it was small, but every second it grew larger and closer. Quickly, Fleet banged the crow’s nest bell three times — the warning of danger ahead. At the same time he phoned the bridge. ‘What did you see?’ asked a calm voice at the other end. ‘Iceberg right ahead,’ replied Fleet.

“For the next 37 seconds Fleet watched the ice draw nearer. Now they were almost on top of it and still the ship didn’t turn. The ‘berg towered wet and glistening far above the forecastle deck and Fleet braced himself for a crash. Then, miraculously, the bow began to swing to port. At the last second the stern shot into the clear and the ice scraped swiftly by along the starboard side. It looked to Fleet like a close shave.”

He was mistaken. The jarring of a collision brought Captain Edward J Smith rushing from his cabin to the bridge, resulting in an exchange recounted at the subsequent inquiry in New York: “Mr Murdoch, what was that?”

“An iceberg, sir. I hard-a-starboarded and reversed the engines and I was going to hard-a-port around it, but she was too close.”

“Close the emergency doors,” Smith snapped. But First Officer William Murdoch had already thrown the switch that sent the massive doors crashing into place. The ship was divided into 16 watertight compartments which could be sealed by these doors in the event of an accident. This feature, in addition to the Titanic’s double bottom, prompted the Shipbuilder magazine to describe the great vessel, in what turned out to be a haunting epitaph, as “practically unsinkable.”

More colourfully, passenger Mrs Albert Caldwell, who boarded at Southampton, remembered asking a crewman if the ship really was safe. “Lady,” he replied, “God himself could not sink this ship.”

Thomas Andrews, managing director of Harland & Wolff, builders of the ship, made a tour of inspection and found that the first five compartments were flooding, suggesting a 300ft gash.

Andrews, wrote Walter Lord, explained to the captain what this meant: “The Titanic can float with any two of her 16 compartments flooded. She can even float with her first four compartments gone, but she cannot float with her first five compartments full.

“The bow will sink so low that water in the fifth compartment must overflow into the sixth. When this is full, it will overflow into the seventh, and so on. It is a mathematical certainty — the ship is doomed.”

As the crew began loading passengers into the pitifully few lifeboats, Second Officer Charles Lightoller was supervising the loading on a strict “women and children only” basis. He was at the centre of a much reported incident when John Jacob Astor helped his wife into boat No 4 then asked if he could join her. “She is,” he said, “in a delicate position.”

“No, sir,” Lightoller told him. “No men are allowed in these boats until the women are loaded first.” Astor had a fortune of $4,250 cash in his pocket at this time. “It was about as much use to him,” wrote Geoffrey Marcus in The Maiden Voyage, “as the $150 million he possessed ashore.”

There were 16 lifeboats, plus four “collapsibles”. Altogether, they could carry 1,178 people. But there were more than 2,200 aboard the Titanic.

One man who did step into a boat — he insisted at the subsequent British and American inquiries that it was being lowered, there was room in it and there was no one else around — was the White Star Line chairman J Bruce Ismay.

He later came under fierce criticism, summed up by Rear Admiral A T Mahan, speaking to reporters: “So long as there was a soul that could be saved, the obligation lay upon Mr Ismay that that one person — and not he — should have been in the boat.”

While the drama was unfolding, members of the ship’s orchestra helped to keep up morale by playing ragtime tunes. One of the myths that grew was that as the ship went down the musicians played the hymn Nearer My God to Thee.

13 May 2021 – NAT KING COLE’S STRUGGLE WITH RACISM

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G’day folks,

February 15, 1965Nat King Cole, who died on this day, possessed a unique soft baritone voice which, to use the title of one of his most famous songs, was “Unforgettable”. But despite his talent and huge success as a recording artist his short life was plagued by incidents of racial discrimination.

Born in 1919, at the age of four he began learning to play the piano with help from his mother, a church choir director in their home town of Montgomery, Alabama.

At 15, he dropped out of school to become a jazz pianist. Cole said he “played piano at almost every beer joint from San Diego to Bakersfield”. Legend has it that at one of the venues a drunken customer jammed a paper hat onto the pianist’s head and proclaimed, “Look! King Cole!” The name stuck.

He made his first professional recordings in 1936 and the following year put together what would become the King Cole Trio.

By the 1950s, Nat King Cole emerged as a popular solo performer with numerous hits including “Mona Lisa”, “Smile” and “Unforgettable”. He was to sell a total of 50 million records during his career.

He said later: “I started out to become a jazz pianist but in the meantime I started singing and I sang the way I felt and that’s just the way it came out.”

In 1956 he became the first African-American performer to host a variety TV series – The Nat King Cole Show, which featured leading performers of the day. But it was scrapped the following year, Cole blaming its demise on the lack of a national sponsor.

This was seen as a reflection of the racial issues of the time, no company wanting to back a show featuring African-American entertainers. Cole later quipped: “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.”

It was also in 1956 that Cole experienced racial discrimination in its most savage form. British music paper New Musical Express reported on April 13: “One of the world’s most talented and respected singing stars, Nat King Cole, was the victim of a vicious attack by a gang of four men at Birmingham, Alabama, during his performance at a concert on Tuesday.

“His assailants rushed down the aisles during his second number and clambered over the footlights. They knocked Nat down with such force that he hit his head and back on the piano stool, and they then dragged him into the auditorium.

“Police rushed from the wings and were just in time to prevent the singer from being badly beaten up.” 

In her book, “Talking Swing, the British Big Bands”, Sheila Tracy recalls that the Ted Heath Orchestra – one of the star British acts of the time – were touring with Nat on that tour. She quotes saxophonist Ronnie Chamberlain as saying:

“We were booked to play in Birmingham, Alabama, and the guys in Nat’s trio were absolutely scared stiff, saying, ‘We don’t want to go there, man.’ Recalling the attack on Cole, Chamberlain said: “I felt really sick and went outside and puked, it frightened me so much. Poor Nat was in a terrible state.”

Though this was an extreme incident, Cole had become used to – and philosophical about – racial discrimination. In 1948 he bought a house at the exclusive all-white Hancock Park development in Los Angeles, where former residents included Howard Hughes, Katharine Hepburn and Mae West.

The Ku Klux Klan responded by placing a burning cross on his front lawn. Members of the property-owners association told Cole they did not want any undesirables moving into the area.

Cole famously retorted: ”Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I’ll be the first to complain.”

He continued to live in the house until his death in 1965. A heavy smoker, Cole was just 45 when he died of lung cancer.

From Clancy Tucker: GILLETTE, Facts about the Razor King

10 April 2021 – GILETTE – FACTS ABOUT THE RAZOR KING

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GILETTE

 – FACTS ABOUT THE RAZOR KING –

G’day folks,

January 5, 1855 — Safety razor pioneer King Camp Gillette, who was born on this day, may have made millions from his business but he was a Utopian Socialist at heart.

So much so that he dreamed of the day when all industry would be taken over by a single corporation owned by the public, and that everyone in the United States would live in a giant city called Metropolis powered by Niagara Falls.

Gillette envisaged setting up a company to make this vision come true and offered Theodore Roosevelt a million dollars if he would run the operation. The former President declined.

Ancestors of the strangely named King Camp Gillette were French Huguenots who moved to England, then in the 17th Century to the newly established Massachusetts Bay Colony. After King was born in 1855 the family moved from Wisconsin, where they had settled, to Chicago, where he was raised.

He became a travelling salesman of hardware and in 1895, while honing a “cut-throat” razor so that he could shave before starting work, he thought how much better it would be to avoid this dangerous and tedious daily task by using a replaceable razor.

Men had been grappling with the problem for centuries. Prehistoric cave drawings show that clam shells, sharpened flints and even shark’s teeth had been used for shaving. Gillette’s ideas were rather more sophisticated, even if they were not new.

The first safety razor was in fact invented in the 1880s by the Kampfe Brothers of New York, and as writer Brennan Kilbane of Allure magazine noted: “Gillette did not invent the razor, nor the safety razor, nor the concept of disposable blades, but he was the first to patent it. His economic legacy is best felt in the frustration that heats your face when you realise your $22 razor blade set requires you to continually repurchase a $36 eight-pack of refills.”

This all stems from advice given to the young entrepreneurial Gillette by an employer: “Invent something that will be used and thrown away so that the customer will keep coming back.”

Gillette’s disposable blades created a new and lucrative retail concept in which razors were sold quite cheaply so that consumers would be locked into the need to continuously purchase relatively expensive blades. The selling technique would become known as the ‘razor and blades model’ and is perhaps most associated today with the printers and ink market.

In its first year of trading in 1903, the Gillette Safety Razor Company sold 51 razors and 168 blades. By the end of 1904, it had produced 90,000 razors and 12,400,000 blades. Gillette’s innovative sales strategy – selling the razors at a loss but making profit on the blades – would turn him into a multi-millionaire.

The fabulously wealthy King Camp Gillette died in 1932, aged 77. Today, the highly successful Gillette brand is owned by the US-based multi-national Procter & Gamble company which purchased the business in 2005 for a staggering $57 billion.

Reblogged from the Wonderful Hunter S. Jones

Medicine, Magic and Music

/ Hunter S. Jones

The Healing Properties of Music Observed in the Lives of

Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots & Elizabeth I

by

Hunter S. Jones

When we think of Tudor England, various images flash through our mind. Kings, many queens, dashing courtiers, spies, and ruthless intrigues enter the mix. Add a dash of Renaissance fashion and religious upheaval and you have a heady, or often headless, concoction of brutality and inspiration. All at the same time. Tudor England was the springboard into The Empire and the seed of the modern world.

We look at the savagery and dogged pursuit of the throne by the ‘long shot’ king, Henry VII. His surviving son, Henry VIII changed the face of Europe forever when he founded the Church of England. His daughter, another ‘long shot’ set the standard for today’s world through industry, exploration and education.

The medical arts were vastly different in the Tudor era than they are today. Due to religious practices of the time, it was unheard of to dissect a human body following death. Because of this there was a limited amount known about the causes and cures for disease at that time. There was little knowledge with regards to how the human body functioned at all. Tudor physicians thought the body was made up of four fluids or ‘humours’. The humors were blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile), and melancholy (black bile). In a healthy person of the Tudor Era, all four humours were considered to be balanced. However, if you had too much of one of the humours, the body was out of balance and illness manifested.

Personality was affected by the humours. People with too much blood were sanguine-or ardent and hopeful. (In America today, this would translate as hot blooded.) Those with too much phlegm were considered or dull and apathetic. Choler, those who suffered from yellow bile, where peevish and ill tempered. Melancholiacs were the depressed and unhappy. They suffered from black bile.  There should be a balance of humours – warm/cold, dry/moist – because a surplus or a deficit of the humours caused sickness. An overabundance of blood caused fever but bleeding the patient could restore wellness. Purging with was common. Physicians would counsel on diets if necessary, since food was considered medicinal if prepared properly.

  • Blood was the humour of spring, passion, air and childhood
  • Yellow bile belonged to summer, anger, fire and youth
  • Black bile was linked to a sluggish personality, autumn, earth and adulthood
  • Phlegm was associated with winter, melancholy, water and old age.

The humours had so many characteristics that they became useful for explaining many aspects of daily life. Humoral thinking was linked to astrology, physiognomy and even music.

The English and Welsh belief of the Medieval Mystical Tradition, especially by females, is well known through literature. Think of the tales of Avalon and the importance of women in these stories. So it continued throughout the Middle Ages and into the English Renaissance, ushered in by the Tudor Dynasty. There was a thin veil between Magic and medicine during the reign of the Tudor monarchs. What we see as magic seemed perfectly logical and even scientific to that era. Magic often contained ideas which were accepted practices by all levels of society. Knights told of balms, called “weapon salves” which would protect them and even heal them if they were applied before a battle. Then as now, the belief in the cure often aids the patient in healing. They called it Magic or medicine; now we call it science.

Likewise, astrology was not a form of entertainment. It was a highly respected medical theory taught at the universities. It could be seen by watching the tides, the mating seasons of animals and the growth of plants seeded at certain planetary cycles. In Tudor times, astrology was considered a science. It was considered the most exact science since it revealed the planets as they circled the earth. During the Tudor era, it was believed that the sun, moon and planets circled the earth. With that in mind, the King was the centre of their universe. When Henry VIII was ill, his physicians treated him with herbs, he even kept an apothecary cabinet in his quarters. Astrology charts, or star maps as they were known then, would be drawn to decipher the best medical treatment for his leg or his various other ailments. The same practice was used for any patient which could afford it.

When a patient visited a physician, the visit would begin by asking for your date of birth. From there, your horoscope would be cast via a star map. Then a horoscope would be cast for the exact moment your ailment began, so that the physician could cast the horoscope of the illness and relate it to that of the patient. In prescribing medications, the healer would ask which parts of the body were affected because each area of the body comes under the influence of different planets. You would be treated according to which planet ruled the medicine best suited to your ailment. Astrology had an important placement in Tudor life as well as Tudor medicine.

Herbs were the best known cure for any physical ailment and have been used as cures since ancient times. Those who grew plants for medicine would plant seeds at the new moon and harvest at the full moon to get the greatest benefits from them. It was part of the education of any physician. Young Tudor women learned to mix potions, or ‘simples’ as they were called. These women would have great expertise in the healing properties of different herbs. As a general rule, the wise women were taught with traditions handed down from their mothers and grandmothers. Herbs and the healing chants of the wise woman were the most cost effective medical route for the majority of Tudor households. One Tudor headache cure for a headache was to drink a potion of lavender, sage, majoram, roses and rue. Another cure? To press a hangman’s rope to your head. The physicians, then as now, were considered the most learned scholars yet the average household could not affordable this luxury, hence the need for the wise women in the communities.

To heal a toothache, the wise woman would write ‘Jesus Christ for mercy’s sake, take away this toothache’ three times before saying the words aloud and then burning the paper. Another cure for a fever was for the healer to write ‘Arataly, Rataly, Ataly, Taly, aly, Ly’ on paper, and wrap the paper around the patients arm for nine days. Each day the patient was to say three paternosters to St. Peter and St. Paul. At the end of the ninth day, they were to remove the paper and burn it.

We have a basic understanding of how medicine worked during the Tudor Era, now let’s concentrate on maintaining the balance of melancholia. Music was thought to be the best way to keep the humours in an harmonious state. Three queens during the Tudor Era had a great love of music. This led to the downfall of two of the queens, and it possibly enabled the third one to maintain her status and keep her head, both literally and figuratively. The first queen we will note is Queen Anne Boleyn.

Anne Boleyn is the most well-known of King Henry VIII’s wives. Her captivation of the King became his obsession. For seven years he pursued her and practically destroyed or denied any and everyone who stood in his way. This was to change the political and religious landscape of England forever. For Anne, the King was willing to divorce his first Queen, break with the Catholic Church, establish and make himself Head of the Church of England. What should have been history’s most enduring fairy tale romance became one of love’s most enigmatic nightmares when, after achieving his ambitions, and only three years of marriage, Henry VIII had Anne executed on multiple charges of adultery, including her brother George Viscount Rochford and the musician Mark Smeaton.

Anne is believed to have been born in the early years of the 16th century in Blickling Hall. In 1513 she became a maid in honor in the household of Margaret of Austria, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I. Margaret was famous for her patronage of musicians and she owned an extensive musical library, which was a rarity for the time. Anne’s father eventually arranged for her to move the French court where she attended Henry VIII’s sister Mary, who was to marry Louis XII. She later served the French Queen Claude, staying in France until she returned to England in 1522.

Her early years in the great courts of Europe shaped her later interests in music and fashion. Because of these influences, she developed interests in various segments of the arts-poetry, dance, and literature. Anne Boleyn’s most famous legacies, besides her daughter, are fashion and the games of flirtation. Her greatest pastime by all recorded accounts was music, she was an accomplished lute player.

A songbook believed to have been owned and used by Anne Boleyn has survived. It is housed in the Royal College of Music, London. Its origin is debatable, and the only evidence that the book of 42 songs was ever owned or near Anne Boleyn is an inscription, written in what is described as an early 16th-century English handwriting: “Mistres ABolleyne nowe thus”.  This signature is followed by musical notes. She is called “mistress” which indicates this was written before she became queen in 1533; “nowe thus” was the motto of her father, Thomas Boleyn, which would also imply that she was unwed.

There is evidence of the songbook’s connection with Anne Boleyn due to the compositions included. The late historian Eric Ives suggested that some of the book’s contents belong to the period around 1527 when Henry and Anne were openly courting, and making plans for a future together. These musical themes lie within the compositions found in the songbook. Flemish and French musicians who Anne would have known about in her early years in the European courts are included, the most represented are John Mouton and the Josquin Desprez.

One song, Jouyssance vous donneray was extremely popular during the period and the words must have had a significance with Anne and Henry due to the words ‘I will give you pleasure, my dear … everything will be good for those who wait’ – there is a suggestion that this is a song that Anne herself sang to Henry, and this seems completely believable. The song is preserved near the end of the book and noted in a hand writing style of English origin. The lyrics were composed by the French court poet Clément Marot, who gifted Anne Boleyn with a copy of his Le Pastor evangélique, at her coronation in 1533.

The poem included a prophecy that Anne would provide Henry with a son, must have pleased both bride and groom greatly on the day, but as history has shown, proved to be her undoing. Her love of music also played a role in her downfall. Towards the end of April 1536, musician Mark Smeaton was secretly arrested. He initially denied being the Queen’s lover but later confessed, perhaps he was tortured or promised freedom, according to popular legends. During the May Day festivities, it appears the King was notified of Smeaton’s confession and the alleged conspirators were arrested upon his orders.

Henry Norris was arrested on May Day and denied his guilt, and swearing that Queen Anne was innocent. The most damaging evidence against Norris was an overheard conversation with Anne at the end of April. Sir Francis Weston was arrested two days later on the same charge, as was William Brereton, a Groom of the King’s Privy Chamber. The final accused was Queen Anne’s brother, George Boleyn, arrested on charges of incest and treason.

On 2 May 1536, Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London by barge. By May 17th she was convicted of high treason, incest and adultery. She was beheaded by order of King Henry VIII on the morning of May 19, 1536. 

Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, was Queen of Scotland from December 1542 to July 1567 and Queen Consort of France from July 1559 until December 1560.

Mary was the daughter of King James V of Scotland and Marie of Guise, a member of the House of Guise, which played a significant role in 16th-century French politics. Mary was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V and she acceded to the throne when her father died. She was six days old. She spent the majority of her childhood in France while Scotland was ruled by regents along, and in 1558 she married the Dauphin of France. He became King Francis II in 1559, and Mary was briefly Queen Consort, until his death in December 1560. The young widow returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on August 19, 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, but their union was unhappy. In February 1567, his residence was destroyed by an explosion and Darnley was found murdered in the garden.

James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, was thought to be the master-mind behind Darnley’s death, however he was acquitted of the charge in April 1567. Twelve days later he married Mary. It has always been a question as to whether the marriage was one of force or whether she agreed or not. Another theory is that she was in complete agreement with the marriage.

Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. On July 24, 1567, she was forced to abdicate in favor of James, her one-year-old son by Darnley, her deceased husband. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southwards seeking the protection of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Mary had previously claimed Elizabeth’s throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics. Unsure of what to do with the capricious Mary, and with many of her counselors perceiving her as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in manor houses in the interior of England. After eighteen and a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth, and was subsequently beheaded.

Mary remains a controversial figure in history. There are a few things we know for certain. She was tall-citations note anywhere from 5’ 10” to six feet tall, her grandmother was King Henry VIII’s sister Margaret, she was the mother of James I and VI of England and Scotland, and she was considered beautiful in her own time and by our contemporary standards. As an old adage states, someone that beautiful has to be guilty, and Mary Stuart is quite possibly the best example of that statement in history. He married her handsome English cousin Henry, Lord Darnley, a reckless match which she later regretted.

She loved music and was skilled at playing both the lute and viola. Two of her favorite activities were music and dancing, which was shunned by the strict Protestant Calvinist beliefs of John Knox, the head of the Scottish Kirk (Church). The powerful Scottish Lairds (Nobles) were increasingly becoming members of the Scottish Kirk and frowned upon her practices as well. A truce of sorts was reached in which Mary and her court could enjoy their Catholic Masses in private. The young Queen and her entourage, known as the Four Maries, were allowed to enjoy their masquerades and merry making within the confines of the castles at the Queen’s state events. Knox felt that the young queen, and her love of dance and music had turned the royal enclaves into brothels, rather than places for honest women.   

The turning point for in Mary Stuart’s life came with the death of David Rizzio. He was an Italian courtier and musician, who rose to become the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, is said to have been jealous of their friendship. Darnley joined in a conspiracy of Protestant nobles, led by Patrick Ruthven, Lord Ruthven, to murder him. This murder became the catalyst for the downfall of Darnley, and it had serious consequences for Mary’s turbulent career.

Rizzio, whose name appears in records as David Riccio di Pancalieri in Piemonte went from Turin, Italy to the Court of the Duke of Savoy, at Nice, France. Finding no opportunities for advancement there, he was employed by the Count de Moretto in 1561, who was leading a diplomatic mission to Scotland. Once in Scotland, Rizzio, found that there were no further opportunities for him and he was dismissed from service. He ingratiated himself with the Queen’s French musicians. James Melville, a personal friend of Rizzio, said that “Her Majesty had three valets in her chamber, who sung three parts, and wanted a bass to sing the fourth part”. Rizzio was considered an excellent singer, which brought him to the attention of the Queen.

Having grown wealthy under her patronage, he became the secretary for relations with France in 1564, after the previous secretary of the post retired. This post attracted a quarterly salary of £20. Ambitious-seeing himself as all but a Secretary of State, Catholic and a foreigner, Rizzio was much too close to the Queen. Rumors swirled that Mary was having an affair with the Italian Fiddler, as some called him and that her child was possibly his.

Jealousy on the part of the vain and arrogant Lord Darnley led to his murder in the Queen’s presence, in her supper chamber in the Palace of Holyroodhouse after the royal guards were overpowered and the palace was turned over to the control of the rebels. Commanded by Patrick Ruthven, they demanded Rizzio be handed over. The Queen refused. Rizzio then hid behind Mary but was seized and stabbed to death in the presence of the Queen. He was stabbed 56 times on March 9, 1566 by Lord Darnley and his co-conspirators. The Queen was seven months pregnant at the time of the murder.

After this violent struggle, Rizzio’s body was thrown down the main staircase, stripped of its jewels and fine clothes. He was buried within two hours in the cemetery of Holyrood. Records state that his body was removed by the Queen’s orders and deposited in the sepulchre of the Kings of Scotland.

Mary’s turbulent life continued. Lord Darnley was dead with a year, and a few years later the beautiful Scottish Queen escaped into England in hopes of being rescued from her own nobles by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. This ended badly as well, with her execution in 1587 on charges of high treason against her cousin. And it all began because she wanted a fourth musician in her chamber. It should be noted that her son was born heathy and although he was taken from her at an early age, he eventually become King James VI and I, the first Stewart King of Great Britain.

Elizabeth I
Coronation Portrait

The last Tudor monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Her early life went from Princess to being declared illegitimate after her mother was executed. At one point, her sister Mary had her placed in The Tower on charges of treason. Elizabeth was never expected to rule England, but she did. Many would say her reign is unmatched in the history of England. She became Gloriana…Good Queen Bess…The Virgin Queen.

The years of 1558–1603 saw English art and high culture reach a zenith known as the English Renaissance. Elizabethan music experienced a shift in popularity from sacred to secular music and saw an increase in instrumental music. Professional musicians were employed by the Church of England, the nobility, and the rising middle-class. Elizabeth I loved music and was an accomplished musician, noted as played the lute, virginal, and gittern-an early form of the guitar, along with various other instruments. She believed dancing was a great form of physical exercise and employed musicians to play for her. During her reign, it became a common practice to employee musicians. The interests of the queen were expected to be adopted by her subjects. All noblemen were expected to be proficient in playing the lute and young women in society were expected to be skilled in vocal or musical training as part of their education. Music printing led to a publishing market for those who received permission from the queen.

Even though England broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, English did not become the official language of the Church of England until the reign of Elizabeth’s stepbrother Edward VI. Queen Elizabeth re-established the Church of England following the rule of Mary I, and introduced measures of Catholic tolerance. The most famous composers for the Anglican Church during Queen Elizabeth’s reign were Thomas Tallis and his student William Byrd. Both composers were Catholics and produced vocal works in both Latin and English.

Secular vocal works became wildly popular during the Elizabethan Era with the introduction of works from Italian musicians.The music of Italian madrigal composers inspired musicians who are now known as the English Madrigal School. Thomas Morley, a student of William Byrd’s, published collections of madrigals which included his compositions, and those of his contemporaries. The most famous of these is entitled The Triumphs of Oriana, which was made in honour of Queen Elizabeth.

Gitterne 
Courtesy ©Trustees of the British Museum

Instrumental music was popular during the Elizabethan Era. The most popular solo instruments of the time were the virginal and the lute. The virginal was a variant of the harpsichord, and one of Elizabeth’s personal favorites. The lute was the most popular instrument of the era. Lutes could be played as solo instruments or as accompaniment for singers. Compositions of the latter variety were known as lute song. The most popular Elizabethan composer for the lute was John Dowland. Contemporary readers will recognize this name as Elvis Costello included a recording of Dowland’s song “Can she excuse my wrongs” as a bonus track on the 2006 re-release of his The Juliet Letters.

In October 2006, Sting, released an album featuring Dowland’s songs titled Songs from the Labyrinth, in collaboration with Edin Karamazov on lute and archlute. He states that he has been fascinated by the music of John Dowland for over twenty five years. In order to give a feeling of the tension and intrigues of life in late Elizabethan England, Sting recites portions of a letter written by Dowland to Sir Robert Cecil in 1593.

Henry VIII’s grandmother and his father (Lady Margaret Beaufort and King Henry VII) were devout Catholics, yet they were highly superstitious. Both kept a retinue of soothsayers and diviners in their employment, along with their physicians. They aimed to be of one accord with the planets and signs from the heavens. Elizabeth I even chose the exact moment of her coronation based on an astrology chart drawn by her physician John Dee. The Tudors believed that “as above, so below”. If the royal humors were balanced within the body, their body would be in tune with the heavenly realm. We see how the love of music shaped the lives of three extremely influential queens during the Tudor era. We may no longer believe that music is needed to balance our ‘humours’ however the importance of music and dance, in all its various forms, continues to shape contemporary society.

Originally published April 2016 by History.Net

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Sources:

Calendar of State Papers, Scotland, page 613.

Buchanan, George. Rerum Scoticarum Historia. Edinburgh, 1582.

Fraser, Antonia. Mary, Queen of Scots. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969.

Hawkins, Sir John, A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, Volume 2. J. Alfred Novello, 1853.

Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. Blackwell Press, 2005.

Page, Christopher. The Guitar in Tudor England: A Social and Musical History. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Starkey, David. Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne. Harper Perennial, 2007.

Weir, Alison. The Life of Elizabeth I. Ballantine Books, 1998.

Oxford University, Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera. Special thanks to this site for allowing glimpses into the astrological charts compiled by the Elizabethan astrologers/physicians, John Dee and Simon Forman.

 “500 Years Later” by CR Chalmers and EJ Chaloner, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Royal Society of Medicine Press.

“King Henry VIII’s Medical World” by Dr. Elizabeth T Hurren, Senior Lecturer History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University.

4 April 2021 – THE BIRTH OF THE BEATLES

Reblogged from Clancy Tucker

CLICK ON THE PICTURE BELOW TO GO TO THE ORIGINAL POST BY CLANCY TUCKER

G’day folks,

We’ve all heard rumours over the years, but here is a good one laid to rest.

January 1, 1962 — On this day, the Beatles – scruffy, clad in leather and unknown outside their home town of Liverpool – travelled through snow in a van for 220 miles to make a recording audition in London. And they were turned down.

In charge at the Decca studios where the audition was held was senior A&R man Dick Rowe. His assistant, Mike Smith, had seen the Beatles perform at what was to become the famous Cavern Club and had put forward the audition suggestion to their manager, Brian Epstein.

 It lasted about an hour and the Beatles – John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and the original drummer, Pete Best – performed 15 songs. They were nervous and the session did not go particularly well but Smith told them afterwards that he “saw no problems” and they would have a decision “in a few weeks”.

Epstein let the “few weeks” pass, then, fed up with waiting, phoned Rowe and asked for a decision. It was not what he expected. “Groups with guitars are on the way out,” Rowe allegedly said, adding that he believed “the Beatles have no future in show business”.

Rowe, who died in 1986, always denied the story, saying it was actually Mike Smith who turned down the Fab Four. Another group, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, also had an audition on the same day and according to Rowe: “I told Mike he’d have to decide between them. It was up to him – the Beatles or the Tremeloes. He said, ‘They’re both good, but one’s a local group, the other comes from Liverpool.’ We decided it was better to take the local group. We could work with them more easily and stay closer in touch.”

Whoever made the decision, Rowe went on to redeem himself by subsequently signing, among others, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Moody Blues, the Small Faces and Tom Jones.

And on musical grounds, maybe it was the right verdict. Years later, George Martin, the Beatles’ legendary producer at EMI, said that he, too, would have turned them down on the basis of the mediocre Decca audition tape.

Another Interesting Tidbit from Clancy Tucker

25 March 2021 – WHO WAS THIS UNKNOWN FRENCH WOMAN?

Click on the picture below to go to the original Clancy Tucker blog post:

 WHO WAS THIS

 UNKNOWN

 FRENCH WOMAN?

G’day folks,

Sometime in the late 19th century, the drowned body of a young woman was recovered from the Seine in Paris. As was customary in those days, the body was put on display at the Paris mortuary, in the hope that someone would recognize and identify her.

 Although no one came forward, she did catch the eye of one pathologist, who became so entranced by the girl’s face and her mysterious half-smile that he asked a molder to take a plaster cast of her face. The mask, which some refer to as the ‘drowned Mona Lisa’ or ‘L’Inconnue’ became a cultural phenomenon, inspiring artists like Louis Aragon, Man Ray, and Vladimir Nabokov, to imagine stories around the mystery woman. 

 But what really immortalized the face of L’Inconnue, and where you probably recognize her form is this: a Norwegian toy manufacturer specializing in soft plastic created the first CPR mannequin — using the unknown woman’s face. He drew inspiration from a replica of the mask hanging in his parent’s home. His creation is now the standard CPR doll model, dubbed Rescue Annie.

Some More History from Clancy Tucker

THE GREAT PONZI SCANDAL

G’day folks,

Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant, made an incredible fortune on one of history’s greatest deceptions. In fact, his method was so effective, that the government named this type of fraud after him – the Ponzi scheme. 

In 1920, Ponzi tricked thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamps speculation scheme. He managed to attract investors to put funds into international postal reply coupons, slips of paper that post offices would exchange for stamps. 

Currency exchange rates were in flux after the Great War, and Ponzi claimed that enormous profits could be made by purchasing coupons with undervalued liras or francs and redeeming them in the United States. Each time a new investor gave him money, he’d use those funds to pay off earlier investors, creating the illusion they were profiting from a legitimate business. At the peak of his scam, Ponzi raked in $250,000 a day, an amount equivalent to about $3 million today.

This house of cards collapsed in August of 1920 when Ponzi was exposed as a convicted forger by the Boston Post, and the US Postal Service confirmed that no one was exchanging postal reply coupons in the massive volumes needed to generate such profits. Ponzi was charged with 86 counts of mail fraud. Surprisingly, he was only sentenced to 5 years in federal prison.