Tag Archives: Queen Victoria

FAMILY UNIT – FOUNDATION OF SOCIETY

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“Lark Rise to Candleford” is a BBC series set in 1895.   It’s about two geographically close communities, one poor and the other fairly affluent, and how characters inter-act with each other.   The series started in 2008 and ran for four seasons.

My wife and I have been watching it when time permits.   We are now halfway through the third season.

We usually watch it after the latest episode of “Agatha Raisin,” set in contemporary England.   Shown originally on Sky TV and filmed in the Cotswolds, one of the most beautiful areas in the country, Agatha Raisin is an amateur detective (Agatha! Get it?), who has moved from London to the Cotswolds for a change of pace.   She must be having second thoughts as the small village she lives in has at least one murder per week.   Every murder is tastefully done – no extreme violence here, no, not in England.   No guns.

The two series could not be more different.   We unhesitatingly recommend the former, but are not likely to continue to watch the latter.

In 1895 the residents of Lark Rise and Candleford all lived in accordance with strict societal rules.   These included biblical standards of morality.   This cannot be said about the residents in Agatha Raisin’s village, or even of Agatha herself.   Agatha Christie would be appalled. And Queen Victoria would certainly not have been amused!

What a difference 120 years has made to the family and morality.

Pause for a moment and think of how much it has cost us on both sides of the Atlantic.

The high costs of welfare are largely to cover-up the breakdown of the family system in this new liberal age.   These welfare rolls have put us on a toboggan slide to insolvency.   They have also added to the violence in our society as mothers often choose single parenthood over marriage as a way to get more benefits; boys without fathers are more inclined toward crime and violence.

A report from England two days ago highlighted how teenage girls there are increasingly unhappy.   Family breakdown leads to unhappiness and increases the likelihood of addictions and suicide.

The anti-biblical society we have created has put 65 million babies to death in the US alone, following the 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.   These 65 million have been replaced by an equal number of immigrants, many of whom make no attempt to assimilate, while some are openly hostile toward us. Aside from the moral consideration, wouldn’t it have been better to raise those 65 million babies to be productive members of society?   Faced with growing existential threats, they would also have added to our military strength; after all, the greatest strength is people, not technology.

Generous welfare benefits in western countries are also contributing to the migrant crisis, as hundreds of thousands of economic migrants are attracted to the West by all the freebies.  Not all are refugees fleeing wars and persecution.

It’s a complete mess.  It’s clearly time for a rethink.  It’s time to restore the family to its traditional role and reverse the role of the state.

Christians believe that God created the family system — “male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24).   To a certain extent, this is still a basic principle of our law – the marriage relationship takes precedence over other relationships.

However, what we fail to see is that within the biblical parameters we have the perfect welfare system.   For thousands of years, this was the foundation of every society, a family system in which the various members of a family helped and supported each other.   It is still the basic unit of most cultures around the world.

The irony is that, in the event of a financial collapse, which is inevitable at some point, we would see the family unit restored, as people would have to help each other again.

We might even see some sense come back into the financial system. One of the characters in the first season of “Lark Rise” is now serving time in debtors’ prison.   Until 1905, in Britain at least, people were sent to prison for their debts, until family members could save the money to pay off the debt and get them out.   Today, the accumulation of debt in the western world is no longer a crime – and it’s even legally possible for people to walk away from their debts. This cannot be good for the economy.

The more Biblically aware Victorians believed that “if a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10)   They would have been appalled at the very idea of state welfare.

Another scripture that influenced the Victorians was written by the Apostle Paul.   “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (I Timothy 5:8).

The family system was the foundation of society.   It’s taken quite a battering in the last century, but still survives – and will be needed once again in the event of a national or international calamity.

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“EMPIRE DAY” – A GREAT LOSS FOR THE WORLD

Empite flags

I meant to post this article on Tuesday the 24th but it was delayed by the arrival of our latest grandson, Hayden Hilario Rhodes Garza.  The baby was due to arrive June 9th.   Mother, father, brothers, and new little son are all doing well.   The grandparents are delighted.

Yesterday, May 24th, was Empire Day.

It’s no longer observed because there is no empire.

But, at one time, not so long ago, it was celebrated by people in more than a quarter of the world’s countries.

Seventy years ago, on June 8th, 1946, the British Empire celebrated one of its greatest moments, the victory one year before over fascism and Japanese imperialism.   Troops from all over the world were in London for a victory parade.   It was to be the Empire’s victory swan song.   As with other empires before it, it was broke after fighting two global conflicts, militarily over-extended and tired. We see a similar scenario today with the United States.

Empire Day began in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1901, the same year Queen Victoria died.  It was started by a local headmistress, Mrs. Clementine Fessenden, who wanted the children in her school to remember the deceased monarch and give thanks for all the achievements of the Empire during her reign.   They also chose Queen Victoria’s birthday, May 24th, to celebrate it.  One of those achievements was Canada’s independence in 1867.   Queen Victoria herself chose Ottawa as the nation’s capital.

In recent decades I’ve been able to visit many of Britain’s former colonies and lived in two of them.  I’ve always made it a point to ask older people how things compare now to the way they were prior to independence.   Without exception, everybody has replied that things were better under British rule.   They give different reasons. The lack of corruption in colonial times often comes up as many today are living in very corrupt societies.

I remember, almost forty years ago, listening to an elderly man in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) lecturing myself and my colleague on how the British Empire was the prophesied Kingdom of God.  It wasn’t, of course.  It was not perfect.   But many believed, including some in Rhodesia, that it was the fulfillment of biblical prophecies about Ephraim becoming “a multitude of nations” (Genesis 48: 19).   According to one historical account, this was widely believed in the trenches of World War One.   Ironically, it was that conflict that shattered faith in Empire.

Internationally, the end of the empire has left an incredible vacuum. Note the following prophetic paragraph written by America’s pre-eminent historian of the 1930’s, James Truslow Adams.   This paragraph concluded his history of “The British Empire 1784-1939.” It’s particularly interesting because it was written in the year that the British Empire went to war against Nazi Germany, while the United States remained neutral. Mr. Adams showed Americans what was at stake.

“In this world crisis, we in America have a great stake.  We know that stability is impossible without respect for law and order, for the honesty of the written and spoken word.   Without liberty of thought, speech and press, progress is impossible.   What these things mean to the world of today and tomorrow has been amply demonstrated by the negation of them in certain great nations during the past few years.  Different peoples may have different ideals of government but to those who have been accustomed to freedom of person and of spirit, the possible overthrow of the British Empire would be a catastrophe scarcely thinkable.   Not only would it leave a vacuum over a quarter of the globe into which all the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression could rush, but the strongest bulwark outside ourselves for our own safety and freedom would have been destroyed.” (page 358)

This is exactly what has happened.   This paragraph helps us understand the world we have been living in.   During the last seventy years, as the Empire fell apart, we have witnessed a world of endless upheaval and increasing threats to our own freedom and security.

Two regions in particular were kept in relative peace by British rule.   The Middle East was one; the North-West frontier of the Indian Empire, the Raj, was the other.   Today, these are areas where the peace of the world is constantly threatened.

Queen Victoria’s passing was a great loss for the Empire; but the collapse of the Empire itself has been a disaster every bit as great as the fall of Rome.

ACROSS THE POND

Queen's 2016 birthday

I’ve not been able to write much recently.   This is due to the fact that we moved house on Sunday.   Or, rather, I should say we moved the big, heavy items with the help of younger men from our church. For a month before that, we were moving small items ourselves.   Now, we still have to clear out our old house.  We have a few more days to do that and then things should get back to normal.  (Why is my wife laughing hysterically . . . ?)

Moving house later in life is more difficult.   Not only is lifting harder, especially after two major back surgeries and my wife’s cancer surgery.   But also we have accumulated more.   So this has been an opportunity to get rid of some things.   We still have a long way to go, though.   We must keep working on it.

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President Obama is in England as I write.  He’s upset a lot of people by urging the British to stay in the EU.   A referendum on the issue is due in two months.

The US president stated that fighting terrorism is more effective within the European Union.   This is debatable – the EU allows freedom of movement within the 28-member organization.   In itself, this encourages terrorism.

It should be noted that Switzerland is surrounded by the EU, but not a member and has not had one single terrorist incident.

It’s also true that the EU is not a security organization – NATO is.   There is no suggestion that Britain leave NATO.

Thirdly, it has always been the case that foreign leaders do not interfere in elections in other countries.   Is a new precedent being set here?   Can Mr. Cameron now come over to Washington and tell Americans not to vote for Trump?

Having said that, President Kennedy over 50 years ago, encouraged the United Kingdom to join what is now the European Union.   The reason is simple – Washington wants a reliable pro-American voice in the world’s biggest single market.

But how would Americans feel if they were part of an Americas Union, bringing all the nations of North and South America together in one bloc?   Would they willingly take orders from Havana and Caracas?   That’s exactly what the Brits are having to do as members of the EU.   Some member countries have lost considerable financial independence, as they have to wait for orders from Berlin.   Germany is the dominant power in the EU.   The Union is a socialist bloc that tries to control every aspect of daily life.   No wonder so many Brits want out.   The president should stay out of the debate and leave it to the British people, who have to subsidize the organization from their taxes each and every day.

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The Obamas arrived in London on the Queen’s 90th birthday.   They will be having lunch with her on Friday.   The official reason for their visit is to honor the Queen.   Mrs. Obama has expressed a desire to see the monarch’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.   A family photo was released this week showing four generations of monarchs sitting together – Queen Elizabeth and future monarchs Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George.   A similar picture was taken in the 1890’s of Queen Victoria with her oldest son, grandson and great-grandson (the future Edward VII, George V and Edward VIII).

No other British monarch has ever lived to be 90.   Nor has any other monarch reigned as long as the Queen.   The Queen’s marriage is also the longest ever royal marriage in history.   It’s interesting to note that out of 40 monarchs, the three most prominent ones have all been women, Elizabeth I, Victoria and Elizabeth II.

Commentators on BBC World yesterday expressed the opinion that the Queen’s longevity and famous devotion to duty owes a great deal to three things – good health, strong faith and Prince Philip, who turns 95 in June.   For the first time, a book on her faith is available for people to read.   It’s title is The Servant Queen and the King She Serves.   Hopefully, it will influence more of her subjects to reject the secular humanism that has brought so many evils into British society and look to Jesus Christ for solutions to their problems.   This is equally true for Commonwealth countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

In contrast to most world leaders the Queen sees herself as a servant.   She is no doubt familiar with the words of Jesus Christ who taught His disciples to be different to the leaders they saw around them.

”But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.   Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.   And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20: 25-28).

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Pat Buchanan has just written a column on “America’s Imperial Overstretch,” comparing the country’s present state to the last days of the British Empire.   Most people today are unaware that when the British monarch was born, the British Empire was the greatest power in the world.   At the start of her reign, Britain was still a very powerful country.   One of its greatest strengths was the Royal Navy. Now, there are so few ships, there are none available to protect the Falkland Islands from Argentina.   Nor are there any to defend Gibraltar.   The governments of the two colonies took the unusual step earlier this month of issuing a joint statement reminding potential aggressors (Argentina and Spain) that the United Nations charter calls for the “self-determination of peoples.”   The populations of both colonies want to remain British but Britain can’t or won’t defend them.

This is the future Americans have to look forward to – imperial decline on a massive scale.

Note Pat Buchanan’s comments:

“Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, this country has been steadily bled and slowly bankrupted. We are now as overextended as was the British Empire in the 1940s.

“And like that empire, we, too, are being challenged by nations that seek to enlarge their place in the sun — a resurrected Russia, China, Iran.   And we are being bedeviled by fanatics who want us out of their part of the world, which they wish to remake according to the visions of their own faiths and ideologies.  (“America’s Imperial Overstretch,” 4/14)

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President and Mrs. Obama arrived in England after visiting Saudi Arabia.  It was clear the Saudis are upset with the United States.   For decades the alliance between the two has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy.   Now that the US is cuddling up to Shi’ite Iran, the Saudis feel betrayed.   As one commentator put it – they don’t like playing the role of a rejected wife as the husband turns his attention to his new mistress, Tehran!   Divorce, however, is not considered an option. It is also the case that many Saudis (maybe most) are more enamored with IS than the US!

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!

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According to the BBC’s website:   “Almost all of Australia’s state and territory leaders have signed a document in support of the country becoming a republic.”

This follows republican Malcolm Turnbull replacing monarchist Tony Abbot as prime minister of Australia.   Both men are Liberals.  The Liberal Party in Australia is actually the nation’s conservative party.  Mr. Turnbull feels that this is not the time for a republic – it would be best to wait until the Queen’s reign ends.

Elizabeth II has been Queen of Australia for more than half the country’s existence as an independent nation.   Nobody speaks ill of the Queen, who has been a conscientious monarch, serving the country well.   But Australia has changed in the fifty years since the queen’s first Australian prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was in charge.   Sir Robert was an ardent monarchist who attended the coronation of the monarch in 1953.

At the time, Sir Winston Churchill was the British prime minister.  When the nine Commonwealth prime ministers met for their bi-annual conference, they spent a great deal of their time discussing defense matters.   The Korean War was ending and there were serious threats to the British Empire in Egypt, where the new radical government of Gamal Abdul Nasser wanted to gain control of the Suez Canal, a move that would later deal a fatal blow to the whole idea of empire.

Today, the Commonwealth has 53 members, almost all of whom are non-white and mostly have different ideals and priorities to the mother country.

Trade ties have declined with Britain’s industrial decline.  Australia now has closer ties with Asia than with Britain.

Demographic trends also mean that there are less people of British descent in Australia.

It’s interesting to note that the new Canadian prime minister feels very differently to Mr. Turnbull.  In December, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Malta for the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.   The BBC asked him if he had any plans to make Canada a republic, something his father favored when he was PM.  Justin Trudeau, thirty years later, replied:  “No, we are very happy with our Queen, the Queen of Canada.”   Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party is a left-wing party, so very different from Mr. Turnbull’s Liberal Party.

Why the difference in attitudes toward the Crown?

I suspect the answer lies in the word “identity.”

Canada was founded by Loyalists who did not want to be a part of the new American Republic after the American Revolution.   They asked for independence in 1864 while the US was fighting a Civil War.  They did not think much of the American form of government, adopting a system more in line with Great Britain.   They wanted to retain the British Head of State, Queen Victoria, as their own monarch.   They laid the foundation of the Commonwealth.  Australia, New Zealand and South Africa followed their example.   These nations were the mainstays of the British Commonwealth until after World War II, when India, Pakistan and Ceylon joined the club.

Canada’s identity, dwarfed by its more powerful southern neighbor, is bound up in the monarchy.   It needs to retain the link in order to maintain its sovereignty, separate and distinct from the United States.

The same dynamics do not apply in Australia, though a case can certainly be made for preserving Australia’s distinctly unique way of life, separate from other nations in the region.  The link with the Crown is a part of Australia’s cultural heritage, which sets it apart from most other countries in the region.

magazine has been in favor of an Australian republic ever since the issue was first raised, describing the queen as “Elizabeth the Last.” But even The Economist admits that it will lead to ten years of political instability, as the ripple effects will require a number of constitutional changes.   Perhaps now is not a good time to change the system.

It should also be pointed out that, approximately half the population remains very loyal to the monarchy, so any change could be divisive.

Interestingly, whereas many Australians who favor a republic would prefer the US system, it’s not likely to happen.   Politicians prefer the German or Irish system, replacing the Queen with a figurehead president appointed by parliament.   This is not a very good system.   While the monarch is above politics, any political appointee inevitably won’t be.   It should also be remembered that, when the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, died in office, the new Chancellor did away with the office and had himself proclaimed Fuhrer.   The rest, as they say, is history!

It’s also interesting to note that the Toronto based organization “Democracy Watch” recently listed the seven most democratic countries in the world.   All were constitutional monarchies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.   The United States was not in the top seven.   Sadly, America has become less democratic in recent decades, as big business together with lobbyists seem to determine everything in politics.   Add to that the influence of the media – elections are increasingly just personality contests.  Reality TV has taken over.

An additional factor for Australia to consider is that constitutional monarchy is the cheapest political system.

Christians should also remember I Peter 2:17 – “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king.”

It might be good for everyone to ponder on the old maxim:   “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

QUEEN ELIZABETH LONGEST REIGNING MONARCH

Westminster Abbey's bells will peal, a flotilla will sail down the River Thames and a gun salute will ring out on Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving monarch in British history.
Westminster Abbey’s bells will peal, a flotilla will sail down the River Thames and a gun salute will ring out on Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving monarch in British history.

Today at 5.30pm British Summer Time, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history, overtaking the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

She still has some way to go to pass the longest reigning European monarchs,   Austrian Emperor Franz Josef (1848-1916) and France’s Louis XIV (1643-1715).   However, the latter doesn’t really count as he was only five when he became “king,” meaning that his mother and Cardinal Mazarin ruled in his place.

Thailand’s current king was crowned in May 1950 so he’s been around even longer than the British monarch.

A PBS documentary on the queen aired last week.   The one-hour documentary is available on DVD.   It’s part of the “In their own words” occasional series.   There was one mistake in the program when a BBC broadcast announcing that “the king’s life draws peacefully to a close” was applied to her father, King George VI, who died in 1952.   The recording dates to January 1936 when his father, George V, was dying.   The queen’s father was found dead in bed on February 6th, 1952.   He had been out hunting the previous day. Elizabeth and her husband were in Kenya, on a tour of the empire, when he died.

The monarchy goes back over one thousand years.  It has evolved through the centuries into today’s constitutional monarchy.   The system has worked very well, giving Britain and the other Commonwealth realms (which include Canada, Australia and New Zealand) an unparalleled period of political stability, without which economic progress is difficult to achieve.

The very complimentary documentary highlighted Elizabeth’s role as constitutional monarch, using her influence rather than authority in chaperoning the country for over sixty years.   It’s been a time of unprecedented change, as was Victoria’s in the nineteenth century.

The program began with then Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday broadcast from Cape Town, South Africa.   In her own words she pledged herself to serve “the great imperial family to which we all belong,” a reference to the Empire and Commonwealth, which included South Africa.

Immediately after these words were shown on the documentary, a royal expert then added a comment about her lifelong service to Britain.

There’s a blind spot here, which obscures Britain’s incredible decline during her reign.   As she is a constitutional monarch, the blame for this decline rests with the politicians, especially the twelve British prime ministers who have served under her.   Her Canadian, Australian and New Zealand prime ministers can also share some of that responsibility.

The fact is that the British Empire has gone and its successor, the Commonwealth (the “British” was dropped 50 years ago) is no more than a shadow of what it was.   It may not even survive the queen’s passing.   The queen remains Head of State of 16 countries and has 138 million subjects.   She is also titular Head of the Commonwealth, an organization of 54 former colonies.   It remains to be seen if Prince Charles will be able to hold it all together after he succeeds his mother.

Sir John Major, her ninth British prime minister, said in the documentary that throughout all the changes of the last six decades, the queen has been the one “constant” in the country, giving a sense of continuity and stability during monumental and significant changes.   This is true, but it hides some painful realities.

The loss of empire saw a rapid decline in global power.   The country’s military capability is about one-twelfth of what it was at the beginning of her reign – and continues to decline even under a Conservative administration.   The queen’s international role remains at the core of British “soft power,” along with the BBC World Service and British aid.   This soft power has replaced the strong military power it used to have.

With the empire gone, Britain entered the European Common Market (now the European Union), which has progressively taken away the UK’s independence.   Under the EU’s freedom of movement rules, millions of people from other European countries have been able to move to Britain, changing the composition of the nation’s population.

Added to this has been mass immigration from Commonwealth countries like India and Pakistan.

The changes are so significant, it’s fair to say that the Great Britain she inherited in 1952 and the Great Britain of today are two very different countries.   It’s amusing to remember that in 1949, when she was Princess Elizabeth, she spoke out against the evils of divorce.   The nation would not take kindly to such comments today and the queen would not be qualified to speak on the subject anyway as her own family has seen a few divorces.

None of this detracts from the great accomplishments of Elizabeth II.   She has set an incredible example of service.   Her sense of duty is unsurpassed by anybody in any field.   In her own personal private life she has set a fine example, never putting a foot wrong.

In many ways, the world was a better place when the Queen ascended the throne on February 6th, 1952 (the Coronation was in June the following year).   At that time, she presided over the greatest empire in history.   As countries were given independence, all too often they were taken over by self-serving bad leaders who destroyed much of what Britain had accomplished, enriching themselves by stealing from their own people.   They were often from the lowest echelons of society, suddenly receiving absolute power, which they abused in every way.

I remember an incident 35 years ago at a time when Ghana, in West Africa, was going through a long period of political instability and economic chaos, I stopped to buy some food at the side of the road. When I opened my wallet, the lady who was selling me the items, saw a British bank note with the portrait of the queen on it.   The lady sighed and said:   “Ah, Queen Elizabeth.   She used to be our queen.   Now we have so many presidents, we cannot count them all. And we are in such a mess.   And England still has the queen.”   Stability is so important.

Two verses in the Book of Ecclesiastes illustrate this so well:

“Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time —
For strength and not for drunkenness!”   (Eccl. 10:16-17.)

Britain has been greatly blessed with Elizabeth II as Queen.

As many are saying today:    “Long may she reign!”

DID A DYING PRINCE ALBERT SAVE A DYING UNITED STATES?

Our Man in Charleston

I’m currently reading a new non-fiction book that may interest some of you.   It tells the story of the British Consul in Charleston, South Carolina, in the years leading up to and into the US Civil War (1861 to 1865).

When southern states seceded from the United States, the hope across the Confederacy was that they would receive support from the British government.   Britain was the greatest power in the world at the time and had the most powerful military.   They had a great deal of support in the British press.   British commercial interests strongly suggested the United Kingdom would support the South – the UK was the biggest importer of southern cotton, which was needed to feed the clothing factories in the North of England.

The British government’s Consul in Charleston was Robert Bunch, who lived in the city with his wife and children.   His instructions were to ingratiate himself with prominent citizens and report to London.   His reports to the British government, via the Ambassador in Washington, Lord Lyons, were highly influential in determining Britain’s attitude toward the breakaway republic.

Great Britain had abolished the slave trade in 1807, the first major power to do so.   With the world’s most powerful navy, the British took it upon themselves to stop vessels on the high seas and free any slaves they found.   The US followed one year later, but American vessels continued to transport slaves from West Africa, where African leaders continued the practice.   These slave ships transported people in the most horrible conditions, many dying en route.   The Royal Navy’s ships were kept busy along the West African coast throughout the nineteenth century.

Bunch was repulsed by slavery and by those who kept slaves. But he hid his feelings extremely well, as he mixed with leading Charlestonians in the 1850’s.   The people around him thought that he sympathized with them and their “peculiar custom” of slavery and would support the South when it broke away from the North.   But he was, in fact, sending back to London reports on the brutality of slavery, reports that made it impossible for London to show any support for the Confederacy.

He did his job so well that the US Secretary of State, William Seward, pressured the British government to remove Bunch from Charleston as he was a “known” secessionist!

In late 1861, there was a major crisis between Washington and London that almost brought the two countries to war.   If that had happened, the UK would likely have recognized the South and the Confederacy would still exist.

The crisis was triggered when an American navy steamer, the USS San Jacinto, under Captain Charles Wilkes, boarded a British mail ship, the Trent, and arrested two prominent Southerners who were on their way to London to appeal for recognition and help.   The British protested volubly.   The British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, wrote a seriously threatening note, which would have placed Abraham Lincoln’s Administration in a difficult position and would almost certainly have led to another war between the two great English speaking nations.

Then something interesting happened.

“Before the ultimatum could be sent, however, it had to be read and approved by the palace.   On other occasions this might have been largely a formality, and, indeed, in this case Queen Victoria had other priorities.   She was giving a dinner party and did not want it interrupted.   But Prince Albert, her beloved consort, begged off from the dinner, saying he felt ill.   Feverish with the first symptoms of the typhoid that would kill him a few days later, Albert sat down at his desk to look at the ultimatum, and he did not like what he saw. Palmerston and Russell (British Foreign Minister) were giving Lincoln and Seward no way out. They would have to bend to Britain’s will, release Slidell and Mason (the two Southern gentlemen), and apologize abjectly or face the greatest military power on earth.

“For twenty years Albert had made the fight against slavery, and especially the slave trade, one of his important causes.   He did not want to see the Crown tarnished by a war that might guarantee the continuation of slavery for generations to come.   He deeply mistrusted Palmerston’s bellicosity and thought of Russell as something of a lightweight.   He wanted the brashness in the official note to be softened:   “Her Majesty’s Government are unwilling to believe that the United States Government intended wantonly to put an insult upon this country…..”   The new wording left a way open for Seward to explain the incident as an accident, if only he would take it.”   (“Our Man in Charleston”, by Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey, pages 297-8, Crown Publishers.)

“The language offered by Prince Albert had left room for a face-saving response in Seward’s reply:   Charles Wilkes had not been acting under orders.   Three days after Christmas the correspondence of Seward and the British and French foreign ministers was published, announcing the release of the Confederate emissaries.”

War between the US and Britain had been averted, thanks to a German prince’s careful editing of a diplomatic note, written in English!   If the more strident note had resulted in war between Britain and America, London would have supported the Confederacy and the United States would have been permanently divided.   If Prince Albert had not been seriously ill, the outcome of the Civil War could have been very different.

The book is an interesting read and gives some fresh insight into the Civil War.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

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There’s been a lot of talk following the murder of James Foley, the release of another journalist, and an appeal from the mother of a third. The talk assumes that the US government has a responsibility to protect Americans wherever they go in the world.

Whereas France and Germany will pay ransoms to rescue their nationals held by terrorists, the US and UK will not deal with them. The demand for James Foley’s life was 80 million pounds ($132 million). Small change for Washington but should our leaders deal with these people?

When Diane and I lived in Africa, we often found ourselves in very difficult situations. Sometimes these were life threatening. But never once did I expect either of our governments to come to our rescue. On one occasion, I remember a car coming into our driveway with all three of our children in it, when they should have been in school.

It turned out that soldiers had landed by helicopter in the school playground, shooting as they landed. The British High Commission decided to send the children home. This happened after a coup when everybody was rather nervous. We were never billed for this rescue. I am truly thankful that they took the action they did. But I really never thought they had a responsibility to come to our aid whenever we were in trouble.

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Talking of Great Britain, the country seems to have overlooked a very important anniversary this month. Earlier in August, there were commemorations for the centenary of the start of the First World War on August 4th. This tragic event, which changed our world beyond all recognition, should be remembered.

But August 2014 is also the tercentenary of the establishment of the dynasty that continues to reign over the UK and other countries in the Commonwealth.

When Queen Anne died in 1714, she left no heirs, though she was pregnant seventeen times. Her nearest living Protestant relative was the Elector of Hanover, Prince George, who was asked to come to England and be king. There were actually 56 closer relatives but they were all Catholics and, therefore, denied the throne under the terms of the 1701 Act of Settlement. Realize if any of the other 56 had changed religion and assumed the throne, there would never have been a Queen Victoria or Elizabeth II.

Things did not get off to an auspicious start for the new King George – he divorced his wife before leaving Germany and had his mistress with him when he arrived in England.  In addition, there was rioting in at least twenty British cities and towns when he became king. But the British wanted a king – memories of the republic 60 years earlier were not good and they did not want to go down that route again. That king also had to be a Protestant.

George remained as king until his death in 1727. He continued to speak German and never really felt at home in his new country. In fact, he died while visiting his native Hanover.

At the time, nobody would have thought that they were establishing a system of government that would endure for three centuries and be exported to other countries around the world. George’s prime minister was Robert Walpole, who is now looked upon as the first prime minister. By the end of George’s reign, it was clear that the PM ran the country and the king was merely a figurehead, though an effective head of state in checking executive power. It’s a system that has given Britain and other countries a secure and stable political arrangement that continues to this day.

George was succeeded by three other Georges, none of whom could be considered a great monarch. In 1830, William IV became king but died seven years later.

His niece Victoria then assumed the throne and reigned for 64 years. Her marriage to her cousin Prince Albert earned her a great deal of respect and the monarchy became a lot more popular. That popularity continues to this day.

Under Victoria and Albert, the family’s name changed to Saxe-Coburg. In 1917, during a time of great anti-German feeling, the family wisely changed their name to Windsor, after the town west of London where they live.

Perhaps it was wise not to celebrate the tercentenary – it would not be a good idea to encourage people to look too closely into the lives of some of the monarchs who reigned during that 300 years. Not all have been like Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II.

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If you’ve always suspected the media of bias, here’s the latest proof.

Last week, an unarmed 20-year-old white male was shot dead by a black police officer in Utah. This incident was not reported on national news broadcasts.

You will remember that when a black male, aged 18, was shot dead by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, we had nightly coverage on the news for almost two weeks.

The deaths of young people are always a tragedy. It’s awful that their families have suffered such a loss. But the media is the issue here – they clearly need to be more even-handed and not take sides, jumping on the liberal bandwagon whenever the opportunity presents itself.