Thursday, May 31, 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
1 Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2 to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
3 What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?
Isaiah 10: 1-3
Monday, May 28, 2012
Report: U.K. Government Has Euthanized Over 800 Military Working Dogs
by Max Eddy | 1:00 pm, April 8th, 2012
The U.K. Ministry of Defense has recently admitted that between 2002 and 2011, it has euthanized 807 dogs used by soldiers fighting overseas. The MoD says that while efforts are made to find homes for most of its working dogs, the canines used in combat have been harder house. This led to an incredible 125 dogs being put down in 2009 alone.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, dogs are used by U.K., U.S. and other forces to sniff out explosives and drugs, as well as to guard bases and other more violent activities. In the U.K., sniffer dogs generally find homes with their handlers, though guard dogs are often thought to be too dangerous and end up being put down. In addition to behavioral concerns, many dogs thought to be too old for adoption end up being put down.
According to the Daily Mail, the rate of euthanasia among U.K. war dogs varies greatly. In 2002, only 20 dogs were put down, jumping to 89 in 2003. 2006 saw 95 dogs killed, and the number peaked in 2009 at 125 dogs. In the ten years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the MoD has put down 807 dogs.
Some have displayed outrage that so many dogs that have served beside soldiers would be euthanized in such numbers. The Daily Mail quotes Kerry McCarthy, a member of parliament, as saying, "This is shocking. It seems a great shame that animals are destroyed in this way. We need to make sure that every effort is made to find them new homes."
At the heart of this issue is that these animals appear to be treated the same as any other piece of military equipment when they reach the end of their practical usefulness. While it's true that some of these war dogs would not be suited to the average pet owner, finding homes for the dogs that are still physically capable of being rehoused is not wholly insurmountable. Retired military dog adoptions have been legal in the U.S. since 2000, and none are apparently euthanized. Thestar.com quotes Gerry Proctor, from Lackland Air Force Base which handles military dog adoptions:
"All the animals find a home," he said. "There's a six-month waiting list right now for people wanting to adopt. [...]"
Of course, the U.S. adoption figure might be misleading as some dogs, like Rocky, may face euthanasia over medical concerns. According to the New York Times, 600 dogs were serving with U.S. forces as of 2011.
While the high number of euthanasias performed by the U.K. is chilling, it should be noted that it is nothing compared to the number of dogs that are killed in animal shelters each year. According to the American Humane Society, 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in American animal shelters each year — about 50% of the animals that enter the shelter system.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
The sexual volcano: Ava Gardner was the one lover Sinatra couldn't tame...and when she spurned him, he slit his wrist in despair
By James Kaplan
As his singing and cinema career flourished, the delectable bodies of the swooning young women all around him proved increasingly irresistible to the 32-year-old Frank Sinatra, especially when he looked at his wife Nancy, growing great with child for the third time.
He had never been faithful but now he came and went as he pleased and did exactly what he wanted, with whomever he wanted. He dallied with actress Lana Turner and told her he would leave his wife.
But he didn't. Not for her.
Insatiable: Ava Gardner was regularly unfaithful
One night in 1948 he stood on the terrace of his Hollywood bachelor penthouse with his best friend, the songwriter Sammy Cahn, looking down over Sunset Strip.
'Do you know that Ava Gardner lives down there?' said Cahn, pointing to a little house nestled into the trees.
The name of the hot young film star stirred Sinatra. He had long lusted after her. With the kind of beauty that comes along once in a hundred years, she transfixed men and women alike. She took her pleasures as she found them — and she found them everywhere.
Cupping his hands to his mouth, he yelled 'Ava … Ava Gardner!' his big voice carrying far into the quiet evening. 'We know you're down there. Hello, Ava.'
The two men roared with laughter. And then a miracle. Down below, a curtain was drawn, a window opened and Ava stuck her head out. She knew exactly who it was. Sinatra's voice was unmistakable. She grinned and waved.
Was it an accident that they ran into each other a few days later, in front of her place? And then again in the street? Frank wasn't usually keen on walking but suddenly he was getting out a lot. The third time, they both began laughing as he said hello.
Icon: in his 1950s heyday, Frank Sinatra could have any woman he wanted
Ava's eyes searched his. Was he following her? He met her gaze boldly. She put a hand on her shapely hip, provocatively. He spoke. 'Ava, let's be friends. Why don't we have dinner tonight?'
He had met her, he remembered, when she was an 18-year-old starlet newly arrived in Hollywood and Mickey Rooney, no less, was madly in love with her. Though she was smokingly sexy, she was just a kid, Sinatra thought at the time, too young for him.
So he was content just to stare at those dazzlingly high cheekbones and haughty green eyes.
He met her again and danced with her in a nightclub when he was with Lana, and she — at 23, divorced from both Rooney and her second husband, the band leader Artie Shaw — was with the billionaire tycoon Howard Hughes.
Then Sinatra's friend Peter Lawford brought her to one of his parties. Dark haired with a white fur stole on her wide shoulders, he noticed how she prowled with the easy grace of a tigress.
And now, here they were, just the two of them, faced with a decision. 'I damn well knew he was married,' Ava recalled, 'and married men were definitely not high on my hit parade.
'But he was handsome, with his thin, boyish face, bright blue eyes and incredible grin. And he was so enthusiastic and invigorated, clearly pleased with life, in general, himself, in particular, and, at that moment, me.'
So began one of Hollywood's legendary pairings of alpha male and female.
That night they went out drinking. Despite her stupendous looks, she had no confidence and alcohol, consumed in quantity, made her forget her deep self-doubt and feel glamorous, intelligent, desirable — a person worthy of the attentions of Frank Sinatra.
She had always had a thing for musicians but he was in a different league. His voice had a quality, she said, 'I'd only heard in two other people — Judy Garland and Maria Callas. It made me want to cry for happiness, like a beautiful sunset or a boys' choir singing Christmas carols'.
Now here she was, sitting with him, staring at him. Could she be in love?
Frank took in her stare and told himself that here, for the first time in his life, was someone who instinctively knew him and all his secrets.
He took her hand (she kept stealing glances at his hands; they were beautiful) and led her to his car. She swore her deepest oath to herself that she would not sleep with him.
And, indeed she didn't. Not that night. They went to his apartment, kissed and he reached to unzip her dress. And though in most cases she was out of her clothes in a second, with him she hesitated.
The happiest girl in the world: But Ava's 1951 marriage to Frank was doomed from the start
She touched his arm and called him 'Francis'. No one had ever done that before. Then he took her home.
It was months before they saw each other again, but when they did Frank fell as fast as she did. In a flash, all his discontent alchemised into the most powerful emotion he had ever known.
This time they did make love, and, said Ava: 'It was magic. We became lovers for ever, eternally. Big words, I know, but I truly felt that no matter what happened we would always be in love.' Frank told Ava: 'All my life, being a singer was the most important thing in the world. Now you're all I want.'
He had, at last, found a true partner in the opera that was his life. All his other women had been supporting players, but Ava was a diva with a soul whose turbulence equalled his own. Both harboured profound feelings of worthlessness, which expressed themselves in volcanic furies.
'We were high-strung people,' she said. 'Possessive, jealous and liable to explode fast. When I lose my temper, you can't find it any place. He's the same.'
Both had titanic appetites, for food, drink, cigarettes, diversion, companionship and sex. Both loved jazz. Both were politically liberal. Both were fascinated with prostitution and perversity. Both distrusted sleep, fearing it as death's mirror. Both hated being alone.
Like him, she was infinitely restless and easily bored. In both, this tendency could lead to casual cruelty to others —and to each other. They quarrelled constantly. Friends whose house the lovers met in recalled how Ava would scream at Frank and he would slam the door and storm downstairs.
'Minutes later we'd smell sweet fragrance in the air. Ava had decided she wasn't mad any more and so she sprayed the stairs with her perfume. Frank would smell it and race back up to the bedroom.'
There was lots of making-up sex, after which they nestled sweetly in each other's arms and swore never to fight again. But the fact was that Frank and Ava were a permanently unstable compound and no amount of sex — no matter how spectacular — was sufficient to keep them bonded.
Or as Ava later confided: 'The problems were never in bed. The problems would start on the way to the bidet.'
'With her acid tongue, she was ruthless with him,' said one friend. 'I was scared to death of her. I did what I could to stay out of her way.'
For Frank, the similarities with his bullying mother — who used to beat him but whose approval he constantly craved — were scary and exciting.
In their constant battles, jealousy was their emotional ammunition. Frank could trigger it in her with the blink of an eye, so conditioned was he to scanning any crowded party for gorgeous girls. She was convinced he was cheating on her, even when he wasn't.
Meanwhile, he couldn't get out of his mind the many other men there had been in her life. Out relaxing on a boat on a lake one day, Frank suddenly said to her: 'I bet Howard Hughes has got a bigger boat than this. I suppose you wish you were out here with him.'
Ava retorted: 'I don't care if he owns the Queen Mary. I'm not sorry I'm not with him. So shut up.' 'Don't tell me to shut up,' Frank snarled. They were off again.
Despite the difficulties between them, after his divorce from Nancy the couple married. 'We're going to redecorate Frank's home,' Ava gushed. 'I'm going to learn to make all his favourite dishes. Mama Sinatra has promised to send the recipes. Oh, it's all so thrilling and wonderful! Mrs Frank Sinatra is the happiest girl in the world!'
And she was, sometimes. But at other times, as Sammy Cahn's wife Gloria recalled, being with them 'was like sitting on cracked eggs. You never knew if there were going to be verbal daggers. And Frank was so subservient to her. He was insane about that woman'.
But if it was hard work being married to Ava Gardner, it was just as tough being married to Frank Sinatra.
'Neither gave an inch,' a friend of Ava's said, 'though Frank worked harder on the marriage than she did. She's a very selfish girl.'
It didn't help that Frank's career was on a downward spiral at the time — records not selling, films flopping — while hers was very much on the up. As a foul-mouthed facsimile of his mother, she was the dominant one in the relationship. As a sexual volcano, she ruled him in bed. And to top it all off, she was paying the bills while he struggled. The combination was corrosive.
She was not faithful, especially when she was away working. On location for a Western in the foothills of the Rockies, there was nothing to do but drink and have sex. Ava did a lot of the former and some of the latter with the stuntmen, and a little of both with the director.
'Ava couldn't be alone,' said a production man on another of her film sets, 'which is why she had so many affairs. She'd say: "Hey, come on, have a drink with me, I'm bored all by myself." Then she'd bring back a prop man or whoever to her tent.'
She and Frank celebrated their first anniversary on their way to Africa where she was once again filming.
'It was quite an occasion for me,' she recalled. 'I had been married twice before but never for a whole year.' But it was increasingly obvious that this one wasn't going to go the distance either.
They were forever breaking up, then getting back together. They would throw each other's clothes, books and records out of the windows. The police had to be called more than once. The gossip columns had a field day, following their every move, tracking the time they spent together and apart.
Of course, it couldn't last. Cupid didn't have enough arrows in his quiver for this pair. And when Ava eventually confided to friends that Frank could no longer satisfy her sexually, it was clear the glue that held them together was loosening.
Increasingly she signed up for work that took her away from him. In Europe — while Frank was back in the U.S. making From Here To Eternity, the film that would put his career back on track — she was pursuing Spain's best-known bullfighter, Luis Miguel Dominguín, four years her junior.
'I'll never figure you broads out,' her co-star Humphrey Bogart said. 'Half the world's female population would throw themselves at Frank's feet and you are flouncing around with guys who wear capes and ballerina slippers.'
Frank began to panic as it dawned on him that they might be over. He couldn't sleep. At five in the morning, he'd pour another whisky and rack his brains for a way to keep her.
He went berserk when he found out from a gossip column that she'd had a drink with his friend Peter Lawford. It was innocent, but he told Lawford he was sending somebody to break his legs. A friend who had to put up with his ranting said: 'He's driving me crazy! Ava, Ava, Ava! A billion broads in the world and he picks the one that can take or leave him!'
And leave him is what Ava did, blaming his infidelities. Later, she would say: 'I was happier married to Frank than ever before. If I'd been willing to share him with other women we could have been happy.'
But, in reality, the break-up was her decision. In a desperate bid to keep her, he slit a wrist and was rushed semi-conscious to hospital. He imagined her at his bedside, her green eyes looking down on him.
But she didn't come. Against medical advice, he discharged himself and flew to see her. Realising that playing the vulnerable boy wouldn't work, he shrugged off the bandaged wrist as the result of an accident.
She smiled with relief — not that he was unharmed but because she'd been worried that, seeing him, she might be drawn back into a relationship.
He saw it. He was intuitive and especially attuned to the love of his life. As a boy, he had learned to watch his mother closely to figure out whether she was going to hug him or hit him. Later, he'd learned to watch Ava to see whether she was going to love him or leave him.
Now it was clear. She was leaving. The torrid Sinatra-Gardner romance was over. It was like the lyrics of a song he recorded soon after: 'I could have told you she'd hurt you/She'd love you a while, then desert you.'
He sang it with all the pain and sadness of one who knew.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
They didn't burn up our entire planet, but how many cancers have we suffered because of what they did ?
The Tsar Bomba mushroom cloud seen from a distance of 160 km. The crown of the cloud is 56 km high at the time of the picture.
|Place of origin||Soviet Union|
|Designer||Julii Borisovich Khariton, Andrei Sakharov, Victor Adamsky, Yuri Babayev, Yuri Smirnov, and Yuri Trutnev|
|Number built||1 (plus one mock bomb)|
|Weight||27,000 kilograms (60,000 lb)|
|Length||8 metres (26 ft)|
|Diameter||2.1 metres (6.9 ft)|
|Blast yield||50 megatons of TNT (210 PJ)|
Tsar Bomba (Russian: Царь-бомба) is the nickname for the AN602 hydrogen bomb, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated. It was also referred to as Kuz'kina Mat' (Russian: Кузькина мать, Kuzka's mother), potentially referring to Nikita Khruschev's promise to show the U.S. a "Kuz'kina Mat'" at the 1960 UN General Assembly. The famous Russian idiom, which has been problematic for translators, equates roughly with the English "We'll show you!" in this usage meaning "something that has not been seen before". Developed by the Soviet Union, the bomb was originally designed to have a yield of about 100 megatons of TNT (420 PJ), but the yield was reduced to 50 megatons in order to reduce nuclear fallout. This attempt was successful, as it was one of the cleanest (relative to its yield) nuclear bombs ever detonated. Only one bomb of this type was ever built and it was tested on October 30, 1961, in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago.
The remaining bomb casings are located at the Russian Atomic Weapon Museum, Sarov (Arzamas-16), and the Museum of Nuclear Weapons, All-Russian Research Institute of Technical Physics, Snezhinsk (Chelyabinsk-70). Neither of these casings has the same antenna configuration as the device that was tested.
Many names are attributed to the Tsar Bomba in the literature: Project 7000; product code 202 (Izdeliye 202); article designations RDS-220 (РДС-220), RDS-202 (РДС-202), RN202 (PH202), AN602 (AH602); codename Vanya; nicknames Big Ivan, Tsar Bomba, Kuzkina Mat'. The term "Tsar Bomba" was coined in an analogy with two other massive Russian objects: the Tsar Kolokol (Tsar Bell), the world's largest bell, and the Tsar Pushka (Tsar Cannon), the world's largest cannon. The CIA denoted the test as "JOE 111".
The Tsar Bomb was a three-stage Teller–Ulam design hydrogen bomb with a yield of 50 megatons (Mt). This is equivalent to 1,400 times the combined power of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 10 times the combined power of all the conventional explosives used in WWII, or one quarter of the estimated yield of the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. A three-stage H-bomb uses a fission bomb primary to compress a thermonuclear secondary, as in most H-bombs, and then uses energy from the resulting explosion to compress a much larger additional thermonuclear stage. There is evidence that the Tsar Bomba had a number of third stages rather than a single very large one.
The initial three-stage design was capable of yielding the power of approximately 100 Mt, but would have caused too much radioactive fallout. To limit fallout, the third stage and possibly the second stage had a lead tamper instead of a uranium-238 fusion tamper (which greatly amplifies the reaction by fissioning uranium atoms with fast neutrons from the fusion reaction). This eliminated fast fission by the fusion-stage neutrons, so that approximately 97% of the total energy resulted from fusion alone (as such, it was one of the "cleanest" nuclear bombs ever created, generating a very low amount of fallout relative to its yield). There was a strong incentive for this modification since most of the fallout from a test of the bomb would have ended up on populated Soviet territory.
The components were designed by a team of physicists headed by Academician Yulii Borisovich Khariton and including Andrei Sakharov, Victor Adamsky, Yuri Babayev, Yuri Smirnov, and Yuri Trutnev. Shortly after the Tsar Bomba was detonated, Sakharov began speaking out against nuclear weapons, which culminated in his becoming a dissident.
Tsar Bomb was flown to its test site by a specially modified Tu-95V release plane, flown by Major Andrei Durnovtsev. Taking off from an airfield in the Kola Peninsula, the release plane was accompanied by a Tu-16 observer plane that took air samples and filmed the test. Both aircraft were painted with a special reflective white paint to limit heat damage.
The bomb, weighing 27 tonnes, was so large (8 metres (26 ft) long by 2 metres (6.6 ft) in diameter) that the Tu-95V had to have its bomb bay doors and fuselage fuel tanks removed. The bomb was attached to an 800 kilogram parachute, which gave the release and observer planes time to fly about 45 kilometres (28 mi) away from ground zero. When detonation occurred the Tu-95V fell one kilometer from its previous altitude due to the shock wave of the bomb.
The Tsar Bomb detonated at 11:32 on October 30, 1961 over the Mityushikha Bay nuclear testing range (Sukhoy Nos Zone C), north of the Arctic Circle on Novaya Zemlya Island in the Arctic Sea. The bomb was dropped from an altitude of 10.5 kilometres (6.5 mi); it was designed to detonate at a height of 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) over the land surface (4.2 kilometres (2.6 mi) over sea level) by barometric sensors.
The original, November 1961 A.E.C. estimate of the yield was 55–60 Mt, but since 1991 all Russian sources have stated its yield as 50 Mt. Khrushchev warned in a filmed speech to the Supreme Soviet of the existence of a 100 Mt bomb (technically the design was capable of this yield). Although simplistic fireball calculations predicted the fireball would impact the ground, the bomb's own shock wave reflected back and prevented this. The fireball reached nearly as high as the altitude of the release plane and was seen almost 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from ground zero. The subsequent mushroom cloud was about 64 kilometres (40 mi) high (over seven times the height of Mount Everest), which meant that the cloud was well inside the mesosphere when it peaked. The base of the cloud was 40 kilometres (25 mi) wide. All buildings in the village of Severny (both wooden and brick), located 55 kilometres (34 mi) from ground zero within the Sukhoy Nos test range, were completely destroyed. In districts hundreds of kilometers from ground zero, wooden houses were destroyed, stone ones lost their roofs, windows and doors; and radio communications were interrupted for almost one hour. One participant in the test saw a bright flash through dark goggles and felt the effects of a thermal pulse even at a distance of 270 kilometres (170 mi). The heat from the explosion could have caused third-degree burns 100 km (62 mi) away from ground zero. A shock wave was observed in the air at Dikson settlement 700 kilometres (430 mi) away; windowpanes were partially broken to distances of 900 kilometres (560 mi). Atmospheric focusing caused blast damage at even greater distances, breaking windows in Norway and Finland. The seismic shock created by the detonation was measurable even on its third passage around the Earth. Its seismic body wave magnitude was about 5 to 5.25. The energy yield was around 7.1 on the Richter scale but, since the bomb was detonated in air rather than underground, most of the energy was not converted to seismic waves. The device was trillions of times more powerful per unit volume in comparison to the material in the sun's fusion core (about 25% of the sun's radius) and it would take about 10 million years for an equivalent volume of the sun's core to produce the same amount of energy as came from within the bomb's casing. The TNT equivalent of the 50 Mt test could be represented by a cube of TNT 312 metres on a side, approximately the height of the Eiffel Tower.
Protesters walk on St. Catherine street near Berri street during a night protest against pending tuition increases and Bill 78 in downtown Montreal Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Photograph by: Dario Ayala/THE GAZETTE
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
We Remember: Holocaust Art
Since 2000, as a tribute to his father, whose family was murdered in Nazi concentration camps, Sutz has focused his array of talents full-time to create life masks of Holocaust survivors and paintings of Holocaust scenes.The works are not for sale. They are intended as an archive, and a way for future generations to connect with the faces of those who survived the atrocities of the past.
Click here to view a short film about this project--and about Sutz's subsequent interviews with holocaust survivors. (Quicktime required.)
Yet another video--a feature story on Robert and the project--can be found here.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Victoria and Albert's 1840 marriage, unlike most royal matches at the time, was a love match. However, certainly on Albert's part, there were political goals in mind as well. A German prince by birth (and also first cousin to his wife, herself half German), Albert's greatest wish was for his future children "to carry the seed of liberalism to the Continent to fulfill his vision of a Europe converted to constitutional monarchy, led by a united and liberal Germany with Prussia at the helm". Thus, the marriages of his and Victoria's children were of great importance in planning future alliances. Their nine children produced eight sovereigns or the spouses of future sovereigns who participated in or were affected by World War I: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, Queen Sophie of Greece, King Edward VII of Great Britain, Queen Maud of Norway, Tsarina Alexandra of Russia, Queen Marie of Roumania, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, and Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain.
Though Victoria and Albert's dream of a liberal and united Europe hinged primarily on Germany, ironically, it was to be their grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, son of Victoria, the Princess Royal, and Friedrich III, who received much of the blame for what would become the bloodiest war that modern Europe had ever faced. Pompous and overbearing, he was described by various family members as "the fool", "the most brilliant failure in history", having "the attitudes of a tyrant or despot", and "the greatest criminal for having plunged the world into this ghastly war which has lasted over 4 years & 3 months with all its misery" -yet still "at his heart he was pro-British". Despite his parents' best efforts at teaching their son liberal ideas, he remained staunchly conservative and authoritarian, under the influence of his grandfather, Wilhelm I, and Otto von Bismarck. It was Chancellor Bismarck, not the liberalism of Victoria and Albert, who ultimately united the German states into one country and who had spent the better part of his career negotiating contradictory alliances that would keep Russia and France from forming an alliance that would be problematic to Germany.
In 1890, however, Wilhelm abruptly dismissed him and "as soon as word of Bismarck's dismissal reached St. Petersburg", Catrine Clay relates, "Alexander III began negotiating for a Franco-Russian alliance". This would prove problematic following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 when Austria, Germany's ally, declared war on Serbia, Russia's ally, on July 28th. As Wilhelm felt that Germany did not need to become involved in the conflict unless Russia did, he telegraphed Tsar Nicholas II, who was both his distant cousin and the husband of his first cousin, Alexandra, urging him to let the Austrians deal with the nation responsible for the murder of their heir to the throne. Nicholas, however, was under great pressure from his generals to order a full mobilization of the Russian army to declare war on Serbia, though he assured Wilhelm that this did not mean war and that the prospect of peace was still negotiable. The Kaiser, however, was enraged at the mobilization and declared war on Russia on August 1st. World War I had begun. After Germany's defeat, Wilhelm II abdicated the throne on November 9, 1918, which prompted his cousin, George V of Great Britain, to write note that "he did great things for his country, but his ambition was so great that he wished to dominate the world...it has been tried before, & now he has utterly ruined his country & himself...". He would prove to be the sole sovereign grandchild of Victoria and Albert who supported the Central Powers, but was by no means the only one to lose his throne.
Wilhelm's younger sister Sophie had a similarly difficult period during the time of the First World War. In 1889, she married Crown Prince Constantine of Greece and they became king and queen in 1913 following the assassination of Constantine I's father, George. The Greek people showed much enthusiasm for her in the beginning, as she had set up hospitals during the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and nursed wounded soldiers.
This enthusiasm waned after the outbreak of the First World War, as Constantine I was committed to keeping his country neutral (as he felt aiding the Allies would cause Bulgaria to invade Greece) while the Greek people (and Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos in particular) were adamant that Greece join the war on the side of the Allies. Rumors started flying as to why the royal family would wish to remain neutral. Sophie, as a Prussian-born princess, was accused of everything from having pro-German sympathies to spying for her brother, the Kaiser, to trying to poison her husband. In reality, Sophie, who told an Englishman, "don't forget that although I may be the sister of the Kaiser, I'm also the daughter of the Princess Royal", was actually Pro-British. Ultimately, Greece finally did join the Allies -but only after Venizelos led a coup against the monarchy and deposed it in 1917. Similar coups and revolutions would plague Greece for the next fifty years, as the country alternated between being a monarchy and a republic, as not only was Sophie's husband eventually restored to the throne, but all three of her sons became kings of Greece as well.
George V, son of Edward VII, became king of Great Britain following his father's death in 1910. Known as the Sailor King because he spent much of his youth in the navy, George was never meant to become king. After his older brother died in 1892, however, he inherited not just his place in the succession, but his fiancée as well. As per alliances with Russia and France, Great Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, an act that the paranoid Wilhelm II's believed proved that his cousins, George V and Nicholas II, had been conspiring against him. Just as with Sophie of Greece, George V's German heritage was something of an embarrassment. In 1917, following the advice of his Private Secretary, Lord Stamfordham, he changed the British royal family's name from the Germanic House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the more English House of Windsor. This prompted the Kaiser, somewhat humorously, to remark that he would be attending a performance that evening of The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
George V had maintained a special relationship with Tsar Nicholas II of Russia since childhood, as their mothers, princesses of Denmark, were sisters. Indeed, they would often sign their correspondence as "your devoted cousin and old friend". In addition, George and Nicholas' wife Alexandra, grandchildren of Queen Victoria, were also first cousins. This relationship would come to a close prior to the end of the First World War when George, once again acting on the advice on Lord Stamfordham, denied his cousin the Tsar and his family asylum in Britain after the Tsar had abdicated his throne and the family had been taken prisoner by the Bolshevik army. The now ex-Tsar was regarded as something of a tyrant in Great Britain and George could not face the possibility that his cousin's presence could cause an anti-monarchist movement to gain strength. George V had no cause to worry, however, because when the war ended he kept his throne and the monarchy was stronger than ever.
George's younger sister, Maud, paved a different path on the road to monarchy. In 1896, she married her first cousin, Prince Charles of Denmark, and settled down for what she hoped would be a quiet country life. In 1905, however, Norway's independence from Sweden was finalized and the decision of whether the country was to become a monarchy or republic had to be made. None other than Prince Charles of Denmark soon became the favorite candidate. Nonetheless, he refused to take the throne until the Norwegian people were given their say. In a vote of 260,000 to 69,000, they elected Charles (who took the name Haakon VII) and Maud to the Norwegian throne. This democratically elected monarchy was yet another which proved to be safe by the end of World War I, due to the fact that Norway remained neutral. Though her country was not directly involved, Maud, like many of Queen Victoria's granddaughters, took to charity work and nursing during the conflict.
Perhaps one of the most famous descendants of Queen Victoria was Tsarina Alexandra of Russia. Born Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, she was the daughter of Queen Victoria's daughter, Alice and Ludwig IV of Hesse-Darmstadt and she took the name Alexandra Feodorovna upon her conversion to Russian Orthodoxy and subsequent marriage to Tsar Nicholas II in 1894. Though he ruled Russia as an autocrat, most members of his family and ministers considered Nicholas weak and ineffectual -his and Alexandra's cousin the Kaiser even declaring that he was "only fit to live in a country house and grow turnips". Alexandra was of a more domineering nature than her husband and exerted pressure on him to exercise his God-given autocratic will and distrust any and all political reform and those who would wish to enact it.
Despite her love for Nicholas and her adopted country, the Russian people found Alexandra cold and aloof, a feeling that intensified following the birth and subsequent diagnosis of hemophilia in their only son Alexei when the Imperial family all but disappeared from society and then later during the outbreak of the First World War. Because she was born a German princess, Alexandra, like her cousin Sophie of Greece, was suspected of being a German spy. Like Sophie, this could not have been further from the truth. Not only had she been practically raised by the English Queen Victoria since her mother's death, even her German-born father had taught her to hate the Kaiser! During the war, Alexandra, like many of her female relations, immersed herself in the war effort and proudly donned a nurse's uniform to tend to wounded soldiers.
Ultimately, the Imperial family had worse problems to deal with than the First World War. Nicholas' determination for Russia to remain autocratic and keep the majority of power out of the hands of the Duma had sparked a revolution within the country in 1917. On March 15 of that year Nicholas abdicated, ending three centuries of Romanov rule in Russia. Nicholas, Alexandra, and their five children were promptly put under house arrest. Though there was once the hope that the family would be allowed asylum in England, those plans fell through. Finally, on the night of July 16/17, 1918, the entire family was executed by members of the Bolshevik army. Yet another throne was lost during the horrors of World War I.
Standing in great contrast to her more aloof and shy cousin Alexandra of Russia was Queen Marie of Roumania. Born Princess Marie of Edinburgh, she was the daughter of Queen Victoria's son Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia, daughter of Alexander II. Pretty and vivacious, she married Crown Prince Ferdinand of Roumania in 1893 and was accepted by the Roumanian people immediately -indeed, she writes that upon her arrival in Bucharest, the people "cheered and their eyes which had seen death in every form, had contemplated every horror or war and retreat, stared into mine, and there was confidence in that look they sent me, a sort of dumb trust which suffering and defeat could not uproot".
Though, at the outbreak of World War I Roumania was neutral, Marie's support was firmly in the Allied camp. This was at great contrast to her husband's uncle, Carol I, who was born a German prince and openly sided with the Central Powers. After Carol's death in late 1914, Marie's husband became king and she openly began coaxing him to join the war on the side of the Allies, which he did in 1916. Though Ferdinand had no particular affinity for the Allied cause, the public (due to their love for Marie) did and he felt that a defeat of the Central Powers could lead to Roumania gaining the territory of Transylvania from Austro-Hungary. As was the practice of many of her female cousins, Marie threw herself into the war effort by joining the Red Cross and personally nursing wounded soldiers.
It was to be her post-war activities, however, which would gain Marie her biggest acclaim. At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, Roumania, which had signed a separate peace agreement with Germany, was being overlooked -a fact which the Big Four (Woodrow Wilson, Georges Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, and Vittorio Orlando), despite their many disagreements, seemed to agree with. As Prime Minister Ion Bratianu was making no headway, Queen Marie was sent to Paris to negotiate. She charmed everyone but Wilson (who was shocked by the queen's outspokenness) and by the time she returned to Roumania, she had succeeded in doubling its territory, gaining the Banat and Bukovina, southern Dobruja, Bessarabia, and Transylvania. Marie's crown was more than secure.
Like Roumania and Greece, Sweden, the adopted country of Marie's cousin Crown Princess Margaret, was neutral at the beginning of World War I. Unlike Roumania and Greece, it stayed that way. Born Princess Margaret of Connaught, she was the daughter of Queen Victoria's son, Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Princess Luise Margarete of Prussia. In 1905, she married Crown Prince later Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden. Neutrality was difficult for Margaret, for though she was half-German, her sympathies lay entirely with England and the Entente, while her mother-in-law Queen Victoria of Sweden, who was a German princess by birth, openly supported the Central Powers.
Margaret's unique position of residing in a neutral country during the war was to be of great use to her extended family members, many of whom were on opposing sides of the conflict but still wished to communicate with each other. She was what one cousin called a "liaison officer" as she would not only pass messages along from one family members on opposing sides of the war, but would trace wounded and missing soldiers and prisoners of war. Sadly, she died after an infection set in following surgery in 1920 before becoming queen, though her role in the war was duplicated in World War II by her husband's second wife, Queen Louise.
Spain was yet another neutral nation during the conflict, though, like Greece, it would later face difficulties that would rock its monarchy. Its queen was Victoria Eugenie, was the daughter of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice. In 1906, she married Alfonso XIII of Spain and, in a sign of things to come, survived an assassination attempt on her wedding day when an anarchist threw a bomb at her and Alfonso's carriage that killed several people and horses. Victoria Eugenie, like her cousin Alexandra of Russia, was a carrier of hemophilia and she passed it down to two of her sons. While this disease brought Nicholas and Alexandra's relationship closer, it tore Victoria Eugenie and Alfonso's apart and after the births of their six children they remained together only for appearances' sake.
As Victoria Eugenie was born and raised in England, naturally, she supported the Entente, while her mother-in-law Dowager Queen Maria Christina, who had been born an Austrian Archduchess, supported the Central Powers. Alfonso XIII, torn between the two women, never revealed where his true allegiance was. Though she could not publicly take a stand, Victoria Eugenie nevertheless helped to found the Spanish Red Cross and, in addition to nursing wounded soldiers, she raised money to build hospitals. In 1931, the elections of many republican candidates showed the public support for the abolition of the monarchy and after a Republic was declared, the Spanish Royal Family went in to exile where they would remain until the death of Francisco Franco in 1975.
Ultimately, after World War I, five of the monarchies which housed grandchildren of Queen Victoria would remain: Great Britain, Norway, Roumania, Sweden, and Spain, while the monarchies of Germany, Greece, and Russia fell. Though it came at the price of war, abdication, and assassination, the end of the conflict nevertheless brought forth the culmination of at least part of the original dream of Victoria and Albert: a more liberal, constitution driven, Europe -though this was undoubtedly not what they had in mind.
Monday, May 7, 2012
IT SEEMS TO ME
IT SEEMS TO ME
THERE IS NO WAY
IT IS EVERYWHERE.
BUT NO ONE DARES TO SAY SO.