Monday, January 16, 2017

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
Teresa
************************************
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents Mrs. Frank Noble The Pioneer Woman Who Persevered


Mrs. Frank Noble, in 1664, proved herself worthy of her surname. She and her husband, with four small children, had established themselves in a log-cabin eight miles from a settlement in New Hampshire, and now known as the town of Dover.

Their crops having turned out poorly that autumn, they were constrained to put themselves on short allowance, owing to the depth of the snow and the distance from the settlement. As long as Mr. Noble was well, he was able to procure game and kept their larder tolerably well stocked. But in mid-winter, being naturally of a delicate habit of body, he sickened, and in two weeks, in spite of the nursing and tireless care of his devoted wife, he died. The snow was six feet deep, and only a peck of musty corn and a bushel of potatoes were left as their winter supply. The fuel also was short, and most of the time Mrs. Noble could only keep herself and her children warm by huddling in the bedclothes on bundles of straw, in the loft which served them for a sleeping room. Below lay the corpse of Mr. Noble, frozen stiff. Famine and death stared them in the face. Two weeks passed and the supply of provisions was half gone. The heroic woman had tried to eke out her slender store, but the cries of her children were so piteous with hunger that while she denied herself, she gave her own portion to her babes, lulled them to sleep, and then sent up her petitions to Him who keeps the widow and the fatherless. She prayed, we may suppose, from her heart, for deliverance from her sore straits for food, for warmth, for the spring to come and the snow to melt, so that she might lay away the remains of her husband beneath the sod of the little clearing.

Every morning when she awoke, she looked out from the window of the loft. Nothing was to be seen but the white surface of the snow stretching away into the forest. One day the sun shone down warmly on the snow and melted its surface, and the next morning there was a crust which would bear her weight. She stepped out upon it and looked around her. She would then have walked eight miles to the settlement but she was worn out with anxiety and watching, and was weak from want of food. As she gazed wistfully toward the east, her ears caught the sound of a crashing among the boughs of the forest. She looked toward the spot from which it came and saw a dark object floundering in the snow. Looking more closely she saw it was a moose, with its horns entangled in the branches of a hemlock and buried to its flanks in the snow.

Hastening back to the cabin she seized her husband's gun, and loading it with buckshot, hurried out and killed the monstrous brute. Skilled in woodcraft, like most pioneer women, she skinned the animal and cutting it up bore the pieces to the cabin. Her first thought then was of her children, and after she had given them a hearty meal of the tender moose-flesh she partook of it herself, and then, refreshed and strengthened, she took the axe and cut a fresh supply of fuel. During the day a party came out from the settlement and supplied the wants of the stricken household. The body of the dead husband was borne to the settlement and laid in the graveyard beneath the snow.

Nothing daunted by this terrible experience, this heroic woman kept her frontier cabin and, with friendly aid from the settlers, continued to till her farm. In ten years, when her oldest boy had become a man, he and his brothers tilled two hundred acres of meadow land, most of it redeemed from the wilderness by the skill, strength, and industry of their noble mother.

Compiled from sources in the public domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
Teresa
************************************
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The Founding Brides of Virginia


THE VIRGINIA WIFE-MARKET

TWO SHIPLOADS OF SWEETHEARTS AND THE PRICES PAID FOR THEM.

The first English settlement in America that came to anything was made in the most absurd way possible. A great company of London merchants set about the work of planting an English colony in Virginia, and they were very much in earnest about it too; but if they had been as anxious to have the scheme fail as they were to make it succeed, they could hardly have done worse for it than they did in some respects.

They knew that the colonists must have something to eat and must defend themselves against the Indians, and so it ought to have been plain to them that the first men sent out must be stout farmers, who could cut down trees, plough the ground, raise food enough for the people to eat, and handle guns well, if need be. The work to be done was that of farmers, wood-choppers, and men who could make a living for themselves in a new country, and common-sense ought to have led the London Company to send out nobody but men of that kind to make the first settlement. Then, after those men had cleared some land, built some houses, and raised their first crop, men of other kinds might have been sent as fast as there was need for their services.

But that was not the way in which the London Company went to work. They chose for their first settlers about the most unfit men they could have found for such a purpose. There were one hundred and five of them in all, and forty-eight of them—or nearly half of the whole company—were what people in those days called "gentlemen"—that is to say, they were the sons of rich men. They had never learned how to do any kind of work, and had been brought up to think that a gentleman could not work without degrading himself and losing his right to be called a gentleman. There were a good many "servants" also in the party, and probably most of them were brought to wait upon the gentlemen. There were very few farmers and not many mechanics in the party, although farmers and mechanics were the men most needed. There were some goldsmiths, who expected to work the gold as soon as the colonists should find it, and there was a perfume-maker. It is hard to say in what way this perfume-man was expected to make himself useful in the work of planting a settlement in the swamps of Virginia; but, as there were so many fine "gentlemen" in the party, the perfumer probably thought his wares would be in demand.

None of the men brought families with them. They were single men, who came out to this country, not to make comfortable homes for wives and children, by hard and patient work, but to find gold and pearls, or to grow rich in some other quick and easy way, and then to go back and live in ease in England.

It is a wonder that such men ever succeeded in planting a settlement at all. From the first it does not seem to have been clear to them that they ought to raise plenty of food for themselves and learn how to live by their own work. They expected the company in London to send them most of their food and everything else that they needed. They had plenty of rich land and a good climate, but they expected to be fed by people three thousand miles away, across a great ocean.

Luckily, there was one man of sense and spirit among them—the celebrated Captain John Smith—who got them to work a little, and, after many hardships and two or three narrow escapes from failure, the colony was firmly planted.

The London Company sent out ships every year with supplies and fresh colonists; but, strange as it seems, most of the men sent were unmarried, and even those who had wives and children left them in England.
When we think of it, this was a very bad way to begin the work of settling a new country. The bachelors, of course, did not intend to stay all their lives in a country where there were no women and children. They meant to make some money as quickly as they could and then go back to England to live. The married men who had left their families behind them were in still greater haste to make what they could and go home. In short, for a dozen years after the colony was planted, nobody thought of it as his real home, where he meant to live out his life. If the colonists had been married men, with wives and children in Virginia, they would have done all they could to make the new settlement a pleasant one to live in: they would have built good houses, set up schools, and worked hard to improve their own fortunes and to keep order in the colony.

But year after year the ships brought cargoes of single men to Virginia, and the settlement was scarcely more than a camp in the woods. After the company had been trying for a good many years to people a new country by landing shiploads of bachelors on its shores, it began to dawn upon their minds that if the Virginia settlement was ever to grow into a thriving and lasting colony, there must be women and children there to make happy homes, as well as men to raise wheat, corn, and tobacco.

Sir Edwin Sandys was the wise man who saw all this most clearly. He urged the company to send out hard-working married men, who would take their wives and children with them to Virginia and settle there for good. But this was not all. There were already a great many bachelors in the colony, and there were no young women there for them to marry. Sir Edwin knew that if these bachelors were to stay in Virginia and become prosperous colonists they must have a chance to marry and set up homes of their own. So he went to work in England to get together a cargo of sweethearts for the colonists. He persuaded ninety young women of good character to go out in one of the company's ships, to marry young men in Virginia.

The plan was an odd one, but it was managed with good sense and did well for everybody concerned. It was agreed that the company should provide the young women with such clothing and other things as they would need for the voyage, and should give them free passage on board the ship. When they landed in Virginia they were to be perfectly free to marry or not, as they pleased. If any of them did not at once find husbands to their liking they were to be provided for in good homes until they chose to marry.

But no man could marry one of these young women without paying for her in tobacco, which was used instead of money in Virginia. The girls were not to be sold, exactly, but it was expected that each colonist who married one of them should pay the company as much as it had spent in bringing her across the ocean.

And the men of the colony were glad enough to do this. When the shipload of sweethearts landed at Jamestown a large number of men who were tired of bachelor life hurried to the wharf to get wives for themselves if they could. They went among the young maids, introduced themselves, got acquainted, and did all the courting that was necessary in a very little time. The young women were honest, good, well-brought-up girls, and among the many men there were plenty of good, industrious, and brave fellows who wanted good wives, and so all the girls were "engaged" at once. The men paid down one hundred and twenty pounds of tobacco apiece—for that was the price fixed upon—and, as there was nothing to wait for, the clergymen were sent for and the weddings took place immediately.

It was an odd thing to do, of course, but the circumstances were very unusual, and the plan of importing sweethearts by the cargo really seems to have been a very good one. It must have been a strange sight when the girls landed and met the men who had come to the town to woo and marry them. And many of the girls must have felt that they took great risks in coming three thousand miles from home and marrying men whom they had known for so short a time; but it seems that the marriages were happy ones, in spite of the haste in which they were made. The newly-married pairs went to work in earnest to create good homes for themselves, and when their English friends learned from their letters how happy and prosperous they were, another company of sixty sweethearts set sail for the colony and became the wives of good men.

It was in this way that the English camp at Jamestown was changed into a real colony of people who meant to live in America and to build up a thriving community here. Now that the men had wives and children to provide for, they no longer lived "from hand to mouth," hoping to make a fortune by some lucky stroke, and then to leave the colony forever. They went to work, instead, to cultivate the land, to build good houses, to make and save money, to educate their children, and to become prosperous and happy in their homes. Virginia, which had been a mere stopping-place to them, was now their own country, where their families lived and their nearest friends were around them. There they expected to pass their lives in efforts to better their own fortunes, and to make the country a pleasant one for their children and grandchildren after them to live in. They were anxious to have schools and churches, and to keep up right standards of morals and proper manners in the colony, so that their children might grow to be good and happy men and women.

That is the way in which the first English colony in America became prosperous, and many of the men who afterwards became famous in the history of the nation were the great-great-grandsons of the women whom Sir Edwin Sandys sent out as sweethearts for the colonists.

The Pilgrims, who settled at Plymouth about the time that all this happened, brought their families with them, and quickly made themselves at home in America. The planting of these two colonies—the first in Virginia and the second in Massachusetts—was the beginning from which our great, free, and happy country, with its fifty millions of people, has grown.

Compiled from sources in the public domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
Teresa
************************************
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The Little Peasant Girl Who Became Catherine The Great

THE STORY OF CATHERINE

From Peasant Girl To Ruler of Russia

Peter the Great, the emperor who, in a few years, changed Russia from a country of half-savage tribes into a great European nation, was one day visiting one of his officers, and saw in his house a young girl, who attracted his attention by her beauty and her graceful manners. This girl was a prisoner named Martha, and she was living as a sort of servant and housekeeper in the family of the Russian officer. She had been taken prisoner when the town she lived in was captured. Nobody knows, even to this day, exactly who she was, except that she was a poor orphan girl who had been brought up by a village clergyman; but it is generally believed that her father was a Livonian peasant.

Martha's beauty and the brightness of her mind pleased the emperor so much that, after a while, he made up his mind to marry her, in spite of her humble origin. Peter was in the habit of doing pretty much as he pleased, whether his nobles liked it or not; but even he dared not make a captive peasant girl the Empress of Russia. He therefore married her privately, in the presence of a few of his nearest friends, who were charged to keep the secret. Before the marriage took place he had Martha baptized in the Russian Church, and changed her name to Catherine.

Now Peter had a bad habit of losing his temper, and getting so angry that he fell into fits. As he was an absolute monarch and could do whatever he liked, it was very dangerous for anybody to go near him when he was angry. He could have a head chopped off as easily as he could order his breakfast. But he was very fond of Catherine, and she was the only person who was not in the least afraid of him. She soon learned how to manage him, and even in his worst fits she could soothe and quiet the old bear.

Peter was nearly always at war, and in spite of the hardships and dangers of the camp and battle-field Catherine always marched with him at the head of the army. The soldiers wondered at her bravery, and learned to like her more than anybody else. If food was scarce, the roads rough, and the marches long, they remembered, that Catherine was with them, and were ashamed to grumble. If she could stand the hardships and face the dangers, they thought rough soldiers ought not to complain.

Catherine was a wise woman as well as a brave one. She soon learned as much of the art of war as Peter knew, and in every time of doubt or difficulty her advice was asked, and her opinion counted for as much as if she had been one of the generals. After she had thus shown how able a woman she was, and had won the friendship of everybody about her by her good temper and her pleasant ways, Peter publicly announced his marriage, and declared Catherine to be his wife and czarina. But still he did not crown her.

This was in the year 1711, and immediately afterwards Peter marched into the Turkish country at the head of forty thousand men. This army was not nearly large enough to meet the Turks, but Peter had other armies in different places, and had ordered all of them to meet him on the march. For various reasons all these armies failed to join him, and he found himself in a Turkish province with a very small number of troops. The danger was so great that he ordered Catherine and all the other women to go back to a place of safety. But Catherine would not go. She had made up her mind to stay with Peter at the head of the army, and was so obstinate about it that at last Peter gave her leave to remain. Then the wives of the generals, and, finally, of the lower officers, wanted to stay also. She persuaded Peter to let them do so, and the end of it was that the women all stayed with the army.

Everything went against Peter on this march. The weather was very dry. Swarms of locusts were in the country, eating every green thing. There was no food for the horses, and many of them starved to death. It was hard for the Russians to go forward or to go backward, and harder still to stay where they were.

At last the soldiers in front reported that the Turks were coming, and Peter soon saw a great army of two hundred thousand fierce Moslims in front of his little force, which counted up only thirty-eight thousand men. Seeing the odds against him he gave the order to retreat, and the army began its backward march. As it neared the river Pruth a new danger showed itself. The advance-guard brought word that a great force of savage Crim Tartars held the other bank of the river, completely cutting off Peter's retreat.

The state of things seemed hopeless. With two hundred thousand Turks on one side, and a strong force of Crim Tartars holding a river on the other, Peter's little army was completely hemmed in. There was no water in the camp, and when the soldiers went to the river for it, the Tartars on the other shore kept up a fierce fight with them. A great horde of Turkish cavalry tried hard to cut off the supply entirely by pushing themselves between Peter's camp and the river, but the Russians managed to keep them back by hard fighting, and to keep a road open to the river.

Peter knew now that unless help should come to him in some shape, and that very quickly, he must lose not only his army, but his empire also, for if the Turks should take him prisoner, it was certain that his many enemies would soon conquer Russia, and divide the country among themselves. He saw no chance of help coming, but he made up his mind to fight as long as he could. He formed his men in a hollow square, with the women in the middle, and faced his enemies.

The Turks flung themselves in great masses upon his lines, trying to crush the little force of Russians by mere numbers. But Peter's brave men remembered that Catherine was inside their hollow square, and they stood firmly at their posts, driving back the Turks with frightful slaughter. Again and again and again they fell upon his lines in heavy masses, and again and again and again they were driven back, leaving the field black with their dead.
This could not go on forever, of course, and both sides saw what the end must be. As the Turks had many times more men than Peter, it was plain that they would, at last, win by destroying all the Russians.

For three days and nights the terrible slaughter went on. Peter's men beat back the Turks at every charge, but every hour their line grew thinner. At the end of the third day sixteen thousand of their brave comrades lay dead upon the field, and only twenty-two thousand remained to face the enemy.

Towards night on the third day a terrible rumor spread through their camp. A whisper ran along the line that the ammunition was giving out. A few more shots from each soldier's gun, and there would be nothing left to fight with.

Then Peter fell into the sulks. As long as he could fight he had kept up his spirits, but now that all was lost, and his great career seemed near its end, he grew angry, and went to his tent to have one of his savage fits. He gave orders that nobody should come near him, and there was no officer or soldier in all the army who would have dared enter the tent where he lay, in his dangerous mood.

But if Peter had given up in despair, Catherine had not. In spite of Peter's order and his anger, she boldly went into his tent, and asked him to give her leave to put an end to the war by making a treaty of peace with the Turks, if she could. It seemed absurd to talk of such a thing, or to expect the Turks to make peace on any terms when they had so good a chance to conquer Peter, once for all, and to make him their prisoner. Nobody but Catherine, perhaps, would have thought of such a thing; but Catherine was a woman born for great affairs, and she had no thought of giving up any chance there might be to save Peter and the empire.

Her first difficulty was with Peter himself. She could not offer terms of peace to the Turks until Peter gave her leave, and promised to fulfill whatever bargain she might make with them. She managed this part of the matter, and then set to work at the greater task of dealing with the Turks.

She knew that the Turkish army was under the command of the Grand Vizier, and she knew something of the ways of Grand Viziers. It was not worth while to send any kind of messenger to a Turkish commander without sending him also a bribe in the shape of a present, and Catherine was sure that the bribe must be a very large one to buy the peace she wanted. But where was she to get the present? There was no money in Peter's army-chest, and no way of getting any from Russia. Catherine was not discouraged by that fact. She first got together all her own jewels, and then went to all the officers' wives and asked each of them for whatever she had that was valuable—money, jewels, and plate. She gave each of them a receipt for what she took, and promised to pay them the value of their goods when she should get back to Moscow. She went in this way throughout the camp, and got together all the money, all the jewelry, and all the silver plate that were to be found in the army. No one person had much, of course; but when the things were collected together, they made a very rich present, or bribe, for the Grand Vizier.

With this for a beginning, Catherine soon convinced the Turkish commander that it was better to make peace with Russia than to run the risk of having to fight the great armies that were already marching towards Turkey. After some bargaining she secured a treaty which allowed Peter to go back to Russia in safety, and thus she saved the czar and the empire. A few years later Peter crowned her as Empress of Russia, and when he died he named her as the fittest person to be his successor on the throne.

Thus the peasant girl of Livonia, who was made a captive in war and a servant, rose by her genius and courage to be the sole ruler of a great empire—the first woman who ever reigned over Russia. It is a strange but true story.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
Teresa
************************************
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The Most Dangerous and Daring Escape of Blanche Gamond

The Dangerous and Daring Escape of...

BLANCHE GAMOND

1687

Blanche Gamond belonged to a Protestant family of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, when the Protestants were subjected to the most rigorous persecution, Mademoiselle Gamond, whose piety was of the most fervent and exalted kind, resolved to fly the kingdom. The city of Saint-Paul was closely invested, and the dragoons overran all the neighboring country in search of the Protestants. Blanche left the city and wandered about for some time alone, and afterwards with her parents, who had joined her. At times they were exposed to all the hardships of forest life, and it was only at intervals that they could venture to show themselves in towns. In this manner they traveled through the greater part of Dauphiné; but they were obliged to separate at last, to escape the more easily from the dragoons; and our poor heroine was about to pass the frontier with her brother and her mother and sister, when she was taken near Goncelin. Her brother escaped from the soldiers, but her mother and her sister were brutally ill-treated by these wretches, and were taken to Grenoble and thrown into a horrible dungeon. Blanche Gamond was then twenty-one years of age. She was subjected for a long time to the most terrible tortures; but insulted, mercilessly beaten, dying of hunger, and sinking under a lingering illness, as she was, she bore all with the courage and the resignation of a martyr.

The following is her account of her attempt at escape, the consequences of which were most disastrous to her:—
“We were told to get ourselves ready in three days for a voyage to America; ‘and when,’ it was added, ‘you are once on shipboard you will be made to walk the plank, and will be thrust into the sea, so that the detested race of the Huguenots may perish with you.’

“ ‘It concerns me little,’ I replied, ‘whether my body be eaten by the fish in the sea or by the worms in the earth.’

“When they had left us alone, Susan de Montélimart said, ‘We might make our escape by this window if we could only break the bars.’

“ ‘We are at such a height from the ground,’ I replied, ‘that we should either kill or lame ourselves; and then we should only be recaptured and treated worse than before. If that should happen, I could never survive my sufferings. I prefer death, therefore, and will rather set out for America. God will deliver us, as he delivered the victims of La Rapine.’ ”

La Rapine, or D’Herapine, who had been formerly condemned for robbery, under his real name of Guichard, had become director of the hospital of Valence, where he was told to employ all the means in his power for the conversion of the Protestants—a commission which he executed with all the cynicism and the ferocity of one of the worst of scoundrels.

“Susan replied, ‘If they had done to me what they have done to you I should have died ere this; but they are killing us of hunger; and, besides, they are going to take us to America, and we shall be half dead when they throw us in the sea. We might get out of this window. We seem to be despising the means which God has placed within our reach; but, for my part, I mean to attempt to use them.’

“At length, by her persuasion, I joined her in cutting a piece of cloth into shreds, and sewing it together; and when we had made a long band in this manner we tied a piece of stone to the end of it and lowered it, to ascertain the height of the window from the ground. We were on the fourth storey, and we found that our band was too short; but we lengthened it, and finally the end touched the ground. I then put my head out of the window and said to my dear sisters, ‘Alas! we shall kill ourselves, for it almost frightens me to death to look down.’

“That same evening, when our guards were asleep, we crept to the window with bare feet, for we were afraid that the priest, whose chamber was beneath ours, would hear our footsteps. Susan was the first to get out, and she was followed by Mademoiselle Terrasson de Die, then by me and by Mademoiselle Anne Dumas, of La Salle, in Languedoc. When I got outside and began to lay hold of the band, my strength failed me, and I heard the bones of my arm crack. My dress caught in a hook outside the window, and I was obliged to support myself with one arm while I disengaged myself with the other. I no longer felt either strength or courage, and I cried, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ But I seized the band with my teeth, and joining my two hands over it, I fell, rather than lowered myself, to the ground, striking against the stones with such violence that I cried, ‘Mercy! My God, I am either killed or maimed for life!’


I was obliged to support myself with one arm.
 
 “The dear sisters who were waiting for me ran up to me and asked me where I was hurt.

“ ‘Everywhere,’ I replied; ‘I am sure that I have broken my thigh,’ and I begged of them to tie it up for me with my apron. I then limped away, my two sisters supporting me on either side. I made sixty or seventy steps in great pain, and reached the gate of the Faubourg de Valence: but it was closed. They helped me to get upon the wall, but when I stood upon the top of it, and saw how high it was, I said to my three dear sisters, ‘This is a second precipice, and I am not brave enough to attempt to descend. Leave me and go alone.’

“They let me down from the wall and left me there, and then they tried to get down themselves, and succeeded after great trouble. When they had reached the other side, Mademoiselle Dumas cried out to me, ‘We are going. We are very sorry to leave you behind. God preserve you from our enemies. I wish you prosperity, and give you my blessing, and I beg of you to give me yours in return.’

“ ‘Who am I,’ I replied, ‘to give you my blessing? but I pray that God will give you his. I pray fervently that he will lead you in all his ways; and I conjure you to leave this place as quickly as you can, or all of us may be recaptured.’

“I was thus left quite alone, still suffering the cruel and violent pains which had never left me from the moment of my fall. It was not yet daybreak, and I lifted up my heart to God. But I fainted in the midst of my prayer, and did not come to myself for, at least, a quarter of an hour. I had no one to console me, or even to offer me a single drop of water; but as soon as I came to myself I cried out, ‘Lord, do not abandon me.’ I lay for a time without being able to make any movement, and then I thought that at daybreak they would be sure to find me, and then I should be recaptured and taken to the hospice. ‘O God,’ I prayed, ‘grant me this mercy that this day may see the last of my troubles, for death is better than life. I have lived enough. Take my soul to thee, O God. Oh grant, if it please thee, that I may be taken to the tomb, and not to the hospice this day.’

“Day then began to break. I had not enough strength to raise myself, so that those who passed by did not know that I was lamed. I was only just able to hide my face from them by covering it with my tappeta. I was interrupted during my prayers by the agony which I suffered from my broken thigh and dislocated ankle. After a time a gentleman came by, and said, ‘It would be better, mademoiselle, for you to be at your own house than to remain here, and it would certainly be more becoming.’

“ ‘If you knew who I was, sir,’ I replied, ‘you would not address me in such language.’

“In another moment they opened the gate of the Faubourg and the passers-by said very hard and cruel things about me, seeing me lying at full length in the road so early in the morning.”

She begged one of them to fetch Mademoiselle Marsilière, a Protestant converted to Catholicism, whom she knew, and she prayed God that this early friend might turn out a good Samaritan, but this prayer was not heard.
“Are you asking for me?” said Mademoiselle Marsilière, when she approached the poor wounded creature. “Yes, mademoiselle; save me—for mercy’s sake help me. Take me to some place where I may die, so that no one may witness my sufferings.”


“But Mademoiselle Marsilière replied that I should endanger her safety as well as my own. ‘I must go,’ she said, ‘before any one sees me, or I shall be put in prison myself.’

“I was wounded to the heart at this treatment from a co-religionist, and I asked her if she had the courage to leave me in this condition. ‘Help me, at least,’ I said, ‘to crawl behind this wall, so that I may not be seen by the passers-by.’ ”

But neither the prayers nor the sufferings of the unfortunate Blanche had the least effect on the prudent and charitable person whom she had called to her aid. Mademoiselle Marsilière went away, but returned shortly afterwards with the almoner of the religious house of which she was a member, who, without paying the least regard to the distressed condition of the wounded girl, began to address to her a series of questions about her escape and her accomplices. At length two men, seizing her by the shoulders and the feet, carried her to the hospice and laid her down upon the stones in the courtyard.

It is impossible to enter fully here into all the details of the rigorous punishment endured by the poor girl for some months after this. She bore all with her ordinary courage and patience, but the mere recital of such atrocities would give too much pain to the most unfeeling heart.

She was at last allowed to return to her parents, and she recovered her health after her long sufferings, and retired to Switzerland with her family.

Compiled from sources in the public domain.


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Smiles & Good Fortune,
Teresa
************************************
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The Escape of Marie De Medicis

THE ESCAPE OF 

MARIE DE’ MEDICIS.

1619


Marie de’ Medicis, after the assassination of her favourite, Concini, seeing herself shut out from all participation in affairs by the intrigues of Luynes, asked for and obtained permission to retire to Blois (May, 1617), where she soon became a prisoner. Luynes surrounded her with spies, and placed two companies of cavalry in the neighbouring villages, with orders to watch her slightest movements. But the Duke d’Épernon and other malcontent lords, who had retired from the court, wishing to give more importance to their party, sought to deliver the Queen-mother and to place her at their head.

M. d’Épernon was chiefly urged on to this enterprise by a devoted adherent of the Queen-mother, named De Ruccellai, who had no other thought than how to serve his mistress, and no other inspiration than a passionate desire to see her at liberty. After long meditation over various plans, Ruccellai thought that no person could be made so useful to him as M. de Bouillon, on account both of that nobleman’s reputation among all classes of his countrymen, particularly among the Huguenots, and of the security which was afforded by his retreat at Sedan. He accordingly made a secret journey to Blois, and obtained the Queen-mother’s permission to speak to M. de Bouillon, and to promise him whatever might be necessary, in her name. He then sought out M. de Bouillon, but at very great peril, for he was obliged to travel by night and alone, for fear of being discovered. M. de Bouillon, however, excused himself from all participation in the design on account of his age, his infirmities, and his good understanding with the King, which he was unwilling to risk, as he had no other wish than to enjoy the benefits of that mercy which had been extended to him after the death of Marshal d’Ancre, and to end his days in peace. He, however, referred the Queen-mother’s messenger to M. d’Épernon, who, being extremely ill-satisfied with De Luynes, and having, besides, a number of large establishments in the kingdom, would be likely to prove far more serviceable in the cause than himself.

Ruccellai, having written to the Queen-mother and obtained her consent to this change of plan, laid his proposals before M. d’Épernon. The latter at first received them with some suspicion, but he was finally won over. At the end of a secret conference at his house, which lasted several days, he authorised Ruccellai to tell the Queen that if she could once contrive to escape from the chateau, and to pass the bridge on the Loire, he would await her arrival on the other side of the river, with such an escort as would conduct her safely, in spite of every obstacle, to Angoulême, or any other part of the kingdom to which she might choose to go. The Queen replied that nothing would be more easy; and Ruccellai pressed D’Épernon to hasten the execution of his part of the plan; but the latter insisted on putting off the enterprise till the February of the following year.

De Luynes, ever suspicious, and wishing to discover the real feelings of the Queen, sent one of his creatures to her, to say that the King was shortly going to Blois, and that he would fetch her away with him. The envoy also made repeated protestations of service on the part of De Luynes, and assured the Queen that she would in future be treated exactly in accordance with her own desires; but he never failed, while proffering these services, to narrowly watch the countenances of the Queen and all who approached her, to gather what he could of their real feelings. But not one of the Queen’s people was yet aware of her design; and as she had already sworn without scruple, so she did not hesitate to swear again, and that so well, that the agent of De Luynes went back firmly persuaded that she was impatient for the coming of the King, and was perfectly ready to be on good terms with his master and forget everything.

D’Épernon, having completed his measures, went to Confolens, where the Archbishop of Toulouse was waiting for him, with two hundred of his friends; but he did not find the expected news of the Queen-mother. He had, however, gone too far to recede; and he at once sent M. du Plessis to the Queen, to warn her of his arrival and to learn her wishes. When M. du Plessis had delivered his message, the Queen decided on setting out that same night.

She then for the first time took others into her confidence, and broke the matter to the Count de Brennes, her master of the horse, to M. de Merçay, and another officer of her body guard, and to the Signora Caterine, her woman of the bedchamber. She ordered the Count de Brennes to be at the door of her room at five the next morning, and to see that her travelling chariot with six horses was at the same time beyond the bridge. The others she kept with her all night, to pack up her jewels and wearing apparel.

With these three gentlemen then, and a single woman of the bedchamber, she left the place on the 22nd of February, at six in the morning, by the window of a room looking out upon the terrace, from which, owing to a broken wall, it was easy to reach the ground without passing by the door of the chateau. After the Queen had let herself glide down this ruin, and had regained her feet, she made her way to the bridge, where she met two men, one of whom, seeing her almost alone at that early hour, passed a very uncharitable judgment upon her. The other, however, recognised her, guessed her purpose, and wished her “God speed.”

On the other side of the bridge she found her carriage, and entering it, with her attendants she went to Montrichard, where she came up with one of her gentlemen, who had preceded her to make sure of the passage of the Cher. She remained there two days, during which time she wrote to the King, and then she set out for Angoulême.

After long conferences and innumerable intrigues, in which De Luynes and Richelieu, then Bishop of Luçon, displayed all their ability, Marie de’ Medicis, seeing all her partisans abandoning her interests in their anxiety to carry on a quarrel among themselves, left Angoulême for Tours, where Louis XIII. and Anne of Austria were waiting for her. They received her at about two leagues from the city, and lavished upon her the most affectionate caresses. She passed seven or eight days with them, and then withdrew for a time to Chinon, until the preparations were completed for her grand entry into Angers.—(Memoirs of Fontenay-Mareuil.)

 Compiled from sources in the public domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
Teresa
************************************
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The Daring Escape of Mary Queen of Scots from Loch Leven Castle.

THE DARING ESCAPE OF MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS.

1568.

When the confederate Scotch lords had taken Mary Stuart prisoner after her defeat at Carberry Hill, and had resolved to dethrone her, they sent her for safe custody to the castle of Loch Leven, situate on a small island in the middle of the lake of that name. They chose this gloomy place, not only because it was nearly inaccessible, but because the hapless lady would there be in the keeping of that most watchful of all gaolers, a mortal enemy. Margaret Erskine, mother of William Douglas, the owner of the castle, had had a son by James V., whom it pleased her to regard as the legitimate heir to the throne of Scotland, and she hated Mary as an obstacle to her schemes of ambition. Religious differences intensified this feeling, for Margaret was a zealous Presbyterian. In short, her character, her faith, her family pride, and the natural harshness of her temper, all conspired to make her an inexorable guardian of the unfortunate Queen.

After Mary had been compelled by violence to renounce the crown in favour of her son, she was placed in the most rigorous confinement, the strictest watch being kept over her to prevent her, not only from effecting her escape, but from holding any sort of communication with the outer world. Many of the sovereigns of Europe were well disposed towards her, but she was not allowed to write to her friends, though she sometimes found an opportunity of doing so while the daughters of Margaret, who shared her chamber, were asleep, or at their meals. The cruelty of these restraints defeated their end, for it touched the very son her gaoler, George Douglas, with compassion for the captive Queen, and led him to form a plan for her escape. But his first attempt to aid her was unsuccessful.

It was arranged that the Queen should leave the castle in the dress of the laundress who brought her linen to Loch Leven, and that George Douglas and a number of his partisans should be ready to receive her as soon she had crossed the lake. The appointed day came; the young man was at his post, and the Queen, thanks to her disguise, had actually got clear of the castle, and reached the boat, when one of the boatmen, struck by the figure of the pretended laundress, attempted to lift her veil, and the hasty gesture with which the Queen resisted his touch, revealed a hand too white and too delicately formed to be that of a hard-working girl. The man at once guessed her real rank, but even at that moment Mary did not lose her presence of mind. She declared her name and title, and ordered him, on pain of death, to row her across the lake. The name of Margaret Erskine had, however, greater terror for the fellow than that of Mary Stuart; and the Queen was taken back to captivity again.


As the penalty of this unfortunate attempt of the 25th March, George Douglas was sent away from the island. This did not, however, make him one whit the less eager to succeed in his noble design; and he confided the Queen to the care of one who was equally devoted to her—his brother, a youth of fifteen or sixteen, called the “Little Douglas,” and employed as page to his mother.

Mary was, of course, made to suffer more heavily, and every fresh precaution against her escape took the form of a new torture. Her life became almost unendurable. She wrote to Elizabeth, to Catherine de’ Medicis, and to Charles IX., supplicating them for aid, but before any of them could move in her favour other help was at hand. George Douglas had never forgotten his promise to set her free. He used the liberty gained by his banishment from the castle in extending the circle of her friends. He engaged the powerful families of the Seatons and the Hamiltons in her cause, and with their aid formed a more carefully prepared plan than the last for her escape. It was arranged that on a given night they should be waiting for her where he had formerly waited. The page, young Douglas, undertook the rest.

Sunday, the 2nd May, 1568, was the day fixed for the execution of the project. The whole household at Loch Leven took their meals in a common hall; and while they were together the keys of the fortress were placed on the table by the governor’s side. At supper time on the appointed night the young page watched his opportunity; and while he held out his plate to be filled, he contrived to get possession of the keys without being for the moment observed. He at once ran to Mary’s chamber and released her, and then led her to the boat, locking every door behind him on his way to diminish the chances of pursuit. He then threw the keys into the lake, and took the oars, after handing the Queen and her waiting-woman into their seats, and pulled vigorously for the shore. Before leaving the castle he had placed a signal light in one of the windows, so that when the Queen stepped from the boat she found her friends waiting to receive her. She at once took horse, and accompanied by Lord Seaton, galloped hard for that nobleman’s house at Niddry, in East Lothian, whence after a few hours’ repose she made her way to the more strongly fortified castle of the Hamiltons. She was received there by the Archbishop St. Andrew’s and Lord Claude, who had gone out to meet her with fifty horses.

The news of this escape, according to Scott, spread through Scotland with the rapidity of lightning, and the Queen was greeted everywhere with enthusiasm. The people remembered her affability, her grace, her beauty, and her misfortunes; and if they remembered her errors too, it was only to say that she had been punished for them too severely. On Sunday Mary had been a sad captive, abandoned to her enemies in a solitary tower; and on the Saturday following she found herself at the head of a powerful confederation, in which nine counts, eight lords, nine bishops, and a great number of gentlemen of the highest rank were engaged to defend her and to restore her to her throne. But this ray of hope only illumined her sombre destiny for an instant. On February 8, 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded for treason. Mary's son, King James VI of Scotland became king of England, Scotland, and Ireland upon Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603.



The keys thrown into the lake by the page were found by a fisherman in 1805, and are now placed at Kinross. The place where the fugitive Queen landed, on the southern shore of the lake, is still called Mary’s Knoll

Contents prepared from sources in the public domain.



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Smiles & Good Fortune,
Teresa
************************************
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The Assassination of Iñez de Castro

THE ASSASSINATION OF IÑEZ DE CASTRO

(A.D. 1355.)

As one of the most cruel and heart-rending tragedies of the middle ages, the love-story and the assassination of Iñez de Castro has lived in song and story for five hundred and fifty years, and still awakens echoes of pity and sorrow whenever read or heard.
Constancia, the wife of Pedro, son of Alfonso the Fourth of Portugal, and heir-presumptive to the crown of that kingdom, died in 1344, and left to her husband a son of tender age, named Ferdinand. Pedro thereupon desired to marry the countess Iñez de Castro, a young lady of great beauty and loveliness, and, like himself, sprung in direct lineage, but on her mother’s side, from the royal house of Castile. Iñez de Castro was of an illustrious family, it is true, but her rank was not deemed sufficient to entitle her to become the wife of the Crown Prince; therefore when Dom Pedro mentioned to his father his intention to marry her, the King positively refused his consent. Dom Pedro, however, instead of obeying his father, secured permission from the Pope, and secretly married her, bestowing upon her the full rank and all the rights of a legitimate wife.

In the meantime the King and his advisers urged Dom Pedro to get married again, and proposed a number of young princesses of renowned beauty and ancestry for his choice. But Pedro, without disclosing the secret of his marriage with Iñez de Castro (rumors of which were nevertheless whispered and busily circulated at the court of the King), persistently rejected all these proposals, giving no other reason for his refusal than his personal disinclination to marry. While Pedro’s father reluctantly accepted his son’s emphatic declaration, the most trusted advisers and counsellors of the King, Diego Lopez Pacheco, Pedro Coello, and Alvaro Calvarez, did not, because they were afraid lest the influence of the beautiful and accomplished Iñez de Castro—no matter whether she was legally married to Pedro or not—would be dangerous and possibly fatal to their own preëminence at the court, as soon as Pedro should succeed his father on the throne. They shrewdly worked upon the King’s mind by insinuating that if the rumor of Pedro’s secret marriage should prove to be true, the ultimate succession of Ferdinand, Pedro’s son by his first wife, to whom the King was very much attached, might be endangered, and that possibly the son of Iñez de Castro would become Pedro’s successor on the throne.

The King summoned Pedro to a private interview, and asked him concerning his relations with Iñez de Castro, informing him at the same time of the rumor of his secret marriage. Pedro denied the truth of this rumor, admitting, however, that Iñez de Castro, while not his wedded wife, was so dear to his heart that on her account he would not consent to form a new matrimonial alliance, no matter how illustrious by birth or beauty the princess proposed to him might be. The emphasis with which Pedro made this assertion satisfied his father that the rumor of a secret marriage was true; and when the King, at the next cabinet council, repeated to his confidants the result of his interview with the Crown Prince, they predicted that the greatest calamities would arise, after the King’s death, from the Crown Prince’s infatuation for Iñez, which they ascribed rather to unnatural evil influences than to the surpassing beauty and loveliness of the young woman. The King, a man of very irascible temperament, became excited and indignant; he declared again and again that, if there were no other means of separating Pedro and Iñez, the young woman would have to die. The council then broke up.
It was but a short time afterwards that Dom Pedro left the court for a few days to go out hunting with some friends. But warned by his mother, who had heard of the King’s evil designs upon Iñez de Castro, he had taken her and her two children to Coimbra, where he left them in a convent to await his return. On the day after his departure, King Alfonso suddenly appeared at the convent and demanded to see Iñez de Castro. Pedro’s wife immediately made her appearance, accompanied by her two children. As she looked upon the King, whose mien was grim and menacing, and who was surrounded by a number of his knights in full armor, a presentiment of some terrible calamity which was to befall her and her two children entered her breast, and from an impulse of both fear, and of hope to save her children, she threw herself at the King’s feet, imploring him to forgive her and to take pity on her innocent children. Alfonso’s heart melted with pity at the sight of so much beauty and innocence. He raised her from her kneeling position and told her to be of good cheer, and that no harm would befall her. And then turning round, he left the convent, followed by his attendants, who were not a little surprised at this peaceful ending of a visit which had promised to be a tragedy.

But while Iñez already congratulated herself on her lucky escape from a terrible death, and even on her good fortune in having softened the King’s heart toward herself and her two children, she was nevertheless doomed to ruin. The three counsellors so hostile to her had not accompanied the King on his visit to the convent; they were waiting for the return of their sovereign at some distance from Coimbra, and were greatly disappointed when they learned from his own lips that, instead of having slain with his own hands, as he had promised to do, the woman who had seduced his son and enthralled him either by her beauty or by the employment of supernatural means, he had changed his mind concerning her, and now spoke feelingly and affectionately of her and her sweet children. The counsellors concealed with great difficulty the irritation and disgust with which the King’s weakness filled them; they immediately proceeded to counteract the favorable impression which Iñez had made, uttering the foulest insinuations and aspersions upon her character. The very change which she had succeeded in effecting in the King’s sentiments toward her was made the means of renewing and corroborating the charge that evil spirits were assisting her in bewitching the royal family for her own selfish purposes. “Since she has so easily captured your majesty,” said one of them cunningly, “who can hope to resist her and her ambitious designs? Poor Ferdinand!”


The artful mention of the name of the young prince, whose right of succession was endangered by the recognition of Iñez de Castro, was sufficient to elicit from the King the promise that his son’s mistress should never be received at the court. Having obtained this concession, the three counsellors found it comparatively easy to persuade him that the original purpose for which they had come to Coimbra—the death of Iñez—was the only salvation for the throne and the dynasty, and that it was his duty as a monarch to remove her as soon as possible in order to avert greater calamities. They told him that it was perhaps right that he had not soiled his royal hands with the blood of one who was unworthy of the high distinction of dying by his sword, but that it was a duty he owed to the state and to the legitimate heir to the throne to order her death at the earliest moment. Alfonso was weak and foolish enough to believe them and to sanction the murder of the fair and innocent wife of his son. That very night Iñez de Castro fell a victim to the daggers of two assassins.

The assassination provoked terror throughout Portugal and Spain, and general were the denunciations of the King and the counsellors who had advised him to commit the crime. But in this case what followed the murder has, even more than the atrocity of the crime itself, made it famous in song and story. The murder of Iñez de Castro occurred in 1355.

A rumor of the tragedy reached Dom Pedro while he was taking dinner at the small tavern of a village, some thirty leagues from Coimbra. The Crown Prince was traveling incognito, and neither the host nor the guests of the tavern, except his own companions, knew him and how deeply he was interested in the terrible news which a cattle dealer had just reported as the latest sensation in the city. Dom Pedro hurried back to Coimbra and to the convent. The rumor was only too true. His idolized wife was dead. Three horrible wounds, each of which would have been sufficient to cause death, disfigured her beautiful corpse; but her countenance shone with angelic radiance and sweetness, and the agony of death seemed to have left no trace on it. When Dom Pedro learned from the nuns how the assassins had demanded entrance in the name of the King and had burst open the bedroom of Iñez and butchered her without mercy, he knelt down by the coffin and swore bloody vengeance against all those who had taken a hand in this inhuman and atrocious crime. He called upon Heaven to assist him in bringing the assassins and their instigators to justice, and laying his hands upon the breast of his murdered wife, he swore that he would not desist from the pursuit of the guilty persons, even if he had to seek them on the throne. The meaning of these words could not be misconstrued, for it was generally understood that, while the three counselors had proposed the murder, the King had given his consent to it. When Dom Pedro’s threat was repeated to him, the King, highly incensed, loudly proclaimed that Iñez de Castro’s death was a just punishment for her criminal liaison with the Crown Prince, in open violation of the King’s order, and assumed the full responsibility for the murder. The Crown Prince, so rudely repelled by his father and deeply wounded by the disgrace heaped upon his virtuous wife, refused to return to the court; on the contrary, he called his friends, and the friends of Iñez de Castro, her brothers and cousins, to arms. The cruel and unjustifiable homicide he justly ascribed to the calumnies and intrigues of a set of rapacious cut-throats who were ready to sacrifice everything to their own personal interests, and who had deceived the King. In a very short time Dom Pedro found himself at the head of an army, with which he invaded those provinces in which the castles and mansions of the counsellors were situated. With merciless severity their lands were laid waste, their castles razed to the ground, their families and friends killed, and everything was done to make their very names and memories odious to their fellow-men.

By that time the King had also been informed by high dignitaries of the Church that the union between his son and Iñez de Castro had been consecrated, that the Pope himself had granted them permission to get married, and that strict secrecy had been observed simply out of high regard for the King, in the hope that he would never hear of it and would consequently not feel irritated by it. This information had a powerful effect on the King’s mind. He began to see what a great crime he had committed in sanctioning the murder of a virtuous and innocent young wife, whose only fault had possibly been her yielding, against the King’s outspoken wishes, to the Prince’s ardent wooing. And when the Queen, Dom Pedro’s mother, added her supplications and tears in behalf of her son, whom the murder of his wife had made nearly insane from grief, the King became more and more willing to be reconciled to him. He not only forgave his acts of rebellion, but even made amends, as much as he could, for the cruel wrong he had done him.

Under such circumstances it was comparatively easy for the Archbishop of Braga, whom the Pope had authorized to impart to the King the information concerning Dom Pedro’s marriage, to effect a reconciliation between father and son. Thereupon the son returned to the court, where he was received with the highest honors, after he had solemnly promised not to take revenge on the counsellors who had been instrumental in causing the death of his wife, and who had already been so severely punished by the devastation of their lands and the destruction of their castles. To consent to this condition was the cruelest sacrifice on the part of Dom Pedro, but he finally yielded to the tears and prayers of his mother—very likely, however, as we shall see, with a mental reservation.

Two years later, King Alfonso the Fourth died, and Dom Pedro ascended the throne of Portugal. The old King’s death was also the signal for the flight of his three counsellors, Pacheco, Coello, and Gonsalvez, whose absence was first noticed at the King’s obsequies. They had sought refuge in Castile, because they felt instinctively that it would not be safe for them to remain in Portugal, and that the ill-concealed hatred of Dom Pedro might break forth at any moment and punish them terribly for the part they had taken in Iñez de Castro’s death. In fact Pedro had never forgiven the assassins of his wife. On the contrary, his heart had never ceased to yearn for the day when he could not only take full and bloody revenge on her persecutors and murderers, but also restore the honor of her name and memory, which had been sullied by the calumnies of those scoundrels.

Castile was at that time ruled by Pedro the Cruel, one of the worst and most bloodthirsty tyrants that ever sat upon a Spanish throne. Some of his victims had made their escape into Portugal and had found protection at the court of Alfonso, Dom Pedro’s father. But when the counselors of Alfonso arrived at his court, Pedro the Cruel formed the diabolical plan of delivering them up to Pedro of Portugal, provided the latter would deliver, in exchange for them, the Castilians who had found an asylum in his kingdom. No more agreeable proposition could have been made to the King of Portugal, and the exchange was readily made. Two of the counsellors, Coello and Gonsalvez, were transported in chains to Portugal, and executed with inhuman cruelty. They were put to the torture in the hope of extorting from them the names of other accessories to the crime; thereupon they were burned at the stake, and their hearts were torn out; and thereafter their ashes were scattered to the winds. Pacheco, however, escaped this terrible fate. Being absent from the court of Castile when his two colleagues were arrested, he fled to Aragon.

After having in this manner satisfied his vengeance on the assassins, King Pedro assembled the high nobility and the great dignitaries of his kingdom at Cataneda, and in their presence swore that, after the death of his first wife, Constancia, he had legally married Iñez de Castro; that the Pope of Rome had given him special permission to do so, and that the marriage ceremony had been performed by the Archbishop La Guarda, in the presence of two witnesses, whom he mentioned by name. He ordered these facts to be entered upon the archives of the state and to be proclaimed publicly in every city, town, and village of the kingdom. The children of Iñez de Castro were declared legitimate and entitled to all the rights and prerogatives of princes of the blood, including succession to the throne of Portugal. Proceeding thence to Coimbra, the King ordered the vault in which the remains of Iñez had been deposited to be opened, her corpse, which had been embalmed, to be dressed in a royal robe and placed upon a throne, and her head to be adorned with a royal crown. He compelled his attendants, composed of the highest men of the monarchy, to pass by the throne and bow their knees and kiss the edge of the Queen’s robe,—in fact, to show the same reverence and respect to the dead Queen as they might have shown to the living Queen on the day of her coronation. As soon as this ghastly ceremony was over, the corpse was placed in a magnificent metal coffin and escorted by the King and a most brilliant cortège of knights and noblemen to Alcobaza, a royal residence about seventeen miles from Coimbra, and placed in a royal vault. A magnificent monument, which represented Iñez de Castro in her incomparable beauty and loveliness, was shortly after erected near the vault. It was the last tribute which the love and admiration of her husband could render to her memory.



Compiled from sources in the public domain.
 
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Smiles & Good Fortune,
Teresa
************************************
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The Assassination of Hypatia


THE ASSASSINATION OF HYPATIA

(A. D. 415.)

NEVER, perhaps, did the wonderful genius of Alexander the Great appear to better advantage than when he selected Alexandria as a commercial center and distributing point for the products of three continents, and as an intellectual focus from which Hellenic culture should be transmitted to those countries of Asia and Africa which his victories had opened to Greek civilization. The rapidity with which the city—to which Alexander had given his own name—grew to the dimensions of a great capital and a world-emporium, proved the sagacity and ingenious foresight of its founder, and was unrivaled among all the cities of the ancient world. It became the greatest seaport of the world, surpassing in the grandeur and magnificence of its buildings every other city except Rome itself; and when, through the genius of the Ptolemies, the successors of Alexander as rulers of Egypt, the great library was added to its monuments and treasures of art, it became also the intellectual capital of the world, rivaling and in some respects eclipsing the city of the Cæsars. It is true, long before Alexandria had reached its greatest prosperity, the creative power of Hellenic genius in the higher spheres of poetry and philosophy had passed its zenith. In the so-called Alexandrian age of literature the most beautiful and most poetical inspirations were the idyls of Theocritus. But Alexandria was the first city in the ancient world which became the seat of a many-sided, methodical scholarship, and of systematic, zealous studies of the exact sciences,—a university in the modern sense. It also became the great library city of the world.

It is true, the great library of inestimable value collected by Ptolemy Philadelphus (who also purchased the large library of Aristoteles) had been ruthlessly destroyed in the Alexandrian war of Julius Cæsar. But Ptolemy Physcon collected a second valuable library, which was augmented by the splendid library of King Eumenes of Pergamus, and formed by far the grandest collection of books to be found in the world. Mark Antony gave this splendid library to Queen Cleopatra. It comprised the intellectual treasures of the ancient world, and was placed in a wing of the Serapeum,—in that gigantic and magnificent building which was the grandest temple of ancient Egypt and the pride of Alexandria. The great city of the Ptolemies, with a population of nearly a million souls, had also become a sort of neutral territory upon which all religions could meet on equal terms. The cosmopolitan character of this great commercial centre, in which Christians, Jews, and pagans of all countries competed for the acquisition of wealth, made it natural for all these different citizens to live in harmony and mutual toleration. The time came, however, when Christianity was proclaimed the official state religion under Theodosius the Great, upon whose instigation or order the Roman Senate (not by a unanimous, but by a simple majority vote) passed a resolution declaring that the Christian religion should be the only true religion for the Roman Empire. This official declaration became the signal for a brutal persecution of the old religion throughout the Empire, and especially in its eastern provinces. Very prominent in this work of persecution and destruction was Theophilus, Archbishop of Alexandria, who was famous far and wide as one of the great lights of the Church and as a man of exceptional piety, although many of his actions are utterly inexcusable from a moral point of view. Theophilus was in constant warfare with the pagans and Jews of Alexandria, who quite often joined hands in fighting him. But, as a rule, they were defeated by the pugnacious prelate, who, on such occasions, always found at his command a formidable army composed of the mob of the city and of the monks of the desert of Nitria, which was near the city. The main object of Theophilus’s attacks was the great Serapeum, in which immense treasures of gold, silver, and sacred vessels were stored away, and which contained also the great collection of books,—a perfect armory of pagan philosophy, religion, and poetry,—which was especially obnoxious to him. By shrewdly misrepresenting the spirit of revolt among the Jews and pagans of the city, he succeeded in getting an edict from the Emperor authorizing him to destroy this temple of ancient wisdom and culture,—and, for the second time, the magnificent library of Alexandria was partly destroyed, partly scattered to the winds.

The audacity of Theophilus had inflicted terrible defeats on the non-Christian population of Alexandria, and had utterly disheartened it. On the other hand, the Christian inhabitants showed by their increasing arrogance that they were conscious of the supremacy of their church and of the exclusive protection to which their religion entitled them. However, in spite of this cruel discrimination there still remained at Alexandria a large and intelligent element true to the old religion, or rather to the old philosophy.

Theophilus died in the year 412 A.D., and was succeeded by his nephew Kyrillos, better known as St. Cyril, who continued the vindictive policy against the Jews and pagans which his uncle had inaugurated. It was not long before Cyril had fanaticized the mob against the Jews to such an extent that the latter, driven to despair, took up arms against their aggressors, who had undertaken a regular crusade against their lives and property. Pitched battles and massacres took place in the streets of Alexandria. Hundreds of the unfortunate Jews were slain, and very likely the Jewish population would have been entirely exterminated or expelled from the city, had not Orestes, the imperial governor, interfered in their behalf, and defeated the infuriated mob and the monks of Nitria, who as usual had taken a hand in the fight. But it was a long and stubbornly contested battle. Although Cyril personally did not show himself, it was nevertheless well known that he directed the attacks against the Jews from his hiding-place. Moreover all his most intimate friends actively participated in the riot and strenuously resisted the efforts of the governor to restore peace.

One of these friends personally assaulted and seriously wounded the governor. After the revolt had been quelled, this man was put on trial and sentenced to death. In vain Cyril appealed for mercy and tried to save the life of the accused man. Orestes was implacable, and the condemned man was executed. The disdain with which he had been treated by the governor, enraged the prelate and stimulated him to revenge. A large procession of priests and citizens took the body of the criminal from the gibbet and carried it to the principal church of Alexandria, where the Archbishop read high mass and delivered a sermon full of admiration and eulogy for the victim, filling the hearts of the congregation with hatred and contempt for the authorities, and invoking the punishment of Heaven upon their heads. But even this public demonstration did not satisfy the Archbishop; and with consummate cruelty he hit upon a plan for deeply wounding the governor without attacking him personally.

At that time there lived at Alexandria a young lady of great talent and renown. Her name was Hypatia. She was the daughter of Theon, a celebrated mathematician who lived at Alexandria, and whose genius for mathematics she seemed to have inherited. She first became his pupil, but soon surpassed him in ability and reputation. She also applied herself with great zeal and rare penetration to the study of the philosophy of Plato, whom she greatly admired and much preferred to Aristotle. Since Alexandria had no professors superior to herself in attainments and learning, Hypatia went to Greece and for several years attended the lectures of the most famous professors of Athens. She then returned to Alexandria, and was immediately invited by the authorities to the chair of philosophy in the University. Hypatia accepted this honor and filled the position with brilliant success. It was not only her profound and extensive learning, embracing the entire compass of the exact sciences, but also the charm of her persuasive and mellifluous eloquence which filled her hearers with admiration.

Her reputation as a public lecturer soon equalled her renown as a mathematician and philosopher, and a number of the most distinguished men of Alexandria and other cities were among her regular disciples, listening with delight to her dissertations. One of her most enthusiastic students was Synesius, afterwards Bishop of Ptolemais, who always held her in affectionate reverence, although she had steadily refused to profess the Christian religion. Orestes, the governor, was also among the number of her admirers and was frequently seen at her lectures, which were attended by Christians as well as by pagans. To the great qualities of her mind were added rare physical beauty and a suavity of manners which won the hearts of all those who became acquainted with her. Several of Alexandria’s most prominent citizens desired to marry her, but she refused all proposals because she wanted to live only for the sciences to which she had devoted her life. In spite of her great popularity and the steadily increasing number of admirers, Hypatia’s reputation was spotless; she had many friends, but never had a lover.

While this eminent woman’s celebrity as a thinker—which entirely eclipsed his own—would have been sufficient to fill the heart of Cyril with envy and jealousy, there was an additional reason for his hatred and hostility. Orestes, the governor, was a frequent visitor at her house and was known to consult her frequently on important public questions. The Archbishop, perhaps justly, attributed to Hypatia’s influence the governor’s evident leaning toward paganism and his open admiration for the philosophical doctrines of the Greek philosophers. Seeking for a victim on whom to vent his spite against Orestes, he therefore selected Hypatia as the one whose destruction would hurt him most deeply, while at the same time it would deliver himself and the church from their most dangerous opponent. It was comparatively easy for him to inflame the minds of the ignorant masses with rage against the woman who was represented to them as the implacable enemy of their religion, and whose pernicious teachings had led so many others from the path of virtue and salvation.

Everything was carefully but secretly prepared for the fatal blow, which was struck in the month of March, 415. It was a beautiful sunny day, and Hypatia got ready to proceed to the University, where she was to lecture that forenoon. A carriage was waiting for her at the door of her residence. When she entered the carriage she was surprised at the unusual number of people filling the street, and at the great number of monks passing through their ranks and apparently haranguing them. She could not account for this strange gathering, for it was not a Christian holiday, nor was any civil procession to come off that morning.

All at once she noticed that this great assemblage of people began to move in the direction of her own house. As it came nearer she heard wild exclamations and threats, without comprehending, however, that she was the object of this hostile demonstration. At the head of the procession marched Peter, the reader, one of the most fanatical of the priests of the city; he had played a very prominent part in the previous riots, and was evidently the leader in this new movement. With growing astonishment Hypatia saw them coming, but in the consciousness of her innocence she had no fear. She was soon to be cruelly disabused.

As soon as the rioters were within a few hundred feet of her residence and saw her seated in her carriage ready to start, the leaders and those in the front rank rushed toward her. Peter, the reader, was the first to reach her and to lay hands on her. As she recoiled from his touch in terror, others climbed upon the wheels of the carriage and dragged her down into the street. She resisted and called for help, but her cries died away unheard in the tumult of the roaring and jeering multitude who surrounded the carriage and with ever-increasing violence uttered threats against her.

Popular excitement is a flame which feeds itself by the electric current emanating from thousands of impassioned and excited minds. It is ready on slight provocation to burst forth in all-devouring violence. But a few minutes had passed from the moment the procession reached Hypatia’s carriage until the infuriated mob, holding the victim firmly in their grasp, had torn the garments from her body and hurried her with wild cheers and laughter to the Cæsarium, the great Christian church. Paralyzed with fear, unable to utter anything but screams and cries for help, she was dragged, in a state of perfect nudity, through the streets, and neither her helplessness nor her beauty softened the hearts of her tormentors and murderers. She was doomed to die, to be sacrificed at a Christian altar, atoning for her unbelief and her pernicious teachings with her life. One of her own friends, like herself adhering to the ancient cult and to Platonic philosophy, fitly compared Hypatia’s murder to the sacrifice of a Greek goddess by drunken and infuriated barbarians. But the crowning infamy of this assassination, as brutal as any that history has recorded, was that the victim was dragged to the church of Christ,—Christ, the incarnation of love and mercy,—and slaughtered there amidst the yells and curses of the so-called believers.

Hundreds of women had swelled the mob, and like the men they were brandishing flints, shells, and broken pottery, with which to cut and lacerate their victim that they might feast their eyes on her agony.
Charles Kingsley has given in his famous novel, “Hypatia,” a heart-rending description of the last moments of the illustrious woman-philosopher. The description may not be accurate in every little detail, but Mr. Kingsley sees the scene with the eye and with the imagination of a poet, and his description is poetically true. Our readers will thank us for quoting his words in rendering this final scene:—

“Whither were they dragging her?... On into the church itself! Into the cool dim shadow, with its fretted pillars, and lowering domes, and candles, and incense, and blazing altar, and great pictures looking from the walls athwart the gorgeous gloom; and right in front, above the altar, the colossal Christ watching unmoved from off the wall, his right hand raised to give a blessing—or a curse?

“On, up the nave, fresh shreds of her dress strewing the holy pavement—up the chancel steps themselves—right underneath the great, still Christ: and there even those hell-hounds paused.... She shook herself free from her tormentors, and springing back, rose for one moment to her full height, naked, snow-white against the dusky mass around—shame and indignation in those wide, clear eyes, but not a stain of fear. With one hand she clasped her golden locks around her; the other long white arm was stretched upward toward the great still Christ, appealing—and who dare say in vain?—from man to God. Her lips were open to speak; but the words that should have come from them reached God’s ear alone; for in an instant Peter struck her down, the dark mass closed over her again ... and then wail on wail, long, wild, ear-piercing, ran along the vaulted roofs.... What in the name of the God of mercy were they doing? Tearing her piece-meal? Yes, and worse than that!... It was over. The shrieks had died away into moans, the moans to silence.... A new cry rose through the dome: ‘To the Cinaron! Burn the bones to ashes! Scatter them into the sea!’
In the whole annals of crime not a more heart-rending and more brutal scene can be found than the murder of Hypatia. The assassination of the beautiful young Princess de Lamballe, the friend of Marie Antoinette, during the worst days of the French Revolution, bears some resemblance to it; but, after all, political fanaticism is never equal in its intensity and cruelty to religious fanaticism. Moreover, the fate of Hypatia shows that not all the martyrs were on the side of Christianity in the early ages of the Christian church. It should be stated, however, that a general cry of horror resounded through the world when the terrible news of Hypatia’s death crossed the seas and was echoed from land to land, and that the Christian Church, by its most illustrious representatives, was loud in its denunciation of the murder.

Upon the fame and name of St. Cyril the murder of Hypatia has left a lasting stain; for the plan and execution were generally attributed to him. Even Catholic Church historians, both ancient and modern, criticize him severely for his imprudent and ill-advised instigations against Hypatia and her followers, although they try to protect his memory against the reproach of having intentionally caused her death.

 Compiled from sources in the public domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
Teresa
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It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915