Jan. 3rd, 2008 12:54 pm
webofevil: (all hail)
One more thing from the Cardigan biography, though it doesn’t pertain to Cardigan himself:

Artillery bombardment became something of a sport [during the siege of Sebastopol]. A Russian officer under a flag of truce entered the British lines and proposed a contest between the best British 68-pounder, ‘Jenny’, and the champion Russian gun... General Airey accepted the challenge and, at noon, all other firing ceased along the line of battle. The sailors of the Naval Brigade and their Russian opponents climbed on to their respective parapets and saluted one another. Then the English gun, being the senior, was allowed to fire first. After a number of alternate shots, the seventh shell from the English gun knocked the Russian gun on its side, at which the English sailors cheered loudly, and the Russian survivors removed their hats to acknowledge their defeat. Then general war was resumed along the front.


Jan. 3rd, 2008 11:25 am
webofevil: (Default)
Earl Cardigan, the man who led—though was not responsible for—the charge of the Light Brigade, had a reputation as a hotheaded duellist that was eclipsed only by his reputation as a womaniser. The instant his first wife died, he rushed to the house of his mistress Adeline de Horsey, more than 40 years his junior, and cried, “My dearest, she’s dead ... let’s get married at once.” As the biography I’ve just been reading says,
His action was perhaps less callous than the words suggest. He had spent [his wife]’s last hours with her, and she had actually advised him to marry Adeline, in preference to the widowed Marchioness of Ailesbury, whom Adeline regarded as her principal rival.
Still, a second marriage to a former mistress, especially one so young, was frowned on in Victorian society. They travelled to Gibraltar two months later on Cardigan’s yacht, the Airedale, and were married there, but found themselves ostracised:
It was said that the Governor of Gibraltar invited Cardigan alone to dinner. Cardigan replied that he was accompanied by Lady Cardigan. The single invitation was repeated. Cardigan sent his second to the Governor with a duelling challenge. The Governor responded by having the Airedale, with Cardigan on board, towed out of Gibraltar harbour and left in the Mediterranean.

Donald Thomas, Charge! Hurrah! Hurrah! A Life of Cardigan of Balaclava
webofevil: (Default)
I've just been reading about a court-martial in 1840 where the crowd of spectators applauded the defendant so loudly that the President of the proceedings, Major-General the Honourable Sir Hercules Pakenham, had cause to shout, “Clear the court this moment! I will have no such ebullitions![1]

[1] n. 1. The state or process of boiling 2. A sudden, violent outpouring, as of emotion
webofevil: (hijab)
Ulysses S Grant, the Civil War general, was nominated by the Republican Party as their presidential candidate in 1868, despite the fact that he had only ever once voted in a presidential election, and then for the Democratic candidate.

The American public twice elected him as their president. In 1868, it must be admitted, the options were not particularly impressive. Grant’s Democratic opponent, Horatio Seymour, who had been Governor of New York, had said repeatedly and in public that he did not have “the slightest desire to occupy the White House; there is too much trouble and responsibility”. In an attempt to ensure that he could not be nominated, he took on the chairmanship of the Democratic convention. When his name was put forward despite his strong opposition, he told the convention that he must not be nominated “as I could not accept the nomination if tendered”.

Twenty ballots later, when the convention was still deadlocked, his name was reintroduced, still against Seymour’s wishes. He repeated forcefully that he meant it when he said he was not a candidate, but then made the fateful error of leaving the convention for a few minutes to get a breath of fresh air. While he was outside the convention hall, the delegates nominated him, and so Horatio Seymour stood for the presidency. No doubt to his immense personal relief, he failed to beat General Grant, who, however, had he maintained a consistent voting record in presidential elections, would presumably have voted for his opponent.

Jonathan Rice, Curiosities of Politics


Jan. 11th, 2007 12:01 pm
webofevil: (no ball games)
*Pathé News theme*

“The Foreign Secretary, Mrs Beckett, set off today on her trip to meet her new American counterpart. The journey is expected to last three weeks, during which time she hopes to improve her shuffleboard skills.”

In the interests of balance, and because the experience is such a novelty, it is only fair that I mark the occasion when I find myself standing four-square behind our Prime Minister. We can’t uninvent long-haul travel, and it’s unrealistic to expect us to try. Nor should we make it once again the preserve of the super-rich. We have to find a way to make this all work. The solution honestly shouldn’t be too hard to develop, either; it’s just that there’s never been an incentive before for manufacturers to try. Meanwhile, fair enough, we should be offsetting like crazy.

Bizarrely, there are proposals to price people off short-haul flights to get them on to the railways, which ignore the fact that people are already being priced—and physically jostled—off the railways into their cars. Car travel in turn will become unaffordable to most in time, if current plans for tolls on major roads eventually come into effect. Should we stop travelling significant distances at all? Fantastic news for xenophobes and hermits, but what about the rest of us?

Has someone quietly been carrying on the work of Colonel James Sibthorp?
The coming of the railways provided Sibthorp with the subject which grew obsessive during his later years. Beginning with the announcement that he had no intention of ever riding in the “steam humbug”, he opposed all railway bills in principle and detail. The new “degrading form of transport”, he foresaw, would bring all sorts of disasters to its patrons, from moral ruin to wholesale slaughter... One of his few successes was preventing the Great Northern Railway from extending its line through Lincoln, to the distress of the town’s more ambitious citizens.

Whenever Sibthorp spoke of railway proprietors it was to denounce them as “public frauds and private robbers”, but the day came when, for lack of alternative transport, he was forced to go back on his vow and travel in their humbugs. Yet he retained to the end of his life the firm conviction that railways were a mere nine-day wonder. In one of his later speeches he expressed himself “of the decided opinion that these nefarious schemes would ere long appear before the public in their true light—that all the railway companies would be bankrupt and that the old and happy mode of travelling the turnpike roads, in chaises carriages and stages, would be restored”.

John Michell, Eccentric Lives & Peculiar Notions

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