Category Archives: politics.ie

Just Perkin about

The following was totally irrelevant to a running thread on politics.ie.

A poor thing, but mine own (with the usual inputs).

  • Now look here: don’t you go making insinuations about Corkonians!
  • For me, the dirt on “Perkin Warbeck” was first dished by Bram Stoker. [Cries of “not a lot of people know that” but hardly © Michael Caine.]
  • I feel the need for a frolic, and to add a bit of totally irrelevant info — after all, there’s a whole menagerie of “types” in this story, and it was good enough for Bram Stoker. So here goes…

Two worthies from that fine city (former mayor John Atwater and English exile John Taylor) had Pierrechon de Werbecque (oh — work it out for yourselves) impersonate Richard Plantagenet, duke of York.

In his forced “confession”, “Warbeck” declared himself properly to be son of John Osbek, comptroller of the town of Tournai, and Kataryn de Far. We can identify these as Jehan de Werbecque and Nicaise Farou (English orthography and decoding of foreign names didn’t improve much until the 18th century — even if then).

“Warbeck” apprenticed in the Flemish wool-trade, which brought him into the service of Lady Margaret Beaumont, wife of the Anglo-Portuguese trader (and convert from Judaism) Sir Edward Brampton, Duarte Brandão. “Warbeck” came to Cork via the Portuguese Court, where he had fallen in with, first the royal councillor and explorer Pero Vaz de Cunha, and in 1488 with a Breton merchant, Pregent Meno. Meno arrived at Cork in December 1491 with silk to sell — which must say something about the prosperity of Cork in the late 15th century.

Malcolmian aside 1:

There’s several “de Cunha” names around at this time. All seem to have connections to Portuguese expansion and trade in India. In which case, I’m wondering about a family connection, which still appears on the Atlantic map as “Tristan da Cunha“.

Taylor deserves more attention than he has regularly received. He had come to Cork as an agent of  Charles VIII Valois l’Affable, whose interest was to divert Henry VII Tudor from ambitions in Britanny. Taylor induced Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Desmond, to patronise “Warbeck”, but it was Taylor who carried “Warbeck” to Harfleur. When Charles VIII came to terms with Henry Tudor (November 1492), “Warbeck” was rendered redundant, and made a break for Mechelen where he won over the dowager Duchess of Burgundy, Margaret of York, who “recognised” her long-lost nephew.

Malcolmian aside 2:

I was puzzled by the white roses in the glass of Flemish churches: it’s down to the marriage of Margaret of York at 5am on 3 July 1468 to Charles of Burgundy.

By early 1493 former-Yorkist members of the English court were appending themselves to what was a developing plot: Lord John Fitzwalter, Sir Robert Clifford (watch him!), Dean William Worsley of St Paul’s, and even the chamberlain of the king’s household, Sir William Stanley. Henry VII Tudor was already responding by cracking down on dissent in Ireland, and threatening trade sanctions (i.e. suspending the wool trade) against the Flemings. The Flemish sent “Warbeck” to Vienna, to secure the support of Maximilian Hapsburg, king of the Romans, who was married to a daughter of Charles of Burgundy by his first wife.

Malcolmian aside 3:

It might seem remarkable how often Portuguese connections show up in this story: the Burgundy/York marriage; Maximilian’s mother was a Portuguese princess. That’s a reflection of the passing importance of Portugal as a European power. And reminds me to read Roger Crowley’s book.

All was going swimmingly: “Warbeck” was an honoured guest of Maximilian when Philip the Fair was installed as ruler of the Flemish lands. Whereupon the wheels came off. Clifford (see above) defected back to Henry Tudor, and implicated the Yorkist courtiers. There was something of an Irish rebellion by the Desmonds. An attempted invasion of England, financed by Maximilian, was thwarted at the beach at Deal by Kentish levies. “Warbeck” then tried it on, with some success, at the court of James IV Stewart of Scotland. James Stewart married “Warbeck” to Lady Catherine Gordon (daughter of the Earl of Huntley, and a minor royal), provided “Warbeck” with Falkland Palace as a base, and prepared for an invasion of England. James Stewart had no intention of putting “Warbeck” on the English throne: the reward would be the burgh of Berwick.

James Stewart and “Warbeck” marched the Scots force across the border (21 September 1496), but “Warbeck” was soon aware he would have no support, and he retired. James Stewart bashed about a few border castles, and he too retreated.

Meanwhile Henry VII Tudor’s taxation provoked a rising in Cornwall, and more generally across the South-West. The rebels issued an invitation for “Warbeck” to lead them. The rebels took a trouncing at Blackheath (17 June 1497) and retreated to Cornwall, and “Warbeck” duly arrived at Whitesand Bay, via Ireland, on 7 September. Ireland, by the way, had been pacified by Gearóid Mór, the Earl of Kildare. “Warbeck” had attracted as many as 8,000 when he attempted a strike on Exeter (17 September 1497), to be sent packing by the Earl of Devon’s garrison. By the time “Warbeck” retreated to Taunton, his support was dissipating rapidly. By 21 September the rebellion was over, and “Warbeck” and his closest supporters fled.

“Warbeck” and three others holed up at Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire, were recognized and surrendered on promise of pardon. Henry Tudor held a kangaroo court at Taunton (5 October), where “Warbeck” confessed his imposture.

Malcolmian aside 4:

“Warbeck”‘s wife — and soon to be widow — received considerations from the Tudors. During the next reign, that of Henry VIII Tudor, she had three successive further marriages.

On the principle of keeping his enemies closer, Henry Tudor traipsed “Warbeck” around in his train until 9 June 1498 when “Warbeck” engineered an escape to Sheen, where he was recaptured and condemned to the Tower in shackles for life. I’d have to raise an eyebrow here: the back-end of “Warbeck”‘s career seems a trifle too convenient for Henry VII Tudor.

Somehow “Warbeck” became involved in one final plot, an attempt to break the Earl of Warwick and “Warbeck” from the Tower. This, too, was remarkably convenient for Henry Tudor in flushing out the last of the Yorkists (so, join the dots). A job lot of Henry’s enemies (including Taylor and Atwater — see my third paragraph of this post — neatly recovered respectively from France and Ireland) went on trial at the Palace of Westminster, en route for terminal “wet jobs“. “Warbeck” made a final “confession” before being hanged at Tyburn (23 November 1499).

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Monday, 11th September, 2017

Business of the day:

To be honest, not much.

A need to do an appointment at the other end of  York’s throbbing centre, which took all of an hour. This being Monday, in school term, before the students flood back, the streets are not chokka. Tourists and trippers are less in evidence. Even the usual “musicians”, who come to York so their music may die here, are hardly as numerous.

So a gentle amble there, and a Mercedes Citaro back.

Beyond that, time expanded to fill the void, with the wonders of cyber-space, and a small fret whether my repeat medication prescription has gone through. It has; so I can be dosed up for Helvetian exploration later in the week (watch this space).

There was a quick belt or two in a thread on politics.ie.

Oh, and ordered the new John le Carré from Amazon.

Carte du jour:

Apart from morning muesli, lunch-time Cheddar, and endless tea and coffee, a nice evening repast prepared by the Lady in my Life. It involved baking bits of chicken breast, and miscellaneous root-veg. I try not to get too involved in the process.

Booze of the day:

A definitely worthwhile New Zealand Chardonnay. Those antipodean grapes gave their all in a good cause.

Quote of the day:

The Guardian filleted yesterday’s Mail-on-Sunday for Tom McTague and Tim Ross writing about the 2017 Election Campaign:

The authors also reveal that May rarely visited party workers, fearing that Conservative HQ was “a pit of germs”. “There were quite a lot of germs flying around,” one Conservative source said.

How true. How very true.

Meanwhile, in his fortnightly column for the Miami Herald, Carl Hiaasen seems to be plotting his next novel (or even recycling the essential grief in every one of his novels) :

The aftermath is the most predictable part of any major hurricane encounter. That’s when people desperately turn to the big, bad, bumbling U.S. government.

It’s happening now in Texas, following the heart-crushing devastation from Hurricane Harvey. Politicians such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott, who built their careers ranting against the federal bureaucracy, are now singing a different tune: Help!

More than 570,000 Texans have already applied for FEMA grants. Unfortunately, the agency’s Emergency Response Fund will run out of money by the time this column is published, unless Congress (for once) moves fast.

Ironically, the cry for Harvey relief is being led by none other than President Trump, who recently proposed slashing FEMA’s budget by $600 million. Now he’s seeking almost $8 billion in aid for Houston and other flooded communities.

This is typical blow-hard hurricane politics, which is tolerable if the result is getting crucial assistance to the victims.

Cruz’s sneering opposition to the Hurricane Sandy relief package has come back to haunt him. Another hypocrite who voted against the New Jersey aid bill was our own Marco Rubio, who’s already pleading for federal dollars to help Floridians in Irma’s path.

Lingering question of the day:

If the Corbynistas’ shibboleth for selection/nomination is “Are you loyal to Jeremy?” (and I have a definite assurance that is so), have we not arrived at peak cultism? Isn’t that kind of dumb zealotry the slippery slope to drinking the Kool-Aid?

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Traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament

Recognise it? Its the indictment against Charles Stuart, 20th January 1648.

Where else to start? In a roundabout way, Paddy Kavanagh springs to mind:

Forget the worm’s opinion too
Of hooves and pointed harrow-pins,
For you are driving your horses through
The mist where Genesis begins. 

Those #Brexiteers assured us the UK would enjoy some regeneration, a second “genesis”, after 23rd June. They didn’t bother about the painful details. Now, the worm beneath the harrow is beginning to watch for where the tines will drive.

It also started here. Quite why the commenters on politics.ie should divide between ultra-Kippers and staunch defenders of the British Constitution escapes me. But for 1,700 exchanges (and continuing) they did, and do.

4256Personally, I was severely affronted by the vulgarity, the xenophobia, the sexism, the violent populism and anti-elitism fomented by the vulgar, xenophobic, sexist, arrogant,  elitist tabloid press barons in their spittle-speckled assaults on the High Court of Justice.

But back to first principles:

The whole non-event comes down to a binary simplicity:

  • Does the Prime Minister have the right to decide when and what #Brexit means, by exercise of “Royal Prerogative”?

or

  • Is Parliament the essential arbiter? 

Those three High Court judges, in their wisdom, endorsed a thousand years of English history, and declared for Parliament.

I doubt there will ever be plaques, with or without bird-turd, outside the Baby Shard (the London bunker from whence Murdoch’s The Sun rises daily), or Northcliffe House in Kensington (ditto the Daily Mail) as the one outside the Roundhouse pub, on Royal Standard Place, in Nottingham:

king-charles-placque

I laid out my understanding in that previous post.

That left me with the residual issue:

  • When might the “Royal Prerogative” ever be invoked?

As I see it, that Elephantine Object in the Newsroom, the “British Constitution”, constrains both:

  • Courts (who can only interpret the “Constitution” as a corpus of legislation going back to Norman times) and
  • Parliament (which can only act and enact within “constitutional” limits — for example, since the 1911 Parliament Act, the Lords have no powers over money bills, except a one-month delay).

Any amendment to an existing Westminster law would need an amending Act of the Westminster parliament.

We have a balanced — and ever-evolving — settlement between Parliament, devolved Assemblies, and Courts. Still,  I can just about conceive circumstances in which “Royal Prerogative” might need to be invoked — short of a declaration of War. Say the administration of a devolved Assembly became totally unmanageable …

Aha! You’re with me already!

Even then we’d need something like a Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, which imposed Direct Rule from 31st March 1972 to its repeal on 2nd December 1999.

I therefore found myself seeing this as an exercise in speedy parliamentary activity, without use of Royal Prerogative.

A bit of parliamentary history

On 20th March 1972, Harold Wilson, under an emergency notice of 16th March, led an Opposition adjournment motion.

This came after weeks of dithering by the Heath government, and procrastination by the Unionist at Stormont. It was now common ground (except among the extremes of opinion in Northern Ireland, who were up for a local Armageddon). The Dublin government was on the verge of doing something unmentionable.

Wilson, ever the opportunist, would have known that the Heath government was about to act; and wanted to get in on the act. The Opposition had another motive : the need for a distractor. The following week the Chancellor was going to offer a crowd-pleasing budget, as a softener for a General election (which would become the “Barber boom”, and stoke up the inflation that bedevilled British politics for the next decade — but that’s another matter).

After three hours of debate (with Prime Minister Heath responding) the government defeated the motion to adjourn by 257 to 294.

Had that vote been lost, the sitting would have ended abruptly, and Heath would, by convention (another bit of unwritten “Constitution”) have had to return the following session to propose a vote of confidence in his own adminstration. Had that vote of confidence been lost, it would immediately require Heath to go the Palace (another bit of “Constitutional” flim-flam) and resign.

At that moment the Queen would have two choices: to accept the now ex-Prime Minister’s request for a General Election, or to summon the Leader of the Opposition to form a new government (who would then promptly request a General Election, which would be granted).

There then intervened three days of Budget debate.

Perspective

At this distance in time, we’d need to remind ourselves just how febrile the atmosphere was at that moment. One name in particular should be in the frame: William Craig.

Craig had lost out to the more moderate Brian Faulkner for the leadership of the Unionist Party and the stool-of-office as Northern Irish Prime Minister. He had then built a party-within-the-Unionist-Party, his private Ulster Vanguard movement — which was closely associated with the loyalists and paramilitaries of such as the UDA. Craig held his “monster rallies”, involving motor-cycle outriders, and armed men drawn up in quasi-military ranks. Craig’s speeches at these rallies are quite outrageous:

We must build up dossiers on those men and women in this country who are a menace to this country because one of these days, if and when the politicians fail us, it may be our job to liquidate the enemy.

Note there “this country”: Craig was advocating a Rhodesian-style UDI.

Keeping it parliamentary

On 24th March, Heath was back to the Commons to make a holding statement in advance of the weekend, announcing the bringing back to Westminster of powers over Northern Ireland :

Parliament will, therefore, be invited to pass before Easter a Measure transferring all legislative and executive powers now vested in the Northern Ireland Parliament and Government to the United Kingdom Parliament and a United Kingdom Minister. This provision will expire after one year unless this Parliament resolves otherwise. The Parliament of Northern Ireland would stand prorogued but would not be dissolved.

The weekend out of the way, on  27th March, the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill was laid before the House, and given a nominal First Reading.

On 28th March there was a full debate, and division (483-18) on the Second Reading. Willie Whitelaw , as Leader of the Commons and as emollient a creature as the Tories could contain, introduced the Bill with a formula of words worth noting in this context:

I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place her interests and prerogative, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Got that? The “Royal Prerogative” there being made — effectively — subject (if only for this purpose) to the will of parliament. Nearly half a century ago, that must strike as a significant statement. And we have since moved much, much further in claiming democratic accountability through parliament against arbitrary, post-feudal authority.

There was a brief debate on amendments on 29th March (in effect, the “Committee Stage”).

On 30th March all the remaining stages, including the Bill passing the House of Lords, were completed, and at 12.26 pm the Lord Chancellor announced the Royal Assent: it was now an Act of Parliament, subject (see above) to annual review.

After that, interpretation would fall to the Courts.

All done and dusted, with the barest of nods at “Royal Prerogative”.

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Back in the saddle again

Blogging is a chore. So much more fun to spit out pithy pensées @mredfellow on Twitter. Or mano-a-mano on politics.ie.

Just once in a while, though, I need a more meditative context.

For example, I found myself musing on a new politics.ie thread:

“The rough draft of history”: what are others’ choices for classics of journalism?

Hat tip to IvoShandor (who provoked this train of thought for a grey Sunday afternoon).

The oldest version is supposedly an editorial in The State of Columbia, South Carolina, 5th December 1905:

The Educational Value of “News”

What is news today will be history tomorrow. No one would be bold enough to deny that history is one of the most essential branches of modern education, yet the proposition that the study of the news of the day is of equal value, is, indeed, but a part of the study of history, would be challenged nay many. Those who value history as a study cannot consistently, however, deny to the study of news an equal value, for it is plainly apparent that the happenings of today are but the progress of history. […]

The newspapers are making morning after morning the rough draft of history. Later, the historian will come, take down the old files, and transform the crude but sincere and accurate annals of editors and reporters into history, into literature

Perhaps better known — and more romantically-expressed — than that is George H Fitch: better known because he was syndicated by the George Matthew Adams news service across the American Mid West, and was a regular for the Saturday Evening Post. So we have:

A reporter is a young man who blocks out the first draft of history each day on a rheumatic typewriter.

That first appeared (and probably elsewhere) in the Lincoln, Nebraska, Daily Star, for 3rd July 1914.

I have a reputation among the fortnightly recycling collectors for these parts, when they are humping half-a-hundredweight of discarded newsprint each cycle. I am an addict.

But what are the truly memorable “first drafts”?

This one might qualify:

newyorktimes-headline-tophalf-rms-titanic-sinking-16april1912

And, infamously, so might this:

Victorious presidential candidate Pres. Harry Truman jubilantly displaying erroneous CHICAGO DAILY TRIBUNE w. headline DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN which overconfident Republican editors had rushed to print on election night, standing on his campaign train platform. (Photo by W. Eugene Smith//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

A personal favourite, if more of a “second thoughts” (it was the New Yorker for 31st August, 1946), would be John Hershey’s Hiroshima, which I remember (and probably still have) in a Penguin reprint:

b10a69f6b0ff0a94588e5225ab28442b

 

Today we get our “first drafts” from television, or even from Twitter. So, before the dead-tree media is laid to rest, I’m wondering:

What are the classics of the genre?

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Walk-on parts in (Irish!) history

We’re kicking off (I hope) a thread on politics.ie.

With luck we can compile a gallery of those who get squeezed out of “history”, undeservedly. But still have this shadowy afterlife. Ireland is full of them. Anecdotally.

I suggested as starters:

  • “the real Ally Daly” (see Portrait of the Artist);
  • Atty Hayes of the aged goat;
  • Beaney and Barney;
  • Bessy Bell and Mary Gray (were they not hills each side of the road at Newtownstewart? But why?);
  • the Bird Flanagan …

All of those have now been adopted — with the exception of Atty Hayes’s goat.

All welcome to get involved. If you can’t be arsed to register, post here and we’ll try to get it up for you (as the best proctologist might say).

Did you know, for example, that Charlotte Despard (Sir John French’s unlikely sister, who now has a pub named after herself at the bottom end of Archway, North London) and Maud Gonne MacBride were known to Dubliners as “Maud Gone Mad and Mrs Desperate”?

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Back to the grind

Lots going on, so not lots happening here.

One small matter that has occupied my declining intellect these recent days is my total ignorance of “the Eastern Question”.

It must have occupied my time at school, intruded into those long hours acquiring Leaving Cert History in the dusty rooms of the High School (then at the top of Harcourt Street). Yet … near total mental void.

If pressed, I suppose I could rattle off the good bits of Chesterton:

White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.
Being honest, I didn’t manage line 7 to 10 from memory without a prompt. Though that, in itself, may be a brag.

Unknown

It’s a long while, too, since I read John Julius Norwich’s Short History of Byzantium. That didn’t particularly stay with me, either — unlike his History of Venice, which I still rate as a tour-de-force.

Then along came a thread on politics.ie, starting from the Dardanelles affair, but rapidly developing. Predictably a general tone was anti-British and, specifically, “let’s get Churchill”. Both of those flavours have something going for them; but simplicity has never been my strong point.

I have had a go, previously here, and on politics.ie, to try and decipher what actually happened in the run-up to the attempted landing, and the doings of two Irish seamen: Admiral Sir Sackville Carden, from Templemore in the County Tipp, and Admiral John de Robeck, from Naas in the County Kildare.

This re-visit I became more interested in the curious way in which the Turks attached themselves to Berlin.9780805088090So I located David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace, and became much more informed.

Essentially I was unravelling two parallel chronologies:

  • One is happening between the Sublime Porte and Berlin, as the C.U.P./Young Turks have Enver Pasha soliciting an arrangement. Fromkin (writing in the late 1980s) conceded that “details of how the Ottoman Empire and Germany forged their alliance remained obscure” and skates over this in his Chapters 4 and 7.
  • The other is all about doings in the Admiralty in London, with Churchill as First Lord and calling the shots (quite literally).  This is Fromkin’s pages 54-61 and Chapter 6: Churchill seizes Turkey’s Warships.

In 1912 someone in the British naval bureaucracy had come up with contingency plans, in the event of war, to take over any foreign vessels being constructed in British yards. So Churchill could claim he was merely applying a previous decision. Fromkin casts doubts on this:

  • his only source is Churchill himself;
  • in late July 1914, there were other, smaller, ships were being built for Chile, Greece, Brazil and the Netherlands, but the two Ottomans were the sole focus, until the First Sea Lord pointed out a broader picture. On the other hand the two Ottomans were ready for sea: the Reshadieh (later HMS Erin) had been ready for a year, but — incredibly — the Turks didn’t have a dock to receive her.

I found myself making notes, and came up with this:

Towards a meeting of minds

☛ 22 July 1914: Enver Pasha “made his approach” to Hans von Wangenheim. The “approach” was rejected: “Apparently he was unable to persuade the German ambassador that the Ottoman Empire had anything of sufficient value to give in return.” [My stress: it’ll regurgitate.]

What makes me reconsider my assumptions is a recognition that the Ottomans, not the Germans, are making the advances, with the C.U.P./Young Turks — Russians to the north, Bulgarians to the east, Greeks to the south, and Italians messing in the Aegean and North Africa — anxious for a major power protector.

☛ 23 July 1914: the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia. From here until 4 August (when the lines between Central Powers and the Triple Entente are complete) everything seems up-in-the-air.
☛ 24 July 1914: Kaiser Wilhelm II overruled Ambassador von Wangenheim, and declared for an Ottoman alliance “for reasons of expediency”.
☛ 28 July 1914: the Ottoman leaders sent Berlin a draft of a treaty of alliance. It seems that only Prince Said Halim, as Grand Vizier and Foreign Minister, Talaat Bey, the Interior Minister, and Enver Pasha, the War Minister, were in the loop. Despite assurances given to Berlin that the C.U.P./Young Turk Central Committee had approved the offer, the Central Committee and (more significantly) Djamal Pasha, the Minister of the Marine, were kept ignorant.
☛ 28 July 1914: Churchill asks Prince Louis Battenberg (First Sea Lord) and Sir Archibald Moore (Third Sea Lord) to “formulate plans in detail” to seize the two Ottoman ships. Moore asked legal opinion of the Foreign Office, and was told such seizure would be illegal except in case of war itself, with the rider that the Ottomans should be persuaded to sell.
☛ 29 July 1914: the Foreign Office warned the Admiralty that Sultan Osman I was bunkering, and — although not finished out — was preparing for sea. This is when we can be assured the Turks had fully sussed what was happening. Churchill immediately personally ordered the constructors to retain both Ottoman ships, and sent security to guard the vessels and prevent the raising on them of an Ottoman flag (which would secure ownership under international law).
☛ The German Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg had been consistently cool about a deal with the Turks. When the General Staff told him, 31 July 1914, to issue the order to go to war, Bethmann Hollweg was still telling Ambassador von Wangenheim not to sign anything, unless “Turkey either can or will undertake some action against Russia worthy of the name”.
☛ Also 31 July 1914: the business of the Ottoman ships came to Cabinet, which accepted Churchill’s argument in case of war. Churchill sent naval detachments to board the ships. The Ottoman ambassador called at the Foreign Office to demand an explanation, but was told it was all just for the time being.

A busy day

☛ 1 August 1914, midnight: Churchill gave formal written instructions that Moore mobilise the fleet, to Vickers that the two ships had to be detained, while the Admiralty intended negotiations for their purchase. This was the first time Churchill had made any move on those other foreign ships under construction, nearly a week after Moore had drawn them to his attention.

1 August was also the day the Constantinople negotiations came to a head. The Ottomans did not want any kind of active involvement in waging war: the Germans were anxious they should. Even so, an agreement was reached, and signed the following day (2 August). Article 8 was an obligation that the treaty remain an absolute secret. Article 4 gave the C.U.P./Young Turks the assurance they required: “Germany obligates itself, by force of arms if need be, to defend Ottoman territory”. Turkey would remain neutral between Serbia and the Austro-Hungarians: curiously the wording seems to allow the Turks not to intervene under any treaty between Germany and Austro-Hungary, while allowing the German military mission to exercise “effective influence” over the Turkish army.

There were some very peculiar doings this day, not least over the Sultan Osman I. Much later a document emerged that shows on 1 August Enver and Talaat had offered von Wangenheim that Turkey would hand over the ship to Germany. British intelligence reported, a fortnight later, that the Kaiserliche Marine had been salivating over the potential addition to the fleet, and very severely discountenanced when Churchill forestalled it.

Who’s the sucker here?

Of course, in making that seductive, possibly decisive — but essentially empty — offer, the anything of sufficient value to give in return, Enver Pasha knew the British had seized the ship.

Now it becomes just “fall-out”

☛ 3 August 1914: the Admiralty began those formal negotiations to acquire the two ships. A Foreign Office cable was received in Constantinople that evening. By that stage, the Ottoman government had ordered general mobilisation, but also declared neutrality. The treaty with Germany remained a deep secret, and Enver Pasha was still suggesting Turkey might combine with the Triple Entente.
☛ 4 August 1914: Sir Edward Grey further telegraphed the Turkish government, saying he was sure the Turks would understand the British position (!) and offered “further consideration” to appropriate compensation.

And that, folks, is how an old man profitably occupies a weekend afternoon.

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The not-so-great and not-so-good: Usshering in another year

May I remind all denizens of planet Earth, and beyond, that today, 22nd October, is our universe’s 6,018th birthday?

That, of course, is according to Archbishop Ussher. Our natal moment will be 6 p.m. Adam’s and Eve’s come along next Tuesday.

Oh, don’t mock it!

Once upon a time an occasional series, vaguely linked to the “not-so-great and no-so-good” of mainly Irish history, appeared here. I lost count, but think this would be around number 32.

James Ussher was as prominent an academic and scholar as the Anglo-Irish produced in the early 17th-century.In 1594 he was one of the first entry to Queen Elizabeth’s Trinity College, Dublin. He became an ordained minister (and, by any standards, an extraordinarily well-read one) before he was properly of age. In his main career he was a protagonist for protestantism (which, after all, was the whole purpose of TCD at that stage): he was instrumental in composing the original Articles of the Irish Church — which were more hostile to Catholicism, more Calvinist, than the English Thirty-Nine Articles. They were more flexible — especially on the episcopacy and on subscription: as a result the Irish Church had more room to accommodate puritanism. This was conveyed all the way down to the later Twentieth Century (who can forget the Church of Ireland’s dconflicts over a crucifix appearing on the altar?). By no coincidence, in his later years, during the Cromwellian Protectorate, Ussher seems to have flirted with presbyterianism.

Ussher’s progress

At the end of 1621 Ussher was consecrated as Bishop of Meath and, as a member of the Privy Council of Ireland, was a major political as well as ecclesiastical force. In September 1622 he preached a strong anti-Catholic sermon at the swearing in of Henry Cary, Viscount Falkland, as Lord Deputy. Since many of Cary’s family, including his wife, reverted to Catholicism (which is another story), there may be more there than immediately meets the eye, and ear.

In 1625 Ussher was nominated to the Primacy of All Ireland, at a time when Irish politics were approaching fervidity. King Charles needed Irish Catholics to be soft-soaped, at a time when England was on the point of going to war with Spain. Hence the Graces, concessions on toleration, to be rewarded by financial contribution. This put Calvinist Ussher in an ambiguous position, which wasn’t eased by the rise of Arminianism in the Church of England (with Laud looking to regularise Anglican practices across the whole of Charles’s kingdoms), nor by the rule of “Thorough” when Wentworth arrived as Lord Deputy.

A significant moment here was the appointment of William Chappell (John Milton’s tutor at Cambridge) as provost of TCD. Ussher sided with the Calvinist “old guard”, against Chappell. Power was slipping from Ussher, who retreated to Drogheda and scholarship. In 1640 he left for London, as a royalist but with connections to the likes of John Pym. When England moved to Civil War, Ussher was in Oxford and a committed Royalist. He visited Charles in prison on 7th November 1648, and witnessed the king’s execution from the roof of the countess of Peterborough’s house in Whitehall.

Ussher’s anti-Catholicism seems to have softened over time. He have been on good nodding terms with the Four Masters, whose Annals underpinned Ussher’s computations. Which might suggest the postal service between Drogheda, London and Sligo was as good in the seventeenth century as it sometimes is today.

And, surely, he stands as the archetypal and prototype Trinity man.

Mainly remembered for his introduction

The whole business of 4004BC stems from his treatise on the calendar, De Macedonum et Asianorum anno solari dissertatio: cum Graecorum astronomorum parapegmate, ad Macedonici et Juliani anni rationes accommodato. This was the foreword to his final two publications: which were Annales veteris testamenti (1650) and Annalium pars posterior (1654). Ussher was effectively summarising his vast knowledge to generate an integrated chronology for biblical and ancient history. Put aside the Genesis assumptions, and much of it still stands.

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