Very soon I'm going to give myself, and the magic mirror before me, a three week rest and a total change.
In principle I shall come back refreshed and eager to share what I'll have seen and felt in that great country that is, and has always been, a source of inspiration for the whole world, not only for its varied and magnificent landscape, but also for what the nation stands for.

Expressing oneself by means of a Mac is basically like writing and sending messages in bottles thrown out to sea. But today one is informed of where the bottles float to, of where they are uncorked, of what messages are opened, and even of how many times they are read.

For some, a show of sentiment is a form of weakness. The Scots are known for being sentimental, for example, but as a people they can never be regarded as weak. If sentiment is the parent of hope, then without hope one would never be able to determine a better world or reach the stars. Thus without hope one could be regarded as weak.

For someone who never originally imagined that so many countries of totally different cultures in the world would find the bottles, and be curious enough to want to uncork  them and read the messages, it's particularly satisfying to note the increasing interest.

It's pleasing to note that as the sun rises in the far east, seven or eight hours before sunrise here in France, there are more and more Russian bottle finders and uncorkers, for example. And when five or six hours after it rises over Europe, it rises over the USA, there is already an ever increasing number of American bottle finders and uncorkers.

Such are already the results from only one modest site among millions of others. Whatever our differences, we already share so much, and with time this can only increase and bring the world more and more together. The 'Wonderful world'.

So this is just another little message in a bottle, with a smile and the sentiment that although there are serious problems to solve in the world, it is a wonderful world. It could even be a paradise.

Très bientôt je vais me donner, ainsi qu'au miroir magique devant moi, un repos. Un changement total de trois semaines.
En principe je retournerai régénéré et désireux de partager ce que j'aurai vu et senti dans ce pays qui est- et a toujours été- une source d'inspiration pour le monde entier, autant pour ses magnifiques et tellement divers paysages, que pour ce que cette nation représente.

De s'exprimer par le moyen d'un Mac est fondamentalement comme d'écrire et d'envoyer des messages dans les bouteilles jetées à la mer. Mais aujourd'hui on est informé d'où aboutissent les bouteilles, d'où elles sont débouchées, desquels messages sont lus, et même de combien de fois ils sont lus.

Pour certains la manifestation de sentiment est une forme de faiblesse. Les écossais sont connus pour être sentimentaux, par exemple, mais en tant que peuple ils ne peuvent jamais être considérés comme faibles. Si le sentiment est le parent de l'espoir, alors sans l'espoir on ne pourrait jamais déterminer un meilleur monde, ni atteindre les étoiles. Donc sans l'espoir on pourrait être considéré comme faible.

Pour quelqu'un qui n'a jamais imaginé que tant de pays de cultures totalement différentes dans le monde trouveraient les bouteilles, et seraient assez curieux pour vouloir les déboucher et lire les messages, c'est particulièrement satisfaisant de noter l'intérêt

C'est agréable de noter que comme le soleil se lève à l'Orient, sept ou huit heures avant qu'il ne se lève en France, il y a déjà un nombre toujours croissant de russes, par exemple, qui trouvent et qui débouchent les bouteilles. Et quand, cinq ou six heures après le lever du soleil sur l'Europe, il se lève sur les Etats Unis, il y a déjà de plus en plus d'américains qui ensuite trouvent et débouchent les bouteilles.

Tels sont déjà les résultats d'un seul site modeste parmi des millions d'autres. Quelques soient nos différences, nous partageons déjà tellement, et ceci ne peut qu'augmenter et unir davantage le monde. The 'Wonderful World.'

Donc voici encore un autre petit message dans une bouteille, avec un sourire et le sentiment que même si il y a toujours des problèmes graves à résoudre dans le monde, c'est quand même un monde merveilleux. Il pourrait même être un paradis.


Presto questa settimana darò a me stesso, ed anche allo specchio magico dinanzi a me, un riposo. Un cambiamento totale di tre settimane.
In linea di principio tornerò rigenerato e desideroso di condividere ciò che avrò visto e sentito in questo paese, che è, ed è sempre stato, una fonte d'ispirazione per il mondo intero, sia per i suoi immensi, splendidi paesaggi, sempre così diversi, sia per ciò che questa nazione rappresenta.

Esprimersi per mezzo di un Mac è fondamentalmente come scrivere ed inviare messaggi nelle bottiglie gettate nel mare. Ma oggi si è informati su dove le bottiglie galleggiano, dove esse sono stappate, su quali messaggi sono letti, e perfino su quante volte sono letti.

Per alcuni la manifestazione di sentimenti è una forma di debolezza. Gli scozzesi sono conosciuti per essere sentimentali, ad esempio, ma come popolo non possono mai essere considerati deboli. Se il sentimento è il padre della speranza, allora senza la speranza non si potrebbe mai determinare un mondo migliore, né raggiungere le stelle. Dunque senza la speranza si potrebbe essere considerati deboli.

Per qualcuno che non ha mai immaginato quanti paesi le cui culture sono completamente diverse nel mondo troverebbero le bottiglie, e sarebbero abbastanza curiosi da volere stapparle per poter leggere i messaggi, è particolarmente soddisfacente notare l'interesse crescente.

È piacevole notare come il sole si alza in Estremo Oriente sette o otto ore prima che qui in Francia, ci sono sempre più russi, ad esempio, che trovano e stappano le bottiglie. E quando, cinque o sei ore dopo che il sole si leva sull'Europa, il sole sorge sugli Stati Uniti, c'è già un numero crescente di americani che trovano e stappano quelle bottiglie.

Tali sono già i risultati di un solo sito modesto fra milioni di altri. Indipendentemente dalle nostre differenze, condividiamo già così tanto, e questo non può che aumentare e unire il mondo sempre più. The 'Wonderful World'.

Dunque ecco ancora un altro piccolo messaggio in una bottiglia, con un sorriso e il sentimento che anche se ci sono sempre problemi gravi da risolvere nel mondo, è comunque un mondo meraviglioso. Potrebbe anche essere un paradiso. 


Text and image 'Californian sentinel' © Mirino. Satellite image by NASA, with many thanks. Italian version edited by Rob, with grateful thanks. June, 2013

Henry VIII . part VI

The King was constantly plagued by his leg that had become ulcerous. It has since been alledged that his health was aggravated by syphilis, but there's no real evidence of this.
Henry had been so amused by the repartee of a short, thin, quasi hunchback servant, named Will Somers, who was employed by Richard Fermour, the Staple of Calais, that the King engaged him as his fool. Somers carried a small monkey on his shoulder, and generally made fun of pomp and pageantry. Henry and his fool became curiously close. In fact Somers was the only person capable of cheering Henry up when he was in pain.

Whatever the situation, whether there be dramatic court intrigues, treasons and tragedies that would naturally displease the king, Will Somers survived as if he were Henry's pet monkey himself. In fact it's possible that he even became the king's confidante. A sort of amusingly distorted, looking-glass confessor.

At the time when Henry was seriously considering having his marriage to Anne annulled, he had already taken a great interest in one of Anne's maids of honour. No one imagined that beautiful Catherine Howard would rise any higher than the king's mistress.
Henry often tormented himself with ideas that God was punishing him for marrying unlawfully. His union with Anne had therefore been another unlawful (awful) marriage. Or perhaps he gave himself such ideas to justify his own tireless, obsessional pursuits and illusions.

Naturally Cromwell knew of Henry's interest in Catherine Howard, and was not enthusiastic about it because she was orthodox as well as the niece of his enemy, Norfolk. Politics and religion were then inseparably entwined together of course, certainly in Henry's marital alliances. The obligation of arranging the divorce beween the king and Anne of Cleves, put Cromwell in a difficult position. And ironically the king had just granted him the additional title of Earl of Essex.

Sir Richard Rich who had perjured himself in order to get Thomas More to the block, now did the same for Cromwell. Others made similar false allegations. The Treasurer Norfolk, and Stephen Gardiner (Bishop of of Winchester) had instigated a Catholic reaction in England, and had conspired a plot against Cromwell. The Act of the Six Articles was to be debated with the king, determining the persecutions of the Anabaptists (sacramentaries). Barnes, Gerrard and Jerome were consequently burnt as heretics at Smithfield. Cromwell tried to extenuate the punishments. But when it came out that he had not made any great attempt to bring about the royal divorce because he was aware that once free, the King would marry Catherine Howard, the niece of his enemy, he too was promptly arrested for treason and heresy. He was also accused of having been too close to the Lutherans. 

Henry had also felt betrayed by being forced into an unwanted marriage, and held Cromwell personally responsible.
Once he had done his duty in supplying the required, written statements for the annulment of the Cleves marriage, he was executed. Like More in the face of death, Cromwell also professed his true faith to be Catholic.
Henry was so shocked by all the allegations against his right hand man, that he did nothing to try to save Cromwell.

Catherine Howard had been educated for court and royal bed affairs, just as Anne Boleyn had been. But whereas Anne had always been arrogant and self assured, Catherine Howard was simply careless.

For reasons of State the marriage to Catherine Howard had to be relatively discreet. Her coronation was a promised eventuality. She was twenty years old, and was thought to be the most beautiful of all of Henry's wives. She was vivacious and sensual. Henry was completely taken by her.
Charles de Marillac, the French ambassador in London wrote to Anne de Montmorency in September, 1540 : 'The King is so amorous of Catherine Howard that he cannot treat her well enough and caresses her more than he did the others.'
For Henry she was 'a blushing rose without a thorn'.
But the thorns were to develop and be felt, much sooner than expected.

Henry no longer had any of his former, lusty charm. He was an enormous forty-nine year old with an ulcerous leg. His features were swollen, his jaws sagged, his eyes were puffy and half closed as if he were constantly in pain. He was too often preoccupied with concerns about his health. But he loved his new bride and he was still the King of England.

He gave her lavish gifts of jewellery each month, and proudly displayed her at State banquets. She was also bestowed with generous land grants including properties formerly belonging to Jane Seymour, and lands that had previously belonged to Thomas Cromwell and the Marquess of Exeter.

Catherine Howard and her ladies-in-waiting dressed after the French fashion resembling queens of cards. The effect was far more splendid than the dowdy appearance of the Dutch maids of honour of Catherine's predecessor.

It may well have been tacitly agreed that Catherine's coronation would be subject to her becoming pregnant, but after seven months of marriage this was still not forthcoming. Once again Henry was becoming very impatient, and his ulcerous leg was causing him worrying health problems and ever increasing pain.

Catherine's interest however, was focused on her own enjoyment.
A splendid pageantry tour of the Midlands and the North was organised in the hope of dispelling any doubts about the the king's health and monarchical power.
After this successful tour Henry returned in better spirits. This lasted until he was handed a paper confided by Cranmer regarding Catherine's past liaisons. The information was based on reports from John Lassels. It was his sister, chamberer to the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk who had informed him of Catherine's improper conduct with lutanist Henry Manox.

This determined further enquiries regarding Catherine's conduct. Francis Derehah admitted to intimacy with her at Lambeth, but they had been betrothed. The queen however, denied this. To try to avoid condemnation Dereham spoke of Thomas Culpeper who 'had succeeded him in the Queen's affections'. It was rumoured that Culpeper had even boasted that 'were the King dead I am sure I might marry her'. Even the queen admitted that she had met him by the back stairs and addressed him as her 'little sweet fool'.
Culpeper owned up to having had frequent secret meetings with the queen, but even the rack never persuaded him to admit to have ever committed adultery with her. According to him it was Lady Rochford who had provoked him into loving Catherine. Indeed, the confused evidence eventually highlighted her as the provoking agent.

The most damaging evidence was a letter sent to Culpeper from the queen herself. 'Yours as long as life endures'.
It was thought that Catherine, who could hardly have loved Henry, had hoped that Culpeper could produce the son to be passed off as Henry's. For she felt that her life was in danger as long as she was unable to produce a male child.

Henry was reluctant to believe all the allegations against his queen. But when the accumulation of evidence made it impossible for him to refuse to accept the thorny facts, his rose appeared to him to be not only faded, but utterly cankerous.
Mad with rage he called for his sword as if he wished to decapitate her with it himself.

All her jewellery was confiscated, and she was confined to Syon House where she was allowed four ladies-in-waiting, two chamberers and even her privy keys. She remained there for two months before being taken to the Tower for a much briefer stay. She was executed on the 13th February, 1542.

Norfolk, Catherine's uncle, had avoided the worst by quickly becoming a turncoat to join the accusers. He even managed to retain his treasury responsibilities, but Henry had no time or respect for him.

After all this, it was unthinkable that Henry VIII would even consider a sixth marriage. Yet only one year later he married a woman who had already out-lived two husbands, Sir Edward Burrough and Lord Latymer. Another Catherine. Thirty three year old Catherine Parr.

Catherine Parr found it hard to believe that Henry wanted her to be his new queen, but above all Henry wanted an intelligent companion capable of making a home, and of being a caring stepmother and nurse for his family. Catherine Parr succeeded in all these duties. The only discord was her friendship with the Cambridge Reformers. But she took real interest in the progress and education of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, who were all duly brought to court.

Henry founded Trinity College, Cambridge, and he transformed Wolsey's Cardinal College, Oxford into Christ Church College. Catherine greatly encouraged him in all these projects.
As Henry grew weaker, Gardiner tried to push to reintroduce Catholic doctine, but Cranmer still had Henry's support for a Church based on broader foundations.

Henry made a will decreeing that no single minister would direct State affairs after his death, and that a balanced Council of Regents would have this responsibility. More early seeds of democracy.
Thus the colossal monument, he who laid the most important foundation stones of the modern nation of England, died early on the 28th January, 1547 in Whitehall.

His wife and children were not allowed to be with him. He had no desire for farewells. The only person at his side was Thomas Cranmer, who had come through it all with Henry VIII.

History often presents Henry VIII as a tyrant. This would be true regarding his refusal to establish an acceptable compromise to have enabled Sir Thomas More to take the oath of Succession. It would be true regarding his callous dismissal of Catherine of Aragon, who after 20 years of loyal marriage to Henry, deserved far more respect and consideration than the treatment she finally received. In fact Anne of Cleves was far more generously cosseted following her divorce from Henry, and her marriage to the king didn't even last seven months. Indeed, it's probable that this was the reason why Henry was so generous towards her.

As to the fate of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, history doesn't deny their guilt of treason according to the laws of 16th century England. Consequently, to treat Henry VIII as 'a tyrannous ogre' might be going a bit far, certainly in view of what he achieved for his nation.

Much has been omitted from this relatively brief six part series of the life and reign of Henry VIII. Aspects and details of reforms, of conflicts and activities, of the rise and fall of ministers and knights, of the New World explorations and discoveries, of European history and the struggle for a balance of power, have only been touched upon in order to give more relief to the essential events of Henry's momentous reign.

Obviously Henry's need to divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, as well as his marriage to Anne Boleyn, are the most determining factors of this crucial chapter in English history. Anne Boleyn's insatiable ambition,
ironically thwarted by the laws of nature. Henry's illusive obsession: the primordial requirement of a son and heir to the throne. Charles V succession as Holy Roman Emperor, blocking all hope of papal approbation for Henry to obtain his much needed divorce.
In a relatively short space of time, these entwined circumstances determined an unprecedented sequence of events. The first one being England's separation from Roman Catholicism, then Henry's establishing himself as Supreme Head of the Church of England. This, is turn, was to eventually lead to an earlier end to English monarchial absolutism.

No matter how one judges Henry VIII as a king, or even as a person, it is an incontestable fact that his decision inadvertently layed the foundation stones, or perhaps the very key-stone itself, of constitutional parliament and democracy in the United Kingdom. And this, long before it was established elsewhere in Europe, if not anywhere else in the world.

Indeed many European nations were formed from dukedoms and baronies, as a direct consequence of the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815) before they were then able to gradually establish their own democracies.

But however one wishes to reason or philosophise, history, also ruled by Divine power or by Nature, (which must include human-nature) often finally reveals it's own sense of irony.
Henry devoted the best years of his life going to utmost extremes in simply trying to create the opportunity to father a worthy son and heir. It was his essential priority for the nation. In part I, a reference was made to Henry VIII as having all the makings of becoming a compulsive despot. But he also became subject to his own despotism, his own obsessional conviction that it was his bound duty to father a son and heir to the throne of England.

Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, never had such an objective. In fact she was also known as the 'Virgin Queen'.
Elizabeth I was one of the very best English monarchs in the tomes of English history. As the final monarch of the Tudor dynasty, her reign was the 'Golden Reign' in all respects. She not only established long lasting stability for Great Britain, and helped to forge greater national identity, but she as Queen 'married' to her nation,
destroyed a myth and created the invaluable precedent :  the power with which a woman can responsibly and positively reign and rule a nation. There is no doubt that she proved the validity of this beyond all shadow of doubt.

Certainly her father, Henry, would be capable of  bellowing with laughter in his Windsor grave at such irony. And just as certainly he would be capable of joyfully exclaiming his pride on having fathered such a daughter, even though one of Elizabeth's mottos was 'video et taceo'.


Portrait (by the Circle of William Scrots
1537-1554) of Prince Edward VI of England (12th October, 1537- 6th July, 1553).
He was crowned at the age of nine. The realm was governed by a Regency council as he never reached maturity. He died at the age of sixteen.

     Henry VIII . part V
     Henry VIII . part I 
Text © Mirino. Sources include- 'Henry VIII and his Court' by Neville Williams, 'The lives of the Kings & Queens of England' edited by Antonia Fraser. With many thanks. Top portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543). Portrait of Catherine Howard after Hans Holbein. Portrait of Catherine Parr by Hans Holbein the Younger.  With thanks also to Wikimedia Commons.                                   June, 2013

The silver maiden

The breeze murmurs
 With the whispering stream
Sharing secrets
Of an ancient dream

                                   Where faith still bides                                   
                   Beyond all reason,                    
There is no time,
No day, no season

The winds of time
Can never sway
The hope that waits
In vain each day

While golden tears
Are shed from trees
And the stream mourns
With the gentle breeze.
Image and poem © Mirino (PW) June, 2013

Scottish myths 28

Ash and the Sea-Dragon

Several hundred years ago, situated in a bonny glen in the north of Scotland, was a farm.
Taog Aodh was the youngest son of the farm's owner, Eochaidh Macdonald. His six brothers were quite hard working, but Taog was a dreamer. He loved lying in front of the fire, gazing into the embers and imagining that the glowing cavities were enormous, fabulous, but extremely dangerous tunnels leading to magic lands, and that he was the brave adventurer.

His brothers had no time for Taog because he preferred to dream instead of helping them with the farm work. And his parents would shake their heads in despair. They were fond of their youngest son, as they were fond of all their sons, but their scolding never seemed to make any impression on Taog. The rough treatment he received from his brothers had no effect either. They called him 'Ash', because the only thing he ever did was to rake up the ashes, and tend the fire.

Ash was in many ways a poet and a romantic. He imagined himself a hero, the slayer of dragons and rescuer of fair damsels in distress. He invented many yarns as he gazed into his fire, but he never told them to his parents or his brothers. He knew that if he did he would be scolded all the more for his idle daydreaming.

One day in late spring, the most enormous and terrible Sea-Dragon was seen near the bay, not too far from the inland farm of Eochaidh Macdonald.
It was a most evil monster that had already caused havoc in Asia. In fact the above illustration depicts the Sea-Dragon causing havoc in the South China Sea. It was so huge that it could bring about tsunamis. Not only could it eat humans as if they were mere grains of boiled rice, but it could gulp down whole ships as well.

The Sea-Dragon only needed to swim for a day or so with its huge webbed limbs to arrive on the other side of the world. For some reason it had chosen to sojourn just off the North West coast of Scotland. It was intent on destroying and swallowing the coastal villages and fishing boats, and nothing could be done to stop it. 

The king desperately sought advise. Eventually a hoary, old hermit who lived near Kylesku was summoned. He was convinced that the Sea-dragon could only be appeased by putting it on a regular diet of young maidens.

In fact after pondering on the subject long enough to benefit from a good meal of venison washed down with the king's best claret, he affirmed that a minimum of seven young maidens strung together like French sausages should be serve to the dragon every Saturday, at least as an hors d'œuvre. (French was fashionable in Scotland in those early days). 

The king was aghast at the idea, but as he felt he had no other choice, local maidens were selected on the shortest straw basis. They were strung together, then at noon each Saturday, they were left trembling near the water's edge in the bay favoured by the Sea-Dragon.

When Eochaidh and his sons heard of this atrocious arrangement, they rode to the bay. From a safe distance they were able to witness the horror of it all. The farmer Eochaidh was appalled and convinced that there would be no future if all the potential young wives and mothers of Scotland continue to be sacrificed. Ash, however, who had also joined them, simply gazed out to sea and softly said, 'I shall kill the Sea-Dragon'. But no one heard or even noticed him.

After a month of sacrificing Scottish maidens, the people had become very angry indeed because the Sea-Dragon was no calmer. Its violence had in fact increased as though it wasn't being fed enough.
The king summoned the hoary, old hermit once more. The hermit insisted that he could only effectively mull over such matters on a full stomach, and was rather partial to top sirloin served naturally with the king's best wine. As this requirement seemed to convince and thus comfort the king even more regarding the level of the hermit's intelligence, great attention was paid to his advice when he had finally finished his meal.

The hermit eased himself somewhat noisily, then wore a stern expression as he looked up into the eyes of the king. He gravely stressed that the only option left for the king was to sacrifice his own daughter. According to the hermit, there was no other solution. Princess Cathella, the king's unique, beloved daughter, must be sacrificed to the Sea-Dragon.

The King was stunned into silence, but the angry protest of his courtiers resounded around the walls of the castle's great hall. This was totally unacceptable. Yet the king knew that if he was to save his kingdom, and this was indeed the only solution, the most noble Cathella would be prepared to make this ultimate sacrifice.

The king stood grimly pondering before the great fire. Then suddenly he turned and ordered that a proclamation be first written and issued to invite the bravest of the Scottish knights to come forward and rid the land of the Sea-Dragon. The knight who succeeds would be rewarded by being granted Princess Cathella's hand in marriage. He would also be given half of the the King's realm as well as the king's magic sword, Bearach.

Many knights responded to the call, but as soon as they saw what they were up against, they suddenly remembered that they had other, far more important calls of duty elsewhere.
Finally it was the king himself who called for his armour, his magic sword, Bearach, his horse and a boat to be prepared and made ready for the morrow, in the very bay near to where the insatiable Sea-Dragon lurked. The armour and sword were to be hidden in the boat itself in order that the king could arm himself there and then, rather than weigh himself and his horse down needlessly in getting there.

Of course everyone was informed of the king's courageous intention, including farmer Eochaidh and his family.
The night before the king was to make his staunch stand, Ash had already made his own decision. As if unconsciously driven by some sort of mystical power, he took his father's fastest horse, Eacharn, and galloped off in the darkness towards the bay.

On arrival Ash looked down from the cliff tops, and in the dim light he saw the massive blue head of the horrific creature as it slept, its fetid breath causing huge whirlpools and dirty, brown bubbles. He also saw the King's boat well hidden behind some rocks. He then quietly rode inland until he came to a small stone dwelling. A thin wisp of smoke rose from its chimney. With a strong piece of wood, Ash managed to dislodge the wooden bar from its interior recess that blocked the back door. He then crept into the little house where an old woman snored in her sleep. There was also a grey cat that simply stared at him.
In the fire-place Ash found a small caldron into which, with a pair of tongs, he placed a clod of glowing peat from the fire, then he silently left, the grey cat following him.

Ash tethered Eacharn to a small pine tree on the cliff-top, then he climbed down to the bay with his smoking caldron.
Not far from the boat in a cliff-side cave were two of the king's guards. They had fallen fast asleep. Ash unloaded the boat of the kings heavy armour, leaving it on the beech as quietly as possible, but he kept the king's magic sword, Bearach. He then dragged the boat into the water and set a single sail just as the sun began to shed its first light.

Fearlessly he sailed straight towards the Sea-Dragon as fast as the fresh morning breeze could send the boat, so that the bow of the vessel would hit the monster sharply on the nose.
For the Sea-Dragon it was as though it was touched by a midge, but as it was already half awake and as hungry as ever, the little touch was enough to wake it completely. The Sea-Dragon therefore opened its eyes, crossed them on seeing the wee thing in front of its nose, opened its massive jaws then swallowed the boat as though it were a pea-pod.

The boat sailed on wildly riding the rapids down the immense gullet of the monster. Ash had covered his mouth and nose with a piece of plaid to help ward off the foul stench. As soon as the boat ran aground somewhere near the creature's enormous spleen, Ash disembarked and wended his way along a flesh coloured, strangely lit, pulpy tunnel toward's the creature's liver. It was the size of a mountain, but with the king's magic sword, Bearach, Ash managed to pierce it deeply enough to be able to poke the clod of ever glowing peat into the gaping hole. As the monster's liver was far more inflammable than a modest cod's liver, Ash knew that he had no time to lose. He dashed back to the boat as fast as he could.

When the guards awoke to see that the boat had been stolen, and only the king's armour had been left on the stoney beech, they were sorely afraid.
On the king's arrival when he was informed of the theft, he pretended to be extremely angry, but in fact he was most relieved. He now had an excellent pretext not to take on the impossible. Yet he was still worried about the fate of his daughter, the beautiful Princess Cathella.

As the king's men pretended to look for the boat, great distances from where the Sea-Dragon was then located, one of the more courageous guards humbly approached the king. 'Och, I pray ya to excuse me, Your Majesty, If I might be bold enough to encroach on your valuable time, and lang may yer bide the noo. The Sea-Dragon is belching forth black, peaty smoke. I dinna ken, or rather, to my limited knowledge, only flying dragons are able to exhale fire and the ilk. Ma dinna fash yersel Sire.'

The king, unversed in the Celtic vernacular, was understandably puzzled, but then he grew angry for not having first noticed this phenomenon himself.
True enough the Sea Dragon had acute indigestion with the burning sensation that often accompanies it. It was so sick that it finally reared up its colossal head to a towering height, then gave off a mighty belch that blackened the entire sky. It sent a mountainous wave of green bile mixed with what seemed to be volcanic gas and great piles of flaming liver lava into the atmosphere. The Sea-Dragon then emitted a second resounding, peaty burp before it plummeted down into the sea and died still smellily smoking.
Down it all came crashing, and last but not least came the king's boat, with Ash still safely aboard, wielding the magic sword heroically. A noxious, green tidal wave washed the boat far inland, viscously drenched the king a sick green, and similarly coloured most of the huge crowd assembled on the cliff top. Only the grey cat there had somehow avoided being hit. It still sat staring, totally unimpressed with the whole, incredible scene.

It's said that the teeth of the Sea Dragon became the Hebrides Islands, and that it's body formed Iceland. Naturally the volcanic activity there is directly caused by the Sea Dragon's liver that is inextinguishable, therefore a constant source of natural energy.

After the dramatic death of the Sea-Dragon, the King proved to be a man of his word, despite his greenish demeanour. He was also overjoyed, and so proud of Ash that he knighted him there and then on the insalubrious spot with the magic sword, Bearach, before presenting the young lad with it as promised. 'Ash the Sea-Dragon slayer' was granted half of the king's realm, also as promised, and although Princess Cathella was understandably put off by the ghastly appearance of Ash, as well as the disgusting smell than emanated from him, there was something poetic about him that eventually caught her fancy.

Eochaidh Macdonald, the father of Ash was peeved that his youngest son had taken his best horse, Eacharn, without his permission, but under the circumstances he was finally able to forgive him, thanks mostly to his wife's bickering. The brothers of Ash remained permanently green with envy. The experience had convinced them that it's far more profitable in life to be a poet than a farm labourer.

There was no doubt that Sir Taog Aodh (alias Ash) and Princess Cathella were made for each other. They lived very happily and had brave hearted children that were the pride and joy of Scotland.

Many legends have been written about Ash. This is the only one among them that's reasonably credible, historically feasible and fairly accurately illustrated regarding the Sea-Dragon. This, thanks to Celtic and ancient Latin descriptions of the loathsome creature inscribed on vellum and depicted on illuminated maps created by medieval monks.

  Scottish myths 29 
 Scottish myths 27

Image and retelling © Mirino (PW). Source- Assipattle and the Stoor Worm by Tom Muir, with grateful thanks.                            June, 2013

Un pas de trop

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan révèle de plus en plus ce qui semble un objectif politique fondamentaliste.
D'ailleurs le chef actuel du gouvernement de la Turquie a été incarcéré en 1999 pour avoir constamment fait des déclarations publiques pendant les manifestations en faveur du 'Welfare Party', un mouvement islamique fondamentaliste. A cette époque ce parti a été déclaré non-constitutionel par la Cour Constitutionnelle de Turquie. On l'a estimé comme une menace contre l'ordre laïque du pays.
M. Erdoğan a été également condamné alors pour avoir récité une poésie en Siirt dont la version originale écrite par Ziya Gökalp, a été 'modifiée' en y comprenant des changements tels que- 'les mosquées sont nos casernes, les dômes nos casques, les minarets nos baïonnettes et les fidèles nos soldats'.

Ironiquement M. Erdoğan, totalement préparé donc à s'engager, à manifester et même à payer les conséquences pour ses convictions il y a 14 ans, est bien moins indulgent et tolérant envers ceux et celles qui essaient de défendre leurs propres convictions aujourd'hui.

Mais Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a toujours donné l'impression de cacher son jeu, et même de jouer un double jeu. Ce qui se passe actuellement semble révéler davantage ses vrais objectifs, rendant les réformes démocratiques qu'il avait faites auparavant comme des gestes d'apaisement pour pouvoir être accepté au sein de la Communauté Européenne.
Les manifestants veulent que M. Erdoğan et son AK parti, estimés aujourd'hui bien trop despotiques, démissionnent.

Les nouvelles restrictions imposées incluent la vente d'alcool. Les négociants de vin, etc., ne peuvent vendre aucune forme de boisson alcoolisée entre 22h et 6h.00. Ils ne peuvent plus exposer quoi que se soit d'alcoolisé dans leurs vitrines. Les restaurants près des écoles et des mosquées n'ont plus le droit de vendre d'alcool. (Tout ceci malgré le fait que le peuple turc consomme moins d'alcool que n'importe quel peuple des pays européens).

Aujourd'hui l'enseignement islamique et Coranique est plus largement répandu et appliqué. Les robes des femmes les couvrent davantage. Le rouge à lèves devient interdit, y compris pour les hôtesses de l'air. On n'a plus le droit de s'embrasser en public.

C'est certain que de telles décisions vont avoir un effet négatif sur le tourisme en Turquie.

La goutte qui a fait déborder le vase a été le plan d'aménagement urbain du parc Gezi. C'est ce projet qui a incité les manifestations massives de milliers de personnes à la place Taksim et dans ses environs. Ces manifestations ont été brutalement réprimées par les forces de l'ordre. Canons à eau, des gaz lacrymogènes ont été déployés contre tout le monde y compris ceux qui tenaient à protéger les 600 arbres qui vont être abattus. Beaucoup de manifestants ont été blessés, parfois très sérieusement. Certains ont été laissés inconscients bien longtemps avant de pouvoir être secourus.
Le projet imposé, dénoncé par plusieurs urbanistes, écologistes et architectes, est la substitution du parc Gezi par un centre culturel, un centre commercial et une reconstruction d'une caserne militaire de l'époque ottomane.
Un autre projet contesté est la démolition du Centre Culturel Atatürk, qui se trouve aussi à la place Taksim, ceci pour le remplacer par un théâtre de l'opéra.

Depuis les répressions brutales, M. Erdoğan a été renommé 'Tayyip le chimique'. Mais sa réponse ne reflet aucunement le respect pour le peuple turc : 'Faites ce que vous voulez, nous avons décidé'...

On avait déjà eu un indice des tendances de M. Erdoğan. Sa manière provocante, par exemple, d'ignorer le droit international d'Israël de maintenir un blocus maritime pour raisons de sécurité. On a aussi noté sa continuation de traiter les Kurdes comme des terroristes, au lieu de faire davantage pour leur permettre de préserver leur culture et identité, qui est essentiellement tout ce qu'ils demandent et défendent.

M. Erdoğan préparerait-il le terrain pour 'l'après Assad'? Ce virement vers le fondamentalisme islamique serait-il pris non seulement par conviction personnelle mais aussi par appréhension à l'égard des rapports avec des voisins à l'avenir?
S'agirait-il déjà d'un pas de trop?  

Quoi qu'il en soit, on dirait qu'une période très critique et révélatrice soit en train de se dérouler en Turquie. Et ce qui est en tous cas évident c'est que M. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan est loin d'être un Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Comme un après note, ce n'est pas hors de propos de comparer le comportement de M. Erdoğan avec les practiquantes des autres idéologies, ceux qui veulent imposer des lois sociales, par exemple, qui, elles aussi regardent d'abord le peuple.
Il n'y a aucun doute que ceux qui prétendent avoir de tels droits sur un peuple, de décider pour eux, de dicter et d'imposer des lois sans égard au principe de la démocratie, et au nom d'une religion ou d'une idéologie (qui essentiellement est la même chose) sont sur le chemin vers le totalitarisme, et donc de la tyrannie.  

Text and image © Mirino Sources include Wikipedia, with thanks. June, 2013

Henry VIII . part V

Anne Boleyn's miscarriage of the much desired son and heir, allegedly brought about by the shock on hearing the news of the king's serious riding accident, was the last straw for Henry.
Finding a pretext to get rid of her was no problem, for there was already enough evidence that she had been unfaithful, and if more were needed there was always the rack. The lutist, Mark Smeaton was thus persuaded to confess to adultery with the queen. Henry Norris was also involved, as were two gentlemen of the Chamber, and even her own brother, Lord Rochford, was accused of committing incest with her.
Naturaly Henry was convinced of their guilt, and totally persuaded of Anne's evil, lascivious nature.

After the suspected lovers had been painfully persuaded into confessing, Anne Boleyn was tried and categorically found guilty.
The indictment against her read : '(...) contemning her marriage, bearing malice in her heart against the King and following her frail and carnal lust, she did falsely and traitorously procure by means of indecent language, gifts and other arts... divers of the King's daily and familiar servants to be her adulterers and concubines, so that several of them, by her most vile provocation and invitation, became given and inclined to the said Queen'. 
Anne was even designated as 'the English Messalina or Agrippina'.

She was executed the 19th May, 1536 on Tower Green. That same day a dispensation was issued by Cranmer. By special court Henry's marriage to Anne was proclaimed unlawful due to her previous marital contract to Percy. All this was more than enough to permit Henry to marry Jane Seymour.
The marriage took place in the Queen's Chapel, Whitehall, the 30th May. Although her coronation had been planned for the autumn of that year, the ceremony was never performed because of the plague. 

Jane Seymour had a modest and duty-bound nature. Inclined towards the reformist faith, her motto was 'Bound to obey and serve', which she most certainly did. She implemented peace between Henry and his first daughter Princess Mary. Then she more than fulfilled her duty by giving birth to the much yearned for son.
Before she gave birth, a Te Deum was sung on Trinity Sunday, 1537 'for the joy of the Queen's quickening of child', a first in contributing to establish the liturgy.

The son was born in Hampton Court on the 12th October, but the birth was given under very difficult conditions, a Caesarean section which essentially caused Jane's death twelve days later, despite other considerations such as : 'through the fault of them that were about her, who suffered her to take great cold and eat things that her fancy in sickness called for.'

She had done what had been required and expected of her, and because of this she was the only one of Henry's queens to be buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.
Henry had already ruled for twenty-eight years, and Jane had bestowed him with the Prince he had so longed for, Edward, Prince of Wales.
Also for this reason Henry ordered that his own coffin be laid beside Jane's when his own time would come, ten years later. 

Henry had his son, and was richer than ever he could have previously imagined, thanks to the failure of the Pilgrimage of Grace followed by Cromwell's dissolving of religious properties and monasteries. Those who protested, including the abbots eager to defend their houses, were ruthlessly crushed. Even holy shrines such as that of St. Thomas à Becket were plundered and desecrated.
Without considering any other 16th century holy shrines of England, it took twenty-six wagons to haul away the loads of wealth plundered from the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket.

A new English Bible was needed in all the Churches of England to replace the former version, and this was based on the work of Coverdale and Tyndale.
Cromwell and Cranmer also held doctrinal meetings with the German Lutherans.
Henry felt that there was a growing need to protect England and its new Church. He badly needed an ally. As Francis I and Charles V had signed a ten year truce, Henry feared a European invasion with the objective to impose a papal bull to depose him. Consequently he ordered a construction of coastal defences.

Although Henry liked the idea of remaining a widower now that he had his son, he was well aware of the importance of a protective alliance with Protestant States. A new wife from such States would seal such an alliance.
Holbein was called upon to paint portraits of likely contenders, and the artist returned to England with a splendid portrait of Anne of Cleaves, as well as one of her sister, Amelia. This followed a portrait that the artist had previously painted of the Duchess of Milan. Henry had already seen this work and was excited about meeting the Duchess.

As previously alluded to regarding Anne of Cleaves, Holbein must have been well aware of the importance of such an alliance to have invested so much in this particular work. He was a great enough artist to know how best to portray The Flanders Mare, to everyone's advantage, hopes and expectations.
In order to push for the best possible alliance, and knowing that Anne's father, the Duke of Cleaves was at loggerheads with the Emperor Charles V over Gelderland, Cromwell himself claimed that 'Princess Anne of Cleaves excelled the Duchess of Milan in beauty as the golden sun did the silvery moon'.
The marriage treaty was agreed and signed the 4th October, 1539.  

Henry so much admired Holbein's portrait, that he agreed that Anne was the best choice in all respects. She travelled through Düsseldorf to Antwerp then Calais where she was advised to wait for the best weather conditions before making the cossing to Deal.
Upon her arrival Henry was so eager to see her that he with several courtiers disguised themselves to permit the king to secretly meet her ahead of schedule (planned for the 3rd January) on New Year's day, to 'nourish love'. 
However, as soon as he saw her, he knew that there was no hope of nourishing anything. Henry left as soon as decency permitted.
On the barge that took him back to Greenwich, he confided to his master of the Horse, Anthony Browne : 'I see nothing in this woman as men report of her and I marvel that wise men would make such reports as they have done'.
He had been badly misled, yet he knew that he was trapped. For the sake of the nation's security, he had to go through with the marriage which took place the 6th January, 1540 at the Royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich.

The marriage was never consummated. Henry informed Cromwell of this, adding: 'I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse'.
They shared the same bed for a few nights, but it was hopeless. Again to Cromwell : '(...) for her breasts and belly she should be no maid; which when I felt them struck me so to the heart that I had neither will nor courage for the rest'.
Anne was unattractive, timid, frigid and intellectually uninteresting. She was also frightened of colossal Henry. That the marriage had failed so dismally, would probably have been a relief for her. This even though she had to leave Court as soon as the 24th June. Later that same year Anne consented to the matrimonial annulment. On the 9th July the annulment was established on the grounds of the marriage not being consummated, but there was also reference to her pre-marital contract to Francis of Lorraine.

That she had been dryly referred to then as 'the Flanders Mare' was caustic irony, of course, for as the master of the Horse well knew, the best brood-mares of the king's stables all came from Flanders.
But if she were put to pasture precipitately, Anne nevertheless benefited from a generous settlement which included Richmond Palace, and Hever Castle, the home which formerly belonged to the Boleyns.
Free of monarchial duties, Anne even became more interesting. Henry and she developed a sincere friendship. She was treated as an honorary member of the King's family, and was often referred to as 'the King's Beloved Sister'.
The inscription on the portrait of Prince Edward, written by Sir Richard Morison, reads:
'Little one, emulate thy father and be the heir of his virtue; the world contains nothing greater. Heaven and earth could scarcely produce a son whose glory would surpass that of such a father. Do thou but equal the deeds of thy parent and men can ask no more. Shouldst thou surpass him, thou hast outstript all, nor shall any surpass thee in ages to come.'

 Henry VIII . part VI 
Henry VIII . part IV

Text © Mirino. Sources include- 'Henry VIII and his Court' by Neville Williams, 'The lives of the Kings & Queens of England' edited by Antonia Fraser. With many thanks. Top portrait of Henry VIII after Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543). Portrait of Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Portrait of young Prince Edward, later King Edward VI of England by Hans Holbein (likely to have been given to the Henry VIII on the 1st January, 1539). Portrait of Anne of Cleves, c. 1539, by Hans Holbein. Oil and tempera on parchment mounted on canvas, 65 x 48 cm. Le Louvre, Paris.     With thanks also to Wikimedia Commons.                                 June, 2013