My brother-in-law, Lawrence Abbott, took part in a recent London to Brighton ultra-vintage rally. He sent me this photo of an amazing machine. It is a Salvesen Steam Cart, built in 1895 as a commercial vehicle. Lawrence says it got to Brighton without breaking down but had to stop every so often to fill up with water. A good way of saving petrol but not a good way to cut down on carbon dioxide and other emissions. Looks a dirty way to travel.
My wife and I have just returned from a two-week trip to Japan. We hired a car and toured the southern island of Kyushu. I like to visit castles and Japan has lots. Despite being on opposite sides of the world. Japan and Europe have much in common. Both derive their culture from ancient civilisations: Rome in Europe’s case and China in the case of Japan.
Rome and China were unified states run by bureaucrats and protected by national armies. Medieval Europe and Japan were feudal. There was no central authority in the old days. Power lay in the hands of feudal lords who controlled vast stretches of territory. They went to war with one another and paid lip service to kings and emperors. Continue reading
Prince Harry has arrived in Australia and we are seeing a lot of him on TV. I was tucking into dinner when my wife announced that Harry reminds her of Henry VIII as a young man. Since, I’m not an admirer of England’s wife-chopping monarch, I took offence at the remark. All the same, I have to admit that there is a slight facial resemblance.
The resemblance stops there. To me, Harry has far more in common with King Henry’s grandfather, Edward of York, who became Edward IV, at the age of nineteen, following the defeat of the Lancastrians during the War of the Roses. Continue reading
We can rejoice that Prince Philip is now well enough to meet his great-grandson, George. The last time anything like that happened was over a hundred years ago when Queen Victoria met her great-grandson, Edward, who later became Edward VII.
Having four generations of a royal family alive at the same time is relatively recent. Getting past the age of seventy was a major achievement in the past. Few people got to fifty in the Middle Ages. Another problem was to know who your parents really were. The female line didn’t give problems … but who did mum meet when dad wasn’t around? Continue reading
Every army has them and they are usually called camp followers. The ladies of the night perform a vital function that is often overlooked in history books, which tells you a lot about the people who write the books because there’s no shortage of information. It’s not hard to find, as I discovered when I agreed to help with an oral history project to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. Continue reading
I was born is Sherborne and heard about the Fire of Sherborne Abbey as a boy. But I never took it seriously. If the story was true then something as trivial as a font caused a riot in which a priest shot a flaming arrow at the roof of the abbey and set it ablaze.
Seen from any angle, it didn’t make sense. Fonts aren’t so valuable as to cause a riot. Abbeys are made of stone and have lead roofs; more than an arrow is needed to burn one down. In any case, priests don’t go around firing arrows. Years later, I discovered how wrong I had been. Continue reading