SNIPPETS OF BRITISH HISTORY: ‘ Prince William of Gloucester and Bill of Rights 1689 ‘

#AceBritishHistoryNews – September 22 – Prince William, Duke of Gloucester (1689–1700), was the son of Princess Anne (later Queen of Great Britain) and her husband, Prince George, Duke of Cumberland. William was their only child to survive infancy.

' Prince William Duke of Gloucester '

‘ Prince William Duke of Gloucester ‘

Styled Duke of Gloucester, he was viewed as a Protestant champion because his birth seemed to cement the Protestant succession established in the “Glorious Revolution” that had deposed his Catholic grandfather James II the previous year.

' Good Queen Anne '

‘ Good Queen Anne ‘

Anne was estranged from her brother-in-law, William III, and her sister, Mary II, but supported the links that developed between them and her son.

' King William Prince William '

‘ King William Prince William ‘

Prince William befriended his Welsh body-servant at his nursery in Campden House, Kensington; his memoir of the Duke is an important source for historians.

William’s precarious health was a constant source of worry to his mother. His death at the age of eleven precipitated a succession crisis as his mother was the only individual remaining in the Protestant line of succession established by the Bill of Rights 1689.

To avoid the throne passing to a Catholic, the Act of Settlement 1701 settled the throne on Electress Sophia of Hanover, a cousin of King James, and her Protestant
heirs.

#ABHN2014

#bill-of-rights-1689, #catholic, #protestant

‘ Humanity’s Curiosity About the Natural World ‘

#AceBritishHistoryNews – September 18 – Curious Beasts explores humankind’s curiosity about the natural world, as it was expressed in the vibrant print culture of the early modern period. Printmaking emerged as a major art form and communication tool in the 15th century, coinciding with an increasing interest in and investigation of flora and fauna. The exhibition looks at how printmakers contributed to knowledge of animals, but also at the wildly different ways in which the animal subject inspired graphic artists. Our enduring fascination with animals also proved to be a good way to bond with like-minded colleagues in other museums, and to make the most of their own collections – leading to some novel encounters between the British Museum’s prints and objects such as stuffed rabbits and rhinoceroses.

Jan Saenredam, A beached whale near Beverwijk, engraving, 1602 (1871,0812.1545)

Jan Saenredam, A beached whale near Beverwijk, engraving, 1602 (1871,0812.1545)

The idea for Curious Beasts was sparked many years ago when, working as a Museum Assistant in the Department of Prints and Drawings, I opened a box of 16th-century Dutch and Flemish prints – while looking for something else entirely – and was startled to discover Jan Saenredam’s magnificent engraving of a beached sperm whale, from 1602.

The remarkably accurate representation of this mysterious giant is bordered by an equally remarkable frame that gives us broader insight into the ways people thought about whales: images of eclipses, earthquake and plague tie into the idea that the monstrous sea creature dying on land was a bad omen. The whale is surrounded by a crowd of sightseers, testifying to the intense curiosity about strange and rare creatures in this period – some of these people would no doubt have been among the intended audience for the engraving, too.

Saenredam’s whale is now at the heart of Curious Beasts

, and I have greatly enjoyed showing it, in all its peculiarity, to new audiences. The exhibition takes inspiration from the complexity of Saenredam’s print, drawing on the diversity of the British Museum’s collection to put natural history studies in the context of people’s wider relationships with the animal world. The range of material covers everything from religious subjects (e.g. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) to political satire and practical objects – one etching of a rabbit was designed as a target for archery practice. Dürer’s 1515 woodcut of a rhinoceros is probably the best-known object in the exhibition, and a 1620 impression is shown alongside prints by Rembrandt, Goya and Stubbs, and an array of fascinating and striking works by lesser known artists, the majority of which have never been loaned before.

Albrecht Dürer, Rhinoceros, colour woodcut, first published 1515, this edition after 1620 (1877,0609.71)

Albrecht Dürer, Rhinoceros, colour woodcut, first published 1515, this edition after 1620 (1877,0609.71)

Working with our three partners has been educational and inspiring – there have been so many great responses to the beauty and quirkiness of the British Museum beasts. Our lead partner Compton Verney brought taxidermy into their galleries for the first time, including a baby Indian rhinoceros borrowed from Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum: an intriguing comparison with Dürer’s woodcut of the same species (he famously never saw the rhinoceros in real life).

Curious Beasts at Compton Verney: the stuffed rhinoceros

Curious Beasts at Compton Verney: the stuffed rhinoceros

Compton Verney also wanted to put on a complementary display that would feature their edition of the designer Enid Marx’s linocut series, Marco’s Animal Alphabet. A collaboration with Leicester Print Workshop brought printmaking up to the present day with an exhibition of new works titled A Fantastical Animal Alphabet, and a pop-up print studio run by their very appropriate Artist in Residence, Kate Da’Casto: I have fond memories of conversations about our mutual love of old master prints and the more gruesome relics of natural history.

The exhibition has changed at each venue. In Belfast the Ulster Museum decided to include Lorenzo Lippi’s lovely painting, Allegory of Fortune with a monkey, and also to display taxidermy from its extensive natural history collection, much of it prepared by the respected Belfast firm Sheals, established in 1856. The museum’s famous exhibit Peter the polar bear, prepared in 1972 after he died at Belfast zoo, was in a nearby gallery.

Curious Beasts at Ferens Art Gallery, Hull: the rhinoceros wheelbarrow, made by Hull furniture makers Richardson & Sons, 1862

Curious Beasts at Ferens Art Gallery, Hull: the rhinoceros wheelbarrow, made by Hull furniture makers Richardson & Sons, 1862

The exhibition’s present incarnation at Ferens Art Gallery is in the largest gallery space yet, and the curators at Hull Museums were keen to use Curious Beasts as an opportunity to bring some of their objects out of storage and into conversation with the British Museum’s prints. Over 30 objects were eventually selected, including a delightful rhinoceros-shaped ceremonial wheelbarrow made in 1862, a sperm whale tooth with scrimshaw carvings, and artworks including the truly bizarre and difficult-to-display 1960s wooden sculptureCriletic Delay Adjust (‘Zebra Legs’)by Mark Ingram, which triggered much reminiscence among the curators and technicians.

Sadly it’s the end of the road for this particular UK travelling exhibition, but the beasts have life in them yet. Halfway through the tour, we received word that San Diego University Galleries were interested in taking the show for October 2014. I can’t wait to see what they decide to do with it.

Courtesy of The British Museum including Lithographs not to be changed or altered as permission was sought by Ace News Group for their use. They are solely for research use.

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#ABHN2014

‘ Summer Solstice Traditions ‘

#AceBritishHistoryNews – June 21 – For many bygone civilizations, the summer solstice—the longest day of the year—was endowed with great significance. People celebrated this special day, which falls in June in the northern hemisphere and is also known as midsummer, with festivals, celebrations and other observances, some of which still survive or have experienced a revival in modern times.

Though a connection between the Celtic high priests and England’s Stonehenge has never been reliably established, many people who identify as modern-day Druids still gather at the mighty monument every midsummer. (Credit: Andrew Dunn/Wikimedia Commons)

Ancient Greeks
According to certain iterations of the Greek calendar—they varied widely by region and era—the summer solstice was the first day of the year. Several festivals were held around this time, including Kronia, which celebrated the agriculture god Cronus. The strict social code was temporarily turned on its head during Kronia, with slaves participating in the merriment as equals or even being served by their masters. The summer solstice also marked the one-month countdown to the opening of the Olympic games.

Ancient Romans
In the days leading up to the summer solstice, ancient Romans celebrated the Vestalia festival, which paid tribute to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. Rituals included the sacrifice of an unborn calf remove from its mother’s womb. This was the only time of the year when married women were allowed to enter the sacred temple of the vestal virgins and make offerings to Vesta there.

Ancient Chinese
The ancient Chinese participated in a ceremony on the summer solstice to honor the earth, femininity and the force known as yin. It complemented the winter solstice ritual, which was devoted to the heavens, masculinity and yang. Ancient Northern and Central European Tribes Many Germanic, Slavic and Celtic pagans welcomed summer with bonfires, a tradition that is still enjoyed in Germany, Austria, Estonia and other countries. Some ancient tribes practiced a ritual in which couples would jump through the flames to predict how high that year’s crops would grow.

Vikings
Midsummer was a crucial time of year for the Nordic seafarers, who would meet to discuss legal matters and resolve disputes around the summer solstice. They would also visit wells thought to have healing powers and build huge bonfires. Today, “Viking” summer solstice celebrations are popular among both residents and tourists in Iceland.

Native Americans
Many Native American tribes took part in centuries-old midsummer rituals, some of which are still practised today. The Sioux, for instance, performed a ceremonial sun dance around a tree while wearing symbolic colors. Some scholars believe that Wyomins’s Bighorn medicine wheel, an arrangement of stones built several hundred years ago by the Plains Indians, aligns with the solstice sunrise and sunset, and was therefore the site of that culture’s annual sun dance.

Maya and Aztecs
While not much is known of how exactly the mighty pre-Columbian civilizations of Central America celebrated midsummer, the ruins of their once-great cities indicate the great significance of that day. Temples, public buildings and other structures were often precisely aligned with the shadows cast by major astrological phenomena, particularly the summer and winter solstices.

Druids
The Celtic high priests known as the Druids likely led ritual celebrations during midsummer, but—contrary to popular belief—it is unlikely that these took place at Stonehenge, England’s most famous megalithic stone circle. Still, people who identify as modern Druids continue to gather at the monument for the summer solstice, winter solstice, spring equinox and autumn equinox.

By History.com Staff

#AH2RN2014

#abhn2014, #summer-solstice

` Veterans Gather on HMS Belfast to Celebrate Invasion Fleet Landing on D-Day ‘

AceBritishHistoryNews – D-Day – June 06 – Remembered – The London skyline echoed to the sound of gunfire today, 70 years since the signal was given to launch the Allied invasion of Europe.

Tower Bridge from HMS Belfast (library image) [Picture: Sergeant Adrian Harlen, Crown copyright]

Tower Bridge from HMS Belfast (library image)

Veterans gathered on the wartime cruiser HMS Belfast this morning, which lies near Tower Bridge, to celebrate the anniversary of the departure of ‘the greatest invasion fleet in history’.

Today HMS Belfast’s main guns were fired to commemorate the 70th anniversary of that decisive day.

Seven decades ago HMS Belfast was part of the Royal Navy’s bombardment force off the French coast, attacking German guns and reinforcements as the Allied troops established a foothold on the 5 beaches.

Among those on board today were Arctic Convoy veterans, including 91-year-old Ted Cordery, who had served on board as a torpedoman in June 1944.

D-Day veteran Ted Cordery

D-Day veteran Ted Cordery aboard HMS Belfast [Picture: Crown copyright]

Ted was working on the upper decks on D-Day itself, and one of his tasks was operating a crane. He said:

I was swinging stretchers more like pallets on board, from smaller boats, with the first casualties from the beaches, as we had a large sick bay.

I have never seen such injuries. Limbs missing, faces blown off; most of them had no chance of surviving.

Ted also served in HMS Belfast during the Arctic Convoys. Had the Allies not managed to defeat the U-boat threat in the Atlantic and push essential war supplies through the icy seas to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk, then the Red Army’s ability to pin down and ultimately defeat German forces on the Eastern Front would have meant the Allies faced a much stronger opponent in western Europe; D-Day may have ended very differently.

HMS Belfast during 1944

HMS Belfast was one of the first ships to open fire on 6 June 1944 (library image) [Picture: Crown copyright]

Today’s event was organised by Tim Lewin, son of Lord Lewin, who served in HMS Belfast and was Chief of the Defence Staff during the Falklands conflict, and Alexander Smolko, maker of the film ‘Allies’.

Courtesy of United Kingdom Government D-Day Landings

#ABHN2014

#acebritishhistorynews, #d-day