Archive for March 2015

All Fools – Origins, 450 years ago this year!   Leave a comment

hungarywolf

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The first of April, some do say,

 Is set apart for All Fools’ Day;

 But why the people call it so,

 Nor I, nor they themselves do know.

 Poor Robin’s Almanack, 1760

All Fools’ or April Fools’ Day celebrates its 450th Anniversary this year, since it began in France in 1564. The name, given to the first of April, refers to the custom of playing tricks on other people or sending them off on ‘fools’ errands’. It appears to owe its origins to the ‘vernal equinox’ or beginning of Spring, since April 1st used to be New Year’s Day until 1564 in France. Then King Charles IX decided to change this to 1 January. However, the change in the calendar wasn’t followed until the seventeenth century in Britain, and there used to be some confusion among historians about events that happened before it was adopted, like the execution…

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Posted March 30, 2015 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

The Stony Road to Jerusalem – Palm Sunday into Holy Week.   Leave a comment

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There was a shout about my ears

And Palms before my feet.

G. K. Chesterton, The Donkey

The Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, the last before Palm Sunday and Holy Week, is taken from John 8 vv 58-9:

Jesus said, “before Abraham was born, I am”. They picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.’

These words come at the end of a long ‘dispute’ with the Jewish authorities in the Temple during the Festival of the Shelters, or Tents, in October. During this festival the people lived in temporary tents, or ‘booths’ along the sides of the rocky, hilly road into the city from Jericho. It was a time for giving thanks for the harvest, but also a celebration of their long march to freedom through the desert from Egypt with Moses, a time for thinking about…

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Posted March 30, 2015 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

Hungary and the White Rose: The Plantagenet Pretender in Buda   Leave a comment

Hungary’s links with Richard III and the Plantagenets.

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After thirty years of war, the Wars of the Roses came to an end in 1485.  During the Battle of Bosworth Field (Leicestershire), in which the issue was decided, the gold crown which had, supposedly, fallen from the head of Richard III, was placed on that of Henry Tudor, who, as Henry VII, was the new Welsh master of England’s destiny. In 1489, ambassadors and diplomats from all parts of Europe were in England and, as one of King Matthias’ biographers tells us, the King of Hungary was among those who sent envoys to Henry’s Court. Henry VII was supposed to have made peace with the House of York when he married Elizabeth of York, thus enabling the red and white roses to bloom side by side. At least, this was the Tudor mythology, alongside the naming of Henry’s eldest son and heir as Arthur, symbolising the rising again of…

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Posted March 27, 2015 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

The reputation of Richard III   Leave a comment

Nick Baines's Blog

This is the text of this morning’s Thought for the Day on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme:

Having lived for nine years in Leicestershire and now living in Yorkshire, I feel like I inhabit the tension around the final burial place of King Richard III.

His bones will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral, less than a hundred yards from the hole in the city centre car park that I found myself looking into 2 years ago. Their symbolic journey has of course been much longer.

But, who was he? Was Richard a megalomaniac psychopathic child killer who was as lousy a monarch as he was a warrior? Or was he a sick victim of someone else’s arrows of misfortune, caught up in the political intrigues and power plays of his day? Shakespeare hasn’t necessarily helped us in his portrayal of the desperate king who, despite not winning very much…

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Posted March 26, 2015 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

This Week in 1990: Lithuanian Independence   Leave a comment

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On 11 March, Lithuania formally declared independence from the Soviet Union. Vytautas Landsbergis (above), a musicologist, was elected President. Gorbachev attacked the action as “illegitimate and invalid”, but was reluctant to use force to reverse it. At Malta he had agreed with Bush not to do so; Bush in return had promised to try not to make Gorbachev’s task more difficult. The president kept his public remarks on the situation low-key. The United States wanted to see the Baltic Republics gain their freedom, but relied at this point for world stability on a lasting relationship with a strong Soviet Union. It did not welcome chaos.

Many of the national movements were disturbingly extreme. Even those which were not, like the Lithuanian independence movement, displayed a lack of statesmanship and moderation in their dealings with Moscow. Lithuania’s new president was weak and inexperienced in his handling of the national demand for independence in March and April 1990. A wiser government would not have planned to station customs officials on the Soviet-Lithuanian border, where they achieved nothing sensible but constituted a serious insult to Moscow. Nor would it have allowed soldiers to desert the Soviet Army and declare their intention to join a Lithuanian one.

After fifty years of often brutal servitude, Lithuanians resented the slightest delay in obtaining their freedom; but their government failed to channel the urgency of their desires in directions which would benefit Lithuania while at the same time making it easier for other nations to move smoothly to their rightful independence. Landsbergis openly called for break-up of the Soviet Union; as a result Gorbachev was obliged to demonstrate to the Soviet military that no such thing would happen. Reality was often a stranger in the Lithuanian Parliament. ‘This is a rich country’, one member said, ‘in five years we will be a rich as Finland’. It was not Lithuania’s fault that half a century of centralised planning had made such optimism abroad.

‘Gorbachev = Stalin’ said some of the placards in Vilnius, with an equal lack of common sense. Soviet Army commanders had been ordering their men to drive provocatively through the streets of the city, and to take over public buildings with a considerable degree of brutality. It was at least a possibility that the Army was deliberately trying to increase the tension in order to weaken Gorbachev’s position. But such subtleties passed the Lithuanians and their government by. For them there was only one enemy: the Soviet Union as a whole.

It was nevertheless curious to find Western countries sympathising more with Gorbachev than with the national demands of the small Baltic states which had been illegally and unjustifiably absorbed by Stalin fifty years earlier. The West had benefited greatly from the Gorbachev effect and was anxious that he might be replaced if he appeared now to be weak. It was harder for the Lithuanians to understand this response. They had watched the West’s delight as nation after nation in the old Soviet bloc declared its independence. Now that Lithuania was doing what Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania had done the West counselled caution or watched largely in silence. There was no upsurge of international outrage when the Soviet Union placed an economic stranglehold on Lithuania. The view was that Lithuania had tried too fast for something that would come anyway if its people were patient.

In Moscow, Kremlin officials saw Lithuania as the place where they had to make a stand if they were not to lose the Ukraine as well. That would be an economic and political catastrophe from which Gorbachev would never recover. Of Landbergis, the BBC journalist, John Simpson wrote:

A charming, unworldly figure, Landsbergis is a straightforward enemy of the Soviet state as constituted since the forcible inclusion of the Baltic countries at the start of the Second World War. His political skills are negligible; he has little conception of the need to assuage the dignity and self-esteem of a great country facing humiliation. Most Western governments believe that Lithuania could singlehandedly destroy Gorbachev and perestroika unless it develops a clearer sense of the possible. Landsbergis shows no sign of doing so.

Posted March 11, 2015 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

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