Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anniversary of La Marseillaise

Can you listen to the French national anthem without wanting to jump out of your seat? When you hear its pulsing rhythms, you can picture the men and women at the barricades ala Les Miserables? How about Victor Lazlo singing La Marseillaise at Rick's Saloon incurring the wrath of the Germans? This song causes you to react, which was the point. Below is the history of the anthem taken in its entirety from Wikipedia. (I didn't even bother to paraphrase.)

de Lisle singing his composition
for Mayor of Strousbourg
On 25 April 1792, the mayor of Strasbourg requested his guest. Rouget de Lisle. compose a song “that will rally our soldiers from all over to defend their homeland that is under threat.” That evening, de Lisle wrote Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian in French service from Cham. The melody soon became the rallying call to the French Revolution and was adopted as La Marseillaise after the melody was first sung on the streets by volunteers (fédérés) from Marseille. These fédérés were making their entryway into the city of Paris on 30 July 1792 after a young volunteer from Montpelier named Francois Mireur had sung it at a patriotic gathering in Marseille, and the troops adopted it as the marching song of the National Guard of Marseille. A newly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general under Napoleon a nd died in Egypt at age 28.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Richard Trevithick - Who?

Trevithick's steam circus.
In 1808, Richard Trevithick (1771 - 1833) publicized his steam railway locomotive expertise by building a new locomotive called 'Catch me who can.' He ran it on a circular track just south of the present day Euston Square tube station in London. The site in Bloomsbury has recently been identified archaeologically as that occupied by the Chadwick Building, part of University College London.
Admission to the "steam circus" was one shilling including a ride and it was intended to show that rail travel was faster than by horse. However, the venture suffered from weak tracks and a lot of black smoke. Public interest was limited.
Trevithick was disappointed by the response and designed no more railway locomotives. It was not until 1812 that twin cylinder steam locomotives, built by Matthew Murray in Holbeck, successfully started replacing horses for hauling coal wagons on the Middleton Railway from Middleton colliery to LeedsWest Yorkshire.
If you look closely at the sketch or click on this link to see the enlarged photo on Wikipedia, you will note that many of the men are still sporting the old-fashioned coats worn by the "fops" and not the more stylish cutaway favored by Beau Brummell, a style of dress that we associate with Mr. Darcy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Napoleon and Mr. and Mrs. Darcy

Napoleon's Generals Conspire

After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and 40,000 stragglers against more than three times as many Allied troops. Paris was captured by the Coalition in March 1814.
When Napoleon proposed that the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, led by Marshall Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. Napoleon had no choice but to abdicate. He did so in favor of his son. However, the Allies refused to accept this, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate unconditionally on 11 April.