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Archive for January, 2011

CATHERINE THE GREAT (1729- 1796) Russian

Ruler

Sophia Augusta Frederica, the princess of Anhalt-Zerbst Bernburg was fourteen when she was brought to Moscow as a prospective match for Grand Duke Peter, the nephew of Empress Elizabeth. She was brought up on the finest traditions of French culture and had a keen mind was married to the slow-witted boy in August 1745. His German wife had become converted to Greek Orthodox Church and received the name Catherine Alekseyevna and became an empress with his elevation into Czar Peter III(1762).
The Empress of Russia won over her subjects paradoxically enough over her husband who was pro-German! In 1762 the untimely death of the Czar opened way for her to become the sole ruler of Russia.
She left her personal mark on Russian history in four ways: as a lover, domestic reformer, as a woman of culture and in her foreign policies.
She began as a reformer championing the cause of the under dog.
Catherine’s domestic policy can be divided into two periods: before and after Pugachev’s mutiny. During the first period she wanted to create an image of a philosopher on the throne. Enlightened absolutism met with opposition and swung to the other extreme. She crushed the rebellion of the serfs in 1773 and made nobility the most privileged class in the country.
Her foreign policy was based on her relations with Poland and Turkey. She annexed a large part of Turkish territory as a result of Russian-Turkish war and her empire had access to Black Sea, Crimea and the Caucasus. Russia was interested in Poland as a “buffer” country between it and the stronger neighbours. A year before her death she annexed Poland.
A marriage brought Catherine to Russia and a marriage removed her. She was interested in a prospective match for her great granddaughter and Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden refused to sign the contract. She was upset. A week later she died of a stroke.


Catherine as the Patron of Arts

Catherine had a reputation as a patron of the arts, literature and education. The Hermitage Museum began as Catherine’s personal collection. She wrote a manual for the education of young children, drawing from the ideas of John Locke, and founded (1764) the famous Smolny Institute, admitting young girls of the nobility.

She wrote comedies, fiction and memoirs, while cultivating Voltaire, Diderot and d’Alembert – all French encyclopedists. Soon after her accession in 1762, having heard that the French government threatened to stop the publication of the famous French Encyclopédie on account of its irreligious spirit, Catherine proposed to Diderot that he should complete his great work in Russia under her protection. Voltaire was another with whom she corresponded with him for 15 years, till his death in 1778. He lauded her accomplishments, calling her “The Star of the North” and the “Semiramis of Russia. Though she never met him face-to-face, she mourned him bitterly when he died, acquired his collection of books from his heirs, and placed them in the National Library of Russia.
benny

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CAVOUR, COUNT CAMILLO (1810-1861) Italian
Statesman

His crowning achievement in melding different Italian states was equally important as giving it a constitutional structure. Camillo, born into an aristocratic Piedmontese family, was earmarked for a career in the army, even though his interests were more political than military.
When Charles Albert, the king of Piedmont (1831-1849), opened the first war of independence against Austria. Camillo retired to manage the family estate at Grinzane. He also served as mayor there from 1832 to the revolutionary upheaval of 1848.
This year was a turning point in his political career.
On March 23, 1848, in an article in the Risorgimento, Cavour called upon his king to join the national crusade and the king agreed. His country’s defeat at Custozza in July prompted Cavour to court France in order to oust the Austrians from Piedmont. Following year another war and defeat led to the abdication of the king in favor of his son, Vittorio Emanuele. Suspicious of the Pope XI and cashing in on the anti-Papal sentiment in Italy he came into national prominence. He did not support the Neo-Guelph program which dreamed that the pope would play a leading role in the unification movement. He became prime minister at the end of 1852.
During the course of the Crimean War, he ranged Piedmont alongside England and France, and in 1856 presented the Italian case before the Congress of Paris and the tribunal of world opinion. In Paris the Count through the support of Napoleon III, could garner popular support for his anti-Austrian, national campaign in 1859-1860.

The Second War of Italian Independence opened in April 1859. In July Napoleon signed an armistice at Villafranca with Franz-Josef, without consulting his Piedmont allies. Cavour, unwilling to accept the terms that left Venetia in Austrian hands, resigned.

Cavour returned to power in January 1860, and in March signed another secret agreement with Napoleon. On March 17, Cavour had the Piedmontese parliament proclaim Victor Emanuel II, king of Italy. Cavour also persuaded the parliament to proclaim the city of Rome the future capital of the kingdom, hoping to resolve the Roman question on the basis of an agreement with the church. He died shortly thereafter, and did not live to see the Italian occupation of Rome in 1870.
Trivia:
Born in Turin when it was under French control, Cavour was sponsored in baptism by Napoleon’s sister Pauline, and her husband, Prince Camille Borghese, after whom Camillo was named.(Ack:Frank J. Coppa)
benny

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Robert Burns called one day at his printers in Kilmarnock. He had his poem ‘the Holy Friar’. Asked if he was not afraid to attack on the clergy, he replied, “As to my purse, you know they can make nothing of it. As for my person (brandishing his oak stick), I carry an excellent cudgel!”
12.
While dining at the Brownhill Inn where the landlord was, oddly enough, named Bacon and the principal dish served that day was bacon, he was interrupted by a visiting Englishman. He asked the poet to prove he really was Burns, the poet.
Instantly the poet came up with,
“At Brownhill we always get dainty cheer;
And plenty of bacon each day in the year;
We’ve all thing that ‘s nice and mostly in season;
But why always Bacon- come give the reason?”
13.
In his poorer days Burns was so hard up, he went out in the streets of Dumfries, shabby and disorderly. Meeting some of his close friends he told them sadly,” I am going to ruin as fast as I can; the best I can do, however is to go consistently.”
14.
Burns, though lowly in circumstances, disliked to be tutored in matters of taste. Once visiting a fine house with many beautiful objects on display, where a party of visitors expressed their admiration over items, a lady asked him, “But Burns, have you nothing to say of this?”
To which glancing at the one who was holding attention of the crowd he replied, “Nothing, madam, nothing, for an ass is already braying over it.”
15.
While visiting a popular beauty spot, Creehope-Linn in Dumfriesshire, he was called upon at every turn, admire the scene.
Finally tiring of the criticism he didn’t show enthusiasm adequately enough he stopped and said, “But I couldn’t admire it more, gentlemen, if He who made it were to ask me to do it.”
16.
While attending a church service in Dumfries, the poet found a girl in front of him furiously searching the Bible for the text. The sermon for the day was ‘a fierce denunciation of obstinate sinners.’ She thumbed through the pages in vain. Hurriedly the poet penned some lines and handed it to her.
“Fair maid, you need not take the hint,
Nor idle texts pursue;
‘Twas guilty sinners that he meant,
Not angels- such as you”.
17.
Once two farmers passing Burns thought to have some fun at his expense. One said, “Boo” at which the poet penned this quatrain:
“There’s Mr. Scott and Mr. Boyd
Of grace and manners they are void;
Just like the bull among the kye (=cows)
They say ‘Boo’ at folk when they gae by.”
18.
A doctor attending Burns in his last illness tried to give up the bottle and he said that the coat of his stomach was entirely gone.
The poet retorted, “Ah well, if that is the case, then I’ll just go on drinking. If the coat is gone, it’s no worth the while to keep carrying about the waistcoat.”
19.

Burns, the ploughman poet of Scotland was taking a walk in the town of Leith and on meeting an old friend he stopped to talk to him.
A snobbish lady asked why he had thought fit to talk one so shabbily dressed, Burns had this reply: “Madam it was the man I was talking to. Do you suppose it was the man’s clothes I was addressing,-his hat, his clothes, his boots?”

benny

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