Posts Tagged ‘personalities’

32nd  President of USA

In his day FDR  was the bugbear for great many who called him, a dictator, a charlatan, a grinning poseur. For others he was a friend of the poor, the champion of the minorities, the defender of Labour, the patrician saviour of Capitalism, the inspiring architect of the Allied victory and a prophet of a new world order under the aegis of the UN.

For foes and friends alike the truth remains undisputed: his impact on the modern world shall endure. When he died William S. White observed, ‘ it seemed as if history itself had died’.

A cousin of President Roosevelt, and the only son of James and Sarah Delano Roosevelt he was the quintessence of social privilege and wealth. Having passed his bar exams,he accepted in 1910 an offer  to run for the NY senate. One found him at first, ‘ a spoiled silk sort of guy. But he was amassing quietly his political capital that would when time came confound his detractors. He became assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Wilson. It proved to be his baptism of fire in the use of political strategy and of persuasion in an  executive  position.

At the Democratic convention of 1920 he was chosen as the running mate of James M.Cox from Ohio. His setback was further exacerbated by infantile paralysis in Aug,1921. It in a way gave him a new perspective, -compassion as well as steely resolve,  and while ‘lying there, he grew bigger day by day.’. The year 1924 marked his return to national politics. He became the Governor of New York( ’28). With the onset of Market crash of 1929 it was clear to him new alternatives were needed. In 1930 during his campaign for selection he promised a ‘New Deal.’ With a stunning victory he set forth a new credo of government and economy for the State of New York. His eyes were already set for Presidency since President Hoover was already beaten by the march of events. Carefully FDR prepared his moves that would lift him to the White House. His New Deal was a call to arms rather than a political campaign.For the nation’s 14 million unemployed, Roosevelt’s attack on irresponsible Corporate interests his credo constituted a thrilling new chapter in political leadership .

Inaugurated on March 4, 1933 FDR closed the banks for 4 days and his New Deal in practice showed the nation could be saved. Farmers were given a boost   with the passing of the Emergency Farm Mortgage Act, which stopped foreclosures, and authorized Federal refunding of the mortgages; on May 18, the Tennessee Valley Authority came into being; on May 27, Trust and Securities Act, House Owners Loan Corporation(June,13). In Hundred Days he had three other major Acts passed (June16)-and his New Deal was a concrete example of his vision. (To be concluded)



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Albert I of Belgium

On the eve of the outbreak of World War I he was
entertaining a powerful chieftain from the Belgian
Congo at the palace; after dinner at a signal, the royal
orchestra filed into the hall and began tuning their
“Tell me the kind of music you like best and my
orchestra will be happy to oblige.” proposed the king.
“That is it,” replied the guest, “they are playing it
now.” The king nodded graciously and for the rest of
the evening the assembled guests listened while the
orchestra tuned up.

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Justinian I (c. 482 – 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire’s greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.
One of the most important figures of Late Antiquity and the last Roman Emperor to speak Latin as a first language, Justinian’s rule constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the Eastern Roman Empire. The impact of his administration extended far beyond the boundaries of his time and domain. Justinian’s reign is marked by the ambitious but only partly realized renovatio imperii, or “restoration of the Empire”. This ambition was expressed by the partial recovery of the territories of the defunct Western Roman Empire. His general Belisarius swiftly conquered the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa, extending Roman control to the Atlantic Ocean. Subsequently Belisarius, Narses, and other generals conquered the Ostrogothic Kingdom, restoring Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy, and Rome to the Empire after more than half a century of barbarian control.

A still more resonant aspect of his legacy was the uniform rewriting of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is still the basis of civil law in many modern states. His reign also marked a blossoming of Byzantine culture, and his building program yielded such masterpieces as the church of Hagia Sophia, which was to be the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity for many centuries.
A devastating outbreak of bubonic plague in the early 540s marked the end of an age of splendor. The Empire entered a period of territorial decline not to be reversed until the ninth century.
Justinian is considered a saint amongst Orthodox Christians, and is also commemorated by some Lutheran Churches.
Empress Theodora has come up for her share of adulation and vilification that often accompanies when the subject is a woman and who has a mind of her own. The main historical sources for her life are the works of her contemporary Procopius, scribe for General Belisarius. However the historian has offered three contradictory portrayals of the Empress. The Wars of Justinian, largely completed in 545, paints a picture of a courageous and influential empress.
Later he wrote the Secret History, which was not published at the time. The work revealed an author who had become deeply disillusioned with the emperor Justinian, the empress, and even his patron Belisarius. Justinian is depicted as cruel, venal, prodigal and incompetent; as for Theodora, the reader is treated to a detailed and titillating portrayal of vulgarity and insatiable lust, combined with shrewish and calculating mean-spiritedness; Procopius even claims both are demons whose heads were seen to leave their bodies and roam the palace at night. Yet much of the work covers the same time period as The Wars of Justinian.
Procopius’ Buildings of Justinian, written about the same time as the Secret History, is a panegyric which paints Justinian and Theodora as a pious couple and presents particularly flattering portrayals of them. Besides her piety, her beauty is excessively praised. Although Theodora was dead when this work was published, Justinian was very much alive, and probably commissioned the work. (wikipedia)

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Ivan IV Vasilyevich (1530 –1584) known in English as Ivan the Terrible, was Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 until his death. His long reign saw the conquest of the Khanates of Kazan which was commemorated by one of the most beautiful buildings erected anywhere on the earth.(St. Basil’s Cathedral impressed the Tsar so much that he had the architect, Postnik Yakovlev, blinded so he could never design anything as beautiful again. (In reality, Postnik Yakovlev went on to design more churches for the Tsar. Then what is legend if it does not stretch truth so even violence and rank stupidity sound much sweeter than reality? It is what legend does to the memory of people and places.)
Ivan the terrible is an anglicized travesty of the ruler who gripped the imagination of Russians. Ivan the fearsome is closer to the truth. Look only what he has achieved? Sheer scale of his achievements weigh more against his failures. He annexed Kazan, Astrakhan, and Siberia, transforming Russia into a multiethnic and multiconfessional state spanning almost one billion acres, approximately 4,046,856 km2 . He brought about changes in (1,562,500 sq mi). He was the first tsar of all Russia.
The 1560s brought hardships to Russia that led to dramatic change of Ivan’s policies. Russia was devastated by a combination of drought and famine, Polish-Lithuanian raids, Tatar invasions and the sea-trading blockade carried out by the Swedes, Poles and the Hanseatic League. His first wife, Anastasia Romanovna, died in 1560, and her death was suspected to be a poisoning. This personal tragedy deeply hurt Ivan and is thought to have affected his personality, if not his mental health. At the same time, one of Ivan’s advisors, Prince Andrei Kurbsky, defected to the Lithuanians, took command of the Lithuanian troops and devastated the Russian region of Velikiye Luki. Since then he would be wary of the nobles and take stern actions to nip the trouble in bud.
His creation of a buffer between him and the nobility was in the creation of the oprichnina. It consisted of a separate territory within the borders of Russia on which the tsar held exclusive power. The Boyar Council ruled the zemshchina (‘land’), the second division of the state. Ivan also recruited a personal guard known as the oprichniki. Originally it was a thousand strong. They enjoyed social and economic privileges under the oprichnina. They owed their allegiance and status to Ivan, not to heredity or local bonds. Think how this idea would change in the hands of Joseph Stalin. His gulags was a land where dissidents were made to work to death and his personality cult created a new class that owed allegiance to him only.
The modern Ivan, Comrade Stalin and no other, the man who personally saw to the death of some 22 millions as with Ivan the Grozny were molded by history, culture and also by circumstances that create historic parallels. If that is the case only Russia could have produced two evil geniuses whose contribution to history of world would be debated by historians for many more centuries to come.
Tailpiece: the tsar also made laws restricting the mobility of the peasants, which would eventually lead to serfdom.

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In order to understand the life of Sarah Bernhardt it may be relevant to touch upon the historical role of demimondaine in national life of France. Gallic spirit is quite unique that can be explained by the absence of it in such countries as UK or in the USA. The Profumo scandal in England and the recent John Edward’s trial in the USA come to mind.

The Americans pride themselves that many instances the rags to riches of people as proof of the merit in their way of life. But for women France shows by their customs and panache as the right place a woman with wit and originality can, despite starting life from the streets, end up as national treasure as Sarah Bernhardt and Edith Piaf. They are the embodiment of Gallic spirit. So was Mme du Barry one such. Who shall surpass Ninon de Lenclos in her ability to be her own and be independent at a time the Establishment was as stern as represented in the person of Cardinal Richelieu? Ninon who treasured her independence joined the convent with the sole reason of being just independent and not marry for money or power. Yet she had both aplenty.
Like Germaine de Staël she became a popular figure in the salons, and her own drawing room became a centre for the discussion and consumption of the literary arts. In her early thirties she was responsible for encouraging the young Molière, and when she died she left money for the son of her accountant, a nine-year old named François Marie Arouet, later to become better known as Voltaire, so he could buy books. In a manner of speaking she was the power in making encyclopedia movement in France reach to its full flowering. I cannot resist an anecdote about this remarkable woman.
Cardinal Richelieu offered fifty thousand crowns for a night in her bed. Ninon took the money, and sent a friend instead. “Ninon made friends among the great in every walk of life, had wit and intelligence enough to keep them, and, what is more, to keep them friendly with one another.” (Saint-Simon).
Ninon de l’Enclos is a relatively obscure figure in the English-speaking world, but is much better known in France where her name is synonymous with wit and beauty as our subject ‘the divine Sarah.’

Sarah Bernhardt(1844-1923)
She was born in Paris as Henriette Rosine Bernard, the eldest surviving illegitimate daughter of Judith van Hard, a Dutch Jewish courtesan known as “Youle.” Her father was reportedly Edouard Bernard, a French lawyer, and she was educated in French Catholic convents. To support herself, she combined the career of an actress with that of a courtesan – at the time, the two were considered scandalous to a roughly equal degree. she was encouraged to pursue a theatrical career by one of her mother’s lovers, the duke de Morny(1859). After a brief appearance at the Comdie-Franaise (1862-63), she joined the Odeon theatre (1866-72), where she acted in Kean by Alexandre Dumas Sr. and Ruy Blas by Victor Hugo, charming audiences with her golden voice. Returning to the Comdie-Franaise (187280), she starred in Phèdre to great acclaim in Paris and London. She formed her own company in 1880 and toured the world in The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils, Adrienne Lecouvreur by Eugne Scribe, four plays written for her by Victorien Sardou, and The Eaglet by Edmond Rostand. After an injury to her leg forced its amputation (1915), she strapped on a wooden leg and chose roles she could play largely seated. One of the best-known figures in the history of the stage, she was made a member of France’s Legion of Honour in 1914.
On one occasion the actress Madge Kendall, congratulating the ‘divine Sarah’ on her performance, added that it was a pity her plays dealt with passion that she could not take her daughters to them. Sarah retorted thus, ”Ah Madame, you should remember that were it not for passion you would have no daughters to bring.”

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The second volume of the RM is on sale. This bumper book of anecdotes is a must for all those who are interested in history, role of man in shaping it. While the first book dealt with personalities who impacted the physical world, focus of the second is on men and their ideas. Both books have plenty of portraits drawn by the author. Check it out http://www.lulu.com/content/10524943 These are available as pocket books or download version

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