Meghan W

Archive for the ‘A History’ Category

Childhood and the Books that Influenced Me

In A History on July 10, 2012 at 11:57 am

Do you ever reminisce about the illustrated books and stories you read as a child? I sometimes think about it, and how they may have influenced me now through my tastes in life. My childhood was full of reading. I was a veritable bookworm, complete with a silver necklace given to me by my parents that had a worm wearing glasses. Yes. I know. I’m still surprised I had friends! Oh well. But I got to thinking today that I should record my favorite (not not so favorite) books that make me think of my childhood. If I ever start a family I’d love for my children to read these exact same books and share the memories I had. Let me know what you think!

Books that Influenced Me as a Child (I’ll stop at the age of around 11 or 12) Not in any particular order

  1. The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton- Oh, my. Who’s read this one? I think it was the first book I read about time travel and history and such. The part where she finds a scratch on her leg that was similiar to the one in her dream? I still remember that! My mother and I were supposed to read this together, but she decided playing Game Cube with my brother was more useful of her time. I read most of the series by myself but I never finished it, because I never forgave her, I think.
  2. Paperquake: A Puzzle by Kathryn Reiss- My 4th grade teacher actually had this on her bookshelf and during daily reading time this was the book I chose. For those who don’t know, it features past regression in San Francisco. So fascinating. I accidentally took it home and never gave it back to my teacher… (oops)
  3. Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd- I saw the movie first, which I remember better, but once again, I see a trend developing…time travel seemed to be one of my favorite topics as a kid. And time travel through an elevator? Cool!
  4. The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot- I mayyy have been a bit older than 11 when I read these, but I can’t remember for sure, and anyway, I don’t quite care! This series deals with a girl who sees ghost and happens to fall in love with one. The ending of the series was so romantic! Cabot, a champion writer for young adults, made me wish severely that I could see and speak to ghosts. Especially since my mother claims her grandmother and great grandmother frequently saw ghosts of passed loved ones. Hmm…
  5. Holes by Louis Sachar- I’ll say this with all honesty– I usually HATE reading books where a guy is the protagonist. I can’t help it! I simply can’t relate to them. And even though I can’t relate with being sent to a prison camp to dig holes all day, this book is universally liked by both boys and girls. Although casting Shia LeBeouf was cast as the main character, I got over it…sort of.
  6. Dreadful Sorry by Kathryn Reiss- Another past regression novel by Reiss, this one was a little bit older and was a bit scarier. I read this several years after Paperquake and this is definitely one of my favorites. Although I’m pretty sure my fear of drowning came from this book…..
  7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- such a sweet book! The part where their sister dies and the poem about her made me cry. I distinctly remember staying in bed all day one Saturday in 4th grade and reading it completely. When I told my friends on Monday they were all astonished. I was known as a fast reader back in the day.
  8. The Secret Garden by Frances H Burnett- Ok I actually really hate this book but it still made an impression on me. Terrifying. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of this. Does anybody actually like this book? Does anybody actually find it happy? Geez. So sad.
  9. Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene- Yeah, I’ve already written 3 posts about this so I don’t think I need to add anything. I’ll just say that these were my by far my favorite books growing up.
  10. Twin Spell by Janet Lunn- ahhh! Who’s read it?? Such an amazing book!! I actually wrote a short story probably in 3rd grade that was similiar to this. My mother read it when she was a girl and searched for years trying to find it (it’s out of print). It’s about twins who move into an old house with a doll and start having odd dreams about the past. It’s a great combination of spooky and eerie while still remaining young adult appropriate.
  11. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg- This is actually one of my least favorite books. I liked the sentiment, but I just remember feeling so sad about the whole bell ringing for only the ones who believe. Especially how the parents couldn’t hear it. It made me not want to grow up, which is somewhat the opposite of children’s storybook objectives.
  12. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle- awww, who doesn’t like Eric Carle books? I loved the illustrations. The story about the the cricket was also amazing. We still have all of them.
  13. Stellaluna by Janelle Cannon- another favorite. This was bought at the Scholastic Book Fair my school had twice a year. My brother bought Verdi, another by Cannon. My mother would read each of these to us every night. I’m not quite sure why I picked Stellaluna and my brother Verdi, but we each liked our own more.
  14. Bun Bun’s Birthday by Mercer Mayer- I get teary eyed just thinking about this book. This isn’t a very well known one. I’m not quite sure how I got it. I assume a relative gave it to me since I have a stuffed bunny named Bun Bun. The whole book makes me so sad until the end when I’m just a little bit less sad. In second grade I won a trip to the kindergarten class to read during story time and I picked this book.
  15. The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright- Who’s heard of Betty Ren Wright? She wrote these books before I was even born, but I found her entire collection at the library and would just re-rent them over and over again. I got into a dollhouse phase, not where I wanted one, but where I wanted to read every book with a dollhouse in them. Strange, right?
  16. The Ghosts of Mercy Manor by Betty Ren Wright- my favorite of her books. If you’ve read her but never this one, go do it now! I once recounted the plot to a neighboor who was maybe 4 years younger and her mother called the next day to tell me that her daughter had nightmares the entire night and couldn’t sleep because of the story I told her. Which was funny, really, because I was probably her age when I first read it. I promise I didn’t embellish or anything!
  17. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter- my grandmother has a set of china dishes from when my uncles and mother were young (50s and 60s) and they have the story line written and illustrated on each dish. It was one of my favorite parts about visiting the grandparents.
  18. Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel- these were written in the 70s and 80s, actually, but OMG did my mom, brother and I cry over laughing in this series. The wolf scene actually terrified me, but the ice cream cone on one of the amphibian’s head had be cracking up. How many of you have read at least one Frog and Toad book?
  19. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister- Seriously. Quite possibly the most beloved children’s book. And the illustrations were just beautiful, especially the shiny scale.
  20. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish- I actually remember to this day reading all of these in reading time in second grade. My teacher even baked us a lemon meringue pie (which I found absolutely horrifically disgusting) after the book in which Amelia bakes one. Every one of these books is so hilarious. Definitely a classic.
  21. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch- Have any of you heard of this? This one was lost in my memory for quite some time before it suddenly popped out after watching Tangled, of all things (I’m an adult, I promise…it was on HBO). It’s so adorable and cute!
  22. The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy- Ohhh, yes. A favorite story of my childhood (it was my mother’s too). It’s such a cute plot line and plays on every child’s fears of the librarian (mine was very nice, actually).
  23. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scienszka- read this in the school library over and over again with my friends. Who remembers this gem?
  24. The Mitten by Jan Brett- I can’t help but smile when I think of this book. It’s such a sweet story! Any child’s book involving animals is going to be a winner in my eyes. Brett’s book about the hedgehog actually inspired my second grade assistant teacher to buy a hedgehog as a pet and brought to class (although, now that I think of it, can you actually buy hedgehogs? Perhaps she found it in her backyard….)
  25. The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osbourne- My brother had to read these for school but I sometimes listened to him or my mother reading them. I’m glad I did, because I seem to be in the minority for people who have or haven’t read them. I love that they’re mystery novels. Somehow childhood mystery novels makes it seem to any person reading them that they can, in fact, solve their own mystery. And who doesn’t want that?
  26. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon- hehe. Has anybody read this? This was a personal favorite in my entire school for some reason. So silly.
  27. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams- Ok. I hate this book. Like, really hate it. But it did influence me. I literally couldn’t think of a worse fate ever than having my stuffed animal burned in a flaming pile but actually turning into real life. Because, in my mind when I was a child, my stuffed bunny will actually live forever (or as long as I live) while as the velveteen rabbit will die after a few years since bunnies don’t have exceptionally long life spans. And then the boy NEVER realizing that his stuffed bunny became real?? Who writes that sort of thing and calls it a children’s book!
  28. The Nutcracker- I read and read a copy of this from my local library where the girl’s name was Maria. I loved the way she had her hair half up and half down, and so I dubbed the hair style the “Maria hair-do” and

It’s quite possible I’m leaving a few out, but I’m aging…I can’t remember every great book in my childhood.

I think there’s something very amazing about sharing memories like these with other people. And isn’t it amazing how our own mothers and fathers could have read the very same books they read to us when we were little? Children’s books are essentially timeless. They can be passed down from one generation to another without ever losing their sparkle or charm. I like the idea of sharing my favorite stories growing up because some readers may find that we share similar memories, too, or favorite books. Are there any on here that you never read? How about ones you read that aren’t on my list?

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Oreo’s & Peanut Butter! Credits to the Parent Trap

In A History on July 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Last night The Parent Trap (1998) played on Hallmark. It doesn’t matter what is going on around me; if that movie is on TV, I’m watching it. My father could try and wrestle the remote out of my hands…but he wouldn’t succeed. Although, I have a sneaking suspicion both he and my 18 year old brother secretly love the movie, because both of them came into the family room and watched it animatedly with me. They wouldn’t have done that if it was, say, Pride and Prejudice. They would have definitively run in the opposite direction (men have no taste in movies. Hmph.).

Honestly, The Parent Trap would by my absolute most favorite movie in the whole entire world if Pride and Prejudice hadn’t taken over that spot in 2006 and refused to leave. So, it will have to be satisfied with remaining as my second most absolute favorite movie in the whole entire world. When that movie came out I was really young, only a few years past being a toddler. I’m sure I saw the movie quite soon after it was released, too. If you ask any girl around my age or Lohan’s age in the movie, I’d bet we would all say we’d seen it. I haven’t met one person who doesn’t like it. What about you, readers? Do any of you not like it? And HOW COULD YOU NOT POSSIBLY LOVE IT ARE YOU CRAZY? I mean, please let me know why. I will be respectful of your opinion. Promise.

Please allow me to list the ways The Parent Trap influenced my life more drastically than any media or pop song could ever have accomplished:

  1. Oreo’s and Peanut Butter: Best. Combination. Ever. I grew up with my mother NEVER once buying Oreo’s. Or Skippy peanut butter (which Hallie uses in the movie). It was all natural PB for us. BUT. My best friend since birth conveniently lived across the street, and, even more conveniently, had a mother who bought Jiff peanut butter and Oreo’s every week. I swear, every time I went to her house we HAD to eat some Oreo’s and PB, and this we took directly from The Parent Trap. Of that I am positive.

“Oh, sure, I love Oreo’s. At home I eat them with…I eat them with peanut butter.”
“You do? That is so weird. So do I!”
“You’re kidding! Most people find that totally disgusting.”
“I know, I don’t get it.”
“Me either.”

  1. Dress Up: When said best friend and I decided to play dress up and what not, our favorite combinations were either Mary Kate and Ashley or Hallie and Annie. I was Annie. Every single time. My best friend was always Hallie. We loved how each twin were our personalities. I was (am) the rather uptight, proper, girly-girl introvert. My friend was the tom-boy, the free spirit, the extrovert. It was something we never had to fight about. I never wanted to play Hallie and she never wanted to play Annie. And when you’re young, you really don’t want to fight with your best friend over which character you want to play with!
  2. Idealized vision of camp: I HATED summer camp. With a strong and undying passion. My parents thought it was fun to ship me off to week long summer camps every year, and I hated it. It wasn’t because of home sickness (I’ve never had that). It was more of the fact that I couldn’t simply stay home with my friends, I had to sleep in a bed not my own, I had to wear flip flops in the shower, daddy long-legs lived everywhere, and I never felt clean. Yes, I was a bit obsessive and OCD and slightly germophobic (I struggled with this majorly in high school and I owe it entirely to being forced to attend summer camp). But I always wished it would be like Camp Walden. Every single time I would imagine meeting great lifelong friends, laughing the entire time, learning how to fence, and to play a prank that massive and absolutely brilliant, which leads me to..
  3. PRANKS: I think every child goes through a major prank phase in their lifetime. I know I certainly did, as well as my friends. We did the typical finger in a bowl of water, foam on heads, and such. But deep down I always wanted to pull a prank of Hallie’s magnitude. It was a secret and delicious desire of mine. I wanted to pour a bucket of something over someone’s head when they opened the door. I wanted to pour honey all over a friend while she slept (or a frenemy). I think it was secretly every girl’s dream to create a prank that great. I mean, I totally respect them. That was amazing. I still think it’s amazing, and a small part of me reminiscent of my childhood wishes I could have achieved a prank even near that awesome.
  4. England: I can’t remember when I started loving England more than America (I know, I still feel guilty…) but I know that The Parent Trap influenced it. The part where Hallie as Annie is staring out of the car, mesmerized, at Big Ben and the bridge with the blue on it (I can’t remember the name now!) was what I dreamed of doing one day. I finally visited London in 2002 and I recognized that bridge purely from The Parent Trap.
  5. Fashion: Annie’s shoes as she stepped out of that limousine for the first time: jaw dropping. I absolutely adored those shoes! I know now they’re a bit outdated and I’d probably look like an aging spinster if I wore them now, but Annie’s style certainly influenced how I dressed growing up. I never shopped at Abercrombie and Fitch. Never American Eagle. Or Limited Too. No, I was a Talbot’s girl, a Nordstrom’s girl when I grew older. And I owe that without a doubt to Annie and her impeccable, sophisticated, English wardrobe. Headbands, too. I started wearing them after this movie. Annie wears them a lot in a movie. I hope they never go out of fashion.
  6. Wedding soundtrack: When I say I’m playing the entire Parent Trap soundtrack at my wedding (if that ever comes…), I’m dead serious. Completely. And I know every girl there my age would appreciate it completely! Sorry not sorry!
  7. October 11th: It’s one of my favorite dates. No, I’m serious. I do have favorite dates. October is my favorite month, Halloween is my favorite holiday, fall is my favorite season, I want a daughter born in October. 3 sets of ancestors in my family were married on October 10th of different years (weird, right?) and I’ve always said that I’ll either marry on the 10th or the 11th– because of The Parent Trap. I don’t go to far as one of my friends does to make a public announcement on social media every October 11th that it’s Annie and Hallie’s birthday, buuuut I may be thinking it.
  8. Happiness: That movie makes me happy without a fail. My parents are together and have been for 25 years, so it’s not wistful thinking at the character’s stories. It’s just a happy movie. Great soundtrack (come on. L.O.V.E. is probably one of the most amazing songs in the whole universe), adorable characters (save for Meredith Blake. Ew.), a creative plot– the list goes on. Not to mention that it’s during the 90’s, the epitome of my childhood. My best memories happen in the 90’s. I don’t even cringe at the fashion displayed in that movie because I’m too happy watching it and reminiscing to bother. The Parent Trap is the epitome of nostalgia to me. I became closer to my friends in high school because we talked about it the first conversation we had. It’s like something all of us have together, a common connection, like being compelled to dance to “I Want it That Way” or remembering Disney as it used to be.
  9. Cuppy: I have a bunny similar to Cuppy named Bun Bun (I can’t believe I’m publishing this in public). I actually have a friend a year older than me who named her bunny Cuppy after the movie, and who actually looks just like the bunny in the movie. But actually, is Cuppy a bunny?? I always assumed so because I associated it with my stuffed bunny. Hmm….
  10. Line quoting: I literally don’t do this with any other movie, including the Proposal and Pride and Prejudice. There’s just something about shouting out “I have class and you don’t,” “I…am Annie,” “butt naked,” “it’s a horrid habit!” “sure you’ll help me. Right over a cliff you’ll help me,” and “hello, pet! You may call me Aunt Vicky!” I’ll stop now. If I continue I’ll end up quoting the entire movie. And my family, who would normally shout at me to shut up, leaves me alone. I think they realize how much The Parent Trap means to me.
  11. Lindsay Lohan was my favorite actress. For a long, long time. I mean, she’s not now…that’d be weird. But when I was a little girl I loved her. But before that…
  12. The twins were one person?! I didn’t even learn it until I was probably eleven or twelve, but I remember feeling SO SAD. Lindsay Lohan played both Hallie and Annie?? So sad. Even though I never really got completely over it, I loved Lohan anyway.
  13. An undying desire to perfect the special dance Annie and Martin do. Seriously. Have anybody ever mastered it? I need to rewind it over and over again and, of course, have somebody to practice it with me, but how cool would it be to do that with a person in a crowded area??

I’m already feeling like a child again 🙂

Coldplay: Glowing in the Dark

In A History on July 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm

our wristbands glowing in the dark!

Monday night I attended a Coldplay concert with a friend. It was my second time seeing them. The first was back in 2009 when I was still in high school. The first time, it was raining and we were on the lawn. That didn’t smash the fact that it was the best night of my life to date. This time was fantastic as well.

Coldplay is my favorite band EVER. Even when I find a new band and I constantly listen to their songs on repeat,  NOTHING can compare to Coldplay. NOTHING can be better than Coldplay.

I apologize for the low quality of these photos…my camera isn’t working as it used to.

Why do I feel that way?

I talked to people who attended Coldplay concerts, and all of them– without fail– said a Coldplay concert was the best concert they had ever attended. And I agree.

Why are Coldplay concerts so amazing? (and yes, this will be from the viewpoint of a truly loving and obsessive fan)

1) they are really impressive concerts. Chris Martin (the lead singer, for those sad, sad people who don’t know the names of Coldplay members) had an amazing amount of never ending energy. He jumps around, he runs around, he falls down on the ground multiple times, he waves his arms when not at the piano, and he even moves when he plays the piano.  

2) they sound the exact same live and on recordings. The first time I heard them live I was blown away. I couldn’t believe how real it sounded. It was like I had put my iPod on massive speakers and was blasting it across the amphitheater.

3) they include the audience. The first concert, Chris asked about the people way in the back (where we were) and the people on the right and left. He made up a song on the spot about our city, which of course made the crowd go wild. He sang our state’s song. He came out on the lawn for THIRTY MINUTES and sang TEN FEET AWAY FROM ME. Literally. I could see the sweat on his face, and the muscles in his neck. BREATHTAKING. This concert he did a similar thing, but it was still different. He asked how we were doing on the left, and the right, and up in the nosebleed sections (it was a closed amphitheater), and the lucky people on the floor (really, how ELSE could they be doing except feeling awesome?). He said multiple times how he loved coming back to our city and how much they appreciate our support. I don’t know if he says that in every city, but it still made us feel special (and I somehow don’t think that a writer of those lyrics would copy something like that). And, lastly, they include the audience by playing off the stage. THEY CAME AND PLAYED IN MY SECTION LAST NIGHT!! I can hardly believe that I would be fortunate enough to be that close to them twice. It’s something I will never forget, and I feel so privileged to have experienced that.

acoustic version of The Scientist. Tear jerker.

4) Chris Martin sometimes plays the acoustic version of his songs. Last night he played The Scientist and part of Warning Sign acoustically. In 2009 he played The

Hardest Part acoustically. He plays beautifully, andseeing the songs performed a different way is very special to watch. To me, it looked like there was so much more feeling in the acoustic performance. I appreciate that. People listen to music to feel something, whether that comes from the lyrics, the melody, or the instrumentals.

so close to me!!

5) Coldplay’s lyrics really affect the die-hard fan, and every song features a special lyric or too. Seeing them performed live, with such passion, energy, and happiness is an unforgettable and unique experience.

Personally, I’ve been a Coldplay fan for many, many years. I can’t remember exactly when, but it was most likely 5th or 6th grade that I discovered them, and I liked them from the beginning. To date, The Hardest Part is my favorite song (but really, I love all of them). It’s currently my ring tone. Fix You will always be a cherished song.

“When you try your best but you don’t succeed, when you get what you want but not what you need, when you feel so tired but you can’t sleep…stuck in reverse.” That seems like the catchphrase of my life. And I’ve heard people say “Ignite your bones” is a stupid phrase, but I personally love it. I think it’s a lovely sentiment, even if it doesn’t make complete sense. It’s the same with Yellow. It made the top 10 worst lyrics a few years ago, but the song is so beautiful, and sometimes lyrics don’t need to make perfect sense. The way Coldplay plays it and the way its sung makes it a stunning piece of music, regardless if “it was all yellow” is stupid (which it’s not! Hmph).

The complexity of a lyric is what makes an artist accomplished. This is only my opinion, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many Coldplay listeners agreed with me. Hurts Like Heaven, Don’t Let it Break Your Heart, Sparks, and Glass of Water, just to name a few, have wonderful lyrics full of imagery, metaphor, and beauty.

Have you ever listened to Proof and A Message? The lyrics. If I was an emotional person, I don’t doubt I would cry every time I played them. “And I’m covered it’s true. I’m covered in you… In you I find proof.” And the repetition of “light” and “dark” is full of imagery, and is facilitated by the rising and dropping in Chris’ voice. I mean, please. He must have been a heart-breaker back in the day (I personally don’t look at their bios because I only want their music to affect my opinion of them). A Message has personally helped me out when I was feeling upset, or lonely, or simply frustrated with life (we’ve all experienced this, right?) It’s a really beautiful song, and I encourage all of you who haven’t heard it to go listen to it, and focus on the lyrics. And if you have heard it, you should go take another look at it.

Okay, well I’m done ranting now about my most absolute favorite band in the whole entire world. I just wanted to share with you why I love them so much, and why you all should give them a chance. And if you’re in town when they’re preforming, GO SEE THEM!!

Basically, I just wanted to write this post to share my love of Coldplay. Even though I’d love to keep them for myself, I know I can’t do that! I believe Coldplay is unique in so many ways, and they are more special (to me) than any pop singer, rapper, or other alt/indie artists.

What about you guys? Do you have a band you’ve loved  since childhood? Do you have a band you’d give your left arm to see in concert? Both arms? ; )

Word of the Day: Paroxysm– any sudden, violent outburst; a fit of violent action or emotion. (Source: Dictionary.com)

P.S. I realize I posted that my next post would be about Jamie Fraser and Outlander, but I had to post this first because the concert happened so recently. I’ll get to it, I promise!

Culloden: 1745. Culloden: 2010.

In A History on June 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Point of Information: I know you want to pronounce “Culloden” like cullllllllidin. with the emphasis on ‘Cull.’ It’s not. The Scottish pronounce it as culawden, with the emphasis on ‘oden.’

Also, Culloden is viewed by the Scottish people as a war grave. To my fellow Americans, stepping onto the Culloden battlefield would be like visiting Gettysburg, or Normandy. And since Scotland views it as a grave, you could also liken it to Arlington Cemetery. You don’t simply walk onto any of these places with a light spirit.

My family visited Culloden partially because we were staying in Castle Stuart, which is nearby. We chose Castle Stuart because my parents stayed there 13 years before, when my mother forced my dad to take her on an Outlander tour– I’m not kidding. When we were there in 2010 there were two elderly sisters who were staying at the castle for the same tour! I had never heard of Culloden or any battle, or even Bonnie Prince Charlie, until my mother made us (well, made my brother and father…I was all for it) go. And she didn’t know about it until she read Outlander. And I was extremely glad I visited not only for history purposes, but it also encouraged me to begin reading Diana Gabaldon’s series (I’ll get to that in my next post…this one is already long enough, don’t you think?)

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This photo is one that I took in June/July 2010. That day had strange weather, and my mother, with her proclivity to address anything odd to ghosts or spirits, said that it was because of the souls lost on the battle field of Culloden that we were standing on. To be honest, I had an eerie feeling the entire time we were there. When you first walk onto the Culloden land (which was not very far from our hotel, Castle Stuart), you have to go through the modern structure that serves as the museum. It had the typical museum shop complete with never ending plaid, thistles, and shortbread. Past that was a dark area, lit only by soft lights under the floor and against the walls which shown a dim glow on the timeline of Culloden. They make you read that first, so you know what you’re experiencing when you walk the battleground. It was quite silent inside, and the museum employees were very solemn. It hadn’t been raining that day, but, if you know anything about Scotland, you know that the weather can literally change in seconds. Image

The tour guide called together everyone in a soft but firm voice. He didn’t need to tell us, but he did anyway– he reminded us to be respectful of the tour. The Battle of Culloden resonates so strongly in the hearts of every Scot. It nearly decimated all clans. There was no clan in that battle who did not lose someone. The English soldiers behaved so brutally I almost can’t call myself an anglophile. They chased down survivors, smashing in their heads from the back. They killed and raped the females of the clans, the ones who couldn’t get away fast enough. They buried the Scottish dead, clad in their kilts and blood, in mounds on the battle ground. The mounds still exist, but of course they have grown over and the remains are not far from dust.

The ground looks pretty flat, and in most places it was– it had to be, to be considered a good battlefield. As soon as we stepped outside, it started to downpour. I was stupid and didn’t bring a rain jacket (I actually didn’t have one, but whatever.) And then, it resolved to a fine mist that swirled around us, patterning against my father’s windbreaker I was wearing. It was a weird mist, though. It made both my mother and I feel uneasy before she even voiced her belief that if was the ghosts (she’s not normally that crazy). The tour was quite silent, and the entire mood was very somber.The tour wound its way on a roped path around the battlefield. We listened intently to the story our guide told, and it was a tale of such tragedy and loss it’s hard to even repeat what he said and have it worth as much meaning as it was for me as I stood on the battlefield where so many Scots lost their lives and their hope.

Known as the last and final battle of the “forty-five uprising,” it took place on April 16, 1746 near Inverness, Scotland. The Jacobite followers of the Bonnie Prince Charlie fought British troops commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. It ended the Jacobite attempt to end the House of Hanover and instill the House of Stuart instead. The Jacobite cause was supported by the Kingdom of France. Each side had both Scottish and British troops (which I found interesting). The entire battle took place in under an hour.

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The saddest part about the Battle of Culloden is the fatalities on either side– nearly 2,000 Jacobites werekilled. Only 50 died on the British side. Fifty. The Duke of Cumberland earned the nickname “Butcher” because of this battle.

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The majority of the Jacobite forces were, in fact, Scottish Highlanders whose clans were Catholic or Scottish Episcopalian. Perhaps a point which led to the extreme number of deaths to the Jacobites was the lack of competency on their side. Most of their voices were volunteers, and therefore there were very little trained officers. Their weapons consisted of swords, axes, pitchforks, and scythes. Only a few had pistols. The Young Pretender’s officers wanted a different type of battle featuring guerilla warfare (they believed the Culloden terrain was not acceptable), but he refused. The rain on April 16th was also blowing directly in the faces of the Jacobites. As the British troops pummeled the front lines of the Jacobites, the Scottish morale began to suffer. Eventually, the Jacobite lines began to collapse which led to a definitive British victory.

The Jacobites began to retreat, and Prince Charles told them all was lost and to fend for themselves. He left Scotland and never returned.

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The day after the battle, the Duke of Cumberland issued an order that led to a search over the hills for Jacobite wounded, who were then killed. Jails were emptied of common men and replaced with captured Jacobites. What I remember the tour guide telling us is a bit different than what I could find on the internet, although I do not think he was lying. If I remember correctly, he talked about the brutal search for the retreating Jacobites, sometimes killing the females in the clans when they wouldn’t give their men up. I remember him telling us that some clans were entirely wiped out. After Culloden, kilts were outlawed by the Dress Act in 1746.

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My family stayed at Castle Stuart while we visited Culloden. As it was so close to the battle (and is in the same Stuart family), the castle owners have a story teller come to relate the story of Culloden.

Even today, the battle is still very present in the minds of the Scottish people. It is an amazing story, and three words to describe the Jacobites resonate in my mind– bravery, loyalty, and perhaps most of all, faith– faith in themselves, faith in their fellow clansmen, faith in the Bonnie Prince, faith in Scotland, and faith in the Jacobite cause.

 

Word of the day: Tartan–a woolen or worsted cloth woven with stripes of different colors and widths crossing at right angles, worn chiefly bythe Scottish Highlanders, each clan having its owndistinctive plaid. (Source: Dictionary.com)

A Valiant, if Failed Effort: Scotland and the Fight for the Restored Monarchy

In A History on June 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Currently, I am reading The Winter Sea, a book by Susanna Kearsley. It takes place in Scotland, in the year 1708. The eighteenth century was an incredibly tumultuous time for Scotland. The amount of change it experienced was incredible. In this particular year, a large group of Jacobites comprised of French and Scottish soldiers almost succeeded in saving their exiled king, King James, and restoring the monarchy. They failed, but the Jacobin efforts did not stop. It is a fascinating topic. I am not Scottish, but I’m quite interested in their history (I might as well become familiar with it if I’m supposed to be living there for 4 months.) Why is this topic a source of fascination to me? I promise, it is NOT because of Jamie Fraser, featured in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (although, really now, who could blame me?)

a quick summary of the Scottish resistance:

  • 1296 CE- Edward I of England invades Scotland. Scottish resistance begins.
  • Fighters like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce champion for Scotland’s independence
  • 1314 CE- Battle of Bannockburn
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587, Catholic) descends from the Stewart line (cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. She was also imprisoned by her cousin. And executed. Harsh.)
  • She gives birth to James (1566-1625), heir to the childless Queen Elizabeth I (of England)
  • This James I and VI is now king of Scotland AND England
  • His son Charles I (1600-1649) gets beheaded by Cromwell when he assumes too much power and disbands Parliament
  • This ensues a Civil War that lasts for years in England. Cromwell rules during this
  • England wants their kings back
  • They have Charles I’s son, Charles II (1630-1685, still a Stewart) to rule
  • His brother James II  and VII (1633-1701) ascends the throne when Charles II dies in 1685
  • Point of Information: James is Catholic. The English really don’t like Catholics at this point in time. The English think he’ll use his Catholic powers to be friends with the King of France, also Catholic, who also happens to be the number one enemy of the English
  • King James’s daughter, Mary, is married to William of Orange, who is Protestant
  • But before they can have William and Mary rule, Mary’s father (King James) gives birth to a son (1688-1766, the Old Pretender)with his new wife!
  • Point of Information: Legitimate son=HEIR!
  • This scares the Protestant loving English, so they start a rumor that the child isn’t really James’, and therefore he isn’t a true heir
  • This starts a lot of problems within England that leads to
  • King James, wife, and son fleeing to France
  • 1688- the GLORIOUS REVOLUTION, with (the Protestant) William and Mary ascending the throne
  • Back to Scotland– they’re split between Presbyterians happy with Mary ruling (she is Scottish) and those who agree her half brother, the little heir, is the true ruler (because males are put higher than females in the line of succession)
  • The latter group is the one who wants King James VII back. They become JACOBITES. This means followers of James (Latin for James is Jacobus) 
  • Scotland suffers during the time of William and Mary– their fields produce terrible harvests so Scotland is starving to death. England puts so many laws and tariffs on them that their trade suffers drastically
  • King William, after Mary dies, fears that upon his death Scotland will bring back a Stewart (King James or his new son, also named James)
  • Scotland and England used to be joined as one monarchy way back in the day, so William believes creating an act of Union that will make Scotland and England one, and so he can continue having Protestants ruling on the throne
  • When he dies Mary’s sister and daughter of King James, Anne, becomes Queen. She believes her half brother is really her half brother, but her council persuades her to choose her new successor (she was childless) from the German House of Hanover (does that last name ring a bell?)
  • Scotland refuses to accept this. They have their own parliament at this time, and declare that they won’t accept the Hanoverian claim on the throne unless Scotland is free to ignore foreign policies that don’t agree with Scotland’s interests
  • England retaliates with the ALIEN ACT—unless Scotland discusses the Union with England, every Scottish person living in England would be become an alien, and all Scottish owned estates in England would be taken back.
  • Scotland decided to talk
  • 1707 CE—Act of Union joined the parliaments of England and Scotland and formed the Parliament of Great Britain. It confirmed the Hanoverian (Protestant) succession to the throne
  • 1708 CE—failed Jacobin uprising (Where The Winter Sea takes place) 
  • 1715 CE—another failed Jacobin uprising
  • 1745 CEBonnie Prince Charlie, aka Charles Edward Stuart arrives in Scotland and creates a Jacobin rising. He has some success, but the Jacobin fight was viciously ended as the English brutally murdered nearly all clans in Culloden (where Outlander takes place). My next post will be about the Battle of Culloden (which I have visited) and Outlander.

If I haven’t bored you so much already that you’ve stopped reading my post, you can see that Scottish history is quite complex, bound quite unwillingly to England. When my family visited England and Scotland in 2010 (my choice!), I remember the Customs Guard at Heathrow Airport asking us where we were headed. When I told him Scotland, he looked up and he said, “Ahh! Why in heavens’ name would you want to go there? There’s nothing over there!” He said it jokingly, and my father laughed, but a history as rich as it is is still felt by people today. Perhaps not with the vigor of the Scots and English back in the day, but they are certainly aware of it, and are aware of the feelings of betrayal and loyalty that lived in both England and Scotland for hundreds of years.

Word of the Day: Divine Right of Kings- a doctrine of political and royal legitimacy. A monarch receives his right to rule directly from God and is subject to no authority on earth (meaning the will of the people or the church). Strongly promoted by King James I and VI in England. Mostly associated with the House of Tudor and the House of Stuart. It was abandoned with the Glorious Revolution.  

Espionage During the Napoleonic Wars and Lauren Willig

In A History on June 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

First of all, readers, I must apologize for the week I let pass between this blog and the last. My stupid laptop (and it is stupid, I’m not just saying that out of the immense frustration I feel towards it) had to be sent in, and even though there are three computers in the house (not including four (well, 3 for now) laptops and two iPads), it is hard to switch to a different format than I’m used to. I received an email this morning that it is being shipped, so hopefully I’ll like it better this time around!

During this short interim, I have read several more books, the most recent being The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig. I am nearly certain it is the 8th in the series. I very much enjoyed it. Not as much as the first two, but more than the previous three. I believe my reservations concerning her latest books in the series is that they do not take place in England, and they do not concern the original characters minus Miss Jane Wooliston. I originaly picked up the series because it was set in England. I am such an anglophile, and since I love history so much, I found the stories fascinating. Are any of you well researched on the Napoleonic Wars? Neither was I, before I read them. In fact, I really wasn’t quite sure what they were about. I originally thought it as simply about bringing Napoleon down, but that’s only the surface of it. After I was nearing the end of her most recent novel, I thought about the war, and how much information I do not know. I decided, therefore, to do some research. I always think that if someone is going to read a novel, he or she should really become familiar with the topic. I’m not suggesting one orders a dozen books, all in hardback and the size of a large laptop, and highlights each page of information. I simply mean that a quick summary of the topic will suffice. How stupid would it be for one to read a book about the Crimean War or botany and have no idea what is going on? It is a readers’ duty to figure that out, in my opinion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series is one of my favorites. The first two are my absolute favorite, the third is also a favorite, and then my favoritism sort of dies down….the latest book in the series was published in February, and I couldn’t bring myself to read it until this month (and I was pleasantly surprised, thankfully). It’s not because Willig isn’t a superb writer. She is. A story even better than romance taken place in early 1800s England is a love story in early 1800s England that involves espionage and counterespionage. Seriously, it’s something that can make my blood running. The first novel (mentioned above) starts out the series by laying the foundation of a collection of special spies whose special cover names involve flowers (Pink Carnation, Blood Lilly, Black Tulip, Orchid, Crimson Rose, Night Jasmine, emerald ring…oh wait, that’s not a flower. Why is that a title in her series? Hmm.)

 

Anyway. The men are dashing, intelligent, witty, seductive, romantic, silly, outrageous, and swoon-worthy. The females are just about the same, but in female-related terms. Even though I openly wish I lived during the Napoleonic Wars (or the Revolutionary Wars in both America and France….) in England, I have never fully researched the Napoleonic Wars, such as what it entailed, why it began, how it ended, and of course….the spying that occured during the war.

Espionage was a given. The Napoleonic Wars, which lasted from 1797-1815, was a major war that involved a ton of countries other than the countries of Great Britain and…France (of course). Even Sweden was somehow involved! Switzerland was a breeding ground of counterespionage, and one of the most famous British spies, William Wickham, conducted most of his work there. Compared to other wars before this period, the Napoleonic Wars saw a high increase in espionage.

Espionage. Isn’t it such a great word? Esssssssspioonnnaaaaaggggeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Anyway, I found relatively little online. I spent a lot of time researching, looking for book excerpts, anything, really, that would account for all of the exceptional information Willig knows. I found one academic book that’s conveniently titled Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792-1815 by Elizabeth Sparrow. I am debating ordering it, but it is certainly not light reading one generally spends in the summer. No online excerpts were available so I really couldn’t read even the Index. I’m really quite curious where Willig receives her knowledge for writing a book. My own mother orders dozens upon dozens of books, highlights them and stickies them before she writes the first sentence. I can only imagine how much research Willig had to do to be able to write this series.

I suppose, when writing a spy novel, much of it is left to the writer’s interpretation. Not everything is going to be laid out, like “Oh, this is how one spies on one another,” or “this is a how to guide on wearing a black mask and cape and sneaking through a window.” Wouldn’t that be nice, though?

So, I found simply outlines on the wars and skirmishes that involved Napoleon and more about his side of the espionage world. I would encourage all of you, especially ones who have read Willig, to do your own research. It’s really quite fascinating.

And if you haven’t yet read the series, I do encourage you. Perhaps you will like books 4-7 more than  I did!

Word of the Day: Discombobulated: (n.) confused (v.) to confused, frustrate, or or upset.     (Isn’t a spy’s dream to discombobulate his or her opponent? And then oust said opponent, I suppose.)

P.S. The Napoleonic Wars were sparked by the French Revolution (1789). France’s power rose dramatically from 1803 till about 1812, when Napoleon famously invaded Russia in the middle of winter (really?? Who ever thinks that’s a good idea??) and nearly succeeded killing every French soldier there. Finally, however, the Bourbon monarchy was finally restored after his defeat.

The wars resulted in several major outcomes– any semblance of the Holy Roman Empire was destryed, Spain became less powerful, and the British Empire became the most powerful in the world.

As I am sure most of you know, Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo (Waterloo! Couldn’t escape if I wanted too…Waterloo! Knowing my fate is to be with you…) on June 18, 1815 by the Duke of Wellington.

Derby Day, Epsom Downs: A History

In A History on June 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

Since I’m reading a book entitled Derby Day, I’m doing this post as much for myself than for my readers. The book is less about the actual event than the people involved in it (unsavory characters at best). Even though I’ve been riding horses consistently since about 9 years old, I was never one to be quite knowledgeable on horse related facts (a travesty I’ve been trying to correct). As a self professed anglophile, I’m interested in all things relating horses to England. So, I did some research to try and find out why the Derby is so special. Hopefully I got it right, and I’m not portraying any inaccuracies (it is, after all, through the eyes of an American).

Derby, 2012. June 2nd.

1779: first race recorded on the sight

It was organized by the 12 Earl of Derby, Edward Smith Stanley. He set it up for he and his friends, who all owned 3 year old fillies. The distance was approximately 1 1/2 miles.  1780 featured another race that included colts as well as fillies.

How did the race become called the Derby? Friend and horse racing fanatic Sir Charles Bunby tossed a coin with Derby to determine who would be the namesake of the race. Ironically, Bunby’s horse won.

The Derby race is one third of the British Triple Crown, which I find quite interesting, as I had no idea the Triple Crown existed other than in the United States! The British Triple Crown consists of these three races: The Derby, the St Leger, and the Two Thousand Guineas (quirky names, don’t you think?). I suppose now I’ll have to update my bucket list to seeing both the US and the UK Triple Crowns!

1927: the first Derby to be broadcast by BBC

Fun Fact: Emily Davidson, a suffragette, killed herself by throwing herself in front of King George V’s horse in 1913.

In 1779, no race was run unless it was less than 2 miles. No 3 year olds ran.

140 countries hold a Derby, but Epsom Downs remains the Home of the Derby.

One of the owners of the 2012 Derby winner, Camelot, said about the Derby: “To win the Epsom Derby is a dream come true.” The 2012 race began at the start of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The race occurred the 2nd of June.

http://www.epsomdowns.co.uk/racing/derby-history this is the link to the official Epson Downs website, if you want to learn more about the race!