Friday, September 28, 2012
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Things became more intense when her brother-in-law Francis, Dauphin of France, died in 1536 making her husband Henri heir to the throne. As Dauphine of France, the pressure was greater than ever for Catherine to have a son. Nothing seemed to work and many advised the King to have his son divorce Catherine and find another wife. This drove Catherine to desperate measures, everything from prayers, fasting and pilgrimages to some truly disgusting home remedies said to increase fertility. For quite a while, nothing seemed to work but then, it all changed. Most attribute this to the inexplicable ways of nature, others to the advice of her doctor who told her and the Dauphin how to ’do things’ properly but still others say that Catherine turned to witchcraft and became a Devil-worshiper and it was after that point that she finally became pregnant in 1544 and had roughly a child every year thereafter. Be it the doc or the devil, Catherine was finally a mother, her position was secured and the means by which she would frequently be the effective ruler of France established. In 1547 she was crowned Queen consort alongside her husband who became King Henri II. However, he still lived mostly apart from her and generally treated his favorite mistress better than Queen Catherine.
The Queen first tried to bring the Protestant and Catholic leaders together to work out a peace but was unsuccessful and soon the infamous Wars of Religion were raging across France. The Queen tried to appease the Protestants by enacting religious toleration and ‘toning down’ Catholic practices they found most objectionable (with the approval of the Pope) but it was not enough to stop each side from attacking the other. She also pressed the Church for more money to keep the Protestants in check and even tried to make a deal with the Ottoman Sultan to relocate French and German Protestants to Eastern Europe but the Sultan declined the offer. More powers became engulfed in the conflict. When the Protestant brought in German mercenaries to continue the fight, Queen Catherine brought in the Swiss but no side seemed strong enough to totally defeat the other two. Queen Catherine was, officially, on the Catholic side but stuck to trying to make peace and even allowed Protestants to hold high places at court and marry into the Royal Family. Gaspard de Coligny, a Protestant, soon became the top advisor to King Charles IX and he wanted to invade The Netherlands to fight the Spanish. The Catholics, naturally, opposed this and Catherine saw Coligny replacing her as the primary influence on the King. Coligny had to go. An assassination plot was arranged but Coligny survived and the Protestants were infuriated.
Prior to this, some Protestants had viewed Catherine de Medici as the reasonable member of the Royal Family, the voice of peace and moderation. After St Bartholomew’s Day she was portrayed by the Protestants as the “wicked Italian Queen” who conducted her affairs in the style of Machiavelli, callous, cruel and unprincipled. Less than two years later King Charles IX died and his brother became King Henri III (a rather odd fellow if ever there was one) with the Queen mother Catherine again named as regent. This was only because he was, at the time, serving as King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth but he was soon back in France. Henri was Catherine’s favorite son but he did little right in her eyes. Still, he followed her course of reconciliation and made numerous concessions to the Protestants but the wars continued. This is what is sometimes known as the war of the three Henrys; King Henri III, Henri of Guise for the Catholics and Henri Navarre of the Protestants. King Henri III had Hanri of Guise killed and Queen Catherine was horrified and died on January 5, 1589 sorrowful and asking for prayers for her misguided son. She could not have a traditional royal burial as Paris was in the hands of her enemies and later, during the French Revolution, her remains were tossed in a mass grave with other royals. She had been called the most powerful woman in the world of her time and her time in power has been called the ‘Age of Catherine de’ Medici’ yet few, then or now, have a kind word for her.
This was a rather difficult profile to do. No matter the subject, I generally try to find something positive to say about the person in question, partly out of habit and partly because there is no shortage of those quick to condemn any royal figure, good or bad, and that library of work does not need added to. However, in the case of Catherine de’ Medici, this was a difficult task and, perhaps surprisingly, Catholic sources tended to be more critical of her than Protestant ones. The Protestant historians were no less condemnatory, castigating her as the author of their misfortunes and the butcher of St Bartholomew’s Day but it was the Catholic sources which accused her of extorting protection money from the Church and being a devil worshiper -not an everyday accusation. Her entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, describes her as, “Dictatorial, unscrupulous, calculating, and crafty” as well as being superstitious, egotistical and who even when serving the interests of the Church and malicious motives, putting the survival of the Crown before the cause of the Catholic forces. However, if she truly was as terrible as virtually everyone says she was, Catherine certainly paid considerably for her misdeeds even before what awaited her in the afterlife.
Forced into a loveless marriage she did not want, she was constantly being ridiculed, pushed aside and truly treated as nothing more than a ‘baby machine’ and not a terribly reliable one at that. She was faced with a divided country and a 3-way division which is the worst kind as no faction is hardly ever strong enough to defeat the other two. She also grew up in a time and place where political survival was a cut-throat business. Her earliest years were spent in a ‘kill or be killed’ environment where you got the other guy before the other guy got you. She had a husband who never loved her, traumatic pregnancies and children which were a constant source of sorrow and seemed all to have been ill-fated. Francis was dead at 16, Isabel (consort to Philip II of Spain) died in her early 20’s, Claude who was born crippled and died at 27, Louis, Jean and Victor all dead within a year of their birth, Charles, mentally unwell and dead at 24, Hercule who was deformed at died at 30, Marguerite who was said to have been the most beautiful woman in the world but who lived a rather immoral life and was never able to have children and finally Henri who caused such grief who was assassinated at age 38.
Certainly then, Catherine endured a great deal of anguish herself. There is no doubt, based on the evidence of her own hand, that she was capable of dealing mercilessly with any enemies, real or perceived. Yet, she was also thrust into a situation not of her own making, at least initially, and few doubt that without her, the House of Valois would have come to an earlier end. Especially today it seems odd to find so many who are critical of a queen whose overriding policy was always one of negotiating a peace, yet it is hard to dispute that those efforts prolonged the conflict by granting concessions in return for bad behavior and never hesitating to resort to underhanded measures when negotiating proved fruitless. Given her patronage of the arts, to glorify the monarchy and solidify the shaky House of Valois, she may have had good intentions and there should be no doubt that she was obsessed with securing the position and future success of her children, even if they often disappointed her. However, if she was only self-serving and utterly malicious through and through, it seems that God saw to her punishment and her children with her. Usually I feel almost compelled to sympathize with anyone who is disliked by everyone else, but in this case …
Friday, September 21, 2012
His plan approved, Badoglio was promoted to colonel while the engineers worked at digging the extensive tunnels as near as possible to the Austrian lines. In April of 1916, with Colonel Badoglio then serving as Chief of Staff of the Sixth Army Corps, the attack was made and was a stunning success with Monte Sabotino being taken by the Italians with only minimal losses. Because of this, by August he had been promoted to major general and he was later made Vice-Chief of Staff, widely believed to be because of the favor of General Luigi Capello who, like Badoglio, was a member of the Freemasons. By that time, Italian forces had suffered their worst defeat of the war at the Battle of Caporetto. The role that Badoglio played in this disaster is still a matter of some controversy, however, there is hardly any dispute that the commission charged with looking into the defeat after the war, to determine how such a thing could have happened, laid no small amount of blame at the feet of Badoglio. However, by the time the report was done, Mussolini was in charge and did not want any bad press for a top commander in the army and so mention of Badoglio was removed before the report was released.
From 1928 to 1934 Badoglio served as Governor of Libya, taking harsh measures when necessary but requiring additional help to finally end rebellion in the colony. His greatest moment of triumph, but later more controversy, came when he was given command of the primary front in the war against Ethiopia. Mussolini had, at first, wanted the war to be a “Fascist war” with the bulk of the troops coming from his Black shirt militia and his senior Black shirt general, Emilio De Bono, in overall command. However, when De Bono proved too cautious and slow for Mussolini, he was promoted off the front line and Marshal Badoglio was called in to replace him. The Italian forces launched a renewed and more vigorous offensive which in 1936 culminated in the capture of the Ethiopian capital. Marshal Badoglio made a triumphant entry into the city and was quickly named the first Viceroy of Italian East Africa. Later, however, accusations of cruelty were made against the Marshal over the use of chemical weapons (poison gas) against the Ethiopians, in violation of the Geneva Convention. Blame for this is usually reserved for Mussolini but, according to some documents, Badoglio ordered the use of poison gas even before Mussolini himself had authorized it.
Marshal Badoglio remained quiet for a time until things began to go badly for Italy and many, even in the upper ranks of the Fascist Party, began to talk about the need to get rid of Mussolini and extricate Italy from a losing war. Badoglio began to involve himself in these talks and did not always show a great deal of loyalty, once boasting that at any given time he could overthrow Mussolini and even the monarchy if he so desired. In 1943 a majority of the leaders on the Fascist Grand Council decided that Mussolini had to go and the King was able to move against the doomed dictator. It retrospect, it is easy to wonder why Badoglio ended up being the man to replace the Duce when he was so disliked by the Fascist hierarchy and somewhat distrusted at court. The simple answer is that there seemed to be no better possible options. Badoglio had the reputation to command the army while not being tainted by recent setbacks. As a Piedmontese officer, royalists expected him to be loyal and he had distanced himself enough from the Fascists that the Allies could be expected to deal with him.
The whole affair was badly handled and ended with the King and Badoglio being forced to leave Rome which was thereafter occupied by the Germans while the Allies fought their way up the Italian peninsula. In 1944 the increased opposition finally forced Badoglio to step aside in favor of a more leftist government. Some, particularly the Ethiopians, wished to see him tried for war crimes but by shifting to the Allied side Badoglio had ensured that he would be saved such a fate. He died on November 1, 1956 in Grazzano Badoglio at the age of 85.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Friday, September 7, 2012
It was also in March of 1848, in the famous “Five Days” that Italian nationalists in Milan rose up and expelled the Austrian garrison. Afterwards, the Provisional Government of Milan gave him the post of Inspector General of the Army of Lombardy and the city of Ivrea nominated him to be their Deputy in the recently formed Subalpine Parliament in Turin. However, General Perrone dismissed all praise for himself, claiming all the time to be nothing more than a humble farmer and foot soldier. Nonetheless, the government in Turin named him Minister of Foreign Affairs though at the same time others cast aspersions on him for his long stay in France and his handling of the army. From October 11 to December 16 he held the post of Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, though his enemies still tried to spread opposition to him. Not allowed to stand for elections, King Carlo Alberto stepped in and appointed him to the rank of general in his army, giving him command of the Third Infantry Division consisting of 12,027 men and 16 canon. It was in this capacity that, the following year, he took part in the pivotal battle of Novara in the First Italian War of Independence.
His funeral services were large affairs attended by many people and his family went on after him. His great-great granddaughter is HM Queen Paola of the Belgians.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Romulus Augustulus was deposed by Odoacer, bringing the Western Roman Empire to an end. Odoacer would go on to become, effectively, King of Italy (as he was hailed by his troops) and the course of history would become quite terrible until the struggle to restore civilization reached the heights of the High Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
A great deal of nonsense has been written about the Italian participation in the Battle of Britain, mostly that it was of no consequence and that the Italians in their antique-looking planes were easily dealt with. In fact, they proved quite capable of holding their own and gave as good as they got. Of course, it was a modest contribution and no one was under any illusions as to the disadvantages Italy faced. However, because of that, their mission was a limited one and within the confines of that mission they were successful, overall, in accomplishing their goals. The aim of the Italian Air Corps was simply to bomb the harbor and port installations at Folkstone, Harwich, Foulness, Ramsgate, Margate and other areas on the south coast of England because it was clear from the start that the naval war effort was what kept Britain in the fight. In damaging these areas there was also the secondary goal of attracting British air resources away from the major cities and airfields that were under attack by the Luftwaffe.
After being prepared for action on October 22, Air Marshal Corso-Fougier launched the first Italian air attack three days later with eighteen Cicogna (Stork) bombers being sent to raid Felixtowne and Harwich just after dark. All the planes returned without suffering any losses and Italian newspapers trumpeted the success of their aircraft over Britain. A more serious attack was launched on October 29 in a daylight raid on Ramsgate. Fifteen BR.20 Cicogna bombers with fighter escort carried out the bombing attack successfully with only five Italian planes suffering damage from anti-aircraft fire. They flew very low in a tightly packed formation that amazed observers, especially as their Mediterranean paint jobs made them stand out against the dull sky of an English autumn. Later, on November 8, 22 G.50s on a patrol between Dungeness, Folkstone, Canterbury and Margate clashed with RAF fighters, putting up a spirited fight against veteran professionals so that neither side was able to claim any victories. However, that same day a flight of Hurricanes took a heavy toll on a group of Storks they picked up on radar approaching the coast.
|Air Marshal Corso-Fougier|