Rome & The River Taff

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“And can you, then, who have got such possessions and so many of them, covet our poor tents?

Caratacus, On seeing the City of Rome

River Taff

Rivers have been a witness to human history, long before the events were recorded in written form.    So it was with the River Taff (Afon Taf in Welsh), which rises from two rivers, Taf Fechan (Little Taff) and Taf Fawr (Big Taff), in the Brecon Beacons of Wales.

Archaeological evidence suggests that in the time of Emperor Nero (CE 54-68), a Roman fort was constructed on the River Taff at the point where it comes near the Bristol Channel.  They came as conquerors.  A few years before, in 51 CE, Rome defeated the Silures, a powerful and warlike tribe of ancient Britain and dispatched their courageous leader, Caratacus, to Rome in chains to face Emperor Claudius.

Rome was elated with the capture of Caratacus.  This was no ordinary leader.  Brilliant and tenacious, Caratacus had defied the Roman war machine since CE 43, which marked the launch of the Roman invasion under Claudius.  Following a two-day battle at a river crossing near Rochester on the River Medway, Caratacus escaped capture and fled to the eastern part of Wales where he resisted Rome’s advances for another eight years. Caratacus knew his fate would be death, after a final humiliation in a triumphal parade.  Yet, destiny was to give him another outcome.

Caratacus was permitted a last word before the Roman senate.  He faced his captors with dignity and persuasive eloquence that stunned the audience.  He argued that his stubborn resistance and glorious defeat gave greater honour to Rome.  Moved by Caratacus’ speech, Claudius pardoned him and granted him the right to live in peace within the city Rome.

“If the degree of my nobility and fortune had been matched by moderation in success, I would have come to this City as a friend rather than a captive, nor would you have disdained to receive with a treaty of peace one sprung from brilliant ancestors and commanding a great many nations. But my present lot, disfiguring as it is for me, is magnificent for you. I had horses, men, arms, and wealth: what wonder if I was unwilling to lose them? If you wish to command everyone, does it really follow that everyone should accept your slavery? If I were now being handed over as one who had surrendered immediately, neither my fortune nor your glory would have achieved brilliance. It is also true that in my case any reprisal will be followed by oblivion. On the other hand, if you preserve me safe and sound, I shall be an eternal example of your clemency.”

Tacitus, The Annals, translated by A. J. Woodman, Indianapolis and Cambridge, Hackett, 2004

A Chief Speaks

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“What treaties that the whites have kept, that the red man broken?
Not one.
What treaties that the white man gave to us they kept?
Not one.” 

 Sitting Bull

 Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, is recognized by many as the most powerful of all First Nation leaders.  Born in 1831 in Grand River, South Dakota, his destiny was to become a holy man and tribal chief during a time of great upheaval.  As a young boy, he wanted to emulate his warrior father, Returns-Again, but he lacked the aptitude for martial endeavours.  As a consequence, he was given the nickname, “Slon-he or “Slow.” That changed dramatically when Sitting Bull felled his first buffalo at the age of ten.    His name became Tatanka-Iyotanka, a Lakota name describing a buffalo bull sitting on its haunches.

Sitting Bull was a guardian of his people; he recognized that their tribal ways would be forever changed by the ever forward movement of pioneers moving west.  He said, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” His life was a testament to courage and determination in the presence of hardship.  He travelled many miles across the plains and into Canada in his search to find a place for his people to live in peace.

Wherever he went, Sitting Bull left his indelible mark. James Morrow Walsh, commander of the North West Mounted Police, became Sitting Bull’s life-long friend.   Chief Crowfoot of the Blackfoot nation, an old and powerful enemy, accepted Sitting Bull’s offer to smoke the Peace-Pipe.  On leaving Canada, Sitting Bull joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show and adopted Annie Oakley as a daughter, giving her the name “Little Sure Shot.”

“If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man, he would have made me so in the first place.”

 Sitting Bull

In the end, Sitting Bull sacrificed his life for his people. There were false rumours he would participate in the Ghost Dance, a sacred ceremony that would bring back together the living with the spirits of the dead to bring peace, prosperity and unity to the tribes across the land. On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull was mortally wounded.

“Behold, my brothers, the spring has come; the earth has received the embraces of the sun and we shall soon see the results of that love! Every seed has awakened and so has all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our neighbours, even our animal neighbours, the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.” 

 Sitting Bull

The End

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“He came in, and with a pale countenance and faint voice said, ‘We have gained a great Victory’. ‘Never mind your victory,’ I said, “My letters – give me my letters’ –  Capt. Whitby was unable to speak – tears  in his eyes and a deathly paleness over his face made me comprehend him.  I believe I gave one scream and fell back, and for ten hours after I could neither speak nor shed a tear – days have passed on and I know not how they end or begin – nor how I am to bear my future existence.”

Lady Hamilton, in a recollection to Lady Foster

 Trafalgar

Lord Nelson, before the Battle of Trafalgar, wrote a codicil to his will, leaving everything to Emma and his daughter, Horatia.  He entreated the government, in the event of his death, to arrange for Emma’s financial security. Even, in his final hours, he pleaded for his nation to care for his family.

Lord Nelson fulfilled his duty.  His government did not.

The funeral was the most lavish in British History.  Lord Nelson had requested that Emma sing at his funeral.  They had plans to be buried side by side. Emma was shut out entirely, a foreshadowing of what was to come.  There was no government assistance for either Emma or Horatia, despite Lord Nelson’s sacrifice for his country.  Emma passed away on January 1815, in Calais, France, her daughter at her side.

Horatia lived a long life and found true love with Reverend Philip Ward.  They had ten children, three girls and seven boys.  She lived to see her children grow and find their own way in the world.  Her epitaph includes:

“…Here rests Horatia Nelson Ward, who died March 6th. 1881, aged 80, the beloved daughter of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson and widow of the above-named Revd. Philip Ward.”

Horatia never publicly revealed or recognized that she was the daughter of Emma Hamilton.  Indeed, over the years, many scholars have marginalized Emma’s relevance in Lord Nelson’s life.  How foolish.

In the end, Emma had the best of all outcomes.  She was loved, passionately and irrevocably by England’s greatest hero.

Lord Nelson

 

If you are interested in learning more about Lady Hamilton (and there is much more to know) I recommend reading: “England’s Mistress – The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton” by Kate Williams

 

A New Century

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“England expects that every man will do his duty.”

Horatio Nelson

The Victory

Sir William was enormously fond of Lord Nelson.  Both men held each other in great esteem, enjoying the camaraderie of close friends.  Lord Nelson, Sir William and Lady Hamilton united in their resolve not to allow Naples to fall into the hands of Napoleon.  They called themselves “Tria juncto in uno.”    Under these perilous circumstances, Lord Nelson could see the strength and courage in Lady Hamilton.  Love between the two was inevitable.

By the end of 1798, the French invasion was imminent.  Lady Hamilton, a close friend and adviser to Queen Maria Carolina, wife of Ferdinand I of Naples, was at the Queen’s side as plans were made to flee. The “Tria juncto in uno,”   along with the royal family and those with means, escaped to Sicily.  Yet, England was beckoning.

Nelson was recalled to Britain and Sir William, whose health was failing, longed for home. The three set out, taking the long route through a Europe grateful for Lord Nelson’s recent victory at the Battle of the Nile.  Britain gave Lord Nelson a hero’s welcome. There was great jubilation.  It was 1800, the dawning of a new century.

Instead of a long life together, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton were given six years, much of that time spent apart.  They had one daughter, Horatia in 1801.  Sir William passed away in 1803, a heavy blow to both Emma and Lord Nelson.  And then destiny intervened.

On October 21, 1805, Nelson’s fleet gained the victory over a joint Franco-Spanish naval force at the Battle of Trafalgar.

“Now I can do no more.  We must trust to the Great Disposer of all events and the justice of our course.  I thank God for this opportunity of doing my duty.”

Horatio Nelson

Naples & A Wedding

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“First gain the victory and then make the best use of it your can.”

Horatio Nelson

England

Emma was famous. Sir Charles Greville did not relish being the “lesser half” of a power couple.  He was also in need of a huge injection of funds.  Ever a schemer, his goal was simple.  He would marry Henrietta Middletown, an eighteen-year-old rich heiress.  As well, he was newly involved with  Lady Craven, a playwright and daring socialite. The Emma “problem” would be easily solved by persuading his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, British Envoy to Naples, to take Emma on as a hostess for his Naples home, known for its excellent hospitality and elegance.

Sir William, fourth and youngest son of Lord Archibald Hamilton, was the Envoy Plenipotentiary to Naples. Known for his extravagant lifestyle, he mingled with the leading aristocrats in England.   A recent widower, he had returned to England to finalize his late wife’s estates.  By all accounts, his marriage was happy and successful, even though his late wife suffered from bouts of depression.

Emma was enchanting, Sir William acknowledged. And he did have need of someone to organize his household and arrange for the elaborate banquets and soirées.  Keeping the childish King Ferdinand of Naples and his demanding Queen Maria Carolina (sister to Marie Antoinette) was a difficult task at best. Emma would be ideal. Alas, poor Emma did not know of the secretive machinations that swirled about her.  Sir Charles simply lied. A short holiday to Naples, she was told, along with a promise that he would come for her.

Sir Charles, in his devious and selfish way, released Emma. Naples embraced Emma with open arms and showered her with fame, fortune and title.   Yes, she was distressed by Sir Charles’s rejection, but she grew to love Sir William.  They were married on September 6, 1791.    She became Lady Hamilton.

The French Revolution, which began in 1789, was creating instability and alarm in all of Europe.  Before long, Lady Hamilton would be embroiled in the politics of Kings and Queens.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” 

Anaïs Nin

All The Players

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“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,”

William Shakespeare

English Countryside

Amy Lyon, 15 and without family support, thought only of survival.  Even so, her life unfolded seamlessly, with all the players coming together for a purpose, one person leading to another and another, each with ascending import.  First, it was Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh who hired her for several months as hostess and entertainer at a lengthy retreat at his Uppark country estate.  There, she became friends with Sir Harry’s guest, Charles Greville, second son of the Earl of Warwick and MP for Warwick, in the Midlands.

Sir Charles was thirty-two, unmarried, rather plain in appearance, and had limited financial resources.  Fascinated by Emma’s effervescent charm, it was not long before he fell in love with her. Within a few short months, she came to live with him as Mrs. Emma Hart.  Theirs was a complex relationship.  Sir Charles took on the task of turning Emma into a respectable lady; in return, Emma dressed modestly, ate slimming foods, and dutifully followed his lead without protest.

George Romney, the most fashionable artist of the day, met Emma in 1782.   It all began when Sir Charles commissioned George Romney to paint his portrait. Sir Charles, ever looking for ways to augment his meagre income, instigated a brilliant plan to make money.  Emma would model for George Romney and he would receive a cut of any sale proceeds.

Emma was a natural, thanks to her training in dance and modelling as one of Graham’s “Goddesses of Health.”  George Romney was enchanted by Emma’s unequaled talent to move and express moods.  Her flamboyant dress and various poses allowed her to reinvent herself into many characters. Emma’s spontaneity was infectious. She would sing, dance and talk, all through the sessions. Artist and model came to trust and rely on each other unreservedly. Their fame spread. With every painting sold, demand grew exponentially.  Within one year, Emma was the most sought after model in London.

George Romney had found his muse and his enduring obsession.  For the rest of his life, Emma pervaded his paintings and sketches.  She was simply irreplaceable.

“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend, The brightest heaven of invention…”

William Shakespeare, Henry V