Monthly Archives: July 2015

The United Kingdom in the 1810s


The French were fighting against the Austrians in Poland. France recruited some superb Polish soldiers. They were promised Polish independence and a few naively believed that Napoleon was sincere. Napoleon was seduced by a teenage Polish princess who was married to a much older man. But this would be Delilah did not make him believe in the Polish cause. He would not give explicit promises. He created a Grand Duchy of Warsaw but was willing to bargain away Polish territory to Russia in return for other concessions.

Relations between Russia and France grew strained. At Tilsit in 1807 Napoleon had met the Tsar Aleksandr I on a barge in the middle of the river. The emperor’s charisma had won over the impressionable young Tsar Aleksandr I. They spoke in French because that was there only common language. Upper class Russians spoke French. There was some common ground between them. They were both anti-British. Part of the Treaty of Tilsit had been for France to assist Russia in her war against Persia (Iran). France provided no help at all. Napoleon wrote to Aleksandr ”Dear Brother Emperor”. He would reply, ”Dear General Bonaparte”. Napoleon was not accepted as a real monarch and this irked him greatly.

Napoleon was also unhappy that he had been unable to have a child with his wife Josephine de Beauharnais. She was the woman he truly loved despite her being six years older than him. Josephe (to give her real name) had a daughter and a son by her first husband and had been unable to conceive since despite a long romantic relationship with the politician Paul Barras. The British press ridiculed Napoleon suggesting he was impotent, ”Not tonight Josephine” was the line attributed to him by cartoonists. In fact Napoleon had a number of children with his mistresses. One of his sons went on to become the French Ambassador to the Court of St James.

The French defeated the Austrians by a crushing margin at the Battle of Wagram in 1809. This was just across the Danube from Vienna. The following peace agreement was signed at the Austrian Emperor’s palace – it was the Peace of Schonbrunn. A major coalition power was thus out of the war. The sacrificial virgin was the emperor’s daughter Marie-Louise. Napoleon had had his childless marriage to Josephine annulled on frivolous grounds. The Pope had jettisoned moral principles in deference  to wealth and might as the priesthood usually does. Marie-Louise at 18 wed Napoleon who was 40.

In 1812 the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, was talking to his colleagues in a public area of the House of Commons. A man stepped forward drew a pistol and shot Perceval in the chest. The Tory PM Perceval collapsed and died within minutes. The assassin made no attempt to flee. He was seized and was identified as John Bellingham. Bellingham had been imprisoned in Russia a few years earlier. He was aggrieved that this happened as result of the trade dispute against Russia. His repeated requests for compensation had been refused. The assassination was not by a French agent as some at first imagined.

Bellingham was tried and declined to plead insanity. He was hanged a week after the murder. Perceval is the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated. One of John Bellingham’s collateral descendants entered Parliament in 1983 as MP for Norfolk North-West. As a delicious irony; he is a Tory.

The next Prime Minister was a Tory. He was the Earl of Liverpool. Lord Liverpool was a fervent believer in fighting to absolute victory. A few years before the UK had fought single handedly. Fortunately for Lord Liverpool events were going his way. The French were sustaining heavy losses in Spain. Spain was a guerrilla’s natural habitat. The mountain fastness and scarce water in the uplands played havoc with the usual French tactics. The French could not seem to land a blow on the guerrillas who were growing in numbers and experience. Indeed the Spanish invented the word ‘guerrilla’. They were adequately armed by the British and supported by British and Portuguese regulars. Within a month of Lord Liverpool becoming PM Napoleon took the fateful decision to invade Russia. Things were looking up. The UK continued to outspend its enemy by deficit financing. Debt had brought down the Bourbons and Napoleon thought it could bring down him. His preoccupation in avoiding debt was a mistake. He insisted on balanced budgets. This hugely hampered the war effort. The French Revolution had been caused by debt. Napoleon thought if he got into debt he would be overthrown.

The Russians began trading with the United Kingdom. Napoleon threatened them with war if they did not desist. The Russians carried on regardless. Napoleon therefore decided that Russia had to be made an example of. If the Russkies got away with away it then everyone would do it.

Sure enough the French overreached themselves. A huge but inconclusive Battle of Borodino was fought on the road to Moscow. Napoleon was ill and his discomfort led to him being grouchy and unhelpful. He disbelieved intelligence reports and refused to send reserves forward when reinforcements were called for. He was hot tempered just when cool judgment was called for. The French entered Moscow to find it partly burnt. Napoleon lodged in the Kremlin for a month. Then he foolishly chose to withdraw before winter. If he had sat tight in Moscow for spring then his men would at least not have been outdoors in the severe winter temperatures.

On the retreat from Moscow the French were attacked by the Russian regulars but also a rabble army of peasants. The so called French Army was very much diluted in its Frenchness. It included many Prussians, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, Dutchmen and Swiss. Napoleon dreamt of uniting Europe under himself with a single currency. There would be identikit European laws – the Napoleonic Code. He did at least emancipate Jews and free the serfs. Jews in Germany sometimes changed their names to Schonteil in his honour. Schonteil is a translation of Bonaparte. Some Germans suspected Jews of being pro-French because Napoleon had freed them. They can hardly be blamed for being grateful to be freed from the ghetto.

Although Napoleon was pro-Jewish he was anti-black.  His wife Josephine persuaded him that slavery was right and natural. Napoleon dispatched thousands of troops to the Caribbean to defeat the Haitians. The Haitians had risen up and regained their liberty. Napoleon was hellbent on forcing them back into servitude.

All was not plain sailing for the British in 1812. The United States had continued trading with France despite the UK warning her not to. The USA insisted that they had the right to trade with any country and the British were not entitled to command them what to do. The Royal Navy stopped and searched American merchantmen. They confiscated French goods or goods destined for France. They searched for deserters from the Royal Navy. They pressed some American seamen into British service by claiming these men were deserters from the King’s Navy. Some in the United States spoke of making war on the British. The Federalist Party was dead against it. They were strongest in New England and this region was likely to be the main battlefront since it was adjacent to Canada.

The United States was riled by such provocation. In 1812 Congress declared war on the United Kingdom. It is called the War of 1812. Only 60% of Congress voted for war. This indicated that there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the war. The USA did not throw herself into this war with full vigour and determination. This was mainly a maritime war. There was some talk of invading Canada or the British colonies in the Caribbean. This war weakened the UK. She could not concentrate all her forces on the nemesis – France. The Americans made incursions into Canada. They were repulsed by the Canadian militia and British regulars. Perhaps oddly the French Canadians remained steadfast in their loyalty to the Crown. They practised Catholicism freely in their province of Quebec where French was the official language. They feared that American rule would deprive them of these rights. They were wrong on the former but right on the latter. After all Maryland had Catholicism as a state religion at the time. Many Native American tribes sided with the British. They feared American expansion to the west.

The UK also fought the Nepal War that year and fought in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Four totally separate wars in four theatres was a daunting task. The British seized Ceylon because it was Dutch ruled. The Dutch were allies of the French.

The French defeat in Russia undermined Napoleon’s reputation for invincibility. A rumour spread in Paris that he was dead. There was a coup and for a few hours another general held some key buildings. This man felt himself destined for greater things.

Napoleon was never one to let himself be associated with a debacle. He left his men in the lurch. He is not often rebuked for this in French history books but he ought to be. He had a fast sleigh speed him out of Russia. He abandoned his men as he had in Egypt. He felt he was still destined for triumph. In fairness, there was no military logic to him staying in Russia. In Paris he could control events. Marshall Ney commanded the rearguard and claimed to be the last French soldier out of Russia.

The Russians came hard on the heels of the French. The Austrians were buoyed up and re-entered the fray as did the Prussians. The French were pursued through Germany.

By 1814 the French had been overwhelmed at the Battle of Leipzig – the Battle of Nations as it is called. Austrians, Prussians and Russians smashed the French. Napoleon’s former Marshal Bernadotte, now King of Sweden, turned against him. The French had been driven out of Spain. The Spanish and British had invaded southern France. They invested Toulouse. The Prussians and Austrians were back in the war. The Russians, Austrians and French entered France from the east. The Dutch attacked from the north. Royalists were stirring for a counter-revolution particularly in western France. Napoleon ordered the call up of schoolboys and grandfathers. These soldiers were nicknamed Marie-Louises after Napoleon’s young wife. The situation was utterly dire. The French were hopelessly outnumbered and almost surrounded. Fighting on was not viable. The news was all unremitting gloom.

Napoleon had appointed marshals. These hand picked top commanders were men whom he thought were utterly loyal. Some had been captured by the enemy. Others pleaded with him to spare his people needless bloodshed – he must surrender. Only a few counselled fighting on to the bitter end. One of those who impressed on Napoleon the need to give in was Marshall Ney. It may seem incongruous as this man had been hailed by Napoleon as ”the bravest of the brave” only two years before.

The coalition had been discussing what to do. Some favoured leaving Napoleon to rule a truncated France. Both most governments were legitimist in their views. That meant that they believed that only monarchies that existed well before 1789 were legitimate monarchies. Napoleon and all of his satraps must be deposed. Napoleon and his minions had become pretended monarchs by force. These ‘legitimate’ monarchs conveniently forgot that they own ancestors had also established monarchies by military prowess.

Emissaries were sent out to seek terms. The coalition offered surprisingly generous terms. Napoleon would not be handed over to the Bourbons for trial for high treason. He would be sent to the Italian island of Elba and even allowed to rule it. He would be permitted to take 1 000 soldiers with him. The coalition suggested such leniency because perhaps they feared that Napoleon may yet pull off a miracle.

In April 1814 Napoleon was obliged to surrender tout court. He reviewed his Imperial Guard at Fontainebleau and whispered to them as they wept, ”I shall return before the violets bloom again.” Some called him Papa Violette for this.

Napoleon went to his Italian island. He supposedly said a sentence which is an English palindrome, ”Able was I, I saw Elba.” 

His wife the Empress Marie-Louise did not come with him. He was 46, very overweight and suffering with piles. She was 22 and had never cared for the man she was forced to marry as part of terms of surrender. She was given Parma to rule. She took her son Napoleon II with her. Napoleon II had been granted the title the King of Rome by his father. However, Napoleon II was not known by that title. He received the title the Duke of Reichstadt from his Habsburg relatives. Marie-Louise moved to Parma in Italy and there she openly lived in sin with another man and had children by him. Napoleon responded to being cuckolded with typical ill-grace. The coalition found the adultery of Marie-Louise deeply gratifying. They were elated to see Napoleon humiliated.

Napoleon’s titles were junked. Louis XVIII came back. He had lived in exile in London. He was the brother of Louis XVI. Louis XVIII was given a lukewarm greeting by his subjects who had not seen him in over 20 years. He was an enormously obese man, distant and laconic. He inspired little affection even among Royalists. Cartoonists lampooned him as resembling a pear. Louis XVIII was shrewd enough to recognise that some changes effected by the French Revolution were popular. These could not be reversed without arousing violent opposition. He did not confiscate all property from Bonaparte’s former supporters. However, he did abolish the Tricolore as a symbol of the republic and Bonapartism. He restored the fleur-de-lys as the national flag.

Many of Napoleon’s former marshals opted to serve Louis XVIII. Louis XVIII was wiser than to prosecute them though they were technically all guilty of treason. He would have had to have prosecuted almost everyone if he took that attitude. He absolved them despite not actually demanding penitence. The officers and soldiers swore fealty to the king in short order.

With Napoleon defeated the British could turn all their forces on the United States. However, the British were tired of war and anxious for peace. Merchants lobbied that they needed to trade with the USA. In the United States many people were also keen to bring the war to a close. The Federalist Party had never been in favour of fighting. The US national debt had ballooned. The dearth of British trade had all but ruined the economy.

British and American delegations met at Ghent in the Netherlands. They negotiated for months whilst fighting raged. In December 1814 they hammered out an agreement. It was the Peace of Ghent. It took weeks to relay the news to the USA and Canada

In February 1815 General Pakenham led the British Army in an attack on New Orleans. The city was ably defended by General Andrew Jackson. The British were beaten off with heavy losses. The Americans sustained only a few casualties. It was the most decisive American victory of the war. It was also totally unnecessary. The war had ended weeks earlier but neither side at this battle knew that. Hundreds of men died for nothing.



Napoleon observed the situation on the mainland with close interest. He saw the Great Powers fall out with each other. They were bickering amongst each other. Soon they might go to war over the spoils of victory. The British had dispatched their battled hardened troops to Canada to fight the Americans. French soldiers who had been prisoners of war had been released. It had taken a few months for some of them to get home. By February 1815 they were all back in France. However, coalition soldiers who had been taken prisoner by France had also been set free. The aristocratic emigres who returned to France had been lording it over others. Maladministration by Louis XVIII would turn people into Bonapartists again – so the ex-emperor told himself. Napoleon calculated that the factors militated in his favour. Perhaps he struck too soon. Had he waited a few months then war might have broken out between countries in the coalition. Then one side or other might have welcomed support from Napoleonic France. However, there was also a reason to stage a comeback sooner rather than later.  Napoleon was informed that the Peace of Ghent had been signed in December 1814. This brought the War of 1812 to a close – the United Kingdom was now at peace with the United States. Most of the British Army’s veteran troops had been sent to North America. Now they would be recalled. It would take a few months to get them all home. Napoleon reasoned that he had better strike before the British got their best men home.  All things considered he decided that the time was ripe in February 1815.

The former emperor landed at Golfe Juan on la Cote d’Azur.

Napoleon returned. As he approached Grenoble the townsfolk tore off the gates of the city and laid them at his feet. Some soldiers were dispatched by Louis XVIII to arrest the Corsican parvenu. He had very few soldiers at his back so he knew that using force was a non-starter. He approached the soldiers alone and unarmed. The king’s soldiers leveled their muskets at him. He opened his coat as if to make it easier to aim at his heart. He had not lost the old magic. The soldiers lowered their muskets and cheered ”Vive l’empereur!”

Marshall Ney was then sent by the king to capture Napoleon. Ney vowed to return with Napoleon in a cage.

When news reached London that Napoleon had landed in France there was pandaemonium. Scenes of consternation were replicated in all the courts of Europe. All government were of one accord – stop Bonaparte. They knew that his comeback would mean him proclaiming war on sundry nations.

Soldiers sent to arrest Napoleon went over to his side. As he approached Paris Louis XVIII sensed that he was less popular than the man rightly regarded as an insatiable war monger. The king fled. The redoubtable Marshall Ney went over to Bonaparte.

Bonaparte was somewhat ostracised. His relaunching of war met a muted response. People felt subdued. They had had a surfeit of war. He had misread the public mood. People were aware that other countries would be leagued to defeat Napoleon. Napoleon’s restoration could only mean war. People knew that the Great Powers would never assent to Napoleon’s resumption of governance.

In Paris Napoleon summoned the National Assembly. They would not agree to all of his proposals. He gathered La Grande Armee. Most of his marshals came back to him. He anticipated an enemy invasion any time. He ordered a general mobilisation. Some did not respond. Soldiers who had recently spent several years as prisoners of war did not necessarily want to return to the battlefield.

Napoleon’s adored Josephine had died the previous year. Yet her influence on him had not died. As the daughter of a plantation owner in Martinique she was stridently anti-black. Napoleon absorbed her racial prejudices. Corsican people were often anti-African partly because the island was often raided by corsairs from North Africa. The flag of Corsica features a black man’s head! In 1815 he found time to issue an edict ordering that the black people of the Caribbean be forced back into servitude. One would have thought that with the enemy counter mobilising he might have had more pressing matters to attend to.

The British landed in the Netherlands and linked up with the Dutch. Hanover was a sister kingdom of the United Kingdom. Hanoverians marched west to join the British and Dutch. The Prussians mobilised and moved west. The Austrians also marched on France. The Russians mustered their forces.

Napoleon’s stratagem was as always to defeat the enemy in detail. He must pick them off one by one before they could unite into a force so vast that he could never beat it. He must neutralise the most immediate threat first. That meant the Dutch and British. He moved before they could. In fact they were sitting tight until they received reinforcements from the Prussians. Napoleon would strike north into the Netherlands. He would deal the Dutch a knockout blow. Then he could deny the Dutch ports to the British. With luck he would also capture the Dutch Fleet in harbour which he could turn to serve French purposes. At this point some of the coalition may choose to make peace or even change sides.

Napoleon entered the Netherlands in mid June. This was the southern part of the Netherlands which is what we would call Belgium. Napoleon fought a whirlwind campaign. Luckily for him the Prussians had not yet linked up with the Dutch, British and Hanoverians. There were two minor battles – Quatre Bras and Ligny. These were both victories for France but not resounding ones. Neither side went all out for victory.

The Duke of Wellington was in command of the Dutch, British and Hanoverians. The British HQ was Brussels. The Duchess of Richmond held her famous ball on 17 June. The next day the British, Dutch and Hanoverians formed up on a hill near Waterloo. They blocked the road to Brussels.

There was heavy rain the night before. On the morning of June 18 it took hours for the ground to dry out enough for cannon to be moved.  Napoleon insisted on having a grand battery in the middle as always. He refused to engage his infantry and cavalry without artillery support. This was possibly a fatal mistake. Time was not on his side. With every passing minutes Britain’s allies were marching closer. Napoleon had left Marshall Grouchy miles to the east to hold off the Prussians under General Bluecher. Grouchy was heavily outnumbered and could only fend off the Prussians for so long. Grouchy and Bluecher engaged each other at Wavre.

The Duke of Wellington may have been tempted to come down from the escarpment and give battle on the plains before Napoleon could get his artillery into position. However, the duke chose not to risk it. He sat tight. He rightly reasoned that every passing hour brought Bluecher and therefore victory closer. There was no sense in making a bold move.

Finally Napoleon began the attack. Wellington has spread out his men sufficiently that surrounding them was all but impossible. On the other hand units were not so far apart that they could be defeated piecemeal. Napoleon’s haemerrhoids irked him. He was sceptical of intelligence reports and refuse to release reserves. It was the same scenario that dogged him at Borodino. The French attacked a farm called La Hougemont. The British managed to hold it. Marshall Ney ordered his cavalry to charge unbroken squares of infantry with predictable results. The cavalry sustained heavy losses and the squares held firm. He did not use artillery on the squares. The British artillery near the squares were forced to take cover in the squares and leave their guns unmanned. He also failed to have his men spike the British guns which would have made the artillery unusable for the rest of the battle. The Britishers might have spike their own guns to prevent the French using the artillery against the squares.

Officers were expected to show sang froid. The Earl of Uxbridge famously had his leg blown off and remarked nonchalantly, ”My God I have lost my leg!” The Duke of Wellington remarked, ”My God you have sir.”

The Imperial Guard was sent to attack. They thought they were facing but one line of British infantry. Several lines of British infantry were hidden in the fields of corn. As the Imperial Guard approached the British infantry lines stood up. One line would fire and then duck down. The next rank would fire and then duck down. The Imperial Guard were raked by volleys. For the first time they broke and ran.

Wellington ordered a general advance. All was not lost for Napoleon. Wellington prayed, ”Give me night or give me Bluecher.” Dark uniforms were seen on the eastern horizon as twilight approached. Was that the French navy blue or the Prussian black? It was the Prussian black. Grouchy had been routed. The Prussians would give Wellington a 2-1 advantage over the French. The French had already taken considerable casualties. Napoleon sounded the retreat. The Imperial Guard rallied and insisted on making a last stand. ”The Imperial Guard dies but does not surrender.” The Prussian band was soon playing ”Nun danket alle Gott” – ”Now thank we all our God.”

Many vivid accounts exists of this battle because it was such a seminal moment in European history. To meet one’s Waterloo has come to mean to experience a total and definitive downfall. History has bestowed a fine reputation on the Duke of Wellington who was regarded by his contemporaries as a competent rather than an outstanding commander. The French did not do especially badly in the battle. However, the deck was stacked in the coalition’s favour. If the French did not carry the day decisively then by default they lost it. This battle was remarkably international. The British side was more German than many Britishers care to admit and it was certainly not mainly English. As George Bernard Shaw said it was a case of, ”An English Army led by an Irish general against a French Army led by an Italian general.”

The Duke of Wellington had estimated Napoleon’s presence on the battlefield as being worth 40 000 men. Napoleon certainly had a magnetic personality. He had persuaded his men to fight for him against heavy odds. Wellington also remarked that the Battle of Waterloo was ”a damn close run thing.” This seems counterintuitive now as it appears that the coalition won fairly easily. However, at the outset it may not have seemed that way. Moreover, hindsight is 20:20.

Tens of thousands of men were killed. The duke remarked that the only thing worse than a battle won is a battle lost.

Napoleon fled in his coach. He raced to Paris and spoke of defending the city. His lieutenants told him the game was up. There would be no more fighting. He was despondent. He had once said, ”To die is to die once but to live defeated is to die every day.” He chose to take his own life. The Corsican had worn a vial of poison on his necklace for years. He swallowed it. The poison had gone off and failed to kill him. He mused about seeking asylum in the United States. However, the Royal Navy was frenetic in patrolling the Atlantic Coast of France to forfend his escape. He surrendered to the British.

General Bonaparte was put on HMS Bellerophon. As it sailed away he gazed on France for the last time. The ship anchored off the United Kingdom for a while. Sightseers came to gawp at Boney. Boney was a nickname bestowed on him by the British press. He was transported to exile in Saint Helena. He lived in a comfortable retirement that he had denied to over 1 000 000 people killed in his wars. The British governor Sir Hudson Lowe kept a close eye on Napoleon in case he escaped. Hundreds of soldiers were there to forfend this. Napoleon immersed himself in stories about his campaigns and endlessly wrote self-regarding accounts of his campaign to depict his generalship and his motives in the most favourable possible light. He died in 1822. He was possibly poisoned by arsenic. Then again there was arsenic in many products at the time. Many people inadvertently slowly poisoned themselves with hair oil at the time. The British could not risk him restarting his wars which is why it is credible that they secretly exposed him to small doses of the toxin that were fatal over a period of several years.



Louis XVIII came back again. There then began the concert of Europe. This was a series of diplomatic conferences to tidy things up are the upheavals of the Napoleonic Wars.

Marshal Ney was arrested. He had served Napoleon and then served under Louis XVIII. He had deserted Louis XVIII and re-ratted to Napoleon. The king could forgive this in an ordinary soldier but not in a general. Ney was tried for treason and found guilty. He was sentenced to death. As a soldier he would die by firing squad. Ney said he had done right according to his lights since Napoleon represented a mighty France.

At the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, Marshal Ney was to meet his end. There were very few witnesses but two British officers who happened to be passing watched. They noted that highly unusually he gave the order to fire. He seemed to fall even before the first shot rang out. Unaccountably the officer in charge of the execution did not administer the coup de grace shot to Ney’s head.

There have been rumours that Ney was not killed. He was a Freemason like Wellington and Freemasons are obliged to avoid killing a brother Mason unless in battle. Some believe that the Duke of Wellington arranged for Ney to be put through a fake execution. Ney connived at this and pretend to fall dead when the was about to be shot. The soldiers had had gunpowder in the muskets so there was a muzzle flash and bang but there were no musket balls in them. It is said that Ney was smuggled to the United States where he worked as a teacher and lived under a false name. He used the maiden name of his British mother. He spoke of hoping for a Napoleonic comeback. On his deathbed he revealed his true identity.

Viscount Castlereagh was the Foreign Secretary for most of this time.  His name was Robert Stewart but he is known by his title Castlereagh. Lord Castlereagh was a formidable Irishman and an outspoken Tory. He was raised to the title Marquess of Londonderry but is generally known by his lower title – Castlereagh. Castlereagh was a hate figure among radicals. Shelley in ”The Mask of Anarchy” wrote, ”I met Murder on the way/ He had a mask like Castlereagh.”

The Concert of Europe took place mostly in Vienna. France was returned to her frontiers prior to 1792. She had annexed north-west Italy and Illyria (Slovenia and some of Croatia). Prussia seized some territory in the Rhineland. These conferences persisted until 1820. To some extent it was a knees up for the well connected.

In 1815 a very wealthy British family went on holiday – for five years. They were the Nightingales. They had been unable to travel  for years because of the wars. They were multimillionaires in modern terms. Their eldest child was born in Naples and she was named Parthenope – ”virgin faced” in Ancient Greek. Parthenope is the original name of Naples. Their second daughter was born at Firenze and she was known by the English name for that city – Florence.

Trade could resume as normal. As foodstuffs flooded into the United Kingdom this lowered food prices. This was a boon for consumers. This was bad news for farmers. To protect the landed interest the government passed the Corn Laws. This put an import tax on corn to try to keep the price artificially high. This was deeply unpopular among the urban working class. The Corn Laws impacted heavily on them. Parliament was very much dominated by landowners at the time. Not just the Lords but the House of Commons was mostly peopled by those who owned huge farms.

As the danger had passed many people demanded that security legislation be repealed. Draconian laws restricting radical agitation had been enacted during the Napoleonic Wars. The definition of sedition had been broadened unduly. There was no longer any excuse for this. The Tory Government refused to abolish these laws.



In 1819 thousands of people gathered at St Peter’s Field near Manchester for a protest. The yeomanry were there to watch from a distance. A magistrate commanding the yeomanry shouted ”clear the crowd”. The cavalry charged and they were overzealous. Several people were knocked to the ground by horses and trampled under hooves. Some yeomen drew they sabres and slashed the demonstrators. Several people were killed.

This incensed radical opinion and even mainstream Whigs. It caused Shelley to pen the Mask of Anarchy. ”As I lay asleep in Italy/ There came a voice from over the sea/ And it forth led me/ To walk in visions of poesy.” In this poem he railed against the hideous massacre.

The massacre was known as Peterloo since it took place at St Peter’s Field. The ‘loo’ suffix was an ironic allusion to Waterloo which had taken place only four years earlier.

This was a period of frenetic street politics. Many people campaigned for reform. They wanted Parliament to reflect public opinion more closely. They wanted greater free speech. Some people protested against the Corn Laws. Ordinary Britishers had fought against a dictator only to suffer from a semi-dictatorial government at home.

Increased international commerce did little for ordinary folk. Most people were hardly sufficiently nourished. Many children did not attend school. Those who works in mines, mills and factories laboured for long hours in return for paltry wages. Work was noisy, filthy and dangerous. The Combination Act outlawed trades unions. It was called ”combination” because they could not combine to try to pressurise their employer to raise wages or ameliorate conditions.

The Earl of Liverpool and his Tory administration seemed as firmly in control as ever. Lord Liverpool ruled as PM from 1812 to 1827. 



In 1820 the unloved King George III died. He had been blind and raving mad for several years. Few mourned the cantankerous and aloof monarch.

It is said that the boys of Eton went into mourning to grieve for their sovereign lord. George III was an Etonomaniac. He used to walk down Eton High Street giving out gold coins to schoolboys and talking to trees. However, the tale about Eton’s black tailsuits dating to George III’s funeral are surely bogus. There is a painting several years after the king’s demise. It shows the boys sporting tailcoats of variegated hues. 

The death of a sovereign precipitated a general election as the law required at the time.

The United Kingdom in the 1800s


In 1800 both France and her enemies were devitalised by war. These nations were drooping from many dead and more wounded, from tens of thousands of men held prisoner by the foe, from empty treasuries, families with soldiers billeted on them and many horses and wagons pressed into service.

By this time Napoleon had seized power as First Consul. He borrowed the title consul from the Roman tradition. In Ancient Rome two consuls had ruled for one year at a time and they could not serve consecutive terms. Napoleon made himself Consul for life. Some British people fulminated against the French dictator. He used flagrantly fraudulent plebiscites to give himself a modicum of legitimacy. People spread daft myths such as that Napoleon ate children.

Russia pulled out of the anti-French coalition. This debilitated the coalition. Russia, Denmark and the other Baltic states formed the League of Armed Neutrality. The British had been blockading France. The Royal Navy searched the ships of neutral countries and confiscated goods that had been bought from France or goods they suspected were France-bound. Neutral states protested that this was an illegal intrusion onto their right to trade as they wished. Realising that the blockade was crucial to a coalition victory the British Government went on regardless.

The British economy was reeling from lack of foreign trade. There was only so much the United Kingdom could borrow. Those who did trade with the UK realised that the British were in a dire situation and they could charge accordingly or indeed only pay a niggardly price for British exports. The financial straits faced by the UK is a leading factor in the United Kingdom considering negotiating a settlement with France.

Denmark (then including Norway) was a considerable maritime power. She ruled the Virgin Islands and a tiny colony in Africa. The Danish Navy was formidable especially considering how small Denmark is. The Royal Navy decided that the Danish Fleet must be smashed if the League of Armed Neutrality was going to be prevented from evading the blockade of France.

17 ships of the Royal Navy descended on Copenhagen in 1801 and attacked 27 Danish warships. The battle started well for the Royal Navy. As some British warships ran aground Admiral Hyde Parker ordered his subordinate Vice Admiral Nelson to retreat. Vice Admiral Lord Nelson was commanded to withdraw. This is when he legendarily put the telescope to his blind eye so he could pretend not to have seen the order signalled in flags. Hence the expression – turn a blind eye. The outcome was a decisive British victory.

The Battle of Copenhagen since the British men o’ war sank ships of a country that was not at war against them. There is no question that this British success undermined the League of Armed Neutrality and made the British blockade of France effectual.

The Austrians were bludgeoned into submission. They signed the Treaty of Luneville. With one of the major British allies hors de combat the British cause was greatly weakened. British morale was flagging. Without mighty allies on the Continent any British war against France likely to flounder. Ruling the waves could only do limited damage to a land based power.

The coalition was not what it once was. The prospect of a decisive victory over France had receded. After Copenhagen the United Kingdom was in a relatively good position. It was a strong suit with which to parley. If peace were not concluded then things were likely to turn to France’s advantage in the mid to long term. Some British radicals still admired France and they wanted peace because they believed there country to be on the wrong side. Other British radicals saw Bonaparte for what he was – a megalomaniac militarist who had unmade most of the positive changes of the French Revolution. But they did not see any sense in the UK fighting when what the United Kingdom had to offer was little better. An outright defeat of France might lead to the return of the Bourbons. They did not want a recrudescence of that obscurantism. Therefore a negotiated peace was favoured by British radicals and by liberal minded Whigs.

Pitt the Younger was a hawk and he was reluctant to negotiate. He was inclined to fight to the finish. Pitt has served as Prime Minister for 18 years – the second longest of any Prime Minister. Perhaps he was wearing of his task but his resolve to fight France was undimmed. Others in the Cabinet were not so dogged.  Pitt the Younger has also wanted Catholic Emancipation to accompany the Act of Union for Ireland. George III set his face against this much needed reform. It was not up to George III who did not have a vote in Parliament. Monarchs always signed bills into law even if they detested them. Howevever, George III was able to mobilise enough of his stalwarts in Parliament to thwart the granting of equal rights to Catholics. This was enough to make William Pitt resign. Pitt the Younger was replaced as Prime Minister by Henry Addington. Addington had attended Winchester and is to date the only Wykehamist to serve as First Lord of the Treasury. Henry Addington went on to Brasenose College, Oxford and qualified as a barrister. It was a typical career path for a politician at the time. His father had been a doctor and the landed classes viewed this as being a mere bourgeois occupation. Medicine was positively dirty. Cartoons showed him with clyster pipes – a medical instrument for giving enemas. He was being lampooned for his father having been a physician.

Addington was amenable to peace but was not willing to settle for terms that were too disadvantageous. He has often been derided. ”London is to Paddington as Pitt is to Addington.” The implication being that he was a puny Prime Minister in comparison to the magnificent Pitt.

A British delegation travelled to Amiens in France. In the middle of 1801 peace negotiations opened. The Marquess of Cornwallis was the British plenipotentiary. He was negotiating with the wily French Foreign Minister Talleyrand. Talleyrand was notoriously saponacious. He sensed that the British were eager for peace and might agree to unfavourable terms. People in the UK were already jubilant as though peace was sure. As soon as something seemed to be firmly agreed Talleyrand would reword it. Joseph Bonaparte – elder brother of the generalissimo – was also present. It took several months for the terms to be thrashed out. One of the key points was the French renouncing Egypt. This was no loss to them since their army there had already been all but annihilated. Misr was to return to the Ottoman Empire and the British troops there must leave.

In 1802 a treaty was successfully negotiated. It was the Peace of Amiens. People all over cried ”vive la paix!” However, it is doubtful whether either side was sincere in wanting long term peace. They were exhausted from 8 years of internecine conflict. It was a time to re-provision, to plot and prepare for the next onslaught. The French Navy badly needed to be rebuilt because so many of its ships had been sent to Davy Jones’ locker. Both sides could trade freely and rebuild their shattered economies.

British tourists flocked to Paris. Upper class British boys often went on the Grand Tour between school and university. It was the 18th century version of the gap year. Boys would go to France and Italy to practise their languages and soak up some culture. They would see sites of historical significance. They may well be accompanied by a tutor – usually a clergyman of the church as by law established. This was to forfend the chance that they may be tempted by Roman Catholicism. One British cleric denounced Catholicism as ”the fashionable satanism of Rome..”

Both sides moved reinforcements to strategic positions. Both sides accused the other of breaching the terms of Amiens.

There were disputes over the evacuation of Malta, Egypt and South Africa. These lands were to returned to the status quo ante.

Napoleon had himself proclaimed President of the Italian Republic. This Italian Republic was only northern Italy. Italy likes to forget that its first president was Napoleon Bonaparte. Remember that Bonaparte was in a sense Italian. His mother tongue was Corsu which is the Corsican dialect of Italian. He only began to learn French at the age of 10. Despite being a polymath of phenomenal intelligence he never mastered French grammar. His Italianess is partly why he spent so much time campaigning there even when it was not of huge strategic importance. His surname was originally spelt Napoleone Buonaparte as in the Italian manner.

The British started by seizing all French ships in their ports. This was surely illegal since war had not been declared. France retaliated by detaining all British men of military age. The British economy was able to recover considerably.

Within a year war broke out anew. This time both sides felt they were ready.

Again, the British mainly fought at sea. This is where they had the advantage. Landing troops was very difficult in that era. That would have to get into rowing boats and be lowered from their warships and then sail to the beach. It was very hard to disembark large numbers of men quickly. If the landing was opposed then it could end in a fiasco. The men once ashore needed ammunition and cannon. They would also need cavalry support. To land a sufficient amount of ammunition and cannon was again very tricky. One needed to capture a harbour to ships could anchor there to unload stores. If a port could not be captured then seaborne invasions were likely to fail.

The British picked off overseas French possessions. There was much fighting in the Carribean.

At home opinion grew restive. People accused Henry Addington of being insufficently pugnacious. The UK had no strong allies on the Continent. It was therefore all but impossible to fought anything other than a naval war. The British Army was far too small. The French had double the population of the United Kingdom. Moreover, they had Spain and other countries as their vassals.

In 1804 Addington was induced to stand down as Prime Minister. Pitt the Younger returned for his second term as Prime Minister. Pitt the Younger would be a war Prime Minister like his father before him. Pitt the Elder has sustained British morale through dark days of the Seven Years’ War. The fact that a determined Premier was leading the British gave people heart. Pitt pursued the war with renewed vigour.

Napoleon was the master of much of Europe. He had assembled a huge army at the Pas de Calais. He inspected his ships as Boulogne. They also had flat bottomed boats which could put men ashore. As he gazed at the British coast he mused, ”Give me the straits of Dover for six hours and I will give you the world.” He was saying that in six hours he could land enough men to thrash the British. La Grand Armee was the biggest army in Europe and it was widely regarded as the finest. Had it landed in force then there is little doubt that it would have vanquished the British.

The fact that the British were fighting encouraged the Austrians and Russians to re-enter the fray. They declared war on France.

Napoleon recognised the importance of defeating the Royal Navy if the French were to invade the United Kingdom successfully. Napoleon hatched an extraordinarily intricate and impractical plan. He was a landsman and not a sailor. He did not grasp the fact that ships cannot sail to timetable when they depend on the winds and the tide. Communication between ships was by flag signal. Visibility can be limited by mist or rain. Ships can be scattered by tempests. His unworkable plan was partly followed by the French Navy. La Royale broke out and led the Royal Navy on a wild goose chase across the Atlantic to the Antilles. Then the French Fleet would double back on itself to Europe.

This seven month naval campaign culminated in the Battle of Trafalgar. In October 1805 the Royal Navy faced the combined French and Spanish Fleets. This naval conflagration took place off a Portuguese promontory named Cape Trafalgar.

Admiral Villeneuve was the French commander. He was assisted by the Spanish admiral – Federico Gravina. Gravina was from Naples in Spain. Naples had been a Spanish possession not long before. Gravina was a seasoned sailor. Nelson said he feared Gravina more than Villeneuve since Gravina was an abler commander.

The result of the battle was a stunning British victory. Twenty-one French and Spanish ships of the line were sunk or captured for no British losses. British sailors were killed but no ships were destroyed. Nelson was shot dead by a French sniper. Gravina was wounded and died of his injuries. Many of the surviving French and Spanish men o’war were crippled.

Thousands of Spanish and French sailors were taken prisoner. The British seemed to take pity on Villeneuve or perhaps it was a mark of contempt. Only a month after the battle they set him free. He travelled to Paris. Napoleon was irate at the cataclysmic defeat.. Any hope of conquering the United Kingdom had been destroyed. One night several men broke into Villeneuve’s house and killed him. Some have suspected that Napoleon ordered the luckless admiral to be assassinated.

Napoleon was campaigning against Austria and Russia. He was in what we now call the Czech Republic when he received the grim tidings. His fleet had been sent to the bottom. This unwelcome news did not stop him achieving a resounding victory the next day – the Battle of Austerlitz.

The news of Trafalgar was sent with all possible dispatch to Land’s End. A ship handed a notice of the news in. A rider rode along the rode to London as fast as he could. Beacon fires were lit all along the coast the convey the news that the country had been saved. There was nothing like it since the Spanish Armada in 1588. But then the beacon fires had been warning that the enemy fleet was approaching. A fire could be lit at night on a headland. People on the next headland would see it and light their fire and so the next headland would see the fire. So the news was carried. The dispatch rider reported to the Admiralty in London the news that the battle had been won. He also had to report that Nelson was dead.

Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s carcass was preserved in a barrel of rum. It was brought back to London. He received a state funeral. It is hard for modern people to understand his mythic status as the saviour of the nation. Trafalgar Day was a major celebration well into the 20th century.

Prussia, Saxony and Sweden all came in on the British side in 1806. Trafalgar had proved that fighting France was not a lost cause. However, a lightning French campaign knocked out Prussia. The others fought on.

In February 1806 Pitt the Younger died in office. He was replaced by Lord William Grenville. Grenville was Pitt’s first cousin and he was also the son of a Prime Minister, George Grenville.

Lord Grenville presided over a government known as the Ministry of All the Talents. It was so called because it included Foxite Whigs as well as Pittite Tories. Grenville had formerly been a Tory but for the past few years had been seen as a Tory.

Grenville was not particularly firm on the war issue. He was open to negotiation but this came to nothing. He had wanted Catholic Emancipation but did not push the issue. The middle of a war did not seem a propitious time for such a sea change. However, had this change been initiated it would have reduced the possibility of another revolt in Ireland. Grenville did succeed in having the slave trade outlawed. Notice it was the Transatlantic trade that was prohibited in 1807 and not slavery itself. Even pro-slavery polemicists found it hard to say that kidnapping people in Africa and taking them across the ocean in horrific conditions was not cruel. This is why the majority of both houses of Parliament voted to outlaw the trade but not to outlaw the condition of slavery itself. Those held in thraldom in the West Indies remained in thraldom. Because they could not be replaced by new captives from Africa slave masters started to treat this poor slaves not quite as monstrously as before.

Lord Grenville was forced out as Prime Minister. People cast around for a credible replacement. The elderly Duke of Portland became Prime Minister. He had briefly served in that office in 1783. He was once a Whig but by 1807 was regarded as a Tory. He was uninspiring but was acceptable to a wide range of opinion. He was at least bent on prosecuting the war against France.

France did not have much of a navy to speak of after 1805. New ships could be built but it would take to recruit and train sailors. They would not have their sea legs for a few years yet. There was only one fairly large fleet that France could possibly put to her service. They could persuade or bully the Danish to use their fleet to fight in France’s cause. The British foresaw this possibility and decided to prevent it.

The Royal Navy under Lord Cathcart sailed to Copenhagen. They tried to negotiate with the Dano-Norwegians. They proposed that Denmark become their ally and promised soldiers and financial support. The Danes were also being browbeaten by the French to join them. The British felt the Danes were turning hostile. The Royal Navy bombarded Copenhagen for three days in September 1807. Over 3 000 Danish soldiers were killed as were 195 civilians. The Danes surrendered their fleet. These ships were a great aid to the Royal Navy.

The Second Battle of Copenhagen is highly contagious. Some in the British Parliament railed against it. Daniel O’Connell denounced it as naked aggression. It seems to foreshadow the Royal Navy’s attack on the French Fleet at Mers El Kebir in 1940.

Spain had been under the French heel for some years. The Spanish Prime Minister Count Manuel Godoy was a toady of the French.  The deranged Spanish King commanded little affection among his people. He was also a cuckold. Napoleon compelled the king to abdicate and renounce the Crown for his family. Napoleon then put his brother Joseph on the Spanish Throne. This was part of Napoleon’s policy of putting his relatives on various thrones. This was partly because it seemed to him to be a wise strategy. Blood is thicker than water. However, it was also because of his deep seated sense of inadequacy at his middle class origins. He was eager to be accepted as an emperor. Having his sisters and brothers as kings and queens seemed to solidify this claim.

The Spanish revolted against King Joseph. After a few months Joseph would not leave Madrid because Madrid was one of the few places he firmly controlled. Most of the Spanish Army and what was left the Spanish Navy mutinied. The navy had mainly been disbanded since they had so few ships afloat. They would not call it mutiny. They said they were loyal to their true king and not to the usurper. French troops had to be rushed to Spain to uphold Joseph’s shaky authority. Within a year Joseph would scarcely leave his palace because he was so terrified of assassination.

Most of the Spanish colonies rebelled against this pretender. In fact these uprisings had more to do with an independence movement than an objection to Bonaparte.

In the countryside the Spanish fought an irregular war against the French. This is where the word guerrilla came from. As with most guerrilla conflicts there was little quarter on either side. Spain is very mountainous. The French were obliged to march along narrow mountain passes. This made them very easy to ambush. It was simple for the Spanish guerrillas to cut enemy communications and interdict their supplies.

The British seized their opportunity. Here was a formidable and determined ally on the Continent. The British sailed to Spain and landed there. They linked up with the Spanish and began to fight the Peninsular War. The Portuguese also made war on France.

Hundreds of thousands of French troops were bogged down in Spain. John Moore was the British general who commanded the army there. He achieved several victories and was killed in combat. The next British commander in Spain was Arthur Wellesely.

In 1809 the Duke of Portland fell gravely ill. He retired as Prime Minister and died later that month. He was replaced by Spencer Perceval. Perceval was a Tory and the first Old Harrovian to be Prime Minister. Perceval was a reasonably competent Prime Minister. He had to contend with considerable antiwar sentiment at home. He was a financial wizard and had previously been Chancellor of the Exchequer. The United Kingdom had to finance its own war effort and provide financial backing to its allies to keep them in the field.

Napoleon introduced the Continental system in 1806. He said with disdain that the British are a nation of shopkeepers. There was more to this than meets the eye. He recognised that the British lived by commerce. If he could cut off their trade he could bring them to their knees. The UK had blockaded France but not it was time to do the same. He tried to induce all European countries to cease trading with the United Kingdom. The French Army was so awesome that all countries agreed to desist from doing business with the British. This applied to neutral countries as well as French satellites.

The British economy suffered a little. However, before long some countries started to break the Continental system. They began discreetly trading with the United Kingdom. The embargo was being undermined. It was almost impossible to police. It was also impossible to conceal large scale trade with the UK. As more and more countries began to trade in every greater volumes with the UK it was clear to Napoleon that he had to do something. Russia was a particular culprit in trading with the British. If France did not penalise Russia for trading with the UK then the whole Continental system would unravel and any chance of defeating the British would disappear.

Napoleon resolved to invade Russia. It was more by accident than design. He must teach them a lesson or otherwise everyone would trade with the United Kingdom.

The UK in the 1790s.


In the early 1790s things were looking up for the United Kingdom. The economy was growing steadily. The Agricultural Revolution had freed many labourers from the fields. The Industrial Revolution inventing better machines. Steam power was harnessed in factories. Cotton from the United States was turned into garments. The spinning jenny invented by Richard Arkwright made textile production much quicker. The UK was the leading industrial nation. Muslins from India were also turned into clothes. The cottage system was ending and the factory system of mass production started.

he Transport Revolution meant that food came to market sooner. It was easier to transport manufactured goods. Canals were being dug. This meant heavy and fragile goods could be transported easily. Canal transport was slow but because the water took the weight a single horse could move an enormous load. Canals also reduced flooding. Steam engines pulled heavy loads on the road but steam engines were incredibly slow. Turnpike trusts were private companies that built and maintained private roads. The road network improved dramatically.

The Age of Steam was beginning. Coal was burnt to boil water which rose as steam. This turned turbines which pumped pistons. This worked for locomotives and machines in factories. Windmills and water mills were no longer needed so much.

Coal had been used for domestic heating for centuries. The British need for coal became insatiable.

France, the UK’s main rival, was embroiled in political turmoil. This left the United Kingdom free to race head in commerce. The UK had thoroughly recuperated after the American Revolution.

Pitt the Younger’s government had weathered early storms. The nation had stable government. The people were placid at first.

In 1793 France declared war on the United Kingdom. The British had no possessions adjacent to France. Thus this war was at first mainly fought at sea. The United Kingdom was able to seize some precious islands in the Caribbean. These colonies were full of sugar plantations. The unfortunate slaves who lived there toiled under the lash. The French Revolution abolished slavery.

Many louche French emigres had settled in the United Kingdom. They were mostly aristocrats and they told their British counterparts how horrendous the revolution was. For some ordinary French people the Revolution was an improvement but this view was not much known among the British upper orders. The French who fled to the United Kindgom were Catholic to a man.  Protestants and Jews had done well from the Revolution which had removed legal disabilities to their advancement. Anti-Catholicism was commonplace in the United Kingdom. The British upper classes mostly sympathised with the French Royalist cause but had to hold their noses against the Catholic aspect of it.

Charles X both Louis XVIII settled in the United Kingdom. Charles X became a maths teacher in London.

For the rest of the decade British politics was preoccupied with the war. Taxes were raised and money was borrowed. The national debt burgeoned.

There were many radical organisations in the UK at the time. These were the London Corresponding Society, the Society for Constitutional Information and the Friends of the People.

The UK financially propped up other countries that were fighting against France. The United Kingdom had the deepest pockets. The Holy Roman Empire was one of the main anti-French powers. The Holy Roman Empire was an Austrian dominated multinational empire. Its capital was Vienna, its official language was German and its territory was much of Central Europe. The Habsburg dynasty managed to have its candidate as emperor every time for 350 years. Prussia was also a key component of this anti-French coalition. The Netherlands was another ally but she soon succumbed to a French invasion.

The British assisted royalist French revolts. Many British people were anti-Catholic. ‘No Popery’ was a common slogan. They had to overcome their prejudices in backing French royalists because most of the royalists were ardent Catholics. The motivation for these counter-revolutionaries was to restore Catholicism as the state religion as much as it was to bring back the monarchy.

The British landed French royalists in Toulon on the Mediterranean coast of France. Toulon was then bombarded by a junior French artillery officer named Napoleon Bonaparte.

France repelled the invasions of her land. As France grew mightier she grew more radical. Radicals in the United Kingdom took their opinions from France. They felt that their country could profit by France’s example. They drew encouragement from the overthrow of the monarchy, the abolition of slavery in the colonies, the outlawing of the hereditary titles, the disestablishment of the church, the nationalisation of ecclesiastical property and the institution of popular government. Some radicals blanched at the French Revolutionary taste for mass executions. Though they approved of the ends of the revolution they did not approve of the means. Others British radicals viewed large scale guillotinings and public drownings as not only necessary but also justified. By way of comparison one must remember that in the United Kingdom there were over 200 death penalty offences. These were as diverse as starting a fire in a Royal Naval dockyard (even if by accident), cutting down a tree in Downing Street to buggery. People were hanged for grand larceny. Admittedly most of those convicted of grand larceny were not executed. Many were transported to Australia for 14 years penal servitude instead.

France seemed capable of mounting an invasion of the United Kingdom. His Majesty’s Government became anxious that this invasion would be welcomed by British revolutionaries. The UK Government decided to crackdown on radical organisations. Habeas corpus was suspended. Many peaceful reformers were also arrested in the dragnet and flung into gaol. The definition of sedition was broadened.

Government spies infiltrated many radical bodies. Radicals could easily be charged with sedition. Undoubtedly some were disseminating disaffection to His Majesty the King.

Thomas Paine was one such radical. This Sussex school teacher was impressed by the brainchild of the French Revolution. His afflatus led him to pen ”Common Sense” and ”The Rights of Man.” He was elated at the success of the American Revolution. He scorned monarchy. He noted that one would never choose a novelist on a hereditary basis so why chose a head of state that way? He observed that hereditary monarchy often gives one an ass for a lion. When he wrote these acid words he could easily have been thinking of George IV . George IV’s devil may care attitude did much to undermine respect for the monarchy. George IV was Prince Regent at the time because his pater George III was suffering transient bouts of mental incapacity. Though the regent was compos mentis he was roi faineant. George IV notable for his gluttony, corpulence, adultery, vanity, lassitude and dissipation.

Mr Paine had moved to the United States. His stirring pamphlets were written in plain language that expressed the beliefs that actuated the American Revolution. Hos work was read aloud. His limited lexis made his work comprehensible to even the simplest mind. In the 1790s his tracts were disseminated by radicals in the United Kingdom. Many of them found his logic compelling his proposals for far-reaching change deeply alluring.

Paine later moved to France to participate in the Revolution. He was elected to the National Assembly despite his inability to speak French. He did not concur with the revolutionary practice of executing those suspected of counter-revolutionary sympathies. Thousands of people were condemned to death on trumped up charges by drunk juries. Those most commonly executed were not aristocrats but priests. As for what constituted aristocrats  – a revolutionary judge said ‘‘Il est fier; il est aristocrat.” Paine believed that a society owed it even to its worst citizens not to kill them.

Some aristocrats said they were on board with the revolution. The Duke of Orleans was a member of the royal family. He renounced his title and changed his surname to Egalite (Equality).

As Tom Paine participated in two of the most consequential revolutions.  later said, ”I have lived to some purpose.”

Many loyalist organisations were set up. People enlisted in the militia. The militia was there to defend the country. They could not be compelled to serve overseas against their will. Usually the militia were to serve in their local area but if needs be they could be sent anywhere in the realm. The militia was infantry and they were mostly bourgeois if only because they had to be able to afford their own uniform and musket. The yeomanry was the same as the militia but they were cavalry. Yeomen had been defined as those who owned a horse. A horse was a sign of considerable wealth. Yeoman had to provide their own mount. Some people have the surname ‘Yeo’ because they were this social class centuries ago.

Fencible regiments were the same as militia. Fencible is short for defencible.

Church and King mobs railed against radicals. Radicals were execrated as anti-patriotic, anti-Christian and murderous. One magazine cover showed Charles James Fox as a Jacobin holding a severed head with the caption ‘the darlings of democracy.’ Radicals were set upon for public beatings. Parish constables seldom intervened to protect radicals as they were roughed up by the crowd. The dissenting clergyman and scientist Joseph Priestly in Birmingham had his laboratory vandalised in reprisal for his suspect reformist beliefs.

Many people in the UK joined loyalist organisation. Not enough scholarship is done on these organisations.

Because of the war against France the United Kingdom did not trade with France or any land occupied by her. These was good news for some but woe to many. Those who produced food could charge more for it. Those who purchased it paid dearly.

Some smugglers traded illegally with France. In this way they evaded import taxes and sometimes brought in goods only available in France. In this manner they could realise a handsome profit. If caught they were given a date with the noose. In wild and lawless South-West England smuggling thrived. It has a long and indented coastline. The land is barren so many became sailors and fishermen to make a living. This sparsely populated region had many skilled sailors and little government presence. It was also not far from France. Many pirates came from South-West.

This was not an era of total war. Some parts of the country were relatively unaffected. A country could not mobilise, feed and shoe a huge army. Campaigning was largely confined to the summer season. The Royal Navy pressed men into service but the army did not.

There was fighting in the Caribbean and the India Ocean. The Royal Navy mastered the seas and oceans. This was marred by some minor defeats for the Royal Navy.

In the mid 1790s a French Army officer named Napoleon Buonaparte (as he spelt his name then) rose to prominence. By a series of audacious lightning campaigns he had bested the Austrians in northern Italy. He carried off countless works of art as booty. This Corsican artillery officer was lionised when he returned to Paris. Buonaparte did not lack for physical courage and nearly got himself killed at the Battle of Lodi. One of his own officers had to tackle him to the ground to keep him safe from enemy volleys. The Little Corporal as be was nicknamed personally sited some cannon which was the task of a corporal. In fact he was always an officer and never a corporal. Nor was he little. He was bang on average height for the time. The myth that he was short arises from the fact that French inches were bigger than British inches. This led to the expression ‘Napoleon complex.’ Small man syndrome exists but Napoleon did not have it.

In 1796 France invaded the Papal States. The pope declared war on atheistic France.

In 1798 the French invaded Ireland. This was supposed to be co-ordinated with a separatist jacquerie but came too late. After the defeat of this revolt the threat of French invasion subsided somewhat.

Napoleon had gone to Egypt instead.  Admiral Nelson was sent to the Mediterranean to intercept the French Fleet sailing to the Middle East. Napoleon’s ships narrowly evaded Nelson in the short May night. The French landed in Egypt and made short work of the Ottoman Army. Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire. Napoleon fought the Mameluke cavalry at the Battle of the Pyramids. The name of this battle evokes false romanticism. Despite the name this battle was not in site of Giza. ”Forty centuries look down upon you” Napoleon probably did not say. He had accounts of battles rewritten several times to overplay his role and overstate the scale of the victory.

General Bonaparte entered Cairo and his men treated themselves to Cairene whores.

The French attack on Egypt was designed to disrupt British communications with India. It is a measure of how crucial India was that the French attacked Egypt for this reason. Yet it was an asinine strategy. British communications with Egypt were via the Cape of Good Hope. If Napoleon wanted to go to India he would have to fight his way across desert and mountains through the Holy Land, Ottoman Mesopotamia (now called Iraq), Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan. Even Napoleon was not that much of a daredevil.

Napoleon’s attack on Egypt probably owed much to his delusions of grandeur. He fantasised about converting to Islam or even inventing his own religion complete with a new holy writ. He would don a turban and ride and elephant into India to live in a palace peopled by hundreds of dancing girls. Napoleon was smitten by the splendour of Egypt’s ancient civilisation and took hundreds of savants with him. These were resourceful men who were all erudite in at least one discipline associated with Egypt – it could be architecture or it could be botany. At least Champoillon managed to crack the Ancient Egyptian language on the Rosetta Stone. This super polyglot did something to leave a positive legacy of the otherwise disastrous French expedition to Egypt. The Department of Antiquities founded at that time still exists.

The French invasion of Egypt was an immense stroke of fortune for the British. Had the French invaded the British Isles then things would have been hairy for the UK. The Royal Navy would try to prevent such a crossing but could not be guaranteed to succeed. At least a few French ships would get through as was proved in Egypt and Ireland at this time.

Lord Horatio Nelson was able to deal the French a terrific blow in Egypt. At the Battle of the Nile the Royal Navy sank many French ships. The French Army in Egypt was largely cut off from home. They would find it very difficult to be resupplied or to get reinforcements. There was also no means of escape. Incidentally the Battle of the Nile was fought at Aboukir Bay and not on the Nile. Aboukir Bay is at the estuary of the Nile. The fact that the misnomer Battle of the Nile is in keeping with the general inaccurate romanticism of the whole Egyptian campaign.

The French were quagmired in Egypt. The searing heat was difficult to cope with and they did not dress for the climate. Many succumbed to disease. They conquered much of the Nile Valley but were too thinly spread. Bonaparte then invaded the Holy Land (Palestine and Israel)  and defeated the Ottomans there. His men started falling like flies from the plague. His visit to the plague hospital there was one of the few occasions in which he showed some concern for the wellbeing of his men. He ordered the massacre of 2 000 Ottoman prisoners of war at Jaffa. This was perhaps Napoleon’s cruellest act.

The war took its toll. The propertied classes in the United Kingdom grumbled about income taxes. Parliament kept an eye on army commanders that they were not to reckless with the lives of their men. Some Whigs who were inclined to reform called for negotiations. People became fatigued and disenchanted with war. The same sentiment was abroad in France.

George III made his reactionary views plain. He wanted the French Revolution to be extirpated. These were in his rare moments of mental health. He was intermittently insane – struck down by a hereditary disease called porphyria. His son (also named George) ruled as Prince Regent. The Prince Regent was king in all but name. The Prince Regent and his father had a notoriously strained relationship. The Prince Regent’s fiscal irresponsibility was also a running sore for Parliament. The Prince Regent (the future George IV) did at least construct the Brighton Pavilion. This Indian style folly is indicative of the growing British fascination with all things India. Indeed at this time the first Indian restaurant in the United Kingdom opened its doors. George IV’s relationship with his Catholic mistress Mrs FitzHerbert did not do his reputation any good. It is rumored that he married her. However, the marriage was unsanctioned by the monarch. The law stated that a royal marriage was only valid if explicitly approved by the sovereign.

Napoleon was never one to allow himself to be linked to a fiasco. He deserted his post in Egypt and left his men to their fate. He high tailed it back to France. He was always unfeeling about his men. Because he emphasised speed in campaigns he cut back on the commissariat. He left soldiers to ”forage” food from the local populace. In practice this meant armed robbery. The fact that French soldiers purloined food wherever they went meant that they were detested more than most occupiers. He was notorious for abandoning the wounded. He went to Paris. Instead of being contrite about leading his men on a totally impractical and needless mission he was shameless.

Bonaparte plotted a putsch with his brother Lucien, Joachim Murat and the devious former bishop Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Perigord. Talleyrand had been the sort of mercenary and hypocritical cleric whose venality made them the stock figures of French farce. If Talleyrand joined something then it must be going to succeed. In 1799 he and others seized power in a coup. The Council of Ancients had been minded to poinard him. One can see why! A directory ruled France. It would be better English to call it a directorate. Talleyrand, Sieyes and Bonaparte made up this triumvirate. The other two triumvirs were former clergymen and neither one of them was in the least bit spiritual. Like Bonaparte they were arrivistes. Bonaparte was conscious that the club footed Talleyrand was particularly wily so he kept an eye on him. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Perigord had got through the Terror by always changing to be on the winning side of each factional struggle. When asked what he did in the Terror he said tersely – ”J’ai vecu” – ”I survived.” Much the same could be said for Bonaparte the one time Jacobin turned hawkish  militarist authoritarian. At least Bonaparte had had the mettle to risk his skin on the battlefield.

The Directory was to be the nucleus of the new dictatorial state. Bonaparte kept in place the tricameral parliament – men who could vote but not debate; another chamber of men who could debate but not vote and another chamber (itself popularly elected) to elect the other two. It may seem unworkable and it was. It was simply a means of disguising the brazen despotism that France had become.

The United Kingdom in the 1780s.


After the American Revolution it was time for the United Kingdom to lick her wounds. Many ships had been lost. Several thousand soldiers had been killed and the national debt had increased markedly. George III promoted the Chancellor of the Exchequer as Prime Minister. He was 24 year old William Pitt the Younger. Pitt the Younger was aged 24 and son of the late Pitt the Elder. Pitt the Elder (also known as the Earl of Chatham) had been Prime Minister in the 1760s and had also favoured recognising American Independence. Pitt the Younger remains by the far the youngest person to serve as Prime Minister. His appointment inspired the following ditty:

”A sight to make all nations stand and stare

A kingdom entrusted unto a schoolboy’s care.” 

William Pitt the Younger would not last long as Prime Minister – so his rivals assured themselves. Although formally a Tory he tended to eschew a party label. Tories were unpopular then and the word became an epithet. Pitt’s acolytes were called  Pittites. The suffix -ite hints at disapprobation. However, the expression Pittite soon became something that people happily called themselves. It lost its sting. People anticipated that Pitt’s government would not long survive because of the trying circumstances that it was facing. This was in the wake of the humiliation in America and the economic slump occasioned by it.  There was also a mountainous debt to contend with. In fact the years of peace allowed the economy to recover rapidly.

Pitt the Younger was an ascetic and solemn figure. His mournfulness seemed to suit the epoch. After the debacle in America there was little to smile about. No one could doubt his devotion to his job. He had been an effectual Chancellor of the Exchequer during a time of financial turbulence. He did the sums himself to make sure that the national debt was manageable. He was a workaholic and never wed. His friends said he was not always stony face.

Pitt the Younger was a man ahead of his time. He believed in the abolition of slavery and in Catholic Emancipation. However, in the 1780s he did not openly advocate such drastic changes.

Because of the loss of America the British Government began to concentrate more on India as a country to trade with. The Honourable East India Company owned several ports on the coast of India. She also ruled Bengal. She had trade treaties with many Indian rulers. However, most of India was nominally in the hands of the Mughal Emperor who lived at Delhi. The emperor’s rule was more theoretical than real in regions of India that were distant from his court. There were some sections of India that neither the East India Company nor the emperor even pretended to rule.

Pitt decided that the United Kingdom was going to have to acquire a greater deal of control over the East India Company. Until that point the East India Company had a royal charter but other than that was a law unto itself. It had a court of directors for those who owned a great number of shares. This was effectively the board of the company. Then there was the general court of proprietors for all who had shares in the company. Pitt said that the East India Company was going to have to be answerable to Parliament. The India Bill was prepared. The East India Company’s exclusive licence to trade with India would be reviewed every 20 years. A governor would be sent to Calcutta which was the seat of the East India Company. There had been a Governor-General of Bengal but not one for the whole of the Company’s possessions in India.

Some men had made a great deal of money in India. They came back to Britain. They were known as nabobs. This was after the Indian word ‘nawab.’ These nabobs often went into politics. They used their power in furtherance of their own commercial interests. More established wealthy families resented these parvenus.

George III was totally opposed to the India Bill. He lambasted it with his usual single minded obscurantism. He announced that anyone who cast a vote in favour of it would be his enemy for life. Nonetheless it was passed. Those who cast their votes in favour of his act found themselves denied patronage when the king could help it. The Bishop of Llandaff was one such man to fall victim to the king’s pique.

The Marquess of Cornwallis was dispatched to be Governor-General of Presidency of Fort William. That is a mouthful. He was Governor of India. Officially he did not have the title viceroy. His successors later had that title. It is perhaps surprising that Lord Cornwallis who had been instrumental in bringing about British defeat in North America should be appointed to such an august position. Cornwallis was the only person to serve twice as Governor-General of India. He died only a few weeks into his second stint.

Warren Hastings had been Governor-General of Bengal in the 1770s. In 1785 he was summoned back to the United Kingdom. He was impeached for alleged misrule and peculation by Parliament.

Edmund Burke led the case against him. Burke was a distinguished barrister as well as a political philosopher. Burke’s philippics against Warren Hastings have gone down in history as some of the most stirring and trenchant parliamentary oratory. Edmund Burke inveighed against Hastings in his characteristic purple prose. He also lambasted the rule of the East India Company generally – suggesting that it was a cackocracy unequaled in the annals of history. Burke’s sententious sentences went down badly.

Burke’s moral indignation overreached itself. He disregarded the legal reforms and educational foundations that Hastings had made in India.  Burke was being an exhibitionist. His getting on his moral high horse was a bit much for many in Parliament. Hastings insisted that he had done nothing wrong. In those days there was little distinction between public and private. Hastings had been an official of the East India Company before being elevated to the highest office in the Company. Whilst working for John Company he had grown wealthy but he had not amassed a magnificent fortune. He was not as unscrupulous as some. Many had done so before him. By the 1780s many of them or their descendants were seated on the treasury bench. Burke was a protege of Pitt. Pitt the Younger was the great-grandson of ”Diamond” Pitt who was so known because he too has acquired a hoard in India. Diamond Pitt was a ”nabob” like many others – a Britisher who had acquired a load of cash in India and used it to make his way in politics. Nabob is a corruption of the Indian title for a potentate ‘nawab’. Those with a sharp social eye sneered at nabobs for having come by their lucre through corruption and being inclined to frippery. They affected the manners of the gentry but were mere counter jumpers. They had sullied their hands in trade and that would never do. A gentleman should have inherited his wealth. A patrimony of several thousand acres of parkland and numberless smallholdings was the only sufficient interest in the land to make one worthy of a place in Debrett’s. There was a satirical play sending them up. It was entitled ‘Nabob’.

Hastings’ chutzpah was staggering. He declared stridently, ”I stand astounded at my own moderation.”

In 1795 Hastings was acquitted on all charges. It had taken eight years and a huge legal bill.

The mid 1780s was a time of quiet and consolidation. The insurance industry has suffered heavy losses with so many merchant ships having been seized by American privateers. Eyes began to turn towards France. France, though often an enemy, epitomised taste and learning for the British upper classes. Many British aristocrats spoke French at dinner parties. Many educated Britons were culturally francophile.

Ironically the American Revolution seemed to hurt France more than the United Kingdom despite France having been on the winning side. France had almost bankrupt itself fighting against the British.  Political change so often comes down to economics.

The French financial crises lead to calling an Assembly of Notables. Many Britishers were self-satisfied. They told themselves that their political system was the pinnacle of civilisation. The French were only just catching up. The French were stirring from their political lethargy and childish absolutism. The Assembly of Notables was dissolved and the Estates-General was summoned.

As events in France grew more radical this inspired those of advanced opinions in the United Kingdom. Some Britishers admired the American Revolution. This was partly because some approved of the notion of American independence. Others were indifferent or even hostile to American independence but liked the way that the United States was now a republic with a more representative government than the United Kingdom. Lafayette was one of those who wanted to emulate the American Revolution.

Radical organisations were founded in the UK in the late 1780s. Some people wanted to bring home the revolution. The London Corresponding Society was set up. It was about exchanging information concerning proposed political reforms. They wanted to see the country represented more equally. The Revolution Society was established in 1788. Despite its threatening name it was about celebrating the 1688 Revolution and not about launching another revolution. However, the Revolution Society tended to attract those of a forward political outlook. The Society for Constitutional Information was another reformist movement. The Society of the Friends of the People wanted more men to have the right to vote.

In the 1780s parliamentary representation was very maldistributed. Some constituencies had only a few dozen residents. Some had tens of thousands of residents. The right to vote varied enormously. It would relate to owning burgages – certain named properties in the borough. It could relate to owning real property of above a certain rentable value per year. Who valued the property? That was another fly in the ointment since people could overvalue or undervalue property so as to enfranchise or disenfranchise men because of the way these men were probably going to vote. Renting a property worth a certain value could also make one eligible for the right to vote. In some boroughs it was the borough council that elected the Members of Parliament. Every borough and every county returned two Members of Parliament. Counties had boroughs cut out of them. For the purposes of elections that borough was not part of the county. For example, Lancaster is in Lancashire. Lancaster is a borough. Lancaster elected 2 MPs. Lancashire also elected 2 MPs. Those who lived in Lancashire could not vote for the Lancaster MPs only for the Lancashire ones.

There was public voting. An elector had to state whom he was voting for openly. This was written in a book. This made bribery or bulldozing easy.

Political parties were little more than consortia of various wealthy families. There was no party membership role and no manifesto. Nor was there an official leader. There were certain gentlemen’s clubs affiliated either to the Tories or Whigs. There were general tendencies in each party. The Whigs were seen as being more outward looking and reform-minded. They were a little more metropolitan in their support base. The Tories were seen as insular and old-fashioned. The Tories often scorned the Whigs as being overly sophisticated and excessively sympathetic to Nonconformists. There were wide divergences of opinion within each party.

It was said that the Tories stood for the landed interest and the Whigs represented the moneyed interest. There is some truth in this but the picture is more mixed than this summary suggests.  There were plenty of Whig landowners as there were Tory bankers.

The British electoral system was inconsistent, irrational and unrepresentative. In Edinburgh only about 40 men had the right to vote. The Scots electorate as a whole was miniscule. This made it very easy to control. This was done through offering money and jobbery. Paying people to vote this way or that was legal. People could also be threatened with the sack or which eviction if they did not vote the way their employer or landlord instructed them to. This was all done openly.

Polls were open for two weeks. People had to vote in public. Their name and occupation was recorded in a book along with which candidate they voted for. Elections were very fractious. One technique to win an election was cooping. That is to get one’s opponent’s supporters inebriated and keep them that way for two weeks.

The Yorkshire Association campaigned for Yorkshire to be granted more parliamentary representation. It was the largest county in the British Isles in terms of area. It was also very considerable in its population. It had several boroughs but as a county it only returned two Members of Parliament like any other county such as tiny Rutland. A very minor modification was made in that Yorkshire’s County representation was increased from two to four members.

There had been some tinkering with the system of representation over the years. Some boroughs had been created in the 17th century and abolished that same century. The claim that the electoral system was like the laws of the Persians and Medes: unchanging and  unchangeable – was bogus.

In 1788 George III was struck down by a hereditary disease called porphyria. This was not fatal. His constitution was robust but his mind was befogged. The American Revolution was not caused by his insanity. His mental illness first manifested itself well AFTER the United States became fully independent. Moreover, his condition was not occasioned by the loss of the Thirteen Colonies even though this upset him greatly. The condition was in his genes.

Parliament had to discuss what to do. George III was incapable of delivering his speech from the Throne. Without the King’s Speech no parliamentary business could be conducted. The country had had regencies before but never because of mental illness  – even though some monarchs such as Henry VI had undoubtedly been psychiatric cases. Previously in the case of a monarch who was a minor there had been a regency council where leading nobles and churchmen had exercised the functions of the monarch collectively. On this occasion it was felt that the Prince of Wales (the future George IV) should be the sole regent. There was much wrangling about the legal niceties. Could this be done with the Great Seal of England when the monarch had not authorised the usage of the said seal? In the end it was used and a regency was created. Nimble legal draughtsmanship had framed the needful legislation to the satisfaction of both parties.

George IV became the Regent or Prince Regent as some prefer to call him. The time from 1788 to 1820 when he succeeded in his own right is often called Regency and has given its name to a style of furniture and mode of dress. George III had transient attacks of mental illness. There were periods of several years when he was able to perform his kingly duties himself.

George IV was not universally popular. He was very self-indulgent and guilty of many derelictions of duty. His egotism and wastefulness led to him running up debts that today would be worth several million pounds. This was despite him receiving a munificent stipend from Parliament.  His petulance had led to him being in danger of being an impecunious prince. His infatuation with the Roman Catholic Mrs FitzHerbert did not help matters. It was noised by man that he was captivated by this woman who was of the Romish religion and may even have married her in secret. This rumour was vehemently denounced as a foul slur by Charles James Fox. Fox was the most radical Whig around. Fox being a man who listed his enthusiasms as ”women, gambling an politics” was a kindred spirit of George IV. George IV did not care for politics and indeed found it tedious. His father George IV was fascinated by politics and was a man of forthright opinions of the most reactionary stripe.

George IV became Regent with powers outlined in the pertinent bill and his debts were paid into the bargain. This period is called Regency.

Possible outcomes in the Ukraine.




Without proper outside support the Ukrainian military cracks under the strain. They have insufficient heavy weapons. Without financial support the Ukraine would no longer be able to defend herself. Her morale would plummet as losses mount. Rebel forces and Russian regulars break out from Lushansk and the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Russia may not bother to conceal its role any longer. They march on Kiev. Soon they sweep all before them. The remainder of the Ukrainian Army is routed. They surrender for flee. Putin is too crafty to annex the entire Ukraine. He set up a puppet government in Kiev. He would probably reappoint Yanukovitch and say that this man was the rightful president all along.

With the Ukraine effectively an adjunct of Russia then Putin will seek fresh conquests. He will look for soft targets among former Soviet countries. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are obvious ones. He will probe the determination of NATO. He is already seeing how NATO responds to intrusion into air space. How about a build up of forces on the border? Small incursions? Russian-backed separatists taking over towns or killing people? Is NATO willing to fight for her Baltic member states? Is she really?



If the USA properly arms the Ukraine and pays a high salary for enough Ukrainians to join the army then the Ukraine can fight indefinitely. The USA can use the  Ukrainians as its foreign legion. It will cost the Americans about a quarter of what it would to employ an American soldier when they employ a Ukrainian. Moreover, the American public is not very worried about Ukrainians getting killed whereas they do object to significant numbers of their people getting killed. Other NATO countries might do the same.

With ever tightening sanctions imposed by the whole EU and NATO the Russian economy will suffer severely. Morale in Russia will drop. There will be no light at the end of the tunnel.

The militants and their Russian comrades would be pushed out of the Ukraine and back into Russia. At this point expect huge Russian troop deployments along her border with the Ukraine. The Kremlin will scream that Russia is about to be invaded by the Ukraine when it has been the other way around for a couple of years. There is no way a country of 40 000 000 would invade the largest country on earth which has nuclear arms and 140 000 000 people.

To reach the stage of absolute Ukrainian victory would take another couple of years. Other doyens in Russia would have to persuade or even pressurise Putin into changing course. It would take  an acute economic crisis and heavy casualties to bring about this sort of scenario. Diplomatic pressure from other BRICS would help. Opening a second front by arming Georgia or getting a Central Asian country to stir up trouble would also have the desired effect.

Russia has spent mind blowing sums on the military. With long term low oil prices she has repeated all the mistakes of the 1980s. There will be a deficit that can no longer be contained. The CHinese Development Bank will recognise that Russia is not a sound investment. She has no means of repaying loans. She is not developing. Money is being squanderd on an inane expansion of the military.

Putin has invested his prestige in this conflict in the Ukraine. It would take a huge amount for him to admit that he has been vanquished. It would be such a loss of face that he might have to retire. By then he will be approaching 70. Bear in mind that no Russian leader has ever ceded power voluntarily. They either die en poste or are forced out. Medvedev was never the supremo despite his job title. Putin may be compelled to leave by the deep state such as did the same to Yeltsin. He has started a totally unnecessary conflict. He has inflicted huge damage on Russia’s economy and caused several thousand deaths. I am no naif about the Ukrainian pro Westerners. SOme of them are distasteful and there is corruption among them. However, their sins are mild compared to those of their enemies. Ukraine under the current government is no tyranny. Russia is supported only by other semi-dictatorships in this conflict.



This conflict is made sufficiently painful for Russia to induce Putin to negotiate in good faith. He has breached he peace accords twice. He has accused the Ukrainians of doing likewise and this might be true.

Moreover, the Ukrainians and NATO recognise that a clear victory is unlikely to be obtained by them in the near future and not without horrendous loss of life. NATO and European Union countries might not be willing to underwrite the cost of Ukrainian defence forever and to extend loans that will not be repaid. They will also grow weary of bearing the economic cost of sanctions on Russia. Some will start breaking them and others will agitate to relax the sanctions.

Russia will be keen to demonstrate that sanctions have little impact. She will crow about the lucrative deals struck with India, China, Iran African countries and Latin American ones. In fact this will be partly false. The Indians and CHinese drive a very hard bargain. They will recognise that Russia is in a feeble position to negotiate and they will demand high prices for their exports and they will pay little for Russian exports.

Russia will be somewhat emboldened. She may conclude that NATO lacks willpower. She will then try to consolidate her hold over former Soviet countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Free Nadezhda Savchenko


Nadazhda Savchenko is a Ukrainian Air Force pilot. Her country was invaded by Russia. She was defending her sireland. She flew over the rebel held region and was shot down.

Ukrainian forces bombarded enemy positions. In one such bombardment 2 Russian journalists were killed. Incidentally these people crossed the border illegally. As the Ukrainian authorities no longer control their eastern frontier with Russia these journalists cannot have been legally admitted. ABout which more will follow. I mourn the deaths of these two. 7 000 people have been killed in this conflict. Many of them are civilians. I would rather all deaths were avoided by civilian deaths do nothing to further any cause. That makes such losses especially regrettable.

Miss Savchenko has been charged with directing the artillery to fire on the place where the two journalists were killed. Even if so no one is saying she deliberately caused journalists to be killed. The Ukraine has no wish to kill the media.

Miss Savchenko was captured by pro Russian insurgents. She was already in captivity when those two journalists were slain. These charges are provably false.  She was brought to Russia by the pro Moscow rebels. That is kidnapping. It is against the Geneva Convention to bring her out of the war zone to a prisoner camp like that.

The Ukraine is not anti Russian. Russian citizens can still travel to the Ukraine through the normal channels. Russia is not assisting the rebels so Mosow insists. Why was she handed over to the Russian Federation then? This exposes how preposterous the Kremlin’s deceit is. Moreover, someone should be tried in the country where the alleged crime took place. She is being brought to another country for trial.

She will be subjected to a show trial. She was going to be tried in Moscow but this has now been changed to Rostov on Don. This is to deter foreign journalists from covering her case.

It would not surprise me if Putin orders her sentence. He might go easy on her for the sake of manipulating public opinion.

Her Russian lawyer is valiant for taking the case. He has emphasised that she will probably not receive a fair trial. The verdict has probably been decided in advance.

The media have been banned from her pre trial hearing. This is a taste of things to come.

She was a military pilot performing her duty. She did not try to kill civilians. In any military action there is a risk that civilians will get killed in the crossfire. This is especially true of war correspondents. Many of them are killed every year. If they are in the front line they are in grave jeopardy. Hundreds of civilians have been killed by pro Russian forces. I am not saying that any of them were killed on purpose. My point is that civilian deaths cannot be totally avoided using modern weapons. You might hit the wrong building. You might destroy a building containing enemy soldiers but also containing civilians. You might destroy an enemy vehicle but the blast kills some civilians nearby.

Watching the Hawks.


This is an eye catching show broadcast by Russia Today. The hostes are Tyrell ventura and Tabetha Wallace. The rangy Tyrrell is the son of maverick politician Jesse the Body Ventura. Jesse Ventura did extremely well to be elected a governor whilst independent. America needs more like him to break the dupoloy. His son is similarly courageous in questioning the shibboleths of American politics. SOme of these tenets are that the USA should spend a vast sum on the military whilst neglecting public health, education and the deficit.

Tabetha and Tyrell are both natural performers. I can sense the exhitionism in them. They are hard hitting left wingers and very engaging. The are acerbic about American foreign policy. They never dwell on a topic too long. They move on before it gets dull. Unlike Fox News they do examine the other point of view.

One of the feeble segments of broadcast I saw was about Planned Parenthood. Some in US Congress want to prevent foetus parts being used for medical research and so forth. I find abortion revolting. I have a gut reaction against it. But I would not outlaw it. As the foetus is dead anyway it makes no sense not to use the tissue to help others. It is lawful to do so. Because the law clearly permits this some in Congress have tried brutalising Planned Parenthood rather than the law. They also take issue with the claim that Planned Parenthood profits from these foetuses which it does not. It is a bizarre line of argument since Republicans usually adulate the profit motive.

On the Planned Parenthood episode Tabetha said that no one would choose an abortion. This is ludicrous since millions do. Perhaps she had not noticed that pro abortion people like to call themselves pro Choice. Maybe she wishes to pretend these women are compelled to have terminations. Except in case of medical necessity no woman is compelled to have a termination in the USA. It would be illegal to do so. Even rape victims are not obliged to have terminations but they usually decide to have a termination. Tabetha’s guest was a woman representing PP and she even used the word ”choice” in relation to termination. Tabetha pretended that termination was a need. As adumbrated hereinbefore it is not a need unless there is some medical reason for the pregnancy being discontinued.

Watching the Hawks is skilled at exposing the inanity and danger of some American policies. However, it is very one sided. It is always putting the USA down. It never turns a critical eye on other countries. There is much to scrutinise in other lands.

Force feed the prisoners


I often lambast Israel. I inveigh against the Israeli Government for killing thousands of Palestinian civilians. I must acknowledge that Israel uses the knock on the roof technique before launching a deadly attack. It thereby warns people to get out of a building. I know of no other country that goes to such lengths to avoid civilian deaths.

My philippics against Israeli policy are against the policies and not against the country as such or the people themselves.

Israel has now passed a law authorising prison authorities to force feed prisoners. I approve of such a law. Medical associations in various countries are opposed to this practice. I respectfully submit that the doctors are wrong. Doctors have changed their minds before. Until the 1970s homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. Elective abortion used to be regarded as totally unethical. Euthanasia was universally condemned but is now permitted in the Netherlands and Switzerland.

This law is about saving life. If someone proposes to end their life then doctors intervene and preserve it. If someone is trying to commit suicide then doctors stop them from doing so. A person’s wishes may be overridden. These people in gaol are trying to kill themselves for political reasons and not owing to any mental disorder. It is still an attempt at suicide.

Force feeding sometimes goes wrong and kills a person. This happened with Thomas Ashe. It is far less likely to kill someone than not eating!

If those on death fast are always force fed they will very seldom die. They will soon stop going on hunger strike.

Here Israel is being denounced for being humane. She is trying to save the lives of her prisoners. SOme of them should not be in prison. Some are held in administrative detention. This is without trial or charge. But as they are there she has a responsibility to try and keep them safe. Better to release those who are detained with just cause. Yes, I agree. But if that is not done then at least keep them alive to release later.

Real tyrannies never suffer from hunger strikes. Only in prisons where people are decently fed and provided with medial care do hunger strikes occur.

A dream of Nepal and a rich Greek


I was in Nepal. It was a dust one horse dorp. I was in a motor rickshaw going through the town that looked like it was made of terracotta. The place was all the same tint of beige and flat as can be. It was warm.

I got to the railwayy station and piad the little man 10 rupees. The station was small and almost desrted. There was no train there. I saw a line of stalls sellling whatnot. I realised I needed to go back through town to another station

Last night I had been recalling my time in Nepal. I thought of that delicately pretty lady who was just younger than me. I got to know her in Manamaiju. She spoke of the bus park. I had recalled my beieg ski jacket

the second part of the dream was about a large grey hotel or house. There was a very rich litte Greek man. Must be papathomas. There was something in the dream about itmes in his house and where they would be moved. They would be transporetd in the lift. It all took places somewhere dull and anonymous – like on a cloudy day in Switzerland/