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For the first time since the Republic of Ireland gained independence in the 1920s, the Queen may visit Dublin next year. It is shocking yet completely understandable that no British monarch has ever visited Ireland, even though the Queen has visited over 100 countries during a reign of 57 years. Only recently have relations between the UK and the Republic become positive and safe enough for a royal visit to even be considered.

The British army killed 26 unarmed protesters on Bloody Sunday in 1972, leading people to burn down the British Embassy in Dublin and in 1979 one of the Queen’s relatives, Lord Louis Mountbatten, was killed by an IRA bomb. Clearly, for most of the 20th century, it was impossible for the Queen to visit Ireland safely, however through the work of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern in the 1990s, relations improved dramatically, resulting in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Mark Simpson, BBC Ireland Correspondent:

Such was their friendship, few would have been surprised if they ended up going on holiday together. Given the long and deep historical difficulties between their respective countries, that was quite a feat.

However, if the Queen’s visit does go ahead next year, perhaps the history books will show that the current British prime minister David Cameron also played a crucial role.

His speech to the House of Commons about the recent Bloody Sunday report, and his acceptance of British Army wrongdoing on that day, went down extremely well in Dublin. At the same time, he helped to dispel some of the historic Irish antagonism to Tory prime ministers.

Sinn Fein oppose the visit and it is likely there will be demonstrations, however Prince Charles has already visited Ireland and Irish president Mary McAleese has met the Queen before, so clearly progress is being made in getting the visit to go ahead next year.

After years of indecision about the location of the Battle of Bosworth, Leicestershire County Council have finally revealed that the site is on a field on Alf Oliver’s arable farm, two miles away from Ambion Hill, where the Bosworth visitor centre was built. From the Times Online:

On the morning of August 22, 1485, the last medieval king of England gambled his throne and his life on one desperate cavalry charge.

It must have made for a magnificent spectacle as Richard III hurtled through the smoke and din of the Battle of Bosworth on a mission to kill his upstart rival, Henry Tudor.

He nearly reached him but was held up a few yards short of his quarry and then driven back into a marsh, where he and his heavily armoured knights were picked off by Welshmen with halberds and daggers.

In those few frenzied moments the future of England — and by extension much of the world — changed course. Bosworth became the bridge that links the Middle Ages to modern Britain and ushered in the dynasty of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. If Richard had killed Henry there might have been no English Reformation, no Church of England and no Elizabethan golden age to inspire artists, explorers and empire builders.

To confirm the location, cannon balls have been discovered there by archeologists, as well as a badge in the shape of a boar, which was the personal emblem of Richard III.

It is now possible to visit the site, even though it is indistinguishable from any English field, but I’d try to get there quickly as I expect it won’t be long before they build a gift shop, cafe and children’s play area and start charging toursits to see the field. Or perhaps I’m just being cynical.

I’m now spending most of my time in the Warwickshire area instead of West London, so I’m going to try to utilise my position to look into the local history of this area. For this reason, I’m going to start filing posts concerning Warwickshire as local as well as the London centric ones. So here’s a bit of history news from just around the corner.

Dramatist and poet, Fulke Greville (1554-1628) is buried in a tomb beneath a monument in St Mary’s Church in Warwick and historians have been given permission to insert an endoscope into the monument in the hope of discovering never before seen documents. Historian Alan Saunders, who wrote The Master of Shakespeare, believes that Fulke may have written Anthony And Cleopatra and left some kind of proof inside this monument. A radar scan has already confirmed that ‘three boxlike shapes’ exist inside. Alan Saunders in the Coventry Telegraph:

What exactly is in there I don’t know but my hope is that it contains documents that prove our theories and a copy of Antony and Cleopatra

There is also a possibility it could just contain dust.

Even at 63 years old I am quite excited about this, but it is like most things when you have to wait so long for it. Depending on what we find, this will re-write history. Greville was so deep in politics of the time that he was in a position to know things that were never written in any history book.

These kind of investigations always seem a bit of a long shot and its questionable how far a discovery would really ‘re-write history’, however, considering they’ve already discovered that boxes within the monument do exist, it would clearly be fascinating to see their contents, regardless of whether they are relevant to the long lasting debate over who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays. We should seize the archaeological opportunity without such high expectations.

Big news for our British musical heritage is that the famous Abbey Road Studios are likely to be sold by EMI in order to ease their financial problems. The Georgian townhouse built in 1831 was converted into studios by the Gramophone Company (later EMI) and has been owned by the company for the last 79 years. The Beatles made the studios famous, recording most of their material there between 1962 and 1970 and naming their 1969 album after it, simultaneously making the image of the crossing outside extremely well-known as the subject of the album cover. This has brought thousands of Beatles fans to visit the studios ever since and has made the name Abbey Road a national icon. Its historical importance is clearly why EMI’s suggestion of its sale such a big issue. It has been suggested that the property could be worth between £10 million and £30 million.

Abbey Road Album Cover 1969

Sir Paul McCartney has expressed his hopes for the studios to be saved:

There are a few people who have been associated with the studio for a long time who were talking about mounting some bid to save it. I sympathise with them. I hope they can do something, it’d be great.

The biggest development so far is that the National Trust, which already owns the childhood homes of Sir Paul and John Lennon, has expressed an interest in purchasing the studios, if public demand is enough. After listeners were encouraged to support the purchase by Chris Evans on his radio show this morning, the National Trust have received many emails and have confirmed that their acquisition of the property could be possible. A spokesman on their website said:

It’s not often that the public spontaneously suggests that we should acquire a famous building, however, Abbey Road recording studios appear to be very dear to the nation’s heart – to the extent that we will take soundings as to whether a campaign is desirable or even feasible.

To listen to what Director General, Dame Fiona Reynolds said on Radio 2 today or to contact the National Trust, click here.

The trailer for the new Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson has now been released. It is as expected very different from any previous Holmes film and I must admit it does look pretty exciting and I’m sure I will enjoy it. There is plenty of action, which doesn’t bother me as I do like the moments of action in the stories and there does seem to be a lot of comedy between Holmes and Watson which again is very appealing.

I hope there’s more mystery and detective skills in the film than is shown in the trailer and I also hope that they’ve included aspects of Holmes’ dark side, such as his drug addiction as that would add another layer to his character. It’s understandable that they may have only left the action and the comedy in the clips, so as to attract more of an audience. We’ll have to wait and see.

One thing that did annoy me was that they seem to have crowbarred a scantily clad woman into the story as a bit of love interest for Holmes, but I really hope there’s more to it than that and I’m just being cynical, because I thought Watson was the lady’s man (with ‘an experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents‘) and Holmes had a bit of an aversion to women! I’m guessing that she may be written along the lines of a Bond girl: to seduce Holmes in order to stop him getting to the bottom of whatever mystery she’s trying to hide. Again, I’ll just have to wait till the film comes out later in the year.

Using digital photography, scientists have been able to reconstruct the colours in tapestries at Hampton Court. The many tapestries commissioned by King Henry VIII, particularly the ten Abraham tapestries created to celebrate the birth of Prince Edward, used to be shining with bright colours, gold and silver, but are now, as expected 500 years later, completely faded. They have been able to analyse the colours of the thread at the back of the tapestries, in order to work out the exact colour and then reapply it to a photograph so that we can see how they would have looked in the 16th century.

From The Guardian:

When Paul Hertzner, a lawyer from Germany, visited Hampton Court in 1598, he reported in amazement: “All the walls in the palace shine with gold and silver.” Now visitors amble past one of the greatest surviving sets of tapestries in the world with scarcely a glance at figures barely distinguishable against a once glowing background.

Until yesterday, when the 500-year-old tapestry shone again in crimsons, blues, yellows, greens and pinks. The magic was achieved by light, the very medium that destroyed the colour in the first place.

The tapestries have always been on display, but I haven’t been to Hampton Court for years and I don’t remember them at all. I’ve been meaning to go again for ages and now with all the celebrations for Henry VIII’s accession to the throne starting next month, I’ll make sure to go at some point.

They’re going to open an exhibition Henry VIII’s Tapestries Revealed, where lights will be shone on the tapestries to show the colours to the public. I don’t think they’ve announced when this will be, but this is what’s on the Historic Royal Palaces website:

We are developing the lightshow technology to produce a ‘virtual’ colour reconstruction of a tapestry. This technology will provide images of the scientifically-derived original appearance of a tapestry.

This will then either be projected onto large screens or – as has been successfully done in the preliminary study – on to the existing hanging tapestry. You will be able to see the tapestries in their original splendour for the first time in centuries.

Here’s an interesting article by the BBC News website’s world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds about the possibility of taking a leaf out of Lord Palmerston’s book (Foreign Secretary 1841, Prime Minister 1855-1858 and 1859-1865) in order to solve the problem of pirates off the coast of Somalia.

“Taking a wasps’ nest… is more effective than catching the wasps one by one,” he remarked.

Palmerston, the great advocate of gunboat diplomacy, was speaking in support of a British naval officer, Joseph Denman. Denman had attacked and destroyed slave quarters on the West African coast and had been sued by the Spanish owners for damages. It was British policy to try to destroy the slave trade, but this sometimes ran into legal complications.

The British attorney general, in a gem of delicate legal advice, declared the following year that he “cannot take it upon himself to advise… that the instructions to Her Majesty’s naval officers are such as can with perfect legality be carried into execution…

With Somali piracy still threatening shipping, it sounds as if modern navies need a few Captain Joseph Denmans.

Taking 19th century advice on international affairs does seem pretty interesting, but also eccentric, considering Palmerston was responsible for the Don Pacifico Affair style of foreign policy, where he was prepared to blockade Athens in support of one British subject. Palmerston did seem to advocate actions that would boost British pride and patriotism and his popularity, but then again it’s always good to be a little more direct and if this works, then it works!

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