Today is publication day for the slightly revised paperback edition of Edmund: In Search of England’s Lost King, my book about St Edmund of East Anglia and the hunt for his mortal remains published by Bloomsbury. The book has been updated to reflect the most recent developments, including the removal of the tennis courts behind […]
Nothing except the curry is as British as the panto. I’ve made that claim about a lot of things, and it’s true of every last one of them. And I didn’t even make up the comparison, so lots of people have made the claim about lots of things. Nothing is as unoriginal as comparing an […]
When Katherine Of Aragon wrote a heartfelt plea to her father, she held the title of Princess of Wales through her marriage to Prince Arthur of England. The couple had not been married long before the prince’s untimely death in 1502 at Ludlow Castle. Faced now with widowhood and all alone in a foreign country, […]
It was a dark and gloomy day. A normal occurrence in this part of the world. However, it was a lot more cloudy than usual. To my surprise and ignorance, it started to rain hard. Like being hit with a garden hose, I was soaked. I had to find a store that sold ponchos and…
Each album was career defining for the bands. Is one better than the other? No. It is just personal choice. These two albums are among the biggest sellers of the 1970s and are near the top of the greatest albums of all-time. I’m just telling you this in case you were in a coma back […]
It is remarkable when one looks at a map of the entire earth and notice how insignificant the island of Great Britain appears, hovering as it does off the north west coast of Europe, neither separate from that continent, nor totally attached to it. Perhaps there is something prophetic about that island’s geographic position, looking westward out to the bleak Atlantic Ocean.
According to the historical narrative, relatively small nations had formed huge empires previously. Taking the accepted history of Rome being founded in 753 BC, this small city state expanded to rule much of the then known world by the second century AD. It is said that the influence of this empire is still strongly conspicuous today, especially in language, culture and government.
More recently, towards the end of the fifteenth century, the unification of the two Iberian kingdoms of Aragon and Castille, formed the more powerful kingdom of Spain, which went on to prosper the most from the ‘discovery’ of America by Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón) in 1492. Within a mere few decades the Spanish empire dominated the new continent, north and south. Spain became very wealthy indeed during the sixteenth century.
Similarly and perhaps even more remarkably, Portugal, Spain’s feisty neighbour and rival on the western fringes of the Iberian peninsula, not only carved out an empire in South America (Brasil), but went on to dominate trade in the East Indies and to extend its empire to that part of the world and into Africa and its influence as far as Japan.
There are other examples, like ‘Holland’, more accurately called the Netherlands, or The United Provinces at one time, which also was an early beneficiary of trade and settlement in the Americas and the Far East.
Colouring the World Pink
However, no empire was ever as grand as the British Empire. By the end of the nineteenth century it was the empire upon which the sun never set. A schoolboy of the time could look at a map of the world and reflect upon the predominant colour of pink – all those lands, as far afield as Canada and New Zealand, where the British flag flew and the English language was spoken.
It is easy to think of empire building as organic, though this is never the case. A nation, or a people, often have a common purpose, though the vast majority are unaware of it. Nations and empires are steered, often by a few notable individuals and families with ambition and vision.
John Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s astrologer who chose the timing of her coronation in January 1559, was one such man. I will merely allude to him here, but suffice it to say that he the first to talk in terms of a British Empire, even though technically the notion Britain was only a geographic, not political reality when he was alive.
Nevertheless, it was during Elizabeth’s reign that the first tentative steps were taken by English explorers to establish an empire in the name of the queen. Sir Walter Raleigh was one such remarkable individual who made attempts at settling in North America.
By 1707, the crowns of England and Scotland were legally united, officially creating the Kingdom of Great Britain. At the same time a highly significant war was being fought in large parts of Europe. This was a result of Charles II of Spain dying without an heir in November of 1700. The ensuing war is called The War of the Spanish Succession.
The British fought this war essentially to prevent either France or Austria uniting with Spain, and thereby creating a European superpower. Such an eventuality would have been clearly detrimental to Britain’s ‘interests’. It is an early example of a way of maintaining the balance of power – at least that’s the official line.
After ten years of warfare, the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I died in April 1711 and was succeeded by the Archduke Charles, which effectively ‘solved’ the succession crisis, at least in the eyes of the British who began peace talks. This eventually resulted in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which established Great Britain as a naval and European economic superpower. Out of all the belligerents, only Britain could be said to have emerged from this conflict financially intact.
1710-11 – A Major Turning Point
This period centering around 1710 to 1711 was clearly a major turning point in British, European and world history. Astrologically too, we can see clear signs of the turning of a page, or the planting of a seed.
I draw your attention to the three then still undiscovered planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, all representing other (perhaps higher) dimensional (invisible to the naked eye) aspects of the mind, unity and power. As far as we know, these forces were not known at this time, remaining hidden somewhere in the collective human unconsciousness.
Nevertheless when Uranus met Pluto in September of 1710 and remained close, especially during the spring of 1711 when the Emperor Joseph I died, we see the beginning of a new historical cycle, with Great Britain seizing the initiative at an important time of opportunity. Uranus brings new ideas, change, Pluto the idea of collective power.
The Seed of Power Planted
This Uranus Pluto conjunction happened to be in late Leo, also conjunct the fixed star Regulus, which has had a long association with royalty and royal power.
Equally fascinating, the other remaining undiscovered outer planet, Neptune, was for a time in conjunction with the benefic Venus and in very good aspect to Uranus and Pluto from Aries. I think this gave a kind of other worldly blessing to the birth of the new enterprise. It’s fascinating to think that the god Neptune traditionally ruled the seas and from this point on Britannia certainly did rule the waves.
I think the relationship of the three outer planets at this juncture perfectly symbolise the sign of the times, the changing of the guard and setting the scene for the next century or so.
Other significant events at around the same time were, among others, the founding of The South Sea Company on March 3 1711. This was a public/private company created to consolidate and reduce British national debt, something which none of the other participants in the War of the Spanish Succession would have. Remember that important conjunctions are good for starting something new.
The Origins of Steam Power?
Another intriguing development was the invention and application of what was called the ‘atmospheric engine’ by Thomas Newcomen in 1712. This steam driven device was initially used to successfully pump out water from tin wines in the south west of England, particularly Cornwall. It is not difficult to grasp the significance of this invention and its later use in the first steam locomotives later on.
There were also reports of the first successful hot air balloon flight at this time by a certain Bartolomeu de Gusmao. Although this occurred indoors, the fact that it happened at all is highly significant. Uranus, after all, is said to rule the air and scientific invention.
I think there is evidence here of the burgeoning ‘power’ of the three outer planets and their generational influence on human culture, an influence which would gain in impetus as each one was subsequently discovered over the next two hundred years.
“We are the sun,” you said,
that his light arose with us
playing on rainbows,
his myriad smiles the spangled waves.
In those days thoughts were endless,
vibrant pages which turned by themselves.
There were no limits to how far we’d run
or dream out onto the sea,
our hearts living free in a peerless sky.
But thoughts like books do have an end
and I have died a billion times,
holding on to every word you said,
like a child might ask a question
between the pages of his lives
It’s iconic now,
England versus West Germany,
countries no longer existing,
old adversaries meeting
on a dappled pitch in late July,
still embroiled in controversy;
such as goals which were not goals,
views strictly dictated along partisan lines,
or the keen eye of a Russian linesman.