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Thursday, 31 March 2016



The recorded history of Mars observation dates back to the era of the ancient Egyptian astronomers in the 2nd millennium BC. Detailed observations of the position of Mars were made by Babylonian astronomers, and ancient Greek philosophers and Hellenistic astronomers developed a geocentric model to explain the planet's motions. Indian and Islamic astronomers estimated its size and distance from Earth.

The Egyptians bestowed the Red Planet with its first recorded name, Har dècher, which means "The red one." The Babylonians likewise called the planet Nergal, or "Star of death," while the Greeks and Romans both named the planet after their respective gods of war, Ares and Mars respectively. The Hebrews called it Ma'adim, or "One who blushes."

The first telescopic observation of Mars was by Galileo Galilei in 1610.

In Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift described the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, giving their exact size and speeds of rotation. He did this more than 100 years before either moon was officially discovered.

The first crude map of Mars was published in 1840.

When astronomers mistakenly thought they had detected the spectroscopic signature of water in the Martian atmosphere, the idea of life on Mars became popular.

In HG Wells's The War of the Worlds, Martians landed in Woking, Surrey, 23 miles south west of London.

During the 1920s, the range of Martian surface temperature was measured; it ranged from -85 °C (-121 °F) to 7 °C (45 °F). The planetary atmosphere was found to be arid with only trace amounts of oxygen and water.

Since the 1960s, multiple robotic spacecraft have been sent to explore Mars. Mariner 4 sent the first photograph of Mars on July 14, 1965 —it took eight hours to arrive.

The first digital image from Mars

The Viking 1 lander became the first spacecraft to successfully land on the planet on July 20, 1976 and perform its mission.

Landing on Mars had been planned for July 4, 1976, the United States Bicentennial, but imaging of the primary landing site showed it was too rough for a safe landing. The landing was delayed until a safer site was found.

Spirit, a NASA Mars rover, landed successfully on Mars at 04:35 UTC on January 4, 2004.

Viking 1 held the record for the longest Mars surface mission of 2307 days until that record was broken by Opportunity on May 19, 2010.

Viking Lander model. By Mark Pelligrino - Wikipedia Commons
Opportunity was the second of the two rovers launched in 2003 to land on Mars and begin traversing the Red Planet in search of signs of past life.  Opportunity landed on Mars the following year to begin missions planned to last three months, but has far exceeded expectations and remains active.

Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years on August 27, 2003, passing 34,646,418 miles (55,758,005 km) distant.


Despite being known as the Red planet, the color of Mars is closer to butterscotch.

Mars' reddish color is a result of iron oxide, which is known as rust and has the consistency of talcum powder. The iron oxide forms a rust dust that floats in the atmosphere and creates a coating across much of the landscape. The metallic rocks on Mars are literally rusting.

Exposure of silica-rich dust uncovered by the Spirit rover

Mars has the highest known volcano in the Solar System, the 13.6 miles (nearly 22 km) high Olympus Mons, is about two and a half times as tall as Mount Everest.

It is half the size of Earth, has two polar ice caps and has similar seasons to our planet. The Martian day is only 41 minutes longer than the day on earth.

Gravity on Mars is only about 40% that of Earth's, so a person would be 60% lighter.

The average temperature on Mars is -63C.

The highest recorded surface temperature on Mars is 35C.

Mars has the largest and most violent dust storms in our entire solar system, often with winds winds topping 125 mph. The storms can last for weeks and can cover the entire planet.

On September 29, 2008, the Phoenix lander took pictures of snow falling from clouds 4.5 km above its landing site near Heimdall crater. The precipitation vaporized before reaching the ground, a phenomenon called virga.

Mars has barely any atmosphere - about one per cent of the density of the atmospheric blanket around Earth. That's not enough to protect the surface from dangerous space radiation.

Because Mars has almost no atmosphere, its sunrises and sunsets appear blue.

India's Mars mission cost less than the movie Gravity.

The Outer Space Treaty states that robots and humans can't get close to water sources on Mars for fear of contaminating it with Earth life.


The Marriage of Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. The work was the first of three collaborations between Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte, their other joint compositions being Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte.

Lorenzo Da Ponte (March 10, 1749 – August 17, 1838) was an Italian, later American opera librettist, poet and Roman Catholic priest. He wrote the libretti for 28 operas by 11 composers. Da Ponte lived an interesting life. He was banished from Venice for living in a brothel, narrowly avoided execution in the French Revolution, and wound up running a grocery store in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.

Libretto 1786

The opera is based on Pierre Beaumarchais' 1778 stage comedy, Le Mariage de Figaro. Beaumarchais' play had been banned briefly in France as its anti-aristocratic overtones were considered dangerous in the decade before the French Revolution. However, the play's political references were removed and Da Ponte's libretto passed the Viennese censors.

Mozart spent the year 1786 in Vienna in an apartment which may be visited today at Domgasse 5 behind St. Stephen's Cathedral; it was there that Mozart composed The Marriage of Figaro.

The score came close to being destroyed. The story goes that the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II was looking for an opera to be performed in the imperial court in Vienna. The Marriage of Figaro was one of the works under consideration, along with a number of others by contemporary composers. Mozart had achieved very little success in the Austrian capital at that point and he threatened to burn The Marriage of Figaro if he was passed over. Fortunately, the emperor had enough musical taste to choose Mozart's comic opera.

The opera premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna on May 1, 1786. It was well received by most though the Emperor Ferdinand commented "Far too noisy, my dear Mozart. Far too many notes."

Act 1: Cherubino hides behind Susanna's chair as the Count arrives.

The Figaro character also cropped up in Beaumarchais' earlier comedy Le Barbier de Séville, which was later adapted into a comic opera by Gioachino Rossini.

The opera became one of Mozart's most successful works and the overture is especially famous and is often played as a concert piece.

The Marriage of Figaro Overture is the song played by Wonka for the musical lock to the candy room in the 1971 film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. In the movie, the know-it-all Mrs. Teevee incorrectly mistakes it for "Rachmaninoff."

(Most of this was originally written  by myself for

Wednesday, 30 March 2016



In ancient Sparta, men who were unmarried by the time they were 30 forfeited the right to vote.

The Romans thought it unlucky to get married in May. According to the poet Ovid, "bad girls wed in May".

In ancient Rome, senators were forbidden to marry the daughter of an actor or actress.

Claudius II banned marriage for young Roman men because he believed single men made better soldiers.

In the marriage ceremony of the ancient Incas, the couple was considered officially wed when they took off their sandals and handed them to each other.

Augustine of Hippo declared that the purpose of marriage was procreation.

In the 1500's most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and they still smelled reasonably good in the following month. However, since they were starting to be a tad smelly, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

When John Laydon and Anna Burras married together in late 1608 in Jamestown, Virginia, it was the first ever Christian marriage in the American colonies. Anne Burras was the maid to Mrs. Thomas Forrest. She arrived in Jamestown aged 14, on September 30, 1608 on the Mary and Margaret, the ship bringing the Second Supply to the colony. Their daughter Virginia Laydon was the first child of English colonists to be born in the Jamestown colony.

Between childbirth, communicable disease, and natural disaster, the average marriage in colonial America lasted under 12 years.

Peter I of Russia issued a decree on January 31, 1714 allowing young men to get married only after they had completed their studies.

In Georgian Britain marriage unions were often arranged by parents who had no heir and were looking for their daughter to marry well. Single London women would often head for the Assembly Rooms, where they could parade in front of a host of eligible bachelors.

Until 1912, if a woman in the UK committed a crime in her husband's presence, he was legally considered to have coerced her into doing it.

In 1938 the state of New York passed a law requiring medical tests for marriage license applicants, the first US state to do so.

The United States Supreme Court declared in the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case that all U.S. state laws which prohibit interracial marriage are unconstitutional.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko became on August 10, 2003 the first person to marry in space. He married Ekaterina Dmitrieva, who was in Texas, while he was 240 miles over New Zealand, on the International Space Station.

Cosmonaut Yuri Ivanovich Malenchenko


Research has shown that men who are smaller at birth are significantly less likely to get married.

If you're 16 and older, there's a 20% chance that you've already met the person you'll one day marry.

The original phrase "tying the knot" came from Swiss royalty using symbolic pretzels at wedding ceremonies.

Wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because the Romans believed that a nerve led directly from there to the heart.

A bride in China traditionally wears the color red.

Polygamy is still rife in parts of Africa. In Senegal, for example, nearly 47 percent of marriages are multiple.

Glynn Wolfe (July 25, 1908 – June 10, 1997), who resided in Blythe, California, holds the Guinness World Record for the largest number of monogamous marriages (29). His final marriage was to Linda Wolfe (née Essex), who holds the record for having been most married woman in the world. She died single in 2010 with 23 ex-husbands.

Wolfe died a month and a half before his 89th birthday. When Wolfe passed away, none of the women he married and only one of his 40-odd children attended the funeral.

It is estimated that as many as 80% of the marriages in human history have been between first or second cousins.

About 70% of Asian women are in their first marriage, versus 54% white women, 53% Hispanic women, and 37% black women.

Britain’s shortest marriage  is said to be the four days Tammy Driver, 21, and Nicky Pearce, 29, were together before a violent row at their home near Aberdare, South Wales, led to him being jailed.

Britain's longest marriage was between Karam and Katari Chand, of Bradford, who tied the knot in India in 1925 during the British Raj. They moved to England 40 years later and stayed together for 91 years until the death of Karam Chand, at the age of 110 on September 30, 2016.

Under French law it is possible, with permission from the President, to marry a dead person as long as you can prove they intended to marry you.

Source Mail On Sunday

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


Marmalade is a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. It is usually made with oranges. but can also be made from lemons, limes, grapefruits, or a combination of citrus fruits.

The word Marmalade comes from the Galician word "marmelada" meaning quince jam.

Marmalade has long been regarded as an aphrodisiac. Queen Mary Tudor of England used a marmalade made of almonds, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, musk, orange peel, quinces, rosewater and sugar in an unsuccessful attempt to help her get pregnant.

Marmalade was made commercially in Britain for the first time by a Dundee trader, James Keiller in 1797.  He had wrongly been sent an assignment of bitter oranges from Spain and his wife, an expert jam-maker, decided she could make use of them.

Originally a thick paste made from quince, Janet Keiller modified the recipe adding sugar syrup to the oranges.

Marmalade was the breakfast of choice for Sherlock Holmes, who ate the jam with prawns on toast, calling it 'his brain food.'

Marmalade spread on bread. Wikipedia Commons

Captain Scott took a jar with him in 1911 on his expedition to the Antarctic. It was found, in perfect condition, 70 years later.

Paddington Bear kept a marmalade sandwich under his hat in case of emergencies.

The only citrus fruit not to be put into widescale marmalade production is the ugli.

Bitter, dimpled Seville oranges, with their high level of pectin, are the fruit of choice for marmalade making.

Jars of marmalade. By Malene Thyssen (User:Malene) - Wikipedia Commons

The proportion of British families who eat marmalade for breakfast has reduced sharply since the mid Twentieth century. Generations of children have been put off by the bitter taste from the use of Seville oranges from Spain and the chewy bits of peel. The result is that the market has become limited to the over 50s.

Sources Daily Mail, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Monday, 28 March 2016

Bob Marley

Robert Nesta Marley was born on February 6, 1945. His birthplace was the farm of his maternal grandfather in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica.

Bob Marley's father was a. English-born White Jamaican who was an officer in the British military. He was 60 years old when he impregnated the singer's black African mother. She was just 18 at the time.

His father provided financial support for the family, but rarely saw his son, and he passed away at the age of 70 when Bob was 10-years-old.

Bob Marley converted to Rastafarianism from Christianity in the mid-1960s. His conversion coincided with the conversions of thousands of his fellow Jamaicans of African descent, and as his fame grew, he began to stand as a symbol for both his culture and his religion.

Bob Marley viewed marijuana as a holy rite, much as some Native Americans view ceremonial usage of peyote. Viewing himself as a holy person (as do all Rastafarians), Marley believed that marijuana opened up a spiritual door which allowed him to become the artist and poet he was.

For a long time Marley drove a BMW Bavaria – not because he had a particular fondness for the model, but because for the reggae star, the letters stood for his band's name Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Bob Marley & The Wailers live at Crystal Palace Park in south-east London, during the Uprising Tour

James Bond author Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica, which was called GoldenEye, was later bought by Bob Marley.

Bob Marley married Constantia "Rita" Anderson in Kingston on February 10, 1966. He had four children with Rita and another eight with other women.

Marley entered into a relationship with Miss World 1976, Cindy Breakspeare, who went on to mother Grammy-award winning musician Damian Marley. Bob Marley's tracks "Waiting In Vain," "Turn Your Lights Down Low", and "She Used To Call Me Dada" were inspired by Cindy.

The royalties from Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" go to a soup kitchen in the ghetto he grew up in.

Bob Marley and the Wailers's album Legend, essentially a greatest hits release, is the best-selling reggae album of all-time with over 15 million copies sold in the United States and an estimated 25 million copies sold globally.

On December 3, 1976 an assassination attempt was made on Bob Marley. He was shot twice by unknown assailants, and played a concert two days later.

During the assassination attempt on Bob Marley, his wife, Rita, was shot in the headdoctors said that her thick dreadlocks saved her life.

In July 1977, Marley was found to have a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of a toe. Tragically the reggae star's Rastafarian beliefs prevented him from having the toe amputated and the cancer spread throughout his body.

There is an urban legend that Marley's cancer was the result of a neglected football injury (football being the reggae star's other major passion alongside music). The injury occurred in Paris when the Wailers took on a team of French journalists.

Marley performing in 1980. By Eddie Mallin - Wikipedia Commons

Bob Marley, suffering from cancer, played his last concert at a show in Pittsburgh's Stanley Theater on September 23, 1980. He played "Redemption Song" as the very last song before he collapsed on stage. Marley was rushed to New York's Sloan-Kettering Hospital for treatment, then flown to Ethiopia for rest.

Marley intended to end his days back in Jamaica but was so ill that he had to check into a hospital in Miami en route. Here Bob Marley died on May 11, 1981.

Bob Marley's final words were "Money can't buy life."

His body was returned to Jamaica where it was placed in a specially constructed mausoleum at his birthplace, Nine Miles.

Bob Marley was buried with his red Gibson guitar, a bible open to Psalm 23, and a bud of marijuana.

Source Daily Telegraph

Sunday, 27 March 2016

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough


John Churchill was born on May 26, 1650 at Ash House, Musbury nea Axminster, Devon.
He was the oldest son of Sir Winston Churchill (1620–1688) of Glanvilles Wootton in Dorset, and Elizabeth Drake, fourth daughter of Sir John Drake.

Winston Churchill was an impoverished Devon Squire. He had the misfortune of fighting on the losing side of the Civil War for which he, like so many other Cavaliers, was forced to compound; in his case £446 18s. Although Winston had paid off the fine by 1651, it had left him broke.

Later when the monarchy was restored Winston Churchill gained influence at court and his fortunes were restored.


As a young boy John yearned to be a courtier and in 1662 Churchill became a page at the court of the House of Stuart. John’s sister Anabella, was James, Duke of York (the future James II)'s lover and bore him several illegitimate children.

On September 14, 1667 (O.S.), Churchill obtained a commission as ensign in the King's Own Company in the 1st Guards, later to become the Grenadier Guards. He fought in Tangier and The Netherlands and was later promoted to Colonel.

Despite not being a Catholic himself, Churchill served James, Duke of York, through the 1670s and early 1680s, earning military and political advancement through his courage and diplomatic skills.
Churchill's role in defeating the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 helped secure James on the throne.

John Churchill (c. 1685–1690) by John Closterman.

In 1688, Churchill switched sides to the Protestant Dutchman, William of Orange, joining him in his revolution against the Catholic King James II. Churchill was true to his conscience, telling the king, "I have been bred a Protestant, and intend to live and die in that communion".

As part of William and Mary's coronation honors, Churchill was created Earl of Marlborough on April 9, 1689. He served with further distinction in the early years of the Nine Years' War.

Persistent charges of Jacobitism brought about his fall from office. In 1692 Marlborough resigned as Lieutenant. General. as he was not appointed commander of the forces in Flanders.

Marlborough spent spent weeks in the tower in 1692 for exchanging correspondence with the former King James II after not being put in charge of the Flanders campaign.

The failure of the navy's bombardment of Brest in 1694 was blamed on Marlborough. It was claimed that due to his support of the former James II claim to the throne, he had betrayed military secrets to France.

Onl the accession of Queen Anne in 1702, Marlborough became Commander in Chief of Anglo Dutch forces. Throughout ten consecutive campaigns during the Spanish Succession war, Marlborough held together a discordant coalition through his sheer force of personality. He criss-crossed Europe travelling thousands of miles by coach to create and then sustain the coalition against France.and raised the standing of the British army to a level not known since the Middle Ages

After outmaneuvering Marshal Boufflers, he captured Venlo, Roermond, Stevensweert and Liège,
for which in December 1702 a grateful Queen Anne publicly proclaimed Marlborough a duke.

In 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession, the armies of the Duke of Marlborough, and Prince Eugene of Savoy, defeated the Franco-Bavarian force in the Battle of Blenheim. In doing so they prevented Louis XIV's troops from capturing the Habsburg capital, Vienna, and ended French dominance of Europe.

Marlborough wrote to Sarah after the battle. "I have no time to say more but to beg you will give my duty to the Queen, and let her know her army has had a glorious victory."

Marlborough writing the Blenheim despatch to Sarah, by Robert Alexander Hillingford

At the 1706 Battle of Ramilles a French cannon ball missed Marlborough by inches as he was mounting his horse and instead decapitated the staff officer who was holding his stirrup.

Marlborough at the Battle of Ramillies, 1706

In 1708 the British, Dutch and Austrians under Marlborough succeeded in defeating the French at the Battle of Oudenarde. The victory was instrumental in expelling Louis XIV from the Netherlands.

In 1709 Malplaquet was won at a cost of 20,000 Allied lives. Marlborough was criticized for this in the UK parliament and received no personal letter of thanks from Queen Anne.

The post-battle rumor that Marlborough had died spawned one of the most popular French folk songs of all time, "Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre" (perhaps better known as "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow").

Marlbrough's wife fell out with Queen Anne, which led to his dismissal in 1711. He fled to Antwerp, Holland for to avoid charges of corruption. Marlborough returned in 1714 on the accession of King George I of Great Britain. whose succession he helped promote.

The world was introduced to ‘John Bull’, the personification of the typical Englishman in a series of five satirical pamphlets against Marlborough by Dr John Arbuthnot in 1712. They showed Bull as a clothier tangled in a lawsuit against ‘Lewis Baboon’ ((i.e. Louis Bourbon, or Louis XIV of France).

Marlborough's victories on the fields of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet, ensured his place in history as one of Europe's great generals. He stood as the foremost soldier of the age and went through his active military career undefeated..  Although in the end he could not completely crush his enemies, Marlborough's victories allowed Britain to rise to a very great power.


In 1678 John Churchill married the forceful Sarah Jennings (June 5, 1660 - October 18, 1744), the headstrong daughter of an MP. She was 10 years younger than him.

Sarah Jennings was clever, spirited and lovely with fine reddish-gold hair flowing from a smooth high forehead. The ardor of their love never lessened in the 44 years of their marriage. Leaving her to cross the English Channel, Marlborough would keep her in sight with a telescope.

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough

Sarah was a confidante of the future Queen Anne who created Marlborough a duke on her accession to the throne.

Sarah and Queen Anne used to call each other Mrs Freeman and Mrs Morley; the strong-willed Sarah tended to be the dominated one in the friendship.

In later life Marlborough was undermined by political intrigue and he fell heavily from royal favor reputedly because his wife’s constant bad temper became too much for even the devoted Queen Anne.

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, died of old age, aged 84, on October 18, 1744, at Marlborough House. She left a fortune of £3 million.


Marlbrough kept a cool head at all times and had a good attention for detail, He was  ambitious, charming, devious, brave, charming, courteous and compassionate.

John Churchill Marlborough portrait by Adriaen van der Werff (1659-1722)

He banned laughing at the dinner table as it was "low".

Marlborough was notorious for his love of money, meanness and greed.  while his wife saved money on ink by never dotting her “I”s or using punctuation.

In 1711 It was proven that Marlborough accepted a kickback of 2.5% from the Emperor Joseph on all the British subsidies paid to Austria, amounting to the incredible sum of £150,000. He also took bribes amounting to more than £60,000 from contractors that supplied his armies. In vain he acknowledged the sums, and protested that they were proper.


The 7-acre Bleinheim Mansion in Oxfordshire, Vanburgh's massive baroque attempt to emulate Versailles grandeur, was granted in recognition of the Duke of Marlborough’s services. In all £250,000 of the total building cost of £300,000 was defrayed by parliament.

Blenheim Palace

The surrounding trees are planted in groups to represent the Battle of Blenheim.

After Marlborough was forced into exile to Europe in 1712 he was forced to finish Blenheim at his own expense.

In 1719 the Duke and Duchess were able to move into the east wing of the unfinished Blenheim palace, but Marlborough had only three years to enjoy it. The palace was not completed until after the duke's death.

Christopher Wren designed his London home, Marlborough House. From 1962 it was used for gatherings of commonwealth members.


Already suffering from paralysis and softening of the brain, The Duke of Marlborough suffered another stroke while living at Windsor Lodge, not long after his 72nd birthday. Finally, at 4 a.m on June 16, 1722 (O.S.), in the presence of his wife and two surviving daughters Henrietta Godolphin and Mary Montagu, he passed away.

Marlborough was initially buried in the vault at the east end of Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey, In 1730, Sarah commissioned a joint tomb for the chapel at Blenheim, and her husband's body was returned there from Westminster Abbey.

Resting place of the Duke and Duchess in the chapel at Blenheim Palace

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Marks & Spencer

Michael Marks, a Jewish immigrant from the Russian region of Belarus, first opened his penny bazaar stall in Leeds Kitkgate Market in 1884.

On September 28, 1894 Michael Marks signed a partnership with cashier Tom Spencer to open a shop at 20 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, Spencer was recommended by warehouse owner Isaac Dewhurst, who had employed Marks to sell goods to the surrounding villages.

Michael Marks was listed as a wholesale hardware and co dealer at 20 Cheetham Hill Road in the 1895 Kelly's Directory for Manchester.
The next few years saw Michael Marks and Tom Spencer open market stalls in many locations around the North West of England. By 1900, Marks & Spencer had expanded to include 36 Penny Bazaars and 12 high street stores.

Marks & Spencer original penny bazaar, a mockup in the Kirkgate Markets, Leeds. By Flickr user:Tim Green aka atouch

Marks & Spencer made its reputation in the early 20th century with a policy of only selling British-made goods (it started to back down from this policy in the 1990s).

In the early 20th century most shops kept their stock behind counters, but Marks & Spencer stores displayed everything on trays for customers to inspect.

Spencer died in 1905 and Marks two years later. Michael Marks' son Simon became chairman in 1916 , under whom the business grew into a retail empire, acquiring other chains of penny bazaars across the United Kingdom.

In the first part of the 20th century Marks & Spencer sold biscuits, mending wools, pins, combs, needles, socks – and in the days before TV or radio – sheet music.

In 1926 Marks & Spencer went public They also reduced the huge array of items offered, placing emphasis on two departments: food, which the company had always sold to some extent, and clothing, which was new for them.

Representation of historic store from the 1930s, Bekonscot model village, UK. By MichaelMaggs -Wikipedia Commons

In 1998, Marks & Spencer became the first British retailer to make a pre-tax profit of over £1 billion.

Friday, 25 March 2016


The United States Marine Corps was founded as the Continental Marines by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress on November 10, 1775 during the American Revolutionary War.

The Continental Congress' resolution stated that "two Battalions of Marines be raised" for service as landing forces for the recently formed Continental Navy. The resolution was drafted by future U.S. president John Adams.

Serving on land and at sea the original U.S. Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations during the Revolutionary War.

The first Marine landing on a hostile shore was Nassau in the Bahamas under Capt. Samuel Nicholas on March 3-4, 1776. Nicholas, the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines is celebrated as the first Marine commandant.

Nassau Raid, March 1776 Oil painting on canvas by V. Zveg, 1973

The marines came ashore seizing Fort Montagu at the eastern end of the Nassau harbor on March 3, but did not advance to the town where the gunpowder was stored. The following day the Continental Marines advanced and took control of the poorly defended town.

The first US Marines wore high leather collars to protect their necks from sabres, hence the name "leathernecks."

After American independence was achieved the Continental Navy was demobilized and its Marines disbanded in 1783.

In 1798 the U.S. Marine Corps was formally re-established by a congressional act that also created the U.S. Marine Band.

In the next decade increasing conflict at sea with France led Congress to formally establish U.S. Navy in May 1798 and two months later John Adams signed the bill establishing the U.S. Marine Corps as a permanent military force under the jurisdiction of the Department of Navy.

When the British burned the White House in 1812, they did not burn the Marine Barracks or the Commandant's House out of respect for the honorable conduct of the Marines at the Battle of Bladensburg.

The Marines fought against the Barbary pirates of North Africa during the first years of the 19th century. Since then, Marines have participated in all the wars of the United States and in most cases were the first soldiers to fight. In all, Marines have executed more than 300 landings on foreign shores.

More Marines died at World War I’s Battle of Belleau Wood than in their entire history up to that point.

During World War I, the US Secretary of the Navy decided to allow women to join the Marine Corps Reserve so that they could take over clerical duties being performed at the time by battle-ready Marines who were needed overseas.

Opha Mae Johnson, who was 18 at the time, was the first woman to enlist on August 13, 1918. Johnson's first duties were as a clerk at Marine Corps headquarters, managing the records of other female reservists who joined after she did.

This is a photo of Opha MKae Johnson shortly after enlisting.

Bea Arthur (Dorothy from The Golden Girls) was a truck-driving Marine in World War II, before finding fame as an actress and singer.

James Anderson, Jr. posthumously received on August 21, 1967 the first Medal of Honor to be awarded to an African American U.S. Marine. Anderson covered a grenade with his body to save his colleagues when mortally wounded while serving in Vietnam on February 28, 1967.

James Anderson Jr. (January 22, 1947 – February 28, 1967) 

Actor/comedian Drew Carey enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1980 and served for six years.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia was opened and dedicated by U.S. President George W. Bush on November 10, 2006.

Today, there are more than 200,000 active-duty and reserve Marines, divided into three divisions stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Camp Pendleton, California; and Okinawa, Japan.

Each division has one or more expeditionary units, ready to launch major operations anywhere in the world on two weeks' notice. Marines' expeditionary units are self-sufficient, with their own tanks, artillery, and air forces.

The motto of the service is Semper Fidelis, meaning "Always Faithful" in Latin.


Thursday, 24 March 2016

Marie Antoinette


Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen was born on November 2, 1755 at the Hofburg Palace, in Vienna. She was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa.

She was christened Maria in honor of the Virgin Mary, Antonia in honor of Saint Anthony of Padua, Josepha in honor of her elder brother, Archduke Josef, and Johanna in honor of Saint John the Evangelist.

Her formidable mother Maria Theresa bore 16 children together. Marie was the fifteenth and the youngest daughter.

A court official described the new baby as "a small, but completely healthy Archduchess."

Maria-Antonia was brought up in the company of her closest sister, Maria-Carolina (two years older) and brother, Max, (one year younger.)

The young princess' winter home was the Imperial Palace called the Hofburg in Vienna. Her summer home was the baroque and sumptuous 1,441-room Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna’s answer to Versailles.

Marie-Antonia met the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on October 13, 1762, when she was seven, (he was two months her junior). Mozart performed a short musical concert for the Imperial Family. When the Empress asked him what he would like as a reward, the young child genius is said to have responded by saying he would like the hand of the Empress's youngest daughter - Marie-Antonia - in marriage (much to the Empress's amusement.)

Maria Antonia aged 12 by Martin van Meytens, c. 1767–68

Marie-Antonia had a minimal education since as the youngest daughter of a vast family she was not expected to have a politically expedient marriage.

She was flighty, artistic and read almost nothing. Marie-Antonia's French was imperfect and she preferred to speak German.


The 14-year-old Marie-Antonia left Vienna in April 1770, to wed the Dauphin Louis-Auguste (later Louis XVI of France). It was hoped their union would strengthen Austria's alliance in France.

This miniature portrait was sent to the Dauphin, for him to see what his future bride looked like. Joseph Ducreux (1769).

The Empress's parting words to her sobbing daughter was, "Farewell, my dearest child. Do so much good to the French people that they can say that I have sent them an angel."

Two and half weeks after leaving Vienna, Maria-Antonia was handed over to messengers from the French Court. She was stripped of all her Austrian clothing and re-dressed in French attire.

The Austrian princess was then taken to Strasbourg, where a Thanksgiving Mass was held in her honor. She was greeted there with a flattering rapture. The streets of the city where strewn in petals, which Marie-Antoinette (as she was now known) gently picked up like "the goddess Flora". The entire city was illuminated in her honor and a few days later, she began the journey to Versailles.

Marie-Antoinette was conveyed to the royal palace at Versailles, where she met her future grandfather-in-law Louis XV and the other members of the Royal Family. Her future husband, the Dauphin Louis-Auguste was shy, awkward and distant. He was only a year older than she was and had no sexual or romantic relationships to prepare him for dealing with his fiancée.

Their marriage was conducted within hours of Marie-Antoinette arriving at Versailles on May 16, 1770. Just before the wedding, Marie-Antoinette was presented with the magnificent jewels which traditionally belonged to a French Dauphiness. This collection included an elaborate diamond necklace which had belonged to Anne of Austria and pieces which had also belonged to Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine de Medici. The large collection of gems was valued at approximately two million livres (approximately $14 million in 2015). Marie-Antoinette then received King Louis's personal wedding gift to her. It was a fan, encrusted with diamonds.

The Wedding Mass was celebrated with great pomp in the Chapel Royal. Louis-Auguste and Marie-Antoinette were then married in front of the Court, with Marie-Antoinette wearing a magnificent dress with huge white hoops covered in diamonds and pearls.

The Court conducted the young couple to their bed, which had just been blessed by the Archbishop of Rheims. However, the marriage was not immediately consummated as no one had explained to either Louis or Antoinette what they were supposed to do on their wedding night. They had only a very vague idea of sex and this increased the awkwardness between them. Within days, gossips at Versailles were already whispering that the royal marriage was a sham.


The royal couple did not consummate their marriage until seven years after their wedding but Louis loved Marie Antoinette deeply and refused to follow tradition and take a mistress.

Louis XVI at the age of 20

Since they were not sleeping together, Louis and Marie-Antoinette remained childless for the first few years of their marriage. Spiteful gossips blamed Marie-Antoinette for her childlessness and some people even asserted that she should be divorced and sent back to Austria.

The young Dauphiness' position was not helped by the fact that she had earned the enmity of King Louis XV's mistress, Madame du Barry. Du Barry had begun life as Jeanne Bécu, a common prostitute before she had been noticed by the king and become his lover. Marie-Antoinette felt it was beneath her dignity as a Hapsburg princess to talk to a lady with such a past. Du Barry therefore set about to make Marie-Antoinette's life as miserable as possible. She began turning the king against his granddaughter-in-law and once tipped a bucket of dirty water on Antoinette's head as she walked underneath her window.

Marie-Antoinette's first child was born at Versailles December 19, 1778. She was forced to endure the humiliation of a public birth in her Bedchamber, in front of hundreds of courtiers. The Queen actually passed out through a combination of embarrassment and pain. It was the last time such a ritual was permitted as Marie-Antoinette refused to give birth in public ever again.

The baby was a girl and she was christened Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte. The royal infant was created "Princess Royal" or Madame Royale, since she was the eldest daughter of the King of France.

Despite the fact that the country had desired a boy, Marie-Antoinette was delighted with a girl. "A son would have belonged to the state," she said, "but you shall be mine, and have all my care; you shall share my happiness and soften my sorrows."

Marie Thérèse of France (December 19, 1778 - October 19, 1851) was allowed to leave France once the Terror was over, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, She exchanged for some prominent French prisoners and taken to Vienna, her mother's birthplace. After her marriage to her cousin, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, the eldest son of the future Charles X, she was known as the Duchess of Angoulême. Marie Thérèse became the Dauphine of France upon the accession of her father-in-law to the throne of France in 1824.

Marie-Thérèse in Vienna in 1796 

Marie Antoinette eventually had four children:
Marie Thérèse of France
Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France (October 22, 1781)
Louis XVII of France (March 27, 1785)
Sophie of France (July 9, 1787)

Marie-Antoinette was devoted to her children and very involved in taking care of them. Speaking of her youngest son, Louis-Charles, she said, "Mon chou d'amour is charming, and I love him madly. He loves me very much too, in his own way, without embarrassment."

Marie Antoinette Queen of France with her three eldest children, By Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

In 1787, Marie-Antoinette's youngest daughter, Sophie-Béatrix, died shortly before her first birthday. The Queen was devastated and spent hours weeping over the baby's body.

Not long after, the Royal Physicians informed Marie that her eldest son, the Dauphin Louis-Joséph, was terminally ill with consumption. The child's condition deteriorated and Marie-Antoinette spent most of her time nursing him during his last agonizing months. On June 4, 1789, Louis-Joséph died at the age of seven. Immediately, some of Marie-Antonette's enemies began to spread rumors that she had poisoned her own son.

Bust of the Dauphin Louis Josep hy Louis Pierre Deseine (1749-1822) - Wikipedia Commons


Upon the death of Louis XV on May 10, 1774, the Dauphin ascended the throne as King Louis XVI of France and Navarre, and Marie Antoinette became the Queen. Soon she was meddling in politics in the Austrian interest and shocking the French court by disregarding its strict etiquette.

Once she became Louis’ queen Marie Antoinette developed a gambling habit and some courtiers began a whispering campaign against her. For her twenty-first birthday, she participated in a three-day long gambling party, in which huge amounts of money changed hands.

Marie-Antoinette began spending more and more money, since she had no real idea of its value. As well as gambling, the Queen had two other major weaknesses; clothes and diamonds. She was nicknamed "Madame Deficit" as many people felt her extravagance was bankrupting her country.

Marie Antoinette acquired a dissolute reputation in 1785 from the "Diamond Necklace Affair." Public opinion was much excited by the false accusations that she criminally participated in defrauding the jewelers Boehmer and Bassenge of the cost of a very expensive diamond necklace they had created originally for Madame du Barry. She successfully sued Lord George Gordon for libel in 1788 when he accused her of fraud over the necklace, but the affair proved to be extremely damaging to her reputation, from which she never recovered.

Copy of the diamond necklace, Le Collier de la Reine, Château de Breteuil, France

Marie Antoinette,was nicknamed the Baker's wife after her husband distributed bread to the starving Parisians during a bread shortage. On being told that the people had no bread to eat she proclaimed "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" ("let them eat cake.")

Anyone who was decently dressed was permitted to come and watch the royals eating their dinner. King Louis ate enormous amounts of food, whilst Marie-Antoinette consumed almost nothing when she was in public.


Marie Antoinette was famous for her beautiful looks and charm. According to the English contemporary Nathaniel Wraxall, physically she had an "elevated manner, lofty demeanor and graces of deportment."

Marie Antoinette's beauty regimen began with a special facial cleanser called Eau Cosmetique de Pigeon that was literally made of pigeons.

Marie Antoinette was more fulfilled by fashion than by her husband. She created looks with Rose Bertin her dressmaker designer on a weekly basis.

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun controversial 1783 portrait Marie Antoinette en chemise, was viewed by her critics to be improper for a queen.

She owned a famous diamond, the Hope Diamond, a 44.5 carat walnut sized stone, which has brought ill luck and violent death to many of its owners.

When bathing Marie Antoinette was so modest she always wore a gown buttoned up to her neck in the bath.

After she turned thirty, Marie-Antoinette began to dress with more constraint. She abandoned the more elaborate wigs which had been festooned with jewels and feathers and she refused to buy any more jewels for her personal collection.

Sometimes she wore a dress decorated with paper flowers to encourage the masses to eat tubers. To popularize the growing of potatoes she wore potato blossoms in her hair.


Marie Antoinette had a sweet tooth; she loved meringues, even making them with her own hands. the queen was also partial to a pastille stuffed with chocolate paste,

As time went on, Marie Antoinette began spending less time living at the palace and more time at La Petit Trianon, which was a small château in the palace grounds. The property was renovated for her and the costs soon spiraled out of control, especially whenever the gardens were re-designed to suit the queen's new tastes.

 hameau de la reine by the artificial lake in the gardens of the Petit Trianon. By Jean-Christophe Benoist - Wikipedia commons

Marie Antoinette took French leave from the hassles of court life at La Petit Trianon where she had a mock farm. There, dressed as a milkmaid, she cared for her perfumed sheep and goats.

The French queen was a musical glass player and was very fond of the "Carillion National," which she constantly played on her harpsichord.

The sentimental ballad “My Heart Cries for You" was a hit for Guy Mitchell in 1950. The music is from an old French song attributed to Marie Antoinette " La jardinière du Roi". The chorus "My heart cries for you, Sighs for you, dies for you..." is original and does not appear in the French song.

Marie Antoinette was a yo yo enthusiast as was her son son Dauphin Louis Charles. The toy became associated with aristocratic French families fleeing the guillotine.


In the days following the storming of the Bastille, the emigration of members of the high aristocracy began, On October 5, 1789 a crowd from Paris descended upon Versailles and forced the royal family, to move to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, where they lived under a form of house arrest under the watch of La Fayette's Garde nationale

Louis XVI had allies beyond France's borders who wanted to see him regain the throne. The king and queen planned an escape and broke from the Tuileries on the night of June 21, 1791, under the guise of servants. The royal family reached Varennes, 142 miles from Paris, where they were arrested at the house of the registrar of passports, by Citizen Drouet, the local postmaster. He had been alerted by a message received from nearby Sainte-Menehould, where the escaping party had spent the previous night. A merchant there had alerted the town authorities of their presence after recognizing the King's face on an Assignat, as Louis tried to buy something from a grocery store.

Arrest of the royal family at Varennes, night of 21–22 June 1791, by Thomas Falcon Marshall (1854).

During the night of June 21-22, the queen's hair had, according to Mme Campan, Marie Antoinette's first lady-of-the-bedchamber, "turned white as those of a seventy-year old woman.”

The royal family was brought back to their quarters at the Tuileries, where they were kept under heavier watch. The disastrous flight to Varennes discredited the monarchy.

King Louis XVI was put on trial for treason by the National Convention found guilty and guillotined on January 21 1793. The queen, now called "Widow Capet", plunged into deep mourning.

After Louis' execution, Marie Antoinette's fate became a central question of the National Convention. She was confined to an isolated cell in the Conciergerie as 'Prisoner n° 280' from August 1, 1793. Her single room  was 12-ft long, 8 ft broad and 4 ft underground.

Marie Antoinette's cell in the Conciergerie . (Photo: André Lage Freitas. By André Lage Freitas - Wikipedia Commons85
She owned a little spaniel, known as Thisbe, who was with the queen and her family when they were imprisoned  at the Tuileries. When Louis XVI was guillotined, the pup stayed with the queen and her children, but they were separated when the queen was imprisoned in the Conciergerie.

Marie Antoinette was tried for treason in 1793. When bought into court to hear her sentence she was asked if she had anything to offer against it. She replied "nothing." and was sentenced to be guillotined.

On August 28, 1793 the Chevalier de Rougeville visited Marie Antoinette in a final attempt to save her from the guillotine. He threw a carnation behind the stove and signaled to her. When the queen was left alone she picked up the flower and found behind the petals a tiny note. Money was being raised to bribe her guard, Gilbert. She used a needle to prick out the answer on a piece of paper, which she handed to Gilbert. The guard in two minds waited for five days before telling his superiors.

On the day of Marie Antoinette's execution, her hands were tied behind her back and her greying locks were cut off.  For an hour and a half the queen dealt with a procession at nearly a mile long of the masses shouting abuse at her. She did not respond or complain, looking around her with a calm and dignified air.

Marie Antoinette climbed up the scaffold to more jeers and smiled. As she was standing on the platform about to be guillotined, she accidentally stepped on Samson the executioner's foot. "Monsieur" she said ""Pardon me. I meant not to do it," Her last words were "Farewell children, forever, I am going to your father" and at 12:15 p.m. on October 16, 1793 she was executed.

Marie Antoinette's execution on 16 October 1793: Samson, the executioner, showing Marie Antoinette's head to the people.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


Margarine was created in 1869 by the French Province chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès. He invented it in response to a commission by the Emperor Louis Napoleon III for the production of a cooking fat for the French navy that would be cheap and would keep well. To formulate his entry, Mège-Mouriès used a fatty acid component margaric acid, hence its name – margarine. He added skimmed milk and water and a strip of udder to mimic the way butter fat forms in a calf's udder.

Wikipedia Commons

Margaric acid was isolated by the Frenchman Michael Chevreul in 1813 and named because of the lustrous pearly drops that reminded him of the Greek word for pearl, "margarites".

Newspaper ad for the oleomargarine product, 1919

Children growing up during the Second World War were prone to catching rickets.Margarine was fortified with vitamin D during this period to help prevent the disease.

During the famous Wisconsin senatorial taste test of 1955, blindfolded senators were challenged to tell the difference between butter and margarine. None of them were fooled–except for the anti-margarine Senator Gordon Roselip who incorrectly identified margarine as butter. His wife later confessed that worried about her husband’s heart, she had for years been sneakily substituting yellow margarine for butter at the Senator’s dinner table.

Colloquially in the US, the term margarine is used to describe "non-dairy spreads" like Country Crock with varying amounts of fat content.

The J.H. Filbert company, based in Baltimore, Maryland, developed the vegetable oil and cream spread I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! It was introduced into the United States in 1981 and in the United Kingdom and Canada ten years later.

Wikipedia Commons

Flora was originally named after the wife of one of Unilever's marketing directors, "Louis Flora Catlow". She died on June 24, 2009.

The first Benecol product was a spread that was brought to the market in Finland in 1995.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce