Horse and Circus Brasses: Horse-brasses

//Horse and Circus Brasses: Horse-brasses
  • The official seal of the city of Westminster. London is truly a city of great character, but it did not start out as a city, it was originally a collection of small villages that grew until they merged into one. A walking tour of the East End is a walk back in history. Hand operated water pumps where the locals used to get their water are still anchored in the sidewalk. An old pub along the south bank of the River Thames (in Dickens neighborhood) still sports a sawdust floor and nearby stands Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. On the north side of the river, one can trace the steps and events of Jack The Ripper (I recommend you take your walk during the day). Westminster is the city in the centre of the larger city of London. Home of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, Whitehall and Number 10 Downing Street, home of the Prime Ministers since 1732. Trafalger Square is just up the road, not far from Buckingham Palace. The Cabinet War Rooms where Churchill and his War Cabinet met during WWII remains open to the public and Soho (renowned for pleasures of the table, the flesh and the intellect since the 17th century), awaits the artist, musician, and writer. Covent Garden with its open market and theatre district awaits those seeking selective shopping and entertainment. The home of the world famous Chelsea Soccer Club (stadium at Stamford Bridge)) is only a few minutes to the west by underground, as is Hyde Park with its famous Speakers Corner where, on Sundays, one will be entertained by joining the crowd and listening to people "letting off steam" while standing on their "soap boxes." Everything is there, even a boat to take you down the river Thames from Westminster Bridge to the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London which is not far from St. Paul's Cathedral. What more can you ask for? Westminster is where you want to begin your London experience.
  • Conwy Castle guards one of the best preserved medieval fortified towns in Britain; located in the north central coastal area of Wales. Building began in 1283 and the castle was completed by 1287 at the cost of 20,000 pounds sterling, (forced labor on a massive scale was necessary to complete work in such a short period of time) making it the most expensive castle built in Wales between the years of 1277 and 1304. Upon its completion, Edward I was presented with an almost perfect structure of turretry in Great Britain, tailored to fit the rock site chosen to guard the entrance to the River Conwy. The towers are massive (70 feet tall and 33 feet in diameter) and the walls 13 feet thick. The castle was part of an impressive walled town with its walls guarded by 21 towers and three twin-towered gatehouses. It represented all that Edward stood for... strength, terror, dominion and permanence. The Welsh hated it, yet it was not besieged until the Civil War. It was finally taken by Owain Glyndur's supporters in 1401. After the 14th century, it was left to decay and by 1699 it was described as "utterly decayed," left as an impressive shell. It is now a World Heritage Site and one of Britain's most impressive ruins.www.conwy.com and Conwytic@virgin.net
  • Corfe is the Old English word for "gap" or "pass." Corfe Castle is located on a hillside in Corfe, Dorset and was the site of a royal residence long before the Norman Conquest. On March 18, 978 the young King Edward "The Martyr:" was murdered at the instigation of his stepmother Elfrida, in order to put his half-brother Ethelred "The Unready" on the throne. This murder is still commemorated by the massive, twin tower gateway known as the "Martyr's Gate, built by William I on the site where the murder took place. In the 12th century the castle was unsuccessfully besieged by King Stephen in the wars of the Anarchy and became the favourite castle of King John who starved 22 French nobles who had advocated his overthrow to death and hung a local prophet, Peter the Hermit, forecasting the downfall of John. The castle survived the War of the Roses and was prepared to meet the Spanish Armada crisis if necessary. Its finest hour, however, was its magnificent defense in the Civil War between August 1644-February 1646...holding out against two sieges by Parliamentarians...capitulation forced only because of treachery in 1646...leading to the virtual destruction of what must have been one of Britain's most fascinating castles. When the siege began, it was the only remaining Royalist stronghold between London and Exeter and stands today as one of the few castles never been successfully taken by assault. Corfe lost its royal status in the 16th century when Elizabeth I sold it to Sir John Banks. www.nationaltrust.org.uk
  • The Christians have their Cross, the Jews have their Star of David, and the Muslims have the crescent moon (although many Muslims reject the symbol since the faith of Islam has historically had no symbol and many refuse to accept what is essentially thought an ancient pagan icon of Central Asia and Siberia). Lets look at some facts. The city of Byzantium (later known as Constantinople and Istanbul) adopted the crescent moon as its symbol and featured it on their flag before the birth of Christ. Perhaps in honour of the goddess Diana, or perhaps the battle in which the Romans defeated the Goths on the first day of a lunar month. When the Ottoman Empire (Turks) conquered Constantinople in 1453, they adopted the city's flag and symbol as their own, then ruled the Muslim world. Legend has it that the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman, had a dream in which the crescent moon stretched from one end of the earth to the other. Taking this as a good omen, he decided to keep the crescent as a symbol of his dynasty. There is speculation that the five points on the star represent the five pillars of Islam, although this is not known as fact. After centuries of fighting with Christian Europe, it is understandable how the symbols of this empire became linked in people's minds with the faith of Islam as a whole. Returning European Crusaders brought crescent moon amulets back from their battles in the Middle east, introducing the symbols to European cultures and eventually designed into our horse brasses as an artifact of history, symbol of a great religion, and protection from ancient fears of the unknown that may have followed them from the battle fields.
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  • Widespread symbol of salvation, transformation and love. Emblem of Christ as savior. In ancient Greek mythology, it is the bearer of the gods, savior of heroes and carrier of souls to the islands of the Blessed. Attribute of Poseidon, Aphrodite (union of the masculine, solar world and the feminine, watery world), Eros, Demeter and Dionysus. The dolphin's Greek name, "delphis," is related to "delphys," womb, after which the sacred site of Delphi is named.. In many Native American cultures, the dolphin is both a divine messenger and a form of the Great Spirit. The seafaring Nabataean Arabs believed that dolphins accompanied the souls of the dead to the underworld. Entwined with an anchor, it can symbolize prudence. The ancient Greeks also linked the dolphin with Apollo, his gifts of wisdom and prophecy, and with the water-born goddess of love.
  • Scotland is blessed with many natural fortresses, and of these, Edinburgh is the greatest. There has been a fort upon the extinct volcanic plug of Din Eidyn since the beginning of recorded time. Archeological evidence shows that the local native tribe, the Votadini, sheltered there in Roman times. The castle enters written history in 600 AD in the epic poem "Gododdin" which tells how 300 British warriors rode out from Din Eidyn's fort on a doomed raid against the Angles of Catreath or Catterick. The powerful Angles of Northumbria were not to be stopped, however, and they took Din Eidyn in 638, holding it for seven hundred years and bequeathing its English name of Edinburgh. The castle was built on a solid basalt foundation during the early 12th century,about 400 feet above sea level. It was built as a fortress overlooking the city of Edinburgh and protecting the fertile plains of Lothian and the Firth of Forth from all invaders from the south. Edward Plantagenet realized its importance to the Scots, so in 1296 he took the castle and left an extraordinarily large garrison of 350 knights. It took the skill and audacity of the Earl of Moray to win it back for Scotland. In the spring of 1314, he led thirty of his men, all skilled climbers and silent killers, up the steep north cliff that was thought un-scaleable. The overconfident English garrison was asleep and soon slaughtered in their bed. The castle had to be won back from the English again in 1341. In order to enter the well defended fortress, Sir William Douglas disguised his men as merchants and blocked the castle gates with wagons before the defenders realized they were under assault. The defenders were decapitated and their bodies flung over the walls to the city dogs. It remains one of the few castles that still houses a military garrison: Home of the Royal Scots and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards museum and headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and 52 Infantry Brigade. In addition, it is the location for the yearly Edinburgh Military Tattoo which takes place in August..a parade of bagpipes and drums of the Scottish regiments. The evening ends with the sound of a lone piper in honour of dead comrades in arms, from the castle battlements, followed by massed marching bands joining in a medley of Scotland's national tunes. At precisely 1PM the "One O'Clock Gun" from the castle Half Moon Battery has been fired daily since 1861, so that everyone can check their clocks and watches. The gun can be heard two miles away.
  • Born in Richmond, Surrey, on June 23, 1894 to George V and May of Teck. Acceded the throne on January 20, 1936 and abdicated in December of the same year. He died in Paris, France on May 28, 1972 at the age of 77 and is buried in Windsor. Edward VIII is often referred to as "The King Who Never Was." His father, George V, passed away at Sandringham, Norfolk, in January, 1936 with Edward next in line. But Edward was in love with the twice-divorced American Mrs. Wallis Simpson, whom he married in spite of resistance from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister. Opposition to the marriage was not over the fact that she was an American or that she was a commoner, but because she was a divorcee. Her family possessed old aristocratic connections, but since the King is "Supreme Governor" of the Church of England, marrying a divorcee would be unacceptable. He chose "the woman I love," renouncing the throne for himself and his descendants by abdicating. He went into voluntary exile and moved to France where he married his bride at the French chateau of Conde in June 1937. His brother became King as George VI. Upon his death, Edwards body was returned to England. Upon the death of his wife, after considerable debate, her body was brought back to England where she was laid to rest by his side.
  • The most photographed castle in the world; Scotland's most romantic and recognizable castle. The name Eilean Donan, or island of Donan, is named after the 6th century Irish saint, Bishop Donan, who came to Scotland about 580 AD and was executed after being allowed to finish Mass in 618 AD. Robert the Bruce was given shelter by the Clan Mackinzie, the owners of the castle, after his defeat in 1306. It became the center of European history in 1709 when the Spanish Crown tried to restore the House of Stuart by sending a detachment of 300 soldiers to garrison Eilean Donan, making it a Jacobite stronghold during their struggle with the British. As a result, three English frigates sailed into the loch in 1719 and pulverized the castle. It laid in ruin until it was restored some 200 years later. Eilean-Donan Castle is located on a scenic island in Loch Duich Scotland (about 9 miles east of Kyle of Lochalsh by the A87 motorway), with mountains as a backdrop. It is now linked to the shore by a bridge which was added when the castle was restored in the 19th century. From the ramparts, one has a magnificent view of three nearby lochs. Two rooms, filled with Jacobite relics and momentoes relating to the Macraes (the guardians of the castle and hereditary bodyguards to the MacKenzies), are open to the public.
  • Born in 1533 and crowned Queen of England in 1559 in Westminster Abbey upon death of her half-sister Mary. Mary always suspected Elizabeth of conspiracy and had her imprisoned in the Tower Of London where she would no longer be a threat. Her incarceration made her a "survivor" and prepared her for the difficulties that lie ahead. Her father would have been proud of her as he had thought only males were strong enough to rule during difficult times...that women were too weak to handle national problems. When Elizabeth became Queen, England was in bad shape. Catholics had been massacred under one monarch and Protestants under another. The Treasury was broke; Calais, Englands last foothold on the continent, was lost. Scotland and Ireland maintained strong militaries and enjoyed financial ties with France....all would be collectively were against England. Many doubted the legitimacy of Elizabeth's right to the throne as her mother, Anne Boleyn, was pregnant with her before she married Henry VIII and the marriage itself was not recognized by the church as the wedding was held in secrecy; the church recognized Henry as still married to Catherine, his first wife. Thus, Elizabeth could have been thought of as illegitimate which would make her ineligible for the line of succession to the throne. Elizabeth served her country well and was both popular with the people and became a proven strong leader. Under her stewardship, the Spanish Armada was destroyed, Drake sailed around the world in the Golden Hind, and Sir Walter Raleigh made his first expedition to the South American continent. Fortunately for England she was a master politician (survival skills learned while in the Tower). She refused to back down when confronted by Parliament and used her talents in the best interest of the country. She "encouraged" Protestant Scottish businessmen to move to Northern Ireland (Ulster) to break the long-standing hold by the Catholic Church and establishing a strong presence for a Protestant England ...something her father was unable to accomplish during his reign. She died at Richmond Palace (Surrey) on March 24, 1603 at the age of 70 after serving her country for 45 years. She is buried at Westminster Abbey.
  • Why would England select the rose as its national flower? Because it is a symbol of the heart, centre of the cosmic wheel, hope and joy. It is the first among flowers and expresses beauty, grace and perfection. A red blossom is a symbol of martyrdom and the passion of Christ; the white, an expression of love and faith in Christian symbolism. The white rose represents purity and the yellow rose is a symbol of absolute achievement. The conventional form of a heraldic rose has five displayed petals that mimic the look of a wild rose on a hedgerow. The famous Wars of Roses brought a series of civil wars to England and lasted from 1455 to 1487. The House of Lancaster (represented by the red rose in their family badges) fought against the House of York (represented by the white rose), with members of the aristocracy and private armies of feudal Lords, taking sides. It all started over who should become king after the overthrow of Richard II by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster in 1399. Both Houses were branches of the Plantagenet royal house, each tracing their descent from Edward III. It ended with an eventual Lancasterian victory at the Battle of Stoke Field on June 16, 1487. After the war, the heraldic rose developed a double row of petals which was obviously an effort to combine the two rival emblems into a theme of national unity as a means of bringing all the people together once again.
  • See Elizabeth II.