seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Queen Victoria

queen-victoriaQueen Victoria dies at Osborne House, Isle of Wight on January 22, 1901, ending an era in which most of her British subjects know no other monarch.

With a reign of 63 years, seven months and two days, she is the longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-reigning queen regnant in world history until her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II surpasses her on September 9, 2015. She restores dignity to the English monarchy and ensures its survival as a ceremonial political institution. Edward VII accedes to the throne upon her death.

Born on May 24, 1819 in Kensington Palace, London, Victoria comes to the throne after the death of her uncle, King William IV, in 1837. As a young woman ascending to the throne, her future husband describes her “as one whose extreme obstinacy was constantly at war with her good nature.” Her first prime minister, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, becomes her close friend and adviser, and she succeeds in blocking his replacement by Tory leader Sir Robert Peel in 1839. Two years later, however, an election results in a Tory majority in the House of Commons, and she is compelled to accept Peel as prime minister. Never again does she interfere so directly in the politics of democratic Britain.

In 1839, her first cousin Albert, a German prince, comes to visit the English court at Windsor, and Victoria proposes to him five days after his arrival. Prince Albert accepts and they are married in February 1840. He soon becomes the dominant influence in her life and serves as her private secretary. Among his greatest achievements as Prince Consort is his organization of The Great Exhibition of 1851, the first world’s fair, in the Crystal Palace in London. He also steers her support away from the Whigs to the conservative Tories. She later is a vocal supporter of Benjamin Disraeli, leader of the Conservative Party.

Victoria and Albert build royal residences at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and become increasingly detached from London. They have nine children, including Victoria, later the empress of Germany, and the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. In 1861, Albert dies and Victoria’s grief is such that she does not appear in public for three years. She never entirely gets over the loss and, until the end of her life, has her maids nightly lay out Albert’s clothes for the next day and in the morning replace the water in the basin in his room.

Disraeli coaxes Victoria out of seclusion, and she is impressed by his efforts to strengthen and expand the British Empire. In 1876, he has her made “empress of India,” a title which pleases her and makes her a symbol of imperial unity. During the last few decades of her life, her popularity, which had suffered during her long public absence, increases greatly. She never embraces the social and technological advances of the 19th century but accepts the changes and works hard to fulfill her ceremonial duties as head of state.

Following a custom she maintains throughout her widowhood, Victoria spends the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Rheumatism in her legs has rendered her lame and her eyesight is clouded by cataracts. Through early January, she feels weak and unwell, and by mid-January she is drowsy, dazed and confused. She dies in the early evening of Tuesday, January 22, 1901, at the age of 81. Her son and successor King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, are at her deathbed. Her favourite pet Pomeranian, Turi, is laid upon her deathbed as a last request.

Victoria’s funeral is held on Saturday, February 2, in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and after two days of lying-in-state, she is interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. When she dies, she has 37 surviving great-grandchildren, and their marriages with other monarchies give her the name “grandmother of Europe.”

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Charles Stewart Parnell’s Last Public Appearance

charles-stewart-parnellCharles Stewart Parnell makes his last public appearance at Creggs, County Galway on September 27, 1891.

After the split caused by the controversy over his relationship with Katharine O’Shea, Parnell tours the country seeking support. Already ill, his last public meeting is in Creggs, where he attacks his critics at length during heavy rain. He returns to his home in England and dies just over a week later, on October 6, at the age of 45.

Parnell, who is accompanied by J. P. Quinn, travels overnight from Dublin by the night mail train, is seen off by a considerable crowd at the Broadstone terminus and to them he makes a brief speech, expressing the hope that those who listen will give all support in their power to the new Nationalist paper it is intended to produce within a month. Parnell, who did not look at all well the previous night, wears his arm in a sling in consequence of his suffering from a severe attack of rheumatism.

When Parnell reaches Roscommon, he is met by a large crowd of people, who cheer him most enthusiastically. When he arrives at Mitchell’s Hotel, where he remains for the night, he is greeted with much enthusiasm, and, in response to repeated calls for a speech, he says a few words, explaining that on his arrival in Dublin he had been ordered by his doctor to go to bed and to remain there. But he disobeys those orders because of his desire to again meet with the men of Roscommon and Galway.

Parnell starts from Roscommon shortly after noon on September 27 and, in the company of Quinn and Luke Hayden, MP, travels to the meeting place in Creggs where he is met by a very large concourse of people. In fact, considering all the conditions of the district, its desolate character, and the smallness of the village, it is really surprising to find a gathering of between three and four thousand persons assembled.

As Parnell takes to the platform which is erected outside a pub in the village, sprinklings of rain begin to fall. Halfway through his speech the Heavens open and pour down upon the rally. Parnell, who is wearing light clothes and no hat, swats away an umbrella someone on the platform puts over him.

The crowd dwindles as the rain proves too hard to stand under, but Parnell perseveres and does not leave the platform until he has finished his entire speech. When he eventually finishes, he changes into dry clothes but finds such a mundane task difficult as his joints are so stiff and sore. He then joins twelve members of the organising committee for supper. Afterwards, on the train back to Dublin, he states how he regretted sitting at a table for thirteen as it is an extremely unlucky number.


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Death of Irish American Painter William Harnett

william-harnettWilliam Michael Harnett, Irish American painter known for his trompe-l’œil still lifes of ordinary objects, dies at New York Hospital on October 29, 1892.

Harnett is born in Clonakilty, County Cork, on August 10, 1848 during the time of the Great Famine. Shortly after his birth his family emigrates to America, settling in Philadelphia. Becoming a United States citizen in 1868, he makes a living as a young man by engraving designs on table silver, while also taking night classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and later, in New York City, at Cooper Union and at the National Academy of Design. His first known oil painting, a still life, dates from 1874.

The style of trompe-l’œil painting that Harnett develops is distinctive and inspired many imitators, but it is not without precedent. A number of 17th century Dutch painters, Pieter Claesz for instance, specialize in tabletop still life of astonishing verisimilitude. Raphaelle Peale, working in Philadelphia in the early 19th century, pioneers the form in America. What sets Harnett’s work apart, besides his enormous skill, is his interest in depicting objects not usually made the subject of a painting.

Harnett paints musical instruments, hanging game, and tankards, but also painted the unconventional Golden Horseshoe (1886), a single rusted horseshoe shown nailed to a board. He paints a casual jumble of second-hand books set on top of a crate, Job Lot, Cheap (1878), as well as firearms and even paper currency. His works sell well, but they are more likely to be found hanging in a tavern or a business office than in a museum, as they did not conform to contemporary notions of high art.

Harnett spent the years 1880–1886 in Europe, staying in Munich from 1881 until early 1885. Harnett’s best-known paintings, the four versions of After The Hunt, are painted between 1883 and 1885. Each is an imposing composition of hunting equipment and dead game, hanging on a door with ornate hinges at the right and keyhole plate at the left. These paintings, like the horseshoe or currency depictions mentioned earlier, are especially effective as trompe-l’œil because the objects occupy a shallow space, meaning that the illusion is not spoiled by parallax shift if the viewer moves.

job-lot-cheapOverall, Harnett’s work is most comparable to that of the slightly younger John F. Peto. The two artists know each other, and a comparison can be made between two paintings featuring violins. Harnett’s Music and Good Luck from 1888 shows the violin hanging upright on a door with ornate hinges and with a slightly torn piece of sheet music behind it. The elements are arranged in a stable, deliberate manner. Peto’s 1890 painting shows the violin hanging askew, as well as chipped and worn, with one string broken. The sheet music is dog-eared and torn around the edges, and placed haphazardly behind the instrument. The hinges are less ornate, and one is broken. Harnett’s objects show signs of use but are well preserved, while Peto’s more humble objects are nearly used up.

Crippling rheumatism plagues Harnett in his last years, reducing the number but not the quality of his paintings. He seeks relief in the waters at Karlsbad and Wiesbaden, Germany and later at Hot Springs, Arkansas. But he continues to worsen and is hospitalized several times. He dies in New York City in 1892.