Dec 222016
 

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On this date in 1135 Stephen of Blois (c. 1092/6 – 25 October 1154), known in Norman French as Étienne de Blois (then Étienne d’Angleterre) – grandson of William the Conqueror – became king of England. For me for many years, because of the shamefully biased way I was taught history, Stephen existed only in lists of monarchs, and I barely remembered that England even had a king named Stephen. Yet his reign was very turbulent, and extremely important for what came later. He was the last of the kings styled “Norman” (the dynasty founded by William I). After Stephen came the Angevins (Henry II, Richard I, and John) whose rule (and territories) marked a major shift in English history. Stephen’s reign was dominated by what historians usually call “the Anarchy,” a perhaps polite term for civil war. I can’t understand why historians want to speak of the 17th century war between Parliament and the Monarchy in England as THE Civil War. There were many civil wars in England, notably the Wars of the Roses, and the war between Stephen and the Empress Matilda, his cousin. All left an indelible mark on the country.

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One point that is not stressed nearly enough by English historians, is that one cannot strictly call England an independent nation at this time, although patriots like to think it was. To do so is to succumb to a species of what is usually called “Whig history” – that is, past events are always seen in terms of where we are now. So . . . England is an independent nation now, therefore it is fitting to talk about it as an independent nation from the time of William the Conqueror. This is fallacious nonsense. William did, indeed, unite the lands of previous Anglo-Saxon (and Danish) leaders into one polity, but it was not distinct from his holdings in Normandy: it was a province. Subsequent rulers felt that way also because they held lands on the continent as well as England, and spent more time abroad than in England (Richard I being a prime example). Until John, English was not their native language, and they certainly did not think of themselves as English.  It is well past time to get over the idea that the piece of real estate that is now England has been waiting in the wings to become a nation-state from time immemorial. Stephen and his kin saw England as part of a fluid conglomeration of provinces to be fought over in a neverending game of chess.  I don’t have space to explore Stephen’s reign in detail. Here’s some highlights.

Stephen was born in the County of Blois in France. His father, Count Stephen-Henry, died while Stephen was still young, and he was brought up by his mother, Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders. Stephen became part of the court of his uncle, Henry I of England, rose in prominence and was granted extensive lands. He married Matilda of Boulogne, inheriting additional estates in Kent and Boulogne that made the couple one of the wealthiest in England.

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Stephen narrowly escaped drowning with Henry I’s son, William Adelin, in the sinking of the White Ship in 1120. The White Ship was a newly refitted vessel captained by Thomas FitzStephen, whose father Stephen FitzAirard had been captain of the ship Mora for William the Conqueror when he invaded England in 1066. Thomas offered his ship to Henry I to use to return to England from Barfleur in Normandy. Henry had already made other arrangements, but allowed many in his retinue to take the White Ship, including William Adelin; his illegitimate son Richard of Lincoln; his illegitimate daughter Matilda FitzRoy, Countess of Perche (not to be confused with the Empress Matilda); and many other nobles. Stephen begged off at the last minute and that spared his life. Because of reckless, possibly drunken, navigation, the ship, in attempting to beat Henry’s ship to England, struck a rock and sank with almost complete loss of life of those on board.

William Adelin’s death left the succession of the English throne open to challenge. When Henry I died in 1135, Stephen quickly crossed the English Channel and with the help of his brother Henry of Blois, a powerful ecclesiastic, took the throne, arguing that the preservation of order across the kingdom took priority over his earlier oaths to support the claim of Henry I’s daughter, the Empress Matilda. He was probably right in principle (despite less honorable motives) given that the English, by and large, were not ready to have a queen as monarch even though her claims to the throne were stronger than Stephen’s.

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The early years of Stephen’s reign were largely successful, despite a series of attacks on his possessions in England and Normandy by David I of Scotland, Welsh rebels, and the Empress Matilda’s husband, Geoffrey of Anjou. In 1138 the Empress’s half-brother Robert of Gloucester rebelled against Stephen, threatening civil war. Together with his close advisor, Waleran de Beaumont, Stephen took firm steps to defend his rule, including arresting a powerful family of bishops. When the Empress and Robert invaded in 1139, however, Stephen was unable to crush the revolt rapidly, and it took hold in the south-west of England. Stephen was captured at the battle of Lincoln in 1141 and was abandoned by many of his followers and lost control of Normandy. Stephen was freed only after his wife and William of Ypres, one of his military commanders, captured Robert at the Rout of Winchester, but the war dragged on for many years with neither side able to win an advantage.

Stephen became increasingly concerned with ensuring that his son Eustace would inherit his throne. He tried to convince the Church to agree to crown Eustace to reinforce his claim but Pope Eugene III refused, and Stephen found himself in a sequence of increasingly bitter arguments with his senior clergy. In 1153 the Empress’s son, Henry FitzEmpress, invaded England and built an alliance of powerful regional barons to support his claim for the throne. The two armies met at Wallingford, but neither side’s barons were keen to fight another pitched battle. Stephen began to contemplate a negotiated peace, a process hastened by the sudden death of Eustace. Later in the year Stephen and Henry agreed to the Treaty of Winchester, in which Stephen recognized Henry as his heir in exchange for peace, passing over William, Stephen’s second son.

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Stephen’s decision to recognize Henry as his heir was, at the time, not necessarily a final solution to the civil war. Stephen might potentially have lived for many more years, whilst Henry’s position on the continent was far from secure. Although Stephen’s son William was young and unprepared to challenge Henry for the throne in 1153, the situation could well have shifted in subsequent years—there were widespread rumors during 1154 that William planned to assassinate Henry, for example.

Certainly many problems remained to be resolved, including re-establishing royal authority over the provinces and resolving the complex issue of which barons should control the contested lands and estates after the long civil war. Stephen burst into activity in early 1154, travelling around the kingdom extensively. He began issuing royal writs for the south-west of England once again and travelled to York where he held a major court in an attempt to impress upon the northern barons that royal authority was being reasserted. After a busy summer in 1154, however, Stephen traveled to Dover to meet the Count of Flanders; some historians believe that the King was already ill and preparing to settle his family affairs. Stephen fell ill with a stomach disorder and died on 25 October at the local priory, being buried at Faversham Abbey with his wife Matilda and son Eustace.

Today’s date is also famous because of the acts of another king – Alfred the Great, who was not really king of England, as such, but did style himself king of the English (or Anglo-Saxons). On this date in 877 Alfred the Great passed a law that no servant should work for the 12 days following the winter solstice. This was in the days before Christmas was a widespread holiday.

Alfred is the only king of the English (or England) to be called “the Great.” His lot (Ethelred, Aelfric, etc.) all tend to be forgotten in the school history books except for simple children’s stories like Alfred (or should I say Ælfrǣd) and the burnt cakes. REAL English history apparently starts in 1066. Any fule kno that. (The latter is a test to see how old you really are). Another pathetic example of Whig history.

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The story of Alfred and the cakes is, of course, apocryphal – a Victorian invention that has the merit of being a story we can all relate to. Oh, the pots I have burnt! Supposedly he was in hiding and plotting his next attack on the Danes when he was taken in by a peasant woman who asked him to watch her cakes cooking whilst she attended to other things. The poor man got lost in his battle plans and so let the cakes burn, which earned him a tongue lashing from the woman who was unaware that he was her king. I’m not sure whose side I’m on. The smell of smoke emanating from the kitchen whilst I am lost in my writing is painfully familiar. Fortunately I live alone . . . and those who know me well know that cooking and smoke are not strange bedfellows in my house. In any case, here’s a recipe for cakes that may be like Alfred’s, and are certainly seasonal. They are similar to scones.

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King Alfred’s Cakes

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground nutmeg
3 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup raisins, dried apricots, prunes or other dried fruit, cut into pieces
1 large egg
⅛ cup heavy whipping cream
⅛ cup orange juice

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. (I use a food processor for speed). Stir in the fruit.

In a small bowl, mix the egg, cream, and orange juice.

Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until all is moist. Turn on to a floured surface and knead gently. Then break the dough into small cakes and shape them with your hands to form rounds.

Place the cakes on a greased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden. DO NOT LET THEM BURN !!!

Serve warm with butter.

Sep 152016
 

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Today begins the three-day Mid-Autumn Festival (Simplified Chinese: 中秋节, Vietnamese: tết Trung Thu, Korean: 추석), a harvest festival celebrated by ethnic Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese people worldwide. The festival begins on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, corresponding to a date in late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar that ushers in the full moon. It is also a public holiday in Taiwan, and in Hong Kong. The full moon is actually tomorrow (16th ) in Europe and the day after (17th ) in Asia.

Europeans have not cornered the market on nonsense spouted about the ancient “origins” of calendar customs; Asians have their fair share too. In the case of Mid-Autumn Festival in China there is a degree of legitimacy to the notion that it is an ancient festival, but only a degree. The Chinese have celebrated the harvest during the autumn full moon since the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th to 10th century BCE). What this festival looked like is anyone’s guess. Morris Berkowitz, who studied the Hakka people during the 1960s, theorizes that the harvest celebration originally began with worshiping Mountain Gods after the harvest was completed. Supposedly, for the Baiyue peoples, the harvest time commemorated the dragon who brought rain for the crops. Both are speculations based on little evidence. The celebration as a festival did not start to gain popularity until the early Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE). One legend says that Emperor Xuanzong of Tang started to hold formal celebrations in his palace after having explored the Moon-Palace (that is, he visited the moon).

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The term mid-autumn (中秋) first appeared in Rites of Zhou, a written collection of rituals of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046–771 BCE). Empress Dowager Cixi (late 19th century) enjoyed celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival so much that she would spend the period between the thirteenth and seventeenth day of the eighth month staging elaborate rituals.

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An important part of the festival celebration was moon worship, now softened to moon symbolism. The ancient Chinese believed in rejuvenation being associated with the moon and water, and connected this concept to the menstruation of women, calling it “monthly water.” (which is pretty much what “menstruate” means without the “water” bit). The Zhuang people, for example, have an ancient fable saying the sun and moon are a couple and the stars are their children, and when the moon is pregnant, it becomes round, and then becomes crescent after giving birth to a child. These stories made it popular among women to give offerings to the moon on this evening. Customs such as this one are rare in China now.

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Offerings were also made to a more well-known lunar deity, Chang’e, known as the Moon Goddess of Immortality. One version of the story is as follows:

In the ancient past, there was a hero named Hou Yi who was excellent at archery. His wife was Chang’e. One year, ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to people. Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light. An immortal admired Yi and sent him the elixir of immortality. Yi did not want to leave Chang’e and be immortal without her, so he let Chang’e keep the elixir. But Peng Meng, one of his apprentices, knew this secret. So, on the 15th of the 8th month in the lunar calendar, when Yi went hunting, Peng Meng broke into Yi’s house and forced Chang’e to give the elixir to him. Chang’e refused to do so. Instead, she swallowed it and flew into the sky. Since she loved her husband very much and hoped to live nearby, she chose the moon for her residence. When Yi came back and learned what had happened, he felt so sad that he displayed the fruits and cakes Chang’e liked in his garden and gave sacrifices to his wife. People soon learned about these activities, and since they also were sympathetic to Chang’e they participated in these sacrifices with Yi.

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In more agrarian times, the festival was a time to enjoy the successful reaping of rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon. Today, it is still an occasion for outdoor reunions among friends and relatives, to eat mooncakes, and to watch the moon, a symbol of harmony and unity. The festival is celebrated with many cultural or regional customs including:

Burning incense

Dragon and lion dances (especially in southern China and Vietnam)

Lanterns

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A notable part of celebrating the holiday is the carrying of brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, or floating sky lanterns. Another tradition involving lanterns is to write riddles on them and have other people try to guess the answers. It is difficult to discern the original purpose of lanterns in connection to the festival, but it is certain that lanterns were not used in conjunction with moon-worship prior to the Tang Dynasty. Traditionally, the lantern has been used to symbolize fertility, and functioned mainly as a toy and decoration. But today the lantern has come to symbolize the festival itself.

As China gradually evolved from an agrarian society to a mixed agrarian-commercial one, traditions from other festivals began to be transmitted into the Mid-Autumn Festival, such as the putting of lanterns on rivers to guide the spirits of the drowned as practiced during the Ghost Festival, which is observed a month before. Hong Kong fishermen during the Qing Dynasty, for example, would put up lanterns on their boats for the Ghost Festival and keep the lanterns up until Mid-Autumn Festival.

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In Vietnam, children participate in parades in the dark under the full moon with lanterns of various forms, shapes, and colors. Traditionally, lanterns signified the wish for the sun’s light and warmth to return after winter. In addition to carrying lanterns, the children also wore masks. Elaborate masks were made of papier-mâché, though it is more common to find masks made of plastic nowadays. Handcrafted shadow lanterns were an important part of Mid-Autumn displays since the 12th century Ly dynasty, often of historical figures from Vietnamese history. Handcrafted lantern-making has declined in modern times due to the availability of mass-produced plastic lanterns, which often depict internationally recognized characters such as Pokémon’s Pikachu, Disney characters, SpongeBob SquarePants and Hello Kitty.

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Making and sharing mooncakes is one of the hallmark traditions of this festival. In Chinese culture, a round shape symbolizes completeness and reunion. Thus, the sharing and eating of round mooncakes among family members during the week of the festival signify the completeness and unity of families. In some areas of China, there is a tradition of making mooncakes during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The senior person in that household cuts the mooncakes into pieces and distribute them to each family member, signifying family reunion. In modern times, however, making mooncakes at home has given way to the more popular custom of giving mooncakes to family members, although the meaning of maintaining familial unity remains.

maf10 Huge mooncake appears in central China

Although typical mooncakes can be around a few inches in diameter, imperial chefs have made some as large as several feet in diameter, with its surface impressed with designs of Chang’e, cassia trees, or the Moon-Palace. One tradition is to pile 13 mooncakes on top of each other to mimic a pagoda, the number 13 being chosen to represent the 13 months in a full lunar year.

According to Chinese folklore, a Turpan businessman offered cakes to Emperor Taizong of Tang in his victory against the Xiongnu on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Taizong took the round cakes and pointed to the moon with a smile, saying, “I’d like to invite the toad to enjoy the hú (胡) cake.” After sharing the cakes with his ministers, the custom of eating these hú cakes spread throughout the country. Eventually these became known as mooncakes. Although the legend explains the beginnings of mooncake-giving, its popularity and ties to the festival began during the Song Dynasty (906–1279 CE).

Another popular legend concerns the Han Chinese’s uprising against the ruling Mongols at the end of the Yuan dynasty (1280–1368 CE), in which the Han Chinese used traditional mooncakes to conceal the message that they were to rebel on Mid-Autumn Day. Because of strict controls on Han Chinese families imposed by the Mongols in which only 1 out of every 10 households was allowed to own a knife guarded by a Mongolian guard, this coordinated message was important to gather as many available weapons as possible.

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Imperial dishes served on this occasion included nine-jointed lotus roots which symbolize peace, and watermelons cut in the shape of lotus petals which symbolize reunion. Teacups were placed on stone tables in the garden, where the family would pour tea and chat, waiting for the moment when the full moon’s reflection appeared in the center of their cups. Owing to the timing of the plant’s blossoms, cassia wine is the traditional choice for the “reunion wine” drunk on the occasion. Also, people will celebrate by eating cassia cakes and candy.

Food offerings made to deities were placed on an altar set up in the courtyard, including apples, pears, peaches, grapes, pomegranates, melons, oranges, and pomelos. One of the first decorations purchased for the celebration table was a clay statue of the Jade Rabbit. In Chinese folklore, the Jade Rabbit was an animal that lived on the moon and accompanied Chang’e. Offerings of soy beans and cockscomb flowers were made to the Jade Rabbit. Nowadays, in southern China, people will also eat some seasonal fruit that may differ in different district but carrying the same meaning of blessing.

I gave a pretty complete description of mooncakes here — http://www.bookofdaystales.com/giordano-bruno-crater/  No need to repeat myself. Most Chinese buy them rather than make them these days. You’ll find them on sale everywhere from regular markets to street stalls. For today’s celebration I recommend dragon fruit also known as pitaya.

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Sweet pitayas come in three species, all with leathery, slightly leafy skin:

Hylocereus undatus (Pitaya blanca or white-fleshed pitaya) has red-skinned fruit with white flesh. This is the most commonly seen dragon fruit.

Hylocereus costaricensis (Pitaya roja or red-fleshed pitaya, also known as Hylocereus polyrhizus) has red-skinned fruit with red flesh.

Hylocereus megalanthus (Pitaya amarilla or yellow pitaya, also known as Selenicereus megalanthus) has yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh.

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Dragon fruit are very common in Asia but you won’t find them often in the West, although popularity is increasing. They’re touted for their health benefits, but they don’t appear to have much more in the way of nutrients than other more common fruit. I had them first in Hong Kong a couple of years ago and was not hugely impressed. They’re rather bland, in the same ballpark as kiwis. I ended up mixing mine with other fruit in a fruit salad. That works for me.

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Apr 122015
 

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In 1603, James VI of Scotland inherited the English and Irish thrones (as James I of England), thereby uniting the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland in a personal union (which remained separate states). On 12 April 1606, a new flag to represent this regal union between England and Scotland was specified in a royal decree, according to which the flag of England (a red cross on a white background, known as St George’s Cross), and the flag of Scotland (a white saltire, diagonal cross) on a blue background, known as the saltire or St Andrew’s Cross), would be joined together, forming the flag of Great Britain and first union flag:

By the King: Whereas, some differences hath arisen between Our subjects of South and North Britaine travelling by Seas, about the bearing of their Flagges: For the avoiding of all contentions hereafter. We have, with the advice of our Council, ordered: That from henceforth all our Subjects of this Isle and Kingdome of Great Britaine, and all our members thereof, shall beare in their main-toppe the Red Crosse, commonly called St George’s Crosse, and the White Crosse, commonly called St Andrew’s Crosse, joyned together according to the forme made by our heralds, and sent by Us to our Admerall to be published to our Subjects: and in their fore-toppe our Subjects of South Britaine shall weare the Red Crosse onely as they were wont, and our Subjects of North Britaine in their fore-toppe the White Crosse onely as they were accustomed.

This royal flag was, at first, to be used only at sea on civil and military ships of both England and Scotland, whereas land forces continued to use their respective national banners. In 1634, King Charles I restricted its use to the royal ships. After the Acts of Union 1707, the flag gained a regularized status as “the ensign armorial of the Kingdom of Great Britain”, the newly created state. It was then adopted by land forces as well, although the blue field used on land-based versions more closely resembled that of the blue of the flag of Scotland.

Various shades of blue have been used in the saltire over the years. The ground of the current Union Flag is a deep “navy” blue (Pantone 280), which can be traced to the color used for the Blue Ensign of the Royal Navy’s historic “Blue Squadron”. (Dark shades of color were used on maritime flags on the basis of durability.) In 2003 a committee of the Scottish Parliament recommended that the flag of Scotland use a lighter “royal” blue, (Pantone 300). (The Office of the Lord Lyon does not detail specific shades of color for use in heraldry.)

A thin white stripe, or fimbriation, separates the red cross from the blue field, in accordance with heraldry’s rule of tincture where colors (like red and blue) must be separated from each other by metals (like white, i.e. argent or silver).

Wales had no explicit recognition in the Union Jack as it had been a part of the Kingdom of England since being annexed by Edward I of England in 1282 and its full integration by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, and was therefore represented by the flag of England.

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The Kingdom of Ireland, which had existed as a personal union with England since 1541, was likewise unrepresented in the original versions of the Union Jack. However, the flag of The Protectorate from 1658 to 1660 was inescutcheoned with the arms of Ireland. These were removed at the Restoration, because Charles II disliked them.

The original flag appears in the canton (upper left) of the Commissioners’ Ensign of the Northern Lighthouse Board. This is the only contemporary official representation of the pre-1801 Union Jack in the United Kingdom and can be seen flying from their George Street headquarters in Edinburgh. This version of the Union Jack is also shown in the canton of the Grand Union Flag (also known as the Congress Flag, the First Navy Ensign, the Cambridge Flag, and the Continental Colours), the first widely used flag of the United States, slowly phased out after 1777.

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Lord Howe’s action, or the Glorious First of June, painted in 1795, shows a Union Jack flying from HMS Queen Charlotte on the “Glorious First of June” 1794. The actual flag, preserved in the National Maritime Museum, is a cruder approximation of the proper specifications; this was common in 18th– and early 19th-century flags. The flag is also flown beside Customs House in Loftus Street, Sydney, to mark the approximate location at which Captain Phillip first raised the Union Jack, and claimed New South Wales in 1788. On the plaque it is referred to as the “Jack of Queen Anne”.

Various other designs for a common flag were drawn up following the union of the two Crowns in 1603, but were rarely, if ever, used. One version showed St George’s cross with St Andrew’s cross in the canton, and another version placed the two crosses side by side. A painted wooden ceiling boss from Linlithgow Palace, dated to about 1617, depicts the Scottish royal unicorn holding a flag where a blue Saltire surmounts the red cross of St. George.

In objecting to the design of Union Flag adopted in 1606, whereby the cross of Saint George surmounted that of Saint Andrew, a group of Scots took up the matter with John Erskine, 18th Earl of Mar, and were encouraged by him to send a letter of complaint to James VI, via the Privy Council of Scotland, which stated that the flag’s design

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will breid some heit and miscontentment betwix your Majesties subjectis, and it is to be feirit that some inconvenientis sail fall oute betwix thame, for our seyfaring men cannot be inducit to resave that flage as it is set down

Although documents accompanying this complaint which contained drafts for alternative designs have been lost, evidence exists, at least on paper, of an unofficial Scottish variant, whereby the Scottish cross was uppermost. There is reason to think that cloth flags of this design were employed during the 17th century for unofficial use on Scottish vessels at sea. This flag’s design is also described in the 1704 edition of The Present State of the Universe by John Beaumont, which contains as an appendix “The Ensigns, Colours or Flags of the Ships at Sea: Belonging to The several Princes and States in the World.”

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On land, evidence confirming the use of this flag appears in the depiction of Edinburgh Castle by John Slezer, in his series of engravings entitled Theatrum Scotiae, c. 1693. Appearing in later editions of Theatrum Scotiae, the North East View of Edinburgh Castle engraving depicts the Scotch (to use the appropriate adjective of that period) version of the Union Flag flying from the Palace block of the Castle.[38] However, it is not shown on the North Prospect of the City of Edenburgh engraving.[39]

On 17 April 1707, just two weeks prior to the Acts of Union coming into effect, and with Sir Henry St George, Garter King of Arms, having presented several designs of flag to Queen Anne and her Privy Council for consideration, the flag for the soon to be unified Kingdom of Great Britain was chosen. At the suggestion of the Scots representatives, the designs for consideration included that version of Union Jack showing the Cross of Saint Andrew uppermost; identified as being the “Scotts union flagg as said to be used by the Scotts”. However, the Queen and her Council approved Sir Henry’s original effort, numbered “one”.

The Union Flag was found in the canton (upper left-hand quarter) of the flags of many colonies of Britain, while the field (background) of their flags was the color of the naval ensign flown by the particular Royal Navy squadron that patrolled that region of the world. Nations and colonies that have used the Union Flag at some stage have included Aden, Barbados, Borneo, Burma, Canada, Ceylon, Cyprus, British East Africa (Kenya Colony), Gambia, Gold Coast (Ghana), Hong Kong, Jamaica, Lagos, Malta, Mauritius, Nigeria, Palestine, Penang (Malaysia), Rhodesia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somaliland, British India, Tanganyika, Trinidad, Uganda, and the United States. As former British Empire nations were granted independence, these and other versions of the Union Flag were decommissioned. The most recent decommissioning of the Union Flag came on 1 July 1997, when the former Dependent Territory of Hong Kong was handed over to the People’s Republic of China.

Australia

Australia

 

British Indian Navy

British Indian Navy

Hawaii

Hawaii

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Bermuda

Bermuda

 

A manuscript compiled in 1785 by William Fox and in possession of the Flag Research Center includes a full plate showing “the scoth [sic] union” flag. This could imply that there was still some use of a Scottish variant before the addition of the cross of St Patrick to the Union Flag in 1801.

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The current and second Union Jack dates from 1 January 1801 with the Act of Union 1800, which merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The new design added a red saltire, the cross of Saint Patrick, for Ireland. This is counterchanged with the saltire of St Andrew, such that the white always follows the red clockwise. As with the red cross, so too the red saltire is separated by a white fimbriation from the blue field. This fimbriation is repeated for symmetry on the white portion of the saltire, which thereby appears wider than the red portion. The fimbriation of the cross of St George separates its red from the red of the saltire.

Apart from the Union Jack, Saint Patrick’s cross has seldom been used to represent Ireland, and with little popular recognition or enthusiasm; it is usually considered to derive from the arms of the powerful FitzGerald family rather than any association with the saint.

When the Anglo-Irish Treaty was concluded on 6 December 1921 and the creation of the new Irish Free State was an imminent prospect, the question arose as to whether the cross of Saint Patrick should remain in the Union Jack. The New York Times reported that on 22 January 1922:

At the College of Arms it was stated that certain modifications were under consideration and that if any action were taken it would be done by the King in Council. No parliamentary action would be necessary. Heraldry experts say that alterations in arms are very expensive. Some years ago there was a demand from Irish quarters that the blue ground of the golden harp on the royal standard should be changed to green. It was then estimated that the alteration would cost at least £2,000,000. To remove all reference to Ireland from the present Union Jack and Royal Arms would be vastly more expensive.

There was some speculation on the matter in British dominions also, with one New Zealand paper reporting that:

   …the removal of the cross of St. Patrick Cross after 120 years will transform the appearance of the flag. It will certainly become a flag under which great victories were won in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but to most minds the sentimental loss will be great. Probably it will be found that the deletion is not absolutely necessary. Other possible changes include the abolition of the title of the United Kingdom, and the removal of the harp from the Royal Standard and the Coat of Arms, and the substitution of the Ulster emblem.

However, the fact that it was likely that Northern Ireland would choose not to remain part of the Irish Free State after its foundation and remain in the United Kingdom, gave better grounds for keeping the cross of St. Patrick in the Union Jack. In this regard, Sir James Craig, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland remarked in December 1921 that he and his government were “glad to think that our decision [to opt back into the United Kingdom] will obviate the necessity of mutilating the Union Jack.” Though remaining within the United Kingdom, the new Northern Irish government dispensed with the St Patrick’s Saltire in favour of a new flag derived from the coat-of-arm of the Burkes, Earls of Ulster, and quite similar to England’s St George’s Cross. This state-sanctioned flag was abolished in 1973 with the reintroduction of direct-rule from London over Northern Ireland.

Ultimately, when the British home secretary was asked on 7 December 1922 (the day after the Irish Free State was established) whether the Garter King of Arms was to issue any regulations with reference to the Union Jack, the response was no and the flag has never been changed.

A Dáil (Irish lower house) mooted raising the removal of the cross of St Patrick with the British government; Frank Aiken, the Irish minister for external affairs, declined to “waste time on heraldic disputations”.

In 2003, a private individual started a campaign – dubbed “reflag” or “Union Black” – to interpret the Union Flag in a racial context, and introduce black stripes in it. The proposal was universally met with opposition and was denounced by MSP Phil Gallie as “ridiculous tokenism [that] would do nothing to stamp out racism”. The campaign is now defunct.

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Since there is no uniquely Welsh element in the Union Jack, Wrexham’s Labour MP Ian Lucas proposed on 27 November 2007 in a House of Commons debate that the Union Flag be combined with the Welsh flag to reflect Wales’ status within the UK, and that the red dragon be added to the Union Flag’s red, white, and blue pattern. He said the Union Jack currently only represented the other three UK nations, and Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism Margaret Hodge conceded that Lucas had raised a valid point for debate. She said, “the Government is keen to make the Union Flag a positive symbol of Britishness reflecting the diversity of our country today and encouraging people to take pride in our flag.” This development sparked design contests with entries from all over the world; some of the entries incorporated red dragons and even anime characters and leeks. The lack of any Welsh symbol or colours in the flag is due to Wales already being part of the Kingdom of England when the flag of Great Britain was created in 1606.

In the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, various non-official suggestions were made for how the flag could be redesigned without the St Andrew’s Cross in the event that Scotland left the Union. However, as Scotland voted against independence the issue did not arise.

The Union Jack lends itself naturally to cake design. If you search you will find dozens of them. I have chosen three of them. The first, my favorite and inexplicably called “pizza,” is from Betty Crocker.

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http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/union-jack-fruit-pizza/bdabbb3c-792d-46cc-8c3a-0bd9062d2324

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The second is for cupcakes, designed for the royal wedding.

http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/522155/union-jack-cupcakes.

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The third is for a Battenburg cake (see http://www.bookofdaystales.com/mondrian/)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/union_jack_battenburg_15063

I am sure that you all can come up with your own. I’d love to see a real pizza for example. Not sure what to use for the blue element (tomatoes for red and light cheese for white).There are cocktails called Union Jack layered with red, white and blue ingredients, but this seems a stretch to me.

Mar 292014
 

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On this date in 1886 Dr. John Pemberton (pictured) brewed the first batch of Coca-Cola in a back yard in Atlanta, Georgia. Pemberton had been a colonel in the Confederate army, was wounded in the Civil War, became addicted to morphine, and henceforth began a quest to find a substitute for the opiate which he considered dangerous. The prototype Coca-Cola recipe was formulated over time at Pemberton’s Eagle Drug and Chemical House, a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia, originally as a coca wine. He was inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a European coca wine which was no more than a blend of Bordeaux wine and cocaine. In 1885, Pemberton registered his own French Wine Coca nerve tonic which he sold mostly to upper class intellectuals, afflicted with diseases believed to have been brought on by urbanization and Atlanta’s increasingly competitive business environment. In an 1885 interview with the Atlanta Journal, Pemberton said the drink would benefit “scientists, scholars, poets, divines, lawyers, physicians, and others devoted to extreme mental exertion.” Pemberton claimed astounding medicinal properties for his French Wine Coca, which he marketed as a patent medicine. The beverage was advertised as a cure for nerve trouble, dyspepsia, mental and physical exhaustion, gastric irritability, wasting diseases, constipation, headache, neurasthenia and impotence. It was also suggested as a cure for morphine addiction, which was increasingly common after the Civil War.

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In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, essentially a nonalcoholic version of French Wine Coca, replacing the alcohol with caffeine from Kola nuts.   The first sales were at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886. It was initially sold as a patent medicine for five cents a glass at soda fountains, which were popular in the United States at the time due to the belief that carbonated water was good for the health. Pemberton produced the Coca-Cola syrup which was mixed with carbonated water at the soda fountains.  Pemberton claimed that, like coca wine, Coca-Cola cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence. Pemberton ran the first advertisement for the beverage on May 29 of the same year in the Atlanta Journal.

When first launched, Coca-Cola’s two key ingredients were cocaine and caffeine. The cocaine was derived from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nut, leading to the name Coca-Cola (the “K” in Kola was replaced with a “C” for marketing purposes). Pemberton called for five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup, a significant dose. In 1891, when Asa Candler took over the company, he said that his formula (altered extensively from Pemberton’s original) contained only a tenth of this amount. Coca-Cola once contained an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass. In 1903, the cocaine was removed completely.

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After 1904, instead of using fresh leaves, Coca-Cola started using “spent” leaves – the leftovers of the cocaine-extraction process with only trace levels of cocaine. Coca-Cola now uses a cocaine-free coca leaf extract prepared at a Stepan Company plant in Maywood, New Jersey. In the United States, the Stepan Company is the only manufacturing plant authorized by the Federal Government to import and process the coca plant, which it obtains mainly from Peru and, to a lesser extent, Bolivia. Besides producing the coca flavoring agent for Coca-Cola, the Stepan Company extracts cocaine from the coca leaves, which it sells to Mallinckrodt, a St. Louis, Missouri, pharmaceutical manufacturer that is the only company in the United States licensed to purify cocaine for medicinal use.

Kola nuts act as a flavoring and the source of caffeine in Coca-Cola. In Britain, for example, the ingredient label states “Flavourings (Including Caffeine).” Kola nuts contain about 2.0 to 3.5% caffeine, are bitter in flavor, and are commonly used in cola soft drinks. In 1911, the U.S. government initiated United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, hoping to force Coca-Cola to remove caffeine from its formula. The case was decided in favor of Coca-Cola. Subsequently, in 1912, the U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act was amended, adding caffeine to the list of “habit-forming” and “deleterious” substances which must be listed on a product’s label. Coca-Cola contains 34 mg of caffeine per 12 fluid ounces (9.8 mg per 100 ml).

The first bottling of Coca-Cola occurred in Vicksburg, Mississippi, at the Biedenharn Candy Company in 1891. The proprietor of the bottling works was Joseph A. Biedenharn. The original bottles were Biedenharn bottles, very different from the much later fluted design of 1915 now so familiar.  It was then a few years later that two entrepreneurs from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead, proposed the idea of opening an exclusive Coca-Cola bottling factory and were so persuasive that Candler signed a contract giving them control of the procedure for only one dollar. Candler never collected his dollar, but in 1899, Chattanooga became the site of the first Coca-Cola bottling company. Candler remained content just selling his company’s syrup. The loosely termed contract proved to be problematic for The Coca-Cola Company for decades to come. Legal matters were not helped by the decision of the bottlers to subcontract to other companies, effectively becoming parent bottlers.

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The longest running commercial Coca-Cola soda fountain anywhere was Atlanta’s Fleeman’s Pharmacy, which first opened its doors in 1914. Jack Fleeman took over the pharmacy from his father and ran it until 1995; closing it after 81 years.  Fountain Coca-Cola could be made in two ways.  The oldest method was simply to add syrup to a glass and then top it up with carbonated water.  I don’t know whether soda fountains of this sort still exist, but there were one or two in North Carolina when I lived there in the early 70’s.  The great advantage of this method was that customers could ask for extra syrup if they wished, and could also add extra flavorings such as cherry and vanilla (which later became special flavors produced by bottlers).  The second method was to use a proprietary fountain which dispensed the syrup and soda water simultaneously – now the universal method for fountains.

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On July 12, 1944, the one-billionth gallon of Coca-Cola syrup was manufactured by The Coca-Cola Company. The parent company still produces only concentrate, which it sells to licensed Coca-Cola bottlers throughout the world. The bottlers, who hold territorially exclusive contracts with the company, produce finished product in cans and bottles from the concentrate in combination with filtered water and sweeteners. The bottlers then sell, distribute and merchandise Coca-Cola to retail stores and vending machines. The Coca-Cola Company also sells concentrate for soda fountains to major restaurants and food service distributors.

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The Coca-Cola logo was created by John Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson, in 1885. Robinson came up with the name and chose the logo’s distinctive cursive script. The typeface used, known as Spencerian script, was developed in the mid-19th century and was the dominant form of formal handwriting in the United States during that period. Robinson also played a significant role in early Coca-Cola advertising. His promotional suggestions to Pemberton included giving away thousands of free drink coupons and plastering the city of Atlanta with publicity banners and streetcar signs.

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The Coca-Cola bottle, called the “contour bottle” within the company, was created by bottle designer Earl R. Dean. In 1915, the Coca-Cola Company launched a competition among its bottle suppliers to create a new bottle for their beverage that would distinguish it from other beverage bottles, “a bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark, and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.”

Chapman J. Root, president of the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, turned the project over to members of his supervisory staff, including company auditor T. Clyde Edwards, plant superintendent Alexander Samuelsson, and Earl R. Dean, bottle designer and supervisor of the bottle molding room. Root and his subordinates decided to base the bottle’s design on one of the soda’s two ingredients, the coca leaf or the kola nut, but were unaware of what either ingredient looked like. Dean and Edwards went to the Emeline Fairbanks Memorial Library and were unable to find any information about coca or kola. Instead, Dean was inspired by a picture of the gourd-shaped cocoa pod in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Dean made a rough sketch of the pod and returned to the plant to show Root. He explained to Root how he could transform the shape of the pod into a bottle. Root gave Dean his approval.

Faced with the upcoming scheduled maintenance of the mold-making machinery, over the next 24 hours Dean sketched out a concept drawing which was approved by Root the next morning. Dean then proceeded to create a bottle mold and produced a small number of bottles before the glass-molding machinery was turned off.

Chapman Root approved the prototype bottle and a design patent was issued on the bottle in November 1915. The prototype never made it to production since its middle diameter was larger than its base, making it unstable on conveyor belts. Dean resolved this issue by decreasing the bottle’s middle diameter. During the 1916 bottler’s convention, Dean’s contour bottle was chosen over other entries and was on the market the same year. By 1920, the contour bottle became the standard for the Coca-Cola Company. Today, the contour Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognized packages on the planet…”even in the dark!”

As a reward for his efforts, Dean was offered a choice between a $500 bonus or a lifetime job at the Root Glass Company. He chose the lifetime job and kept it until the Owens-Illinois Glass Company bought out the Root Glass Company in the mid-1930s. Dean went on to work in other Midwestern glass factories.

I well remember my first taste of Coca-Cola.  It was in Aden in January 1958 when my family was on the way from England to Australia as new immigrants.  We had been wandering around bazaar stalls in baking heat, so my father suggested we have a Coke.  It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my young life.  Because I had never heard of it until that point, and because the writing on the bottle was mostly in Arabic script, I was convinced it was some exotic Arabian brew.

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It was just marvelous, and I can still conjure up the exact taste image of that first sip.  I know that the Coca-Cola company denies that they alter the recipe from country to country, but it seems to me that the Aden version was sweeter than other versions I have tasted.  I’m willing to be proven wrong, however, given that one’s first taste of anything can be heightened by its newness.

The Coca-Cola company maintains an extensive file of recipes using Coke, mostly submitted by readers.  There are several recipes for marinades and sauces for grilled or roasted meats, but most of the recipes are for desserts.  I have not tried any of them, but by all means browse away to see if anything tickles your fancy:

http://www.coca-colacompany.com/search?q=recipes&fT=0000013e-f6b1-d4b9-a9fe-fefb859d0003

I don’t drink sweetened carbonated beverages any more, but as a boy my favorite way to have a Coke was as a Coke float, which we called a “spider” in South Australia – a glass of Coke topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  All way too sweet for me nowadays, but then I would have one as often as I could.

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Saludos John Pemberton!