Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Continuing the story of King John. There is no denying when he came to the throne he inherited big trouble. It’s a bit like poor Papandreou of Greece today inheriting a nightmare situation of debt.

Richard spent only six months of his life in England; the rest was spent in France or with the crusades on the return from one of which in 1192 he was captured by Duke Leopold of Austria who handed him over the German emperor Henry V who demanded a ransom of 150000 marks for his release, an enormous sum raised by British taxes and this, together with the taxes already raised by Richard to pay for his wars, left poor John literally poor John. History’s judgment of him is that he was a cruel tyrant, a belief reinforced by all the televisions and movies from the 1938 Errol Flynn, Claude Rains ‘Robin Hood’ (one of my favourite movies believe it or not) to the present. I don’t know what his character was like but the general consensus of opinion is that he had an unpleasant personality and was not liked. Being unpopular does not help and, because he tried to seize the throne while Richard was still alive, he was never trusted. Feared maybe, but never trusted and his seventeen year reign was dotted with disaster. As a king he could hardly be called a success. He was blamed for the murder of his nephew. He lost a large amount of inherited possessions, in particular lands in France, like Normandy and Anjou. He managed to cross swords with the pope and have himself excommunicated and he ended up facing a huge baronial rebellion followed by a civil war and a war with France. He died from food poisoning in 1216. Maybe what started it all, as is so often the case, was his growing up in a truly dysfunctional family. Although he was the youngest and favourite son of Henry ll, when he was five three of his brothers tried to seize the thrown enlisting the aid of the French king and with their own mother, Eleanor Aquitaine in the plot. He may not have been the cruel tyrant history suggests, (and how many medieval kings weren’t?) but there seems no doubt at all that he simply wasn’t good enough as a king.

The jam cupboards are packed. Douglas has been having a field day with an absolute glut of apricots: apricot jam, apricot marmalade (I’m told there is a difference) apricot and pineapple jam, apricot chutney, stewed apricots, apricot rum topf something called apricot leather, a sort of toffee, and apricot ice cream. There are more apricots in the fridge and still more on the tree.

Tourism in Greece is down 21 percent in the first quarter of the year and visitors to museums and archaeological sites are naturally down as well with the consequent loss of revenue. Last season was bad enough but it looks like this season is going the same way. A friend who works in the tourist trade tells us they have not had a single booking from Americans this year. Now why would that be do you suppose? Greece has got too expensive? Afraid of strikes and demonstrations? Or is it because Crete is only a few minutes flying time from Libya?

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