Archive for the ‘ Things I like. ’ Category

Art Is Not What You See…

…but what you make others see.

Edgar Degas.

Today is his birthday, I’m a big fan.

“The Past Cannot Be Cured.”

Queen Elizabeth I of England said that several centuries ago.

Today is the anniversary of her birth, BTW.

She was born in 1533.

The product of an affair and an earth shaking scandal, Elizabeth was born at Greenwich Palace.  Her mother was the infamous and tragic Anne Boleyn.

She was an enormous disappointment to her father Henry VIII.

Anne B and Henry VIII

He’d wanted a boy.

At the age of two years and eight months, she lost her mother to the sword when Anne Boleyn was beheaded by a Frenchman on the tower lawn.  She’d been accused, “tired”, and convicted of treason in that she’d had illicit affairs with several other men.

The Queen having an affair was treason; the King having an affair was expected.

Elizabeth was immediately declared illegitimate and lost her place in the succession.

Less than a fortnight after her mother lost her head, Elizabeth’s daddy married his third wife, Jane Seymour.  Seymour gave Elizabeth a half brother, Edward.  She had an older sister, Mary, the daughter of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Her childhood and adolescence was rough to say the least; her mother beheaded, a succession of step-mothers, reared by governesses, a constant threat of accusal, palace intrigue, a penny-pinching father who held the purse strings, and a sister who considered her a heretic to name a few.

Yet, when after a quarter of a century she ascended the throne of England upon the death of her sister, Mary I, she ushered in one of the greatest eras of all time.

Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Johsnon, Thomas Middleton, and Christopher Marlowe change literature and theater forever.  Sir Francis Drake was the second man and the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, proving to the Queen there was a route to China and a possibility of colonization.  Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and others sought for lands to conquer.

The Church of England was solidified as the state church, the break with Rome was finalized, and the canon was provided to the masses in a language they could understand.

And though many believed touching a man about to be executed, a cow breathing on you, or spitting into a fire could bring a person good luck, there were strides in science, medicine, and industry.

When she took the throne at the age of 25, she was one of the most educated women in England – in Europe for that matter.  She learned Greek, Latin, Flemish, Italian, and Spanish and could hold her own with the foreign ministers who lorded their wealth, power, and sex over her.

She spoke all the languages of the British Isles; Welsh, Cornish, Scottish, and Irish.  The ambassador from Venice said, “…possessed languages so thoroughly that each appeared to be her native tongue…”

She ruled for over 44 years defying all odds to get to the throne.


She stood UP to all who opposed her.

She loved the way she wanted.

She lived the way she wanted.

She ruled the way she wanted.

Yet, she felt the pain of the past throughout her life.  The loss of a mother at an early age, the question of her father’s love and loyalty, the fear of her sister, the weight of the crown all defined her.

There is no indication she tried to cure the past.

She recognized it for what it was and moved on.

In a big way.

She may not have cured the past, but she most certainly changed the future.

Can we learn from that?

I hope so.


While surfing the internet looking for inspiration I came across this –  August 10, 1270 – Yekuno Amtak takes the Imperial Throne of Ethiopia, restoring the Solomonic dynasty to power after a 100 years Zagwe interregnum.

Well, as interesting as that sounds, I’ll spare you.

But, I do love words, and interregnum is a pretty neat one.

So, let’s talk about that.

An interregnum is a gap in a government or social order.

It is usually used to refer to the period between the reign of one monarch and the next.  The word comes from Latin of course.

Inter meaning between, and regnum meaning reign or rex which is king.

In history, long periods of interregna (that’s the plural) were generally accompanied by unrest, civil war, or even wars of succession.


One of the  most famous interregna is the Reign of Oliver Cromwell following the English Civil War.

It could also refer to a foreign invasion that is eventually rebuffed.

John Dos Passos

John Dos Passos said, “Why won’t they let a year die without bringing in a new one on the instant, can’t they use birth control on time?  I want an interregnum.  The stupid years patter on with unrelenting feet, never stopping  – rising to little monotonous peaks in our imaginations at festivals like New Year’s and Easter and Christmas – But, goodness, why need they do it?”

He was just a show-off and loved to obfuscate!

In modern times, we use it to describe the time between elections.  The seating of a new parliament or congress would qualify, and yes, the time between an election of a new POTUS and her inauguration when the outgoing POTUS is considered a ‘lame duck.’

Much of my family will know the word as they are obsessed with fans of Star Wars.


Well, I found it interesting.

One Of Those Places…

Soooo, one of the houses in the book I mentioned last week is Ashland, the home of Henry Clay.

Ashland Estate

Ashland is in Lexington, Kentucky, and one time at band camp on vacation, we stopped on our way home to check it out.

The kids were thrilled.

Yup, it was right UP there with the Civil War Battlefield we’d stopped at on the way UP.

First of all, today is the 239th anniversary of Henry Clay’s birth, so that’s why the topic is on my mind. Secondly, Henry Clay, for those of you who may have slept through that day in history class was a statesman from the Bluegrass State for decades including the Era of Good Feeling.  He was known as the Great Compromiser and the Great Pacifier, and may possibly have delayed the Civil War by 20 years.

He served in Congress, was the Speaker of the House, was a Senator, and was Secretary of State during the administration of John Quincy Adams.

He was a member of the now defunct Whig party, and was quite the mover and shaker in a time when things were really shaking.  He was a War Hawk and favored war with Britain in 1812.

In 1824, he ran for president but lost in an election that was just about as jacked UP as the one we are being subjected to today.  The Democratic-Republican Party had run all the other parties from the field and four major candidates emerged to seek office.  Clay was one of them.  None secured enough electoral votes to clinch victory, so the 12th Amendment was invoked and the election went to the House of Representatives who, with Clay’s steering as he had been eliminated for finishing fourth, elected JQA.

His consolation prize was the gig as the Secretary of State.

See, this crap’s been going on forever!

His machinations totally pissed Andrew Jackson off, and started a bitter rivalry between Clay and Old Hickory, who denounced Clay and Adams as part of a “corrupt bargain.”

More on that at a later time.

Issue wise, Clay was all over the map.  He opposed Manifest Destiny, opposed the annexation of Texas, opposed the Mexican War, and brokered agreements during the Nullification Crisis and supported/justified slavery.   He was part of the Great Triumvirate which included Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, and was instrumental in the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850.

Lincoln called him “my ideal of a great man,” and supported his economic programs.

But, back to Ashland.

Ashland in the day.

Clay came to Lexington, KY from Virginia in 1797 at the age of 22.  He started buying land for a plantation; yes, he was a slave holder – which he called Ashland Farm because of the Ash forest surrounding it.  At its heyday, it consisted of 600 acres and 60 slaves.

He raised hemp and tobacco as cash crops.  Clay also bred Merino sheep and several other European livestock breeds.

Living on Ashland were Aaron and Charlotte Dupuy, slaves whom Clay took to DC where they served him for 20 years.  In 1829, Charlotte sued Henry Clay for the freedom of herself and her two children in a Washington DC circuit court.  Charlotte was ordered to stay in DC while the case worked its way through the courts and as the Clays moved back to Ashland, her husband and children went with them.

She worked for the new Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren.

She lost the case, refused to return to Ashland, and was arrested by Clay’s agent, shipped to New Orleans and “…placed in the service of Clay’s daughter and son-in-law, where she was enslaved for another 10 years…”  In 1840, Clay suddenly freed her and her daughter.  Four years later, he freed her son, Charles.

Clay’s will divided the Ashland estate among his three sons.  James owned and occupied the house and 325 acres.  He lived there until his death in 1864.

Henry Clay began the Federal style house in 1806, and added two wings sometime between 1811 and 1814.

Porous brick was used and resulted in a structure that would eventually crumble if left on its own.  With no alternative, James rebuilt the house hoping for a fitting tribute to dear old dad.  He had the house razed and completely rebuilt between 1854 and 1857.  The floor plan of the original house was preserved and the foundation was used, but the new architect updated the place as Victorian Italianate was all the rage.

The mansion we toured and with which the children were soooo enthralled is a mix of Federal and Italianate styles.

Two years after James’ death, his widow sold the place to Kentucky University.  The founder and regent lived in the mansion and the Agricultural and Mechanical College worked the farm.

In 1882, Kentucky University split into Transylvania University and UK, and Ashland was sold.

Henry Clay’s granddaughter, Anne Clay McDowell and her husband bought the estate and moved in in 1883.  Their daughter Nannette lived there until 1948.  She founded and funded the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation and the place opened to the public in 1950.

Ashland Estate is located at 120 Sycamore Rd, Lexington, KY 40502. More information about the estate can be found at its website

It’s right off Interstate 75, and if you’re headed that way, it’s worth the time.