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Prince Albert

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel; 26 August 1819 – 14 December 1861) was the husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He was born in the Saxon duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld to a family connected to many of Europe’s ruling monarchs. At the age of 20 he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria, with whom he had nine children. At first, Albert felt constrained by his position as consort, which did not confer any power or duties upon him. Over time he adopted many public causes, such as educational reform and the abolition of slavery, and took on the responsibilities of running the Queen’s household, estates and office. He was heavily involved with the organisation of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Albert aided in the development of Britain’s constitutional monarchy by persuading his wife to show less partisanship in her dealings with Parliament—although he actively disagreed with the interventionist foreign policy pursued during Lord Palmerston’s tenure as Foreign Secretary.

He died at the early age of 42, plunging the Queen into a deep mourning which lasted for the rest of her life. Upon Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, their son, Edward VII, succeeded as the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, named after the ducal house to which Albert belonged.

Consort: The position in which the prince was placed by his marriage, while one of distinction, also offered considerable difficulties; in Albert’s own words, “I am very happy and contented; but the difficulty in filling my place with the proper dignity is that I am only the husband, not the master in the house.” The Queen’s household was run by her former governess, Baroness Lehzen. Albert referred to her as the “House Dragon”, and manoeuvred to dislodge the Baroness from her position.

Legacy: Albert’s body was temporarily entombed in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.The mausoleum at Frogmore, in which his remains were deposited a year after his death, was not fully completed until 1871. The sarcophagus, in which both he and the Queen were eventually laid, was carved from the largest block of granite that had ever been quarried in Britain. Despite Albert’s request that no effigies of him should be raised, many public monuments were erected all over the country, and across the British Empire.The most notable are the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial in London. The plethora of memorials erected to Albert became so great that Charles Dickens told a friend that he sought an “inaccessible cave” to escape from them. All manner of objects are named after Prince Albert, from Lake Albert in Africa to the city of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, to the Albert Medal presented by the Royal Society of Arts. Four regiments of the British Army were named after him: 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars; Prince Albert’s Light Infantry; Prince Albert’s Own Leicestershire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry, and The Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade. He and Queen Victoria showed a keen interest in the establishment and development of Aldershot in Hampshire as a garrison town in the 1850s. They had a wooden Royal Pavilion built there in which they would often stay when attending reviews of the army. Albert established and endowed the Prince Consort’s Library at Aldershot, which still exists today.

Biographies published after his death were typically heavy on eulogy. Theodore Martin’s five-volume magnum opus was authorised and supervised by Queen Victoria, and her influence shows in its pages.

Wakhan Corridor – Afghanistan

Wakhan Corridor is commonly used as a synonym for Wakhan, the area of far north-eastern Afghanistan which forms a land link or “corridor” between Afghanistan and China. The Corridor is a long and slender panhandle or salient, roughly 140 miles (220 km) long and between 10 and 40 miles (16 and 64 km) wide. It separates Tajikistan in the north from Pakistan in the south. The corridor was a political creation of the Great Game. On the corridor’s north side, agreements between Britain and Russia in 1873 and between Britain and Afghanistan in 1893 effectively split the historic area of Wakhan by making the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between Afghanistan and the Russian Empire. On its south side, the Durand Line agreement of 1893 marked the boundary between British India and Afghanistan. This left a narrow strip of land as a buffer between the two empires, which became known as the Wakhan Corridor in the 20th century. The corridor has 12,000 inhabitants. The term Wakhan Corridor is also used in a narrower sense to refer to the route along the Panj River and the Wakhan River to China, and the northern part of the Wakhan is then referred to as the Afghan Pamir.

Although the terrain is extremely difficult, the Corridor was historically used as a trading route between Badakhshan and Yarkand. It appears that Marco Polo came this way. The Jesuit priest Benedict Goëz crossed from the Wakhan to China between 1602 and 1606. In May 1906 Sir Aurel Stein explored the Wakhan, and reported that at that time 100 pony loads of goods crossed annually to China.

Early travellers used one of three routes:

  • A northern route led up the valley of the Pamir River to Zorkul lake, then east through the mountains to the valley of the Murghab River, then across the Sarikol Range to China.
  • A southern route led up the valley of the Wakhan River to the Wakhjir Pass to China. This pass is closed for at least five months a year and is only open irregularly for the remainder.
  • A central route branched off the southern route through the Little Pamir to the Murghab River valley.

As a through route the Corridor has been closed to regular traffic for over 100 years. There is no modern road through the Corridor. There is a rough road from Ishkashim to Sarhad-e Broghil built in the 1960s, but only paths beyond. It is some 100 km from the road end to the Chinese border at Wakhjir Pass, and further to the far end of the Little Pamir.

As Fahad Hussain has once said about Wakhan:

“Once here roamed the kings & angels from the soul

Now left with the twigs played by the horse

Red crystals changed the colors of the white puff

Where the pass remained empty with winds gone bye”

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