Monday, June 14, 2010

#16- Henry IV of France

Henry IV of France (1553-1610) is said to be one of the most gifted monarchs of France. Henry was a cruel man, flogging his own children even, but was also athlete, and loved hunting and playing tennis. Henry was also very brave, leading his troops into battle personally, but was also a politically clever, and was able to lead France into an impressive recovery after 30 years of religious wars. Henry was baptized as a Catholic when he was a child, but he was raised as a Protestant by his mother. His mother, Jeanne d'Albert, had already declared Calvinism as the religion of Navarre, a small kingdom in the Pyrenees mountains. When he was only a teenager, Henry left the capitol of Navarre, known as Pau, and joined the Huguenot forces in the French Wars of Religion, and fought with the Prince of Conde and Admiral Coligny. It was in 1572 that Henry became King Henry III of Navarre, when his mother died. In an attempt to end the religious fighting, Henry married the sister of Charles IX of France, but Catherine de' Medici and her Catholic supporters, led by the Duke of Guise, also named Henry, had no intention of letting the marriage last. Six days after the wedding, on St. Bartholomew's Day, the royal family authorized a huge burst of violence against the Protestant community, which led to the massacring of thousands of French Huguenots. Henry of Navarre only escaped by pretending to convert to Roman Catholicism, but after escaping prison in January of 1576, Henry renounced his conversion and rejoined the Protestant armies. In 1584, Francis, Duke of Anjou and Alençon, heir and brother of Henry III, current king of France, died, leaving Henry of Navarre as the legal heir to the French throne. Because Salic Law disinherited any who claimed the throne by the female line, Henry of Navarre was the closest heir, being that he was directly descended on the male line from King Louis IX, who died in 1270. Because of this, Henry of Navarre took the thrown when Henry III was assassinated in 1589, and was the first Bourbon king of France. When he became king, Henry IV renounced his Protestant faith in view of Catholicism. He was crowned as king the next month. In 1595, Henry declared war on Spain, and a year later, allied with the English and the Dutch against the Spanish. When the Spanish treasury ran out of money, negations began. On the 30th of April in 1598, Henry issued the Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed limited toleration to the French Protestant communities. Two days later, peace was made and all Spanish troops were withdrawn from French and Dutch territories. Henry's recovery program for France was bold and imaginative, but it worked. When Henry IV died in 1610, France was in a great condition. Swampland was drained to make room for agricultural areas and tree-lined roads, bridges, and canals were built, and the Louvre was extended. Henry wisely tried to subsidize land rather than wage war, but found himself at the brink of war with the Holy Roman Empire. While riding to meet his armies on May 14th of 1610, François Ravaillac, a fanatical anti-Huguenot, rejected by the Jesuits, stabbed Henry to death. When he was tortured, Ravaillac said that he worked alone to stop Henry from declaring war on the Pope, but no one will know if he really worked alone or not. If Henry had lived longer, war would have been made, but France might have gone into a golden age as well.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

#17- Benigno Aquino

Benigno Aquino (1932-1983) was a Filipino who came from the family with a grandfather who had been a general in the Filipino revolutionary army that fought against Spain, and a father prominent official in the government assembled after the fall of Japanese forces in 1941. Nicknamed 'Ninoy', Aquino became a journalist, and used his family name and media contacts to enter politics in the Philippines. When he was only 21 years old, he became a close adviser to Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay, and by 1955, he had become the mayor of Concepción. Six years later, Aquino was appointed as the governor of the province of Tarlac. When he was 34, in 1967, Aquino became the youngest elected senator in the country's history. As he rose through the ranks, Aquino became an opponent of Ferdinand Marcos, President of the Philippines. Aquino opposed Marcos's movement towards dictatorship, and also angered the president by attacking the extravagant and ambitious First Lady, Imelda Marcos. In 1971, when leaders of Aquino's Liberal Part were speaking, government agents bombed the public platform, yet none of the bombers were tried. On September 21nd of the next year, Marcos declared martial law, and had Aquino and other opposing politicians arrested. Aquino was sentenced to death by firing squad, but the sentence was never carried out. During his time in prison, where he suffered two heart attacks. On May 8th, 1980, Imelda Marcos went to Aquino's cell and offered him immediate evacuation to the United States if Aquino agreed not to attack the Marcos regime while abroad. Aquino quickly agreed, and went to the United States with his whole family. After making his way to the United States, Aquino underwent a heart operation and soon recovered. After recovering, Aquino renounced his pact with the Marcoses and he criticized the Marcos regime from his home in Boston. While he did this, the Filipino government tried to frame Aquino for a series of bombings in 1981. In early 1983, Aquino learned of the deteriorating political situation and the declining health of Marcos, and decided to return to the Philippines. Filipino consular officials in the United States were ordered not to issue any passports to the Aquino family, and Marcos's government warned all international airlines that they would be denied landing rights if they tried to fly the Aquinos to the Philippines. To keep his return secret, Aquino flew from Boston to Los Angeles, to Singapore, to Hong Kong, to Taipei, then to the Philippines, but his plan had already been discovered, and an assassin was already on his plane to Manila. Unfortunately, Aquino was unable to step back on his homeland one last time, for Aquino was shot in the back of the head as he descended the steps of the plane. Although investigators claimed that Rolando Galman, a man shot dead by airport security, had shot Aquino, one passenger claimed a man in uniform shot the man, but no one knows for certain. Many assumed that the assassination was engineered by Imelda Marcos, because Ferdinand Marcos was reportedly gravely ill, but whoever shot Aquino, his legacy lives on. Aquino's wife, Cory Aquino, later became president of the Philippines, and Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino Jr. has recently been elected as the next president of the Philippines.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

#18- Reinhard Heydrich

Out of all the Nazis, Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) was at the top of the Nazi heap. Along with being a senior SS officer and being considered as a possible successor of Hitler, Heydrich was the head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RHSA), the Reich Security Head Office, but Heydrich was most important for attending the Wannsee Conference of 1942, where Nazis agreed plans for the extermination of the European Jews. Heydrich started out in a good childhood, being able to play violin and many sports, but his prospects went down when he was dismissed from the German Navy in 1931 for unknown reasons. Many believe that Heydrich was dismissed for spying on naval personnel for the Nazis. This idea was strengthened by the fact that soon after the event, SS Leader Heinrich Himmler appointed Heydrich to expand the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) soon afterwards. After 1932, Heydrich started hopping up the Nazi hierarchy. Having done well in recruiting people to the SD, he was given control of the Gestapo, or the Geheime Staatspoliziei, in 1934. The Gestapo was the civil secret police. Two years later, the Gestapo was merged with the criminal-investigation police into the SiPo (Sicherheitspolizei, or Security Police) under Heydrich. After becoming the head of the RHSA in 1939, he ran both the SD and the SiPo. Heydrich was cruel, competitive, and aggresive, which led to Himmler giving him the nichname 'Genghis Khan'. It was Heydrich who planned the ruse if a Polish attack on German forces at Gleiwitz that later led to the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. In November of 1938, Heydrich was made the head of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, which he used to assert SS dominance over Jewish Policy, which culminated at the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, where the 'Final Solution' of the Jewish people was sealed. In September of 1941, Heydrich became the Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia. This post was important to the Nazi war effort, because many of Germany's guns and tanks came from that area of Europe. Heydrich understood this, and held strict rules for those who did not reach their daily quota and those who took part in any resistance. Heydrich's success led Hitler to consider promoting Heydrich to the position of governor of Paris. This news led British inteligence to protect the French Resistance network from Heydrich's ruthless ministrations. In December of 1941, the British sent Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, two Czechs who had fled their country in 1941, to Czechoslovakia to assassinate Heydrich. Heydrich was known for his display of riding in an open car. On May 27, 1942, Kubis and Gabcik used this habit to their advantage. When Heydrich's car was turning a bend in the suburbs of Prague, Gabcik pulled out a Sten 9mm submachine-gun, but the magazine jammed, and would not work, so Kubis threw an anti-tank grenade at the car in desperation, which exploded on the car's boot, but also in Kubis's face. Heydrich, at the time, appeared to be only lightly hurt, for he was able to jump out of the car and chase after the two assassins, but his gun, also, was not loaded. After a while, the shock of the wounds set in and Heydrich had to send his driver after the assassins instead of himself. Although Himmler sent Heydrich his best doctors, Heydrich's horsehair upholstery had allowed bacteria and toxins to give Heydrich septicaemia, and he died on June 4th of 1942. Two weeks later, Gabcik and Kubis were cornered by German troops in the church of St. Cyril and St. Methodius in Prague. After the two realized that the Germans would overrun the church, the two went into the crypt and committed suicide. Heydrich might have been governor of Paris had he lived a few years longer, and he might have uncovered the French Resistance while there, but he did not survive, helping the allies along with their fight.

Information from...
By Steven Parissien

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

#19- Conrad of Montferrat

Conrad of Montferrat (1145-1192) was a very well-known man during his time. He was the cousin to Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I, King Louis VII of France, and Duke Leopold V of Austria. He was known across Europe for his courage and commanding skills, being able to defeat Emperor Fredrick at Camerino in 1179, but was also trained as a diplomat. In 1187, he had one of the best positions in all of Europe when he went to join his father, Duke William V of Montferrat, in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, founded in 1099 by the crusaders. While Conrad was on his way to Jerusalem, the kingdom was under attack by the Seljuk Turks, led by Saladin. When Conrad arrived, both his father and Guy if Lusignan, king of Jerusalem, were prisoners of Saladin, captured in the Battle of Hattin. Because both Jerusalem and Acre had been captured, Conrad sailed to the port of Tyre, which was undergoing a siege, in hopes of rescuing it. Supposedly, Saladin offered to give up Conrad's father if Conrad gave up Tyre, but Conrad is said to have told Saladin that Conrad's father had lived a long life, and pointed his own crossbow at his father. Whatever happened, though, Conrad got his father back, and in December of 1187, Conrad launched a counter-attack and drove away Saladin's troops for the moment. Saladin later released Guy of Lusignan, who demanded that Conrad hand over the keys to the city, but Conrad said that Guy had lost the throne and would not let Guy and his wife to enter for quite some time. Conrad tried to reinforce his claim on the throne by marrying Isabella of Jerusalem, who, unfortunately, was already married, but Isabella's mother had the old marriage annulled, and the couple married on the 24th of November in 1190. In the mean time, Guy of Lusignan travelled to Europe, to the new King of England, Richard the Lionheart, and won Richard over to help in the Crusades and win Guy's throne back, but Conrad had already won back the fortress of Acre, so a compromise was made, with Guy as King and Conrad as the sole heir of the kingdom as well as the governor of Tyre, Beirut, and Sidon. As the Kingdom of Jerusalem fell, tension increased between Richard and Conrad, two of the greatest military commanders of the time, until 1191, when a dispute over ownership of Seljuk hostages led to Richard killing all the hostages and Conrad fleeing to Tyre. Saladin no longer needed to fight, with the strife between Richard and Conrad doing the job for Saladin. After Saladin had approached Richard, to make an alliance, Conrad approached Saladin to make an alliance, but in April 1192, Richard and Conrad held a vote to see who should be king, and Conrad was elected. Richard gave Guy of Lusignan Cyprus as a consolation prize, which he ruled until his death in 1194. Conrad's win was short lived, being attacked by two members of a sect of Shia Islam, known as 'hashhashins' (where we get the word 'assassin' from) on April 28, 1192. Although one of the assassins was killed, the other, under torture, said that Richard had sent them, which is very likely, because Saladin had also been attacked by the hashhashins, but no one knows for sure. Richard was a marked man when he reentered Europe. When one of Conrad's nephews recognized Richard, captured and imprisoned Richard, and in February of 1194, after being tossed from noble to noble, Richard was released. Although the hashhashins thrived for another 80 years, their power was lost with the invasion by the mongols.
information from...


By Steven Parissien