Robin Williams RIP

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When I began teaching, people called me Robin and began to say “Nanu nannu” in class. I had no idea what they were on about until I saw “Dead Poet’s society” which was quite shocking. It was like looking in a mirror. Both the actor and the story were horribly familiar. Already, I had asked students to stand on their desk to see things from a different perspective, so I knew in an instant, as I watched that film, that my teaching career would be brief and that I was somehow linked to this bewitching man called Robin Williams.

animator awakening

As an animator, spending hours at my desk, there are times when I feel I am walking off the set of “Awakenings”. Also, on animation- the Genie in Aladdin. While this character and the film owe so much to Richard Williams earlier work on “the Thief and the Cobbler”, the Robin Williams voice allowed for a huge range of activity on screen. Often an animator tries to mimic the actions and moves of the actor providing the voice, but in this case Eric Goldberg notes that Williams tended to be fairly static when recording, so what we see on film is a representation of the zany spirit that must have been in Williams’ head. The face is a loose caricature of  Williams nevertheless.

Now, back to my story. In 2004, some twenty years after my adopted mother died, I finally located my “birth-mother”, a woman with the improbably Dickensian name of “Cobbledick”. She had been to a supermarket in Derby around Christmas-time and had bought some flour there that in her words “was riddled with mites”. She had put the flour in her kitchen cupboard and later, opening the cupboard, she found the insects had spread. “I could not go into the kitchen without weeping. The flour decimated Christmas.”

mother and the mitesa

Once we read this story on the internet, we knew that we had found my birth-mother- a lady of remarkable theatricality. We learnt perhaps too late that she was also someone who was sadly malicious, deceptive and divisive. She seemed to take pleasure in dumping each of her many children often in a particularly cruel way and those I made contact with remain quite bruised by the experience. I was lucky, I think, to have been adopted. She visited us on a few occasions, intending to stay for a couple of days but lingering for a week or more each time. On one occasion she turned up unannounced having had a tiff with her 5th or 6th husband who she claimed on and off to have divorced or lost. She claimed that he was beating her, but he was the one with the bruises. And he was there till the end.

bigamy

At some point in the 1960s, I discovered that she had been prosecuted for bigamy. I simply did not think that sort of thing happened, but it is all over the bits of my family tree I could piece together. My grandfather fought in the Somme, survived and returned to a wife in Ireland, and another one in Manchester, never letting on that there was a third thriving somewhere in Paris. With a family like this, is it little wonder I still think there may be a direct link to Robin Williams? In the end, while I was recovering from a botched appendectomy arising from haemophilia complications, one of the few things my mother must have given to me- she went away and we never saw her again. She died a few years ago. Ironically she died on a day while I was filming the Edward Lear film in Albania and discussing my bizarre family with some Albanians. They could not get round the idea that she had given birth to 9 children and abandoned them all. She might have been an appalling mother but she was a great yarn!

animator awakening 2

I was one of three children born during a relationship she had with a man called Erik Williams- there is the Robin connection (I know it took a few paragraphs to get there)! I think my parents had eloped from Ireland or something. Although my mother claimed to know the addresses of my two siblings, she never let on and took the information to her grave. All I know is that Ronald joined the Navy, served in Malta and married a Maltese girl. I know next to nothing about my sister except that she spent time in Nottingham.

Anyway, that is the peculiarity. After being identified as a Robin Williams’ lookalike in school, I found that my real family was also called Williams. How strange is that!It is odd that two of the men I have come most admire over the years, Robin Williams and the animator Richard Williams should both share the name of my birth parents! We look for connections in life but frankly they do not need to be biological. Whether there is any real link between me and Robin, therefore, I cannot tell. But today, learning that Robin Williams had died and apparently had killed himself, I feel quite bereft. It is like loosing a member of the family!

There are many sweet stories appearing about Robin. Some of the nicest are linked to the help he gave to Christopher Reeve after he fell off his horse. Williams turned up in hospital pretending to be Russian (he had perfected a Russian accent for “Moscow on the Hudson”) and offering  an anal probe. It made Reeve laugh at a time when he thought there was really no point in going on. More than that, Williams covered his medical expenses. Here is some of that story from a news report and interview with Chris Reeve:

 

It is awful to read stories of his fears of bankruptcy and of the details of his death. More awful perhaps are the tales of bile and prejudice that have come out from people who should know better or who should shut up – suicide is an illness and often a terminal one. It is something that calls out for greater care from friends, medical professionals and the wider public, particularly of those who survive a suicide bid and those who are left behind when the attempt is, as here, evidently successul. Poor Robin.

Here is a picture in his memory. Such a gifted man and a kind man too.

A tribute to Melina Mercouri

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Μελίνα Μερκούρη (amaelia) made her name in the west with “Never on a Sunday” and “Topkapi” but she was also a staunch campaigner against the Greek military Junta in 67-74 ending up as an MP in the Greek Parliament and the PASOK minister for culture. Her statue, or rather her bust, is at the entrance to Plaka, opposite the temple of Zeus in Athens. It is an odd piece of work and I drew it a while ago. I am afraid the notebook is now overwritten with things about Victorian poetry but the statue comes out fairly well.

The “Elgin” Marbles

During her campaign for the return of the Elgin Marbles, all captured on the evening TV news, unfortunately, she began weeping in the wrong part of the British museum and needed to be guided to the Duveen gallery where she wept again with passion to protest at the theft of these great pieces of Greek Art. Elgin acquired the marbles between 1799 and 1805 from the Ottomans who were, at the time, in  overall control. It can be argued that the Ottomans, though legally in possession of Greece, could therefore sell the sculptures to whoever wanted to buy them. However, the moral case is less clear: the Ottomans twice used the Acropolis as a weapons depot and twice saw bits of the monument blown sky-high, once in 1687 and then again during the war of independence when, to stop the Ottomans’ further destruction of the site, and their attempt to take the iron from the columns to melt into bullets, the Greek armies offered to give them ammunition. The whole Acropolis, frankly, was in danger of destruction as the war inched towards the capital and Elgin can be seen as the saviour, rescuing great art from the jaws of bellicose chaos.

Elgin’s plans:

Thomas Bruce, the 7th Lord Elgin planned for the marbles to undergo extensive restoration but the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova refused to do the work. Elgin’s return journey was disastrous. He found himself repeatedly arrested by Napoleon as he tried to get back home. Some of the marbles sank near the Greek island of Cythera on the voyage back to Scotland.  The rest were later bought by the British parliament from Elgin in 1816 and presented to the British Museum under the particular Parliamentary directive of the Local and Personal Acts 56 George III c.99 of 1816.. Other museums with bits of the Acropolis include: The Louvre, Copenhagen National Museum, Wurzburg museum, the Vatican, The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and the Glyptothek in Munich. The marbles in the British Museum are held under an act of Parliament from 1963  (the British Museum Act) which prevents the museum from permanently loaning any objects that are unique or that are not considered “unfit to be retained and can be disposed of without detriment to the interests of students”. The debate about the sculptures is ongoing and fairly heated, but I think the fact that there are other pieces elsewhere weakens the British claim to be housing the marbles in a way that guarantees access and comparison with other works. While other museums retain pieces, though, the argument by Athens for repatriation is also weakened. A loan would be reasonable, but I think the intensity of feeling about repatriation means that it would never be a temporary loan and so would be illegal under the terms of the 1963 act. The Elgin collection is more than just the Parthenon marbles- there is a large scarab beetle from Istanbul and some Egyptian stuff as well as some bronze tableware and jewellery. Duveen was an antique dealer involved in a dispute about “La Bella Ferronniere” and a number of fakes in his collection. The Duveen Gallery was designed by the american architect John Russell Pope. Much of Duveen’s work was about selling fine art to America and his trade forms the core of the great American Museums’ various art collections.

It is very unclear why Elgin was granted the firman that allowed him to take the marbles in the first place. The general understanding is that this was a personal mark of gratitude by the Ottoman representative in Athens for Elgin’s help in the Ottoman war against the French that had been going on in Egypt. In fact, two such permissions were granted. The first in 1800 and the second to  Sir Robert Adair in 1810. As a rule, the focus tends to be on the first firman which survives only in an italian copy and which has been argued particularly by a professor in Crete not to be a firman at all. It was this firman, after all that formed the basis of Parliamentary approval to buy the marbles, though they not only did not have the original Turkish Firman; they did not even have the italian copy. They simply had an english translation that the Rev. Philip Hunt insisted was genuine. It is not at all clear which of the three documents was signet by Seged Abdullah Kaimacan.  Much of the debate in parliament, anyway, was about whether the marbles were genuine or simply Roman copies of the originals. An english writer claimed at the time that an Ottoman official tried in vain to stop Elgin from taking the marbles.

Byron

byron and keats

There were protests about the sale of the marbles from the very beginning. Here is an extract from ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’. There was also “the Curse of Minerva” which was never intended for publication in the UK. Keats, however, also writes about the marbles but only after seeing them in London and while he writes two poems specifically about the marbles, their inspiration leads to the Ode on a Grecian Urn and his idea about “truth and beauty”. I think he must have approved of the sale as did Goethe. When Goethe saw the marbles in London he claimed ‘the beginning of a new age for Great Art’. Certainly the marbles were deeply inspiring.

Cleaning the Marbles

There was the original method of severing the frieze from the walls of the Acropolis itself. The architect hired by Elgin for this task, an Italian man called Lusieri, confessed, “I was obliged to be a little barbarous”. But the most worrying bit of the Elgin/Parthenon marbles story is the cleaning of the frieze in 1938 in preparation for the move in London from the Elgin gallery to the newly-built Duveen. Over a period of 15 months, copper chisels and carborundum were applied to the sculptures to clean them. The man in charge, F.N. Pryce and his assistant, Roger Hinks, both of whom promptly resigned, seemed to think that the appropriate colour for the marbles was white and, therefore, they made an effort to get rid of the yellow/brown patina. The story did not come to light until 1950 when an Italian, Cesare Brandi, published a critical report about cleaning Classical pieces in general. Later, in 1984, the diaries of Roger Hinks were published detailing the cleaning process and, in the same year, the Greek government renewed a demand first made by Hugh Hammersley in 1816 for the repatriation of the marbles through UNESCO. The request was formally rejected by the British Government in 1984, and further demands were made in 1985 and 1997. It remains the position of the British Government (as stated by Tony Blair in To Vima in March 2001) that the marbles should remain in London and should be accessed by the public free of charge. There is a detailed account in Christopher Hitchens’ book The ElginMarbles – should they be returned to Greece? (1987). A later book, Lord Elgin & the Marbles (1998) by William St Clair makes use of restricted papers about the Hinks/Pryce cleanup which led to a conference in November 1999.

Now, all of this sounds fairly catastrophic until placed in context because the Greeks used a similar cleaning process on the Hephaisteion in 1953. In addition, the Athens pollution has seriously damaged the existing sculptures: Olga Palagia writes in The Pediments of the Parthenon (Brill Leiden, 1993) that, when sculptures from the west pediment were removed in 1977,  “the industrial pollution of modern Athens had wreaked havoc upon their delicate surface”. A paper by I Jenkins (Cleaning and Controversy) deals with the whole sorry subject.

There have been two modern Greek positions on the marbles and that is unfortunate. The first was a suggestion of a joint and permanent exhibition in Athens. This would have recognised the moral authority of the original sale to Elgin while allowing that the marbles might be better viewed in the context of their original setting in Athens. The second was a demand for the return of the looted property of the State. Anything else would, said Antonis Samaras for the Greek government in 2009, “condone the snatching of the marbles and the monument’s carving-up 207 years ago.” This was an uncompromising and rather silly posture that effectively makes the repatriation of the marbles impossible in the near future, because any arrangement would imply that the British government in the early 19th Century was covering up a crime. The issue of the legality of the sale was in fact debated in the House of commons before the marbles were ever bought from Elgin. I think if there had only ever been a single Firman (permission) granted by the Ottomans, then the sale would not have been recognised as wholly legitimate. But there were two. Even so, Elgin demanded just over £70,000 and received only £35,000 from parliament. This was not a profitable venture and the acquisition of the marbles effectively bankrupted Elgin.

Many years later, on June 21st 2009, the new museum in Athens, designed by Bernard Tschumi, opened. The empty spaces along corridors housing the Parthenon frieze provide a reason and an urgency for reuniting all the various parthenon marbles, as indeed the museum’s initial director, Dimitrios Pandermalis, fully intended. the spaces in the exhibition amount to cultural blackmail, and it is effective.

The Future:

I think now, however, as the various personalities dig in (the British Museum’s director Neil MacGregor, would not countenance any return when the Athens’ museum finally opened), there remains only one course of action available. In the next few years, Britain should lend the Athens museum a piece of the Parthenon frieze and only when it is duly returned to the UK, will there be a general sense of reassurance about the legal ownership of the marbles. At that point, and it might take an act of parliament to arrange this with the present trustees of the Museum, a much bigger portion of the collection might then be packed off to be displayed in a semi-permanent format in Athens.

Our Film, Following Lear:

Anyway, Melina Mercouri’s character, Ilya, in “Never on a Sunday/ Ποτέ Την Κυριακή” is the basis of one of the animated characters we have devised for the Edward Lear Film – though in the song, she is married and has “lost” her husband. David Watson has written a sensational bit of music to the Lear Limerick about “an old man of Corfu” and Vassilisso Vasilinho wrote the very funny words in Greek. Katerina Tiropoli did the voice and Duncan Skinner did the english voice- he will be a “Bud Flannigan type”. Here are some initial drawings of the Melina Mercouri character..

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moleskin again new 1075

moleskin again new 1076

moleskin again new 1077

moleskin again new 1078

Who was Pierre Loti?

pierre loti scribbles

When I first went to Istanbul, I was taken to tea at Pierre Loti’s by Necati. We have been back there many times since and each time, it is assumed that I must know of Pierre Loti because he is such an important writer. Well, that may not be quite the case. I think the significance of m. Loti and the preservation of his home on the hillside overlooking the grave of Necati’s father, is less a matter of literary genius and more because he supported the Kemalists and earned the patronage of Atatürk.
Personally, I find it a bit sad that this man is lauded in Istanbul to the exclusion of another man like Edward Lear who drew at least two pictures of the Pierre Loti graveyard even before Loti had built his wooden house there. It is these pictures that we have tried to emulate in our own work and that are posted below. Here, meanwhile, is my copy of one of the Lear drawings:

PIERRE LOTTE final
Loti is nevertheless an interesting if odd man. A French navy man through and through, he found his way to the far east, and began writing, publishing books about Polynesia, Tahiti, Senegal and Breton fishermen. A novel in 1887 called “Madam Chrysanthème” is essentially “Madam Butterfly” and is acknowledged (together with claims by John Luther Long, a Philadelphia lawyer, who wrote a story on something he claimed had happened to “his sister”) as one of the sources for both Puccini (1904) and Messager (1893). Loti himself had a temporary Japanese wife so the story is fairly autobiographical and Pierre is just as unthinking as Pinkerton. Later Loti wrote an impassioned paper against the British Raj called “L’inde” and was involved in quashing the Boxer rebellion in China in 1900.

His praise for Atatürk and support of the “Kurtuluş Savaşı” or Turkish war of Independence (which took in disputes with Greece, Armenia and the Ottoman throne and that really lasted from 1908-1923 but was sealed by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and the abolition of the Sultinate, the abdication and exile of Mehmed VI on the British warship Malaya which went to Malta) is qualified by a fairly blistering attack on Turkey towards the end of his life. But the people of Istanbul love the cafe so Pierre Loti, like El Cid, I recall, has moved out of history and into some sort of mythology. No one reads his novels, but we all drink his tea.

Here are pictures of the graveyard that surrounds the Pierre Loti cafe:

Pierre lotte 1b graves flat

Pierre lotte 2 gravesa flat

Pierre lotte f3 flat

 

And here is a picture of Pierre Loti dressed in a Turkish fez (presumably just before Atatürk outlawed it in 1925 with the “hat law”)

p loti en turc bleu

Finally, here is one of the most bizarre pictures, called an “academic image” but I cannot see why.

pierre loti

Kim Jong-un

korea KIM

This is a caricature that we did for the little animated film, “How to be Boss”.

Today, the little boy in the background is the Supreme leader of the Democratic People’s republic of Korea. The son of Kim Jong-il and grandson of the founder of modern North Korea, Kim il-Sung. He had been designated premier by the Soviet controllers and called “great leader”. One of his first plans as leader was to invade South Korea which the Soviets anyway regarded as his territory. With Chinese acquiescence, Kim went on to seize Seoul capturing most of the peninsular except for the “Pusan Perimeter”. The US landed in Incheon and mounted a vigorous counter-offensive together with troops from South Korea. Within a month, Seoul had been retaken and then Kim was forced into a major retreat and refuge in China. This led to a Chinese offensive in aid of the North Koreans and the retaking of Seoul in January 1951. The UN counter-attacked in March retaking Seoul. The war lingered on until 1953 with the loss of over 1.2 million lives. Kim resented China’s increasing control of the war as indeed he resented anyone with a strong alliance to any number of people with Chinese connections. The most bizarre of these was Enver Hoxha, the leader of Albania who had openly defied Russia and set up his own Sino-Albanian pact.

Enver Hoxha and “Following Edward Lear”

hoxha

I remember seeing Hoxha’s pyramidal tomb in Tirana. We have been to Albania a few times for the Lear project. Edward Lear was there in 1848 at the end of his journey from Istanbul. As part of our Edward Lear film, we have drawn a view of the Albanian town of Elbassan.

one of Lear's views of Elbassan
one of Lear’s views of Elbassan

 

view of Elbassan from the hills
view of Elbassan from the hills

 

the cypress grove, what belongs of it
the cypress grove, what belongs of it

 

Today, the view that Lear sketched is dominated by a huge Chinese-built factory which is really the only physical result of the Sino-Albanian pact, Hoxha’s alliance with Mao Zedong. Hoxha may not have been a nice man, and his secret police, the Sigurimi has a grim reputation, but he is impressive in the way that he stood up to Russia and lived to tell the tale. In truth, he was defending the indefensible- denouncing reforms by Khrushchev and the demolition of the Stalin cult. He was also, incidentally anxious about meetings that had taken place between the Russian president and Greek politicians who had been campaigning for an independent Northern Epirus. Khrushchev is supposed to have said of Hoxha: “He bared his fangs at us even more menacingly than the Chinese themselves.” To this comment went the response from a Spanish delegate at the conference to the effect that Hoxha is a dog that bites the hand that feeds it. Russian economic aid stopped but was replaced by considerable aid from China. In 1979, Hoxha responded to the resentment oozing out of North Korea. He said, “In Pyongyang, I believe that even Tito will be astonished at the proportions of the cult of his host, which has reached a level unheard of anywhere else, either in past or present times, let alone in a country which calls itself socialist.”

There is a rather funny video doing the rounds on Youtube. You can find it here-

Fountains near the Byzantine wall

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Here are some pictures showing progress on a scene we are finishing for the Edward lear film. This shows the Fatih gate which is that part of the wall that first gave way to the Turkish assault of 1453. Next to the fountains here is a museum with an astonishing diorama showing the actual bombardment of the city by the Turks. Here is a copy of the picture that Edward Lear painted. This is unusual among the Istanbul collection because it is in colour, so probably worked up by Lear a few years later.

Lear_Edward_Walls_of_Constantinople_pencil_and_watercolor-large

Here is the completed picture we have just finished.

fatih walls fountain bc flat

and here is the companion piece showing the walls a little further down.

fatih walls part 2 a1b SMALLER and full size FLATs

Gavrilo Princeps and updates about our films

moleskin20060 princeps

This weekend, we are working on three projects. I am trying to get the second part of the film about the 6 gay texts in the Bible finished and there are so many details that are left -simply in the presentation. Secondly, I am storyboarding the first of our polyglot Lear songs. So far, we have recorded sequences from two of these songs- the first is in english and Turkish (there was a young person of Smyrna) and the second is in English and Greek (there was an old man of Corfu).

moleskin20061

The music is by David Watson and the Greek sequence is being recorded later this week in Athens in a studio I know well from my days recording englsh language cassettes for “New Editions” and Longman or Macmillan. I recorded the english line a few weeks ago in Oxford. Anyway, the idea is that these songs will be thoroughly theatrical, looking and feeling like something out of the 19th Century. So this brings me to the third thing we are working on this weekend which is the backdrop to the Turkish Lear film. This is an image of the centre of modern Izmir, which was also used in Posters of the 1950s, one of which I am copying here

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…So while I am messing around with animation in one office, Necati is slaving away drawing the background in the other office. Later, we have some sketches of Leamington Spa to finish for “Clements and Church”.

Gavrilo Princeps was the boy who assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne, the Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 and this was the event that catapulted us into the first world war, courtesy of some bizarre activity by our then Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, who has the record for holding the office for 11 years from 1905 to 1916. Today is the anniversary of that event. Gavrilo Princeps was the son of a local postman,  a Serbian nationalist. I wonder what his name actually means: the word γαύρος in Greek is the word for a little fish or anchovy. (Incidentally, in writing the Greek word, I mistyped and hit an “N” instead of a “rho”. That would have come much closer to a word that certainly does not mean “fish” in Russian. I think it is one of the exclamations made at the beginning of “From Russia with Love.”) The general feeling one hundred years ago was that Princeps’ action was fairly unimportant, unless of course, one happened to be the Archduke Ferdinand or his wife Sophia, the Duchess of Hohenberg, then of course it was immediately a matter of life and death.

Princeps himself had had a troubled life. He wanted to join the circus but was considered too weak to do any serious stunts and also apparently he looked improbably gay in a leotard. There were apparently 6 (or 7) conspirators, linked to the “Black Hand” (led by Dragutin Dimitrijevic) and the assassination attempts went on for about an hour. Between them, the conspirators had six bombs and 4 Browning pistols. The first conspirator was the son of a minor Bosnian noble, called Mohammed Mehmedbasic and when it came to the point, he lost his nerve because a policeman was standing next to him. He was later arrested in Montenegro where he was overheard bragging about his part in the conspiracy. Nedeljko Cabrinovic threw a hand grenade at the open-topped car at 10.15 but the driver, Leopold Loyka, accelerated and the bomb actually exploded under another car that was following the Royals wounding Eric Von Merizzi and Count Alexander as well as about 20 spectators. Cabrinovic’s plan was to bomb the car and then vault over the railings of the bridge swallowing a vial of Cyanide as he did so. Cabrinovic’s poison was useless and his attempted suicide failed. He was captured by police.

The Duchess was slightly hurt by a bit of shrapnel which had cut her neck. She was stoic, though as was her husband. They went on to a reception at the Town hall and then to the hospital to visit his wounded aides, but on the way the driver took a wrong turn, passed Moritz Schilller’s cafe where Princeps was hiding. The car got into further difficulties, stalled and Princeps fired at a distance of five feet, hitting the Archduke in the neck and his wife in her lower right abdomen. She was pregnant. The second bullet also hit the Archduke in the chest. His wife was able to say “What has happened to you?” before apparently fainting. She had in fact died. He said, “Sophia, don’t die. Stay alive for the children.”  Count Von Harrach owned the Gräf & Stif car and was acting as the couple’s bodyguard; he was standing on the running board of the car as Princeps fired. He supported the Archduke’s head and asked if he was in pain. “It’s nothing,” said Ferdinand repeatedly. He died at 11am, having been carried with his dead wife to his suite in the Hotel Konak, exactly 1 hour after arriving by train in Sarajevo.

Oddly, the Archduke might have made a good Emperor. He rejected alot of his uncle’s fuddy-duddy approaches to the empire and wanted to make concessions to the slavs. The emperor Franz Josef disliked his nephew intensely, not least because he disapproved of his wife, Sophia who was not descended from Imperial blood. The archduke must have been a bit dim or received idiotic advice because the visit to Sarajevo, urged repeatedly by the Bosnian Governor-general, Oscar Potiorek, was made at a time of Serbian tension and specifically on 28th June, St Vitus day, a Serbian National holiday that commemorates the defeat of Serbia by the Ottomans in the battle of Kosovo in 1389. During the battle, the leaders of both armies, the Suktan Murad I and Prince Lazar who led the Serbs, both died. To make matters worse for the visiting Royals, this was their 14th Wedding anniversary.

Because of the Duchess’s lowly birth and the appalling pomposity of the Emperor, her coffin was placed on a lower bier to her husband’s at the funeral service in Vienna. More astonishingly, her children were denied access to the funeral because they were not considered Royal enough to share the Church with the emperor and his family. Ferdinand had anticipated some of this and had created two marble tombs under their house so they could at least be buried together. I suppose he did not anticipate that they would be used so soon.

Riots broke out in Sarajevo in the days that followed the assassination.

arrest of princeps

here is a photo I was sent that I understand shows Princeps’ arrest

The fate of Princeps is barely recorded in History books, but makes poignant reading. He was too young to be condemned to death so was given a 20 year prison sentence instead. A third conspirator, Danilo Ilic, was old enough to be executed a year later. The fate of two  conspirators is bizarre: Vaso Čubrilović was 17 and not particularly rebellious at all; the worst thing he had done to date was to walk out of school while the Hapsburg National Anthem was playing. I gather he claimed that he was worried any attack on the Duke might hurt the Duchess so on a point of chivalrous honour, he chickened out. After a 16 year prison sentence, he became a history teacher. Cvjetko Popović claimed to have weak eyesight and did not see the car at all. He served a prison term and then became a museum curator. I do not know what happened to Trifko Grabež (was he executed?). Once a year, the various conspirators were put into solitary confinement to commemorate the day of the assassination, 28th June. Princeps, in particular was singled out for brutal treatment. His arrest was apparently very nasty. He was kept in appalling conditions, and attempted suicide unsuccessfully with the same drugs given to Cabrinovic that were so out of date they simply made him vomit; later, he contracted TB, had his right arm amputated and died in the early part of 1918. He was buried in an unmarked grave which was subsequently identified and his remains were placed in a chapel built to commemorate Serbian heroes. His home which was destroyed during the War was rebuilt and became the Museum of Yugoslavia in Sarajevo until it was destroyed again in 1941 when the Croatians/ Germans invaded Sarajevo. It was rebuilt in 1944 by Tito and became a museum again until, the 1990s when it was destroyed for a third time.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the various activities today in Sarajevo is the erection of a statue of Princeps. Whether he is seen as a freedom fighter or as a terrorist is perhaps an academic point now, but the fact remains that he ignited one of the worst wars ever. I am not sure this is worthy of a bronze statue. I was sent a photo that shows Bosnian Serbs kissing and touching the statue in Istocno shortly after the unveiling ceremony last night.

ladies touching statue of Princeps- for luck?

Today is also the first day of Ramadan:

best wishes for ramadan from zontul films