Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Amidst the stories of spreading domestic and international collapse that seem to be saturating the nooz these days, trust ol’ Robbo to come up with some little bits of historickal trivia to go along with the port and Stilton here.  (I didn’t coin my byline for nothing, after all.)  Oddly, two items that caught the Port-Swiller eye today both came from the Smithsonian.

Richard IIIThe first one will be especially appreciated by our Maximum Leader.  According to recent forensic pathology, Richard III drank like a fish and indulged in exotic meals:

After he became king, the scientists found, his diet changed significantly. Now he was eating freshwater fish and wild birds. If Richard III’s banquets were anything like other medieval feasts researchers know about, Phys.org adds, then those festivities most likely included wild birds such as swans, cranes, herons and egrets.

Hey, why not.  “It’s good to be da king!” **

Somewhere or other I recently saw a headline asking why Richard has been so vilified in art and history (not that anybody these days really even knows who the hell he was, of course).  Well, I think Maxy will agree with me that it was all a matter of Renaissance politicks and propaganda.  Our primary picture of Richard – the last of the Plantagenets, the only legitimate English Royal family – comes, of course, from the pen of ol’ Will Shakespeare.  Will was writing during the reign of Elizabeth I, the grand-daughter of the fellah who overthrew Richard, Henry Tudor.  The legal grounds for Henry’s actions were, shall we say, a tad shaky.  So ol’ Will, who was no fool, turned Richard into the literal Embodiment of Eeeeeevil in order to keep on the good side of the Tudors.

Yes, I am gradually coming around to the Richard III Society view of things.

The second was an announcement of a new display about Grant and Lee down the National Portrait Gallery which I very much wish to see.  Among other art and artifacts, the NPS apparently has got hold of Winslow Homer’s painting, “Skirmish in the Wilderness”, which illustrates the confusion and claustrophobia of the first great clash between Grant and Lee in 1864:

Winslow Homer, "Skirmish in the Wilderness", 1864

Winslow Homer, “Skirmish in the Wilderness”, 1864

I’ve only ever seen this reproduced in various books (with varying levels of detail and lighting) and look forward to viewing the real thing.

grantLeeAnyhoo, as a teaser, the article asks the question:  Which General was Better, Grant or Lee?

The more I think about it, the more useless this question strikes me, simply because it’s an apples and oranges comparison.  Yes, Grant beat Lee, so you could go by that, but there are such vast differences in their respective assets, authorities, support, strategic and tactical goals, and, for want of a better way of putting it, their fortunes of war, that I simply can’t come up with an honest head-to-head comparison of their talents and abilities.  After all, it’s not as if they were standing side by side on a free-throw line.

On the other hand, if you judge the question not by its substantive merits but by its goal – to attract attention – it is far from useless.  After all, it’s snagged at least one viewer for the exhibit……

 

** Spot the quote.

GRATUITOUS OFF-DAY UPDATE:

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I’ve got nothing new tonight, or at least nothing coherent.  So I will instead follow up on the excellent Richard III discussion here by reposting an old favorite which crosses many, many streams.  Enjoy!

 

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