Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Fall of Dublin - Guest Post by Marko Bosscher

In July 1649 The Earl of Ormonde marched a combined force of English Royalists and Irish Confederates on Dublin, the last major foothold of parliamentary forces in Ireland. Ironically Ormonde himself had held Dublin two years prior when it was besieged by Irish Confederates, before abandoning it to English parliamentary forces.

The Confederate/Royalist coalition had been forged in blood, the years since the Irish Rebellion in 1641 had been years of bloody and ruthless wars. Even as a peace agreement had been reached in 1648, after a series of defeats for the confederates at the hands of parliamentarian forces, fighting continued against those catholics who could not stomach submitting to the protestants who had inflicted massacres on catholics only a few years prior.

In 1649 things were going well for the coalition, the parliamentary forces received almost no support from England, where Cromwell had his hands full with the second English Civil War. At the end of July Ormonde had camped his troops at Rathmines near Dublin, with the intent to besiege the city. On the second of August his troops started fortifying the half-demolished castle of Baggotrath on the outskirts of Dublin. Michael Jones, the defender of Dublin, decided to move against this danger with an army of 5.000.

Although Ormond’s army had stood to arms for just such an eventuality Jones quickly captured Baggotrath, and turned towards the main Royalist camp. Although the royalist forces were thrown in disarray, they were able to fall back on a line formed by Lord Inchiquin’s infantry. Despite suffering heavy losses Ormonde was able to hold the line long enough for Lord Dillon to march against the parliamentarian rear.

Chaotic fighting raged on throughout the day, until at the start of the evening the remaining Parliamentarians forced themselves past Dillon’s battered forces and retired to Dublin.

The parliamentarians had inflicted heavy losses on the Royalists, but at the cost of most of their own force. Lord Inchiquin who had been stationed in Munster with three regiments of horse had marched North upon hearing the news, and linked up with Ormonde the next day. With Ormonde´s troops occupying the countryside and his artillery dominating the harbour, the siege of Dublin continued for another 6 weeks.

Cut off from England and with no remaining allies in Ireland Jones surrendered Dublin and was allowed to return to england with his troops, leaving behind most of their weaponry.

With no port open to him Cromwell called of his planned invasion of Ireland until spring. But the intended invasion of Ireland was overtaken by events, as the Scots proclaimed Charles II their king. The bulk of the New Model Army marched north against the Scots, leaving only a small army to invade Ireland and attempt to gain a foothold there.

Because the English navy still commanded the Irish sea parliamentarian forces could land unopposed near Drogheda. Needing to to take Drogheda before the Royalists could send reinforcements the walls were quickly broken by artillery and the city taken by assault.
The royalist garrison was massacred to a man, along with hundreds of civilians. The victory of parliament was short-lived as Ormonde marched the main royalist army against Drogheda, while Dillon marched troops from Dublin past Drogheda to block the parliamentarians from the north. With most defensible positions destroyed in the Parliamentarian attack the city was soon assaulted and it’s defenders given no quarter.

The massacre of Drogheda did much to strengthen Irish resolve. The defense of Ireland was strengthened by new fortifications in coastal towns and a reorganization of the Royalist army into three armies tasked with guarding Ireland against any invasion. Although English Royalists remained in command of these armies, with Ormonde in overall command, the Irish nobility was incorporated into the army as well.

Parliamentary propaganda tried to make the best of it’s failure to recapture Ireland by casting Charles II as “the Irish King”, hoping to fuel anti-Irish and anti-Catholic resentment in England, even though the monarch did not so much as set foot on Irish soil during these years.

Upon the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 the Irish Confederacy was dissolved and the Irish Parliament instituted. The confederacy had achieved most of its goals, with self-government of Ireland assured and religious equality for Catholics (in Ireland) granted by Charles II.

In reality: Ormonde’s troops were routed at the battle of Rathmines and never really recovered. Cromwell was able to use Dublin as ann entry point to Ireland and marched quickly against other coastal towns, Drogheda was just the first of many massacres. In total the human cost of the conquest of Ireland is estimated at between 200.000 and 600,000 death (15-50% of the total population), another 50.000 Irish were taken to the West Indies as slave laborers. Ireland was effectively colonized by the English under Cromwell, Charles II restored only part of the lands taken by Cromwell leaving the Irish almost completely disenfranchised.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guest Post from Marko Bosscher: Watson, Crick, Pauling, & Franklin

1953 - Watson and Crick abandon search for DNA structure. "At once I felt something was not right. I could not pinpoint the mistake, however, until I looked at the illustrations for several minutes."

As the fifties started the race for the structure of DNA was about to begin. In 1951 Linus Pauling had accurately described the helix structure of proteins and he was confident he could do the same for DNA. In the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge Watson and Crick were discussing the structure of DNA among themselves, although they were not officially allowed to work on this subject. Meanwhile at King´s College in London Rosalind Franklin was working with Maurice Wilkins and Ph.D. student Raymond Gosling on X-ray diffraction images of DNA

Marko Bosscher
The race was on! And it officially became a three horse race when the head of the Cavendish Laboratory, Sir Lawrence Bragg, finally gave Watson and Crick permission to pursue their search for the structure of DNA.

Franklin meanwhile had a hard time of it. Only just arriving in King´s College after years of successful work on X-ray diffraction in France she immediately came into conflict with Wilkins, who had been conducting DNA research with Gosling. As a compromise the research team was split between Wilkins and Franklin, with Gosling assigned as her student. Pauling was a experiencing problems of a different kind, his nuclear activism had led to his passport being revoked. Leaving him unable to visit conference in England attended by the other major players, his assistant Robert Corey would take his place.

Under pressure to gain results quickly Watson and Crick created a preliminary model of DNA, with a triple helix structure. In Cambridge Wilkins and Franklin were on a collision course, as Wilkins became convinced that DNA had a helix structure Franklin came to the opposite conclusion. Franklin´s direct and often abrasive personality didn´t help matters either. After regaining his passport Pauling did visit England, but he did not take note of Rosalind Franklin´s images. Perhaps Corey had failed to realise their importance. Or perhaps he was too preoccupied with his own triple helix model.

At the start of 1953 things came to a head, Franklin had decided to leave King´s College and DNA research behind forever. But not before sending out manuscripts describing her research, among the papers were two that described a double helix structure. Pauling meanwhile had decided to publish his triple helix model of DNA, and a prepublication version was circulated at the end of January, Watson and Crick having read the Pauling paper realised it was flawed. Watson approached Franklin for cooperation in a final attempt to beat Pauling, but she dismissed them. Because they did not have a valid competing model Watson and Crick were forced to call of the hunt.

While the race was seemingly over Wilkins and Gosling continued to work on DNA, building off the work in previous years. Although Watson, who was friends with Wilkins, had a large amount of input on the final work it was Franklin whose name would appear on the paper. Wilkins, Gosling and Franklin became famous as the discoverers of the structure of DNA, while the important work of Watson and Crick was unjustly ignored.


In reality: After the row between Franklin and Watson in early 1953 Wilkins gave Franklin’s data (including the vital 'Photograph 51') to Watson and Crick, who used it to create their double helix model of DNA. Franklin’s paper was published as as a supporting piece and generally overlooked.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Guest Post from Marko Bosscher: Gruffydd Survives Fall

On the first of March 1244 Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr fell from the Tower of London, where he had been held hostage by Henry the Third. The next morning a Yeoman of the Guard found sheets hanging from his window and bloodstains on the ground below, Gruffydd had been too heavy for his improvised escape ladder.

Rumors soon spread. Some said that Gruffydd had died, others that he had been allowed to escape by King Henry to ferment a civil war against his half-brother Dafydd. In fact Gruffydd had been badly injured in the fall (he would never regain the use of his left arm, and walked with a limp), but he was whisked away by men loyal to Daffyd and would publicly proclaim his loyalty in Daffyd’s court several months later.

His relationship to his brother was difficult. Their father Llywelyn the Great had greatly expanded the old realm of Gwynedd and proclaimed the principality of Wales, but he had selected the younger brother Daffyd (the son of his new English wife Joan) to be his heir. In exchange for peace and the acknowledgement of his claims by the English king Gruffydd had been given as a hostage to King John the First.

Gruffydd would spend many long years as a “guest” to the English King, while in Wales his half-brother was being groomed to take over from their father, In 1237 Llywelyn suffered a stroke and Daffyd ruled on his behalf, and when Llywelyn died three years later he formally became the ruler of the Gwynedd. Gruffyd was allowed to return to Wales, where he was held in captivity by his brother, to prevent him from making a claim to the Gwynedd.

But trouble was brewing on the horizon, the English King would not recognize Daffyd’s claim outside the Gwynedd, and things came to a head in 1241. King Henry invaded Wales and forced Daffyd to accept a treaty that involved giving up his claims to the lands outside, and sending his half-brother to England as a hostage. Which is how Gruffydd came to be locked up in the Tower in 1244.

With his half-brother by his side and unrest brewing in the English half of Wales Daffyd formed an alliance with the other Welsh nobles and invaded the English lands. During 1245 he dealt King Henry several defeats, but in february 1246 he suddenly died.

Because Daffyd had left no heirs his older brother succeeded him, with one of his sons still held hostage by the English and the military campaign floundering because of the death of his half-brother Gruffyd agreed to negotiations. Because he was unwilling to yield the gains made by Daffyd hostilities soon broke out again.

In order to bolster his support Gruffyd proclaimed himself Prince of Wales the following year. He himself was was no commander, but he had the luck that his son Llywelyn was a great military leader and Henry suffered several defeats before finally agreeing to a treaty.

By the time of his death in 1257 Gruffyd had been acknowledge as Prince of Wales by all the Welsh nobles, if not the English King. He was succeeded by his younger son Llywelyn.

Henry released Owain, who had been in English captivity all this time, in the hopes of fostering civil war. Despite his strong claims Owain found little support among the war-weary Welsh, and his small army was quickly routed. He was imprisoned by his brother and lived in captivity for most of the rest of his life.

In 1264 the Baron’s Revolt broke out in England, Llywelyn saw an opportunity. Proffering his fealty to Henry he offered to send an army in his support. Henry reluctantly accepted and recognized the title of Prince of Wales. Although this plan seemed to backfire when the Barons scored several victories, in the end Henry won and his son Edward I would further strengthen the position of the Prince of Wales in exchange for soldiers to fight the Scots.

In reality: Gruffydd fell to his death trying to escape from the Tower. His son Llywelyn would be recognized as Prince of Wales by the Welsh and the English, but Edward I quashed the nascent principality.

Marko Bosscher tours Natural History museums at http://hospitem.blogspot.de/ .

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