Pesky pets in a political coo
QUESTION Have any embarrassing incidents been caused by the pets of political leaders?
Pete, a bull terrier, was much loved by U.S. President teddy Roosevelt and his family, even though he had a disposition for violence.
the dog’s penchant for attacking dignitaries drew the attention of the Press, with one journalist noting: ‘Since his last man- eating escapade, when he chased a South American diplomat up a tree and incidentally chewed two or three policemen who went to the aid of a distinguished foreigner, Pete has been on probation.’
Roosevelt tried to dismiss Pete’s temperament as ‘the nature of the breed’ or ‘his attitude towards their political stances’. But the final straw came when he attacked the French ambassador, Jean Jules Jusserand, ripping his trousers.
Pete chased him ‘down a White House corridor, ultimately catching up with him and then tearing the bottom out of his pants’. the French government complained and Pete was banished to the Roosevelt family’s country home.
Another badly behaved pet was Poll, President Andrew Jackson’s African grey parrot. Poll’s long association with ‘Old Hickory’ clearly rubbed off on him. On June 8, 1845, thousands gathered for the president’s funeral — only to be greeted by the parrot, who swore like a sailor.
According to the presiding reverend: ‘Before the sermon and while the crowd was gathering, a wicked parrot that was a household pet got excited and commenced swearing so loud and long as to disturb the people and had to be carried from the house’. People were ‘horrified and awed at the bird’s lack of reverence’.
even worse was the Shetland ram owned by thomas Jefferson, one of 40 sheep used to graze the White House lawn.
Pedestrians were attacked by the beast. William Keough wrote to Jefferson: ‘ In passing through the President’s Square, I was attacked and severely wounded and bruised by your excellency’s ram, of which I lay ill for five or six weeks.’
According to the diary of Jefferson’s friend Anna Maria thornton, there was ‘a fine little boy killed by the ram that the president has’.
Heather Lowes, Rishworth, S. Yorks. WINSTON CHURCHILL was a great animal lover and as well as pet poodles and cats, he was fond of the livestock on his country estate, Chartwell.
A favourite pet was toby, a budgerigar, who was allowed to fly freely around the Prime Minister’s study, sit on his head and peck at his cigars.
Rab Butler, Churchill’s Chancellor of the exchequer between 1951 and 1955, was ‘decorated’ by the budgie repeatedly during one meeting. He later wrote: ‘It is unbelievable what I do for our Winston.’
toby would even share Churchill’s brandy, once toppling into his glass.
Alain Thomas, Ipswich, Suffolk.
QUESTION What are the Illuminati, which are mentioned in Dan Brown’s books?
THE Illuminati were intellectuals and academics whose importance was far less significant than the mythology that surrounds them would suggest.
Dan Brown features them in his books the Da Vinci Code and Angels And Demons. He describes them as starting in the lifetime of Galileo, but that was 200 years earlier than their actual founding.
Modern mythology has the Illuminati behaving as Machiavellian conspirators, pulling the strings of power from behind the scenes or, bizarrely, as pan-dimensional beings, snatching people from death and transporting them to the future to maintain the human race.
the Illuminati were founded on May 1, 1776 in Bavaria by Adam Weishaupt, a lay professor of canon law at the Jesuit Ingolstadt University. the Jesuits opposed the appointment of non-clerical teaching staff. Weishaupt established the Illuminati as a secret opposition to the university’s Jesuits.
He recruited four students and they adopted the owl of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, as their symbol and used aliases.
the group soon expanded, forming a branch in Munich and recruiting influential people as members.
Ritual formed just as much a part of the organisation as the exchange of academic ideas. the Illuminati was granted a warrant to form its own Masonic lodge, the theodore of the Good Council, named after the elector (ruler) of Bavaria.
It quickly grew big enough to split from its mother lodge in Frankfurt and started founding new lodges of its own under the umbrella of Freemasonry.
However, internal dissent and the political and social misbehaviour of members led to its decline and eventual disbandment. After secret societies were banned, the Illuminati ceased to exist in 1785.
But rumours persisted that it had gone underground. Books by the 18th-century authors John Robison and Augustin Barruell stated that the Illuminati were behind the French Revolution, which would have fitted with the organisation’s political ideals.
the books made their way across the Atlantic to the newly founded U.S., and it is likely that these were the folk origins by which the modern story of the Illuminati grew.
Bob Cubitt, Northampton.
QUESTION Richmal Crompton and Enid Blyton were teachers before becoming successful authors. Which other authors took this path to fame?
FURTHER to the earlier answer, there is a theory that Shakespeare spent his ‘lost’ early years working as a schoolmaster in the village of titchfield in Hampshire.
local historians believe the Bard was a schoolmaster there between 1589 and 1592. the theory has its roots in his relationship with his patron Henry Wriothesley, 3rd earl of Southampton.
Other well- known teacher/ authors include lewis Carroll, who was a mathematics tutor at Oxford while penning Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and through the looking-Glass.
the Hobbit’s creator J. R. R. tolkien taught at leeds University and Oxford, and Aldous Huxley, author of Brave new World, was a French teacher at eton.
Mrs Andrea Malley, St Ives, Cornwall.
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Animal lover: Winston Churchill