Henri Dunant is a very famous person indeed but hardly anyone knows who he is today.

He is the mentor behind the creation of the Red Cross.

He is probably and literally the fourth most famous Swiss national after William Tell, Henri Nestle and Roger Federer.

When as a thirty one year old journeyman he passed by the Battle of Solferino in northern Italy in 1859, he knew something had to be done to address the barbarity of warfare.

He wanted to set up a humanitarian movement which could and would protect human life and health, ensure respect for all human beings and also prevent as well as alleviate human suffering.

It was only a few years after the Crimean War fought by Britain, France and Turkey against Russia which was significant to bringing public attention the need for non-combatant trained medics to be available at the field of battle, the most famous of whom was, of course, Florence Nightingale.

Within the space of four short years, his vision came to fruition and the Red Cross institution was formed in Geneva Switzerland in 1863.

Its adopted symbol of a red cross on a white background is an exact reversal of a white cross on a red background for the Swiss nationaL flag.

Henri Dunant received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901 for his important contribution to mankind and yet he suffered greatly in his life as a direct result of this due to poverty, ill-health and personal bankruptcy.

When he died an old man in 1910, he was an obscure rather than a notorious figure for history to record.

But the Red Cross plays an important part in times of war and world crisis today with no little thanks paid to Henri Dunant.



She lived all her eighty three years in a small cottage in the woods in the heart of the Norfolk countryside.

She was the ultimate spinster and wanted for nothing.

Some locals say that she was once engaged to an American serviceman who was based at a nearby air base.

Nobody really knows.

Miss Emily was the retired Infant School Headmistress who tended her beautifully cultivated garden and wanted for nothing.

The cottage has been her life. She is accountable only to nature.

The simplicity of the lifestyle of Miss Emily cannot be underestimated.

On the cool autumn morning that she died, there can be no doubt that she had prepared and anticipated Gods calling.

There she sat, sound asleep in her rocking chair and her beloved Hilda, an ageless black cat, watching over her from her woven basket in front of the television set.

Miss Emily would not wake.

She effectively lived in a single room which served for sleeping, cooking and living.

Her only luxury was the television set which had changed many times over the years and which was positioned in the centre of the room.

The treasured Coronation Cup and Jubilee vase, always vested with fresh flowers, sit in splendid isolation on either side of the set.

The box, as Miss Emily insists to call it, was her window to the world, but to another world so far removed from her own.

Miss Emily can best be described as a tele-addict when she was not tending to her garden.

She was not anti-social but rarely engaged in conversation with the villagers.  She never bought groceries or visited the doctor if she was sick.

She did receive visitors and she did get provisions, such as were needed.

She was a kind, gentle, caring woman, was Miss Emily.

Loneliness was not a word she understood.

One particular visitor did come as frequently as she was in residence at her country home on the Sandringham estate.

She had once been an impromptu babysitter for two of her young children and had taught the youngest on how to make and fly a kite.

She had once mended the heel of the shoe of her visitor in the most rudimentary fashion and many years ago, almost when the two first met, had offered advice to the visitor on marriage to a certain foreign prince.

Betsy, as she called her visitor, would call by while walking her dogs and share a cuppa and a chocolate digestive or a buttered scone while indulging in unbridled companionship with a joke or two, a stretch down memory lane and an addiction to watching Coronation Street, a long running English soap opera.

The ageless black cat was apparently named after the character Hilda Ogden who featured for more than thirty years in the soap opera.

This then is the story of two women of later years who had given a lifetime of service to their country and who had, odd as it may sound, a lot in common, yet their real worlds and backgrounds could not be more starkly contrasted.

The unoccupied cottage has become a silent refuge.

Hilda still takes her dormance in the cushioned basket beneath the television set and the rocking chair occasionally still rocks.

As frequently as Betsy is in residence at her country residence on the Sandringham estate in the heart of Norfolk, she walks her dogs in proximity of Miss Emily’s cottage and tends the country garden.


My name is Henry Jephson.

I first came to the small town of Leamington Priors in the spring of 1818 as a raw medical student with aspirations of becoming a doctor.

I was attracted by the prospect of what salted spa waters could do for healing and curing people with certain ailments and afflictions.

Back then, Leamington Priors was a town on the south bank of the river Leam with a priory extending to the Elephant Wash.

Nearby was a small post office on the corner facing the largest parish church in the county of Warwickshire and there was close proximity to the access of spa spring water.

Bath houses, Inns and a Pump room were established as one Bernie Greatheed looked to cash in on land he owned to the north of the river.

The potential for development of a parade of shops and residences constructed on a grand scale was obvious.

The Willes family owned a large swathe of land on their Newbold Comyn estate to the east with a corn mill right down by the river itself.

I qualified as a doctor and established my medical practice on the upper part of the Parade.

As my reputation spread, clients would come from far afield and stay at the nearby Clarendon or Regent Hotel.

Queen Victoria herself made an official royal visit to Leamington in 1838, just two years into her reign.

Not only did I have the privilege of meeting her but I had the honour of treating her for some of her ailments.

I am in no doubt that she fell in love with the town and returned many times subsequently, unofficially of course, for a holiday ‘to take the waters’.

Queen Victoria was instrumental, I believe, in persuading the Willes family, notably Edward Willes, to turn ten acres of the meadowland next to the river Leam into a public garden and park.

I was somewhat flattered to say the least when the gardens and park were to be named after me personally in 1846 for supposedly having put the town of Leamington Priors on the map as a health resort.

Queen Victoria did not return for another official visit until 1858 when the town was renamed as Royal Leamington Spa by royal decree.

A momentous day indeed which led to a marble statue being erected of the great lady outside the Town Hall in her honour.

How much more could I have done? … Or would I have done? ….. If I had not gone blind two years later which forced my early retirement.

I don’t have any regrets as such about my life but losing my sight so early in my life is one of two things which disappointed and saddened me as a professional physician.

Here was I advocating cures to the needy but I had to accept Gods will for the impairment.

The second thing is not experiencing parenthood with my wife Mary.  I had always hoped that the ‘taking of waters’ would fix the shortfall in my married life but it was never to be.

The compensation has been, I think, in being slightly ahead of my time and being able to educate ordinary folk, both the paying clientele and the town needy, about basic healthcare.

I lived out my life at Beech Lawn, the mansion house which I had built behind the Parade in the 1830s.

I understand that after my death in 1878, my home became a Ladies Finishing School for a few years before eventually being demolished in 1946.

The town’s Fire Station is located on the site today.

Though I say it myself, the Jephson Gardens are a wonderful sight to behold at any time of year and I am extremely proud that such a ‘green flag’ legacy carries my name for generations to come.

Thank you all very much indeed for listening to my ramble, for that is surely what it is.

Be sure to visit the Jephson Gardens whenever you are passing through Royal Leamington Spa.

Thank you once again most graciously from the bottom of my heart.


William Shakespeare put the immortal words ‘My Horse, my Horse, my Kingdom for a Horse’ into the mouth of a man as the battlecry of the last English King to ever be killed in combat.

Depending what version of the story you want to believe, the valiant King was pulled from his horse and hacked to death or came within relative proximity of conflict with the very man who stood between him and the continuance of his reign.

This is the story of Richard III who was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in deepest Leicestershire in 1485 by Henry Tudor who then succeeded him as English monarch and set the wheels in motion for the Tudor dynasty.

Fortune is said to favour the brave but ;perhaps that cannot be said for Richard III who remains accused to this day of murdering kin who were more entitled than he to the English crown.

His own personal woe was exasperated in the months leading to the fateful battle when his only son and wife died too.

A man can certainly dream and if Richard III did have a meaningful dream on the eve of the battle, it would surely have foretold of his inevitable doom.

Richard III only ruled England for two years and he was probably far from the character with physical deformity portrayed by Shakespeare in the play of his name.

The actual human remains of Richard III have fairly recently been unearthed in an archaeological dig on grounds of a former friary in the heart of the city of Leicester and today a public car park.

Modern technology and science enables us to know that he was a tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy with a slight scollosis to one shoulder but certainly no hunchback.

Shakespeare wrote Richard III the play in the early 1590s, fairly soon after being called ‘an upstart crow’ by fellow playwright Robert Greene and at a time when Robert Cecil held the upper hand in political influence over the ruling monarch Elizabeth I.

The backdrop to the story of Richard III was very simple indeed.

Elizabeth I was unmarried and of course without a child which could claim to be her successor.

Her own paranoia about the succession was the paranoia of the whole English nation.

Richard III, whether rightly or wrongly, was perceived as the usurper who could turn the natural order of succession on its head and plant a rightful heir for his own gain.

Shakespeare could smell a rat but it was not the unjustly discredited Richard III.

It was surely Robert Cecil, the living hunchback dwarf who no longer lived in the executive shadow of his father.

In reality and in fact, Robert Cecil won the day by supplanting the Scottish King, a protestant with limited catholic sympathies, James Stuart, as Elizabeth’s successor in 1603.

Nevertheless, Richard III is the benchmark by which judgment is exercised whenever a tenuous succession to the monarchy of a nation, any nation, not just England, is discussed.

Richard III came to rule by a number of events and circumstances.

It seems to matter not that his successor and victor Henry Tudor, crowned as Henry VII, had a lesser claim to the sovereignty of England than himself.

Such was the spoils of war.

It could be argued that William, Duke of Normandy, had no such claim to the sovereignty of England either when he came and conquered in 1066.

The One Hundred Years War between England and France from 1347 until 1453 and subsequently the so called War of the Roses from 1455 until Richard III’s death in 1485 had a definite impact on future English sovereignty.

From one of doubtful royal descent to Lord Protector of the Realm and King of England.

Richard III is alleged to have killed, amongst others, his Uncle Henry VI, cousin George the Duke of Clarence and the two princes, Edward V and Richard, his own nephews, who were mysteriously detained at the Tower of London, never to be heard of again.

Shakespeare contrived to tell the tragic story of Richard III with a sense of condemnation, distrust and disbelief.

Ghosts, curses and prophecies played no mean part in the hallowing story.

There may well have been a winter of discontent in the months that led to the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 but certain facts speak for themselves.

Richard III will now be reburied either at Leicester Cathredal, York Minster (for he was after all from the royal House of York) or quite possibly at Westminster Abbey in London.

If there is a place for him.

Whatever your take on Richard III, the last battlecry of an English King can still be heard today.


This is a purely fictional story about engagements between an English Knight named Sir John Falstaff and the French heroine Jeanne d’Arc in the fifteenth century.

The events to which I refer actually took place and inspired Englishman William Shakespeare to write a number of dramatic historical plays centred around the Kings of England during the Plantagenet period of reign and the knight called Falstaff.

This is my story about that and why I think William Shakespeare may have killed Falstaff off in the play of Henry V without a single line spoken by him.

Jeanne d’Arc was just three years old in 1415 when the battle of Agincourt was fought and won by the English against the French.

The English under King Henry V spent the next five years achieving dominion over much of northern France and asserting Henry’s sovereign right to rule over both England and France.

The French King Charles VI, weak both in terms of health and political effectiveness, conceded the French crown to Henry, virtue of the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 and proposed his youngest daughter, Princess Catherine of Valois, in marriage to Henry for a substantial dowry.

Jeanne was no more than an uneducated tenant farmer’s daughter from the small town of Domremy in north eastern France but she was nonetheless canny and astute.

And she was unavoidably aware of the English presence in her home town.

None more so than a larger than life knight named Sir John Falstaff who kept company with the officers of the Burgundian allies, boasted of his glorious success under Henry V at Agincourt, stole money, gambled heavily and drank alcohol to excess.

Two years later in 1422, events took a dramatic turn when both the English King, Henry V and the French King, Charles VI, died within a few months of each other.

It was probably at this time that the young girl started hearing voices and experiencing visions with bright lights about the future of France.

Now ten, she decided that it was her personal mission from God to drive the English out of France and to have the rightful King, Charles VII, son of Charles VI, delivered to the throne.

Many folk in high places would mock and show contempt to the young shepherdess who, without any military training, wished to lead a French army into battle.

When she was seventeen, she made the  two hundred mile journey across English held territory in France in just eleven days to meet Charles VII himself at Chinon castle and persuade him to allow her to lead the army.

Orleans was certainly an important strategically positioned city in the Loire valley.

She was quick to turn the French militia into a formidable fighting force and although not engaging in battle herself, she was an inspirational mascot and brandished her banner as a weapon.

It is here where she would meet the dastardly knight Falstaff once again and this time in conflict.

Jeanne was instrumental in inflicting a humiliating defeat on Falstaff and the English in the battle of Orleans and she was proclaimed by the French people for her heroism.

It was she who had dragged the disgraced and cowardly Falstaff from his horse in the finality of the battle, placed him into captivity and then released him back to the English for no small ransom.

This was no mean match of a giant of a man to a small petite young girl.

The military victory at Orleans paved the way for Charles VII to be crowned King of France in a coronation conducted at the cathredal of Rheims, the traditional place for French royal investiture.

This was the point when Jeanne could or should have said that enough was enough and gone home to her family in Domremy and to milk the cows on the pastures but she did not.

Just like a prize fighter who could not refuse one more bout, she went into combat at Compiegne with plans to re-take Paris to what she envisoned was the completion of her mission.

But the plan was foolhardy and things quickly went  wrong.

She got trapped outside the city gates, was thrown from her horse in the melee and was captured by Burgundian forces allied to the English who soon ransomed her to the English for ten thousand crowns.

This would prove to be Falstaff’s redemption for his abject failure at Orleans.

He had been on hand to bring about Jeanne’s mishap as an act of revenge and he vowed there and then with a raucous laugh that she would never again see the light of day.

The manner in which Jeanne looked Falstaff in the eye in that lingering moment was penetratable to the very core of the heart and would not be forgotten.

Jeanne faced seventy charges and was unfairly trialled in a lawless inquisition in Rouen, the northern French city adopted by the English as their provinciial capital.

She was accused, amongst other things,  of wearing mens clothes, of cutting her hair like a pageboy, of horse theft and being a heretic and a witch.

The charges were, of course, trumped up to have her removed from the fray and discredit France as a nation.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Falstaff was there as the indictment was read out to her.

We can only imagine that attempts were made to abuse her in custody but she remained until her last breath a young woman, just nineteen at deaths door, of unbreakable piety, chastity and humility whose courage and conviction could not be broken.

She was to be burnt at the stake in the old market square of Rouen at first light on the morning of 30th May 1431.

Falstaff’s remorseless face was the last Jeanne saw before she died and her echoing screech that they her accusers could take her life but not her heart could be heard for miles around.

Jeanne d’Arc.  La Purcell, as she preferred to be called.  The Maid of Orleans.  Call her what you will.  Heroine of the French people to this day.

The Hundred Years War came to an end in 1453 when the English realized that the French could not be defeated for  territory in their own backyard.

With some lamentable degree of irony, her face and voice was the last echo of humanity in Falstaff’s world when he finally kicked the bucket a few years after the end of the war in 1459.

William Shakespeare did not write history per se but he certainly interpreted it.

Falstaff may have had the last laugh in battle but Jeanne won the war for France.


This is the story of William Tell.

The story of how one man made a stance against imperial tyrranny and played a pivotal part in the creation of an independent nation.

His name is William Tell and that nation is Switzerland.

The setting for the story is Lake Lucerne amid a panorama of snow capped alpine mountains.

William Tell lived with his wife and young son in the village of Burglen lay in green pastures to the south east of the lake.

From what we are told, we imagine him to be  a peasant and a man of the mountains, strong and muscular with powerful hands and no mean shot with a crossbow, proudly wearing an alpine hat with a feather tucked into it.

It was his custom to come to market at Altdorf, the largest town in the Uri region ruled by the Austrian Hapsburgs under the control of Baron Gessler.

On the morning of 18th November 1307, he came to Altdorf as normal with his young son.

It is the requirement when entering the town to take off your hat and pay respect to the Hapsburg rule of Baron Gessler.

William Tell refused to do so.

He was promptly challenged by the Baron Gessler to shoot an apple from the head of his young son at a distance of one hundred and twenty paces.

It is fair to assume that this was an event which must have been forseeable.

It was surely not the first time that the tyrant had confronted the mountain man for why otherwise would he have brought his crossbow with him and a quiver of arrows?

William Tell successfully shot the apple from his son’s head and his own  life was to be spared by the Baron.

When Tell prepared to shoot a second arrow to the heart of Gessler, he was arrested and told he would be transported to the castle dungeon at Kussnacht to see ‘no more sun or moon’ for his life.

William Tell was shackled and escorted by fifteen men on a small boat from the landing stage at Altdorf.

The boat did not complete the journey across Lake Lucerne to the northern shore at Kussnacht.

Within a few kilometres and only a short while of having setting out, a violent storm broke out, forcing the boat onto craggy rocks at Rutli.

William Tell was able to escape but not without his crossbow and quiver of arrows which he had been able to retrieve after it was confiscated on his arrest.

He then trekked for a day and night for twenty miles through dark forest and mountain passes to the Huhle Gasse, a narrow pass leading to Kussnacht.

It is here that William Tell waited with his one remaining arrow for his pursuer to catch up.

The time and the moment arrived.

William Tell shot the second arrow at the heart of Baron Gessler and killed him in an instant.

But not without uttering to him that he would no more see sun or moon.

He made haste then to return to the southern shore of Lake Lucerne near to Altdorf and for a rendezvous with three other freedom-fighters who represented the other three Cantons of the future Swiss Confederacy.

The four peasant farmers of forested settlements met on a grassy meadow opposite the Rutli and decided on terms which which would later become the essence of Swiss nationalism.

Unity, solidarity and harmony.

William Tell has been a celebrated Swiss Folk Hero ever since.


The story of William Tell is the biggest Swiss of all.

It is pure farce and cannot possibly be true.

Whether it is a legend derived from folklore is a matter of debate.

There are a number of reasons why I think the William Tell story is a big Swiss.

To understand the story better, we must first have a grasp of the geographic setting.

The town of Altdorf in the region of Uri sits on the southern shore of Lake Lucerne.

The small village of Burglen is no more than three kilometres away from the town over green pastures.

Lake Lucerne is unusual in that it has four arms branching out from its main body of water.

The city of Lucerne lies on the western shore and against a backdrop of picturesque alpine mountains.

Away on the northern shore you will find a medieval castle at Kussnacht accessed via a short narrow pass.

This whole mountain area is under the colonial control of the Austrian-Hapsburg Empire.

The era is the fourteenth century and the key on which events begin to unfold is 18th November 1307.

Anyway, let’s get down to the story, detail by detail.

First of all, there is no reason to suppose that William Tell was not a man of the mountains who had a wife, fathered children and lived within spitting distance pretty much of Lake Lucerne.

Most legends sprout up from real people who actually lived and the stories have become exaggerated over time.

William Tell was Swiss.

Absolutely not!.  He hailed from the district (or Canton) of Uri and the Canton of Schwyz was across the waters of Lake Lucerne.

William Tell went from his home in Burglen with his young son to the nearby small town of Altdorf on 18th November 1307.

Maybe he did.  Altdorf was the nearest market town to Burglen and no doubt it is a place he went often to do some shopping and have a few beers.

It was required when entering the town of Altdorf to bow to the Hapsburg hat of Baron Gessler as a sign of respect

This sounds quite reasonable to me.  The problem I have is that as treasonable as the offence may be, the Austrian-Hapsburg Empire never extended this far and Gessler, if he existed at all, was much more likely to have been a local tyrant..

William Tell took his crossbow with him to Altdorf with a quiver of arrows.

This is a bit like saying a cowboy would not be seen dead without his gun in the wild west or a knight not leave the castle without his sword.

William Tell, if he ever existed, was a simple peasant farmer who may or may not have been an expert marksman with a crossbow.  Taking it with him to Altdorf on the morning of 18th November 1307 would only suggest that he was not just going to Altdorf to buy general provisions to take home to his wife in Burglen.

Baron Gessler set the challenge to William Tell to shoot an apple from the head of his young son at a distance of one hundred and twenty paces.

No Father in his right mind would want to endanger the life of his son, however expert a marksman he may have been with a crossbow.

This cannot be excused irrespective of the distance between the marksman and the target and even if William Tell had practised beforehand.

How did William Tell manage to conceal the second arrow?

William Tell would surely have come to Altdorf town that morning with more than two arrows in his quiver and a second arrow would have been awfully difficult to conceal while going through the motions of shooting the first one, if indeed, it was concealed at all.

What happened when William Tell proposed to fire a second arrow directly at Baron Gessler?

We can perhaps assume that Baron Gessler ordered his soldiers to arrest William Tell, overpowering the tall, muscular man and confiscating his weaponry while his frightened son made haste to run home and tell his Mother what terrible event had taken place.

The circumstances of William Tell’s transportation to the castle dungeon at Kussnacht.

Boats were not big in those days and the boat to be used would have been big enough to carry no more than fifteen men including the detainee William Tell.

The boat was boarded at the landing stage at Altdorf but appears to have only got a few kilometres upstream before hitting a violent storm at Rutli which forced the boat onto craggy rocks and enabled William Tell to make his escape, it seems, with a crossbow and a quiver of arrows.

Would such an important person as Baron Gessler had considered necessary to accompany his men and William Tell on this mission?

And did they not check the weather forecast before setting off?

If Baron Gessler was party to the boat mission, arguably, William Tell may have had the opportunity to kill Baron Gessler as he escaped.

But perhaps he did not and circumstances dictated that escape was his priority.

Why then did William Tell trek twenty miles through dark forest and mountain passes to reach a narrow pass called Huhle Gasse near the very place he was being taken by boat on the lake?

This suggests that Baron Gessler was on the boat which became wrecked on the craggy rocks, that he survived with at least some of his men and was able to track an expert mountain man for twenty miles before being finally confronted and shot at Kussnacht.

How come Baron Gessler was shot with the last arrow by William Tell?

The earlier part of the story suggests that there were only two arrows available to William Tell.  If there were more in the quiver, we can only assume that they were used by William Tell on his trek from Rutli to Huhle Gasse at Kussnacht.

William Tell returns to the southern shores of Lake Lucerne to meet three pals of neighboring forested settlements and agree a pact and swear an oath to form a confederacy

Picnic time for four freedom fighters on a grassy meadow on the opposite bank to the Rutli where one freedom fighter had managed his escape.  That must have been some picnic!

To top it all, William Tell seems to have faded into oblivion, the Swiss Sniper that never was

What a Swiss!  As my essay is titled, The Biggest Swiss of All.

The Legend of William Tell is relived with a play written about his adventures, a wonderful piece of music called the William Tell Overture and of course the cartoon animation The Lone Ranger.

The Swiss people live to Tell the Tale.