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Friday, July 25, 2014

Don't Mention The Revolutions - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of John Cleese

John Cleese is one of our best-loved comedians and the scene above is taken from the work that most defined his career :- Fawlty Towers. Yet this wonderful show almost never got made. It's a fascinating story and it features key events in Cleese's central, defining, mid-life 'Year of Revolution' at 36.

The idea for the show came from a real-life couple, who ran a hotel in Torquay. Cleese and his former wife and co-writer, Connie Booth, actually stayed there in 1971. Cleese saw this as an opportunity to break away from Monty Python, which was a highly-contrived (but hugely popular) ensemble sketch comedy. This was to become an adaptation of French farce, complete with multi-layered characterisations. He wrote an early prototype of Basil Fawlty in an episode of Doctor At Large soon after.

However it was not until 1974, that John Cleese, who was to play Basil, sent the BBC the script for the pilot episode. Cleese stated in an interview :- “The fellow whose job it was to assess the quality of the writing said, ‘This is full of clichéd situations and stereotypical characters, and I cannot see it being anything other than a disaster. You're going to have to get them out of the hotel, John, you can't do the whole thing in the hotel'. Whereas, of course, it's in the hotel that the whole pressure cooker builds up."

Eventually Cleese was given the OK to write the scripts. Bill Cotton, Head of Light Entertainment for BBC said he could see nothing funny in them and told him it would never get made on a commercial channel. Cotton said he only agreed to go to production, because he had some trust in Cleese's track record. Cleese was paid only 6,000 pounds for 43 weeks of exhausting work (one episode alone took four months and 10 drafts). This was not enough to live on, so he supplemented his income by doing ads.

Then it got screened and became an instant hit? No, that was pure wish fulfillment. The first six episodes were screened in Sept./Oct.1975 to a poor critical rating :- “The initial response was kind of puzzled,” says Cleese. “The Daily Mirror’s headline was, ‘Long John Short of Jokes’". The series also failed to attract many viewers, with an audience of only around 2 million. I think we could be agreed, that things weren't going well, and the BBC would have been pointing it's collective finger at Cleese. What, I hear you ask, has all this got to do with 'Life Cycles'?

Well John Cleese was born 27th. Oct. 1939, which meant in the middle of all this disappointing news he turned 36 (the last episode, in fact, screened on 24th. Oct.). This was supposed to be his central, career-defining 'Year of Revolution', but it sure didn't look that way. The first positive thing to happen a little while later, however, was when humourist Alan Coren wrote a glowing appreciation and then there was a slow word of mouth spread, so the BBC decided to give it another try in Feb. 1976. This time it took off with audience figures of 12 million and fans were dying for more by the end. This now began the triumphant reign of John 'Basil Fawlty' Cleese. No longer just part of the Python ensemble, but a stand-alone feature performer of what has been described as the finest sit-com ever written. It was to usher in his 'golden age', no question about it.

Here's a quick question for you. What other leading sit-com comic, whom I have featured in this blog, and in my book, also had the exact same sequence of 'almost never getting the show made and then getting poor initial reviews'? That would be Jerry Seinfeld. His big breakthrough moment also happened in his age 36 'Year of Revolution', when The Seinfeld Show was brought back as a mid-season replacement, after bad reviews and audience responses to its first screening. You should check that out sometime. So 'Life Cycles' evidence is not only widespread, but it's comprehensive in its coverage of details.

However we are not done yet with Mr.Cleese as the post title says 'Revolutions', plural. So if his mid-career identity was as a solo TV performer/writer ushered in with Fawlty, what happened to him 12 years later at his age 48, later mid-life, 'Year of Revolution' (Oct. 1987 to Oct. 1988)? This often marks a direction change and new age in lives I analyse. Well, would you believe, this corresponds exactly with his hugely successful movie A Fish Called Wanda (released in Jun. 1988), which he co-wrote, had a hand in directing and starred in? In other words it was totally his baby and he has unsurprisingly said it is his favorite movie to have performed in.

The movie received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (Kevin Klein), as well as nominations for Best Screenplay/Best Director and collected a BAFTA award. It came in at No. 37 on a list of best comedy films ever made. This again defined him as a lead movie actor, just as Fawlty Towers had defined him as a feature sit-com TV star. I have often seen the age 48 'Year of Revolution' usher in an era of reduced success, in different ways, in many other cases I study. It was to happen later on to Cleese, when tried to duplicate his success with a follow-up movie Fierce Creatures in 1997. It was a failure both critically and with audiences. Cleese himself said :- "making this movie was a mistake".

Finally let's go backwards in time to when Cleese was in his age 24, first adult 'Year of Revolution' (Oct. 1963 to Oct. 1964). Would this year come to define his first career identity? Let's check on this shall we? Cleese graduated from Cambridge in Law in 1963 and despite his continued interest in the Cambridge Footlights Revue (where he met his future Python co-writer Graham Chapman), his father still sent him details of management jobs he could apply for.

However, the Cambridge Footlights was renamed Cambridge Circus (cast shown at left) and after success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it got picked up to open in London's West End in July, 1973. This is just before he turned 24. Were there to be any additional defining moments for him during his age 24 to come? Not that a West End Show wasn't a badge of success, but could he go further? Well, after a successful run on the West End, the show then toured New Zealand (of all places), about a year later in July 1974, where they recorded a TV special. Then in Sept. the show finally hit the big time, when it transferred to Broadway, and was featured on US TV. They were indeed guests on the famous Ed Sullivan Show in Oct. 1974. I think this should sufficiently make the case for a career-defining year.

He began it as a relative unknown, but enthusiastic and talented, young revue actor, who got a big break and ended up going to Broadway and getting on the Ed Sullivan Show. So, to summarise let me spell the 'Life Cycles' career of John Cleese out for you in letters two feet high.

At 24, Cleese becomes a high-profile comedy revue actor. This leads on to the age of Python (which flowed from this) and is equivalent to his first career identity.

At 36, Cleese becomes successful with Fawlty Towers, regarded as the finest sit-com ever written. This is equivalent to his mid-career identity and highest life achievement

At 48, Cleese becomes successful with the movie A Fish Called Wanda, which gets wide critical and popular acclaim. This is equivalent to his later mid-life career identity.

Incidentally, this post is, by necessity, just a summary of the wide-ranging research I have done on the life of the very interesting John Cleese. If you are a fan (and I know many of you are), and too much Cleese is never enough, then I invite you to read quite a bit more HERE. This is just another 'black and white' 'Life Cycles' case history and I trust I have shown you why this is. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

Monday, June 30, 2014

The X Factor In Maya Angelou's Career

Now this post is a good example of a blind analysis of a life, following publicity about that person's recent death. I had never heard of the name Maya Angelou before. I can't be accused of deliberately selecting this profile; it was simply in the news and as I've previously said, I'm a bit of a haphazard researcher. However, I believe that's also the best way to get a true cross-section of data.

Maya Angelou, I've come to realize, was a much-loved figure within the civil rights movement, as well as a prominent author, with much material drawn from her own colorful life. This post will now contain a rather different mode as I'd like you to PRESS HERE and read a small, but significant, opening section from Chapter 3 of The Life Cycles Revolution. I want you to appreciate just how I study events in 'Years Of Revolution'.

Yes, they can simply be defined as new directions and important achievements, but what really underpins this, is my conclusion from the evidence I study, that it is often so special, as to amount to a form of symbolic re-birth. Not just like the Eastern religions, who teach reincarnations of lives, but a form of reincarnation within all lives. Totally new idea in the history of thought and philosophy about life cycles. That's what makes it 'Life Cycles' and not just a copy of something else.

We are now going to examine together, events in Maya's important age 36 'Year of Revolution', to see if it reasonably fits this model of personal re-invention, like it does with so many other people I study. Does she :- "bumble and stumble her way down to the bottom of the dark cellar only to eventually climb back into the warmth of a sunny day"?

Maya turned 36 on 4th. April, 1964. What was her life like then? It was actually quite different to what you might expect. For a start she was living in Accra, capital city of Ghana, and she had had a settled life there for the last three years. She had left the US because she felt unwanted by white America and in Ghana she said she thought she was home. She was an administrator at the University of Ghana and a journalist and editor with Ghanaian Times and broadcaster on Radio Ghana. Her son was at college and she was in a relationship with a man from Mali, but had refused an offer of marriage, because it would mean relocating to Mali. She lived as a native Ghanaian and it would be safe to say she had no plans for change anytime soon.

That was all about to change however, when the prominent spokesman Malcolm Little (known as Malcolm X), visited the country as part of his African Tour to raise support for the "Organisation For Afro-American Unity", in both May and July, 1964. Here he met with Maya and encouraged her to become active in this cause, which espoused human rights for blacks; along with involvement in a raft of boycotts, strikes and social programs run by blacks. He wanted her to return with him to the US and help build this new organization. They discussed addressing the United Nations with a charter of proposals, in a similar vein to what South Africa's freedom fighters had done with apartheid.

What he promised was little short of a 'brave new world' vision of achieving real political and moral influence and he stated to her :- "The country needs you. Our people need you. You have seen Africa, bring it home and teach our people about our homeland." Maya was persuaded and she eventually arrived in the US on 19th. February, 1965. Now this represents a dramatic shift in her life, a new direction and some, but not all, of the elements of the definition of a 'Year of Revolution'. Was that all there was? What about "one-way tunnels" and "dark moments"?

She didn't have to wait long. Her world came crashing down two days later, when Malcolm X was gunned down by members of a rival Muslim sect. With him gone the Organisation and its lofty aims quickly fell apart. Devastated, Maya moves to Hawaii to be near her brother. In a very depressed state she decides to give away her writing and journalism and reverts to her earlier career as a singer/entertainer. She is now :- "in the one-way tunnel and stumbling about". However, she realizes after seeing Della Reese perform, that she lacks both the desire and talent to be a singer. She is effectively:- "at the bottom of the cellar right now".

She then decides to return to her writing career, but this time in Los Angeles, where her family are. Then, most probably before her next birthday in April 1965, her former lover, whom she described as a controlling and powerful West African man, arrives to take her back to Accra. More drama and upheaval. Maya asks her mother and brother to help and they manage to divert the man, first to Mexico and then back to Accra. So, with him gone and with resumption of her real career as a writer and spokesperson for civil rights, she has now effectively :- "emerged into the warmth of a sunny day".

This really begins to 'fit the spec' of the full gamut of upheaval of an age 36 'Year of Revolution'. Without Malcolm X, who came storming into her life with a grand vision of Afro-American Unity, she would have probably remained in Ghana as a respected voice on African issues. The man she simply refers to as "the African" would have put on as much pressure for marriage as he could. She would still have been a writer and spokesperson, but in a different way. No, I think it could be fairly argued that Malcolm Little was to be the 'X Factor' in her life. He brought her back to her home in the US. He was what I have come to refer to as :- "the agent of the Revolution", because I have seen many other examples like this.

Now for the $64,000 question. The last part of the excerpt referred to the whole process in this way :- "as unreasonable as it may sound, the 'The Miracle Of The Revolution'". Is it? Aren't miracles just the province of religion and meta-physics? Can someone like me, who just mundanely studies biographies, say that lives can contain seemingly miraculous or, if you prefer, just highly improbable, life-defining moments and equally; at an almost predetermined schedule? Does destiny indeed have a calendar and fate have a timeline? Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

Friday, May 16, 2014

Philosophy And Sacrifice - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of Pope Saint John Paul II

There is no doubting the continued popularity of the former Pope Saint John Paul II, who died in 2005. Even at his funeral supporters were chanting for his sainthood and when the official Canonization ceremony happened on April 27th this year, there were over 1 million at St. Peter's Square to celebrate it. He is now also known as St. John Paul The Great. I have actually had a long interest in his life, having featured it in detail in my first book Life Cycles.

I am going to explore the 'Years of Revolution' at 24/36/48/60/72/84, to see how events in these periods, were both related to each other and shaped and defined his career and life. He was born Karol Józef Wojtyła on May 18th, 1920. He grew up in the midst of WW 2 and indeed his first adult, age 24 'Year of Revolution' (May 1944 to May 1945), featured a prominent episode from his young life. He was swept up in the chaos of the German Army quitting the city of Krakow. He helped a 14 year old Jewish refugee girl, Edith Zierer, who had collapsed from exhaustion on a train platform. No one else helped, but he gave her hot tea and food and accompanied her on the train. Zierer credits him with saving her life, although she would not hear of her benefactor again until she read he had been elected Pope.

He showed no hesitation in this ad hoc humanitarian act, both to this girl and to many other Jews, and the theme of personal sacrifices would return again in later 'Years of Revolution'. At his central, mid-life, age 36 'Year of Revolution' (May 1956 to May 1957), after two years of Communist Government interference, he finally obtained his second Doctorate on Christian Ethics from the Catholic University of Lublin, and also assumed the Chair of Ethics at this university. He studied personology, which in turn was derived from phenomenology, and which advocated an irreducible element in the human subject and its consciousness. There was a sanctity in man's inalienable rights. Later this was to be the basis of his pronouncements on social responsibility and the "world view" of his papal mission.

It underpinned his crusade against regimes that restrict personal freedom, particularly with Communism in his Polish homeland. It gave him a mission to have dialogue with all other major religions, as expressions of freedom of worship, and it also gave him a basis for his morally conservative views on contraception, abortion and other matters. He was, if you will, a philosopher within the Catholic Church, meaning his ministry extended his outreach beyond the usual Church borders. He was himself, of course, the subject of restriction of personal liberty by Communist Russia. This was his second and interwoven theme in all his 'Years of Revolution'. He suffered for what he believed in.

Let's trace this now to his age 48 'Year of Revolution' (May 1968 to May 1969). This is the time of the controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae (literally "Of Human Life"). This was at the height of the free love and contraceptive pill era and it was not well received by many. Pope Paul VI named Archbishop Karol Wojtyła to the commission. However, the Communist authorities in Poland would not permit him to travel to Rome to take part in person.

Wojtyła had earlier defended the church's position from a philosophical standpoint in his 1960 book Love and Responsibility. Wojtyła's position was strongly considered, and was reflected in the final draft of the encyclical, although much of his language and arguments were not incorporated. Weigel a prominent biographer, attributes much of the poor reception of the encyclical to the omission of many of Wojtyła's arguments. This is a good example of the philosopher 'bursting upon the scene' at 36 and then having the scene altered, with a new era at 48. Again he was sacrificed, through the curtailing of his movements by the Russians.

Do you notice how his formal appointments as Archbishop and then Pope do not align with these years? This is not unusual in 'Life Cycles' analysis. I would contend the true nature of Pope John Paul II was 'Philosophy and Sacrifice' in every 'Year of Revolution'. That is how he became "The Great". Don't believe me? Well keep reading.

His next 'Year of Revolution' at age 60 (May 1980 to May 1981) was dominated by his most serious assassination attempt when a Turkish gunman fired at him as he entered St. Peter's Square. Speculation on the reasons for this included the KGB, who would have resented his influence in Poland. It has been suggested that the gunman, who was an excellent marksmen could have killed the Pope, however his mission was only to scare him. This greatly altered his robust health and began an era of physical decline. Despite efforts to try two KGB agents beginning in 1982, they were acquitted. It is a stark example of sacrifice for his philosophy in this key 'Year of Revolution'.

What about in his age 72 'Year of Revolution' (May 1992 to May 1993). In this time his body suffered further. He had a tumour removed from his colon and the Vatican publicly acknowledged that he was suffering from Parkinson's disease. However, in spite of calls to retire, he went on touring the world and remained fully mentally alert. He visited a total of 129 countries and had meaningful dialogue with just about every other major religious faith; including even animism and particularly Islam, which caused quite a bit of controversy among Catholics. He truly had a "world-view".

His final age 84 'Year of Revolution' (May 2004 to May 2005), including his death in April 2005, again showed his determination to demonstrate his philosophy of the equality and religious freedom for mankind, by hosting a "Papal Concert of Reconciliation", which brought together leaders of the Jewish and Islamic religions. Of course, he attracted much criticism for his philosophical approach. Traditionalists within the church saw him as promoting modernism, as well as appointing like-minded Bishops; while his stance against contraception, female clergy and gay rights, saw him unpopular with the very people, who may have otherwise embraced his modernist views.

To the end he was a product of the two major themes that ran throughout his life. For him, each adult 'Year of Revolution' ushered in a similar story :- one of sacrifice and the practical use of his philosophy. Not for him the simple attainment of formal office, but what he could do with it to benefit mankind as a whole.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Certainly a different profile to most others I do, but as always, I am demonstrating the universality of the 'Life Cycles' principles. Please also see my SECOND BLOG for something completely different as I feature one of Australia's leading fashion designers. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Why Obama Is Obamacare - The Revolutions Of Barak Obama

Welcome to a new series of posts dedicated to careers and 'Life Cycles'. Why do I change my theme and even 'look' of the blog every 12 months? Haven't got a clue? Well I'm going to explain it to you in the SECOND BLOG. Remember nothing I do is down to chance. Yes, sometimes I'm moved to feature a current affairs story, but on many occasions, including this one, I have been researching for months. As always, judge for yourselves, but I think you'll end up agreeing this is pretty unusual stuff. Bit on the spooky side and I guarantee you, though the President's life has been minutely dissected, no-one has made this conclusion before.

Once again, for the benefit of anyone who reads this because they think it's going to be about Obamacare only, there will be an introduction to basic 'Life Cycles' theory and his career generally. 'Life Cycles' is the study of events in 12 year cycles, but particularly focused on new directions/achievements in the first year of the cycle, known as the 'Year of Revolution'. This is so named, because case history evidence strongly suggests it is like a revolution in your life. Thus, the ages of 12/24 (first adult 'Year of Revolution')/36 (important mid-life 'Year of Revolution')/48/60 etc. get studied to see what happens. Not just the whole year, but sometimes the month or even the week of the month, in that year.

We then look for similarity of the events happening 12 years apart. As unreasonable as it sounds, we look for the same themes getting repeated. Obviously not the exact same actions, but whatever might define a similarity of the actions. Maybe they symbolise the same broad type of thing. In rare instances there can even be a substantive similarity ie. it is plainly the same type of action. So, I hope you would agree then, if we can show plainly the same substantive actions happening in successive adult 'Years of Revolution' at almost the same time of the year, it is an extra-special fit. In Barak Obama's case we are going to explore his biographical details (ie. the actual facts) during his 24th/36th/48th years (4th. August to 4th. August each time).

Let's turn the clock back then to when he turned 24 (ie. 4th. August, 1985). He was a newly appointed organiser with Chicago's Developing Communities Project. This was a church-based initiative in Chicago's south-side Project area (ie. public housing mostly for a black population). In mid-March 1986, he saw an opportunity to get involved in a health-related issue of delays in asbestos removal from the Altgeld Garden's project. He sensed good political potential when one Sadie Evans drew his attention to it. I am now quoting the words of Avna Falk - The Riddle of Barak Obama: A Psychobiography :- "The toxic asbestos issue became a springboard to Barak's political career.....He changed him dramatically". His own autobiography says the same :- "it gave me a sense of power that has not left me since".

Ultimately, despite initial successes, the initiative ran out of steam. After some pressuring, the Chicago Housing Authority asked Washington for the millions in Federal funding it would take to remove the asbestos and they didn't agree, saying such money would be better spent elsewhere. To this day some of those asbestos problems remain. So, that was 24, what about at 36?

Now we progress to the 12 months beginning 4th. August, 1997. This time it is the newly-elected Illinois Senator, who wanted to get involved in State-based issues. His first involvement, suggested to him, was in the area of Party ethics and he worked on helping pass a sweeping law, that banned most gifts from lobbyists and personal use of campaign funds by state legislators. This took most of his time until the new year.

His next big involvement was the implementation of Illinois legislation for the national TANF program (Temporary Assistance For Needy Families). This included a healthcare component, and as a member of the Health and Human Services Senate Committee, he would have participated. In mid-March, I could only find reference to his nomination as Democrat candidate for a further 2 year term, so I can't pretend to be a 'fly on the wall' here. TANF was effective on 1st. July, 1998, so we can presume part of his activities were again Health Policy related. However, he went on to chair this Committee 6 years later in 2003, after 4 years as minority spokesman. He sponsored successful efforts to expand children's health care and create a plan to provide equal health care access for all Illinois residents.

Let's check another couple of similarities. Just as in Altgeld Gardens, he sensed a political opportunity in doing what he did and is on record as saying so HERE. Also, just as Altgeld Gardens still has an asbestos problem, so the modern-day South Side of Chicago is a hotbed of violence and crime, bred of poverty and unequal opportunity. It is known to locals and others as Chiraq and is also known for a lack of community services, particularly a trauma ward, which causes a lot of extra deaths from gunshot wounds, on the way to get treatment.

Finally let's visit Obama's last adult 'Year of Revolution' at the age of 48 (ie. beginning 4th. August, 2009). Now, as the recently installed US President, he had been at work from the earliest opportunity in Feb., to work with Congress to construct a plan for healthcare reform. It was indeed front and centre of his first term objectives. When was the historic legislation for the Affordable Care Act signed by Obama? That would be 23rd. March, 2010. Again, around exactly the same mid-March timetable, that is closely aligned with events at 24 and 36. Again there would be several years of effort to get meaningful change implemented, that takes us up to the present moment.

It would be safe to say, that what was, I'm sure, seen to be an outstanding potential political legacy, has encountered all sorts of difficulties and general unpopularity. The strength of this opposition will be tested in the forthcoming mid-term elections at the end of the year. What does the future hold for Obamacare, and to put an unintended pun in the mix, why does Obama care so much about Obamacare? I would say it's because health care reform is deeply rooted in his 'Life Cycles' DNA. I trust you can see how his three adult 'Years of Revolution' (24/36/48) are essentially the same. The same themes, the same timing and the same longer term difficulties. The similarities are substantive and not just symbolic. He essentially repeats the same actions every 12 years, just on a larger political stage each time :- ie. local, State and National. The essence of Obama is not just ambition for power, but the chance to facilitate meaningful reforms, that also help his career.

Now I'm not a fortune teller, so I make no predictions as to how this will play out. Perhaps it will be "third time a charm" for him. On the other hand, we have the spectre of the Altgeld Projects and Chiraq, to suggest that Obamacare may be more of an albatross, than a pinnacle. In case you think I'm somewhat biased in my analysis, I can direct you to an equally disspassionate profile I did of George W. Bush in my first book Life Cycles. Till next month :- "May the cycles always bring you good fortune.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mary Queen Of Scots - The Darkest Revolution

This is the last post on the general theme of 'The Dark Side'. Maybe it's better not to dwell unnecessarily in this zone. Mankind is riddled with acts of infamy, heinous crimes and sometimes just plain idiocy gone wrong. However, if any one 'Year of Revolution' in any one life, encapsulates the 'fall from grace at our own hands' (ie. shoot ourselves in the foot), then this prize belongs to the generally unpopular Mary Queen Of Scots. She managed to alienate everyone and destroy herself in the process. All this at the ripe old age of 24. Indeed an article by BBC History says :- "The young Queen with the golden future was just 24, and her life was effectively over."

There is much to tell, but I'll just begin with her ill-fated choice of husband, when she was Queen of Scotland, with ambitions to succeed Elizabeth I and re-instate Catholic rule in England. The choice had been made to marry Henry, Lord Darnley. Like her, he was a great-grandchild of Henry VII with a Scottish father, the Earl of Lennox, and an English mother who was also a leading Catholic. By marrying Darnley, Mary hoped to strengthen the Catholic cause and enhance her claim to the English throne. The only fly in the ointment of this equation was Darnley himself. He spent little time with the Queen and even less on the affairs of state, preferring 'to hunt, hawk, drink and keep low company' (ie. drinking and whoring resulting in picking up syphilis). He also wanted to be recognised as having rights of succession. Over the course of less than a year the Queen fell out of love. But Darnley had done one thing right: Mary was pregnant.

The remaining Protestant lords saw Darnley as the weak link. They told him that Mary's Italian secretary, a former musician named David Rizzio, had too much influence at court. And why? Because he was Mary's lover. The reality was that Rizzio was a small, gay man of unprepossessing looks, definitely not Mary's type. Even more sinister is the fact that Darnley was bi-sexual (he had a 'lady face' as the phrase was used) and had forced himself on Rizzio. None-the-less, the jealous and gullible Darnley believed them, and agreed to take part in Rizzio's murder. Rizzio was stabbed 56 times in front of Mary, who could never forgive her husband this treachery. However, soon after, Darnley switched sides back to his wife, leading Mary to exile the Protestant Lords involved.

We will also look at the second protagonist in her life :- her close confidant and supporter the Earl of Bothwell. He was a tough, handsome border lord, who was five years her senior and a nominal Protestant, because you had to be to get on. However, he had been loyal to the Catholic dowager Queen Mary (widow of James V). They actually first met in the French Court, when Mary was still Queen Consort of France (till she was widowed just before turning 18). Now back to the main story. On 19 June 1566 (when she was aged 23), Mary gave birth to Prince James (later King James VI of Scotland, and I of England). Darnley was now expendable and everyone wanted to see the back of him: Mary hated him, the Protestant lords had been betrayed by him and Bothwell wanted to replace him as king. To further his ends, Bothwell persuaded Mary to bring back Moray and the exiled Protestants.

In November 1566, Bothwell met with nobles from all factions at Craigmillar Castle to discuss the Darnley problem. They came up with two options: divorce or assassination. But when Mary was consulted she ruled out divorce, because it would make her son illegitimate. As for 'other means', she said that she wanted 'nothing against her honour'. The nobles saw this as carte blanche and, having left Mary's room, signed a bond to murder Darnley. I hope you've got all this, it's like summarising slabs of history.

Now we begin the melting pot that is her age 24 'Year of Revolution' (8 Dec. 1566 to 8 Dec. 1567). They planned to kill Darnley by blowing up the house he was staying in. It is highly likely that Mary (who was in close contact with Bothwell) knew the details. On 1 February 1567, she brought Darnley from the safety of Glasgow to the dangers of Edinburgh. He was taken to Kirk o'Field, a house near the city wall, because he was sick (with syphilis) and, Mary said, needed somewhere quiet to convalesce. Mary promised to stay and look after him however on the night of the murder, 9 February, she was at Holyrood attending the wedding masque of a loyal servant. He survived the explosion, but was strangled and stabbed outside and hastily buried in an unmarked grave.

Virtually everyone was involved in the plot to murder Darnley, but only Bothwell and Mary got the blame. Within days, scurrilous placards appeared in Edinburgh, depicting Mary as a whore and accusing her and Bothwell of the crime. They had been set up by Moray and the Protestant lords. She did not help by showing no grief whatsoever and it was said she played a game of golf the next day (she was credited as the first recognised female golfer).

What happens next is almost surreal. In desperation, Bothwell abducts Mary and takes her captive to Dunbar Castle where, apparently, he raped her before forcing her to agree to marry him. But could she have been complicit in the whole thing? Possibly. Even her defenders find it hard to believe she knew nothing of the plan to abduct her. It was said she suffered a nervous collapse and became suicidal. To make matters worse, she is again pregnant, this time with Bothwell's twins. Bothwell, it should be noted, was already married for just a year at this time. His wife divorced him on 7 May 1567, citing adultery with her servant. Does this begin to play the same tune as the scandalous Burton/Taylor relationship?

On 15 May 1567, Mary and Bothwell were married at Holyrood according to the Protestant rites. Mary was either so desperate - or so madly in love with Bothwell - that she now appeared to give up even her Catholicism for him. This marriage was very unpopular and divided the country. Exactly a month later, the final showdown between Mary and the Protestant lords took place at Carberry Hill near Edinburgh. But no actual fighting took place because Mary's outnumbered troops gradually melted away.

Mary agreed to give herself up on condition that Bothwell was given safe passage into exile. In a final act of defiance they kissed in full view of both sides. Then Bothwell galloped off and spent the next month trying, in vain, to raise more troops but it was to no avail. He was to die in captivity in Denmark and she was never to see him again, just as she was never to see her infant son James again. Two days after Carberry, Mary was imprisoned on the isle of Lochleven, where in the next month she miscarried Bothwell's twins. Her life was indeed now effectively over and she spent, between this time and her execution at 44, in various places of captivity in England, whilst trying to instigate an unsuccessful Catholic uprising.

Just what was Mary's character? Was she the unwitting and tragic figure, who was a pawn in the game of the Scottish Protestant Lords? Was she indeed "raped" and held prisoner by Bothwell? Or was she a complicit figure in her own demise? Was she an outstanding example of "The Darkest Revolution"? Was she in this "up to her elbows"? You know how history gets written don't you? You need to go digging for the truth. Come and join me on this dig.

There is a fascinating report from Times online, about research by a team of gynecologists. They assert :- "Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was an “adulteress and liar”, who plotted to kill her husband in order to marry her lover. Intriguing new medical analysis claims that Mary, the cousin of Elizabeth I, concocted a story of kidnap and alleged rape to justify her marriage to her third husband – potentially shedding light on a 400-year-old royal murder mystery.

Far from being the saintly and wronged Roman Catholic monarch portrayed in portraits and films, Mary was actually a “moral loose cannon”, whose striking beauty (she was a 6 foot tall, highly-sexed redhead, who was said to be a 'fool for men'), gave Elizabeth other reasons to imprison and execute her, the researchers suggest. Lesley Smith, a medical historian, claims that it would also have been an “astonishing coincidence” if conception occurred at the time of the “rape”, and even then the twins would have been just 12 weeks old and hard to identify upon miscarriage.

Instead, it is more likely that “the widowed Mary had an affair with Bothwell, became pregnant and had used the abduction story as a cover for her condition and justification for marriage,” Ms Smith says. Mary later claimed that her pregnancy began after her marriage but experts now say this is impossible :-
"In a study published today in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare, Lesley Smith, a medical historian, claims that it would have required modern microscopes and knowledge about foetal development to identify that the miscarriage was of twins after the seven weeks of pregnancy that Mary claimed."

So, Mary made a series of disastrous choices beginning in her fateful, age 24, 'Year of Revolution'. She failed to see the plotting by both the Protestant Lords (who wanted her gone) and her beloved Bothwell (who wanted the crown at all costs). She most probably willingly conspired in this whole ugly mess. Have a good look at the Mary you see in the book cover above. This is not the high starched collar, severe-looking Queen Mary, we are used to. This is the 'real Mary'; wanton, passionate, and underneath it all, quite evil. I think she's a fitting climax for the 'Dark Side' Lesson and series of posts. Remember the upheavals in your life, good and bad, that I have correlated with 'Years of Revolution' have to be dealt with in a dedicated and respectful way. It's your life, try not to stuff it up. Get ready for your next lesson soon, it will be bigger and bolder than any before it. Some very big names will get analysed by the one and only 'Life Cycles'. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."