Saturday, 30 June 2012

Heshel's Kingdom, by Dan Jacobson

This is a marvellous book, in which Dan Jacobson (whom I have met a couple of times) deals with a lost world.

The Heshel of the title was his grandfather, who died long before he was born: Heshel Melamed, the rabbi of the small, impoverished shtetl of Varniai in Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire. There was a very large Jewish population in Lithuania, and Vilnius, the capital, where a quarter of the citizens were Jewish, was nicknamed "the Jerusalem of the north" because of its learned rabbis. Faced with increasing persecution by the Tsarist authorities in the decades before the First World War, many Jews were driven to emigrate. Heshel visited the United States in 1912, but despite being offered a position in Cleveland, decided to remain at home in Lithuania. He was alarmed to observe that Jews who emigrated tended to abandon the orthodox traditions of Jewry; and orthodoxy was the whole core of Heshel's being: he despised in equal measure both the Hasidim and the Zionists for departing from its tenets. But when Heshel died in 1919 his family emigrated to South Africa, where they had relatives, thus escaping the horrors that were to come.

In the second part of the book, Jacobson and his son visit Lithuania, now an independent country after the collapse of the Soviet Union, searching for the family's roots. But there is nothing left. Over ninety per cent of Lithuania's Jews were either slaughtered in their villages by the Einsatzgruppen in the summer and autumn of 1941, or transported to the old fort at Kaunus to be shot there. The ninety-six synagogues of Vilnius have dwindled to just one. In Varniai they find only two Jews, both elderly ladies, and an overgrown Jewish cemetery where no-one had been buried since May 1941. A whole civilisation, his grandfather's world, has vanished completely, and, as Heshel had feared, his family, scattered abroad, has abandoned the orthodox Jewish traditions. Jacobson wonders why Heshel had attached so much importance to rigid orthodoxy: what was he being orthodox for? He does not find an answer.


This is my mother's recipe for a good healthy breakfast. It is essentially a fresh, do-it-yourself muesli, but she was making it long before anyone in England had heard of muesli!

One large cooking apple, preferably Bramley; grated
Two handfuls of sultanas or raisins
Two handfuls of cashew nuts; grated fine
One tablespoon of runny honey
A good splash of orange juice or lime juice

Grate the apple into a bowl, then add the grated cashew nuts and other ingredients. Stir well. It can be prepared the night before, in which case cover the bowl with cling-film and leave in the fridge. It will keep for 2 days.

This is enough for 4. Because it has a strong flavour, serve each helping with an equal quantity of oats, plus milk, and cream or yoghurt to taste.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Jane Austen on Baseball, and related matters

Here is a quiz question guaranteed to annoy Americans: "Which Jane Austen heroine played baseball?".

This is not a trick question: the answer being - Catherine Morland, the very naive heroine of "Northanger Abbey", written around 1798. Just three pages into chapter one, we are told:-

"It was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, base ball, riding on horseback and running around the country, at the age of fourteen, to books ..."

In other words, Catherine was what in later times would be called a tomboy. Such behaviour wasn't necessarily always discouraged in the 18th century, as this print of "Miss Wicket and Miss Trigger" shows:-

The caption reads "Miss Trigger you see is an excellent shot. And forty-five notches Miss Wicket's just got". Miss Trigger is treading underfoot a paper labelled "Effeminacy": this was a conventional way for a cartoonist of the time to indicate rejection of something.

To return to the original question: there is,of course, no evidence that Catherine's "base ball" (spelt as two words by Jane Austen) necessarily resembled the modern game, but the likelihood is that it was the ancestor of "rounders", and thus of baseball. It might be worth investigating. The development of cricket has been clearly traced from at least fifty years before Jane Austen wrote. (The picture shows Miss Wicket with an early form of cricket bat and stumps, though she hardly seems dressed for the game!)  Playing games with a hard ball goes back to Roman times, as shown in surviving mosaics, and is surely much older than that. A game involving one person throwing a ball and another trying to hit it with a stick hardly takes much devising, and a great many village communities would have had their own traditional rules for such a game. But when communications improved and people from widely separated areas wanted to play games together (such as young men at the universities, for instance) they would have to draw up agreed codes of rules before they could start.

The late Stephen Jay Gould; zoologist, popular science writer and baseball fan; wrote an excellent essay on this theme: "The Creation Myths of Cooperstown". In it he attacks as a myth the tradition that baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown in New York State in 1839. Gould argues that outdoor games of this kind are hardly ever created from nothing: what usually happens is that the widely varying rules of ancient village games are modified into a single code, and the new code comes to win general acceptance. This, he thinks is what most probably happened in the case of baseball. Gould intended this essay to be an analogy for Darwinian evolution in biology, as against any "creationist" theory. The history of games also tends to support his own pet evolutionary theory: not continuous steady change but "punctured equilibrium"; long periods of stability interspersed with sudden major changes. In the development of games, every so often the authorities decide to alter the rules, which quickly leads to alterations of tactics and modes of playing.

A very similar argument for evolution rather than creation can be advanced in the case of Rugby football. According to tradition the game was invented when William Webb Ellis (1806-72) caught the ball and ran with it at Rugby school in 1823. There is a plaque at the school to commemorate this event, but the whole story is inherently improbable. The most obvious evidence against it is the children's novel "Tom Brown's School Days", published in 1857 by Thomas Hughes (1822-96; also a Liberal M. P.). Hughes's book is based upon his own time at Rugby school in the 1830s, a decade after Ellis's alleged feat - but he maintained he had never heard of William Webb Ellis! There is a famous description of a match in chapter 5 of Hughes's book, but a number of points stand out. Firstly, any number can play: the "50 or 60" boys of School House take on everyone else. Secondly, there is no involvement by the teaching staff, though some of the masters may be watching, and no sign of a referee. Thirdly, although Hughes only gives a vague account of the rules of the game, it is hardly recognisable as rugby as we know it today: it seems to be mostly a game of kick-and-chase, with the aim being to get into a position to drop-kick the ball over the crossbar. Hughes himself once said, "Running with the ball .... was not actually forbidden, but a jury of Rugby boys of that day would almost certainly have found a verdict of justifiable homicide if a boy had been killed in running it".
In any case, even if we imagine there was some truth in the notion that rugby was invented in 1823, this would fail to explain the existence of other forms of the handling game, such as American football and Australian Rules. It seems obvious that, once again, there was once a great number of local village games played with a large inflated ball, of which some allowed handling and some did not. Ashbourne in Derbyshire still plays a traditional annual game in which there appear to be no rules at all! It was only in the 19th century that codes of rules were drawn up, and different versions of football became clearly established.

Modification or evolution of games is always more probable than invention

Friday, 22 June 2012

Lord Edward Fitzgerald and the United Irishmen

It is axiomatic that revolutions and revolts are always led by men from the educated classes: think of Karl Marx, Lenin, Fidel Castro, or in the case of Ireland Eamonn de Valera and Padraig Pearse. This is certainly true of the United Irishmen at the end of the 18th century. Wolfe Tone and Arthur O’Connor were lawyers, and others of their fraternity were small businessmen. But the most glamorous figure of the great Irish revolt was not even middle-class. Lord Edward Fitzgerald came from the highest social class of all: a son of the Duke of Leinster, Ireland’s premier nobleman, whose ancestors had been a dominant force in Ireland for centuries; and through his mother a grandson of the Duke of Richmond, and thus a descendant of a bastard son of King Charles II, and a cousin of Charles James Fox, the leader of the Whig opposition to William Pitt’s government. His comrades nicknamed him "Citizen Lord".

Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s career began in 1781 when he joined the army and crossed the Atlantic to fight in the last stages of the war against the American rebels. He also took the opportunity to explore many of the wilderness areas of North America. Returning home, he was elected a member of the Irish House of Commons in 1783. He was just twenty years old. It this time there was little to set him apart from a great many young Irish aristocrats of his time. It is fascinating to compare and contrast his life with that of another scion of the Irish nobility, born in Dublin just six years after Fitzgerald, and later to achieve fame as Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. What divided them was the most world-shattering events for centuries: the outbreak of the French Revolution.

Ireland in the 18th century presented an extraordinary picture of a veneer of irresponsible wealth atop a society of grinding poverty and discrimination. All power was reserved for the tiny Anglican minority, whilst the Catholics, who constituted the vast majority, were deprived of any political or economic rights and left in a position comparable to the serfs of Russia or the black slaves of America. There was a Parliament in Dublin, for which only Anglicans could vote or sit, but it was entirely under the control of the government in London. Furthermore, for the purposes of English trading policy, Ireland counted as a foreign country and its exports were deliberately restricted.
The American war had caused great excitement in Ireland: if the Americans could demand better treatment, how much more should the Irish do the same! Even forward-looking Protestant landowners joined in the demonstrations. The surrender in America after 1782 was matched by at least a partial surrender in Ireland: the Irish Parliament was given legislative independence and a few tentative civil rights were granted to Catholics. But Ireland was still under English dominance, and to many Irish people the reforms were no more than an unsatisfactory halfway house.
     The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 was hailed by the Whig leader Charles James Fox as the dawning of a new age. Fitzgerald was swept up in the initial excitement. He praised the French revolution in the Irish Parliament; he visited England in 1792 and together with his cousin Fox joined an aristocratic society with the alarming title of “The Friends of the People”. William Pitt’s government reacted cautiously at the start, but became increasingly fearful of the rise of radical democratic movements in Britain, which were made to look more sinister by increasing violence in Paris after 1792 and by the coming of war on the continent. In early 1793 King Louis was executed, French revolutionary armies invaded Belgium and Britain was at war with France. To demand radical reform now became analogous to treason. Fox’s name was struck from the list of Privy Councillors and Fitzgerald was dismissed from the army.

The Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast and Dublin in the autumn of 1791. As the name implies, its intention was to bring together all Irish, Protestants and Catholics, to demand better treatment from the British government. But, as mentioned above, the leaders were inevitably drawn mostly from the better-off classes; they were Protestants or freethinkers of the Enlightenment; they spoke English and French but not Gaelic; and were thus inevitably cut off from the Gaelic-speaking and fiercely Catholic Irish peasantry whom they hoped to lead. It was to prove a grave weakness of the movement. At first they contented themselves with putting out reasoned propaganda for their cause, but increasingly realised they would not win any meaningful concessions from the British government by such methods. The last straw came over the winter if 1794-95 when a liberal nobleman, Earl Fitzwilliam, was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, rashly promised full emancipation for Catholics, and was promptly sacked. The United Irishmen went underground after the arrest of some of their leaders and began to turn to an armed uprising. Tone, O’Connor and Fitzgerald went to Paris to plan for landing in Ireland of troops from revolutionary France.

In December 1796 a French fleet of 43 ships with 14,000 soldiers under the command of the revolutionary general Hoche approached Bantry Bay in the south-west of Ireland. This was undoubtedly the greatest threat to Britain at any time between the Spanish Armada and the Second World War: no troops defended the area, Ireland was seething with discontent, and the British fleet was on the verge of mutiny. But, not for the first time, Britain was saved by the weather: a vast storm descended, and after spending eight hours in a vain attempt to sail up the bay, the French fleet was swept out into the Atlantic. No further attempt on this scale was ever repeated.

Ireland now descended into civil war and anarchy. Habeas Corpus was suspended, and an Insurrection Act gave the army extraordinary powers. General Lake’s soldiers swept through Ulster and then progressed to the midland counties, torturing, flogging and killing in their search for rebels and stockpiled arms. It was quickly apparent that the idealism of the United Irishmen had failed: in this crisis, Protestant landowners enthusiastically supported the government and any revolt would be only a Catholic peasant rising. The Orange Order was founded in Ulster as an anti-Catholic mass movement, and the Yeomanry, a militia led by Protestant farmers on horseback, enthusiastically joined in the mayhem. The hierarchy of the Catholic church, frightened by the militant atheism of the French Revolution, proved itself to be a strongly conservative force. Furthermore, the rebel leadership had been penetrated by government spies. A rising was planned for May 1798, but on March 12th most of the leaders were arrested in a dawn swoop in Dublin.
     Lord Edward Fitzgerald was not caught on this occasion, but was finally run to earth a week later. There was a struggle, Fitzgerald fatally stabbed Captain Ryan, one of the arresting officers, and was himself shot in the shoulder. He was held in prison, but no attempt was made to remove the bullet, and he died of the infected wound on June 4th. His death must have come as a relief to the government, since putting on trial someone of his social standing would have been a grave embarrassment. But in a move of extraordinary posthumous vindictiveness, an Act of Attainder was passed, declaring him guilty of high treason, so his property was all confiscated and his wife and three small children cast out to be supported by relatives.

The rising which broke out in May led to much pointless killing by both sides, culminating in the battle of Vinegar Hill, near Wexford, in June. 2,000 soldiers and loyalists and an unknown number of Catholic peasant rebels were killed. The French only arrived in August; too late, too few and in the wrong part of Ireland, and were easily defeated. Of the other leaders, Arthur O’Connor was, rather surprisingly, acquitted of treason and went to live abroad, and Wolfe Tone was captured in a French ship off Donegal and cut his throat whilst awaiting trial. The total casualties of the great revolt are estimated at around 30,000. In 1800 William Pitt’s government pushed through an Act of Union, integrating Ireland into the United Kingdom, with 100 Irish M.P.s at Westminster - but Catholics, although they could vote, could not be elected. Thus was more trouble stored up for the future.

Fitzgerald and his friends thus take their places in the long tradition of gallant but entirely unsuccessful rebels against British rule in Ireland. Like many such heroes, Fitzgerald is commemorated with a street named after him in Dublin: Lord Edward Street, south of the Liffey near City Hall.

This is the well-known "artist's impression" of the arrest of Lord Edward Fitzgerald on May 19th 1798.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Palermo: the Capuchin catacomb

One of the strangest places I have ever visited is the Capuchin catacomb in Palermo, Sicily. Such places were not uncommon in Europe in the later Middle Ages, and visitors would wander round these collections of bones much as we did. Few survive nowadays. This one is unusual in that it did not receive its first corpse till the end of the 16th century.

After being allowed to dry out, the corpses were dressed in their best clothes and then arranged for display by gender and profession. Most of them were drawn from the upper classes of Palermo, though one American consul was placed here at his own request. Hardly any corpses were added after the early 1880s.

The displays of very young children are a particular feature.

The highlight, if one may use such a term, is the "Bambina": a liitle girl called Rosalia, who died in 1920 but is so well preserved that it looks as if she has just fallen asleep.

The overall effect I found gruesome, but surprisingly unfrightening. But I was going around with a large group of tourists, in bright electric lighting: I suspect it could have been rather different if I had been on my own with only a flickering candle for illumination!

Friday, 15 June 2012


Haweswater is in the Lake District. It was once a much smaller lake than it is now, but in the 1920s it was decided that more water was needed for the city of Manchester, and Haweswater was chosen to supply it. In 1936 dam was completed at the northern end of the lake, which raised the level by 95 feet. The whole valley was flooded and the village of Mardale disappeared beneath the waters, after all buildings had been demolished and the bodies from the churchyard disinterred and removed to Shap.

This is Haweswater when full, looking west to Measand Point.

But often in prolonged dry weather, when there are water shortages, vast quantities are taken from the lake, and traces of the old settlements being to appear again as the water-level drops:-

The water's going .....

Going .....

Now the outlines of Mardale village are clear. Note the bridge over the river and the roads leading to it. On one occasion like this, old friends of my parents who had known the valley before it was flooded were able to walk around and say, "This is where the Dun Cow pub used to be!" and so forth.

You don't often get pictures like this in England; least of all in the notoriously wet Lake District!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Silly comments

A friend told me how he was making a railway journey across Ireland. The train was very slow, and stopped at a great many tiny villages in the depths of the countryside, until at one point it halted at a station where there were no houses at all, though in the distance there appeared to be some kind of settlement. My friend asked a fellow-passenger, "I wonder why they built this station such a long way away from the town?"
"Oh", came the reply, "I think that was because they wanted it to be near the railway!"

I suppose we would have to call this "Irish logic". I remember reading of some similar reasoning years ago in a newspaper. An Irish footballer (I forget his name) was revisiting his home town, where the station was famous for having two clocks which always showed different times. He discovered that it was still the case, and asked the station-master why this should be. The reply came, "And what would be the point of having two clocks if they both showed the same time?"

A much more sinister note is struck in the following joke from Ulster, during the recent "troubles" there:-
Stranger: "Can you tell me the quickest way to get to the hospital, please?"
Ulsterman: "Sure: go into the Bogside and shout "Sod the Pope!""

Thursday, 7 June 2012

My father and Francis Crick

When my father, John Shilston, was at school his closest friend was Francis Crick, who was to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in the discovery of DNA. A couple of years before my father died, he was contacted by Robert Olby, who was writing a biography of Crick, and was asked for any memories he might have. This is what my father wrote:-

“Francis Crick and I arrived at Mill Hill School in September 1930. Since we were the only Scholarship boys in our House (Ridgeway), we were thrown together, and remained close throughout our school careers. As scholars we went straight into the 5th form, two years ahead of most of our contemporaries, and when we reached the 6th form we studied the same subjects; maths, physics and chemistry, for Higher Certificate. We were in a small, exclusive set of about half a dozen, under an excellent maths teacher. Crick’s best subject in those days was physics, but I think it is fair to say that in those days he did not show much sign of his future eminence. He was a small, thin boy with round glasses, more extravert than me; his nickname was “Crackers”. We had similar tastes and interests, and we felt that intellectually we were much on a par (we were wrong!)
In our first year we had to do prep in the common room, where silence was enforced. Crick worked out a method of communicating by finger-tapping, based on the 5x5 alphabetical grid as used by prisoners. Once we reached the 6th form we shared a study for prep, though I don’t remember that either of us approached the work particularly diligently. Casual reading and listening to the radio were both strictly forbidden during prep, but we got round this. Radio in those days was an amateur occupation, and we built our own set. This was easily got into resonance, and by modulating this via a microphone we managed to broadcast some gramophone music to a nearby study. (When I say “we”, it was about 70% Crick: his physics was way above mine). Crick devised a switch that automatically turned the radio off when the door was opened by a patrolling prefect or master, and there was another switch under the desk, in case the master had the cunning idea of opening and closing the door whilst remaining inside.
Neither of us became a prefect: we were not good enough at team games, which was what gave you credibility; though Crick was very good at tennis: his father was a County player.
I left the school at Christmas 1933, to become an articled pupil training as a civil engineer, but Crick stayed on until next summer. I suspect that by his third year in the 6th form, Crick was becoming bored. (He told me that for the 1934 school photograph he achieved the legendary feat of appearing twice, running from one end of the assembled school to the other as the camera swung round) He then took up a place at University College, London University. At this stage his main interest was still physics; the biochemistry came later.
We remained in touch for the next few years, and I stayed a couple of times in the tiny flat he had at the bottom of Tottenham Court Road, where I met his girlfriend, who became his first wife. I also received some fairly mad letters from him: on one, the address ran, “Pray deliver with all due speed and efficiency to …… in that miserable hole, Keighley”, which was where I was living at the time. This must have amused the postman! I’m sorry to say that I lost these during one of my moves: they would have been worth keeping.
We lost touch during the war, when Crick was involved in scientific work for the government. In the early 1950s I came across a reference to him, and dropped him a line. He replied with the rather vague suggestion that we should get together again, but we never did. He was rather out of my league by this time, but I would still count him as the best friend of my youth.”

(“Francis Crick; Hunter of Life’s Secrets”, by Robert Olby, is published by Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory Press; New York)

Friday, 1 June 2012

Eleanor of Aquitaine; part 2

After the fiasco of the Second Crusade, Eleanor was more determined than ever to have her marriage to King Louis VII annulled, on the grounds of consaguity (a close blood-relationship: always a good way to end marriages in the Middle Ages). Her campaign received unexpected help from the saintly Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, who had always disliked her. Under this pressure, Pope Eugenius eventually gave his consent in 1152. Under the terms of the arrangement, Eleanor regained her vast inheritance of Aquitaine, which thus passed outside of the control of the French crown. Contemporaries thought Louis ought to have secured better terms for himself, but as usual he played his cards very badly.
By 1150, Louis was campaigning again; not now against Saracens, but back in France against an unruly vassal in Normandy, Henry Plantagenet, the son of that Matilda who had failed to take the throne of England from her cousin, King Stephen. Less than two months after the end of her first marriage, Eleanor married Henry. She was 29 and the mother of two girls, he was only 18; and although a glamorous and exciting figure, he seemed at first sight a youth of very limited prospects. But then, sensationally, his luck changed. In 1153 Stephen’s son Eustace died (with Eleanor giving birth to her first son on the very same day), and Stephen recognised Henry as his heir and successor. Then next year Stephen himself died, and in December 1154 Henry and Eleanor were crowned King and Queen of England in London. Suddenly they were far richer and more powerful than the unfortunate King Louis, since Henry also ruled William the Conqueror’s homeland of Normandy and his father‘s homeland of Anjou, and thanks to Eleanor they also held the vast fief of Aquitaine.

Despite her advancing years, Eleanor and Henry had eight children, of whom one became the most famous of English kings, and another the most infamous. But, as might have been expected of two very strong personalities, they quarrelled bitterly in later years. Eleanor plotted with her sons against their father, encouraging them to rise in rebellion against him, and in consequence spent several years under house arrest at Salisbury in England, while Henry spent most of his time in France. Eleanor was only freed when Henry died in 1189 and their eldest surviving son, Richard, "The Lion-Heart", always his mother’s favourite, succeeded as king.
King Louis remarried and eventually fathered a son, Philip Augustus, who became the greatest of the French mediaeval kings. Philip came to the throne in 1180 and was, not surprisingly, to dedicate his life to recovering territories in France from Henry’s family. But for the moment revenge had to be postponed became of the news from Palestine.

The fatal blow to the crusader cause had actually been struck back in 1171 when Saladin (as he was known in the west), the son and nephew of two Kurdish lieutenants of Nur ad-Din of Aleppo, had succeeded in taking over Egypt on the death of its last Fatimid ruler. Hitherto the crusaders had benefited from the endless rivalry between the Egypt, by far the most powerful state in the near East, but ruled by Shia Moslems, and the orthodox Sunni Turks and Arabs; but now the Islamic world had the potential for being united under a single leader. This was now achieved, because in 1174 Nur ad-Din died of fever, leaving only a 10-year-old son. Saladin immediately went to Damascus, where he was welcomed by people and cemented his power by marrying Nur ad-Din’s widow. He took over Aleppo in 1176 and Mosul ten years later, always stressing his piety and commitment to jihad against the Franks. The decisive battle came next year, in July 1187, when Saladin met and destroyed the biggest army the crusaders ever assembled, at the Horns of Hattin, near the Sea of Galilee, capturing King Guy and a fragment of the True Cross which Guy crried with him. Following this Saladin went on to take Jerusalem itself, which surrendered in September after a brief siege. In noted contrast with the crusaders’ storming of the city ninety years earlier, Saladin’s victory was almost bloodless, though many hapless Christians were sold into slavery.

The horror felt throughout western Europe was immense. King Richard was at once determined to go on crusade, and Philip also. They made their way independently to Sicily, a Norman kingdom, where Richard’s sister was the widow of the late King William, and from there would reach Palestine by sea. Eleanor realised the need for the still-unmarried Richard to take a wife without more ado. Despite her advancing years, she travelled all the way to Navarre to collect her choice, Berengia, daughter of King Sancho, and then conducted her to Sicily, arriving in Messina in March 1191. But the marriage was not a great success: Richard never showed much interest in his bride, and no children were produced. (There is a persistent tradition that Richard was homosexual).

The story of what followed is well-known. Richard and Philip quarrelled bitterly, and Philip departed for home early. Despite Richard’s victories over Saladin, he knew he was not strong enough to retake Jerusalem, and so, being an experienced soldier, did not even make the attempt. On his way home he was captured by his enemies and held prisoner by Henry VI, the Holy Roman Emperor. Both King Philip and Richard’s younger brother John were determined to exploit Richard’s enforced absence for their own advantage, and it was left to Eleanor to negotiate with the Emperor and to attempt to raise the enormous sum of money (amounting to 35 tons of silver, not to mention the promise of military support for the Emperor's campaign to conquer Sicily) demanded as a ransom. Only in February 1194 was Richard released, after doing homage to the Emperor and acknowledging him as overlord of England.

This was Eleanor’s last intervention in politics. She was now over seventy, and she retreated to the abbey of Fontevraud, near Samur in Anjou, for her final years. She lived to hear of the death of Richard, who was fatally wounded in 1199 when fighting to keep control of his Norman territories, but death spared her from learning how John, her youngest son, lost almost all her Angevin inheritance to King Philip. Eleanor died in 1204, and was buried at Fontevraud. Her effigy lies there, alongside those of Henry and Richard; her husband and her favourite son.