Famous, and infamous, animals in history. The Asp, Caligula's Horse, and other Famous Pets.
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Just a few of the famous animals.
A little treat for musical fans from Saint Saens.
Animals play their part as well.
In this world that we live in there have been many famous women and men. But alongside them there have often been animals who have impacted on their lives, and, such is the nature of fame, on our lives as well.
In this little article I want to remind you of some of those "lesser creatures" that have contributed to the rich tapestry of history.
These animal stories are not necessarily in order, and at least one of them is definitely untrue, but they all have an interest of their own.
Cleopatra's asp was the second most famous serpent in history. The first was the one that did for Adam and Eve.
Cleopatra was the last queen of ancient Egypt. She was successively the lover of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
When Antony and Cleopatra were defeated in the Battle of Actium by Octavian they both fled back to Alexandria.
Mark Antony killed himself by falling on his sword, and his royal lover committed suicide by letting herself be bitten by an asp, a poisonous type of snake.
Incitatus was the favourite horse of the Roman Emperor Caligula, best known to posterity for his murderous propensities, than for any positive contributions he made to the welfare of his fellow men.
Among the many proofs of madness put forward by historians is that he intended to make his horse a consul.
Incitatus was housed in a marble stable. He had an ivory manger, and a collar made of gold and precious stones hung around the neck of this famous animal.
He was said to have been attended by 18 servants, and was fed on oats mixed with gold leaf.
I imagine that chronic indigestion was the result. Caligula's horse would have been better off running around in a field with his less exalted brethern.
Lady Godiva's horse.
We know don't know the name of this famous animal, and he is just guilty by association.
Lady Godiva was the wife of the governor of the english town of Coventry. She said that she would ride her horse naked through the streets of the city, if her husband would reduce the taxes on the people. Everyone was ordered to remain indoors, and not look out in order to spare the lady's blushes. But a man called Tom peeped through a crack, hence the term "Peeping Tom".
Either Tom, or the horse, must have told the story to the press, because if nobody else was watching, no one could have seen anything.
Robert The Bruce's spider.
Robert The Bruce was a king of Scotland, who was constantly being defeated by the english. Eventually he was reduced to taking refuge in a stable on Rathlin Island off the coast of Ireland.
There was a spider in the stable. Every time the spider tried to make a web, something would go wrong, and he/she would have to start again. But eventually the web was completed. The king learned from the spider that we should never give up.
He returned to Scotland and routed the invaders at The Battle of Bannockburn.
Mary Queen of Scots little dog.
When the famous Mary Queen of Scots was executed in 1587, her little dog ran out from under her skirts after she was dead. Such was the devotion of this brave little animal, that he accompanied his beloved mistress on her last journey.
It is one off the oddities of human nature that even the most monstrous of people can have their soft side, and history can have produced few more awful characters than Lenin, the founder of The Soviet Union. Yet there are loads of pictures showing him stroking a selection of lovely felines. All I can say to that is, "how very odd"?
Nobody knows the names of these "commie cats".
Another animal with a less than exemplary owner was "Blondi", the favourite german shepherd of Adolf Hitler. The german dictator was devoted to his pet, and used to let her sleep in his room. Hitler's wife, Eva Braun, was less fond of the dog. She used to kick her under the table.
When Adolf did the world a favour by taking cyanide in April 1945, he first had it tested on his dog. It killed her instantly. Hitler killed himself immediately afterwards.
Charlotte was the pet of Britain's King George V. She was a pink grey parrot. The king absolutely spoiled this bird. She sat on his shoulder when he was in his office, and she had free run of the table during meals at the various palaces.
When the king died, Queen Mary, who loathed the parrot, gave her to the housekeeper at Sandringham to end her days in familiar surroundings.
For all I know the bird may be still alive.
Catherine The Great's horse.
This story is definitely not true, but it is too remarkable to be left out.
Catherine II of Russia had a reputation for promiscuity. If you were a handsome officer in her guard, you were likely to find that sleeping with The Empress could be an important part of your duties.
Such was Catherine's reputation, that when she died in 1796 the rumour was bruited abroad that she was making love to a horse that was suspended from the ceiling by straps. The straps were said to have broken, and the empress got crushed by her equine lover.
It never happened.
Simon was the only cat to ever be awarded "The Dicken Medal" which was the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
He was the ship's cat aboard HMS Amethyst, which was stranded in China during the civil war in 1948. During the time that the ship was trapped Simon killed hundreds of rats and mice. He almost singlehandledy prevented the crew from starving, as without him all their supplies would have been eaten by the rodents.
He was awarded the medal, but this brave, and deservedly famous, animal unfortunately died before it could be presented.
That is just a selection of the many animals that have given colour to history. Where would we have been without them?
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