Alexander II Zabinas

Alexander II Theos Epiphanes Nikephoros was a Hellenistic Seleucid monarch who reigned as the King of Syria between 128 BC and 123 BC. His true parentage is debated, his surname "Zabinas" is a Semitic name, translated as "the bought one". It is possible, that Alexander II was a natural son of Alexander I, as the surname can mean "bought from the god"; the iconography of Alexander II's coinage indicates he based his claims to the throne on his descent from Antiochus IV, the father of Alexander I. Alexander II's rise is connected to the dynastic feuds of the Seleucid Empire. Both King Seleucus IV and his brother Antiochus IV had descendants contending for the throne, leading the country to experience many civil wars; the situation was complicated by Ptolemaic Egyptian interference, facilitated by the dynastic marriages between the two royal houses. In 128 BC, King Demetrius II of Syria, the representative of Seleucus IV's line, invaded Egypt to help his mother-in-law Cleopatra II, engaged in a civil war against her brother and husband King Ptolemy VIII.

Angered by the Syrian invasion, the Egyptian king instigated revolts in the cities of Syria against Demetrius II and chose Alexander II, a supposed representative of Antiochus IV's line, as an anti-king. With Egyptian troops, Alexander II captured the Syrian capital Antioch in 128 BC and warred against Demetrius II, defeating him decisively in 125 BC; the beaten king escaped to his wife Cleopatra Thea in the city of Ptolemais. He was killed while trying to find refuge in the city of Tyre. With the death of Demetrius II, Alexander II became the master of the kingdom, controlling the realm except for a small pocket around Ptolemais where Cleopatra Thea ruled. Alexander II was a beloved king, forgiving nature, he maintained friendly relations with John I Hyrcanus of Judea, who acknowledged the Syrian king as his suzerain. Alexander II's successes were not welcomed by Egypt's Ptolemy VIII, who did not want a strong king on the Syrian throne. Thus, in 124 BC an alliance was established between Egypt and Cleopatra Thea, now ruling jointly with Antiochus VIII, her son by Demetrius II.

Alexander II was defeated, he escaped to Antioch, where he pillaged the temple of Zeus to pay his soldiers. Alexander II was executed by Antiochus VIII in 123 BC, ending the line of Antiochus IV; the death of the Seleucid king Seleucus IV in 175 BC created a dynastic crisis because of the illegal succession of his brother Antiochus IV. Seleucus IV's legitimate heir, Demetrius I, was a hostage in Rome, his younger son Antiochus was declared king. Shortly after the succession of young Antiochus, Antiochus IV assumed the throne as a co-ruler, he may have had his nephew killed in 170/169 BC. After Antiochus IV's death in 164 BC, his son Antiochus V succeeded him. Three years Demetrius I managed to escape Rome and take the throne, killing Antiochus V in 161 BC; the Seleucid dynasty was torn apart by the civil war between the lines of Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV. In 150 BC Alexander I, an illegitimate son of Antiochus IV, managed to dethrone and kill Demetrius I, he married Cleopatra Thea, the daughter of Ptolemy VI of Ptolemaic Egypt, who became his ally and supporter.

The Egyptian king changed his policy and supported Demetrius I's son Demetrius II, marrying him to Cleopatra Thea after divorcing her from Alexander I, defeated by his former father in law and killed in 145 BC. The Egyptian king was wounded during the battle and died shortly after Alexander I, his sister-wife and co-ruler, the mother of Cleopatra Thea, Cleopatra II married her other brother, Ptolemy VIII who became her new co-ruler. Diodotus Tryphon, Alexander I's official, declared the latter's son Antiochus VI king in 144 BC. Tryphon had him killed and assumed the throne himself in 142 BC; the usurper controlled lands in the western parts of the Seleucid empire, including Antioch, but Demetrius II retained large parts of the realm, including Babylonia, invaded by the Parthian Empire in 141 BC. This led Demetrius II to launch a campaign against Parthia which ended in his defeat and capture in 138 BC, his younger brother Antiochus VII married Demetrius II's wife. He was able to defeat the Parthians, restoring the lost Seleucid provinces.

In Egypt, without divorcing Cleopatra II, Ptolemy VIII married her daughter by Ptolemy VI, Cleopatra III, declared her co-ruler. Cleopatra II took control over the countryside. By September 131 BC, Ptolemy VIII fled to Cyprus; the Parthians freed Demetrius II to put pressure on Antiochus VII, killed in 129 BC during a battle in Media. This opened the way for Demetrius II to regain wife Cleopatra Thea the same year. Ptolemy VIII returned to Egypt two years after his expulsion; the Syrian king marched against Egypt and by spring 128 BC, he reached Pelusium. In response to Demetrius II's campaign, Ptolemy VIII incited a rebellion in Syria; the Syrian capital Antioch proclaimed a young son of Antiochus VII named Antiochus Epiphanes king, but the city was willing to change hands in such unstable political circumstances. Ptolemy VIII sent Alexander

Maria of Alania

Maria of Alania was Byzantine empress by marriages to emperors Michael VII Doukas and Nikephoros III Botaneiates. Her status as empress was considered a significant success for a newly unified Kingdom of Georgia, which would achieve regional influence comparable to that of Byzantium only during the reign of Martha's nephew, King David IV, who refused to carry a Byzantine title. Maria was the only non-Byzantine empress of the eleventh century. A daughter of the Georgian monarch Bagrat IV, Martha, at the age of 5 years, was sent to Constantinople to further her education at the Byzantine court under the patronage of Empress Theodora in 1056; the latter, died in the year and Martha returned home to Georgia. In 1065 she married the future emperor Michael, a son of Constantine X Doukas, became an empress when Michael was enthroned in 1071. Maria's first marriage was marred by Michael's military failures in Anatolia against the Seljuk Turks, as well as currency devaluation, which caused growing dissatisfaction and culminated in a 1078 coup that ousted Michael and enthroned Nikephoros III Botaneiates.

Michael was forced to become a monk at the Stoudios Monastery and Maria went to a Petrion monastery with her son Constantine, but she did not become a Nun hinting that she had some future plans at the imperial court. The new emperor Nikephoros' wife died shortly before his accession to the throne and he announced his intention to remarry, which triggered a fierce competition among all the unmarried girls of Constantinople, between Maria, her former mother-in-law Eudokia Makrembolitissa, Eudokia's daughter Zoe; the new emperor was first inclined to marry Eudokia but Maria received a strong support of her Doukas in-laws, who convinced Nikephoros to select her because of her beauty and the benefits of having a foreign-born wife with no domestic relatives who could interfere in Nikephoros' rule. In addition, by this move Nikephoros would pacify the loyalists of the ousted Doukas; because Maria's first husband Michael was still alive as he was a monk, her marriage to the new emperor was considered adulterous by the Orthodox Church, one of Maria's prominent supporters John Doukas had to demote a priest who refused to perform the marriage and replace him with another one who agreed to marry the couple in 1078.

As part of the marriage deal, Maria was promised that her son Constantine would be named an heir to the empire but Nikephoros reneged on this promise at a point. Despite this, during his reign Maria was treated generously and received enormous lands and property, with Nikephoros going as far as to give her brother, George II of Georgia, a title of a Caesar to acknowledge his close ties to the imperial family. According to princess Anna Komnene, daughter of emperor Alexios Komnenos, under care of Maria, despite all the influence the empress wielded at the court, she remained dissatisfied with Nikephoros' refusal to name her son Constantine as an heir: " would have ensured his own safety to the end... the empress, would have had more confidence in him. The old man did not realize the unfairness and inexpediency of his plans, unaware that he was bringing evil on his own head"; the empress became an important part of a plot organized by the general Alexios Komnenos, rumored to be her lover. Alexios forced Nikephoros to abdicate the throne and was himself crowned emperor in 1081.

Alexios had Constantine proclaimed heir to the throne and betrothed his daughter, Anna Komnene, to Constantine. This situation changed drastically when Alexios had a son, the future emperor John II Komnenos, by the Empress consort Irene Doukaina in 1087: Anna’s engagement with Constantine was dissolved, the latter was deprived of his status of heir-apparent and Maria forced to retire to a monastery. After her dethronement and a period at a monastery, Maria lived in the Mangana palace, where she organized "an alternative court" as mother of the co-emperor and mother-in-law designate of the emperor's eldest daughter. Despite being a nun and wearing a veil, this transition made little difference to Maria's lifestyle and she continued her usual charitable activities, including donations to the Georgian monastery of Iviron on Mount Athos, the building of a convent named Kappatha at Jerusalem with her mother Borena. Maria's commanded great wealth and owned the Mangana palace, as well as the Hebdomon Monastery, the burial place of Basil II.

She was patron of numerous literary figures, including Theophylact of Ohrid, future Archbishop of Bulgaria, a Georgian neo-Platonist John Petrici. Years of Maria's influence at the court, manifested itself in the fact that Constantine received a status of a co-emperor, a higher title than that of Emperor's older brother Isaac, Maria received guarantees of personal safety. Maria was charged with the care of young imperial princess Anna Komnene, fond of her and shared all her secrets with the former empress. Anna Komnene describes Maria's beauty in her medieval biographical text Alexiad, she writes about Maria the following: After Maria's son Constantine died in 1096, she moved herself to a monastery, purportedly in a Georgian-influenced area like North Eastern Anatolia. She remained revered in her native Georgia, resulting in an increase in future marriages between the Georgian and Byzantine royalty, strengthening of ties between the two countries. Maria was an influence for Komnenian women who were impressed by her past political involvement and charitable work.

Lynda Garland, Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527–1204, first edition, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-14688-7, pages 180–186 Lynda Garland, Byzantine Women

Archie Loyd

Archie Kirkman Loyd KC was a British barrister and twice Member of Parliament for Abingdon. Loyd was born on 22 January 1847 in Agra in the North-Western Provinces of India, the third son of Thomas Kirkman Loyd and Annie Hirst Loyd, he was educated at Brighton College as a pupil of Walter Wren, he took the open competition for the Indian Civil Service and won prizes for English Law and Hindi. He resigned for the Indian Civil Service in 1868 when he was called to the bar by the Middle Temple and in 1892 he was appointed a Queen's Counsel. In the 1895 General Election he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Abingdon as a member of the Conservative Party, he retired in 1905 but was returned again as a member in a by-election which he held until November 1918. He was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Berkshire in 1900. Loyd worked with his 2nd cousin's husband, Lord Wantage, who had formed the National Aid Society in 1870, the society helped the sick and wounded from war and Loyd worked abroad for the Society during the Franco-German war and in Turkey and Serbia.

Loyd was one of only two survivors of the original society when in 1905 it changed name as the British Red Cross Society and he became vice-chairman of the society's council. He was on the governing body of Abingdon School from 1901-1923. Loyd had married Henrietta Louisa Clutterbuck in 1885 and they had four sons, they lived at Downs House in Wantage in Berkshire. He had a serious operation in November 1918 which restricted his activities and he died on 1 December 1922 at his home 21 Cadogan Square, London. Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Archie Loyd