From about mid-1812 to the end of 1814 the United States and Great Britain were at war, a conflict sparked partially by British interference with American merchant shipping. Despite the minor inconvenience of a state of war, the desperate need of Britain’s merchants for shipping and the desperate need of American merchant mariners for work led to a very cozy arrangement between the two. Essentially, an American ship could be granted a “license” by His Majesty’s Government to carry cargoes for British merchants, thereby gaining immunity from seizure by the Royal Navy, which was assiduously sweeping the seas of Yankee vessels in the pursuit of glory and prize money.
As can be imagined, on more than one occasion one of John Bull’s numberless frigates (over 100 by 1812), swooped down upon some heavily ladened Yankee merchantman, only to be forced to cease calculating their remuneration in pounds (for the officers) or shillings and pence (for the enlisted folks) when the vessels’ skipper presented his license to the boarding officer.
Needless to say, occasional “mistakes” were made.
In May of 1813, HMS Hogue, a 74-gun ship-of-the-line, under Capt. Thomas Bladen Capel, a veteran of over eight years of command at sea, took an American merchant ship off the English coast. When, despite his claims to posses one, her master failed to produce the requisite license, Capel promptly burned the vessel. Alas, when Capel returned home, he discovered himself the object of a lawsuit by the ship’s owners, who asserted that they did possess a license, and that thus the burning of their ship had been illegal.
The case dragged on for two years, until well after peace had been patched together. And in 1815 the High Court of Admiralty ruled that the owners had indeed possessed the claimed license (though why the captain did not have a copy was not explained). As a result, Capt. Capel was found liable to pay £4,000 to compensate the owners for their loss, a sum equal to over 300 times his annual salary, but one fortunately paid out of a special fund established by the Royal Navy to cover just such eventualities.
A Death in the Family
On the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C., his generals divied up his kingdom, appointing each other satrap or vice-roy of various parts of the sprawling empire. Over the next few years, the boys had a falling out, and there was much war, and much reshuffling of the satrapies. In 312 B.C., one general, Seleucus, managed to secure control of Babylon, then probably the richest city in the world. He soon grabbed an enormous amount of territory, more than a million square miles, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Indus, and in 305 B.C. had himself proclaimed “king.” This initiated what has come to be known as the Seleucid Empire, which endured until 63 B.C., when his last descendant was deposed by Pompey the Great from the rump of the empire, roughly modern Syria.
Now in the course of the approximately 250 year history of the Seleucid Empire, Seleucus was followed on the throne by a couple of dozen of his descendants, legitimate or illegitimate, legally or as usurpers, making for an average reign of little more than ten years. One major reason for this was the very high casualty rate among the Seleucids, almost all of whom were killed in action, died of wounds or accidents, or were assassinated.
1. Seleucus I “the Great” (r. 312–281 B.C.), assassinated by his enemies
2. Antiochus II (261–246 B.C.), grandson of the above, who was poisoned by his first wife, to secure the throne for her son,
3. Seleucus II (246–225 B.C.), who died in a fall from his horse
4. Seleucus III (225–223 B.C.), son of the above, assassinated by disloyal officers
5. Antiochus III the Great (223–187 B.C.), brother of Seleucus III, killed while plundering a temple
6. Seleucus IV (187–175 B.C.), assassinated by a court official who tied to usurp the throne
7. Antiochus V (164–162 B.C.), seized the throne when his father, Antiochus IV (175-164 B.C.), the brother of Seleucus IV, died, amazingly of natural causes, but was murdered when his elder brother, Demetrius I, returned to the kingdom, having been a hostage at Rome.
8. Demetrius I (162–150 B.C.), murdered following defeat in a civil war at the hands of his purported half-brother , Alexander I.
9. Alexander I (150–145 B.C.), purported half-brother to Demetirus I, defeated by the latter’s son Demetrius II, he fled into exile, and was murdered by his host the King of the Nabataeans
10. Demetrius II (145–138 B.C. and 129–126 BC), captured by the Parthians in 138, he was restored to power in 129, but was killed in 126 after being defeated in battle.
11. Antiochus VII (138–129 B.C.), took the throne during his brother Demetrius’ captivity, but was killed in action against the Parthians,
12. Seleucus V (126-125 B.C.), son of Demetrius II, was killed by his mother when he tried to take real power
13. Antiochus VIII (125–96 B.C.), another son of Demetrius II, he ruled with his mother until he bumped her off (smart boy), but was later killed by a court official
14. Antiochus IX (114–96 B.C.), cousin and co-ruler with Anthiochius VIII, he was killed in battle against the latter’s son
15. Seleucus VI (96–95 B.C.), son of Antiochus VIII, burned to death in an uprising in favor of his cousin, Antiochus X,
16. Antiochus X (95–92/90 B.C.), cousin and usurper of Seleucus VI, fought for the throne with the other sons of Antiochus VIII, but was killed in action by the Parthians in 92 or 90 B.C.
17. Demetrius III (95–87 B.C.), another son of Antiochus VIII, contested with Antiochus X for the throne in cooperation with his brothers, until captured and imprisoned for life by the Parthians
18. Antiochus XI (95–92 B.C.), another son of Antiochus VIII, contested with Antiochus X for the throne in cooperation with his brothers, until killed in action by the Partians
19. Philip I (95–84/83 B.C.), yet, another son of Antiochus VIII, contested with Antiochus X for the throne in cooperation with his brothers until he became sole rule, disappears after being captured by the Parthians
20. Antiochus XII (87–84 B.C.), succeeded his brother Demetrius III to part of the Empire, but was killed inaction against the Nabataeans.
21. Seleucus VII (70s B.C.–69 B.C.), son of Antiochus X, ruled as a puppet king under Armenian domination, until killed by his wife, a Ptolemy
22. Antiochus XIII (69–64 B.C.), brother of Seleucus VII, installed as King of Syria by the Romans, but later deposed by Pompey the Great and killed by an Arab king.
23. Philip II (65–63 B.C.), son of Philip I, ruled as a puppet of the Romans until deposed by Pompey, after which he quietly vanished.
No dynasty in history saw so many of its rulers succumb to violent deaths. And we’ve left out the relatives who were killed while attempting to seize the throne, or bumped off because they might think about doing so.