What if History…King George and Olives

Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind

Replica of the Golden Hind, London England. Olive Branch pasted on dock lower right.

Teaching is one of the best learning experiences. Teaching history regardless of whether the course is a survey level broad introductory class or a specifically focused graduate seminar helps put many of one’s own present day issues into a better perspective.

At times, however, you just think wow.

This piece is not intended as one of those strange things that students write on exams styles of lists. Thankfully I was not the instructor of this course. One of my faculty brought the paper to me because he thought the student might complain to me about receiving a failing grade. I merely advised the professor to talk one-on-one with the student to clarify the terms and events for the student.

Still I began to ponder the “what if” historical possibility… 

What if King George III of England had liked the taste of olives?

Actually for all I know, he may have actually been an olive connoisseur. Speaking only for myself, I could appreciate the student’s interpretation because I do not care for the taste of olives.

If only the colonists had shipped some peach trees from Georgia or if a young George Washington had not chopped down those cherry trees, sorry Mr. President but Parson Weems did snitch even though you did not try to hide the ax or hatchet, and the colonists had offered cherry branches? Instead the colonists sent the King a portion of an Olive Branch, a tree and fruit not even native to the Americas. It’s no wonder that King George III sent more Redcoats and hired those Hessians. Perhaps a peach, cherry, or cherry blossom might have altered the course of history.

I will admit that the olive branch piece war theory actually influences me less emotionally than something I thought about taking a survey Western Civilization history course my first semester of undergraduate school.

Francis Drake may have been the second person in the world to be circumcised with a clipper that was 100 feet long, but unlike the first man, Ferdinand Magellan, Drake actually survived the procedure. Of course we never did determine if Magellan passed away from the attempted procedure or if some woman named Victoria simply killed him before she returned to Spain.

We do “know” that Francis Drake received a somewhat unique award as the Queen presented him with a golden trophy in the shape of a horse’s hind quarters.

We also know that Drake’s ability to undergo that procedure with that size of instrument did earn him great respect.  By the Queen’s orders, everybody began to address Drake as Sir.

You may laugh, but just thinking about it brings me chills.

On a side note many years ago, a replica of the Golden Hind docked in Baton Rouge beside the USS Kidd.  My Dad and I toured the vessel, and it was fascinating as to just how small the ship was and the lack of space below deck. Other replicas such as the Nina and HMS Bounty docked in Baton Rouge during my childhood, but for whatever reason I remember touring Drake’s vessel more vividly than the others. If any of the sailing replicas dock near you, I encourage you to at least take a look from the shore because it’s difficult to more fully appreciate some of the affiliated histories without having a visual.