Last week’s news that rioters are using fireworks as improvised IED’s did nothing to help ease tensions in our benighted country.
I thought it might be appropriate to remember that fireworks can celebrate peace, as well as war. George Frideric Handel composed his “Music for the Royal Fireworks” to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, which formalized the cessation of hostilities.
The first performance of the work led to some rather spectacular real-life fireworks, according to the video’s description.
On the great day, the King and his entourage toured the “machine,” presenting purses to its operatives while the entire band played, commencing at 6 o’clock. The beginning of the fireworks display went well enough, as “The Gentleman’s Magazine” vol. 19 (April, 1749), describes:
“At half an hour after eight, the works were begun by a single rocket from before the library, then the cannon within the chevaux de frize were fired…101 pieces of cannon placed on Constitution-hill, were discharged; after which a great number of rockets of different sorts, balloons, &c. were discharged, to surprising perfection.”
However, catastrophe ensued when the great “machine” misfired and burst into intense flame. The left pavilion of the structure was most affected, and according to the “Description II” of the celebration, published afterwards, the contrivance “burnt with great Fury.” Two of the arches smoldered to the ground, and the whole building was only saved when carpenters cast away another two arches and fire engines were brought in to suppress the flames. The stress was apparently great, because another misfortune followed when Florentine Servandoni threw a tantrum and drew his sword on Charles Frederick, Comptroller of the event. Servandoni was imprisoned but released the next day after tendering his apologies. In the end, the great sun, “32 feet in Diameter,” the literal high-light of the arrangement, survived the disaster to fulfill expectations.
Sounds like a lively time was had by all!