Manpower for sea power

Life at sea may not have been a particularly attractive prospect for a man in Georgian England, but it was always an option: The Royal Navy was constantly, chronically, in need of sailors. Its peacetime […]

Spencer Perceval’s assassination

All that is generally remembered about Spencer Perceval is that he was the only British prime minister ever to be assassinated. By all accounts he was a thoroughly decent, honourable and competent man, but he […]

The little Ice Age

From about 1550 the climate again grew colder with the intensification of what is known as “The Little Ice Age” which had begun in 1320s. In February 1565 Pieter Brueghel the Elder painted his famous […]

Scotland under the rule of Alexander III

February 13th, 2015

The eight-year-old Alexander III had been king for only a few days when two factions began to struggle for control of his small person. One was led by Alan Durward, the Justiciar of Scotland, supported by the Bruces and the Earl of Dunbar; the other was led by Walter de Comyn, Earl of Menteith and head of an ambitious and much ramified baronial family.

One year in Henry VIII’s life: 1536

January 30th, 2015

Katherine of Aragon died on 7th January, at Kimbolton House, possibly as a result of coronary thrombosis. She was buried quietly at Peterborough Abbey. During her final illness she remained forbidden from personal contact with her daughter Mary.On 24th January, Henry fell heavily in the tiltyard at Greenwich and lay unconscious for about two hours. The shock caused Anne to miscarry five days later, reportedly male foetus.

Matilda: A Queen in King’s World

January 14th, 2015

Power was inherently and inescapably male in the Middle Ages. The images displayed on the Great Seal of England encapsulated expectations of a medieval monarch: on one side the king sat in state to administer justice to his people, a sceptre in his hand; on the other he rode a towering warhorse with his sword unsheathed, ready to defend his kingdom. But a woman couldn’t sit as a judge or lead an army into battle. A woman, therefore, could not rule.

Manpower for sea power

January 8th, 2015

Life at sea may not have been a particularly attractive prospect for a man in Georgian England, but it was always an option: The Royal Navy was constantly, chronically, in need of sailors. Its peacetime strength in 1792 was fifteen thousand men,but in five years it increased eightfold, and by 1813 the number stood at one hundred and fifty thousand- this in a nation whose population was only about 10 million. England’s navy may have been the envy of the world, but it was not at all uncommon for her warships to sail undermanned.

The changing faces of Santa Claus

December 24th, 2014

On 23 December 1951, the Catholic clergy at Dijon organised an execution of Santa Claus. An image of him was hanged from the railings of the cathedral and then burned in front of several hundred Sunday School children. Santa Claus arouses strong feelings.

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