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 […]

Bear River massacre in 1863

Four miles north of Preston, Idaho, the Bear River quietly ambles through green valleys and sagebrush covered mountains, the Shoshone call this place Boa Ogoi. Something happened on this site that is little known to […]

Oldest children rarely succeed

October 23rd, 2014

Monarchy is very much a family business. According to the law of primogeniture, the eldest son should follow his father on to the throne. The statistics are surprising, however. I include some forgotten figures among the forty-eight who have been proclaimed King or Queen of England.

Spencer Perceval’s assassination

September 6th, 2014

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 was cut off in his prime and failed to make any lasting mark. A lawyer, born in London, the younger son of an aristocratic family and educated at Harrow and Cambridge, he became an MP in his thirties in 1796.

5 royal births that rocked England

August 12th, 2014

Victoria was born into a family that rather resented her, and her cousin Charlotte was the product of a failed three-day marriage. Meanwhile the future Edward VI was feted purely on the grounds that he wasn’t a girl.

Becoming a knight

August 4th, 2014

The three main strands of the chivalric ethos – warrior, courtier and Christian – might throw up some contradictions, but on the whole the knight was able to ignore these, adapting courtly behaviour and Christian teaching to fit with the martial ethic.

Mail-order queen

July 8th, 2014

Well aware of this increase in realism, Henry VIII decided to choose his fourth wife from her portrait. Traditionally, dynastic marriages were arranged between (often teenage or even pre-teen) parties who may never even have seen one another before the ceremony – they were pawns in power plays, and personal preference did not have much to do with it. Henry, however, in middle age, felt free to be choosy; he sent an artist to paint pictures of Europe’s most eligible young ladies.

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