Category Archives: MODERN HISTORY

The Lost Prince: The colourful life of Henry Stuart in National Portrait Gallery/London

The Lost Prince: The colourful life of Henry Stuart in National Portrait Gallery/London


Today, few people have heard of Henry Stuart (1594-1612) – eldest son of King James VI and I, older brother to the future Charles I. But back in 1612 things were very different. In fact, when, in November of that year, Henry’s life was ended by typhoid fever (he was just 18), the entire nation was plunged into grief. At Henry’s lavish funeral procession, 2,000 official mourners were joined by thousands lining the streets “whose streaming eyes made knowen howe much inwardly their harts did bleed”.

On this day: London’s Great Fire in 1666

On this day: London’s Great Fire in 1666

Thomas Farynor, known in London as the King’s Baker, had a bakery in Pudding Lane, near London Bridge. He needed to keep his ovens at a steady high temperature, so he kept lots of dry wood in his kitchen. At about two o’clock in the morning of Sunday 2nd September, this wood caught fire. Actually, the fire may have been caused by a spark from the oven falling
onto a pile of fuel nearby.

King George III’s illness

King George III’s illness

Recent research has thrown considerable doubt on the claim that King George III suffered from variegate porphyria, but indicates that he suffered recurrent attacks of mania as part of his bipolar disorder. George III’s last episode of ill health occurred during the final decade of his life (1810–20). This has been diagnosed as chronic mania with an element of dementia. During this period the king was blind and possibly deaf, which may have contributed to his psychiatric condition.

Civilising the cannibals

Civilising the cannibals

Western visitors to Fiji in 19th century liked to watch what they ate. Traveller John Erskine, for instance, was suspicious about some ‘pork’ he was offered and threw it away, convinced it was human. Similarly, labour recruiter John Gaggin paid close attention to the cutting up of a pig “to satisfy [himself] it was… not a baked boy or girl”.

William Herschel’s new planet

William Herschel’s new planet

After a drink-fuelled night discussing Homer, the medical student John Keats wrote his famous lines comparing his own wonderment with that of  “some watcher of the skies / When a new planet swims into his ken.” Keats was referring to William Herschel, the astronomer who had enlarged the solar system with a seventh planet, now known as Uranus.