Thursday 10 April 2014

History - Famous Britons

Today's History Lesson is all about Famous Britons so please pay attention and you'll probably learn a thing or two about the people of these islands.

Now unfortunately, Famous Britons don't come in alphabetical or chronological order in as much as they are haphazard and arrive on the scene every now and then in no particular order or rhyme or reason. This has a lot to do with the weather in Britain which is likewise haphazard and in no particular order or rhyme or reason. We often have the four seasons in one day and in random order to confuse people as to whether to go out with their umbrellas or swimsuits. Hence you often see businessmen in London going to work in a bowler hat, umbrella, pin striped shirt and jacket and swimming trunks. Tourists often think that these businessmen have forgotten to put on their trousers. But they are quite mistaken. It is a deliberate attire to be ready for all circumstances; and as the sun comes out all they need do is take off their shirt and jacket and jump into the nearest pool, or lake, or river, or indeed the sea if you happen to work in a seaside town. I remember when I worked in London we had many a meeting in the swimming pool with the Board of Directors. It was quite distracting when the pretty secretary came in her swimsuit to bring us tea and biscuits. 

But I digress.

Ok ... the first Famous Briton I want to talk about is a woman. Her name is Boadicea and she lived around AD 43. The Roman Emperor Claudius sent his troops to conquer Britain.His soldiers were faced by this wild woman from Norwich, who came at them on a horse-drawn cart with swords sticking out of the wheels. Apparently she got the idea from the famous chariot race in the film Ben Hur which she had seen on TV the previous night. She killed over 70,000 Romans in her many battles; but eventually poisoned herself when the Romans started winning again. Some historians believe that she just fell ill and died.

Roll time forward to 1066 when King Harold fought a battle in Hastings against William the Conqueror; known for his love of the game of conkers. This game is still played by children in England today and consists of two people threading a horse chestnut (conker) with a string and use it to smash the opponent's conker. They take turn at hitting the opponent's conker and sometimes the conker (horse chestnut) breaks and can cause injury if bits catch you in the eye. However, at the Battle of Hastings, it is believed, that King Harold caught an arrow in the eye. His soldiers advised him to blink a few times and it will work its way out.

Let's move on a bit forward to 1509 when King Henry VIII was King. He wanted a son as an heir and married six times to make sure his wife got him a son.

His first wife Catherine of Aragon brought him five daughters, (four dead), so he divorced her.

He married Anne Boleyn who also gave him a daughter. She was also friendly with a number of people in the palace so Henry VIII cut off her head and also that of all her lovers too. It is said that Anne Boleyn had an extra finger on one hand and three breasts! Henry accused her of being a witch because of her deformities.

Henry then married Jane Seymour who gave him a son in 1537 but unfortunately she died whilst giving birth.

In 1540 Henry married Anne of Cleves who is said to have been very ugly. The marriage was not consummated, (something to do with Consommé soup), so he divorced her.

In the same year he married Catherine Howard and shortly afterwards chopped her head off too.

In 1543 he married Katherine Parr. Now I ask you ... would you have married a man with such a track record? Anyway, by this time Henry VIII was very sick with diseases one gets when they are too friendly ... He died in 1547.

Queen Elizabeth the First was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and became Queen in 1558 at the age of 25. She was skinny and plain with red hair like her dad. She used lead-based white make-up on her face, which although fashionable at the time, ate into her face. 

In those days people didn't wash as often as we do today because power showers had not been invented. So in time you could smell their arrival a mile off before they actually arrived. People with big noses suffered the most because they inhaled more of the bad smells. Having a cold was a wonderful relief. To hide their bad smell some people carried apples with cloves in it. Hmmm ... I wonder what smelled worse. A rotten apple in your armpits or the "naturelle smelle" of said body parts. 

From 1568 onwards the Spanish fought against the English sending their Armadas over. At this time a man called Francis Drake led the English ships against the Spanish and won many battles. It is said that before a battle Drake was playing bowls in Plymouth and he was told of the approach of the Spanish fleet. He replied there was enough time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards.

Two more people who lived at the time of Elizabeth I were William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Shakespeare was a play writer who made it his mission to be a pain in the side of every pupil from then on and succeeded to the point that even now students have to learn and memorise his plays for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Sir Walter Raleigh on the other hand is said to have introduced potatoes to Britain. Apparently he travelled abroad and bought a packet of French Fries as a present to the Queen. She said: "What? No beef burger and milk shake?" 

Apparently, also when abroad he decided as a joke to put some leaves in his mouth and light them up. His friends enjoyed the joke and asked him to repeat it when he got back to England. The joke soon caught on and that's how he introduced tobacco to England.

In 1591, Sir Walter secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, (what were they waiting for?), without the Queen's permission. The Queen got angry and imprisoned both of them in the Tower of London. What a honeymoon? She later released him and he became quite famous.

The Queen died in 1603. Raleigh was arrested and tried for an alleged plot against King James. 

Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded on 29 October 1618.

His head was embalmed and presented to his wife, and his body was buried in a church in Surrey near Lady Raleigh's home. She kept his head in a velvet bag and carried it wherever she went. I bet it was embarrassing when she went to parties and dinner dates carrying the bag with her. I mean ... there she was invited to a party and she brings a guest, (or part of a guest), in her hand bag. I wonder if Raleigh's head winked at the pretty ladies at the party! And did she ever take his head with her in the bag when she went ten pin bowling?

When Raleigh's wife died 29 years later, both Raleigh's head and body were buried in St Margaret's Church in Westminster.


  1. Great history lesson, Victor! This is one of my favorites! Four seasons in one day? We get that too! I love this humorous (and mostly true) take on famous Britons!

    1. Hi Mary,

      It's great to see you visiting here again. Yes, most of today's lesson is true. Including the four seasons in one day and the way we dress for it. I've had many a Board Meeting in a swimming pool.

      God bless.

    2. I've been cleaning up a flooded basement for the past week or so due to a few "four seasons in one day" New England is well known for crazy weather! Thankfully, the weather seems to be leveling out a bit.

      I loved the part on how Briton's dress! Funny!

      Board meetings in swimming pools? Lucky you! (Or is that unlucky you?)

    3. I suspect they call it New England because the waether is like here.

      Meetings in swimming pools were OK most of the times !!! Drinking tea and dictating a memo to one's secretary. But they could be quite stormy when a large rotund lady manager used to move forward suddenly to make a forceful point or two !!!!

    4. I'm sorry to hear about your flooded basement though. I hope there was not much damage done.

      God bless.

    5. It would be nice to have a job like that, Victor. Barring "large rotund ladies" that is. Some people just like making waves I guess. (Better than bubbles, heh, heh. Sorry, couldn't resist :)

      No major damage in basement - just a big mess! Thanks!

    6. Bubbles ??? Moi?

      By the way, did you read about other famous Britons? The Tudors History Lesson on 3 April?

      Glad the basement is OK. Hope you're all keeping well.

    7. Yes, I did read it. I thought it was hilarious, especially the information about the chamber pots and the weird cures! I love your "history lessons"!

    8. More History Lessons soon - Lady Godiva, Charles Darwin, Three Musketeers, Haniball, Cleopatra ... all written and ready for publications ... and for your return visits as well as other readers!

      God bless.

  2. How about Richard III who had a hunchback and who started a war in the rose garden. Or was it he fought a war with roses for weapons? :-P

    1. You're right Manny. Richard III's body was recently found buried in a Leicester car park.

      God bless.

    2. Victor #1, funny, you've got your fact all right except that it was not real men that some of Henry V111 wife had sex with. Don't tell any body's cells but they were angels who used bodies of men.

      Long story short, When Henry VIII succeeded to the throne in 1509 he had more ambitious plans for Europe than his cautious father did. Longer story shorter, he loved as you said not to be too friendly and had quiet a few wars with various kingdoms and trust ME, I would know cause I'm French.

      Anyway, the Catholics leaders on a four season day decided that they would team UP with The Spanish and Friends to conquer that small Island because he had done terrible things to wo man.

      Long story short, there was about 100 large sailing boat on there way to walk into that small high land and Britain only had about 25 large sailing ships and back then it took about 10 four season years to build these ships. Longer story short, the gods all got UPSET with The Catholic Church cause they tried to play god and a storm was created by them destroying most of these ships and this made England the most powerful nation for years to come.

      For those who have their doubts, they simply need to check with "ONE" of Cromwell Cells who at the time had been busy working on a Protestant Alliance but he was eventually executed for treason on a June four season day of 1540.


      I hear YA! Will all keep praying for YA Victor! (lol)

      God Bless

    3. Thank you for your much needed prayers. Praying for you too.

      God bless.



God bless you.