Wednesday, 28 February 2018

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. Come to think of it, judging from the newspaper obituary columns, British people tend to die in alphabetical order. Strange isn't it?

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 they 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 bikini 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, 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 who unfortunately had to learn his plays and sonnets for no apparent reason. He succeeded to the point that even now students have to learn and memorise his writings for no reason whatsoever except for being an English teacher and pass on this useless pass-time onto other pupils.

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. Interesting reading about some famous Britons and your humor always makes for great writing.

    1. Hello Happyone,

      A lot of what I said is actually true. God bless you my friend.

  2. Definitely, a Monty Python view of British history. What a hoot, Victor! Thank you for making me laugh today. But are you pulling our leg about Raliegh's head in a bag? I shudder at the grossness of the image.

    1. No Martha, the bit about Raleigh's head is actually true. She did carry his head in a bag wherever she went. I doubt she took him ten pin bowling though or at her favourite restaurant. And he did introduce tobacco and potatoes to Britain.

      God bless you and yours.

    2. Yikes! I do remember the potatoes and tobacco, but that? What??? Thanks for clarifying!

    3. Yes ... history can be strange; and memorable.

      God bless you, Martha.

  3. I'm sure I could get an A in your history class!! Thanks for the giggles! Makes class fun!

    1. Thank you Terri for the nice compliments. Learning should be fun.

      God bless you.

  4. Funny, thanks for the laugh.

    1. So glad I made you laugh, Bill. Thank you for your visit.

      God bless.

  5. WELL, this is one history lesson I will NEVER forget!
    Blessings, Victor!



God bless you.