London

A woman on stage for Shakespeare´s Desdemona. December 8, 1660.

Margaret Hughes became an actress during a period of great change in English drama. English drama had suffered greatly during the English Civil War and the Interregnum, being banned by the Puritan Long Parliament in 1642. This ban was finally lifted upon the Restoration of King Charles II. Charles was a keen theatre-goer, and promptly gave two royal patents to Sir Thomas Killigrew and Sir William Davenant. During the Renaissance women had been virtually banned from appearing as actresses on the stage, resulting in male actors in female roles. One incident occurred when a play which the King was watching suddenly stopped. When he sent servants to see what the problem was, it was found that the male who was supposed to play one of the female parts was still shaving. There were also concerns ...

The First Parachute Jump. October 22, 1797.

By the dawn of the 19th century, ballooning had become a staple of popular culture. No féte or celebration was complete without at least one ascent. Aeronauts, both male and female, rose majestically from pleasure grounds and gardens all over Europe. Tivoli Gardens in Paris, was one of the most popular spots for this entertainment and soon became the playground of the “flying” Garnerin family. Andre-Jacques Garnerin was the greatest French aeronaut to follow J.P. Blanchard, and during his aerostatic career he was accompanied and abetted by his wife Jeanne-Genevieve (the first woman parachutist, 1798) and niece Elisa (who learned to fly balloons at age 15 and became the first professional parachutist, making 39 parachute descents from 1815 to 1836). Garnerin had made his first balloon ascen...

The Battle of Pinkie. September 10, 1547.

The Battle of Pinkie, also known as the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, took place on 10 September 1547 on the banks of the River Esk near Musselburgh, Scotland. The last pitched battle between Scotland and England before the Union of the Crowns, it was part of the conflict known as the Rough Wooing and is considered to have been the first modern battle in the British Isles. It was a catastrophic defeat for Scotland, where it became known as “Black Saturday“. A highly detailed and illustrated English account of the battle and campaign authored by an eyewitness William Patten was published in London as propaganda four months after the battle. In the last years of his reign, King Henry VIII of England tried to secure an alliance with Scotland by the marriage of the infant Mary, Queen of...

Triumph in North Africa. March 10, 298.

  Maximian was Roman Emperor from 286 to 305. He was Caesar from 285 to 286, then Augustus from 286 to 305. He shared the latter title with his co-emperor and superior, Diocletian, whose political brain complemented Maximian’s military brawn. The man he appointed to police the Channel shores, Carausius, rebelled in 286, causing the secession of Britain and northwestern Gaul. Maximian failed to oust Carausius, and his invasion fleet was destroyed by storms in 289 or 290. Maximian’s subordinate, Constantius, campaigned against Carausius’ successor while Maximian held the Rhine frontier. The rebel leader was ousted in 296, and Maximian moved south to combat piracy near Hispania and Berber incursions in Mauretania. With Constantius’ victorious return after he expel...

Drake´s circumnavigation starts. December 13, 1577.

With the success of the Panama isthmus raid in 1577, Elizabeth I of England sent Drake to start an expedition against the Spanish along the Pacific coast of the Americas. Drake used the plans that Sir Richard Grenville had received the patent for in 1574 from Elizabeth, which was rescinded a year later after protests from Philip of Spain. He set out from Plymouth on 15 November 1577, but bad weather threatened him and his fleet. They were forced to take refuge in Falmouth, Cornwall, from where they returned to Plymouth for repair. After this major setback, Drake set sail again on 13 December aboard Pelican with four other ships and 164 men. He soon added a sixth ship, Mary (formerly Santa Maria), a Portuguese merchant ship that had been captured off the coast of Africa near the Cape Verde ...

First evidence of HMS Erebus found. August 15, 1855.

The search by Europeans for a western shortcut by sea from Europe to Asia began with the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and continued through the mid-19th century with a long series of exploratory expeditions originating mainly in England. These voyages, when to any degree successful, added to the sum of European geographic knowledge about the Western Hemisphere, particularly North America, and as that knowledge grew larger, attention gradually turned toward the Arctic. By 1800, the discoveries had already showed conclusively that no Northwest Passage navigable by ships lay in the temperate latitudes between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. In 1804, Sir John Barrow became Second Secretary of the Admiralty, a post he held until 1845, and began a push by the Royal Navy to comple...

Deciphering Rosetta Stone. July 15, 1799.

The Rosetta Stone is a granodiorite stele, rediscovered in the western world in 1799, inscribed with three versions of a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC during the Ptolemaic dynasty on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The top and middle texts are in Ancient Egyptian using hieroglyphic script and demotic scripts, respectively, while the bottom is in Ancient Greek. As the decree has only minor differences between the three versions, the Rosetta Stone proved to be the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs, thereby opening a window into ancient Egyptian history. The stone, carved during the Hellenistic period, is believed to have originally been displayed within a temple, possibly at nearby Sais. It was probably moved in Late Antiquity or during the Mameluk period, and was eventually use...

First woman to fly solo from England to Australia. May 24, 1930.

Amy Johnson obtained the funds for her first aircraft from her father, who would always be one of her strongest supporters, and Lord Wakefield. She purchased a second-hand de Havilland DH.60 Gipsy Moth G-AAAH and named it Jason after her father’s business trade mark. Johnson achieved worldwide recognition when, in 1930, she became the first woman pilot to fly solo from England to Australia. Flying G-AAAH Jason, she left Croydon, Surrey, on 5 May and landed at Darwin, Northern Territory on 24 May 11,000 miles (18,000 km). The aircraft is preserved in the Science Museum, London. She received the Harmon Trophy as well as a CBE in George V‘s 1930 Birthday Honours in recognition of this achievement, and was also honoured with the No. 1 civil pilot’s licence under AustraliaR...

Anne Boleyn´s trial. May 15,1536.

Anne Boleyn was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of King Henry VIII. Henry‘s marriage to her, and her execution by beheading, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the start of the English Reformation. Anne was educated in the Netherlands and France, largely as a maid of honour to Queen Claude of France. Anne returned to England in early 1522, but after her marriage plans were broken off, she secured a post at court as maid of honour to Henry VIII’s wife, Catherine of Aragon. In February or March 1526, Henry VIII began his pursuit of Anne. She resisted his attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress, which her sister Mary had been. It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry’s desires to annul his marr...

Cromwell´s exhumation and execution. January 30, 1661.

In December 1648, in an episode that became known as Pride’s Purge, a troop of soldiers headed by Colonel Thomas Pride forcibly removed from the Long Parliament all those who were not supporters of the Grandees in the New Model Army and the Independents. Thus weakened, the remaining body of MPs, known as the Rump Parliament, agreed that Charles should be tried on a charge of treason. Cromwell was by that time in the north of England, dealing with Royalist resistance, when these events took place, but then returned to London. On the day after Pride’s Purge, he became a determined supporter of those pushing for the King’s trial and execution, believing that killing Charles was the only way to end the civil wars. Cromwell approved Thomas Brook’s address to the House of...

The Tottenham Outrage. January, 23 1909.

In the 19th century the Russian Empire, then including Latvia, was home to about five million Jews, the largest Jewish community in the world at the time. Subjected to religious persecution and violent pogroms, many emigrated, and between 1875 and 1914 around 120,000 arrived in the United Kingdom, mostly in England. The influx reached its peak in the late 1890s when large numbers of Jewish immigrants—mostly poor and semi-skilled or unskilled—settled in the East End of London; the concentration of Jews in some areas of London was almost 100 per cent of the population. Because of the influx of Jews and Russians into one part of Tottenham in North London, the area gained the nickname Little Russia. Several revolutionary factions were active in East and North London. One tactic often employed ...

A Christmas Carol. December 25.

By mid-1843 Dickens began to suffer from financial problems. Sales of Martin Chuzzlewit were falling off, and his wife, Catherine, was pregnant with their fifth child. Matters worsened when Chapman & Hall, his publishers, threatened to reduce his monthly income by £50 if sales dropped further. He began A Christmas Carol in October 1843. Michael Slater, Dickens’s biographer, describes the book as being “written at white heat”; it was completed in six weeks, the final pages being written in early December. He built much of the work in his head while taking night-time walks of 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 km) around London. Dickens’s sister-in-law wrote how he “wept, and laughed, and wept again, and excited himself in a most extraordinary manner, in composition&#...

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