Interesting Historical FactsMar 16th, 2008
Compiled by myself
Henry VI................................Edward IV
1) Only two British monarchs have reigned more than once - King Henry VI and King Edward IV. Henry VI reigned from 1422-1461 and 1470-1471 and Edward IV reigned from 1461-1470 and 1471-1483.
2) King Henry VIII weighed 21 stones (133kgs in European measures/294 pounds in American measures).
3) King Edward the Confessor was the first English monarch to be declared a saint. He was England's patron saint until 1348.
George II (reigned 1727-1760)
4) The last British monarch to lead troops into battle was King George II at the Battle of Dettingen against the French in 1743.
5) William Caxton, an English merchant and author, introduced the printing press to England. His book, "History of Troy", a history of the ancient Greek city, was the first book to be printed in English, in 1474.
6) British monarchs wear an "imperial" style of crown consisting of a circlet surmounted by arches. This style was introduced by King Henry IV in 1399.
7) In the 1700s and early 1800s, Britain had probably the harshest and most brutal punishment and penal system in the Western world (known as The Bloody Code). Newgate Prison, which stood from 1188 to 1902, was London's most notorious jail. Many of the prisoners kept there on death row died before they were hanged due to the intensely squalid conditions and disease. The floors of the jail were so covered in lice that you could hear a crunching sound as you walked.
8 )The equals sign (=) in mathematics was invented in 1577 by Robert Recorde, a London doctor who studied at both Cambridge and Oxford.
9) Britain's most notorious place of execution was Tyburn in London. Up until 1571, felons were hanged from a tree, known as "Tyburn Tree." In 1571, a large gallows was built there capable of hanging 24 people at the same time. At the time the gallows was built, the Tyburn executioner was a local butcher. The hangings were a family day out, with thousands of people packing into wooden grandstands to watch. The last executions there were in 1783 when they were moved to Newgate Prison. Today, the site of the Tyburn gallows is marked by a metal plaque in the middle of the traffic island, near Speakers' Corner, across from Marble Arch.
10) England's youngest ever monarch was King Henry VI who came to the Throne in 1422 aged just 6 months.
Lady Jane Grey reigned for just 9 days when she was 17 years old
11) England's shortest-reigning monarch was Queen Jane (Lady Jane Grey), the cousin and wife of King Edward VI, who reigned for just 9 days in 1554.
12) To build up England's shipping capacity - and its seafarers - Queen Elizabeth I made it compulsory for the people of England to eat fish on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
13) As Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII's second wife and the mother of Elizabeth I, was about to be beheaded for infidelity outside the Tower of London on 19th May 1536, she said: "I hear the executioner is very good and I have a little neck." She then put her hands around her throat and burst out laughing.
14) In 1347, King Edward III held a grand ball to celebrate England's victory against the French at Crecy. The ladies of the court were decked out in their finery and as they danced one of them lost her garter, the elegant circlet of blue silk that was holding up one of her stockings. It fell to the floor and the king picked it up and tied it around his own leg for a joke. The woman was the 19 year old Joan of Kent, wife of the Earl of Salisbury. In 1348, the king made the blue silk garter the focus of a great ceremony, an order of chivalry known as "The Order of the Garter." It was a brotherhood of 24 knights who would serve the king. The Order of the Garter still exists today. Incidentally, Joan of Kent eventually married the Black Prince (Edward III's son) and their child became King Richard II.
15) England has had many gay (or rumoured to be gay) monarchs: Edward II, Richard II, Richard the Lionheart, William Rufus, Anne, Mary. Edward II was killed in 1327 by having a red hot roasting spit shoved up his anus by the lover of his wife after he embarked on a second affair with a man.
16) King Henry I died in 1135 after taking ill whilst eating lampreys, his favourite food. When he died, his daughter Mathilda felt the Crown should go to her. So did her cousin Stephen. This led to a series of battles betwen the two, a period of civil war known as "The Anarchy." Mathilda's son Henry then joined in the war on his mother's side. Henry struck a deal with Stephen (then King Stephen) saying that Stephen could remain king for the rest of his life. As it happened, Stephen lived for just another year and, in 1154, Henry was crowned King Henry II.
17) In the mid-1640s, England's self-proclaimed Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, probably executed around 100 suspected witches.
18 ) In 1665, the Great Plague struck England and a large proportion of London's population was killed. Many people left their cities and villages and moved to the countryside to escape the plague. An exception was the village of Eyam in Deerbyshire. In 1666, the village's rector, Revd William Mompesson, urged his villagers to stay put and follow Jesus' words in the Gospel of St John: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Rather than fleeing the village, the rector wanted the community to stay and help their fellow-men who were infected. The villagers, bravely, agreed. For over a year, the village shut itself off from the world. People from neighbouring villages left food on its outskirts. Due to Eyam's actions, much of the rest of Derbyshire was spared the plague, although three quarters of the villagers died. Also that same year, much of London was destroyed by the Great Fire. This killed much of the plague bacillus.
You could say that Britain's most famous highwayman, Dick Turpin, executed himself in 1739
19) Britain's most famous highwayman was Dick Turpin. His execution in 1739, in York (where York horseracing course now stands) was quite bizarre.
On 7 April 1739, Dick Turpin rode through the streets of York in an open cart, being theatrical and bowing to the gawking crowds. At York Knavesmire (now the racecourse) he climbed the ladder to the scaffold and then sat for half an hour addressing the crowd in the manner of an entertainer, chatting to the guards and the executioner. Ironically, the hangman was Thomas Hadfield, once Turpin's friend and a former Gregory Gang member (he had been pardoned because he had agreed to be the hangman which was normal in Britain at this time). An account in the York Courant 7 April 1739 of Turpin's execution, notes his brashness even at the end, "with undaunted courage looked about him, and after speaking a few words to the topsman, he threw himself off the ladder and expired in about five minutes." Thus in death at least, Turpin attained some of the gallantry that had eluded him in life. And so, despite the fame of his hanging, Turpin's death was technically a suicide.
Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury: Chased by her executioner in 1541
20) Another bizarre execution was that of Margaret Pole, the 8th Countess of salisbury, who was sos cared she was chased around the scaffold by the axe-wielding executioner. On the morning of May 27, 1541Margaret was told she was to die within the hour. She answered that no crime had been imputed to her; nevertheless she was taken from her cell to the place within the precincts of the Tower of London, where a low wooden block had been prepared. As Margaret was of noble birth, she was not executed before the populace, though there were about 150 witnesses. According to some accounts, the countess, who was 67 years old, frail and ill, was dragged to the block, but refused to lay her head on it, having to be forced down. As she struggled, the inexperienced executioner's first blow made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. Several additional blows were required to complete the execution. A less reputable account states that Margaret leapt from the block after the first clumsy blow and ran, pursued by the executioner, being struck eleven times before she died.
(Compiled by Blackleaf, 2008 )