Elizabeth I– Its complicated!

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The 24th March marks the 414th anniversary of the death of Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 until 1603. After the short reigns of her half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne from the age of 25 had been a welcome period of stability for the kingdom.

  • The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she was sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess. 
  • Just 2 1/2 years after Elizabeth was born, Anne Boleyn was executed and Anne was declared to be illegitimate.
  • Elizabeth’s half brother Edwa....
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Why didn’t Britain let Argentina have the Malvinas (Falkland) islands?

Working in Barcelona last year, I was talking to a 25 year old Argentinian woman, and, as is normal the Malvinas/Falklands question came up in conversation. I asked her if she cared about the war. She said that her father had fought in it as a 17 year-old conscript, and I told her that my twin brother was sunk on HMS Antelope at age 17.

I felt bad for her, and as a British person I apologised for the hatred as we can’t really justify owning the islands so very far away from the UK. Even though they are very far away from Argentina too.

I said that I was sorry for the war and she said that there was no need to be. Her father had told her that when they surrendered to the British Royal....



The birth of Gustave Eiffel

Tomorrow marks the birth of engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel, born 15 December 1832 and best remembered for designing and building the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Engineer and Achitect Gustave Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower was the symbol of the Exposition Universelle or World Fair held in Paris in 1889, 100 years after the storming of the Bastille. The Tower itself served as the gateway to the Exposition. The tower took 2 years to build and opened 2 months before the exposition.

Eiffel was also responsible for designing the iron structure for the Stature of Liberty. His many othe....



First motorised taxi cabs in London and a cab timeline

On the 6th December 1897 – the first fleet of motorised taxi cabs began operating. There had been cabs operating from some time however:

1625 – The concept of taxi cabs came into being with the hackney coach in the 17th Century. The name comes from hacquenée, the French term for a general-purpose horse, literally meaning “ambling nag”.There were as few as 20 available for hire initially, operating out of inn yards.

Hackney Carriage from the French word hacquenee

 1636 ....



NYSE and how it responded 102 years ago

On June 28, 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. This event led to a month of failed diplomatic manoeuvring between Austria-Hungary, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain which ended with the onset of the Great War, as it was originally called.

Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, causing Germany and Russia to mobilize their armies on July 30. When Russia offered to negotiate rather than demobilize their army, Germany declared war on Russia on August 1. Germany declared war on France on August 3, and when Germany attacked Belgium on August 4, England declared war on Germany.  Europe was at war, and millions would die in the battles that f....



Spoonerisms–or just a lack of pies

William Spooner tries to get it right. Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library

You have to feel a bit sorry for the Rev. William Archibald Spooner, who was born on on the 22nd July 1844. He became famous as the man who could never say the right thing about anyone or anything – because he was always getting his words mixed up.
For example, in a reference to Queen Victoria, he called for “three cheers for our dear old Queen.” Unfortunately, it came out as “three cheers for our queer old dean!”
He described the Heavenly Father as “a loving shepherd” – or, ....



Galileo–the man who probably bears more of the responsibility for the birth of modern science than anybody else

1633 – 22nd June – Galileo Galilei was found guilty on heresy charges for supporting the view that the earth orbits the sun and sentenced to house imprisonment. A consensus of lawmakers and the Church had said he was wrong – never mind science.

In the Christian world prior to Galileo’s conflict with the Church, the majority of educated people subscribed either to the Aristotelian geocentric view that the earth was the centre of the universe and that all heavenly bodies revolved around the Earth, or the Tychonic system that blended geocentricsm with heliocentrism. Nevertheless, following the death of Copernicus and before Galileo, heliocentrism was rela....



Paddington Station

1842 – On the 13th June 1842 – Queen Victoria travelled by train for the first time, from Slough (near Windsor Castle) to Paddington, accompanied by Prince Albert. A special coach had been built earlier, but the Queen had been reluctant to try this new form of travel. On her first journey, the engine driver was assisted by the great civil engineer and designer of the station, Isambard Kingdom Brunel .

2012 at Paddington station - Olympic signing.jpg

Geof Sheppard

Some facts ....



Habeas corpus comes into being

1679www.beautifulbritain.co.uk– Britain passed the Habeas Corpus Act which made it illegal to hold anyone in prison without a trial.

Habeas corpus  comes from Medieval Latin meaning literally “You may have the body”

A writ of habeas corpus is known as “the great and efficacious writ in all manner of illegal confinement” being a remedy available to the meanest against the mightiest. It is a summons with the force of a court order; it is addressed to the custodian (a prison official for example) and demands that a prisoner be....



Starbucks–from small beginnings

1971 – Millions of Americans visit coffee shops as a part of their daily routine and subsequently, several successful coffee chains have emerged.  Its not hard to argue that the most successful and widespread coffee chain of them all is Starbucks. Before obtaining worldwide influence, Starbucks began as one coffee shop in Seattle.

On this day, March 30th, in 1971, the first Starbucks is opened in Seattle, Washington by three men: Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker.  The three founders chose the name Starbucks based on the chief mate in the story of Moby-Dick, Starbuck.  The original location began at 2000 Western Avenue and moved to its cu....



The Royal Albert Hall

1871www.beautifulbritain.co.uk– 29th March – Queen Victoria opened the Royal Albert Hall in London. The hall was originally supposed to have been called The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed by Queen Victoria to Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences when laying the foundation stone, as a dedication to her deceased husband and consort Prince Albert.



Death under suspicious circumstances

59 Agrippina the Younger – dies under suspicious circumstances at age 43.

Roman Empress Agrippina the Younger

Circumstances of her death vary, but it is suggested she was murdered by her son, the Emperor Nero.


Julia Agrippina was most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger. She was named after her mother Agrippina the Elder. 

A Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty, she was born in Cologne, Germany.

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Drivers Licences

1935 – The first driving test pass slip was presented to Mr. R. Beene of Kensington, a pupil of the British School of Motoring. Tests were introduced on a voluntary basis and became compulsory in June

In New Zealand, drivers licences had already been compulsory for 10 years.

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US Stock Market Move to S&P 500

1957 – The historical return of the S&P 500 is quoted everywhere, usually back to 1926 but it wasn’t until March 4, 1957 that it moved to its present form. 

In the beginning S&P had tracked 233 stocks, but it was too hard to maintain daily or hourly quotes on that many stocks before computers, so the S&P 90 was created in 1928.  The S&P 90 was 50 industrial stocks, 20 railroad stocks, and 20 utility stocks, and performance data was made available as often as hourly. (S&P also kept track of the original 233 stocks, but reported on them weekly.)

In March 1957 the new S&P 500 (in 1957) was made up of 425 indus....



The Real Life Peter Pan

1897www.beautifulbritain.co.uk– The birth of Peter Llewelyn Davies, the namesake of Peter Pan. The author, J. M. Barrie publicly identified him as the source of the name for the title character in his famous play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. This identification as ‘the original Peter Pan’ plagued Davies throughout his life.

Davies was an infant in a pram when Barrie befriended his older brothers George and Jack during outings in Kensington Gardens, with their nurse Mary Hodgson. Barrie’s origina....



Most Ordinary Americans in 2016 Are Richer Than Was John D. Rockefeller in 1916

This Atlantic story reveals how Americans lived 100 years ago.  (HT Warren Smith)  By the standards of a middle-class American today, that lifestyle was poor, inconvenient, dreary, and dangerous.  (Only a few years later – in 1924 – the 16-year-old son of a sitting U.S. president would die of an infected blister that the boy got on his toe while playing tennis on the White House grounds.)

So here’s a question that I’ve asked in one form or another on earlier occasions, but that is so probing that I ask it again: What is the minimum amount of money that you would demand in exchange for your going back to live even as John D. Rockefeller lived in 1916?  ....



Prince of Wales

1503 – Henry Tudor is created Prince of Wales (later Henry VIII) on 18th February.

There is no automatic succession to the title, but it is normally passed on when the existing Prince of Wales accedes to the throne. The title becomes merged in the Crown and is renewed only at the Sovereign’s pleasure.

Six Princes of Wales died before they became king, including Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He was created Prince of Wales at the age of three in November 1489, and invested in February 1490 at Westminster. Prince Arthur died in 1502, and the title went to his brother, later to become Henry VIII.

The current incumbent is Cha....