30 May, 2006

30th May, 1381. Start of the Essex Peasants' Revolt

Jack Straw was one of the leaders of the Peasant's Revolt, a medieval protest against the poll tax (a government device often used to provoke popular discontent and the occasional uprising). On the 30th May 1381 Straw led an ill-fated crowd from the churchyard in the village of Great Baddow in Essex to one of the risings in London.
The picture shows Wat Tyler, leader of the Kentish men in th erevolt, being killed by the mayor of London . King Richard III (aged 14) looks on.
However, before their demise the rebels did capture the Tower of London, worth maximum points...

29 May, 2006

29th May, 1919. Invention of the Pop-Up Toaster

Charles Strite invented the pop-up toaster. -
This is from www.toaster.org (it's not the only toaster website...!)
"During World War I, a master mechanic in a plant in Stillwater, Minnesota decided to do something about the burnt toast served in the company cafeteria. To circumvent the need for continual human attention, Charles Strite incorporated springs and a variable timer, and filed the patent for his pop-up toaster on May 29, 1919. Receiving financial backing from friends, Strite oversaw production of the first one hundred hand-assembled toasters, which were shipped to the Childs restaurant chain. The first pop-up toaster for the home, the Toastmaster, arrived on the scene in 1926. It had a timing adjustment for the desired degree of darkness, and when the toast reached the preselected state, it was ejected, rather forcefully. The device stirred so much public interest that March 1927 was designed National Toaster Month, and the advertisement running in the March 5 issue of the Saturday Evening Post promised: "This amazing new invention makes perfect toast every time! Without turning! Without burning!" "
Check out this monster industrial-sized version with a later model shown for scale, from www.toastercentral.com

23 May, 2006

23rd May, 1906. Elgar bored on a ship

Edward Elgar was returning, by ship from Cincinnati .....from his diary entries it doesn't look like the voyage of the century -

21st "Began to be wet & cooler - dreadfully bored - No shovel board & no one to talk to -"
22nd"Voyage all much the same. Took refuge in reading Monte Cristo & Vingt ans apr├Ęs -"
23rd"Rain fog etc etc
24th"Fog all the time -"

18 May, 2006

Eleanor of Aquitaine marries Henry Plantagenet, 18th May, 1152

Eleanor of Aquitaine marries Henry Plantagenet. Two years later following the settlement of the civil war in England between Henry's mother Matilda & Stephen of Anjou Henry succeeds Stephen as king. Together with the land held by Eleanor (Aquitaine & Poitiers) this creates the Angevin Empire, covering England and most of modern day France.
When they married Eleanor was thirty, eleven years older than her husband, and only two month divorced from the French King Louis VII.
Eleanor gave Henry five sons and two daughters. Two of the sons become King in turn, Richard "the Lionheart" & John "Lackland". Eleanor became increasingly distanced from her husband and in 1173 leads a rebellion with three of her sons against Henry. The rebellion fails and Eleanor is locked up for the next 15 years until Henry's death.
Her favourite son Richard succeeded his father and, of course released his mother. When Richard was later captured and imprisoned it was Eleanor who was the driving force behind raising the ransom and getting him released.
She died in 1204 in her favourite religious house Fontevrault Abbey.
This period of English history is unusually well cover by Hollywood - "The Lion in Winter" starred Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor. In Disney's "Robin Hood", the spoiled Prince John sulks and sucks his thumb on constantly being reminded of his mother - and of course the relationship between Richard & John is a key plot device behind the wonderful "The Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Errol Flynn.

11 May, 2006

PM Spencer Perceval shot in the Commons Lobby, 11th May, 1812

British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval is shot by a bankrupt banker John Bellingham in the lobby of the House of Commons .
After the excitement caused by the shooting had quietened down, someone called out "Who was the rascal who did it?". At this moment a stranger to the House (a person who is not a Member of Parliament) walked up and calmly said "I am the unfortunate man". Bellingham made no attempt to escape, although he had by this time discarded his pistol.

Perceval is the only British PM to date to have been assassinated. For 10 points, can you name the four US Presidents who have suffered this fate? (answers tomorrow).

09 May, 2006

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...", 9th May, 1864

Union General John Sedgwick is shot and killed by a Confederate sharpshooter during fighting at Spotsylvania. His last words are: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--"

08 May, 2006

Jack Cade's Rebellion, 8th May, 1450

Jack Cade's Rebellion-Kentishmen revolt against King Henry VI.

As with most similar rebellions, Jack Cade's effort met with initial success (they had a good shot at capturing the Tower of London), but he ended up with his head on a stick.

05 May, 2006

Napoleon dies in exile, 5th May 1821

Napoleon Bonaparte dies in exile on the island of St. Helena

Some telling quotes from the great man:

"It is always your next move"
"Don't wait. The time will never be just right"
"It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed"

04 May, 2006


Indians sell Manhattan Island for $24 in cloth and buttons to a Dutchman. Doh!